Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day Twenty-Three (23)

A little hiatus there...Reading today: Genesis 48, Psalm 22:1-11, Matthew 9:14-26, Acts 13:26-52

Genesis 48
Yet again, we see the reversal of younger son being blessed over older son. In God's Kingdom there is no entitlement. You cannot depend on your parentage or your privilege (see John's Baptist and his discussion with the Jewish elite!). Isn't it ironic that Joseph is upset with Jacob? I mean, Joseph was the youngest and received all the blessings and favouritism and now his own younger son is getting blessed and he is upset!

Psalm 22:1-11
This Psalm gives powerful imagery to Jesus on the cross. v2-3 "Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. Yet you are holy." I pray for this kind of trust in the character of God!

Matthew 9:14-26
John's disciples come to ask Jesus about fasting. Jesus contrasts his ministry with that of all the Old Testament prophets - celebrating versus mourning, unshrunk (new) cloth versus old cloth, new wine versus old wineskins. Jesus is completely unique - of course, as readers of the story we have the inside track on this one. Jesus is the Son of God, the fulfillment of all the Messiah is supposed to be.

Acts 13:26-52
A wonderful part of the story. A great summary of the Good News in Jesus Christ, using many OT Psalms and prophetic words. Again, there is the contrast between the Jewish leaders who crave the adoration of the people (v. 44-45) and the believers filled with the Spirit. Notice in v. 46 how is the Jews who have judged themselves unworthy of believing in Jesus. Yet v. 48 says all who were appointed believed. There is definitely a tone of 'the elect' here, but at the same time, those who don't believe have not been chosen to not believe but rather they have judged themselves unworthy.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day Twenty-Two (22)

Reading today: Genesis 46-47, Psalm 21, Matthew 9:1-13, Acts 13:1-25
Genesis 46-47
Is Joseph here setting up the conditions of the Israelite's slavery? They give everything to the Pharoah so that he has absolute control...just because they don't have any food (aside: why don't they eat their livestock rather than selling it to buy grain?)

Psalm 21
I don't know the context of this Psalm. Has david just been restored to the throne? Again, I am struck at David's insistence that God has given him everything his heart desired. We know that David was known as a man after God's own heart. Thus, it only makes sense that if they shared the same will and heart, God would grant David his desires. Are our hearts after God's own heart? Do we desire what God desires? Or are we caught up in selfishness, self-glorification (as subtle as it can be)?

Matthew 9:1-13
Another loaded passage...what's new for the Gospels I suppose.
First, Jesus heals a paralyzed man - how? by saying his sin's are forgiven!! To Jesus, forgiveness and healing are intertwined, within the same activity, covered in the same declaration. The prevalent idea that forgiveness is about our 'eternal state' or is only 'spiritual' couldn't be further from the truth!

Then, Jesus makes a direct statement of his mission: "I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough" (13). We must be continually reminded that nobody is good enough, elsewise we slip into Pharisaical mindsets...

Acts 13:1-25
It's easy to take this passage and think every decision should be made simply when the Holy Spirit speaks a direct work, but later in Acts, we see it's not always that easy!! I'm curious about Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, where the leaders of the synagogue service ask for their encouragement! Are they believing Jew? (15)

I love reading the speeches of these early apostles - what message were they preaching?


Monday, March 12, 2007

Day Twenty-One (21)

Reading today: Genesis 44-45, Psalm 20, Matat 8:23-34, Acts 12

Genesis 44-45
Now Joseph hides his silver cup in the bags of his brother to accuse them of stealing. What is up with this? The brothers still have such an awareness of their sin from selling Joseph to the slaves (v. 16 ch. 44). Is Joseph testing them to see if they have recognized their sin of the past? To see if they have turned from it, repented, changed? 45:5 - "But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. he sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." The age old question of God's relation with evil. What Joseph's brother did was clearly evil and sinful. Yet God works it for their own good, not Joseph's, but theirs!!

