This could be / should be considered for an end of year post but I have my December pretty laid out and, beside that? The Lord woke me up early this Sonday morning and said this is what I want you to write for Wednesday’s blog – who can argue with that? Not I, said the Hope lady.
November 2015 it was clear – crystal clear, that my one word 2016 was to be DISCIPLINE, and specifically in three areas I was struggling with: Reading | Praying | Moving (as in exercise). If you read my “what I learned” posts you know I have been obedient and excellent in these areas. The greatest, and most rewarding, discipline has been in my Bible reading. I have used a chronological read-thru-the-bible reading plan, which means reading AS THE EVENTS happened not as the books appear in a table of contents, and I have used The Message translation. Currently I am right on schedule and in the book of The Acts. I had never completely read the Old Testament – I was a Psalms/Proverbs/Isaiah kind of reader – now, with a great attitude of gratitude I can say I have read IT ALL and oh my it has done my heart “good”.
So, in accordance to the Lord’s pre-dawn directive I offer you what He offered me – The Book in review. True to my style, this will be short and sweet – well, not all sweet because some of those Old Testament books? Are HARD, y’all – HARD. Here we go…one more thing, you may need two cuppa’s to get through this…
Genesis. First this, God created the Heavens and Earth — all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. Genesis 1.1 — My pastor says this is the most important verse in the entire bible because IF you believe it and receive it as divine revelation, then you can believe and receive every other word divinely written on its pages. In the beginning, God created… — this first book closes with the death of Joseph; if you don’t know his story then this is the precipice of curiosity for you. Read the book!
Exodus. The human race was already in big trouble (Eugene Peterson). The first half of this book is the story of the brutalized Israelites, in slavery to and in Egypt — yes, we can assume they built all the pyramids! The second half of the book is their rescue and God’s instruction manual to them. No, they didn’t follow it from the very git-go. And, yes, this is where Moses’ story begins.
Leviticus. We learn in this book that human doings are stubborn and stiff-necked and they are desperately in need of redemption. We learn here that God is actually “with us” – He is a Presence in our present. We also learn in Leviticus that there is NO forgiveness of sin, NO worthy sacrifice, without the shedding of blood. And, never to be dismissed, this Leviticus’ lesson: God is HOLY and He offers His holiness to us by way of sacrifice.
Numbers. The first really boring book in the table of contents! Numbers means just that…this is the book of counting! I like what Peterson says, “This book is essential in training our imaginations to take in some of these less-than romantic details by which we are formed into the people of God.”
Deuteronomy. Is the book of sermons! This is the story of the 40-year wilderness wandering. Around and around and around the mountain. My take away? Learn the lesson, pass the test of the first “sermon” so you don’t have to take the test again. Amen.
Joshua. Joshua, brave one. Caleb, the HOPEful one. Great book – a bit brutal at times. But, the fight is worth it – first the battle then the land of milk and honey and BIG clusters of grapes. Teaching bravery and courage to boys? Joshua is your example. Need HOPE? Look to Caleb!
Judges. It’s really getting rough. Sex, violence, rape, brutality, massacre, deceit – all found in this book. And, several times we see this at this time there was no king in Israel – people kept doing whatever they wanted to do. Ladies? We read about brave, courageous Deborah. Moms, teaching your girls to be brave and courageous? Look no further, Deborah is a perfect example!
Ruth. This is purely and simply, a love story. A story that proves IF you are submissive and obedient to God, and choose to follow Him (and I’ll add wherever He leads you) your story will have a happy ending. Just ask Ruth…oh yeah, just ask Jesus!
1 and 2 Samuel. 1,000 B.C. Four lives: Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David. Peterson calls these as having large lives because they all lived in the largeness of God. We learn that God is not in a box and we must get out of ours to find Him. He is present. He is good. He is faithful. The choice to know Him? It’s in our court.
1 and 2 Kings. Quoting Brother Eugene, “We quit spinning our wheels on utopian projects and dreams. Following that, we begin to realize that if God’s sovereignty is never canceled out by the so deeply sin-flawed leaders (“kings”) in both our culture and our church, we can quite cheerfully exult in God’s sovereignty as it is being exercised (though often silently and hiddenly) in all the circumstantial details of the actual present.
1 and 2 Chronicles. The Chronicles of the kings! These two books were written 100 years after the first two 1 and 2 books. Most likely, Ezra, the chronicle writer gives a different narrative. He tells “an old story” with a new slant.
