Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday, May 31 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72.
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.

I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,”I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly —my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
    and this was the reward for all my labor.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; 
    nothing was gained under the sun.

What is it worthwhile for us to do under heaven during the few days of our lives?  Wow.  That puts a few things into perspective, doesn't it?

It kind of sounds to me like Solomon was doing some experiments here.  It says that even while he was cheering himself with wine, undertaking projects, and indulging in pleasure, sexual and otherwise, he says "my mind still guiding me with wisdom".  So he wasn't just rampantly reveling in everything without any control or thought about what he was doing, but he was testing, trying out, and experimenting, seeking what would give a person the most satisfying life possible.  And guess what?  A chasing after the wind, he says.

From The Vanity of Pleasure by Aaron Sturgill, the following excerpt made me think about my priorities:

Once again, let us remember that the above areas are not being condemned as much as they are being presented as ineffectual means to a purposeful life.

Are there ever times in our lives where we might be able to say any of the following . . .
  • If I could just get a little raise at work, we would be happy; and our marriage wouldn’t be such a struggle.
  • I understand that alcohol can be dangerous, but I’m able to control it. After all, nowhere in scripture does it say I can’t drink. I have the freedom in Christ to do what I want.
  • If my spouse were more attentive to my sexual needs I wouldn’t have committed adultery, looked at pornography, dressed immodestly, flirted with another employee, etc.
  • I know we need to be more involved with church and serving but I have a cabin. I need to use it; after all, I get to see the creation of God every time I sit on my porch. It is such a wonderful experience.
  • I have such a rigorous music practice that I don’t have time for a consistent devotional life.

The problem is not necessarily that we are involved in these areas. The problem lies in what we sacrifice to participate in these areas.
  • God, I will not be satisfied in you, I will only be satisfied if I receive financially what is due me.
  • God I will ignore your clear dangers of alcohol in scripture and will instead yield to my own selfish desires with no thought to others or your glory.
  • God, I want to obey you, but I demand sex when I desire it. I will do what I have to, to fulfill my fleshly desires.
  • God, I know you desire for me to be an active part of the church body, but my own selfish and fleeting pleasures (such as sports, nature, relaxation, TV, more money) are more important than what you want.

(emphasis mine)

I venture to say, in the end, that the work itself, for whom we do it, and how we go about it, is more important than the actual accomplishment in the end, as far as a satisfying life goes.  We always think that the people who have lots of time to relax and pursue activities for enjoyment are happy, or at least happier than those of us who have lots to do all the time and little time to relax or pursue leisure activities.  But I wonder how satisfying it is?  I'm sure they enjoy their free time and leisure activities, but would they consider their lives satisfying?  Would they feel fulfilled and purposeful?  I don't know.

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Ecclesiastes 2:12-16.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Psalm 119:89-176.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday, May 30th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 119:1-88
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
15 What is twisted cannot be straightened; 
    what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; 
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Solomon tried everything in his pursuit of meaning on the earth.  Everything.  With his incredible wealth and power nothing was denied him.  He tried it all and it was all meaningless.  Solomon pursued both wisdom and folly and found that there simply is no human answer to our frustration - what is twisted cannot be straightened.  We can't fix it.

Mark Driscoll, in the same sermon I linked to yesterday, says (emphasis mine)...

And here’s why life is so tremendously frustrating. Verse 15, “What is twisted cannot be straightened.” You and I cannot fix ourselves. We cannot fix our world. People don’t know that. “I’ll fix it.” Good luck. ....I dare you to get anything fixed. It’s cursed. It keeps breaking. It keeps falling apart. It doesn’t matter what it is. We can’t fix it. We can’t straighten out the world. It’s too crooked and we can’t straighten it out because we’re crooked. We need to get straightened out first. That’s his metaphor for sin – crookedness. And he says as well, “Here’s the other problem. What is lacking cannot be counted.” We don’t have the material, the resources, the grace, the wisdom, the insight, the power to change things....

Verse 18 – here’s the big problem. With much wisdom, comes much sorrow. The more knowledge, the more grief. The longer you live, the more you see. The more you see, the more you know. The more you know, the more medication you need. Because the sadder you become.....

And there is a big difference between information and transformation. Solomon, in his great wisdom, had information. He understood the human condition, but he could not fix it.

