Notes from my Bible Study for March 30, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 89, Exodus 35:1-29, Esther 2, 1 Corinthians 7

Psalm 89 – The third book of the Psalms ends with a maskil by Ethan the Ezrahite. The psalm speaks about the promise that God made David that his kingdom would be forever. Ethan wonders why God has turned His back on His covenant with David. God had not. The covenant that He made with David would be fulfilled in Jesus. This third book of the Psalms has been full of sorrow. The children of Israel had walked away from God, and they were paying the price. Ethan reaffirms his faith that God will work on behalf of the people of Israel.

Exodus 35:1-29 – The Children of Israel have a very different response when Moses comes down from the mountain this time. They are ready to obey the law of the Lord. It is with great joy that the people make preparations to build the tabernacle. This is a beautiful picture of what happens when we follow God’s desires and come together as one.

Esther 2 – The story of Esther continues with the king realizing that he needed to find a new wife. All of the beautiful young virgins in the land were brought to the king. Esther was one of them. God had her in this kingdom for such a time as this. She found favor in the sight of the king, and the king loved her more than any woman in the land. This would be important if God was going to move the heart of the king to compassion.

1 Corinthians 7 – Paul gives the church strong warnings regarding sexual desire in 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter he lays out an argument for staying single, but for marrying rather than burning in sexual desire. Then he talks about the importance of intimacy in the marriage relationship. The Church at Corinth really struggled in the area of sexuality, and Paul wanted them to get things right in the area of sexual love. This is some of the most important teaching on human sexuality that you will find in the Bible.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 29, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 88, Exodus 34, Esther 1, 1 Corinthians 6

Psalm 88 – This is another of the psalms of lament. The Sons of Korah write about a time where they felt the heavy hand of God upon their lives. They equate their feeling to that of dying. The psalmists plead with the Lord to spare their lives so that they might continue to serve the Lord. What is so interesting about this Psalm is that there is no place where the authors state their belief that God will rescue them or strengthen them.

There are times in life where our struggles seem so difficult that it is tough to imagine that we will ever come out of it. God was no less able to deliver in this Psalm than in any other, but there is no mention of God’s deliverance. I believe that this Psalm was written in one of those dark nights of the soul in the lives of the writers. God is faithful even in our darkest of days.

Exodus 34 – Moses meets with God for forty days and nights as God once again writes the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets and establishes His covenant with His people. The amazing thing that happens in this chapter is that Moses’ face begins to glow. When he spends time with God, the people know it, because His face literally reflects God’s glory. He begins to cover his face with a veil in between meetings with God. What a special relationship Moses had with the Lord. The people did not become impatient this time. They believed that Moses would come back down from the mountain. They did not turn to false gods.

I’m glad God was patient with a stubborn people. He reflects that patience today as well. If you have breath today, thank God for another chance to live for Him, and vow to follow Him and only Him today.

Esther 1 – The book of Esther is one of the Old Testament’s most interesting books. It is in this book that we get the phrase that we were put here for “such a time as this.”

The first chapter of Esther shows us the moral backdrop that Esther found herself thrust into. King Ahasuerus was a wicked man. Married to Queen Vashti, the two monarchs found themselves living in luxury. The king loved excess. He and his Queen hosted a party that lasted 180 days. Towards the end of the celebration, the King asked his wife to come show off her beauty to the men of the kingdom. She refused, and he became enraged. This began a series of events that God used to rescue His people.

1 Corinthians 6 – Paul continues to teach the church at Corinth the dangers of sexual immorality. Remember, this is a church that was rife with sexual sin. Paul let’s the church no in no uncertain terms the danger of choosing to walk in a manner of sexual sin. This type of sin will destroy not only a person, but can destroy a church and a family.

Paul also takes time in this chapter to talk about exercising spiritual freedom in areas that are not profitable to him, and how this is not do his advantage.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 28, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 87, Exodus 33, Nehemiah 13, 1 Corinthians 5

Psalm 87 – Psalm 87 celebrates the city of Zion (Jerusalem) and the God who has chosen to dwell there (Jehovah). The Sons of Korah, as worship leaders for the people, wanted the people to recognize how blessed they were to be the chosen people of God. If you are a Christian today, you too should celebrate that Christ has chosen you. He has paved the way for you to become a son or daughter of Christ, forgiving your sins and reconciling you unto a relationship with the Father.

Exodus 33 – The relationship that Moses had with God was an extraordinary one. He spoke with God as a man speaks with a friend. The Children of Israel must have been blown away by the daily display of Moses talking with God. As Moses met with God, signaled by the pillar of cloud descending upon the tent of meeting, God met with His friend. That’s right, like King David, centuries later, Moses was a friend of God. May we also be a friend of God. We have access to God through prayer. Take it. Spend time with God. He desires friendship with you.

