INSIGHTS ON TODAY'S READING - (I am quoting from Warren Wiersbe's Comments with a few personal insights.)
Genesis 1 - We are conscious every day of the visible world around us. We need to remember that this world speaks to us of God, His existence, His wisdom, and His power (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-3)
Genesis 2 - Now we are given the details concerning the creation of man and woman and their place in God's plan. The account does not contradict chapter 1; it compliments it. We see the man involved in several activities. Note, man can speak, think, make choices, enjoy God, and yet, feel alone, until God provides a perfect companion.
Genesis 3 - Up to this point, God's word is the only word that has been at work, creating and commanding. Now another "word" enters the scene, the word of Satan, the deceiver: He is a serpent that deceives (2 Cor. 11:1-3); a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). This chapter provides the history behind sin but also begins to introduce salvation with the first mention of the Gospel plan in verse 15.
Starting tomorrow, I'll be sharing with you Warren Wiersbe's insights into each chapter of the Bible that is recommended using the Chronological Reading through the Bible.
Reading for January 1st - GENESIS 1-3
Luke 2:25 NKJV - "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him."
Simeon was waiting for the coming Messiah. His eagerness for "that day" to arrive was no less intense than a 10 year old boy or girl waiting for Christmas Day to finally arrive. Even we adults anticipate that blessed day, perhaps because we remember the excitement we felt when we were kids. We enjoy watching our younger family members finally getting to see "what's under the tree." Waiting is part of the season.
A practical thought here is for all of you who run from store to store trying to get the best bargain, or just finding a store that has what you're looking for. (Some of us remember the "mad dash" people were making years ago for the Cabbage Patch dolls that were so popular but so hard to find!) You find yourself doing a lot of waiting. Waiting in traffic to get to the store; waiting in the parking lot for a space to open up; waiting to get into the store behind the long line of people heading right where you're going! Waiting again in line to check out. And then waiting to get home. What do you do when you're waiting?
Some of us are learning that patience is part of our Christian character and it often needs to be improved upon! Many times we get impatient and complain in our hearts that we've been made to wait. "Doesn't God know I'm in a hurry and I've got so much to do? Why doesn't He clear things out of my way so I can fulfill my plans?" Ever think that in the process of waiting God is accomplishing His plan? Ever think to pray for the people in the cars around you when you're stuck in traffic? Ever pray for the people in the same long line you're in? How about praying for the poor store clerk who has to put up with the negative attitudes of various shoppers. You see, sometimes waiting is not really a disappointment. It may very well be "His appointment" for you to pray and even speak to those around you. Look for ways to ease the tension in a long line. Compliment someone in line. Speak of how you're blessed with a family that's "home for the holidays." Make sure you thank the store clerk for their efforts to be pleasan with the not-so-pleasant-shoppers.
Most of all, wait on the Lord when you're waiting in line. Like a good waitor or waitress, be ready for your Master's instructions and use you "waiting time" as "witnessing time." No time is wasted when it's spent waiting on the Lord.
Luke 2:13 NKJV - "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hos praising God..."
Luke 15:10 NKJV - "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
From Jesus' birth to a sinner's "new birth," the angels rejoiced. They knew that Jesus could save sinners and they rejoiced when He did. Not only is Christmas a time for song, but every time "Christ is born in the heart of a repentant sinner" we should rejoice with the angels that "a new name is written down in glory!"
Heaven is a place of Joy and Song! You can't read the Book of Revelation without seeing that. And a Christian living a heavenly life on earth should be no less joyful. Remember, the "fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace..." Love produces joy and joy makes way for peace. Interesting: God's love is seen in His Gift and when that Gift came to earth the angels were filled with joy and in their joy they sang of "peace on earth..."
May we not keep silent this Christmas. Our Christmas carols still bring a sense of "peace" and remind us that the Prince of Peace is getting ready to bring that peace to earth! Sing and rejoice!
Matthew 20:28 NKJV - "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Jesus was born to die. The focal point of His life on earth passed quickly from the "cradle" to the CROSS. We all enjoy the special Gift of God's Son in Bethlehem, but lets remember this Gift GAVE HIS LIFE at Calvary. Jesus came to save sinners and simply living His life wouldn't accomplish that. He needed to give up His life to fulfill His purpose for coming in the first place. But we rejoice in the fact that His death wasn't the end! He rose victorious from the grave!
May our joy at Christmas include the joy of our salvation. For without the death at Calvary there would be no real meaning for Bethlehem. And without the empy tomb there would be no meaning for Calvary. Thank God for His Gift of Life, Death, and Resurrection!
Luke 2:7 NKJV - "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger..."
Someone said, Jesus was the first "wrapped Christmas present!" and I'll add that this Present was put in a container, namely, a manger. And like many boxes and baskets that hold gifts, the manger probably got used again for its primary purpose. Think about that manger for a minute. Certainly a far cry from a baby's bassonet! It wasn't even a clean blanket on a cushion. It was a straw "bed" in a wooden box that animals had probably just finished eating their meal out of. Not at all what you would use to give the most precious Gift ever given!
Now, think of 2 Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels..." or "clay pots" to be more graphic. Our bodies are nothing more than a temporary "house" for us to live in, but even more so, a place for Jesus to live in! That's why Paul pleads with his readers to present "their bodies a living sacrifice" to the Lord, Romans 12:1.
