Wednesday, March 23, 2011

April 1, 2011 (Lev. 4; Psalms 1-2; Prov. 19; Col. 2)

Psalm 2 is what some people call a royal or a Messianic Psalm. It is called this because it speaks about God’s chosen Messiah who will one day rule and reign over all the nations. We know this to be none other than Jesus Christ. In light of the fact that He will reign the Psalm encourages all of us to some particular actions. Verses 10-12 outline the actions that the Psalmist is encouraging us to take. There are basically three actions: serve Him with fear, rejoice with trembling, and Kiss the Son. The Kiss that he speaks of is a kiss of homage. What the Psalmist is calling us to do is what the ‘rulers’ in this Psalm refuse to do, namely, bow before Christ and honor Him as He is.
To Kiss the Son means that we bow before Him and give Him adoration as our rightful king. Rebellious man will not do this. I pray that you will not be found to be in that rebellious number. Remember that the hands that Jesus holds out for you to kiss in homage are nail pierced hands that bled for you. One day He is coming to crush in His wrath all those who rebel against Him, but today is a day of His grace. Do not despise it! “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (v.12)

April 2, 2011 (Leviticus 5; Psalms 3-4; Proverbs 20; Colossians 3)

The first part of Colossians 3:16 is worthy of our memorization this week, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” What does this mean? Here is what one N.T. scholar says about this verse:“[It means that the word of Christ] is to fill our memories, occupy our horizons, constitute our priorities. We are to reflect on it, as we turn it over in our minds and learn how it applies in every area of our lives, that, far from occupying a little religious corner of our experience, it will dwell in us richly.” (D.A. Carson) Well said.

April 3, 2011 (Lev. 6; Ps. 5-6; Prov.21; Col. 4)

In running a race it is always good to have a good kick, a good ending. It really doesn’t matter how a person starts a race. What is important is how a person finishes the race. Much of this can be applied to our spiritual lives. Already in Colossians Paul has told us that faithfulness to the end is essential in the Christian life. He told the Colossians, “you, who once were alienated…[Christ] has now reconciled…IF indeed you continue in the faith.” (2:21-23) The fact that we stay the course to the end is proof that our faith is genuine.
There are many who start the race and never finish. Jesus had His Judas and even Paul has some with him who make a good show initially but who fall away before the race is over. Such is the case of one of Paul’s traveling companions, Demas.  In Colossians 4:14 Paul tells the church that this man greets them. If this man is greeting them by the pen of Paul it means that he is in step with what Paul stands for, it means he is a professing follower of Christ. If this were all we knew about this man this meditation would be pointless. Sadly, however, the New Testament tells us that this same Demas later fell in love with the world and deserted both Paul and the Christian faith he once stood for. (See 2 Timothy 4:10)
What should we glean from this? We should first of all realize that not all who make professions of faith are genuinely converted. It is the one who endures to the end that will, in Jesus’ words, be saved (Mark 13:13). So, does this mean we should go around doubting other’s salvation? No, not unless they give evidence to the fact that they have indeed abandoned the faith. Even Paul did not know that Demas was a phony until his love for the world was manifested. It means we should constantly hold our brothers and sisters accountably as they do us to stay close to Jesus. It means we must never think so highly of ourselves that we forget that the Vine holds us up and not the other way around. It means we must constantly have our eyes on Jesus from start to finish of this race called life. Look to Him today!

April 4, 2011 (Lev. 7; Ps. 7-8; Prov. 22; 1 Thessalonians 1)

Proverbs don’t have footnotes. A footnote is a note of explanation that alerts a reader to some additional information that might help clarify what has just been read.  Proverbs don’t offer these, and therefore we need to be aware of some basic “Proverbs rules” when reading this book. Perhaps the most helpful of these rules is that the Proverbs tell us in generalities how God has wired the universe to work. It does not offer to us the exceptions to these general rules. The book gives us principles to help us conform to God’s ways. It does not give us a “tit-for-tat” set of statements that apply universally in every situation.

Proverbs 22:6 is perhaps the most famous example of what I am talking about. This verse says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  This means that when children go wrong very often one can find issues in their upbringing that played a part in their wayward life. Very often some, if not much blame can be laid at the door of the parents of rebellious children for the conduct of those children. Some rebellious children, however, came from great, Godly stock. What are we to do in these situations? What we are to do is not to treat this as a promise that fails some of the time. What we are to do is to treat this like….well, like a Proverb. It is a general principle of how God has structured life. This is the norm. It is not universal, but it is the default. This is typically how families work. With a proper understanding of this verse how do you think those families that you know of with rebellious children should look at the situation?