Nehemiah 13 – The book of Nehemiah ends with the final reforms that Nehemiah would bring to Israel. I’m struck by Nehemiah’s absolute commitment to making sure that the people didn’t make the mistakes or fall into the same sins as they had in the past. He quickly confronts sin in this passage. He exhorts the people to live holy, set apart lives. They are not to follow in the ways of their pagan neighbors. They are not to marry their pagan neighbors. They are not to desecrate the temple by working on the Sabbath or selling their wares outside of it. He is quick to point out the sin of the nation and make definitive steps to correct the sinful actions of the people. He ends this chapter, and the book of Nehemiah with this prayer: Remember me, O my God, for good. Now, that’s how I want to be remembered by God!

1 Corinthians 5 – Sexual immorality has no place in the body of Christ. Paul has heard about a specific case that was being tolerated in the Corinthian church. The man who was involved in immorality with his stepmother was actually boasting about his conquest! Apparently, the Corinthian church had done nothing to stop the behavior. Paul warns them that tolerating such behavior could destroy the entire church. It was important that this man be disciplined and asked to leave the local body of believers. Paul gives one of the strongest arguments in all of Scripture for church discipline in verses 9-13, which says, 9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 27, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 86, Exodus 32, Nehemiah 12:27-47, 1 Corinthians 4

Psalm 86 – 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
What do you think of when you think about God? A. W. Tozer once said, “What comes to mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” I think for many of us, we think about fear when we think about God. We fear His wrath. We fear His response to our wicked hearts. We fear His short fuse.

But, that is an incorrect view of God. Psalm 86:15 reveals a beautiful truth about God. God is merciful and gracious. He is slow to anger. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. This means that God’s fuse isn’t short. He is slow to anger. When we give God cause to anger, be sure that He experiences it. But, He also understands us. He understands His creation better that we understand ourselves. He understands the struggle with sin that we have. He understands the temptation that we face. He understands the distractions in our lie. God is so good.

Exodus 32 – Exodus 32 is the sad story of the quick decline of the Children of Israel. God had so graciously delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians and when Moses was on the Mountain of God longer than the people expected, they assumed the worst and turned to the worship of an idol. It’s interesting that they broke commandment one as soon as they began to lose faith in their leadership.

Moses’ conversation with God is an interesting one as he intercedes on behalf of the people with God. This is the role of the priests. The priests would one make atonement for the people. This is what Moses did for the people.

Nehemiah 12:27-47 – There are certain times when I read the Bible when I think, “I wish that I could be an eyewitness of this event.” The dedication of the walls of Jerusalem is one such event. This was such a momentous event to the people of Israel. I love the way that the Jewish people celebrated events like this. There was so much music. In this case, there were a few choirs singing on different parts of the walls. I would have loved to have heard what that sounded like.

1 Corinthians 4 – 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent 5 you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, 6 as I teach them everywhere in every church.

What an incredible example of discipleship! When I think about discipleship, I think about encouraging people to walk like Christ. Paul was so in tune with the Lord, that he could, with good conscious write, “be imitators of me.” Why? Because, Paul imitated the Lord.

But, Paul didn’t stop there. He then told the people to look to Timothy as an example. Timothy also followed Christ. Timothy had been discipled by Paul, and was a good example of what it meant to follow Christ. Paul’s hope was that this dysfunctional church would become full of people who could write similar things. When we live like Christ, the world becomes a different place.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 26, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 85, Exodus 30-31, Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, 1 Corinthians 3

Psalm 85 – Psalm 85 is another psalm of lament, this time written by the Sons of Korah. The people are anxious for God to work on their behalf. They recognize that the best way to deal with the tough situation that they find themselves in is to go straight to the God who can help.

So many of us look for solutions apart from God. When we make room for God to work, and when we look for the work of His hand, we are often times witnesses to a miracle. Such was the need of the people of Israel.

Exodus 30-31 – The Lord finishes giving Moses the law in these chapters. One of the things that strikes me is that God sets apart people to accomplish His will. The tabernacle would take a lot of work to build. There was such incredible detail that God wanted in both the tabernacle and its furnishings. So, God gives Bezalel and Oholiab the skills that would be needed to make this project work.

Being a part of the Body of Christ is a beautiful thing. He has given His church everything we need to accomplish His purposes. We are lacking nothing in the area of giftedness in order to do what He has called us to do. It just takes people with the gifts to step up. That is what God would do through Bezalel and Oholiab.

Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 – This section of Scripture records the names of the families who would settle in the city of Jerusalem. It’s interesting to me that the leaders saw fit that one out of every ten Jewish people should live in Jerusalem. Never again did this group of leaders want to see a siege against the city succeed.

