Bible Reading Blog — Psalm 127

23 Mar

Today is the final entry in my Bible journal online. I have shared this with you this week just to give you a feel of what you might do to make your Bible reading more meaningful. Really thinking about biblical truth and prayerfully walking in light of that truth is an essential aspect of spiritual formation. If we are to be disciples of Jesus, taking in biblical truth and being transformed by it will be central to the task. Here is our last reading from Psalm 127 . . .

127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Journal:  The imagery of verse one is powerful. There is real laboring and real watching on the part of people, but unless God is in an under all of it, empowering it, it is all in vain. How often do I fail to consider God’s work? How often to I fail to go to Him asking for strength to be faithful in the work? If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God (James).

Vanity in vv. 1&2 brings me back to Ecclesiastes (meaningless, meaningless).

It is not wrong to rise early of stay up late, Jesus did both. But it is wrong to do these things in anxious toil. When your work, your earning, becomes anxious toil, it is a bad sign for your soul. I have been having a hard time with this very thing lately because of the state of our church in a time of much suffering. In addition, several fine families have moved away recently. That is hard. I wonder about the future of the church. And lo and behold I have been experiencing something in the last few months I have never experienced . . . poor sleep. I have been waking up in the middle of the night. This verse hits me . . . “He gives his beloved sleep.” Not to say if a person has sleep problems they don’t trust God but for me it is important.

God is sovereign over my house, my work and my children. Good biblical picture of children as a gift. I am hesitant to endorse the idea of the “quiverfull” movement, that we should have as many children as we can. I can see a biblical argument against birth control but put it in the category of disputable matters from Romans 14. But the idea that I am not doing right if I don’t have as many children as possible is something I can’t see in Scripture. “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth” is a command to a healthy population rate but I do not believe it must be carried to an extreme by every family. On the other hand, many times in our culture we do not see the value of children or put economic stability and mobility over the value of children. There is a place for responsibility (be hesitant to have more children than you can care for) but there is also a time when we need to take a careful look at our priorities (are we chasing money and forgetting people?). These are issues Christian couples need to think through carefully and I believe they are also ideas with which we must be gracious with others.

Lord, you told me to come to you, learn of you and find rest for my soul. I am anxious about so many things but one thing is needful. Set me on the path of rest in my labor and building and in my family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading Blog — Psalms 112

22 Mar

Here is today’s journal on our daily Bible reading:

112 Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor.
10 The wicked man sees it and is angry;
    he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
    the desire of the wicked will perish!

This is a gracious psalm, after the other ones this week were kind of dark or dealt with the difficult subject of envying the prosperous.

Verse 1 is an interesting contrast (in my mind). I think of fear and delight as opposites, but here they are put together. If we really stand in awe of God we will be drawn to His commands.

This psalm is kind of a contrast to the earlier psalms too in that here the upright person does prosper (v. 3). The upright person doesn’t come to his wealth through oppression though. He is gracious, merciful and righteous. He is generous and just. So this psalm is an indicator, along with other Scriptures, that it is not wrong to have wealth. Still, wealth can be a trap, so we need to live wisely.

What appeals to me most in this psalm is the picture of stability here. Not afraid of bad news. Obsessive fear of bad circumstances is a bad sign for my soul. A firm heart, a steady heart is good. The fact that the man can be so generous here is a sign that he trusts in the Lord. He is not so attached to his stuff that he is unwilling to part with it.

What a contrast to the wicked man who wilts under tough circumstances.

Lord, work in my life in such a way that I am this man who fears you and finds great delight in your commands. Bring through this a stability that weathers the storms of life with a heart of faith. Amen.

 

 

Bible Reading Blog — Psalm 73

21 Mar

Today’s journal is from Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph.

73 Truly God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
    and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
    and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
    and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
    I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
    O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
    I was like a beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
    you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.

I almost always think of purity in terms of sexuality, but here the purity is seen in not envying others. Purity of heart toward others means not comparing and living in jealousy. This is a thing that will make me stumble, in the sense of falling away from a life of trust in God. Sermon on Mount: pure in heart will see God. One tied up in envy and keeping up with the neighbors won’t be pure in heart, won’t be close to God. Purity of heart is a Psalm 86:11 thing (“unite my heart to fear your name”). James talks about the undivided heart. Mary and Martha (“you are busy with many things but one thing is needful”). A divided heart is the ultimate misery (“I wish you were either hot or cold”). Purity of heart links right up with Mt. 6:25-34. If God has my undivided attention and allegiance, I won’t be consumed with worry over my life’s circumstances.

