Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Refuge and My Fortress

Reading from Psalm 91 today:

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place — the Most High, who is my refuge no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.


I try to make a habit of praying these verses back to God for myself and for my family on a daily basis. So often I wonder why bad things happen to "good" people (of course, there is only one who is good, and that is God) - it seems a day doesn't go by without me hearing about some terrible accident or disease that has visited someone that we know. We are going through our own trying times right now. And yet, I wonder how much we would be spared if we would simply pray back to God his promises of protection and health. Clearly God has not promised perfect health and safety for his people - he laid down his own life for us! And yet, God commands us to pray.

Philipians 4:6 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Isn't it reasonable to assume that if we pray we'll get more of the things that we want than if we don't? Pray for yourself, pray for your family, pray for the lost, pray, pray, pray...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Live with your wives in an understanding way...

I was reading through 1 Peter 3 this morning, and I was immediately smacked in the face by verse 7:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

I by nature am not a very understanding person. I'm not patient. I'm not selfless. I'm not kind. Every time that one of the fruits of the Spirit is made manifest in my life, it is truly a miracle of God.

I haven't been a very understanding husband lately, and I haven't shown Wendy the honor that she truly deserves. God tells me that she is an heir with me of the grace of life. She is my equal. She is just as much "the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus" as I am, and she too is seated with Him at the right hand of God. So, the LEAST that I can do is be understanding of her.

Women will never make sense to men - this is one thing of which I am sure. Over seven years of marriage have borne this out. I really don't think the male mind is capable of comprehending a tenth of what the female mind is doing at any given moment. So, she's going to say and do things that make absolutely no sense to me. Should I get frustrated? Impatient? NO - I need to be understanding of these things. Pastor Gaines said that we are to "study our wives." This is a course in which I definitely want to earn high marks, so it's time to improve my study habits.

So what is the consequence of not doing this? Hindered prayer. It's no wonder that I find prayer to be such a struggle lately - I have the cart before the horse.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The writing on the wall...

Welcome back to the ESV Daily Reading Bible. We find ourselves this morning in Daniel 4-5. I have always been taken in by this passage of scripture, as it moves so fast and contains so much from which we can be instructed. I want to focus in on two points that came out as I meditated on this scripture this morning:

1) God can and will humble us. King Nebuchadnezzar had been elevated by God as the most powerful ruler in the known world. And yet he was proud and presumptuous. In 4:4 we read. "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace..." It reminds me of the rich fool that Jesus condemned in the parable found in Luke 12:13-21. So God sends Nebuchadnezzar a dream, showing him how he will be humbled. Daniel interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar, and gives him this sober warning (4:27):

Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

So what does the king do with this warning? What do most proud and presumptuous men do? We ignore warnings - and so did he. Almost a year later we find the king walking on the roof of his palace, saying to himself , “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (4:30b). And at that moment, the king's majesty and mind is stripped from him and he is sent to live in the wilderness as a common wild beast. After the time set forth by God, he is returned to his kingdom and gives glory to God.

2) The Bible was given for our instruction; we cannot plead ignorance. In chapter 5 we find Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar, in charge of the kingdom. Apparently he has completely forgotten about the experience of his father and the lessons that he had learned. For we find Belshazzar in exactly the same state of mind as Nebuchadnezzar before his fall. He's having a "rich fat man's party" with all of his friends, and to top things off, they're using the vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from the temple in Jerusalem to drink their wine! God sends a hand to write his just judgment upon the wall. Daniel is called to interpret it, and before the passage quoted below, he recounts the story of Nebuchadnezzar from chapter 4:

And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Notice the words "though you knew all this, but you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven." What pride! Belshazzar knew everything that happened to his father and why it happened, and yet he still shakes his fist in the face of almighty God. Let this be for our instruction also. Remember the words of "noted theologian" Mark Twain:

It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Make sure you follow the parts of the Bible that you do understand - you'll be held accountable for them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Been out sick...

No, it's not as catchy as the other titles, but of course this one wasn't drawn from scripture. I've been dealing with a pretty bad cold the past few days and haven't really gotten near the computer. While I've been down I've been working my way through Romans in the Evidence Bible (available at http://www.livingwaters.com), which is a study Bible compiled by Ray Comfort of the wonderful series "The Way of the Master." I have been acquainted with his teaching for several years, but it seems I am now rediscovering them as if for the first time. Spend some time looking at just how far short you fall of keeping the Ten Commandments, and you'll understand why God's wrath justifiably falls upon you. Look at the complete sacrifice that Jesus Christ made to take that wrath away from all of us and place it upon himself. You'll never be the same again...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Train yourself for godliness...

1 Timothy 4:7b-8:

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Earlier this year, Donald Whitney gave a special presentation to much of the adult leadership at Bellevue Baptist Church. During this presentation he gave us not only the purpose of the spiritual disciplines - FOR GODLINESS - he also described for us some of the methods that he has found effective. I start to read his book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, a few months ago, but didn't make it too terribly far. It's quite a thick, meaty read. At any rate, the main points that I got out of his presentation were:

1) Don't just read the Bible, meditate on what you read. Find some section of your reading that is especially meaningful to you and pour over that section. Paraphrase it, ask questions of it, memorize it, personalize it. So many times we do our reading for the day and within an hour we don't remember anything that we read. At least if you meditate on a small section you will carry that with you.

2) Why do we struggle in prayer? Because we keep on saying the same things about the same things. His suggestion? Pray through the Psalms. Choose a Psalm and read until something strikes you to pray about. Pray until your heart is emptied, then continue to read, pray, read, pray, until the time you've allotted for prayer is up (if you don't set a time limit, you will probably never run out of things to pray). What does this do for us? Well, for one thing, our prayers are never the same, as we are always getting different prompts. Secondly, our prayers are almost certainly more in line with the will of God, as we are praying from the will of God.

I've tried both of these disciplines, and when I'm faithful to them, God is faithful to grow me in godliness. I commend them to you. For more information, please visit Donald Whitney's website: http://biblicalspirituality.org/.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The LORD is your keeper...

Psalm 121 is probably best known for verses 1-2:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

But I want to focus in on verses 5-8:

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

This passage brings great comfort to me, as it reminds me that I am constantly in the hands of Jesus Christ. He keeps me from evil ("Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."), and he keeps my life. As a matter of fact, he is my life. He hems me in behind and before. He keeps me forever. No one or nothing can snatch me out of his hand (I'm quoting a lot of different verses here from many translations, not sure of all of the references). If you're a Christian, you're saved. In this life and in the one to come. And the Lord will keep you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Be busy at work...

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

Many times I have wondered about the purpose of secular work in the age of Christianity. So many times I feel like I'm being taught to drop everything secular and devote everything I have to seeing people saved until He comes. This is not what the Bible teaches, however. Paul teaches that we should work, as he "worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you." You see, we still have to eat, we still have to buy clothing, we still have to put a roof over our heads. If we don't work for the money to pay for these things, someone else will. We're not to be a burden to anyone - we have the gift of life, and as we have freely received, we should freely give. The only way that we can do this is to work. We are commanded to "do our work quietly and to earn our own living." And besides, when we work, we find ourselves in a mission field every day. What one of us, those of us who go to a place of work, can say that we are not surrounded daily by people who do not know Christ? What mother who works daily in her home cannot say that she has children that need Christ, or if they have Christ, need her daily example in discipleship? As we are going, as we are working, we are to make disciples.