The Discipline of Trials Part 2

Newton

I wrote recently the first post of what I am planning to be a short series of blog posts on the discipline of trials. I am drawing heavily from chapter 9 of Tony Reinke’s fantastic book on John Newton. In that chapter Reinke points us to various benefits of trials that John Newton gives to us. In the first post we saw that “trials drive Christians to pray.” In this post we will look at three more benefits of trials.

Trials Humble Proud Hearts

Reinke says that: “Trials are intended to humble us and launch a frontal assault on our pride.” Newton in one of his letters to another minister said: “It requires much discipline to keep pride down in us,…” It does indeed, because all of us as Christians are prone to be proud. Think about the apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12. Why did God give him this thorn in the flesh? Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 12:7: “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” One author said: “How dangerous must self-exaltation be, when even the apostle required so much restraint.” God though in His goodness will send trials our way to humble us. As Reinke says, trials will set: “us free from the shackles of our own self-righteousness and self-importance.”

Trials Kill Worldliness

Reinke writes on this benefit of trials when he tells us:

“When rust and moth and robbers eliminate our securities, when cancer arrives, or when we find ourselves speechless in the company of a suffering friend, in this place we feel deep in our bones that this world cannot be the eternal rest our hearts long for. Trials remind us of the vanity of life, and the vanity reminds us that this world is fallen, and the fallenness reminds us that it is a deeply unsatisfying world…trials make us uneasy and set our hearts on things above, where Christ is (Col. 3:1-4).”

So, God in His goodness will sometimes bring trials into our lives to: “make us uneasy and set our hearts on things above,…” When this happens to us, we should see the goodness of God in these trials. Newton said: “Let us adore the grace that seeks to draw our hearts above!”

I remember a few years ago when Rachel Bowen almost died during one of our church services, but God miraculously saved her life. I remember that people in our church were greatly impacted by that serious trial that Rachel and Ben walked through and really our whole church walked through. Members in our church were thinking about eternity and the shortness of life. I know I was regularly thinking about death and eternity during those weeks after that happened.

Trials are Ice Water on Sleepy Souls

Reinke tells us that: “The Christian life is one of sobriety and wakefulness (1 Thess. 5:6). Drawing from Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, Newton believed we walk this life in danger of spiritual laziness.” My guess is that all of us as Christians know about this danger of spiritual laziness in our lives. I am sure we have all faced the temptation to coast in the Christian life and to go on auto-pilot, or to simply be lazy spiritually. When we begin to be careless spiritually, we will find that we will begin to dry up spiritually. As Mark reminded us in a recent sermon that spiritual dryness is a common problem. When we are growing spiritually dry and beginning to take a spiritual nap, God in His goodness will sometimes send trials our way. Those trials will be like ice water to our sleepy souls, to snap us back awake.

Reinke reminds us that: “Trials are medicines measured out with care and prescribed by our wise and gracious Physician. He proportions the frequency and the weight of each dose exactly to what the case requires.”

 

The Discipline of Trials

Newton

Jerry Ediger asked me to post some of the tremendous wisdom that is found in the above book on John Newton that was written by Tony Reinke. Many people at North Avenue have already read through this book, but if you haven’t you can purchase it here. Jerry, Mark, Fred, and I were discussing Hebrews 12:1-17 recently on a Zoom call that Lord willing will be posted at some point in the future. During our discussion I mentioned chapter 9 of Tony Reinke’s book on John Newton called the discipline of trials. I pointed out how impactful that chapter has been in my life. Basically Newton gives us various benefits of trials, and he is helping us see the goodness of God during trials. So, on this post let me start by mentioning just one, and Lord willing in the future I will try and write some more post on other benefits of trials that Newton gives us. The first one I will mention is that: “Trials drive Christians to pray.”

Tony Reinke writes that: “Normally our prayer lives are unimpressive. Sin degenerates the beauty of prayer into a painful chore. The glorious privilege of prayer becomes for us a “mere task” we ignore at the slightest excuse…Instead of enjoying the blessed communion with the Almighty, we are dragged before God like a slave and we run away from prayer like a thief. Or we fall into the trap of mindless praying. We slip into rote prayers when life becomes comfortable.”

I think most of us know exactly what Reinke is describing in terms of our prayer lives somewhat drying up when life is comfortable. However, when God in His goodness brings various trials into our lives, our prayer lives tend to drastically change. Reinke says: “Mindless and habitual prayers are never less suited than when the circumstances of our lives crumble around us. Trials breathe new desperation–new life–into our prayers.” Then Reinke quotes John Newton who wrote: “Experience testifies, that a long course of ease and prosperity, without painful changes, has an unhappy tendency to make us cold and formal in our secret worship.” Then Newton gives us these powerful words: “Trials give new life to prayer, Trials lay us at his feet, Lay us low and keep us there.”

I love that last sentence from Newton. My guess is that all Christians who have walked through suffering would verify the validity of that Newton quote. As soon as we begin to walk through a trial the RPM gauge of our prayer lives revs up big time. I will just mentioned a few examples of this. Probably about a year ago a Christian coworker of mine got a call one morning while at work that his father had a stroke. He came over to my desk and told me the news and then asked me if I would go out in the hallway and pray for his dad. We walked into the hallway and I had the privilege to pray for the situation. It didn’t take long for this trial to begin to breathe new life into prayer.

