Studying Zechariah & John

I just finished a study of the Old Testament book of Zechariah. While the book contains many levels of prophetic complexity, every chapter contains a handful of verses that stand out with a beautiful simplicity. If you have the opportunity, choose the book of Zechariah for a read-through. Highlight and meditate upon a handful of verses that stand-out to you in each chapter.

This week, having finished one book, I started a study in the New Testament book of John. A few days into it, I am still reading and re-reading the very first verse:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

~ John 1:1

At the rate that I am advancing in my word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase studies of the book of John, I figure I will complete the 21 chapters by Christmas time in the year 2032. I’ll be 67 years old.

Thankfully, when we study the scriptures our goal is not volume and speed. Instead, our goal is depth and quality of study that inspires transformation and a drawing near to The Lord, our God.

Please feel free to post a comment, letting us know what you are studying and how it is going for you. In so doing,“Let us encourage one another…”

God’s Message to America

For many years I have held close to my heart and mentioned accordingly in my prayers for our nation this message from Paul’s letter to the church of the Galatians.  I believe it also serves as a message from our Heavenly Father to our nation.  If we will heed His message, our nation will not go they way of history’s previous world powers which have dissolved in a sea of sin and loveless relationships.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

~ Galatians 5:13-15

Circumstance and Character

God cares very much about our circumstances, especially when our circumstances involve suffering.  But there is something that He cares about even more than our circumstances: its our character and its development.  Our circumstances will pass away sooner or later either by miracle or by our rapture, but our character is developed with eternity in view.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

( 1 Peter 1:6-9 )

In this passage our “faith” refers to our entire belief system concerning God, our belief in His existence, our belief in His goodness, our trust in His forgiveness, etc.  These are all tied to our character development in the course of our life’s relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Our faith in God is proven genuine as we walk through life’s circumstances with Him according to His character example.  No, we are not perfect, but even in our imperfection our faith is developed and proven to be genuine as we walk in agreement with His will and His ways to the best of our current abilities with which He has graced us.

Regardless of your circumstances today, God cares incredibly about you and what you are experiencing.  However, let’s remember that He cares even more about your character development wherein your faith is established and proven to be genuine, a genuineness that is then carried into eternity where the line is drawn and the remaining circumstances are left behind.

Our joy is not just in the change of difficult circumstances, but is more so drawn from the knowledge that as our character and faith develop into a genuine and functional condition and we are receiving “the salvation of [our] souls.”

#PastorsTip

A Loving Desperation for God

When is the right time to become desperate for more–for all–of God?  While it certainly is the right time to seek Him with absolute diligence when we face a trial of enormous potential consequence (cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, etc.), the most critical time for becoming desperate for God–for all of God–is when we do not feel like it.

When we have become numb to the things of His Spirit and His Word, this is the most critical moment that requires a self-awakening and a self-discipline to stir up the fire within us before it goes out completely under the burdens of life.

The Psalmist describes for us a beautiful picture of being desperate for God:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?”

( Psalm 42:1b-2 )

Picture with the Psalmist a deer that has spent its day in the heat and maybe even has run from a predator at one point, and nearing the end of the day it is more than ready for a deep drink of refreshing, cool, life-sustaining and life-restoring water from any of the number of brooks or streams available in its territory.  Imagine the joy and the refreshment that the deer enjoys even as it approaches a water source, smelling the aroma of the fresh water even while still a mile away.  Its anticipation begins to refresh it even before the first drink is taken in.

Our lives have their own challenges and predators.  Sometimes we become so engaged in the battles of life that we forget to drink and hydrate our lives frequently throughout the day with the living streams of God.  Without a steady inflow of the waters of His life our lives become parched, thirsty, and eventually even numb to the thirst that our souls so desperately need to have quenched.

In the second verse the Psalmist asks himself when will he “appear before God.”  This reference includes the idea of appearing before God’s Face, a face-to-face meeting which brings to mind the kind of relationship that Moses had with God.  Moses would meet with God face-to-face (so to speak) as a friend meets with a friend.  Their relationship was very special.  This is the kind of relational encounter the Psalmist is asking himself about, when will he drink deep of the waters of God and present himself before God with a loving desperation to know Him more, and for God to know him more in a relational way?

The bottom line is this: out of our love for God, let us all cultivate a loving desperation for God, not only a desperation to know about Him, but to know Him personally.  Through the Cross of Christ we may approach our Heavenly Father with utmost confidence (Hebrews 4:15-16).  As you anticipate approaching Him in the minutes or hours to come, can’t you already smell the aroma of the fresh streams of God’s living water that flows from His Presence?  Like the deer anticipating its water, let us anticipate our time of face-to-face with God.

See you at the altar, my friends.

#PastorsTip