1 Corinthians 3 – There is nothing that makes God look so bad as a church that can’t get along. Paul was furious with the Corinthian believers’ lack of love. He told them that they were like spiritual babies, incapable of eating spiritual “meat.” They had much work to do in the area of spiritual growth, and getting along. Paul’s words in verses 16-17 give us a key for how we can overcome such sin: 16 Do you not know that you 12 are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? We should be people who walk in the power of the Spirit. As the Holy Spirit controls us, so we can be used by God to change this world.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 24, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 83, Exodus 27:20-28:43, Nehemiah 9, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Psalm 83 – This is another of Asaph’s psalms of lament. He is asking for God to intercede on behalf of His people, the Nation of Israel. In these psalms it is common to see the psalmist ask God to wipe out the enemies of Israel so that the world will see that God is the most powerful God.

Exodus 27:20-28:43 – It’s interesting to read about the provisions that God made for the clothing that Aaron and his son’s would wear. As priests in Israel, Aaron and his sons had a special calling. Their clothing reflected that clothing. As God’s people today, our lives should look different to the world around us. While our clothing isn’t anything special, the way that we reflect Christ to the world should be. We are a holy priesthood, a chosen people, and should live as such.

Nehemiah 9 – What an incredible scene! Ezra calls the people to repentance. The people gather for 1/4 of the day to hear the law read. Then for another 1/4 of the day, they repent of the sins that they have committed as individuals and as a nation. How fascinating to see the power of the word of God to convict hearts, even in such a mass crowd. Scripture is alive and able to convict the hearts of men and women.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. If ever there has been a doctrine that has come under attack, it is this doctrine of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who don’t know Christ often times consider the cross and it’s message to be foolishness. God’s grace is so wonderful. Think today about the message of the cross, and how the cross has changed your life.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 23, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 82, Exodus 27:1-19, Nehemiah 8, 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Psalm 82 – Have you ever trusted in earthly rulers only to find yourself disillusioned in the end? If so, you can relate with Asaph, who in Psalm 82 expressed his discouragement with earthly rulers, and his absolute faith in God. Asaph was convinced that God was the only ruler who would never fail, and as such, God is the only one who can truly stand in judgment over the earth.

If you find yourself putting hope in political ideology, instead of God, you will be disappointed. No political system can solve the world’s problems. Only God is capable of that.

Exodus 27:1-19 – God continues to give instructions for the construction of the tabernacle in this section of Scripture. I’m continually amazed at the way that God instructed His people to take such great care in the preparation of the place where He would dwell. He wanted the people to revere Him.

Nehemiah 8 – Jerusalem’s miraculous recovery continues in this chapter. Ezra reads the law of the Lord to the people, and the people once again begin to obey God’s law. The Festival of Booths or Sukkot, is reinstated, and the people are reminded of God’s faithfulness to the Children of Israel throughout the years.

1 Corinthians 1:1-17 – The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the church at Corinth with a challenge to the believers to get along. The church was notorious for the divisions that took place within the church. Some of the believers argued that they followed Paul, some Apollos, and some Peter. Paul argued that they should all follow Christ, and not argue over petty issues. It’s amazing how easy it becomes for churches to fall apart when division comes in. We need to fight for the unity of the Body of Christ through our head, Jesus Christ.

Notes from my Bible Study for March 22, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 81, Exodus 26, Nehemiah 7, Romans 16

Psalm 81 – When taken in context with Psalm 79 and 80, Psalm 81 serves as God’s answer to Asaph’s repentance on behalf of the people. Yesterday, I wrote about Asaph’s talk about restoration. God would restore His people, but He demanded complete allegiance from the people. Our God is a jealous God. He loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to chase after other gods. When you read Psalm 81, read it as someone who might be hearing these words in Israel, during the time of Asaph may have read the words. You would have been guilty of breaking covenant with God. These words would have been both terrifying and encouraging. God wanted to work on behalf of the people, but they needed to show faithfulness to Him.

Exodus 26 – When you read Exodus 26, you see the specific instructions for the building of the tabernacle. As I read, I was particularly impressed by the detail that God had the people put into the fabrics that would make up the tent. He wanted cherubim to be skillfully woven into the fabric. This was because God is surrounded in Heaven’s throne room by cherubim. The presence of God would be in the Tabernacle as well. The woven cherubim would have reminded the people just who it was that they were worshipping.

Nehemiah 7 – The walls around Jerusalem had been completed. Now Nehemiah ordered guards to be put on the walls to protect the city. The Lord was gracious to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, allowing the Jewish people to return to the city. The homes were not built, but the people returned. It must have been amazing to live in Jerusalem during those days. There was hope anew! There was true community. There was rejoicing. And, God worked. Nehemiah’s leadership made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. God loves to use those who are willing to be instruments in His hands.

Romans 16 – The book of Romans closes with personal greetings from Paul to different believers in the Roman church. I’m moved as I read about the impact that many of these people had in Paul’s live and the impact that he had in theirs. How cool that Paul’s first convert in Asia is in this church. How great that Rufus, and his mother, a woman who had been like a mother to Paul were in the church. Many people believe that this Rufus is the son of Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus’ cross. If so, how amazing the impact that this moment had on Simon’s life and the life of his family.

