Posts Tagged ‘Bible journaling’

“Deliver me, Lord, even from #FirstWorldProblems”: Psalm 119:169-70

January 7, 2020

Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.
Psalm 119:169-170

When I read Psalm 119 and the psalmist’s many cries for deliverance or rescue, I think, “My problems aren’t nearly so large as his. How can my #FirstWorldProblems compare? Why should I even bother to pray about this?”

But I refuse to think of it that way anymore. For one thing, when you’re in the first world, #FirstWorldProblems are still problems. Even more, while the psalmist appeals for vindication over his enemy, we don’t know precisely what kind of enemy he was facing. But I know well enough the Enemy that I face, and he’s resourceful: he’s more than happy to use even #FirstWorldProblems if they will rob me of my joy, disrupt my peace, kindle my anger, and harm my witness, which they do… often.

My point is, I need help. I need rescue. I need deliverance—no less than the author of this psalm. Yet I don’t pray for deliverance with the same urgency, or the same volume, that the psalmist does when he “cries out” and “pleads.”

Why?

Lord, give me the grace to change. Give me the faith to believe that my “cries” will reach you, and you’ll give me victory. Amen. #esvjournalingbible #biblejournaling

“The gospel in a gangster movie”: meditation on Genesis 45:16-20

December 10, 2019

“Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” Genesis 45:20

Last week I watched Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman. I think I now understand the appeal of gangster movies: because I want to know the favor of someone who has the power and resources to get things done for me—who would enjoy doing so. And if I had such a person in my life, I would gladly give him love and loyalty in return. (Of course, I might also live in fear of crossing him, because mobsters in movies, if not real life, are capricious, to say the least!)

Not to compare the Pharaoh to a mob boss, but something like this is happening in today’s scripture. Jacob and his sons have found the favor of a seemingly all-powerful, eminently resourceful benefactor. And they’ve done so not on their own account, but on account of their relationship with Joseph.

I’m jealous!

But not so fast. If we’re in Christ, aren’t we in a similar position—only infinitely more so? As Paul writes, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

These words are astonishing: Do all circumstances, all events, all people, and all things—through God’s sovereign hand—serve me and my interests? And not just me, of course, but everyone who is in Christ? How is this possible?

Yet, how could it be any other way? “We are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” I’m reminded of a quote, which I can’t find at the moment (I think it’s Robert Farrar Capon), which reads something like this: “We are so bound up with Jesus that if the Father wants his Son, he gets us, too.”

As with Jacob’s family, we enjoy God’s inexhaustible favor not on our own account, but on account of Jesus and his relationship to his Father. In other words, because we’re with Jesus, the Father is pleased to give us the “best of the land” and the “fat of the land”—for which he’ll spend our lifetimes preparing us.

To say, as I want to say, “But I’m not worth this,” is to miss the point: I’m not worth it, but God’s Son Jesus is.

“God designed this very moment”: meditation on Genesis 45:7-8

November 20, 2019

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:7-8a

Joseph has just revealed his identity to his brothers, who, years earlier, caused him great evil and suffering. But Joseph sees the bigger picture: God chose him to be Egypt’s savior, and his brothers couldn’t impede God’s plan. Indeed, they could only unwittingly help bring it about! God transformed all of Joseph’s trials into something good.

If that’s true for Joseph, how can it not be true for us? After all, if we’re in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit residing within us (1 Cor 6:19); we stand before God as perfectly righteous, with the imputed righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9); we are God’s beloved children (John 1:12-13); we are the ones on whom God’s favor rests (Luke 2:14); we are, already, “seated with God in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:6). Not to mention God’s promise to work “all things” for our good (Rom 8:28).

If God’s promises are true, he hardly has less of a good plan for our lives than he did for Joseph’s. And he’s working that plan out through everything we’re going through. Do we dare believe that we enjoy this kind of favor with God? If not, why not?

