Here is some insight available for us today from Proverbs 8 (from the Message Bible translation):
Vs.1. Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?
God is personified here as a woman calling out to young men and offering him wisdom and insight for life. In the busyness of the day and the cacophony of sounds around us, do we hear her voice? Are we tuning out the noise to tune in to her heart? How much better life will be if we follow God's way, live life as he intended to be lived. Wisdom is telling us how to live at our very best (vs.6).
Vs.10. Prefer my life–disciplines over chasing after money, and God–knowledge over a lucrative career.
Wisdom is better than money or fame. What are you pursuing today? What's most important to you?
Vs.13. The Fear–of– God means hating Evil, whose ways I hate with a passion – pride and arrogance and crooked talk.
Fearing God means living with an awareness that he is with me and watching everything I say or do. That awareness leads to right choices.
Vs.17-18. I love those who love me; those who look for me find me. Wealth and Glory accompany me – also substantial Honor and a Good Name.
When we look for wisdom, we will find it. When we ask, we will receive. With wisdom comes wealth and honour. God made wisdom before anything else (vs.22).
Vs.33. Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don't squander your precious life.
We have one life to life. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is the real thing. Live wisely by knowing what God's will is and pursuing that each day.
Vs.34-36. Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day's work. When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God 's good pleasure. But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul; when you reject me, you're flirting with death.
Begin the day with God and the wisdom that comes from his Word. Open your ears and your eyes. Listen and look - for God at work. Do life together with God. Join him in the kingdom work he is doing where you are today. Feel his pleasure. See his smile. Love and be loved today.
Here is some terrific wisdom available for us today from Proverbs 1 (from the Message Bible translation):
Vs.7. Start with God - the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of true wisdom. To fear God means to acknowledge that he exists and that he is with us at all times. That awareness leads us to think smart and make wiser choices. Take some steps to live today with a greater awareness that God is with you - Emmanuel. Include him in your daily thoughts and decisions.
Vs.8. Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you; never forget what you learned at your mother's knee.
Wisdom begins with humility, which is acknowledging that God and others are major contributors to anything we become or accomplish in life. No parent is perfect but we can learn so much from their wisdom and life experience. It is time to thank mum or dad for all they've done for you - maybe today?
Vs.10. Dear friend, if bad companions tempt you, don't go along with them.
Our friends have a huge influence on us so choose your friends wisely. We tend to become like those we hang around. That doesn't mean withdrawing from everyone. The key issue is considering who the greater influence is. Let's be a light in the darkness and a bringer of hope to the discouraged.
Vs.32. Carelessness kills; complacency is murder.
We don't drift into wisdom or God's kind of life. The pull is the other way. Lady Wisdom calls to us from every street corner (see vs.20). But will we listen and follow? Or will we go our own way, blindly following the crowd? What we tolerate we will never change. Do you need to tap into some desperation today?
Here are some great gems of wisdom for us today from Proverbs 25 (from the Message Bible translation):
Vs. 2. God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things.
The world is full of mystery, hidden by God. He delights in those who seek him and the truths embedded in his amazing world. Have you settled and become content with what you currently know? We are called to be seekers and explorers. There's more!
Vs.6-7. Don't work yourself into the spotlight; don't push your way into the place of prominence. It's better to be promoted to a place of honor than face humiliation by being demoted.
Ah, such a counter-cultural tid-bit of wisdom, especially in a world where everyone is busy marketing themselves and being their own PR company. Promotion and influence aren't something we should go after or pursue. They are a by-product of a life lived well ... before God and people.
Vs.8. Don't jump to conclusions - there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw.
Come on, we all know we have strong leg muscles ... from jumping to conclusions so frequently! Slow down. Listen. Look carefully before passing judgment.
Vs.13. Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat - refreshing.
Being a person of your word is a foundational character quality to develop and maintain.
Vs.14. Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces.
Ah, the gregarious sales person - promises you the world and delivers nothing. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
Vs.16. When you're given a box of candy, don't gulp it all down; eat too much chocolate and you'll make yourself sick.
I love chocolate, especially Tim Tams, and could eat an entire packet in one go. Developing the art of self-control and being able to say 'enough' rather than 'just one more' is a character development challenge for me. You?
Vs.21-22. If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he's thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you.
Who's been a bit cool or mean to you lately? Take up the challenge and go out of your way to do something nice for them today. That's the Christian way. Watch the impact.
Some more wisdom from the book of Proverbs (the Message Bible translation):
Vs.4. Many words rush along like rivers in flood, but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs.
Take time to draw out wisdom from those you converse with today.
Vs.8. Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly.
Don't let your ears be a rubbish dump for unprofitable information.
Vs.10. God 's name is a place of protection – good people can run there and be safe.
Jesus is here - call out to him.
Vs.12. Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking of yourself less. Don't think more highly of yourself than you should. Recognise God's grace and the help of other people in all of your achievements.
Vs.13. Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.
God has given us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.
Vs.15. Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.
Be a learner today. Don't act like a know it all.
Vs.17. The first speech in a court case is always convincing – until the cross–examination starts.
Don't believe everything you first hear. Check it out. Hear all sides of an argument.
Vs.21. Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit – you choose.
Oh, the power of our tongue! Engage brain before opening mouth.
Vs.24. Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.
Take time to thank someone for being a true friend today. Their worth is above silver.
Here are a few of the gems of wisdom available for us today from Proverbs 11 (from the Message Bible translation):
Vs.14. Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.
Who speaks into your life? Who do you look to for advice and counsel? Don't go it alone. The input and insight of other wise and experienced people can be extremely helpful as we navigate the major decisions of our lives.
Vs.17. When you're kind to others, you help yourself; when you're cruel to others, you hurt yourself.
Unfortunately, kindness is becoming a lost art. Turn random acts of kindness into regular acts of kindness today - starting at home with those you love the most and continuing with it all through the day, especially to the 'little people' who others so easily ignore, mistreat, or walk by.
