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Psalm 100: Make a Joyful Noise!

By Jacob Mock

This week our Bible reading plan brings us to Psalm 100, which is a brief five verses:

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

I see the beginning of this Psalm as a call to worship. The author is calling the whole earth to make a joyful noise to God! Singing and praising God is something that we as the Church should do every day, not just on Sundays. We have so many reasons to praise and worship the Lord. Take a moment and count your blessings! Think about all that God has done for you. Think of His provision and protection over your life. Think about His goodness. Most importantly, think about the gospel of Jesus Christ! As you think about all these things, allow your thankfulness to overflow as praises to the Lord. Our thankfulness should also overflow as service to God. We are not called to be spectators of God’s work, we are called to participate in it! So let’s serve the Lord and be glad! 

We can be confident that God is exactly who He says He is. He made you and me, and that makes us His! Aren’t you thankful that the God of the universe created you and calls you His own? As you begin your week, don’t forget to spend time thanking God for all He’s done. Psalm 100 reminds us that God truly is good, His love is steadfast, His love endures forever, and He is faithful! Spend some time reflecting on how God has shown you His love, goodness, and faithfulness in your life. And don’t forget to be thankful!

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Psalm 2: Four Voices

By Kenny Grant

The second psalm provides for us a beautiful picture of four speeches and four points of view. In twelve short verses, we are brought into a virtual conversation from which we all would be wise to give ear and learn. 

In verses 1-3 we hear The Voice of the Sinner. We are brought into this dialogue with a question: “Why do the nations rage?” That is, why do they throng tumultuously? Do you hear their voice of rebellion? The voices of those who are allying themselves together against a common enemy. Of course, it is a vain, worthless, or empty thing for them in their planning and plotting against such an enemy as they have. You see they have made The Lord their enemy. They are vainly plotting against Him and His Anointed. Listen to their voices in their unified rebellion. “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.”  This is the voice of the rebel even today. The natural or unsaved man lives in highhanded rebellion against our God, whether he knows it or not. There is absolutely nothing in an unsaved man alone that responds positively to things of God. The scriptures are clear that the natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor. 2:14) Far from welcoming the things of God the sinner rejects God and His morality. The truth is that man wants to be his own God, or at the very least to worship the god of His own choosing, therefore he rebels against the one and only true God who alone desires, deserves, and demands worship.

In verses 4-6 we hear The Voice of the Sovereign. Listen to this voice as the Sovereign Lord of the universe laughs and derides them as they seek to openly defy Him. This is not the laughter of humor, however, but that which comes from contempt. There is nothing funny about this! The sinner’s voice is one of rebellion, but this is the voice of resolve. Listen closely as He speaks to them in His wrath, and as He distresses them in His deep displeasure. His resolve is to “YET” place His King on His holy hill of Zion. Man’s plans and defiance notwithstanding King Jesus will reign from Mt. Zion. Hallelujah!

In verses 7-9 we hear The Voice of the Son. His voice is the voice is of rule. He speaks in total agreement with the Sovereign and simply declares the decree. He states clearly what has been said to Him. “You are my Son; this day have I begotten you”. In Acts 13:33, and in Heb. 5:5 this is associated with Christ’s victorious resurrection and ascension. He, as the risen and glorified Lord, will inherit and rule the nations with a rod of iron as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Now then, in verses 10-12, we hear the last voice in this conversation. It is The Voice of the Spirit. Here His voice of reason. An appeal is being made to the rebellious kings and judges who are vainly seeking to defy Him, as well as to the reader. “Be wise…be instructed. Serve The Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss (do homage to) the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish…” This appeal is a clear and urgent one to any who oppose The Lord and His Anointed Son. The one in whom He has placed all His pleasure. Receive the Son and enjoy the blessings of all those who put their trust in Him.

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How Does One Approach Bethleham?

By Derward Poole

In December 1986, Garth L. Baker considered this question. He said,

“Most people approach it from the north as Mary and Joseph did the first Christmas, for Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem. One could also approach it from the south or from the west or perhaps from the east---as the magi did.

