Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31st, 2011

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  Malachi 3-4; Revelation 22

I can't believe we've reached the end of 2011 already!  What an amazing journey this has been again this year for me. Tomorrow we start our new plan for 2012!!  I'm excited about going in another direction with this blog (in depth studying of the Word with more of a conversational style posting/commenting discussion).  A huge thank you to all the participants of 2011, especially our regular posters: Tammi, Miriam, Kathryn, Jody and Pamela.  I know some of you will not be joining us this year and we will miss you!  Maybe we'll see you back in 2013 or maybe you won't be able to stay away and we'll see you in 2012 after all :)

Anyway, on to today's post.

A few things stood out to me in today's passages. (all emphasis in the following scripture is mine)

"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."  Malachi 3:8b-10

When we rob God of what is His, we are actually also robbing ourselves.  We are robbing ourselves of God's blessings.  God even says to test Him in this!  I love His response - He will throw open heaven's floodgates and pour out blessing upon blessing!  Truly we rob ourselves when we do not give to God what is rightfully His - whether that is tithes and offerings, our worship, our love, or our obedience.

But thankfully, the Lord has never-ending patience!

"I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have no kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:6

No matter how many times we mess up, He is faithful.  He is faithful to forgive us and to restore us to right relationship with Him as long as we return to Him.

But in this struggle against flesh and blood (where we do what we don't want to do, and don't do what we want to do), we have hope.  First, we have hope for this present day because we are filled with the power of His Spirit and strengthened by His very Word.  But in the future, we can look forward to the day that is coming!

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.  Revelation 22:3-5

And that promise holds true for everyone who will come and accept the free gift God gave us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.  Revelation 22:17

Come, Lord Jesus!

Tomorrow's passage: Hebrews 1:1-3
Bible in a Year: Genesis 1-3


Friday, December 30, 2011


2012 is upon us!

I know we've been having discussions for awhile now and what we're going to do next year, but it's all been on our Facebook group and I just realized that I should let all of the blog readers who may not be part of that group, know what's going on! (Click here if you'd like to join our Facebook group.)

We've decided to take a break from reading through the entire Bible in a year, at least as a group, and instead focus on studying a few Books of the Bible slowly, and in more depth.  I, personally, would like to continue to read through the Bible in a Year as well because I don't want to lose my momentum in reading the text and want to continue to cultivate a passion for the text.  I know you can do that in slower study as well, but I would like to continue get to know the Bible better as a whole, while studying the smaller portions.  There is absolutely no pressure for anybody else to do that, but just in case others are wanting to do the same, I will be posting the daily passages to this Chronological Bible in a Year plan every day as well.

We are going to be starting with the book of Hebrews.  I am making the schedule of daily readings and will post the whole thing soon (obviously I need to do it soon!).  Some days we will literally only do one verse, if it is a difficult one to understand.  Other days it will be 3 or 4 verses, and others larger chunks.  John will be the first gospel we study - likely not in quite as small chunks as Hebrews.  Romans will be another one that we will take in very small chunks.  We will probably do the other 3 gospels as well, unless I receive requests to do something else.  Even after the schedule is out, we can change it as we feel led, please do not hesitate to request that!

Also - the daily posts will be a bit different this year.  We are going with shorter posts - more Facebook status style.  We'd like it to be a conversation starter - so either an observation you made about the verses, or a question you had, or something new you learned - which will hopefully spur on a conversation in the comments section.

A huge thank you to all who participated in 2011, especially our regular posters: Tammi, Miriam, Kathryn, Jody and Pamela.  I know some of you will not be joining us in 2012, and we will miss you!!  But hopefully we'll see you again soon.

Looking forward to starting this new adventure with you in 2012!

Friday, December 30 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Malachi 1-2; Revelation 21.

So we approach the end of the year with a sober warning from Malachi and the glorious presentation of the Bride of Christ in Revelation.

God's words through Malachi in chapters 1 and 2 blast the post-exile priests, who, within just a hundred years of the initial returning wave of exiles, have once again begun profaning the name of God and desecrating His house of worship ~ they're allowing imperfect animals to be offered as sacrifices.  And we're not talking small, hidden imperfections either. They're allowing blind, crippled, and diseased animals!!  God's Law clearly stated PERFECT, UNBLEMISHED animals were the only acceptable sacrifice, and the priests are teaching the nation by example that it doesn't matter what they give to God.

Not only that, but they're seeing worship and their duty as a burden.  They're complaining about God's requirements and design for their lives.  Because they broke the covenant that, centuries earlier, God had made with Levi, God essentially made the priests a laughingstock among the people.  Everyone knew of their corruption and they were no longer revered or sought out when wisdom or advice was needed.  Because they were responsible for leading God's people, they were held to a higher standard and God curses them.

Interestingly, roughly 450 years later, when the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in half at Christ's death on the cross, that was the end of the line for the priests.  The position of human intermediary between God and man was terminated as Jesus became our Great High Priest.

God then addresses the entire nation and accuses them similarly ~ of breaking their covenant relationship with Him.  Notice though, that even though God voices His displeasure, there is no curse.  He parallels what has happened in Israel as a nation spiritually, with what has been happening among them in reality: divorce.  Because our relationship with God is what's to be mirrored in a marriage relationship, the fact that inter-marriage with pagans was again being regularly practiced and divorce was rampant, this was clear evidence that their hearts had turned from God, their deliverer, their first Love.

I find both of these warnings so applicable to us today.  Pastors and other spiritual leaders are still leading church-goers astray.  Christians ~ at least, particularly those in the Western world ~ are continually plagued with the feeling that church and serving in the Body of Christ is a chore, an obligation.  We tend to grumble about not being able to sleep in on Sundays, about having to teach Sunday school or lead singing week in, week out, month after month, year after year...  Not many of us see it as a privilege, a high honour.

But when we see the picture of Christ's Bride appearing, the Holy City, made pure and clothed in dazzling robes, covered with every imaginable precious stone, doesn't that give us incentive to change our hearts and our attitudes, to continue seeking to know Him better, and to remember why we love serving God?  I think it does.  We have an incredible reward awaiting us, and because it's there despite our failings and our sin, we should desire to live our lives as a sacrifice of gratitude to Him ~ faithfully, JOYFULLY serving Him each and every moment until He returns to perfect the work He began in us.

artwork found at Sheena Loves Sunsets

Tomorrow's readings: Malachi 3-4; Revelation 22

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday, December 29 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Nehemiah 12-13; Revelation 20.

