January 13

January 13.

Job & Eliphaz — Job’s suffering & false accusations from his friends.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Job 3
Reading 2: Job 4
Reading 3: Ezekiel 14:12-14

Job’s sufferings continue. Not only is he enduring the unmerited attacks of satan,  but also the unfounded disapproval of his friends.

In chapter 3,  notice how Job laments his woes without once blaming God. This is a good example for us, although I trust that none of us will go through sufferings as extreme as Job’s! To trust God is a commendable response to suffering; to blame God is to place ourselves on God’s throne, implying that we have the wisdom or authority to judge.

In chapter 4, Eliphaz makes the same mistake – presuming to know right from wrong and to assign suffering a cause without acknowledging satan’s interference.

The false accusations are in sharp contrast to Job’s honest, but trusting lament. Let’s be careful to be honest with God and ourselves, whatever our trials, and maintain our trust in the One who judges rightly and rules everything. (And if your friends get all religious on you, maybe find some new friends!).

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 12

January 12.

Job & Satan — Job’s suffering & example of patience.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Job 1
Reading 2:  Job 2
Reading 3: James 5:9-11

Today we begin the story of Job, which opens with a clear description of the realities of living in a fallen world. The consequence of the Fall is that our forefathers’ disobedience placed this world under the authority of satan. God is still Lord over all, but the lawless one has authority to disrupt God’s rule through accusation and stealing.

This is just what satan does in Job’s life, causing what we mistakenly call “acts of God” to steal God’s blessing from Job. First his family and possessions are destroyed, then his health.

Yet, even in his suffering, Job refuses to blame God. He encounters human wisdom which says this is not fair, but it does not divert Job from the firm conviction that God is good, and just, and thus is worthy of worship, whatever befalls Job.

It is precisely this loving devotion that makes God so pleased with Job. Twice in these two chapters we see God using Job as an example of humanity according to God’s design; a concept satan cannot accept or understand, and so satan seeks to destroy it.

So whatever trials we are going through, let’s follow Job’s example and trust God patiently.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 11

January 11.

The Tower of Babel — Language unites people against God or for God.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 11:1-9
Reading 2: Psalm 19:1-4
Reading 3: Acts 2:1-21

Today we read some explanations in scripture of the power of language. These are spiritual teachings, not ethnological texts, but we can learn much from them.

First we see that language matters – it has the power to unite or divide. We see this at work today in many spheres of society. Ultimately language is a gift from God because speaking (and the power which results) originates with God. To see what I mean, take a quick look back to Genesis 1!

Second, we see that God’s voice is still speaking today, through the aspects of creation that have not been marred by sin. It is not reported in our godless media, but there are plenty of scientists who come to faith through study of the natural world and the universe. The use of scientific theories to exclude God is becoming as unstable as communism was when President Reagan famously challenged President Gorbachev “tear down this wall.”

And thirdly God shows His power over language on the Day of Pentecost, by supernaturally enabling the disciples to speak in languages they had not learned. This sign made the observers wonder, and brought many to faith in the God who could so clearly reverse the divisions of Babel. The Body of Christ, the Church, is to be a place where diversity leads to unity not to disunity.

So language is powerful, and it matters to God. How can you leverage your heritage and your words for the sake of unity today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 9

January 9.

Noah & the Flood — God’s judgment of sin & Jesus’ second coming

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 8
Reading 2: Genesis 9
Reading 3: Matthew 24:36-44

After the flood we see a fresh start, with God giving very similar instructions to Noah and his family as to Adam and Eve, generations earlier. The covenant is just as one-sided as before: God will bless, protect, provide, and grant long life. There is no requirement on humanity other than to willingly continue in relationship with God to enjoy these benefits. This is a foreshadowing of God’s greater grace to come, both in the Exodus and in the incarnation.

But sin is still in the picture, and Ham (and by implication his son Canaan) still carry an ungodly character flaw: disrespect, and a desire to uncover the failings of Noah. Shem (father of the Semitic peoples, including Israel and the Jews) and Japheth (father of Eurasian peoples) differ in showing respect, and covering their father’s failings. Our heart attitudes matter greatly to God, because God looks on the heart.

In addition, our third reading warns of the danger of taking our relationship with God for granted. It was only those whose relationship with God was current and active that escaped the cleansing of sin in the flood. And our trust in God will be sufficient to carry us through whatever is ahead as the world again veers in ungodly directions. One thing is certain: Jesus will return to complete His victory and re-creation of perfection, as it was before the fall, and we can be ready for that day by enjoying relationship with God, day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Why not pause now and thank Him for giving you eternal life?

Have a great day!
Mark.

January 8

January 8.

Noah & the Flood — Noah’s faith & deliverance from the flood

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 6
Reading 2: Genesis 7
Reading 3: Hebrews 11:7

Our reading plan connects all the key stories of the Bible into One Story – God’s story. Today’s story is one that most people know about (even if it is through inaccurate Hollywood depictions that twist the story for commercial ends). And as we read, we will see that this is God’s story.

Within a few generations, the consequences of sin and disobedience have become so great that God is sorry He ever made humanity. Think how sad it would be if you created a beautiful painting or sculpture, perfect in every way, but it was then vandalized and ruined. Now multiply that feeling to imagine how God felt!

In the midst of all this corruption and disobedience, Noah stands out as the only man who would obey God.

Reading 3 tells us: “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Righteousness (relationship with God) comes by faith. It is a question first of what we believe. Then comes the action that shows the faith to be active, real, and able to bring righteousness.

Today, what do you believe, and what will you do as a result? In line with God’s Word, faith and action bring you into righteousness, which we experience as relationship with God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 7

January 7.

