Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

As I write this it is Memorial Day, a day to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Let’s look at a few passages of Scripture that give us God’s perspective on valuing other so highly that saving one’s own life is secondary.

John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

Things to think about:
·      On Memorial Day we take time to recall their selflessness, service, and sacrifice
o   Putting others before ourselves
o   Taking action
o   Stopping at nothing to fulfill one’s calling
o   Why do we find these qualities so admirable?
·      Is there someone in your family or close circle who didn’t come home from military service?
o   If so, is there a tradition or something you do to honor his/her memory?
·      The Bible tells us of several souls who gave their lives for their faith
o   Stephen, James the brother of John, John the Baptist, and of course, Jesus
o   I’m not sure about James but the record is clear with the other three that they gave their lives willingly, knowing full well what was going to happen
o   Tradition holds that all of the apostles except for John died a martyr’s death
·      In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends.”
o   Jesus calls us His friends here!
·      1 John 3:16 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
o   The very definition of love from the Word of God is laying down one’s life for the good of others.
§  That is such an amazing truth that it is beyond my comprehension.
o   God doesn’t ask us to do anything He hasn’t already done for us to the highest degree.
§  How does Jesus’ model motivate you?
o   In our modern world, how might laying down your life take shape?
·      Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
o   Jesus was very intentional about His life’s purpose
o   If you could make one change that allowed you to serve others more fully, what might that look like?

Down but not Out

Are you going through a particularly tough time right now?  Do you feel like God is far away and not seeing what’s happening in your life?  Maybe then you can relate to how the psalmist is feeling in Psalm 42.  He brings a raw emotional honesty to God that should encourage us to not be afraid to go to God with our hurts. There’s no hint of macho pride or denial.  And yet we will see that he looks beyond his present condition to find comfort and hope.

Psalm 42:5
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him,
My Savior and my God.

Things to think about:
·      The psalmist alternates between looking at his circumstances and looking to God
·      Present, Past, Future
·      Present
o   The psalmist is hurting and he’s honest with God about how he’s really feeling right now
§  Verses 5, 6, 11 – my soul is downcast
§  Why have you forgotten me?
§  All you waves and breakers have swept over me
§  My tears have been my food day and night
o   Are you in a place now where you can empathize with the psalmist’s feelings?
§  If not now, can you recall a previous time?
o   Have you or someone close to you been through depression?
§  It’s important to get those feelings out and dealt with!
§  God is big enough to shoulder our disappointments and even our blame
·      Past
o   Verse 4 – these things I remember as I pour out my soul, how I used to go out to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng
o   The psalmist finds solace in looking back to happier times
o   What event or period of time is anchored in your memory as a memorial to God’s goodness and faithfulness?
·      Future
o   Verses 5, 11 – For I will yet praise Him
o   Above all, we have a faith rooted in HOPE.  Whatever is going on today isn’t the end of the story.
§  A dead man on a cross isn’t the end of the story, neither is His tomb with a boulder placed in front of it
o   Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful.
o   How does being able to look to a bright future help you work through the dark times?
o   How can we encourage others who are struggling right now?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Finding the Gospel in Psalm 18

One of my favorite expressions is “we tend to find what we’re looking for.”  One of the places that is especially true is finding Jesus woven all through the Old Testament.  Today’s study is about finding the gospel nestled neatly inside Psalm 18.  I’m in awe of the step-by-step parallelism of the verses in the psalm and how they perfectly reflect the truth of the gospel.

Psalm 18:19
“…He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

Things to think about:
·      David is singing, praising, celebrating his rescue by God from Saul
o   Psalm 18:3 – I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
o   In it we find really strong parallels to the gospel
·      David was victorious over his enemy, not because of his superior merit but because of God’s mercy, power, and love.
o   This story isn’t just for David but for you and me too.
·      Psalm 18:5 – “The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.”
o   And that’s just the condition each of faces without the saving grace of Jesus.
o   Ephesians 2:1-2 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world…”
o   Before you accepted Christ, do you have a recollection of the desperateness of your situation?
·      Psalm 18:5 – “In my distress I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.”
o   Romans 10:13 – “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
o   Where were you when you first called out to Him for help?
o   Did you have the feeling that He heard you?
o   If you aren’t sure if you’ve ever done this TODAY is an excellent day to do this.
·      Psalm 18:7 – “The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the mountains shook;”
o   Matthew 27:51b – “…The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open.”
o   At the very moment Jesus died, the literal foundations of the earth trembled and shook!
·      Psalm 18:9 – “He parted the heavens and came down.”
o   Matthew 27:51a – “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
o   The visual representation of the separation of man from God because of sin was dramatically and permanently torn.
·      Psalm 18:11 – “He made darkness His covering.”
o   Mark 15:33 – “At noon, darkness came over the whole land”
·      Psalm 18:16 – “He reached down from on high and took hold of me.”
o   Phil.3:12 – I press on to take hold off that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
·      Psalm 18:17 – “He rescued me from my powerful enemy…”
o   1 Cor.15:26, 54-55 – “The last enemy to be destroyed is Death.” “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is thy victory, where O death is thy sting?”
§  1 Cor. 15:57 – “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
o   The greatest fear the enemy has to threaten us with has been defeated.  Let’s meditate on that when we’re inclined to worry.
·      Psalm 18:19 – “He brought me out into a spacious place, He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
o   John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
o   God has prepared a place for us that is wonderful infinitely beyond our ability to comprehend it.
·      And God’s love and grace don’t stop with our salvation, they are just getting started!
·      Today, whatever is confronting you, remember that God is present, caring, capable, and active.  He will see you through to victory. Amen and amen!