April 5, 2011 (Lev. 8; Ps. 9; Prov. 23; 1 Thess. 2)

Proverbs 23:17-18 is an excellent passage to chew on today. “Let not your heart envy sinners.” In other words, “Do not let Hollywood charm you.” The passage continues with, “continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.” Make pleasing the Lord your top priority. Why? Because, “surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Make fearing the Lord your top priority because the reality is that this vapor like life is going to be over very, very soon. And when this life is over one’s eternal destiny will be determined by how much value he or she placed on following in the fear of the Lord!

April 6, 2011 (Lev. 9; Ps. 10; Prov. 24; 1 Thess. 3)

Many of the Psalms, like Psalms 10, are prayers and should be used as guides for us in our communion with the Father. Much of this Psalm, however, sounds like someone groaning about how much the wicked are prospering and how much they are suffering. Are we to pray that way? In a word, Yes. This is called a lament.
A lament is simply an expression of grief offered up to God. It is simply the reflex of the broken heart and God loves to hear His children crying out to Him when their hearts have been broken. This does not mean that He loves to hear His children writhe in pain. Not at all! What He loves is when His children, even in their pain, cry out to Him in hope! (see v.16-18)

April 7, 2011 (Lev. 10; Ps. 11 - 12; Prov. 25; 1 Thess. 4)

Sometimes we are guilty of worshiping the right God the wrong way. God does not like when we do this because it mars His holy character. It does not show Him the proper respect that is due Him. This is what is happening in Leviticus 10:1-3. In this passage Aaron’s two oldest sons offered “unauthorized [or strange] fire” before the Lord. For this action the Lord struck them down and they died. What!! Is this not a bit extreme? I mean were they not just trying to spice up the worship service a little bit?
There are many reasons why this is not extreme. Perhaps the main reason is that God had repeatedly said that everything connected with the tabernacle worship must be done exactly according to the pattern that was provided for Moses on the mountain. God expects to be obeyed. God expects to have no rivals. God expects this because he is God. This, ultimately, is what is at stake here. Is God really God?
Moses and Aaron realize this. This is why Aaron does not mourn, publically at least, the deaths because, “by those who come near to me I must be regarded as holy, and before all the people I must be glorified.”(v.3) How do you think we might be able to regard God as holy today?

April 8, 2011 (Lev. 11 - 12; Ps. 13 - 14; Prov. 26; 1 Thess. 5)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Thess. 5:28)
This is how Paul ends most of his letters. I find it very encouraging. It is not just some formal benediction that Paul thought he needed to tack on to the end of all his letters just to have a good ending. It is rather a prayer that God would continue to meet the believers with grace to face the challenges of the days ahead. Paul knew that he could not cover everything there was to cover about the Christian life in 5 chapters! He knew that these Thessalonians, and we, would face challenges and be put in situations in which no direct Bible verse speaks to. What are we to do in these situations? We are to rely on the grace that God supplies to discern, according to biblical principals, what is the most God-honoring action in each specific situation.
God is the one who has created us and redeemed us and He is the one who will sustain us, by His grace, in all the unknowns of today and all the rest of our “todays” for as long as we shall live.

April 9, 2011 (Leviticus 13; Psalm 15-16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thess. 1)

Leviticus 13 and14 focus on the issue of leprosy and how to deal with those who are afflicted by this horrible disease. What must be understood when reading this chapter is that Leprosy in bible times is not the same disease that we call leprosy today.  Leprosy today (Hansen’s disease) was unknown to the readers of Leviticus. This disease has to do with the impairment of one’s nerve endings. The leprosy of the bible, on the other hand, was some form of skin disease. A person having leprosy was “unclean” (v.8) and was forced to live “alone and outside the camp.” (v.46) These lepers were required to go around with their heads uncovered, cover their mouths, and cry out “unclean, unclean” (v.4) which were all signs of mourning in the Old Testament. This conduct was to show that Lepers were symbolically dead and needed to be isolated from the “living” community. Chapter 14 tells how cleansing is needed to restore such a person to that “living” community.
What  a rich picture of how each of us are in our sinful states. We are dead and isolated from those that are truly alive. We stand in need of cleansing, of something that can wash away our disease for good. Praise God that Jesus touches lepers (see Mark 1:41) and by His blood, brings us the cleansing that we so desperately need.