I think my wife and I could both talk about praying for our son Michael during his suffering that he has walked through. On various occasions Michael has awakened crying and has been hard to console. Some of the sweetest moments with my son have been singing and praying with him when he has been crying in the night. God in His goodness has brought in these trials with my son that have breathed new life into my wife and my prayers.

The next story I will mention is a powerful story from the life of Charles Spurgeon, who went through a lot of suffering in his life. This story is from 1871 when he was enduring severe pain. Spurgeon writes: “When I was racked some months ago with pain, to an extreme degree, so that I could no longer bear it without crying out, I asked all to go from the room, and leave me alone; and then I had nothing I could say to God but this, ‘Thou are my Father, and I am thy child; and thou, as a Father art tender and full of mercy. I could not bear to see my child suffer as thou makest me suffer, and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him, and put my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt thou hide thy face from me, my Father? Wilt thou still lay on a heavy hand, and not give me a smile from thy countenance?’

So, Spurgeon walked through this severe pain, and this trial laid Spurgeon low, and it breathed new life into his prayers as he poured out his heart to his heavenly Father. Spurgeon then concludes by saying: “I bless God that ease came and the racking pain never returned.” Which John Newton tells us that: “Trouble excites prayer, prayer brings deliverance, deliverance produces praise,…” So, trials drive us to pray, and then so often God is gracious and brings deliverance after we pray, and that then produces praise and thanksgiving in us.

The last story I will mention is one that Mark mentioned in one of his recent sermons. This comes from missionary John Paton. This has to be one of my favorite stories from his life. Paton who took the gospel to cannibals on the New Hebrides Islands, faced all kinds of opposition and his life was in danger many times. This particular story Paton was once again in a perilous situation. 100’s of angry natives were trying to find him to kill him. He went and hid in a chestnut tree. Here are Paton’s powerful words describing that night:

“I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?”

So, when God brings trials into our lives, let us be sure to remember that God in His goodness so often brings those trials to us, to drive us to pray. As John Newton wrote: “Trials give new life to prayer, Trials lay us at his feet, Lay us low and keep us there.”

 

 

SERMON NOTES: Understanding and Applying an Imprecatory Psalm | Psalm 69:19-36

May 3rd, 2020 | Mark McAndrew

1) David asks the Lord to bring the judgment. He does not take this into his own hands.

2) David held a position we don’t have. He was the anointed king of Israel. He was the king of the Jews. He was God’s anointed one. He was a type of Christ. So David is speaking from that vantage point not from the vantage point of personal, petty vindictiveness. He is writing in the vein of Psalm 2.

3) David lived in the Old Covenant era, where none of us live. The OT often emphasizes temporal judgments. The NT often emphasizes eternal judgments.

4) However, the New Testament is not only unembarrassed by these words but actually quotes from the judgment section of Psalm 69 not once but twice. Once regarding Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:20 and once regarding Israel generally in Romans 11:9-10Additionally, the New Testament has plenty of its own imprecations. For a partial list, see here.

5) These words of David are what all of us deserve because of our sins against Jesus, the true Son of David.

6) The judgments mentioned in this song are “A reliable expression of what happens to the adversaries of God’s Anointed” (quote from John Piper).

7) It is common in the OT for a word of judgment or warning to be conditional on the repentance of the listener. In the case of Jonah we see this in regards to Nineveh in Jonah 3 and Jeremiah 18:7-8For a NT example of a radical conversion of a persecutor of God’s anointed King see Paul’s own words about himself.

8) Romans 9, 10, 11, 12, & 15 wonderfully show us how Paul applied the imprecations of Psalm 69 to his New Testament context.

