bible study

Born Again: Trouble (Psalm 102)

Welcome to Week 2 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Psalm 102 has to say about “Trouble.”

Read Psalm 102

When someone is suffering, a typical recommendation is to read the Psalms. While this is an excellent idea that I completely endorse, we first have to realize that most Psalms are separated into two parts.

The primary reason we tend to recommend the Psalms in times of trouble is the “hopeful” sections. It’s great to be able to read how others before us have also suffered and endured pain like our own. However, without the hopeful conclusion at the end of many Psalms, all we are left with are groups of people sharing pain together, which is not that encouraging.

As I read Psalm 102, I wish I knew more about the anonymous psalmist, the “afflicted person” who is struggling and in despair. Why? What happened? What brought this man down to such depths that he feared the absence of God more than anything else?

While this question captivates my attention, yet more astonishing is the eventual turnaround in his spirit. The final two-thirds of the Psalm are nothing but praise for God. Not only that, but this writer is so confident in his hope of a new world with people who will worship and commune with God in new and wonderful ways.

This man didn’t have the Psalms!  Nor did he have the encouraging words of the apostles, and even more, he didn’t have Jesus and the Gospels!  Yet, he believed with his entire being in “the Gospel,” the “the good news.”

Psalm 102 is the prayer of a person in trouble, without a solution or happy ending, without the rich fulfillment of prophecy that would come in the ensuing centuries. Yet we, with our plethora of Bibles and Bible resources, tend to so easily let ourselves be overcome with despair and trouble to the extent that the mere mention of hope in a better future gets our eyes rolling. Many hallmarks emerge from a born again spirit and, while all are important, none amount to much without joy and hope. How often are Bible studies, church services or prayers marked with somber silence and not joyful laughter? Do we run into the future that God has prepared for us with feet like the deer? Do we fly into the unknowable future with wings like eagles?

Whether we do or do not, this man apparently did. And he managed this without the foretaste of the Kingdom of God delivered in full by the Son himself.

As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, the process of discipleship starts with suffering, but always ends in hope. And hope never disappoints. Hope brought this man out of the darkness. A person born again by the Spirit has taken hold of the Son and his Gospel never to let go.  Troubles only have the ability to control our lives if we ignore the One who offers us a way out.  Living without the joy of salvation and the hope of heaven leaves us futilely wrestling with our troubles.  When we are born again, we know that trouble will come, but will never be a match for the hope we have found in Jesus.

ASK: Proverbs 8

Wisdom

source

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Proverbs 8

Why do good people do bad things?  Why do intelligent people do foolish things?  Why is there a desire in our heart to shun wisdom for the sake of personal pride and ambition?

The truth is, they do and we do.

The heart of man is under a powerful delusion that nothing is more important than the self and the world.  From within this delusion it is not only difficult to pursue wisdom for wisdom’s sake, but we often view wisdom as the antagonist in our own stories.  We don’t like to be told what we need to do.  Even though we might quietly agree that the wise advice is good, for the sake of our pride we will pursue a path of potential destruction just so that we can ultimately discover and validate the advice on our own.

Ironically, even while we shun wisdom we lash out in anger that wisdom seems so far away when we need it.  We cry out, “Where is wisdom?”  We proclaim, “If only I had known.”  In doing this on a regular basis we come to the root of the issue at hand.  The heart.

Until we are willing to investigate thoroughly the shortcomings of our hearts, we will be trapped between self-sabotaging ego one day and hopeless vulnerability the next.  Until we realize that we are not simply lost, but that left to our own desire we will seek division and not peace, hatred not love, and death not life, we will continue down a path of a self-imposed delusion from which God pleads for us to break.

In Jesus Christ we have the embodiment of God’s character, word and wisdom.  We are, inevitably, offended by his words, because they are rooted in the reality that he is King and we are not.  However, only by accepting his authority will we discover that not only do we desperately need his wisdom, but also that his wisdom is for our benefit, personally and collectively.  His words judge, but do not condemn.  The wisdom of God in Jesus Christ identifies the disease in our heart, and offers the cure.  Why do we shun his words?  Why do you?

ASK: 2 Samuel 7

Offering2122x1415

source

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

READ 2 SAMUEL 7

The glorification of self is so strong within us that arriving at a place where we can simply worship and glorify God without considering ourselves is perceived as the place in which we have finally arrived. The fight against sin is so intense that to finally be at peace and find joy giving to the Lord more than receiving is often celebrated and in many cases should be. But it is possible to find joy in giving without finding joy in God.

With so much focus placed on worship, we often overlook the danger of it. With sin ever present in our hearts, regardless of our transformation, we are all one step away from committing our lives to yet another idol other than God Himself. This idol can often appear in the form of worship. Although it seems contradictory to be giving our everything to God while simultaneously holding back what he truly desires, this is a common trajectory of the human heart if it is not checked, reset and rechecked by the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus.

