Monthly Archives: December 2011

2 Chronicles 36; Revelation 22; Malachi 4; John 21

Two ideas stand out to me today as I read and re-read John 21.

1 – We need repetition to learn the important stuff

The first lesson comes by Jesus’ repetition of “feed/take care of my lambs/sheep” to Peter. My daughter gets frustrated that at church she keeps hearing “the same old thing”. She didn’t know why we would want to go to church on Christmas Eve and hear the same old story over and over. If you already know the story, why would you want to go hear about it again? She hates it that sermons on salvation and many of the foundational truths are repeated over and over again. I tell her that we need to hear it over and over again – that it takes time to sink into your soul – that sometimes you forget (or not really forget, but just don’t take time to reflect and really remember…) – and sometimes you get something totally new out of the same old message. Peter was frustrated, too. Apparently he didn’t like being told the same command over and over again. But Jesus knew it was worth repeating. One thing I’m a big proponent of is focusing more on the repeated themes in the Bible and less on the outlying things that are confusing or mentioned only once or a few times. When you read through the whole Bible you definitely get a sense of what must be important because of the repetition. Taking care of each other must really be important to Jesus. I think it was his most repeated theme.

2 – We all have a unique mission, and we shouldn’t worry about other people’s mission, as it is a distraction

Even at this late stage of the game the disciples are still comparing themselves to each other. When Jesus gives Peter a glimpse of trials that await him, Peter asks Jesus about John: “What about him, Lord?” Jesus answers “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” How often do we compare our lot to everyone else? How often do we want to ask Jesus “Why do I have to do all the work, have all the pain, get all the bad breaks, etc.  What about so-and-so?” We all have our own missions, along with our own crosses to bear. We need to stop worrying about comparing our mission and our crosses to everyone else’s and keep our attention on our own business. Actually, keep our attention on Jesus, and what He wants of us. That takes a lot of trust…

I hope that all of us continue with the 66Books journey for another year. We need the repetition. And we need to hear from God so that we can figure out our mission, our calling, and keep our focus on Jesus. I’ll be here for my third year. I know I need the repetition!! Thank you, Courtney, for keeping it going for another year!

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year!!!

Sue

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2Chron.35; Rev. 21; Malachi 3; John 20

It looked and smelled like Christmas: wreaths on doors, tree decorated, cinnamon pine cones, iced rolls from the oven. I was glad to be at home with family, kids merrily occupied with gifts, music playing, sun shining. It felt warm and cozy. Yet, there was a sad undercurrent in a season centered on joy.

I’d recently read an article about a book called The Devil in Pew Number Seven. I thought of the people involved in the real-life account of tragedy, and how each one’s thought took him down a road he’d probably never thought possible.  That a single thought of hatred, slight, injustice would have life-altering consequences.

Sadness because it’s everywhere–bitterness, anger, resentment–and often masked, but consequences of it evident in families divorcing, friendships ending, jobs terminated–lives changed and altered because a thought takes root and grows wild.

Sadness lingered in me when I saw how negative thinking (whether my own or someone else’s) has broken things in my life. A nighttime walk to get the trash can … dark, windy, cold. I thought about darkness and evil in contrast to heaven and never-ending light.

And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. Revelation 21:23-25 (NLT)

Today’s chapters thick with sacrifice, repentance, salvation and light. From Old Testament to New Testament–Christ’s story deep in the pages.

As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:2-23 (NLT; emphasis mine).

Once the boxes are broken down and wrappings recycled, once the breakfast is over and dishes cleared, once life gets back to its steady pace, a season of joy can fall flat. Without Christ, what is Christmas? I end the year reflecting on John 20 and forgiveness.  Some say that forgiving others sets us free … perhaps it does in some ways. But I don’t think God forgave me because He needed freedom. Christ died so I could be free.

Father God, I am so grateful for a slate wiped clean, for righteousness because of Christ’s sacrifice for me, for mercy and grace I don’t deserve and could never repay. Forgiven not because you needed it, but because I did. Forgiveness, because who could stand before your judgment? Lord, I press on for joy–that Christmas is here daily because Christ came to take the sin of the world–joy that lasts. Help me, please, to be aware of my negative thoughts against others, to take them captive and make my thinking obedient to you–so that your mercy can flow through me. I want to forgive because I know what freedom feels like.

Courtney (66books365)

(Happy new year all! See you back here January 1 for a new reading plan. Thankful for a fourth year with you.)

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2 Chronicles 34; Revelation 20; Malachi 2; John 19

He was so undeniably different.

 

From the instant of conception to his final breath, people couldn’t help but stop and stare, and respond.

 

He made shepherds stand a little taller; Wise men bow a little lower. Rulers paused, speechless. Philosophers wondered more deeply. Sinners repent completely.

 

Where he walked love poured out. Miracles left footprints. And children laughed.

