I apologize for not posting this on Monday, but I was feeling under the weather. -Pastor Seth
The Holiday season is in full swing and now more than ever
your Bible reading time may be impacted. With so many things to do and gifts to
buy it is easy to forget your readings for the day. If this happens don't worry.
First of all you may need to be even more deliberate in your planning for time
in the word and if you fall behind remember my easy rule, just read two a day
until you catch up. Don't kill yourself trying to get all the readings done in
a day. Maybe you can take your Bible to the mall and take a shopping break and
do some reading. This could be a great witness of your faith and may even spark
a discussion with someone else. You can tell them about the real meaning of the
season. Speaking of shopping, this may be the time to think about next year and
your Bible reading habits. Perhaps you want to do this again but this time read
a different version. I will be doing this same study in 2012 so you can do it
again with me if you would like. Here is another idea. Ask a friend of yours to
read with you. You can look at each week’s study and then talk about it over
coffee or lunch or even via email. There are many ways to continue this great
habit you have begun. You could also look at reading a book like “The Story”
that uses just the narrative of the Bible text to tell the chronological story
found in Scripture. I will keep trying
to motivate you as we hit the stretch run and push on through to 2017 but for
now, on to the study...
The Old Testament
We finished up the last part of Ezekiel with the end of the vision of the New
Jerusalem and Ezekiel gave a reminder to the people of God's commands including
the keeping of the Passover. Ezekiel makes reference again to the three fold
promise that was given to Abraham when the land was again divided among the
tribes. Ezekiel ends with a sense of hope and looking forward to the return of
the remnant back to Jerusalem. But it doesn't stop there. The hope of a
continued future for God's chosen people goes beyond the return and into the
future where there will be an even greater Jerusalem. I think we talked about
this before but I will say again, to remember this vision of Jerusalem, because
we will see a very similar one in the book of Revelation.
The book of Daniel once again picks up the narrative story of the people of
Israel in captivity in Babylon. We see four important characters right away,
Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego). These
were all young healthy men that were put into the service of King
Nebuchadnezzar. They all had special gifts from God, "To these four young men God gave knowledge
and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could
understand visions and dreams of all kinds." (Daniel 1:17 NIV). The story reads like a novel and
is easy to follow. There are some great Sunday School stories in its pages as
well. One thing that struck me this time was that the story of Daniel has a lot
of parallels to that of Joseph. Both of them were sent to a foreign country
under duress. Both interpreted dreams. Both became important political members
in their new country. Many of the other stories are familiar to us such as the
fiery furnace, the hand writing on the wall and Daniel and the Lions Den. Each
story seemed to point to the fact that God was still involved and cared about
his people. He was active in creation and wanted the whole world to bow down
and worship him.
The New Testament
So many great visuals to use when reading 1 and 2 Peter; for example the living
stones (1Peter 2:5) reference really hits home with me. We are all just one
piece of the puzzle that is part of the spiritual temple that is the church. We
may look different and have different strengths and weaknesses but we are all
important. Peter likes to use many references from the Old Testament in his
letters. He uses them in great ways. Peter reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV) and we are to conduct ourselves in a
manner that will honor God. We must always love on another and not worry when
we suffer, and we will suffer. Peter makes the connection between Noah and
baptism in 1 Peter 3. This is important because it gives us an Old Testament
story to describe a New Testament activity. This gives more substance to the
teachings of the New Testament. The book of 2 Peter talks a lot about our
response to God’s promises (2 Peter 1:5). As Christians we are not called to
static, stoic lives. We are called to action in response to what God has
already done for us. We must now work hard in the life we have been given,
knowing that God will take care of us. Peter also gives us a glimpse of the
spiritual war that rages beyond Earth. In 2 Peter 2 he references hell where
the angels that sin were sent to. We never get a full picture of this struggle,
but we know it was bad and nothing we want to be a part of. One of the greatest
parts of 2 Peter is when he writes, “But
do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a
thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in
keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not
wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter
3:8-9 NIV). There were some in Peter’s day (and in our day as well) that can’t
seem to wait until Jesus returns. They think he should have come back a long
time ago. Peter wants to tell these people that it is not that God has forgotten;
it is just that he wants as many people to be saved as possible. The longer he
waits the more people will be in heaven. How long will he wait? Only he knows.
Praise God for his patience!!!
Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will finish up Daniel this week and move on to the book
of Hosea. We will really start getting through the books in a hurry coming up.
Here are the vital stats for Hosea:
PURPOSE: To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people
AUTHOR: Hosea son of Beeri (“Hosea” means “salvation”)
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel (the northern Kingdom) and God’s
DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 715 B.C. recording events from
about 753-715 B.C.
SETTING: Hosea began his ministry during the end of the
prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper
classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor). He prophesied
until shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your
wife again, though she is loved by another adultress. Love her as the LORD
loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.’” (3:1)
KEY PEOPLE: Hosea, Gomer, their children
KEY PLACES: The northern kingdom, Samaria, Ephraim
SPECIAL FEATURES: Hosea employs many images from daily
life—God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth,
and others. Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit,
olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke to name a
The New Testament
We will read through 1 John and get into 2 John this week.
First the vital stats on 1 John:
PURPOSE: To reassure Christians in their faith and to
counter false teachings
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: This letter is untitled and was written to
no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations.
It was also written to all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: Probably between A.D. 85 and 90 from Ephesus
SETTING: John was an older man and perhaps the only
surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of
Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote
authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and
confidence in God and their new faith.
LAW THEMES: Sin; walking in darkness or light; God’s
commands; hatred; death; deceit; antichrist(s); love one another; lawlessness;
deceivers; wicked works; imitate God, not evil.
GOSPEL THEMES: Christ, the atoning sacrifice; our advocate;
eternal life; God perfects His love in us; light; born of God; children of God;
truth; fellowship; reward; abiding in
Christ’s teachings; Christ has come in the flesh.
SPECIAL FEATURES: John is the apostle of love, and love is
mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between
this letter and John’s Gospel—in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses
simple words and brief statements, and he features sharp contrasts—light and
darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, life and death, love and hate.
And here are the vital stats for 2 John:
PURPOSE: To emphasize the basics of following Christ—truth
and love—and to warn against false teachers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: To “the chosen lady” and her children—or
possibly to a local church, and all believers everywhere.
DATE WRITTEN: About the same time as 1 John around 90 A.D.
SETTING: Evidently this woman and her family were involved
in one of the churches that John was overseeing—they had developed a strong
friendship with John. John was warning her of the false teachers who were
becoming prevalent in some of the churches.
LAW THEMES; see above
GOSPEL THEMES: see above
KEY VERSE: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to
his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you
walk in love” (verse 6)