Vs.20. God can't stand deceivers, but oh how he relishes integrity.
Integrity means there is an integration between who people see on the outside and who we really are on the inside. When there is a gap, we experience inner tension and lack of peace.
Vs.24-25. The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
God is a giving and generous God and he calls us as his children to be just like him. Choose to be generous with your words of encouragement, your assistance, your time and your finances today.
The book of Proverbs chapter 4 has some terrific wisdom for us today (from the Message Bible translation):
Vs.4-9. Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!
Throw your arms around her - believe me, you won't regret it;
never let her go - she'll make your life glorious.
She'll garland your life with grace,
she'll festoon your days with beauty.
How easy it is to just focusing on getting through the day, or getting tasks done, without taking time to stop and glean the wisdom that comes from God. True wisdom is seeing life from God's perspective. Thankfully, God gives wisdom to any who ask (James 1:4).
Vs.18. The ways of right–living people glow with light;
the longer they live, the brighter they shine.
May our lives shine like bright lights in a dark world today - through who we are, what we say, and what we do.
Vs.23. Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts.
Life is lived inside out. It's not so much what is happening on the outside that matters but what is happening on the inside.
Vs.25-27. Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
leave evil in the dust.
Ah, the power of focus. When Bill Gates first met Warren Buffett, their host at dinner, Gates’ mother, asked everyone around the table to identify what they believed was the single most important factor in their success through life. Gates and Buffett gave the same one-word answer: "Focus". (See more in The Snowball by Alice Schroeder).
When I was a teenager, I lived in Portland, Oregon with my family and attended Bible Temple Church, now City Bible. My youth pastor at the time was Wendell Smith. Wendell had a huge impact on my life as a young person trying to discover God and my own purpose in life.
Wendell encouraged all of us as young people to read a Proverb a day based on the date of the month. That way we would read through the book of Proverbs 12 times each year, gaining much wisdom for our lives as young people. I probably did this for 3-4 years and this saturation of my mind and heart withGod's wisdom from the Scriptures greatly shaped my values and behaviours.
Tomorrow is the first day of a new month. Why not give it a try. Find a good, contemporary translation. Read slowly. Underline, highlight or take a few notes. Allow this wisdom to shape your prayers for the day. Watch what happens ...
1 Corinthains 15:58. With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. Message Bible
* There is a lot going in.
* In the midst of it all, God is for us.
* We must stand our ground. This requires strength, courage, tenacity, and perseverance.
* We must not hold back. Don't allow doubt, insecurity, fear or discouragement to paralyse you.
* We must throw ourselves into our God-given calling. Give it all you've got. No half-hearted effort. No apathy, indifference, or lethargy allowed to settle in.
* Be confident. Full of faith, that vital ingredient.
* Nothing done for God is a waste of time or effort. It all matters. It all counts. It all makes a difference. It will be fruitful. It will have an impact.
What a great way to start the week!
Easter is here again and with it a holiday weekend, chocolate eggs and enough shopping sales to tempt any credit-card carrying buyer. What’s it really all about? All around the world, around two billion Christians will take time this weekend to reflect on and give thanks for the work that Jesus Christ accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection. That’s the real meaning of Easter. Followers of Christ believe that Jesus is ALIVE!
The Living Jesus
In his excellent book The Living Jesus, New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson notes that whether a person is dead or alive really matters – not only to the person but also to other people relating to that person. If someone is dead, you can still learn about them and their influence may continue to live on but their life is complete. There are no new actions being done or new words being spoken, only echoes from the past. We can talk about who they “were” but no longer who they “are”. However, when someone is alive, the situation is completely different. New data is coming in. We can have a conversation with them and as a result our knowledge of them grows and changes.
The most important question concerning Jesus is this: “Do you think he is dead or alive?”
If Jesus is dead, then there are a number of ways we can relate to his life and accomplishments. We can study the “historical Jesus” and learn about him but we cannot learn from him anymore. If Jesus is alive, however, everything changes. We are not just relating to a memory but to a living person who we can continue to learn from.
There is no middle ground between dead and alive. If Jesus is dead, his story is completed. If he is alive, then his story continues. To be a Christian means to assert that Jesus is alive. Christian faith begins with the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14). To pray to Jesus is to address a real, living person who is capable of answering us and manifesting his presence. To declare “Jesus is Lord” is not only a statement of belief in a certain reality but a declaration of how we live our lives in relation to the living Jesus (Romans 10:9).
Evidence for the Resurrection
Critics of Christianity try to explain away the resurrection of Jesus as mere myth. Some say Jesus never really died, suggested he merely fainted then later revived in the tomb (the swoon theory). This is highly unlikely, as nobody survived death by crucifixion and the Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead. Even if he did, imagine the condition Jesus would have been in – one that would have attracted pity from his disciples not faith to launch a worldwide movement.
Evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is found in the empty tomb (Jesus’ enemies would have loved to have produced a body if they could) and the numerous post-resurrection appearances to his disciples (to over 500 people who were still alive at the time of their testimony – see 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). Sir Lionel Luckhoo, the most successful attorney of all time, said this after investigating the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ: "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt."
The best explanation of the rapidly growing Christian movement is the resurrection of Jesus. How else could a small group of marginal people grow with such power and impact as to eventually overcome the might of the Roman Empire without something supernatural bringing about transformation to their personal lives? A living Jesus is the most sensible explanation.
Experiencing Jesus Today
Where can Jesus be known and experienced today? There are a number of ways:
One of Jesus’ last promises was that he would be “with us” until the end when he returns (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is Emmanuel = “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We don’t lack his presence. What we need is a greater awareness of his presence. Right here, right now, whether we feel like it or not, Jesus is present. He is alive – the Living One – who was and is and is to come!