It’s interesting, 900 some years later, after Solomon, comes Jesus Christ. Here’s the beauty. Here’s the good news. Under the sun, no hope. Who comes? God. God who’s above and sovereign, over creation. God comes into creation as one of us, into this crooked, frustrating, fallen, bent, collapsed web of life. He comes into it. He’s tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Everything that Solomon pursued, Jesus was tempted to, but in wisdom unlike Adam and in wisdom unlike Solomon, he resisted. And it’s interesting because at Jesus’ birth, some of the first people who come to worship him are Magi in Matthew 2. Wise men, like Solomon, pursuing the truth. What’s the meaning of life? What’s the point? Where’s the wisdom? And they end up on their knees worshiping the baby Jesus. Everybody who honestly pursues wisdom ends up kneeling before Jesus in worship.

And Jesus lives his life and he tells us something amazing in Matthew 12:42. He says, “Now one who is greater than Solomon is here.” Here’s his point. Solomon knew the problem, but he couldn’t fix it. He knew the world was filled with sin, but he couldn’t forgive sin. He couldn’t cleanse the stain of sin. He knew that people were crooked, but he couldn’t straighten ‘em out. He knew that the world didn’t have the resources it needed to be the kind of place that was declared good by God. But, Jesus did. Jesus came to right everything that Adam wronged and to answer all of the frustrations that Solomon articulated. And he was greater than Solomon because he was God, not just come to inform us, but to transform us. Not just to share in our sorrow and grief and suffering, but to die for our sin and rise in conquest over it. And it’s beautiful because the Bible says that then what happened is this. We are so crooked and the world is so crooked and Jesus was so straight, that he looked peculiar, so we killed him. We killed God.

And upon the cross, something miraculous happened. We’re told in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God made him who knew no sin to become sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. We are told in Galatians that on the cross, he died for our sins and he redeemed us from our curse. We are told in Corinthians that in that moment, he gave us his righteousness and he gave us his wisdom, so we wouldn’t need to live as fools anymore. And the beauty of it is that my sin past, present, future, my rebellion, my folly, all of my wickedness, even if I haven’t done everything that Solomon did, I’ve thought about it, and in so doing, I condemn myself with my own conscious. Men here say, “I’ve been faithful to my wife.” You probably have a harem bigger than Solomon’s in your imagination. We’re all guilty as charged.

And the fact of the matter is this – Jesus dies for our sin. The wage for sin is death. He comes into creation to liberate and redeem all who come to him in faith. And Jesus Christ rises from his grave. He conquers our enemies of Satan, sin and death. And he begins the great reclamation project of connecting everything back to the Father. That tether that was severed and the creation that collapsed in its web, is now being untangled by Jesus and reconnected to the Father because life has no meaning. Life has no purpose, life has no goal, unless Creator and creation are reconciled. In every philosophy, in every religion, and every morality and every movement is an attempt to bridge the gap between man and God, but there is no hope of us rising above the earth. And so, God came down. God came down here to be with us. God came down here to die and rise for us.
Thank you Jesus, for coming down here to die for us, to rise for us, to bridge the gap between us and God, so that we can be reconciled to God, so that our life can have a purpose - in You.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 3-4,  2 Chronicles 1,  Psalm 72

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 29th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Kings 1-2, Psalm 37, 71, 94
Today's scripture focus is Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
What does man gain from all his labor
    at which he toils under the sun? 
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever. 
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises. 
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again. 
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing, 
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again; 
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 There is no remembrance of men of old, 
    and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow.

This is a depressing passage! Solomon is telling us that life is one meaningless circle and we're stuck in the same rut, doing the same thing that everyone else in human history has ever done and nothing is getting better and nothing is new.

Every day the sun rises and sets.  The wind blows in it's circular course, over and over.  The water continues it's cycle over and over.  Nature is in a rut, just like us.  We eat, only to get hungry again.  We clean, only for things to get messed up again.  We pay our bills, only for another one to arrive in the mail.  It's an endless, meaningless cycle.

Mark Driscoll says this (emphasis mine)....

Adam and Eve, decided that they would make choices not in accordance with God’s will and God’s Word. In a sense, they became very proud and very arrogant and they thought there was wisdom and life apart from God. In do doing, they sinned. In sinning, they set themselves up as enemies of God and as enemies of his good creation. At that moment, the tether that connected all life on the earth and all life under creation to God was severed and creation collapsed in on itself. Life became crooked. Death entered the equation. Frustration set in. And everything was tangled into a crooked mess and that explains the condition of the world that we live in presently.

