Archive for December, 2009

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

A New Year, A New Plan – Let’s keep reading!

In 2009, our Resting at the River’s Edge reading plans took us through the entire Bible in a year. That’s a great thing to do. I love the impact Scripture can have by reading large portions – we get the “big picture” that is easily missed when we only read short passages.  Sometimes what happens, though, is that we fly through what we’re reading without taking time to appreciate individual passages or Scriptures and letting them speak to our hears and spirits.

Our reading plans for 2010 and 2011 will give you more time for just that. They will take us through the New Testament each year, and spread the Old Testament out over the two years. We’ll repeat a couple of foundational OT books both years, but the entire plan will have us reading only three chapters a day, five days a week.

Why is it we only plan readings for five days a week? It’s not that I’m trying to encourage you to take the weekend off. Rather, it’s that I recognize that life rarely goes as planned. Planning three chapters each day for only five days each week provides a relief valve for those days when we read less than we’d hoped we might.

Some people have expressed that they don’t like reading from multiple books at a time. In this plan we’ll only be reading from two books at a time – typically an Old Testament and a New Testament book. We’re not legalistic here! Feel the freedom to read the entire OT book and then the entire NT book (or vice versa, of course) instead of reading from both each day.

So, we begin 2010 with the Book of Beginnings – Genesis, and are pairing it with the Gospel of John. Both look at the the creation of the world. Isn’t it amazing that we serve a God who existed before the world was created? In all honesty, that goes beyond what I can comprehend. What came before the beginning? Eternity past, and God was there all the time – just as He’ll be there in eternity future, after this world is long, long gone.

I hope you’ll be there too. You’ll learn as you read through Genesis that God’s plan has always been to provide a way for you to spend eternity with Him. In John, you’ll learn that Jesus is that way.

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17

Enjoy your January reading! The recommended reading schedule is below.

Take some time to meditate over verses that jump out at you as you read this month.

To download a PDF of January’s recommended reading plan, click here.

2010 RARE January Reading Plan JPG

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Our pastor referred to the following passage in his Christmas Eve message:

1[Jesus is speaking] “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
John 10:1-5

What struck me about the passage was that the sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. It occurred to me that the only way the sheep can know the shepherd’s voice is because he spends the day talking to them. That got me thinking…if that’s true in the natural, it must also be true in the spiritual. The only way I can know my Shepherd’s voice is if he speaks to me throughout the day. And I began to wonder – how much does the Lord say to me that just goes right by me unnoticed? My guess is that the answer is “quite a lot.” I’m guessing that I typically only hear the Lord when He shouts at me or when I intentionally quiet myself to hear Him. Yet if He speaks to me throughout the day, surely I’m meant to be able to hear Him as I live my daily life.

I’ve been thinking about a theme for 2010. Perhaps I’ve found it: Learning to hear God’s Voice more clearly and regularly. Of course that requires listening for His voice, as it says in verse 3 – “…the sheep listen to his voice.” It also carries with it the implication that I will follow His Voice after hearing it.

And that sounds like another adventure to me. 2009 was a tough year for my husband and I, and I know it was a tough year for many others. I have to admit it was an adventure, but not necessarily the kind of adventure I’d choose. Yet, without a doubt, it was an adventure in which God provided all that we needed. It was an adventure of blessings in the midst of trials. And quite frankly, those are the blessings that we tend to appreciate the most.

I am hopeful for a year of adventure with the Lord that has more fun in it than 2009, but it’s years like 2009 that give me confidence that He will be with me whatever the adventure is. I hope you’re approaching 2010 with a spirit of adventure, looking forward with confidence to what God has in store.

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If you’re anything like me, this year of reading through the Bible has had its ups and downs. To be honest with you, I’ve spent this past weekend “catching up” to being only a few days behind in my reading! Throughout the year there have been times when I’ve been ahead and times behind, but this past six weeks has put me behind. It’s terribly tempting to just give up when I fall behind, but I’m so glad that many of us have been doing this together. It provided the motivation I needed to reach the finish line more or less on time. Having made the commitment, I found that every time I fell behind, God provided an opening in my schedule for me to catch up. (Not always in a pleasant way – this weekend’s opening was caused by developing bronchitis and pleurisy. Ouch! But it means lots of time NOT doing other things. Thank You, Lord, for this bit of enforced rest.)