Wow, can you believe this is the 3rd last post of 2011 already?  Unreal.  I'm so pumped about having been through the entire Bible twice now and looking forward to carrying on in 2012 in a new way.

In Nehemiah today, we talk about what happened after the walls were rebuilt.  Nehemiah had gone back to his important position as cupbearer to the king of Persia, but later he returns to Jerusalem to see how things are going.  What does he find?  Once again, the people have slacked off in their duties.  They are not honouring the Sabbath and keeping it holy.  They are once again intermarrying with foreigners.  They are once again neglecting and misusing the house of God.

Nehemiah comes across, to me anyway, as a bit of a blunt instrument, if you will.  He's not a politician.  He doesn't use diplomacy or pussyfoot around the issues. He finds someone has been given lodging in the place where grain offerings and such are to be stored, and rather than sitting them down and talking to them about it, he chucks the guy's stuff out and has the room purified.  When he finds that the tithes weren't being brought, he rebukes them.  (Definition-Express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.) Not asks nicely, rebukes.  Same with the ones who were working and selling things on the Sabbath.  He rebukes them.  The ones who'd married women from the surrounding areas were not only rebuked, but cursed and beaten!  Now, he makes a good point about King Solomon and what marrying foreign women did to him, but boy, it kinda seems like he's letting his temper get away on him.

Having said that, sometimes it's really hard to know how to handle situations where you find someone in the wrong.  Do you talk to them gently, or rebuke them?  Do you shake your head and say "Someday you'll have consequences for these actions," or do you intervene in some way?  Obviously, it depends greatly on the situation, who is involved, and your relationship to the people involved - and definitely prayer should be involved as well!

I marvel (and am thankful) once again that God can and does use us just as we are, as he's created us, with our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, to accomplish His purposes.  Nehemiah may have been a blunt instrument, but look at what wash accomplished!  He was strong and decisive and probably offended people, but without him, would the walls have been rebuilt?  Would the Law of Moses have been re-read and re-instated?

I'm obviously not encouraging anyone to go around rebuking everyone and cursing and beating on people who disobey God's laws.  Not even those people you know should know better.  But maybe sometimes we should worry a little less about offending people and hurting their feelings and act in their best interests instead.  They probably won't thank you for it at the time, but hopefully they will realize the value in it when they look back on it later.  Our motivation, however, should always be from love, a desire to build the other person up (which sometimes requires a little breaking down first), or seeking to restore.  We want to show love and kindness to people, as "love your neighbour as yourself" is one of the greatest commandments we are given in the Bible, but at times a stronger, blunter approach is actually more loving than tiptoeing around someone's feelings or standing by and allowing them to carry on down the wrong path until the inevitable consequences catch up to them.  By then, it could be too late.  Let us pray for the wisdom to know when to use delicacy and when to use the blunt instrument!

Happy Thursday, and Happy New Year!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Malachi 1-2; Revelation 21.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday, December 28 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  Nehemiah 10-11, Revelation 19 

Happy Last Wednesday of the year!

Scripture: Revelation 1:19
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God...
No one has the power to save except the Lord.

In our world of medical advances, insurance on cars, health, life, house, etc, we often feel we've made ourselves 'safe'.  We think there are things we can do to protect ourselves from the inevitable, when really, we deceive ourselves.
For a long time I had fear of studying revelation and I was very afraid of the end times.  I shied away from discussions surrounding the end times.  But, then I started studying Revelation and I learned a thing or two.
Those who are the Lords are in His care.  We need not fear the end because we are in the hands of the God who has the power to take us out of it, or carry us through it.  He knows the end.  Only He has the power to save.
The first part of that scripture can give us testament to just how much we can trust the Lord.  The roar of a great multitude is telling us this.  Have you ever been to an excited concert where a well known musicisian or group is about to come out?  The sound can be deafening.  All of those people can testify to the talent of the group.  This great multitude is testifying to the salvation of our Lord, to the power of our Lord and to the glory of our Lord.  We often learn a lot from word of mouth.  This perhaps is the best.
I do not fear the end now, because I know who controls it.  I trust Him.

Father God, as Your word says, You are awesome, glorious and most trustworthy.  Please help us to trust You more.  Illumine our hearts and minds to the truth You have given us in Your word.  Salvation belongs to You.  We trust You and we love You.  Amen.

Tomorrow's passage:  Nehemiah 12-13, Revelation 20

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday, December 27th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  Nehemiah 7-9, Revelation 18

I love Nehemiah Chapter 9.

Many prayers, speeches or passages of scripture in the Bible include a long summary of Israel's history, reminding the people of their great heritage and God's promises.

But what jumped out at me today when I read this was how absolutely focused on God this passage is.  The passage blesses God, it praises God, it focuses completely on God and what He has done for His people, for His name.

Just take note of a few examples....
You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens...You give life to everything....You are the Lord God, who chose Abram...You found his heart faithful to you...You have kept your promise because you are righteous.....You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt...You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh.....You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day....You divided the sea....
And on and on it goes!

I love that.  I love the complete and utter focus on God. That God is given the credit for absolutely everything. That He did it all.  And He did it to glorify His name.

I love the descriptions of God's character also found in this passage.  Here are more examples....
You have kept your promise because you are righteous....You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love....Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them....And when they cried out to you again, you hear from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time....For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets....But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God...O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love....

Isn't that beautiful?

Oh our God, You alone are worthy of our utmost praise and adoration.  You alone are worthy to sit on the throne of our lives.  May we live what we say we believe.

Tomorrow's passage: Nehemiah 10-11, Revelation 19

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday, Dec 26 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Nehemiah 4-6, Revelation 17  

Happy Monday Everyone! Apparently I'm in holiday mode - sorry this post is late (and short)!

Scripture: Nehemiah 6:16
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

Nehemiah was strong in his communication with God and clear about identifying what others were trying to tell him and what God was telling him. This assurance of calling can only be attained through an intimate relationship with God.

Sometimes, what we do might look crazy to the world - and even the loved ones around us. And it may in fact be crazy, but if God is calling us to crazy - we must be obedient!! The recurring message of relationship, communication, meditation on God's word and obedience is our application here. Success as a believer is measured in a different way than non-believers.