Behind the Scenes of Sermon Preparation

Behind the Scenes of Sermon Preparation
Updated on May 3, 2020 | Mark McAndrew
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I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post for those interested in the kind of resources that are used in private before a sermon is given. So below is a complete list (I think!) of resources I’ve had the privilege to use for my sermons on the Psalms. I also would like to briefly note how they influenced the messages on Psalm 22, Psalm 34Psalm 69 (Part 1) and Psalm 69 (Part 2).
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[The following list of names is a not an unqualified endorsement of the totality of each person’s writings.]
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Derek Kidner’s two volume commentary on the Psalms has been a great help. I’ve read and reread his comments before each message and they’ve influenced aspects of each sermon. He is the master of saying so much in so few words. His comments helped me see that all of Psalm 22 is Messianic, not just the parts concerning the sufferings. To mention one specific thing amongst many, he helped me with my comments that since the Garden of Eden we have been tempted to think that fearing God leads to misery rather than joy.
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Alec Motyer‘s commentary in the New Bible Commentary is both helpful and concise. I greatly enjoyed his commentary on Exodus this past year and have found his comments on the Psalms worthy of reading more than once. Among other things, he influenced my comment on Psalm 34:7 that the “angel of the Lord” is an indication of “diversity within the unity of the Godhead” and that David’s testimony in that chapter is valuable because it rests on the unchanging character of God.
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Spurgeon‘s massive multi-volume commentary on the Psalms called The Treasury of David has been a huge help (and is all free online). I read just about all of his commentary on Psalm 22, most on 34, and much on 69. As one example among many, Spurgeon’s comments on “I am a worm” (Psalm 22:6) helped contribute to my comments on that phrase. He gives explanatory notes on virtually every verse, sermon ideas, and quotes from others theologians.
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James Boice has a wonderful three volume commentary on the Psalms that I have found very helpful for getting sermon ideas. He is great at giving lists, such as the one on Psalm 69:1-18: “1) Enemies, 2) Brothers, 3) A Proverb, 4) Rulers, 5) Drunkards.” Boice influenced my comments that Christians today will be called “bywords” like “anti-science,” “anti-progress,” etc. However, Boice used the phrases “religious nuts,” “radical right,” and the “God squad” instead.
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Don Carson‘s commentary on The Gospel According to John (which Scott and I used constantly during the John series) helped inform my comments on Jesus saying, “I thirst” (John 19:28-29 which fulfilled Psalm 69:21).
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Carson’s comments on Psalm 69 in his devotional book called For the Love of God helped clarify some of my opening remarks about how the Psalm is about Jesus typologically. He also gave the most exhaustive list of places Psalm 69 is both quoted and possibly alluded to in the New Testament, including John 7:5.
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Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is one of my favorite books. I use it constantly whenever the NT quotes an OT passage. I used it for Psalm 22, 34, & 69. In that book, Carson’s comments were especially helpful in understanding how 1 Peter makes use of Psalm 34. In the same book, Andreas Kostenberger was helpful regarding how John uses Psalm 69 in his gospel (especially in John 2:17; 15:25; & 19:28-29).
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I listened to Richard Phillipstwo sermons on Psalm 69, which were solid as usual. I listened to his first sermon on verses 1-18 repeatedly. It especially inspired my thinking about how the world hates Jesus and His followers and how we should respond. The fact that he preached the chapter in two messages split at the end of verse 18 influenced me to preach it that way. I was originally going to preach Psalm 69 as one sermon, but changed my mind because I couldn’t figure out how to fit all of it into one message.
Christopher Ash, Joe Morecraft, and Joe Carter all had helpful messages on Psalm 69 (see herehere, and here for audio). I listened to most of a Psalm 69 sermon from Mark Dever’s church preached by Zach Schlegel which helped me see how to preach this Psalm in a Jesus-centered way. What I mean is that he helped make it personal, emphasizing Christ’s sympathy and intercession for us.
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John Piper‘s message on Psalm 69 called Pour Out Your Indignation Upon Them was superb. If you have time to listen to only one other sermon on this passage, I recommend this one. As you listen you’ll likely hear aspects of his sermon that impacted my own. He influenced me both to include Romans 12:19-20 in my message and my comments on that passage. I used part of the following quote from this message as well: “In other words, the way Paul interprets the words of David is not as sinful personal vengeance but as a reliable expression of what happens to the adversaries of God’s anointed.
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Tim Keller has a devotional I have found useful called The Songs of Jesus. The idea to mention Jeremiah 9:23-24 (“boasting in the Lord”) while covering Psalm 34:2 came from that book (p. 64). Keller also helped me understand how Romans 12:19-20’s teaching on God’s future judgment frees us (perhaps surprisingly) to love others.
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I listened to Doug Wilson‘s message on Psalm 69 and found it helpful, especially regarding the typological aspect of the Psalm, even though the latter half of the sermon seemed to wander a bit off the main topic. Wilson, among others, helped me see that verse 5 is obviously not about Jesus, but that much (all?) of the rest of the Psalm is about David and Jesus.
