On Sunday those of us who participated int he New Testament Challenge finished reading the New Testament--in 63 days! That's quite an accomplishment, but as my good friend, Mark Geppert, always says, "It isn't how many times you've been through the Bible, but how many times the Bible has been through you that counts!" His meaning is clear: APPLYING God's word is the key. In order to apply God's word, though, we do have to have it in our minds and hearts. That's why I want to encourage you to KEEP READING God's word. On Sunday, I offered a few ways to do that, and I want to post them here in case you didn't make it to worship at New Life.
The KEY is to READ God's word and then APPLY it in our lives! Congratulations to those of you who completed the New Testament Challenge---NOW keep on reading and applying God's word--or as King David put it "Hiding God's Word in your heart"--so those who may never have taken the time to read it, will experience it through You. After we've been through the Bible, the challenge and opportunity is to have the Bible go through us, to God's glory and praise!
Sunday, March 28, 2010 Reading for the Day
In the final two chapters of the Book of Revelation we find ourselves in heaven. One of the most powerful statements in these chapters is: I am making all things new! Jesus told us that in order for us to go to heaven we must be born again. Here at the end of the New Testament we find that God has finally established those who will reign with Him forever! In order for that to be the case, each of us must be made new. Yes, we have been born again and have inherited eternal life, if we have trusted Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Yet, as we die to this life, or as Jesus returns and we are received into heaven, the reality is we and every other thing that will remain is made NEW, by God in that moment. This is what we wait for all our lives after Jesus becomes Lord of our lives! This is what separates our faith in Jesus from all the other religions of the world. We aren’t going to be recycled through thousands of incarnations here on the earth. We live once, and then we die once. Then all of us who trust Jesus will be raised to new life to live with Him forever. We’ve read about it since we picked up the New Testament and started working our way through the gospels. Now, we read about it again as we come to the close of the New Testament. That’s because eternity IS a reality, and living in eternity with Jesus is our end experience as human beings who have trusted in Him. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus, Our Lord! Amen.
Congratulations to all of you who have stayed with the New Testament Challenge through today and who have read the entire New Testament in 63 days! Now, as you look forward to tomorrow here are a few suggestions of what to do next to continue growing in God’s word:
1) Go back to the beginning of the New Testament and read it again. After all, repetition, is the mother of learning!
2) Go to Genesis and start reading the Old Testament. If you continue to read at your same pace of 20-30 minutes each day, you will complete the Old Testament in about four months! (A big suggestion here: When you come to portions of the Old Testament that seem boring to you—SKIP over them and go on to the next section of interest. Some portions of the Old Testament are rather draw on a first reading (and a second or third for that matter!), so don’t let that you sidetrack from reading all the great passages found in it.
3) Consider a repetitive reading program such as the one that follows to deepen your understanding a certain Scriptures. For example, read one chapter of Proverbs each day and one chapter of the Gospel of Mark each day. If you do that you will read through Proverbs one time each month (It has thirty-one chapters), so if you read a chapter a day, you’ll read through it each month. In addition read one chapter in the Gospel of Mark each day. Mark has sixteen chapters, so if you read one a day and then double up on the last day or two of the month depending on whether it is a 30, 31, or 28 day month, and you’ll read through Mark’s Gospel twice each month. Some also like to read 5 Psalms each day, since there are 150 Psalms, and by reading five each day you will cover the entire book each month. This repetitive reading helps a person grow deeper in his or her faith, and also to gain some mastery of specific Bible texts.
Whatever you choose—KEEP READING! Keep filling your mind and heart with God’s word, and pray for Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit that you’ll understand it and apply it in your life. As you do that you will grow more and more into the full stature of Jesus!
Heavenly Father, I thank You for every person who has taken the New Testament Challenge and finished the readings! Fill each of us with Your Holy Spirit that we may continue to learn and live Your word, and bring Your love and salvation to the world. This we pray in Jesus’ name.
