Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week 23: Psalm 86:5-7

Psalm 86:5-7: For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
  • This is one of my favorite psalms to pray and think about.  The faithfulness of God is clearly shown here in David's psalm.  Like many others, this was written when people were attempting to kill David, and his fear is implied, although his trust in God trumps the fear.
  • Good and forgiving.  What if God wasn't good?  What if he wasn't forgiving?  We see different cultural mythologies of malevolent gods, lording over a people scared and joyless.  They fear that a single mistake could upset their god, who then in turn would strike them down (or curse them).  Thankfully this is not how Yahweh is.  No, our God is infinitely filled with love, and He pours it out on us.
  • Like the previous point, what if God didn't listen to our prayers?  What if He ignored us?  How horrible would that be, to be ignored by God?  Again, this is not who Yahweh is, even though we may sometimes feel this way.  Our God is attentive to us and hears us when we pray.  He listens to us, and not only does He listen, but He answers...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 22: Isaiah 40: 30-31

Isaiah 40: 30,31: Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

  • These verses contrast the weaknesses of Man to the Almighty God.  From last week we saw five aspects of God in the two verses, and this week we see how God sustains the weaknesses of men.  This is a very popular promise verse from the bible, and I can see why.  We're promised renewal and strength via God!
    • They who wait for the Lord.  Notice that it doesn't say that everyone will be strengthened, but only those that wait for the Lord.  This, to me, says that we must persevere through our lives, giving it all that we can, and knowing that we'll grow exhausted and fatigued.  We give everything because Jesus gave everything.  Plus, by running ourselves weary for God, we're essentially saying, "I will become weak so that His power will be perfected in my weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9)  We're putting our trust in Him to provide for us, because we know that we can't.  And God loves to come through in the clutch and use us when we're feeling useless.
    • If we're living like Jesus, by the Spirit, and for God's glory, then this lifestyle should become normal to us.  Our human bodies will deteriorate and fail, but God will provide us strength to endure and spread the gospel.  He gives Living Water, which quenches our thirst and quickens our spirit, enabling us to finish the race and grow more dependent on Him.
    • Humorously, in high school I would quote this verse when I was getting tired running laps in gym class.  Over and over I would recite this, using it like a mantra, taking it literally that I would run and not be weary.  While this certainly could be a literal application for the verse, I'm pretty sure that's also not what this is talking about.  Still, I think it's funny.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 21: Isaiah 40:28-29

Isaiah 40:28,29: Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.
  • A familiar passage, these verses begin with a declaration of how awesome God is.  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  Just thinking about God being eternal is mind boggling in itself, and when you add the fact that He is infinitely powerful (i.e., the Creator), it's even more humbling that He loves us.  I see five descriptions of God in these verses.
    • An everlasting God
      • God has no beginning.  He has no end.  He is "I AM," not "I-Used-To-Not-Be-But-Now-I-Am."  He has always been "I AM" and He always will be.  It's just so confusing to us because we are human and we cannot think outside the limitations of time, and yet God Himself ordained and made time, setting everything into motion at the beginning.
    • A Creator God
      • Not only did He create time and establish physical rules for the universe (such as gravity, speed of light, etc.), but He made all the heavenly beauties, from far off stars to our own, tiny planet called Earth.  On top of that, He made trees, grass, mountains, animals, and everything else we have on earth, and they're all witness to His glory.  And then for the apex of His design, he crafted the incredibly complex human body, starting with Adam, and making Him in the image of God.  He designed our veins, our brains, our fingers and toes, our hair, our everything, all made so we could image Him, worship Him, and give Him glory.  As Romans 11:36 says, "from Him and through Him and to Him are all things."  God is the Creator.
    • An never-tiring God
      • God does not faint or grow weary.  He's not a finite God, limited by work and sore muscles.  No, He's an infinite God, ever powerful.  That means that He won't suddenly grow too tired to care for us.  He won't cease acting because He's exhausted.  God is as powerful today as He was when He began, and He'll always be like this.
    • An unfathomable God
      • Personally, I love it that God is unfathomable.  Verses like Isaiah 55:8 and Job Chapters 40 & 41 are supremely satisfying to me.  Our humanity wants to know things, and understand things, but God is so far above us that we cannot possibly hope to truly understand Him.  Thankfully He's given us His Word and the Spirit to help us.  But for me, I'm glad God's understanding is unsearchable, knowing that He's not like Us, prone to wander and fail.  I like the New Living Translation here: "No one can measure the depths of his understanding."  His thoughts are essentially bottomless and so complex that to think we understand them is to cheapen God.  
    • A giving God
      • And all of this sums up to an even greater mystery.  This everlasting, never-tiring, unfathomable, creator God loves us so much that He gave us His Son so we could be reunited with Him in heaven and live eternally worshiping Him.  This is stunning love.  And even more (as if this wasn't enough), God gives us so many other blessings.  Like verse 29 here, He gives power to the faint and strength to the weak, so that when we're weak, we can trust that He'll be our strength.  And just in a practical sense, the fact that I'm typing this on a computer attests to how much God blesses.  It means that I have functioning fingers, eyes, and thoughts; I have electricity and resources to provide the system to work; I have shelter to sit and do this; I have food available, else I wouldn't waste time here but instead find food and water; and there are so many other blessings just from this one thing.  Yes, God loves to give and bless us.  Just look around.
  • I can't help but think of Chris Tomlin's "Everlasting God"* when I read this passage.  There are many songs based on these verses, as well as the following two (which are next week's memory verses), but I really dig the Tomlin song.
*"Everlasting God" was written by Brenton Brown, but it's been covered by many artists, including Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster, and others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Week 20: Ephesians 4:26