When I entered full time ministry, I had no idea how large my extended family would grow to be. I feel like I have family in Washington D.C., the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, the three regions that I have served as a pastor. But, I also feel like I have family in North Carolina, Peru, California, Massachusetts, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Colorado, Guatemala, Romania, Russia, Honduras, El Salvador, Tanzania, Israel, Azerbaijan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Somalia, Spain, Mozambique, Rwanda, and so many other places where my brothers and sisters in Christ from those regions or ministries are now living and serving the Lord. God is so good!

Notes from my Bible Study for March 21, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 80, Exodus 25, Nehemiah 6, Romans 15:14-33

Psalm 80 – 19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved! Restoration is a beautiful thing and a difficult process. I was at a couple of antique shops yesterday, and the difference between the two shops was like night and day. The first shop was full of rather cheap looking antiques. I’m not sure that there was much in the store that cost more than $100. The second shop was a different picture altogether. When I walked in, I was blown away at the beauty of the pieces on display. Many of the pieces commanded a price in excess of $10,000. The second shop featured many items that had been restored to their original pristine condition.

As Asaph wrote Psalm 80, he spoke of a nation that needed restoration. The Children of Israel had strayed from God. They had been punished. Asaph sought forgiveness and restoration. God would bring that restoration, but the process would be difficult. When someone becomes a Christian, God restores. We are seen in His eyes as forgiven and restored, holy image bearers of Christ.

Exodus 25 – The Lord gave Moses specific instructions for the furnishings that were to go into His sanctuary. It’s interesting to read the detail that God went into with Moses. It’s clear that God wanted His sanctuary to be beautiful, and He wanted the people to treat it with reverence and honor. I believe that God ordained these furnishings to help the people better understand Him.

Nehemiah 6 – 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. When you think about all that Nehemiah accomplished and the short time it took him to do so, you would think that he did it without opposition. That couldn’t be further than the truth. Nehemiah continually endured opposition from him enemies as he sought to do what God called him to do. One of the beautiful parts of Nehemiah’s story is that when God is in something, it doesn’t matter how tough the opposition, God will accomplish it! Look how the enemies of Nehemiah responded when the wall was completed! They were afraid and their esteem fell greatly. Nehemiah’s enemies knew that God had worked on behalf of Israel. (Remember, Israel was coming off a long captivity.) If the people of Israel could rebuild the walls in 52 days, what couldn’t they accomplish with the help of God?

Romans 15:14-33 – The Apostle Paul is nearing the end of his letter to the Romans. He takes this time to share with them his calling as an apostle of Christ, and talks about his ministry to the Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul was excited about visiting the church at Rome, but it would have to wait until after a visit to Jerusalem to bring a gift of aid to the poor in Jerusalem from Gentile Christians around the region. How beautiful to see the infant Gentile church reaching out in love to the poor of Jerusalem. This is the church acting as God has called us to act; taking care of the widows and orphans in their distress (see James 1:27).

Notes from my Bible Study for March 20, 2010

Today’s Reading: Psalm 79, Exodus 24, Nehemiah 5, Romans 15:1‐13

Psalm 79 – The anguish was unbearable. The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The pungent smell of death loomed in the air. The enemies of Israel had succeeded in bringing the nation to its knees. Asaph’s words in Psalm 79 speak of the great tragedy that Israel found herself in. The psalm is probably speaking about the Babylonian captivity, and Asaph begs for God’s mercy and forgiveness. He acknowledged the sin of the people and went to the only One who could forgive such sin. Asaph and Israel needed God’s intervention now more than ever.

Exodus 24 – God had finished telling Moses the law. Now it was time to confirm the covenant with the people. Moses went back down to the people and told the people what God had told him. The people agreed to the covenant with God. Then God asked Moses to come back up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone that God would write the law upon. Neither the people nor Moses knew how long he would spend on that mountain. In the end, Moses would spend 40 days and nights with God upon the mountaintop. The people would soon allow fear to drive them from the covenant they made with God.

Nehemiah 5 – Nehemiah has shown himself to be a wonderful leader. His leadership integrity continues to be shown in chapter five. When he recognizes that the poor are being oppressed he stands in the gap in their defense. When he speaks, he mentions in no uncertain terms that he is angry. The people responded by doing the right thing. When the righteous people of the world speak up, good things happen.

Romans 15:1-13 – The picture of Christ as a servant is prevalent in Paul’s writings. He once again shows us this picture of Christ in Romans 15:1-13. In this picture, Paul also shows us how important it is for Jews and Gentiles to recognize our place as brothers and sisters of Christ. Jesus Christ is the hope for all nations.