A New Reading Plan

Happy New Year!

This year, we are going to change things up a bit and try a new approach to our reading plan and weekly blogs.

On Mondays and Fridays, we will work our way through Psalms and Proverbs.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we will read through the books our Senior Pastor, Matt Dumas, has identified as particularly close to his heart: Genesis, Daniel, Luke, Acts, Romans, and Revelation.

We will continue to use Saturday as a day to read through the passage for the weekend sermon.

We will take a break from the reading plan the 40 days leading up to Easter and we will conclude our reading plan at this year’s Advent season, yes – only 352 more shopping days before Christmas!

I hope you enjoy the plan we have laid out for you – we wanted to incorporate Psalms and Proverbs in a way we could enjoy them and mediate on them.

Billy Graham once said, “I read five psalms every day – that teaches me how to get along with God. Then I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.”

As we look at yet another year in the Lord’s kingdom I encourage you to spend time this year reflecting and meditating on the Bible.

When reading scripture, don’t just read through the plan treating it as a checklist, read with the understanding that God wants to talk to you, teach you, and transform you.

When we pray, we talk to God – when we study the Bible, He talks to us.

One of the methods I use and one we have taught frequently here at Central is the technique known as S.O.A.P.

Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer.

The idea is to get a journal/notebook, pen and highlighter and use them while you are reading.

When reading though the scriptures for the day, highlight all the particular verses or passages that strike you as you are reading.

When you finish, take one of the verses or passages you highlighted and copy it into your journal or notebook.

I like to draw an S and make a dash after it and then just copy the verse.

The next step is Observation – this helps us keep the passage in context – what was the writer or author speaking to in this passage or teaching us? What is the big picture?

Make an O – then write a couple of sentences that captures an observation about the verse or passage.

Next we have Application. The idea here is to think through and write how we can apply what we have learned today into our lives.

So, make an A – then write out a few sentences or a paragraph, whatever you need to articulate how you can apply God’s teaching to your life.

Finally – we write out a prayer or just pray over the passage and its application to your life.  So P is where we write out a prayer.

That’s it, that’s SOAP.

This practice has had a profound impact on my own life over the last 10 years or so and I hope you find it as rewarding as I do.

Whatever method you use – take the time to reflect upon what you have read, pray over it, look for ways to apply it and then think about it throughout the day.

Be ever mindful that God’s Word, a prayerful heart, and The Holy Spirit will indeed transform you to live and love like Jesus!

Another thing we are going to do this year is blog as a team – giving the other members on staff a chance to blog on the subjects close to their heart.

I trust you will encourage them as much as you have encouraged me the past couple of years.

Well, that’s it… Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

Reading through the Bible

Well, we did it!

We began the Bible reading plan with the Old Testament on January 4th, 2014.

It took us almost two years but we have read and blogged through the entire Bible, having read through all 66 books, 1189 chapters and 31,173 verses.

As we make our way through the Advent season we will pause in our blog to embrace the Advent Devotional prepared by the staff here at Central.

But I thought it might be fun to add some of my favorite chapters in the Bible to read through in the coming weeks… extra credit anyone?

So here goes:

Genesis 1-3 Creation, Fall and Promise of a Savior

Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments

1 Samuel 17 – David and Goliath

Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 119 – God’s Word

Daniel 3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Daniel 6 – Daniel in the Lions Den

Isaiah 6 – The Lord on His Throne

Isaiah 53 – Pierced for our Transgressions

Luke 2 – Nativity

John 1 – The Word

John 3 – For God so Loved the World

Matthew 28 – The Resurrection

Acts 2 – The Holy Spirit

Acts 9 – Conversion of Paul

Romans 8 – Nothing Can Separate Us

1 Corinthians 13 – Love

Galatians 5 – Fruit of the Spirit

Ephesians 6 – Armor of God

Hebrews 11 – Hall of Faith

Revelation 20-21 Defeat of Satan, New Heaven and New Earth

Have a great Holiday Season – Born is the King!

See you next year, until then… keep reading!

Jim

Finding Jesus

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.”  John 18:1-2 (NASB)

It has been ten years now since my wife and I visited Israel.

I can still remember the view at the top of Mount Olives and walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane.

