Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Psalm 102-104: Praise

Warren Wiersbe points out an interesting fact about Psalm 103 that I thought I would share with you today. As you read through this Psalm, consider that it is a Psalm of pure praise (which is not surprising, there are a number of Psalms of pure praise). What Wiersbe points out is that this Psalm makes no requests of God; its sole focus is the exultation of God in light of the benefits he brings into the lives of those who follow him obediently; a point the author makes in verses 17-18.  So this Psalm is about the benefit of having God present and active in our lives.

David divides the Psalm into three parts, each part praising God for the blessing he pours out in different areas:

  • Vs 1-6 focus on praise for the personal blessings we all experience from God.
  • Vs 6-18 focus’ on praise for the blessings God pours out on the nation of Israel.
  • Vs 19-22 calls on the entirety of creation to lift praise to God.

As you read each section, see if you can list the blessings given in each, the reasons we are to praise him.

The last thing I would point out is why David writes this Psalm.  Right at the beginning of the Psalm David proclaims: “My soul, praise the Lord, and to not forget his benefits.” We lift praise to God in response to his presence and activity in our lives, because of the daily way that he blesses, guides, protects and redeems us. Our praise is empty if it is not fueled by a remembrance of God’s goodness, his Sovereign greatness and Majestic Holiness. Repeatedly was we’ve read Israel’s history so far we’ve seen them stumble and fall away from God when they forget who God is and what he has done for them. We must be careful not to fall into the same trap!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-10; 1 Chronicles 11-12

1 Chronicles 7-10: Connections

This is the last list of genealogies for a while, I promise. But again, it is not without significance. These are the lists of leaders who came out of each of the tribes of Israel. The Chronicler is trying to show Israel who they are, where they’ve come from and how God has moved through them. Chronicles, from a chronology point of view, was the last book written in the Old Testament. In the Hebrew compilation of the canon, this book comes dead last. It was written after Israel returned from the Babylonian exile (which we will read about in Ezra and Nehemiah). The return from the Babylonian exile is the last event recorded in Israel’s history before the transition to the New Testament and the coming of Jesus.  The reason we are reading Chronicles now as opposed to last is because the content of the book has to do with Israel’s history during the monarchy, starting with David and working through to the last King of Judah, Zedekiah.

Anyway, the point of the book is to show a new generation of Israel, one returning to their own land after an extended exile, who they are, who God is, why they ended up in exile and how they can avoid that fate in the future. They needed to be told once again that they were special in God’s eyes and that they had a long history of blessings at God’s hands, a history they could plug in to if they re-dedicated themselves to God and his plan for them as a nation.

Winfried Corduan puts it this way: “They (Israel returning from exile) had rebuilt the temple; there was weak local government; and devotion to the Lord was perfunctory…When Ezra and Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, they found a group of people who had a superficial awareness of God. These people maintained a shallow observance of the temple rituals, but they had lost their zeal and sense of identity as God’s special people. The book of Chronicles is what they needed.” (Holman Old Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Chronicles, pg 2-3)

As you read this list, notice the familiar names that appear.  Tola (chapter 7) was a judge prior to the monarchy (Judges 10:1). Gideon was a judge from the tribe of Manasseh (Judges 6). Joshua appears in chapter 7:27. 1 Chronicles 8:6 tell us of Ehud, the left-handed judge from Judges 3.

Chapter 9 then takes the story of Israel’s history and bring it right to the time of the first readers of the book, to those returning from the exile in Babylon. It shows how their families tie into the history of God’s people that the Chronicler has just laid out. It is hard for us to grasp the importance of these chapters, or how those first readers would have felt reading them because we are so far removed from the situation and time of writing. We don’t know what it feels like to have no national or familial identity, no tie to the past or an understanding of where we come from. These people had lots of these types of questions and few answers; which is why Chronicles was written.

Thankfully, chapter 10 gets us back on tracking the history of Israel as we move from the fall of Saul’s monarchy, the death of the remainder of his family and the ascent into David’s reign.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 102-104

Psalm 81, Psalm 88, Psalm 92-93: If only

If only blog picGood morning, afternoon or evening my friends, whichever applies to when you are reading this!

I want to focus on Psalm 81 in this post, the last 4 verses in particular. God speaking says: “13 “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, 14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!  15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.  16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

As I was reading this I was struck by the tone of longing in God’s voice as he speaks these words. “If only” is a cry of one who wishes to do good for someone but does not have the opportunity. It is tempting to read those words and think “You’re God, you can do whatever you wish! So if you want to subdue their enemies and punish them and feed Israel with the finest wheat and honey, then go right ahead!” That thought crossed through my mind. But as I’ve read further into the Psalms, I’ve come to realize that God repeatedly expresses his longing to bless his people, but their rebellion and disobedience don’t let him.

