It has been my great privilege to walk with you through these last twelve months, reading the Word together, and doing life through the eyes of faith.

A couple of things I want to share…

When you write a blog, you don’t have to be yourself. You can be anyone you want. You can be more put-together than you actually are. I’d like to say that that hasn’t been true of me, but I think it has been to an extent. I’ve tried to be real, but I’m sure there were times that I came across more polished than I am.

2012 was a tough year for me. I’ve cried and grieved. I’ve been frustrated and angry. I’ve been anxious and fearful. I’ve been weak and helpless. I’ve been needy. I’ve been…

Human.

I’m not much different than you. I struggle with the same stuff. I do not have any special Bible education other than a few courses I took over 30 years ago in college as part of the required curriculum. Most of what I know about God’s Word I know because I’ve studied it on my own.

If you are a believer, you know that speaking the truth is oh so much easier than living the truth. But if we’re ever going to live the truth, we need to start by knowing the truth.

That’s what keeps me in God’s Word. It is my ticket to victory in this marathon of life. It is my antidote to all the ugly, painful stuff life throws my way. It is, above all things, my lifeline.

James McDonald says that if you are a believer, you’re not yet who you want to be, but neither are you who you were. That is my testimony. Thank God I’m not who I was! And praise God, He’ll walk with me till I am who He wants me to be! God is changing us into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, one day at a time.

And His Word is our guide, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

I’ll be starting again in Genesis here in January, as I have for a number of years. What about you? What will you do in 2013 to stay chained to God’s Word? You don’t have to read through again next year, but I’d encourage you during this first week of the new year to formulate a plan. Maybe it helps to gather a group and do something together. Accountability is a powerful tool.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the blog. Several of you have asked that it stay active, so at least for a while, it will still be available. It has been a joy for me–not at all burdensome–and I hope you have grown deeper in your understanding of the Word as a result. May your thirst for God’s truth increase, and may your life bring glory and praise to Him as you apply its life-giving message to your daily walk.

So I hope this is not the end for you, but a beginning. Walk on, dear one. Walk on.

Deb

Advertisements

Well, this may be my last post of the year, except for a closing out post that I wrote a few days back and will put up on the blog on the first of January.

If you’ve read the papers, you know the trauma we have been through the last two days. My father-in-law wandered off in the middle of cold, windy, snowy, rainy weather, and after a massive search and rescue effort, was found dead the following day laying in a field about a quarter of a mile away. He suffered from dementia and bi-polar disorder, and his recent weeks had been fraught with confusion. Today he will celebrate his 88th birthday with Jesus. The shackles of his earthly infirmities have fallen away and he’s having a grand old time celebrating around the throne of his Savior.

We, on the other hand, are grieving. Not just his passing, but the way it happened. Wondering what his last hours were like, and why God allowed it to be this way. We’re glad for dad, but it definitely leaves us some things to work through. We appreciate your prayers.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. Rev. 21:2-4

Observations:

*We got a Christmas card in the church mailbox today that said this:
“Celebrating our King who is, and who was, and who is to come.” (1:8) How I love those words! He is Alpha and Omega (1:8), the First and the Last (2:8), the same yesterday, today and forever. Steady. Reliable. Dependable. Unchanging. True.

*The description of Christ should bring to mind other scriptures that describe how he looks…
…the “son of man” is a name He often called Himself in the gospels, a term we see regularly in the book of Mark.
…the robe “reaching down to his feet…a golden sash around his waist” reminds me of Isaiah’s testimony in chapter 6: “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The robe signified his role as High Priest.
…his head and hair were “white like wool, as white as snow”. In Daniel’s vision (7:9) it says his clothing was white as snow, his hair, white like wool. That seems to signify purity and wisdom.
…his eyes “like blazing fire”. Might this be an indication of His judgment? The ability to see and know all things makes him the perfect, righteous Judge. Daniel 7 also talks about fire flowing from His throne.
…feet like bronze. There are a couple of references to bronze, or burnished bronze feet in scripture… What does that signify? Don’t know!
…voice like “rushing waters”. Daniel (10:6) says his voice is like the sound of a multitude. Ezekiel says about the living creatures in his vision, that the sound of their wings were like the “roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty”.
…the sword coming out of his mouth is His Word, the Truth, living and active, like a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12)
…his face “like the sun shining in all its brilliance”. Jesus declared that He was The Light of the world, and Revelation 21 tells us there will be no need of sun in the New Jerusalem, for the glory of God gives the city its light.

*John responds to this vision as we all will when we see God in all His glory. There will be no question in our minds of whether we should bow our heads or raise our hands or lift our faces. We will fall at His feet. I am touched by Jesus’s response to John. “Do not be afraid”.