There is a paved pathway there now, but it would have probably been the same path Jesus and his disciples would have followed.

There is much history to be viewed in Israel, but one of my primary purposes during the trip was to be where Jesus was.

I wanted to walk in His footsteps, I wanted to stand where He stood, pray where he prayed.

It is certain Jesus was at the Mount of Olives and the Garden at Gethsemane.

Both locations still exist in Israel.

The gospels all mention the events that took place at these locations during the week leading up to His crucifixion.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus visited the Mount of Olives frequently, at least three times in His last week.

It is from atop of the Mount of Olives that Jesus laments over Jerusalem and God’s people.

When on the Mount of Olives, I found myself looking at Jerusalem, “the city of the great King”, feeling the turmoil, praying for people and the nation as a whole, praying for the  “peace of Jerusalem.”

In the Garden we can find some of the world’s oldest trees.

It is doubtful these are the same trees during the time of Jesus, the Jewish historian Josephus reports that all the trees around Jerusalem were cut down by the Romans for their siege equipment before they captured the city in 70 AD.

Some estimates put the trees in the Garden at about 900 years old.

Yet there is still something special about the Garden.  It is the place that Jesus prayed.

Jesus walked through that garden, He wept and prayed there.

His disciples went there with Jesus at times.

Even Judas, when he was about to betray Jesus, knew where to look, where to find Jesus.

He found Jesus in the place of prayer, the Garden.

The trip to Israel has a special place in my heart, especially the Mount of Olives and the Garden. I met with Jesus there, prayed where Jesus prayed.

I am reminded though, that there may be times when we feel distant or out of touch with Jesus.

When we do, we need go back to where Jesus can be found.

In His word, with His people, and in our place of prayer.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Shepherding 101 – John 10

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

My wife’s family all hail from a little town in West Virginia.  If you were to use a parable or analogy using coal or mining, everyone there would understand you.

Growing up in Southern California, surfing terms or analogies would be understood by a large audience.

In Texas, you can talk about cattle or oil and be understood.

Although sheep and shepherds might sound a bit foreign to us, the role sheep played in Jewish history rendered this analogy in John 10 tailor-made for Jesus’ audience.

In the story of Job, we are told Job had 14,000 sheep.

When dedicating the Temple, Solomon sacrificed 120,000 sheep.

David and Moses, were both shepherds.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah all drew analogies from sheep and shepherds.

In 1 Samuel 17 when David offered to fight Goliath, Saul said to David:

“You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. 

And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. 

And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”  1 Samuel 17:33-37 (ESV)

David was uniquely equipped to battle the enemy of the Lord because he understood what it meant to be a shepherd.

But more importantly David believed in the Lord – The Lord was his shepherd (Psalm 23).

Jesus in John 10, describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.

He gives us a few lessons of what it means to be part of the Flock of Jesus.

We should know His voice – we should have an intimate spirit filled relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is the gatekeeper to the flock, we enter His grace and mercy as fellow travelers with other believers.

Jesus protects us from the dangers we face – false doctrines, the enemy and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jesus laid down his life for us, making the ultimate sacrifice that we might have life everlasting.

Sheep follow the shepherd.

As Americans, we tend to drive ourselves and others.

But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, doesn’t stand behind us and drive us.

He leads.  Jesus paid it all – He paved the way.

We travel the Way, the narrow path He paved.

He is the Good Shepherd.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Sources and excerpts used for this blog: Jon Courson’s New Testament Application Commentary, ESV Bible

Together, We Can Accomplish His Work – John Chapters 3 & 4

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:34

Over two thousand years ago, a man named Nicodemus was told by Jesus, that, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus would ask Jesus how this could be – how could a man enter his mother’s womb a second time?

Jesus was speaking about a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one.

This is the essence of the gospel – to be born again spiritually.

Our spiritual rebirth happens when we look to the work of the cross – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, receiving His mercy, that we might have life everlasting.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

The essence of the gospel is this – God has sent Jesus to save us.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 (ESV)

Becoming a Christian, a follower of Christ, believer in the Gospel, is a supernatural miracle of God’s generosity.

We, like Nicodemus, are just as dependent upon God for our second birth as we are for our first birth.

