This reminds me of...

Recently, Thomas Kinkade died.  Both my wife and I were sorry to hear the news; not only because of the loss of a human life but also because we knew what it meant- no more of his wonderful artwork.  We have collected what we could of his work, but unfortunately were limited by costliness of it!  When I saw this picture, it reminded me of the type of thing he would do and I couldn't help but admire the talent of the artist!!!  There is a difference though... I think this picture uses a lot more blue tones than Thomas would.  Life is full of things like this: how many times have you met someone, only to realize later that they bore a strong resemblance to someone you knew before.  When I think of this, I naturally think of Jesus and his similarity to Moses...

Deuteronomy, Chapter 18
15 Yahweh your God will raise up to you a prophet from your midst, of your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him. 

 17  Yahweh said to me, “They have well said that which they have spoken.  18 I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.  19 It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

Acts, Chapter 7
A35  “This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.  36 This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.  37 This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord our God will raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me.’  38 This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living oracles to give to us,  39 to whom our fathers wouldn’t be obedient, but rejected him, and turned back in their hearts to Egypt

Two witnesses, Moses and Stephen discuss a prophet to be listened to--someone like Moses, someone that the Jews must listen to.  Stephen was stoned for his statements because the Jews refused to listen to the truth.  I wonder, how many people over the centuries have just plain refused to listen?  Refused to accept Jesus' miracles, his teachings and his resurrection.  To me, it just doesn't make sense, because thousands of people attested to his miracles and hundreds saw the resurrected Christ.  But, people do the oddest things, and sometimes their actions make no sense at all.  The picture bears a close resemblance to the work of Kinkade and I rejoice because it means someone out there paints like him.  But, far more importantly, Jesus spoke the words of God and was the prophet like unto Moses.  And his words contained a message of life. One more thing...I wonder what color Jesus preferred???

ps.  If you are receiving this via e-mail, please note that there are Bible studies, sermons and other materials on the blog site; newbiblereflections.blogspot.com.  Some of the other contributors are: Mark Copeland, Terry Sturtevant, Jim McGuiggan and Gary Womack.  FYI



