His kingdom cannot fail

Our first week of Bible reading took us through Genesis 1-25

The whirlwind tour of early human history moved from the Creation, to the Fall of mankind, to the flood, the tower of Babel and right into the life of Abram and on to his son, Isaac.  These are important chapters which set the stage for a biblical understanding of the world and our place in it.

Here are some observations I made on this first stage of our journey.

  1. God is eternal. Nothing but God existed before creation.  And nothing created exists that is not dependent upon Him.
  2. God appears in the world He created making Himself known through His word and actions. As these chapters unfold, we see Him as a covenant maker who watches over all things seeing that what He plans is completed.  At times it appears that His purposes are hanging by a thread.  But He is not limited to human possibilities.  He enables an elderly couple to conceive a child.
  3. His appearances are timely and strategic. Nothing escapes His gaze and His hand. Faith in Him pleases Him, but unbelief brings pain, grief, regret, and death.
  4. He initiates creation and redemption. He ensures that it will come to pass perfectly.  The seed of the woman will bruise the serpent’s head.  His covenant will come to pass and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.

In my life, daily circumstances (this blog post was beset with obstacles including a miserable head cold, a power outage, freezing temperatures and a cross country airline flight) frequently overwhelm me with doubt, impatience, and pessimism about the flow of events personal and global.  A flyover of this biblical terrain brings me much reassurance.  Of course, hindsight is 20-20 so it’s easy to see how everything worked out for Abraham, but I am called to believe God and to trust Him in the midst of circumstances that can seem hopeless and whose outcome is still not revealed.

The old hymn of Charles Wesley (1744), “Rejoice the Lord is King” comes to my mind and heart:

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,

The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Resolved: to honor God by believing Him no matter how doubtful His final victory appears, and to remember that His kingdom cannot fail.

This week’s reading: Genesis 26-50

A Plan for Reading the Bible in Chunks

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Reading the  Bible in Chunks

This reading schedule will take you through the Bible one book at a time during the year and is based on the concept of “reading the Bible in chunks” developed by Dr. Benjamin Shaw of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Used by permission.

The chart gives weekly reading assignments (22 chapters on average) which generally alternate between Old and New Testament books.  The purpose is to read each of the 66 books seeking to understand each one as a unit.  The exceptions are Psalms and Proverbs which may be read devotionally by chapters.  I offer this schedule only for your convenience, but you could easily develop your own unique plan for reading the Bible in chunks.

Click on the table below to expand:

I’ll be posting updates and comments each Monday throughout 2018 (D.V.).  Happy new year. Blessed Bible reading in chunks.

Three Motivations to Read the Entire Bible

Expected Benefits Sustain Motivation

To stay motivated on a large project, like reading through the entire Bible, we need a firm conviction of the importance of sticking with it to completion.  So how important is knowledge of the Word of God?  Here are three benefits we can only obtain by knowing the Bible.

Salvation

Second Timothy 3:15-17. The Scripture makes us wise to salvation. We get some idea of the power and glory of God from the Creation, but only God’s Word informs us that we are sinners in need of a redeemer.  In short, God is holy and we are sinners. We have a need, and God has the only adequate provision for that need.  He became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross taking the just penalty for the sins of His people.  By our human reasoning we would never imagine such a remedy for our guilt and shame.  We might attempt to gain forgiveness by our good works, but, without the light of Scripture, we would not grasp that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Sanctification

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (First Thessalonians 4:3 ESV). Sanctification has a progressive aspect, in that, over time we grow in our godliness by the Word of God.  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (Second Timothy 3:16).  If we would be trained in righteousness, we need the Word of God–not merely on our shelves but–in our hearts.  The Bible works powerfully to teach us truth and to reprove and correct us when we go astray in thought, word, or deed.  The result of this process is training in righteousness or growth in sanctification.  By this growth, we do God’s express will.

Service

Paul concludes his comments on the value of Scripture with this: “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” Second Timothy 3:17. God redeemed us “from all lawlessness…to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).  God called us not for our own benefit alone but to serve Him with zeal.  God intends for us to do this by being equipped with His Word.

Without knowledge of the Word of God we cannot be saved, sanctified, or service-ready.  That knowledge can and will move us forward in these three aspects of the Christian life.  We dare not neglect the Scripture if we care about pleasing God and doing His will.

A plan helps

There are many ways to grow in the knowledge of the Bible: listening to good preaching and teaching, personal reading, study, memorization, and meditation.  All are essential.  We ought to use every means possible to learn God’s truth from His Word.  On this blog, I encourage regular, systematic Bible reading.

God calls us to salvation, sanctification, and service.  Let us develop a deep sense of the importance of starting a regular reading plan and seeing it through to the end.

