M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 4

Today’s Bible readings come from Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4 and Acts 4.

Genesis 4 is about Cain’s sin (4:1-8), judgment (4:9-15) and progeny (4:16-24), with a final statement (of hope) about Adam and Eve’s third son Seth (4:25-26).

This reminds me of a joke that Marcus Herod made a couple of Christmas ago: “How long was Cain mad at his brother?  As long as he was Abel.”

Why did God not receive Cain’s offering?  We know from Hebrews that Abel’s offering was “by faith” (Hebrews 11:4).  Was it because Abel followed God’s lead in killing an animal as a substitute for himself, acknowledging how serious sin was, whereas Cain’s offering was a nonchalant view of sin.

For further reading:

The Offering of Abel__A History of Interpretation, Jack P. Lewis (JETS)

Cain and His Offering, Bruce K. Waltke (WTJ)

Notice the image of temptation in verse 7: when we don’t do what is right, sin crouches at the door ready to spring on us.  Sin doesn’t lie passively waiting for us to pick it up and try it on.  No, it is always crouching right outside the door.  We let sin in and entertain it.

[For an alternative understanding of Genesis 4:7, one which I just received today among the blogs I subscribe to, is one by David Schrock.

‘sin crouching at the door’ or ‘a sin offering at the gate’__michael morales on genesis 4 7, david schrock]

Cain was a whiner (v. 13-14) and God had mercy on him (v. 15).  While he complained that he would be driven from God’s presence, his real fear was in being killed.  That is shown by Cain going away from God’s presence (v. 16).

Years ago, I heard Bill Gothard say that “what parents do in moderation, their children will do in excess.”  This was certainly true of Lamech (v. 24).  By the way, that is not always true, but generally so.

Unlike Cain and Israel, Jesus was doing everything right–following the lead of the Spirit and fasting (Matthew 4:1-2).

Matthew 4 shows Jesus successfully dealing with temptation.  Cain failed when sin crouched at the door, Jesus did not.  Again, sin is active, “the tempter came [to him]” (Matthew 4:3).

The use of the first class conditional sentence here by Satan, “If you are the Son of God” means that Satan was not casting doubt on whether Jesus was the Son of God, rather Satan was trying to get Jesus to illegitimately use his sonship, to abuse it.  He was trying to get Jesus to act independently of His Father, to pursue a crown without a cross.  He was prompting Jesus to prove Himself in the wrong ways.

Jesus succeeded against Satan, unlike Eve and Adam, and Israel, unlike the best of us.

Was it a legitimate offer, Satan promises to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (vv. 8-9).  I believe it was.  Under God’s authority, Satan is the “god of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air,” so he can legitimately promise power, prestige and possessions.  Of course, Jesus will eventually reign over all the earth, a promise made by His Father (Psalm 2), but the path to the crown lead through the cross.

When Jesus began to preach, he picked up on the same theme John the Baptist was preaching on (compare 3:2 with 4:17)–“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Ezra 4 records outside opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.  First, outsiders desired to join with the returned exiles, to help them rebuild the temple.  Me, I would have accepted their help.  But Zerubbable and Jeshua had more discernment than I, of the true motives of these people.

Being rebuffed by the leaders in Jerusalem, they trumped up charges against them and brought them before the king of Persia, thus stopping the rebuilding of the temple.  The prophet Haggai’s ministry occurs at this juncture, rebuking the people for building their own homes when God’s house lay unfinished (Haggai 1).  Zechariah’s ministry also occurred during this time. (Preview of coming attraction: Ezra 5 shows the people resuming the work and finishing the temple.)

Acts 4 shows that Peter, who had cowered before the servant girl only a few months before, stood bravely before the very group that had sentenced Jesus with blasphemy and called for His crucifixion, and proclaimed Jesus.  What made the difference?  The filling of the Spirit (see Acts 4:31).

