Friday, July 29, 2011

August 1, 2011 (Judges 15; Acts 19; Jeremiah 28; Mark 14)

In Jeremiah 28 in get a glimpse into what Jeremiah thinks should lie at the heart of a prophetic ministry. In this chapter we have Jeremiah squaring off with on of the most prominent false prophets of his day, Hananiah. Hananiah had a very successful ministry of prophesying that which would tickle the ears of his audience. His message was basically (my paraphrase of course) ‘God loves us too much to allow us to suffer. We will certainly prosper!’ It was an old version of what is still around today – a classic ‘prosperity gospel.’ Jeremiah says that this kind of preaching is making God’s people trust in a lie (v.15).
Jeremiah, on the other hand is busy preaching “war, famine, and pestilence against many…” (v.8) Some might regard such preaching like they regard a sour, wet blanket. Why always such the frowning face, Jerry?
The reason Jeremiah preaches thusly is not because he does not want his people to prosper. Indeed he profusely “Amens” the sermon of Hananiah (v.5-9). He really hopes that what the false prophet says will come true. He just knows that it will not, because Holy God has said that it will not. And Holy God has said it will not because His people have become a profoundly unholy people. And whenever unholy people are trying to come to Holy God real prophets proclaim the gross reality of sin and its horrible consequences. They implore such sinners to flee the wrath to come.
So, having said all of that perhaps we should ask ourselves what kind of flavor does our “proclaiming” have to it. Can the people we share the gospel with not only sense the compassion in our voice but also the urgency we feel for their souls? Or do we present the gospel as one other alternative amongst an host of numerous options? “Why not trying Jesus if nothing else works for you?” Beyond this thought, what kind of preaching do we gravitate towards? Do we want to be entertained and have our ears tickled and leave with warm fuzzies knowing that our future is okay no matter what our lifestyle demonstrates? Or do we really welcome the rebukes of the word, realizing those rebukes are the very means God Almighty desires to use to keep us close to Him and faithful to the end?

August 2, 2011 (Judges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15)

I think it is instructive to read the letter that Jeremiah penned to the Babylonian exiles (Jer.29) while thinking through the New Testament reality that those who have chosen to align themselves with Jesus really are exiles in this world. We are exiled aliens. This world is not our home; it is not our final destination. We are just passing through (ex: Heb.11:8-11; Phil.3:20; 1 Pet.2:11). We should not live in this world as if this world were our all. Our attachment and allegiance to this world should not be what anchors us in this life. Indeed quite the opposite should be true of us. We should be so heavenly-minded that it effects all we say, think, and do here and now.
            Having said all of this, what then should be our relationship to the current land in which we are exiled? Should we all quit our jobs and go join a monastery or go climb and tree and wait for the Lord to snatch us up? Or should we belittle our country and neglect service to it since we do not ultimately belong to it? I think the obvious answer to all of these questions is “No”! Listen to Jeremiah:
            [4] “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: [5] Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. [6] Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. [7] But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
            Live normal life and serve the country where you live and while your marrying and raising and family and engaging in employment and serving your country should not take the primary place in your life, they should nevertheless find a prominent place.

August 3, 2011 (Judges 17, Acts 21, Jeremiah 30-31; Mark 16)

            So in Acts 21 Paul is on his way to Jerusalem feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to go. On his way he makes a pit stop at Phillip the Evangelist’s house. While here a prophet named Agabus comes to Paul, wraps him up with his belt and tells Paul that this is what the Jewish people will do to him once he arrives there.
            Now ask yourself what you would have done in that situation. I probably would have said something like, “Thank you Lord that you have sent your servant to warn me from walking into harms way. I thought I heard you, but obviously I did not because I know that you would never want me to walk into danger. Although you have already spoken clearly, decidedly, and finally about what you want me to do I guess I heard wrong. So, I will just sit here and wait for another plan to formulate.” This is not what Paul says. He says:
I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (v.13).
            We will probably not have the same direct revelation that Paul has had about going to Jerusalem. God does still speak thusly (i.e. in dreams and visions, etc.) but this is not the normal way He chooses to lead especially since His written revelation has been completed. We will always need to weigh the wisdom and counsel of other godly men and women as we decide our next move. When we, however, arrive at a certain degree of confidence, as to what that move is that the Lord desires let us pursue it with all we have! And if it appears to be a path laden with risk and danger let us dismiss it outright. Indeed this is often an indication that it certainly is from the Lord! Let us pursue His will with reckless abandon and leave the consequence to Him. It may be dangerous to follow Him, but it is more dangerous not to. (Reflect on the passage in 1 Kings 13 about the disobedient prophet, especially v.24)