Today’s psalm is by Asaph, yesterday’s was by the sons of Korah, the day before a psalm of David. Yet all concern to some degree this issue of envy of the prosperous wicked. This is a universal problem.

Asaph is deeply discouraged but he thinks his way through the discouragement by focusing on truth about God and drawing near to Him.

vv. 21-24 are such a grace note. God is so good to us.

25 and 26 are well-worn verses to many Christians, but the context of the psalm brings them fresh meaning. Where do I find life? In stuff, in prosperity, keeping up appearances or keeping up with others? NO. I find life by taking the long view, considering heaven and earth. The God I long to worship for eternity is to be my desire here. Otherwise, will I really want to be in heaven? If I didn’t want to worship God here how much will I want to worship God there?

My flesh and my heart may fail. My energy and emotion will not always be tuned in to God, especially when challenging circumstances come.

God is the strength of my heart (sustaining power for today)

and my portion forever (my future hope)

The old hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”

Knowing God gives us what we most need (strength to get through today’s suffering and the hope of a better tomorrow).

This psalm ends with mission but the mission is built on a foundation of relationship with God. Kind of like the difference between being given a tour of a battleship by a tour guide vs. being given a tour by a person who was on the crew in the battle.

Lord, my heart and my flesh fail way too often. I already feel the creeping anxieties of this day. Please help me see with the eyes of this psalm. Help me see that you are enough for today and that in you I have eternal hope. Free me from thoughts of envy or comparison. Help me in times of discouragement to look to you. Thank you for holding my hand through my brutish and bitter days. Let my walk with you today overflow in love to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading Blog — Psalms 49

20 Mar

Yesterday, I urged you to journal along with your Bible reading for our 2018 church Bible reading plan. Today, I want to share another entry from my own journaling. Again, I am not claiming to have all the answers here, just trying to get you thinking about what might be useful for you.

Today’s Psalm — Psalm 49

49 Hear this, all peoples!
    Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
    rich and poor together!
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
    I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
    when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
    and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly no man can ransom another,
    or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
    and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
    and never see the pit.

10 For he sees that even the wise die;
    the fool and the stupid alike must perish
    and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their graves are their homes forever,
    their dwelling places to all generations,
    though they called lands by their own names.
12 Man in his pomp will not remain;
    he is like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
    yet after them people approve of their boasts.  Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
    death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
    Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
    for he will receive me. Selah

16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
    when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
    his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
    —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
    who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

This psalm kind of seems like the flip side of Psalm 23 (the Lord is my shepherd — green pastures, restoration, anointing, overflowing, love, goodness and mercy, a home with God) — Here in Psalm 49 it is death and judgment and emptiness and darkness. The diff. is a life of trust in the Lord vs. a self-dependent life. The person in Ps. 49 is all about me, trying to lay up treasures on earth and acting wickedly to do so.

This psalm is for everybody to remember (see vv. 1-2). Must mean this is a pretty common temptation for us (to envy those who have wealth).

“Man in his pomp” repeated in this psalm, is a good description of the person who rejects God.

Is there anyone I am jealous of right now? (Other pastors with more outwardly prosperous churches maybe)

Lord, keep me from self-centered living and from envying those who live in this way and prosper materially in this life. Give me enough vision to see beyond the temporary to the eternal. Open my eyes to any areas of envy that need to be confessed and work contentment into my heart. Amen.

 

One Final Note: I want to encourage you to stay away from commentaries and Study Bible notes when you are doing your daily Bible reading. I do not reference commentaries when I read in the morning. Commentaries have their place, but you should first try to wrestle with the meaning of the text yourself. If you come across something you don’t understand, write out what you don’t understand and then wait a day or two before you look it up in a commentary. Sometimes God will bring other Scriptures to your mind that will help you understand. In any event, be judicious in your use of commentaries and Study Bibles so that you don’t shortcircuit the process of prayerfully thinking through the text.