A few encouraging thoughts from Psalm 37:
Last night, my family and I attended a preview of the new movie Noah starring Russell Crowe [trailer]. Without doubt it is a well-made movie, with amazing affects and some star actors. However, the treatment of the storyline was disappointing from my perspective and I came away feeling like the movie was a combination of themes and ideas from Lord of the Rings and Transformers ... with a big double rainbow finish.
No doubt it will generate a lot of discussion and that's a good thing. Reviews so far indicate that those looking for a fully accurate biblical story are upset while others are rating it highly as a movie experience in its own right. It is interesting how Bible stories and themes are becoming popular in Hollywood at the moment. Charisma News recently declared 2014 "the year of the Bible."
created you ...
[I] formed you ...
Do not fear,
for I have redeemed you;
I have called you
by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and through the rivers,
they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am
the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior ...
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you.
1. Don't miss the boat!
2. Plan ahead! It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.
3. Stay fit! When you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
4. For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
5. Remember that the Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.
P.S. On a more serious note, check out the BLOG post ORIGINS - Never Again, reflections from the story of Noah and the Ark.
The story of Noah's ark is one of the best known stories in the Bible. Any Sunday School attending child would have heard this story - complete with flannel graph presentation and colouring page. It's a great story: a bunch of animals on a boat with a rainbow in the sky and a lesson about God's faithfulness. But it's not a G-rated children's story (like Bambi or The Lion King)! It's actually a horrific story. The human experiment has failed and God decides to destroy everyone through a flood, except Noah and his family, along with a few animals. Nevertheless, it has generated lots of Interest, including false claims of ark discoveries back in the 1980s, as well as a number of movies and theme parks.
Genesis 6:1-8 contains a summary of the story of Noah and the flood, which is then narrated in detail through four chapters (Gen.6:9 - 9:17). Many questions emerge from this story and the context within which it occurs, including the long human life spans before the flood (Gen.5), the identity of the 'sons of God' (Gen.6:2), as well as the 'Nephillim' (Gen.6:4), the size and extent of the flood, and what this story tells us about God. Let's work through the main parts of this intriguing story:
1. The Problem. The world that God created as 'very good' (Gen.1:31) has now become 'evil' in every way, and in a fairly short period of time (Gen.6:5). After the initial fall into sin (Gen.3), violence entered God's peaceful world (Gen.4) and it took only ten generations for the earth to be "filled with violence" (Gen.6:11-12). The trajectory was towards further disaster and death. Creation had completely failed with the program and purpose given to it by God. Humanity had refused God's ways, which lead to life, and had chosen the path to death.
We should note at this stage that there were numbers of other flood stories in existence in ancient Mesopotamia before and during this time, including the Gilgamesh Epic, a literary classic from the ancient Near East, and Atrahasis, another Babylonian flood story. There are numerous similarities between these flood stories. However, one of the crucial differences is why the flood occurred. For instance, in Atrahasis, apparently the gods sent a flood because the people had become too noisy! Only the Genesis flood story gives us a moral reason for the flood - the extensive wickedness of the human race.
2. God's Response. This story is not primarily about large amounts of water, an ark, pairs of animals and a rainbow. It brings us face to face with the God of Israel. Interestingly, what we find is not an angry tyrant but more of a troubled parent who is grieving over what has gone terribly wrong with his creation (Gen.6:6). God's world is heading in a direction totally opposite to his initial intentions - a road of total destruction. Here we encounter the deep pathos of God - grief, sorrow and disappointment.
3. The Judgment. God resolves to send a flood to judge the earth, using the destructive power of the water to turn back the corruptive power of evil (Gen.6:7, 13). Humans have been behaving in a chaotic and disorderly way, so God decides to unleash chaos on them, then to create a new order with Noah and his family. The judgment of God must always be seen in perspective. The apostle Peter tells us that God demonstrated his long-suffering, or patience, during the days of Noah (1Pet.3:20) and points out that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" during this period when the ark was being prepared (2Pet.2:5), no doubt warning people of coming judgment.
Arguments have gone on for decades as to whether this was a global flood or a local (regional) flood, and whether the dinosaurs became extinct because there wasn't enough room for them in the ark. However, as interesting as these questions are, they are not the primary focus of the author of Genesis.
4. God's Grace. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Noah appears and he is one who found favour with God (Gen.6:8-9). He is righteous and blameless, walking closely with God. He is a model of faith who obeys God's commands without question. Therefore the theme of the narrative is: God judges the world for human sin and violence but in his grace he continues his kingdom on earth by making a new start with Noah, his family, and the animals with him.
5. A Covenant. God made a covenant with Noah (Gen.6:18). The God of creation is a God of covenant, forming relationship with people, and this theme persists throughout the Bible right up to the work of Jesus Christ. With Noah, God makes a new start with a new creation. Noah and his family are commissioned and blessed to be fruitful and multiply (Gen.9:7). New commandments are given and old ones are reiterated. The rainbow comes with a promise from God that 'never again' (Gen.8:21; 9:15) will he cover the world with a flood. God's purpose for creation continues. Of course, sin is not eradicated. Hope for the future still depends on God and his patience. We are not capable of saving ourselves. God resolves to stay with his creation. God did not abandon creation to the chaos of its disobedience.
Jesus told his disciples that the last days would be very much like the 'days of Noah' (see Matthew 24:37-39 and Luke 17:26-27 where he highlights the unexpected coming of the flood with his unexpected coming). Let's reflect on a few aspects of the story of Noah:
1. The apostle Paul urges us to consider both the 'kindness' and 'sternness' (or severity) of God (Rom.11:22). No doubt, the story of Noah and the ark is a warning against disobedience and an encouragement to rely on the goodness and grace of God. On the cross, God's righteousness and grace come together, with grace winning out, and mercy triumphing over judgment. Noah found grace, so did Abraham and Israel, and so can we. How should all of this influence how we see and relate to God today?
