Read Through the Bible – Weeks 38 and 39

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Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever!

We celebrate a national Day of Thanksgiving in the United States this week.

People drive many miles to spend time with their family. Houses are filled with familiar smells as pies are baked and as turkeys spend hours in the oven. Some people watch the big parades and the football games that have become a part of Thanksgiving Day. Other people spend time reviewing their Christmas list, so that they can hit the ground running on Black Friday. And, at some point, we all encounter the “pregnant moment” when we gather around a great feast and prepare to eat.

Why is it important to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Many of us live our lives believing that we work hard for all the things that we have and for the food that we eat. Many of us celebrate “Turkey Day” with little awareness of God’s blessings in our lives and in the lives of those that we love. It’s easy to forget about all of the prayers that God has answered and the blessings that God has given. It’s easy for us to forget about the blessings of good health, warm homes and peace. Martin Luther once wrote that, as Christ teaches us to pray “give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus tells us to remember that it is God who gives us our food and drink, clothing, shoes, house, money, goods, husbands and wives, children, our government, good weather, peace, good health, good friends and neighbors, self-control and a good reputation. When we pray – “Give us this day our daily bread” – we recall that God’s the source of everything.

Why is it important to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Perhaps, we need to pause and think about what life would be like if we didn’t have any food, any clothes to wear, warm homes to enjoy, and good health? Perhaps, we need to pause for a moment and think about what life would be like if we didn’t have any fresh water to drink, enough money to pay our bills, good weather, family and friends?

Why is it important to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Perhaps because it’s easy to forget that we’re richly blessed? Perhaps because we need to stop – at least for a short moment once each year – to just think about the Wonderful God who fills our lives with so many good things? Perhaps in that “pregnant moment” we can think about the people in our world who are less fortunate than we are? Perhaps in that once-a-year “pregnant moment” we can simply stop and think about ways that we can be a blessing in the lives of other people who don’t enjoy simple blessings that we often take for granted as we prepare to enter another Holiday Season?

Why is it important to celebrate Thanksgiving?

It’s important to celebrate Thanksgiving because it prepares us for what’s coming next. We remember that being “blessed” doesn’t always mean “having more.” We remember that life’s about far more than getting the biggest box that’s under the tree, or the most expensive electronic device. Life is about learning to appreciate what God gives us. Life is about finding ways to share goodness with others. Thanksgiving reminds us that God fills our lives with blessings we can share with other people. We become more generous, more giving and more aware of the needs of others when we stop and realize how richly we’ve been blessed in the past year.

I hope and pray that you’ll enjoy this Thanksgiving with those you love. I also hope and pray that, when you come to the “pregnant moment” we’ll all face as we gather around the table where a great feast is set before us that you’ll take a moment to just pause – and to reflect for a moment – and to give thanks for the many blessings that God has poured into your life.

And then, as you rise from the feast and prepare to journey into the “Season of Giving,” I hope and pray that you’ll carry with you a generous spirit – filled to overflowing with the type of thanksgiving that gives birth to love, to kindness, and to generosity.

Here are the readings for the next two weeks:

Week #38

Sunday: Philemon – Monday: Numbers 21-24 – Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 1-5 – Wednesday: Psalms 111-113 – Thursday: Proverbs 25 – Friday: Amos 5-9 – Saturday: John 19-21

Week #39

Sunday: Hebrews 1-4 – Monday: Numbers 25-28 – Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 6-10 – Wednesday: Psalms 114-116 – Thursday: Proverbs 26-27 – Friday: Obadiah – Saturday: Acts 1-2

 

Read Through the Bible – Weeks 36 and 37

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

The Bible is full of many instructions and exhortations. We’re called to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and minds and spirits, and we’re called to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40) We’re called to preach the Word, and to reprove, rebuke and exhort with patience. (2 Timothy 4:2) We’re called to fight the good fight and to keep the faith (1 Timothy 6:12), and we’re told that we always need to be ready to bear witness to the hope that’s inside of us. (1 Peter 3:15)

And it all sounds pretty exhausting.