The religious leaders were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John (Acts 4:13).  I love what is said about them.  They were uneducated, common men, but they had “been with Jesus,”  That is our primary qualification for ministry–that it is obvious to others that we have been with Jesus, spent time in His presence, learning from Him.

Notice that miracles cannot be denied (Acts 4:16).  They were the way that God established the apostolic message as truth.

While the religious leaders couldn’t hold them (due to their popularity), they commanded them to stop preaching Jesus.  While Peter said, we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heart, when they returned to their brethren, they prayed that God would “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).  That is certainly what we need today–boldness to speak.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 3

Today’s reading is from Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3 and Acts 3.

Genesis 3 recounts the fall of mankind into sin.  I find it interesting that the temptation, which involved the lust of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16) said,,,

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (3:6)

That description of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is almost exactly like every other tree in the garden.  Genesis 2:9 said…

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So all the trees were pleasant to look at and good for food.  The only difference is that the name of the tree and Satan’s temptation, offered to “make one wise.”  Isn’t it amazing that Adam and Eve had access freely eat of any tree of the garden, and they were all beautiful and delectable…and they chose the ONE tree God about which said, “Keep out”?

Satan’s temptation was first to question God’s word (3:1, “did God actually say…?”), then directly denied the truth of God’s word (3:4, “You will not surely die”), then Satan questions God’s goodness, spinning it as if God was withholding something from them.  This “something” would make them like God, independent of God.

Why would Eve want to know “evil” (3:5)?  She had never experienced it before and possibly had no idea what it was.  Up until that moment, she had never known anything but “good.” Possibly again it was the idea that God was withholding something from her, the belief that ultimately God wasn’t good.

Of course, all the consequences, immediate and long-term, were negative.  First, their eyes were opened (to evil) and they saw that they were naked (cf. 2:25), but now for the first time they felt shame and tried to cover themselves.  We all attempt to hide, being ashamed of what we’ve done and who we are.

The second response to their newly experienced sinfulness and falleness was to hurl blame upon one another–Adam to Eve and Eve to the serpent.  Each of them was at fault, so each was judged.

The proto-evangelium (first gospel), and the reality that history from then on would be filled with spiritual warfare, is found in Genesis 3:15…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Here God says that in the perpetual battle between Satan and the women (and her offspring), Satan will gain seeming victories, but will ultimately and completely be defeated by her offspring–Jesus Christ.

Verses 20-21 offer hope in the midst of judgment.  Adam still called his wife Eve, the “mother of all living,” even though their actions brought death into the world.  Also, God provided them a new, and better, covering, the skin of an animal requiring death (thus initiating the reality that a living substitute would have to die for sins to be pardoned).  Was this animal a “pet” of Adam and Eve, one well-known and precious to them, as the ultimate sacrifice would be to God the Father??

Matthew 3 is about the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus.  I’m always reminded when I read of the Father’s affirmation of his son here in Matthew 3:17 (and add Matthew 17:5) we get a composite statement, “This is my beloved Son, with who, I am well pleased.  Listen to him.”  Every son needs his father to regularly tell him:  “I love you.  I am proud of you.  You do ___________ well.”  I believe I first heard this from Robert Lewis in his Authentic Manhood course.  Dads, take a moment to write to your son(s) and tell him these three things, even if they are adults.  Then do it regularly.

The first part of Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple.  According to Ezra 3:1-6 the returned Israelites were offering all the offerings, but the temple of the Lord “was not yet laid.”  When the foundation was laid (3:10), they worshiped (3:11).  However, some of the “old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid.”  They compared Solomon’s temple with this puny temple and couldn’t help grieving.  Did they grieve over their sins which had caused Solomon’s temple to be destroyed, or were they grieving simply because the glory of this temple (and therefore their prestige as a nation) was so meager in comparison?

