04 August 2007

Today's Reading August 04

And a good Saturday to all. I hope that the morning is well with you.

This morning we turn to Psalms 73 and 74. These are both of them noted as Psalms of Asaph, rather than of David. And they are part of a group sometimes referred to as Psalms of the Sanctuary, liturgical Psalms if you like, Psalms used in organized praise and worship. There is a regrettable tendency among those of us in the American Anabaptist tradition to be resistant to anything around the heading of ''liturgical'', connecting it with the more 'High Church'' practices of Rome, the various Orthodox and Byzantine Rite churches, the High Church Anglicans, and some others. That may be a mistake - there is something to be said for fostering the sense of awe and majesty that is appropriate when we are in the very Presence of the Living God. But there is also something to be said for the recognition that we are, today, standing in the midst of a long line of those who have brought our lives, our troubles, our needs, our worship and praise to the only One to whom we should bring them. These Psalms, thousands of years old, are to me ever timely. Our situations really are not terrible different. The words here are those any of us in distress might say, perhaps not terribly different from those we have said.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

One thing about liturgical works - they really ought to be read aloud. Unless you are one of those who can read something and hear the oratory in your mind, with emphasis and pauses, you won't get the full effect, the richness, just in silent reading. And, actually, the Psalms beg to be spoken, not just gazed upon. Try it, you'll see what I mean.

This evening we get into the 5th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Like the entire work, this chapter really gets into the meat of the faith. I have been told that Martin Luther thought that all Christians should memorize the entire book. I haven't, not as a deliberate effort, but portions of it are in the memory banks. You may find that to be the case as well. Consider,
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

I can not say this too often: every phrase, every word in this book should be gone over carefully. This is not ''fluff'', this is meaty. Don't miss any of it.

03 August 2007

Today's Reading August 03

Trying to get back on schedule. Yesterday was a very very long day. I think that the meeting/interview went well, but then I have been wrong before.

And sometimes odd things happen. I met an older guy, a security person at one of the airports, sort of a first line before you get to the TSA station. He looked at my ID, and remarked that he'd been a pastor for some time in a town about 15 miles from where I now am. Since that was hundreds of miles and a different time zone from where I now am, that was odd in itself. He told me he'd been a bi-vocational minister, his day job was as an engineer. I told him about our bi-vocational pastor who is leaving us this week. He said, '' why don't you do it?''. Well, as I told him, while I love to teach, and do, I've not ever heard a call to preach and I'm approaching the age that most pastors are thinking about retirement in the not-too-distant future. But it was an interesting exchange - he asked me to convey his regards to his successor in a nearby church, which I will try to do.

Funny how God puts improbable people in your path, though.
Today's reading from the Old Testament, is Psalms 70, 71, and 72. Psalm 72 is noted as a Psalm of Solomon. But Psalm 70 captures where my head has been sometimes,

Chapter 70
2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.
3 Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.
4 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.
5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.

Does that sound to you like ''HELP! HELP!!''? It does to me. Been there.

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From the New Testament, Romans 4.
I don't know that it is possible to summarize this chapter. It builds throughout, and you really need to go over it, slowly and thoroughly, and probably several times. Paul is talking about salvation by grace alone by faith alone. He hasn't quite completed it to ''in Jesus Christ, alone'', but that's where it's going.
Romans is as close as I can think of to an outline of the faith. It's very intense and it is very important, and it is very good reading.

Today's Reading August 02

This is being post-dated, mainly just to maintain some continuity. I rolled out of bed at 0320 to get to the airport by 0450 to catch a 0615 flight, the first leg of an air travel ordeal that reminds me why I hate flying. The trip home was worse - our 2-hour layover in Charlotte was closer to 5 hours - good old US Airways, the former 'Agony Airlines' - managed to lose the flight crew for our final hop. Right. Couldn't find them. They actually had to wake up a crew held in reserve and warm them up. Result was that it was pushing midnight before I got home.
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The day's reading in the Old Testament, Psalms 68 and 69

Chapter 69
1 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.
John 15:25
5 O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.
6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
7 Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.

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In the New Testament, Romans 3
Here is what we hold to be true, in a concentrated form
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

01 August 2007

Today's Reading August 01

Today we begin a new month. Happy August.
I am supposed to be traveling tomorrow, so it's not certain when this will be updated. I have to leave here about 0430 or so in order to catch a 0615 flight out and won't be back home until late. This job hunting stuff can wear a person down in so many ways all at once. We ran into one of the deacons at our church last night at the store - with the pastor leaving this week, and us likely to leave soon as well, things are in a bit of an upset. But, as I told him, I'm not driving this bus and have no idea what bends are in the road ahead. So we trust the drive to get us where we're supposed to be.
The Old Testament portion today is Psalms 65, 66, and 67. Rather a lot of them, aren't there? Sometimes, the shorter ones say it pretty well. Like this one,

Chapter 67
1 God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.
2 That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
3 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.
5 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
6 Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.


