Day 105: David’s Heart

1 Samuel 15-17; Luke 14:25-35

Key Verses

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Luke 14:27
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Saul… He had the audacity to use religious duty as an excuse to disobey God’s word – and we learn from vs. 15:30 that Saul’s first priority was to have honor in the people’s eyes. So, God sent Samuel to anoint a new king, and we read from today’s key verse the qualification most important to God – the condition of the heart.

We see the valor of David’s heart as he faces Goliath in Chapter 17, but more importantly, we see his trust in God! David was also equipped with the Spirit. We read in Chapter 16 (vs. 13-14) that after David was anointed by Samuel, God’s Spirit departed from Saul and rushed upon David. This Spirit was not associated with salvation (as in the New Testament) but rather the Spirit was an Equipper – helping God’s chosen leader to accomplish his kingly purpose.

We too have been given a royal purpose…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2.9).

Jesus reminds us in today’s reading that discipleship requires whole-hearted commitment. But we have also been given the Equipper – the Holy Spirit – to help us accomplish this high calling.

So I ask… Are our hearts more like the self-serving Saul? Or more like the valiant David? I hope neither!!! I hope for my heart to be like Jesus! I think David would agree ;)

Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness (Psalm 26:2-3; of David).

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 365: Grace

Malachi 1-4Revelation 22

And we are left with one.

One last day.

One last book.

One last chapter.

The book of Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Malachi wrote to the uninspired Jewish exiles. They had returned from captivity and rebuilt their temple and city – yet God seemed to not come back with them. There was no evidence of His Presence. And all of the promises of the grand restoration seemed to go unmet. The people doubted God’s goodness so they slipped into complacency. 

The sins of the exiles hit too close to home…Malachi accused the people of half-hearted devotion. Whether it be the sin of not giving God their best (1:8), compromising God’s holy standards (2:11), or bitter disappointment with difficult circumstances (3:14-15), God was displeased with their lack of faith. He challenged the people to trust him – to test His faithfulness (3:10)!

Which leads me to: One last question.

Are you willing to take God at His Word?

Despite your difficult circumstances or unanswered prayer – or the fact that God seems distant. Maybe you’ve sinned so greatly, you don’t believe God could forgive you. Or maybe you’ve strived to live a holy life, yet your world seems to be crumbling beneath you. Whatever this temporal and visible world might be screaming at you, are you willing to take God at His Word?

Do you believe that the curse will be reversed (Rev. 22:3) and God will create a new earth where there will be no more sin and no more pain? Do you believe as one who is redeemed in Christ, that you will one day see Him face to face and reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:4)?

Well…believe it! For Jesus said, “These words are trustworthy and true.”

You might wonder (like me)…How? How could this be true? How could the God of the universe stoop so low to grant His children such a glorious inheritance?”

The answer is one word: grace

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates (Revelation 22:14).

Can we wash our own robes? Can we scrub the mire of our sins away? No. The blood of the Lamb washes away our sins. He clothes us with HIS righteousness so that we might come into the presence of a Holy God. We stand by His grace, alone.

What is the last sentence in the revealed Word of God? The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen!

(Tune in January 1, for my last post – summarizing the greatest lesson I’ve learned from our year through the Bible.)

Day 362: Mourning turned to Dancing!

Zechariah 7-8Revelation 19

The events of Zechariah 7 took place two years after the visions in the preceding chapters (Zech. 1:1; 7:1) but two years before the completion of the temple (Zech. 7:1; Ezra 6:14-15). As the chapter opens, men came from Bethel to ask whether they should continue their mourning rituals. For approximately 70 years, the people had fasted during specific times to commemorate the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Since the temple was being rebuilt, the people wondered, “Should we continue to fast?” Listen to God’s answer!

And the word of the Lord of hosts came to [Zechariah], saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace (Zechariah 8:18).

God was changing their mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11)! He promised them the blessing of His presence and favor!! But their joy and gladness was just a foretaste of the joy and gladness His people will experience at the Bridal Supper of the Lamb recorded in Revelation 19!

In this one chapter of Revelation we see the stark contrast of those who are judged and those who are redeemed in Christ. The Great Babylon is destroyed. And then Christ comes to earth. He does not come as a meek lamb – but on a white war-horse brandishing a sword. The battle is swift, and the kings of the earth are killed while the beast and the false prophet are captured!