 

 

Bible Reading Blog — Psalm 37

19 Mar

We have made it a goal as a church this year to read through a chapter of the Bible each day, five days a week and then to preach the sermon on Sunday from something in those five chapters we read. Another aspect of the reading plan that has been encouraged but not talked about as much is journaling. Here we want to write down our thoughts about the Scripture passage we read as a way to remember. Journaling is a very helpful thing to do as you read through the Bible. I want to share with you my journal this week in the Psalms to give you an idea of what I am talking about. I will paste the Scripture for the day in the space below and share my journal entry at the bottom of the page. I am doing my journal in a Word document on my computer but you might use a physical journal with pen and paper just as well.  In a journal entry I am seeking to interact with the text and how it applies to my life and the lives around me and what it teaches me about God and His ways. It is pretty raw and I may be wrestling with issues in my journal that I haven’t fully resolved and that’s ok. Taking up this practice of journaling will allow you to see your thought patterns and your weak spots. So in addition to reading your Bible in 2018, I encourage you to journal. Here is my entry for today. I don’t give it to you as a perfect example or as something you should mimic, but just as a possible way you can use journaling to meditate over the things you read . . .

Psalm 37 

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
    and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
    for he sees that his day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
    to bring down the poor and needy,
    to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
    and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
    than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
    and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
    in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
    the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
    they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
    but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
    but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
    and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
    so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
    he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
    but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
    and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
    and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
    his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
    and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
    or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
    and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
    you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

Journal for March 19, 2018

Memory verse for March is Psalms 37:1-4 (need to work on these this week to make sure I can do them on Sunday).

I love 37:4! Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Parallel to Mt. 6:33.

I don’t think I have too many evildoers in my life right now. It is all more subtle than that. David had people who were out to bring him down, even kill him. He was very aware of the dangers of life. Not sure how to approach this psalm. Maybe spiritually? (The devil prowls like a roaring lion looking to devour).

Big emphasis in this psalm on inheriting the land through trusting in God. Parallel to Sermon on Mount (blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth). The connection of meekness to faith is key. Meekness not = mild-mannered or reserved does = submissive and trusting toward God.

Could Christian application to inheriting the land here also be spiritual? Hebrews 11 and 12, we don’t seek an earthly city but a city from above. That seems to be a difference between OT and NT covenants. OT has all these physical traits (law, temple, Jerusalem, promised land, priestly garments, sacrifices, etc.) which find their fulfillment in the NT through Christ, so that we come to God through Him and not through these physical means. Does this shape how I read psalms like this?

At the same time, even the land promises here have a sort of future tone. Forever is often repeated word in Ps. 37.

Lots of Commands in this passage — Fret not (repeated several times), be not envious, trust in the Lord, do good, delight yourself in the Lord, Commit your way to the Lord, be still before the Lord (I have trouble with that one), wait patiently before Him, refrain from anger and forsake wrath (interesting this follows being still and waiting patiently, I often see a connection between being with Jesus and being less angry), Turn away from evil and do good,  Wait for the Lord and keep His way, mark the blameless and behold the upright.  If I walked in these things today, I’d have a pretty good day even with rough circumstances.

Lord, work in Me that I will trust you and not be overwhelmed by the evil in the world and people that might be against me for whatever reason. Be with my church family today. So many of them are in workplaces where there are evildoers and some are in homes where they have a spouse that doesn’t trust you, or kids that have gone astray. Be near them today and give them strength. Grant us all strength to walk in the good things of this passage (trust, commitment, patience, waiting, doing good, rejecting evil, forsaking anger). Thank you that your purposes will stand in the end and we can have life with you through your Son Jesus. Amen.

Friday Night Ramblings

2 Mar

A few random thoughts on a Friday evening . . .

