~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Malachi 3:1-4:6 ~ Revelation 22:1-21
Psalm 150:1-6 ~ Proverbs 31:25-31
Happy New Year! Congratulations to everyone who completed the One Year Bible journey in 2005 today! It has been awesome to go through the journey this year with each of you. It is quite a blessing to realize that you've read through the entirety God's Word this past year! It has been a huge blessing for me. God has continued to transform me this past year through this journey. Reading through the Bible in a year will change you. For the better! :)
Join us in 2006! We now have 887 people signed up for our free weekly emails filled with commentary, encouragement, and questions for reflection next year. If you would like to join the 887 of us on the journey in 2006, please click on this link for more details and to sign up.
Old Testament - Today we finish the book of the prophet Malachi, and it is an awesome 2 chapters we read today! The first half of Malachi 3 verse 1 is prophesying 400 years in advance of the coming of John the Baptist, who will prepare people's hearts for Jesus by preaching repentance of sins - ""Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me." This is a great thing to reflect on as we close out one year and begin anew. Do we need a messenger from God to encourage us to repent from our sins? Will we listen to that messenger and make way for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and lives? The second half of verse 1 then prophesies that Jesus is indeed coming to usher in the new covenant, or the new testament, - "The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming," says the LORD Almighty." Jesus has come and is coming again in glory. It is the beauty of the already / not yet. Jesus has already come, but he has not yet come again. We are in these in-between days.
Verse 2 tells us this about Jesus - "For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal or like a strong soap that whitens clothes." Will you allow Jesus to refine you through his holy fire? And make you pure through his holy soap? (Okay, I realize this is a bit cheesy wording here - has anyone ever called Jesus holy soap before?? :) Actually, would you believe it - I found an image of Jesus soap online, as you'll see below! How this all ties into our Malachi readings today I've lost track of... I apologize for my end-of-year giddiness... :)
Verses 6 & 7 are so powerful for us to reflect upon - ""I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty." As I reflect back upon our One Year Bible readings this year, it is so true that God does not change. He has shown so much compassion over and over again to the Israelites in the Old Testament. And he continues to show so much compassion to us today over and over again. In light of God's holy and unchanging love and compassion for us, will we return to him? As you look back on our One Year Bible readings this year, do you agree with God's statement here that He does not change? Do you believe that all the way from the Old Testament's Genesis to the New Testament's Revelation God does not change?
Verse 10 is one of my favorites and one of the most challenging in the Bible - "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD Almighty, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!" This verse has and will continue to be interpreted so many ways. My current philosophy on this verse, in my own life, is that God is asking for me to bring 10% of my gross income to my local church where I worship. I know this is a hot topic, so please know that these are just my personal views - and views that have changed unfortunately all too frequently. :) Last year I was gracefully challenged by a friend of mine to tithe a full 10% to my local church. She didn't come out and ask me if I was tithing 10% to the church - just, the topic somehow came up. Before this conversation, I was feeling pretty happy that I was collectively giving 10% to a bunch of different nonprofits and ministries and the church. So maybe 3 to 5% to the church. She gracefully challenged me on this... I guess I hope I can gracefully challenge everyone on this too. Should we consider giving 10% of our gross income, a full tithe, to our local church? And then, if we feel so led and called, offerings on top of that to other very worthy ministries and nonprofits? Would this mean probably having to cut back on some of our luxuries? But with the kingdom minded view of building God's church? Would it be a blessing to us and to many others to consider giving 10% to our local church? I don't mean to put this on the table here to make you feel guilty - and I honestly do not mean to get legalistic about this. I just ask that you think about this and pray about this with God. The tithe will actually bless you more than you could ever imagine. Check out the NIV translation of Malachi 3:10 (slightly different than the NLT version above) - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." It is very rare in the Bible that God says "test me" and follows it up with an incredible promise of a blessing. In 2006, will you test God with a whole tithe? In 2006, will you trust God with your whole tithe?
Chapter 4 verse 2 makes me smile with the metaphor of us being compared to a calf frolicking in a field - "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." Do you want to be set free? Truly free from your burdens and doing things that you do not want to do? Will you entrust your life to the Sun (Son?) of Righteousness, Jesus? And then - are you looking forward to leaping with joy like a calf let out to pasture?? :) I love this metaphor... it will stick with me.
New Testament - Today we finish the book of Revelation with a glorious chapter describing the New Jerusalem in heaven, and with a clear reminder that Jesus is coming again.
Chapter 22 verses 1 & 2 are so beautiful - "And the angel showed me a pure river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, coursing down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations." This river combines the elements of the river in the Garden of Eden - see Genesis 2:8-14 - and the river flowing from the temple in Ezekiel's vision - see Ezekiel 47:1-12. I love this idea of this "river of life". There are so many beautiful allusions to God and grace being like water or a river in the Bible - particularly in the Psalms. A river that heals us. I love this. There is a great song by Steven Curtis Chapman about diving into the river. I think it's called "Dive" on his Speechless CD. This song of his reminds me so much of these verses. One of his lyrics goes something like - "The River's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is ALIVE! So sink or swim, I'm diving in!" Do you want to dive into this holy river of God? Do you want to be healed and purified by it's waters? Will you dive in?
Verse 8 is powerful for us to reflect upon, where we see an angel speaking to John after he fell to worship the angel - ""No, don't worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this scroll. Worship God!"" My thought here is that do we sometimes worship other people in our life? And does this worship of other people ultimately take away from our worship of God? Meaning, I think it might sometimes be tempting for us to "worship" our pastors or ministers or spiritual mentors. But, should we do this? I think we would do well to remember that these people in our life are simply servants of God, like this angel. They are not God. We are called to give our hearts and minds and souls and worship to God and God only.
Verse 20 (almost) closes out the book of Revelation with these words – “Come, Lord Jesus!” Are these three words a prayer of your heart? Should they be? It’s only recently that I started praying these words from my heart, and it is an amazing thing to truly pray and truly desire. Come Lord Jesus!
Psalms - Psalm 150 is a wonderful end to the Psalter filled with a call to Praise God with all that we are. Give it up for God and God only!
Proverbs - Proverbs 31:25-31 are a continued great look at what a godly woman does. I really like verse 30 which seems so opposite of what our culture is often selling us today - "Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised." I think this holds so true for women and men - our beauty or good looks or outer appearances do not last. They are not eternal. What matters is what's inside - our relationship and love of God. So, I think this is a great reminder to focus on what's inside - and what's eternal. And yes, our culture will continue to try to sell us on the latest fads to look better on the outside. Will you refuse to buy into what will not last? Do you realize that holiness is beautiful? (This picture below comes from Memphis, Tennessee)
What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!