I found Sinclair Ferguson helpful as always on both Psalm 22 and Psalm 34. Sinclair often stirs my affections although I have a hard time bringing ideas from his messages into my own. I listened to Dick Lucas, who I always enjoy, on one or more of the Psalms but don’t remember the messages well.
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I received clarity and help for the verse divisions for my Psalm 22 outline from James Boice, but the idea to preach it out of order came to me while talking to Scott on the phone on that Saturday night because I was stuck and did not know how to order the message in a way that was easy to follow. I received help in titling my outline for Psalm 34 from the MacArthur Study Bible and help for my outline and some sermon ideas on Psalm 69:1-18 from David Guzik. I got a helpful Spurgeon quote from him about our throats being parched more often by talking about frivolous rather than significant things. I also got the idea to mention that Jesus was mocked by the High Priest and the thief on the cross who represented the elites and dregs of society, respectively.
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Matthew Henry‘s whole Bible commentary is always good, especially in obscure parts of the Old Testament. He was helpful for me in confirming the David/Christ typology in his introductory remarks about Psalm 69.
I used various Romans commentaries regarding my comments on Romans 11, 12, & 15. These include Tom Schreiner‘s, Doug Moo‘s, and Mark Seifrid‘s excellent works and (although he is not a reliable commentator) James D.G. Dunn‘s.
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Before I preach on a passage (including these on the Psalms) I usually work through the study notes in most or all of the following Bibles: the ESV Study Bible, the Biblical Theology Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, and the Gospel Transformation Study Bible.
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These study Bibles just listed are superb. If a person had only five books they could own to better understand all of Scripture, these are hard to beat. It’s great to have them all so you can see where they agree/disagree and better weigh the evidence.
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[I semi-regularly use the NET Study Bible, which is especially good with issues of textual criticism. Less frequently, I use the NIV Cultural Background Study Bible (I’m not a huge fan of the two primary authors, especially John Walton who edited the OT notes), the NLT Life Application Study Bible (this one is flawed in some important theological ways, but sometimes helpful with practical issues), the HCSB Study Bibleand the ESV Archeology Study Bible (which is excellent on its subject matter).]
With today’s sermon I had a large imprecatory section (Psalm 69:22-28). I listened to Piper’s sermon on this repeatedly and found it quite helpful. I have read and reread Derek Kidner’s section on this kind of Psalm in his introduction to volume one (p. 25-32). While I doubt I agree with every sentence, much of what he said was very helpful. I’ve read the brief but helpful introductory section on imprecatory Psalms in the Reformation Study Bible. I also found a great extended study note in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (now republished as the Biblical Theology Study Bible). It helped shape the eight points I gave regarding imprecatory Psalms.
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I watched two brief youtube clips about imprecatory Psalms. One was by John Piper and one by Robert Godfrey & Al Mohler (this one was especially good and encouraged me in the relevance of imprecatory Psalms for today and how the New Testament has its own form of imprecations). I also read part of an older sermon by John MacArthur on the topic as well.
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I also planned (but forgot) to use C.S. Lewis as a bad example of how to deal with imprecatory Psalms. Chapters 3 and 10 in his very flawed book Reflections on the Psalms are frankly two of the worst chapters I’ve ever read from Lewis. He actually goes so far as to say that the imprecations in these Psalms are “sin” and even “devilish.”
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[This reminds us that we must use discernment even while reading someone as well loved as C.S. Lewis. Even he gets it wrong (very wrong!) in significant ways sometimes. His view of Scripture (which he expresses in chapter 10) is sadly and simply unbiblical and harmful.]
Ok, thanks to anybody who read this far! You are both great people!
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I happily admit that I have few original ideas. Most of what I say (and perhaps this is true of all of us) comes from standing on the shoulders of others much wiser and more knowledgeable than myself. If I’m counting correctly, last Sunday’s sermon alone was influenced and shaped by about 23 different resources. Usually the closest I get to referencing them are when I say something like, “commentators point out [blank]” or “most commentators agree/disagree about [blank].” Well, it’s a blessing that we have all these resources and occasionally even get to cite them in detail!
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Thanks for reading!
-Mark
[One last comment: When you read and listen to a lot of different commentators and pastors you often begin to see a great similarity between their approaches to the passage, but you also get to see the differences; sometimes quite significant ones.
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So, for instance, the fact that the 1 Chronicles’ account of David’s preparation of the temple may be the background to Psalm 69 was referenced repeatedly in most sources I looked at. That Jesus’ brothers rejected Him in John and Mark, as mentioned in Psalm 69:8, was mentioned by many of the commentaries as well. That “those who sit in the gate” refer to the social elites and “the drunkards” to the societal dregs (69:12) was common among the commentators also.
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About half the sources I used last Sunday said that David’s own “folly” (in Psalm 69:5) was the occasion of his mockery by others. The other half said David’s folly had nothing to do with the mockery. I took the second position and did not get into the debate in that message. But it was due to being exposed to multiple sources that I was able to see that there even was a debate, who took what side and why, and finally come to my own conclusion.]