 

What was Pilate’s mental struggle as the placard  proclaimed, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”? Others balked and wanted a disclaimer added. He stood his ground. He had gazed into the face of the Almighty and couldn’t forget. He changed that day, and even as he argued with the crowd to try to bring about Christ’s freedom, he backed away from using his power to set him free. History leaves us with the conflict still lingering with some accounts saying he and his wife became Christians, and others saying he committed suicide and never reconciled with himself over this trial.

 

You can’t meet Jesus face to face and not change. You either change for the better, forsaking all and setting Him as your lodestar, or you steel yourself against his holiness and turn back to wallow in your human sinfulness all the more. You can’t look him in the eye and not choose.

 

I want to live blatantly different from the world around me.

Lord, thank you for living such a dynamicly powerful life on this earth. No matter how often I read your biography I come away in awe of You. I want to be just like You. Help me to stand out for You, that your love may shine clearly through my cracks, that my faith would shine the floodlight on You, and that those who cross my path would not be able to ignore that I walk a narrow trail led by a humble carpenter. Help me keep pointing the way to The Way. In Jesus Name ~Amen

 

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2 Chronicles 33; Revelation 19; Malachi 1; John 18

It’s a Wonderful Life.

As I do every Christmas season, last week I watched It’s a Wonderful Life.  And just as in every other Christmas season, tears streamed down my face as I watched George Bailey be blessed by the discovery of just how profound an impact his life had on those around him.  He was a man who sacrificed his dreams and his right to his own life for the greater good of his family and community.   One cannot help to see the parallels to our Lord and Savior’s ultimate sacrifice. 

But George Bailey is far more like me than he is like Jesus. 

George’s desires for worldly success are a constant counterbalance to his desire to serve the needs of those around him.  Same for me.

George’s stress and frustration in difficult circumstances boil over into anger, jealousy and sin.  Same for me.

With supernatural help, George is able to see how God has used him to serve His purposes.  And George’s reaction is pure, unadulterated joy.  Same for me.

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  Revelation 19:6b-7a

In his mercy, God has given me a glimpse of the blessing that awaits “those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev 19:9).  I see this blessing in:

  • the excitement of my three-year old racing down the steps on Christmas morning to see what is under the tree
  • the joy my wife gets from having “just” enough margin in her life to help out a needy family during the Christmas season
  • my children exchanging gifts (and yes, even hugs) on Christmas morning genuinely showing that they love each other

Dear Lord,

Thank you for all the blessings that you have provided me.  And thank you that this is a mere appetizer compared to the wedding supper that you have prepared for me.  “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to you, my God.”  (Rev 19:1)

It’s a Wonderful Life.

Greg (gmd40187)

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2Chron.32; Rev. 18; Zech.14; John 17

Recently I’ve been digging me some A.W. Tozer Knowledge of the Holy, a survey of the character of God. Yeah, it’s a light read. Tozer’s two main assertions are 1) What you think about God is the most important thing about you and 2) that God can’t be fully known. It stands to reason that our concept of God would inform our actions, our character, our very being as we are derivative creatures. We would only know ourselves in relation to our knowledge of our Creator. How can a creature know itself in any other way?

Tozer’s second point is more perplexing. God can’t be fully known. He’s too big. He’s infinite. The finite can never fully know the infinite. Only the infinite has the capacity to know itself. This sort of magnitude resonates in the scripture:

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Only the infinite, all powerful, all present God has the right to be king over the whole earth. Only He can be one.  He’s big.

But Tozer makes a third assertion and here’s where things get tough for me: All of God’s qualities are one. His traits are inseparable from one another. It is incorrect to speak of his love, justice, mercy, holiness, faithfulness, wisdom, as separate and distinct things. They are no different from one another because God himself is One. We must simply pull them apart because we are only familiar with distinct qualities. God is not that way.

Here’s my snag: How could God be big, infinite, all powerful and also be my friend?

I don’t need to unload the barrel of scripture about God knowing me, my innermost being; thinking good thoughts towards me. A high priest who knows our struggles; who empathizes.

But how can God’s infinitude and intimacy be one and the same?

Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

John 17 makes it indelibly clear that the fullness of God dwells in Christ. Jesus reveals that his glory and the Father’s glory are co-dependent. There is no distinction between the Father’s glory, the Son’s good nor in the either direction. There is astounding intimacy. Infinite intimacy.

But the glory of the trinity does not stop short of the Father-Son relationship: “And glory has come to me through them.” This glory extends out towards us–in us.

 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.

The unity that exists in God is offered and available today through Christ.

Hallelujah, brought near to the heart of God through the blood of the Lamb.

Glory and honor be to Him who has severed the tie between God and man.

Thank you, Jesus, friend. Lover. Who dwells within me, and in whom the Father dwells. May the truth of your life in me leak its way out today.

