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Posts Tagged ‘bible reading plan’

NEED A GOOD REASON TO LOVE GOD? EZEKIEL HAS ONE.

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

For a long time now I have loved the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 16, where God opens his journal and reads the graphic, love-soaked words to his beloved bride, Israel. Detailing his faithful love from her birth, through adolescence, and into womanhood, God tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever held a child, invested in a teenager, or loved a spouse. Powerful. Intimate. Beautiful.

Hideous. A sudden shift occurs in verse 15. In spite of God’s devoted commitment to the marriage, his bride has left him broken hearted. Jealous, angry, and hurt, God reveals his disgust with her adulterous ways. He unloads: “You’re nothing but a prostitute. No, I take that back. You’re worse than a prostitute. A prostitute gets paid to sleep with strangers. You, on the other hand…you do it for free. Even worse, you’re the one paying for the sleazy service.” A little later in the one-sided conversation, God continues: “You’re as bad as Sodom. No, you’re worse than Sodom. As a matter of fact, you are so much worse that you make Sodom look good.” Heart wrenching. Pitiful. Disgusting.

Amazing. Another sharp break comes in verse 60. In spite of Israel’s rebellious ways, God vows his continued faithfulness to the marriage. God won’t let go. He can’t give her up. He renews the vows that she broke, pledging to establish an everlasting covenant with his wayward bride, atone for her heinous crimes, and someway, somehow rediscover the close relationship that has been lost.

Just in case you’re wondering, this story is not unique. It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s humanity’s story. Praise God for his amazing grace!

WHY GOD REJECTS RELIGIOUS RITUALS

October 29, 2009 3 comments

Our church is in the process of reading the book of Jeremiah as a part of our Old Testament Reading Plan this year. One of the most shocking statements that Jeremiah makes is that God can’t stand His people’s worship in the temple. All the ceremonies and sacrifices do nothing but frustrate and infuriate God. Why is this? It must be because of some flaw in their procedure, right? Their problem surely stems from having inadvertently overlooked some technicality, whether it’s that they’re offering the sacrifices at the wrong time or at the wrong place or in the wrong way, right?

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Wrong. God’s negative response to their worship really has nothing to do with their worship, per se. The problem is not that they’re doing stuff wrong while they’re at the temple; rather, it’s all that they’re doing wrong when they’re not at the temple that’s the problem. Stuff like injustice, oppression, deception, slander, adultery, murder, idolatry, and even human sacrifice. You name it, they’ve done it.

And, in spite of their blatant immorality, they think they have nothing to worry about. After all, they are God’s people! They have the ultimate ace in the hole–the temple of God. The temple–the very place where God dwells on earth–is the center of their city, just a few minutes’ walk from their homes. Of all the people on earth, they are the only ones who worship God the way he’s asked to be worshipped. No other group is observing Passover or Pentecost or offering sacrifices daily, but they are! They have nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. Terribly wrong. Just read Jeremiah’s temple sermon in chapter 7. In this sermon Jeremiah informs them that the temple is no safe haven for sinners. He tells them that religious rituals don’t cause God to accept disobedience; instead, disobedience causes God to reject religious rituals.

Perhaps Jeremiah’s audience isn’t the only one that could benefit from his challenging insights. Maybe it would do us modern church-goers good, the next time we’re filing out of pews and exiting the parking lot after an hour’s worth of religious expression, to recall Jeremiah’s sermon and remember that formality is only as good as morality.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?

– Jeremiah 7:9-11

WHY WISDOM IS NOT ENOUGH

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Before nap time Monday I was reading Haven the story about how Solomon, in classic wise-man-Solomon style, settled the dispute between the two mothers. This episode is intended to illuminate Solomon’s greatness, but it actually had the opposite impact on me. This story caused a nagging question to resurface in my mind: how is it possible for the wisest man to ever live to have gotten so off track? If Solomon ended up ensnared by idolatry and plagued by meaningless despair, what chance is there of a not-nearly-as-wise-as-Solomon guy like me doing any better?

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With this question fresh on my mind, I turned my attention to our church’s Daily Bible Reading Plan, which took me to the prophet Jeremiah. In my reading I came across this passage from Jeremiah 4:22 about the people of Judah: They are “wise”–in doing evil!

It seems to me, based on the examples of Judah and Solomon, that wisdom is no guarantee that the wrong path will be avoided. And even beyond that, if and when the wrong path is pursued, the wisdom that could have helped the wise one become exceptionally righteous instead aids him in becoming skillfully wicked–wise in doing evil.

So here’s the lesson Solomon’s and Judah’s tragic stories teach me. They teach me that wisdom can function either as a profitable virtue or as a devastating vice. That is, wisdom determines how far a person can go–not where that person will go. It promises that an individual will be good at something. Wisdom will either empower that individual to be a top-notch saint or a first-rate sinner–to either be wise in doing good or wise in doing evil. Whether wisdom functions as a virtue or a vice depends on what one does with the wisdom he or she has.

That’s not to say that wisdom isn’t incredibly important. It is. But it takes more than wisdom to be righteous.

1 CHURCH-WIDE INITIATIVE. 5 HUGE BENEFITS.

October 14, 2009 1 comment

In January our church launched a customized plan for reading through the entire Old Testament in 2009. We also coordinated our Sunday night sermons with the reading plan. At the beginning of next year we’ll launch a similar plan for reading through the New Testament together.

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This reading plan has proven to be one of the best initiatives for shaping the life of our congregation. The benefits of reading the Bible together as a church are many.

Here are the top 5:

  1. FAMILIARITY. More time in the word = more familiarity with the word. That’s always a good thing.
  2. VARIETY. Since our Sunday night sermons follow the reading plan, texts and topics are covered that would likely not be covered otherwise.
  3. UNITY. There’s something special about knowing dozens of other people are reading the same chapters on the same day that you are. And there’s something special about hearing a sermon on a text that you and dozens of other people in the audience have recently read.
  4. SPIRITUALITY. God’s word hasn’t just found its way into more hands or into more heads this year. It’s found its way into more conversations, hearts, and lives.
  5. FAMILY. The daily readings are great starting points for family devotionals or casual conversations around the dinner table.

I’m so glad our church began this initiative this year, and I look forward to our continuing it throughout 2010.

[NOTE: If you’d like to take a look at the actual schedule, click here or check out the church website and click the bible reading plan tab in the Get Involved section.]

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