Read Through the Bible – Week 22

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“Read Through the Bible” is designed to help you to journey through God’s Word over the course of a year. Unlike other Bible reading programs, “Read Through the Bible” is not built upon the concept of beginning to read the Bible in the book of Genesis and reading straight through to the end of Revelation. It’s easy to get bogged-down in Biblical books like Leviticus and become discouraged enough to stop reading. “Read Through the Bible” has been created to help you to experience reading through the Bible in a different way.

This week, we’re going to begin Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians – a rather complex and theologically rich book that was written to eradicate doctrinal errors.

You’ll see Saint Paul proclaiming that his apostleship is genuine. Saint Paul, then, goes on to talk about the importance of the Cross of Christ – arguing against the Jews. One of the main points that Saint Paul will make is that a “right” relationship with God is based on believing in Jesus – and is not built upon the foundation of “making points” with God by behaving in the “right way.” In this brief letter, St. Paul forever settles the questions that we might have about the relationship between faith in Jesus and building a relationship with God upon the Law of Moses.

And so, as you begin Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians, you might want to ask yourself: How do I know that I’m “right” with God? You might, also, want to ask yourself: What is the difference between being a Christian and being a Buddhist or a Hindu? Am I building my relationship with God upon a pile of “good deeds” and accomplishments in order to somehow impress God, or am I trusting in Jesus who told me that He is the way, the truth, and the life? (John 14:6)

Here are next week’s readings:

Sunday: Galatians 1-3 – Monday: Exodus 33-36 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 1-4 – Wednesday: Psalms 63-65 – Thursday: Proverbs 1 – Friday: Jeremiah 47-52 – Saturday: Luke 7-8

Blessings!

Read Through the Bible – Week 19

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In just a few more weeks, we will have read half of the Bible!

The Bible is filled with incredible variety! We’ve read stories about people like Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Job, Joshua and Ruth, Jeremiah and Jesus. We’ve read some peace-filled psalms that remind us of God’s love, and we’ve read stories of bloody battles and human tragedies. We’ve read two of the Gospels – Matthew and Mark – and are beginning our journey through Luke in the coming week. I hope that you’ve found this approach to reading through the Bible helpful in your journey of faith, and hope that you’ll continue to journey with us in the coming weeks!

The opening of Luke’s Gospel is both abrupt and pointed. An angel of the Lord speaks to Zechariah and proclaims the birth of the fiery preacher named John the Baptizer. The angel Gabriel announces the birth of Jesus and Mary responds by singing what has come to be called “The Magnificat” – a song that declares that, when the Reign of God breaks into the world, the mighty will be humbled, the exalted will be brought low, the hungry will be filled with the food that they crave, and the rich will be sent away empty. And then, we read a story of the birth of Jesus that many of us heard in childhood. And it’s a story of shepherds and angels, a baby lying in a manger, a mother who quietly watches everything happen while pondering it in her heart, and a nearly-unmentioned father who quickly fades into the Biblical background and disappears.

This week, I’d like to encourage you to think about how you’ve come to know God. Did you learn about God by going to church, or did your parents teach you what you know? Did you learn about God as a child, or did you start learning about God later in life? Did you experience a time when you felt that you had been touched by God in a special way, or has your journey of faith unfolded in a more quiet way? How is your journey of faith similar to the journeys of other people that you know, and how is it different?

And now, shift gears and think about this….

How has your journey through nearly half of the Bible changed the way that you think about God? Have you been surprised by anything you’ve read? Has your understanding of God changed as you’ve encountered the God who leads His people to safe, still waters while remaining a God who strikes-down the first-born of Egypt without mercy? Where does Jesus fit into the picture? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? How is your life being shaped by what you’re reading – as you read about a God of power and authority who creates long lists of rules; and who, yet, continues to forgive us when we break those very same rules for the sake of Christ?

Here are the coming week’s readings:

Sunday: 2 Corinthians 6-8 – Monday: Exodus 21-24 – Tuesday: 2 Samuel 10-14 – Wednesday: Psalms 54-56 – Thursday: Job 37-38 – Friday: Jeremiah 32-36 – Saturday: Luke 1-2

Blessings!

 

“Mercy, Not Sacrifice!”

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How has your understanding of God changed as you’ve lived and experienced more of life?