2. Noah is presented by New Testament authors as an example of faith (Heb.11:7) and a preacher of righteousness to his generation (2 Peter 2:5, 9). In the same way, followers of Christ are called to preach good news to their generation and to be 'salt and light' in the world by displaying kingdom values such as love, goodness, kindness, mercy, compassion, integrity, and justice. Consider how this can be outworked in both community outreach and personal evangelism. Reflect on the different responses people may give to the good news of Jesus Christ (see 2Cor.2:15-16).
3. One of the most moving moments in this story is just as the entire creation comes to a time of feeling forgotten as the waters surge, God remembers Noah (Gen.7:24-8:1). God's remembering is an act of gracious engagement with his creation, an act of committed compassion. This alone makes hope and new life possible (see Job 14:13). Various floods and times of chaos can overtake our life in this world. During these times, we can feel abandoned or forgotten by God. But God remembers us (see also Is.54:7). Reflect on a time when you felt forgotten by God. Then consider the promise of Romans 8:38-39.
"I have found in the Bible words for my inmost thought; songs for my joy, utterance for my hidden griefs and pleadings for my shame and feebleness"
George Mueller - "The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."
D.L. Moody - "Sin will keep you from this Book. This Book will keep you from sin."
"I know the Bible is inspired because it inspires me"
Napoleon - "The Bible is not merely a book; it is a Living Being, with an action, a power, which invades everything that opposes its extension, behold! It is upon this table: This Book, surpassing all others; I never omit to read it, and every day with some pleasure."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon - "Nobody ever outgrows Scriptures; the Book widens and deepens with our years."
Lord Tennyson - "Bible reading is an education in itself."
Thomas Huxley - "The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in position to dispense with it"
E. Stanley Jones - "The Bible redirects my will, cleanses my emotions, enlightens my mind, and quickens my total being"
Helen Keller - "The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that 'things seen are temporal, and things unseen are eternal'".
Abraham Lincoln - "Without Divine assistance I cannot succeed; With it I cannot fail!"
"I am busily engaged in the study of the Bible. I believe it is God's Word because it finds me where I am."
John Adams - "Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
Immanuel Kant - "The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity."
George Washington Carver - "The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
Charles Colson - "The Bible - banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it, dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints."
Cecil B. DeMille - "After more than sixty years of almost daily reading of the Bible, I never fail to find it always new and marvellously in tune with the changing needs of every day."
Jack Hayford - "The Bible is ... as necessary to spiritual life as breath is to natural life. There is nothing more essential to our lives than the Word of God."
“To preach the Bible as 'the handbook for life,' or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus. For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life's dilemmas.”
John 5:39-40. You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. NLT
Genesis 1 is a simple and majestic opening to the Bible. It introduces the two main subjects of Scripture, God the Creator and humans as his creatures, and sets the scene for their long relationship. Clearly the interests of the author are focused primarily on the patriarchs, given the amount of material allocated to their story (Gen.12-50), but the background is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is no mere localised or tribal deity, but is the sovereign Lord of the whole earth (Gen.1-11).
There were a number of creation and flood myths in existence in ancient Mesopotamia that the author would have most likely have been aware of. One of the major goals of the Genesis creation story is to counter these mythical accounts of creation with an alternative worldview about God, the world and humankind. This story shows God as having no peer or competitor. It denies that the various forces of nature are gods or that man was created as an afterthought to serve the gods. Humans are presented as the climax of creation. God cares for and provides for them. He also empowers them to be His delegated representatives on the earth. This creation story is a triumphant affirmation of the power and wisdom of God and the wonder of His creation.
The first creation story (Gen.1:1–2.4a) looks at the story from a heavenly and divine perspective, while the second creation account (Gen.2:4b-25) looks at the story from an earthly and human perspective. The order of creation is also different. These are two versions of the same story. In the six days of creation there is a pattern, the first three days are occupied with forming while the second three days are about filling what has been formed.
When it comes to the creation of the cosmos, Genesis tells us who created the world and why. The author does not tell us when (timing) or how (method). Over the years, a variety of views have developed among people of faith concerning God’s creation of the world, the three primary ones being (“Intelligent Design” is not really a separate view – www.discovery.org/csc):
1. Young Earth Creationism (see www.answersingenesis.org and www.creation.com). This group believes that God created the world in six literal 24-hour days and that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old. God created the earth as already appearing ‘old’ and this was enhanced by the effects of a global flood.
2. Old Earth Creationism (see www.reasons.org). This group believes in an old earth (possibly 13.8 billions years old) and that the days of creation were extended periods of time or at least that there were periods of time between each day.
3. Theistic Evolution (see www.biologos.org). This group also believes in an old earth and that God initiated the ‘big bang’ and created the world through the process of evolution. They view Genesis 1-2 as inspired Scripture but as poetic literature rather than as a literal description of what took place in the beginning.
Many people in each group are convinced that their view is the correct one and that the others are wrong or even heretical. However, each view has its strengths and weaknesses. The author of Genesis was not seeking to answer many of the questions we have today in the modern world. They are more interested in us know the Creator of the world and His purposes for us. Science and faith don't need to be opposed to each other. Science simply explains how things work while faith is the foundation of our relationship with God and provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose, something science cannot provide.
Reflections from Creation
1. God is sovereign over creation. Our God rules over the world and the entire universe that he created. He has no rivals and everything is under his control. He is working – in history and even in nature. Of course, we understand that sin has affected our world and everything is not as it was when God created it. It is broken and damaged yet God is working towards restoring everything to its original purpose. God will once again bring order out of chaos. Ultimately, good will triumph over evil.
2. Creation is dependent on God. There was a beginning to the universe. It is not infinite in time. God created everything and therefore everything owes its ongoing existence to Him. God also cares for His creation and the welfare of humans in particular. God actively sustains the universe (Acts 17:28. Col.1:15-17).