  • Good fiction and good biography share the common trait of compelling narrative. We seem to be wired for story. Interesting that so much of the Bible is story (and the whole book has an overarching storyline).
  • Reading poetry is a wake-up call for those enmeshed in the information age.
  • I believe most of us would lose weight and feel better if we gave up sugar and simple carbs.
  • I believe giving up sugar and simple carbs is for many of us as difficult as a two pack a day guy quitting smoking.
  • Doing the hard things early in the day is often wise.
  • I would prefer to listen to a “secular” song that grapples with life and reality over a “spiritual” song that is empty or lacking in biblical content.
  • For modern day “spiritual” music that is not lacking in biblical content, I don’t think you can do much better than Andrew Peterson.
  • I admired Billy Graham. Never met him and only heard him once in person. I like the fact that the good news about Jesus went out in his death as it had in his life.
  • Why can’t we look at school shootings in a holistic way instead of running to our ideological corners to defend what we care about or destroy what we detest? Why not instead come together and work together, leaving nothing off the table, using an evidence-based approach to develop policies that will save lives.? We can’t prevent evil behavior but is there a way to protect people while also upholding personal freedom?
  • My favorite movies of the last few years (in no particular order) . . . Lion, Fences, Les Miserables, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Rogue One, LaLa Land, Hidden Figures, Doubt
  • My favorite movies of all time . . . To Kill a Mockingbird, Jaws, On the Waterfront, A Face in the Crowd, A Few Good Men, Shawshank Redemption (TV version), In the Heat of the Night, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, The Natural, Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • With all that said, I am not a huge movie person. I may go to two movies a year and don’t watch many on TV.
  • Fiction I enjoyed (but didn’t read until after the age of 40) . . . Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jayber Crow, Hannah Coulter, P.G. Wodehouse books (hilarious).
  • If I could only have one style of music to listen to for the rest of my life I think I would choose the singer-songwriters of the 70’s (James Taylor, Carole King, Bread, Cat Stevens, etc.).
  • Why do some people think being against abortion is only a religious issue? I’d be against it based on the science alone.
  • How many of the decisions we make are rooted in our idolatries? (scary thought)
  • You’re always going to let people down, and they are always going to let you down. When it happens, gratitude is better than bitterness.
  • Jesus is great and He is good. He is full of grace and truth. In His cross we find a firm place to stand and a soft place to fall. We find in His perfect life not only a model but His very righteousness accounted to us through faith. We find in His death on the cross the only way to be delivered from the righteous wrath of God against sin. We find in His empty tomb the proof that He is who He says He is and that as He lives, so will we. This is my hope. I pray you will find life and hope in Him too, the way, the truth and the life.

Be Thou My Vision

7 Jan

Definitely in my top ten favorite hymns, this hymn will open our morning worship service on this first Sunday of 2018. Let these lyrics encourage you today . . .

 

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Prayer Days 2018

7 Jan

This year we are happy to be bringing back to our church a practice I first learned at Columbia Bible College years ago, a quarterly Prayer Day. A couple of times each semester classes would be called off for the day and the whole campus would be called together for a day of prayer. This was done in a variety of ways but the focus was on calling on God. This is a practice we want to take up this year as a church.

Our first Prayer Day will be Friday February 2nd. That night at 7pm, we plan to gather together in the sanctuary for an evening of Prayer. John Whaley, US Director of the Rooftop ministry (https://therooftop.org/us/), will be our guest and he will lead us as a congregation to seek God.

Our second Prayer Day will be on the National Day of Prayer, Thursday May 3rd. That evening, John Whaley will again be with us but we will be meeting at 7pm at Penelope Baptist Church with several other area churches to pray together for God’s working in our lives.

Our third Prayer Day will be on Friday, August 17th, as again we will gather at the church for an evening dedicated to prayer.

Finally, on Sunday evening, November 4th, we will join again in prayer at the church in preparation for our Missions Conference the weekend of November 9th and 10th.

If you are a member of West Hickory Baptist Church, we urge you to come join us for each of these Prayer Days. If you are in the Hickory, NC area, we also invite you to come pray with us. If you go to another church, keep going and support the work God is doing there, but we want to invite you to come pray with us on these days.

For more information about West Hickory Baptist Church, see http://www.westhickorybaptist.org

Bible Reading 2018

7 Jan

This year we are doing a Bible reading plan at church that starts tomorrow. The plan is to read through several books of the Bible at the pace of one chapter per day, five days a week. The goal is not to get through the whole Bible but just to really listen to what God says through His Word each day. Each member is encouraged not only to read the selected Scripture for the day but to write d own the things in the passage that are noteworthy to them. The hope is that over the course of the year we will see our lives being shaped by daily time with God in His Word.

Here are the quarterly Points of Focus . . .