August 4, 2011 (Judges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalms 1-2)

It is interesting to note that in Psalm 1 the “righteous” person is first described by what he does not do. He does not “walk”, “stand”, or “sit” with the wicked. Notice the downward progression. This is the perpetual motion that sin always leads its captors in. First we are casually walking in the advice of the wicked world. We start listening to how this world says we should plan for the future and live in the present. We listen so long that one day we find that our relationship with the world is no mere casual acquaintance but now we are “standing” in the very ways of sinners. Whereas before we merely listened to the world’s advice, now we do exactly what they do so much that our lives are indistinguishable. Eventually the inevitable happens to such a person, namely, he begins to reside (sit) with those who openly mock and ridicule God and his people and his ways.
I often say that I want to be more known for what I am for than for what I am against. This Psalm, however, cautions me to make sure I am known for what I am against. Both should be evident in the life of a Christ follower. Are they evident in you?

August 5, 2011 (Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3-4)

In Jeremiah 33 the prophet is proclaiming a message of eventually restoration for God’s people.  In this proclamation many truths deserve our attention today, but I would like to focus on just one. Feel free to go beyond this in your own meditation!
We must remember that Jeremiah’s original audience was on the brink of total destruction. In just a few more chapters we will read the account of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and most of its residents. As Jeremiah writes this (and preaches it)  the people’s exile is all but inevitable. And yet, Jeremiah preaches … Hope. Hope to a people who are about to face the most trying ordeal that they have ever heard about? That is correct.  God wants Jeremiah and his people to look beyond the impending disaster to the promises that await them in the future. These promises are as sure to come to pass as the sun rising (v.19-21) and culminate in the ‘Branch’ of David (v.15). Judgment is certainly coming. But judgment is never God’s last word to His people; mercy always is. Contemplating this, especially in the face of tragedy, is a large component of what it means to walk by faith. 

August 6, 2011 (Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Psalms 5-6)

Fox-Hole Faith – That is the best summary description of Jeremiah 34.
In this chapter the king of Babylon has finally reached the gates of Jerusalem and has begun the arduous yet inevitable process of besieging a city. King Zedekiah and the rest of Jerusalem’s inhabitants are terrified! Jeremiah the prophet comes and delivers a message that basically says, “Repent, and prove your repentance by the good deed of setting all of your slaves at liberty.” King Zed and the rest of the folks obey the word from Jeremiah and release their slaves. Yeah, God’s people experienced genuine repentance and respond to His word with obedience… sort of.
Until the King of Babylon leaves the siege in order to go fight on another border. Then the people (v.11) take back their slaves! The pressure abates and the people rescind their promises of repentance and obedience. It is a clear example of Fox-Hole Faith. It is a tragedy and we are not immune. All of us are tempted to vow oaths that we think will please God if he will just “get us out of this mess.” Once, however, we are rescued from the “mess” we easily forget what we vowed. May we be characterized as a people whose repentance is not motivated by what mercy we can squeeze out of God, but rather by the mercy he has already lavished on us in Jesus Christ. If He never does another act of mercy for us for all eternity besides the Cross, than that is enough to wish like the hymn writer for “a thousand tongues to sing” our Great Redeemer’s Praise!