And the mourning is turned to dancing! Christ has the victor’s crown. He is the King! This is our future – sure as rain. We will gather with all the redeemed and cry out…

For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory (Revelation 19:6-7).

Do you believe it? “These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9). May our hope be sure in Christ!!

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 338: God is Truth

Psalm 140-141; 1 John 2:18-3:24
(Psalm 142 was read on Day 108)

John begins this section of Scripture by teaching that false teachers were already in their churches. He called these false teachers “antichrists” because they were “against Christ” (2:22).

John reminded the church to do two things when faced with false teaching… “Abide in what they heard from the beginning.” In other words, abide in the Word of God (2:24). And secondly, abide in the Holy Spirit (2:27). The Spirit should affirm what the Word says. It never gives “special revelation” that contradicts the Word of God.

False teachers were claiming this “special revelation” when they tried to lure the church away from gospel teachings. The primary false teaching John was refuting in these chapters was an early form of Gnosticism, specifically that Jesus did not come in the flesh.* They argued that if Jesus were separated from the flesh, then the born-again aspect of Christians was also separated from the flesh. This false premise led to the wrong conclusion that Christians could sin in the flesh and it didn’t affect their “born-again” spiritual state. In effect, they were permitting lawlessness by proclaiming that all Christians were sinless – because the deeds done in the flesh were separated from the real “spiritually born-again self.” John refuted this teaching by stating over and over again that your “doing” reflected your “being.”

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as [Jesus] is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning (1 John 3:7-8).

John was reminding the church of the truth…that Jesus came in the flesh (1:1), that all Christians struggle with sin (1:8), and when we sin, we have an advocate, Jesus the Son of God (2:1)!!

John exhorts us to examine our lives…carefully, in the light of the truth. If we are truly God’s children, our lives should reflect his righteousness. But we are not perfect, so if we are becoming complacent and falling into patterns of sin, we must run to our Advocate to find forgiveness (1:9)!

John is writing to the church tenderly. He says, “My little children. I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1). And he reminds us of the incredible truth that we have been adopted into the family of God – and given a new nature so that we might be called His children.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1).

Friends, this is truth. We are God’s children. Our Father is the King. And our inheritance is vast beyond all measure!

*More information on the false teaching John is refuting can be found in this sermon by John Piper.

Day 337: God is Light

Psalm 138-139; 1 John 1:1-2:17
(Psalm 137 was read on Day 229)

1 John has always made me slightly uncomfortable. I think it’s the apostle’s “all or nothing” style of writing. He says things like:

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1:10).

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him (2:4).

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (2:15).

I know I don’t keep his commandments perfectly…does this mean the truth is not in me? And I know that sometimes I love the things of this world more than Christ…does this mean that the love of the Father is not in me?? What does John mean?

Firstly, John is refuting a specific false teaching (which we will cover in-depth tomorrow!) But also, if you read closely, he is not demanding we have to be perfect – because mixed in with all of John’s “all or nothing” statements is the gospel…John reminds us that we will still struggle with sin, but “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). He also reminds us who rescued us from sin… Jesus, “which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” (1:1). He is the propitiation for our sins…in other words, He made atonement for our sins to satisfy the wrath of God!

It is in this context, of seeking forgiveness and God’s grace, that John exhorts us to live in the “light” and not in the “darkness.” Living in the light is only possible because of the life of Christ. If we are true believers in Christ, he has regenerated our hearts and empowered us with His Spirit so that we might obey his commands (2:3-6). Without the help of Christ, we are left in the darkness. But because of Christ, we are forgiven; we are able to know him, and we have overcome the evil one (2:12-14).

I’m sure John struggled with sin, so he is not commanding us to be perfect. But he is exhorting us to strive to live in the light – in both knowledge and holiness – to pattern our lives after the light of Christ.

I’m thankful to be reading Psalm 139 on the same day as 1 John! For in this Psalm, David reminds us that – as children of God – we will never be separated from His presence. That even the darkest places are light to God – and we are never hidden from him. He knows us, intimately, and still pursues us. This gives us confidence to draw near and confess our sins as John commands us in 1 John 1:9. He is our loving Father. He is light!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).

Day 336: Peter’s final hope

Psalm 133-136; 2 Peter 3
(Psalm 132 was read on Day 273)

Psalm 136 recounts the history of God’s people from creation to bringing Israel out of Egypt and leading them through the wilderness to giving them the Promised Land.