***When reading chronologically, one is hopping between these 6 books – makes it relative and extremely interesting.***
Ezra. Chronologically, Ezra is AFTER Daniel. After the exile to Babylon – a few Jews went back to Jerusalem, Ezra went after the first Jews returned – they were lost and bewildered. Ezra came and brought worship and the holy words of the scripture to get them back on track. Next came…
Nehemiah. Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall. Again, post-exile…one of the last books one reads when reading chronologically. Nehemiah shows us that work, by its very nature, is holy. (Peterson)
Esther. Again, post-exile. … and who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Absolutely one of my favorite Old Testament stories. If you have girls over 13? Watch the movie, “One Night With the King”.
Job. Did you know that chronologically Job comes right after Genesis chapter 11? Yes it does. The story of Job is infamous for struggle, loss, pain, illness, whining and complaining, and recovery. In this long narrative, we learn what kind of friend not to be. We learn that bad things happen to good people. We learn “why not me?” We learn just how big and awesome God is. We learn that hope comes right when we think there is none.
Psalms. Because when all is said and done? We need Psalms.
Proverbs. Wisdom 101. Mostly written by Solomon. Unfortunately? Do as he said, not as he did. Selah.
Ecclesiastes. Again, written by Solomon. I find the book very depressing. There are some profound truths though and one can learn a lot – a couple of take-away’s for me: when you tell God you’ll do something, do it, now (5.4); don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think (5.2); seize life! eat bread with gusto, drink wine with a robust heart, oh yes, God takes pleasure in your pleasure (9.7).
The Song of Songs aka the Song of Solomon. Peterson on The Song: it contains exquisite love lyrics and is very explicit sexually.” Yes, it is okay to type the whole book out and roll the pages into a scroll and give it to newly married couple or a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary! It’s okay.
Isaiah. Judgment | Comfort | Hope. That is Isaiah in a nutshell.
Jeremiah. Was he writing about America?
Lamentations. Exactly how it sounds. Jeremiah lamenting over the suffering.
Ezekiel. I love the way this book opens, “When I was thirty years of age, I was living with the exiles on the Kebar River. On the fifth day of the fourth month, the sky opened up and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel was given the hard things to write about. HARD.THINGS. But, you know how it ends? With this proclamation, “From now on this city will be YAHWEH-SHAMMAH: God-Is-There.” (Rough book; I thought to myself as I read it I wouldn’t want my young grandson to read this…YET.)
Daniel. Dare to be one. Hero. Role model. Love the way he prayed, O God, Your compassion is our only HOPE. (9.9)
Hosea. The parable of God’s love for God’s people. Amen.
Joel. Blow the trumpet in Zion!
Amos. Another “minor” prophet keeping us honest, humble, and compassionate.
Obadiah. It’s about judgment, people. But, The Light of justice begins to appear.
Jonah. If something smells like fish? It probably IS fish-y.
Micah. Listen y’all, if God is speaking to you? It is just best to listen.
Nahum. There is always one who has to say wait a minute – what about God?
Habakkuk. The one who comes along side us and speaks Truth. God’s Truth. Not ear-tickling. But God’s Truth. We all need a Habakkuk in our life.
Zephaniah. The one who reminds us that there are no coincidences in this God-life, only incidents. He also reminds us that our disobedience brings the C word. Consequences.
Haggai. He had one single mission. To get God’s people to rebuild The Temple that had been destroyed. The physical temple. Haggai is proof that every.single.person. has a mission, a task, a responsibility. Whether it is preacher, teacher, writer, bathroom janitor, road sweeper. If God ordained it? Just do it.
Zechariah. The prophet called to come along side Haggai with dreams and visions. The take-away? God says, “you are interested in religion, I am interested in people.”
Malachi. Had the final word of holy scripture in the OT. His last words remind us of Moses and Elijah. After Malachi? The prophetic word went silent…for 400 years.
***New Testament Outlined Chronologically***
Matthew. Mark. Luke. John. The Gospels. The Gospels all tell the same story but each writer sees things a tad differently. Some of the events are different in each also. Luke, a physician and a GENTILE, is the only Gentile writer – as would be expected as a doctor gives a little more detail to certain things. I find myself wanting to spend a little more time with Mark – he writes like me – kind of quick to the point and few words!!! We see Dr. Luke’s writings again in The Acts. We see John, the “favorite” disciple again in Revelations as “John the Revelator” and we can [assume] he wrote the 3 epistles of John.