On Monday, I will post a flexible and practical plan for reading the Bible in the new year based on the concept of “reading the Bible in chunks” developed by Dr. Benjamin Shaw of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  Used by permission.

I think you will like it.

Fleeing the Now Generation

Those who believe God’s word flee from the “now generation” and live today in the light of a day to come when He makes all things new.

Today’s Reading

Zechariah 13-14; Revelation 21

Selected Verses

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. Zechariah 14:9

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Reflections

Zechariah’s prophecy and the vision of John in Revelation intersect in today’s readings. Here we can see:

  1. God exercises authority over all things. He sits on the throne and there is no one who can compete with Him.
  2. God deserves worship from all.
  3. God makes all things new. The fallen world with sickness, sorrow, tears, and death gives way to a new heavens and earth where He restores all things.

Think about it

The Urban Dictionary defines the “now generation” as “people who want instant gratification.” By definition Bible believers are not members of that group. We live for a day when His kingdom will come and the will of God will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Flee from the foolishness of the “now generation.” They want what they want and they want it now. Don’t fall for that illusion. Cling to the promises of God for a day when He will make all things new. The new year gives us an opportunity to consider how to make necessary changes to live more fully in the light of that day to come. How will you invest the year ahead to reflect an attitude of expectancy and faith in the day when the Lord makes all things new?

The Bride’s Dress

At weddings, guests wait and wonder. “What will the bride wear?”  Here we see a special bride before the ceremony. Her dress will amaze you.

Today’s Reading

Zechariah 7-9; Revelation 19

Selected Verses

Say to all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?  And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?”— Zechariah 7:5-6

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.—Revelation 19:6-8

Reflections

Zechariah was sent to confront Judah about her unacceptable service to God.  Oh, she had fasted and mourned.  She had put on an outward show of brokenness and repentance, but the Lord saw through the phoniness and hypocrisy.  True service to God is performed with fear of Him, not some kind of self-serving motivation  It is done by “small and great” since no one is exempt from responsibility before Him (Revelation 19:4). It is futile to attempt to perform outward acts of service to God that are not matched by inward piety.

John relates his vision of the marriage supper of the Lamb.  What a joyous occasion it is!  There is nothing quite like a wedding celebration where bride and groom are filled with love and hope for their future.  They commit themselves fully to one another “till death do us part.”   But no matter how splendid the ceremony, the banquet, or the couple, nothing compares to the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the Church.

Think about it

At weddings, the big question is always, “how will the bride look?  Through John’s vision we are allowed the rare privilege of seeing the bride before the ceremony.  Are you, like me, surprised by her attire?  We expect it to be fine linen, bright and pure, but on closer examination we see that this linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  That is what she is wearing.

Fellow disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, never underestimate the eternal significance of your righteous deeds done in fear of and love for Him.  Your labor in the Lord is not in vain (First Corinthians 15:58).

 

A Call for Endurance

God calls His people to endurance, by faith, even in the most severe of trials, because His promises are sure and His power is invincible.

Today’s Reading

Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 14

Selected Verses

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:18-19

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:12-13

Reflections

Down through the ages, the saints of God have been called to live by faith in His word. Often they have had to stand under intense opposition and persecution.

Habakkuk was perplexed about the spiritual state of Judah. Why did God seem to ignore the injustice and corruption in the nation? God responded that He would send the Chaldeans to discipline Judah. That answer drove Habakkuk to even greater confusion. How could God use such a wicked people to discipline His own people who while sinful were not nearly as evil as the Chaldeans? The Lord explained that when He was finished using the Chaldeans to discipline Judah, He would then turn His wrath on them, too.

Habakkuk gets it. He concludes with a psalm of praise and commitment to God. The prophet says he will trust God and rejoice in Him no matter what. Now that is an example of faith!

In Revelation, God gives John a picture of the things to come. There will be great trials. The saints must respond to the call to endure with obedience and steadfast faith in Jesus. Once that is over, they will be received into eternal rest where their deeds in this world will be remembered.

Think about it

Walk in faith and obedience, my brother and sister. The time will come soon when the stress and pressure of this world will be over. Our reward is certain, so endure.

Judgment: Does God Delay?

Beware of confusing God’s apparent slowness to anger with any weakness or ambivalence. He will bring judgment sure and final in His time. [1]

Today’s Reading

Nahum 1-3; Revelation 13

Selected Verses

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.  Nahum 1:2, 3

Also [the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:7-8

Reflections

The Bible from start to finish shows us that God is firmly in control of  human history.  Nothing escapes His knowledge, His presence, or His power.  That does not mean that He watches human history as a disinterested bystander.  He will act in His time to reward faithfulness and punish evil.