If you’ve kept up with us and expect to finish reading through the whole Bible this month – Congratulations! Well done! You are to be commended for your efforts and commitment.

 

I know that many of you have followed along but at a slower pace. I also want to commend you. Reading through the Bible is no small feat, and if you are able to finish it in thirteen or fifteen or eighteen months instead of twelve – Congratulations! You are also to be commended for your efforts and commitments. You resisted the pressure to give up when you fell behind, and that’s a good thing. Let me encourage you to stick with it. We’ll be moving on to a new approach in January, but don’t feel pressure to drop the 2009 plan if you’re on schedule to finish it at your own pace.

Some of you began the plan and became overwhelmed early on. That’s OK. There is a time and season for everything. (If I told you how many books I’ve started and never finished…well, there are probably more of them than books I’ve actually finished.) Consider starting again in 2010. We’ll be following a different approach that might just work better for you.

We’ll start a new reading plan on January 3, so watch for a blog later this week with details and a January plan.

My prayer is that you have been challenged and blessed as you’ve read God’s Word along with us in 2009. I look forward to reading along with you in 2010 as well.

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I love this passage from Isaiah. Perhaps you do to:

6For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

As I prepared to preach at my mom’s nursing home this past Sunday, I was drawn to this familiar passage. What occurred to me was that in its familiarity, perhaps we have missed its application. And I don’t want to miss the application.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;

The Child, the Son, is given to us – to you and to me. Have you received Him? A gift may be given, but until it is received, the transaction isn’t complete. God has given us His Son. Have you accepted the gift from God?

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

In the December issue of Discipleship Journal Online News the editor, Connie Willems, quoted this line from The Message translation of the Bible: “He’ll take over the running of the world!” She went on to express her relief and state the obvious (which is what I so often need to hear):

“If it’s Jesus’ job to run the world, then I don’t have to. True, I’ve never been asked to run the world. But that hasn’t stopped me from occasionally slapping on a crown, waving around a scepter, and trying to force my corner of the world into perfect running order.”

Scripture says that the government will be upon His shoulders. And if He can shoulder the government of the world, He can shoulder the government of my life. Way better than I can. Which begs the question:

Is He that for you? Is He the ruler of your life? Do you give Him full reign in your life?

And His name will be called Wonderful,

Wonderful. Full of wonder. Jesus is, and always has been, and always will be filled with wonder. Truly awe-inspiring.

Is He that for you? Does He inspire your awe? Do you sense His WOW-ness?

And His name will be called Counselor,…

A counselor – a trusted friend who helps us find wisdom and peace in our situations.

A counselor (as in lawyer) – one who pursues righteousness and truth.

Is He that for you? Do you turn to Him for counsel when you need wisdom? When you need peace? When you need to know truth? When you need to find righteousness?

And His name will be called Mighty God, …

In my last blog I recounted about hearing the story of Mary read shortly before getting up to preach, one phrase caught my attention: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) That message resonates in my spirit as I read Isaiah 9:6 this week. “His name will be called Mighty God.” He is the Mighty God of the impossible.

Is He that for you? It’s too easy to live our lives day after day not expecting the God of the impossible to be our Mighty God. I don’t want to live that way. I want to always know and live like I serve a Mighty God.

And His name will be called Everlasting Father, …

Everlasting. From eternity past to eternity future. More than I can comprehend, but I accept it as fact. Because I have accepted God’s great gift, the Son that was given to us, He is my Father – from eternity past to eternity future. My Father who protects, provides, loves, disciplines, and loves more. He is my Everlasting Father.

Is He that for you? Have you accepted the gift of His Son? Do you allow Him to be your Father, turning to Him for protection, provision, love, discipline and more love? Is He your Everlasting Father?

And His name will be called Prince of Peace.

I am so thankful that the omnipotent – all powerful – God who spoke the universe into existence and holds it together with His very breath – that God, is a Prince of Peace. He is not a warrior God. Yes, He is able and willing to fight battles when they are necessary, but His name, His nature, is the Prince of Peace. He desires to bring peace out of warring chaos – peace that goes beyond our understanding. Peace when it seems there can be no peace.

