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Monthly Archives: November 2011

When I Get Older – Christ’s Legacy

Song of Solomon 1:1-4:16 

I was talking to Kent earlier about the meaning of all of this…he told me he would explain it when I got older.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24 

When we think of the major characters in the New Testament, we think of Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, John, and the other Apostles. We can read over passages like the one we have today and miss the significance of what’s going on. What we see in today’s reading is the legacy of Christ being passed along. The Apostles were disciple by Christ. As disciples of Christ, they were shown how to live and in turn they discipled others. Barnabas took in Paul and showed him the way to live. Paul has now taken in Titus and discipled him in the way of Christ.

Titus and so many others who are mentioned in different places play a major role in the early church. This model of discipleship has continued on over the last two millennia. When you take someone under your wing and show them the way of Christ and show them how to live, you are continuing the legacy of Christ. It isn’t just about converting people to Christ but shaping people in Christ.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Teacher’s Conclusion, Give More (and a Soap Box)

Ecclesiastes 10-12

At the end of the book, Solomon has moved from observations about the meaninglessness of everything under the sun to discussing what does matter, that is living a life that is pleasing to God.  In this last section of passages there are a number of references to youth and age that make it sound like Solomon might even be reflecting on the mistakes he made in his own youth.  When people are young they feel immortal and have energy and curiosity.  Often it is the young who are most likely to abandon God and pursue things that are truly meaningless.  Solomon wants his reader to know that you shouldn’t wait until you have sown your wild oats before coming home, but that people should live their entire lives according to God’s will because nothing else matters.  It’s no surprise that the conclusion of the book is “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

2 Corinthians 8

Dear Corinthians, remember when you were excited about giving to the church in Jerusalem?  Well it seems like you aren’t now.  Did you know the church in Macedonia is struggling financially.  They are in a recession, and they gave so much more than you did.  And don’t think I made them, because it was their idea.  And their collection was taken up after they had given to God and provided for my needs.  Then they took up a collection for the poor.  Just thought you should know.  In fact, why don’t you step up and finish the giving that you began a year ago.  I know you can give more than the Macedonians, since they are much poorer than you…if you’re willing and faithful.  If you aren’t, then don’t give.  If you are, then do.

Yeah…Paul can be pretty persuasive.

At the end of the passage there is a discussion about Christians in one area providing for Christians in a poorer area.  The church today has almost completely abandoned this concept.  Paul believed that wealthier churches should give a portion of their contribution (budget) to poorer churches.  We do a little bit of this today under the description “missions” but most of that goes to foreign churches and missionaries.  Rarely does the rich church in a town help support the poor church across town.  It’s too bad, because if we did I think it would set an example in unity and kingdom living that would impact many other areas of Christianity.

Kent’s Soap Box Moment of the Day: I will also point out that the financial interdependence of the early church doesn’t completely fit our view of how the congregations of the church are to be “non-denominational.”  It’s true that each congregation is to be led by a group of spiritual shepherds who are led by Christ.  Other than the Apostles, there doesn’t seem to be a church power structure outside of the local congregation.  However, the early churches do appear to communicate, financially support, and influence one another.  In other words, they had social, functional, and financial relationships.  We do very little of any of these today.  You couldn’t say they were non-denominational because they were pre-denominational.  The basic ideals of the Restoration Movement (that led to the modern establishment of the Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches) were that we could become post-denominational and become united again as the first churches were.  This desire is why I am a member of the Church of Christ today, although I do wish we still had more of the Restoration Movement desire for unity that we used to have.  (Then again, I learned from Ecclesiastes yesterday that it is foolish to long for the good old days…go figure.)

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

What’s in a Name? – No Regrets?!

Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18 

The overall issue over the next few chapters is wisdom and death. Wisdom, even in its greatest moments cannot outrun death. The proverbs found throughout today’s reading are mostly generalizations about life that still need wisdom behind them in order for them to function in life. “A penny saved is a penny earned” obviously is true, but to say that you should always save and never spend would be lacking in wisdom.

What’s in a name? Your name will last longer than precious perfume. This perfume is quite possibly referring to the oils used for burial. Your name will linger longer than the perfume that covers the smell of death. Is your name sweeter than fine perfume or is it steeped in the bitterness of death that overpowers even the finest perfume?

There are so many pearls of wisdom in today’s reading. What’s your favorite quote from today?