Acts 3 is about the healing of the lame man (3:1-11) and Peter’s sermon (3:12-).  The healing of the lame man resulted in “And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (3:10) and the people “came running” to Peter and John.  That is when Peter preached the gospel to them.  This is why I say that gifts like healing, miracles and tongues were given to (1) arrest people’s attention (wonder and amazement, running to listen) and (2) attest to the authenticity of this “new” gospel.

Notice the interesting juxtaposition in Acts 3:15 of the title “Author of life” referring to Jesus, whom “you killed” but whom “God raised from the dead.”

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 2

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 2, Matthew 2, Ezra 2 and Acts 2.

In the narrative in Genesis 2:18-23 it is God who identifies Adam’s need for a companion.  But before God meets that need, he helps Adam to feel that need by giving him the task of naming the animals.  As they came before him he would doubtless notice that many of them had companions according to their kind.  But he did not.  No animal matched him, until…

It is tempting to preach only to people’s felt needs, but like God we must surface other, deeper needs in people’s lives so that they will feel the need and desire a change.

I remember some speaker from the past, likely my Bible College days, who interpreted

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

“Wowza! Dy-no-mite! She’s like me, but different!”

The wise men followed a star to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem.  They surmised that it was “his star,” that is, the star of the Messiah, king of the Jews.  Jehovah Witnesses believe that this was Satan’s star, because it identified where Jesus was and Herod wanted to kill him.  While it is true that Herod wanted to kill his competition to the throne, it wasn’t the star, but Herod’s murderous intent that was Satanic.  The wise men were warned by God not to tell Herod this news.  It seems, therefore, that they were led by God all the way–from the east, to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, then to leave and go home.

If this were Satan’s star, why not lead Herod to Jesus?  Why did he need the wise men?  The star led the wise men to Jesus to worship him.  It was Herod’s hard heart that led him to try to kill Jesus and kill the children (in an effort to kill Jesus).

So why did God bring the wise men (pagans) to Jesus?  Because God had already purposed that Jesus would spend time in Egypt (see the prophecy in 2:15).  The gifts of the wise men prepared them financially to make that trip to Egypt.

And the winner is—the sons of Senaah (Ezra 2:35).  They gathered 3,630 family members to return to Israel.  The loser was the sons of Adonikam (Ezra 2:13).  They didn’t have the least, but they had 666 (bad number).

The early church–Spirit filled, preaching Christ, devoting themselves to the teaching and to one another–and growing (Acts 2).

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 1

Today’s readings are from Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1 and Acts 1.  All of them focus on new beginnings–of creation, the gospel (birth of Christ), Israel returning to the land, and the church.  This is the beginning of a new year, a time to start something, to take a new path.

All of these events were also miraculous, or at least far beyond anyone’s imagination.

“Evening and morning,” “evening and morning,” six times in Genesis 1, reminding us that the pattern from the beginning has been to rest first and then to work.  And that is just like the gospel–we rest first in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then we work for Jesus Christ.  It is not that we do not work, but that we put work in its proper place.  Through resting in Christ we gain the strength to work for Christ.

Joseph had to trust God (Matthew 1), that this child in Mary’s womb was really sired by the Holy Spirit.  It was not obvious, but something that the angel declared to him.  Trust God and wait for Him to fulfill His promises.

Here is another “unbelievable miracle” in Ezra 1.  The people of Judah were in captivity in Persia (the recent conquerors over Babylon).  They had been in captivity nearly 70 years and some had never seen their beloved land.  They had almost lost hope.  But God “stirred the spirit of Cyrus” to release them to build a house to the Lord, rebuild a lost temple.  He also stirred the spirits of the people to return.  God made good on His promises to Israel.  He “moved heaven and earth” to return them to the land.  Don’t lose faith that God can move the spirits of even the most powerful leaders.

Acts 1:14 says “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”  They were awaiting the promised Holy Spirit in prayer.  How I wish this were true of the church today!  People united in prayer–what a wonderful sight.  God was about to do something new, and His people were united in devoted prayer.  Keep praying in faith for God to do something new.