Three Reminders From the Book of Romans

 

 

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NAC Family!

Using an enormous understatement, we are living in amazing and extraordinary days. A week ago, only our Lord knew how the following week would unfold and the unprecedented trials and opportunities that would go with it.  

Let me throw out three reminders from Romans as we consider our God-given roles in this ever-changing world. Romans 1:14-16 stresses the urgency of the Gospel. It says, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” 

In light of the  perilous days we live in, let’s remember our obligation and be eager and unashamed to share the Gospel continually with our family and those we have the chance to influence.

Secondly, Romans 5:3-5 reminds us of the tremendous benefits of trials. It says, Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We all want and need more endurance, character and hope. Suffering puts us on the fast track to receive those attributes. Many of you can give countless example of how our Lord has used trials to sanctify you.

Finally, nothing beats the unshakeable promises of Romans 8 when walking through times of uncertainty. Consider these verses as you think of the current circumstances which have been perfectly ordained by our Lord for His glory.

Romans 8:17-18 

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:26-28

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:31-32

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Romans 8:37-39

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Use these and your other favorite promises as an arsenal against the sins of fear, worry and complaining!

Thanks again for bringing our Lord glory through the ministries to your family and others he has entrusted to you!

Think Eternally!

Jerry

If You Used to go to Church

If You Used to go to Church
If you grew up in church and have since grown weary of ‘religion’ and the whole Christianity thing…I want to suggest something.
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It’s actually so simple it may seem pointless.
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Maybe you are sick of hypocritical church-going people who claim to follow Jesus. Maybe you are just confused or bored or offended by the teaching of Scripture. Maybe it just all seems too unreal and part of your childhood at this point that you could never ‘go back’ to those odd beliefs.
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Whatever it is that’s made you drift away (and we’ve all been there to varying degrees), here is a suggestion.
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Find an old Bible somewhere and sit down alone in your room. Open to the Gospel of John. Then close your eyes and pray from your heart, “God, I don’t even know if You’re real any more or if You are good or if You care, but I am committing to read through the Gospel of John over the next few days. If You are really out there and if this Book really is Your Word, please reveal Yourself to me as I read these old familiar pages.”
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Pray earnestly. Read. Focus on Jesus. Watch Him. Listen. And see if He is worthy of your trust.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 26 (last one!)

We’ve made it half way through the year! Due to the busyness of our schedules, this will be the last regular, weekly blog following the Bible reading schedule. We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of the less frequently read parts of Scripture!

Philippians 1-2 | Sunday: Philippians 2 shows us that the commands for unity, humility, service are root in the humble servant Jesus became in the gospel.

Leviticus 7-9 | Monday: For more on Leviticus, see here.

I Kings 19-22 | Tuesday: For an overview of 1-2 Kings, see here.

Psalms 75-77 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson gives us a reflection on Psalm 75: 

“One of the important functions of corporate worship is recital, that is, a “retelling” of the wonderful things that God has done. Hence Psalm 78:2-4: “I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.” Similarly, if more briefly, Psalm 75:1: “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds.”…God’s “name” is part of his gracious self-disclosure. It is a revelation of who he is (Ex. 3:14; 34:5-7, 14). God’s “name,” then, is brought very near us in the story of his wonderful deeds: that is, who God is is disclosed in the accounts of what he has done. 
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Thus the recital of what God has done is a means of grace to bring God near to his people. Believers who spend no time reviewing and pondering in their minds what God has done, whether they are alone and reading their Bibles or joining with other believers in corporate adoration, should not be surprised if they rarely sense that God is near. 
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The emphasis this psalm makes regarding God is that he is the sovereign disposer, the “disposer supreme” (as one commentator puts it). It is wonderfully stabilizing to us to rest in such a God. He declares, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly” (75:2). It is hard to imagine a category more suggestive of God’s firm control than “the appointed time.” Yet mere control without justice would be fatalism. This God, however, not only sets the appointed times, but judges uprightly (75:2). Further, in this broken world there are cataclysmic events that seem to threaten the entire social order. Elsewhere David ponders, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (11:3). But here we are reassured, for God himself declares, “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm” (75:3). So the arrogant who may think themselves to be the pillars of society are duly warned: “Boast no more” (75:4). To the wicked, God says, “Do not lift your horns against heaven [like a ram tossing its head about in bold confidence]; do not speak with outstretched neck” (75:5). 
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Retell God’s wonderful deeds and bring near his name.” 

Proverbs 7 | Thursday: Jon Bloom gives us a warning about flattery and he ties it in to a portion of Proverbs 7:  

“But we are not only tempted to be manipulative flatterers; we also are pathetically vulnerable to being manipulated by flattery. This is due to the gargantuan pride in our sinful nature. 
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Our sin nature wants to be flattered because it loves to be admired. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we know the flattery is disingenuous, as long as it enhances our image in the eyes of others or simply gives us a buzz from the fact that someone thinks us important enough to flatter. 
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This, in fact, is the snare of much sexual sin. The real seductive power in much sexual lust is high-octane pride mixing with the sexual drive, fueling the intoxicating experience of being desired, even if it’s just fantasy. Flattery is what the adulterous in Proverbs 7 used to snare the young man and lead him away “as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:21–22). The adulteress seduced him, but the man was “lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). 
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This is the way flattery works on us. It seduces us, but only because our pride finds it enticing. And if we take the bait, it wreaks destruction.” 

Ezekiel 13-18 | Friday: For an overview of Ezekiel, see here.

Luke 15-16 | Saturday: There is a previous in depth blog post on Luke 15 that can be found here: Prodigal Grace 

BIBLE 2018 | Week 25 (one minute overviews)

Ephesians 4-6 | Sunday: One Minute Overview of Ephesians 4-6.

Leviticus 4-6 | Monday: One Minute Overview of Leviticus 1-6.

I Kings 14-18 | Tuesday: One Minute Overview of 1 Kings 14-18.

Psalms 72-74 | Wednesday: One Minute Overview of Psalm 72-74.

D.A. Carson points out that Psalm 73: 