3. We were created for a purpose. Genesis clearly shows us that we are here (Gen.1:26-28):
a. For Relationship – God created us to have a relationship with us and for us to be in relationship with each other. God is seen as close not distant, like pagan deities. God wants us to know Him. He makes covenant with his people and promises to bless them.
b. To Reflect God – humans were created in the image of God and given dignity beyond the animals and the rest of creation. All people, regardless of race, gender or social status are equal in value and are to be treated with respect and honour. We have the capacity to mirror our Creator.
c. To be Fruitful – God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen.1:28). He wants a large family and wants us to fill the earth with loving community, something God later judged the people at Babel for not doing (Gen.11:1-9).
d. To Steward the Earth - Since we are God’s representatives, ruling over His world, we must treat the world as his, not ours. We are stewards of his planet, a responsibility that requires us to neither worship the earth nor ruin and destroy it. We are living in Someone else’s house and need to treat is as such. Creation care is important.
4. The Sabbath is sacred time. The creation story finishes with the establishment of the Sabbath – holiness in time rather than a holy space. God models for humans the need to rest and enjoy the beauty of God’s world. Sabbath is about ceasing from work and giving worship and honour to God.
Sample Reflection Questions
1. What impacts you most about the Genesis creation story?
2. Consider the three creation theories. What is your personal opinion and why? Do you see this is a core issue of faith in Christ or a secondary issue?
3. Why do you think there is such a battle between faith (or religion) and science today?
4. What does the creation story tell us about God? What is he like?
5. Reflect on the four-fold purpose for humans mentioned above. How can followers of Christ outwork their God-given purpose more effectively in the contemporary world?
6. Read Galatians 3:26-29. How does the work of Christ seek to bring us back to God’s purposes in creation, a world free of racism, gender wars, and the divide between rich and poor?
7. How important is the principle of the Sabbath today? What should this look like for the follower of Christ?
Here is a summary of part one of our ORIGINS series.
If you’ve ever visited one of the great museums of the world you will have noticed the contrast between the extensive and magnificent displays from ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia, and those from ancient Israel, which are generally unimpressive and difficult to find. Yet one artifact from ancient Israel has survived: its literature. They were people of the book. They told stories and wrote them down. Not only did their literature survive, it became authoritative and then went on to profoundly influence and inspire believers, writers, artists, musicians throughout the world.
While the New Testament was still being written, the apostle Paul described the sacred writings of the Old Testament as “... inspired by God and useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work (2Tim.3:16-17. NLT).”
In the next few weeks, we will be sharing a series of messages on the book of Genesis. Genesis means ‘beginnings’ and it is the first book of the Bible. As such, it is the foundation for the rest of the Bible. It is a book of ‘origins’, showing the origins of the world (Gen.1-11) and of the people of Israel, who began with Abraham’s family (Gen.12-50). These two origins reflect Israel’s theology, their belief in a God who is at once the God of the world in general and the God of the people of Israel in particular. Sometimes it helps to look backward before you move forward, living your life from God’s perspective. Hindsight can give us fresh insight to who God is and who we are as the people of faith.
Using our SOAP devotional Bible reading format, let’s lay a foundation for getting the most out of this series on Genesis.
1. What kind of Book is Genesis? The genre of Genesis could be described as ‘theological history.’ It is not a scientific handbook (though scientists are right to investigate its claims), a book of biographies (though there is much to learn from the lives of the men and women it describes), or a history book (though it is historical). It is a book of theology (though not systematic) - telling us about God and his interaction with humanity. The author has been highly selective, telling us what he wants us to know, not everything we would like to know.
2. Who was the author of Genesis? The name of the author is not mentioned in the book but many assume it is Moses. Moses no doubt had a hand in its compilation, though other inspired editors were probably involved over time.
Take time to discern the intent of the author and how the readers would have heard the text. What did this text mean back then and there (called ‘exegesis’)?
3. What is the historical context? The content of Genesis refers to the beginnings of the world right through to the call of Abraham, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), to become the father of the Israelite nation, thousands of years ago. It was a poly-theistic world, where people worshipped many gods.
4. What is the literary context? Narratives are stories with a narrator, characters, a plot (and sub-plots), scene(s), dialogue, conflict or tension, and resolution. At the upper level, God is the ultimate character and hero of each story. Stories tell us what happened. They aren’t allegories with hidden meanings or instructions of what we should necessarily do. Think passages more than verses and look for the author’s main point. Consider the wider context of the Scripture also (which ultimately points to Christ).
5. What is the theological message? How does Genesis describe God? The Bible is God’s self-revelation, showing how he relates to people and interacts with his world. In Genesis, we see God as creator, all powerful, the one who brings order out of chaos, the one who is transcendent yet immanent, as one who grieves over sin, one who holds us accountable for our actions, a God who is compassionate and merciful, one who makes covenants and keeps his promises, and one who is active and present in his creation. Also, how does Genesis anticipate Christ? We are to read the Old Testament in the light of Jesus (Luke 24:25-27). In Genesis, we see Jesus as the Word who created all things (John 1:1), the seed of the woman (Gen.3:15), the ark of Salvation, the seed of Abraham (Gal.3:15-16), and as Isaac the only begotten Son.
Now we consider what the text means here and now (referred to as ‘hermeneutics’).
6. What is the cultural relevance? We need discernment to know what parts of the text are cultural for only Bible times and what transcends culture for all seasons. We know we don’t have to obey God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen.22:2) but we are called to bless others with the blessing we receive, as Abraham was (Gen.12:1-2). Much of God’s Word back then is still for us today: to reflect the image of God, to steward the earth, to love our neighbor, to obey God, and to follow God’s call to bless our world.
7. What are the transferable principles? How can we extend the application of the text to different contexts? The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we may want to know but it does tell us everything we need to know. It is still relevant and authoritative. Don’t just approach the Bible as a ‘handbook for life’ but rather as a revelation of Jesus to us. Seek to know Him.