How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Tradition tells us Mary approached it riding on a donkey. Christian Arabs, even today, find camels helpful in approaching the town. For centuries pilgrims approached it on foot. Today, many people approach it riding on a Mercedes-Benz bus.

How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Mary and Joseph approached it slowly for Mary was very pregnant. Pilgrims throughout the ages have approached it cautiously, for local inhabitants have always seen in pilgrims the opportunity to make money.

Once again we ask, ‘How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Each of us needs to answer the question. What approach will you use to approach Bethlehem and celebrate Christmas this year.

Perhaps some of us will emphasize the family approach. Christmas for us is a celebration of family. It feels good to be all together, and coming to church at Christmas maintains an important family tradition.

Although there are several ways to approach Bethlehem, there is really only one correct approach to the celebration of the Lord’s birth. This approach was demonstrated by a nun in the cave in Bethlehem which marks the place where the Lord was born. She quietly walked to the silver star which marks the spot of Jesus’ birth, dropped to her knees, and kissed it as an act of adoration and worship.

Yes, to properly approach Bethlehem and Christmas, we must be willing to humble ourselves at the manger, to forget our pride, and to let the love of God reach down from heaven and touch us.

Scripture tells so beautifully, ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a sSon is given.’ In Jesus, God is saying to each of us, ‘I love you; I forgive you of your sins.’ Because of the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, all believers can join a pilgrimage that will end at the heavenly Jerusalem. For unto us is given salvation freely, fully, completely.

How do you plan to approach Bethlehem this year? How do you plan to celebrate Christmas? We suggest that each of us spend a few minutes on our knees, humbling ourselves before the Lord as the shepherds once did. The Magi, even though they were kings, fell on their knees when they came to Jesus. All of the saints found God more approachable from their knees. A nun, unconcerned about the stares of others, only recognized one thing that she stood at the place where the Son of God supposedly once lay. Therefore, she positioned herself appropriately for worship.

From your knees, spend a portion of this Christmas thanking God for His gracious gift.

From your knees, confess your sins.

From your knees, invite the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit to deepen your faith.

From your knees, celebrate Christmas.”

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Ezekiel 36: It's Not About You!

By Chris Watson

“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!” The words rang out from the football coach as practice was ending one early summer evening. His players conditioned tirelessly to start the football season and at the end of another hot practice, the players were tiring, on the verge of giving up. For too long the boys with greater skill were allowed to coast by, but today, these boys, with this coach, weren’t going to be so lucky. “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, SON!” the coach said again. As the final minutes of practice waned, the coach pulled in his team to teach them a valuable lesson. It’s not about the name on the back of your jersey, but rather the name on the front. The name on the front of the jersey represents who the member of the team plays for. 

In Ezekiel 36, God wants to remind the Israelites that they are in exile because of their conduct and actions. They defiled the holy name of God and as a consequence to their actions they are scattered across the nations. Being scattered throughout the nations, God’s holy name continued to take a hit. God is not going to allow this to happen anymore. However, before He begins to restore Israel back to the land, He has a message for them, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! In verse 22 He says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.” God is doing restorative work to the land and people of Israel. He is doing this so that His name will be glorified. So who’s team are you on? Who do you represent? And what can you do to get out of the way, so that God can make His holy name known among the nations?

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Psalm 134: Praise God at all Times!

By Jacob Mock

Our Bible reading this week brings us to Psalm 134, which is a brief Psalm:

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, 

who stand by night in the house of the Lord! 

Lift up your hands to the holy place 

and bless the Lord! 

May the Lord bless you from Zion, 

he who made heaven and earth!”

As I read over Psalm 134, I’m tempted to look past it without reflecting on the words because of its brevity. How could such a short Psalm be significant? First of all, it’s God’s holy, perfect, precious, inspired, inerrant word! All of it is significant all the time. Second, it’s a Psalm all about singing praises to God.

Praising God is something that we should do every day! Too often we think that giving God praise is something that has to be done inside the church building. Or even if we don’t necessarily believe that, we still only praise Him once or twice a week while we are at church. We can stop any time we want and offer praise to the Lord because of the work that Jesus did on the cross! We don’t have to wait for Sunday to come around to sing His praises. 

Have you stopped and praised Him today?

