Notes from my Bible Study for February 20, 2010

Psalm 51, Genesis 46:1‐47:12, 2 Chronicles 24, Acts 18:1‐22

Psalm 51 – It had been eighteen long months of struggling for King David. The wayward king, the man after God’s own heart, the great writer, the warrior, had let his relationship with God go. He had sinned with Bathsheba. He had arranged for Uriah’s death. And, King David was miserable.

It was the Prophet Nathan, whom God sent to confront the king. God was no longer content to let David live in his misery. He had plans for David. And, David was ready to repent.

Psalm 51 is David’s song of repentance. I love verses 10-12: 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and o renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

David knew that part of repenting was making room for God to create a right spirit within him. He also pleaded with God to not take away the Holy Spirit from him. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon very few people, for very specific purposes, for a certain amount of time. David knew that the Holy Spirit had been with his predecessor, Saul. Saul’s continual sin resulted in the Spirit being taken from him. David prayed that God would have mercy on him.

He also prayed for God to restore the joy of his salvation. Some of you may need to pray the same thing. You may be struggling in your relationship with Jesus today. If so, ask Him to do His restoring work. He loves to work in you!

Genesis 46:1-47:12 – It was moving day for the family of Jacob. God told Jacob to go to Egypt and join his son Joseph. The reunion of Joesph and Jacob must have been so amazing. Jacob was thrilled to see his son.

God took care of Jacob and his family. And, Jacob, the descendant of Abraham, has an audience before the mighty Pharaoh. He uses this time to bless Pharaoh. God would one day bless all people’s of the earth through the Abrahamic line.

2 Chronicles 24 – Imagine what it would be like to come to the throne at seven years old. Joash was such a king. And, for many years, Joash was a godly king.

Why? Because he had a godly mentor. Jehoiada, the priest, was as godly a man as had lived in Israel. He helped shape Joash’s early reign. But, when Jehoiada died, Joash was influenced by ungodly advisers, and turned from God.

The people we hang out with make a huge difference in our lives. Joash’s life is a prime example of this. His life was influenced for good when he was surrounded by godly counsel and for terrible wickedness when surrounded by the wrong men.

Acts 18:1-22 – Paul loved the people of Corinth. He spent 1 1/2 years with them, planting a church among a people who lived in a wicked town. In order to support himself, Paul worked a second job. He was a tentmaker, and was allowed to practice his craft with Aquila and his wife Priscilla.

Aquila and Priscilla were vital partners in Paul’s ministry. He could not have stayed amongst the people of Corinth without the help of these two. I’m so grateful for the Aquila and Priscilla people in my life that make it possible for me to share the truth of the Gospel.

Notes from my Bible Study for February 19, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 50, Genesis 45, 2 Chronicles 23, Acts 17:16‐34

Psalm 50 – This psalm paints a powerful picture of our God. I love the imagery from beginning to end of our God, Who has every right to summon all the peoples of the earth to witness His power. Verse after verse speaks of God’s power and His absolute God nature. Take some time to reflect upon our Mighty God today.

Genesis 45 – For the past few days we have been reading about Joseph’s progression in trusting God. He went from favored son to slave to prisoner to ruler. God had good plans for Joseph when He allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery. God has good plans for us too. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. The rewards may take time to show up, but they will come. I love the tenderness with which Joseph treats his brothers. He is careful to let them know that it wasn’t them that sent him into slavery, but God, so that good would be accomplished.

One final note. I was struck by Joseph’s words “He has made me a father to Pharaoh.” I wonder who God might put in your way that you might be a father or mother to.

2 Chronicles 23 – Jehoiada was a godly priest who had taken care of Joash, the rightful heir to the throne for several years. I love that when the time came for Jehoiada to make his move, he did it. He didn’t hesitate. With the Lord’s power, he orchestrated a coup to put the rightful heir to the throne where he belonged. Upon taking the throne, Joash allowed Jehoiada to cleanse the land of the false god Baal. God was pleased by the purification of the children of Israel.

Acts 17:16-34 – When the Apostle Paul arrived in Athens, he was saddened by the great number of idols and false gods that were worshipped. Some may have seen the city of Athens as a lost cause. Paul saw opportunity. When Paul saw an idol to “an unknown god,” Paul told the people of Athens about the one true God. He was ready to speak when given the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. We too need to be ready to share the Good News of Jesus Christ at every opportunity we have. The Gospel is the best news that the world will ever hear. Paul studied the culture around him to be able to present the Gospel in a culturally acceptable way. We should always study culture so that we might find inroads to sharing the Gospel.

