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.

About That Star.

I have a lot of regrets as a parent. One thing I’ve never regretted though, is making the extra effort to experience things first hand rather than passively watching them on a screen as we are so trained to do today. They even want us to passively watch church on a screen! The advent of TV and internet has brought us a lot of things. But one thing it has taken away is real first-hand experience in God’s created world. Just like church on a screen is no substitute for the real thing, neither is observing the heavens that Psalm 19 describes as declaring the glory of God. Packing the kids up in the middle of the night to drive to the top of Hawaii’s highest mountain, Mauna Kea, just so we could see it cast it’s pyramid shaped shadow over the ocean as the sun rose over the Pacific– totally worth it. Driving out to the Kona airport to wait in line so the NASA folks could let us see the Venus transit of the sun through their fancy telescopes– totally worth it. Pulling everyone out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to wander sleepily out onto the golf course just to watch the ISS pass overhead– totally worth it. And yes, packing up our dinner and driving down the road to watch the last-seen-in-1226-conjunction-of-Jupiter-and-Saturn last night was also totally worth it.

Was this occurrence the reappearing of the “Christmas Star” followed by the Magi in Matthew 2 as some suggest? I don’t know. Does it’s appearing still declare a whole lot about the glory of God? Absolutely. You can’t look at the red striations of Jupiter as it’s flanked by 4 visible moons or Saturn all dressed up in her hoops through a telescope like we did and not see the glory of God. Unless you’re lying. But even without a telescope there’s still a lot to learn about His glory. Consider the following:

What looks like a tiny dot is actually 2 giant gas planets. The first and largest is Jupiter, about 318 times the size of Earth and nearly 500 million miles away from us. Saturn is another 450 million miles beyond Jupiter. Yet last night they looked like they were bumping right into each other!

And then we have that average sized star known as the Sun setting in the bottom right corner of the same picture. It’s a mere 91 million miles away from us but about 1.3 million times larger. And that’s just our little cul-de-sac in the sprawling cosmic metropolis of the Milky Way.

The distance from our sun to it’s nearest celestial neighbor, a binary star known as Alpha Centauri, is 25 trillion miles, or 4.2 light years. There are about 100-400 billion such stars in our galaxy which is 100,000 light-years across. The nearest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy at a whopping 2.5 million light-years away. As far as astronomers can guess there are some 2 Trillion such galaxies in the known universe, which according to their calculations is expanding at about 50 miles per second.

Now let’s zoom way down into the visible matter composing a mere 5% of the universe. Most of that is empty space, too. In fact if you take one of the most common elements, the hydrogen atom, you’d find that besides the proton, neutrons, and electrons you’d have about 99.9999999999996% of practically nothing. To put the amount of space in an atom in perspective, if a hydrogen atom were the size of the earth, the proton at its center would be about 600 feet across.

So the question is: what’s stopping the whole thing from flying apart?

Answer: Jesus

I saw a manger scene recently where the baby Jesus was gripping Mary’s index finger the way we all love infants to do. Pretty profound considering He was in fact at that moment holding together every single atom that made up, not just Mary’s finger, but the rest of her as well. Truly the entire universe was in His infant grasp.

Just listen how Colossians 1:15-20 puts Christ’s incarnation and role in all of creation into a doxology,

“HE is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

May those words be in your heart and on your tongue next time you step outside and look up at the night sky or feel the grasp of a newborn babe.