Archive for August, 2010

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

The History of a Nation and
Guidance for the Newly Formed Churches

Kings, Kings and More Kings
We will spend the bulk of our Old Testament reading First and Second Kings. Don’t lose sight of the message in the succession of kings and their exploits. The two overriding messages in the books of Kings are:

  • God is faithful and His people (i.e., us and our forefathers) continually turn away from Him. In the book of Kings, we see his judgement ultimately play out in the exile of the Israelites to Babylon.
  • Nations follow their leaders. We will see again and again that the spiritual climate of the Israelites very much followed that of their leader.

We’ll follow up our reading in First and Second Kings with the book of Ruth – a book that is all about courage, faithfulness and redemption. Many see it as a love story, but it is so much more than romance. It is the courage of a young woman, the faithfulness of God and the redemption of God’s people. That makes it a great book to cleanse our palates after reading Kings.

Forming a New Nation of Believers
As we read the books of Kings, we’ll also read what is commonly referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles” – the last writings of Paul, which are letters to Timothy and Titus. These letters provide instruction and guidance about caring for and protecting the newly born churches. The letters focus on church life, as well as leadership qualifications and responsibilities. The recurring themes in these books is keeping true to sound doctrine and living a life of godliness.

While it may seem that we are reading these books out of order (we’ll read 1 Timothy, then Titus, then 2 Timothy), this is the order in which they were written. 2 Timothy is widely believed to have been written shortly before Paul’s execution in AD 66-67. As you read this last letter of Paul’s keep in mind what he penned in chapter 4:

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.

There was a time when I didn’t much like the Apostle Paul. Now, I want to be like him when I grow up. How about you?

Blessings as you read this month. May God speak to your heart and spirit.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of September’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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My husband and I have had many conversations about grieving. Most have been quite short because we find the grieving process to be a mystery. Not that we each haven’t gone through it. Phil’s dad died when he was twelve years old, his mom died in 2001 and my dad died the day after my birthday in 2007. There were three things about grieving that surprised us the most:

  • We were amazed by the sense of nothingness – someone has departed from this world and there is now nothing where there used to be something. Someone, actually; but now an emptiness, a void.
  • We were shocked by the deep, deep sadness. It’s a persisting sadness, and sometimes an elusive one – just when you think you’re feeling better the sadness takes you by surprise once again.
  • We were shaken by the sense that our foundation had been fractured. I don’ t mean our foundation in Christ; that remained unaffected. Even though I was an adult and hadn’t depended on my dad for anything for nearly thirty years, he had always been there, and at some subconscious level that gave me comfort. When he was gone, that sense of someone having my back was gone. Please understand that I don’t in any way mean to demean my husband in this. Of course, he has my back, but he understands, perhaps better than I because both his parents are gone now, that when we lose a parent, a significant structure in our life is torn down. Something that had always been a fact in my life was no longer real and true.

One of the things that helped me through my grieving was reading about the grieving process. It helped me to know that what I was experiencing was normal and I really wasn’t losing my mind (because some days it truly felt like I was).

Here is an excellent article on grieving that appeared in Discipleship Journal.

It’s first point is one I so appreciate – that grieving cannot be rushed because until we have gone through a full year, we have not experienced all the seasons, each with its unique memories of our loved ones. Further, the article explains why grieving is never fully complete because until we have lived through later life experiences, we cannot fully know the loss of not having our loved one with us.

Take the time to read it. And take time to grieve. It in no way dishonors God and in many ways honors your lost loved one.

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But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

If you’re Resting at the River’s Edge with us, you read this story late last week.

  • David sins
  • God gives David his choice of judgments
  • David chooses three days of plague
  • Near the end of the third day, God instructs David “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” (2 Samuel 24:18)
  • When David arrives, Araunah makes him an offer: “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” (2 Samuel 24:22-23)
  • David’s response ought to give us all pause:

“No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
(2 Samuel 24:24)

David was King and Araunah was happy to give him his land and everything he needed for the offering. But David was making an offering and a sacrifice to his King. Taking the free gift from Araunah would not have been much of an offering/sacrifice from David. It is to David’s great credit that he didn’t take the easy way out here.