2 Corinthians 7:8-16 

“No regrets!” This is a phrase I’ve heard a lot in my generation and younger. What they often mean by it is that whatever has happened to you has made you who you are, so embrace it and don’t regret anything. The “No regrets!” Paul is saying to have is to look at all events of your life and see how God is working in them to make you more into the Creation He has called you to. Everything that in the end brings you closer to God is not to be regretted, though it was painful at the time.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leave no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Sometimes we need to bring about sorrow in one another. Even though it is painful for a time, it brings about God’s glory and new life. In the same way that winter brings about death and spring brings about new life, sorrow kills what needs to die in us so that new life will spring up in us.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Wise/Unwise and Out of This World

Ecclesiastes 4-6

In a book that is known for talking about all that is meaningless in this world, I think it’s important that we pay attention to things Ecclesiastes says are valuable.  Things from today’s reading that we learn have meaning:  Friends have value because when one falls another is there to pick them up.  You are stronger when you have good friends.

When you come into the presence of God, spend more time listening than talking.  So often in prayer we go to God to tell him our wants, our needs, our problems, our praises and on and on.  If you had 30 minutes with the most powerful and wise person in the world, would you spend that time talking or listening?  Perhaps we should spend more time listening to what God is telling us.

On the other hand, there are lots of meaningless things under the sun.  Two interesting things from today:  Don’t be surprised if you see people being oppressed or receiving injustices from the government.  There will always be red tape and bureaucracy.  I mostly included this because we get so bent out of shape by governments’ inabilities to fix things (or at least not mess them up).  The Teacher (author of Ecclesiastes) reminds us that we shouldn’t expect justice or righteousness from governments.  They are meaningless.  This isn’t new.  There is nothing new under the sun.

It’s also meaningless to hoard wealth.  In fact, the Teacher says that hoarding wealth harms the saver.  If it’s invested, your investments will go bad.  And even if they don’t, you die as naked and poor as the day you were born.  So why save and hoard money when you can put it towards good use today?

2 Corinthians 6-7

Paul says that we shouldn’t team up with unbelievers or associate with wickedness.  How can a believer partner with an unbeliever?  I think we have to be careful here because we can take this too far.  I think there is a temptation for Christians today to withdraw from the world and to isolate ourselves from “wickedness.”  We know that Jesus calls us to be salt and light to the world, which would certainly require being in the world to have that kind of influence.  Paul talks in other places about being all things to all people.  That’s very different from avoiding those who don’t believe.

Paul does want Christians to understand that they are to be different and separate from the world.  Paul realizes that there is danger in Christians looking like the world.  The call here isn’t to be physical separate and apart from the world in a physically removed way.  We are to be called out of the world to live differently and set aside as a holy people living after God’s will.  This honors God’s spirit living inside of us and recognizes that the presence of that Spirit requires a different kind of life, different from unbelievers.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Chasing the Wind and Paul’s Passion

Ecclesiastes 1-3

Solomon’s wisdom pours forth in the poetry of Ecclesiastes.  The book truly captures a philosopher’s view of what life is in this world, but also captures something of another world.  Throughout the book are famous lines that are echoed throughout literature, poetry, art and culture.  

There’s a time for peace and there’s a time for war.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Everything is meaningless…

…a chord of three strands is not easily broken.

And this too is chasing after the wind.

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow.

In today’s reading, we learn that knowledge, wealth, pleasure and work are not what this world is all about.  In fact, they are meaningless.  What’s interesting is that there seems to be both a small-scale point and a large-scale point to the book.  On one hand, the author repeated concludes that we should thus enjoy food and drink and the enjoyment of each day.  On the other hand, the book is written to direct our attention away from the meaninglessness of this world and to the true value of God’s Kingdom.  Being able to live a life that reflects both of these values is a challenge, but one that we will see played with throughout the book.

My favorite quote from today: “God has made everything beautiful in its own time.  He has placed eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  I think I read that line a dozen times tonight and I like it more every time.

2 Corinthians 6

This passage gets my heart racing.  It’s another one of those Biblical speeches that is so moving and powerful it makes me want to take on the world for Christ (which I won’t be doing tonight because I have a diaper I have to change as soon as I am done here).  But Paul is writing to people who are opposing him or who have given up on him or who are trying to support him.  When they hear this part of the book, how could they not all stand and applaud one who has given so much for God’s Kingdom?  How can they accuse Paul of anything?

And after he tells them all he has suffered and yet all he has done in the face of suffering, Paul proclaims, “O Corinthian friends! I have always been honest and opened my heart to you.  Can you only open your heart to me?!”

Paul cares. Paul is passionate.  Paul has such a heart for the people he ministers to and converts that he is pleading with them to open their hearts to him again.  That is a man who lives a life after Jesus’s own heart.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

The Wonder of God – Reconciliation

Job 40:1-42:17 

When faced with an encounter with God, Job realizes the absolute wonder that is the mystery of God. He doesn’t encounter God with overwhelming terror. If he had responded to God out or terror, the story of Job would be a story of right being overpowered by might. Job repents because of hid encountering of the overwhelming and wonderful wonder of God and not because of the terror of God.

