Posts Tagged ‘Bible journaling’

“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

“When our feelings betray us”: meditation on Genesis 32:9, 12

August 14, 2019

Genesis 32:9, 12: And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good’… But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'”

Jacob is preparing to meet his brother, Esau, twenty years after Jacob robbed him of both his birthright and his father’s blessing. Esau vowed to murder him back then. Will he still be angry? Jacob assumes the worst. Most of Genesis 32 recounts Jacob’s plan to appease his brother with generous gifts of livestock. “After that,” he thinks, “I can face him, and perhaps he will forgive me” (v. 20).

In the midst of his fear, Jacob prays a prayer in which he reminds God of his promises to protect him, prosper him, and do right by him.

Of course, if God’s promises are true, why is Jacob afraid? Doesn’t he know that he will be invincible—literally un-killable—until God brings him safely home? Even if Esau were still angry (which he isn’t), he would be unable to harm his brother.

But I know why Jacob is afraid in spite of God’s promises—because I know my own heart. In his moment of greatest fear, Jacob’s feelings have betrayed him, as feelings often do. Jacob’s only defense against his feelings—and our only defense—is the word of God: “The Lord who said to me…” “You have said…”

My point is, contrary to that great REO Speedwagon power ballad, we can fight our feelings—at least our feelings of fear, doubt, and despair—with the objective truth of God’s Word.

So let’s start fighting!

“The power is in Jesus’ word, not my faith in that word”: meditation on Luke 5:4-5

August 12, 2019

Luke 5:4-5: And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Everything in Peter’s experience, including fruitless hours of fishing the night before, told him that Jesus’ word would fail. If the fish weren’t biting at night, they wouldn’t be biting in the daylight. Besides, Jesus is no fisherman: he had made his living as a carpenter. “Stay in your lane, Jesus!”

But notice: Peter’s lack of faith doesn’t prevent Jesus from working the miracle.

What a relief—the power is in Jesus’ word, not my faith in that word! In other words, my faith is in Jesus; my faith is not in my faith in Jesus.

Here’s how this helps me: To say the least, I often don’t feel as if I’m a highly favored “son” of God in whom my Father is well pleased; I often don’t feel as if all my sins are forgiven; I often don’t feel as if the Father could love me as much as he loves his only begotten Son Jesus. My experience often tells me that God’s promises can’t be true.

But in what or whom will I trust? My feelings, my experience, my intuitions? Or Jesus?

Given my bent toward self-deception, who’s more likely to be telling the truth—Jesus or me? I choose to believe Jesus.

#ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“The blessing we need versus the blessing we want”: meditation on Genesis 27:41

July 6, 2019

Genesis 27:41: Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

I can relate to Esau’s anger, if not his murderous rage. I am someone for whom the sins of anger and covetousness have been constant and unwelcome traveling companions in my life. Nevertheless, from a Christian point of view, Esau has no reason to feel embittered. By all means, his father, Isaac, has treated him unfairly. But who’s ultimately in charge? Doesn’t Esau’s heavenly Father have the power and will to redeem this wrong?

While our Father doesn’t distribute his earthly blessings evenly, he always gives us precisely the blessings we need in order to find true and lasting happiness—which only comes through a personal relationship with Jesus. If Jesus is what we want, he’ll ensure that Jesus is what we’ll get. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

I don’t get angry because my Father isn’t giving me the blessing I need; I get angry because he isn’t giving me the blessing I want, which someone else possesses. To say the least, that’s my problem; I want the wrong things.

If Jesus is my only treasure (Matthew 13:44-46), I’m already rich. Why covet the earthly treasures of others? #ESVJournalingBible #BibleJournaling

“No man can prevent God from blessing you”: meditation on Genesis 25:23

June 19, 2019

Genesis 25:23And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

The story arc that begins with this verse and continues through chapter 33 describes many unlikely ways in which God blesses and prospers Jacob—often in spite of himself! For instance, according to the ancient law of primogeniture, Esau, Jacob’s firstborn twin brother, should receive the birthright and blessing of his father, Isaac. But God has another plan, which the wily Jacob is more than eager to implement, however unwittingly.

Since God chose Jacob rather than Esau to carry forward his covenant promises through Abraham (see Genesis 12:2-3), why doesn’t God simply enable Jacob to be born first? Wouldn’t that have been far less trouble for everyone involved? Yes, but since when does our Father seem interested in sparing us, his chosen ones, from trouble? Moreover, how often do we look back on this trouble and think, “While I hated it at the time, I now see that it was good for me”?

One of the most harmful sins I commit is comparing myself with others—in my case often fellow ordained clergy, including district superintendents and bishops—and believing that I’m not getting what I need from them. Or, indeed, that they are standing in the way of something I need. Success is a zero sum game, I fear, and there’s only so much of it to go around. (Again, I’m not proud of this; it’s a sin to feel this way!)

To say the least, this scripture says otherwise. If God wants me to have something, he will ensure that I have it. No one and nothing—not the will of man or even powerful institutions—can impede God’s sovereign choices. And because I am in Christ, I can be sure that what God chooses for me will always be in my best interest.

So God is saying to me, through today’s scripture, “Trust me, Brent! Don’t be afraid that I’m giving you anything other than what is best for you at this and every other moment! No one and nothing can stand in the way of the blessing with which I want to bless you. No one and nothing can prevent you from receiving my very best for you!”

“As with rich and fat food”: meditation on Psalm 63:5

June 10, 2019

Psalm 63:5: “My soul will be satisfied, as with rich and fat food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.

It’s not as if David were talking about bare subsistence here: “rich and fat food” is an extravagance. If this kind of feasting is available to me right now, and every day, I would be foolish to turn it down. Seeking God through his Word is not mostly a “discipline,” or at least it shouldn’t be. If “fat and rich food” is being served, and I’m hungry, I shouldn’t need to be “argued into” eating. There’s no competing desire that will need to be suppressed in order to go to the table.

Still, I am a sinner. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Teach me, Lord, to satisfy my deepest cravings on what’s best for me. The good news, according to this scripture, is that “what’s best for me” is also what happens to taste best.