Father God, thank you for speaking to me. Thank you for sometimes calling me to crazy and walking me through to success in you. Amen

Tomorrow's passage: Nehemiah 7-9, Revelation 18

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day - Sunday, December 25th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Nehemiah 1-3, Matthew 1, Luke 2

First of all - Merry Christmas everybody!!  Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating the birth of Jesus with your family and friends.

Wow, there's a lot going on in today's readings!  Maybe I'll start with Nehemiah and then go back to the Christmas stories.

One thing that is so evident in Nehemiah is how much he relied on prayer.

When he received the bad news about the state of Jerusalem's walls, his reaction was to pray.  In his prayer he praised God, he thanked God, he confessed sin and asked for specific help.  In doing so, he included God in his plans and concerns, prepared his own heart and gave room for God to work, and committed to doing his part.

Even during his conversation with the king he prayed (2:4), putting the results in God's hands.

As we get further into Nehemiah we will find that this is a consistent pattern.

Oh, how I need to work on this!  I want my immediate reaction to bad news to be prayer.  I want my first instinct when going into a stressful situation to be prayer.  I want to pray without ceasing, to be in constant search of aligning my will with His.  That He may be glorified.

On to our Christmas passages....

I love the genealogy portion of the Matthew passage.  It lists 46 people, all ancestors of Jesus, but with huge differences between them.  Some were heroes of faith (Abraham, Isaac, Ruth, David), some had shady reputations (Rahab, Tamar), some were ordinary (Ram, Akim), some were downright evil (Manessah, Abijah).  God's plans and purposes are not limited by human failure or sins, and He can work through everyone from the ordinary to the extraordinary to accomplish His will.   We will allow ourselves to benefit from willingly participating in His plan, or will His plan unfold despite us?

In Luke 2 what jumped out at me was Anna's situation.  She was only married for 7 yrs before she was widowed, and she remained a widow until she was 84 (at which point, I assume she died).  Assuming she married young - maybe around 13 or 14 years old, that would mean she was likely widowed at age 20 or 21 yrs of age.  What a long long time!  But she devoted her life to God, and was rewarded in an extraordinary way when she was chosen to be one of the first to bear witness to the Messiah.  God always rewards our faithfulness, sometimes quickly, sometimes not for 60+ years, sometimes not until eternity - but it will be rewarded!

Blessings to you and your family as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!  Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow's passage:  Nehemiah 4-6, Revelation 17

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday, December 24-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Ezra 8-10; Revelation 16.

Scripture: Ezra 10:2
2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.

Observation: Even when we have turned away from God this is still hope and we can make a plan to begin restitution with Him.


My thoughts on verse 2: Temptation can overtake us very quickly. It doesn't help with you are surrounded by others who are succumbing to the same temptation to act in a way that is against God's plan. When it seems like "everyone's doing it", it can be very easy to justify it as acceptable. When the Israelites married these foreign women, it became a slow fade into accepting their wives beliefs, and the worship of pagan gods, and making them their own. So, in actuality, it doesn't seem like the intermarriages themselves are the problem, but rather what happens to the Israelites' relationship with God as a result. However, regardless of how far the Israelites have moved away from God, "even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this". This is encouraging because sometimes people can feel that they are just too far away and that the separation from God is just too great...but there is hope.

Now I understand this adoption of foreign practices and beliefs as a problem but I am actually confused by verse 3: Why is it acceptable to "put away all the wives and children"? How can that be God's plan? For women to be abandoned...for children to grow up without being influenced by their father's guidance...for families to be torn apart?? How can this be? Is God saying -in this circumstance-that divorce is necessary and acceptable?

Maybe I am just hyper sensitive about divorce, as unfortunately it has affected people in my family, but I firmly believe that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that when you make the choice to marry someone-EVEN if it turns out to be the wrong person-you need to stay married to them. That's a tough thing to admit because I seem to be alone in that belief. The saturation of divorce in Christian circles has, I think, diluted our ability to recognize it as wrong. Maybe just like the foreign marriages of the Israelites just became "normal" because everyone was doing it and it the same way divorce has become "normal" because we know so many people who are doing it.

We, as Christians, are called to be different-to stand out, to be an example, to bring others to Christ. How can we do that when we openly adopt the ways of the culture around us. We are called to be in the world, not of the world and to "not conform to the pattern of this world" (Romans 12:2). To be different is to reconcile, to forgive, to demonstrate commitment and to wait on God to work in hearts to change. Again, my opinion is biased based on situations in my own family but I don't believe divorce is right and I know I could never do it.

What did happen to these abandoned wives and children? Did they continue worshipping their pagan gods because they were never given the opportunity to share in the faith of their husbands? Did they become angry at their Israelite husbands who served a God that would want them to be "put away"? Wouldn't it have been better for the Israelite husband to abandon all pagan worship in his house, lead his family in the way of God, and instruct his children to follow in his footsteps. Maybe I'm too much of an optimist.

Prayer: Lord, the Christmas Season is upon us and we are so thankful and grateful that you allowed Jesus to come to earth as a part of your rescue plan. We fall short of your plan so often and take matters into our own hands. We make mistakes, we fall, we hurt ourselves and others in the process. Thank you for the hope You gave through Jesus and that no matter how many times we fall, You gave us hope to get back up. Lord, be with all of the abandoned people this season and help them to see that You are hope for the hopeless. Be with the children of broken homes and help them to understand that this was not what You had planned for them. Lord, You own the perfect plan and when we stray from it, there are consequences. Help us to see those consequences before they hurt us and others and guide us to make better choices.

Tomorrow's passage: Nehemiah 1-3 - Matthew 1 - Luke 2

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 23 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Esther 9-10; Revelation 15.

Today's reading in Esther wraps up this amazing story, and once again, we see much is left out of the story we hear as kids!  Since the laws of the Medes and Persians were irrevocable (Seriously, who thought that policy was a good idea?!  Did the particular ruler who made up that rule never change his own mind about anything??), the king can't repeal the decree to annihilate the Jews.  But he does what he can in chapter 8 and decrees the Jews are allowed to defend themselves.  Remember, the Jews are a conquered people, enslaved here in Persia ~ they have enjoyed many freedoms, but they have few rights.  Xerxes here gives them the "right to bear arms," as it were, and defend themselves and their property against attack.