Becoming transformed in the image of Jesus will naturally produce a more selfless and generous heart toward God, however, we must never forget His deepest desire. We must never forget that glorifying God in this world must not be rooted in the things of this world. What good is a cathedral that radiates the glory of God in its architectural and artistic magnificence, that will ultimately collapse over time, yet lacks the gospel of Jesus in the lives of its congregants, who are designed for eternity?

While God is worthy of all the splendor of this world we must never forget that as His children from the beginning, he simply desires our homecoming, made possible through faith in His son Jesus. Nothing else. A large financial offering might result from a life transformed by Jesus Christ, but a large financial offering is not the sign of a life transformed by Jesus Christ.

Our greatest offering to God is to desire His vision to see beyond this world, and to desire His heart to be undeterred by the temptations of it. The strength of our offering is measured by our understanding of His strength, not our own. Once we understand His role in our lives and begin to fathom the depth of the Gospel of Jesus, daily committing to His will becomes an offering of more worth than gold. We become the offering, and in this way, we become the delight of the Father and the splendor of his eternal glory.

ASK: Ecclesiastes 4

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Ecclesiastes 4 here.

“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we live in a way that isolates us?  Why do we live in a way that causes division?  Why do we live in a way that serves ourselves, all the while fostering the suffering and oppression of others?

From the beginning, the lie of Satan– that we were created not to submit to God but to escape his oppressive presence and in turn be gods unto ourselves– has successfully deprived people of the enjoyment they were created to have, and led them into a life of oppression, toil and friendlessness.  In the position of God we assume the roles of creator and judge.  From this lofty and isolated throne we cast out judgment that only we can meet and create a world grounded in the criticism of what others do and the envy of what they have that we do not.  As God and therefore, Creator, we are left to our own power and will to create for ourselves “joy.”  The lie is that we can.  The truth is that, as a result of sin, our hearts are created to be fulfilled by God alone, and are hopelessly weak and depleted when fed by anything but him.

One goal is achieved and another, slightly higher, appears.  One good day is overshadowed by the new day, which presents the same (or even more) obstacles than the last, poised to thwart yesterday’s satisfaction.  But the persistent, relentless push of this lie convinces us that joy can be be attained, that the problem does not rest in the self but in the distraction of others and that their presence interferes with our attainment of true happiness.

When we take this place of counterfeit deity, the true nature of God is entirely beyond our reach.  The triune God of creation has always known fellowship. He can profess being in His very nature, love.  As creations made in His image, we were created, not only for fellowship with our creator, but also with one another through the love of the Father.  This fellowship is where “joy” is found, the joy that God has always desired for us.  This joy neither feeds the self, nor divides the whole.  This joy does not create toil, oppression or friendlessness, as the lie of Satan ultimately will.  This joy found in the Father and in the gospel of Jesus Christ promises peace, freedom and love.  We, as humans, have never demonstrated that we can hold the place of God.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

ASK: Joshua 3

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Joshua 3 here.

Faith in Jesus that requires physical miracles as a condition of belief is neither scriptural nor sustainable.  If we overlook the miracle of a life truly transformed by the word of God, and fix our eyes on whether or not a person’s physical obstacles are either cured or not, we overlook the Gospel of Jesus, and we limit faith in Jesus to the physical world where regardless of a miraculous healing, sin continues to reign and condemn.

However, faith in Jesus that does not take the miraculous promises of the Gospel seriously is just as unscriptural and unsustainable.  Faith in Jesus without experience of a miraculous transformation has not submitted to the authority of Jesus as Lord.  To believe in Jesus is to acknowledge the miraculous.  Belief in Jesus alongside unbelief in miracles is impossible.

While our faith should not be built entirely on miracles, miracles do build our faith.  Blind faith has never seen.  And to see in the Gospel of Jesus is to acknowledge something beyond belief and reasonable explanation yet undoubtedly real.  Faith that has witnessed these things inevitably develops, in a reality where the impossible has in fact become possible through Jesus Christ.

As Christians, how much to we believe that the miraculous is still present in our world?  Do we believe that the supernatural is locked within the pages of the Bible? Do we believe that the supernatural life of the disciples is not one for us to inherit, but exists merely to inspire us?  From such positions of uncertainty and doubt it is no surprise that the Christian Church is often viewed as worldly and weak.  If we doubt the miraculous, we prevent ourselves from asking for the miraculous, andprevent the miraculous from entering this world.

