Archive for October, 2011

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

“In the beginning was the word…”

This month during our Resting at the River’s Edge readings we’ll read the Gospel of John – starting with the beginning of time, it will take us through the life of Christ and then lead us into the book of Revelation for December’s readings. I thought it would be interesting to read these two books back-to-back. (Although you’ll find 2nd Thessalonians sandwiched in between because I realized I had forgotten to include it in the schedule when we read 1st Thessalonians this month. Oops!)

The Gospel of John is many people’s favorites. It’s a bit too contemplative to be my favorite, but I appreciate it’s uniqueness among the Gospels.

Our Old Testament readings will have us finishing the Old Testament except for the book of Psalms which we’ll read in December. That means we’ll finish the book of Ezekiel, cover six of the minor prophets and read the book of Daniel. Remember, the minor phrophets aren’t called that because their message is minor, but simply because they wrote shorter books. For example, you’ll find these two prayers in the book of Habakkuk:

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk 3:2 – I often include this prayer of Habakkuk in my times of intercession for revival

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 – this prayer challenges me to rejoice regardless of my circumstances

One of the minor prophets we’ll read is Zechariah. According to the NIV Worship Bible (Zondervan Publishing), “Zechariah is not an easy book to understand, partly because it is an example of apocalyptic literature. This genre includes fantastic visions, grand schemes and mysterious interpretations. Often history is ‘telescoped,’ with past, present and future described as happening at the same time. Above all, Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings demonstrate God’s ultimate sovereignty over everything. God is the cosmic playwright and authoritative director of the drama of history. We worship this God with awe, humble obedience and confidence in His rule over all that is and is to come.” (page 1271)

Hold on to your hats, folks, there’s some fantastic reading ahead!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for November is below.

To download a PDF of the November 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

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20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

As I read this passage this morning, it seemed the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear…“do you believe it?” Do I believe that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine”? Yes, I believe He is able…I guess I just forget sometimes. Or perhaps I doubt that he wants to do those things. For me at least. Hmmm.

I must have missed the opening verses of the book of Ephesians:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)

Is it reasonable to believe that the God who has done all this for us:

  • Blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ
  • Chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight
  • Predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters
  • Lavished freely upon us His glorious grace with all wisdom and understanding
  • Made known to us the mystery of His will – that is to bring all things under Christ
  • Marked us and confirmed to us that we are saved by giving us the Holy Spirit as a deposit which guarantees our inheritance

Is it reasonable to believe that the God who has done all that for us (and more) is not willing to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”? I don’t think so.

But we have the experience of living in this fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to me and to you; to my loved ones and to your loved ones. How do we process that against Scripture that says God is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine? Well, that’s a question that books and books have been written about. Let me just share a few thoughts before moving on:

  • Painful and negative experiences shape us in ways that our joyful times cannot. Faith grows in those dark times, as does our patience, character, perseverance and humility. These are all qualities that make us more like Christ.
  • Suffering gives us a common ground from which to minister to others who are suffering.
  • We are sinful people living in a sinful world. Until this world is redeemed we suffer the consequences for our bad choices and the bad choices of others.

I know, those may be hollow words if you are in the midst of a deep struggle. As I said, books and books have been written about the subject and I would encourage you to read one or two or three of them. Off the top of my head I’d recommend The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt & What We Can Do About It by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey (a great writing team) or Don’t Waste Your Sorrows by Paul E. Billheimer.

But the Holy Spirit wasn’t whispering in my ear about living in the midst of deep pain today. He was whispering about how we live in the every day trials of life – you know, the day in and day out stuff. The Holy Spirit was reminding me that I too often allow my experiences in this world to fill my view finder and I forget that God is able. That leads to living in the expectation of “more of the same” instead of the expectation of God interrupting my life and changing my circumstances. He is able and I want to honor Him by living as if I believe that. I want to approach life expecting the best from God. As encouragement to do so, let’s look our key verses in different translations:

20Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. 21May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)

20Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. 21May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (TLB)

20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NRSV)

20Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

“Glory be to God!” Allow those phrases to soak down into your spirit…

able to accomplish

infinitely more
far more
abundantly far more
exceedingly abundantly above

than we would ever dare to ask or hope
than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.
Than we can ask or imagine
All that we ask or think

Take a moment to consider some challenge you’re facing. What is the best outcome you can imagine? God can do better than that! Infinitely better! Exceedingly abundantly better!

