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.
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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.

 

BIBLE 2018 | Week 22

Galatians 1-3 | Sunday: You can listen to the NAC Galatians series here.

Exodus 33-36 | Monday: For a message on Moses’ prayer in these chapters to save the people, listen to this powerful message by David Platt.

I Kings 1-4 | Tuesday: David dies as a old man and Solomon takes his place as king.

Psalms 63-65 | Wednesday: Psalm 63 begins like this: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

John Piper tells us that David in this Psalm is thirsting after God and his thirsting: 

is not primarily a thirst for any of God’s gifts. It is a thirst for God. David has a heart for God. He has a taste for fellowship with God. 
He makes this even more explicit in verse 3: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. This means that David wanted God more than he wanted life. And if you want God more than you want life, then you want God more than you want all the joys of this life—family, health, food, friendship, sexual relations, job-satisfaction, productivity, books, skateboards, computers, music, homes, sunsets, fall colors.
When David says that the love of God is better than life and therefore better than all the beauty that life means, he is not denying that all these good things come from the love of God. He is warning us, rather, that if our hearts settle (even gratefully!) on the beauty of the gift and do not yearn for the infinitely greater beauty of the Giver, then we are idolaters and not worshipers of God.”

Proverbs 1 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us some insight into Proverbs 1 and wisdom in the Old Testament: 

Before embarking on Proverbs 1, I must say a little about “wisdom” in the Old Testament….

[W]isdom in the Old Testament, though its meaning sometimes overlaps with modern English use, has a flavor all its own. At one level, it is a broad concept that embraces the structure of everything in God’s universe, both substance and relationships, even before anything exists (cf. 8:22). The glory of God is manifested in such wisdom; it may even be manifested by his resolve to hide such wisdom (25:2). Yet at another level, wisdom in the Old Testament is simply a skill of one kind or another. (1) It may be the skill to survive, which is why ants and lizards are said to be extremely wise (30:24-28). (2) It is the skill to get along with people, what we call “social skills”—how to get along with friends, employers, rulers, spouse, and above all with God. Intuitively one glimpses how this practical “wisdom” or skill is related to the fundamental wisdom, i.e., to how things really are in God’s universe. This use of “wisdom” is strikingly common in Proverbs. (3) Wisdom may refer to some technical skill or other (e.g., Ex. 28:3).

In today’s categories, one might have the “wisdom” to run a lathe or program a computer or sew a fine garment. One of these practical skills, one that overlaps with the second entry, is administrative skill, administrative wisdom. This includes judicial insight. It involves not only the mechanics of administration, but being able to listen attentively and penetrate to the heart of a matter (e.g., Deut. 1:15). This, of course, was the “wisdom” for which Solomon prayed (1 Kings 3); it is the wisdom that characterizes the Messiah (Isa. 11:2). 

The proverbs of this book, then, are set out “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair” (1:2-3). The opposite of wisdom is therefore not only “folly” in some intellectual sense, but “folly” understood to be little short of sin. So the “son” of this chapter is exhorted to follow the instruction of Mum and Dad (1:8), or more generally, to pursue wisdom (1:20ff.); the alternative is to be enticed by sinners into some other path (1:10ff.).

Jeremiah 47-52 | Friday: Jeremiah is the longest book in the entire Bible. It is even longer than Psalms if you’re counting words not chapters. There is much death and destruction in this book. Jeremiah reaches his high point in chapters 31-33 as it discusses the New Covenant hope that God’s people have.

Luke 7-8 | Saturday: For an NAC conference message on Luke 7 see here.

BIBLE 2018 | Week 21

II Corinthians 11-13 | Sunday: Paul continues defending his own apostolic ministry and authority against the so-called ‘super apostles’ who were trying to discredit Paul in Corinth.

He ends the letter by asking the congregation to question, test, and examine their salvation.

Literally he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (13:5).

Exodus 29-32 | Monday: Exodus 32 contains the tragic event of the golden calf. It has been compared to honey moon adultery. Here Israel is at the foot of Sinai and is just entering into essentially a marriage covenant with Yahweh. And here they are breaking their marriage vow within a matter of days.

For a David Platt message on Exodus 32 (and 1 Corinthians 10) see here.

II Samuel 20-24 | Tuesday: David takes census of the people of Israel and receives a judgment from God. Why? David apparently was beginning to trust in numbers. This temptation is so big in churches today! May the Lord deliver us from the worship of numbers.

Psalms 60-62 | Wednesday: Psalm 62:8 says: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” 

John Calvin points out that the: “expression, at all times, means both in prosperity and adversity…” 

David in this Psalm calls us to pour out our hearts before God. John Calvin comments on this and says:

David could not have suggested a better expedient than that of disburdening our cares to God, and thus, as it were, pouring out our hearts before Him…Under trying circumstances, we must comfort ourselves by reflecting that God will extend relief, provided we just freely roll them over upon his consideration.” So, have we poured out our hearts before God this week? Have we run to the throne of grace casting our cares on him, knowing that he cares for us?

Job 41-42 | Thursday: D.A. Carson gives us a reflection on Job 41:11: 

One verse, Job 41:11, demands further reflection. God speaks: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Is God’s immunity from prosecution built on nothing more than raw power? 

We imagine the lowliest citizen in Nazi Germany trying to sue Hitler, and Hitler’s brutal response: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything in the Third Reich belongs to me.” Coming from Hitler, this would have seemed a distinctly immoral declaration. So why should God avail himself of its cosmic analog? 

First, if this were God’s only declaration about himself, it would not be a very good one. But this declaration comes within the context of the book of Job, and within the larger context of the canon of Scripture. Within the book of Job, there is common ground between Job and God: both acknowledge that in the last analysis God is just. Job is not a modern skeptic searching for reasons to dismiss God; God is not a Hitler. But if God and Job agree that God is just, at some point Job must also see that God is not a peer to drag into court. Trust in God is more important than trying to justify yourself before God—no matter how righteous you have been. 

Second, within the context of the entire canon, God has repeatedly shown his patience and forbearance toward the race of his image-bearers, who constantly challenge him and rebel against him. He is the God who with perfect holiness could have destroyed us all; he is the God who on occasion has demonstrated the terrifying potential for judgment (the Flood; Sodom and Gomorrah; the exile of his own covenant people). Above all, despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God could rightly condemn all, he is the God who sends his own Son to die in place of a redeemed new humanity. 

Third, within such frameworks Job 41:11 is a salutary reminder that we are not independent. Even if God were not the supremely good God he is, we would have no comeback. He owns us; he owns the universe; all the authority is his, all the branches of divine government are his, the ultimate judiciary is his. There is no “outside” place from which to judge him. To pretend otherwise is futile; worse, it is part of our race’s rebellion against God—imagining he owes us something, imagining we are well placed to tell him off. Such wild fantasy is neither sensible nor good.” 

Jeremiah 42-46 | Friday: Jeremiah 44 is yet another strong reminder of the danger and evil of idolatry.

Luke 5-6 | Saturday: In Luke 6:21 Jesus says: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” 

R.C. Sproul says that the emphasis in this passage is:

on the difference between now and later…Jesus is distinguishing between the way things are now and the way they will be when the kingdom of God is manifested and God’s justice reigns supreme…we live in a topsy-turvy world, a world where righteousness is devalued, and where unrighteousness is exalted.

The attitude of our day is: Get it now! Never mind the eternal consequences of your present actions, you only go around once.

According to this view the Sermon on the Mount is nonsense, but if this is truth from God, then he is telling us to be wise, to think in eternal categories, and not to be slaves to the present. What happens right now counts eternally, and this is the essence of the message that Jesus is giving here.