“begins with a provocative pair of lines: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Does the parallelism hint that the people of Israel are the pure in heart? Scarcely; that accords neither with history nor with this psalm. The second line, then, must be a restriction on the first. Should those who are not pure in heart be equated with the wicked so richly described in this psalm? Well, perhaps, but what is striking is that the next lines depict not the evil of the wicked but the sin of Asaph’s own heart. His own heart was not pure as he contemplated “the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3). He envied them. Apparently this envy ate at him until he was in danger of losing his entire moral and religious balance: his “feet had almost slipped” (73:2). 
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What attracted Asaph to the wicked was the way so many of them seem to be the very picture of serenity, good health, and happiness (73:4-12). Even their arrogance has its attractions: it seems to place them above others. Their wealth and power make them popular. At their worst, they ignore God with apparent total immunity from fear. They seem “always carefree, they increase in wealth” (73:12). 
So perhaps righteousness doesn’t pay: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). Asaph could not quite bring himself to this step: he recognized that it would have meant a terrible betrayal of “your children” (73:15)—apparently the people of God to whom Asaph felt loyalty and for whom, as a leader, he sensed a burden of responsibility. But all his reflections were “oppressive” to him (73:16), until three profound realizations dawned on him. 
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First, on the long haul the wicked will be swept away. As Asaph entered the sanctuary, he reflected on the “final destiny” (73:17-19, 27) of those he had begun to envy, and he envied them no more. 
Second, Asaph himself, in concert with all who truly know God and walk in submission to him, possesses so much more than the wicked—both in this life and in the life to come. “I am always with you,” Asaph exults; “you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (73:23-24). 
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Third, Asaph now sees his bitterness for the ugly sin it is (73:21-22), and resolves instead to draw near to God and to make known all God’s deeds (73:28).” 

Also, you can listen to an NAC sermon on Psalm 73 here.

Proverbs 5-6 | Thursday: D.A. Carson reminds us that: “All of Proverbs 5 is a warning, in wisdom categories, against succumbing to an adulteress—a warning that keeps returning in the opening chapters of this book (e.g., 6:20-35; 7:1-27).” 

Carson ends his reflection on Proverbs 5 with these words:  
 
Adultery itself is wrong, or foolish, or sinful, or short-term, or undisciplined—whatever the category Proverbs deploys—and not just the adulteress. The chapter not only articulates warnings, but offers an alternative: a marriage that is cherished, developed, nurtured, not least in the sexual arena (5:18-19). But beyond all the immediate and cultural reasons for sexual fidelity in marriage is one of transcendent importance: “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths” (5:21).
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There are, of course, several similar verses in Scripture—e.g., “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).
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But in the context of Wisdom Literature, there is an additional overtone. Not only does God see everything, including any sexual misconduct, but it is the part of wisdom, the wisdom of living out life in God’s universe in God’s way, to please our Maker.” 

Ezekiel 7-12 | Friday: One Minute Overview of Ezekiel 7-12.

Luke 13-14 | Saturday: Luke 13:1-5 says: 

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

R.C. Sproul comments on this passage and shows us that:
 
Jesus dismisses the idea that the murdered Galileans were worse sinners than any others, but he takes the opportunity to say, ‘but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’ And then he continues ‘Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish‘ (13:4-5)….
What he said shocks us. ‘But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’ With this abrupt and difficult answer, Jesus is telling the people that they are asking the wrong question. The question is not why did that tower fall on those eighteen innocent people, but, ‘Why didn’t it fall on my head?’ They have located their astonishment at the wrong point.
Sproul continues by reminding us that:
 
If we think that God is obliged to be kind to us, that he owes us mercy, then we are confusing mercy and justice. There is an obligatory sense to justice. Justice describes what ought to be done to reward those who have been righteous and to punish those who have been wicked. But mercy, by definition, is never an obligation to God…If grace is owed it is not grace, it is debt. 
 
Every human being walks in this world under the sentence of death. Every human being has violated God and his holiness. The very fact that we are allowed to live from moment to moment is because of his grace. But God’s grace and mercy and patience are designed to lead us to repentance…We lose our capacity to be surprised by him. So, when a tragedy befalls us, we turn in anger to the Lord of glory, who fills our lives with grace and mercy every day. Jesus detected that kind of hardness of heart to those asking this question, and found it necessary to give a severe warning: ‘But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’

BIBLE 2018 | Week 24

Ephesians 1-3 | Sunday: Ephesians neatly divides into two halve. The first half (chapter 1-3) contains virtually no commands; the second half (chapters 4-6) contains dozens. Why?

Paul refuses to tell you what to do until he has told you what Jesus has already done for you.

Who you are in Christ should be the basis on which you live our your Christian life.

Let the promises of and gospel truths of these chapters encourage you and perhaps create tears of grateful joy!

While The Bible Project has some flaws (especially its under-emphasis on God’s wrath), its outlines are still useful tools to look at with discernment. Here is the overview of Ephesians.

Leviticus 1-3 | Monday: The day you’ve been waiting for has finally come. We’re starting Leviticus! The question Leviticus is answering is this. How can the holy God seen on Mount Sinai in the midst of lightning and thunder possibly dwell amidst a sinful people like Israel (or like us)?

The answer is: blood sacrifice. All of this anticipates the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world once and for all.

Here is a helpful video overview of Leviticus.

I Kings 10-13 | Tuesday: What Adam and Eve did in Eden when they bit into the forbidden fruit and were kicked out of the garden is what Solomon does in this passage.

Solomon seemed to be the “seed of David” who would bring blessing to Israel and then the whole world. We see glimpses of this in the amount of prosperity during the beginning of his reign. He has so much gold that silver becomes cheap.