Matthew Henry’s English is a bit dated, he hits the nail on the head. In his Commentary on the Old Testament, he says this about the passage:

Note, Those know not what religion is whose chief care it is to make it cheap and easy to themselves, and who are best pleased with that which costs them least pains or money. What have we our substance for but to honour God with it? and how can it be better bestowed?
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 24:24

Or put in modern English, he’s saying something like this:

Those whose primary goal is making things as cheap and easy on themselves as possible aren’t seeking God with all their hearts. What is the purpose of all we have, if not to honor God? Can there be a better use for our possessions, energy and time but to use them to serve Him?

I was convicted by David’s statement and doubly challenged by Matthew Henry’s. I wonder – am I serving God sacrificially? Do my offerings cost me something or is He getting the leftovers? Is He getting service in my spare time and with my spare energy and money?

Let’s look at some examples.

Tithing: If giving 10% is easy – if your income is such that you can easily live on 90% – would God be honored by you giving more? And is there any better thing you can do with the “more” than give it to God?

Ministry/Service: Have you said “yes” to so many opportunities to serve that perhaps your service is costing you time, but you have no effort or “overflow” to minister out of? Or maybe it’s not so many opportunities to serve that takes your time, but all the other activities in your life. Is God getting the dregs, last minute, jump in the car and go, then wing it when you get there service? If so, I would contend that your service isn’t costing you what it ought. Maybe you need to be involved in less activities, and perhaps even less ministry activities, so that your offerings of service are complete offerings of all that you are.

Time with God: Is your time with God filled with constant distractions of this world, shortened by earthly demands, and less consistent than your other commitments? The enemy is a master at distracting us during our quiet time, and I’m not here to bring condemnation about it. But there are distractions that are brought on by the enemy and there are distractions that come up simply because of our own lack of discipline or planning. I’m talking about the latter here. My time with God ought to cost me something – it ought to be a sacrifice of all I am to focus on Him. Sadly, often it is not.

This is not a word meant to bring condemnation, but it is a word that is meant to encourage you and me to do better. I want my offerings to the Lord to have value – that means they must cost me something – because that’s how we value things here on earth – and if it’s not of value to me, I haven’t given an appropriate offering to God.

Lord, forgive me when I have taken You for granted! Help me to change. Help me to love you more, and to demonstrate that love by giving honestly of my time, money, talents, energy, and love to You.

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I sat down to write a blog about 2 Samuel 24:24, in which King David replies to Araunah’s’ offer of free land to build an altar on and free animals to sacrifice to the Lord “No…I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” What a powerful statement. And I’m so wanting to write it, but first I looked over previous blogs to see if I had already written about this verse.

What I found was a blog I wrote almost two years ago that’s along the same lines of my heart’s meditation over the past few days…I just didn’t remember that I had blogged about it. Perhaps you’ve forgotten the blog, too. It is a blog that grew out of David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22. David’s life had many ups and downs – he lived in caves and he lived in palaces – and praised God in both. Our God is worthy of our praises whether we are currently in the cave or on the mountain top. This blog from November 2008 covers the topic so well and I was so blessed to re-read it, I thought you would be too. So today’s blog is a reminder of things past. Tomorrow’s will be about David’s reply to Araunah.

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Ladies – Want to love your husband better? Want to honor your husband (and in so doing, honor God)? Want to see him grow into a better husband, father and man of God? Your encouragement is key. Here’s a good article that appears on Kyria.com, a site for women in leadership and ministry. It’s worth the quick read.

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My pastor said several things in his sermon today that will probably make their way into blogs this week. Here’s one of them:

God wants to do great things in us but we settle for peace!
Pastor Larry Klaiber

Ouch! When my pastor said this during his sermon this morning, he was stepping on my toes! How about you? If we asked everyone who chooses peace to raise their hand, would your hand be up? Mine would be. High. I want peace. I want an enjoyable life. I don’t want pain. I don’t want suffering. My pastor is right – I’ll settle for peace. But God wants greater for me. He wants more for you, too.