August 7, 2011 (Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7-8)

Judges 17-21 serve as sort of an epilogue to the entire book. If in Joshua we see God’s faithfulness to his people in giving them promise land then in Judges we see the faithlessness of his people in possessing the land. Indeed, the children of Israel came into the land of Canaan to possess it and tragically Canaan ended up possessing them!
In these last 5 chapters we read a few horrific illustrations of this general truth. Some of the most “R” rated material found in the bible is found here. There is a reason why these 5 chapters are never featured in a VBS with each day of the week highlighting a different chapter. It is a tragic depiction of a people who have lost their spiritual moorings. What is the reason for all this?
It is hard to read these last chapters and not pick up on the constant refrain, indeed it is the statement that closes the book, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 21:25 see also 17:6;18:1;19:1) This nation is in desperate need of a King on a throne full of power who will be able to govern the hearts of the people to fear the Lord always. Come to think of it, we are in desperate need of this as well. All of us, left to ourselves, do only what is right in our own eyes. We need someone to rule our souls and rule rightly. We need a King! The book of Judges closes with the reader longing for that king. The king was not found in Saul, and only in picture form was he found in David. The True King did not come until the entire Old Testament came to a close. Do you know His Name? Better yet, do you know His rule?

August 8, 2011 (Ruth 1; Acts 26; Jeremiah 36, 45; Psalm 9)

Jeremiah 45 is a very short chapter with a very big message. In this chapter Baruch, the assistant to Jeremiah is lamenting what the impending judgment on Jerusalem means for him personally (v.3). The Lord answers his lament with this word:
[4] Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. [5] And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.
“Do you seek great things for yourself?” That is a rebuke that many of us living in our individualistic society need to take to heart (especially the one typing this). The whole nation is about to be destroyed and are you thinking about your little boat (or whatever else is appropriate) that will be confiscated?
Let us not labor to seek great things for ourselves. Let us labor to lay everything we have down to seek great things for His kingdom (c.f. Matt.6:33) and may the Lord give us grace to cause our hearts to be moved on behalf of our nation and countrymen on whom the Lord is preparing to pour His wrath!

August 9, 2011 (Ruth 2; Acts 27; Jeremiah 37; Psalm 10)

So here is the situation in Acts 27. After being wrongly and unjustly accused of sedition Paul is arrested in the temple and beaten almost to death (Acts 21:27-36). He is then made a prisoner in a Roman jail and forced to stand before various government officials and counsels to defend his innocence (Acts 22-26). During this time Paul is mocked for his belief in a resurrected Messiah, wrongly held as prisoner in the hopes that someone might ransom him, and is the subject of a death plot that he just nearly escapes. So now he is bound on his way to Rome to appear before wicked Caesar to give an account of his innocence. The boat he is on goes through a violent storm (in which he advised them to wait before they set sail. His advice was not taken) and all the crewmembers fear that death is imminent.
As all this is happening Paul sees a vision from God and is told that he and all who were with him will make it to land alive and well.(v.22-24) Now here is the really amazing thing, namely, Paul’s response:
“So take heart men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” (v.25)
What a basic definition of faith. Faith is really just believing what God tells you. It is taking Him at His word. And this simple faith in God works itself out in love towards others. Notice how Paul encourages the crew and helps them in their fears. True faith working itself out in real love. That is Christianity and it is what the world desperately needs to see.

August 10, 2011 (Ruth 3-4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11-12)

Psalm 12 provides us with an excellent memory verse for today in our meditation:
“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” (v.6)

August 11, 2011 (1 Samuel 1; Romans 1; Jeremiah 39; Psalm 13-14)

Two of the passages interrelate in a way that is worthy of mention today. Psalm 14:1 says that “The Fool says in his heart that there is no god.”  The Hebrew word behind what we render in the English as “fool” is much stronger than its English counterpart. The word does not signify only stupidity and ignorance but also moral perverseness.  This is what Paul has in mind when he writes Romans 1:18-32. “Claiming to be wise they became fools” (v.22) and exchanged the obvious truth about God for lies of their own inventions. Atheists are fundamentally atheists because they have a moral problem, not an intellectual problem. When the truth is suppressed long enough and hard enough (v.18) it must be replaced by something else. And on God’s part when man is happy to indulge in such replacement He “gives them over to do so” (v.24,26,28). This is the most profound expression of God’s wrath (v.18) that is now being revealed. In light of this would it be more precise to say that God’s wrath is coming to our country, or has already come?