One of the things that I see more and more these days is that people are tired. We fill our days with an almost endless list of chores, and we go to bed thinking about what we’re going to do the first thing tomorrow morning. I recently told a friend of mine that I often feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends while trying to light the middle. I fall asleep as soon as I sit down in my recliner. I start to snore as soon as my head hits the pillow. I often wake-up exhausted in the morning, and then pull myself together and get-on with the rest of the day. Does that sound familiar? Could you be writing these words?

But even in the midst of the craziness we call life, Jesus reminds us that He is the “vine” and we are the “branches.” (John 15:5)

Part of our spiritual journey is learning to find those precious places in life where God nourishes us and sustains us. Can we see God’s presence in the people that God sends to stand beside us and encourage us? Can we hear God’s call to stop and to build our lives around the things that we believe God wants us to do with our time and energy? Can we hear God’s call to see the value of Sabbath rest? God promises to nourish and sustain us, but God also calls us to stop and to remain focused. Jesus promises us that the Great Vine will continue to supply what we need the most to grow and flourish, but Jesus reminds us that we will all have times when we need to be pruned and trimmed-back in order to bear the fruits of God’s Reign.

This week, I’d like to encourage you to stop and to think about the places in life where you’re being nourished and sustained by God. I’d also like to encourage you stop and to think about parts of your life that God might be trying to trim-back and prune right now.

Faith calls us to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and minds and spirits, and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Faith calls to preach the Word, and to reprove, rebuke and exhort with patience. Faith calls to fight the good fight and to keep the faith while always remaining ready to bear witness to the hope that’s inside of us.

And it all sounds pretty exhausting.

How are you being sustained by the Vine? Where can you see those special places where God comes to nourish and sustain you? Is God calling you to stop and to allow Him to do a bit of pruning, so that you’ll continue to bear the fruit that He wants you to bear? Can you hear the God who loves you calling you to search for precious moments of Sabbath rest, so that you’ll remain both healthy and whole as you continue to live-out your faith and live-into God’s plan for your life?

Here are the weekly readings:

Week #36

Sunday: 2 Timothy 3-4 – Monday: Numbers 13-16 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 20-24 – Wednesday: Psalms 105-107 – Thursday: Proverbs 22 – Friday: Joel – Saturday: John 13-15

Week #37

Sunday: Titus – Monday: Numbers 17-20 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 25-29 – Wednesday: Psalms 108-110 – Thursday: Proverbs 23-24 – Friday: Amos 1-4 – Saturday: John 16-18

Read Through the Bible – Weeks 34 and 35

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible.”

We’ve been traveling through the Gospel of John in the last few weeks. John is the last of the Gospels in the Bible and was, chronologically, the last of the gospels, too. The Gospel of John contains stories that we don’t find in the other gospels. This is where we’ll find the story of the wedding at Cana in Galilee, the Samaritan woman by the well, and a lot of stories filled with theological statements. John’s famous for the “I AM” statements that we find throughout his gospel, and we’re going to encounter two of those statements as we read from John’s Gospel this week: “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7) and “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14). But, carefully tucked between these two statements, we find one of my favorite verses in the Bible.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

What kinds of things are stealing energy and enthusiasm from your life right now? What parts of your life do you find most difficult? None of us can live our lives without facing some challenges and obstacles, but there are other things in life that drain us (almost on a daily basis) and that leave us with weighted-down spirits and heavy hearts. Do you find yourself praying about those things? What’s God been saying to you? Jesus tells us that the “thief” comes into our lives to steal and kill and destroy – but God is mightier than the “thief” that Jesus describes, isn’t He? What do you need from God right now? How might God be working in your life to take away the power of the “thief” that’s stealing energy and enthusiasm from your daily life?

