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December 21st, 2010

DEVOTIONS

“It’s not how you drive but how you arrive.”  That’s a golfing principle.  (For the record, I’m not too good at either driving or arriving.)

“He can run but he can’t finish.”  (Another sports analogy – a commentator’s slight for a basketball player who can’t put the ball in the hoop or a football player who can’t get across the goal line.)

We come to the end of our 2010 Bible reading, and it’s about being able to finish.

But if you think this final devotional is a pat on the back for those who read all the way to Revelation or a slap on the wrist to those who fell short or are still in process, it’s neither one.

Revelation is about the finish, but there are more important things than finishing the Bible reading.  Revelation is about God’s great Finish – the wedding supper of the Lamb, the final judgment, and the new heaven and new earth.

Your finish is about being there.

The Bible is a journey from cover to cover.  It starts with God’s expectant creation of humans that we might “glorify God and enjoy him forever” (Westminster Confession) and ends with God’s people doing just that.  In between is a story of sin, bondage, deliverance, law, conquest, chaos, kingdom, division, exile, return, wait, incarnation, death, resurrection, commission, evangelism, community, and anticipation.  Poets sing, prophets preach, apostles write gospels and letters, all drawing attention to human need and God’s provision.

The Bible finishes well because it is the story of God’s risk and persistence.  God risked giving us freedom, letting us choose to self-destruct and even destroy others, or seek and be found by him for pardon, grace, and life.  But at the end of the story, having overcome evil he draws all his own to himself to fulfill the purpose for which he made us.

The end of the story is hard for humans to fathom because of our limitations.  The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about heaven – mostly what’s not there (pain, crying, death) and some comparisons (like a perfect city, like a river of flowing water).

We can’t imagine all heaven will be.  We just know it will be a good ending.  I want to be there, and I’m trusting Christ alone to take me safely to the finish line.

 

DAILY BIBLE READING

Dec 20: Heb 11-13
Dec 21:
James
Dec 22:
1Peter
Dec 23:
2Peter
Dec 24:
1John
Dec 25:
2John-Jude
Dec 26:
Rev 1-3
Dec 27:
Rev 4-8

Dec 28: Rev 9-12
Dec 29:
Rev 13-16
Dec 30:
Rev 17-19
Dec 31:
Rev 20-22

 

NOTES ON THIS WEEK’S READINGS

·        This is it!  The final set of notes and readings on Bible Reading 2010.  I’m “cheating” a bit, sending you the final ten days together, since our kids will all be home next Monday and I won’t be coming in the office.

·        Please be sure to let me know when you finish.  I’d like to know who made it all the way through in a year – and how the experience touched your life.  Pause now and put a sticky note at the end of Revelation, reminding you to e-mail me.  If you didn’t finish, don’t be discouraged.  Just keep reading.  The calendar year is arbitrary for this purpose.  Just keep going.

·        Herewith some notes on the final lap.

·        James – One Corinth member says this is far & away his favorite New Testament book.  Martin Luther didn’t even think it belonged in the Bible – he said James is a “right strawy epistle” and considered it parallel to the Old Testament apocrypha.  The reasoning in both cases is the same – James’ letter is profoundly practical.  James wants you to put feet on your faith.  Listen.  Don’t get angry.  Don’t show favoritism.  Care for widows and orphans.  Control your tongue.  Don’t take tomorrow for granted.  Pray.  James says that without such “works” your “faith” is dead.  Luther thought such talk would undermine grace through faith.  Humbly, I believe Luther was wrong on this one.

·        1 & 2 Peter – These letters are about tough times.  Real tough.  Peter wrote from Rome during the rule of Emperor Nero, as persecution ramped up toward the Christians in northern Asia Minor (northern Turkey).  He urged holiness, faithfulness, and trust, following the example of Jesus.  Family life and leadership in the church family must especially model humility, grace, and loyalty in hard times.  Above all, believers have to remember the Lord’s compassion no matter what happens.  “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  2 Peter more directly addresses the threat of false teachers to the early church.

·        1, 2, and 3 John – Of all Jesus’ disciples, John “got it” in terms of Jesus’ command to love.  John wrote about the “new commandment” in his gospel (ch. 13), and he also worked that theme into each of his three letters.  1 John is about another hazard for the early church.  Exact details are unknown, but the false teaching was undermining spiritual confidence.  John gave a three-fold test for whether or not you a true Christian –

o   Faith (Do you believe Jesus is God in human flesh?)

o   Character (Do you obey the commands of Jesus?)

o   Love (Does Jesus’ “new command” find fulfillment in your life?)

The point, of course, is not keeping these commands perfectly.  If we say we do, we are lying.  We trust him for his forgiveness, but his advocacy only motivates us to greater faith, character, and love.

·        Jude – This short letter addresses the problem of false teaching as well.  It’s a masterful blend of judging and grace, which somehow we have been taught cannot coexist.  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how to identify false teachers and warns against their influence.  Yet he encourages gentleness if dealing with those under the influence of false teaching, and also assures his readers at the end of the letter that God is able to keep them from falling and present them blameless in his presence.

·        Revelation – What can we say about Revelation in a paragraph?  Just remember as you read that this is not a time to delve deeply into the meaning of each symbol.  That will drive you crazy – or take a long time every day.  Your purpose in Bible reading is to get the overview and the main points.  Revelation describes an intense crescendo of evil before the climactic coming of the Lord.  Maybe the best one line summary is from an old Gospel song: “I’ve read the back of the book and we win!”

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