Friday, January 8, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - January 8 - Faith, Life and Death

Genesis 12-15 and Mark 5 contain two story lines that involve life emerging from death. In Gen. 15, God reiterates His promise to Abram that he will have a multitude of offspring, despite the fact that (in Paul's language in Rom. 4:19) Abraham's body was "as good as dead." And in Mark 5, Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Though the circumstances of each are quite different, there is one common denominator-
-"And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).
-"But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, 'Do not fear, only believe'" (Mark 5:36).

Faith is the link between the stories. The faith of an aged nomad that God would give him children as numerous as the stars of heaven, and the faith of a desperate father who just witnessed the death of his only daughter that she could be raised.

Each story illustrates the many facets of faith. It is on one level an intellectual decision - to agree that God is indeed powerful enough to bring life from death. But on another level it is a matter of the will, to place trust in God that He will do what you believe He is capable of. And Abraham and Jairus are great models of what it truly means to trust.

This applies as well to the spiritual life God can create from death. We are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), and we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) - not merely a belief about God, but a deep trust placed in God and His Son. This is the very point Paul made about Abraham in Romans 4-

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom. 4:20-25)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - January 7 - The Aftermath of Two Storms

Today's reading combines the aftermath of the flood of Noah (Gen. 9-11) with the calming of the storm by Jesus (Mark 4). You would think that such amazing miracles would have immediately and indelibly changed the people who witnessed them. But instead, Noah immediately gets drunk, leading to the shameful actions of Ham, followed by the prideful project of the tower of Babel, which leads to yet another display of judgment, as God confuses languages and scatters the nations. And while the disciples were certainly astonished by Jesus' power in calming the storm they will continue to battle pettiness and ignorance.

There is a difference between the will and the emotions. Emotions are reactive - sometimes even involuntary. But the will is reflective, and it is always voluntary. The phenomenal display of God's power in His miracles can induce great emotion (fear or awe), but that does not necessarily lead to a decision to change. Ideally, God's great power should lead us to reflect on our standing before Him, His authority over us, and the great judgment that awaits us all. But that only happens when see the message of the miracle, and not just its power.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - January 6 - Preachers Are Crazy

Today's reading is the flood narrative in Gen. 6-8, along with Mark 3 and Psalm 104. When I was a kid I read a fictionalized version of the story of Noah, in which the people around Noah mocked him as he warned about the coming flood. I don't know if that actually happened or not, but 2 Peter 2:5 does call Noah a "herald of righteousness," and it isn't difficult to imagine the kind of reception he would have received from the people who saw him building a boat in the middle of dry land. What is clear is that many of Jesus' hearers did think He was nuts, particularly those in His own family (Mark 3:21).

In the movie Gettysburg, there is a great line where Gen. Longstreet explains to a British observer that "we Southerners like our men religious and a little bit mad. I suspect that's why the women fall in love with preachers." But in reality, most people - Southerners, Yankees, Israelites or Canaanites - do not like those who preach the truth, precisely because they warn of such peril for sin than they are dismissed as lunatics.

That means it is always going to be a challenge to teach the truth - and it is even more of a challenge to listen to it.

Daily Bible Reading - January 5 - Sin

It would be great if the Bible ended at Genesis 2 - man and woman in a sinless, deathless, curse-less paradise. But it doesn't. Instead, in Gen. 3 Adam and Eve sin, and the rest of the Bible in one way or another deals with that fundamental problem. And as Gen. 4 shows, the problem sin only gets worse, destroying man's relationship with his fellow man as well as with God. Isn't great to then turn to Mark 2, where in the story of the healing of the paralytic Jesus proves that "the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins." And indeed, all of Jesus' miracles (nature miracles, healings, exorcisms), demonstrated His great power over Satan, and His ability to undo the curse of sin on mankind. So much of Genesis is bad news - it is good to read some good news with it!

Daily Bible Reading - January 4 - Beginnings

The first day's reading focuses on two great "beginnings." The first is the creation of the world, in Gen. 1-2, and the second is "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," in Mark 1. Since it is through Jesus that we can become a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17), placing these accounts side by side is a great reminder of the power of God over the material and the spiritual. And of course, the Bible also portrays God the Son as the agent of physical creation, just as He is of the spiritual creation (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16).

Daily Bible Reading - Intro

Many of you have used the great daily Bible reading schedule assembled by Mark Roberts. Four years ago I introduced it to the church here, and I decided to make it a point of emphasis once more this year. I am going to do some blogging through the readings. I am a little behind already, so I am going to post a couple of thoughts about the first three readings today.

Incidentally, Happy New Year! I am going to try to be a more consistent blogger this year, but I make no guarantees!