The Word of Life

A black Bible with a pen rests over an open paper notebook on an old wooden chair. ** Note: Visible grain at 100%, best at smaller sizes

Today’s Reading:  2 Chronicles 2; 1 John 2; Nahum 1; Luke 17

My post today starts with a confession – I’ve really struggled reading the Old Testament Prophets.  We started with Isaiah back in June, then worked through Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joes, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah so far.  Today we start the book of Nahum, then continue with Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi through the end of the year.  I’ve found them all to sound pretty similar – God’s judgment and wrath, occasionally sprinkled with key nuggets of wisdom and hope.  This is the first time I’ve read through most of these books in their entirety.  Honestly, I’m not sure how anxious I am to read through them all again.  (At least not anytime soon.)  Nevertheless, with just four weeks left, I’m staying the course.  As we round out the year, I remain committed to exploring how God is speaking to us through these writings.

May I share with you a few interesting facts I learned about the book of Nahum this week?

  • It was written in the seventh century BC.
  • Assyria was the most powerful nation on earth at the time.
  • Nahum was a prophet to the city of Nineveh 100 years after Jonah.
  • After Jonah, the people of Nineveh had fallen back into their evil ways.
  • As prophesied by Nahum, Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC.
  • The destruction was so complete, remains of the city were not found until the mid-1800s.

Do you see correlation between Nineveh and 21st century America here?  One of the most powerful nations on the earth?  Turning away from God?  Falling back into evil ways?  I sensed this as I read through Nahum 1.  I don’t really like to think about the possibility of total destruction in the future of our nation, but we may have it coming if we don’t change our ways.  When I got to 1 John 2 in today’s reading, I found more similarities.  John wrote this book to Christfollowers who needed guidance on how to experience true fellowship with God and with other Christfollowers.  1 John 2 discusses two sins that were keeping the first century church from experiencing true fellowship – hating each other and loving the things of this world.  These two sins are rampant in our culture today.  Like the first century church, they are often a barrier to us experiencing true fellowship.

Hating each other

If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble.  Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness.  Such a person is lost having been blinded by the darkness (1 John 2:9-11).

Given my stage of life, I don’t always have time to watch the news, read the newspaper or even follow current events on the internet.  As a result, I often rely on late breaking news feeds from CNN or USA Today on my phone to stay up to date.  Do you subscribe to these also?  Do you feel like the volume of hate-driven discussions/activities/crimes keep rising?  Especially those involving churches?  In a country where 70% of Americans claim to be Christians, the ever-increasing volume of hate crimes affirms that a good portion of our country is still living in darkness.  This is not a surprise to anyone, but may I ask…what are we doing to change it?  The change has to start with us.  There will always be people that are different than us, people we don’t get along with, even people we dislike.  However, God calls us to love.  Not necessarily with an emotional or affectionate love, but to love each other as Christ loves the church.  Christian love is not a feeling, it is a choice.  We are called to be concerned with others’ well-being, putting their needs ahead our own, regardless of whether we “like” them or not.

Loving the things of this world

Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions.  These are not from the Father.  They are from this evil world (1 John 2:15-17).

This passage outlines three attitudes that characterize a love for this world – 1) the lust for physical pleasure, 2) the lust for everything we see, 3) pride in our possessions, obsession with status or importance.  As we are “celebrating” the Christmas season in true American style with all kinds of parties and gifts, do you sometimes feel like we are actually celebrating these sinful attitudes? I don’t watch a lot of television, but it didn’t take me more than 30 seconds to come up with a commercial that epitomizes each of these attitudes.  I can say (or sing) every word of them.  These attitudes have become so embedded in our culture, I’m not sure we even notice them for what they are and the destructive behavior they promote.  Did you also realize these are the three attitudes with which the serpent tempted Eve in Genesis 3, and the same three attitudes the Devil used to tempt Jesus with in Matthew 4?  Pretty serious attitudes, pretty serious consequences.

The pull of this world is strong.  In order that we live life according to God’s calling, we must make different choices.  The Bible is pretty clear about what we need to do – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).  I pray that as you’ve studied with the Bible Journal during 2016, you’ve begun to hide God’s word in your heart.  Like Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations with God’s word, I pray that we are preparing ourselves to approach temptation in the same way – push back with the truth of God’s word.  His words don’t lead to destruction, they lead to life.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your principles.  I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us.  I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.  I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  I will delight in your principles and not forget your word (Psalm 119:11-16).