Miracles are not to entertain us but to achieve certain objectives: to increase our faith in Jesus, our awareness of God’s holiness, awareness of our own sin, and ultimately to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth.  While it can be tempting to hear a message about miracles in the present age and immediately pray for a physical miracle, the miraculous cannot exist without the recognition of sin.  The petition for miracles without the confession and consecration of a heart reveals a dangerous misunderstanding of miracles.  The most important miracle was Jesus, and Jesus came to address and pay the debt of our sin.  Therefore, to ask for a miracle without acknowledging the authority and sacrifice of Jesus is a dangerous misunderstanding of miracles.

Miracles do and will occur.  However, a heart that prays for miracles but does not desire the forgiveness of Jesus, does not praise Jesus for his sacrifice, is a heart that does not seek the will of a Holy God, but is still imprisoned by the temptations of a sinful world.

Christians should pray for the miraculous with confident belief in the impossible becoming possible.  However, we must guard our hearts against the temptation to separate Jesus’ death from His miracles, creating a chasm between his will and our own which could ultimately separate us from His presence entirely.

ASK: Isaiah 56

This update is from this week’s meeting of ASK Daegu, with a reading from Isaiah 56. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us. 

Chosen. Blessed. Favored. Children. Called. Saved. These words possess the potential of being a blessing or a curse to the world in the hands of sinful man. While a place in the presence of God is defined by such terms, claiming those terms without understanding their context or purpose makes them a weapon of condemnation both for the speaker and the listener. In the hands of religion and not the Gospel of Jesus, these terms establish boundaries and divisions, separating people between the “ins” and the “outs.” Or in other words, the “citizens of God” and the “foreigners to God,” implying that God’s presence is limited to only those who claim, in word alone, to know Him.

Are Christians chosen? Yes. However, that word chosen must find its way back to Genesis 1:26 when God “chose” to created mankind in His very image. Therefore, to reduce the meaning of “chosen” to Christians in your vicinity, church or part of the world is to completely deny the will and purpose of God to bring ALL people of ALL nations back into his presence.

Are Christians blessed? Yes. However, the nature of being blessed must never be confined to the material world. Blessings from God can certainly take on a material nature, however, the blessedness of a Christian is most powerfully found in the nature of being “chosen.” Being blessed as a Christian is not expressed merely in “Christian” terms. Our blessedness was forged in the dust of Genesis, where without God we had no life. However, our blessedness is made complete in the coming of Jesus Christ and his willingness to offer us life once again where we had none. More than any material gift or physical blessing, the blessed nature of life is the truest and most universal gift of God.

Are Christians favored? Yes. Following God undoubtedly produces an increase of his presence and therefore a “favored” existence. However, being favored has nothing to do with success, status, safety, security or honor in the eyes of the world. The favored nature of a Christian is simply the truth that God’s eye is on you, and is content in your reliance and love for him. Being favored is only true if it first arises from a nature of humility to know that we receive God’s favor and have not earned or deserved it.

Are Christians children? Yes. However, not privileged children. We are his children as much as our neighbor that professes no faith in Jesus. It is our responsibility to shun our sinful desires to offer that person anything but Jesus, who illuminates the fact that they are also loved, blessed, favored and a child of God that is being called back into their father’s presence to live and have life.

Are Christians called? Yes. Christians are most certainly called. However, we are called to follow Jesus. And following Jesus always means having an eye and a heart for those that have not yet understood the love of God. We are called not to control or to impose our will. We are called to sacrifice control of our own lives and release God’s will to heal and save those in this world.

Are Christians saved? Yes. Christians are saved, but only in our willingness to admit that were it not for Christ’s love, life and death, we would be without hope and without life as God designed us to have. Being saved is not that we put ourselves in a place where God could finish our work and ultimately save us. Being saved is knowing that in the moment of certain death, the hand of God intervened and offered life where there was none. Therefore, being saved is the grace given to a foreigner who knows that, in defiance of logic and beyond rational explanation, he is now admitted with complete access to a life and kingdom that he does not deserve and has not earned. Therefore, we must see that all Christians were foreigners at heart in order to understand the saving grace now offered to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A.S.K. (Ask, Seek, Knock)

After five years of Bible studies covering the entire city of Daegu, South Korea, Mobile Word Ministry is excited and proud to share the gift of the “A.S.K”(Ask, Seek, Knock) Program. The first A.S.K. group will take place this coming Saturday, January 17th. A.S.K. is a gift that God has slowly been revealing over the past few years to us as our Bible studies in Daegu have developed to become more effective tools in teaching the Gospel of Jesus to all people. We will post a recap of each A.S.K. meeting here on the blog.

 

If anyone desires to start their own A.S.K. group, please contact us and let us know about your plan so we can pray for you and share our experience with the program. Also, for those interested in starting their own A.S.K. group, the weekly guide and the leader guide are available for download on our A.S.K. link on this site. God bless all of you as we continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with one another and with those yet to hear it.