Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Two Hundred Ninety-Five

Day Two Hundred Ninety-Five, Luke 3, Matthew 3-4, John 1

Today's reading is mostly about the ministry of John the Baptist, but it also includes the temptation of Jesus.

As John is preaching to the crowds, he warns them to, "produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of the stones God can raise up children for Abraham."

Mostly, I've noticed John's recognition of his own insufficiency in relation to Christ. He tells the crowd, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

When he sees Jesus, he describes Him to the crowds as, "the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.'" And when Jesus asks John to baptize Him, John objects! "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

After Jesus is baptized by John, He goes into the desert and after a season of fasting, He is tempted by Satan. Jesus Himself answers Satan with Scripture, one that I feel like, in particular, speaks to the sufficiency of God and the fact that truly, He is the One that sustains us. "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

That verse holds enormous significance for me right now, as it's the verse that this entire Project 4:4 is based upon. Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God. I've fed on the Word of God like never before this year, and although they don't read this blog, I've got some wonderful church leaders to thank for that. By the end of this year, I, along with others in my congregation, will have read every word from the mouth of God that we have written in His Word...some of them for the first time ever for me!

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Project 4:4--Day Two Hundred Ninety-Four

Day Two Hundred Ninety-Four, Matthew 2, Luke 2

Today's reading includes more of the typical "Christmas story" which really probably happened awhile after Jesus had been born, that is, the visit of the Wise Men, followed by the escape to Egypt.

Next we have the only glimpse of Jesus that we will see again until He is an adult. At 12 years of age, we see Him lagging behind in the Temple after His parents and their traveling party is on their way back to Nazareth. They had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, as was their custom, and this time, Jesus stayed behind to sit around with the Jewish teachers in the Temple courts, listening to them and questioning them.

This whole situation just strikes me as funny. Scripture said everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding of the Scriptures! I love that, simply because it's another reminder that this 12-year-old boy is the Great I AM who was before the creation of the world!

Reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies. In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan (the Lion, who is the Christ-figure of the story) tells Peter of a deep magic in Narnia that "defines right from wrong" and "governs destinies". Later, when the White Witch (who is the Satan-figure) demands a meeting with Aslan, she comes accusing them of having a traitor in their midst, reminding them that because of Edmund's mistake, he now belongs to her. She says to Aslan, "Have you forgotten the laws upon which Narnia was built?" His response to her is a very swift and angry, "Don't cite the deep magic to me, Witch! I was there when it was written!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Two Hundred Ninety-Three

Day Two Hundred Ninety-Three, Luke 1, Matthew 1, Luke 2

The first time I ever became semi-serious about trying to read my Bible on any kind of a semi-regular basis, I think I was in high school, probably 14 years old or so. I heard a preacher at a youth rally encourage us to start reading our bibles. He said, "If you don't know where to start, just start reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When you finish, go back to the beginning and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John again. Maybe even do it a third time." I think that was pretty good advice, and I ended up doing it several times over the next few years. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to take a serious look at much of the rest of the New Testament, much less the Old. But for those several years that I was in high school, I read on a regular basis and was pretty heavily immersed in the gospels...as much as you can imagine a high-schooler being immersed in the gospels, anyway.

To my surprise, I never got bored. Each book is written from a different perspective, and for a different purpose, so the styles are very different among the four of them. But beyond that, I always noticed different things each time I read them. It was this process that later helped to completely ground my belief that "the Word of God is living and active." Indeed, He's said different things to me each time I've taken a look at His gospels, and I'm excited to be in this part of Project 4:4, because I have full confidence that this time will be no different.

There is SO MUCH encompassed in studying the gospels and in studying the life of our Lord, God in the flesh, that it is extremely hard for me to write about, just because there are so many angles from which to approach the subject. But over the past week, I've been reading, trying to hear what message is being spoken to me from His Word this time around. So far the message jumping off the page at me is the message of the all-sufficiency of God, the Great I AM. That seems to be the easiest angle for me to approach this material right now, so pardon me if I sound like a broken record by the end of this look at the gospels. This is just what I'm hearing from Him right now.

The first example I see of this in today's reading is when Elizabeth actually becomes pregnant. She had been visited by an angel earlier, telling her that she would bear a child who would be the forerunner to the Christ. When this actually happens, she says, "The Lord has done this for me. In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Next we see the angel Gabriel pay a visit to Mary, to announce that she will be the mother of the Messiah. "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

When Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy, and Elizabeth says, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."

When Mary praises God, she says, "His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation," and Zechariah's praise to God includes, "He has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us...to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days."

When Jesus is born, the all-sufficient, Great I AM is wrapped in cloths and laid "in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
(I had to switch back to the KJV for that passage, simply because in that form, it's one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. I can't read/listen to that portion of Luke 2 without hearing the voice of Charlie Brown's friend Linus echoing throughout the auditorium, as he explains what Christmas is all about. Has to be one of my best memories from as young as 4 or 5 years old. One of my absolute favorite Christmas TV specials as well, by the way. But I digress...)

Finally, when the baby Jesus is taken to the Temple, He is held by a man named Simeon. It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. As Simeon took the baby in his arms, he said, "Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."

In closing, can I just say that God keeps His promises. All the time. Can I get an 'Amen' on that?