That’s the God we serve. I want to look for that God working in my life. And my experienced has taught me that when I look for that, God opens my eyes to it. Sometimes it takes awhile for my eyes to focus, but then His perspective comes into my field of vision and I say with Paul “Glory be to God!”

Friends, look for the goodness of God this week. Expect Him to do exceedingly more than you can ask or imagine. Because that’s just how good He is.

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There is only one man God referred to as “a man after my own heart” – King David. Wow! What a way to be known by God! We know that the King was not without his flaws and not without sin, but what earned him the title of “a man after my own heart” was his deep, passionate love for God. God saw into King David’s heart and knew that he had found a friend – someone who would stand by His side forever.

King David was a bit of a renaissance man –

  • Mighty in battle – of course, there’s the story of killing Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and then there’s the refrain that ate at Saul’s heart – “Saul has killed his thousands and David has killed his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)
  • A great King of Israel
  • A true friend – to Jonathan (1 Samuel 18) and then his son Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9)
  • An inventor of musical instruments (Nehemiah 12)
  • An extravagant worshipper of God (2 Samuel 16)
  • A songwriter and poet (the Psalms of David)

That’s quite a contrast – a man of war, a great administrator and a poet! One of King David’s Psalms is described by Matthew Henry, a favorite commentator of many, as being “like none of the rest; it excels them all, and shines brightest in this constellation.” He goes on to describe it as “David’s pious and devout exclamations, the short and sudden breathings and elevations of his soul to God.”

With that as a backdrop, it seems appropriate, even beneficial to study this Psalm. What you’ll find is that such a study will be quite different from most because the Psalm is quite different from all others. It is more than twice as long as any other Psalm, and is written in a distinctive manner.

The psalm of the hour is Psalm 119. Matthew Henry goes on to describe the Psalm:

“The composition of it is singular and very exact. It is divided into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each part consists of eight verses, all the verses of the first part beginning with Aleph [the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet], all the verses of the second with Beth [the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet], and so on, without any flaw throughout the whole psalm.”

Archbishop Tillotson says, “It seems to have more of poetical skill and number in it than we at this distance can easily understand. Some have called it the saints’ alphabet; and it were to be wished we had it as ready in our memories as the very letters of our alphabet, as ready as our A B C.”

In other words…it’s a worthwhile read.

I find it fascinating that when King David decided to put pen to paper in this unique Psalm, when he wanted to write a poem or song that started each verse with a different letter of the alphabet and worked through all the letters, from A to Z (so to speak), the subject he chose to write about is God’s Word. It wasn’t God’s grace or His mercy or His compassion or His love. It was His Word. David’s love for God was so deep and so passionate, that David loved each Word that came from Him.

Reading through the Psalm, you’ll find that David uses many different words to describe God’s Word: statutes, laws, commands, word. King David loved the Lord and he loved God’s Word. As I read Psalm 119 – all 176 verses of it (!), three themes stand out:

David’s love of and delight in God’s Word
The value of God’s Word
David’s request that God teach him from His Word

As we look at a few verses related to each theme, I’m sure you’ll find some that are quite familiar to you. And as we look at them together, I’m praying that God will use David’s words to ignite a love for God’s Word in each of us.

David’s love of and delight in God’s Word

Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
(Verse 24)

David describes God’s statutes – His laws – as a delight! They are not burdensome as some might consider them, they are a delight. We’ll see why when we look at what David says about their value.

David is so confident in God’s statutes that he uses them as counselors. In other words, he uses them to help make decisions.