Notes from my Bible Study for February 18, 2010

Psalm 49, Genesis 44, 2 Chronicles 22, Acts 15:36‐17:15

Psalm 49 – Psalm 49 reads more like a Proverb, for it is full of practical wisdom. Often times those who live righteous lives can get distracted by the world around them. It’s easy to ask questions like, “Why do those who completely ignore God seem to get ahead in life.” The writers remind us that every one of us will eventually die. To live a life that ignores God is not only ignorant, it is also eternally devastating.

The psalm ends with these words: 20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

God, give us understanding. Help us to be a people who know and understand You, and live for Your glory and renown.

Genesis 44 – The drama in Joseph’s story intensifies in this chapter as he tests his brothers to see if they have truly changed. After Benjamin is falsely accused of stealing, Judah speaks up for all of the brothers, and offers to take the place of Benjamin as Joseph’s slave.

There would be One who would come from the line of Judah many generations later, who would give His life as a ransom for you and for me. Jesus Christ came into the world from the family line of Judah.

2 Chronicles 22 – Sad days continue for the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel. Judah’s kings had been mostly righteous, and Israel’s kings had all been wicked. The marriage of Ahab’s daughter to Jehoram, had brought Baal worship to Judah. Now both Judah and Israel were following false gods. After Jehoram’s death, Ahaziah became king, but he only lasted a year; following in the ways of his father, and even allying with the king of Israel to make war. That foolish decision would cost him his life.

God preserves His covenant to David by sparing the life of Joash, hiding him for six years as Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and wife of Jehoram ruled in her son’s place. How sad that Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter was now the ruler of Judah!

Acts 15:36-17:15 – The passage begins with the dispute between Paul and Barnabas that God used to grow His church. Paul and Barnabas both had a heart for discipleship. They wanted to strengthen the believers that they had visited on their first missionary journey. Barnabas, the encourager who saw the good in others when other people could not (including Paul, after his conversion) wanted to bring John Mark along. Paul wanted nothing to do with it because John Mark had abandoned them on the first missionary journey. So, they divided and went their separate ways.

Silas joined Paul and Mark joined Barnabas, and they all made disciples.

Paul would meet Timothy, early in this journey. Timothy would become like a son to him. By the end of his life, Paul would want both Timothy and John by his side. He would eventually reconcile.

Sometimes our disputes with others are a way for God to work so that He can accomplish even greater works in our lives. It’s okay to disagree with others. It’s okay choose to part ways. But, it’s never okay to stop loving and stop hoping in someone else.

I’m blown away as I see the fruit of Paul and Silas’ ministry. These men praised God in all circumstances. When in jail, they sang praises and trusted God. They saw jail as an opportunity to share Christ with their captors. When God provided for escape, they shared Christ.

One last thought from these passages. The Berean church was made up of some extraordinary followers of Jesus. Acts 17:11 tells us that they studied the Scriptures to make sure that what Paul and Silas told them was true: “11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

All of us should do the same thing. We need to be in the Word, studying it to make sure that what we hear from pastors and teachers is true.

Notes from my Bible Study for February 17, 2010

Psalm 48, Genesis 43, 2 Chronicles 21, Acts 15:1‐35

Psalm 48 – The children of Israel worshipped God in the city of Jerusalem. In this psalm, we read about our great Lord, who has shown Himself time and time again to be worthy of praise.

Most likely, enemy armies had come into Jerusalem to try to control of the city. The enemy armies clearly lost that battle. God had protected Israel. The Sons of Korah wrote this song as a celebration of the fact that God had protected His people. How beautiful to be the city where God dwells.

Genesis 43 – There is something so beautiful about this part of Joseph’s story. Years and years of bitterness and pain are wiped away when Joseph’s eyes catch those of Benjamin. Benjamin was Joseph’s only true full brother, as they shared the same mother. Maybe Joseph saw a bit of his mother’s eyes in Benjamin. Either way, he was so overcome with emotion that he needed time to compose himself. Upon composing himself, he dines alone, for, according to verse 32, it was an abomination for an Egyptian to dine with a Hebrew. This means that Joseph had spent years dining alone. His position gave him Egyptian servants who prepared food for him, but no one to dine with.

The brothers dined together and sat in astonishment that they were being so blessed. They also took notice of the extraordinary portion size on Benjamin’s plate.

The secret will soon be revealed. But for now, the brothers must wonder, “Why? Why are we being treated so well? What have we done to deserve such favor in God’s eyes?”

When you think about it, everyone of us is like Joseph’s brothers. We may never consider selling a brother into slavery, but we have all fallen short of God’s glorious plan for our lives. We have all sinned. And, God allows us to experience blessings in our lives that we don’t deserve. Why? Because, He loves us. He truly does. We may fall short, but God knew we would and He sent a Redeemer; Jesus Christ, our Lord. May we not throw away the gift of Jesus! We need God’s grace. Reach for it today!