April 10, 2011 (Lev. 14; Ps. 17; Prov. 28; 2 Thess. 2)

The word, “Trinity” is not in the bible, but the truth of the Trinity is all over it! The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is One God who makes Himself known in Three persons: the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In simple terms we can say that God is One “what” and Three “whos”. He is the great three in One! Our minds might not be able to comprehend how this is true, but this is what the bible reveals about the nature of God and we should be content to let the mystery of it remain mystery.
Even though we can not fully comprehend and explain how our One God can and does exist in Three persons we can be sure that this is true. The reason for our confidence comes as we read about the nature and work of each person of the God-head in the Holy Scriptures. For instance, look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13. In this verse Paul is giving thanks to God for the faith of the Thessalonians. He says, “we give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit, and belief in the truth.”
Each person of the God-head plays a role in our salvation. The Father chooses us, the Son loves us, and the Spirit makes us holy! Chew on that truth today and see if it does not enhance the way you think about God.

April 11, 2011 (Lev. 15; Ps. 18; Prov. 29; 2 Thess. 3)

“God bless our missionaries.” We hear this a lot when we have prayer for those who have felt a call to cross cultures with the goal of spreading the gospel. They go and we stay home and pray for them, and usually the above prayer is about all we ever offer on their behalf. Surely there is a more fruitful way of praying for those who stand in desperate need of our prayers! Indeed, the Bible offers us many guidelines that we can and should use as models to help us pray in a God-honoring way especially when it relates to our prayers on behalf of those who have gone.

One such guideline can be found in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2. Here Paul, a missionary of the gospel, asks for prayer from the Thessalonian church. He asks for prayer and then tells them how to specifically pray. He says, “pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored…and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” Paul’s first priority is for the gospel. He wants it to go forth with no hindrances. He wants it to be acknowledged as true and embraced by those who hear it.  Paul knows that when one hears the truth that person will either accept it or reject it. He is asking for prayer that people will accept it. He is also asking that when people reject it and become hostile to it that Paul and his buddies will be kept safe from their hostility.

“O Father, please use our missionaries on the field. Use them to spread your gospel message with truth and integrity. Help them learn the languages and cultures they need to learn so that they might be better equipped to proclaim your truth and may that truth be embraced by all who hear! And Lord we know that they are going to face hostility. We know they will be opposed. We ask that you would protect them from those people inspired by the evil. Keep them from the wicked plans of those who do not embrace Christ, and use their safety as a means to the end of further gospel saturation all over this globe. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

April 12, 2011 (Lev. 16; Ps. 19; Prov. 30; 1 Timothy 1 )

If God did not choose to communicate with us there would be no way that we could ever find out information about Him. This would be horrible! Thankfully God has chosen to communicate to us. He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. He does this in two ways. We often refer to these two ways as General Revelation and Special Revelation. Psalm 19 is a beautiful description of both of these modes of divine communication. The first 6 verses tell how God has put His fingerprints all over His creation. Verses 7-11 then tell us how God has communicated to our souls in His written (special revelation) word! The last 3 verses show us how we should respond to this glorious revelation God has made known to us. We should recognize our own failure, rely on God’s forgiveness, and seek protection from the domination of sin!

April 13, 2011 (Lev. 17; Ps. 20-21; Prov. 31; 1 Tim. 2)

Proverbs 31 can, at times when read, be very depressing! It seems like almost every mother’s day these verses are marshaled out of the bible and presented to women as the standard they are to keep if they ever hope to be good wives and mommies. Women hear about this women, “rising while it is still night” (v.15), “With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard” (v.16), and “her lamp does not go out at night” (v.18) and think, “Is it not godly to ever sleep!?!?”

When men and young men read this there is a danger as well, especially when we properly understand that this chapter was meant to serve as a picture for men of what a good wife should look like. Men read this and think, “I guess I need to stay single….I can never find this woman” What we need to understand in reading this chapter is that the woman pictured in this chapter is not a real woman. This chapter was never intended to be anything more than a sample of what is ideal in a godly woman. It was never expected that any one woman would look exactly like this in every respect. This woman should be the goal but should never be a measuring rod by which we judge ourselves or others. Where we fail in reflecting this godly woman (and guys can use her as an example in many respects as well) we should repent of those shortcomings and turn to Christ who perfectly embodies all of God’s righteousness on our behalf!