In the middle of that, God then laid out a series of curses upon the man and the woman that are still binding upon us today. Very simply this; we were to steward and rule over creation and God was to steward and rule over us. As we became unruly and rebellious toward God, God then had creation that was under us become equally unruly and rebellious toward us. Now, we find ourselves in the position of being as frustrated with our life as God is with us. ...

God did that, not because he hates us, but because he loves us. God wanted us to see that the wage for sin is death, that the consequence of sin is that we would become so frustrated that we would cry out to him and ask what the problem is. And he would tell us that we have severed the tether that connects us in our lives to him. And in so doing, we have collapsed in upon ourselves, separated from him. And then, hopefully, that would lead us back toward him and back toward his goodness and his provision.....And God makes a promise in Genesis 3, right after our first parents’ sin, that, indeed, Jesus will one day come to accomplish that; to reconnect us to God; to redeem all that was lost...

what he says is this – “Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Every generation rises up. We’re gonna fix the world. We’re gonna change everything. We’re gonna make it a better place. Every generation before us, they were all dumb. We’re finally here. Evolution has hit its peak...
And every single generation thinks that they are so significant and so important. And literally, what he’s saying is this – “The earth is an exercise bike. Generations come out of the womb, jump on the bike and pedal like mad ‘til, eventually, they die and fall off. And then, the next generation gets on.” And they say, “Well, you didn’t get anywhere, but we’ll pedal harder.” And Solomon’s saying, “Give it a good run. We’ve done this before. I promise you, it’s not a vacation. You’re not getting anywhere. You’re not getting anywhere. There is no progress.” He just completely undercuts any myth or progress and evolution and human inquiry that moves us forward....

You gotta know why you’re here and then organize your life toward that purpose. And there’s really only two options. The goal is us or the goal is God. And Jesus says, “If you lose your life, that’s how you find it.” That the whole point of life is God and I’ll tell you the beauty of this. As soon as you worship God, as soon as you know God, as soon as you’re connected to God, you have diminished expectations for life. Life doesn’t need to be perfect. Jesus hasn’t completed, finishing all of his reclamation project of redemption. We will have resurrected new bodies. We will walk into his kingdom. Things will be made new. All things will be made perfect in the meantime. We can eat and drink and work and laugh and play and die, and not take ourselves so seriously. And that’s the point of Ecclesiastes. You can be rich. You can be horny. You can be smart. But, you’ll never be satisfied until you meet him. And then, your life has a measure of joy because it has being reconnected to the God who gave it.

You know, and the beauty of it all is this, really. We don’t need to be significant. We don’t need to be successful. We don’t need to be rich. We don’t need to be smart. We just need to be repentant and we need to be loved. That’s what we need. That’s all that we need. And we take our cue from Solomon. This is a book of profound repentance. And it is a dire warning to us all. “Take my word. There’s nothing here. Stop running from God. Go back to him.” And we’re loved. God loves us. God has come for us. God has redeemed us. God is resurrected for us. God is coming again for us. You know, I don’t need 1,000 women. I just need Jesus and then he gives me eyes for my wife. I don’t need a billion dollars. I just need Jesus and he gives me my daily bread. And it’s an issue of satisfaction and there’s a difference between stuff and satisfaction. Stuff, you can get on your own. Satisfaction comes from God. And you don’t get that until you’re reconnected to him through your mediator, Jesus, who came and died for your sins as your great God and rose to give you the gift of life.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 119:1-88

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday, May 28th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 111-118
Today's scripture focus is John 21:15-25

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

MacArthur rephrases the section where Jesus restores Peter (publicly, in front of the apostles) quite beautiful - using phrases that correctly explain what the Greek was intending, and adds some more thoughts as well (emphasis mine)....

when Peter came into an encounter with Jesus, he was a new man, Jesus gave him a new name, but now he was acting like the old man. And so Jesus pinpointed the problem right there when He called him "Simon" and not Peter....

"Simon, son of John," and then He says this, "Lovest thou Me more than these?"..... I believe that what He was doing was sweeping His hand over all the boats and the nets and the fish and the whole regalia that went with it and saying, "Peter, do you love Me more than you love this profession? Peter, you've gone back to fishing again." And Peter loved fishing. And Jesus says, "Peter, do you love Me more than you love the fish and the nets and the boats and the sea here and you're daily routine and your profession and your career which you're successful in doing? Do you love Me enough, Peter, to say goodbye to every bit of it? Do you love Me enough to just write it off? All your successes, all your chosen career, all your direction, just write it off, do you love Me enough, more than all of that to do just what I tell you to do? You claim to have great love, Peter, is it for real?"....