Ephesians 4:26: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

  1. Be angry and do not sin.  Not all anger is sin, as evidenced by Jesus' righteous fury with those making a mockery of the temple, as well as the times when God's anger was kindled in the Old Testament.  So there is a justified precedent for being angry, but we must make sure that when we are angry that we do not sin.  Because anger is an emotion, it must be tamed and admonished and treated carefully.  Often, anger leads to impatience (and patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit) and a harsh tongue.  These things must be avoided.
  2. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  For some, this means reconcile your differences literally before the sun goes down.  While this can be good, it can also create problems.  For me, it's more metaphor.  Problems and enmity between people should be resolved, and in an acceptable time frame, but I'm of the opinion of letting things set for a while to let the anger die down.  This allows one to pray and collect one's thoughts so as not to say or do anything rash.  Whatever your opinion is on this, whether literal or not, Paul makes it clear that you cannot allow anger to stay pent up and unresolved.  This is especially true among church members, as it can fester and tear apart the body.
I find this verse interesting.  No doubt we all get angry, but it's how we react to that anger that's important.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Week 19: Colossians 3:1-3

Colossians 3:1-3: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

  1. A standard if...then statement, positively crucial for a Christian.  If you have been raised with Christ--that is if your blood has been cleansed by the Perfect Lamb's blood and your once damned soul has been born again--then this is what you must do.  Or at least that's how I read this verse.  What must I do?  Seek the things that are above.
    • Why do we do this?  Because that's where Jesus is, seated at the right hand of God.  He's there, resurrected and alive, at the right hand of God the Creator.  And this God-Man, this being of such power and importance, loves us.  He loves us so much that He died for us so we could be born again with Him.  That's why we seek the things that are above, because our Savior is there.
      • It's interesting to note that the right hand seat symbolizes power.  Whoever sits near a king, especially at his right hand, represents power and influence.  Here, God the King and Sovereign Lord, orchestrates His power through His Son Jesus Christ.  How cool is that?  And oh how humbling.
    • How do we do this?  We set our minds on things that are above and not on things that are on earth.  I cannot help but think of 1 John 2:15 or Romans 12:2.  How vital it is that we have our minds renewed!  How absolutely crucial it is that we must not love the world but God!  This theme is so common throughout the bible that it's almost like we're daft and lack comprehension...  When something is repeated, that means it's important.  Well if this theme is repeated time and time again, then through the Spirit of God this is important!

      If we're looking for a handbook for Christian living, this is one of its key directions.  Set your minds on things that are above, because what's above?  Jesus.  And if we're focused on Him, we'll not be swayed by the world as easily or as much.
  2. You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Reiterating the fact that we're no longer doomed to hell, that part of us is forever changed.  The old soul is dead and buried, crucified and forsaken.  The new one has been washed in Jesus' blood, clearing away our sins, and giving us eternal life with Christ in God.  Wow.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Week 18: Psalm 1: 5-6

Psalm 1: 5,6: Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
  1. What's the therefore there for?  Taking everything that's been said from verses 1-4, contrasting a blessed and righteous man with a wicked one, we come to the final verses of this psalm.  What does it mean that the wicked won't stand in the judgment?  Aren't the wicked supposed to be judged?  I don't believe that this psalm is saying that the wicked won't be judged, but that 1) they won't be standing in the same Judgment Line with the righteous, 2) they literally won't be standing (see Philippians 2:10) at all, and/or 3) their sentencing will render them wicked, doomed to hell and, poetically, not standing.

    To me, these three possibilities can work together and all be true, or any single one of them.  In light of the latter part of the verse, sinners [won't stand] in the congregation of the righteous, it seems likely that these two sentences support one another and that the wicked will be separated from the righteous.
  2. The LORD knows the way of the righteous.  This is another one of those verses that supports that God knows us and our every step, that He's there with us, and that His way does not lead to death, but to life.
    1. God knows the wicked man's steps, too, but He doesn't know him intimately as He does His children.  These are the poor men and women that will die and go to hell.  
    2. These types of verses serve as rallying calls to me.  Be vigilant and spread the Gospel.  May the love of Jesus Christ drive us to keep the numbers of the perishing down and the troops of the Kingdom high.
That concludes all of Psalm 1.  Sweet.  Pretty simple.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Week 17: Psalm 1:3-4

Psalm 1:3,4:  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
  1. The Blessed Man, the one that spends all day and night meditating on the Word, is solid and prosperous.  A tree by water grows strong and lives long, which is worth noting; in fact, fact its leaf doesn't wither indicates the tree lives eternally.  How does one live forever?  He follows Jesus Christ, washing in His blood and submitting his life solely to Him.
  2. Contrasting the Blessed Man is the Wicked Man.  Where the blessed have eternal life, the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Chaff is lightweight trash, discarded husks from corn or other crops.  This is not what we want to be, especially knowing that we can drink from the Spring of Life and live forever.  Even so, there are wicked--I'm thinking those that don't meditate on the Word and scoff at Christ--and they have a determined fate: eternity without God.
This has me thinking about how we even define a wicked person in modern times.  With David it was obvious.  He had enemies.  People that wanted to kill him and take his throne.  We, for the most part, don't have enemies, at least not people that want to harm us.  So who are our wicked?  Who are our enemies?  I suppose it's those that are not in Christ, even though we typically don't think this way.  And Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for them.  Interesting stuff.