Jesus also tells us that He has come that we may have life and have it abundantly. What kinds of things make you feel close to God right now? What kinds of things send you into the world filled with energy and excitement? St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that God is a God who spurs us on in life, and who creates deep passions and excitement. What are you most excited about right now, and how can that excitement be a clear sign that God’s doing something big in your life? Perhaps, that’s something that you can lift-up to God in times of prayer this week, too? How can the excitement and passions that you feel about certain things help you to understand God’s plan for your life and your future?

I know that I’ve asked a lot of questions. But, as we travel through the Gospel of John, we’re brought face-to-face with a God who’s come into the world to bring life, to restore hope, to give peace in difficult times, and to give us strength to face the challenges in life that we’ll all face at some point. Where are you finding God in your life right now, and what do you need the most from God at this point in your journey? Why not take some time to talk with God about that today?

Week 34

Sunday: 1 Timothy 4-6 – Monday: Numbers 5-8 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 10-14 – Wednesday: Psalms 99-101 – Thursday: Proverbs 19 – Friday: Hosea 1-7 – Saturday: John 7-9

Week 35

Sunday: 2 Timothy 1-2 – Monday: Numbers 9-12 – Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 15-19 – Wednesday: Psalms 102-104 – Thursday: Proverbs 20-21 – Friday: Hosea 8-14 – Saturday: John 10-12

 

Read Through the Bible – Weeks 32 and 33

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Life’s been a bit crazy in the last few weeks….

I guess that a man doesn’t realize how much his wife does to support and to care for him until she decides to go away for ten days. I spent time at a coaching conference while my wife was away, and came home with a 3-hour homework assignment and a small pile of books to read. And, of course, ministry continues.  First Communion classes have started and our Catechism program is underway. We’re getting ready to celebrate Harvest Home this weekend with an Oktoberfest – and with a special Sunday that’s devoted to focusing our attention upon how God’s using us and the ministry of our congregation to do His work in a quickly-changing world. And, quite honestly, it’s all pretty overwhelming….

You could probably be writing something very similar, right? There are times when we find ourselves burning the candle at both ends and trying to light it in the middle. We all have times when we realize that there’s just not enough of us to around. And it’s hard for us – because we don’t always like to admit it. I often joke about the fact that I once asked God for an extra day each week – and He responded, in great mercy, by saying, “No!”

And yet, as we travel through the book of Proverbs, we find encouragement.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

How is God helping to establish your plans? How is God leading you and guiding you in your life right now? Are you trying to do it all by yourself? Are you struggling because you can’t figure-out how to find the time to do all of the things that you think God wants you to do? Perhaps, it’s time to step back and commit your work to the Lord? Maybe, it’s time to step back and admit that you don’t really know the exact path forward, and ask God to guide you and strengthen you?

We all face overwhelming times when we’re not sure about the future and when we are even less sure about how to get there. Why not take some time to pray about that today – knowing that God has a wonderful plan for your life and that God will open doors that will lead you in the direction that He wants you to move?

Here are two weeks of readings:

Week 31

Sunday – 2 Thessalonians, Monday – Leviticus 25-27, Tuesday – 1 Chronicles 1-4, Wednesday – Psalms 93-95, Thursday – Proverbs 16, Friday – Daniel 1-6, Saturday – John 3-4

Week 32

Sunday – 1 Timothy 1-3, Monday – Numbers 1-4, Tuesday – 1 Chronicles 5-9, Wednesday – Psalms 96-98, Thursday – Proverbs 17-18, Friday – Daniel 7-12, Saturday – John 5-6

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 30

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible.” We’re excited that you’re here and hope that you will jump on board and join us as we read through God’s Word.

This week, we’re going to read one of my favorite passages in the Bible!

Just imagine the prophet Ezekiel looking across a valley that’s filled with sun-bleached bones. And as he’s walking in the field and stepping over skeletons, God asks him, “Can these bones lives again?” And Ezekiel answers: “O Lord, only you know that!” And then, Ezekiel is told to prophesy. And the bones begin to rattle and come together. The sinews begin to grow, muscles begin to form, and skin covers the bodies. And then, when Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the wind (spirit), the still-dead bodies are filled with “breath” and become living beings. A field full of skeletons becomes a field that’s filled with a living, breathing and marching army of strong and determined soldiers. Wow!