Lord, give me faith to believe that everything I’m going through at this moment is part of your good plan for my life. #esvjournalingbible #biblejournaling

“Trust God’s Word when it says you’re loved and forgiven”: meditation on Psalm 119:1

November 11, 2019

How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the Lord’s instruction! Psalm 119:1 CSB

“How happy are those”: The KJV and its successors use the word “blessed” (NLT: “joyful”) in place of “happy,” perhaps because “blessed” connotes a deeper, God-ordained kind of happiness. Still, I prefer “happy,” because it requires no nuance or qualification: I want to be happy in my life! (Don’t you?) And here’s how happiness is possible, the psalmist says.

Does this book tell the truth? Can I trust it? O Lord, I believe that it does and I can! Let me be happy like this!

But how can I, sinner that I am, be “blameless”? Am I disqualified from this promised happiness before I start? No. First, I remember imputation: that Jesus was made to “be sin” so that I could “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). I’m “blameless” because my life is found in the One who was blameless on my behalf.

Second, “blameless” does not imply “sinless.” (See Phil 3:6.) Rather, when I sin, I follow 1 John 1:9: confess and trust that God is “righteous” (or “just”) to forgive my sin. Why does John appeal to God’s justice? Because my sin has already been punished on the cross. Therefore, startling as it is to say, it would be unjust of God to punish my sin again.

My point is this: Part of being “blameless” means believing that God’s Word tells the truth when it describes God’s way of forgiving us through the cross.

“No obstacle you face is any match for the Lord”: meditation on Psalm 114:3-6

October 18, 2019

The sea looked and fled;
the Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills, like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Jordan, that you turned back?
Mountains, that you skipped like rams?
Hills, like lambs?
Psalm 114:3-6

I often feel afraid. I lack confidence. I feel stuck—as if some bad thing in my life will never change for the better. I feel weak or powerless. But what about God? Who do I think he is? Is he not always on my side? Are his angels not always fighting for me?

Why was it, sea, that you fled?

Why, indeed! Whatever obstacles or enemies I face—real or (just as likely) imagined—are no match for my Lord. In him I have all the power I need.

Here’s the truth: I face no obstacle or enemy greater than the one in my own head—that devilish voice telling me I’m bound to lose. Is the God who causes mountains to skip like rams powerful enough to defeat these thoughts? I pray and believe that he is. #HeReadsTruthBible #BibleJournaling

“God promises us victory”: meditation on Psalm 108:10-11

October 4, 2019

Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
God, haven’t you rejected us?
God, you do not march out with our armies.
Psalm 108:10-11

In Psalm 108, David has heard a new word from God: “Moab is my washbasin; I throw my sandal on Edom. I shout in triumph over Philistia.” In other words, while God had previously not been “marching out with our armies,” that will no longer be the case. God has relented from punishing Israel; he is ready to give her victory.

Here’s some good news for us: If we are in Christ, this “new word” that David heard in the sanctuary (v. 7) will always be true for us: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) While God disciplines us for our ultimate good (Hebrews 12:5-11), he will never punish us for our sin—not anymore. He will never cease to “march out with our armies”—whatever that may look like in our context.

How could this not be true? Christ has made us righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s favor rests on us (Luke 2:14). The Father loves us exactly as much as he loves his Son (John 17:23, 26).

As with David, God has spoken in his sanctuary, and we need to hear his word and believe it: “Whatever harm the Enemy wants to cause you, I will give you the victory!” #BibleJournaling #HeReadsTruthBible #CSB

“Desiring God more than what he gives us”: meditation on Genesis 40:21

September 19, 2019

Genesis 40:14, 21: But when all goes well for you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison… Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

When the chief cupbearer, for whom Joseph successfully interpreted a dream, is restored to his royal position, he “did not remember Joseph.” This is precisely the same as saying, “He did not remember God,” since Joseph told him in v. 8 that “interpretations belong to”—therefore originate from—God. Why doesn’t the cupbearer, upon seeing how God blessed him fall on his knees in praise and thanksgiving? Why had he forgotten the One from whom this particular blessing had flowed?

The same reason we often do.