In Nahum’s day, the nation of Assyria was imposing her power on the surrounding nations.  Israel had already fallen to her and Judah, under King Manasseh, was a vassal state. Nahum proclaimed the power of God in the midst of this difficult situation.   Assyria would fall, he assured them.  God is slow to anger but not weak in power.  He would pour out His wrath.  Meanwhile, Nahum, whose name means comfort, reminded Judah that “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (1:7).

John sees two beasts, one from the sea and one from the earth.  These united with the dragon wreak havoc on God’s people, who do not take the mark of the beast which gives access to commerce.  It seems like a hopeless situation, yet God limits the time allotted to these beasts.  God reassures all who refuse to worship the beast–their names were recorded before time in the Lamb’s book of life.

Think about it

Let this bring comfort to us who believe but warning to all who confuse God’s patience with any kind of weakness.  His judgment will come in His time, not ours.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, introductory notes to Nahum, p. 1587

 

Choosing Sides in the War

Satan is at war with the children of the woman. We are faced with the choice: whose side will we serve? God’s or the dragon’s?

Today’s Reading

 Micah 6-7; Revelation 12

Selected Verses

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.  Revelation 12:17

Reflections

Every human being is born into a war. In that war we are naturally born on the side of Satan. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are transferred to His kingdom, and with that transfer we become enemy combatants to the dragon. [John 8:39-47; Colossians 1:12-14].

Revelation 12 gives us a graphic picture of the fury of the dragon that goes out to make war on the offspring of the woman. He rages and will not stop until he finishes or a greater power overcomes him.

How does he recognize these children of the woman? Easy. They “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In the midst of battle, it takes true faith to keep obeying and trusting the Lord. Some, in recent days as well as over the centuries, have been so severely tested that they had to choose between faith and death. I can only imagine the unleashed wrath of Satan as God’s people defy him in favor of death with peace. I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven as the saints and angels welcome the homeward procession of victorious martyrs.

Think about it

What does it mean to keep the commandments? Micah gave a simple three-point summary in Micah 6:8. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. In other words, live out your faith in the midst of the war, but remember the dragon is after you and your faith will light you up on his screen. Be ready to incur his wrath as you bring glory to God.

Silence in Heaven

Those who boast proudly before God now will someday learn to keep silence before Him. What should be our attitude toward God?

Today’s Reading

Obadiah; Revelation 8

Selected Verses

The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
though your nest is set among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord.  Obadiah 1:3-4

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  Revelation 8:1

Reflections

In John’s Revelation, the Lamb opens six of the seven seals.  When He comes to the seventh seal, something unprecedented occurs.  There is silence in heaven.  The saints were lifting up worship and loud praises to God, but now it stops.  The guilty cry out in grief that the mountains should fall upon them to hide them.  Then they all grow silent.  It is as if they wait to see what the Lamb will do next.  Then the judgment falls everywhere.

There was a time when the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, had grown so proud that they thought no one could bring them down.  They vented their arrogance on suffering Israel.  God sent Obadiah to warn them that He would judge them.  That judgment would be more thorough and complete than anything they could imagine.

Think about it

The proud and foolish think that God, if He exists at all, has no interest or knowledge of people on earth.  They see believers dying for their faith and do not know that the Lord receives them and keeps them safe. He reassures them that they will be avenged.  The day of wrath comes.

What should be our attitude toward God?  Prayerful humility behooves us.  Silence before Him is befitting.  Let all boastful pride be eliminated and replaced with prayerful humility and silence.

The Day of the Lord

On the day of the Lord, those who know Him will worship taking refuge in Him, but those who refused Him will tremble in terror. In which group will you be?

Today’s Reading

 Joel 1-3; Revelation 4

Selected Verses

The Lord roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the Lord is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel. Joel 3:16

They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10, 11

Reflections

Joel mentions or alludes to the “day of the Lord” repeatedly (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:1, 14, 18). He says it is near. It is great and very awesome. “Who can endure it?” the prophet asks. It is a day in which the heavens and earth quake. Should we also quake at the thought of this day?

It depends. Joel says “the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” Those who are His people will find Him a refuge to run to, not a terrifying figure to run from. He is the only safe place for those who trust Him.

John receives a vision of what is to come. The door of heaven is opened and he looks inside. What does he see? He sees the One who is seated on the throne. He sees creatures and elders worshiping Him. These twenty four elders cast their crowns before His throne in an act of adoration which signifies that they have nothing which He has not given them. Nothing they have can be withheld from Him. He is worthy of every possible honor. They cry out to Him of His worthiness, enthralled with His presence. They find Him majestic, glorious, honorable, and powerful.

Think about it

The day of the Lord is coming. Do you long for it or dread it? It depends on whether you will meet Him as your Refuge and Creator or your Judge. Be ready.