Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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A Lifestyle of Worship

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

BIBLE READING: Job 1-2

 “Is anyone among you suffering?” Let them turn to the book of Job and find all the answers...

We often turn to Job when things are going badly, as a last-ditch effort to salvage our faith. But what a terrible disservice we do to ourselves if we only look at Job during tough times. Job was the epitome of a righteous, godly person and we can learn so much from his life. In fact, I believe Job offers us no consolation if we don’t learn from his lifestyle of worship.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1.20)

The book of Job opens with a brief but profound introduction to his life: “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1.1).  How do you think this looked in his life? The following verses tell us he would continually offer sacrifices for others (Job 1.5). Job would later say, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust on a woman” (Job 31.1). The pattern of Job’s life was evident, so that even God took notice (see Job 1.8; 2.3). Some might have considered him extreme, but it did not concern him. Job worshiped in suffering because his life was built around worship of God and not worship of the things God had given him.

“..The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21)

“Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2.10)

We often talk about worship like it's something we go to and then come back to our normal lives. But this time of isolation has shown us that worship cannot simply be done in a place with sacraments and processes. Worship must be a lifestyle that is constantly positioning us to see God. The word “worship” literally translated means to bow down or position oneself before someone greater.

Job knew God was Sovereign over all because he ordered his life to understand this reality. Especially during these times of upheaval where everything is different, we need to be sure we are positioning ourselves properly before God. That means that every moment is a moment of self-examination. It’s a moment to honor and respect and fear before God. It’s a time for us to position ourselves in such a way that we trust God more deeply. 

That’s where true contentment comes from; realizing our own inability to control our situation but resting in the hope and trust that God is God.  

To speak and think and act like Job takes maturity. It takes vulnerability to release what we want to control so badly. It takes intentionality to not look at what we have and see it as the result of our actions. The truth is, anything we have now is a gift of God’s grace.

Job’s story accentuates the deepest feelings we will experience in the face of trials and struggles in this life. But in everything he experienced the Bible says, "he did not sin or blame God" (Job 1.22). I pray the same could be said about us. And if not, I pray this time of upheaval will strip away our foundations of trust that we too will fear God and turn away from evil.

Weren’t Things Better Before?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 13

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13.1)

The question that seems to keep coming up is, “When will things get back to normal?” We miss our sports, our social gatherings, our ability to get out of the house and see people. We’re getting stir crazy looking at the same 4 walls and having to entertain the kids, who should be at school right now. From our perspective, this is not how things ought to be! We’re ready to get back to how things were before.

This question reminds me of Israel after the Exodus. God delivered them out of Egypt and took them into the wilderness, away from the “comforts” they were used too. And what did they do? They complained: “Weren’t things better in Egypt?” (Exodus 16.3; Numbers 11.5-6). What a foolish thought... but why did they long for it? It was predictable.

Human nature desires predictability and resolution. We take comfort in knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not great. Like the psalmist and the Israelites, many of us are frustrated with the timeline of events. Now seems like a good time for things to go back to normal. As time drags on what happens is that frustration breeds discontent.

But we need to pause and consider how God used these “wilderness times” to refocus his people. He took away things they thought they needed to help them trust him and pursue things of greater value (see Deuteronomy 8.2-3)

The fact that we are looking back to our times of comfort and saying, “things were better before” misses the opportunity of the present. We have been forced to slow down and given time to reevaluate our lives. Many things have changed, our foundations have been shaken and our norms altered. But God and his promises have not changed.

I’m not suggesting that this virus is God’s master plan fix the world, but we must not dismiss that God might be trying to change us. He may be taking away our idols, destroying our faulty foundations and refocusing our attention on our homes, communities and relationships. Maybe he wants us to slow down and appreciate what we have instead of pursuing what we don’t.

We don’t know what God is up too. But we know he has not changed, and the scriptures reveal that God works in every circumstance to accomplish his will and glory (Romans 8.28). And so, rather than fixating on the past, let’s develop some perspective. Let go of your discontent and embrace the blessings in front of you. Perhaps this time of crisis is his reminder that this world is broken, but he has offered us something better. Let’s not squander this opportunity by trying to bring back the good old days.

“...one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3.13-14)

The Rock of My Heart

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 6

“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD— how long?” (Psalm 6.2-3)

We are facing uncertain times. Maybe it’s not been overly dramatic for you, but we all are experiencing a dynamic shift in the status quo of our lives. The reality is that our lives will forever be changed by the events we are currently experiencing. If you’re anything like me, that has challenged you emotionally at times as you wrestle with what the future holds.

Our emotions often get out of balance in times of crisis. We see our foundations of wealth and security and health crumbling as the most powerful people in the world scramble to wrap their arms around our current situation. Again, these are uncertain times. This is where many of the psalmists were as they wrote their psalms. Their situations seemed hopeless, and so they appealed to God to offer them help and hope.

In times of crisis, we often appeal to a greater power to help us. Given our current situation, many people are appealing to the government, the CDC and WHO to do something about this global virus. Which make sense, as they have the means and the resources to combat [and hopefully eliminate] the threat we are currently facing.

But are we only hoping in them? Certainly, most believers have not abandoned faith, but are we looking for God to work, as intently as we are looking for the CDC and WHO to offer us a solution?

For believers, everything we experience must be framed in the context of God’s sovereign power. He is unchanging, immutable, firmly in control despite the chaos we see around us (Numbers 23.19; Psalm 119.90; Isaiah 40.28; James 1.17). I like to picture God as a rock in the midst of a violent, raging sea. Our current situation and our emotions are like waves that thrash about, driven by the chaos around us. Much like Peter we often put our focus on the storm and start sinking in our insecurity (Matthew 14.30). And yet as chaotic as our fears and concerns seem to us... and as our waves of emotion pound against the rock of God, he is unmoved and unfazed by it all.