In fact, the cupbearer’s example goes to show the grave spiritual danger that prosperity poses for us. At the first sign of success, we forget God. We forget our dependence upon God. In so many words, our prayers amount to asking God to enable our idolatry: “God, I need you to solve this problem more than I need you. My idol, which is currently being threatened by this problem, is more important to me than you are.”

Dear Lord, give us the grace to desire you more than anything you can give us. Amen. #BibleJournaling #HeReadsTruthBible #ChristianStandardBible #CSB

“The good I do is God doing through me”: meditation on Genesis 39:3-4a

September 16, 2019

 

Genesis 39:3-4a: When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor with his master and became his personal attendant.

The psalmist in 104:21 writes, “The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” Allow me to be indignant on behalf of “young lions” everywhere. After all, God isn’t exactly placing the antelope in the lion’s mouth! The lion has to find its prey, chase it down, and catch it. At the same time, the psalm insists, God is feeding the lion.

Say what you will about lions; they don’t need Xanax. Come to think of it, my majestic house cat, Peanut, isn’t exactly sweating his next meal, either. He seeks his food from God—by way of my family and Purina.

Nevertheless, if it’s true for lions and house cats, it’s true for us who are God’s children through faith in Christ. Joseph, as today’s scripture makes clear, prospered because of God. And so do we. While we often fail to perceive God’s hand, it is on everything that we do. So much so that when we succeed, we can say, “God has done this. God has given me this”—however much it wounds my pride to say it. I’d much rather say, “Look what I’ve accomplished.”

“For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Here’s a seemingly paradoxical biblical truth, which, if I could only apply it to my life, would save me a lot of anxiety: All the good I do is God doing through me. Thank you, Jesus! #BibleJournaling #ChristianStandardBible #HeReadsTruthBible

“Choosing the ‘better portion'”: meditation on Luke 10:41-42

August 26, 2019

Luke 10:41-42: But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

Contrary to popular preaching, I don’t believe Mary and Martha represent two different personality types: Martha, the driven, results-oriented extrovert—a Type A; Mary, the quiet, contemplative introvert—a Type B. “Marys” are idealistic, if naive. “Marthas” are practical, if brusque. Both are good and necessary for a church.

No, I believe they represent two different kinds of disciples: those who are faithful to Jesus and those who aren’t.

So I’m mostly a “Martha.” How about you?

But notice Jesus’ words in v. 42: Mary’s choice to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to his word represents the “one thing necessary,” the “better portion” (a footnote in the CSB: “the right meal”). These words remind me of Jesus’ telling his startled disciples in John 4 that he has “food to eat that you do not know about”—because his “food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:32, 34).

Give me this food, Lord Jesus! Or enable me to acquire the taste for the food you’re already giving me (Psalm 34:8). If only you’ll satisfy my heart’s deepest longings (Psalm 37:4), I can live on peanut butter sandwiches. #ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“God would be unjust to revoke my forgiveness”: meditation on Psalm 94:1-2

August 19, 2019

Psalm 94:1-2: “O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!”

When I read this stern appeal to God’s justice I’m tempted to feel one of two things: fear or doubt. First, I’m tempted to feel afraid: O Lord, if you’re avenging, judging, and “repaying the proud,” who am I that you would make an exception in my case? After all, is anyone as proud as I am? But if I’m not afraid, should I then doubt God’s Word? After all, the Bible seems to teach that God’s commitment to justice is absolute—that it’s part of his nature, that for God to deny justice is to deny himself.

So… can the Bible be trusted?

But here’s where the cross of Christ comes in: It reveals both God’s perfect love (Romans 5:8) and his perfect justice (Romans 3:26). In other words, on the cross, God did not choose love over justice; rather, the cross vindicates justice. The penalty for all my sins—past, present, and future—was paid (Colossians 2:13-14). My sins are “forgiven and forgotten” (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

So this startling good news follows: God is just when he forgives me! Indeed, it would now be unjust for God to revoke his forgiveness and find me guilty—or else he would punish my sins twice.

Why have I never considered this before? Am I only just now understanding the objective substitutionary atonement that I’ve professed to believe for years? 🤷‍♂️

Better late than never! #ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling