I Love Your Grace!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

As we recognized yesterday, David loves the Lord’s house. This sets this psalm up in the middle of a series of psalms starting with Psalm 23. The Shepherd’s psalm ends with the declaration, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But who gets to actually dwell in that house? Psalm 24 provides the answer: one who has clean hands and pure heart. But wait, I’ve already messed that up. Is there any hope for me? Psalm 25, the first psalm to explicitly mention the psalmist’s own personal sin, anticipates and answers that objection. Our God is merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (reminding us of God’s own declaration in Exodus 34:6-7). Because of God’s mercy and grace, I can climb His holy Hill and dwell in His house despite my failures and sins. And now Psalm 26 talks about life in God’s house. Before we jump to David’s integrity (a topic for tomorrow), notice how David actually got into God’s house. “Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” In whose faithfulness? David’s faithfulness? No, in God’s. This is another reference back to Exodus 34:6-7. In other words, David isn’t saying, “I’ve been so amazing, I deserve to be in Your house, Lord.” He is remembering the principles we learned in the previous psalm. He has walked in the Lord’s love and faithfulness. He has called on God’s mercy and grace. As Psalm 5:7 explained, David has entered the Lord’s house not because of his own awesomeness, but “through the abundance of your steadfast love.” It is no wonder that David’s prayer about his own integrity still ends with a request for God to “be gracious to me.” The only way to dwell in God’s house is by His grace. Don’t you just love God’s grace? David did. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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What are You Praying For?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Alright. I’ve got a tough and challenging question for you. First of all, let me say, if you are praying, I don’t want to say anything to discourage you. I’m super glad you have a habit of prayer. That is awesome. But now that you are praying, I want to challenge you to think about where you focus your prayers. It is true that you are allowed to bring to God whatever is on your heart. Pray for your needs and your wants. Cast all your cares upon God even when you are not sure if God would even care about that or not; lift it up to Him. He is our Abba, our Father, He wants to hear it. But this psalm presents a challenging question to me. Do I ever pray for what was top on this psalmist’s mind? Think about it, he is facing enemies who are violently hateful. And it is true that the psalmist gets around to praying for protection from them. But do you see where his prayer request first focuses? “Make me know your ways, Lord.” “Teach me your paths, Lord.” Lead me in your truth, Lord.” “Teach me, Lord.” How many of your prayers are anchored here? In fact, while the psalmist gets to talking about protection, it is very clear that the psalmist believes the protection comes not simply from God acting in the lives of the enemies. It comes from knowing the way of God. It comes from knowing God’s word and will. God protects us by showing us His path, His way. And, of course, considering Psalm 1, doesn’t that just make sense? Those who know the way of the Lord are like a tree planted by waters, but the way of the wicked perishes. Too often, I just go about studying and trying to figure things out on my own and then expecting God to pick up my messes. Perhaps I should start with, “Lord, make me to know Your way.” How about you?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to hear the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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Oh Lord, May I Come In?

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell in your holy hill?”

What amazing questions. Who would ask questions like these? Who would even want to sojourn in the tent of the Lord or dwell on His holy hill? Are these questions I would ask? Are these questions you would ask? This is important. Before we jump to the answers, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are even really asking the questions. Scholars will tell you this psalm must have been some kind of worship entry or temple entry liturgy. Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t shake the imagery of David asking God, “Can I be Your roommate?” Who really wants that? That would be a bit of drag, wouldn’t it? I mean, could I still watch the movies and tv shows I watch now? Could I have the parties I enjoy having now? Could I rock out to the same songs I love to get into? Wouldn’t I want to be sneaking out, hoping God won’t ask me where I’m going tonight or what I’m up to? There is only one kind of person who really asks the psalmist’s questions: the person who has decided they want God more than they want anything else. I want to be that person. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 15.

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The Lord Will Keep Us

Today’s reading is Psalm 12.