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2 Chronicles 31; Revelation 17; Zechariah 13:2-9; John 16

“You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” (John 16: 20)

“Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16: 24)

Joy.  God makes me laugh sometimes.  I love the way He works.  It’s never by accident or random.  He is so intentional.  Lately, I have really been thinking about joy and experiencing it in a way that I never thought possible.  So when I read the verse that my sorrow will turn to joy, I actually laughed out loud!  And this wasn’t a mocking or sarcastic snicker; this was a laugh knowing that God is truly who He says He is.  I am totally humbled and amazed by the fact that God can turn sorrow into joy.  It really is possible.  Even when we are in the deepest places of despair and hopelessness, God can and will do great things.  He knows the desires of our hearts and just wants us to trust Him and connect with Him.  I love how He tells us to ask so that we can receive… so that our joy can be complete.

Jesus, I love You.  I am amazed by You and how You work in my life.  After experiencing such deep loss and pain, I had finally reached a place of acceptance of my circumstances.  I was no longer hopeless or in a pit of despair, Lord, but I felt like the spark in my heart was gone.  You, Jesus, were not finished with me yet.  I love how You surprise me, God, with exceedingly more than I can ask for or imagine.  Thank You, Jesus, for returning joy into my heart, igniting that spark again.  Lord, You are worthy of praise and adoration. You truly restore the years that the locusts have eaten. Thank You.  I love You endlessly!

Amen

Suzie (suzielawyer)

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2 Chronicles 30; Revelation 16; Zechariah 12-13:1; John 15

I noticed when the writing assignments were distributed late last year that I had been assigned to make a post on Christmas day.  That’s remained in the back of my mind through the past twelve months.  I never took the time to examine the reading assignment for December 25.  I simply assumed I’d be writing something ‘Christmasy’.  Maybe the reading plan would be arranged in such a way that we’d get to spend time in one of the first chapters of Matthew.  Better yet, maybe the second chapter of Luke.  I imagined writing something about God with us, or of God’s declaration of peace with men.  The very last thing I expected to face was a description of God’s wrath…

1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.

Revelation 16:1, 8-11, 17-19

This isn’t a description of Christmas. This is the very opposite of Christmas.  This is an image of the fate I earned the moment I first sinned against my Creator, a fate I’m escaping only because He chose to deliver me from His justice and wrath.  The description of these and the other judgments in Revelation 16 are breathtaking.  It amazes and grieves me that so many people plan to face God standing on a foundation of their own merit.  Even more incomprehensible is the idea of some of those same people, suffering the opening rounds of God’s wrath, actually cursing Him rather than repenting.  Silent Night?  Hardly.

22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers.  23 Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. 24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for offerings, and the princes gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And the priests consecrated themselves in great numbers. 25 The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced.    2 Chronicles 30:22-25

Here we have a scene reminiscent of many others from ancient Israel.  The people described here are, at least momentarily, trying to please God.  They are rejoicing in Him and for the deliverance He’s provided their ancestors.  But, look at the cost required to make the celebration possible.  How much blood was spilled that day to satisfactorily consecrate those involved?  This isn’t even a description of the Day of Atonement!  It’s simply the Passover celebration.

No, this isn’t a scene of Christmas either, but at least it’s a scene made possible through the promise of Christmas a few centuries to come.  This is O Come O Come Emmanuel.  This is progress.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  John 15:12-17

This is Christmas fully revealed.  This is God unilaterally declaring peace with His creation.  This is the God we’ve so grievously offended through absolute rebellion stepping down from His throne, departing His palace, descending to the dust with us, experiencing our suffering, and lighting within our hearts the flame of His love.  Here, God Himself declares that we are not His enemies.  Nor are we His pets, nor His subjects, nor His servants.  Here He calls us friends.  Earlier in John He called us children of God.  He makes it clear that this was His doing, not ours.  He chose us, not the other way around.  He came to meet us because we were incapable of reaching up to Him.  The Christ is born.  Go Tell it On the Mountain!

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.   Zechariah 12:10

This is Christmas missed.  So much of Biblical truth is hard to fathom.  I count the chosen nation’s rejection of their long-awaited Messiah as one of the prime examples.  There wasn’t any mystery about when or where He would arrive.  Magi from another realm showed up at the right place and only slightly behind schedule due to the distance they had to travel.  They probably knew the who, when, and where based on an ancient institutional memory of Daniel’s teachings.  If they found the Christ child, what is the excuse of the scholars of scripture sleeping within sight of Bethlehem?  How could men who knew Psalm 22 and Isaiah’s prophecies by heart not recognize their Messiah even when He hung on the cross?  I know, they were expecting a conquering hero, but why were they expecting that when the scriptural truth was so plain?  Sadly, their blindness continues to this day.  This blindness is going to end though.  The descendents of Israel have missed the last 2000 Christmases, and they may miss 2000 more, but one day, at the time of the Father’s choosing, they will see the Son.  Then, even as they mourn, it will truly be Joy to the World.

You know, maybe today’s reading selection is appropriate for the occasion after all.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you this year, and Merry Christmas!!!

Michael  (mmattix)

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