Where have you discovered valleys that are filled with sun-bleached bones in your life?

Perhaps, today, you’re discouraged because you’re facing a terminal illness, or maybe you are finding that it’s quiet overwhelming to care for an aging parent? Maybe one of your kids is struggling with an addiction to opioids, or will spend today in jail? Maybe you’re struggling through a period of unemployment, or maybe your ongoing struggle with a teenager is simply wearing you out? Maybe you’re being bullied at school, or at work? Maybe you’re buried under a mountain of bills and the telephone calls from the bill collectors simply won’t stop? Maybe you’re grieving the loss of someone that you dearly loved, or perhaps you’re watching your spouse struggle with dementia? The list goes on and on….

Life is filled with valleys that are covered with dry bones. We can feel both overwhelmed and numb when life continues to give us things that are simply unfair. But, the question is: “Do I believe that God can make circumstances in my life any different?” Or, perhaps: “Do I believe that God can bring hope and peace into a nearly impossible situation?”

The Bible tells us that the God who brought sun-bleached bones together, covered them with sinews and muscles, cloaked them in skin and brought them back to life is at work in our daily lives. That’s right! God’s at work in your life right now. God’s speaking words of new life and new possibilities even in times when the situations that we face appear to be impossible. God journeys with us as we travel through life step-by-step-by-step, and He calls us to have faith, to trust in His ability to lift us up, and to know that He’s walking right beside us – opening doors and blessing us with His strengthening presence even as we walk through seemingly-impossible times!

Here are this week’s readings:

Sunday: 1 Thessalonians 1-3 – Monday: Leviticus 19-21 – Tuesday: 2 Kings 16-20 – Wednesday: Psalms 87-89 – Thursday: Proverbs 13 – Friday: Ezekiel 37-42 – Saturday: Luke 23-24

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 29

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

I want to begin, this week, by congratulating you. Many people tell me that they would like to read through the Bible, but many of those same people tell me that they’ve never done it for one reason or another. Reading through the entire Bible can seem to be a big and unmanageable task, but even large and unmanageable tasks can be accomplished by taking small, consistent steps forward on a daily basis. And I’m hoping that this weekly “Read Through the Bible” addition to my blog has helped you to develop a daily pattern of taking time to read God’s Word and to think about what God’s saying to you.

I’ve always found it hard to read the book of Proverbs.

When I’m reading through the book of Proverbs, it’s almost like I’m being blasted with a whole bunch of different and unrelated ideas at the same time. A single chapter of the book of Proverbs can present dozens of different ideas. This week, our reading from the book of Proverbs will speak about: false scales, wealth, living a good life, the righteous being delivered from trouble, spreading false information about others, our need to have worthy counselors, posting a bond for others, gracious women and violent men, crooked hearts, etc. I could go on and on and on….

But, one proverb that stands-out to me says: “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but the man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Proverbs 11:12-13)

Friendships are often marked by the sharing of secrets. Friends talk with us about things that are happening in their lives that they don’t want to share with other people. Friends sometimes tell us about painful experiences in their pasts, or about the very, real battles that they’re facing right now. And the question always is: “What do I do with information that friends share with me?”

Private information can become the topic of gossip – and it can be used to destroy the reputations of other people. Private information that friends share with us can be freely spread during conversations that should probably never happen, or it can be kept “covered” as Proverbs 11:13 suggests. And that’s something we need to think about when friends share private information believing that we’ll keep private information private.

And so, this week, as we continue our journey through the book of Proverbs, I’d like to challenge you to think about what you do when your friends and family members share private information with you. Do you spread what you’ve learned, or do you keep what you’ve learned buried deep in your heart? Do you share what you’ve been told through gossip as soon as you have a chance, or do you carry the private information that’s been entrusted to you by a person who trusts you both “covered” and “unrevealed”?