So chapter 9 briefly chronicles a two-day, nation-wide bloodbath in which the Jews, as a people, are saved.  On the first day, the Jews kill 500 men in the royal city of Susa and Esther asks permission to extend the edict to the following day.  The king grants her request again, and on the second day, the Jews kill 75,000 Medo-Persians across the empire.  In both cases, the author of the book thinks it worth mentioning his people took no plunder.  They took no "spoils of war" ~ all they wanted was their own lives.

The book ends with a description of a new festival that is still celebrated by Jewish people to this day:  Purim, a commemorative celebration of the day they were once again incredibly delivered by the all-powerful hand of God.  I think, in a sense, Esther 9 ties in well with the reading in Revelation ~ two horrific days, followed by great celebration and a holiday that is still celebrated thousands of years later.  In Revelation, we approach the beginning of the end, the last cataclysm before the ultimate wedding feast of Jesus Christ that will be celebrated for the rest of eternity.

As if what's already occurred in the preceding chapters isn't bad enough, Revelation chapter 15 introduces us to the last of the last ~ the seven deadliest punishments that will complete God's anger towards sinful humanity and sin itself; the last cleansing purge that will finally satisfy His perfect holiness.  John sees the temple opened and the physical glory of God filling it, noting that no one can enter until justice is done and God's wrath is appeased.

My Life Application Bible notes that "The key to God's eternal glory and power is his holiness.  God's glory is not only his strength but also his perfect moral character.  God will never do anything that is not morally perfect.  This reassures us that we can trust him, yet it places a demand on us.  Our desire to be holy (dedicated to god and morally pure) is our only suitable response.  Our eternal reign with Christ won't begin until all evil is destroyed by HIS judgment.  We must wait for his timetable to be revealed." (emphasis added)

Those last two statements fly in the face of the idea more and more evangelicals seem to be embracing ~ that Christians are responsible for establishing the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth in order for Christ to return.  As if it were possible for mere mortals to make this place fit for the King of Kings and usher Him into OUR presence!  No, it will all be His doing, His timetable, His way.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be the kind of holy that He can ~ and WILL ~ make us someday.

I don't know why that's a problem for people ~ I'd much rather have Him be responsible for ultimately making me truly holy than leaving it up to ME!!

Something tells me He'll do a much better job of it!  ;)

Tomorrow's readings: Ezra 8-10; Revelation 16

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 22 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Esther 6-8; Revelation 14.

There are a few reasons to love the story of Esther.  One of my reasons that we read today is how all of Haman's plotting turned against him.  He plotted to kill Mordecai, but instead, not only did he die on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai, but he first had to lead Mordecai around the city to be honoured in the very way he himself had wished to be honoured.  He thought much of himself, felt that he deserved or was owed honour and respect, but he was humbled greatly before finally being executed.  Sometimes it seems that people do bad things all the time and get away with it, and good people work hard and work long and seemingly get the short end of the stick all too often.  This is a story where the good people are rightly honoured and the bad guy is punished. Good stuff, right?

Justice is a good and important thing (justice, not revenge).  And yet, what if there were only justice and not mercy?  Would we not "drink of the wine of God's fury" (Rev. 14:10) along with everyone else?

Many people think that human beings are basically good.  After all, most people haven't killed anyone, many don't steal or commit adultery, and they try to treat others the way they'd like to be treated most of the time.  Too many people think they start off with an A and maybe move down to a B or a C if when they do bad things.  God couldn't really send them to hell for a B or a C, right?  Not if He is a God who loves them.  Guess what?  We're all getting an F without Jesus.  Not a C or even a D.  An F.

A God who loves us gave us a way to live instead of die.  He doesn't spitefully pack people off to hell for disobeying Him.  We were headed there already all on our own.  He gave us our only way out because He is a God of love and mercy.  He sacrificed his own Son, even after seeing and hearing him praying and crying out so desperately for another way that he was sweating drops of blood.  To those who have lost a child, I can imagine it is hard to think this way when you are grieving, but I don't think anyone else could have more empathy for what that loss feels like than God.  And yet, He did so willingly for US!  Each and every one of us!  How, in the face of all this, can we doubt God's love?  I, personally, can't imagine why He would love each of us so much, and yet He must.  If He could go through the pain and grief of the death of His own Son, who did nothing wrong, for the sake of human beings who mess things up ALL the time, He must love us.  There is just no other reason why He would do such a thing.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this weekend, I hope we'll all remember not only the miracle of a virgin conceiving and giving birth, or the star of Bethlehem, or the choir of angels, but why he came and that he was born in a lowly stable, and his birth was celebrated by kings (the high society) and shepherds (the lowest of the low) because he came for ALL people.


 Tomorrow's passage:  Esther 9-10; Revelation 15.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Esther 3-5, Revelation 13

I have always enjoyed the book of Esther.  Mostly because she was a woman of great strength coming from a difficult situation and put into an equally difficult situation.  Her people had been deported to a pagan land, unable to sacrifice and so far away from home and the things they knew.  Esther was also an orphan, not something well  looked upon.  And, she was beautiful.  She had the cards stacked against her, but the Lord was with her.

I've learned a couple of things from reading Esther:

  • She listened to, respected and (I'm unpopular here) obeyed the men around her.  This was both easy and not easy.  Perhaps it was easy to listen to Mordecai because he was a trusted cousin to her.  He had loved her and cared for her in place of her parents.  It was not easy, however, to listen to the heathens around her.  The eunuch placed over her, the King himself.  But in these situations when she listened to and did what they told her to, she was saved.  Mordecai asked her to go before the king, something no one could do unless called (punishable by death), yet she was saved.  
  • She wasn't a pushover or timid.  Even though she listened and obeyed the men around her, she voiced her opinion and opposition.  She told Mordecai that hello!  I'm going to die if I go before the king!  Yet she was bold and courageous in going before the king and asking him twice to come to dinner.
  • She knew how to work within her God given parameters to get what she needed/wanted.She was not a stupid woman.  She knew the way to endear a man.  She wasn't going to get anywhere stamping her foot and going into a tirade, or even doing things herself.  This is not popular thought today.  Many women are proud to say they need no man.  Yet this isn't scriptural, nor is it smart.  Women have their own power, and don't need to borrow the power that God has given men.  Both men and women were made to need each other in different ways.  
Esther is a great example of how to be effective right where we are at.  To be sure women were not revered or even valued in this culture, but Esther was able to work out God's will for her as a woman in that time.  God is able to use us right where we are at, we just need to be willing and open to His leading.

