Monthly Archives: December 2012

Thank you

I distinctly remember finishing up my last post of our first year blogging through the Bible in 2009. I didn’t know what the finish line would look like when we started this journey. All I knew was that I didn’t want to stop.

How thankful I was that there were others who wanted to keep going too, and new writers who joined us over these years.

How thankful I am still, that we’re entering a fifth year, drawing closer to God, being changed by His Spirit, and desiring to abide in Christ.

Thank you for reading God’s Word, for opening the pages for yourself, to see who He is.

God bless you.

Join us in 2013 as we read through the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan.

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Malachi 3, 4; Revelation 22

 “I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed…Return to me so I can return to you,” says God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

 “You ask, ‘But how do we return?’

 “Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.

 “You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’

 “The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

 “You’ll be voted ‘Happiest Nation.’ You’ll experience what it’s like to be a country of grace.” God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so. Malachi 3:6-12 MSG

Whenever pastors give their exhortation on tithing I almost always get on edge. I am not sure if it is because it sometimes has the feel of stereotypical tele-evangelist trying to convince me I am going to hell if I don’t help them pay for their Mercedes or if it is a reminder that I haven’t always been faithful and diligent with giving back to God. I think sometimes it seems like what I can give isn’t enough and that makes me feel like a failure even though the Bible tells me otherwise (Mark 12:41-44 MSG)

Some pastors pass the plates and don’t say a word. Some just have a box in the sanctuary and trust people to do their duty. Some take time out of every service to guilt people into giving.

And then, there are those pastors who help me remember that giving to God willingly and joyfully is an act of worship no different than singing a beautiful praise song or dancing before the Lord with all my might. They reveal the blessings of obedience in giving. They share about being a pipeline for God.

At first, I was a little leery, but I began putting it into practice, this marvelous concept of trying to out-give God, of giving from a heart of love. I made it my goal to not let an opportunity to give pass me by.

GOD-of the Angel-Armies said, “They’re mine, all mine. They’ll get special treatment when I go into action. I treat them with the same consideration and kindness that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you’ll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and one who doesn’t, between serving God and not serving him.” Malachi 3:17-18 MSG

Amazing things began happening in my life. Just like those brilliant pastors said…blessing began flowing into my life. Gratitude. Joy. Financial gifts. Debt forgiveness.

I began giving whatever I could give. Sometimes it came from the tenth of the money I had earned. And sometimes, when I didn’t have anything but a bit of loose change, I would give it all wrapped within a Bible verse and tied with a prayer of abundance.

I continued giving by being obedient to what I felt like God was asking me to give. My marked-up, earmarked Bible to a hurting, homeless man who I found out later had been praying earnestly for one. A hug to a woman who was blind and now could see except through the tears that were clouding her eyes. A pair of flip flops to a man who could barely walk for the wounds of leprosy that plagued his feet. A prayer and a way out to a teen who had been fending off her uncle’s advances for months. Cooking a celebration meal for the widows in our church to remind them that they are loved and wanted.

When I got into the habit of giving it became an easy thing to do and yet at the beginning it was so difficult. I had this bucket mentality – when my bucket was full then I would give from the overflow. Only whenever I had an overflow, my bucket just got bigger and I still rarely gave.

I found that when I started intentionally giving to God and to others regularly it changed my attitude. I wanted to give more than ever before. I began looking for different ways to give. And it has come to the point where I would even be willing to give the shirt off my back if I was lead to give it.

It is the last day to give in this year. Some people will give today with the hopes of helping their taxes. Some will give because they are inspired. Some will give from their abundance. And some will give from their lack.

Regardless of where you are, consider reaching out. Give from your heart to someone in need. Meet them where they are with a hug, a gift, an act, a word, or a bit of your time. Share Christ’s sacrifice of love to a stranger. Hold the door for someone struggling with her grocery bags. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Visit with someone at a retirement home or hospice. Offer a meal to a homeless man. Give a donation to your church or an organization that shares your vision.