Here’s this week’s readings:

Sunday: Colossians 3-4 – Monday: Leviticus 16-18 – Tuesday: 2 Kings 11-15 – Wednesday: Psalms 84-86 – Thursday: Proverbs 11-12 – Friday: Ezekiel 31-36 – Saturday: Luke 21-22

Read Through the Bible – Week 28

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This is a place where we’re gathering together around God’s Word, and where we have decided to read through the Bible with each other and support each other as Christians. We’ve moved through more than half the Bible this year, and we’re pressing on toward the goal! But, if you’re new to this site, don’t be dismayed. Please feel free to jump on board! You don’t have to try to catch up with us, and we understand when people miss a reading or two along the way. This site is about encouraging you to spend some time with God’s Word and to allow the words of the Bible to speak to you.

We’ve been hearing a lot about disasters in the last few weeks, haven’t we?

Hurricane Harvey dumped several feet of water onto Texas and Louisiana, and then buried many other people under smaller amounts of water as it moved north. We’re hearing about raging fires in the western part of the United States and, just this morning, we heard stories about an earthquake off the coast of Mexico. Hurricane Irma is going to be moving across Florida this weekend – wreaking havoc as it slowly moves north. And many of us are feeling overwhelmed. We want to help, but we don’t know how. We want to offer our generous support, but many of us continue to struggle to simply make ends meet in our own homes. Just last week, I used my weekly installment of “Read Through the Bible” to lift-up a young woman and family that lost everything that they own – and I asked you to consider giving them some help. What’s a person to do?

This week, we’re going to be reading a parable from the Gospel of Luke. We’re going to hear about a nobleman who entrusted some people with a part of his wealth; and, when he did that, he asked them to take care of it. Some of the people invested the money that they had been given and doubled the nobleman’s wealth – one turning ten minas (each of them worth the amount of money that 13 farmers would be paid for a year’s labor) into twenty minas – and another turning five minas into ten minas. But one person, who was entrusted with only one mina buried it in the ground; and, at the end of the story, he just returned the mina that he had been given to the nobleman (who became enraged).

And, I guess this story has always been one that makes me think about the things that God has entrusted into my care, and about how I use those things (or don’t us them).

And, with that in mind and without pointing fingers, I’d like to ask you to think about how you’re using the gifts that God has place into your hands.

Some of us have already sent some of our money to support people who have lost their homes and all of their belongings in raging storms. Some of you many have even sent some money that will be given to Debbie and her family. Some of us support our local food bank or women’s shelter. Some of us volunteer time, so that programs like Meals-on-Wheels can continue to bring cooked food to people who are confined to their homes. Some of us cook meals and deliver them to our aging parents. Some of us watch our own children’s kids, so that they can go to work. Some of us donate money to places that are doing cancer research, while others support homeless shelters. And to all the people who are so faithfully using and investing the gifts that God has given, I say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23) You are a real blessing!

This week, in the midst of raging storms and fires, I want to challenge you to think about the fact that God’s happy when He sees you investing your time, energy, and financial resources in the lives of others. And how you do it isn’t as important as the fact the you ARE doing it. I guess that as we read one of Jesus’ parables this Saturday, we’re going to be reminded that the only person who angered the nobleman was the man who buried his mina in the ground to protect it and keep it safe, so that he could return what he’d been given to the nobleman without having risked it or increased it in any way.

Here are this week’s readings:

Sunday: Colossians 1-2 – Monday: Leviticus 13-15 – Tuesday: 2 Kings 6-10 – Wednesday: Psalms 81-83 – Thursday: Proverbs 10 – Friday: Ezekiel 25-30 – Saturday: Luke 19-20

 

A Special Hurricane Harvey Appeal

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(the former home of Debbie Tysarczky and her family)

In this week’s edition of “Read Through the Bible,” I’d like to lift-up a special concern, and the immediate needs of a very, special lady and her family.

