Day 226: A Purpose for Suffering

Psalm 44, 74 ; Romans 8:18-39

Key Verses

Psalm 44:9-11
But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.

Romans 8:37-39
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Even though the Chronicler quickly summarized the fall of Judah, we know from our readings in 2 Kings and Jeremiah the horror of the Babylonian invasion. The people endured great suffering during the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile.

For the next 4 days, we will devote our Old Testament readings to the Psalms of lament. Some alluded to the destruction of Jerusalem and some did not – but all of them looked to God for rescue in the midst of great suffering.

Many times during suffering we feel as if God has rejected us – as if he has abandoned us, but Romans 8 paints a different picture. Paul reminds us that our present-day suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will one day be ours in Christ. And that our sufferings help us to identify more intimately with Jesus.

It is in this context that Paul gives a most comforting promise…

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The “good” that Paul is speaking of is not prosperity in the world’s eyes, but rather, “to be conformed into the image of his Son” (8:29).

So when we are in the midst of suffering, we must not think that God has abandoned us. We can choose to find hope in the fact that there is purpose for our pain – the purpose is to mold us more into the likeness of Jesus! And the glory of heaven that awaits us will make our sufferings seem trite in the end!

Day 162: Saved from the Last Day

Jeremiah 7-8; John 14

Key Verses

Jeremiah 8:18-19
My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

John 14:26-27
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah grieves over the hard-heartedness of his people.

In the New Testament, the disciples worry when Jesus says he’s going away. Thomas and Philip quiz Jesus. They ask him to show them where He is going. They just don’t understand.

In the Old Testament, God berates the people for worshipping in the temple with hearts void of devotion.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:9-10)

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches the disciples that obedience is evidence of devotion to the Father:

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21).

In the Old Testament, God promises Judgment: Utter destruction of Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, Jesus prepares to receive the Judgment.

We are no better than the people of Jeremiah’s day. Look no further than Jesus’ crucifixion for evidence that we also deserve Judgement.

One difference is that we have the Helper (John 14:26), the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in us and convicts us of the Truth and empowers us to repent. We still have the choice to obey or disobey – but the Spirit also works to sanctify our character so that we are better able to obey.

There will be another Judgment. The Final Judgment on the Last Day. A far greater Judgment than Jeremiah wept over in the final verses of Chapter 8… And here’s the truth, I deserve that Judgment. Yet, because of the gracious, loving-kindness of God – He poured out judgment on His Son instead of me. I don’t understand that kind of love, but I’m grateful for it.

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

-2nd verse from “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Day 161: Motivated by Love

Jeremiah 5-6; John 13:21-38

Key Verses

Jeremiah 5:1
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jeremiah 5-6 concludes a series of sermons Jeremiah probably gave during Josiah’s reign (3:6). Chapter 5 opens with God asking Jeremiah to find one man who does justice – one man who seeks truth – so that He might pardon him. And Jeremiah can’t. The people are so absolutely corrupt that not one person could be found. God laments…

How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this? (Jeremiah 5:7-9).

God desires to pardon his people – but what good would that serve? When he blesses them, they despise him. Even in judgment, there is grace, for God could never utterly destroy his people. God says twice in these chapters that he would destroy but “not make a full end” (5:10; 18). He will preserve a remnant. A remnant of people from whom the Promised One would come.

The Promised One… Jesus, betrayed by his own disciple. Jesus, abandoned by his closest friends in his darkest hour. Jesus, taking the punishment for our apostate selves, accomplished what Israel could not – perfect obedience motivated by love for the Father.

Not motivated by duty, or self-preservation – but by love.

God sent Babylon to destroy Judah because he loved them. God sent his only son to die on our behalf because he loves us. Even Jeremiah was motivated by love – love for God and love for his brethren.

Jesus – in the face of betrayal – gave his disciples a “new” commandment – a commandment to love as Christ has loved.

How does Jesus love us? Not in a sweet, sentimental way – but in a sacrificial – other seeking – sort of way. This is the sort of love God calls us to. This was the sort of love Jeremiah was called to. And even though we are not called to be prophets as Jeremiah was, we are called to love our neighbor sacrificially… so the world will see – that the world might be saved!