April 14, 2011 (Lev.18; Ps. 22; Ecclesiastes 1; 1 Tim. 3 )

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This second verse of the book of Ecclesiastes gives us a preview of what the whole book is about. The word, “vanity” in some form is used 38 times in this book. It’s meaning, literally is “vapor” and conjures up the idea of that which is fading away quickly. It should be taken in slightly different ways in the book depending on the context in which it is used.

When the word is used in those contexts which talk about life’s pursuits it should be taken to mean that “the present form of this world is passing away” (see 1 Cor.7:31).  In some contexts this word is used to indicate the “preacher’s” frustration in trying to figure out life’s mysteries (see 1:14-15). Sometimes the word refers to the frustration and anger and sorrow that we feel from living in a fallen world. This is why it is important whenever we read this book that we always have the conclusion in our minds (See ch. 12:13-14).  What really counts in life is living in such a way that we obey what God commands out of a heart that fears Him and recognizes Him for who He is. Any other life lived, as this book shows, is a life lived in vain!

April 15, 2011 (Lev. 19; Ps. 23-24; Ecc. 2; 1 Tim. 4)

Here is the memory verse for this week, Leviticus 19:2. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Holy means set apart, unique and distinct. This is what God is. He is not like the rest of creation around us, and because we belong to Him we should not be either. We should be like Him. We should act like Him. We should be holy. This is our fundamental calling!

April 16, 2011 (Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5)

Psalm 25 is an acrostic psalm of David. This means that each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  One famous acrostic most of us are familiar with is GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense). This acrostic Psalm is a prayer in which David asks the Lord to meet a variety of needs.
David finds himself in danger of his enemies’ taunts.  David openly trusts in the Lord and his enemies think that trust is utterly foolish. This is not too much different from the situation that we, as believers, find ourselves in today. We follow a risen Savior who has promised to return one day for us to put all wrongs right. The world thinks such hope is foolish.  Furthermore this worldly point of view often shows itself in violent action and/or words towards those who hold to such hope. How are we to sustain our hope in the face of such hostile treatment?
We must do as David did. Notice he did not wallow in self-pity. He prays.  He prays for guidance (v.4-5) and for forgiveness (v.6-7; 16-21), and expresses his trust in the Lord’s friendship (v.v.12-15) while praising Him for his mercy and goodness (v.8-11). Very instructive! Maturity comes when we start to pray like this.

April 17, 2011 (Lev. 21; Ps. 26-27; Ecc.4; 1 Tim. 6)

Psalm 27: 4 says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”  This would be a great memory verse for this week. What is David saying here though?
Well, he is not saying that he wants to spend all of his time in church. What he is saying is that he wants to spend all his time in the presence and blessing of the living God who revealed Himself most truly and fully (up to that point in salvation history) in the temple. He is saying He wants to be caught up in God all the time.
How would we, this side of the cross, pray this prayer? Well, think of how God has fully and finally revealed Himself. 2 Cor.4:6 tells us that God has fully revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Christian praying David’s prayer would say, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell with Christ and in Christ all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of Christ.”
That is our prayer. But we are not just to pray passively. We are to seek that which we pray for. So today, pray that you might be drawn closer to Christ and then seek his face with all that you have!

April 18, 2011 (Lev. 22; Ps.28-29; Ecc. 5; 2 Tim. 1)

2 Timothy  is probably the last book that the Apostle Paul wrote before he was beheaded by Nero around 67 A.D. It is his “Swan’s Song”. It is his final message. Notice he does not try and recruit the prayer warriors from the group in Acts 12 who “prayed” Peter out of prison.  He really does not seem concerned with his own welfare at all. He is totally at peace that his God is in control of his fate (see 4:16-18).
What I find amazing about this letter is that Paul is writing to encourage his young protégé and child in the faith, Timothy. Paul is in distress and yet he seeks to encourage others. It convicts me about my conduct when I suffer. I am afraid that I do not usually respond to my suffering by trying to encourage someone else. Perhaps that may be one of the many reasons I find the level of Paul’s joy, at times, mind baffling. Any Amens?

