Thursday, May 29, 2014

Malachi 6a--Obedience = love

Today, we look at another confusing verse in Malachi 1:6a. Read the verses below and ask yourself what in the world is the bible talking about slavery for? Don’t panic I have a commentary that follows the verses that I hope will clarify some of the questions that might come up.

Malachi 1:6a
The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi faced a nation that had grown indifferent toward God. He preached to stir their hearts, to turn them from apathy and renew their commitment to the Lord.

“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.

These verses have been used completely out of context or their intent to somehow justify slavery in some situations today regarding slavery. That is nonsense! This has nothing to do with endorsing slavery, etc. This is strictly being used as an example of a lifestyle choice of obedience.

So what is this implying about obedience ? Well, think of the verses as an examples. A slave obeys his master. Secondly, the example of us being children and God being a Father is used. Both are word pictures of our relationship with God. Essentially the passage is implying a key to relationship with God is understanding he is in charge and we are not!

If one looks back to verse 2 one sees God’s reminder that he “loves” us. Now in these verses he is clarifying that love of us does not make us in charge. A father loves his son, but the father is the authority. I am not too certain about a slave master loving his slaves, but I am sure the concept of who is in charge comes through. Malachi is a message from God and though the book will proceed with many other examples of obedience and love these two point are the trust of the book. God loves us and us obeying him is the second key to the book of Malachi.

Sometimes if our modern world the only time we feel inspired by God’s word is when we read something like “God’s blessing” or a “miracle,” etc. However, God says one way we show love is by obeying him. In other words, these two concepts of God loving us and us obeying him clarify our roles, but also confirm our love of God.

How much do you love God today? Are you willing to obey him in every instance? Could you make your act of worship of God today be your obeying him?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Malachi 1:2-4 I've read the back of the book and we win!

Today, we look at a really confusing set of verses in Malachi 1:2-5. Read the verses below and ask yourself what in the world is this aboutJ? Don’t panic I have a commentary that follows the verses that I hope will clarify some of the questions that might come up.

Malachi 1:2-4
The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi faced a nation that had grown indifferent toward God. He preached to stir their hearts, to turn them from apathy and renew their commitment to the Lord.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”
But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’ [1]

Ok, what is up with loving and hating twins?!!!!! Well, I am pretty sure based on many other scriptures God did not just “decide to hate someone.” I think this story needs to be seen as an example of two very different lifestyle choices these two sons made. The exact story of Jacob and Esau is actually found in Genesis. God prophesies the destiny of both twins. Sometimes we mistake God stating the future as God stating his plan. Knowing how someone will choose to behave does not mean it what we want for them. I am certain God would have preferred Esau and his descendants choose to serve him always.  I can promise you today that if I shake my dogs’ food dish the dogs will come running, but I am not the one deciding they will run to eat the food, but I do know the future or at least the 30 seconds after I shake the dog’s dishJ. In the Old Testament I believe we often assume when God states the future he is deciding the future. However, the Bible is full of other points about God that makes it clear we decide to accept or reject his plan—not God. In this case two twins choose very different destinies. God has the power to decide anything, but he gives us that choice.

So what are the two destinies of these twins and what do they mean? Jacob, the twin God loves, chose to serve God and he becomes the ancient ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus. God loves those who chose to serve him and in truth our destiny reveals to Messiah to future generations. Note: Jacob’s life was also full of moments of great sin, but God forgives when we come to him and in the end Jacob did just that!

On the other hand, Esau become a great leader like Jacob , but the father of a nation or group of people known for evil called the Edomites or Edom. Edom was a strong enemy of God and was known for many horrible atrocities including human sacrifice, sexual debauchery (particularly homosexuality), and they worshiped an idol who was in reality a front for satanic worship. God hated the evil.

With the above two descriptions of the two destinies of these twins and their descendants why do we care? Well, two key points come out.

1.      God loves and rewards those who choose to serve him. Most of us want to leave a heritage or something for our children. In another point, the promise of how God loved Jacob’s descendants is described in a more direct way for all who served God6, (extreme paraphrase) “God’s blessing sits our children’s children to the 50th generation.” What an incredible thing to realize that as we serve God he is so pleased he blesses our descendants because he loves our obedience so much!
2.      We live in a world that has evil. Sometimes it feels like evil wins too often. Well, that is how the fight with Edom seemed to the Hebrew people, but reread the following: Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord.

We waste so much time as Christians worrying about evil instead of just living in God’s blessing. Edom symbolized all evil—Relax—God’s got this—evil will lose—another way of putting it is this, “I’ve read the back of the book and we win!” You are under a sure plan to victory as your serve God and those who oppose God will lose eventually! You are a winner!

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Mal 1:2–5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Malachi--A message from God.