The container isn't the Gift, per se, but it still is important. Galatians 2:20 tells us the "Christ lives in me." It's the Treasure inside that's valuable, but without a "container" where would the Treasure be seen? In a way, this Christmas God isn't looking for you to outdo Him in giving! Impossible. But what God would love from you is a "Gift Box," namely, your body given to God so He can live in you!
John 17:4 NKJV - "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do."
When Jesus came near the end of His life on earth He could say to His Father that He had completed the work He was sent to accomplish. Remember two passages that clearly say why the Father sent His Son into the world that first Christmas.
1 Timothy 2:15 - "...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..."
1 John 4:14 - "The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world."
Of course, this was also seen in why His name was Jesus: Matthew 1:21, "...you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
But are we aware that the gathering of souls into the Kingdom is still ongoing? Though Jesus accomplished all that was necessary to save sinners, the work of getting this messge out to the world is now our responsibility. We, too, have a work to do for the Lord. Some believers may be ashamed at the end of their lives not that they didn't finish what God called them to do, but that they never really got started.
I've been urging folks to look around them where they live, work, and study. You're there for a reason. And much of that is to make the Gospel clear to those you live with, work with, or study with. You make it clear not only by what you say, but by how you live. Are you seeking to "finish" what God has called you to do?
Luke 1:31 NKJV - "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus."
Ever been asked to do something that went against every bit of logic you knew? Ever been placed in a compromising situation and wonder how in the world you could handle it? Would you ask a teenage girl to do what Mary was asked to do? Are you surprised that Mary said, "Yes"? Verse 38.
In answer to these questions I want to point out a few observations.
First, God sent Gabriel to Mary. There's no record of her asking God to do anything unusual in her life. It was God's choice to speak to her. It was God's choice to use her. It was God's way to bring Himself into our "flesh-and-blood" world. And Mary didn't argue with God. And she didn't ask the angel to wait and let her ask her parents.
Second, Mary asked a very logical question in verse 34, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" She wasn't doubting God's ability. She was just wondering "How?!" Nothing wrong with that kind of question. And God honored her question with an answer, verse 35.
Third, we often think of Jesus' birth in a stable and being placed in a manger as being so out-of-the-ordinary. What about God's choice of a teenage peasant girl? Wouldn't it seem to be more appropriate that a King should be born into a "royal family?" But then again, Jesus was born into a royal family! Joseph was descended from king David through Solomon and Mary was descended through king David through his son, Nathan. Mary may not have been living in royalty in Nazareth, but God knew her lineage!
Are you willing for God to use you in ways so contrary to the "norm?" Would you be as willing as Mary was to say, "Yes?"
Luke 2:1 NKJV - "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered."
What was life like "one week before Jesus' birth?" What were people doing just before the Messiah would be born? What was happening politically? What were Joseph and Mary doing? For that matter, what were the shepherds doing too? And how close were the wise men, if they were already traveling? (Remember, some believe the wise men never started their journey until Jesus' birth). What are you doing one week before Christmas?
We know that the decree went out to "all the world" for this registration ("taxing" in KJV). How much time did Jospeh and Mary have before they had to leave? I assume they were rushed because they obviously didn't wait for the Baby to be born before they left. As they approached Bethlehem and even before they knew there was "no room in the inn" for them, I'm sure they were apprehensive about the birth! Perhaps they felt stressed, rushed, and "too much to do" and "too much to think about." Sound familiar? What happens to you and your family "one week before Christmas?"
I'm sure the shepherds didn't have a clue as to what was coming. But I think I can say with confidence that they were busy about what they were supposed to be doing. They were faithful. And maybe they wondered about all the "movement of people" they were seeing, like Joseph and Mary. They might have wondered what the fuss was all about. Whatever, they were where they needed to be on that special night.
Did Ceasar care about what his decree would do? Probably he couldn't care less! But God cared and it was of the Lord that Ceasar did what he did so God could do what He wanted to do with Joseph and Mary. You might think again when the government seems to meddle with your life and your schedule. If government regulations get you disgusted, think of Joseph and Mary. They moved because Caesar made a decision. Proverbs 21:1 speaks about the "heart of the king being in the hands of the Lord."
How will you make this week special as you contemplate Jesus' birth?
Isaiah 11:6a NKJV - "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat..."
This passage continues on with several other phenomenal changes in the "wildlife" of the Millennial Reign of Christ. What this points to is that creation will finally get back to what it once was. Remember, when Adam sinned, he brought down a curse upon all of the world, not only on people, but even animals and inanimate creation was affected. Note that in Romans 8:19-23 all of creation "groans" for relief. The joy is knowing that "wildness" will be removed from the world!
Proverbs 12:10 tells us that "a righteous man regards the life of his animal." And that is certainly true of the Lord who created all creatures "great and small'' and cares for every one of them. The next time you pet your dog or cat, or you stop to give your neighbor's dog a pat on the head, know that you're being kind to God's creaturess and He pays attention!
God has created all things for us to enjoy, as we are told in 1 Timothy 4:4, "For every creature of God is good..." Yes, the context speaks of God allowing His people to enjoy a vast variety of animals for food, but He also allows mankind the joy of watching God's creatures play, work, and just live in our world. We're blessed with such a variety of creatures to observe. And God has used many of them to teach us some valuable lessons and given us great comfort through them.
The next time you stop to "pet a cat" or "give a dog a treat to enjoy" stop and thank the Lord for the pleasure of doing so. And look forward to the day when even animals will be free to enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed!
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: email@example.com | Phone: 856.981.7288