August 12, 2011 (1 Samuel 2; Romans 2; Jeremiah 40; Psalms 15-16)

Romans 2:14-15 is often misinterpreted. Here is the text:

14] For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
Some take this to mean that the proverbial man on the island or “noble savage” who has never heard the gospel or the name of Jesus may somehow be saved possibly. They assume this because Paul says that they “by nature do what the law requires.”, and their consciences defend them. This is not what Paul means. Listen to D.A. Carson on this point:
Paul is not arguing that there is a subset of Gentiles who are so good that their consciences are always clean, and therefore they will be saved. Rather, he is arguing that Gentiles everywhere have some knowledge of right and wrong, even though they do not have the law, and that this is demonstrated in the fact that they sometimes do things in line with the law, and have consciences that sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them. His argument is not that some are good enough to be saved, but that all display, by their intuitive grasp of right and wrong, an awareness of such moral standards… that they too have enough knowledge to be accountable.”
Paul will make explicitly clear later in this letter (10:17) that it is only faith in Jesus that saves. General revelation and our conscience is enough to condemn but not enough to bring about faith. So then, those of us who know this Jesus, what kind of attitude should that birth in us for those who have still not heard?

August 13, 2011 (1 Samuel 3; Romans 3; Jeremiah 41; Psalm 17)

Romans 3:21-26 is one of the most beautiful descriptions of how the gospel works for us. After describing in chapters 1 and 2 how all (Jew and Gentile) are utterly hopeless before holy God Paul gives us this paragraph. Because of what God has done in sending His Son to bear the wrath for us we can now freely receive life and righteousness from Him. All we do is believe. This is why Paul then in v.27 rhetorically asks what place human boasting can now have. The answer is no place. Below are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs that elucidate this glorious truth. I boast no more by Caedmon’s Call. If you know it sing it this day, if not read the words and glorify God for His mercy!
No More My God, I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son

No more my God

No more my God

No more my God

I boast no more
Now, for the loss I bear his name,

What was my gain I count my loss

My former pride I call my shame

And nail my glory to His cross
Yes, and I must, I will esteem
All things but loss for Jesus' sake
O may my soul be found in Him
And of His righteousness partake
Amen, amen
The best obedience of my hands

Dares not appear before Thy throne

But faith can answer Thy demands

By pleading what my Lord has done

August 14, 2011 (1 Samuel 4; Romans 4; Jeremiah 42; Psalm 18)

By 1 Samuel 4 God’s people are in a mess, nationally and spiritually. Nationally the fearsome Philistines are threatening invasion. Morally, the priesthood has been corrupted by Eli’s wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas. What is the most deplorable thing, however, is the people’s view of God. It has become so distorted that they see God as nothing more than an oversized good luck charm meant to do their bidding when beckoned.
This is what is behind the Israelites decision to bring the ark of God into the battle with the Philistines (v.1-9).  They think they can use God like a rabbits foot while they live any way they please. Well, God allows his ark (the symbol of His presence) to be captured, and allows the two wicked priests to be killed, and allows the High Priest Eli to die upon hearing the news. All this prompts the daughter in law of Eli to go into labor. Upon giving birth she names her child Ichabod.
When we read Ichabod we normally think of headless horsemen and sleepy hallow, but the word really means, “Where is the glory?” or “The glory has departed.”  With all that had transpired, especially with the capturing of the ark of God it was as if His glory (His abiding and manifest presence) had left.
I wander how many churches in America today should be called “Ichabod Baptist”. Do we have a sense of God’s glory and presence when we meet or is it mere ritual? The answer to that question will depend, in large part, to how we view God. Indeed our view of God is the most important thing about us. Is our image of God nonsense or Biblical?