Tomorrow's passage: Esther 6-8, Revelation 14

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 20th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is   Esther 1-2, Revelation 12

In today's reading from Revelation there's a shift in perspective.  The previous few chapters have all been about God's judgement upon the unbelievers, still with the purpose of relationship restoration.

But what's going on, at the same time, is Satan's wrath and fury against believers.

No wonder it's a time of destruction like never seen before.

The woman represents Israel; the sun, moon and 12 stars represent Jacob, Rachel and the 12 tribes of Israel (Joseph's dream from Genesis 37).   And the woman is pregnant and crying out in pain, longing to give birth - just like Israel had been longing for the coming of the Messiah.  Israel has suffered throughout their entire existence it seems, because of God's discipline and because of Satan's efforts to destroy them so the kingdom couldn't come.

The audacity of that, really!  As though Satan can somehow stop God from carrying out His plan!  But he tries, oh how he tries.  And in this passage he is symbolized as a red dragon which is a picture of how fierce, destructive and frightening Satan is, and the red also indicates bloodshed.  He is a seven headed monster who rules over the worldly kingdoms, with horns representing power, strength and weaponry.

Over and over again, Satan has tried to destroy the Jews and therefore the Messianic line....
From MacArthur...
Satan had already tried to prevent Abraham from having a son of promise. He tried to destroy Jacob. Tried to kill the line of Judah. Tried to take Israel captive and eliminate ten tribes later on in the divided kingdom and failed. Though the captives from the north never returned, representatives from all ten tribes had filtered into the south and so all twelve tribes are still in tact. The archenemy of Israel tried to destroy the Jews through pagan kings and God used judges to deliver them. The dragon tried to get Saul to murder David and end all messianic hope through the line of David, and he could never succeed. Haman became Satan's tool to attempt genocide, but the nation was saved by Esther and Haman was executed on his own gallows.

He references 2 Chronicles 21 and 22 where, in two cases, the Messianic line had dwindled to only one child.  Only one left before the Messianic line would be destroyed.  (Jehoram slaughtered all his brothers so only he remained, and then all his sons, other than Ahaziah, were killed by raiders).

Revelation 12 then takes us back all the way to the beginning, when Satan rebelled against God and was thrown out of heaven along with a third of the angels.  There are two thirds remaining, which means the forces of God are twice as many as the forces of Satan.

And now, as we remember the birth of Christ, Satan once again is making war against God and His redemptive plan.  He tried to destroy Jesus through Herod.  He tries to get Jesus to throw himself off a cliff, he tries to have him stoned - but he is unable to kill the Promise.

And our passage confirms that the child was born, despite Satan's best efforts, and that He is the Ruler of all nations.

But Satan is relentless and he doesn't give up.  Throughout history he has continued to attack the Israelites.  But he has not been able to succeed in destroying them, and he never will.

And during the tribulation, God will provide a refuge and protection from Satan for His people (v6) - for 3 1/2 yrs they will be cared for by God in the wilderness.

Satan's attacks are relentless.  And his attacks are not limited just to the Jews.  He's perfectly happy attacking Gentile Christians as well.  And so we do suffer on this earth.  We suffer from many things - from God's discipline (done in love to restore relationship), from Satan's wrath and fury, and from the consequences of our own sinful choices.

But we have this amazing hope.

We know that Christ came and He is coming again.

We know that Satan does not win.  Really, he knows this too and it makes him desperate.  Which means we suffer even more.  But throughout that suffering we need to cling to the hope, to the knowledge that God will be victorious.  And it won't just be a little victory.  It will be definitive. It will be widespread, total and complete annihilation.

Tomorrow's passage:  Esther 3-5, Revelation 13

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday, Dec 19 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Ezra 5-7, Revelation 11

Happy Monday Everyone!

I don't have a lot of personal insight to add today. These chapters in Revelation are so overwhelming and interesting to me. I don't know about you, but whenever I read Revelation, a whole different feeling comes over me, it's like this one book of the Bible holds a more urgent message than the rest of the books. I want to highlight some things that John MacArthur has to say in his message Two Witnesses Part 3.

I believe that it's during the Tribulation that Israel will be saved and the last events of the Tribulation will be the great movement of God that causes the most immense reaction in Israel to saving truth. Already we know a hundred and forty-four thousand Jews have been saved and they are a hundred and forty-four thousand witnessing missionaries all over the globe. They've been sealed to witness during the seven-year period. They are protected from death and they go about the world proclaiming the gospel truth. Already we know that they have had an effect. Gentiles have believed. Jews have believed.
But in this scene in chapter 11 we meet two other preachers and they are the ones who really are used by God as the instruments of the final harvest of the nation Israel, right before the very end of the day of the Lord. They are identified for us as two witnesses and I believe that there have been Jews being saved since the hundred and forty-four thousand started preaching, but now there is going to be a tremendous response and we will note it as we finish this great section tonight. And it will be at the prompting and the preaching and under the power of these anointed two witnesses.
Let's look again at verse 3. "And I will grant authority to My two witnesses and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days clothed on sackcloth." Now let me remind you that this tells us about their duty, they will prophesy. These two men will preach warning. They will preach judgment. They will explain the coming wrath of God. They will explain what is going on at the present time since judgments have already been going on through the first of the seals and then the first of the trumpets and are about to break out in the final bowl judgments. They will be calling for repentance. They will be calling for belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their duty, they will prophesy.

Won't this be amazing to see, whoever will be on this earth to witness it? MacArthur goes on...

But God is merciful and just before the final blowing of the seventh trumpet which contains the seven bowls which is the final rapid-fire holocaust at the end of the day of the Lord, leading up to Christ's return and the establishment of His Kingdom which involves the destruction of all the ungodly, before that happens the Lord sends two final powerful witnesses. Like Enoch and Noah before the Flood, like Moses in Egypt before the judgments, like John the Baptist before the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem, God mercifully sends preachers to warn.

Doesn't our God love us?? To even have a book in His Word like Revelation. To offer us so many teachings in the entire Bible, offer us all of the warnings and brilliant imagery in His final book - Revelation, and yet already have an added plan of grace and mercy in place for the final days of earth embodied in the Two Witnesses. Yes, our God loves us...