Be generous today and see where it leads in the new year.

The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you. Oh, Yes! [today and in the year to come!] Revelation 22:21 MSG

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India (written in the U.S.A.)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Malachi, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation

Malachai 1, 2; Revelation 21

From the archives, December 30, 2010.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
~ Malachi 3:2

Remember the commercials for laundry soap? The latest and greatest vs. the “other leading laundry soap.”

A few swishes of the wooden spoon, or maybe a run through the washing machine and the one we used to love still leaves a noticeable stain. But the new product returns the item to near new condition. In fact after repeated washings, the fibers in the shirt still appear new and spotless!

God is like the laundry man, or rather the soap. I don’t think I ever heard that comparison before. I need to trust Him to clean me, to purify me. My “leading laundry soap” leaves the stain, or even a hole in its place.

The chapter goes on to point out the stains that we ignore, or try to cover up with a well placed scarf, safety pin, or other alteration. We rob God of the tithes that He deserves even when He wants to pour out His blessing. We arrogantly say that God prospers evil doers when life doesn’t look so rosy from our angle.

Yet, God calls us back to a fresh place before Him as His treasured possession.

Revelation shouts it out:

I am making everything new! ~Revelation 21:5

New. New Year. New hope. New opportunity. New life. Same God.

Thank you, God, for giving me new life. Thank you for looking past my pathetic attempts to meet your standard and picking up the pieces and scrubbing out the stains when I fall humbly before you. Thank you for showing me afresh my desperate need for You. I love you! ~Amen

Erin (5intow)

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Nehemiah 12 & 13; Revelation 20

The thanksgiving choirs were divided in half – singers lined the stairs of the house of God and circled the walls around the city of David.  The conductor directed the music, the choir sang loudly, and the men, the women, and the children rejoiced to hear songs of praise.

I remember being in the choir and the marching band in high school – the practices, the nervous solos, the performances.  And like the recorded names of the Levites and priests who were singing at the rebuilding of Jerusalem, our names were written in yearbooks and occasionally in the newspaper below our group picture.  To belong to this elite group of singers and to march in our award winning band was the highlight of my high school years.  I really thought I was going somewhere when I majored in music that first year of college.  Wrong!

I was derailed by worldly activities of the hippie generation, free love, communes, getting back to the land.  My big plans to attend college were short circuited by the culture and the lack of direction and support.  After withdrawing twice, I was back in my hometown looking for work. So I empathize with that group of Hebrews so full of hope at that memorable concert.

It may at first seem odd that after rebuilding the walls and celebrating the return to God that the Israelites went back to life as it was before Nehemiah came.  When the prophet left, so did the dream.  He returned and found the people, including the religious leaders, conducting business as usual, and he went berserk, to put it bluntly.  He even tore at their hair and pushed people away from him who were disobeying God’s commandments to keep the Sabbath holy and to refrain from marrying foreigners. In other words, he took hold of these people and shook some sense into them.  In some ways, I wish there had been someone in my life that would have been so passionate about snatching me out of the mess I returned to.  It was many years later before I came to know God and found my way back to the hope of getting an education.

Yet, whether we come through scathed or unscathed, in the end we will be able to trace the hand of God when He opens the books and our story is read.  Will my life’s chronology sound like that of Nehemiah, a list of good deeds and sacrificial living with a multitude of grateful souls singing God’s praise?  Not likely.  I’ve lived more years than are probably left to me, and the markers are rare and broken when it comes to true service to God or a smooth, steady walk with Christ.  Yet, my hope is that He will write in His books that I was a woman after His own heart and one who learned to sing a new song of celebration for His return.