Once we have experienced that rebirth – we are to share the story with others – the story of Jesus and the Gospel.

We are to spread the message with such passion and joy that we embrace it as food!

Our food is to do the work of Him who sent us and to accomplish His work.

After sharing with Nicodemus in chapter 3, Jesus turns to the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4.

The woman demonstrates what we are to do with the message of the gospel.

Having believed on Jesus, the Samaritan woman went back to her community to share the good news with her family and friends.

In doing so, she gives us the model for a good testimony.

Jesus is the hero of her story.

She drew attention to the One who exposed her sin and gave her life; and in doing so, she invited her friends to do the same.

The gospel comes to us in order that it might run through us.

The gospel is personal, but it is not private.

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35 (ESV)

The harvest is ready – God has called us to reap!

Share the gospel.

Together, through the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish His work.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Excerpts for this blog were taken from The Gospel Transformation Bible.

 

When the Heart Hears (Hebrews 11-13)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

As we conclude our reading in the Book of Hebrews we are reminded of some of the greatest themes in scripture.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

I love reading the stories in the Old Testament, stories of the faithful, mentioned in Chapter 11.

We can look back to these witnesses and learn about their journey and apply the wisdom of their choices, both good and bad to own lives.

We can learn about the consequence of sin without experiencing it ourselves.

We can see how their faith carried them through in dire circumstances to include martyrdom.

We can learn from those who have gone before us – but…

We are ever mindful that we are running the race forward  – looking to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

It is in Jesus we find our hope.

A faith-based hope, centered around our love for Jesus.

The purpose of faith is to bring us to a saving knowledge of Jesus, to draw us closer to Him, and to serve Him along our journey.

We are told to run the race well and not to get weary – for we have hope, hope in Jesus and in a “kingdom that cannot be shaken”.

As Christians, “we seek the city that is to come.”

We do this all out of love, offering worship with reverence and awe, through sacrifices pleasing to God – brotherly love and hospitality to others.

A faith driven by love.

I am reminded of the following story – something I read years ago.

An American missionary in Africa wanted to translate the English word faith into the local dialect.

He could not find its equivalent. So he went to an old sage, who was himself a fine Christian, for help in rendering the needed word into understandable language.

The old man studied it, and finally said, “Does it not mean to hear with the heart?”

Hearing with our hearts.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

When the heart hears, we live a love-filled life, driven by faith, grounded in the hope we have with Jesus the Perfecter of our faith.

Until next time – keep reading!

Jim

 

Sources used for this blog – 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, by G.C. Jones

Sacrificial Love and Hope – Hebrews Chapter 1

I love to read.

I have read many, many books in my time, too numerous to count.

Some books hook you right away – others take time to build the story.

I vividly remember the opening of one particular book:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

That is the opening sentence to “A Tale of Two Cities”, by Charles Dickens.

Great concept, great book – a classic.

A wonderful tale of sacrificial love and hope, found in a troubled time.

The Book of Hebrews is majestic in its opening verses – here we find some of the most powerful verses in all of scripture pertaining to Jesus.

In Hebrews, we also read about sacrificial love and hope in a troubled world – maybe, just maybe, Dickens got the idea from the Bible.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)

Right away we know this book is about someone special – the Christ, the Son of God.

As we work our way through Hebrews, we cannot help but feel that this book is written primarily to a Jewish audience.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary describes it this way:

“On the whole, the most plausible backdrop for the Epistle to the Hebrews might be a Christian church, largely Jewish in membership, in a city such as Cyrene. Under repeated pressures from their unbelieving fellow Jews they were tempted to give up their Christian profession and to return to their ancestral faith.”

By going back to the old religion and rituals, the Levitical system, the Jewish audience would nullify the work Christ did on the cross.

Chapter 1 teaches the deity of Christ as powerfully as any place in Scripture.

He is fully God and fully man.

The person of Christ, as God and man, constitutes the basis for His saving work.

Because he is God, He is able to save us, for only God can save.

Because He became a man of flesh and blood, He is able to save us, for one of our human race died in our place and overcame death in His resurrection.

Yes indeed, He is Jesus, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

In Jesus, we find sacrificial love and hope in a troubled time.

Amen!

Jim

Sources used for this blog – Gospel Transformation Bible