Tomorrow's passage:   Esther 1-2, Revelation 12

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday, December 18th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  Psalm 107, 127, Revelation 10

I learned a few really interesting things about our Revelation passage from John MacArthur in his sermon When God Breaks His Silence.

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.  Revelation 10:1

MacArthur explains that the cloud was a symbol of judgement at which time God will destroy the wicked, but the rainbow is a reassuring sign to God's beloved that they would not be swept away in this judgement, but that God would remember them and spare them.  His face was a blaze of glory that can light up the world like the sun can (and if the face of "just" an angel can do that, just imagine the face of God!), and his legs of fiery pillars represented the unbending holiness of the judgement activity.

MacArthur also suggests that the little scroll the angel is holding is the same one from Chapter 5 that no one but Jesus was worthy to open, and in it is contained the final judgement that is now visible - the seven seals, trumpets and judgements.  And then the angel plants his right foot on the sea and his left on the land - which of course shows how incredibly huge this angel was, and basically tells us that God has put His foot down, He's had enough.  And the angel shouts with the roar of a lion and thunder ringing out - you can just heart the judgement in this display of power and authority!  And then God commands John not to write down the judgements, likely because they were simply too terrifying.  And the things that have been written so far have been incredibly terrifying, so that's saying something!

And then the angel swears an oath before God that there will be no more delay.  The day of judgment has finally come, and God will be silent in the face of evil no longer.  The time will have finally come.

And then John is instructed to eat the scroll and it is sweet in his mouth and sour in his stomach (reminiscent of Ezekiel 2).

 It means my Christ is glorified. It means He takes over the world destroying Satan and demons. It means the Kingdom comes, sin is conquered, salvation is revealed, Christ reigns. That's sweet. But it also means blood and wrath and vengeance and judgment and hell. Anyone who loves Christ can sense what John was experiencing here. The blessings of God are sweet, every message of hope, of blessing, of glory, every message of liberty, salvation of goodness, every promise of heaven is sweet. Every touch of love, every kiss of grace is sweet. But oh the bitterness of judgment. And so verse 11 says, "They said to me, you must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings."
What does that mean? Warn men, tell them of the bitter, tell them of the sweet. Tell them what's in the seventh trumpet. Tell them what's in the seventh bowl and all the ones preceding it. Tell them to taste the honey and avoid the bitter. He's saying to him...repeat what you've heard to peoples and nations in all languages. That's the call, that's the commission, that's the assignment.

So in this wonderful chapter of interlude there is certainly hope. The whole message of consummation to us who have asked the long, O Lord, how long? hopeful. Christ will be exalted, the Kingdom come, hope realized, sin dethroned, Satan imprisoned with all his hosts and the earth filled with righteousness, the righteousness of God and Christ on the throne. But oh the bitterness, the price that sinners will pay. Like John we must preach, we must preach. Again, warning people, warning nations in all languages, even people in authority like kings.
So an interlude of hope with a serious touch of bitterness, calling us to evangelistic responsibility. (emphasis mine)

Tomorrow's passage:  Ezra 5-7, Revelation 11

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday, December 17th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 83-84; Revelation 9

Psalm 83 is a prayer for God to do whatever it takes to convince the world that He is indeed God.

That's a scary prayer to pray.  It's especially scary when you pray that prayer about a loved one.  Because, when we read Revelation 9, we see that sometimes it takes a LOT.

In fact, after hail and fire destroyed a third of the earth, after a third of the sea was turned to blood and a third of the sea creatures died, after a third of the waters turned bitter causing people to die, after a third of the day and night was completely without light, after scorpions tortured people for five months, after a third of mankind was killed by plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur - after ALL THAT, it STILL says....

The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood - idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.  Revelation 10:20-21  (Emphasis mine)

I don't know about you, but to me, it makes it very scary to pray Psalm 83, and yet at the same time it makes me all the more determined.  Because as horrible as the destruction of Revelation 9 is, the reality of hell will surpass it by far.  And the fact remains that at the end of time as we know it, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus is Lord - but if they don't do it before they die or before the Lord returns, it will be too late.

Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord - that you alone are the Most High over all the earth. Psalm 83:18
Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 107, 127, Revelation 10

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday, December 16 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 81-82; Revelation 8.

Well, of course there is much that could be said about today's New Testament reading!  Hard to know where to begin with some of these, isn't it??  But because my last post was so stinkin' long, I'm going to keep it real short today.

I think I'd like to focus on what I see as being the fulfilment of the prayer in Psalm 82 happening in Revelation 8.

See, in Psalm 82 the psalmist is asking God how long before the wicked will be punished.  How long until prayers for the repayment of evil done to believers will be answered?  Some other Psalms express even more the strong desire to see wrongdoers repaid with God's wrath.  Sometimes we wonder what the point is of standing out, of living counter-culturally, don't we?  We wonder privately and out loud why God doesn't do anything, and how long He will wait.

There is no simple answer to how long, but in the opening verses of Revelation 8, we see ALL those prayers answered very decisively at a specific point in time.

In Old Testament times, the High Priest would take coals from the bronze altar in the tabernacle or temple courtyard from the burnt offering and light the incense on the golden altar at the entrance to the Holy of Holies.  This burning incense was a symbol of what all the people were doing at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices ~ praying.  And the smoke from the burning incense would rise, giving them a visual reminder of the pleasing aroma their prayers were to God.

Here in the first 5 verses of Revelation 8, we see all of heaven pause in silence as they see what will happen to the earth and its inhabitants when the seventh seal is opened.  Up until now, heaven has been a rather loud place, but now, there is stunned silence.  Trumpets are handed out to seven angels, and an eighth angel receives a golden censer with which to light the golden incense altar with the coals from the altar of the prayers of the saints.  And the smoke rises as the prayers do...

...and the angel takes the censer, refills it with live, burning coals from the golden altar, and hurls it to the earth in what is the beginning of the end of humanity's rebellion against God.  In direct answer to the prayers raised up to Him throughout all time, the pleas of believers wanting God's vengeance against those who curse and defame Him.

It's terrifying, and yet at the same time so encouraging, to know one day, justice will be done. God WILL be glorified!

Tomorrow's readings: Psalm 83-84; Revelation 9

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 15 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 79-80; Revelation 7.

I am going to focus on the Revelation passage today. has a detailed commentary here on the entire chapter, but there was a portion that I found really interesting.  I never realized a distinction before between what John HEARD and what he then SAW.