8. What is God saying to me today? Take time to reflect on what God may be saying to you through the text. Soren Kierkegaard said, “When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself. ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’” Eugene Peterson says, “The written word has the potential to resurrect the speaking voice and the listening ear.” Listen for the gentle whisper of God’s voice or a prompting from His Spirit.
9. What do I want to say to God? Take some time to talk to God. Share what is on your heart. Ask for grace and courage to live a life of purpose and significance today.
Take some time over the next few weeks to read Genesis 1-11. Allow God to speak to you from these stories about our origins.
Sample Reflection Questions
1. Which story from Genesis do you remember hearing first? How did it affect you?
2. What is your favorite story from Genesis? Why? The story you find most difficult? Why?
3. What puzzles you most about the book of Genesis?
4. Imagine yourself living as Jew in Israel 4,000 years ago. How would a book like Genesis affect you? What importance would it carry?
5. We are a culture addicted to ‘novelty’ - the constant search for something new. What are the benefits of looking back to our origins when thinking about how we should live today?
6. Reflect on the statement, “The Bible tells us everything we need to know not necessarily everything we may want to know.”
7. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures better than anyone but somehow missed Christ (John 5:39-40). How can we ensure that our Bible reading and teaching never blurs the focus of our relationship with God?
Isaiah 30:15-18. This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! One of them will chase a thousand of you. Five of them will make all of you flee. You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.” So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.
The only way to be saved (a) is to:
1. Return to the Lord. You have gone other ways (roads) and towards other things as the source of your life, joy and wisdom. Now come back to God as your one true love and the focus of your life.
2. Rest in God. Stop striving and struggling, allowing anxiety and pressure to get the better of you. God is in control. He has all the wisdom, power and love you need. Find a sense of peace IN HIM, even in the midst of the storm and your unanswered questions.
(a) Saved. The verb (Hebrew yasha‘) means removing an object from a dangerous situation or the state of being delivered from distress. In some contexts, it has added associations to a loving relationship with God. The related noun (Hebrew yeshu‘ah) refers to the salvation that the verb enacts.
Where does strength come from?
1. Quietness. Learn to be still. Stop being in such a hurry and frantically running around after so many things. Be still and know that I am God. Center yourself on GOD! Life is not about noise but about an inner depth.
2. Confidence. Out of quietness will come confidence, which leads to strength (energy). Confidence is knowing that God is in control, that He will use you to carry out his purposes, and that in Him you have all you need. As Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (makes me equal to the task at hand)."
Once you have this inner quietness and confidence, you will find an amazing strength that sustains and empowers you for everything God has called you to be and do.
This is God's intention and purpose. This is what he desires for your life. Yet, how often we seek help from 'Egypt' which represents the world and any person or place other than God. Egypt, with all its wisdom, power and style, does not know God.
What is our first course of action when we are in need? Do we look to ourselves, other people (even Christian people - peers, friends and work associates), books, or to the world? OR do we look to God and His Word? If we do the former, we will only experience failure and defeat. What seems to be efficient ('swift') will actually be ineffective (a 1,000 losing to 1!).What is the result of all of this?
The Lord must wait for us to come to Him. Only then can he show me his love and compassion (b). He is a faithful God - true to himself and to his Word (promises).
(b) Compassion. This Hebrew verb means to have a feeling of strong affection for someone, usually based on a prior relationship. The word has a special focus on mercy or pity toward a person in difficult circumstances. It is often characterized as unconditional love.
When we wait for His help, we are blessed (c)!
(c) Blessed. Hebrew 'ashrey: happy, blessed. This word points to a heightened state or condition of joy and rejoicing, implying very favorable circumstances and enjoyment. It may be implied that it is a state to be envied or highly desired.
What is NEEDED:
1. More time spent waiting, resting and being still before God (being - relationship). Learn to be silent and spend time simply basking in God's presence.
2. Less time spent in striving, busyness and anxiety (doing - tasks). We are not in control.
3. More focus on drawing wisdom, strength and vision (direction) from God and his Word, not from other sources (who should only be confirmation and amplification, not our source).
4. More time receiving and enjoying God's love (unconditional), compassion (strong affection, mercy, pity) and faithfulness. Only as we come to Him, is he enabled to reveal this to us. While we are busy elsewhere, he waits ...
How often we run to broken cisterns that cannot hold water and neglect the Lord, who is the fountain of living water. JESUS is that river that we thirst for. We can go in as deep as we want. It's up to us. Come in deeper. There are waters to swim in.
YouVersion has put together a Lent For Everyone Reading Plan. Lent for Everyone is a devotional created and written by N.T. (Tom) Wright. For each day of Lent, there is a reading chosen from the Gospel of Matthew, plus a reflection by Wright. These readings have grown out of a project encouraging Lent reading in Northern England.
Most people are more likely to follow through on their good intentions when they share the experience with others. As you're reading each day, you might reflect on one or two verses that really speak to you, and share them with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Also, we improve our chances of finishing what we start when we invite others to hold us accountable. Consider signing up to send reminder emails to yourself and a friend to track your progress through your Reading Plan. Simply sign in at YouVersion.com, go to your Reading Plans, select a plan, select Plan Overview, and then go to the Accountability tab. Just fill in a few simple blanks and you'll have an accountability partner. Of course, you can turn off reminder emails at any time, just as easily.
Why We Need Lent - by Canon J John [Guest Post]
This Wednesday is what is called Ash Wednesday in the church calendar and it marks the start of the forty-day period of Lent that runs up to Easter Day. There is a longstanding tradition and practice that some Christians follow of fasting during Lent. The principle is that during this period you voluntarily deny yourself something such as chocolate or alcohol – or even Facebook or television. It has to be something that you like (there is no merit in giving up something you dislike!) and it has to be something good; after all, if it’s bad you ought to give it up permanently, not just take a break from it. Now this whole idea strikes many people today as bizarre or even medieval.