Today, we start a new book in our devotional series—Malachi. Why? Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. God put it there for a special reason—It is one of the most practical and easily applied books in the Old Testament! I believe this book summarizes most of the major challenges we face as Christians and it is especially applicable in today’s world. Ironically, Malachi is written to a group of people who were going through much of what we face today—casual faith, turning from obedience to God to self-rule, priest deciding the knew more than God, etc. It is a book of hope, warning, and a reminder that God loves us too much to just let us fail.

I believe it is very important to note that to really understand Malachi the first message from God in this book is the authors’ name. Malachi means “message from God.” Malachi’s major job was to give the people a special message or letter “from God.” Some scholars even have asked if Malachi was the prophet’s name or an assumed name to clarify the importance of what was being said. We don’t know the answer to that because the Bible does not tell us. We do know what the name meant. We know why it was important to the people of the past and why it is still important to us. Really, to put the title of the book into modern understanding the book should just be called—“A message from God.” Wow, that clarifies why this books is so important!

The first, message is the series of message from God in Malachi is found in the first two verses. Read verse one and two below and realize that all the messages God gives us through this book, must be seen in light of verse two.

The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi faced a nation that had grown indifferent toward God. He preached to stir their hearts, to turn them from apathy and renew their commitment to the Lord.
1 A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
Israel Doubts God’s Love
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. [1]

With verse two in mind I encourage you to try two things.

One: Try to remind yourself all day “That God has loved you, does love you, and will love you!”

Two: Consider reading the entire book of Malachi every day for seven days. It is a very short book and can be read easily in one setting. Always read it reminding yourself of verse twoe and that this book is a direct message from God!

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Mal). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pslam 139

Two things grab me in Psalm 139:

1.      I love verse 14b “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. “ The world and especially the devil always want to discredit God’s creation. Don’t let life to that to you—it insults God who created you. Sure admit your failures, but don’t be afraid to say was I am wonderfully created and is why--it good as gives glory to God

       Verse 13 raises a perplexing and important theological question. The bible teaches that deliberately damaging or destroying God’s creation is insulting too him. It like spitting on a artist painting since God is the creator. Read verse 13 Verse  "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
      Think about what destroying what God is creating in the womb says about abortion. God’s rights as the creator, always trump our rights. This means we don’t have a legitimate case to say it is a “Woman’s right to choose!!!” Choosing against what God creates in the womb insults the creator.

Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, e God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Psalm 136

No comment today. Just read this as a prayer and live in God's love!

Psalm 136

      1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
           His love endures forever.
      2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
           His love endures forever.
      3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
           His love endures forever.

      4 to him who alone does great wonders,
           His love endures forever.
      5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
           His love endures forever.
      6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
           His love endures forever.
      7 who made the great lights—
           His love endures forever.
      8 the sun to govern the day,
           His love endures forever.
      9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
           His love endures forever.

      10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
           His love endures forever.
      11 and brought Israel out from among them
           His love endures forever.
      12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
           His love endures forever.

      13 to him who divided the Red Sea w asunder
           His love endures forever.
      14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
           His love endures forever.
      15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
           His love endures forever.

      16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
           His love endures forever.

      17 to him who struck down great kings,
           His love endures forever.
      18 and killed mighty kings—
           His love endures forever.
      19 Sihon king of the Amorites
           His love endures forever.
      20 and Og king of Bashan—
           His love endures forever.
      21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
           His love endures forever.
      22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
           His love endures forever.

      23 He remembered us in our low estate
           His love endures forever.
      24 and freed us from our enemies.
           His love endures forever.
      25 He gives food to every creature.
           His love endures forever.

      26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
           His love endures forever.

The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 136). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wow, Psalm 134 is short. Ever wonder why some Psalms are so short? Often it is the power of a single thought that can be carried best! Consider praying this Psalm, but ask God to help you consider this Psalm all day long. This one has two point—Read verse 1-2 as your promise to God and verse 3 separately. Remember with verse three the blessing was prayed by David for you as the reader. God does not put a time limit on prayers. This blessing is your blessing for today!

Psalm 134
A song of ascents.
Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth. [1]

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Psalm 129

Psalm 129:

Psalm 129 raises all kinds of questions that we rarely explore. First, realize the writer is talking about a literal event, but the Psalm also has a spiritual side. For example, the Psalmist wrote, about being “oppressed from my youth.” We know David did endure oppression from others—primarily his brother. However, we all endure a spiritual oppression because from the moment we are born the devil desires to harm and destroy. Besides the devil we might as well be honest and say all of us have to deal with some people who are just jerks and seek to harm us, our name, etc. We all encounter oppression in life!

The Psalmist makes two key points in his response to evil.