2 Chronicles 21 – The sad tale of Jehoram is told in 2 Chronicles 21. The eldest son of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram was nothing like his father. Upon taking over the throne, Jehoram killed all of his brothers! He must not have wanted a threat to his throne.

Not only that, but he practiced the things that the kings of Israel had practiced. in fact, verse six tells us that he lived like Ahab, the most wicked king Israel had ever known. He married Ahab’s daughter, and went to war against Edom, which would be akin to going to war with a state in the United States, if you were President of the USA. Edom never came back under the rule of Judah.

Verse eleven tells us that Jehoram led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go astray! What a terrible legacy! He brought idolatry to Judah.

Then something amazing happens! Elijah (who in my opinion was Israel’s greatest prophet, a courageous man who stood against Ahab and Jezebel) wrote a letter to Jehoram telling of what God was going to do to him.

I just preached an entire series on the life of Elijah and completely missed this incident from Elijah’s life. Elijah prophesied in Israel, not in Judah. This time, via letter, he prophesies in Judah. And, he tells the king about an awful sickness that the king will receive. The sickness will kill him, but it will be a painful death.

God was furious with Jehoram! But, God was faithful to His covenant with David.

Jehoram dies, and verse 20 says, “and he departed with no one’s regret.”

What a terrible epithet! May we never walk away from God like Jehoram. Our God is sometimes slow to act, but He does act. Jehoram only reigned in Jerusalem for eight years and then he died.

Acts 15:1-35 – The Jerusalem Council is a great model for us as we think through how church leaders should make decisions. The council had an important decision to make. How “Jewish” should Gentile believers be required to become, once they become followers of Jesus. There were many in the council who wanted Gentile believers to be circumcised to keep the law of Moses.

The apostles and elder debated and then Peter spoke up, under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was decided that the new believers should only have to observe a few requirements. A letter was sent that was a great encouragement to the believers. In it, the leaders wrote, “28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

When the Gentile believers in Antioch received these words they were so blessed. Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Judas not only delivered the message but ministered for quite a while amongst the people. These godly men sent a good word to the people and blessed them by staying on to disciple them. That is good and godly leadership.

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.

Notes from my Bible Study for February 14, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 45, Genesis 41:1‐36, 2 Chronicles 18:1‐19:3, Acts 11:19‐30

Psalm 45 – I live in the United States of America. Our land is not ruled by a monarch, but by three branches of government. One day, after this world has passed away, I will no longer be ruled by human leaders, but by God. It’s not that God doesn’t rule me now. He does. In a very real sense, all of us are under God’s rule and authority. It’s just that some of us submit to that rule, and other’s don’t. There will come a day when all will bow down at the throne of God. And, that throne is one that will never ever fade away.

When you think about all of the superpowers that have ruled portions of the globe over the years, a kingdom that has no end is a revolutionary thing. Not only is it revolutionary, it is wonderful, because God is the One Who will rule that kingdom. There will be no more sin. There will be no more death. There will be no more sorrow. There will be no end to His kingdom, and I stand in awe of that today.

Genesis 41:1-36 – There are two adjectives that really struck me as I read this passage today. The first is the word whole. “After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile . . .”

Joesph had been waiting for the chief cupbearer to follow through on his promise for two whole years. That is a long time to wait! God still had work for Joseph in that prison cell. And, you can bet that some of that work was chiseling Joseph into who God was calling him to be. The writer really wanted us to understand that it had been a long time that Joseph had to wait.

The second adjective is the word quickly. It describes just how fast Joseph went from the pit to the palace. When God chooses to work, it can seem like a whirlwind! God had spent time forming Joseph into someone that He could use for His divine purposes, and Joseph was quickly restored.

When we are in the pit, we should remember the story of Joseph. He went from the pit to the palace quickly, after waiting for two whole years for a promise to be kept.

2 Chronicles 18:1-19:3 – It’s so interesting to read about Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab, and to read the Chronicles telling of the story. We just read the 2 Kings account of this event in church, but the Chronicler gives an entirely different angle to the story. How sad that Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, would align himself with Ahab, King of Israel. God’s wrath would bring Ahab to death and punishment for Jehoshaphat due to this alliance.

Acts 11:19-30 – I love the discipleship process that took place between Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas not only stood up for Saul when no one else would, he disciples him, and the two of them in turn discipled the Christians in the church at Antioch. Antioch was the first place that followers of Jesus were called Christians, which literally means “little Christ.” What a great name! May we all be little Christ’s, reflecting His glory and power, and holiness in our lives.