April 19, 2011 (Lev. 23; Ps. 30; Ecc. 6; 2 Tim. 2 )

Psalm 30:5 is very well known and deserves to be memorized.
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning.”
Rejoice as you feast on this today!

April 20, 2011 (Lev. 24; Ps. 31; Ecc. 7; 2 Tim. 3)

2 Timothy 3:16 is one of the great 3:16 s” of the bible. It summarily describes what the Word is and its effect.  It is the only thing that will “equip the man of God for every good work.” Do you believe this? Do you live like the Word is the only thing that will provide you with the tools of life?

April 21, 2011 (Lev. 25; Ps. 32; Ecc. 8; 2 Tim. 4 )

When you close your eyes and think of the most blessed thing imaginable what comes to mind? Notice what David says in Psalm 32:1:
 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
If we have God’s forgiveness we have everything. If we do not, we have nothing else of worth!

April 22, 2011 (Lev. 26; Ps. 33; Ecc. 9; Titus 1)

We might be tempted to read Leviticus 26 and hear how God promises blessing for obedience and punishment for disobedience and simply relegate such notions in our minds to some obsolete “Old Testament” box that does not apply any more. We now live in the New Covenant, we might subconsciously think. This blessing being contingent on obedience deal no longer applies we might assume. Let us beware of doing so!
Obedience is still required under the New Covenant even though some of the stipulations to be obeyed have been changed. The reason behind this is that the New Covenant brings with it a new nature for its recipients! And though we will not attain perfection until Jesus comes there will be some degree of transformation. Any other alternative is completely unthinkable to the New Testament authors.
So strive to obey, by the grace of God, today!

April 23, 2011 (Leviticus 27; Psalm 34; Ecclesiastes 10; Titus 2)

Training is hard. Think about the various forms of training you have experienced at one time or another in your life. No doubt the times have been strenuous. Perhaps it was intense physical training for some sort of athletic event. Perhaps you exerted some extreme mental energy in trying to memorize lines for a play or get ready for a test. The principal is almost universally accepted, namely, that if one desires to succeed in any area of life that success will usually come at a cost. The simple way to say this is, “No pain; no gain.”
If this is so, and it is, why do we sometimes go about our Christian lives with little or no effort whatsoever in striving after holiness? This should not be so. Indeed, there is a great amount of effort that is involved in our striving to become more like Christ. This is what Titus 2:11-14 teaches us. The grace of God “trains” or “teaches” us to become godly people. Often we want to simply cling to “saving” grace. But “saving” grace always comes with “training” grace. Grace saves us and makes us holy. The two go together. 

April 24, 2011 (Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecc. 11; Titus 3)

One of the most beautiful descriptions of what has happened in our salvation is found in Titus 3:3-7. Read this passage today slowly and repeatedly until all that God has done for you has sunk deep into your heart. Among other truths this passage teaches us that, though we were once foolish and disobedient to God, He did not deal with us according to our works, but instead caused His goodness and loving kindness to appear to us. This goodness and loving-kindness manifested itself in the Savior washing us and the Holy Spirit renewing us. The end result of all this is that we, who were once rebels, now have become eternal heirs of God. What beautiful truth! Notice , however, the ethical change Paul says this truth should cause in us (verses 8-10). 

April 25, 2011 (Num. 2; Ps. 36; Ecc. 12; Philemon)

Psalm 36:7-9 would be another good passage to memorize this week. It reads,
 “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”
Take this as an invitation to come and quench your thirsty soul today in the living God who remains steadfast in His love and faithfulness to all who come into the light of His Son.  Take the invitation and then come….and drink your fill.

April 26, 2011 (Num. 3; Ps. 37; Song of Songs 1; Hebrews 1)

There are some verses of the bible that are so brutally misquoted that all true meaning of what God wanted us to understand from those passages is lost. One such verse is Psalm 37 :4 , “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
This verse rightly teaches that God will give you whatever you desire. It does not, however, teach that he will give you things you desire that are birthed from a selfish, wicked delight. In other words if you desire to have a new car and think that all you have to do is “claim” this promise in order to get one then you are not understanding this verse properly. God promises to grant the desires of those who are first delighting in Him.  As we delight in the Lord then our hearts will desire the right thing. So if, after delighting ourselves in the Lord, we still find that there is a desire for a car so that we can use it for ministry and the glory of God then that is the kind of desire God delights to fulfill. 