He says, "Peter, do you really, really love Me in the fullest sense?"...

"Jesus," [Peter] says, "You know in my heart I have a deep affection for You. I can't claim to love You like that. I can't claim the fullest kind of love. My life doesn't back it up."...

[Jesus] says, "Peter, if you're humble enough to acknowledge that your love isn't what it ought to be, that's exactly where I want you to be. Take over the job. Pasture My lambs."..

The Lord never expects us to love Him in the fullest sense of divine love before the service begins. He only expects us to acknowledge that we don't love Him enough. That's where we begin. Did you get that? If you're willing down in your heart to get on your knees before God and say, "Lord, I want to tell You right now I don't love You enough," at that point...if God will break you at that point, then God will build you again to use you. But you've got to come to the place in your life where you recognize you don't love Jesus Christ like you ought to love Him. And Peter was there. And God said, "On that basis, do the job." And so He says, "Pasture My little lambs, deal with My babies." And all of the disciples at that point were immature lambs. And the word "feed" here is a durative present which means it's a keep on word, keep on shepherding My sheep. ...

And so, the Lord says, "Peter, I'll accept you on that basis, now you pastor My little lambs." And that means you protect them, that means you feed them. That's what it's all about. So the Lord accepts him....

how many times had Peter denied Jesus? On three occasions, so Peter's going to get three shots to restore himself. Verse 16, "He saith to him again the second time, 'Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me?'" Again He uses agapao. "He saith unto Him, 'Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.' He saith unto him, 'Feed My sheep.'" Not only My little lambs, but keep on feeding My little lambs and when they get to be sheep, you feed them, too. Keep on doing it, continuing to minister. So He accepts him again.
Then as if that's not enough, the third time so that Peter can be restored once for each occasion, when he denied Him, "He saith unto him a third time," watch this, this is a change, and this is the point I want to get at, "Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me?" Peter was grieved because He said unto him a third time, "Lovest thou Me." "And he said unto Him, 'Lord, Thou knowest all things.'" Did you hear that? That's Peter's faith that Jesus was God in human flesh, did you hear it? That's another sermon. "Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I...what?...I love Thee." Jesus saith unto him, "Feed My dear sheep." That's the most mature believers....
Peter breaks down and when it means grieved it means he was aching and he was hurt. You say, "What's making him grieve?" The fact that Jesus changed the word. When Jesus said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" He didn't say agapao, the fullest sense, He says this, now watch the intonation. He says, "Peter, you've said two times you really have affection for Me. I say to you, do you really even have affection for Me?"
You say, "What's He saying?" He is putting even Peter's phileo up to suspect. Do you see? He's saying, "Peter, is this affection you say you have for Me even verified by your life?" You see? That's what hurt Peter. Peter had twice boasted again, "Lord, You know that I have a great affection for you," and Jesus said, "Oh really? Does your life really show that you even have affection for Me, let alone supreme love?" And that shattered Peter's heart because Peter, as he looked in his life, thought that he had that kind of affection, but Jesus says, in effect, even your...even the love that you acknowledge on a limited level isn't evident by your life....
My friend, don't you say you love Jesus Christ if you're not busy doing His will. And some people will claim to love Jesus Christ and no way He would ever know it except by omniscience cause there's not any evidence in their life. I can always tell the people who love Jesus, I can tell. They're the ones who are busy doing things for Him....
And that hurt Peter. And it should have hurt him. And Jesus meant it to. You see, because Jesus only wounds in order that He might heal....
what Jesus is establishing in Peter's mind is the priority of love. He will never be effective in serving Jesus Christ unless he loves Him. For whom you love you serve, do you not? It doesn't matter what relationship it is. When you love somebody you serve that somebody....
the wonderful thing about it is Peter got the message of loving Jesus and he did do it. He fed the sheep....
He fed that flock until he died. Why? Because he loved Jesus. But he didn't know what his love had to be until he knew what it wasn't. When you really love somebody, it determines your life. Does your life say, "I love you" to Jesus Christ?...
 [Jesus] says, "Peter, I'm going to give you another chance, you're going to live a full life and then at the end you're going to hang in there, it's going to come down to a life/death issue and you're going to stand up and say I believe in Jesus boldly and you're going to die for it."..
Now don't you think that's good news to Peter who last time he had a chance to die for Jesus blew it?...
Peter committed his life to Christ and Christ said, "Peter, you'll live for Me and you'll die nailed to a cross." That's the destiny that God had designed for Peter. That's a beautiful promise. O Peter I'm sure in his heart just was saying over and over again...if I only had another chance...if I only had another chance to show the Lord I could be faithful in a crucial situation...if I only had one more chance to show Him my love in a life/death thing, O I'd do it, I'd do it. And so the Lord says, "Peter, you'll do'll do it." And, you know, it's a good thing He told Peter cause Peter would have lived his whole life a nervous wreck thinking that every time he came to a real issue he'd blow it. And a leader with no confidence is no leader at all. And the Lord knew that Peter would worry himself about this so the Lord says, "Peter, you can relax through your whole ministry. When it comes to the end, you'll proclaim My name, you'll die a crucifixion death, don't worry about it."