St. James tells us: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead” (James 2:17); and, the refrain of an old song continues to remind us that they’ll know we are Christians by our love. Faith and good deeds are intimately connected. As we’re reading through the Bible, we’re reminded of God’s great love for us and of God’s command to love each other as He has loved us. One of the ways that we can do that is by joining hands, and offering our care and support to people with special and immediate needs.

Hurricane Harvey has caused devastating destruction in southern regions of the United States. Homes have been flooded. People have lost their belongings. Flooding has caused gas lines to rupture; and, when that happens, even the last remnants of damaged homes are destroyed by unstoppable fires.

A friend of mine, Keith, told me today that his sister, Debbie Tysarczky, and her family lost their home and all of their belongings because of the flooding in Friendswood, Texas. The house that they once occupied was flooded and needed to be abandoned – and, then, the house was destroyed when a gas line ruptured and a fire was ignited. Debbie and her family have been left without a place to live and with very few personal belongings.

I understand that Debbie’s story is simply one of many, and that we’ve all been offered many different opportunities to offer financial support to those whose lives have been disrupted; however, I also know that some of us like the “one-on-one feel” of giving our support to a specific person (or family) that we know – at least by name. That’s why I’m making this special appeal.

We’re collecting money for Debbie’s family through a “Family Fund” at Christ’s Lutheran Church and will be sending 100% of the money that we receive in response to this special appeal to Debbie and her family. We will be collecting the money for a three-week period that ends on September 24, 2017 – and will be forwarding the money we collect to Debbie (and her family) during the next week.

If you would like to support this special appeal, this is what you need to do:

  • Take some time to pray for Debbie and her family, and to ask God how He can use you to change the lives of Debbie and her family members through your prayers and generous financial support of this appeal.
  • Write a check to: “Christ’s Lutheran Church” and be sure to include “Debbie Tysarczky Appeal” on the comment line of the check; or, you can simply send your gift of love through the “Give Now” link on the Christ’s Lutheran Church website. Be sure to mark any gift that you send: “Debbie Tysarcsky Appeal.”
  • If you decide to write a check, you can mail the check to: Debbie Tysarczky Appeal, c/o Christ’s Lutheran Church, 5330 Logans Ferry Road, Murrysville, PA 15668

I will provide an accurate accounting of all money that’s been collected and that’s been dispersed during this special appeal, and a printed accounting of money collected and dispersed will be available through the Church Office. I will, also, post an accounting of funds received and dispersed on this blog.

Thank you for considering of this special appeal for Debbie and her family during a time when the needs in people’s lives are both significant and overwhelming. Together, we truly continue to do “God’s Work with Our Hands.”

Here are this week’s “Read Through the Bible” readings:

Sunday: Philippians 3-4 – Monday: Leviticus 10-12 – Tuesday: 2 Kings 1-5 – Wednesday: Psalms 78-80 – Thursday: Proverbs 8-9 – Friday: Ezekiel 19-24 – Saturday: Luke 17-18

 

Read Through the Bible – Week 26

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This week, we come to the mid-point of our journey through the Bible! We’ve read some familiar stories from God’s Word as we’ve worked our way through the books of Genesis and Exodus; and we’re, presently, reading yet another account of Christ’s ministry in the Gospel of Luke. We’ve read the story of Job (a man of great faith who showed us a Godly way to move through times of struggle and adversity) and we’ve plunged head-first into some of the deep theology that’s contained in the letters of St. Paul. And now, we’re going to begin our journey through a rather short book of the Bible called Philippians.

Philippi was named after Philip of Macedon – the father of Alexander the Great. In 42 BC, Mark Anthony and Octavius wrestled Philippi from the hands of Brutus and Cassius, and transformed the entire region into a Roman colony. Philippi was frequently visited by people who were traveling through the region; and, thus, it was a strategic place for St. Paul to visit as he continued to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the entire “world” of his time.