We are celebrating the miraculous birth of our King this week. Let’s not separate the picture of a babe in a manger from this picture given to us in Revelation. He is one and the same. It is the reason the wise men “bowed down and worshiped him”.

I heard this song on the radio tonight as I drove home from work, and it says some of what I’ve been pondering these last weeks, some of what I ponder every year at Christmastime.

Is God grieved by our Christmas traditions? Is he saddened by the amount of food we consume, the amount of money we spend, the amount of stress we invite, the amount of time we waste, in the pursuit of a holiday largely fashioned and shaped by the culture in which we live? Have we lost the ability to simplify, to be satisfied with small things?
Sometimes I long for the days when a child received an orange at Christmas and thought it was a treasure.

Maybe I’m being a Scrooge. I’m not against giving. Or, to be honest, getting. I love giving and getting presents as much as anybody else does. But rarely when I give to others at Christmas am I thinking about how much God gave to me. Perhaps I’d think more about the gift of Jesus if the people to whom I’m giving actually needed the things I gave them. When there are so many needs in the world, is it even ethical to dump more stuff into the laps of those who already have so much?

What could a church do if every family that spent money on a wreath for their front door gave that money to a needy family? What could we do if those of us who buy a real tree each year (ours cost $46.00) sent that money to support a missionary instead? What could we do if we cut our Christmas budget in half and used the rest to fund the discipleship program at church? What if we decided TOGETHER that enough is enough? (I’m just thinking out loud here…it’s stuff that goes through my mind every year, but never seems to make it into my reality).

I also tend to have more difficulty spending good quality time with God when I’m busy doing all the stuff I do at Christmas. Isn’t that ridiculous? Shouldn’t I be spending MORE time with Him? Isn’t that the way to celebrate Christmas?

The song is called “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” And in an indirect way, it asks the question I’ve been asking: Even in the church, is it really about Jesus?

***UPDATE: He’s back! Thanks for your prayers!

So. It’s 8:00, I’m showered, dressed and ready. And we’re not leaving the house until 10:30. UGGGHHH!

Today is a day I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Our son, Chad, returns from Africa today after 4 months in Guinea Bissau. It will not be the homecoming I was hoping for, as he has been very sick, has lost a lot of weight, and truly needs some US healthcare. I’m not sure what to expect.

It’s been a weird journey, walking through these last frustrating months with him. (Thank God for email!) Few things went as planned. Many things happened that were less than ideal.

I’ve spent many years praying for my sons to become men of God, and without fail, I’ve been perplexed at the things God uses to bring that about. They’re hard. Ridiculously hard. And painful for a parent to watch from afar. But I know that pain can be a great fertilizer for the seeds of faith within us. I see it in my own life. And I know it’s a principle that is lived out on the pages of scripture.

So I had to smile yesterday as I read Sunday’s reading from I Peter on suffering:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise , glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1:6,7)

There’s no doubt in my mind that when God blows the bellows on his refining fire, it’s for the benefit of many, not just the one in the fire. So I hope that the struggle Chad’s been experiencing has done a little bit to prove my faith genuine, as well as his.

Pray for him. And ask for praise, glory and honor to flow from his life for the One who makes all suffering worthwhile.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the richness of the Word. I lingered today in chapter 11 and again in parts of chapter 12, reading slowly, re-reading, soaking it in.

Hebrews 11 is unofficially known as the Faith chapter, and rightly so. This morning when I read it, I was struck by the large gap between my faith and those listed there. Phrases stood out:

Abel…a righteous man
Enoch…pleased God
Noah…in holy fear built an ark
Abraham…considered him faithful who had made the promise
Moses…chose to be mistreated

There are too many sword thrills to list!

Today, I came away greatly encouraged. I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. If they can live by faith, I can live by faith. The examples, the testimonies of their lives, are there for my benefit. They were not extraordinary men. They were ordinary men who believed in an extraordinary God. They persevered.

Lord, help me too, to “fix my eyes on Jesus“.

…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart…(10:19-22)

We cannot overstate the great gift it is for us to be able, this side of the cross, to enter into the throne room of God, the Most Holy Place, through the blood of Jesus.  We gain appreciation for this incredible gift through the Old Testament passages that spell out for us what it was like to have to go through a priest for the forgiveness of all sins.

We understand now the significance of the curtain of the temple being torn in two when Jesus died.  It was not just a dramatic, supernatural event.  It was a phenomenon loaded with meaning for you and for me.  Jesus’s death forever erased the need for a human mediator between us and God.  His death gave us direct access to the Almighty; it was an invitation to “draw near to God”, in a way never before afforded to his people.

