Same Page Summer part 2

Now let’s talk about goals.
The same Hebrews 12 passage we started with yesterday says that it was “for the JOY set before Him” that Christ “endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Now I don’t in any way want to compare Bible reading to the suffering of Christ but I do want to give you just a little taste as to the same JOY that’s set before all of us as we come to His Word. 

This JOY is on full display in Revelation 19:6-8 and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The previous 18 chapters give us glimpses of this crescendoing worship starting with the four living creatures in chapter 4. Next the 24 elders join in the worship, and then myriads and myriads of angels join in, and then every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and in the sea, and then those who conquered the beast, and then this great multitude, and the worship is just building and building until all of a sudden there’s this outburst that John describes as being “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.”

This is the JOY Christ is looking ahead to and we need to set it before our eyes as well, because it literally is the reason for everything we read about from Genesis on namely, God’s glory. Notice in Revelation 19 when the Bride of Christ makes her grand entrance the thunderous eruption of worship is directed toward God not the Bride. Yes, she has made herself ready and her garments are fine and bright and pure, but it was granted her to do so. Her garments, which are her righteous deeds, are themselves a gift, bought by the blood of the Groom, enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit, and according to Ephesians 2:10 chosen by the Father for her to walk in before the ages began. Ephesians 5:25-27 uses the same imagery in describing how earthly marriage is to be a reflection of Christ and His church. 

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Why did Christ have to die? In order to present a sanctified, holy bride to Himself. How does Christ sanctify His bride? Through the washing of the Word. Did you catch that? The righteous deeds we will be clothed with on that glorious day are granted to us through the living, active soul penetrating Word of God. As we look to Christ in the pages of Scripture, He in turn works in us both to will and to do (Phil.2:13).

Our challenge this summer is to LOOK TO CHRIST on every page. Our goal is the JOY SET BEFORE US. Tomorrow we’re going to get really practical and talk about things that might hinder us in our reading and how the Bible Reading Challenge is designed to help us lay those aside.  Let us spur one another on to that end!

Same Page Summer part 1

I am so excited to share that a growing number of ladies are taking the challenge to read through the New Testament this summer!  We will be using the Same Page Summer plan put out by Bible Reading Challenge. That means our little group will be joining tens of thousands of other women around the world reading scripture each day in 15 different languages and we’ll all be on the same page. Yep. Even if you miss a day. Or 2. Or 10. You’re still on the same page because you’re going to jump right back in with everyone else as soon as you’re able.

Today, I just want to share a little bit about the challenge itself. Then in the week to come we’ll talk more details about goals and tools to help you succeed.  

Hebrews 11 gives the account of generations of faithful men and women who faced some of the most extreme challenges imaginable and they did so by the faith granted them by God. The very next chapter encourages a new generation of believers to place themselves among that same “cloud of witnesses” and run the race in the same way they did: by looking to Christ. Some ran looking ahead to what was promised. Some run looking back on what He has done. Together we are all witnesses to His glory. That’s our challenge this summer: to look to Christ.

The letter to the Hebrews begins with these words. 

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

The Bible isn’t just a collection of stories or a manual for how to live. It is the means God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ has spoken. The New Testament gives us the words that He spoke while He walked this earth and the teachings He commanded His disciples and then the apostles to spread to the ends of the earth.  

We are the recipients of that message concerning Himself. We hold it in our hands. We download it on our phones. We let it gather dust on our shelves. Far too often we neglect God’s Word and at the same time wonder why we can’t see Him in our situations.  We don’t see Him because we’re looking for Him everywhere but in the very place He has chosen to reveal Himself clearly to us — the Bible. 

This summer, your challenge is not to check off all days on your reading plan or have all your questions answered about current issues (although those things might happen). Your challenge is to take the first steps into a life-long habit of opening the pages of Scripture and seeing Jesus. 

It is to that end that for the next few months we will spur one another on. I can’t wait to be on the same page with all of you! 

Looking to Christ — together, 

Julie McEntee

The Good-er Samaritan

So a lawyer puts Jesus to the test and asks, “How can I get eternal life?” And Jesus says, “Well, what does the Law Book say?” And the lawyer says, ” Love God and love my neighbor.” And Jesus says, “Then obey the law and you’ll get sentenced to life.”

But this lawyer’s suddenly not into jokes. Now he’s feeling a little guilt. So he sets out to justify himself. “Oh yah? Well, then who’s my neighbor?” So Jesus tells him a parable.

It’s one we all know. A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and a bunch of robbers attack him, strip him, beat him up and leave him half dead.

So a Priest, a Levite and a filthy Samaritan are traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and they come across a half-dead robbery victim. Which one stops to help?

The Samaritan. No joke. Why? Because he was more into obeying the law than the Priest and the Levite? The Priest and Levite could probably find some legal technicality that would excuse them from helping this guy out. Maybe the traffic directions changed there and they had to switch lanes. Maybe the robbery victim was right under a “No Parking on Shoulder” sign. The point is that like the lawyer, the religious ones of that day were masters at justifying their own sin by using the law to disobey The Law. This is what legalism does almost every single time.

Legalists set up lesser man-made rules and regulations and false interpretations of God’s good and perfect and righteous rules and then justify their disregard of God’s Law by pointing to their adherence to their own laws.

I grew up in a cult so I know a legalist when I see one. And I’ve never seen these tendencies on display so clearly as I have in the past year. In fact, if that robbery had happened today I think the response would have been even more extreme.

The religious leaders of our day wouldn’t have just passed by on the other side. They would have shamed the Samaritan for putting himself at risk of another robbery thus perpetuating the spread of more and more robberies. Then they would have made laws forbidding travel between Jerusalem and Jericho so as to prevent these robberies from occurring. Then they would have forbidden travel altogether because in reality robberies could happen anywhere. Then they would all insist we spray our selves with some horrid chemical called “Robber Repellant” to keep potential robbers at bay. And we might as well shut down the economy so there’s nothing for the robbers to steal. And all of this would be under the guise of “loving our neighbor.”

Meanwhile the actual victim of the robbery dies alone in isolation without friends and without hope.

Notice when Jesus wanted to give a description of what loving your neighbor looked like, he chose a stranger caring for and meeting the needs of one who was suffering. He didn’t choose some armed guard patrolling the road protecting travelers from potential harm. Harm happens. As does sickness and poverty and affliction of every kind. Until sin is extinguished from this earth the suffering smolders on. Love cares for those in the midst of the suffering. Power seeks to control the nature and distribution of it.

God’s good and perfect and righteous Law says to care for the sick and visit the widows and invite one another in and sing praises to His name, old men and children TOGETHER. That’s loving your neighbor. Legalism disregards God’s Law and instead props up lesser laws to redefine what loving your neighbor looks like, namely, close your doors, cover your face, and stay as far away as possible from your neighbor, especially the sick and the elderly. And don’t sing. ESPECIALLY not together.

In other words if you want to love your neighbor, pass by on the other side. That’s the new, improved, good-er Samaritan of our day.