One of the major things in the book of Job that terrifies us is that absolute chaos is under God’s control. This is hard for us to wrap our minds around but it is something that Job has learned in his encounter with God.

I’ve talked about this before, but do we ever focus our repentance on being terrified of Hell instead of being in awe of God’s wonder? When we turn to God for fear of Hell alone, we are missing who God really is and greatly missing the beautiful relationship He calls us to.

In our reading today we are reminded of Job’s speech to his friends about role reversal. Job, if in their position, would act on their behalf and not against them, as they were acting against him. Job reminds us that when people are in the midst of chaos we need to stand next to them and go to God on their behalf.

The book ends with Job being given double what he had before the trials he went through. I hesitate to call this a reward. Though it is a reward, I prefer to look at it in light of a gift from a lover to His beloved. God, when we are in right relationship with Him, will lovingly provide for us. This should not be the main focus of why we do what is right but it is a motivator. Relationship with, and trust in, God should be our focus.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 

We are ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors of Christ, “Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is the foundation of the Gospel. God, when we could not be right in relationship with Him, became the sacrifice so that we can become the righteousness of God in Christ. As ambassadors of Christ, we go into the world to call people back to God because they are already His people. We are calling people to a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. We are the new creation and our sins are not counted against us. God has reconciled us to himself through Chris. We don’t do anything to reconcile ourselves but merely accept what God has done on our behalf.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

God’s Greatness and Heavenly Bodies

Job 37-39

Job has been asking for a trial where he could challenge God, but now that God is speaking Job has to be reconsidering his position immediately. And if God’s arguments aren’t enough, his voice thunders from within the whirlwind.  There’s not much to say about God’s response. It’s so strong that it speaks for itself.

The thing that I think is easy for us to take for granted is that we actually know the answer to many of God’s questions. We know what causes lightning and rain and how long a deer is pregnant. Job did not. And even though we know these answers it doesn’t lessen our reverence for the one who had the creativity, wisdom and power to create it. For Job, who had no idea how any of that actually worked (no science classes or wikipedia) this would have been jaw dropping, awe inspiring thoughts. It also would have been the first time we’ve seen humility in Job.

And many of us might think we could make Bette decisions than God, it doesn’t feel that way when you deal with the reality of God’s power and wisdom.

2 Corinthians 4-5

Paul has a discussion here about our bodies here and our bodies when we are with God. What’s clear is that there is much that is beyond our current understanding that will undoubtedly be better than what we currently have. Paul tells us that the body will be spiritual, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be physical. In fact, our spirit cannot exist without some kind of physical body. Paul’s understanding of our eternal bodies definitely seems to be different than the commonly held view that we will have disembodied spirits that will float around and sit on clouds forever.  The best thing about these new bodies is that it will mean that we are living with God in bodies that are wrapped in complete eternal life. 

Proverbs 22:13

Lazy people say if they go outside a lion might eat them. It’s so easy for people to be immobilized by fear, but this proverb tells us that this fear is just another type of laziness. People who are ambitious and hard workers won’t use fear as Assn excuse but will instead realize that risk is part of living in this world. If you want experience the rewards of this life you need to take some risks.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Desire God – Jars of Clay

Job 34:1-36:33 

Elihu continues the onslaught on Job’s righteousness. He cannot fathom anyone to have the ability to “delight in God” without any expectation of reward. He’s hitting on the very theme of why Job has even undergone these trials. We’ve been hitting on this theme off and on throughout Job.

In 15:9, Elihu points out that people cry out to God and that God does not answer because their cries are empty (v13). Those who cry out are seeking relief from their suffering, not a trusting relationship with God, and that is why their cries are empty. This seems to be an ongoing problem in Israel’s story. They cry out to God when being oppressed but fail to trust Him in a relationship. They use God as a means for safety and blessings when it is convenient and fail to truly enter a right relationship with Him.