…Now if I could only practice what I write! Lord, help me to love others as you love me. Please pry my eyes off of myself and help me see the broken and lost – and give me compassion – and the grace to love them well.

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned so much this past year, but the lesson I cherish most is surprisingly simple: patience

My healthy daughter was injured in an automobile accident in 2010. She now struggles with a brain injury. I have been impatient with her recovery – wanting her to walk and read and reason too quickly after her life-threatening injury – I haven’t been willing to wait on God’s slow and sure work in her Spirit and mine.

My marriage has been tested in the wake of such a life-altering event. The trauma of losing our healthy daughter combined with the relentlessness of caring for a disabled child has added great stress to our relationship. I want our relationship to be easy again– I haven’t been willing to wait for God’s slow and sure work in my husband’s Spirit and mine.

This year, God has performed the slow and sure work of granting me a little bit more patience – and with it has come… a quiet trust, a gentle strength and a more peaceful spirit. I’m less anxious about my daughter’s recovery. And I trust that my marriage will emerge from this trial stronger than it was before. This is God’s great work in me.

God did not work quickly – He works faithfully, steadily and surely.

His Word is a balm to my soul. Why? Because in it, I find Him. He’s shown me His love, His grace and His patience in the pages of His Great Word.

What about you? What has God taught you through His Word this year? (Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.)

I hope you have enjoyed my blog through the Bible! Happy 2014!!

Day 350: Temporal vs. Eternal treasures

Amos 4-6Revelation 7

Revelation 6 ended with the question: Who can stand? For the 7th seal represented the final judgment – the Day of the return of Christ. But before the 7th seal is opened, there is an interlude in which John is shown how the saints are protected in the opening of the seals… In essence, Revelation 7 answers the question raised in the previous chapter…

Who can stand under Christ’s judgment? Only those sealed by His grace.

Revelation 7 gives us a glimpse of both the past and future for the believer. John is shown a scene from the past when God seals His servants. This does not remove them from the suffering to be inflicted on the earth – but preserves them as God’s own for the final day. The 144,000 who were sealed is a symbol for completeness. In other words, “everyone who will be saved and who will persevere through the trials and tribulations of this age is protected by God. Not a single one can be harmed spiritually. What amazing comfort this must have been for those suffering already within the seven churches!” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 109). And this is a comfort to us who live in the midst of suffering and evil in today’s world.

Once the complete number of God’s servants is sealed by God, the scene switches to show their glorious future…our future before the throne of God!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

John goes on to describe our glorious future in Christ!

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).

When you consider the future that awaits the believer, the stern warnings in Amos toward Israel become more meaningful. For Israel was trading the true God for powerless idols. They were offering the true God their bare minimum while oppressing the poor to become rich. They chose the fleeting treasures of this world over the glory of an eternity spent with God.

Because of God’s love for Israel, he sends trial and strife in order to turn their hearts back to Him (Amos 4:6-11). But they refuse Him. They refuse His grace. They refuse His love, and they are left unprotected from the four winds of judgment who bring calamity upon the earth.

What treasure do you seek? Temporal or eternal? Forsake the idols of this age and return to the True God!!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book,Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 346: The Great Love of God

Hosea 9-11; Revelation 3

I think one of the most beautiful aspects of Hosea is the focus on God’s love. In the midst of Israel’s heinous worship of the baals – which included sexual rituals and other despicable practices, God’s love for His people, although spurned, was tender.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath (Hosea 11:8-9).

God would not destroy Israel, but instead He preserved a remnant – a people who would survive invasion and exile and return to rebuild Jerusalem. But even more significant…He would preserve a people who would be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and be given a new robe of righteousness. These people are His church.

The church is not just like Israel, the church is in fact the true Israel – for the true Israel has always been those who look to God in humble faith for their salvation – not necessarily those born in the direct line of Abraham. In other words, God’s family is born of spiritual descent.

We see that God’s tender love for his family is still active among His people in the personal and intimate words He gives the seven churches.