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Nehemiah 10,11; Revelation 19

Well its getting close to the end of the year and more importantly, the beginning of a new year.  It’s often a time where people resolve to do things differently or to stop doing those bad habits that plague us all.  Change can often be a good thing, but it is also very difficult to accomplish, especially on our own.  I find the wording in Nehemiah interesting in chapter 10 after they enter into a covenant with God.  They are pledging;

“to do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:” Nehemiah 10:29b NKJV

Then they go on to list all of the things the “we” were going to do and not do.  Rule after rule after rule which eventually puts their focus on the wrong thing and leads to failure.  The Israelites would repeat this failure through the centuries of seeing that they needed to change and then working hard to do it.  They would see success for a generation or two, but then find themselves right back where they started, a captive or slave not only to some nation, but to their sins.

That sounds a lot like many New Year’s resolutions.  What they were missing, and what most people who make New Year’s resolutions are missing is victory.  Maybe call it a picture of success and believing that it’s already done.  I think that is how so many Christians have been changed, really changed from the inside out.  We believe in Christ and His victory, not our strength.  The ending has already been written and we are free from sin.  It is God’s power and strength, not ours that lead to the changes.  In the end it’s not about doing, but about believing.  Sure there are things we do and don’t do, but the focus isn’t on the rules, but the Ruler.

“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!” Rev. 19:1b NKJV

Father, help us to keep our eyes focused on You and Your glory while we live for You and Your glory.  May the coming year be filled with Your victory as you work through us to shine Your light to the nations and to our neighbors.  Amen.

Allen (allen4myfamily)

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Nehemiah 7, 8, 9; Revelation 18

I think a lot of people do this: look back over the year and remember the things that happened. Make resolutions to be different going forward, the clean slate of a new year. A fresh start.

In Nehemiah, the people who are gathered together listen as Ezra reads the words of God to them.

So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law. Nehemiah 8:2-3 NLT.

And there is weeping. Conviction. When faced with the law, they see how far they are from what God wanted for them.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12.

There is something about being in God’s Word that changes a heart. For me, it has sparked renewal and produced great joy–the presence of the Lord–words written by holy inspiration, here in my hands. My journey through these 66 books has brought me closer to God than I ever imagined, how he has changed my heart, by Word and whisper–more than any list I’ve resolved to do. Still, looking back over a year, I do want to take an honest account of my shortcomings, repent of sin, and pray that going forward, God will continue to meet me where I am in my walk. As in Nehemiah, they praise the Lord of all the things he has done for them–and I should too.

 And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word. Nehemiah 9:8b.

I think of the days when the world spoke to me and I followed it, prioritizing earthly things over a heavenly kingdom. But he has shown me a different way.

Come away from her, my people.
Do not take part in her sins,
or you will be punished with her. Revelation 18:4

Father, thank you for your word in my hands, for this community who hungers for you and follows you, for your whispers to my heart and the change you’ve made in my life. Thank you for making a way that we are together another year, for the friendships forged and founded in you. You have blessed me in ways I never imagined, and I am grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 4-6; Revelation 17

What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall…Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are? ~ Nehemiah 4:2

 The story in Nehemiah chapters 4-6 is about rebuilding a wall. By replacing the word “wall” with “marriage” then Nehemiah’s battle is no different than what many married couples face today: opposition from the enemy.  After being married 8 years and doing marriage counseling for 4, I can attest that the enemy uses similar lies against marriages.

In Nehemiah 4:1-2, it’s easy to see that when we obey God’s call to take a stand for our marriages, the enemy will attack us full-force, trying to cause us to doubt our spouses’ intentions and to eventually quit.  Instead, we should follow the words of Nehemiah, “’Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for…your wives and your homes.’ When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work,” (4:14-15)  When we are aware of the enemy’s schemes, we can more easily fight through it and return to rebuilding and strengthening our marriages.

Father God, I pray that marriages would be strengthened, that couples would stand with each other against their real enemy.  It’s when our spouses are at their weakest that they need our love, encouragement, and support all the more.  Help us all to see past the lies of the enemy and to take a stand for our gift from God: our spouse.

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” ~ Nehemiah 6:9

Heatherpotts5

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