Isn't that beautiful, the way Jesus fully restored Peter?

And in so doing, He gave us a very clear picture of how a genuine Christian will/should live.

We will serve God as an expression of love, we will trust that God's plan is the best plan for our life, we will follow Jesus no matter what the cost (and not worry about whether someone else is following God the way they should, like Peter did when he asked Jesus about John - we're responsible for ourselves, not them) and our conversations will be about Jesus because He's what's important to us.

And that concludes the book of John!  Tomorrow we begin Ecclesiastes - I'm looking forward to it!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Kings 1-2, Psalm 37, 71, 94

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday, May 27th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127
Today's scripture focus is John 21:1-14
21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.  It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
MacArthur: Carnal, fleshly self-effort, responding to your own will is characterized by disobedience, ends in failure and a loss of intimate fellowship. Spiritual effort characterized by obedience produces success and intimate fellowship with Christ.

In this passage it seems that Peter and the disciples have grown tired of waiting, and they're not sure how this post-resurrection stuff is supposed to work exactly. Is Jesus still going to provide for them?  So, Peter decides to go back to what he knows - fishing.  And some of the disciples go with him.  Without praying about it first.  Self-effort.  Fishing in itself is not wrong, but fishing for fish when you've been commanded to fish for men is wrong. 

And what happens when they disobey and rely on self-effort?  Failure.  God made sure they didn't catch a single fish.   And loss of intimate fellowship.  They're apart from Jesus, and the word for friends does not imply intimacy.  And He has not allowed them to recognize Him.  Loss of intimate fellowship.

But the first step to getting back to intimate fellowship is to admit that the self-effort is a failure.  And when they admit it, He commands them to fish again and this time, when their action and His will unite, they achieve success.  Not just success, overwhelming success!  And the Jesus reveals Himself to them, He cooks for them, He serves them, and intimate relationship is restored.

As soon as you go your own way, do your own thing, it's a decline. You start out: self-effort, disobedience, failure, loss of intimate fellowship. The other option, divine effort, obedience, success, intimate fellowship. And every Christian goes one of those two ways and most of us jump back and forth. And the mature Christian is the one who has the increased frequency on the upswing. You see, the Christian life is a matter of frequency. It's not a matter of perfection, it's a matter of frequency. And the more you grow in Christ, the more frequently you're on the up. It's as you grow in Christ that obedience begins to outweigh disobedience.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 21:15-25
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 111-118

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 26th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 131, 138-139, 143-145
Today's scripture focus is John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Note how this day is referred to as the first day of the week.  It's showing the transition from the Sabbath (Saturday) to now celebrating on Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord's Day, Resurrection Day.

Jesus appears to the disciples and declares to them that they are now at peace with God (due to His death and resurrection) and then He commissions them to spread the Gospel, promising them the Holy Spirit (who will come at Pentecost) and granting them the authority to tell people their sins are forgiven.

We all have that authority.  It doesn't mean we get to decide!  It means that when we present the Gospel and people respond to the Gospel message and receive Christ, we have the authority to give them the assurance of God's forgiveness.   But to someone who willfully rejects Jesus we also have the authority to declare that they still stand condemned.  If we didn't have that authority, witnessing would be useless.