Bible Reading

Why is it important to read your Bible?

Here are some statistics from Wayne Stiles in his blog from today:

Did you know? Research shows that someone who reads the Bible 4 or more times each week is:

  • 228% more likely to share their faith
  • 407% more likely to memorize scripture
  • 59% less likely to view pornography
  • 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness

There are likely many other benefits as well!

Goals for a New Year

Here are some resources for pursuing your goals this year:

Spiritual Goals

1.  Read the Bible daily.  Here are some reading plans.

5 Day Bible Reading Program

Read through the Bible in a year with readings five days a week.  Duration: 1 year

5 Day Bible Reading Program

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: epistles, the law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and Gospels. Duration: 1 year

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

5 x 5 x 5 New Testament Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.  Duration: 1 year

5 x 5 x 5 New Testament Bible Reading Plan

Foundations New Testament Plan

Another way to read through the New Testament, reading Monday through Friday.  Weekends are for reflection and memorization.  Duration: 260 days.

Foundations New Testament–260 Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Believers

A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic yet beautifully designed chart to track your reading throughout the year.  Duration: flexible.

A Bible Reading Chart

Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.  Duration: 1 year.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.  Duration: 1 year.

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and wisdom literature, Pentateuch and history of Israel, Chronicles and prophets, and Gospels and epistles.  Duration: 1 year.

ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.  Duration: 3 years.

Every Word in the Bible (3 year plan)

Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.  Duration: 1 year.

Historical Bible Reading Plan

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the Old Testament history and prophetic books about one and a half times.  Duration: Ongoing

Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan

Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

This is a popular plan.  Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.  Duration: 1 or 2 years.

Robert Murray McCheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar

Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Duration: 1 year.

Straight through the Bible Reading Plan

Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  Duration: 1 year.

Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month and a set number of Proverbs and Psalms for each week. It aims to give you more flexibility while grounding you in specific books of the Bible.  Duration: 1 year.

The Legacy Reading Plan

Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once and Psalms and Proverbs four times.  Duration: 2 years.

Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

 

2.  Pray daily.

I would encourage you to download the PrayerMate app on your phone.

 

3.  For other spiritual disciplines, here is a book by David Mathis: Habits of Grace, David Mathis

 

Physical goals

1.   It is important to get regular exercise.

Six-Week Beginner Walking Plan, American Heart Association

2.   It is important to eat nutritionally.

Healthy Food for Life

3.   It is important to get regular check-ups from your doctor.

 

Relational Goals

1.   Make a new friend this year.

2.   Reconcile with someone who hurt you.

3.   Join a small group.

Guys, if you need help making conversation with your wife, here is Brad Hambrick’s 240 Marital Conversations.  240 Marital Conversations, Brad Hambrick

And here is a Healthy Relationship Checklist:  Healthy Relationship Checklist

Financial Goals

1.   Develop a budget.

2.   Get out of debt.

3.   Save some from each paycheck.

4.   Give generously.

Here are some helpful tools from Dave Ramsey:

Quick Start Budget, Dave Ramsey

Recommended Percentages, Dave Ramsey

Allocated Spending Plan, Dave Ramsey

Debt Snowball, Dave Ramsey

 

Emotional Goals

Guard your heart.  Pay attention to what you are thinking and how you feel.

Guys, if you have trouble naming your feelings, try the Feelings Inventory

I would encourage everyone to take the EHS Personal Assessment, Bird and Scazzero.

 

Mental Goals

Develop a reading plan.  Find some good books to read this year.  Plan to read 20-30 pages a day, at least.

Listen to podcasts (not just sports).  Take a seminary course on YouTube.

Find a mentor.

Journal.

 

I hope this sparks some creative effort on your part to become a “new you in the new year.”  I desire that in my life and yours that we would see observable progress in our lives spiritually, physically, relationally, financially, emotionally and mentally.

For anyone who wants to read the sermon behind this blog post…

New Year, New You, Lamar Austin