August 15, 2011 (1 Samuel 5-6; Romans 5; Jeremiah 43; Psalm 19)

This meditation will build off yesterdays. Lest anyone think that the sacking of the ark of God means God’s defeat the author of Samuel gives us 1 Samuel 5-6. In these two chapters we have a description of how God decides to work by Himself for His own sake. God does not need His people to bring glory to His name. He is quite capable of winning glory to His name all by Himself. Indeed if we read our Bibles rightly we will understand that this is exactly God’s goal in all He does. We, God’s people, however have the privilege of being instruments in His hands. If, however, those instruments prove themselves worthless God is not obligated to use them.
Both with the pagans and with His own people God takes pains to cause His Name to be revered. The question asked in 6:20 is the main point of these two chapters, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this Holy God?” What is unfortunate is that those who ask this question do not intend to learn the ways of holiness and thus dwell with this Holy God. Rather, they ask this question as the preamble to getting rid of this holy God (the exact thing that the pagan Philistines did). 
God will not be treated with contempt. It is sad however, when God tries to teach His people this truth and they respond by running farther away from Him. Are you being taught any hard lessons by the Lord right now? If so, is the “hardness” driving you toward Him or away from Him? (chew on Proverbs 3:11-12)

August 16, 2011 (1 Samuel 7-8; Romans 6; Jeremiah 44; Psalms 20-21)

Why people ask for something is at least as important as what they ask for.  It is not wrong in and of itself to ask for a rifle for Christmas (any ‘Amens’ from card-carrying NRA folks?). If the reason, however, one wants the rifle is to go to the local shopping center and start picking folks off as they get out of their vehicles then obviously this is wrong.
Such is the case in 1 Samuel 8 with the requests of the Israelites for a king. Indeed one of the things we saw at the end of the book of Judges was that the lack of a king was one of the major problems that led to the moral decadence in the land (see meditation for August 7). Moses himself even writes favorably about a time in which the Israelites will have a king (see Deut. 17:14-18).  So why does the request by the Israelites for a king elicit the displeasure of Samuel and the Lord (v.6-9)?
The answer to that question is simple: Motive. It was not the request that was the problem but the reason for the request that displeased God and His prophet. Read the request again from the people:
“…appoint for us a king do judge us like all the nations.” (v.5-emphasis mine)
The reason the request was displeasing to God is because the people wanted to be like the world. They did not want a king to govern their hearts into more faithful obedience to Yahweh. They just saw the “stability” of what other nations had and they lusted after it. They desired worldly status more than privileged position as God’s special people.
I sure am glad that kind of silly praying was only for the Old Testament times…wait a minute, was it?

August 17, 2011 (1 Samuel 9; Romans 7; Jeremiah 46; Psalm 22)

A “sinning Christian” is almost an oxymoron. Almost. I think one of the main truths we have to keep repeating to ourselves when it comes to our relationship with sin is that “while sin no longer reigns, it nevertheless remains”. Sin will remain with every believer until his final breath is expired on this earth. He (sin) no longer has mastery. He has been knocked off his throne and confined to the dungeons of our heart. Christ has broken his power over our lives, but he crawls around in those dungeons trying to regain strength and recapture the throne. For a true believer this sin prisoner will never finally succeed but he will make some vicious attempts that, at times, might rock us a bit.
This is the struggle that Paul is describing in Romans 7:13-25. Some do not think that this is referring to believers but it seems that the bulk of textual evidence would lead us to think that Paul is indeed referring to believers. Here are a few clues that lead us to that conclusion
·      Paul shifts to the present tense here (and he is presently a believer when he writes)
·      Unbelievers do not so intensely desire to keep God’s law (v.21) Believers do.
·      There is distinction made between “I” and “the flesh” (v.18)
·      Deliverance from the sinful body is though future, yet certain (v.24)
·      The tension of v.25 coheres with experience.
·      This best fits the Biblical “already/not yet” pattern.
We have already been delivered from the penalty of sin. We will one day be delivered from the presence of sin. Now, though we are being saved from the power of sin. It is a struggle. We are promised victory, and it will not come without our effort, but we are promised a certain victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks be to Him (v.25)!