Project 4:4--Day Two Hundred Ninety Two

Day Two Hundred Ninety-Two, Matthew 1, Luke 3

Next we take a peek at the genealogies of Christ that are listed for us, particularly the one listed in Matthew. There are so many recognizable names in that list now. They were there before, and I'm sure I recognized some of them. But I never paid much attention to them. Matthew Chapter 1 was just the chapter that I skipped over when I was reading my Bible in December, in order to get to Chapter 2. But now, a few more of those names grab my attention and make me remember the significance that there is in those names being in that particular list:

Abraham; Isaac; Jacob; Judah and Tamar; Rahab; Ruth; Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife; Hezekiah; Manasseh; Josiah...

The list goes on. The list is full of people...some whose stories in the Bible paint them in a little bit better light than others...but still, sinful people, every one of them. People who needed a Savior.

People just like you.

People just like me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Two Hundred Ninety-One

Day Two Hundred Ninety-One, Mark 1, John 1, Luke 1

Yes, I know. I've missed a few days in here. Sure, I've been trotting along with the Project 4:4 reading, but at the beginning of the year, it was my hope to be able to create a record of the things that I've learned in my first trip through the entire Bible. Unfortunately, I've been unable to do that. And yes, part of me feels like a little bit of a failure for that. But as they say, when you fall off a horse, you gotta get right back on.

And the start of the New Testament seems like a perfect time for me to get back on. After 10 months of the garden and sin; sin and the flood; the patriarchs and their wanderings; Egypt and slavery; wandering and sin; unfaithfulness and judges; kings and idols; exile and repentance--after 10 months of all that, I am ready for some Jesus in my life. Because He is the answer to all the sin and wandering and unfaithfulness and idolatry and every other problem that we humans have faced since the beginning of time. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

I've read the opening chapter to the book of John many, many times, but I'm blown away right now, thinking of it in light of all that's been leading up to this moment...this moment of Immanuel, of God with us!!! "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The Word became flesh.


Praise God for that!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walk Humbly (Part One)

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: I never intended to take three months off from blogging. Despite the fact that I packed up and moved. And despite the fact that then I had to unpack everything. And despite the fact that even in the middle of all that, I changed jobs! None of that is an excuse for being absent for nearly three months. Three weeks, maybe...but definitely not three months. Please accept my humble apology.

Before my three-month hiatus, I began a series based on a verse found in Micah:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."--Micah 6:8
As I close out this series, I'd like to talk about what I think is the most exciting part of those basic instructions from the Lord.
I find it interesting how often God instructs us to walk with Him. From my reading of Genesis, the feeling I get is that we were intended to walk with God from the beginning. God made us for fellowship with Him. In chapter 3, right after the fall of man, we see mention of God walking in the garden. Based on the way the scripture mentions it, it doesn't seem too noteworthy...as though it's something He's done before. It says, of Adam and Eve, that "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..." How incredible would that have been, to be able to walk in a beautiful garden in the cool of the day, with the God who created it!?!
Obviously, the fall of man and the curse on this earth and those of us in it has greatly hindered our ability to walk with God. But not completely. Not long after the account of the garden of Eden and the fall of man, we have a couple of short scriptures about a man name Enoch. He would not be all that noteworthy, just another name in a long geneological list, but for one exception. Scripture says he walked with God. Okay. Scripture says other people walked with God, too. Noah comes to mind. However, something must have been very unique about Enoch's walk with God, as we discover that he is one of only two people in scripture that never tasted death. "Enoch walked with God; and then he was no more, because God took him."--Gen. 5:24
So even after our sin has separated us from God, we see that it is still possible to walk before Him and to walk with Him. In fact, His people are commanded to do so. When He first calls Abram, He says, "I am God Almighty. Walk before me, and be blameless."--Gen. 17:1
He tells His people Israel, "You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess."--Deut. 5:33 They are promised blessings if they walk with Him. In fact, walking in His ways is the only way to abide with Him. "O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart."--Ps. 15:1-2

So how do we, as a sinful people, walk with God, then? When our sins have separated us from Him and we are constantly tempted by things that are not of Him? What does it mean to walk with Him on a daily basis and how do we accomplish this?

Well, first of all, we have His promise to be with us! He still desires to walk with us. He told his people Israel, "I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people."--Lev. 26:12 Whatever we face, we know He will be there for us, and we wil not be alone. God told the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overthrow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame burn you."--Is. 43:2 Indeed, David, in probably his most famous Psalm, writes, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."--Psalm 23:4
Not only will God be with us, but He promises to strengthen us in our walk and to teach us how to walk with Him. In one of the Proverbs, He says, "I have directed you in the way of wisdom. I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble."--Prov. 4:11-12 God tries to remind His people through His prophet Isaiah, that He is the one that taught them how to walk from the beginning. "Yet it is I who taught Ephraim how to walk; I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them."--Hosea 11:3
We've got plenty of blessings to gain from walking with God and having Him be with us and be our strenght in that walk with Him. But as someone who absolutely loves to learn, I think I'm even more excited about the fact that God will teach us how to walk with Him!!! Indeed, He's already taught us a lot about what that means! We'll take a look tomorrow about what He specifically teaches about walking with Him...

Thanks for reading! And much love!