On reflection, it seems to me that the idea of Lent and fasting has never been more needed. The reason is quite simply this: our modern culture is utterly fixated not simply on having things, but on having them now. The result is any number of messages in advertisements and the media encouraging us not to save, but instead to buy what we want on credit and have it immediately. This obsession with the instantaneous and immediate can be seen in almost every area. We want instant food (long live the microwave), television programmes when we want, instant messaging, real-time meetings (even if they end up being virtual) and instant downloads of music, films or books. We don’t ‘do’ waiting anymore. Whether it’s food, pleasure, sex or possessions, we expect to have them all now.
Yet there is something very dangerous about this demand for ‘instant gratification’ and it’s not just Christians who say so. The reality is that all good things (and food, pleasure, sex or possessions are exactly that) are truly at their best only when they are taken at the right time. Deliberately delaying a pleasure (and that’s what fasting in Lent is all about) is actually a wise thing. The ability to postpone our gratification may actually be critical to making us fulfilled human beings. After all, if you want your pleasures now, you are really going to struggle with things like learning to play the piano or acquiring a foreign language where it may be months before you can tap out that tune (which I discovered!) or engage in a meaningful conversation on holiday.
To decide to postpone a pleasure may even have been fundamental in making the human race what we are. Some people point out that the greatest breakthrough in history was when people realised that instead of eating grains of wheat or rice it was a far smarter thing to plant them and wait a few months until the crops sprang up. That discovery of cultivation allowed settlements, farms and ultimately civilisation to flourish. The ability to postpone taking something good and desirable is something that has continued to play an important part in culture. The Industrial Revolution came about because people (mainly Christians) decided that rather than spending their money on instant pleasure they would invest it in industries for long-term gain.
It’s not just history that teaches us about the disadvantages of instant gratification; there is also some hard psychological evidence on the subject. The ‘Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’ (you can Google the phrase for the details) is fascinating. In summary, what happened was this. In the early 1970s a group of four-year-old children took part in a psychological study. Each child was given one marshmallow and promised that, if they could wait twenty minutes before eating it, they would be given a second one. Some children could wait the twenty minutes and others couldn’t. Records were kept and sixteen years later the university researchers revisited the children and found that those who had been able to delay eating were scoring significantly higher in academic tests. The ability to say ‘no, not now’ seems to be vital to both civilisation and education.
With this in mind you can see where Lent fits in. By helping us learn to say ‘no, not now’ it teaches us self-control and an expectation and an anticipation of what God may reveal to us; Lent isn’t just a human exercise but a sacred discipline. Agapé, Revd. Canon J.John
A few reflections from Proverbs 3:
1. Remember the words of wisdom taught to you. Don’t forget them. Store them in your heart and live them out. As a result, you’ll have a long and satisfying life. Things such as loyalty and kindness are essential. Write them deep within your heart and wear them so everyone can see them. If you do this, you will find favour with God and people, and you’ll gain a good reputation (vs.1-4).
2. Do you want to renew your health and vitality? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t rely on your own understanding. Seek to do his will in everything you do. He will direct your paths. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear God and turn from evil (vs.5-8).
3. Give God the best part of everything. God will bless us with the very best in return (vs.9-10).
4. Getting wisdom (seeing life from God’s perspective) is the most important thing in life – other than intimacy with God, which is the source of all true wisdom. Once you have wisdom – you have everything you need. Wealth comes along, yet more than that – life, honour, guidance, joy and genuine satisfaction. Wisdom is like a ‘tree of life’ to those who embrace her. Happy are those who hold her tightly and don’t let her go. Think about it – by wisdom the Lord founded the earth and established the heavens. Wisdom is the one requirement for creating or building anything (vs.13-18).
Wisdom is all – encompassing. It includes good planning and insight. These things bring you life, honour and respect. They keep you safe and free from fear. God is your security and he will keep you safe from the traps of the enemy.
5. God offers his friendship to the godly (vs.32). Think about it. The God of heaven, the creator of the universe, offers you the opportunity and the privilege of being his friend. He wants to take you into his confidence and share his secrets with you.
6. As we walk uprightly before God, his blessing is on our homes and we are free from the curse (vs.33).
7. As we keep humble, God shows his favour to us. He does not mock us (vs.34).
8. As we become wise, we will inherit honour and we will not be put to shame (vs.35).
Wisdom for life ...
Vs.1. O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?
Vs.2. The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor. Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others.
Vs.3. For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord ...
Vs.17. Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless; surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
Vs.18. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.
Let's be honest, sometimes God feels far away, especially when we are facing trouble (vs.1). It's so easy to assume that if God were with us we would always be 'blessed' and life would have no problems.
The wicked are arrogant and defiant of God. They think that all will be well and that they will never pay for their evil deeds (vs.2-11).
But God does see our grief and trouble. He considers it and takes note of it (vs.14). God encourages the needy and listens to their cry. He defends the fatherless and the oppressed (vs.17-18). He calls the wicked to account.
As followers of Christ, we walk by faith and not by sight, by truth and not by feelings. God really is Immanuel = "God with us". He never leaves us or abandons us. He is right here, right now ... always.
Life is a journey and we have to keep the end in mind. Although, there will be trials and challenges along the way, God will honour those who honour him, and eventually we all reap what we sow. God is true to his word and he does keep his promises. Of course, there is usually a delay or a gap between a promise and the fulfillment of that promise. Just ask Joseph.
Be encouraged today, whatever you may be going through. God loves you and he is actively working in your life, whatever the circumstances, bringing about his ultimate purpose. Instead of seeking to immediately get out of whatever pressure we may be under, sometimes it's good to ask God what he may want to teach us during these times. After all, the hard times can make us strong.
I will praise the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing prises to your name, O Most High.
Note the order here:
1. Thankfulness. David took time to think of all the good things God had done. This cultivated a grateful attitude and outlook on life. He was focusing his mind on the positive, not everything that might have been going wrong.