Psalm 20
I envision this Psalm being read by the great throng of the congregation at the Temple. May the Lord grant our heart's desire and fulfill all of our plans!! Whoa, doesn't that sound un-spiritual? Selfish? Think again...

Matthew 8:23-34
The story of Jesus calming the storm is sandwiched between accounts of Jesus' healings. Jesus rebukes the storm just as he rebukes the demons in people. Is this another story of Jesus' spiritual warfare? We see the question of Jesus' identity looming larger as the story proceeds: "Who is this?" they asked themselves...
It is always so clear that the demons know exactly who Jesus is - the Son of God. Yet knowing who Jesus is does not mean you believe in, trust in, or follow him!! Reminds me of Matthew 7 passage.
I wonder why the pigs...

Acts 12
What an interesting contrast between the disciples and Herod. His actions are motivated by political popularity (3) and he receives the praise of the people for himself (23). God deals none too kindly with this (23)!!

This story of Peter being led out of prison is almost unbelievable. Does God work like this still today? Do with pray with a belief in this kind of activity of God?


Day Twenty (20)

Reading today: Genesis 42-43, Psalm 19, Matt 8:14-22, Acts 11:19-30

Genesis 42-43
They meet again...Joseph's brothers come to Egypt in search of food. I don't get Joseph's behaviour once he sees his brothers. The text makes it clear Joseph can barely contain himself, but why does he treat his brothers so harshly?

Psalm 19
A beautiful psalm. The creation speaks of God every day - but be careful not to worship the creation! "The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." I think we need to read the Psalms more! So many Christians view the 'commands' of the Bible as burdensome and wearying, and thank God Jesus came and we don't have to do those things any! The Law is perfect, it brings freedom to follow and obey God and be in relation to him.

Matthew 8:14-22
...when Jesus noticed how large the crowd was growing...he says something challenging things! Were people just coming along for the joy ride? To see some cool stuff happen? Not really getting the whole discipleship thing? I'd say the Church today has a lot to learn here...Jesus' statement about not having a place to lay his head is somewhat mysterious, but in the context, he is clearly telling the religious teacher that following Jesus wherever he goes is no easy journey.

Acts 11:19-30
More Gentiles believe and the Jews rejoice with them...I'm tired, that's all I got...


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Day Nineteen (19)

Reading today: Genesis 41, Psalm 18:25-50, Matthew 8:1-13, Acts 10:1-18

Genesis 41
The well-known story of Joseph interpreting Pharoah’s dreams and being restored to a position of high authority. Pharoah calls for Joseph to interpret his dream… “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease” (v. 16)
Yet Pharoah goes on telling him…interesting…does he simply know that Joseph’s words will be empowered by God’s Spirit?
Does God still speak to us in dreams today? I took a course called Spiritual Formation this fall and aprt of our time was psent in dream analysis…definitely interesting stuff but I’m not sure if it’s just psychotherapy with a Christian twist. It was pretty powerful though and definitely opened my eyes. Something to do with great discernment!!
I see repeatedly in the narrative of Genesis the theme of God’s gracious bestowal upon people whome He chooses, not for any merit of their own. Joseph has done nothing to deserve this blessing of God and he knows it. Gratefulness is a key character quality in acknowledging the grace and presence of God. Something severely lacking today…

Psalm 18:25-50
I remember reading this Psalm during the midst of a big debate about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. V. 31 stood out with such clarity: For who is God except Yahweh? Of course, our English translations replace Yahweh with the LORD, but Yahweh is the personal name of God as revealed to Moses and forward from that point. Yahweh is irreplaceable, and unsubstitutable as the God of Israel. He is the only God. Can you worship a God you do not know personally? No, then you just fall into religion – humankind’s attempt to appease a capricious God.

v. 25-6 – God reveals himself to the “godly” as godly yet to the wicked he is hostile. In other words, as I see it, God condones, glorifies and encourages the conduct of those who act within his character. It’s not that God’s character changes as He sees fit, but rather in those who reflect God’s character back to Him, He so reflects that character to those people. Whoa, that was confusing. Yet, to the wicked he is hostile, in opposition to, against…

v.30 – what encouragement! God, his way is perfect. All of his promises prove true. Prove necessitates action, not merely mental assent. God acts!