Consider the church in Philadelphia which lay in an active earthquake area. They endured evacuations and rebuilding because of earthquakes…. “In the midst of insecurity from earthquakes on the one hand, and attacks on their faith on the other, Jesus promises final stability and protection forever in his presence in the heavenly city which will come one day.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 61).

Also, details within Jesus’ letter to Laodicea revealed His intimate knowledge of them. Laodicea was a wealthy and proud city, so Jesus counseled them “to buy from [him] gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich” (3:18). He was teaching the church that their earthly wealth was poverty in God’s kingdom, and true wealth came from humble dependence on God alone.

Also, the very familiar words of Jesus standing at the door and knocking (3:20) – were given to this self-sufficient church who had spiritually locked Jesus out of their congregation and lives. He promised to come in and restore the bonds of fellowship to those who would open their lives to Him through repentance and dependence. Jesus was firm with the church of Laodicea because He loved them (3:19)!

We are benefactors of this Great Love of God! He knows us intimately and loves us deeply. He loves us so much that He is willing to reprove our complacency and restore our faith. I pray that His love would compel us to return to Him in humility and persevere in obedience…until He comes again!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 343: The last day before the beginning of the end!!

2 John 1; 3 John 1; Jude 1

All three of these books warn against false teachers and admonish the church to persevere in obedience, love and truth in order to protect against false doctrine (2 John 6-7, 3 John 11, Jude 1:20).

They share a common theme of perseverance. Persevere in obedience. Persevere in truth. Persevere in love. 

This is the last day before the beginning of the end of the year through the bible. Beginning tomorrow, and continuing for 22 days, we will read through both the book of Revelation and the minor prophets. Are you ready for the ride of your life? Well, fasten your seat belts, friends, and let’s finish…strong! 

Who’s with me?

Day 342: The Reverse of the Curse

Song of Solomon 5-8

Chapters 5 & 6 record an argument between the newly married couple. What do you think they argue about?? Sex!

He asks to come into her chambers (5:2), and she complains in verse 3… “I’m in my nightgown—do you expect me to get dressed? I’m bathed and in bed—do you want me to get dirty?” She’s being self-centered and is not considering him.

But instead of reacting angrily toward his new wife, the husband somehow reaches his hand through the latch of the door and leaves fragrant and sweet myrrh as a sign of his love (5:4-5), and then he leaves…not willing to force his way into her bed chambers. He doesn’t react to his mate. Instead, he responds to God.

His gentle reproach melts her heart toward him as we read of her love in verses 5:10-16.

And then we see reconciliation and forgiveness in Chapter 6. Their reconciliation is based on their covenant commitment to one another. She says in 6:3, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Their commitment is steadfast.

Chapters 7-8 show a deepening faithfulness and intimacy between the couple. As time goes by, their knowledge of one another deepens and their passion increases! It is in this context of God’s design for marriage that we see a subtle lifting of the curses given in the first garden to the first married couple…

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, God handed down curses to the serpent, the woman and the man. The woman’s curse was this:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16).

The Hebrew word translated “desire” is used only three times in the Old Testament…The first instance is here in Genesis 3. The next is in Genesis 4. God is warning Cain.

…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).

The Hebrew word translated as “desire” in these instances does not necessarily mean a good sexual desire. Within the context of Eve’s curse and Cain’s warning, it is best understood as a passionate desire to consume or control.

The curse on Eve – which is inherited by every woman in every generation – is the desire to have control. Married women want to control their husbands. Single women want to control their futures. And all women want to feel in control all the time. This desire for control is part of the woman’s sin nature and must be fought against – especially in the marriage relationship!!

In the last half of the Song of Solomon, we see the ideal marriage. We watch as the couple faces conflict in Chapters 5-6, and we read as their devotion and intimacy deepen in Chapters 7-8. It is in the context of a vibrant, intimate, tender and exciting marriage relationship that we see the third and final use of the Hebrew word “desire.” The woman says,

I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me (Song of Solomon 7:10).