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock but our God?” (Psalm 18.31)
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (Psalm 18.46)

Especially during these days, we need to take a break from the media and from giving so much thought to the problem. We need to shut off everything and just pray. We need to encourage our hearts with God’s power and might. This crisis is temporary; but because this world is not our home, we can live in confidence in the future. We need to refocus our attention on the rock of our salvation and hope.

“My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73.26)

Serve The LORD with Fear

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 2

“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling...” (Psalm 2.11)

Fear is dominating our world right now. The ascent of the coronavirus has escalated to global proportions, and no one seems to have an answer. In fact, most people have more questions than answers: Will we be able to get the things we need? How many are going to die? What does our future look like?

Because of this fear, many are taking actions to prepare for an unknown future affected by this virus. Consider how much thought and preparation have gone into this for the past couple of weeks. It’s all people have been talking about.

There is a reality being highlighted in these times that we need to consider: there is future we have no control over. But while most are thinking in temporal terms, we need to set our thoughts higher. There is a future coming that will, with certainty, affect all people with greater force than this virus.

“When Jesus returns from heaven, he will inflict vengeance on those who do not know and obey God. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of God” (2 Thessalonians 1.5-12, paraphrased)

The difference between this virus and Jesus’ return is that we know what that future looks like. Jesus is King and the wicked will be destroyed. As believers, we need to see what the current times are teaching us about our faith. Are we so urgent to prepare for Jesus to return? Peter would ask us, “What sort of people ought you to be... waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” (2 Peter 3.11-12)

Consider what the verse from Psalm 2 says. We ought to serve the LORD with fear. Why? Because just like our current times, we need to be moved to immediate action.

What are you serving out of fear right now? That may sound like a silly question, but consider how fear has moved so many in recent days. Out of fear, people are stockpiling food and resources. Out of fear people are investing in information about this pandemic. Out of fear, many are staying home to avoid contact with the disease. I’m not suggesting these decisions are foolish. But if we are so motivated to prepare for this crisis, how much more should we be preparing for Christ’s return?

The scriptures encourage us to stockpile treasures in heaven (Matthew 6.19-21), invest in information from God’s word (Proverbs 4.5-7; Colossians 3.16), and avoid the debilitating effects of sin (2 Timothy 2.21-26; Hebrews 13.5-6). To prepare for the present without considering our eternal future is foolish.

Jesus himself tells us “not to fear the one who can kill the body... but the one who can destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10.28). Fear is a motivator. Motivation leads to action. Actions prompt preparation.

Death is certain. Some will die from this virus; others will not. The reality is we cannot choose how we die... but we can choose how we prepare for what comes next. What are you preparing for?

“...you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming...” (Matthew 24.44)

Sexual Purity

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

BIBLE READING: Proverbs 7

The Proverbs frequently emphasize the need for sexual purity. The father warns of the “forbidden woman” (Proverbs 2.16; 5.3, 20; 7.5; 22.14) who seems to have caught his son’s attention (Proverbs 5.3; 6.25). She is attractive, enticing and accessible. She encourages pleasure without discretion.

The momentum and energy of Proverbs 7 are a reminder of how sexual temptation often overtakes those who entertain it. It begins with such innocence (Proverbs 7.7) but quickly escalates with passion and gusto. The prospect of sexual fulfillment is tantalizing to this young man and he is compelled by it (Proverbs 7.21).

Hence the father’s warnings: Don’t look over there (Proverbs 4.25), stay far away (Proverbs 5.8), don’t desire her (Proverbs 6.25), don’t even walk that way! (Proverbs 7.25).

Sexual sin is alluring and often requires the blunt force of truth to combat it’s effects. The father pulls no punches when expressing the consequences: It will destroy your reputation, relationships and ultimately your life (Proverbs 5.23; 6.32-35; 7.23). As people of faith we must not only accept but promote this unpopular truth: Sexual promiscuity is foolish.

We exist in a society that has become increasing loose in terms of morality. After all, sex sells. Prudence has given way to sexual expression as the norm. In many ways even we have become numb to the shameless way our culture has presented sexual pursuits. Unfortunately, we have all seen the aftermath when biblical principles of morality are rejected; and yet there are times when pornography, sexual promiscuity and adultery still infiltrates the lives of believers.

In wisdom, we must acknowledge how this way of life ends. “…at the end of your life you groan… ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!... I am at the brink of utter ruin!” (Proverbs 5.11-14 paraphrased). Wisdom pleads that we practice discipline and learn from the mistakes of others.

Sexual sin is not exclusive to men but needs to be specifically addressed for us. Our nature is to pursue and conquer. This temptation caters to this craving. We must make intentional efforts to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4.23) and our eyes (Job 31.1; Psalm 119.37) as we pursue holiness.

Having said that, we must also consider these warnings in a broader context as well. Temptation is personified to communicate the danger and draw of our natural desires (Proverbs 7.10). Sin approaches and promises to fulfill our needs. Satan plays off our wants for pleasure and belonging by offering us temporal fulfillment. And so, we must be wise in whom and what we allow ourselves to find satisfaction.

There is an objective nature to wisdom. We mustn’t think our situation is so unique that God’s wisdom does not apply to us. We must practice discipline and guard our hearts, lest we too fall prey to Satan’s lies.

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline…” (Proverbs 5.22-23a)

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