The number 144,000 is something John says he heard(v. 4), not something he saw or was permitted to count. There were twelve thousand, he was told, from each of Israel's twelve tribes, in the following order (vv. 5-8): Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph and Benjamin (the list being framed by reminders in vv. 5 and 8 that the group was sealed against the terrors to come; the NIV fails to repeat the word sealed in v. 8).

John's list does not match exactly any of the traditional lists of the tribes of Israel (for example, Gen 35:23-26; 49:1-28; Deut 33:6-25), either in the names or in the order of the names. Most conspicuously, it is a messianic or distinctly Christian list in that it begins with Judah, the ancestor of David and of Jesus, the "Root of David" (5:5). Just as the elder's voice had announced earlier "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (5:5), so now John heard a list of tribes announced beginning with the tribe of Judah. In each case, however, what John immediately saw was something quite different from what was announced. Instead of "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" he had seen "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain" (5:6), and now instead of144,000 from all the tribes of Israel he sees a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (v. 9).

In each case John's vision accomplishes a transformation (compare Gundry 1987:260). A Lion is transformed into a Lamb, and 144,000 Jews are transformed into an innumerable multitude from every nation on earth! The great multitude, wearing white robes and . . . holding palm branches in their hands (v. 9), break out in worship of God and the Lamb in a manner recalling chapters 4-5 (v. 10) and are answered by the amen of all the angels . . . standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures (vv. 11-12; compare 5:11-14). At this point, one of the elders (also familiar from chaps. 4-5) asks John, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" (v. 13). When John disclaims any knowledge of who they are (v. 14), the elder answers his own question: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (v. 14).

Very interesting!  It also talks about the fact that John doesn't ask a single question in the whole book of Revelation.  I never noticed that before either.  Then it goes on to say:

In the real world, blood leaves unsightly stains on white clothing, but in the world of the Revelation blood washes away all other stains and makes the clothing pure and all the whiter. It is important to notice that these martyrs are not cleansed by the shedding of their own blood, but, like all Christian believers, by the blood of the Lamb (v. 14; compare 1:5, where John's doxology reminds all his readers that Christ has "freed us from our sins" by the shedding of his blood). Martyrdom has no merit in itself, yet John wants to make very clear to the congregations in Asia that martyrdom is likely to be the price of any serious commitment to Jesus Christ.

If this is so, it is important to assure the churches of the vindication of those who are (or will be) martyred. So the elder's explanation continues. The martyrs' vindication, he points out, consists partly of what John has just seen--that they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple (v. 15)--and partly of what he has not yet seen (vv. 15-17). The conclusion to the sixth seal provides a glimpse of the final blessedness of God's people. God will spread his tent over them (v. 15). They will never be hungry or thirsty again, and they will be protected from the scorching heat of the sun (v. 16; compare Is 49:10). The Lamb will become their shepherd, leading them to springs of living water (compare 21:6), and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (v. 17; compare 21:4).

(I chose this picture because of the reference above to springs of living water.)

We probably won't be martyred in the way we typically think of it.  Certainly the congregations in Asia had much more threat to their lives physically than do we.  But a serious commitment to Jesus Christ is never the path of least resistance.  It always requires sacrifice and effort on our parts.  We are all called to give up or set aside certain things, or go through different troubles and trials.  In the past, I've found it hard to remember to live for eternity.  It's gotten easier as we've taken this journey together, but there are still many times where I just want to live right now for myself, as though this life is all there is.  I don't mean that in the "you have to look out for number one first" sense, where everything is done from a selfish motivation, just in the "working towards heaven is really hard and I don't want to do it right now" sense.  Are there ever times where the work of the Kingdom seems so hard and you just want to enjoy you life on Earth without worrying about eternity?  Just hang out with your family and friends and buy whatever you want with your money and not worry about storing up treasures in heaven?  

Most of the time I don't feel like that.  Most of the time, I am VERY glad that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to us to save us from our sin.  Particularly now, as the Christmas season is upon us, I spend a lot more time remembering that and I am beyond extremely thankful, grateful, appreciative, delighted, humbled, and awed at His incredible gift.  Most of the time I am thankful for the strengths He has given me and I pray to, and try hard to, use them in His service.  Actually, I'm grateful for the opportunities to use them in His service.  I guess the times where it is hard are the times when I am frustrated and upset with myself for always messing up.  But one of the things I always try to remember, that I've learned from our readings and posts, is that GOD DOESN'T NEED TO WAIT FOR US TO BE "GOOD ENOUGH" BEFORE HE USES US.  The only requirement is that we make ourselves available for His use.  He will make us what we need to be, or give us what we need to have, to accomplish the purpose He set out for us.  We don't have to achieve a certain "level" before we are fit to be His servants.  What a relief that is!

Anyway, I apologize for getting so long-winded.  I wish you all a wonderful Thursday and a wonderful week.  May we all keep in mind and in our hearts the real meaning of Christmas as we rush around baking and shopping and wrapping and mailing and cooking and travelling.  God bless you!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 81-82; Revelation 8.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday, December 14 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 77-78, Revelation 6

I think our psalm reading today is very apropos to the end of the year.  I believe we've all had some pretty tough things that have left us grasping for God in prayer and tears.  And if it hasn't been us, we know people who we love that are doing just that.  It is good and right to grieve losses whether or not they are people.  There is much we don't understand when it comes to life and God's way of dealing with things.  But the psalmist has a great point:
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
   the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
   yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will meditate on all your works
   and consider all your mighty deeds.
 13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
   What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
   you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
   the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. 
God instructed the Israelites to set up memorials of things that God has done.  God knew that there would come a time that they would forget the greatness, the power that God has.  There would come a time that new ones would come along who hadn't experienced God's greatness yet, but those who had could share the story.
There is a woman in our church who has experienced God's greatness in many ways.  Her grown son is dying of cancer.  But she shared her great peace and comfort that could only come through the Lord.  Her witness met me and assured me of my God.  He will meet us even in our anguish of soul and comfort us.  He cares not only for our doings but also for our beings, our minds, our emotions.  He cares for the whole kit and caboodle.  It is both good to tell of what the Lord has done and to hear of what the Lord has done.
I would like to invite you to set up a memorial, a verbal, or written one right here about what the Lord has done this year for you.  How has He carried you?  How has He provided for you?  How has He met you right where you are at?