April 27, 2011 (Num. 4; Ps. 38; S.O.S 2; Heb. 2)

The book of the Song of Solomon is a book about courtship and the intimacy of marriage. God is not afraid of these subjects. He invented, marriage, relationships, and sex. We are not being biblical when we act as if these are taboo subjects to discuss. God wants us to know His blueprint and plan in these areas. There is much that can be said about what we find in this short book but let me, for now, focus on one verse found in chapter 2 (v.15)  
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
In this verse the courtship of the couple in this book is being described. In other words, they are not married yet. They are preparing for marriage. Their relationship is  thus being described as a vineyard that is blossoming. There is a problem though. There is a potential danger for this vineyard to be destroyed before if comes into full blossom. The danger is “the little foxes”. What does this mean?
It means that those things that destroy a relationship (by destroy I mean spoil it with impurity) are the little things. . The message is that no committed Christian young girl wakes up one day and decides that she will sleep with her boyfriend tonight. No committed Christian young man decides that tonight he will push the physical envelope too far. It is never so loud as that. It is always subtle. It is always a small thing that leads to that big decision. Maybe a late night with no one else around. Maybe too much time “sharing” each other’s hearts. Maybe just one more step physically. The little foxes must be caught, and they must be killed! And for those of us whom our vine has already matured we must be on the lookout for potential foxes in the lives of those who still have tender grapes!

April 28, 2011 (Num. 5; Ps. 39; S.O.S 3; Heb. 3 )

I am glad to have the privilege of writing these devotions every month. They cause me to realize many things, but one of the things they cause me to realize is just how much some themes of the bible are constantly being presented in almost every book. One of those themes resurfaces in Hebrews 3:12-14. This passage calls on us to encourage each other lest we fall prey to the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is tricky and we need the vantage points of our brothers and sisters to help us see our blind spots and encourage us out of the pits when we fall into them. This is one of the ways God has designed us to persevere in the faith.
And that is the recurring theme, namely, perseverance. True believers always persevere. They keep believing and trusting and treasuring Christ to the very end of their days. This is almost on every page of the bible. Verse 14 says, “we have come to share in Christ IF indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” That is a big “IF”.  It should cause us to, anew, examine ourselves to see if we are genuine!

April 29, 2011 (Num. 6; Ps. 40-41; S.O.S. 4; Heb. 4)

Numbers 6:22-27 gives us one of the most beautiful and most often used blessings of the bible. It helps in understanding this blessing by noting that Moses uses a type of parallelism in arranging the parts of the blessing. There are basically three parts that all mean the same thing. The different wording helps explain just exactly what Moses has in mind when he writes and what the Lord wanted him to communicate. Thus for God to “bless” the people would mean that He “would lift up His countenance “upon them and “make His face shine upon them”. For God to “keep” the people would  mean that He would be “gracious” to them and give them “peace”.
This is good stuff, but perhaps it would help us understand this blessing even more if we read what the exact opposite would mean for us. The opposite of this blessing would be the most horrible curse imaginable. It would sound something like this: “The Lord curse you and remove His care from you; The Lord look upon you with enmity and be angry with you; The Lord withhold His favor from you and terrify you.” This is strong. May it cause us to melt with thankfulness that this, indeed, is not how God is inclined to those who hope in His Son.

April 30, 2011 (Numbers 7; Psalms 42-43; Song of Songs 5; Hebrews 5)

Make no mistake about it; sometimes God feels very far away. This is how the author of Psalm 42 and 43 feels. We often sing the words of the first verse of this Psalm, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Unfortunately many of us have in our minds when we sing this song a ‘Thomas Kincade like’ image of a deer drinking from a glistening brook. That is not the image at all. The image is one of a deer being hunted, and desperately panting for a trickle of water! The question we must ask ourselves is what do we do when we find our souls panting like the deer. What do we do when our souls long for God (in these Psalms expressed in the idea of worshipping Him corporately with other believers in the temple), but do not seem to be getting filled with His presence? In those times we need to remind ourselves to continue to hope in God! (42:5,11; 43:5) We might never know why God allows us to go through those times of drought, but we do know that it is for our good. Those times of drought might be a tender mercy from God sent to keep us truly grateful for the intimacy we share with Him. So continue to hope in Him and remember that the time of drought is only “a time”. It will not last forever. “I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”