Psalms 69-71 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson comments on Psalm 71 with these words: 

“Most Christians have listened to testimonies that relate how some man or woman lived a life of fruitlessness and open degradation, or at least of quiet desperation, before becoming a Christian. Genuine faith in the Lord Christ brought about a personal revolution: old habits destroyed, new friends and commitments established, a new direction to give meaning and orientation. Where there was despair, there is now joy; where there was turmoil, there is now peace; where there was anxiety, there is now some measure of serenity. And some of us who were reared in Christian homes have secretly wondered if perhaps it might have been better if we had been converted out of some rotten background. 
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That is not the psalmist’s view. “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb” (Ps. 71:5-6). “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds” (71:17). Indeed, because of this background, the psalmist calmly looks over the intervening years and petitions God for persevering grace into old age: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (71:9). “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (71:14). “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (71:18).” 
Carson ends by reminding all of us who grew up in Christian homes, that we should be thankful to God for our upbringing, even if we weren’t converted until later in life. He says: “It is best, by far, to be grateful for a godly heritage…” 

Proverbs 4 | Thursday: The NASB translation of Proverbs 4:23 says: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Some translations say: “guard your heart.”

D.A. Carson tells us that this verse: 

means more than “be careful what, or whom, you love”—though it cannot easily mean less than that. It means something like, “Be careful what you treasure; be careful what you set your affections and thoughts on.” 

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For the “heart,” in this usage, “is the wellspring of life.” It directs the rest of life. What you set your mind and emotions on determines where you go and what you do. It may easily pollute all of life.

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The imagery is perhaps all the clearer in this section of Proverbs because the ensuing verses mention other organs: “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead. . . . Make level paths for your feet” (4:24-26). But above all, guard your heart, “for it is the wellspring of life.” It is the source of everything in a way that, say, the feet are not.

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Jesus picks up much the same imagery. “You brood of vipers,” he says to one group, “how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matt. 12:34-35). So guard your heart. 

Make this duty of paramount importance:
Above all else, guard your heart.” One can see why. If the heart is nothing other than the center of your entire personality, that is what must be preserved. If your religion is merely external, while your “heart” is a seething mass of self-interest, what good is the religion? If your heart is ardently pursuing peripheral things,…then from a Christian perspective you soon come to be occupied with the merely peripheral.
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If what you dream of is possessing a certain thing, if what you pant for is a certain salary or reputation, that shapes your life. But if above all else you see it to be your duty to guard your heart, that resolve will translate itself into choices of what you read, how you pray, what you linger over. It will prompt self-examination and confession, repentance, and faith, and will transform the rest of your life.

Ezekiel 1-6 | Friday: Ezekiel is alive during the time of the great exile to Babylon. He himself is taken to the Chebar canal just outside of Babylon.

For a helpful overview, see here.

Luke 11-12 | Saturday: Luke 12:35-40 says: 

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
R.C. Sproul comments on this portion of Luke and reminds us that: 
 
We don’t know the appointed day or hour of his return, but we know two things with certainty. One, that he is coming, and two, that his coming is closer today than it was yesterday. With each passing moment, human history moves closer to the return of Jesus. It may be another two thousand years before Jesus returns, although frankly I doubt it. But whether he comes in our lifetime or not, it does not change the fact that we have a sober obligation to be ready at whatever time he comes. That is the call of the New Testament, to be found awake and involved in fulfilling the duties that Christ has given to his people.

 

BIBLE 2018 | Week 23

Galatians 4-6 | Sunday: Galatians is an extremely important book. Paul’s point has been that justification (right standing before God) is obtained by faith in Jesus and not by works of the law. In chapter 5 Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.

For an overview of Galatians, listen to an NAC sermon here.

Exodus 37-40 | Monday: Exodus ends with the glory of the Lord filling the temple. Essentially the terrifying presence of God that caused the storm on Sinai has come off the mountain and is now in the very midst of God’s people (the tabernacle would be in the middle of the camp). This is the first time God has dwelt among His people in this kind of way really since Adam and Eve were in Eden.

This is a massive moment in redemptive history.

The reason God inspired so many detailed chapters about the blue prints for the tabernacle and then its construction (about 1/4 of Exodus is about this) is because the greatest blessing God can give His people is not freedom from Pharaoh or even the Red Sea crossing. Those are all vital, but they are means to this end: that God dwells among His people again.

The story ends with a surprise. Even Moses is not about to enter the tabernacle because of the glory of God shining in it. If Moses can’t enter, who can? Thus we are prepared for the book of Leviticus which picks up immediately following the last verses of Exodus. We need a blood sacrifice to make a ‘clean space’ for God’s presence to dwell safely among us.

See this video which beautifully and briefly (5 mins) shows the ending of Exodus.

I Kings 5-9 | Tuesday: 1 Kings 6 is a description of the temple that Solomon built. 1 Kings 8 is the dedication ceremony where Solomon speaks and prays as the glory of the Lord fills this temple.

A careful reading of chapter 8 will teach us much about Israel’s purpose in the Old Testament era and the purpose of the physical temple. Note carefully the connection of these things to the nations.

Psalms 66-68 | Wednesday: D.A. Carson gives a stirring reflection on Psalm 68. He starts by telling us that: 

Psalm 68 is one of the most exuberant and boisterous psalms in the Psalter. The opening lines mingle praise and petition that focus on God’s justice and compassion (68:1-6). The next verses (68:7-18) picture the march of God from Sinai on—probably on to Jerusalem as the place where the tabernacle would be sited.