We’re not talking about peace instead of conflict necessarily. We are called to be peacemakers – that often means swallowing our pride (which God opposes, anyway) and going to others in humility and asking to be forgiven. What we’re talking about is a peaceful lifestyle instead of being stretched, molded and shaped into the person God wants us to become.

Scripture describes God as the potter and us as the clay. Do you know very much about pottery? It gets slapped around on the wheel, formed by firm and gentle pressure, and shaped into something of the potter’s own choosing. The final product is useful or beautiful (or both). But the process can be kind of messy and painful for the clay. When we choose to take ourselves off the wheel, we interrupt the process. We choose peace instead of God’s purposes.

11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15

Wood, hay or straw will be burned in the fire. Gold, silver and costly stones on the other hand are refined by the fire.  In our pastor’s sermon last Sunday, he talked about the process of mining the gold, silver and costly stones. As he talked, I began thinking about how dirty and grimy miners are when they come up from the mines. Then I wrote the following in my notebook:

I will only get/find the best of God – the heart of God – by getting dirty and grimy.

And that means not settling for peace but volunteering for the dirty jobs God places in my path. Again, I say…ouch!

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  1. Don’t take on the emotional burdens of others. Yes, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, and that means to provide physical help where possible and to bring those burdens to the Lord on their behalf. It doesn’t mean guessing or imaging what their emotional response is and taking it on as our own. My mom was in the hospital this weekend, the same weekend of a family reunion that she had been counting the days to. I was so sad for my mom missing the reunion. Yet every time I talked to or saw her, she was fine. I kept thinking “how very sad she’ll feel while everyone is at the reunion and she’s in the hospital bed alone.” It turned my world gray for a time – and she was fine! How foolish of me to take on that unnecessary burden. I’m 54 years old, mom has been totally paralyzed on her left side and has had limited use of her right side for more than a dozen years…and she still teaches me things. I want to be like her when I grow up!
  2. Do your best and then have confidence that God’s grace will come through for you! This is especially true when the ground under you seems unstable or the mountain in front of you too high. God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) The key is to truly have confidence in God – which means stop fretting and look forward to what He will do! (I can’t always do it, but it’s a great way to live – when I’m able to appropriate that grace, life is good, no matter what happens!)
  3. The enemy lives in the shadows. God operates in the light. The enemy operates in the shadows – the “what ifs,” doubts and fears. To extinguish the shadows, turn up the lights – worship, read or meditate on Scripture, sing or hum your favorite hymn, remind yourself of God’s great promises and His unfailing faithfulness. Do whatever it takes to turn up the lights. (John 3:19-21, 8:12)
  4. God’s people are very good. They have your back in this world. And God has your back in the spiritual realm. If you don’t have a church home – one that you attend regularly and where you know people and are known by them – start your search for one immediately. Without a church family you set yourself as easy pickin’s for the enemy.
  5. We really do have a lot of power over how we feel about and respond to life. Like I said earlier, I’m 54 years old. That means I’ve stood in lots of lines in lots of stores. This evening I stood in a relatively short line with the absolutely slowest cashier I’ve ever encountered. I was tempted to get frustrated. After thumbing through two magazines, I was even more tempted. That’s when I noticed the guy in front of me. He had a memorial shirt on for someone who had died serving our country in March of this year. He looked tired, but he waited patiently. It encouraged me to let go of my own agenda and simply wait and smile. I realized during this process that if I had continued on the route to frustration, I would have left that line ten minutes later with an annoyance that would have stayed with me well into the evening. Instead, I left smiling and humming praises to God. I felt good about smiling at the very slow cashier – she probably doesn’t get many people smiling at her. I felt good about conquering frustration for the moment. And I felt really good about the results – feeling blessed instead of annoyed. Gotta love that!

