Notes from my Bible Study for February 16, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 47, Genesis 42, 2 Chronicles 20, Acts 13‐14

Psalm 47 – One of the first songs that I remember singing as a child came directly from Psalm 47:1. The song went like this:

“Clap you hands, all ye people, shout unto God with a voice of triumph! Clap your hands, all ye people, shout unto God with a voice of praise! Hosanna! Hosanna! Shout unto God with a voice of triumph. Praise Him. Praise Him. Shout unto God with a voice of praise.”

I haven’t sung that song in at least twenty years, but I remembered it immediately upon reading the words of Psalm 47. Why? Because I remember the joy with which rooms full of people sang those words. That’s what I picture happening as the children of Israel sang this psalm. Joy!

When is the last time you sang with a heart full of passion to the Lord? If it’s been awhile, then find some time today to sing to Him. Seriously. Sing. Sing at the top of your lungs. Don’t have a good voice? It’s okay, God doesn’t care. Are you shy? That’s okay, find a place where you can be alone, and belt out that favorite worship song of yours. Let the Lord hear your unbridled praise today.

Genesis 42 – There is a moment of recognition in Genesis 42 that I love. It comes in verses 8-9. “And Joseph recognized his brothers, bu they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.”

When I read those words, and when I think of all that God brought Joseph through, I think that this is the moment where Joseph was finally able to begin to reconcile things in his heart with God’s plans. Sure, God had allowed him a great position in Egypt, but when we are hurt by those who should love us the most (our family), it can be tough to see the goodness of God in our lives. Here, Joseph begins to recognize that the dream he had so long ago was for this time. God had not forgotten. For the first time in years, Joseph had hope. And, hope is such a powerful thing!

2 Chronicles 20 – Jehoshaphat was a good leader. As king over Judah, he stood in stark contrast to the wicked kings who ruled over Israel. One of the markers of good leadership is a recognition of where our power truly lies. Jehoshaphat was not too proud to recognize that his wisdom and the wisdom of his advisers was not enough. He needed God’s wisdom. He led the people of Judah in prayer on so many occasions.

I want to be a leader Jehoshaphat, one who is constantly going to God, the Perfect Servant Leader, for wisdom, direction and strength.

Acts 13-14 – There are many biblical scholars who believe that Simeon who was called Niger, a member at the church of Antioch, is the same Simon of Cyrene who was asked to carry the cross for Jesus. If this is true, how cool that the man became a follower of Jesus, and a leader in the early church!

Paul and Barnabas go off together on a very important mission trip. They would be used by God to start new churches, and make disciples in far off lands.

I’m in the Phoenix airport as I type, preparing for a week of meetings with church planting leaders from across the country. How exciting to be involved in a work much like Barnabas and Saul. It wasn’t until the church had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas that they were sent off. May we take God’s work as serious! The Lord has important work to do all over the world. In the past three weeks, I’ve asked three of my friends to consider becoming church planters. One has said, “No, church planting isn’t for him,” but two are open and will be going through a church planting assessment in a few weeks. It’s been so cool to watch their reactions go from disbelief that God could call them to such an important work, to serious consideration.

Have you ever considered serving God in vocational ministry? What about on a short-term mission trip? What about serving him as a volunteer in a regular ministry? If not, pray about it. You might be surprised at what God does with you.

Notice in Acts 13-14 that it was normal for Paul and Barnabas to face opposition as they served the Lord. Opposition was usually followed by a spiritual breakthrough and discipling new believers. It is so great to see God work in such incredible ways in the lives of people! He can do it through you too! Expect opposition, and then expect results. God is more powerful than our adversary.

Notes from my Bible Study for February 15, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 46, Genesis 41:37-57, 2 Chronicles 19:4-11, Acts 12

Psalm 46 – How much do you trust in God? I’m always blown away when I read this particular Psalm. The Sons of Korah begin by describing God as our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Then they back it up by saying that even if the earth falls apart, they won’t fear. That is faith! I’m not sure what was going on in Israel at the time this psalm was written, but I have to believe that maybe the nation was experiencing some difficulty. It is easy to fear, allow doubts to creep in, and to let worry rule the day when we face difficult times.