We’ll talk more about rebellion another time,  but for today I was more struck by the language the Psalmist uses to express God’ desire and how closely it resembles our own language when God seems distant. Or at least it closely resembles the way I feel when I wish God would act or answer. In fact David use this same phrase in Psalm 139:19 when he wished God would deal with the wicked.

Perhaps this longing for what is right and good is part of God’s fingerprint in us? I have nothing to substantiate this, but it is something to think about. Think of how many times in your life you have wondered “if only” and try  to consider how many times God has directed that same sentiment at you. It is kind of sobering.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 7-10

1 Chronicles 3-5: Fads

More names…and more names…and more names. That’s not to say that there aren’t some interesting editorial comments scattered throughout (like the comment in chapter 5, verse 18 and following that talk about the military might of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh).

I would like to take this opportunity, however, to talk about something that has always bothered me a bit. Admittedly, it could be that this bothers me because I’m not much of one to follow the crowd. I don’t wear Nike sneakers just because they are “the thing” to wear. I don’t care that pink is the new black or that American Eagle is the latest trending brand (I’m probably wrong even saying that). I just don’t care about stuff like that. So when fads spring up in Christian culture, my reaction is much the same as to fads in secular culture…I wait to see just how long they will last.

Such a fad grew out of the readings from today. 1 Chronicles chapter 4 verses 9 and 10, otherwise known as “the prayer of Jabez”. A number of years ago these two particular verses made a couple of guys quite a bit of money. I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is some cynicism mixed in as well. There were books, Bible studies, devotionals, and any number of merchandise items for sale that touted the virtues of the prayer that God honoured to increase Jabez’s territory and keep him from pain.

There are lots of things I could say about this, and not many of them would be very kind and some would be ill-informed, so I will keep most of them to myself. Needless to say I did not jump onto this particular band-wagon and I did not encourage Christians that I knew to buy into it either. Why not? First, is smacked a bit of prosperity gospel. Say this, do this, act this way and you can manipulate God into giving you what you desire. Second, it completely seemed to ignore the fact that this is not an isolated incident. All through scripture God honours the prayers of the faithful. Nothing too shocking there. In fact, James encourages us by saying that the prayers of the righteous are powerful; and since we’re made righteous through faith in the act of Jesus on the cross, it means that we all have power through prayer.

It was not anything special about Jabez’s prayer that made God stand up and pay attention. Jabez prayed in faith and God responded. I would encourage you to be aware of the truth in that for all Christians. If there is a fad that we need to take fire in the current Evangelical church, it is a resurgence of faith filled people who can and do act out in the power of God made available to us through the Holy Spirit in prayer. As we’ve been reading about the things the men and women of faith did because of their faith in God, I’ve been reminded that Jesus said “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12).

If there is a statement in scripture that deserves a fad, it’s that one!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 73, 77-78

Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87: Betrothal

ringsLet’s focus on Psalm 45 this morning. It is a very unique Psalm, in fact some commentators say that there is no other Psalm like it. Let’s be honest, it’s quite beautiful and nice to read. Great language, a wonderful story about a bride and a groom and their wedding celebration. A love story. We all need one of them from time-to-time (yes guys, a love story will not hurt you).

Let me give you a quick rundown of this Psalm. In ancient times, marriages were elaborate affairs. They started with a betrothal, which was a serious affair. In fact, once betrothed, a man and woman were considered married, they just hadn’t shared a bed yet. It took an act of divorce to break a betrothal. Betrothals of course meant the paying of a dowry of some by the grooms family.

When the wedding finally arrived, it was an even more elaborate affair. The grooms party would arrive at his house, they would all prepare the property and the groom for the wedding celebration. The attendants of the bride would gather at her house, helping her into her finest clothes and jewelry, and then she would wait. The groom and his attendants would process to the brides house, and then there would be a grand procession as both wedding parties escorted bride and groom back to the grooms house where there would be a wedding feast; a feast that could last as long as one or two weeks (depending on the status and wealth of the groom’s family).