Friday, March 26, 2010 Reading for the Day
So much ink has been spilled down through the ages about who or what the “Beast” may be. Those who take a “preterist” view of Revelation, meaning they think it was written primarily for the first century audience to whom it was written, believe the Beast was Rome and that the antichrist was either the Emperor Nero or Domitian. Those who take the view that Revelation was written for a later era have seen many Beasts and many antichrists. The reality is we don’t know whether John’s words were intended for his day or ours or both. I believe it was written as ALL of Scripture was written—for the time it was written and for all other eras of history. After all, God’s truth is ALWAYS true in every era. The problem with identifying any particular person as the antichrist is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the person who makes the prediction. The person then tries to identify other people, places and events as fitting into the scheme from Revelation 12 and following. Using that process has made a lot of people “non-prophets” throughout history, because they have been wrong. What all of us can learn from these chapters is that at the end of time evil will seem to prevail. Anytime evil “seems” to prevail we can be sure that the appearance is deceiving because God has never lost control of the universe He created. At times evil DOES win a battle, but the war is ours. We need to remember that Revelation doesn’t end with the Beast on the throne. It ends with GOD on the throne!
Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your written word. Thank You for making it clear that while evil wins a fight or a battle, You are ultimately in control. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I may honor You when evil comes my way, and that I may win the ultimate victory as well. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thursday, March 25, 2010 Reading for the Day
If the book of Revelation ended at the end of Chapter 11, we wouldn’t miss the rest of it. So proclaimed a professor I had for a course on the book of Revelation back in seminary. I’ve thought about that statement a lot over the years (the MANY years) since. He’s right. Think about it. As chapter 11 comes to a close John tells us that the twenty-four elders say, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. Doesn’t that sound like an END? Earlier in the book God is the one who is and was and IS TO COME. Now God is the one who is and always was—there’s no more is to come, because the is to come has come! Also, God had now ASSUMED HIS GREAT POWER AND HAD BEGUN TO REIGN. This is the consummation of everything! So why are there still ten more chapters? The same professor contended that the rest of Revelation is just a repetition of what we’ve already seen: cycles of judgment and grace with the end being God’s ultimate victory and God’s people celebrating that victory. Whether you agree with Him or not, his original point is well taken. If Revelation ended at chapter 11, we wouldn’t miss the rest. It’s so important for us to remember as we read Revelation that God HAS won. When Jesus died on the cross two thousand years ago, the victory over sin and death was WON. Now, it’s just a matter of time—and God has eternity. It may seem like a long time to us from the moment John penned the words of Revelation, but in the scheme of eternity it’s the blink of an eye. One day we who trust Jesus as Savior and Lord will live the reality of heaven, the Reality of Revelation 11:15-19 FOREVER.
Heavenly Father, Thank You for REIGNING! Thank You for being the one, true and living God. Reign in my life today that my thoughts, words and actions will bring you glory and praise. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 Reading for the Day
Revelation 5-8 offers us a dramatic view of God’s judgment AND His grace. In fact, in chapter five we find the “hero” of the entire book: The Lamb. He is, of course, Jesus. He is the only one who is able to open the scroll—the scroll which we find initiates several cycles of God’s judgment. A number of these judgments are reminiscent of God’s judgment against the Egyptians when they would not release the Israelites from slavery in
Heavenly Father, Thank You for the reality of Your grace even in the midst of Your judgment. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may show Your grace to everyone around me. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Reading for the Day
How do you describe the indescribable? John had the opportunity to SEE heaven! Yes, it was a vision. No, he didn’t physically go there. But there was a door OPEN into heaven and he got to see through it. While the Book of Revelation has so many vivid images and metaphors, Revelation 4 is John’s description of the “view” he saw when he looked into heaven. His description of God on the throne resorts to the use of gemstones. He said God looked like jasper and carnelian. What does that mean? It means God is INDESCRIBABLE! Human language falls short of a description. In fact there was an “emerald rainbow” around the throne, or as the New Living Translation puts it “the glow of an emerald circled his thrne like a rainbow.” The “audience” around God is twenty-four elders, each seated on their own throne. Who are these elders? Some have suggested the leaders of the twelve tribes of
Heavenly Father, Thank You for giving us a glimpse of Yourself through John’s vision! Give me an ongoing sense of Your holiness so I’ll live a holy life, too. Let my life be a glimpse of You for others, so they’ll come to know You and experience eternity with You as well. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
March 22, 2010 Reading for the Day
Jude is one of several one chapter books we find toward the end of the New Testament. As Jude closes, he includes an amazing prayer or ascription of praise. Here it is: 24And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. 25All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen. In three brief sentences, Jude calls us to praise God, reminds us of how God keeps us from sin, and reminds us that God is the one, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has all glory, majesty, power and authority. This has been the case from the BEGINNING—that is from the foundation of eternity and will be forevermore. When we have days that nothing seems to go right – and we all have those days – we need to remember this prayer of praise! Our God is worthy of all our praise. If we turn ourselves over to Him and His Spirit in the name of Jesus, we will experience victory. Rick Warren said it well in the opening sentences of The Purpose Driven Life: It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about God! It IS all about God. Jude knew that. Jude calls us to remember that, to praise God for it. I’ve always wished Jude would have written more, because what He wrote was so good! What he did write gives us encouragement for the times when we may be a little off our games, and need to be reminded of the awesome nature of our God. All glory to God!