August 18, 2011 (1 Samuel 10; Romans 8; Jeremiah 47; Psalms 23-24)

I love the comments that D.A. Carson has on Romans 8. Particularly he asks us to consider what we think Paul means when he calls us “more than conquerors” (v.37). Does this refer to a certain subset of Christian folks who are powerful in the confrontation of temptation, extremely faithful and victorious in their prayer lives, and mature in their walk with God and relationships with others? In short does this refer to “super-Christians”? No, he says. Instead of thinking that this phrase refers to an elite branch of Christianity we must remind ourselves that the passage refers to ALL believers in Christ.  And the evidence that a person is one of these ordinary more than conquerors is that person persevering until the end. As Carson says:
“They persevere regardless of all opposition. That opposition may take the form of horrible persecution, of the kind that Scripture describes (v.35-38). It may be some other hardship, all the way to famine. The glories of life will not finally seduce them; the terrors of death will not finally sway them; neither the pressures of the present nor the frustrations of the future will destroy them (v.38). Neither human powers nor anything else in all creation, not even all the powers of hell unleashed, can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”
Let us marinate in that truth today!

August 19, 2011 (1 Samuel 11; Romans 9; Jeremiah 48; Psalm 25)

It is perhaps instructive at this point in our journey through the book of Jeremiah to summarize what Jeremiah is doing in chapters 46-51.  One of the main points that Jeremiah is trying to make in his book is that Yahweh is the only God and He is sovereign over not just Israel, but all nations (see 27:1-15). Because of His singularity and His sovereignty He has the authority to judge all nations and He most certainly will do so. Chapters 46-51 is a smattering of this global judgment being prophesied.
Here in Jeremiah 48 the particular nation in question is Moab. The relationship of Moab with Israel dates back quite a ways. Moab began with the lewd episode of Lot and his daughters (Gen.19:30-38). In Moses’ day Moab opposed Israel when they attempted to pass through their territory (Numbers 22-25). In the days of David Moab served Israel (2 Sam.8:2), and in Zedekiah’s day Moab plotted with Judah in an attempt to resist Babylon (Jer. 27:3). Here in this chapter Jeremiah proclaims that God will judge Moab for its arrogance and idolatry (v.1-10), make Moab ashamed of its god (v.11-20), silence her boasting  (v.21-44) and ….someday RESTORE her (v.45-47)!
Let us, then, remind ourselves of a few glorious truths.
First, our God is the only God. There is none besides Him. Second, He will hold the nations accountable to how they respond to the offer of His gospel. Third, His heartbeat towards this world is mercy. He longs to restore and bring the nations to Himself.
If these things are so how then are we reflecting His mercy? Are we extending it to those nations that need to hear of it?

August 20, 2011 (1 Samuel 12; Romans 10; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 26-27)

Psalm 27:1 has been the subject of various hymns and choruses and rightly so. It is a very good reminder of how our hearts should feel when in trouble.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Light is a powerful symbol for almost everything good: truth, knowledge, joy, purity, etc. This “light” is linked with “salvation”. The light is the security. Every child knows how comforting it is to have a light on in the midst of a very dark room. In that sense the Lord is our eternal Night-Light. He is our great security! Lean on Him today.

August 21, 2011 (1 Samuel 13; Romans 11; Jeremiah 50; Psalms 28-29)

It is difficult to know exactly how Saul was in the wrong in 1 Samuel 13:8-15. Some interpreters of the Bible think  that this act of “not waiting” on Samuel is the same command that Samuel gave to Saul back in 10:8. Others think that the 10:8 statement occurred several years earlier and this command in chapter 12, though similar, is a separate command. In that case some contend that what Saul transgressed was the command for only priests to offer sacrifices (Num.18:7). Still some say that Saul disobeyed the general command to wait for God’s will to be expressed through His prophet. It is hard to tell.
What is clear, however, is that Saul disobeyed something. He knows it. Samuel knows it. And the author wants us to know it. We know he has disobeyed not only because the text explicitly says so (v.13) but also because he immediately starts making excuses. “The people are leaving, the enemy is growing stronger, I have not performed my religious duty, so let me get it over with.” Saul actually says that he “forced” himself to offer the sacrifice. (v.12)
What Saul is really doing is displaying the false nature of his belief in Yahweh. Notice how he is swayed by circumstances. Notice also how he tries to rely on some religious ritual in order to curry God’s favor (much like the Israelites from chapter 4 who thought of God as a big rabbits foot).
True belief in God does not try to manipulate God to get him to do our bidding. Nor does true belief in God allow one’s self to be shaken by the daunting circumstances that surround. True belief in God says, “I believe you are who you say you are. No giant can stand in my way if you are on my side. Here I am use me for your glory.” I think we might encounter a little shepherd boy pretty soon that talks this way.

