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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Rebellion and a New Plan

Genesis 11:1-13:4  Matthew 5:1-26  Psalm 5:1-12  Proverbs 1:24-28

Babel is another saga in the man vs God, rebellion leads to punishment story that is typical of the beginning of Genesis.  For some reason (see “God floods the world”) all of the people have come together to build a huge waterproof tower that will reach into the heavens (who needs gods when we can build our own tower to heaven)? People are so easily tricked that we can really on ourselves to accomplish everything we could ever want in life. We fail to realize that this is a direct insult to the one who is the Creator of the universe and source of life.

So God realizes that when united, people can accomplish anything.  Since they are using their unity to rebel against God, the curse that is placed on humanity is not only the confusion of languages, but is essentially the beginning of division and racism.  What is frightening is that over the last several thousand years, people have begun to embrace the curses that God places upon people in Genesis.  We were cursed have to work for food, and today we see work-addicts today who want nothing more than success in their careers.  We were cursed to have division and racism, and today instead of fighting against it, we live in neighborhoods with people that look/talk/act just like us and go to church with mostly the same.  God told us we had to leave the peaceful harmony of Eden and today we fill our lives with busy-ness and stuff and fail to be the caretakers of the world that God created us to be.

The saddest thing is that Jesus came to undo all of those curses in our life and even for those of us who have Jesus in our lives, we still fail to leave behind the curses he came to liberate us from.  There is no question in Paul’s writings (See Ephesians 2) that he expects the result of the cross to be an end to racism, that two people would become one.  Unfortunately, he failed to realize how comfortable it is to live in a post-Babel world.  It’s easy to spend time with the ones who talk like me.

After Babel, God begins moving in a new direction.  No longer is the plan to be doing constant battle against rebellious people.  He instead go to a man named Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) and makes a covenant (something between a promise and a contractual agreement where both sides have a part in the promise) with him.  There are a few key points to the covenant here, that God will give Abraham the Promised Land, that his descendents will be a great and numerous nation, and that he will be a blessing to all the nations (spoiler alert: the blessing comes through Jesus).  God is not doing battle any more, but creating covenants through which he can develop relationship with people until the time comes when he can repair what has been broken.

It’s also extremely important to notice that God has begun a pattern of using messed up and often deeply flawed people to do His work and through which he will work his plan in this world.  Noah’s drunkenness is an early example of this and now we see Abraham’s cowardice, selfishness and deceitfulness in his dealing with his wife, Sarai, as they travel through Egypt.  Even so, God blesses him in every way and Abraham leaves Egypt with greater wealth than he came with.

I am surprised every day that I think that the readings are so short, but when I go to write about them, I have way to much I want to discuss.  Probably my first criticism of the reading plan is that it divided the Sermon on the Mount into multiple days.  I wish it had been on a single day.  Because of that desire, I will leave it for Ryan to post on in its entirety tomorrow!

Someday we will get a boring reading and I will try to go back and bring out some of the highlights of the Proverbs we have so far left out of these discussions.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Noah’s Sons and Zebedee’s Sons

Genesis 8:1-10:32  Matthew 4:12-25  Psalm 4:1-8  Proverbs 1:20-23

Genesis 9:18-28

I remembered the first time I read this passage and realized that I had never heard it before. For me, this passage (going through chapter 11) sets the stage for Israel’s story. The youngest son, Ham, did something to Noah that unset him a little. Maybe that is an understatement. The text is a little ambiguous as to what happened but what really is important is the fact that Ham did something bad enough that Noah would then curse Ham’s son Canaan to be slaves of the sons of Shem and Japheth. Not to ruin the story…but Abraham is Shem’s descendant. From Canaan came the Canaanites. I don’t want to ruin the story so I’ll just point out that this curse is really important later. Consider this a tease.

Matthew 4:18-22

I was always a little confused growing up as to why Mr. Zebedee was cool with this stranger coming along and asking his boys to walk away with him. This would put Z a little short handed on the family business! At this point, Jesus has established himself as a rabbi and is now gathering disciples to study under him. The fact that these boys were out fishing with Daddy Z means that they did not make it into Rabbinic School. A rabbi walks up and tells them that he will take them on as his disciples and they take off on a journey not knowing what is really before them.

There is something I love about the unknown and most of the time I am really drawn to the mystery of it. This makes me less of a planner and I tend to just go with whatever comes along. The trip I just took to Ireland was like that. I had a loose plan and I just went. This bothers some people about me and I try to not do this as much when it involves other people. Jesus calls his disciples to a journey and doesn’t give them much detail but they had faith that this guy knew what he was doing. I understand why most of you wouldn’t want to go on a journey with me if I didn’t give you any detail. My challenge to you today is that you embrace the journey that Jesus is calling you on and follow him wherever he goes…even when you can’t see the direction. I struggle with this myself and try to keep that in check. God wants to direct you. Jesus wants you to follow him. He wants you to drop your nets and walk in faith.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Wednesday!

Ryan

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

40 Days

In the last 24 hours we have had over 75 people visit this blog and several great comments.  If you are new to blogging, you will notice at the bottom of each post it will tell you who wrote it and will also allow you to make comments and read other people’s comments.  I strongly recommend reading the comments since David has been posting some really good stuff there.

Today’s Reading is Genesis 5:1-7:24, Matthew 3:7-4:11, Psalm 3:1-8, and Proverbs 1:10-19.

I have to warn you that the flood is one of my favorite Bible stories.  There are several reasons for this, including a really great comedy sketch by Bill Cosby that you have to listen to here.  I also think it’s interesting that we tell one of the most horrific stories in the Bible (God nearly annihilates humanity) to the smallest of children just because we can use stuffed animals and animal crackers.

The story is also extremely important to understanding just how terrible things have been since Adam and Eve left Eden.  On the seventh day, people have a perfect relationship with God, with one another, and with the creation.  Then, things take a decided turn for the worst.  By the time we get to Abraham in chapter 11, Cain has been exiled for murdering his brother, humanity has nearly been wiped out because it has become “all evil, all the time,” and then tries to rebel against God again by building an enormous waterproof tower (which leads to confusion and racism).  Clearly, God and people are having a had time figuring out how to have a relationship after Eden.

In my mind, the flood stands alone as the most significant event in this section of God and humanity battling one another with seemingly no end in sight.  What Noah and his family witnessed in the first day or two of the flood would likely have been one of the more horrific natural disasters the world has ever known.  While eight people and very few animals were rescued on an ark, an entire creation drowned around them.  The sights, sounds, and smells would have been unimaginable.  Those first days were far away from the picture with the rainbow and the giraffes at the end.

This story is as much about God’s refusal to accept sin and to ignore evil as it is about the grace shown to Noah’s family.  Earlier in chapter seven it says that God could not contend with man forever and limited his life to 120 years.  But that wasn’t enough to curb the evil.  Man had become so wicked that “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”  How quickly the harmony of the seventh day had turned to all evil, all the time.  So God destroyed the evil and started anew with Noah’s family.

In the war with evil, God has one more all out battle (tower of Babel) remaining before he takes a change in tactics.  Soon he will begin establishing covenants with humanity, first with Abraham, that will provide rules in which the relationship between God and people can be reestablished, but even that will prove to be extremely difficult.  The flood shows us just how far we have fallen from the world God intended for us to live in that He was moved to something so drastic.

Other random flood facts:  We don’t know Noah’s wife’s name.  While it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, the water remained on the earth for 150 days.  Noah took two of most animals and seven of some.  The Hebrew word “ark” means box, so if translated, God told Noah to build a giant floating box.  Since we are told that Eden was watered by a mist that rose from the ground, some people think the flood might have been the first rainfall ever.  The ark had three levels.