My first impressions of God, as a child, revolved around God’s goodness and willingness to give me “good stuff.” I grew into a man who embraced the idea that God’s always with me and that God’s always guiding me. I’ve grown to understand God as a God who forgives me and who carries me through tough times. And now, as I begin my journey through the back stretch of life, I’ve been drawn to understand God through the lens of Hosea 6:6 – as a God who tells me, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

In this week’s message, “I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice”, we are challenged to think about the ways that our ideas about God can change as we come to know Christ more deeply. Do we picture God sitting up in Heaven looking for a reason to throw people, who don’t make Him happy, into Hell – or do we picture God as a God who continues to love and care about us when we miss the mark? Do we picture an angry God who is looking forward to eternally punishing people who fall short of His demands – or do we picture a God who’s willing to push past the failures in our lives (and the failures in the lives of other people) for the sake of Christ? Perhaps, we understand that our relationship with God is based upon both the “bad news” (Law) and the “good news” (Gospel)?

The recording begins with a long reading about a man who was born blind (John 9:1-41). And, as you listen to this beloved story from the Bible, please remember that this is not just a story about healing – it’s a Sacred Story about a man who came to understand Jesus in a very different way as he struggled to make sense of who Jesus is.

And that’s the challenge that we all face in our spiritual journey, isn’t it? We all base our understandings of God upon our experiences in life and faith. And those understandings can be changed and transformed as we experience God’s presence in new ways, can’t they be?

Blessings!

 

Planted Beside a Stream

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“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Life makes people thirsty.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you believed that there just wasn’t enough of you to go around? Maybe you feel like a gerbil on a wheel that just keeps going faster and faster and faster and faster? Perhaps, you’re worried about someone that you love – or are struggling to navigate through a time of illness? Or, perhaps, you’re moving through a dry time in your walk with Christ and it feels like you’re moving through the “uninhabited salt land” that the prophet Jeremiah once described?

In this week’s message, “Planted Beside a Stream”, we are drawn into a fascinating story about a Samaritan woman who met Jesus beside Jacob’s Well and who was promised that Jesus could give her the “Living Water” that bubbles-up to Eternal Life.

What does that “Living Water” taste like? How does the Good News of the Gospel that proclaims that you have a Lord who gives you courage when you’re afraid, peace when you’re anxious, strength when you are feeling weak, and hope even at the moment of death affect the way that you face the challenges and obstacles in your life, right now?

The community of Taize often sings a hymn that contains these words: “By night, we search for the source of living water because it is only our thirst that guides our way.”

What would “Living Water” taste like, right now? How can the life-giving news – that God has planted you beside a stream – sustain and renew you as you journey through life?

Let’s travel to Jacob’s Well and listen to the words that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman nearly 2,000 years ago; and, as we listen to Jesus speak, let’s stop for a moment and think about what His words and promises can mean to us today.

Blessings!

Your Greatest Gift

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We’ve just traveled through the “Season of Giving” once again.

We listen to people a little bit more carefully as Christmas approaches, and we try to be more “in tune” with people’s wishes and desires, don’t we? We spend money during the holidays because we all enjoy the look on people’s faces when we give them gifts. And, of course, we always try to identify and to purchase things that other people want or desire.

Right after John’s disciples began to follow the “Lamb of God,” Jesus asks them a very important question: “What are you seeking?” And this is a question that Jesus commonly asked people. “What are you seeking?” “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus can see that people are searching for something that they can’t always clearly identify until they’re asked to be specific. What are you seeking from God? What do you want God to do for you, right now?

In this week’s message, “Your Greatest Gift”, we listen to a familiar story in a different way. We’ve all been taught to be “good consumers.” We’ve all learned to be satisfied by things in life – and even in our spiritual lives – that can offer instant gratification. Some people even drift from church to church to church looking for their next meal (what they think will satisfy them, at least until they find something a bit better). Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we can find ourselves so focused upon satisfying our momentary thirst that we never allow God to draw us into the depths of “living water.” (John 4:10)

“Your Greatest Gift” is your life and your witness to Jesus Christ. The greatest gift that you can offer another person is a warm and embracing invitation that can open doors, and that can point people toward a God who walks with us through all of the ups and downs of life, and who has even promised to lift us up when we die. And that’s big!

Blessings!