We, in the modern church age, are still living in the middle of God’s redemptive history. For history is “His-Story” to gather a people for Himself. This story will culminate in Christ’s return! This is the hope which Peter reminds his beloved churches.

Even though it seems that Christ has delayed his returning, Peter assures the church that God’s timing is different from our own, “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (3:8). He also assures the church that God’s delay is a sign of his mercy – “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9).

So we must not be lulled into thinking that Christ will not return. NO! He will return as a thief in the night. We must be diligent to live a life that is ready for his return.

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:13-14).

These are the final words of Peter – his last recorded thoughts before his execution. He wrote of God’s grace and the church’s proper response to such grace. He wrote of God’s sovereignty and the church’s responsibility to strive for holiness. He wrote of his hope of Christ’s return and our role in “hastening” his return by proclaiming the gospel message so all may repent (3:12).

Ultimately, Peter wrote about Christ, in which all his hope rested. Christ’s glory was Peter’s final hope, and it should be our’s as well…

To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:18).

Day 335: Peter’s final warning

Psalms 124, 127, 130, 131; 2 Peter 2
(Psalms 125, 126, 127 & 128 were read on Day 272)

Peter continues his warning against false teachers in 2 Peter 2. He goes into great detail describing the characteristics of false teachers, and unsurprisingly, false teachers of today display these same attributes!

…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words (2 Peter 2:1-3).

False teachers throughout the ages have been characterized by sexual sin, a lust for money and dishonesty. Peter’s words are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago!

So we, too, must be encouraged by Peter’s logical progression in verses 4-8 which proves that God protects His true children in all circumstances.

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials (2 Peter 2:9).

Our God is strong to save. He is faithful to protect His children from false teachers and persecution. He is able.

There is a mysterious balance in living this Christian life. It’s like two sides of one coin. On one side is God’s absolute sovereignty, He will protect His children. He will save. He will sanctify. But on the other side of the coin is man’s responsibility to persevere in faith through a godly lifestyle and seeking after Him through prayer and obedience.

We are not to sit idly and let the world’s ways and ideas bash and mold us. No! We are to wholeheartedly seek after God’s word and ways. It takes great effort and diligence to walk the narrow path of obedience in this evil world!

But as we strive, we do not strive out of fear of judgment – we strive to obey because we are saved, because we are loved, because he equips us in every way for “life and godliness.”

If we live in acknowledgment of both sides of the coin…that is, if we live humbly in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and live purposefully as we strive to live obedient and godly lives – the result will be a calm and quiet soul.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high; (a sign of humility)
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me. (a sign of trust)
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

This is what true Christianity should look like to the world…a calm and quiet soul. A soul which rests in God’s grace as it strives to be obedient, a soul which hopes in God’s eternal promises, and a soul which loves unreservedly. This is the mark of a Christian. This is the mark of Christ.

Day 334: Peter’s final words

Psalm 120-122; 2 Peter 1
(Psalm 123 was read on Day 229)

This is Peter’s last known correspondence before his execution. He wrote 2 Peter while he was imprisoned in Rome – awaiting death.

It’s fascinating to me to read a man’s thoughts as he is preparing to die. What truths did he want to convey? If you were facing death, what instructions would you leave behind for others to follow? I imagine your final words would reveal the most important pursuits of your life. What did Peter consider important as he wrote this final letter?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Peter begins his letter with a fullness that could only be obtained through Jesus. Peter is facing death – yet he writes about “life & godliness.” His tone is hopeful – hopeful – as he awaits his execution!

His thoughts are other-centered. He is not concerned for his future. No! He is concerned for the church. He instructs the church to “make every effort” and to “be diligent” to pursue qualities (vs. 5-9) that lead to “life and godliness.”

He then gives the church tools to combat doubt and false teaching. He reminds them of his eye-witness authority – his apostolic authority (vs. 16). He tells, again, the account of the Transfiguration, assuring the church that Jesus was no myth – but real and true and full of majesty (vs. 17-18). But most importantly, Peter points to Scripture itself – that no prophecy is man-made, but is inspired and faithfully fulfilled by God (vs. 19-21)!

What an amazing testimony from a man facing imminent death! He has walked with Jesus, touched him, eaten with him, seen the Glory of the Transfiguration, denied him, been restored by him, helped by him, empowered by him. And now he is waiting to be reunited with him.

Oh the depths of the love of God for us, His children. We would do well to heed Peter’s words and make every effort to walk in a manner worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand (Psalm 121:1-2; 5).