Matthew 8:1-13
In healing the leper, Jesus is restoring this man into the community. Such a powerful image of God’s redemptive purpose – restoration, acceptance, inclusion.
The Roman officer causes Jesus to make quite a statement about the inclusion of Gentiles in the Kingdom of Heaven. To use the image of table fellowship was the ultimate sign of inclusion in one’s family during the first century in Palestine. Gentiles would no longer be “other” or “separate” but would enter into the ‘inner circle’ of fellowship with everyone in the Kingdom.

Acts 11:1-18
I appreciate here the receptivity of the Jewish believers to Peter’s news of Gentiles receiving the gift of the Spirit. It’s easy for us to read vv. 1-3 and be judgmental towards these Jews. But think of how we often react when we hear about the ‘successes’ of other churches – it is easy to become jealous and petty, isn’t it, even though it is completely perverse to be so. Yet, the Jewish believers have a complete change of heart upon hearing of God’s activity among the Gentiles. It is my hoep that I can so easily be molded by the Word of God – it is so easy to become set in our individual viewpoints rather than be open and receptive to being continually changed by the living address of God.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Day Eighteen (18)

Reading today: Genesis 38-39, Psalm 18:1-24, Matt 7:15-29, Acts 10-24-48

Genesis 38-39
Another story of deception and lying! Judah does not fulfill his word to Tamar and then Tamar deceives Judah by posing as a prostitute...not that that excuses Judah for his actions...
And so it continues with Potiphar's wife. What can I say about these stories? Humans are tragically deceitful. I wonder if Joseph recognized that his success was solely a result of the Lord's presence with him. It is so easy to take credit for when things go well and then despair of God when things are not going well. How can we not take God for granted? What would make us aware that it is only He, in Christ, who holds all things together?

Psalm 18:1-24
Again, God rescues and protects. v. 18 struck me this morning - "They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me". How often we say to ourselves, "Why this? Why now?" We are at the end of our rope, but God will uphold us.
And what a picture of God coming to rescue David!! Nostrils flaring, smoke spewing, hail and coals...whew...don't mess!

Matthew 7:15-29
Jesus' teaching cuts to the heart...We will recognize people by their fruit. Actions will always demonstrate what kind of person someone is. But some people are such good deceivers!!
The passage about people prophesying and healing and casting out demons in Jesus' name, and Jesus not knowing them is startling. The day of judgment will be very different than we imagine I think! But, really, how often do we do "good", "Christian" things because they are "good" rather than because God has actually commanded us to do them? Prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles were all tangible signs of the Kingdom - yet Jesus is saying these people did not obey God by doing them. The apostles did these things...after they were sent by Jesus. What am I doing that is 'good' but God has not commanded me to do?
And of course, the crux of it all...don't just listen, obey! Bill, a pastor at Spring, had an amazing point the other week - the reason we shop from church to church is because all we do is listen...we get tired of hearing what we're hearing about 8 months and then move on to something different...if we actually were doing, we wouldn't be moving very fast!

Acts 10:24-48
Oops...I read this yesterday...


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Day Seventeen (17)

Reading Today: Genesis 37-38, Psalm 17, Matt 7:1-14, Acts 10:1-23

Genesis 37-38
The story of Joseph begins...It amazes me the people God uses to accomplish His purpose. Jacob shows such extreme partiality which goes against the very nature of God (Matt 5:45 and in many other places). Yet, he is humble enough to receive Joseph's dream and consider it rather than being filled with the jealous of Joseph's brothers.

The conversation between the brothers is ironic when one thinks of Jesus' teachings about murder (5:21-22). Their debate is pointless because either way, they have already murdered Joseph in their hearts as a result of their attitude towards him.