Having explained his dire circumstances, being completely surrounded by wicked, vile, ungodly, disloyal liars and blasphemers, David explains his only hope: the Lord! David knows he will not be able to respond to all the liars. He knows he will not be able to deliver himself from all the blasphemies. Only the Lord can do that. And so his prayer is that the Lord will cut off the flattering lips and cut out the tongues that make great, arrogant boasts (vs. 3). After all, as he says in vs. 7, the Lord is the one who keeps us and protects us. The Lord is the one who guards us from “this” generation. And in this, though David’s words are pretty violent, we actually see how we are to respond when surrounded by lies and liars. His words were violent, but his action was prayer. We don’t go around trying to cut off the lips and cut out the tongues of liars and blasphemers no matter how much they hurt us. In fact, we don’t even have to respond to every lie we hear spoken against us (Jesus didn’t; He was silent before His accusers). Rather, we can rejoice (see Matthew 5:11-12) and we take our plea to the Lord. He knows the right way to address the liars around us. He knows the right way and the right time to judge the blasphemers. Yes, there are liars. Yes, their words will hurt us. Yes, it will seem at times like God is just letting the lies and liars triumph. But He isn’t. He will keep us. He will deliver us. Trust Him always!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 12.

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Why Is It Thought Incredible that God Raises the Dead?

Today’s reading is Acts 26.

Once again we discover Christianity did not succeed because the ancients were superstitious people who just accepted any crazy notion…like resurrection. The ancients understood people don’t come back from the dead. In fact, this was the sticking point for Christianity from the beginning. Folks, in general, weren’t gullible or superstitious. As soon as resurrection got mentioned, that is when they thought Paul was crazy. That being said, Paul asks a great question. If God is real, why is it considered incredible that He could and would raise the dead in exceptional circumstances? People who accepted Christianity aren’t saying the dead are raised all the time. They are simply saying they have seen enough evidence to confirm God has raised the dead and specifically has raised Jesus from the dead. And that is the key. The folks who accepted Christianity didn’t do so because of superstition or gullibility. They did so because of the signs, testimony, and evidence. They saw enough to override their general rejection of resurrection to accept Jesus’s. They didn’t become Christians because they believed resurrection just happened all the time or could happen for any reason. In fact, if they believed that, Jesus would have had no special claim whatsoever. Rather, they recognized resurrection doesn’t happen in general, but it did happen in this instant. They knew that gave Jesus a special claim on their lives; so they surrendered their allegiance to Him. Believing in God doesn’t mean you believe resurrection just happens all the time. But it does mean you should at least be open to consider the evidence that it happened in one really important case. If you would like to talk more about that evidence, let us know. We’ll be glad to discuss it with you.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 26.

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Why is Paul on Trial?

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

In Acts 24:21, Paul told Felix he cried out before the council, “It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.” Wait a minute! Acts 23:6 says he shouted, “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” Did you see the difference? Is this a contradiction? Did Paul not actually remember exactly what he said while before the council? How can we know exactly what he said? These are the kind of critiques skeptics offer against the New Testament. They find two accounts of the same event with some rearranged words, a different order in the story, or different participants mentioned, then they say, “Aha! Contradiction!!! You can’t trust the Bible.” But take a look at this situation with Paul. One account adds a word. Does anyone think Paul lied? Does anyone think this is a contradiction? No. Of course not. In this case, we all understand what is going on. Paul’s point was not to give a verbatim quote of his statement, but to get across the point that stirred up the trouble. That is what the New Testament is. None of it is a moment by moment transcription of events and words and statements. Rather, the authors are molding the story to let us know who Jesus is and what He taught. When we are done reading the gospels, we don’t have contradictions between them regarding the nature of Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, the will of Jesus. Sure, one author may tell us about some participants that another doesn’t. One author may put various vignettes in a different order. One author may vary the words or the order of a conversation. One author may give us a different angle. But these authors are not court stenographers trying to provide a record of words and events. They are ancient historians letting us know who Jesus is. Just like no one would claim Paul misquoted or lied, there is no reason to look at other similar differences and cry foul. The Bible has withstood the test of time and many attacks. It will continue to do so. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

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The Shocking God

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

Is anyone else completely shocked by Acts 5:5 or Acts 5:10? This doesn’t sound like the God of the New Testament at all. I mean, maybe the God of the Old Testament. But didn’t He become a Christian during those 400 years of silence? What are we supposed to make of this? First of all, we recognize God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There are not different gods over the Old and New Testaments. There is the same God. What is happening here is a reach back to the Old Testament account of Achan who also held something back in Joshua 7. Ananias and Sapphira hadn’t stolen like Achan, but they did lie like him (Joshua 7:11). Second, this is a demonstration that the grace of Jesus Christ is not permission to sin, flouting God, dishonoring Him. God’s wrath breaks into the world as it has done on very few occasions and strikes down Ananias and Sapphira. No, we are not to expect this every time a Christian lies anymore than it happened in the Old Testament every time someone sinned. Third, it reminds me I can’t put God in a box. I admit it. This shocks me. God does something I do not expect. Why would He do this? Perhaps as a reminder at the beginning of the New Covenant that sin is really just that bad. We might think God forgives us in Jesus because, really, the little sins we commit, you know, like telling little white lies, don’t really matter all that much. No. They matter. God doesn’t forgive us because they don’t matter. In fact, they matter so much the cost was for God’s wrath to be poured out on Jesus in the cross. The death of Ananias and Sapphira is shocking, but I need to be reminded how bad sin is. Additionally, I need to be reminded, if the God I believe only ever does exactly what I expect, He is probably a God I made up.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5.