So, faithful readers, I don’t know if any of the above speaks to you, but it seems like a lot to learn in a weekend. God is good! Blessings on your upcoming week!

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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
2 Samuel 14:14

One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. We’re all going to die. “But God” – how thankful I am that God steps in to change my situations! He doesn’t take away our life – instead, He “devises ways” – I love that – He devises ways – schemes and plots and plans, going to great lengths and implementing fantastic scenarios – “so that the banished person may not remain estranged from Him.”

That’s grace, my friend! Found in the Old Testament!

He loves us so much! Our sin has banished us from the presence of a Holy God. It has made it impossible for us to look into His face. This passage was spoken to David who longed to see the face of his son who had been banished from the Kingdom because of his sin. We have been banished from God’s Kingdom for our sins.

But God…He devised a plan – even before I was born – that would bring me to a place of recognizing that there is a God, that He is a good God, that He made a way for me to know Him – not only know Him, but spend all of eternity with Him – and that I was willing to submit my life to that God. What a plan! Trust me – it took quite a bit of devising to bring me from the place I was (an unbelieving aetheist who had nothing but disdain for Christians) to the place of trust in Christ. God makes a way…“so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him.” Thank You, Lord!

“I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” God’s grace is truly amazing!

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In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)

Meditating on Scripture is a wonderful thing! As I read through Hebrews, I am asking God to highlight themes, verses and truths that He wants me to notice. So in reading Hebrews chapter 2 today, I got stuck on verse 10. The NIV translation says that Jesus was made “perfect through suffering.” Well, that begs the question:

Was Jesus not perfect before He suffered on earth?

That messes with my theology a bit because God is perfect and Jesus is and always has been fully God. In fact in this verse, it describes God as being the One “for whom and through whom everything exists,” yet we read in chapter 1 that the universe was made through Jesus (v2) and that He sustains it by His powerful Word (v3). Further, in John 10:30, Jesus says “I and the Father are one.” More subtly (to us 21st century Christians anyway), Jesus proved over and over again that He was God by forgiving sins. Such actions were anything but subtle to the Jews in Jesus’ time. They understood that only God could forgive sins. Every time Jesus said “your sins are forgiven” he was making a very loud and clear statement to the Jews that He was God. (See Matthew 9:2-6 for a great example of this.)

So Jesus was perfect before He suffered on earth, yet Hebrews 2:10 tells us that he was made perfect through suffering. I read the verse in many different translations and I read it in context (i.e., reading through the entire passage and fitting it with the passages around it). I then read several commentaries to see what they thought of the verse. I learned some things – they added to my head knowledge, but didn’t satisfy my spirit. Few commentaries even addressed verse 10.

So I laid the passage aside and read a couple of chapters of 2 Samuel (following our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule). I then went back to the passage in Hebrews. Still nothing. So I agreed with God that I would meditate on the passage – mull it over and over in my mind, examining it from many different angles, letting it settle in my mind, heart and spirit – all the while asking God to help me understand it – to bring revelation to me about this passage.

And He did just that! Sometimes we need to meditate on a verse for days, weeks, or even months or years before we gain insight into it. Today’s revelation came very quickly. (Thank You, Lord!) God brought to mind notes I had made from my husband’s sermon at a local nursing home just a few days ago. He was talking about the purpose of suffering and explained that suffering is both our punishment for sin and a byproduct or consequence of sin.

You know the story about what happened in the Garden. Eve violated God’s only command and ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who was standing beside her. Through their rebellion, sin entered the world. Later in the day, God was walking in the garden. That’s where I’ll pick up an abbreviated version of the story.

11“…the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12“Yes,” Adam admitted, “but it was the woman you gave me …”

13Then the LORD God asked the woman, “How could you do such a thing?”

“The serpent tricked me,” she replied. “That’s why….”

14So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you will be punished. You are singled out from all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth to be cursed. You will grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly….”