1.  Victory has not been gained over him—God has delivered! 
2. The Psalmist begins to pronounce judgment on those who performed evil. Maybe instead of the word judgement we should just say the Psalmist is stating God’s will for those who attempt to harm those serving God. On a side note, consider the word “Zion” in this Psalm to not only represent the country of Israel, but those who are in God’s kingdom. The Psalmist also asks God to harm those who attempt to oppress "Zion" or God's kingdom.

Read Psalm 129 below and consider verse 4 and 5. Ask how we can use this prayer in our modern world.
Psalm 129
A song of ascents.
“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say to them,
“The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.” [1] 

The Psalmist began to pray two key prayers---deliverance and punishment. The Psalmist prayed he would be delivered from evil. We need to pray the same. However, he took it further and actually asked that God deal severely with those who desire to harm him (the Psalmist), or God’s kingdom. Sometimes, we need to recognize God’s power to impose justice and trust it. Sometimes, we are too quick to try to solve issues and too slow to say God, “Please stop this evil.”

Do we have points in our life that we need to ask for God’s protection?

Do we know of points of evil that we need to place in God’s care and ask his help in dealing them?

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 129). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Psalms 128

Psalm 128:

Before writing a few thoughts on today’s scripture I want to apologize my blog devotionals have been so on and off recently. I am trying to work full-time, but the medications I am taking after my hospital visit are very harsh. I am needing close to 15 hours of sleep a day—I know it is a burden, but I take it on gladlyJ. Actually, I hate being so tired and can’t wait to finish this regiment in less than a week. On a side, note my biopsy did not work yesterday as they could not get into the tumor. The Dr. will decide Monday whether to proceed with surgery or wait eight weeks and try the biopsy again. We may try the biopsy part again next week as well so we will see. The point is this blog may stay inconsistent for a few more weeks. The good news is I am 100% confident I will live to see "my children's children," and this health issue is just a temporary slowdown. I will keep you up-to-date as so many of you have sent messages wanting to know what is going on. 

Now to the subject at hand—Psalm 128! Often Psalms build around one key verse. I usually read a Psalm until I spot a key verse and then enjoy seeing all the side points that come from the verse. This Psalm has two verses that create a cause and effect relationship. Most of the rest of the Psalm continues to develop the cause and effect. Read verse 1 looking for cause. Read verse 2 look for the "effect."

Psalm 128 builds from verses 1-2 and simply shows examples of verse two's effects until the last of the Psalm when King David prays for you---"Yes, he prayed for us!" In the last two verses hear a special blessing pronounced on you as the reader by King David as you “fear the Lord.” By the way don’t underestimate the importance of David’s prayer for you. God described him as a man “after God’s own heart.” David prayed for his readers about 3,000 years ago, but God is eternal and every time we read David’s prayer it still is valid! Reading David's prayer initiates the blessing, because he was praying for his readers and God keeps his promises and listened to David--enjoy a blessing today!

After reading this Psalm consider my final thoughts that I write on “What does it mean to fear the Lord?”
Psalm 128
A song of ascents.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—

In some contexts fear does not mean being “scared of someone” which is how in the modern world we think of the word.  Instead "fear" can mean having great respect for someone and even giving allegiance and obedience to the person we respect. In other words, in the bible “fear” often is a statement of obedience out of complete trust for God. The promise of this Psalm is that if we place this kind of trust in God he will bless us—ourchildren and our family.

Tell God you desire to serve him today—ask him to help you “fear him” and enjoy his blessing!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Psalms 122--Pray for yourself and the church

First, I want to apologize I have not been maintaining this blog this week. I had an infection and was in the hospital until yesterday, but I am back to work and having fun!

I find Psalms 122 to be incredibly fascinating. However, it takes a bit of translating to really realize how powerful and prophetic this Psalm is. First, realize that prior to the cross the temple was “the place to meet God personally” and “Jerusalem” symbolized “the Church.” In this Psalm the words, "house of the Lord" are substituted for the word temple which is easier to understand because our hearts are "the house of the Lord"--that is because of the cross, the "temple" is "within us" is we have a personal relationships with Christ and “the church” has no geographic boundaries.

What does the above definitions have to do with Psalms 122? Well, the Psalm points out the importance of the temple (house of the Lord) and Jerusalem (church as whole). The real kicker when the Psalmist ask us to pray. He wrote,

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”

The above quote was prophetic. Later, Jesus advised his disciples to pray for few things, but one of the key items he stated was, “Unity.” Jesus knew the church would always struggle to make our faith about Jesus and to stand together—the Psalmist knew it as well. Now read all of Psalm 122 as a prayer, but substitute the words “Personal relationships with God’ for “temple” or "house of the Lord" and “the church and my local church” for “Jerusalem.”
Psalm 122
A song of ascents. Of David.
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the Lord
to praise the name of the Lord
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity. [1]

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 122). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.