On the temptation of Jesus I will briefly mention something that I think is extremely important.  I believe that Jesus’ greatest temptation throughout his life was to buy into the Jewish Messianic expectation that a descendant of King David would rise up, defeat all the nations and rule over the world as an earthly king.  Had he thrown himself from the Temple (with faithful Jews all around) they would have immediately forced him to become King of Israel. Satan then offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.  Later we see this struggle again when Peter says that Jesus cannot die and Jesus replies, “Get behind me, Satan!”  I also think this temptation is present in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately prior to Jesus’ arrest.  However, Jesus remains faithful through every temptation and was the Messiah that the world truly needed, but doing so was never easy.

 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Day 2, Chaos in the World

Good morning Church! I hope day two of our 365 days that will change everything is treating you well. I am excited about all of us reading God’s Word together in community.

Genesis 3:1-4:26  Matthew 2:13-3:6  Psalm 2:1-12  Proverbs 1:7-9

In our reading this morning, I was struck by the events surrounding the first few years of Jesus’ life. Most of the time when reading these passages, I’ve mostly just focused on Jesus’ birth, the Magi, and Jesus constantly having to move, and just overlooked the rest. This morning I was struck by what all happened because Jesus was born. Frankly, a lot of little kids died because Jesus was born. Herod, feeling threatened, wanted Jesus dead so he just started killing every little kid in sight within a short distance of Bethlehem. Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus are on the move leaving behind a city who is crying out because of the sins of man.

For me, this has been a great reminder for why Jesus came down to earth. He came to redeem the brokenness of humanity that has been crying out for redemption since the Fall in Gen 3. Psalms 2 brought so much of this into perspective for me. Psalm 2:1-6 says, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD. . . .The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

We see the chaos that surrounded the first few years of Jesus’ birth, we see the Fall of man in Gen 3, we see nations standing up against our God, and we look around our world and still hear it crying out for redemption. Thanks be to God for sending Christ our Lord!

Ryan

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Day One

Today marks the first day in this journey though the Bible.  Bill did a fantastic job this morning of calling all of us to read our Bible this year.  I apologize that today’s post is so late in the day.  Between church and our March Madness basketball tournament at church, I didn’t have a chance to get to it until now.  I will try to be more prompt in the future.

Today’s reading is Genesis 1:1-2:25, Matthew 1:1-2:12, Psalm 1:1-6 and Proverbs 1:1-6.

After today’s readings, here are my five thoughts.

  1. I am praying for you tonight and will be for the next year.  I am praying that God works in your life through his Word and that he gives you the commitment and the perseverance to accomplish this goal.  I pray that it truly does open your eyes to who God is and what He wants for you.  I pray it changes you and helps you grow.  And I pray it does the same for me.
  2. Genesis 1 is so powerful and so beautiful at the same time.  If there was ever two things that remind of us unmeasurable power and utter chaos, it has to be the darkness and the ocean.  And it was out of this chaos that God begins to create His masterpiece, our world.  In the first three days God creates environments and spaces: the light, the earth and sky, and finally the water, land and plants. Then, on the fourth through sixth days God creates object to occupy the environments he has already created, in the order he created them: sun, moon and stars, birds and fish, and finally animals and people.  Out of extreme chaos, God brings extreme order.  Out of a world of nothing, God brings a world created in exquisite detail for us to live in.  It’s the place where he intended for us to love him.
  3. The seventh day matters.  God wasn’t tired.  He didn’t need a break or vacation.  He was doing something important on the seventh day.  And the creation was doing something important as well.  He rested.  It rested.  Everything was at peace.  We live in a world today that doesn’t provide us with many 7th day opportunities, where we can just be still and know God.  Find these times.  Let your daily Bible reading be one of these times.  Much more to come on this once we get to the Sabbath.
  4. Genealogies don’t get enough credit for being interesting.  One of the most interesting things to me is that it’s the genealogy of Joseph, who, as Luke later says, was only thought to be the father of Jesus. So it seems unusual that Jesus’ family tree would run through Joseph.  However, birthright and inheritance were passed from father to son.  Mary couldn’t provide this for Jesus.  This is why it’s so important to read about Joseph’s willingness to accept this role in chapter 2.
  5. It’s extremely fitting that Psalms begins with a warning for the ungodly and a promise for those who follow God’s law.  It’s also fitting our Bible reading would begin with this Psalm as well.  Hopefully we will all soon be like fruitful trees along the riverbank.
 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

“Do You Need to Read the Bible?” Quiz

Here are two websites that have Bible Knowledge Quizzes you can take online.  Based on your results, I can tell you whether or not you need to join us in our Bible Reading campaign starting Sunday.

http://www.christiananswers.net/quiz/home.html

http://www.twopaths.com/biblequizzes.html

I took five of the quizzes and scored a 100%, 90%, 90%, 100% and 40% (be careful, the genius quiz mostly asks for the names of parents or spouses of obscure Bible characters).

Now, if you take several of these tests and scored below 50%, you should read the Bible to learn more about what it says, who God is, and what all of that means to you and our world today.

On the other hand, if you scored higher than a 50%, you should read the Bible because its about way more than knowledge and your ability to score well on these silly quizzes.  I mean, I could probably pass a test asking me trivia about my wife, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to continue interacting with her and learning more about her all the time.

In other words, read for knowledge, but even more importantly, read for relationship.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

4 Bible Reading Myths

There are lots of good reasons to read the Bible.  It’s the most read book in the history of the world (everybody else is doing it), you will understand many common sayings (‘Don’t be such a doubting Thomas’ or ‘Cast the first stone.’), you will better understand your place in God’s Kingdom and most importantly, you will fall more in love with the Creator.

However, people also have reasons to not read the Bible.  I will, not surprisingly, refer to those reasons as myths.  Without any further ado…

MYTH #1.  It’s a RULE BOOK.  I think the assumption that most people make about reading the Bible is that it is important to read in order to acquire the knowledge of all the rules and regulations so that we know how to behave.  Much of the book is history, romance, wisdom, poetry, or letters.  It’s way more about how God has always interacted with people and the world and what that means for us and our world.

MYTH #2.  It’s an OLD BOOK written by old men from an old culture that has nothing to do with me or my world today.  Well, this is partially true, in that the Bible is old.  However, that’s kinda like saying that it doesn’t matter where I was raised, or what my family was like, or who the major influences are in my life.  Clearly if you want to know me and understand why and how I work, you need to have some sense of where I come from.  Then you can better understand me and where I plan on going.  The Bible is where we come to understand these things about God and the beginnings of our world.  The better we see how this works, the more likely we are to understand God, his relationship with us, and what it means for our world.

MYTH #3.  It’s BORING.  It’s easy to slip into this one.  If you have ever started a Bible reading plan before, you might have flown through Genesis and Exodus, which are full of one great story after another and then never survived the Bible- reading-desert-without-any-oasis that is Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  They aren’t exactly page turners.  Or maybe you tried using a King James or some other version that was just so heavy it sucked the life right out of your Bible-reading-joy.  However, if any of those things led you to find the Bible as boring, you are missing out on some of the world’s greatest stories or heroism, romance, sacrifice, and adventure.  Trust me.  If you read it, you will fall in love with this book.

Myth #4.  It’s TOO LONG.  Admittedly, it’s extremely long.  But don’t think about it in terms of 66 books, or 1700 pages, or one year.  Instead, realize that we are only talking about 15-20 minutes a day.  I spend about that much time eating breakfast every day, and nobody complains that we spend too much time eating breakfast.  Just commit to read each day’s reading assignment and soon enough you will have read God’s Word and you will realize how much it has changed you.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

The Challenge…

Starting this Sunday our church, Northwest Church of Christ, will be challenging its members (and anybody else who wants to join us) in reading the entire Bible in one year.  We will be using the One Year Bible Reading Plan, which includes a daily passage from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.

You can find more information about the plan from YouVersion.com by clicking here or at OneYearBibleOnline.com by clicking here.

Every day, one of our ministers will be posting devotional thoughts or other responses to that day’s reading on this blog (and probably on Facebook).  Hopefully this is exciting to you and you will join us as we take this journey together.

If you want to download the plan with edited dates to match our church’s reading schedule, you can get them off of the church’s website http://www.nwchurchokc.com or by clicking here.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year