May 9, 2011 — Psalms Begins!

Today you should read: Psalm 1

We’re so excited about starting the book of Psalms today! This new book will take us on a devotional journey through the summer. I truly believe that “There is a Psalm for every sigh of the heart” (Donald Whitney), thus, this book is ideal for us to go through as a church.

When we’re up, it rejoices with us.
When we’re down, it comforts and empathizes.
When we’re confused, it looks to the only wise God for help.

No matter where you are right now in your Christian faith, this journey will bless your soul.

As we kick off, here are two great introductions to the book of Psalms, one from the NLT Study Bible and the other from the ESV Study Bible. These really set a great trajectory for what we’ll be diving into:

“The Lord Jesus and the apostles loved the book of Psalms and quoted from it; beyond that, they lived out of it. These ancient prayers and praises of Israel are also God’s inspired word. The psalms provide a bridge to cross between the Old and New Testaments, and the themes addressed in the psalms find further development in the NT. Jesus connects with the dynasty of David in its mission, its disappointments, and its failures. Where David’s dynasty has failed, Jesus gives hope. His sinlessness, his identification with the suffering of the members of David’s dynasty, his perfect obedience, and his exaltation open up new perspectives on the many questions raised in the Psalter. Yet we are still living by faith; the hope of the book of Psalms, that God’s people will completely fulfill his purposes and that all nations will submit to the Messiah, still remains for the future (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-27).” — NLT Study Bible

The ESV’s introduction ties specifically to what we’re looking at today: Psalm 1. Check it out:

“The first psalm serves as the gateway into the entire book of Psalms, stressing that those who would worship God genuinely must embrace his Law (or Torah), i.e., his covenant instruction. This psalm takes topics found in wisdom literature such as Proverbs and makes them the subject of song; the purpose is that those who sing the psalm will own its values—namely, they will want more and more to be people who love the Torah, who believe it, who see themselves as the heirs and stewards of its story of redemption and hope, and who seek to carry out its moral requirements. They can delight in the idea of being among the “righteous,” feeling that nothing can compare with such blessedness. By its sustained contrast, the psalm reminds readers that in the end there are really only two ways to live .” — ESV Study Bible

That final sentence says it all… there are really only two ways to live. That is the crux of the first Psalm, and essentially, the Bible. There is either hope in God through Christ, or there is the wicked path that leads to destruction. This Psalm must have been on Jesus’ mind when He compared the narrow gate and the wide gate.

Today, I want to pose a series of questions to make us all evaluate our current spiritual state:
1) Have you been following the advice of the wicked in your daily affairs?
2) Have you stood among sinners/joined with mockers lately?
3) Have you been delighting in God’s word? Or is your time with Him sporadic at best?
4) Are you trusting in the path that the Lord has laid out for you?
5) Are you bearing fruit and prospering in Christ?
6) Have you ever truly come into a relationship with Christ? Why not now?

If you’d be so bold, feel free to answer any of these in the comment section below. May the Lord bless you richly today.

Posted by: Todd Thomas


May 8, 2011 — Special Post On Joshua

Throughout our reading of Joshua, the question that I have been asked over and over is how could God order the killing of whole cities? What about the innocent women and children that had no choice about the sins that were being committed? How could God be a God of love and order such an act?

This is a difficult and “age-old” question. Many scholars – much brighter than me – have attempted to answer it. Here goes…

First you never doubt in the dark what you know in the light. Here’s what we KNOW about God and His character:

• God is perfect. He never has sinned. He cannot sin.

As for God, His way is perfect; 
The word of the Lord is proven; 
He is a shield to all who trust in Him. Psalm 18:30

• God exudes love completely. No one has ever loved like God loves. It’s His heart for people.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:7-10

• God is also perfectly just. He’s the standard for right and wrong. He is our moral compass.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5

• God’s justice cannot tolerate sin. That’s why the cross was so ugly: God poured out His wrath on His Son bearing our sin.

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, 
nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. 
Because of your sins, he has turned away 
and will not listen anymore. Isaiah 59:1-2

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

OK, now if we know those things about God… why the killing? Again, this isn’t easy to explain, but here are the reasons:

1) The people inhabiting those lands were wicked and unrepentant. They were so wicked that they were burning their own children to gods. We don’t know about God’s attempt to reach them and the their rejection of Him – but we know from the Bible that God is evident in creation and all men are responsible for their actions before Him. (Romans 1:20)

2) The only way was to eliminate them and start over. There is history of this with the flood in Genesis 6 and Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. It was God’s decision that the only way was to destroy them and start over. We must trust God in this.