What's with Reuben? Does it have anything to do with Gen 35:22?

Psalm 17
I love verse 6 - "Bend down and listen as I pray". We have this image of God right beside us, among us, which is true, but I think it lacks the reverence the Jews have towards God. Bend down, Father, because you are so great, so high above the heavens, bend down so you can hear the prayer of a small, broken, humble human being whom you have chosen to love intimately.

Matthew 7:1-14
The log and the speck. This hit me pretty hard this morning. I have a personality that expects other people to think the same way I do and understanding things the way I do. As I learn more and more in seminary (a blessing!), I have become more and more aware that I sometimes treat people with less compassion and grace than I should because they don't see things in the same way as I do. How lame! Dallas Willard writes that the log is contempt - contempt of other people destroys their humanity.

Verse 6 about giving the sacred to dogs sort of still puzzles me.

So does the narrow gate. I mean, Jesus' message is universal salvation for all if they follow him and receive the gift of the Kingdom! I suppose his point is that although it is a gift, it is still a choice, and a harder one than following the patterns of the world.

Acts 10:1-23
Peter and Cornelius meet...What if Peter hadn't dedicated specific time to prayer? He never would have had this vision revealing that the Gospel was indeed for not just the Jews but for everyone else too! I love that they meet and neither has a clue what God intends, but they trust and know that He is at work...v. 33 "Now here we are, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you". Awesome!

v. 42 - "God ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is ordained of God to be the judge of all..." We often don't like to talk about the judgment of God. But if we leave that out, we don't understanding the incredibleness of our forgiveness in that same moment!

The Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentiles before being baptized...yet again, we see that these things are in God's hands and there is no prescribed order for things such as baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Day Sixteen (16)

Reading today: Genesis 36, Psalms 16, Matt 6:25-34, Acts 9:20-43

Genesis 36
The story of Esau and his descendants. God's promised blessing is fulfilled! I can' make much of the names and places without outside resources...

Psalm 16
What a beautiful Psalm. "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever" (11). Everything good in David's life has come from God - we often spiritualize these kinds of things, saying what is "good" is the spiritual stuff in our lives, but David clearly states one of the joys is the land God has blessed him with (6)! I think the roots of our tendency to spiritualize everything are probably the influence of Greek philosophy on early Christian thinking which demonized anything bodily or physical and said it is only the spiritual that matters and is of worth. Hebrew thinking would have said no such thing!

In 5 and 6, David says the Lord alone is his inheritance, yet he rejoices in the land he has been given as a wonderful inheritance. What is he saying then? Clearly he isn't blatantly contradicting himself, but sees all that God has given him as an extension of God himself.

Matthew 6:25-34
Make the Kingdom of God your primary concern (33). It is easy to read this passage about not worrying and take on an attitude of passivity. "Well, if the Lord is going to provide, I'm just going to sit here and wait on him to provide me with food, shelter, clothing and all the other basic necessities of life." Clearly, not true. But as we go about our days, rather than focusing on those worries of daily life, have eyes for the Kingdom. See God at work in your life and around you. That is where life is at its fullest, not in being consumed by the superficial pull of modern day society.

The reality of this passage hit me the other day - could you preach this to people in Africa? How would they respond to it? In my short visit to Tanzania, I saw more trust and gratefulness despite poverty than I do here in Canada....hmmm....

Acts 9:20-43
The Holy Spirit throughout Scripture is associated with speaking. Here, Saul becomes more and more convincing after receiving the Holy Spirit. The Jewish people cannot refute his claims about Jesus as Messiah.

V. 31: "The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit". What an interesting statement!! It is a healthy balance. God deserves our reverence and respect, and yes even a little fear. But we only truly fear what we do not know. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gives us an intimate relationship with God, that we may know Him and relate with Him.