16Then he said to the woman, “You will bear children with intense pain and suffering…”

17And to Adam he said, “…I have placed a curse on the ground. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.”
Genesis 3:11b-19 (NLT)

Adam’s punishment was that what had been a joy in his life – tending the beautiful, growing garden – would now become work, and hard work at that. And the beautiful garden was now a cursed place that would grow thorns and thistles. Both the people and the land (and everything dependent on the land) would now suffer. Suffering became both a punishment for Adam and Eve (and all their descendants) and a consequence of their sin as the entire earth was subjected to the curse.

Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse.
Romans 8:20

With that in your mind, let’s go back to Hebrews 2:10:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)

Jesus, as the author of our salvation, was made perfect – or complete through the suffering He experienced. We often say that Jesus paid the price for our sin. The price, the penalty for that sin could not be paid in full without experiencing the suffering that is both the punishment and the consequence of that sin. God could not have laid all the sin of the world upon His Son without Jesus experiencing the suffering that the sin caused. Christ was not “made perfect” through suffering, but His sacrifice was made complete through suffering; His authorship of our salvation was completed.

Imagine – imagine – the sinless one willingly experiencing the suffering that results from your sin so that he could author your salvation. That’s what He did and that’s why the new covenant is superior to the old covenant. Jesus’ suffering made His sacrifice complete. Without the suffering, there would be no salvation for you and me. I’m sorry, so very sorry, that Christ suffered because of my actions. But I’m oh, so very glad He willingly did. Another reason that Jesus is greater…than all.

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1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

A primary theme of Hebrews is that Christ and the new covenant is far superior to Judaism and the old covenant. Written to Jewish Christians – “Hebrews” – who were facing persecution and the temptation to step back from Christ and Christianity, the unknown author wrote a book of tremendous encouragement and theology. And he or she starts off with a bang. (Yes, there is some speculation that the book was written by Priscilla, a woman, but most scholars guess it was written by Apollos.) The first 3 verses make these statements about Jesus:

  1. Jesus was God’s messenger for the new covenant. In the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets. In “these last days” He spoke to us through Jesus.
  2. Jesus is the heir of all things. He owns it all.
  3. Jesus is the creator of the universe. All things were made through Him.
  4. Jesus is the sustainer of the universe. He holds everything together by his “powerful Word.” The New Living Translation says He holds everything together by “the mighty power of His command.”
  5. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. The King James Version uses the word “brightness.” The glory of God fully shines through His Son.
  6. Jesus is the “exact representation” of God. This is what made it possible for Him to say “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9b, NIV)
  7. Jesus purified us from our sins. He removed the stain of our sin so that we can enter the presence of a Holy God.
  8. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. John Calvin said “To sit at God’s right hand is to be helmsman of the universe.”*

That really is starting out with a bang! J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled Your God is Too Small. When I read these three verses in Hebrews, I suspect that my Jesus is too small. Or rather, my perception of Jesus is too small. Because He is big enough to hold the universe together with a single Word/Command. He is heir to all of creation and everything in it. He is the exact representation of God and the helmsman of the universe. This is the same Jesus who invites me to come to Him when I am weary, discouraged, hurting or in need.

When we read Ephesians a few weeks ago, I was struck by the following verse:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Ephesians 6:16

It is our faith that extinguishes ALL the flaming arrows of the enemy. When I look at the description of Jesus that is given in Hebrews, I know that if I truly believed it – if the knowledge of who Jesus is truly resided in the deepest parts of my mind, soul and spirit, that faith would easily extinguish all the flaming arrows of the devil.

Lord, thank you for faith. I pray that as we read Hebrews you will grow our faith. I don’t want to be a lip syncing Christian, mouthing words I’ve read or heard. I want to believe them in a way I’ve never believed them before – with confidence that they will win all my battles for me and with reverence and awe and wonder at who You truly are.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

*Quoted from Royal Sacrament, Ronald Ward (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1958), p. 32; in Hebrews: Pilgrim’s Progress or Regress? Jim Townsend (Elgin: David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1987), p. 16.

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