In need of a resolution?

times square ballDo you have a friend who is in need of a last minute resolution? Well, they can start with not putting things off to the last minute. But if they want another idea, invite them along to finish out Year in the Bible with you. Let them know what it is about, introduce them to the reading plan and website, and you can even meet with from time to time to talk about the readings. I know it can be odd to join in so late in the game, but we’re not reading start to finish like a novel, so it isn’t so bad. They can augment the readings, too, if they’d like.

Or maybe your resolution is to catch up with the readings? Regardless of our readings, the aim of going through God’s Word in a year is to know him better. Resolve to seek God out in the Bible. Resolve to prayerfully approach it. Resolve to give God enough time in devotional reading. Resolve to be humble enough to learn from it and change your life accordingly.

It is good to remember that we are not reading the entirety of the Bible to impress friends or check something off a list. We do it because the Bible is such a gift, one not to be taken for granted. And God has shown us himself in it. Let’s meet him there.

Week Two is Already Here

If you haven’t noticed, there have been fewer posts this past week. I’ve been on vacation and busy with extra people around. But that may be the case for you, too. So maybe you’ve had less time to read. So if you are pressed for time, I’d rather you read your Bible readings rather than read this website.

This new week we start into Ezekiel and continue through Matthew. As we have been celebrating Christmas I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how the story continues through the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus didn’t just come to be born, but to live and die for us. It’s good to see what he came to do.

Jesus’ Authority to Forgive Sins

On many a Sunday I had the privilege to announce an “assurance of pardon” during our church service. We go through a confession of our sins and following that I draw attention to the fact that we can rest assured knowing that we are forgiven. But I’ve had the conversation a couple times about what it is I’m doing when I make such announcements. The point that I try to make explicitly clear is that I am not the one doing the forgiving. I can’t forgive someone for their sins. Nor can I make atonement for them, pardon them, nor cleanse them from those sins.

So why have this as part of a service at all? What am I doing? As I’ve written, I “announce.” Jesus Christ is the one who can forgive our sins, and I draw attention to the gracious work that he has done.

We’ve read this week in Matthew 9 that Jesus ruffles quite a few feathers when he tells a paralytic that his sins are forgiven. He is accused of blasphemy, as though he acting out of order. But Jesus truly is the one with the authority to do this. It says in Romans 8 that Jesus he has power to judge us, but rather than condemn, he came to this world to die for us, and even now he intercedes on our behalf.

That is a savior worthy of proclamation, and his work for us is something I have the privilege to announce. I cannot forgive sins, but Jesus Christ, Son of God, can and does, and the good news I share is that in Christ, we are forgiven.

Timing is everything: A short Christmas reflection

If you know anything from the book of Esther, you probably know the line, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

You get the sense that God has a plan for Esther, and that was a plan to save the Jews from an evil plot. As we read from the front to the back of the Bible, you get that same sense. God always has a plan and has someone prepared for “such a time as this.”

Such was the case when Jesus Christ was born to us. We celebrate that God would even come to this world, at all. We marvel that it happened the way it did. But we should take note that not only did it happen a certain way, but it happened at a certain time. God had been orchestrating history to bring about all the right circumstances and preparing the world in just the way he wanted. Then, at the right time, he sent his Son. Jesus was sent to announce the kingdom at such a time as this.

We see this in passages like this:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:4-5

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:7-10

Jesus Christ came at the right time to fulfill the will of God–to redeem us from our sins, to adopt us as his own children, and to bring all things to himself, reconciling the world.

It’s such good news that is the result of a real good plan, and it’s why we gladly proclaim, “Merry Christmas!”

Winter Quarter’s Reading Plan

Tomorrow begins our new quarter so if you haven’t got yourself a new reading plan for the winter quarter, go ahead and print this out. I kept it at about a half-page so it’ll work well to tuck right in to your Bible. You can even use it as a bookmark (although you may then need a couple since we read multiple books at a time). Hope you find it useful.

Click for full size.

Click for full size.

Christ in Psalm 118

We talked about this psalm briefly in one of the Reading Groups as a member brought our attention to it. It is hard not to see a picture of Jesus Christ in these words, words which are quoted in reference to him in the New Testament.

I love to see the way in which the whole of Scripture points us to Jesus. The Old points us ahead and the New Testament draws our attention back to him. As we celebrate Christmas it is also good to see such connections and remember that Jesus was no backup plan. Before the world was even created, the plan has been to save the world through him. Like we read in the beginning of John, Jesus may have entered the scene in one way when he was born to Mary, but Jesus has always been on the scene since the very beginning. Christmas is the beginning of a big reveal, but the suspense had been building for a long time.

Psalm 118

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

God is still guiding history, and he won’t take a day off tomorrow

mayan calendarDon’t forget to set your clocks tonight–the end of the world is tomorrow.

Or so some interpreters of Mayan calendars would have us believe. But there are some real easy reasons to ignore this and the many other claims like it that come up every so often. We aren’t looking forward to the end of the world. We aren’t looking forward to the end of our time on the world, as if we were to be snatched away. We are looking ahead when Jesus Christ will come back. That is what we believe the future holds.

Not this week, but later in Matthew we are told we don’t know the day nor the hour this will happen. (So if someone is real specific, that’s reason number one they are wrong.) We are to live always with vigilance in anticipation of his return and live in light of his rule. We need not be fearful about the end, nor do we need to worry or panic about its coming. We have read this week that God came into this creation. He did not create the world, wind it up and then let go. We aren’t chugging along on our own. God has created this world, but he has remained intimately involved with it. No end of times would spring upon us as though it snuck up on God, too. We need not panic for this world is not out of his sovereign hands.

Christmas shows us that God still cares and has not forsaken his people nor his creation. The opposite is true–he still has a perfect plan for us and nothing can stop him. Not even the Mayans.

Bonus: Enjoy REM singing happily about the end…

The Books of the Bible in One Sentence, Vol. II

I did this for the third quarter and now as we are about to enter the fourth, I wanted to put together another brief (and not at all exhaustive!) list of summaries for the books we’ll be reading this quarter. Hope they help to at least organize all the texts we’ll be coming across as we close out the year.

Review and Preview Handout Q4 Review and Preview Handout Q4