This evening gets to Romans chapter 2. As we said yesterday, you really need to chew on every verse pretty thoroughly. There is a lot in this passage to digest. There is also a stark warning, first to the Jews in Paul's era, but also to the Church in ours,
23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Ezek 36:20, 23
That is as stark and harsh a warning and reproach as one can imagine. And still appropriate.

31 July 2007

Today's Reading July 31

This morning in the Old Testament we look to Psalms 62, 63, and 64. All of these are from David. I particularly (personal preference, nothing more) love Psalm 63. According to my study Bible, he composed it when he was in the wilderness of Judah. In this case, ''wilderness'' does not mean 'jungle', it's more like a desert plain I guess, or an arid grassland at best. And David is having a hard time, and yet his greatest need is for the Lord. I confess, there have been and are times in my life when I did hunger and thirst for the Lord in the way David does here, but not as often or as deeply as should be the case. David says it well,

1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.
3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

To be desperate for the Lord, when NOTHING else will do, that is proper.

Now we get into Paul's Epistle to the Romans, beginning with all of Romans 1. I have in one of my other study Bibles, the Living Insights Study Bible with commentary by Chuck Swindoll, an account of a great minister named Donald Barnhouse, who, on assuming a new pastorate, stepped into the pulpit the first Sunday and preached on Romans 1, verse 1. The second Sunday he took on Romans 1, verse 2, and didn't quite finish. So on Sunday 3 he took up where he'd left off and continued in this vein for, I believe 42 months never leaving the book of Romans. This was later published in 10 volumes entitled ''Romans''. I'd love to read that work. The book of Romans is one of the most important in all the New Testament. And yes, they're all important. But some really stand out, and Romans is one of them. There's just not much ''filler'' here, it's all good stuff.
For example, look at the very first word. ''Paul ...''. Stop there. That was not his 'given' name, not the one his parents gave, it was not his name at his Bar Mitzvah. Now go back to where Saul of Tarsus became Paul. What caused that change in his life? He met Jesus, that's what happened, and from that moment forth, his whole being changed. See what I mean? You absolutely could make a sermon out of Romans 1:1. Someone did. Read this whole work in that manner, don't fly past anything. There are nuggets of real gold here if we don't speed past them. I call attention to the end of the chapter, verses 28 to the end of the chapter. See if you don't agree that it sounds all too much like our world today, and indeed several 'churches'.
The Book of Romans

Chapter 1
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Hab 2:4 Gal 3:11
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

30 July 2007

Today's Reading July 30

This morning, we turn to Psalms 59, 60, and 61
My current favorite study Bible, a New King James, has some comments for each of these. For Psalm 59, it says '' .... of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.'' He was right in the midst of trouble, and so he prayed, and recorded it. For Psalm 60, the comment says in part, '' ... When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.'' I am reminded that I have not really made a song, a record, of the times that the Lord has given me the victory in a hopeless situation. But David did, his Psalms are a record of where he has been and what God has done for him.

Chapter 61
1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.
5 For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.

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This evening's New Testament reading completes the final chapter of the book of the Acts, chapter 28 verses 16 through 31. Paul is in Rome, treated essentially as a high-ranking prisoner. He is visited by the Jewish religious leaders and while some receive him, others do not. He sends them off with an admonition:
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Paul was as free to preach the Gospel as a prisoner as he was unbound. What constrained him was not a prison. How many of us are not in prison but reluctant tot do as he did?

29 July 2007

Today's Reading July 29

Good morning. Off to church in just a bit - we don't get going until around 9:30. This will be a tough service, our bi-vocational pastor is leaving after today. He and family have been wonderful, certainly in the year that we have been here. We wish them well. But it will be a strain on the congregation as we begin the process of finding God's will in the matter.
This morning's Old Testament portion continues in the Psalms (I did say we'd be here a while, recall?) as we turn to Psalms 56, 57, and 58. I love some of the imagery of the Psalmist, little snippets of great insight that come from a person who both knows distress and knows the Lord. For example, from Psalm 56

8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
. He knows firmly that the Lord is present and knows it all, he has not been forgotten. Or,
Chapter 57
1 Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
2 I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.
3 He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.
4 My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
5 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
Seems to me someone made a song out of that a few years ago, I was part of a choir that sang it. David's themes are still ours.
This evening we begin the final chapter of Acts, chapter 28 verses 1 through 15.
Having survived a shipwreck, Paul and his companions, and the Roman soldiers nominally his guards, take shelter on an island. At which point Paul is bitten by a venomous snake, and suffers no ill effects. Shades of Satan again, and it doesn't work this time either, and the snake is cast into a fire. Good imagery there. As a result of all of this, Paul ends up laying hands on and healing the father of the chief man of the island, leading to quite a stir and yet another opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Eventually they make it to Italy.
I wish I had a good understanding of what happened in these areas and to these people that Paul (and others) just ''happened'' to be preaching to on the way through. What of the soldiers and sailors who were on that ship, what of the inhabitants of that island, what of Agrippa and his court?