The Psalm ends with the voice of God declaring that the nations should be still and see that He is God. As the people sang this psalm, they would have been reminded of the awesome power of God no matter their circumstances. And, they would have been reminded about the importance of giving God the time to work that He chooses to use. Many of our fears come because we want God to work on our timeframe. We need to recognize that sometimes He is calling us to be still. Be still. Wait. See that He is God. He will work in His time, for His glory, and for your ultimate best.

Genesis 41:37-57 – Joseph’s long journey from Israel, to slavery in Egypt, to leadership in Potiphar’s home, to prison, is now beginning to look bright. He has been summoned to the palace to explain to Pharaoh the meaning of the monarch’s dreams. No Egyptian magician could help Pharaoh, but a Hebrew slave, who had been falsely accused and imprisoned for years was now not only standing before Pharaoh, but delivering a message from God. Joseph had been in God’s hands throughout every moment of his life. He was not here by accident. He was God’s man for perilous times.

I love the courage with which Joseph speaks to Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s advisors. The young man has a good plan to help with Egypt’s impending famine. Time would show that Joseph’s understanding of Pharaoh’s dreams was correct, as was his plan for how to deal with the problem of famine. And, God, in His sovereignty, allowed Joseph, the Hebrew slave, the prisoner, the unloved brother, the misfit, to rise to second in command in all of Egypt.

When I look at leaders in the world today I often ask myself, “Why them? Why are they in the position that they are in?” So often, they are people who were humble, waited their turn, and were exalted by God at just the right time. The Bible tells us that it is a good thing to aspire to leadership. Will you be ready when God calls you? He loves to choose unlikely people to accomplish His wonderful plans. Let Him use you!

2 Chronicles 19:4-11 – Jehoshaphat appointed judges in each city of Judah to help bring the people back to the LORD. This was a good thing to do. Each judge was told to “judge not for man, but for the LORD. He will be with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality, or taking bribes.”

These would be good instructions for any godly leader. Our lives are to be lived for an Audience of One – God! He is the one that we should fear. The best leaders that I know are leaders who fear God, not man. We should strive to please Him in all that we do.

Acts 12 – The persecution of the early church continues, with the first of Jesus’ disciples being killed. James, the brother of John, who was one of the three disciples who went everywhere with Jesus is killed in Acts 12 by Herod, the king. Luke, the writer of Acts begins this chapter with the rather understated words, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.”

Persecution was really becoming a problem for the church, but God continued to allow the church to flourish despite the persecution that they faced.

When I read this passage today, I thought about Peter and John. Peter was with James, when he was killed. I’m sure that Peter was marked by this event for the rest of his life. It must have hurt so much to see such a close friend die. John, lost his brother, and best friend here. John lost Jesus and James in such close proximity to each other. And, we know that John would outlive all of the disciples. Every disciple except John would be martyred for their faith. So, the writing was on the wall for these guys.

The power of prayer is also evident in this chapter, as the early church, feeling the effects of persecution, prayed for the release of Peter from jail. If Peter had not been rescued by angels from heaven, it is very likely that he would have martyred within hours. God still had big plans for Peter, and miraculously allowed for him to slip out of what looked like a hopeless situation. I like this story of escape, because God allows Peter to do something absurd; he just walks out. Prison guards are seemingly blinded to the fact that public enemy number one is walking out of the jail!

There is another telling thing that happens in this chapter. The early church is praying for Peter’s release. Upon his release he walks to the home where the early church is meeting. Rhoda, the slave girl answers the door, and sees it’s Peter. She doesn’t let him in! She runs back to tell the prayer meeting that Peter is free and at the door. Do they believe her? No! They tell her that she is “out of her mind” and that “it is his angel.” They had the faith to pray, but didn’t have the faith to believe that God would answer their prayer. Isn’t that how it is with us time and again? We pray, and then are shocked when God answers our prayer! May we be a people who believe that God is not only capable of answering prayer, but that our God takes delight in working through the prayers of His saints! So, pray saint! Pray! And, watch not in amazement, but in expectancy as God works.