2. Praise. As a result, David's mouth declared God’s works. He spoke out his praise.
3. Joy. As a result, David was filled with joy because of God. Gratefulness always results in joyfulness.
4. Singing. David's heart then erupted into song.
What good things has God done recently for you? Take time to reflect on them, praise him for them and allow his joy and song to fill your heart and life. What a difference that makes to the atmosphere of our world.
1. Two things that we need are ‘wisdom’ and ‘discipline’. ‘Wisdom’ is living from God’s perspective on life and ‘discipline’ is having the character to consistently do what you know is right.
2. We must have a hunger for wisdom and pursue it. Fearing God is the first step in the quest for a meaningful existence.
3. Acquiring wisdom is not a hard thing to do.
4. Who you hang around with has a huge influence on who you become. Choose your friends wisely.
5. Good things tend to flow from wise behaviour (but not in a magical or guaranteed way).
6. Wisdom yearns to set people free from their foolish ways and to impart a spirit of wisdom to them so that they will become wise. Wisdom proactively shouts and cries out to the simple-minded, urging them to change. How often she has called out to us. How often we have neglected her advice – to our own detriment.
7. If we reject the call of wisdom over and over again, we move beyond the reach of her help. We may then search for her but it will be too late. We will eat the bitter fruit of living our own way. Our own complacency will have destroyed us. What’s the point? Listen to wisdom! Accept her advice and pay attention to her correction. If you do, you will live in peace and safety, unafraid of harm.
8. Hear the urgency of Wisdom's appeal! Her appeal is made to all. To be complacent is as bad as outright rejection (vs.32). Wisdom wants the fool, the immature (simple), and the mocker to know the horrible consequences of not obeying her, so they will respond positively to her right away.
Great advice for wise living.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light."
The Message Bible puts it this way: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Jesus comes to give us rest from our burdens. However, we must yoke ourselves to him and learn from him. He is humble and gentle. He wants us to find rest for our souls. His yoke fits perfectly and it is intended to be a light burden not a heavy one.
If we are overly stressed then maybe we are taking on other people’s yokes or burdens and not the Master’s one, which is uniquely designed for us. How’s the weight today?
There is to be a joy in our walk with God and our ministry for him. There is a freeedom and a lightness in which we are to live - almost a carefree attitude and approach. We are not God. He is. Adjust your expectations to be in line with his. Burnout results from us taking on more than we should and living at a pace faster than we should be going. There is a time to work and there is a time to rest, wasting time with God and simply enjoying his world.
Learn the rhythms of grace which include a balanced oscillation between activity and rest, work and play, engagement and disengagement.
God's call is not 'heavy' - a weight that we lack the power to bear or carry.
God's call is not 'ill-fitting' - it matches the gifts and shape in which he has created us.
God's call is 'free' and 'light' - there is a joy and an excitement in it. You can do this! It's not beyond you; it's within your reach. Christ is with you and for you.
[CityLife Church 2013 Bible Reading plan]
The Gospel of Matthew records five main teaching discourses from Jesus. Matthew 5-7 is Jesus' call to righteousness, which is about doing the will of God. Jesus is teaching his disciples and the multitudes from the mountain. Jesus begins with what is commonly called The Beatitudes which are the blessings of God (Matt.5:1-12). The Latin word for "blessed" isbeati.
I love Eugene Peterson's take on this:
In pronouncing these blessings, Jesus is not saying "try hard to live like this." He is saying that people who already are like this are in good shape. They should be happy and celebrate because of the work that Jesus is now doing.
These are not timeless truths about how the world is. Mourners often go un-comforted, the meek don't always inherit the earth, and those who long for justice often find it eludes them in this life. This is an upside-down world. But Jesus is bringing good news with the proclamation of his kingdom. No matter what our condition, God is on the move. A new covenant is about to be put in place. New promises are being made. God's kingdom is near. We can enter it and live under it's rule right here, right now. That's good news.
Wise words worth reflecting on.
Reading your Bible each day is a terrific way to experience God as well as to learn his ways and wisdom for life. This year our church is reading through the New Testament and the books of Psalms and Proverbs. As we read the written word (the Greek word logos), we position ourselves for the Holy Spirit to give us a quickened word (the Greek word rhema) specific to our situation.
As we read, some days may seem more relevant and powerful than others, but like any meal, God's Word does us good, whether we are aware of it or not. Also, as we read, some parts of the Bible are easy to understand while others can be more difficult. To assist us with those times when we aren't sure what the Bible means, there are a number of excellent tools available. Here are some of my favourites.
1. Begin by choosing a good Bible translation. For my devotions, I like the New Living Translation, The New International Version (2011 edition) or the Message Bible. I like to change it around a bit each year just so I see things in fresh ways. When selecting a Bible, consider purchasing a good Study Bible. I love the NLT Study Bible and the NIV Study Bible as they both provide a wealth of helpful information right there in the text.
2. For some extremely helpful devotional comments from a scholarly author you can't go past the long time classic New Daily Study Bible series by William Barclay or the recent New Testament for Everyone series by Tom Wright. Both series are worth every penny.
3. For a more extensive commentary series, check out the NIV Application Commentaries, available as individual books from the Old and New Testaments or as a set (the NT is complete). Other more scholarly commentary series include The Expositor's Bible Commentary (EBC, 7 vols), The Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), The Tyndale Commentaries, the New International Commentary.
7. Finally, most of these tools and more are available in digital formats - for computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones - at far cheaper prices. Check out eSword (free) and Olive Tree for starters. The most extensive programs are Logos (for Windows and MAC) and Accordance (for MAC). Also, worth mentioning is PC Study Bible and Quickverse. For free online Bibles check out Bible Gateway and YouVersion.
Don't be overwhelmed by all the books and helps available, including the cost. Just select one or two tools. Use them well, then add to your collection over time.
As the apostle Paul said to his young protege, Timothy ... "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2Tim.2:15)." After all, we don't live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God's mouth (Matt.4:4). May you hear his voice clearly today.