It’s that time of year, the transitional week between putting away the Christmas decorations and bringing out next year’s calendar, between eating the last of the Christmas cookies and considering a good diet to begin New Year’s Day. But the main thing I do during this week is to finalize my decision as to what plan I’ll use to read the Bible next year. Every year I try to read through the Bible using a different plan. Occasionally, I’ll skip a year of reading the whole Bible and just do either the Old Testament or the New, and I’ve even opted to just do one whole book for the whole year, like the Gospel of John, reading it several times and reading someone’s commentary on it.
This year our church is reading through the Bible together as a church body, using a comprehensive plan in which the pastor will also preach each Sunday’s sermon on the material the congregation has just finished reading the week before. This plan is called “Read The Bible For Life.” You can read more about the plan and access the readings here.
I’ve also decided to do my reading on my iPad using the ESV Study Bible app. Instead of making notes in the margins of my Bible (which is plenty full of notes already), I’ll be using the note feature of the app and typing in my notes. I also plan to take my iPad to church with me and make notes in the Bible app as the pastor preaches. (I just hope no one thinks I’m playing my Words With Friends during the sermon!)
There’s a very good reason to feed on God’s Word every day: Jesus said to do so. He explained that daily physical eating was not enough and admonished us not to live that way, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Paul in Colossians 3:16 said that God’s Word should build a home within our hearts and teach us wisdom. I don’t believe this happens by hearing a once-a-week sermon. I believe a daily intake of Scripture is the only means of discovering the beautiful jewels hidden in the bountiful treasure of God’s revelation of Himself.
Do you have a plan? Here’s a comprehensive link for discovering some great Reading Plans For The Bible.
I’m not a messy person. Having things in disarray and seeing things disorganized and untidy makes me uncomfortable and uneasy. So for my own peace of mind and happiness, I live with things organized and in order. Okay, some people say I’m an obsessive compulsive person. I plead guilty most of the time. But not when it comes to making Christmas cookies with my grandkids.
After getting flour out of my hair, sweeping away the sugary sprinkles from the table and scrubbing icing off the kitchen floor, I reflected on what seems so right about the “messiness” of this activity. I realized it was the joy of the end result—-seeing everyone savoring their favorite Christmas cookie, whether it was Pappaw’s blue snowman with white eyes or Jake’s sprinkle-laden gingerbread man with the missing arm. I don’t mind this experience because when it all comes to an end, there is a glorious conclusion,.
Christmas can seem a “messy” time of year. As we experience the never-ending hawking of merchandise, the stress of planning, buying and finding gifts for family and friends, and the exhaustion of shopping, traveling and decorating, we may feel uneasy and disoriented. Yet surely during that first Christmas, as Mary and Joseph awaited the birth of their little boy, their lives must have been in total disarray. They were exhausted after an arduous journey, stranded in some dingy stable, sharing the hay with cows and sheep, while Mary labored in the uncertainty and pain of childbirth.
But did they enjoy that first Christmas? There can be little doubt it proved to be the most enjoyable moment of their lives. God had come to earth as Mary and Joseph’s little boy. The messiness of that stable didn’t matter. The glorious conclusion was The Joy Of Heaven come to earth.
That’s what makes the “messiness” of Christmas worthwhile. It is Immanuel, “God with us.” Enjoy Christmas. God is with you and in you and for you.
Believe Better, Worry Less: For my dog-loving readers be forewarned, this little devotional begins with a sick puppy, but then this blogger concludes with this: “It’s not up to me to control the situation; it’s only up to me to believe in the One who can.” I found these simple but profound ways to combat worry very helpful. You can read the full devotional here.
Church On Christmas morning? This year Christmas falls on Sunday, so some people may be faced with a difficult decision. This writer advises, “Let’s not, in the name of family, join our unbelieving neighbors in denying God the praise He deserves on Christmas morning.” Read the article here.
A Mother Tries To Find A Quiet Time: As readers of this blog know, I’m an ardent believer in having a daily quiet time, but I am not unaware of how difficult this is for busy moms (and dads). I remember having to get up at 5:00 to be able to meet with the Lord alone when I worked full-time or when my child had to be ready for school before the sun came up . That’s why I appreciate this post from a mom who sees having a quiet time on a schedule is very much like life itself. She writes, “There are two things you can be sure of with motherhood (or life, really). The first is that God won’t change. The second is that everything else will.” Read her thoughts here.
As I mentioned in a previous post (see My Love Of Prophecy ), I take seriously the study of prophecy, of End Times, and of our Lord’s Second Coming, and I also believe Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 that we as believers in Christ and students of His Word, “are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. ”
One of the surest ways to understand today’s prophetic events in God’s calendar is to remain alert and vilgilant about what is transpiring in Israel, for this little sliver of land (not much bigger than the state of New Jersey) plays an integral part in God’s plans for our future. God has promised the Jewish people He will allow them to live in the land given to their forefathers (Ezekial 36:24-28). Yet He also noted in Zechariah 12 that Jerusalem itself would be a “cup of trembling” and a “burdensome stone.” to all the nations. Seldom a day goes by that Jerusalem is not on our national news, whether it’s the Islamic nations of the world threatening to annilate Israel and her people or it’s the leaders of the world calling on Israel to make concessions, negotiate a peace treaty and relinquish control of Jerusalem itself.
I believe Islam will probably play a significant role in the Tribulation (the seven years of turmoil on the earth just prior to Christ’s Second Coming, prophesied by Daniel and described by Jesus as a time of horror like the world has never experienced before or ever shall again–Matthew 24). The key to the possible role Islam may play in these events is found in its own prophetic beliefs, for the very individual they call Mahdi or the 12th Imam, who is to appear before the end of the world and is considered to be the Muslim savior, shares many of the same characteristics of the individual described in the Bible as the Antichrist.
Joel Rosenberg, an author and lecturer who has written and spoken extensively on the subject of Israel, Islam and prophectic events and has served as an advisor to both American and Israeli leaders alike on these subjects, has written several fiction books depicting possible scenarios of events that could begin to unfold in the coming days. The Twelfth Imam is his first book in a series of books about the Muslim messiah. You can read more about the book on my Book Review page on this blog. Here’s a trailer about the book:
My two sisters and their families spent almost a week here with us in Norman as we celebrated the Thanksgiving holidays with each other and my dad. It was our first Thanksgiving without my mother since she went home to be with our Lord last March. When we were all together during previous Thanksgivings, Mother was always in charge of the Big Meal. Even though she was confined to a wheelchair the last few years of her life, she still managed to plan the meal, issue instructions and direct the action in the kitchen. As we did the grocery shopping for her a few days before the feasting, my sisters and I would often talk about the various dishes Mom was planning and comment about how we had to do it “this way” because Mom was in charge, implying that if she wasn’t, we would have some different dishes on the table.
This year, we had our chance to do it differently. But, as we cleaned up after the Big Meal, I pointed out to one of my sisters, “It’s funny how things turned out. We did everything the way Mom always did it. We had every dish she always insisted needed to be included in our Thanksgiving meal.” Even though we always thought it might be fun to change things around, experiment just a little with the menu, we kept to her plan. As I reflected on this afterwards, I realized her menu plan had served a very gracious purpose, allowing everyone in the family to have at least one favorite food on the table.
Our Heavenly Father works the same way. He plans my life with one goal in mind: to show me His grace, “that my joy may be in you” (John 17:11). It’s funny how things turn out. Doing things my way won’t bring me ultimate joy, but living my life according to His plans will reveal to me His incredible grace and bring me His ultimate joy.