The Acts of the Apostles. Dr. Luke writes this book to his friend Theophilus, sharing with him all the events after the Ascension of Jesus, the arrival of Holy Spirit, the formation of the early church, and we get introduced to that rascal Saul who is re-named Paul and the beginning of his miraculous transformation and ministry. (Sidenote: from chapter 18.19-28 through chapter 19 are written AFTER the letters to Thessalonica; Acts 2o.1-3 written AFTER the letters to Corinth; Acts 20.4-38, Acts 21 through Acts 28 are written AFTER the book of Romans.)
1 and 2 Thessalonians are Paul’s first-written letters to the believers in Thessalonica.
1 and 2 Corinthians are Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth.
Romans. Written by Paul, to the Romans. Quote Peterson, “The letter to the Romans is a piece of exuberant and passionate thinking…”
Colossians. Written by Paul, to the church at Colossi. My life verse is found in Colossians 1.10
Philemon. Written by Paul, to his friend Philemon and to sister Apphia. Paul writes from a prison cell. I love the book of Philemon!
Ephesians. Written by Paul, to the church at Ephesus. This epistle focuses on the reality that Jesus Messiah is bringing all things and all people together.
Philippians. Written by Paul, to the church at Philippi. Written from a jail cell, this is Paul’s “full of happy joy” letter! He writes, “Every time I think of you I break out in exclamations of thanks-giving!” Yes, I remind you, he wrote from a jail cell.
1 Timothy. “I, Paul, am an apostle on special assignment for Christ, our living HOPE. Under God our Savior’s command, I’m writing this to you, Timothy, my son in the faith. All the best from our God and Christ be yours!” Every young man could use a Paul-mentor in their lives.
Titus. A letter to Titus, from Paul. Paul considers Titus a “son in the faith” – Paul had assigned Titus to the church work in Crete. It could not have been an easy task as Paul refers to the Cretans as liars from the womb, barking dogs, lazy bellies. Good luck, Titus.
1 Peter. The apostle Peter, yes the one who denied Jesus three times prior to His crucifixion, writes a phenomenal epistle. 1 Peter is one of my favorites. And, one of my Mom’s favorite verses: 1 Peter 5.7
Hebrews. Mystery book – the author is never identified! Peterson says, “Hebrews…written for “too-religious” Christians, for “Jesus-and” Christians!” But, the focus must always be Jesus and nothing = faith!
2 Timothy. The letter continues to young Timothy, from Paul.
2 Peter. A continuation of Peter’s epistle.
Jude. Written by Jude “a slave to Christ and brother to James.” Jude could be called a “whistle-blower” he sounds the warning against false teachers – he calls them “warts on your love feast.” Jude, my kind of writer – he said SO much in one chapter containing 25 verses! And, who doesn’t love Jude 24-25?
1,2,3 John. We see John as Pastor in these three epistles. And, as every good pastor must do, they learn to weave the fact that God is love, Jesus is God, as a whole. Pastor John does a beautiful job in these short epistles….I write you dear children, to guide you out of sin! My life mission scripture is found in 3 John 4, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in Truth.
Revelation. There is no reason to not believe that the same John, whom Jesus loved, and the writer of the gospel of John, and the three epistles of John, is also John the Revelator! The writing is different but then again so is the message! The Revelation begins with John’s intro, a greeting to the seven churches of Asia, and then this: I, John, with you all in the trial and the Kingdom and the passion of patience in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s Word, the witness of Jesus. It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet-clear and piercing: “Write what you see into a book. Send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.” I turned and saw the voice… One might not understand the Revelation BUT, one is promised to be blessed just by reading The Revelation.
So, there you have it…
It’s a wrap!
Have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving. Don’t eat TOO much and be grateful, ever so grateful.
I wanted everyone to be able to have a chance to read The 31 Days of Christmas – the full color book was a little pricey on Amazon so I made a black and white version and it’s available now. It is a wonderful Advent Devotional for grown-ups! Let the little’s have their felt stockings and cut outs and calendar but YOU? Go between the lines of The Word for some (maybe) new insights about the life and times of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. The pages have a lot of whitespace and if you are one of those who like to do journal art and doodles? Get your colored pencils and have a ball! If you click on the image below it will take you to Amazon and this book is $9.99 – a little gift for yourself this holiday season! Go ahead, indulge a little!