Heavenly Father, with Jude I praise You for who You are and thank You for keeping me from stumbling! I thank You that one day I will stand in Your glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy, because of what You have done in and through Jesus Christ! Empower me by your great glory, majesty, power and authority to live victoriously today and each day. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
March 21, 2010 Reading for the Day
After, Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples a number of times over the next forty days before He ascended to heaven. On one of those occasions, which is recorded for us in John 21:15-23, He and Peter had an intimate conversation about Peter’s relationship with Jesus. Jesus initiates the conversation with the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Exactly what did Jesus mean by the question? Did He mean, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these other men love me?” Did He mean, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than you love these other men?” Did He mean, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than you love any other thing?” Whatever, He meant, Simon took the question to heart. This is the Simon who had denied three times ever even knowing Jesus on the night before Jesus was crucified. Without hesitation, Simon Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” The question would be repeated two more times. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” One for each time Peter denied Jesus? We don’t know, but it seems likely. Peter was upset when Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” The most likely reason for the pain was the reminder of the three denials. Each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, Jesus challenged Peter to feed or care for “His sheep.” Jesus wasn’t interested in a sentimental restoration for Peter. He wanted Peter to recognize that true commitment always results in action. After the restoration, Jesus gave Peter a true gift: He told Peter that one day he would give his life rather than deny Jesus again. That must have done a tremendous amount to buttress Peter’s faith! Not only had Jesus accepted Him back as a follower, but Jesus had even made it clear that Peter’s faith wouldn't waiver again. As we move to the last week of our New Testament Challenge, may we take these words as an encouragement for us to take Jesus at His word, to love Him fully and to follow Him faithfully!
Heavenly Father, Thank You for the record of Jesus reinstating Peter in John 21! Thank You for the reminder that while we aren’t perfect, You are. You don’t hold our failures against us. Fill me with the Holy Spirit today, that I may love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and follow wherever You lead me. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Saturday, March 20, 2010 Reading for the Day
Pilate thought he was in control of the situation on the day he crucified Jesus. When Jesus wouldn’t answer his questions, Pilate tried to show his authority by telling Jesus that he had the power of life or death over Him. Jesus responded by saying, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” How do you suppose Pilate felt in that instant? He already saw no reason to condemn Jesus. He knew the Jewish religious leaders were jealous of Jesus’ popularity with the people. What Pilate didn’t know, or at least wasn’t willing to admit, was that Jesus held ALL authority in heaven and earth. Jesus had to die. He knew that. Pilate was only the instrument God used to bring it about. In the grand scheme of eternity, Pilate did the wrong thing at precisely the right time. I don’t know how that all works in the day to day exchanges of our lives, but at the end of the day it’s comforting for me to know that even my sins cannot ultimately mess up God’s plans for my life. When Pilate listened to the crowds and condemned an innocent man, he was definitely wrong. It was definitely a sin, and yet it fulfilled God’s purpose. As we look at the Good Friday account we see humanity at our worst, and God at His best. Jesus was in complete control of the situation at every moment. The crowd supposed they were in control. Pilate supposed he was in control. The Jewish leaders thought they were in control. The truth is God WAS in control. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we gained the opportunity to experience eternal life! From a human perspective it makes no sense—but then we always think we’re in control and that our perspective is best. Thank God—THANK GOD—that He is truly in control!
Heavenly Father, Thank You for having the BIG picture, while our perspective is so small. Thank You for sacrificing Yourself for us, so we may live in eternity with You. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may also live with a sacrificial attitude as I go about this day. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.