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 79-80, Revelation 7

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday, December 13th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 74-76, Revelation 5

We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. Psalm 74:9

I'm not sure it's the exact context, but what this verse brought to mind was the long 400 year drought of silence between the OT and the coming of the Messiah. Can you even imagine that? The yearning and the longing for the Messiah to come - but with nothing but silence in response. No prophets, no miraculous signs, nothing. Only waiting.

So fitting for this season of advent, as we remember the period of waiting before the long-anticipated birth of our Saviour. And as we now wait for the Second Coming.

But, unlike the OT saints who longed for the first coming, we do not have silence.

We have the proof of the Christ's birth, death and resurrection.

We have the Holy Spirit.

We have both the OT and the NT scriptures.

And our NT scripture passage today quite fittingly proclaims Jesus, the Messiah whose birth was anticipated over 2000 years ago and whose Second Coming we've been anticipating ever since.....

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. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever! Revelation 5:9b, 10, 12b, 13b

Jesus, you came.

Come again, Lord Jesus, come!

Edited to add: I was listening to one of the Follow the Rabbi lectures (#10 I think) on the treadmill this morning and guess what was talked about? Revelation 5. He had been reading that exact passage in Israel on the island of Patmos when a cell phone rang with news of 9/11. And then he got it. This passage was written - yes, to let them know it was going to get worse. But more than that. It was written to say - it doesn't matter what Osama bin Laden or anyone thinks, says or does - God is still in control, God is still on His throne, God is still worthy of honour and glory and praise.

It reminds me of a post I read by Angie Smith and her reaction when they found out there was no medical hope for the daughter in her womb to survive - "I think my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked in that door".

Tomorrow's passage: Psalm 77-78, Revelation 6

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday, Dec. 12 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Zechariah 13-14, Revelation 3-4

Happy Monday Everyone!

1 “To the angel[a] of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

By all ourward appearances, the believers in Sardis seemed to be believers. But they were dead in spirit. In this commentary, I found:
The believers in Sardis, however, do not have the Spirit of God. They had obviously received the
Spirit before, since their names were written in the book of life. But they do not enjoy the fullness of the Spirit. Their clothes are soiled and thus the Spirit had departed from them. They had fallen asleep and they departed from the grace they had originally received. We could use this epistle and tell Calvin that, obviously, not all saints persevere. God is faithful and eternally immutable, but if we receive the pardon of our sins and then fall asleep, our life is endangered. It is as dangerous as falling asleep with fire in our hands.There is a step we must make after conversion by which we burn our bridges behind us and make our relationship with God irrevocable. The church in Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but they were dead. The fact that Jesus mentions the seven starts in this context suggests a relationship between the condition of the leader of the church and the state of the church. Spiritual death had entered the church via its leader.

The leaders of the church were looking around at other churches and judging their "spiritual success" based on what other pastors and churches were doing. By doing this, the leaders allowed spiritual death into the church by not using God's standards to measure spiritual health.

There are a couple of specific action steps I see coming out of this passage and commentary:
1) Pray for our church leaders. Pray wisdom, clarity to hear the voice of God and that God's will is the only measuring stick used for church success.
2) Ask questions, seek answers for yourself on the messages and studies done in your church. Not out of doubt, but out of truth seeking and to avoid putting your faith in church leadership.
3) Stop comparing your church to others. Worry about your own state of affairs and make sure that God is at the right place in your heart and your church. Don't put your "church success" above others. This is not the accurate measure of success. Pray for other churches in the same way you pray for your own. That the spirit of God is present throughout each and every heart!!

Father God, make us aware. Open our eyes and hearts to YOUR spirit and be alive in us. Help us to avoid comparing our spiritual walk with other people and other churches. Be alive in each one of us by your standards, none other. Thank you for your grace that you extend each and every day. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage:   Psalm 74-76, Revelation 5

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday, December 11th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Zechariah 11-12 - Revelation 2

A few different "themes" jumped out at me as I read the Revelation passage.

The first one is the fact that God is all-knowing and therefore He knows, not only every word we speak and every thing we do, but He knows the motive behind it.

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:2-4
Here the Ephesians were being commended for their hard work, perseverance, resistance to sin, knowledge and ability to test false teachings and enduring hardships without growing weary. But it seemed that all these good efforts did not spring from a love for Jesus and God called them on it because He knew the motives behind their words and actions. Without love, we are simply clanging symbols (1 Corinthians 13). Good works must be motivated by love.

I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crowns of life. Revelation 2:9-10

God knew that the church in Smyma was coming up against some serious persecution. He could see through the deception of the Jews who were actually serving Satan's purposes, not God's. And He asked them to be faithful through the persecution.

He did not stop it. He did not save them from persecution. He asked them to remain faithful in their suffering. In light of eternity, their suffering lasted a short time, and they received the gift of the crown of life.

What faithfulness!

And what shame when I think how hesitant I am to share my love for Jesus with those around me, under threat of what? Ridicule? Being labelled a "Jesus freak"? Being rejected? May God give us a spirit of courage and strength to be faithful as He calls us to be faithful in the circumstances He has put us in - He knows all about it.

There are similar words for the church in Pergamum - God knows where they live and how evil it was. But some of them were giving in a little. This quote from my Life Application Bible really hit me....
Don't tolerate sin by bowing to the pressure to be open-minded.
How true does that statement ring out today!

And then in Thyatira...
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Revelation 2:19-20

The church in Thyatira was doing a lot of good things, but they were beginning to be deceived into thinking that sexual immorality was not a serious matter for believers. Oh, does that sound like today's society!

But despite what society would like us to believe, sex outside marriage always hurts someone. It hurts God because it's going against what He has created and intended for us to enjoy and goes against His Word. It hurts others because it violates commitments we have made to them. It hurts ourselves, sometimes affecting us physically, but always affecting us emotionally and spiritually because God has designed that all to be connected with sexual intimacy.

My Life Application Bible hits the nail on the head again....
Sexual immorality has tremendous power to destroy families, churches, and communities because it destroys the integrity on which these relationships are built. God wants to protect us from hurting ourselves and others; thus we are to have no part in sexual immorality, even if our culture accepts it.

God knows.

He knows where He has placed us and what our circumstances are. He knows what temptations we are fighting. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our actions, words, thoughts and motives.

And He asks us to be faithful.

Will we be faithful to the end, no matter the cost?