And then Jesus demonstrates His willingness to meet us at the point of our faithlessness and bring us to faith.  He purposefully went back to see Thomas.  He missed the first Sunday church service, but he didn't miss the second one, and Jesus met him there.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Thomas must've been an honest doubter, he must've wanted to believe, he must've been seeking God, because Jesus honoured that and met him at the time of his weakest faith and brought him to faith.  And notice when Jesus met him there, he didn't even end up doing "the test" of touching the nail holes.  He immediately declared that Jesus was his Lord, his God.  Jesus strengthened his faith.  And then encouraged him (and us) to continue to believe, even when he couldn't see.  Believing when we can see is good, but it is better and more mature in faith to continue to believe when we cannot see.  To live by faith, not by sight.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 21:1-14
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday, May 25th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 23-25
Today's scripture focus is John 20:10-18

10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Today's passage is a beautiful one that shows Jesus' love for the ordinary person at their time of deepest need.  Mary was weeping tears she didn't even need to weep because Jesus was alive, but her faith wasn't strong enough to believe that yet and she thought His body had been stolen and she was completely distraught.  Jesus has rescued her from demon possession and she was likely one of the people who loved Jesus the most.  And Jesus chooses her to be the first person to see Him alive. Isn't that beautiful?  He didn't have to appear to her.  He could've appeared immediately to the disciples - the big three even!  But He didn't.  He appeared to Mary Magdalene.

She loved Jesus so much.  She had been weeping because she was mourning the loss of His presence, even the loss of His physical body when she thought it had been stolen.  Do we love Jesus like that?  Where we weep at the loss of intimate relationship with Him?

It's so easy for us to get so cold and so indifferent and to stray away from the warmth of a personal experience vital with Jesus Christ and not even care. Some of you people haven't talked to Jesus Christ in a personal intimate way maybe in a long time. Some of you really don't know what it is to experience the fullness of His presence and you don't even seem to mind, that's the sad part. You're not like Mary, you're not sobbing and weeping because He's removed His presence. When you've removed your presence from Him and it doesn't seem to bother you, tragedy. And I'm sure that this kind of affection can set an example for us to be with Him and to desire to be with Him so that if ever we are separated by sin, our hearts are grieved to tears.

She had a lack of faith, but she had no lack of love.  May we love Jesus like Mary did!

John MacArthur points out an amazing thing about the angels and where they were sitting.

Exodus 25:17-22 17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.

That was called the Mercy Seat.

Where did God meet man throughout the Old Testament? He met man between two angels on the Mercy Seat where the blood was sprinkled. My friends, since Jesus Christ left the tomb, where does God meet men? He meets them between two angels but the Mercy Seat is no longer the Ark of the Covenant, it's the resurrected Christ's tomb. God meets men on the basis of a resurrected living Christ, does He not? There's a new Mercy Seat and nobody needs to go in there and sprinkle any blood anymore because He has once for all accomplished the sacrifice that took care of sin. And she looked in there and she saw a new Mercy Seat.

Isn't that cool?  I've never noticed that before.

Notice what it takes for Mary to recognize Jesus in His resurrection body.  Mary (in the Greek, Miriam in Aramaic) doesn't recognize Him until she hears Him call her by name.  When the voice of the one you love speaks your name, you know them.  And she knew Him then.  Isn't that beautiful?

And she clings to Him, not willing to separate herself from His physical presence again.  But He tells her that she must.  Things would be different now.  Soon they would no longer have Him physically present because He had to go back to the Father, but He would send His Spirit and they would have a new kind of fellowship, a new kind of communion because He would live within them.

Another thing that's beautiful is that Jesus now refers to His disciples as His brothers.

John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

In John 15 they moved from servants to friends.  And now they move from friends to brothers.

In Hebrews 2 it says 10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

When we receive Christ we are united with Him in everything - our righteousness is Christ's, our holiness is Christ's, our security is Christ's, positionally before God we are as good as Christ.  That is simply a staggering thought.

Do you know that you're as secure, you are as secure as Christ is, you have as much chance of losing your salvation as Christ does of getting expelled from the Trinity. Did you get that? Because to begin with you're there in Christ, the only way you could ever go is if He goes. And Christians worry about losing their salvation. Don't worry about losing your salvation, worry about honoring the God who gave you such a secure salvation. Live your life out of gratitude, not fear.

When God looks at us, He sees Christ, not in the sense that we become God, but in the sense that we are now His own dear children.

So He tells her to go and tell His brothers.

And what is Mary's testimony? I have seen the Lord!

That should be our testimony as well.  I've seen the Lord in my life and I want to share Him with you.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 20:19-31
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 131, 138-139, 143-145