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

4 Lessons on Love

With Jim on vacation we have the opportunity to hear some thoughts on the reading plan from a few of our Central Christian staff. Today Andrew Alesso shares on 1 John 5, 2 John, and 3 John.

I think the apostle John would love our mission statement, transforming families to live and love like Jesus, because that’s what he’s all about. Here are a few ways you can love like Jesus.

Love God

Sometimes following God can seem like a chore – something to be endured, rather than something which is enjoyed. In 1 John 5 he writes, “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” If we really loved God then we would obey him. I listen to my wife and respect her opinion because she loves me and I trust her, not because I have to. If I gave her an anniversary card inscribed with, “Here are your yearly flowers, as per your request…” I’d be sleeping on the couch to celebrate! She wants to be served because I passionately adore and respect her, not out of obligation.

It’s the same in our relationship with God. He doesn’t want you to consider his laws a burden, instead he wants you to trust him. He loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to pay for your sins. Trust that God wants good for you, and extend love to him by joyfully obeying his commandments.

Love sinners

Later on in 1 John 5 he adds, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give [that person] life.” John says that when a Christian friend starts to sin that the loving thing to do is to pray for that person to repent. Care deeply for the good of your friend. James adds that “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death.” According to John, a person who lives in unrepentant sin, refusing to obey the clear commands of scripture, is not actually a Christian. As Christians, we ought to love people enough to care about their eternal well-being. The most important step is to pray, believing that God is still at work in their lives. Don’t give up on them – love them until the end.

Love the truth

2 John repeats the call to love God and love sinners, but warns to reject false teachers. If someone is leading people away from the true gospel, then that is harmful, and the most loving thing to do is to refuse to participate with them. This doesn’t mean we reject Christians or churches with whom we have minor differences of doctrine or practice, but we stand firm on the truth that Jesus is the only way. Are you standing firm in your faith when others talk against it and attempt to discredit Jesus Christ?

Love faithful Christian workers

            Finally, 3 John encourages us to support Christian workers in their journey. If someone who is faithful to the gospel is doing ministry, than we should make every effort to support them in prayer, through relationships, and even by supporting them financially. How can you help someone in your life who is working to spread God’s kingdom?

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.

 

October 17 – Weekend Passage

Philemon

Salutation

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—

Plea for Onesimus, a Free Man

10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, 11 who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. 12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). 20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.

22 At the same time also prepare me a lodging, for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

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