Enoch — Enoch’s faith in God & message to the world

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 5:18-24
Reading 2: Hebrews 11:5-6
Reading 3: Jude 14-19

Today’s readings are shorter, and focus on Enoch. Enoch’s life, in contrast, was much longer than lives today, yet he is listed as having great faith.

He is known for being taken from the earth by God, but less well known for his prophecy recorded in Jude.

Enoch said “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

So today, with Enoch as our example, let’s examine our words and deeds; ensuring they are rooted in God’s love, and in His Word.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 6

January 6.

Cain & Abel — Abel’s faith & sacrifice vs. Cain’s jealousy & hatred.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 4
Reading 2: Hebrews 11:4
Reading 3: 1 John 3:10-16

After the sorrow of the Fall yesterday, we move on to see the first consequences of sin. These accounts are simplified so we must not read too much into the detail, but there are important lessons to learn if we will be sensitive to the significance of what is written. This is also where Readings 2 and 3 can help us. Today they are short but important.

Cain grows up to be a gardener and brings “some of his crops” as a “gift to the Lord”, while Abel grows up to be a shepherd and brings “the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock” as his offering. Abel has prioritized God (with the firstborn) while Cain has not. Also Abel’s gift reflects an understanding that the knowledge of good and evil leads to death (Genesis 2:17) so he brings an offering which involves the death of the lamb as a substitute (that is an important precursor of how  Jesus will describe His own life and ministry). Cain, by contrast, does not acknowledge that principle.

The account does not tell us how, or why, God accepts one gift and rejects the other, but lest we see God as fickle and moody, we are told how God reaches out to Cain saying: “You will be accepted if you do what is right, but if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Clearly Cain does not heed this advice, but continues to live by his own sinful values. Sin will always make us feel threatened by those God accepts, and unless it is mastered it will lead to more sin.

The last verse of today’s Reading 3 reads: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” (1 John 3:16).

It is only in Jesus that we can live to please God, and only in Jesus is sin subdued. That is our inheritance today if we will receive it. Left to our own motives, we sin, and allow sin to multiply. In Jesus the story changes, and we change too!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 5

January 5

The Fall — Eve’s deception, Adam’s sin, & mankind’s curse.
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1:  Genesis 3
Reading 2:  2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Reading 3:  Romans 5:12-21

After the great truths of the first three days of our readings, today we come to the saddest day – the day when satan deceived Eve and Adam failed to stand up for right, leading to the consequence of the Fall, and the curse on mankind.

As you read today, recognize this:

1) that satan will deceive if he can, because he hates the close relationship with God that humans are created to enjoy.

2) we are designed to guard one another against such deception, and the sin that results, but often we fail to make right choices and stand for truth.

3) we are incapable of following God’s instructions in our own strength.

BUT GOD (don’t you love that phrase?!) has provided a solution; through the obedience of Jesus the disobedience of Adam is undone. The first perfect man  disobeyed God, the second perfect man did not. We are all children of the first, but we can all become heirs of the second. A pastor friend in Massachusetts summed this up succinctly, and in a way that is relevant to Pastor Phillip’s sermon on Sunday: “the stairway to heaven is but only a step of faith.”

Let’s renew that step each day, and encourage others to do the same. Sin and all the consequences of sin do not have to rule us. Jesus has opened the way that God had to close in Genesis 3. As Paul says in Romans 5: “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Have a great day!
Mark.

January 4

January 4

The Garden — God’s plan for marriage.
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 2
Reading 2: Matthew 19:3-6
Reading 3: Ephesians 5:28-33

Today, the eternal plan we saw on Day One, which became a creative plan on Day 2, now becomes a detailed plan and shows us God’s plan for marriage.

Genesis 2 gives more detail than Genesis 1 on the creation of humanity. It is not contradictory to the previous chapter; it simply explains the process which chapter 1 announced. Notice that both chapters state clearly that God makes us male and female, and chapter two defines how male and female are complementary. Some have tried to say this chapter makes men superior to women by primogenesis (being created first) and because the woman is described as a “helper” but that is clearly contradicted by God saying this state is “not good” in stark contrast to everything He created being described as “good.” Others have sought to make men and women equal in all respects, but this chapter also rules that out, showing that we complement one another, and thus are different in form and function from each other.

The two words describing the woman (ezer kenegdo in Hebrew) are translated “help-meet” or “helper fit for him” but these translations overlook that almost every other use of ezer in the Old Testament refers to God or to military allies. The meaning of helper is one who is brought in to rescue or save. The word kenegdo means equal, qualifying the helper to being equivalent to the one helped, rather than superior! So if you have a wife, God has blessed you with a strong helper who fits your need perfectly. If you are a wife, you have been given by God to your husband in order to help him with strong, complementary giftings. Males and females are clearly different, but there are no weak women or dominant men in this chapter of scripture (before the Fall)!

Incidentally, whilst God loves every human, it is not possible to change the meaning of Genesis to accommodate recently popular redefinitions of marriage. God’s plan is stated clearly: one man and one woman become one marriage. There is no room for divorce, polygamy, serial sexual relationships, homosexual relationships, or any other variant in this statement of God’s design.

And there is an eternal significance to marriage – Paul describes it in his letter to the Ephesians. The uniting of a man and a woman in marriage is an illustration of the uniting of Jesus and the Church in eternity. One Savior, one Church, forever united in God’s plan. We look forward to that day!

Have a great day!
Mark.

 

 

 

January 2

The Creation — God creates the universe.
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 1
Reading 2: Hebrews 11:1-3
Reading 3: Hebrews 1:10-12

From God’s eternal plan comes God’s creative plan. That is the way God works! Today we read how God created everything. That is a solid truth for us to stand upon as we face a new year.

How does God’s creative power work in you and me today?

Have a great day!

Mark.