The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
(Verse 72)

Is God’s Law more precious to you than your gold and silver? More precious than your job and paycheck? When that’s true, we act differently on the job. We are better employees in most ways – because we are obedient to God’s laws about respecting our employers, working diligently and honestly, and being kind and having a positive attitude.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
(Verse 97)

Oh, to have the love for God’s law that David had. Lord, help me to meditate on it all day long! Help me to keep it in my mind while I work through my days.

The value of God’s Word

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
(Verse 1)

Those who follow God’s laws are blessed. It’s the simple principle of sowing and reaping. Living according to God’s laws puts us in a position to receive His tremendous blessings. Conversely, walking outside God’s laws opens us not only to reap the consequences of our choices, but also to being more vulnerable to attacks by satan.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
(Verse 11)

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts keeps us from sinning. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it helps us to make right choices.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Verse 105)

God’s Word shows us the way we should go. It illuminates our thinking opening creative options when all ways seem blocked.

David’s request that God teach him from His Word

Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
(Verse 18)

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
(verses 33 and 34)

Notice that David promises to follow God’s laws as God leads him in greater understanding of them. With such a valuable resource, David understands that simply reading God’s Word and not obeying it is a travesty and an affront to God.

Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
(Verse 73)

Scripture describes us as “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). David understood that the One who created man is worthy of man’s obedience. He also knew that God didn’t create man and then walk away – He remains actively involved in our world and in our lives if we invite Him in.

All of this leads David to one final overriding theme: Praise for God and His Word.

I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love,
and I meditate on your decrees.
(verse 48)

Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.
(verse 54)

I like this verse. It challenges me to rejoice over God’s Laws no matter what my circumstances are – wherever I happen to be lodging at the moment, Lord, let me rejoice in Your Laws.

At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
(verses 62 and 164)

Your word, O Lord, is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens.
(Verse 89)

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are they joy of my heart.
(verse 111)

Wow! Another verse that I love. God’s Laws are the joy of David’s heart and are so rich that he considers them his heritage – his inheritance – that thing of value that has been passed down through the generation, preserved and passed on to him. They are an inheritance that, when made his own, enabled David to have a lasting legacy.

They can do the same for us. Whether God’s Word was an inheritance you received from your parents or one you are building for those who follow after you, when you treasure God’s Word as David did, it brings wisdom and joy that enables you to live a life that goes beyond what you might even begin to accomplish in the natural. There’s one more verse I love that applies here:

To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.
(Verse 96)

Everything in this life, even those things that are perfect here on earth, has limits. Everything except that which comes from God. His commands are without limits. His Word is without limits – boundless – and they open opportunities for us to have boundless influence.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to partner with You to impact my world and beyond. Teach me Your ways so that I might know You better.

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“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12b

As I read that Scripture today, my mind drifted to the topic of needless worry. Even as I type the phrase, I realize that the word “needless” is…well, needless. It’s not necessary – because it is true of all worry. It’s not like some worry is needed and some is needless. All worry is needless. There is no worry that is justified.

What captured me about this verse is that it gives me both:

  • the reason that worry is never justified, and
  • the method for achieving a “don’t worry” lifestyle

The reason – He is able

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

God is able. Period. He is able to guard whatever we’ve given to him. What value is worry? It doesn’t add one inch to my height (Matthew 6:27) and it doesn’t make me happy or content. More likely the weight of the worry slumps me over, gives me gray hairs and wrinkles, and fills my day with negativity.

You already know lots of verses about God’s faithfulness and capability, but let me remind you of just two:

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19)

5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  6So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The method (1) – Entrust your life and life situations to Him

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

What is He able to guard? That which I have entrusted to Him. What are you worred about today? Have you entrusted it to Him? Have you cast your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7)? Or are you holding them in your heart…so that they leave no room for God? God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18)! Use that perfect love to cast your fears back upon the Lord.

The method (2) – Know God

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced…”

Do you really know God? Do you know Him well enough to be convinced that He is able? Further, do you allow that knowledge to convince you of it? Knowing something is different from being convinced of it. Being convinced of something generally requires either a testing of the knowledge we have to prove it as fact or an overwhelming stack of evidence that make the knowledge irrefutable.