This framework is important as we read Psalm 45 because it follows that format. The author gives a short introduction (verse 1). Then we see the King coming for his bride in verses 2-9. Verses 10-12 find the bride preparing herself for her groom and getting some wedding day advice. In verses 13-15 the bride is led out to meet the groom and the procession makes its way to the grooms house for the celebration.  The final verses are a word of blessing from the author to the couple.

It is likely that this Psalm was written to a specific bride and groom, although their exact identity is of some contention. It is pretty commonly understood that the groom was Solomon, although it is possible that it could apply to one of David’s marriages. The uniqueness of Psalm 45 goes beyond the fact that it is a wedding psalm, it is also a Messianic Psalm. The grandeur of the words, the picture painted of this King and his bride goes beyond a simple wedding song for an earthly king.  In all, there are only about 5 Psalms where most or all of the material points to Jesus Christ (Psalm 2, 16, 22, 110 and 45).  There are other Psalms that refer to Jesus in an element or two(Psalm 8 and 40 are examples), but Psalm 45 is among those that are understood to point directly to Jesus.

This Psalm is unique among those 5 because it talks about Jesus as the groom receiving his bride. We know, from New Testament writings and theology, that the Bride of Christ is the church. Here we have the first instance of that imagery. Spend some time in this Psalm.

Consider the description of the King. Consider what the Psalmist has to say about the King’s character, the King’s words, the King’s victories, and the King’s wedding itself.

Consider the words of advice to the bride; forget the past, honour the Lord, look ahead with anticipation.

Consider the authors final blessing in light of the hope we have in the return of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 1:7). Consider the way the author speaks of his own dedication to the King, of his own praise to the King and his own work to point the nations to honour the King.

A beautiful Psalm to start your day!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 3-5

1 Chronicles 1-2: Begat

Alrighty, so today’s reading is a bunch of names…in fact, the readings from Chronicles over the next several days are all genealogies from the 12 tribes and the Levites.  Thankfully, there are some Psalms in the mix as well to break up the lists.

As I mentioned back in Numbers, these lists aren’t really pertinent to any sort of spiritual theme. If you carefully study them, you can find where certain characters involved in the Biblical narrative came from in terms of family tree, and as you read these sections you should be paying attention to any footnote type additions. There are sometimes small editorial comments that can be quite pertinent to our own spiritual growth, but you must be a careful reader to find them.

My only other comment to make about these readings is to say that names are important to God. I don’t mean that in the sort of sentimental way that we evangelicals often portray it. Yes, God knows each of our names and is intimately aware of who we are and has deep affection for us. But there is more to names than just that. In Old Testament times names had meaning, they were used to not only identify a person or a place but to characterize it and define it. That’s why Abram’s name was changed, that’s why Jesus means God saves, that’s why Hosea names his children certain ways (we’ll get there, don’t worry). God knows us intimately enough to give us a name that truly defines who we are. In fact, Revelation 2 tells us that when we get to heaven God will give us a new name that only he knows. There’s lots of theology around that, but we’ll simplify it that way for now.

Don’t get discouraged by the names. Skim through them, see if any names pop out as important, read the narrative notes throughout, and enjoy the Psalms!

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21: All and 1 at the same time.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Really, we should be saying that every day, not just on Easter Sunday! Good morning my friends. I pray that this past weekend was incredibly fulfilling as you meditated on the history changing event that was the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Not only was that event the turning point in history, it was and is the turning point in million of individual lives all through history.

That is the strange thing about Easter; it is a mix of the corporate and the individual. On the one hand, Christ died for the salvation of many (as he proclaimed to his disciples during the Last Supper), that anyone (the nameless, faceless masses) can have faith in Jesus and be saved. On the other hand, Christ died for me and he died for you. It is intensely individual and personal. It was my stripes that he bore, it was my sin that pinned him to that tree.

I think that is why the Psalms speak so powerfully to so many people. They are deeply individual. They are the cries of individual people (David among others), who have experienced or cry out to experience God in specific ways depending on their circumstances and contexts. That is exactly how each of us interact with God as well.  Take for the readings for today and the wide range of human experience they portray:

Psalm 6 is a cry for help and deliverance from sin and evildoers.
Psalm 8 is a Psalm of pure praise and wonder at how God treats humanity
Psalm 9 is a statement of confidence in God’s place on the throne as King
Psalm 10 proclaims the arrogance of those who live as if God does not exist and how they will be brought up short in due time
Psalm 14 talks about God as the deliverer of his people
Psalm 16 is a proclamation of devotion and dedication as the writer sees others turning away to other gods
Psalm 19 talks about how creation points us toward God and how God’s instructions guide our lives
Psalm 21 David talks about how, even as king, he relies on God for victory and blessings and even cheer

And those are only 8 of 150 Psalms!  Expressions from individual people about God’s character, his conduct, his presence in their lives and their incredible reliance on him in all situations of life (from temptation, to failure in sin, to victory over their enemies, to despair in times of trial and loss).