WINTER 2018 — God’s Wisdom for Life — January through March

Here we will be reading through Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and a few selected psalms.

SPRING 2018 — God’s Power for Life — April through June

In these months we will be focused on Paul’s epistles, reading from Romans through 1 Thessalonians.

SUMMER 2018 — The Story of God’s People — July through September

During the summer we will reading Old Testament history, from Joshua through 1 Samuel.

FALL 2018 — The Story of Christ and His Church — October through December

In these months we will begin with the gospel of Luke, followed by its companion book Acts, and we will finish the year with the gospel of Mark.

If you’d like to join us, begin tomorrow with Proverbs 1 and read one chapter per day, five days a week. For January, you should have read from Proverbs chapter 1 through chapter 20 by the end of the month. Don’t forget to journal the things God is showing you as you read.

 

 

 

Gentle Encouragement for Parents at Christmastime

7 Dec

Christmas is a time that can really bring families together. But in reality there is often relational strife, unmet expectations, disappointments, stress, anxiety, and just a feeling of being burned out and broken at this time of the year. If you identify with any of that, I have a few simple tips for you that may help you make your way through the season with Jesus at the center and your sanity intact.

First, Christmas is a great time to start (or re-start) Family Devotions. Called by many names (Family Devotions, Bible Time, Family Worship) the practice of gathering your children at a set time each day to read Scripture and pray is an important part of the spiritual life of the family. There are many reasons not to do family devotions (schedules, busyness, etc.) but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, this year our family is listening to a short Advent devotional from desiringgod.org and praying for missions in preparation for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. It’s nothing complicated. But it is very meaningful.

Second, bring your family to church at Christmas. There are lots of unique opportunities and special services at this time of year, from cantatas to dinners to candlelight services to the regular Sunday morning and Sunday evening services of the church. I think at Christmas you ought to get your family in church every time the doors are open. I believe this because you need a respite from the hustle and bustle of the season. I believe this because you need to re-focus at a time when so many things are clamoring for your attention. But most of all I believe this because your children are watching you. If you set aside church attendance because of the rush of the holiday season, what does that say to them about the importance you place on worship? And as a side note, if you have extended family staying with you this holiday season, don’t let them keep you from church. Show your children that you place a high priority on worshiping God and let that be your testimony to your extended family too. It is not socially inappropriate to tell family staying with you on Saturday night, “We are going to church tomorrow morning. We would love to have you join us, but if you decide to stay here there are things for breakfast for you in the fridge and we’ll be back around noon.” Don’t leave it to them. Have a conviction about the importance of worship and stick to that conviction. You might think I am just saying this because as a pastor I have skin in the matter of church attendance. But my conviction is that weekly worship with a local body of Christ should be a non-negotiable in the life of a believer, unless they are providentially hindered. I am not saying this is a set-in-stone thing or that you are a bad person if you disagree with me, but I do throw it out there for your consideration.

Third, give special attention to cultivating your marriage during the Christmas season. The holidays are a strange mix of frenetic activity and empty time, of well-worn traditions which break the daily routines of life. The holidays are a time that can push couples apart unless they are especially mindful of each other. Serve one another in the frenetic times. Connect with one another in the empty times. Enjoy traditions together, even if they are not your thing. Try to make sure your spouse’s life is made easier because of your genuine sacrificial love and service. Spend some time every day talking together, but guard your heart and your words. In social settings, let your words be full of grace toward your spouse, or else let them be few. Let the wife or husband you are in private be the same as the spouse you are in public, provided that you are seeking to be a godly husband or wife. If you are just living for yourself, let Christmastime be a time that leads you to repentance as you remember that God so loved that He gave. Let Christmas be a time that binds you together rather than breaking you apart.

Finally, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Seek to enjoy this season for what it is rather than for what you hope it will be. Don’t be discouraged when things go wrong, because they always will in a fallen world. Enjoy the journey and don’t spend the whole season waiting for that one favorite thing you always do. And don’t forget those who are struggling with grief and hardship at Christmastime. Maybe the best medicine for your own soul will be to help somebody else.

I do not write these things as one who has mastered them. They are just principles I think are helpful for everyday living that I am striving to see at work in my own life. I hope you find something here that helps you enjoy this time of the year.

%d bloggers like this: