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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The One Year Blessing

A year ago I both extended and accepted the challenge to read through the Bible in a year.  Each day I read a passage from the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm and a passage from Proverbs.  Reading some of each part was good and bad.  I didn’t like that it often felt like I was jumping around.  However, when I was laboring through some of the difficult books (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, etc.) it was really nice to have some Gospel to read along with them.  But at the end of it all, I was so blessed to have been through all of God’s Word this year (and youversion.com gave me a badge).  Here’s some of the ways I have been blessed:

  1. I’ve learned a lot of things.  One of the things that I never really realized was how incomplete the conquest was at the end of Joshua and how much that impact Israel.  After King Solomon’s death, Judah and Israel struggled to remain unified and be the end of the Old Testament Israel was nearly non-existent while Judah was back in Jerusalem.  Another example of this divide is that Jerusalem was the capital of Judah and Samaria was the capital of Israel.  Not sure I fully understood the significance of that before this year.  In the New Testament I was surprised how often Paul seemed to be upset about Judaizers and people who tried to bind Christians to old aspects of the law.  I also actually took the time to deal with Revelation, which I generally try to avoid.
  2. Daniel, Zechariah and John all moved up on the list of books I like while Isaiah and Numbers moved down.  Just personal preference, otherwise their all very good books.
  3. I learned a lot of personal discipline.  Blogging this much in the last year was difficult, but I think it has helped me to develop important tools that I will forever use as a minister of the Gospel and even more so someday when I am preaching weekly.  I think this discipline also helped me in other areas of my life as well (such as my diet, which allowed me to lose 35 pounds).  Spiritual and physical discipline is so valuable and I have truly been blessed by that this year.
  4. I feel closer to God and more comfortable with His word.  I trust Him more.  And I mean that.  I really trust Him more.  After reading the Bible, I find God to be very reliable and I am more comfortable letting him guide me and my life.

There are other areas too, but as I sit here thinking about how I have grown and been blessed by this challenge this year, these are the things that jump out at me the most.

Now the question…how have you been blessed by reading through God’s Word this year?  What was something you learned?  What surprised you?  Pick your favorite question from this list and put your answer in the comments!  If you didn’t read all of it, just share how God’s Word blesses you when you do spend time in it.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Bible Blog

 

A New Thing…(Starting Monday)

Starting next Monday, the journey continues.  Ryan and I will begin a new reading venture through the New Testament.  We will start with the book of Luke and then read Acts and Romans.  I’ll put the full schedule up soon, but we will essentially be going through the books written by Luke and Paul in the order they appear in the New Testament.  The plan is to read and blog on a single chapter of each book Monday through Thursday and on Friday we will focus on a “Hot Topic,” which will be an application, topic, or current event (feel free to make suggestions when those begin).  We won’t be posting new blogs on Saturday or Sunday.

Our goal is to do more than just summarize the text, but to provide context, focus on important aspects of the passage, and seek to apply God’s Word in a meaningful way.  Our hope is that the blog will continue to have elements of community, conversation and engage readers in a way that benefits us and others too.

So, I will try to post one or two other things between now and then, but be sure to be here Monday for Ryan’s posting on Luke chapter 1!

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Bible Blog

 

Come Elijah and Come Lord Jesus

Malachi 3-4 

In chapter three, Malachi warns the people that God desires to take them to trial.  His accusations against them are that they have cheated him with lousy sacrifices and by withholding their tithe.  The people question this as if they don’t understand and God tells them that then they don’t give to God what is God’s, they might as well be stealing from Him.  He also accuses them of saying terrible things about him and questioning why they should serve a God like Yahweh.  These things are unacceptable and God will judge them, but he will also save and protect a group who has repented and remained faithful to Him.

In chapter 4, we have a promise that God has a plan and that He is going to deliver Israel and again begin to accept their sacrifices.  It’s clear that while things haven’t been very good lately, God’s intention is to restore His relationship with Israel.  The final prophet concludes with a statement that God will sent Elijah before the day of judgment.  Traditional Hebrew thinking is that this means Elijah would come before the Messiah arrived.  The Gospel writers indicate that this was the function of John the Baptist and the stage is now set for Jesus to come and set things to rights.

Revelation 22

We have gone from the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis 3 (one year ago) to the Tree of Life.  While Adam and Eve were once removed from the Garden for the stated purpose of being kept from eating of the Tree of Life (having already eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), those who are in Christ are now invited to enter the Holy City and eat of the Tree of Life.  God has restored and made new everything that was lost and he did it through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.  It’s a beautiful and powerful image and one that brings everything back together.  What more can I say, but to share with you the invitation of Revelation 22:

“The Bride and the Spirit say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come.  Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

And to that, I can only echo the sentiments of John, “COME, LORD JESUS!”

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s Holy people.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Awful Offal and New Jerusalem

Malachi 1-2

The first half of Malachi begins with God telling Israel that despite his great love for them, Israel doesn’t give Him the respect or honor that a father or master deserves.  Because of that, they must repent or face God’s judgment.  Israel has begun bringing lousy offers to God’s table that show no respect.  They sacrifice blind and lame animals.  It’s become so bad that God is setting up other nations that worship him and respect him as an example for Israel to follow.  The nation that was supposed to be a light to the nations must now look to the nations as a light.

God is angry with the priests who have allowed this to happen and sanctioned the sacrifices that God finds so offensive.  In chapter two the text says that if they don’t change their ways that God will “splatter their faces with the manure from their festival sacrifices and throw them on the manure pile.”  The NIV is a bit more tactful and simply states that God will spread the offal from the sacrifices on their face.  It’s a disgusting disgrace but it  shows how angry God is with the priests, who once he is done with them will be good for nothing but to be thrown out into the waste pile.

Revelation 21

Three thoughts on this chapter.  First, we so often picture this scene as everybody floating up and ending up in the sky.  And yet, everything in this chapter seems to indicate the opposite, that God will come down.  The New Earth and New Jerusalem will come and be a part of the world we live in now.  Certainly things about it will be different and better and more complete (the measurements of the city indicate its completeness and perfection).  God will dwell among people again and the Old Testament covenant will finally be perfectly fulfilled, “They will be His people and He will be their God.”

The second thing is that the scale and scope of this new creation will be beyond description.  John is using all of the best, finest, most beautiful items he can think of to describe how gorgeous and wonderful this final resting place will be, but you get the idea that he can’t even begin to describe the wonders of this dwelling with God.

And finally, God and Jesus will be the Temple.  Throughout the Old Testament the Temple was the place where God intersected with our world.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus has become a more perfect Temple by being God living among us.  Now, God and Jesus are both dwelling eternally with people and the need for a temple of any kind has passed.  We will then have the real thing and live with God.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Proverbs 31

This proverb is a simple reminder of how blessed I am to have married the wonderful and faithful woman who I get to share my life with.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Fall of Jerusalem – And Fire Came Down and Consumed them

Zechariah 14:1-21 

Zechariah 14 and Matthew 24:3-35 share a lot of similarities. Jesus is describing the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 A.D. and it seems as though Zechariah 14 is describing Christ’s ascension, his confirmation as Lord of the nations, and the flow of the Gentiles into the Church.

Revelation 20:1-15 

This passage is possibly one of the most debated passages in the Bible. When is the 1000 year reign?! I find it funny that we take all of the numbers in Revelation as figurative and then we try and make the 1000 years fit somewhere in history. This passage says something very specific to its original readers and when you step back from it a little it still says a lot to us today. These are passages of hope.

Verses 7-10 have been one of my favorite passages in Scripture for years now. I love the buildup of this great climactic battle. It looks grim for the People of God. A vast army who has a leader who is ruthless and dangerous surrounds them. Anxiety and anticipation are taking over as Satan and his army begin to close in. And then fire from Heaven comes down and devours them. It is in this that I find hope! No matter how grim things can seem to be at times. No matter how big Satan looks and feels in this world. God is bigger. God is greater. God is more powerful. And we are His People. The One who is with us is greater than those things that seem so big. Rest in this peace. Know that God wins. He wins easily. Join Him in what He is doing in this world and don’t worry about the opposition. No matter what the debates are in these passages, find hope in that God wins and He’s on your side!

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Songs of Zechariah and Revelation

Zechariah 12-13

As I was reading today, I kept reading the lyrics of Christian hymns.

There’s a fountain free, tis for you and me.  Let us haste or haste to its brink…

Purify me Lord, from ways that aren’t of you.  Take away my shame and make my heart brand new…

Sweet Lamb of God, O how I love the Lamb of God, Please wash me in his precious blood…

Purify my heart, Help me to be like gold, pure gold, refiner’s fire…

It’s remarkable how much of the words we use to talk about Jesus come from the prophets.  Our songs are filled with lyrics that have their origins in the foretellings of the one who will come and restore Israel and begin God’s glorious redemption of his entire Creation.  Unfortunately, we see here in Zechariah that not all will be part of that kingdom but that some will.  And those who will finally will live in covenant with God and they will say, “This is our God,” and God will say, “This is my people.”