Friday, March 2, 2007

Day Fifteen (15)

Reading today: Genesis 34-35, Psalm 15, Matt 6:16-24, Acts 9:1-19

Genesis 34-35
Chapter 34 is a sad story indeed. I find it so frustrating when people use stories like this to say the Bible "condones" or "approves" of these actions. The Bible is not a moral handbook, dictating right and wrong!! It is a theological story. A story of God and His pursuing of His people. Anyhow...we see what deception does. As Jacob says, "It STINKS!" (v. 30)

In chapter 35, God tells Jacob to return to Bethel. God answers Jacob's prayer (3) and responds by protecting him (5). The covenant passes on to Jacob.

Some quirks - why does God name Jacob Israel again? Didn't this already happen? What's with verse 22 (Reuben sleeping with Jacob's concubine and being caught)?

Psalm 15
Who may enter the Lord's presence? Isn't this the question we all really are asking? All religious attempts to enter God's presence are humankind's attempts to please an arbitrary God. Faith is anything but religion! What does it look like? Notice how prevalent words are - speaking truth, refusing to slander, not speaking evil, keeping promises. Now, what about this despising persistent sinners? A favourite Christian quote is "Hate the sin, love the sinner". This isn't possible!! Sin isn't a thing! It is always in the context of relationship (with God). The problem is that we think hate and love are antithetical. No! As one prof of mine says, "God is a terrific hater!" Indifference is the opposite of love, not hate. God's hatred of sin brings his mercy. If God had no love, he would leave us in our sin. But in his hatred [of sin], He brings His Son!

Matthew 6:16-24
Don't store up treasures here on earth. This is tough! In North America, no matter how short on cash we think we are, we are loaded up with "stuff". Does this mean we treasure it?

V. 22-23 seem out of place to me. What is Jesus saying? Have to think about this some more...

Acts 9:1-19
The powerful story of Saul's conversion.
Note verse 4, Jesus says, "Why are you persecuting me?" Jesus suffers with his followers! Whatever you do to a disciple, you are doing to Jesus. (Think Matthew 25...I believe that's it - whatever you do unto the least of these you do unto me...)

Can you imagine Ananias' trust here? I mean, Saul is going around putting any followers of the Way in jail and God's telling him, go right to him? Are you nuts!!? But God clearly shows Ananias what's going on, and so God's chosen intstrument believes and is baptized...


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Day Fourteen (14)

Reading today: Genesis 32-33, Psalm 14, Matt 6:1-15, Acts 8:26-40

Genesis 32-33
Jacob wrestles with God...and doesn't lose! Mark Buchanan coins this story as the night Jacob met himself. Up to this point, his whole life has been one of deception, becoming wealthy off of other people. Jacob doesn't know who he is, until he encounters God face to face.
I'm amazed that Esau affectionately greets Jacob!

Psalm 14
Some things never change. One of those things is the folly of humankind, its propensity for evil, to treat humans as objects (like bread) - as a means to an end, to ignore God. Despite his people being oppressed, the Lord will still protect them. What does this mean? Protect them how? Clearly not from oppression. Or He is preserving them until salvation comes?

Matthew 6:1-15
Although our English Bibles separate each of these teachings by topic, I think they are all saying the same thing. And it is challenging indeed. I have come to realize just how many of the things I do, I do in order to receive praise from other people, to be held in high esteem...of course, that's not the only reason I do them, but it is a larger motivation than I realize. Jesus is saying, don't make the things you do an end in and of themselves - don't pray for the sake of prayer, give for the sake of giving or fast for the sake of fasting. Do them to deepen your relationship with the Father. It is only His 'opinion' that counts - of course nothing we do can make God love us more. But we can, on this Earth, undertaken disciplines to deeper our relationship with God.

Verses 14-15 are, love of God and love of neighbour are intrinsically linked. We are forgiven only as much as we forgive! Does this mean God's forgiveness is conditional? I don't think so.

Acts 8:26-40
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. The Good News of Jesus is for everybody!!
It's interesting that the Scriptures need instruction for the Ethiopian to understand them. Although we affirm that the Gospel is perspicuous (clear), there is a context within which understanding is greatly aided.