I’ll be honest – the first time I said “yes” to God I didn’t know him very well. I knew the central points of the Gospel:

  • God was a reality (a major stepping stone for me because I had rejected that point most of my life)
  • That the Bible was the Word of God (not a book of Grimm’s fairy tales as I had been referring to it)
  • That I was a sinner (that was a pretty easy one)
  • That Jesus paid the penalty for my sins by dying on the cross
  • That I needed to accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness of my sins in order to spend eternity in heaven (I didn’t quite know what this meant, but the alternative wasn’t at all appealing)
  • That if I rejected Jesus’ gift I would spend eternity in hell

For about a month before accepting Jesus as my Savior, I was convinced of all of these central points except the first one! I had read enough of the Bible and enough about the Bible that I was convinced it was not a book simply written by men to tell a story we wanted to hear. It was too full of fulfilled prophecies and the realities of life for that. The evidence was stacked up so high that I could no longer deny that Scripture is valid and true. Once I was convinced of that, the points that follow were no-brainers.

Yet still I struggled with that first point – truly believing that there is a God who existed before time began and will exist forever. Such a concept was (and still is) outside my ability to comprehend. It took an experience with God for me to be fully convinced that He existed and that He cared for me. I found myself in serious danger one night – in a situation in which I was totally defenseless. When I emerged from the situation totally unharmed, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had intervened. At that moment I became convinced that He was real and that He had intervened in my life, even if I didn’t understand or acknowledge His existence. (It has since dawned on me that if I could comprehend this God I serve, He wouldn’t be worth serving – duh!)

Since that time God has shown Himself to be real and alive and strong over and over again. Each experience I have with Him enables me to say as Job did “I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) Often when this verse is quoted, the last half of that verse is left off. Let’s not do that! It is an affirmation just as Paul’s affirmation in 2 Timothy. Job knew that no matter what happened on this earth that one day his Redeemer would “win.” Paul says that he is convinced that His Redeemer is able to keep everything that he entrusts to Him – in other words, that Jesus will win over any and all that the devil throws at Him.

Do you know Him well enough to know that He will hold what you have entrusted to Him? I hope so. Yet we all have times when our faith waivers. Whether you’re just getting to know Him or have known Him for years but find your faith waivering, the process of knowing God and becoming convinced of His awesome power are the same: Spend time with Him in many ways every day.

  • Read His word.
  • Talk to Him.
  • Listen for His response.
  • Worship Him.
  • Serve Him.
  • Talk about Him with your friends.

Frends, I challenge you to give God a chance to further convince you of His faithfulness, power and great love by entrusting your biggest concern in life to Him today. Yep, today.

  • Stop for a moment here and consider what is the most pressing issue in your life.
  • Now take a few moments to entrust God with that issue. Go ahead – say it out loud so that you hear yourself giving it to God.
  • Now, rest in your confidence that He is able and begin to look forward to watching God move in that area of your life.

I think I’ll close and do that myself. Let me know how it goes for you!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Dry Bones and the River of Life

Most of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings this month will be in the book of Ezekiel. Tradition has it that Jews were not allowed to read this book until they were thirty years old! It’s some heavy stuff!

But it’s stuff we love. We’ll read about the Valley of Dry Bones. Pray as you read that God will breathe life into areas of your life that might be dry, and that He will show people that you are to prophecy the breath of life into.

4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to
them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5This is what the
Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter
you, and you will come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5

Then get ready for a hallelujah time in the River of Life:

1The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar… 3As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. 5He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6…Then he led me back to the bank of the river… 8He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. 9…so where the river flows everything will live…12Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47

Hallelujah!

And So Much More…

Oh, we’ll also be in the New Testament – the books of Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and Ephesians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him… and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

For it is by grace you have been saved… Ephesians 2:8

Ah – you gotta read the great stuff for yourself!
Enjoy the fall blustery days by reading a good book next to a window – I recommend the Bible.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for October is below.

To download a PDF of the October 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

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