Revelation 19

Revelation 19 also starts with singing.  Lots of singing from a huge crowd.  Earlier in the book, this crowd of Christian martyrs cried out, “How long until the persecutor is punished.”  Now that Rome has fallen they have reason to celebrate and worship.  The Harlot, Rome, is defeated and now only the two beasts and the dragon remain.

And now a white horse with a rider enters.  This horse and rider are different from the ones that came out of the seal earlier.  This rider is Jesus and he rides out to do battle against the two beasts, the Roman Empire and the cult of Emperor worship.  But it isn’t much of a battle.  There doesn’t seem to be any back and forth and the sword in the mouth gives the idea that the battle is more spiritual than a physical struggle.  The text indicates that a vast army gathered with the beasts to do battle with the one on the horse, but there doesn’t even seem to be a battle.  The beasts and simply captured and thrown into the lake of fire.  They step onto the battle field and are already defeated.  The power of the rider is ultimate and the victory is total.  Meanwhile, his followers stand behind him clothed in white robes, completely pure, without even a worry of getting a drop of blood on their garments in the midst of battle because a great champion fights the battle and wins the victory for them.

The city and empire of Rome and the worship of its leaders has come to an end.  Jesus has done battle with all of it and defeated them.  Their is vindication and justice for those who were persecuted and heaven rejoices.  Now only one remains, the dragon, to be dealt with.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

The Good Shepherd – Alas, Babylon

Zechariah 10:1-11:17

A good shepherd is coming. One who will be the cornerstone, the tent peg, and the battle bow. We see where the Messianic expectations are in this. Jesus refers to himself as the cornerstone in Matthew 21:42. This whole passage is filled with excitement for the coming Messiah. In chapter 11 we have foreshadowing of Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and his money being used to buy the potters field.

Sometimes we wonder how the Jews would have reacted to many of the things that Jesus said and did. Through these passages we see how specific Jesus was with his actions. Did Jesus know he was the messiah?! Reading through the prophets…I’d say yes!

 

Revelation 18:1-24

Babylon fell in the 6th century BCE and represents the great Kingdom who is ruling the world of the day, Rome. While this is obviously talking about Rome, there are plenty of parallels that can be made to this passage. Whoever is the largest nation is the one who sets the cultural agenda. They set the standard. All too often, it is not the same standard that God sets. Those who have heavy investments in these nations will weep and wail at their destruction. Much like Lot’s wife looking back to Sodom and Gomorra, those who care more about these Babylon-type nations than the Kingdom of God will be destroyed with them. The ship is going down and those who are on it are going down with it. This is a good time to remember where your citizenship is.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Zion’s New King and the Great Harlot

Zechariah 9

Only a humble king would ride a donkey, because you just can't look tough on a donkey.

I have to admit that Zechariah would have been on my list of “Biblical Books I Don’t Know Much About.”  Having spent several days reading it, I am somewhat surprised you don’t hear more about it.  It has a ton of great Messianic prophecy in it.  Whenever I think of Messianic prophecies, I think Isaiah or Jeremiah.  But I will henceforth include Zechariah in that list.

Today it talks about how the future King will bring defeat to Israel’s enemies.  If you are an Israelite, this is really good news and you pay a lot of attention to this part of the passage.  What is interesting is what Zechariah says will happen to the Philistines who are left after they are defeated.  They will worship God and become like a clan in Judah!  The Israelites were all about annihilation and destruction of their enemies, but assimilation and integration…not so much.  And yet here we read that this is part of God’s plan and that it is tied to the future King.

Additionally, the King will bring victory and yet be humble, arriving on a donkey’s colt.  Sound familiar?  Think Jesus riding donkey into Jerusalem.  The people were ready to anoint the one who fulfilled this prophecy and then he tossed the Temple.

This same passage describes the coming King as one who will destroy the tools and methods or war and usher in a time of peace and prosperity.  There will be blessings aplenty and the King’s reach and authority will be global.  God will come and rescue his people as a shepherd rescues his sheep and his followers will be like jewels on his crown.  Sounds pretty good to me.

You can look pretty tough riding this thing though.

Revelation 17

We’ve learned previously that the dragon is Satan, that the first beast is Rome and the second is the cult of emperor worship.  We now have a fourth evil creature in the prostitute or harlot.  This horrible woman sits on the back of the beast and drinks the blood of the martyrs.  The key to the woman’s identity is in verse 18 which says that the woman is the city who rules over the kings of the world.  The letter, written to first century Christians, certainly then speaks of the city of Rome.  This city, like Babylon, has become drunk on its own power and immorality and feasts on the persecution of Christians.

I’ll give you a hint about what’s coming…it isn’t good news for the Harlot.  I also want to briefly say that the temptation for every generation is the take the book of Revelation and apply it to their time and situation.  In doing so, every generation chooses the new “harlot.”  This is the person, country, or organization that they feel is the biggest threat to and persecutor of the church.  While I do think there are patterns of judgment and overcoming persecution that exist in Revelation that we can learn from today, I think it dangerous to take a letter to first century Jews in Rome and

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Does the World Know God is With Us? – Bowels or Bowls?

Zechariah 8:1-23 

When the people strengthen their hands and the Temple is rebuilt, God will return His blessing back to His people, and the whole world will long to join His people because they will know that God is with them. I feel like I’ve been repeating myself often but it needs to be said over and over again. WE are the People of God. WE are His Temple. Does the world know that God is with us? What are we doing to draw the world to Him?

Revelation 16:1-21 

Once when I was doing a very brief look through Revelation with my teens, one of the girls asked “What are the seven BOWELS of the wrath of God?” I told her I wasn’t very sure but I didn’t want to find out. I then informed her that they were bowl and not bowels…though that’d make for an interesting reading of the text.

Bowl 1 – The first Bowl is poured out on the earth and those who have the sores are those who have the mark of the beast and who have worshiped his image.

Bowl 2 – The Second Bowl is poured out on the sea and it turns to blood and everything in it dies.

Bowl 3 – The rivers and those who have shed the blood of the saints and prophets receive the third bowl of wrath.

Bowl 4 – The sun now burns people who curse God and do not repent and glorify Him.

Bowl 5 – The throne of the beast receives the next bowl. This plague will bring darkness on the leadership of the nation. Rome is going to fall.

Bowl 6 – The Euphrates River will dry up so that kings and their armies can come to attack. Revelation is predicting that invasions from beyond its borders will be a major factor in its fall. The final fall of Rome came in about 475AD with the attacks of the Goths, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals.

Bowl 7 – A voice from heaven says, “It is done.” The final outcome cannot be avoided. God will do as he promised.

At this point, the basic story of the Book of Revelation is complete. (1) The church has been persecuted and the martyrs ask how long until God brings down the persecutor. (2) God replies that it will be a while because still more will be martyred before the persecution ends. (3) God first warns the persecutor but the he starts a more intense period of persecution led by the Roman Empire and the Cult of Emperor Worship. (4) After this persecution has run its course, God brings down the persecutor through natural disasters, the Empire’s own corruption, and by a series of attacks from outsiders.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Four Chariots and Victory over the Beast

Zechariah 6-7 

This eighth and final vision is similar to the first (and Revelation) with four groups of horses of different colors that do God’s will on earth.  It emphasizes that God is involved and in many ways in control of world events and that God will judge those who have persecuted Israel (and in Revelation those who persecuted Christians).

The prophecy then turns to the crown for the coming king, mentioned in the visions from yesterdays reading.  There is a Messianic royal priest who will serve as both ruler and priest for Israel.  The prophecy here refers to him as Joshua, the Hebrew name that in Greek is Jesus.  This doesn’t leave a lot of room for guessing who we might be talking about here.

In chapter 7, the book turns to one of the major themes of Jesus’s ministry, which is that God isn’t interested in people who fast and celebrate religious ceremonies but live unfaithfully.  Rather, God wants people who understand that those ceremonies are supposed to teach them about God and how they should be living as His people.  They were to serve as reminders of who God is and what he’s done for them.  God wants followers who pursue true justice, show mercy and compassion, take care of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor.  God desires people with a heart for the things that God’s heart longs for.

Revelation 15

Imagine you are a persecuted Christian who has lost loved ones to the Roman Empire because they wouldn’t renounce their faith in Christ.  This chapter is immensely meaningful and powerful.  Those who appeared to be defeated, we now see are in face victorious over the one who killed them.  Through the eye of John’s revelation, we see that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.  In fact it isn’t even bad at all.  Those who were killed for their faith stand alongside the Lamb.  And their earlier question, “How long until the persecution will end?” is about to be answered.  The time for judgment and justice has come.  Now seven angels come out of the Temple with seven bowls of wrath ready to be poured out on the enemies of Christ.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Bible in One Year