Is He that for you? Do you allow His peace to hold and keep you?

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,…

Read the words carefully – of the INCREASE there will be no end. Christ’s government and peace will forever be increasing! That means it will always grow, there will always be more than there is now. I can’t wait for tomorrow! More of Christ’s rule, more peace. Hallelujah!

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice forever. I confess – I like order! God’s world will be ordered (that is, not chaotic) and established with judgment and justice. That’s the Kingdom I want to live in. One that is ordered and established with judgment and justice. Don’t read judgment to mean condemnation. It means that He, who is the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Everlasting Father – He will judge and He will administer justice. Merriam-Webster defines “judge” as “to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premise.” The all-knowing God will carefully weigh all evidence and test all motives to judge righteously and administer justice. I look forward to that day.

And the pièce de résistance is the final line of the passage:

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Why and how will all of this be accomplished? By the zeal of the Lord. By His eagerness and strong passion. His great desire will ensure that this is accomplished. That’s good enough for me!

May I encourage you this Christmas season, to allow Christ to be all that He came to be in your life. It’s His heart’s passion and my prayer for you.


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34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

46And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

Luke 1:34-49

I listened to this passage being read at a church service Sunday afternoon. It was being read just before I was to get up and preach the sermon. What struck me was a phrase that had nothing to do with my sermon. I had planned on preaching about how Mary literally carried the Christ child in her womb everywhere she went. Likewise, we have the awesome privilege of carrying Christ with us everywhere we go. The mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory! It would have been a good sermon.

God had other ideas. As I heard the passage read, what jumped out at me was verse 37: “For nothing is impossible with God.” It’s not a new verse. It’s been around a couple thousand years. I’ve know about it for, oh, maybe thirty or so. I’ve prayed it. I’ve clung to it when times are tough. Yet, it occurs to me that I walk through most of my life not really expecting the God of the impossible to actually do the impossible. I only look for it when what’s needed is beyond my own strength.

It’s been said that “you don’t need a miracle until you need a miracle.” In the past, I’ve like that perspective – it’s helped me be confident that God will step in before it’s too late. But I think I’m missing the boat. Using a biblical analogy, actually, I think I’ve been staying in the boat – instead of being a water-walker like Peter, I’ve been a boat-sitter like the other disciples. I’d rather be a water-walker. I’d rather trust the God of the impossible to do the impossible…even when I don’t realize that the impossible needs to be done! In other words, I want to look for the impossible that God is doing around me instead of just walking through life with my every-day glasses on.

Mary had her miracle-believing glasses on, and she was blessed for it. Notice what Elizabeth says “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (v45) I’m confident that believing God – believing that He will accomplish that which He has said, is a blessing in and of itself. I can believe Him or I can stress. Believing Him lets me know that I know that I know, that He will prevail. And when I hang onto Him, that means I will prevail, too. So where’s the stress? “Blessed is she (or he) who has believed that what God has said will be accomplished.” I am not only blessed by the accomplishment of the thing, but for having believed that it will be accomplished. (I feel like I’m writing in circles, but it makes so much sense to me – hope it does to you, too!)

Finally, look at Mary’s response – she rejoices and praises God – why? Because “the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Quite frankly, at this point in her life, I’m pretty sure that all the Mighty One had done for Mary was throw her life into chaos. A young girl, engaged to be married and pregnant but not by her fiancé – these are not pleasant circumstances for a young girl living in the year 1 B.C. But Mary believed that God would accomplish what He had told her and in faith rejoiced at what He had done for her. Lord, give me Mary’s faith and praise-response when I’m in the middle of the chaos from which you will do the impossible! I’m pretty sure that chaos…or disappointment…or failure… or any of those other circumstances that don’t come wrapped in a perfect bow arriving in plenty of time for us to properly open, admire and respond to with grace…I’m pretty sure that all of those situations are perfect breeding ground for God’s miracles.

Can I encourage you to practice Mary’s faith this Christmas season? Look for the “impossible” things that God is doing. Believe that He will do the impossible in your life. Rejoice in the midst of the chaos that is a miracle in the making.

You will be blessed for it!

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