St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while imprisoned in Rome.

Throughout his ministry, St. Paul supported his own ministry by continuing to work in the “secular” world. However, we do know that St. Paul received encouragement from the Christians in Philippi when he was visiting Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16,18) and when he was visiting Corinth (II Corinthians 11:9). The letter to the Philippians that is contained in the Bible was carried back to the church in Philippi by Epaphroditus, who had nearly died while bringing an offering of love to St. Paul while he was confined in prison (Philippians 2:25-30). As you are reflecting upon Sunday’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, spend some time thinking about Philippians 2:5-11 – an early form of the proclamation of the Christian Gospel.

Here are this week’s readings:

Sunday: Philippians 1-2 – Monday: Leviticus 7-9 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 19-22 – Wednesday: Psalms 75-77 – Thursday: Proverbs 7 – Friday: Ezekiel 13-18 – Saturday: Luke 15-16

 

Read through the Bible – Week 25

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible.”

We’ve been traveling through the Bible together for 24 weeks; and, in the process, we’ve covered nearly half the contents of the Bible. I hope and pray that you’ve had a chance to learn and grow as you’ve been reading God’s Word with us, that you’ve had a chance to reflect upon some things that you believe about God, and that you’ve take some time to pray. In my own journey of faith, I’ve seen many times what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews meant when we wrote: “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12) God’s word is alive and active, and changes lives.

This week we’re going to encounter one of the most important (and most misunderstood) statements of Jesus. Next Saturday’s reading will include the words: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) And as we read those words, I’d like to challenge you to think about what they mean to you.

Some people believe that an illness that they are facing is their cross to bear. Some folks believe that a “cross” has been thrust upon them when they lose a job and live through a time of unemployment. Many of us consider almost any challenging time in our lives to be the “cross” that God gives us to carry, and some even try to comfort others by telling them that “God will never give you more than you can bear.” And, at least to me, that’s cruel – and even spiritually abusive – because it shakes people’s faith and causes people to picture God as a God who piles more and more burdens upon our shoulders because He wants to see how strong we are. Wow! Now that’s a tough and rather cruel God!

So, let me ask you a question: What do you think Christ means when He calls us to “take-up our cross and follow Him”?

  • First, notice that the “cross” Christ calls us to bear is one that we “take-up” – it’s not one that a cruel God thrusts upon us as a test of our strength and fortitude.
  • Second, remember that the “cross” was taken-up by Christ for the sake of others – it wasn’t taken-up by Christ is prove His own strength and ability to face discomfort.
  • Third, remember that the “cross” Christ bore was redemptive to other people – it was a “cross” that released the burdened and brought new life to the world.
  • Lastly, remember that the “cross” Christ bore was willingly taken-up by a man who refused to be silenced, who refused to stop speaking God’s truth to people who were enjoying their positions of power, who continued to speak in total solidarity with the poor and the oppressed, and who continued to remind the “religious” people of His time that religious rituals and rules become empty when they’re devoid of love.

And so, let me ask you: “What cross are you bearing right now?” Have you voluntarily taken-up a cause, and invested time and energy in something that’s important and that ignites passion in your heart? Have you voluntarily taken-up a cause that has a positive impact upon the lives other people, and that lifts-up people who are burdened by harsh and cruel realities in their lives? How does the cause that you’re investing your time and energy in proclaim new life and peace with God to burdened souls? How does the cause that you’re investing your time and energy in speak God’s truth to people in power who are using their position of influence in an ungodly ways and call-forth the best in God’s people in a world where religious experiences and convictions can be both empty and devoid of love?

Here are next week’s readings:

Sunday: Ephesians 4-6 – Monday: Leviticus 4-6 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 14-18 – Wednesday: Psalms 72-74 – Thursday: Proverbs 5-6 – Friday: Ezekiel 7-12 – Saturday: Luke 13-14