August 22, 2011 (1 Samuel 14; Romans 12; Jeremiah 51; Psalm 30)

The book of Romans is the weightiest tome of theology ever compressed into one letter. It has been instrumental at many stages of church history in realigning the Church’s thoughts on God. Time and time again the theology found here has brought the followers of Christ back to a orthodox understanding of the Gospel. And the first 11 chapters are pure, logical, theological arguments. But then we get to chapter 12.
In Romans 12 there is a turning point. From here until the rest of the book Paul leaves his theological discoursing and speaks very practically. In other words, he begins to show how a proper understanding of theology should work itself out into the lives of Christians. Indeed if our Theology (study of God) does not find expression in Doxology (worship) then all the former will do is puff us up in pride.
That is why Paul begins the chapter the way he does, namely, by saying that because of the beautiful mercy displayed by God on our behalf (v.1) we should now offer our bodies as living sacrifices! The rest of the chapter and book will flesh out what this means . The question I want to pose to us today is, “Will our Bible reading today usher me into worship (both with my lips and life)?” If not we are not where Paul (and Jesus) wants us.

August 23, 2011 (1 Samuel 15; Romans 13; Jeremiah 52; Psalm 31)

1 Samuel 15:22 deserves to be memorized today if you do not have it already.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burn offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
This is a drum we beat often and rightly so. When will we understand that even the best forms of sacrifice (see 1 Cor.13:1-3) without obedience working through love gains us nothing? Ritualistic observance to external expectations and commands is not what the Lord is after. He wants internal passion for Him fueling the outward actions of piety in such a way that others are blessed and He is honored. Let us be diligent in praying for God to make our worship (corporate and private) to mirror this attitude! 

August 24, 2011 (1 Samuel 16; Romans 14; Lamentations 1; Psalm 32)

Not everything is “black and white” in the Christian life. There are many “Gray” issues when it comes to walking in the liberty that Christ has purchased for us. What movies should believers watch? What type of clothes should they wear? What should they eat and drink? And we could go on and on. Romans 14:13-23 is one place that addresses those issues, or rather gives us the principles whereby we may evaluate any “gray” issue that may come up.  There are a couple of things to keep in mind.
First, if I think something is gray and the word says that it is black and white, then I am wrong and I am sinning to participate in the activity. Even if I am unaware of the prohibition against stealing it is still sinful for me to steal. Often times what Christians call “gray” is really “black and white”. They just do not know their Bibles well enough to recognize it.
Second, on the truly “gray” issues if I “think” it is wrong to do it then it is wrong for me (v.23). It is never safe to go against conscience. If my little Jimminy Cricket is telling me that what I am about to do is a “no no” and I go ahead any way then I have just sinned. I have not acted in “faith”. Now, my conscience may need to be instructed. It may still be weak and not know the degree of Christian liberty like it should. Until it learns the lesson, though, the deed is wrong. It is not until my conscience can say “go for it” can I go for it.
Third, even if the Word does not condemn a certain action, and my conscience does not condemn a certain action the certain action may nevertheless still be sin for me IF by my participation in the action I cause another fellow believer to stumble (v.15-16, 20-22). Grant it, this stumbling brother may need to have his conscience instructed by the word, but until it is I must refrain so as not to cause him to sin.  Just as v.7 states, we are all connected. What I do will affect my brothers and sisters.
Finally, the goal in all of actions should be to do that which will build up our brothers and sisters the most (v.19).