If there is a downside to this astounding privilege, it may be that we have become overly casual with our God.  God tells us to draw near, but not to lose sight of who He is or who we are.  We are not peers.  He is not our buddy.  He is our Father, and fathers wield authority over their children, and wise children never forget their position.

We should tremble at His word.  We should be on our knees regularly, or even on our faces before Him.  We should be awed by His character.  We should be lavish with our praise.

He is God, and there is no other.

I love doing puzzles.  I’m working on one right now.  It’s a 1000 pieces of a ballroom during civil war times with a banner and flags at the top,  ladies in floor length gowns and men in uniform below.  It’s therapy for me–so relaxing and rewarding to see the picture form as each piece falls into place.  It’s also a bit addicting, and something I probably shouldn’t have started this close to Christmas : )

I would not want to piece together a puzzle though without a picture of what the end result will look like.  As I fit together pieces that look similar, I use the picture as a guide to know where these sections will fit into the loose framework I have before me.  Sometimes I can look at a piece and locate the exact location where it belongs, just by searching the picture.

Today’s reading is a little like working on a puzzle.  The Old Testament gives us a picture, a framework, a point of reference into which the New Testament pieces fit.  How much greater our understanding is of Jesus our High Priest once we understand the establishment of the priesthood, and the roles and duties assigned to these Levites for the well-being of the people.

So how is Jesus different from the priests in the Old Testament?

1.  He was from the tribe of Judah; all OT priests were from the tribe of Levi.  He became a priest “not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life”. (7:16)  (Dont’ you just love that verse!?)

2.  He serves as priest forever; the OT priests died, preventing them from continuing in office.  “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (7:25)  (Mmmm….love that verse too!)

3.  He sacrificed for all people once by offering up His life;  the OT priests had to offer sacrifices day after day, for they were sinful people.  “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever…holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  (7:28,26)

Observations:

*Melchizedek was a priest before the priesthood was established.  His name meant King of righteousness, King of peace.  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life…sure sounds like the pre-incarnate Christ to me…(see Insight on page 1519).

*It was from Hebrews 6 that I named this blog “taste the goodness”.  Did you notice it when you were reading?

Sword Thrill:  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  (2:18)

This verse is such a comfort to me.  Jesus knows exactly how hard it is to resist temptation.  He’s not blind to the struggle.  He doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty.  Because he’s been there.  He knows.

You might ask, but how can He know?  Does He know the struggle to avoid pornography when its access is now at our fingertips?  Does He know the struggle to resist infidelity when the culture in which we live celebrates it?  Does He know the struggle to deny ourselves the excesses of wealth when we have so many resources at our disposal?

The answer is Yes, Yes and Yes, He knows.  The temptations of our day are the same temptations of His.  They may have taken different forms and increased in frequency and intensity, but they are the same.  And at the root of all of them is this choice:  do life my way, or do life God’s way.

James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7)  Can I be honest here and just say that there are times I don’t want to resist?  I don’t want to do it God’s way.  I get tired of fighting the good fight and taking the high road.  There are times when I’d like to take the broad road that leads to destruction instead of the narrow road that leads to life.  I get weary of “well-doing” (Gal. 6:9).

And that’s why this verse comforts me.  Jesus, my perfect high priest, who is “made like his brothers in every way”, gets it.  He knows.  And he’s “able to help”.

Sword Thrill:  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (3:16-17)

This is probably one of the most well-known verses of II Timothy, and the bedrock of our trust in the Word of God.  It’s interesting, having just posted on the power of the breath of God, to see this reference again in relation to His Word: all scripture is God-breathed.

Also interesting is the context in which this verse rests.  The book is full of warnings to Timothy about the culture in which he lives:

…there will be godless chatter, foolish and stupid arguments, and quarrels… (2:16, 23)

…men will oppose the truth… (3:8)

…evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived… (3:13)

…men will not put up with sound doctrine… (4:3)

…they will turn away from truth and turn aside to myths… (4:4)

In the midst of all this ugliness, what power there is in the reliable, anchoring God-breathed scriptures!

The Word is our plumb line (useful for teaching).  It gives us a standard by which to measure our thinking.

The Word is our mirror (useful for rebuking).  It gives us a picture of our depravity, God’s holiness, and the bridge of the cross.

The Word is our compass (useful for correcting).  It gives us a path through the chaos of worldly philosophy, and redirects our steps when we’ve lost our way.

The Word is our textbook (useful for training in righteousness).  It teaches us what godly living looks like.

It’s no wonder Paul says, that “God’s solid foundation stands firm”!  (2:19)