Some have argued that this psalm was composed to be sung for the joyous procession that brought the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David (2 Sam. 6:12). Probably verses 24-27 lay out the cavalcade of participants in the procession as they come into view, bringing the ark up to Jerusalem (compare the list with 1 Chron. 13:8; 15:16-28). So great is the glory of the Lord reigning in Jerusalem that all the other nations are envisaged as coming to do homage to him. 

The psalm ends with an explosive fanfare of praise (68:32-35): “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people” (68:35). 

But here I wish to reflect a little further on 68:11: “The Lord announced the word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it.” In the context of this psalm, the “word” that the Lord announced is the word of victory. We are to envisage some such scene as 2 Samuel 18:19ff., where a victorious general announces his victory—only here the victory belongs to the Lord, and he is the One who announces the word. 

The result is as in 1 Samuel 18:6-7: the streets fill with people who are dancing and singing for joy at the victory. When the Lord announced the word, “great was the company of those who proclaimed it”—and what they proclaimed is found in the following verses. 

All of the Lord’s victories deserve our praise and our proclamation. That is why the victories envisaged here become a pattern for things to come. When the Lord announces that he will reverse the sanctions imposed on Israel, the good news is to be carried to the ends of the earth: the fleet messengers who convey such good news have beautiful feet (Isa. 52:7; see meditation for June 20).

Small wonder, then, that the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 with respect to the Gospel (Rom. 10:15): the ultimate end of the exile, the ultimate triumph of God, lies in the Gospel itself. As in the case of the beautiful feet pounding across the mountains to bring the good news, and as in the case of the company of those who proclaimed the word the Lord announced, so also with us (and how much more so!): the only right response to the word of the glorious victory of God in the cross of Jesus Christ is that there be a great company to proclaim it.

Proverbs 2-3 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us a reflection on Proverbs 3: 

Proverbs 3 includes several well-known passages. well-known passages. Many Christians have been told not to be wise in their own eyes (3:7). The passage that likens the Lord’s discipline of believers to a father’s discipline of the son he delights in (3:11-12) reappears in the New Testament (Heb. 12:5-6). Growing up in a Christian home, I was frequently told, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. . . . She [wisdom] is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (3:13, 15). Wisdom is either God’s plan or the personified means of establishing the entire created order (3:19-20). 

But first place should go to 3:5-6, enshrined on many walls and learned by countless generations of Sunday school students: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Observe: (1) The first part of this familiar text attacks the independence at the root of all sin. Our own understanding is insufficient and frequently skewed. The only right path is to trust in the Lord. Such trust in the Lord is not an ethereal subjectivism; it is the kind of whole-life commitment (“with all your heart,” Solomon says) that abandons self-centered perspectives for the Lord’s perspectives. In the context of biblical religion, that means learning and knowing what the Lord’s will is, and obeying it regardless of whether or not it is the “in” thing to do. Far from being an appeal to subjective guidance, this trusting the Lord with your whole heart entails meditating on his word, hiding that word in your heart, learning to think God’s thoughts after him—precisely so that you do not lean on your own understanding.

Joshua was required to learn that lesson at the beginning of his leadership (Josh. 1:6-9). The kings of Israel were supposed to learn it (Deut. 17:18-20), but rarely did. (2) The second couplet, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight,” demands more than that we acknowledge that God exists and that he is in providential control, or some such thing. It means we must so acknowledge him that his ways and laws and character shape our choices and direct our lives. In all your ways, then, acknowledge him—not exclusively in some narrow religious sphere, but in all the dimensions of your life. The alternative is to disown him. 

Thus the second couplet is essentially parallel to the first. The result is a straight course, directed by God himself.” 

Lamentations | Friday: Lamentations was almost certainly written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. This is after Jerusalem’s destruction under Babylon in 586 BC. This is the greatest moment of judgment in Israel’s history.

The book is actually a carefully constructed acrostic poem. It shows us how to grieve in the midst of terrible loss and yet maintain hope (see chapter 3).

Lamentations consists of five distinct poems, corresponding to its five chapters. The first four are written as acrostics – chapters 1, 2, and 4 each have 22 verses, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the first lines beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second with the second letter, and so on. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, so that each letter begins three lines, and the fifth poem is not acrostic but still has 22 lines. The purpose or function of this form is unknown. One possibility is that the long center chapter is for emphasis, and although it remains a lament has the most references to hope in the midst of the tragedy.

(While it’s not normally the place to go for Bible info, the source of this quote is: Wikipedia)

Luke 9-10 | Saturday: Jesus says in Luke 9:62“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

R.C. Sproul comments on this verse and asks: 
 

What happens when a farmer, who is plowing a field, keeps turning around to look at what he has just plowed? Can you imagine what the furrows would look like? They would zig-zag across the field. It would be as if a drunken man was in charge of that plow…Jesus said, ‘If you want to plow, if you want to have a harvest, you have got to plow a straight line.’ And so it is with the kingdom of God.

All those who would have God, who would press on to that kingdom, must have their eyes fixed on Christ, on his kingdom and on his future.