He is the one with the desire to consume, and she is the one with the power to satisfy him. In this context, the desire is good, for contrary to her sin-nature default of desiring to control her husband, she has given herself totally to him and rejoices in the fact that she is pleasing to him.

May we look forward to the day when every curse is not only reversed, but vanquished and our new Garden awaits its bride!!! For we, the church, are the bride of Christ, ready to meet our husband and enjoy him forever!!

Day 341: A tender & passionate Love

Song of Solomon 1-4

Song of Solomon has many different interpretations. Some interpret the book solely as a figurative portrayal of the love of God for his people. Others interpret it literally as the love story between Solomon and a Shulammite woman. Still others argue that since the Bible has no record of Solomon marrying a Shulammite woman, that it is the love story between an unnamed shepherd and a Shulammite woman with Solomon as a background figure.

No matter what your interpretation, this is a beautiful book of love poetry that reminds us that the love shared between a man and his wife, specifically erotic love, is holy and good. Song of Solomon is full of erotic images that quench the old notion that sexual desire is sinful.

In our two, brief days in this book, I am using Tommy Nelson’s sermon series as my primary resource. He teaches that Song of Solomon is the literal love story between Solomon and his Shulammite bride. (You can listen to his six-part sermon series on Song of Solomon at his church’s website,

The first three chapters describe the courtship between Solomon and the Shulammite woman. Notice how the woman is initially attracted to Solomon’s character:

…your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you! (Song of Solomon 1:3, NIV)

His name is sweet like perfume. His name refers to his reputation or character. She was initially attracted to his sweet and tender nature, not necessarily to his physical appearance.

We learn from the woman that she, unlike other women, did not protect her skin from the sun with a customary veil, but was forced to labor in the vineyards – making her skin dark from the sun (vs. 5-6). From her words, we can infer that she was submissive to authority, hard-working and responsible. She, like Solomon, was a woman of noble character.

In verses 1:9-3:4, we read of how they relate to one another. Above all, they are tender. The man calls her “darling,” the Hebrew word for “an intimate buddy,” or “best friend.” He esteems her in public and speaks tenderly to her in private. His tenderness awakens her sexual desire (2:5-6), but he stops the fire of her desire with the refrain,

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5).

Chapter 3 ends with the exciting scene of King Solomon arriving to his wedding. The imagery is anticipatory and vibrant,

Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart (Song of Solomon 3:11).

Which brings us to Chapter 4!! The first seven verses are Solomon’s thoughts toward his bride. And then we read of the honeymoon!!

(He) A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a spring locked, a fountain sealed. (4:12)

(She) Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.

(He) I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gathered my myrrh with my spice,
I ate my honeycomb with my honey,
I drank my wine with my milk (5:1).

This, friends, is the consummation of their love.

Interpreting this book as a literal love story can leave the unmarried or unhappily married feeling despondent. But no matter your personal interpretation, your marital status or degree of marital bliss, we will all experience the joy of this wedding scene!!!

We, as members of Christ’s church, wait expectantly for our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. At the end of the age, we will be united with the lover of our souls – the one who fulfills our deepest longings – who loves us tenderly and passionately.

In verses 3:1-4, the Shulammite woman searches the city for her lover because she cannot bear to be separated from him. This is the love we are to have for Christ. We are to seek his presence with the passion of a lover. He is our bridegroom, and we are his radiant bride!

Day 340: God is Life

Psalm 146, Psalm 148, Psalm 150; 1 John 5
(Psalms 147 & 149 were read on Day 273)

Today we end both 1 John and the book of Psalms. We have spent 44 straight days in Psalms!

1 John ends fittingly with John’s purpose for writing…

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:12-13).

In Jesus is life. When we believe in the Son, he gives us new life through His Spirit and equips us to love others and keep His commandments. Because of the Spirit’s power at work within us, John writes that His commands are not burdensome (vs. 3). Rather they are life to the believer!

John’s purpose was encouragement. We, too, should be encouraged by John’s message. It is a message of hope because it’s the gospel!! Our response to the gospel should be a deep internal gratitude – which pours out as praise…

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! 
(Psalm 150, the final Psalm!)