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Context! Context! Context!

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

When Jesus sent the disciples out, He gave commands. “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” I have to admit, when I travel to preach, I carry a wallet, a backpack, extra shoes, and I greet folks all over the place. Every preacher I know does the exact same thing. What’s up with that? Why would anyone violate a clear, direct command from Jesus like we do with this one? Because of context. In Luke 22:35-36, Jesus calls the events in this week’s reading back to His disciples’ minds. “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” Then Jesus gives new instructions: “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack.” Certainly, we need to be careful students. Sometimes it seems people wave the word “context” around as a magic wand to dismiss any passage they don’t want to apply today. However, context, whether historical, literary, or textual, does clarify meanings, principles, and present applications. Jesus’s command in Luke 10:4 is not a command for all people or even all evangelists of all time. It was a specific commission for a specific group of people on a specific mission at a specific time. We do not apply it as a direct command to us. Rather, we learn from Luke 22 that the earlier commission was intended to teach the disciples to rely on God. Even though we carry a moneybag and knapsack today, we must still know the proper application of Jesus’s limited commission instructions: rely on God, the Filler of moneybags and Provider of knapsacks, not the money or material goods in the bags and sacks. We must rightly handle the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). Appealing to context will not empty passages of their meaning. We do need to beware those who use “context” as a smokescreen to deny a passage’s proper modern application. On the other hand, we should not fear examining the context in order to know the appropriate application, which will not always be the direct one. Always remember three of the greatest Bible study rules: Context! Context! Context!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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A Cross to Bear

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

“We all have our cross to bear.” I think this statement should be stricken from our communication. At least, it should be the way most people use it. Someone talks about having a tough boss, an old car, a leaky roof, a wayward child, an ongoing illness and then says, “Well, I guess we all have our cross to bear.” Bologna! Bearing the cross doesn’t mean putting up with some hardship in life. Jesus tells the apostles, “I must suffer many things and ultimately be killed.” Following that, He says, “If you want to come after me, pick up your own cross and follow me.” Bearing a cross doesn’t mean facing a difficulty. It means picking up the very implement of your death and carrying it to the place you are going to die. Jesus meant if we are going to be His disciples, we are going to follow in His footsteps. That doesn’t mean simply bowing at the foot of His cross. That means picking up our very own every day. The path to resurrection is through the cross. That is, the only way to actually gain life is first to lose it. Today’s question is not what burdens are we bearing. Today’s question is are we actually bearing our cross or just substituting life’s difficulties for really following Jesus?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 9.

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Hope for the Gentiles

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

I know we are reading in Luke today, but Isaiah 65:1-7 is a fascinating passage. There, the Lord explained He was ready to be sought by those who didn’t ask for Him or seek Him. He said “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation not called by His name. These people provoked God despite His calls to them. They sacrificed to demons (noted in the LXX, the Greek version of this passage). They sat in tombs. They ate pig’s flesh. And they told the Lord to “Keep to yourself, do not come near me.” Therefore, God explained He would repay them for their iniquities. Does any of this sound familiar? It’s like Jesus’s time in Gerasa, a city in the Greek region called the Decapolis, was modeled after this passage. The Gerasenes learn of the miraculous deliverance of the demon possessed man. However, instead of being in awe over the miracle, they were scared because of their financial loss in the pigs. They demand Jesus leave. Considering Isaiah 65, what might we expect for the Decapolis Gentiles? Judgment. Quick, brutal, complete, avenging judgment. However, how does this story end? As He leaves, Jesus sends the man delivered from Legion into the region to tell them what God had done for him. There is hope for the Gentiles, even for these Gentiles who rejected Jesus. This is the Savior we serve. Praise the Lord! There is hope for us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 8.

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