August 25, 2011 (1 Sameul 17; Romans 15; Lamentations 3; Psalm 33)

This meditation will build off of August 22nd’s. We said there that our Theology (study of God) should issue forth into doxology (worship). If it does not then something is wrong. But doxology is not the final stop. Once our Theology is enflamed into Doxology it should launch us out into missiology (doing missions)! In other words, if we are thinking rightly about GOD it will lead us to worshiping God and to a desire to want as many others to worship Him as we can get to worship Him.
Indeed this is the reason why Paul says he is writing to the Romans (15:22-29). Paul wants this theological treatise to cause hearts of worship that spill out into mission (specifically in this case – to Spain). So will what you read in the word today motivate you to share it with others? If not you (I) are missing the point of the Bible!

August 26, 2011 (1 Samuel 18; Romans 16; Lamentations 3; Psalm 34)

The book of Lamentations is a book of poetical descriptions of disparity. 5 laments. 5 dirges with powerful images that reinforce a small number of burning truths. This books deals with the calamity that rightly befell a guilty nation before Holy God. The people of God were disobedient, so God punished them, and they not only deserve it but know that they deserve it. Yet there are a few glimmers of joy and hope sprinkled throughout the book. One comes today in chapter 3:22-27. Here Jeremiah remarks that it is a sheer mercy that they even still exist. They deserve to be totally annihilated. But the Lord’s mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is great (even when His people’s faithfulness is not). This is a good word for our hearts today.

August 27, 2011 (1 Samuel 19; 1 Corinthians 1; Lamentations 4; Ps. 35)

Here is a good memory passage for today:
1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
[26] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. [27] But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. [30] And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, [31] so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

August 28, 2011 (1 Samuel 20; 1 Corinthians 2; Lamentations 5; Psalm 36)

It is easy to read Lamentations 5 and think something to the effect, “We already know this.” We read this chapter right after reading Jeremiah and we hear the same themes: sin is in the camp of God’s people, consequently judgment is threatened, and then finally because the people do not repent judgment is enacted.  This chapter is just saying what so many other portions of Old Testament revelation seem to be saying. At least that is what we think (come on, I know I’m not the only one). And we scan it as quickly as possible hoping that Ezekiel will give us some relief. Listen to how one scholar sums up this attitude of ours:
That is part of the problem, isn’t it? Read this chapter again, slowly, thoughtfully. Of course, it is tied to Israel six centuries before Christ, to the destruction of her cities and land and temple, to the onset of the exile. But listen to the depth and persistence of the pleas, the repentance, the personal engagement with God, the cultural awareness, the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and justice, the profound recognition that the people must be restored to God himself if return to the land is to be possible, let alone meaningful (v.21). Then compare this with the brands of Christian confessionalism with which you are most familiar. In days of cultural declension, moral degradation, and large-scale ecclesiastical frittering, is our praying like that of Lamentations 5? Have the themes of the Major Prophets so burned into our minds and hearts that our passion is to be restored to the living God? Or have we ourselves become so caught up in the spirit of this age that we are content to be rich in information and impoverished in wisdom and godliness?

August 29, 2011 (1 Samuel 21-22; 1 Cor. 3; Ezekiel 1; Ps.37)

One of the most abused verses in all the Bible is Psalm 37:4
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Some take this to mean that if they just delight in God then He will give them a nice new Cadillac or something like that. Nothing could be further from what this verse is speaking towards. What this Psalm is saying is that once we truly start delighting in the Lord properly He will give us all our hearts desires. And the reason He will give us all our heart desires is because our hearts will be desiring what God wants us to desire.
So we worry not about getting our desires. We worry about finding our delight in God. The great part about this is that once we truly delight in God then we can be confident that what our hearts desire is from Him. He shapes our desires when we feast on Him.

August 30, 2011 (1 Samuel 23; 1 Cor.4; Ezekiel 2; Psalm 38)

1 Corinthians 4:7b is a good verse for prosperous folks to remember: “what do you have that you did not receive? If then you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

August 31, 2011 (1 Samuel 24; 1 Cor.5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39)

1 Corinthians 5 is instructive on the oft quoted axiom: “We are to be in the world and not of the world.” This is our motto and this chapter shows that we are to hold each other accountable to maintaining this balance!