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John 1-5: Close Encounters

By Kenny Grant

The book of John is an amazing book. Written for the expressed purpose of pointing people to the Lord Jesus so that they might be saved. The key verse of the book is hung near the back door, John 20:30-31, which states: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name”.

The miracles recorded in John were specifically chosen to prove who Jesus was. They offer many insights into the heart of God. 

Of particular interest to me, are the people who cross our paths as we read through this book. Their close encounters with Jesus instruct and encourage us as we seek to live as His disciples today. Those who truly encounter Him, then or now, can truly ever be the same.

In John 1, we see Jesus simply and sublimely introduced to us as the one who is coexistent, coequal, coessential, and coeternal with the Father. We are told of John the Baptist’s close encounter with Him as he sees the Holy Spirit descend and remain upon Him. John’s mission as the forerunner or messenger was drawing to a close as he pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (vv. 29). We are soon in the company of Andrew and John as they leave John the Baptist to follow Jesus (vv. 37). We see Simon Peter’s first encounter with the Christ as he is brought by his brother Andrew (vv. 42). The very next day Jesus Himself marks Philip as a disciple and bid him to simply follow Him (vv. 43). An enthused Philip finds his somewhat skeptical friend Nathaniel and brought him to Christ. The lives of these men would never be the same after each of their close encounters They each set out on life’s greatest adventure of following Christ. 

In chapter 2 we find ourselves as guests at a wedding. But for Jesus, the wedding would have been a disaster, “NO WINE”. We are not introduced to the bride and groom and know little to nothing about the other guests who were there, but we do know that Mary, the mother of our Lord was there, and she notified Jesus of the crisis. The interesting thing about this His first miracle was that lowly servants were really the only ones privy to it. The bride and groom were clueless, the master of ceremonies didn’t know about it, the guests were beneficiaries of the ‘good wine”, but didn’t know where it came from. The scriptures clearly state that the servant who cooperated with Jesus knew what happened (vv. 9). They had a life-changing close encounter. So it is today; those who cooperate where He operates are the ones who see the miracles.

In chapter 3 We are brought into the presence of a man who was by all accounts truly conflicted. Nicodemus was an influential and wealthy man who also held a seat in the Jewish senate. He comes and encounters Jesus at night. We know that during his close encounter with Christ that the darkness of confusion began to give way to the dawn of conviction, (7:50ff) and finally to the daylight of confession, (19:39) as we see him in full faith identify himself with the crucified Savior.

In chapter 4 we see the loving and redemptive way Jesus deals with the woman at the well in Samaria. Her close encounter with Him shows us again something of the heart of God. Jesus had dealt with one of Israel’s most respected leaders in the last chapter, and now he deals with this woman who would have been considered a social “throw-away”. She came to know who it was with whom she was talking. She had perceived him to be a prophet (vv. 19), but she found out that He was more than just a prophet. At the end of the chapter, we see a desperate Jewish official’s plea for the life of his son. Again Jesus who is the Christ of every crisis graciously heals his son. His close encounter with Christ had changed his life, and the life of his entire household (vv. 53).

Chapter 5 introduces us to an invalid with a chronic and critical case for 38 long years. This man’s life would be radically and dramatically changed as Jesus interrupted his daily routine of waiting for the moving waters in the pool. Because of his close encounter with Christ, he would experience the person and power of the God who could make him walk (vv. 9). Sadly there were those in this chapter who persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him (vv. 18). The close encounter with Him revealed the nature of their own hearts. They would forever be lost if they would not repent.

As it was, so it is; those who have a close encounter with Christ can never be the same. Some will be made the better, but some, the worse. The very name of Christ draws or it drives. The gospel of Christ brings conversion or aversion. The people of God are a fragrance of death unto death or a fragrance of life unto life (2 Cor.2:16). Which is it for you?

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Psalm 95: Celebrate, Worship!

By Derward Poole

Psalm 95:1-7 “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you would hear His voice, …” (NASB)

Dr. Charles Stanley said of worship, “Of all the things Christ wants for us, loving Him and focusing our attention on Him are the most important.” When we celebrate Jesus, we have a sense of revival. When we come to worship, we should expect to hear God’s voice and to understand God’s voice. The tragedy in our society today is that many are looking and wanting some entertaining, emotional movement. When we worship “focusing all our attention on Him,” it builds a foundation for a true experience with the Lord.

In Psalm 95, we have an Invitation to Worship. The method of worship is spelled out for us. First, in verses 1-2, 6, we are exhorted to worship:

     =Joyfully (v. 1): Spiritual joy is the heart and soul of thankful praise. Drawing near to God is the reason for rejoicing in the Lord.

     =Readily (v. 2a): The anticipation of going to meet Him! There is a readiness of heart offered with pleasure and zeal.

     =Gratefully (v. 2a): The grateful recognition of God’s gracious dealings with us and all the blessings He has bestowed on us.

     =Reverently (v. 6): The posture of profound reverence in attitude. Joy wedded together with seriousness, gratitude wedded with humility, confidence wedded with reverence, and zeal wedded to Holy awe.

In the passage, there is also found the Motives of Worship. We are motivated because:

     =The Lord is Supreme (v. 3): He is exalted far above the highest position ascribed to the gods of this world. He is ruler over all!

     =The Lord is the Creator and Owner of All (vv. 4-5): From the peaks of the mountains, the deepest, darkest caverns, the depths of the sea, He is the absolute owner and ruler.

     =The Lord’s Relations to His People (vv. 1b, 7): Our Maker made us capable of worship. It is to Him alone that our worship should be offered. He is the “rock of our salvation.” He is unchangeable, faithful, protecting, providing, governing, and watching. He is “our God,” and the shepherd of our souls. “Come let us worship and bow down!”

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2 Chronicles: Praise - A Weapon of Warfare

By Patrick Mulvehill

In 2 Chronicles we read about King Jehoshaphat who was facing a "...great multitude against thee from beyond the sea…" In verse 3 we see the humanity of the king when we read, "...Jehoshaphat feared…" isn't that our natural response when the enemy surrounds us and threatens our peace?

What is it that is shaking your peace today? Are you having problems in your marriage? Is something threatening your job? Do you feel like you are on the verge of a breakdown? Have you gotten bad news from the doctor? How is the enemy attacking your peace? Whatever it is, why don’t you do the one thing that the enemy doesn’t expect? It is one of the hardest things to do when you are feeling attacked. That’s right, just praise the Lord.

Praise is a spiritual weapon! We see it throughout the Scriptures, when God’s people are in trouble, they turn to worship. When Jehoshaphat was facing the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites he didn’t prepare his finest warriors and put them on the front lines... no, he called out to the Lord and when the Lord assured him that the battle was not Jehoshaphat’s to fight but that it was God’s battle, Jehoshaphat did the only logical thing...

“And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord ; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 KJV

When we praise God we acknowledge our need for Him and that the battle is not ours to fight but His. Praise helps us to focus our thoughts and fears on the only one in existence that can actually do anything about it. When we do this it allows us to experience the VICTORY that God wants to give us.

Find a song today that you can sing or a scripture that you can recite to the Lord. Make it your victory cry and just praise the Lord!

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Jeremiah: Clay in the Potter's Hands

By Allan Bosson

As we at Calvary read through the Bible in a year, this week’s readings are found in the book of Jeremiah, written by a man known as the “weeping prophet.” Though the readings go from chapter 11 to chapter 45, I want to direct our thinking to chapter 18, which covers a parable about the potter and the clay.

Jeremiah was the premier prophet of Judah during the dark days that finally led to the complete destruction of Israel, as well as the eventual departure of the presence of God from His position in the Holy of Holies over the Ark of the Covenant. This departure of the Spirit of God from the nation of Israel led to what is known as the beginning of the “Time of the Gentiles”. This period of history will last until the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. As a nation, Israel has not and will not enjoy again God’s personal presence as their leader until Christ reigns over the entire world during the Millennial period. Although the light of other prophets, such as Habakkuk and Zephaniah, flickered in Judah at that time, Jeremiah was really the blazing torch exposing the darkness of Judah’s sin through the brightness of God’s Word. Now, of course, Ezekiel also wrote of Israel’s sin at this time but Ezekiel was already a captive in Babylon.

Looking at the message in chapter 18, we see God directing Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house to observe the potter at work. He sees the potter molding a lump of raw clay, fashioning it into an amazing, decorative Middle Eastern pot. As Jeremiah watched, the potter suddenly stopped his work. He apparently had discovered a flaw in the pot that he was shaping. Thoughtfully, though disappointingly, the potter pressed that flawed pot into what looked like the original lump. Then, with that same lump of clay, he began to form a new pot.

God went on to announce to Jeremiah that the potter and the clay illustrated His relationship to His people. They were like clay in His hand, and He, as the sovereign God of the universe, has the right to tear down or build up any nation or person just as He chooses. Yes, He had promised to bless the nation of Judah. Judah, however, had continued to ignore Him and practice evil. Therefore, He would reconsider the good He had intended and replace it with judgment.  But, if the people of Judah would turn back from their evil and disobedient ways, repent and obey God, He would revoke His plan of judgment and replace it with a blessing.

There is a clear analogy here to how God deals with not only nations but with individual people. The God of the Bible is the Master potter, and He plans to mold His followers into great vessels for spiritual service. When, however, He finds a flaw (unrepentant sin) in a vessel that He is molding, He will not ignore that flaw, but rather He will firmly deal with that sin through the Holy Spirit’s conviction. After a believer’s genuine repentance, He will remold that individual vessel into a more usable and faithful servant, which in turn leads to a more fulfilling and exciting life. Wow, how great it is to be clay in the Master’s hands.

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Habakkuk: The Power of Leadership

By Sarah Snyder

As we enter into a season of elections and voting, we find ourselves thinking more about leadership. What qualities do we like? What policies are important to us? How does he/she stack up? Each question leaves us wondering exactly how a certain individual will perform as a leader. The Old Testament found itself in similar situations throughout all the centuries it covers. Most recently, our Bible Reading Plan has us covering multiple kings and their inevitable downfall. This week we discover Habakkuk, who found himself questioning leadership in a time of turmoil.

Habakkuk is a unique book amongst the Minor Prophets as it is written as lament rather than a prophecy. The book begins with Habakkuk and God dialoguing about Israel’s future. Habakkuk does not understand why God allowed Israel to become so violent and unjust (1:2-4). God responds by saying that he will bring Babylon to take care of Israel (1:5-11). This surprised Habakkuk as Babylon is even more violent and unjust as Israel (1:12-2:1). God responds again to Habakkuk by telling him that he will bring down Babylon but that all nations are ultimately unjust (2:2-5).

The leads into a series of ‘woes’ that God has for poor leadership of all nations. In 2:6-20, God describes the leaders of the nations as unjust and without hope. They “get rich by extortion” (v. 6) and “build cities by bloodshed” (v. 12). They have “committed violent acts against the lands, cities, and those who live in them” (v. 17). Finally, they have created idols that they put before God, idols made of wood and metal that have no speech (vv. 18-20). God has seen all these acts of injustice and will put up with it no longer. We should be reminded that these nations include Israel. Remember back on the kinds of Kings and Chronicles as one by one they chose to serve other gods. 

An important aspect of leadership is the power it holds. Kings and Chronicles does not document Israel’s sins as a people. It documents the king's sins and evils. When a king of Israel turned from God, the whole nation followed. To do otherwise would be to go against the one anointed by God. While the kings of Israel fell away from God, they were still, with each coronation, anointed by people on behalf of God. Psalm 2 was the coronation Psalm read aloud for each king. Psalm 2:6 says, “I [God] myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.” So when this king inevitably worshipped other gods, the people followed their anointed king; with leadership comes power. 

Habakkuk ends with a prayer. It is a beautiful prayer that calls on God to rescue the nations. It should remind us of Exodus, when God comes down in might and power and pulls Israel from the grips of corrupt leadership. The three verses of Habakkuk call on us to find joy in the Lord, even though “the fig tree does not bud,” and “when the olive trees do not produce” (v. 17). Though we today may find ourselves under corrupt leadership or trying to explore how our future leadership might go, Habakkuk tells us “The Sovereign Lord is [our] source of strength” (v. 19).

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