I’ve been asked before why we don’t ever hear God anymore and I wonder how much this plays into the answer? Do we ever use God as a means for something else rather than for the relationship He has called us to? When we desire God only for the means of going to heaven we will never make it. Relationship with God is heaven. Without God there is no heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 

Paul lived his life in such a way that when you looked at him there was no doubt that it was God living in him that allowed him to undergo the things he went through. He was hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down but never crushed, never in despair, not abandoned, and never destroyed. These are the words coming from the man who often spoke bold words like, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I feel like I’ve said this a number of times now, but I want to know the Gospel the way that Paul did. I want to know the Gospel in a way that I see death at work in me so that life is at work in those around me.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Job’s (too?) High Standards and Unveiled

Job 31-33

In Job’s final words, here are some things he didn’t do.  He didn’t lust after another woman (“for lust is a shameful sin that is like a fire that burns all the way to hell” — Job).  He didn’t tell lies or deceive.  He hasn’t been unfair to his servants or those under his employment.  He has taken care of the poor, the orphans and the widows.  He didn’t take advantage of those less influential than him.  He has never been happy when bad things happen to his enemies.  He hasn’t cursed anybody or ever asked for revenge.  He has even been careful in his care for the land.

Good grief.  That’s a pretty high standard.  This is a guy who has been dedicated to dotting his I’s and crossing his T’s when it comes to faithful living.  What he considers sin against God is not only staying away from adultery and murder and stealing, but also includes how he treats the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  It’s not just what he doesn’t do that matters, but what he does do.  He might be the greatest man on earth, but he sure seems pretty aware of that.

Enter Elihu.  The young man speaks out of righteous indignation because he can no longer listen to the “wisdom” of Job and his friends.  This speech which lasts several chapters has a few important themes.  The one seen in today’s reading is that God knows what he is doing and should be approached with a great amount of respect.  Job needs to acknowledge that God is God and that Job is not.  His demands to approach God as if in court show too much self-pride and not enough respect for God.  Both of these must change, and Elihu points out that God can use suffering to shape and mold us and that Job has some growing to do at this point.  As he continues with his speech, Elihu will begin to set the stage for God’s grand response at the end of the book.

2 Corinthians 3

Hopefully you recall the story where Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting to get the law and instructions from Yahweh.  When he would emerge from the tent, his face would be glowing so brightly that it would frighten the people and required that he wear a veil so as to keep the people from having to see God’s glory in Moses’ face.

Paul uses this image and a play on words to say that people who refuse to see God’s glory in the Gospel have on a veil all their own.  God’s glory, as revealed by his Spirit living IN Christians, is so much greater than the glow on Moses that the only way people can ignore it is wearing a veil of their own.  However, when they accept Jesus, the veil is removed and like Moses they reflect God’s glory to everybody that sees them.  And we continually become more and more in the image of God.

There are two things you need to ask yourself today.  First, do you see unbelievers as simply having a veil over the faces?  Imagine if every day you sought out people who lived behind the veil and your goal was to get them to pull it back and begin revealing God’s glory in their own lives.  They aren’t evil.  They aren’t your enemy.  They aren’t stupid.  They are simply behind a veil that God wants so badly for them to remove.

Second, do you still put on your veil sometimes?  When you’re at work perhaps you put your veil on because people don’t like the look of God’s glory in the office.  Maybe you put the veil on at home because it seems like there is just so much stress and you don’t care if your family sees God’s glory reflected in you.  God wants us to shine with his glory everywhere we go and continually become more and more in his image.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Portrait of Job – Fragrance of Life

Job 28:1-30:31 

It is almost as if the writer of Job knew that we as the readers needed a break from the ongoing monotony of the never-ending arguments that finally lead nowhere. Job 28 gives us a moment of calm reflection on man’s quest to find and comprehend the wisdom that belongs to God and God alone. The “X” that marks the spot of this treasure called wisdom is the same X that is seen throughout the Bible. Fear God = wisdom; Depart from evil = understanding.

Chapters 29-31 provide a different discourse from what we have heard so far in Job’s speeches. These three chapters present three self- portraits all connected into one larger picture of Job’s life. The first (Chapter 29) conveys what it is like to live an utterly blessed life in relation to God and people. The second portrait (chapter 30) paints a picture of what it is like to plummet from extreme blessedness to complete wretchedness in the depths of human despair. The third, which we get to read tomorrow, reveals the essence of Job’s heart toward God and people before, during, and after this descent. These three chapters cast the picture ultimately of Job’s response to the crisis that has become him.

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 

Today we have a very short NT reading but there are two verses that stand out to me very powerfully.

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” – 2:15-16

Paul sees himself as a burnt offering, a sacrifice, in order to bring others to Christ. When we think back on all the burnt offerings the Jews made, we often think of how bad the stench of death would have been. The smell of burning flesh would have been overwhelming for many of us. To the Jews, it was a reminder of the life that they have because of their relationship with God. It would have been a beautiful fragrance.

To those who accept Christ, Paul is this beautiful fragrance of life. To those who reject Him, he is the smell of death. I don’t think the question we need to ask here is, “What aroma are you admitting?” I think the question is, “Do we see ourselves as burnt offerings for others to smell of and find life?”

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Bible in One Year