What about the “innocent” women and children?

1) First, we don’t know how innocent they really were. They may have (and probably did) participated in the evil practices of their fathers and husbands.
2) Their sins were passed from generation to generation and the only way to eliminate it was destroy them. They were taught by their fathers to do these wicked things – much like some today who are taught that “hate crimes” will make them holy.
3) We must remember, that although it doesn’t seem fair, our children pay for our sin. It’s a fact of life. You can see this evidenced in abuse, addictions, even atheism today.
4) Lastly, why are we blaming God? We always seem to default to that. The blame should lie on the sinners, not the righteous God whose standard was clear and heart was pure.

I hope these observations make sense. My prayer is that when you can’t trace God’s hand – or fully understand His Ways – that you will trust His heart!

Posted by: Tim Parsons

May 7, 2011

Today you should read: Joshua 24

Grace motivates us to obey…now finish well!!

Wow! Could this chapter possibly show any more of God’s glory?!?! It is packed! It is a testimony to God’s sovereignty and His power, to His faithfulness and His strength!

This chapter begins with a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness towards Israel from the time of Abraham to the present success of Joshua and the Israelites. We are reminded of all He has done up to this point.

Then we see Joshua’s last official act as the Lord’s servant and mediator: the renewal of the covenant and the appeal for the Israelites to serve the Lord for their entire lives.

Today’s “Walk-Away”:

From verse one to verse thirteen, Joshua testifies to all that the Lord has done. He remembers all that the Lord has conquered, and he describes all of the gracious gifts that God has given to Israel, including victory, freedom, and possession…none of which the Israelites earned on their own. They were gracious gifts. And after this impressive testimony comes perhaps the most important word in this chapter. Beginning in verse fourteen it says… “Now” (in light of all God has done, in light of all God has given and of His gracious acts) “Obey”. Joshua then proceeds by appealing to Israel to put away their gods and to yield their hearts to the Lord.

Titus 2:11-12 tells us that the grace of God teaches us to say “no” to all ungodliness, and this is exactly what we see in Joshua 24. In light of God’s underserved acts, Israel is motivated to obey the Lord.

So how about you? Think back to all the Lord has done. Think about His grace shown to you throughout your life. Think about His patience with your “slow-to-learn” heart. Think about the undeserved blessings He has poured out on you. Think about His ultimate act of grace in sending His only Son to suffer and die for you in order to redeem you and save you from eternal torment. He has indeed been gracious. NOW, in light of that, obey the Lord. Grace should motivate us to want to live for Him. It should captivate our hearts with His unconditional love and lovingly inspire us to want to live for Him and with Him. Is His grace motivating you to obey? It is the only thing that will!

You have a chance today to start over. God has been gracious and patient in your pursuit of other things; now turn back to Him. He is waiting. You see, Joshua sets a strong example for us to finish well. Finishing well is more important than starting well. You still have a chance to finish well – it’s not over. All hope is not lost. Why? Because God is gracious and He is ready to graciously pick you back up so that you can finish well.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione

May 6, 2011

Today you should read: Joshua 23

This is an awesome passage. It is full of lessons to learn and words of wisdom. Joshua is about to die and he is giving his farewell, last hoorah speech. It is so amazing what he says first. He reminds them of what God has done and where they are because of it. Then he says something absolutely profound in verse 6: he repeats exactly what God told him. He tells the people to be “very strong” and to obey the Law of Moses “without turning to the right or to the left.” This is a great principle to live by.

When God tells us something, we should live by it and never forget it. Joshua was told two things by God when he first stepped into Moses’ shoes of leadership: “be strong and don’t stray from My words.” He never forgot it and now, as an old man ready to pass on, he gives this same call to all of Israel.

Joshua reminds the Israelites that God has driven out the people from the land. So many times in our lives we don’t give God His credit. We, proud as we are, feel that we make accomplishments happen on our own. We do or say something, get an award or promotion, and we take the credit for ourselves. God gives us all we have. We cannot forget who really deserves all the praise and glory for everything that happens in our lives.

Joshua then gives the Israelites a grave warning. He tells them that they can see for themselves that God has not failed to do all that He promised for them. Everything God said He would do, He did. Joshua also reminds them that God said other things would happen if they turned from Him and worshipped the false gods of the land. We will see later that they did not believe this would happen because they quickly fell into idol worship. God is always true to what He says, good or bad, blessing or curse. We can thank the Lord that He is always faithful to fulfill His promises.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd