Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday, December 31 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the One-Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Revelation 19-22.

And so we come to the end of this journey through our Bibles. Out with a bang describes today's reading quite accurately, I think! This is an incredible finish to the story ~ and to human history.

Though I desperately DON'T want to have to endure through the Great Tribulation, I wouldn't mind getting to experience the thousand-year reign of Jesus here on earth before the New Jerusalem appears. At least, the way I read it this part sounds quite literal, and as such, it sounds absolutely, perfectly idyllic. Unfortunately, this time appears to specifically be sort of a reward for those saints who've persevered through the Tribulation, not for all believers across the span of history.  Somehow this says to me, the Great Tribulation is SO much worse than we can really imagine.  It sounds truly awful, but if they're granted a thousand years of peace in paradise with Jesus as King over all the earth even before eternity even really starts, the Tribulation must just be an unfathomably horrifying period of time to have to live through.

On second thought, maybe I don't want those thousand years so badly after all...

The rest ~ the believers from the beginning of time up until the Great Tribulation starts (or so it would seem) ~ they get to join the fun only after the thousand years are over and Satan is disposed of permanently.  Initially, this seemed a bit unfair to me, but going back to the previous paragraph and thinking of it in that light, I've decided I'm okay with it if God decides to do it this way!  In any case, whether this will literally transpire or if this is merely imagery of what is to come ~ HOWEVER it all comes to pass ~ God gets to call the shots and we will see His glory the way He wants us to, how He has prepared us to.

I think the picture of the bride finally being fully prepared to meet her Groom is just beautiful. I can't wait to be a part of that! A few weeks ago when we were dealing with predestination/sovereign election, I was listening to this MacArthur sermon (part 3 of a four-part series) and I just have to share his thoughts here with you about the amazing story of the promise of God to provide a bride for His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

The Father made a promise to the Son. The whole of salvation comes from God and is all about His own purpose and it is granted on behalf of Christ. So what you have then to understand this great doctrine of election is this, the Father at some point in eternity past says to the Son, "I am going to redeem sinners and I'm going to do it for You. I'm going to do it for You." Why would God do that? Because He loves the Son and the seventeenth chapter of John, as we'll see later, the Son celebrates the mutual love that He has with the Father, and love gives.  And the Father determines in His eternal love within the Trinity that He will express His love for the Son by giving the Son a gift, and that gift essentially is going to be a redeemed humanity. If you will, He gives His Son a bride.

In the ancient world, fathers chose the brides for their sons. That's the way it was done. Nobody chose for themselves, that was the father's responsibility. And here you have the divine pattern as God determines that He will choose a bride for His Son. It's a way that the Father could express His love to His Son. It's a way He determined to do it, that He would give to His Son a redeemed humanity. Follow that thought to the sixth chapter of John, a section of Scripture that we refer to often in our studies in the Word of God because it's so foundational. In John chapter 6 verse 37, this is critical, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me." This is where it has to be understood. Every saved person is a gift from the Father to the Son. The Father determined in eternity past that He would give to the Son a bride, that He would give to the Son a redeemed humanity. The Bible tells us that He actually wrote their names down in the Lamb's Book of Life knowing that even before the foundation of the world the Lamb would have to be slain to pay the price for that redemption. There was always a price paid for a bride, paid to the father by the one who took the bride. In this case, the Father had to give up His own Son, the Son had to give up His own life to pay the price to purchase His bride. Every saved individual is a part of that bride. Even the Old Testament saints are engulfed into the bride and take up residence in the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, becomes the capital city of eternity, the bridal city. The whole of redemptive history is about the Father pursuing a bride for His Son and the Father determined before the foundation of the world who the bride would be and He wrote down the names so that every person who comes to Christ is given to Christ by the Father. It's just a staggering and glorious truth.
I'd never thought about it that way, but that image has stuck in my head ever since hearing that message and it just sprang to mind as I read today's passages again.  It is INDEED a staggering and glorious truth.

Come, Lord Jesus.


Noisemaker 1
Happy New Year!

I look forward to going through the Bible again in 2011 with all y'all!  It's exciting to see some new participants ~ it's gonna be a great year!  See you tomorrow...

Tomorrow's passages: Genesis 1-3, Matthew 1

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Revelation 15-18

As I read these chapters I am very thankful for the grace of God!

The crushing wrath of God is coming on all those who have rejected Him. And it will be terrible. But it will be just.

The bowl judgments and trumpet judgments are similar but have 3 main differences: the trumpet judgments were partial but the bowl judgments will be complete; the trumpet judgments gave unbelievers the chance to repent but the bowl judgments do not; the trumpet judgments affected people indirectly, but the bowl judgments are poured directly on people.

Horrible sores, the seas turned to blood (imagine the stench of all the dead sealife!), all freshwaters turned to blood (nothing to drink!), people scorched by the sun, darkness and painful sores, the Euphrates dried to prepare the way for the kings of the east, severe earthquake and hail like never seen before - with only hell awaiting as "relief".

It is easy to think, as we sit here in comfort and the day to day of normalcy, that this time of judgment will never come. But it will! God is patient, but there will come an end. He will come, and He will unleash His righteous judgment, and there will be no turning back.

Are you ready for Christ's return?

Tomorrow's passage: Revelation 19-22

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Revelation 11-14.

Revelation 12:7a And there was war in heaven.

We don't often get a glimpse of the spiritual battle constantly going on around us, but there's no doubt it's going on!

There was war in heaven.

From my Life Application Bible....
The heavenly pageant of Revelation 12 shows that Christ's quiet birth in the town of Bethlehem had cosmic significance...Herod's desire to kill this newborn king, who he saw as a threat to his throne, was motivated by Satan (the red dragon), who wanted to kill the world's Saviour...Much more happened at Christ's birth, death, and resurrection than most people realize. A war between the forces of good and evil was under way. With Christ's resurrection, Satan's ultimate defeat was assured...Christ is victorious - Satan has already been defeated because of Christ's death on the cross...

The apostle Paul tells us that we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-12). John says that the war is still being waged, but the outcome has already been determined. Satan and his followers have been defeated and will be destroyed. Nevertheless, Satan is battling daily to bring more into his ranks and to keep his own from defecting to God's side. Those who belong to Christ have gone into battle on God's side, and he ha guaranteed them victory. God will not lose the war, but we must make certain not to lose the battle for our own souls. Don't waver in your commitment to Christ. A great spiritual battle is being fought, and there is no time for indecision.

We must not forget that we are in a spiritual battle every day. And we need the nourishment of the Word every day in order to fight that battle. I am thankful for this blog as it has given me the motivation to do exactly that! May we continue to nourish ourselves in the Word and continue to fight the good fight of the faith!

Tomorrow's passage: Revelation 15-18

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28 - Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological reading plan is Revelation 7-10.

Ha!  No wonder people thought the earth was flat - "four angels standing at the four corners of the earth" (from Revelation 7:1).  (small joke) 

I have to confess that I am shamefully ignorant when it comes to end-times prophecies.  Actually, I think I confessed this already back when I posted on Daniel, but it is still true.  My cousin sent me a link to some information on her church's website just last week that deals with the end times.  The Southland Community Church website has a number of resources that one could study, and from the brief glance I've given it, I already came across something that really convicted me personally.

Many Christians today feel like the End Times is an unimportant topic – a side-issue which only distracts people from the stuff that is ‘really important.’ For these people, ‘important’ usually means ‘stuff that I can apply to my life today,’ and anyone who shows any interest in the End Times is considered weird, or worse, spiritually dangerous.

But there are more than 150 chapters in Scripture about the End Times! By comparison there are only 89 chapters in the 4 Gospels, which are mostly concerned with Jesus’ First coming. Thus, there is almost twice as much content in Scripture concerning Jesus’ Second Coming as for His First Coming. How can we ignore such an important topic in Scripture?
 In fact, Jesus Himself commanded us to study the End Times and to be watching for His return (see Matthew 24:32-35, Luke 21:28 & Luke 21:34-35) – this is intensely practical stuff! We take Jesus the Teacher seriously, and Jesus the Savior seriously . . . but do we take Jesus the End-Time Prophet seriously?
Youch.  I have not yet delved into these materials, but I plan to do so, and soon.  Here is a very concise synopsis of the chapters in today's reading, taken from the site I referenced above.
Revelation 7: God promises to protect His people from the judgments and compromise.
Revelation 8‐9: The trumpet judgments are released against the Antichrist’s empire.
Revelation 10: God promises to release prophetic messages to bring understanding in order to help
people avoid deception. Joel prophesied of a dynamic prophetic outpouring of the Spirit in the End Times.
I don't feel that I really have anything to comment on too much regarding today's reading.  The prophecies of the seven trumpets are fairly self-explanatory.  There are numerous charts one can find on the internet showing timelines - at least the order of events, if not over what time span or when.   
Tomorrow's passage: Revelation 11-14.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Revelation 3-6

Revelation 5 is an incredible chapter, and perhaps one of the easier understood chapters in Revelation.

Revelation 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides, and sealed with seven seals.

God has the very words of future history recorded on this scroll, sealed and held in His hands. He is in absolute control of future history. He is sovereign. The scroll contains God's decrees and plans for the future - the struggles and victories as the gospel is presented and the judgements on those who reject it (in chapter 6). God has written it down and no one can change it. He is on the throne, He alone is King, He is Ruler of everything.

And there was no one worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. No man, no angel, no demon, no one was worthy.

In his sermon Christ: the Lion and the Lamb, Piper says that not even God could open it....
It would look as though he didn't care that we have trampled his glory in the dirt. It would look as though he could just sweep our sin under the rug of the universe. Something must be done to demonstrate the righteousness of God if the opening of this scroll is going to bring infinite blessing upon repentant sinners who deserve only condemnation. If God were to open the scroll himself without any mediator, without any go-between, and deal directly with sinful man, we would all be consumed and there would be no salvation at all.....
God is a God of love because he will not open the seals of history without the hands of a Savior.

And if there is no one worthy, all there is left is weeping, for there is no hope, no salvation, no new heaven and earth - only weeping.

But then came Christmas with the plan of Easter set in place! The Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God.

The Lion of Judah can open the scroll because He has conquered. The Lamb of God can open the scroll because He was slain, and by His blood He has ransomed mankind for God.

And we worship Him because not only is He a Lion, He is the Lamb. And not only is He the Lamb, He is the Lion.

We worship Him because He is so complex, He has all the right qualities in all the right proportions.

From Piper....
  • we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility;
  • we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because his transcendence is accompanied by condescension;
  • we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy;
  • we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness;
  • we admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God's equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God;
  • we admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil;
  • we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission;
  • we love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wisdom, and we love it even more because he could be simple enough to like children and spend time with them;
  • and we admire him because he could still the storm, but even more because he refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightning and he refused to use it to get himself down from the cross.
The list could go on and on.....
The human heart was made to stand in awe of ultimate excellence—you were made to admire Jesus Christ the Son of God—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords—and if your heart is not much taken up with him, then you don't need to look any farther to know the deepest source of your frustration. (emphasis mine)

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Jesus, You are worthy!

Tomorrow's passage: Revelation 7-10

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Guest Post By Alicia

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Jude 1:1-25; Revelation 1-2:29

Chapter 2 of Revelation seems to be a theme of a "Refiner's Fire". The churches are : (1) growing cold in love, (2) burdened with suffering, (3) reflecting worldliness, and (4) tolerating sin. Christ is beginning to tell them of things to come but first he addresses where they are at the present moment spiritually. Why does he do this?
Because the trials to come will be demanding of our faith and testing to our very spiritual fibers. He is refining them. For some he is calling them to repent, and for one he is assuring them the purpose of their suffering.
It made me wonder what my letter would look like. Lately I've been thinking about this anyway with the new year approaching. We often sit down and make our practical resolutions but do we often ask God to call us to repentance and point out our "what I have against you-s"? These people were followers of Christ and some of them had slipped a little off track, while others were way in left field. The Thyatira church, the final one in our reading today, had gone as far as to get their theology thoroughly twisted. They had decided that the spirit belonged to God but since the body was separate, it did not matter what their bodies participated in whether it be immoral or destructive. It's amazing to think that a church would go this far but if we look today we will find similar extremes.
So, back to my thoughts though. What would my letter say from the man with eyes like fire? What would he say he saw as my strengths? What would he have against me? I think it's worth praying for these refining assessments from God. Perhaps he is leading some to go to a Christian friend and be willing to ask them what they think God may what to challenge them with. Or, if God brings to mind areas, going to that friend to seek accountability for repentance and change for God's glory.
It's almost as if He wants to burn all away that entangles them so that they can run a very uphill and treacherous race ahead. I think the lessons and admonishments to these churches are applicable to my own Christian walk.
Outside of the personal, they are applicable to the church today, and EACH member is obligated to behave like the Bereans by checking the teaching, leadership and practices with Scripture.
I hope I, and I hope those around me will be refined more and more through the Spirit's work to point out failings that will lead to repentance and strength for the times ahead.
Our sermon today at church addressed one aspect of this. Our speaker stated that if you don't have anyone in your life telling you these things, you are probable pushing people away who will, or not being honest with yourself as well as humble to ask for admonishment.
God may call us to do this for someone else and if and when we do, we need to have their best spiritual interest at heart as it says in Matthew that we "would win back our brother."
Perhaps one practical way to discover what my our your letter would be is to go through these themes and ask ourselves some questions.
In what ways am I forgetting my first love and thinking I'm now saving myself?
How have I forgotten how fallen I am w/o Christ? In what sinful ways do I show that?
What from the world has rubbed off on me too much?
Where have I tolerated my own sin or the sin of others?
Have I deceived myself or let the enemy deceive me into theology that is not based on Scripture?

On a personal note, this is my final post. I've not been the star writer here at all and I appreciate Tammy's and the others hard work at keeping up so well with this. I've so enjoyed getting to know some of you and although I'm branching off to return to Inductive study, I hope you enjoy your reading. I hope you'll visit me sometime.

Tomorrow's passage: Revelation 3:1-6:17

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Saturday, December 25-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 John 4:7-5:21, 2 John 1:1-13, 3: 1-15

7 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. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 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. 10 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.

Observation: Jesus is God's demonstration of love.

Application: Verses 7 & 8 stood out for me because of a song I learned long ago when I was a child. (I found this link on you tube but I'm not sure exactly how the photos fit in with the song ??) The lyrics hold so much more meaning as an adult. These verses hold some harsh words: "But anyone that does not love does not know God because God is love." I know that there are people in my life that are not easy to love. Yet, these verses tell me that by not loving these people I am showing that I do not know God. We are commanded to love each other. We are shown through God's plan of salvation what it means to love. He sent His son to earth as a baby who would pay for our sins with His blood. We did not do anything to deserve this demonstration of love. We did not earn it, we did not ask for it, we did not do something and this was the reward for our deeds. God freely gave His son to serve as payment for all our sins. We are not worthy of this gift and yet God gave it to us to show His unending love.

A few days ago Tammy posted this post (go read it!) and I think it really sums up that celebrating Christmas is really about celebrating God's unending love for us:

"Christmas is about the reason Jesus was born. It's about the reason He left the glory of heaven and exchanged it for 33 years on a planet full of people who had and still do reject Him. It's the reason He endured an agonizing death on the cross to pay the price that was mine to pay. What was the reason? You. Me. Love for you and me. He was the Rescuer sent by God to pay the penalty for my sin. He took on the full wrath of God in my place. In your place. Because He loves you that much! Someone needed to make a way back to God, and He was the only One who could do it. I can't do it, you can't do it. Only He can.

And so He came - born to die. But the story, thankfully, did not end there. Death did not defeat Him. God raised Him from the dead. And in the end, death will not defeat us either.

So celebrate Christmas - with one eye on the manger and the other on the cross and the empty grave! And remember the reason was

Prayer: Dear Lord, Today we celebrate Christmas. Not just to remember how Jesus was born, according to your perfect plan, but to remember why Jesus had to be born in the first place. Lord, we fall short and our sin separates us from You and we sometimes fail to show love to others as you would. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay for our sins and to give us an example of what it means to love first. Make it our desire to love as fully as You do and through that love, draw others to You through us. In Your name, Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday, December 24 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the One-Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 John 1:1-4:6.

John's first epistle is a letter to Christians with a two-fold purpose ~ to give believers assurance of their salvation, and to get them walking the "straight and narrow" again. My Life Application Bible says:

By the time John wrote this letter, Christinaity had been around for more than a generation. It had faced and surived severe persecution. The main problem confronting the church at this time was declining commitment: many believers were conforming to the world's standards, failing to stand up for Christ, and compromising their faith. False teachers were plentiful, and they were accelerating the church's downward slide away from the Christian faith.

John wrote this letter to put believers back on track, to show the difference between light and darkness (truth and error), and to encourage the church to grow in genuine love for God and for one another. He also wrote to assure true believers that they possessed eternal life and to help them know that their faith was genuine ~ so they could enjoy all the benefits of being God's children.
Hmmmm, declining commitment?  Compromising faith?  Conforming to worldly standards?  Any of this sound familiar??!  Man, this sounds just like our current, post-modern church!  Maybe we need more messages preached from 1 John!

John first starts out by listing his qualifications to say what he's about to say.  He was an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry and so his readers could trust the accuracy of his words.  Without much preamble, he launches into an assault on the false teachings that were plaguing the church at that time ~ and still do today:
  1. That we can have fellowship with God and go on living in spiritual darkness.  John says no one can claim to be a Christian and still live in evil and immorality.  It simply isn't possible.  Obviously, Christians still sin because they're human, but patterns of sin shouldn't exist.
  2. People have no natural tendency towards sin.  How like the devil to try and make us believe sin isn't the problem God makes it out to be!  Even Christians need to walk in continuous repentence.  This isn't to say we always need to be remorseful and all woe-is-me, but we need to be ready and willing to repent when conviction hits.
  3. That people's conduct doesn't even involve any sin ~ it's all relative.  (guess not wanting to believe in absolutes has been around for quite a while!!)  But John reminds us that we're all born in sin and that if we claim to be without sin, we're only deceiving ourselves.
John takes on the tone of a loving father or grandfather, and urges his readers to love each other the way Christ loves the Church and points out that this is the distinguishing factor between believers and non-believers.  He goes on to warn against false teachers, how to test their message, and then to describe the lavish love of God the Father and then back to testing spirits.  His message always returns to love ~ God's love manifested through our actions towards others ~ which is obviously the main point he is trying to get across.

John's first epistle is sort of a checklist for believers for the assurance of their salvation and the best way to demonstrate our new nature to others. It's LOVE ~ HIS love ~ that makes us visibly different from the world.

Do "they" know we're Christians by our love?

Tomorrow's passages: 1 John 4:7-5:21, 2 & 3 John

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23rd

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 Peter 5:12-14, 2 Peter 1-3

1 Peter was a letter of encouragement to sufferings believers, but 2 Peter focuses on problems in the church due to false teachers.

One of their false teachings was a slap in the face of God's greatest gifts - salvation. These teachers said that because salvation is not based on good deeds, believers could live however they wanted to. Truly a slap in the face.

It is true that salvation does not depend on good deeds. But it is proved genuine by good deeds, it results in good deeds.

In his sermon Confirm Your Election, John Piper says...
Virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly affection, love—these are not the wages that we pay to earn entrance into the eternal kingdom, but they are the necessary evidence that our trust in God's promise is genuine, and in that way they are the confirmation of our call and election...

Are you making every effort towards moral excellence? Are you making every effort to increase your knowledge of God's character and his will? Are you making every effort to strengthen your power of self-control? Are you making every effort to enlarge your capacity for patience? Are you making every effort to cultivate godliness to develop a heart for God? Are you making every effort to grow warm in your affection for your fellow believers? And are you making every effort to stir up love in your will for the person you dislike the most? If these things are in you and increasing, you will not be fruitless (v. 8), you will never stumble (v. 10), and you will enter the eternal kingdom of Christ (v. 11). But if these things are not your earnest concern, then it is because you have shut your eyes to the beauty of God's promises, and have forgotten the humble exhilaration of being forgiven.

Therefore, the Word of God warns us against being lazy in our faith and drifting away from Jesus Christ our only hope. And the Word encourages us to fight the good fight of faith and take hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12, 19); to lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run with perseverance the race before us (Hebrews 12:1); to press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); to advance and grow and go forward in virtue and knowledge and self-control and patience and godliness and brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1:5-7); and in this way to reassure our hearts and make our confidence firm that we are indeed called to share in God's glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:10, 3). (emphasis mine)

God is our power source, but we have to willing to fight the good fight of the faith.

Piper analogy: We are the light bulbs of our neighborhoods; God is the distant generator of electricity; and the cables that carry the power are God's promises.

Fight the good fight of the faith through the power of God by clinging to His promises.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 John 1-4:6

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22nd

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 Peter 2:4-5:11

So many things jumped out at me today. I'll briefly go over a couple of them....

1 Peter 2 talks about the church as a living, spiritual house with Christ as our foundation and each believer as one stone. One stone alone is nothing. But numerous stones together can build a wall, or a building or a beautiful house of God! We are so interdependent on one another and yet so often we forget this. We try to go it alone. Some people skip church and watch a good service on TV and think it's enough. It's not enough! We need each other. We need to encourage each other, learn from each other, hold each other accountable and work together with God as our foundation.


1 Peter 4:3-5 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

I think these verses, especially v4 are excellent ones for teenage believers who are perhaps struggling with resisting temptations to follow the crowd, to continue to hang out with friends who have chosen the wrong path, to minimize and justify sin in order to be accepted.


1 Peter 3:18-22 is a tricky passage to understand and so I went to see what John MacArthur had to say on the topic of where and who exactly Jesus was preaching to after His physical death. Of course he did not disappoint. ;)

In his sermon The Triumph Of Christ's Suffering Part 2, MacArthur says......
when Jesus body was dead, His spirit was alive and He went down where they [demons] were bound and He announced His triumph over them. So you have at the cross an unjust suffering. You have at the cross a terrible persecution. And in the midst of it all, a triumphant sin bearing and a triumphant sermon. And Jesus in the midst of His suffering triumphs over sin and triumphs over Satan, hell, demons and death at the very same time. Isn't that a marvelous triumph? And Peter wants us to understand that when we suffer, we may triumph as well.

Very interesting stuff in that sermon, if you have the time to read it.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Peter 5:12-14, 2 Peter 1-3

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1-2:3.

Oh man.  Hebrews 13 alone has so much great stuff to comment on, I hardly know where to begin.  Let's see...  it starts off with some reminders - love, hospitality, remember those who are imprisoned or suffering, keep your marriage pure, remember your leaders and submit to their authority... but what I think I loved most about Hebrews 13 is the benediction at the end.  I'm sure many of us have heard it at church to close the service.

Hebrews 13:20-21 - Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I can't really say it any better than that.  Really.  I'm not usually at a loss for words (as I'm sure many of you can attest to, having read my posts weekly for months now), but those two verses are just such a wonderful statement of the sacrifice that was made for us, the love that God has for us, the promise that we have that His will will be done, in us and through us, for His glory, and He will give us all we need and more in order for his will to be fulfilled.

A couple of things stood out for me in 1 Peter.  Everybody asks the question all the time - "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  This is a very difficult question, especially for non-believers, to understand.  For those of us who are Christians, we have the answer right here in 1 Peter 1:6b-7:  "...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."  He never promised us a rose garden.  Or at least not one without thorns.  In fact, many people have suffered more for being Christians than they would have had they not accepted Christ.  And yet, I know that not a single one of those who have suffered, suffer now, or will do so in the future, will say it wasn't worth it.  Easy for me to say, I know, as there are many horrible experiences those people have gone through or will go through that I can't even imagine.  Everyone has their own trials and tribulations, myself included.  It helps me to know that these things are making me into who and what HE wants me to be and that He will supply everything I need to get through it (Hebrews 13 again), though that may not bring comfort to others when they are going through tough times.

1 Peter 2:2 says "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation," - this is what I've been learning by participating in this blog for the past year, and hope to continue in 2011.  Crave pure spiritual milk.  Read the Bible.  Every day, or as often as you can.  Grow up in your salvation.  Become a mature Christian.  Learn all you can.  Study.  Discuss.  Don't cause divisions by disagreeing about the finer points, but learn and meditate on the overall and important themes that we've discovered throughout the Bible this year.  Love.  Sin.  Sacrifice.  Salvation.  Love.  Humility.  Service.  Prayer.  Love. 

I'm sure there are many wonderful sermons to be found on-line about today's passage, but I decided to keep it short and just post my own thoughts, since a few things stood out so clearly to me today.  Did anything else jump out at you?  I'd love to read your comments.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Peter 2:4-5:11.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Reading Plan

The Bible reading plan for 2011 has been chosen!

The votes were close, but after email discussions with the regular blog participants, I have decided to go with the Chronological OT/NT plan.

The Horner plan is very interesting to me, but I believe it suits a personal Bible reading schedule better than a group study plan.

The purpose of this blog is to dig deeper into the Bible, to study it together and a reading-heavy plan is not very conducive to that. The purpose of the Horner plan is to simply read it, with no studying, no reflecting - it's designed to develop Bible knowledge through contextualizing by reading a lot of Scripture at a time.

The Horner plan could also make it harder for those wanting to make a new commitment to read through the Bible in a year. That is a big commitment, and reading more than that could simply be too overwhelming.

If there are any new people considering joining us, we'd love to have you! I've had a couple people commit to reading the Bible with us, reading the postings and then commenting. This is a great compromise and great starting point for those who are considering it, but don't want to overcommit or get overwhelmed with too much. Commenting on the postings will keep you feeling involved so that should you ever decide you'd like to jump in and start posting regularly or semi-regularly (or even as a guest poster to cover people during holidays or whatnot), you'll already feel involved with our "group" and feel comfortable doing so. It will also help keep you accountable, especially if this is your first time reading the entire Bible in a year.

Basically there is no commitment that's too small! Anything you commit to doing is better than nothing. And if you skip a day or two, it's ok, just move on. If you have time to go back and re-read those passages at a later date you can, and if not that's ok. Oftentimes the perfectionist in us rises up and says "If you can't do it perfectly, don't do it at all" - and that is soooooo wrong for pretty much anything, but especially reading and studying your Bible. Any time spent reading and studying the Word is better than no time. There is no room for "perfect" or "good enough" here.

So, please, join us! I guarantee you'll be glad you did!

December 20th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Hebrews 11-12.

This passage must be one of my favourites from the entire Bible! It's so inspiring. And after reading a couple of sermons by John Piper, I think I love it even more!

Hebrews 11:3 says "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." That is astounding. I think v4 should've been "By faith we believe that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are both equally true" or something to that effect. ;)

Moving on....

I will be relying heavily on Piper's sermons Faith to be Strong and Faith to be Weak and Running with the Witnesses for this post.

The verses at the end of Chapter 11 are so inspiring. And, for those "name it and claim it" type preachers - probably annoying to try to manipulate into their worldview.

The truth is that God can and sometimes does work miracles in the lives of those who live by faith. Sometimes He intervenes in ways that can only be described as miraculous - like the parting of the Red Sea, shutting the mouths of lions and quenching the power of the fire for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And they do come about by faith.

God also can and sometimes does work through acts of providence in the lives of those who live by faith. Situations that aren't necessarily miraculous, but that you can see the working of God, and you no there is no coincidence - like Rahab assisting in the escape of the spies and wartime victories by David and other kings - also because people had faith in God.

However, God does not always work miracles or acts of providence in the lives of the faithful. Sometimes He sustains believers through their sufferings by faith. And it's not that He couldn't work the miracle, it's that He chooses not to.

From the first sermon...
God does not always lessen the agony of his children, but permits them to experience not just suffering, but horrific suffering. Verse 37: "They were stoned, they were sawn in two." Now this is almost too horrible to think about. It is the way tradition says that Isaiah died. Imagine how forsaken you might feel if death lies in front of you, and a person devises a way for your death to be as horrible as possible. That has happened and it has happened to people of whom the world was not worthy (as verse 38 says). God could stop that - without nullifying any human responsibility. That is the point of verse 29-35a - God can and does do miracles and acts of providence to relieve his people and deliver them, but not always. (emphasis mine)

But this does not mean that the person suffering did not have faith, or that his faith wasn't strong enough. And it does not mean that God doesn't love him.

So, having faith does not determine whether you suffer or are rescued. God does. God is sovereign and He determines whether you suffer or are rescued.

To me this is immensely comforting. It is a great relief to know that there is a higher explanation for my pain or my pleasure than whether I have enough faith. Would it not be horrible to have to believe that on top of all your suffering you had to add this: it must be because I lack faith.....
And ultimately, it is God, and not we, who decides when and how we die. He has his purposes. They are hidden from us. And faith means, we believe they are good. (emphasis mine)

What is the common denominator between faith that escapes suffering and faith that endures it? The belief that God himself is better.

faith is utterly in love with all that God will be for us beyond the grave. Faith loves God more than life. Faith loves God more than family. Faith loves God more than job or retirement plans or ministry or writing books or building the dream house or making the first million. Faith says, "Whether God handles me tenderly or gives me over to torture, I love him. He is my reward (11:6), the builder of the city I long for (11:10), the treasure beyond the riches of Egypt (11:26), and the possession that surpasses all others and abides for ever (10:34)."

The great challenge of the book of Hebrews, and the mission of our church, is to cultivate and to spread a death-defying passion for God. The preaching, the Sunday School, the small group ministry, the relationships of love, the soccer camps, the prayer gatherings, and the untold ministries inside and outside aim at this: to cultivate and to spread such a deep and satisfying relationship with God that we rest in him whether living or dying, whether comfortable or miserable. Our aim is to cultivate and spread the unshakable confidence that God is better than what life can give us and what death can take from us. (emphasis mine)

And the amazing truth is, that those who love God more than life..... those who suffer willingly, are God's gift to the world and the world does not deserve them.

Many things in this life are utterly opposite from the way they seem. And here is one of them. When the precious children of God are permitted to suffer and be rejected and mistreated and go destitute, afflicted and ill-treated, God is giving a gift to the world. He is gracing the world. He is shedding his love abroad in the world. Because in those who suffer and die in the unshakable assurance of hope in God, the world is given a message and a picture: "The Lord himself is better than life. Turn, O turn and believe." (emphasis mine)

And it's after all that, that we read the words.....

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

The faithful who have gone before testify to the fact that they did it, and we can too. They are inspiring us to finish the race. In fact, they are awaiting the best part of their reward until we finish our race.

From Piper's second sermon....
In other words, God's purpose is that all his people - all the redeemed - be gathered in before any of them enjoys the fullness of his promise. His purpose is that we all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.....Your finishing the race is what history is waiting for. The entire consummation of the plan of the universe waits until every single one of God's elect are gathered in. All history waits and all those who have lived by faith crowd the marathon route to urge you on, because they will not be perfected without you. Nor you without them. (emphasis mine)

We can only do it through Jesus' strength - He begins the work, He designs it, He completes it. We need to fix our eyes on Him, and focus on the joy and the reward that awaits us at the end.

This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don't drift, don't neglect, don't be sluggish, don't take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ's spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did - not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (11:26)....Run the race set before you! Don't stroll, don't meander, don't wander about aimlessly. Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it. (emphasis mine)


Tomorrow's passage: Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1-2:3

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Guest Post By Alicia

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Hebrews 8-10

So many glorious verses in this section of scripture today! Wonderful stuff high above man's thinking.
I really liked the following verse:
"If the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God,cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

"How much more...." oh, indeed! It's a verse that pounds you with the severity and the significance of what Christ has done for our sin.

However, I was intrigued more by the verses in Chapter 9 (16 +17) that spoke of the death requirement for covenants. So I went to John Mac Arthur's Commentary for Hebrews.

"A testament, by it's very nature, requires the death of the testator. Covenant, or testament, is from the Greek diatheke, the basic meaning of which corresponds closely to that of our present-day will. A will does not take effect until the one who made it dies. Until that time, its benefits and provisions are only promises, and necessarily future. The point being made in verses 16-17 is simple and obvious. (really John MacArthur? LOL. Well, maybe when you're John Mac Arthur!!!:)
It's relevance tot he Old Covenant, however, was anything but obvious to the Jews being addressed here, so the writer briefly explains how it applies. Building on verse 15, he is saying that God gave a legacy, an eternal inheritance, to Israel in the form of a covenant, a will. As with any will, it was only a type of promissory note until the provider of the will died. At this point, no mention is made of who the testator is or of how Christ fills that role in life and death." (Okay, now I'm catching on better.......Am I Jewish???)

My confusion was in how the covenants were therefore valid in the OT when they were not made with the blood of the testator. So, here he explains to me that once again, the rituals are symbolic of things to come. Completion in the future is shadowed. In order for them to be forgiven there had to be blood (and yes, like any good Lewis fan, I was having "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" flashbacks) but the real true will and testament of God had not really been made yet.

This brings me to the next segment that was intriguing to me:

"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year." Heb 10:3

I've thought of the sacrifices as rituals of forgiveness, and I've thought of them as symbolic of Christ work to come, but I had now thought of them as reminders of sin. I mean, really, how can you forget that you sin!!? I know I can't usually. Yet, then, I remember that the Holy Spirit, given to me, had not been sent out then! These people in the OT times needed a real, bleeding reminder that they were sinners and needed a savior! Through Christ's finished work, I have this reminder all the time. John Mac Arthur states:
"Even the covering of the sin was temporary. It lasted only until the next sin. It was a burdensome, disappointing system."
I am, like them, reminded of my sin. Yet unlike them, I am consoled by hope in forgiveness. The people of Israel needed to be reminded but once they remembered they had to also realize that their sin was not cured, it was just cleared each and ever time through sacrifice.
"Suppose you get sick and the doctor gives you a prescription. You get it filled and start taking the medicine. If it works, every time you look at the bottle you are happy and are reminded that you are cured, that the sickness is gone. But if it does not work, every time you look at the bottle it reminds you that the medicine is ineffective and that you are still sick. It may sometimes give relief from the symptoms, but it does nothing to cure the disease. A person who must take a medicine to stay alive cannot be said to be cured.
The Old sacrifices and ceremonies had somewhat this same effect on Israel. Instead of removing her sins, they only gave temporary relief and were a constant reminder that her sins were still there. Another year, another lamb, another sacrifice- and the sins were still there. The sacrifices kept reminding the people that they were sinful, and that they were at the mercy of God and could not enter into His presence. Far from erasing sin, the Tabernacle and temple sacrifices only served to call attention to it."

Well, you might say, I still sin! The significant difference is found in Chapter 10 ironically also verse 16-17:
He then says,

Through Christ, God sees our sin no more! We are cured! The Holy Spirit testifies to this! Even as he works to convict us of our sin so that we may live for the Glory of God more and more and be conformed to the image of the Son, our status is clear despite our sanctification process. We are justified! The people of Israel were not.

I have to say, it's good to be on this end of the will, the Covenant, the Testament of God's redemptive plan!

Tomorrow's passage: Heb 11-12:29

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Hebrews 4:14-7:28

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

We are to approach the throne of God with confidence.

Yes, we are to be humble, grateful and reverent because He is our King.

But we can also be confident, bold, and assured of being heard, because He is our Friend and Counselor.

Isn't it amazing that the God who created the entire world, indeed - who runs the universe! - is not too busy to listen to one single voice rising to the throne?!

Incredible. That we would have the ear of the King of Kings!

And not just any King. This King understands what it's like to be human because He was human. He knows all about struggles, temptations, betrayal and more. He can sympathize and empathize with us. But He can also encourage us and inspire us because despite all the temptations He faced, He lived a perfect life. We do not have to sin. There is a way out.

We have the ear of the King. We must not pass up the opportunity to use it!

So approach the throne; in reverence and in confidence - but approach!!

Tomorrow's passage: Hebrews 8-10

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday, December 17 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the One-Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 2 Timothy 4:19-22, Hebrews 1:1-4:13.

Firstly, can anyone think why these last verses in 2 Timothy weren't included in yesterday's reading?  I though it odd to read those last closing verses and then switch to a completely different book. Whatever.

Secondly, I think I'd rather do another predestination post than discuss Hebrews!!! ACK.

Okay, now that I've gotten those things off my chest....

Because Hebrews scares me even more than Romans, and because I kinda left this to the last minute this week, I don't have much to say.  The author begins the book by giving certain proofs of Christ's supremacy ~ here we see arguments for Him being superior to angels, and that though He came in human form, He is even greater than Moses.  But before launching into also being greater than the Old Testament Priesthood, which we'll read tomorrow, the writer to the Hebrews seems to go on a bit of a tangent.  He suddenly issues a warning to people who've heard lots about Christ, who've listened to sermon after sermon, but who haven't transitioned from hearing and enjoying the Gospel to true faith in Christ.

I think this passage may be the biggest argument for those who don't feel it's the "right time" to commit their lives to Christ.

The Exodus Israelites knew all about God.  They heard Him speak through the prophets and saw His incredible works.  Yet they didn't enter the rest of the Promised Land because they didn't fully possess what they professed.

The Promised Land Israelites didn't get the rest they thought they would in the land of Caanan either, because once again, they didn't continually trust God.

Countless regular church attenders from ages past, from the present, and probably also from the future, will not enter the promised rest of God because their knowledge of God never became faith IN God.

Jesus says, in Matthew 7:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

God promises us rest, but only if we place our trust in Him.  And He doesn't promise we'll have any better time ~ or any other time but today.  Right now.  This is a dire warning to those who've complacently sat through church services all their lives, thinking they've done and are doing all that is required.

In Revelation 3:20, the resurrected Christ says:  "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."

And the writer to the Hebrews says:  "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

James 4:14 says:  "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Clearly, the time to make a firm decision is immediately!  The time to open the door is not after years of contemplation....  it's NOW!!

Tomorrow's passages: Hebrews 4:14-7:28

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bible Reading Plans narrowed down - Please vote!

According to the votes and comments in my planning post, we have narrowed the reading plan options down to three: the Chronological Plan in both the OT and the NT every day, and Professor Horner's Plan and Professor Horner's Plan condensed so that we're reading 5 chapters per day - similar benefits but less reading. Click on the links for more details. It's time to pick between these three - please comment and vote!

Keep in mind - the opinions of those who are actively participating in the blog (or who decide to actively participate in the coming year) will be given more weight when choosing a plan. So - active participants - please be sure to state clearly in the comments section what your choice is.

Also, please let me know if you would like to participate in the blog this year, both new members and continuing members - if you want to post, please let me know how often you would like to commit to doing so (remember, you can change this at any time if it's too much or too little, I'm just an email/comment away!); or if you'd like to follow along, reading the Bible and the blog posts and commenting on a fairly regular basis; or if you'd simply like the accountability of someone knowing you've committed to reading the Bible through in a year. I hope you'll join us in at least some capacity - anything is better than nothing. You don't have to be able to do it perfectly for it to be worth it. Any Bible reading/studying is worth it!! As the ladies who participated this year can testify to - it's been a tremendous year of learning and growth, such a blessing to learn from each other, alongside each other and hold each other accountable. It doesn't matter if you know any of us personally or online. If you have a passion for God, a desire to grow in your relationship with Him, a desire to grow in discernment - please join us.

I can't wait to see what God is going to do in 2011!!

December 16th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 2 Timothy 2-4:18

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

ALL Scripture. Even the Old Testament ;) That's one huge thing I've learned during this past year on the Bible blog is how valuable and applicable the Old Testament still is to us today. I certainly never used to think that, that's for sure!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

Now that's motivation if I ever heard it! I want to be able to claim this right along with Paul. I want to reach the end of my (hopefully long!) life with no regrets. Well, I know that's not realistic, so let's say with few regrets.

Thankfully the heavenly reward is not just for spiritual giants like Paul, but for "all who have longed for his appearing"! We need to keep fighting, because in the end, it will all be worth it.

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Timothy 4:19-22, Hebrews 1-4:13

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 Timothy 6:11-21; Titus 1-3; 2 Timothy 1

Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. Titus 3:14

I certainly do not want to live an unproductive life!

But it's pretty easy to live an unproductive day. And it's easy for those days to become more frequent rather than less. Especially with computers, internet, TV, video games, ipods, etc - it's so easy to waste time on stuff that is, quite simply, irrelevant! Obviously not all internet usage is irrelevant, but it's very easy to waste time here.

Reminded me of this great sermon clip by Joshua Harris (about 7 mins - definitely worth listening to!)....

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 24:33-34
Today, people don't usually struggle with laziness as far as work is concerned (in fact, lots of people are workaholics!). But maybe we need self-control in another area. Are we wasting our time with trivialities? Perhaps this verse should be rephrased like this....

A little web surfing, a little facebook, a little folding of the hands around the smart phone and spiritual poverty will come upon you like a robber. (Joshua Harris, from clip above). Click here to hear this convicting sermon in its entirety.

Tomorrow's passage: 2 Timothy 2-4:18

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14 - Miriam

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is 1 Timothy 3-6:10.

Good stuff in today's reading - some instructions for the leaders of the church, many of which seem self-explanatory but are still good reminders of the example that those in authority must set for those around them.  Bob Deffinbaugh, in Believing and Behaving in the Household of God had this to say about the book of 1 Timothy:

 Many books are available in the bookstore that deal with the subject of the church, but 1 Timothy contains God’s divinely inspired, inerrant, infallible instructions regarding the church. Seldom does one find contemporary works on the church dealing with the subject matter that we find in 1 or 2 Timothy. This is a vitally important book, one which we should hear and heed. Let us listen well, then, and ask God’s Spirit to enable us to think our way through the message of this great letter from the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son, and thus to the church at Ephesus.

He provides a summary of what can be learned from each chapter of the entire book.  I'll take a couple of excerpts from what he has to say about today's chapters.  Chapter 3 deals with the qualifications for those who are leaders in the church.  Chapter 4 verse 12 stood out to me.  It says:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Timothy (and all other youthful saints) should exercise discipline over their youthful desires and inclinations. This sounds foreign in our culture, where youth feels compelled to experience every pleasure and indulgence. Discipline is necessary for godliness in matters of speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Discipline needs to be exercised in ministry.

Paul was speaking directly to Timothy as his ambassador to the church in Ephesus, but I think there is a really important truth for the rest of us in this verse.  We often hear and see these days that young people "should" be out enjoying themselves, sowing their wild oats, etc.  Don't get married too young; don't have children too young.  Be free.  Don't tie yourself down too soon.  Certainly young people should reach a certain level of maturity before marrying and having children and so on, but I think often people use experience and maturity interchangeably, not recognizing that some people have all kinds of experiences without attaining maturity, and others are mature in their attitudes and behaviour at a young age without having indulged their youthful desires and inclinations.

Chapter 5 is about showing honour where honour is due - caring for the widows and elders of the church and so on.

Chapter 6 verses 7 & 8 jumped out at me immediately.    For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.   

Paul closes his letter to Timothy by focusing on a proper Christian perspective of prosperity. The false teachers believed that godliness was the means to making a profit. Paul differs from this twisted view of ministry and godliness. Paul does grant that godliness is “profitable” when prosperity is rightly understood (6:6). Godliness that is combined with contentment is very profitable, even if not in a monetary way. Since we didn’t bring material prosperity with us at our birth, and we can’t take it with us when we die, we should not be obsessed with it. We should be content when our daily needs are met (see Philippians 4:10-13).

Paul wants to be very clear on this matter of prosperity. Godliness does not guarantee material wealth, but neither is it sinful to possess material wealth. It is not being rich that is evil, but being obsessed with a desire to accumulate wealth. This is a sin that can be committed by the poor, if they are obsessed with becoming rich. Those who desperately desire to be rich may succumb to temptations to cut corners in order to get there. So then, it is the love of money which Paul condemns, and not the mere possession of wealth:
 For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains (1 Timothy 6:10).  (emphasis mine)

I've talked before about being somewhat nervous about starting a home daycare as the income is inconsistent, especially considering that all of the children I currently care for are here part time, not full time.  However, I need to remember that the Lord's prayer says "Give us this day our daily bread" - not bread enough for the week, or for the month, or assurance of bread for the entire year, but daily bread.  And guess what?  We've had enough for everything we've needed and then some for the almost six months I've been doing this, for which I am very thankful.  There are times when I think "Man, things would be easier if we just had more money," but I don't really think that's true.  I think no matter how much we have, there will be problems and concerns - the issues may just be somewhat different.  So I've decided that since we can pay our bills, buy groceries, take the occasional weekend at a hotel or something as a family, and buy some "extras" from time to time (even if they are pre-owned), I'm happy.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Timothy 6:11-21; Titus 1-3:15; 2 Timothy 1.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is James 4-5, 1 Timothy 1-2

The verse in James that jumped out at me is....

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sin. James 4:17

The Bible is quite clear that there are sins of commission (when we do something we are told not to do) and there are sins of omission (when we don't do something we should do).

The sins of commission are obvious and are probably easier to not only acknowledge and confess, but to be convicted of, to become aware of.

Sins of omission on the other hand are tricky.

A lot of it comes down to motive, attitude and what we've felt led to do by the Holy Spirit - none of which is visible to anyone else. Which makes it very easy to hide. Which makes it very easy to justify to ourselves. Which makes it very easy to continue to sin. Which makes it very easy to begin to drift away from God. Which makes it very easy to become a cancer in our soul.

Because we know it's sin.

Because we know it's sin.

And because we surely know that God knows it's sin.

God cannot be mocked. God cannot be deceived. God knows the heart. God knows our every deed, our every word, our every thought and desire, motive and attitude.

And a sin of omission is just as bad as a sin of commission. Jesus had to die for all the times I did not do what was right, just as much as He had to die for all the times I did wrong.

Even if it's not as outwardly obvious to those around us, it is just as serious.

Sins of omission can be as simple as choosing to do what is good instead of what is better.

We need to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. We need to not shrug off those feelings and rather pay attention to them and follow them where God leads.

And when we do, we will be blessed.

I wanted to quickly also mention the verse in 1 Timothy that hit me....
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

We're supposed to be praying for our leaders, for our government. And sometimes I do, but considering it's a commandment, I'm thinking I should do it more.

On the local Christian radio station there have been updates from the National House of Prayer about how, after a call to pray for our government, our Prime Minster Stephen Harper took a stand for Israel....

our Prime Minister gave an important and strong speech against Anti-Semitism. Many of us see it as another sign that our prayers are strengthening him in his stand for righteousness. Let’s keep praying for Stephen Harper that he will continue to show courage in taking moral stands even when it is not popular.

Here’s an excerpt below…

“We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism — healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack — is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.

“And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ There are, after all, a lot more votes, a lot more, in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. And friends, I say this not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well if we listen to it, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.

“Earlier I noted the paradox of freedom. It is freedom that makes us human. Whether it leads to heroism or depravity depends on how we use it.” from here. You can read the full speech here.

Isn't that amazing?!

Pray on, Canada and America, pray on!

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Timothy 3-6:10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12th

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is James 1-3.

There was so much that jumped out at me in today's readings that I hardly know what to concentrate on today!

There's the relationship between faith and deeds, there's the progression of sin and how it can entangle us, there's the struggle with reigning in the tongue: all of which definitely stuck out. But then there was one verse that really hit me....

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

I am not technically a teacher.

But because I am a mother, I am a teacher to four little ones who are precious in the sight of God. And I will be judged for how I teach them.

And all those things that stuck out in this passage apply.

What am I teaching my kids about the relationship between faith and deeds? Am I giving proper verbal instruction and then, even more importantly, is my walk matching my talk? Do my children see me living out my faith on a daily basis? And not just sometimes, but always!

Am I teaching my children the progression of sin and how our sinful side natural desires evil which causes us to be tempted, then to rationalize the sin away so that we give in to it, which causes it to be easier to commit the same sin again the next time and that very quickly what we once thought was fun and enticing now becomes our master and us its slave?

Am I teaching my children the power of the tongue and how difficult yet crucial it is to master it - only by the grace of God and His power alone?

And the list just goes on and on!

We are not just living our lives. We are not only responsible for ourselves. Because, make no mistake, every day as parents we are teaching our children.

What exactly are we teaching them?

Tomorrow's passage: James 4-5, 1 Timothy 1-2

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday, December 11-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the One Year Bible Chronological Reading Plan is Philippians 2:12-4:23.

I loved reading through today's readings and having verses that I memorized as a child jump out at me. It's kind of like when you hear a song that you have not heard in a long time and yet you are able to sing along with it as if you had been singing it regularly.

These three verses are like that for me:

Philipians 2: 14 & 15
14Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

I remember learning this one, I think at Pioneer Clubs, and being reminded that the bible tells us to live lives that are examples to others. Rereading it today, it takes on a whole knew truth for me because I think it is so easy to become like the "crooked and twisted generation" we live in. Oh, how hard it is to live without grumbling and complaining!

This week it was confirmed that a parent at my school has stage 4 brain cancer. It sucks. It is impossible to look at the situation and not question what in the world God is thinking taking this parent from the 2 children. Of course, we only see a small piece of God's plan and we can't know the whole story. This parent is shining as a light and drawing people close. Perhaps this situation is just a tool to draw others to God.

Phillipians 4: 6&7
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I memorized this verse as well as a child and loved that it was included on a Seeds Family Worship CD that I ordered after Tammy recommended it.

I love that my kids have memorized this verse through this song and have it hidden in their hearts for moments of anxiety and fear. I am encouraged by this verse because it reminds me that I can bring all of my worries to God and He will ease them. How awesome it is to know that we do not have to live a life in a "twisted and crooked generation" alone. God is as close as a prayer away and ready to trade you peace for all your worries. How much lighter the burden when we share it with God.

Philipians 4:8
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

There is so much to think about. There is so much to worry about. I think too often my focus is not on what it should be. Are my thoughts on "whatever is true" or am I concerning myself with gossip? Are my thoughts on "whatever is honourable" or am I thinking about ways to stretch the truth? Are my thoughts on "whatever is just" or am I forgetting that God is the only judge and that my job is to forgive? Are my thoughts on "whatever is pure" or am I finding television shows that promote scenarios that are in contrast to God's plan? Are my thoughts on "whatever is lovely" or do I not see God's creation because I am so busy to notice it? Are my thoughts on "whatever is commendable" or do I tend to focus on what is not rather than compliment those that need it? If I believe God is the example of "excellence" and "worthy of praise" why do my thoughts wander from this reality?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for bringing these verses back from deep in my memory. Their truths speak out to me today. Your word is new to us everyday and what may have spoke to me while I was memorizing these verses as a child may be different from what I am hearing now and yet Your word is still the same. Lord, help us to not grumble and complain but be examples and light to others to draw them to you. Remind us that we are never alone and that You want to carry our anxiety and give us peace. Lord, also help us focus our minds on the stuff that matters and let it crowd out the trivial details and make us more focused on You. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: JAMES 1:1-3:18