Remember, that while God sent Jesus to dies for the many, the many includes you as an individual; and God is interested in all areas of your life.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2

EASTER IS A COMIN’

Easter weekend is right around the corner! For many, this is a time to celebrate the heart of our Christian faith: The death of Jesus for our sins and his victory over death through his resurrection.

PEMC wants to be part of your Easter Celebrations!

Here’s what we’re up to over the coming weekend:

GOOD FRIDAY

  • Good Friday Pancake Breakfast: 8:30-10 am
  • Good Friday Communion Service: 10 am
  • Secret Church Simulcast: 7 pm – 1 am at Pastor Phil’s house (http://www.radical.net/secretchurch for more details)

EASTER SUNDAY

  • Easter Sunday Early Worship: 8:30 am
  • Continental Fellowship (coffee, tea, muffins, fruit): 9:15 am
  • Easter Sunday Service 10:30 am

It is our hope and prayer that your Easter weekend is full of joy, peace and the presence of the Risen Saviour!

Psalm 56, 120, 140-142: Rescue

Have you ever had dealings with someone who just seemed to do whatever they wanted to people without any consequences? Perhaps the person had authority or position that afforded them protection. Or perhaps they were simply the kind of person that no one wanted to go toe-to-toe with. Or perhaps they were the kind of person who got their hands on personal information and then used that as leverage. Whatever the protection they have, there are some people who seem to be able to treat others in any malicious way they want, and nothing seems to be done about it.

As I read these Psalms, that is the situation that came to mind. David was in conflict with people (Saul among others) who seemed to have all of the chits, and he had none. His only recourse was to cry out to God for deliverance and rescue.

The only things that kept David going in these situations were two pieces of information:

  1. God is a strong Saviour who is a shield for those who call on his name
  2. God upholds the cause of the poor and the needy

Having faith in those things is what kept David moving. It would seem that those would be pretty easy things to maintain faith in, but with the way I’ve seen a lot of people handle difficulty in their lives, I would say our faith in those two things need to be strengthened.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Samuel 25-27

Psalm 7,27, 31, 34, & 52: Mixer

I’m so excited! This is the part of our reading plan that I have been waiting for. To begin placing some of the other readings in the Old Testament in their contexts, to read the Psalms in the settings where David wrote them, to read the prophets (Major and Minor) in the reigns of the Kings their words were directed at. To me it will open up some of the meanings in those writing as we better understand what was going on in Israel as they were being written.

And we start today.

David is on the run from Saul, he has no home base, he has no one he can trust (besides Jonathan and his 600 men), and he is alone. He is hiding in caves, hunted not just by Saul but by other kings whom  David had fought against. The whole situation is pretty dire. So David writes some Psalms. Some people wander into a forest and talk out loud to God, some people write their thoughts in a journal, some people create art (everything from painting to ironworks), and other people writes songs. When David was feeling strongly and wanted to record his thoughts to God, he put them in music. Those are most of the Psalms we enjoy in our Bibles today (yes some of the Psalms were written by people other than David). As you read the Psalms, pay attention to the themes that appear in them that come out of David’s settings, his emotions during that point in his life and what we asks of God or says of God because of those life circumstances.

For instance, the Psalms we read today talk a lot about God as a stronghold and refuge, someplace David to run to for protection and rest. These Psalms also ask God to show David where he has gone wrong.  David asks God to show him if his current circumstance is the consequence of sin or poor judgement; and then he calls on God to act on his behalf is David’s sin is not the source of the problem.

Something that is sticking out to me a lot as I read the Psalms this time through is David’s reliance on God to act on his behalf. Even as David deals with a vengeful and irrational Saul, David maintains his conviction not to act out against Saul. Instead, he petitions God to take care of the issue. What a faith, and what a way to live out faith! So often we think about what we can do about a difficult situation, and we may ask God for help in dealing with it, but how often do we downright leave it in God’s hand to take care of?

The Psalms are rich, both in what they teach us of worship, but also in what they teach us in how to live in God’s presence on a daily basis and what it looks like to share with God from our hearts. It’s almost like we get a peak in to David’s journal, and we can all learn a lot as we read.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 56, 120, 140-142