"Homosexuality" is a word that I never knew anything about when I was growing up. Certainly it existed, but it was never a topic of conversation and it was never mentioned on TV or radio. The word never appeared in any books that I ever read, and if it was never mentioned in the newspaper, I was never aware of it. Obviously, that was during an age of much more innocence than we live in today. It makes my heart ache for our young people of this generation that they must be exposed to such perversion in society. When I was young, my imagination could have never envisioned what has become openly flaunted as an acceptable "lifestyle." What was once hidden for its shameful and perverted behavior, eventually became open to discussion as those engaged in such sin "came out of the closet." Paul said that "...it is shameful to speak of those things which are done by them in secret." (Eph. 5:12) Well, we have gone beyond that which is in secret to that which is not only open, but now is demanded by its participants to be recognized as acceptable. What they demand we cannot give. Paul said to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Eph. 5:11) The thought expressed here is that we are not only to separate ourselves from such sin, but we are not even allowed to be indifferent to it or endorse it, but are even to "reprove" such behavior as being sinful and expose it for what it is. Sin!
Watching the deliberate and methodical progression of homosexual activists over the last few years has been an appalling sight. Again, I could not have imagined a time when those, who once secretly hid their sin as a recognized shameful thing, could desire that society not only accept their shameful behavior, but demand to have such behavior legalized as an adjunct to marriage with all of the privileges associated with it.
Again, what they demand is not ours to give. Marriage is not a law of the land but rather has its origin from a higher court. God established marriage as the first divine institution for mankind. After He made the woman and gave her to Adam, His declaration for their lifelong relationship to each other was stated; "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Gen. 3:24) Jesus quoted these words when questioned on the subject of marriage and divorce, adding that "...what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Mt. 19:6) Marriage is of God, not man. God does the joining of a man and woman in marriage. Therefore, it is not man's prerogative to alter what God has legislated. This topic has been the subject of much attention in the news. On February 24th, 2004, President Bush endorsed an amendment to the Constitution which would limit marriage to be that between a man and a woman, thus recognizing it as a heterosexual relationship only.
What many of us applaud as a courageous stand for what is right, others have condemned as "a horrific act of prejudice." Certainly you would expect no less from those who embrace such perversion. Their view of prejudice is defined by Webster as "a preconceived and unreasonable judgment or opinion, usually an unfavorable one marked by suspicion, fear, intolerance, or hatred." What they fail to understand is that the formula for marriage is not a "preconceived" idea, because marriage was never "conceived" in the mind of man, but rather is of God's "conception" and is therefore not a matter of "opinion." Neither is it an "unreasonable judgment" when we choose to demand what God states as truth and refuse to compromise it in the face of those who disagree with it. It is not a matter of hatred toward the people who embrace such sin, but rather a hatred for the sin itself. If we are labeled as being intolerant, it is no less than God demands.
God does not tolerate sin. This was made clear under the Old Testament in regard to the sin of homosexuality. It plainly stated, "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." (Lev. 20:13) God's instructions made it clear that society was not to tolerate this sin, but was to recognize it as a capital offense. I wonder what kind of response we would hear if our government did likewise?
Those who called the President's recommendation "a horrific act of prejudice" were pointing their finger at the wrong person. In reality, they were accusing God of being prejudiced. It is God who stated His law regarding marriage, and it is God who calls homosexuality an "abomination." God uses that word to convey His disgust and abhorrence of what He applies it to. Does this mean that God is prejudiced? Paul said that "...there is no partiality with God." (Rom. 2:11) He also declared that "...we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things." (Rom. 2:2) The "such things" that he mentions are enumerated in the previous chapter. Notice what he says about homosexuality. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness...For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due them. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting....who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." (Rom. 1:18, 26-28, 32)
God's judgment is declared as being "righteous" and their sin as being "worthy of death." That doesn't sound like prejudice. It sounds like justice when you consider the fact that God allowed man the choice of heeding His instructions after having warned him of the consequences of sin. Paul said, "they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Rom. 1:20-21)
As was pointed out previously, the generation of fifty years ago in which I grew up was a comparatively innocent age. There was a general respect for God's word and for those who claimed to live by it. Sin was recognized for what it is to a much greater extent and was therefore not nearly so blatant as we see today. A cursory look at this present society compared to that of just two or three generations ago clearly illustrates how quickly mankind can degenerate in his moral decline when he forgets who God is and refuses to acknowledge Him as God. (See Rom. 1:20-21) Truly, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34)
In that fifty short years, those who hid their perverted sexual preferences came out of hiding. Then they played on society's sympathy by claiming that they were "born that way." This lie would succeed in absolving any responsibility to God in the minds of many who chose to embrace such a "life style." Next, they began to demand recognition as an accepted and legitimate part of society. This calculated demand resulted in the labeling of any dissenter as being a bigot and as being prejudiced. The charge of "discrimination" became the clarion call for "equal rights." This only strengthened their claim that their "alternative lifestyle" was not one of choice but one of nature's choosing. This strengthened their movement as Hollywood began to give sway to their plea for acceptance by including homosexuality into the film making industry. Such media recognition instilled boldness on the part of many homosexual couples, even to the point of militance in their deliberate displays of public affection. With their calculated strategy confidently entrenched, they have now taken their next logical (?) step in a bold move to demand the same rights and privileges that are enjoyed by married men and women; a demand for "civil liberty" to be endorsed and made law by individual state governments and ultimately by the federal government.
How gullible can our society be to accept such godless reasoning? Before you try to answer that, consider this. In a recent poll (2004), 22% was sympathetic to the demand for same-sex marriages, believing such to be acceptable, and 9% were undecided. That means only a slight majority of 69% disagreed with such a proposal. However, keep in mind, this was an opinion poll and the majority does not necessarily reflect a biblically motivated response. Polls vary and are not necessarily accurate cross-sections of society, therefore they are not always reliable. But any poll that can reflect such numbers is a sad commentary on the ignorance of a people that were once looked up to for moral virtue by the rest of the world.
What the world chooses to think, or endorse, or involve themselves in, is foreign to the Christian's world. As part of Christ's kingdom, we are not a part of those goings-on. We sadly have to live in the same world, but we dare not look upon their actions with indifference. And we must keep on guard that we not allow ourselves to be influenced by the subtlety of sin's encroachment into our own lives. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to teach our children God's truths on such basic tenets of His word. Our children and grandchildren will inherit this godless society as the legacy of those who failed to do so.
Young people, don't be deceived by the language of tolerance. What society calls an "alternate lifestyle," God calls an "abomination." (Lev. 18:22) When you are taught in Social Studies classes at school that homosexual relationships are an accepted part of social behavior, have the courage to call it what the bible calls it: SIN! Warn them as Paul did in 1 Cor. 6:9-10; "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." Remind them of what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen. 19)
There is nothing "gay" about same-sex companions. A word which once meant "joyous and lively; merry; happy; light-hearted." (Webster's Dictionary, copyright 1958) has been corrupted to describe a godless and perverted relationship called "homosexuality." Call it what it is; SIN!
Young people, remember, that God established His law of marriage at the beginning in the garden of Eden. He stated there what a man is to do in order to marry a woman. He is to "...leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife..." (Gen. 2:24) This attests to the fact that it required a "father and a mother" to bring them into this world, from which a young man and a young woman will part in order to make a new family. Homosexuality destroys God's arrangement for the continuation of society.
After God had made Adam, He said that "...it is not good that man should be alone." To solve that problem He said, "I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Gen. 2:18) Notice He didn't say that He would make him a helper the same as him. Notice that He did not choose to make another man. But rather, God made a woman for Adam. Homosexuality says that God did not know what was best for man or "comparable" to man.
Upon making the woman from Adam's rib, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." (Gen. 2:23) This cannot be said of a man who seeks to cohabit with another man, nor can it be said of a woman who seeks to cohabit with another woman. This describes the difference that God deemed necessary and most beneficial to meet the needs of man. It is also obvious that God intended that the difference between a man and a woman be recognized and honored even in their dress. "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God." (Deut. 22:5) Paul even recognized the inappropriateness of hair lengths that failed to distinguish men and women; "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering." (1 Cor. 11:14-15)
Young people, be true to God's arrangement and never be ashamed to stand on His word. Joy awaits those in both this life and the next who honor marriage as God designed it.
- Gary V. Womack - February / March 2004

HAPPY NEW YEAR by Gary Womack


The beginning of another year is met with anticipation of new beginnings and with the idea of turning another page in our lives. All of this only lends itself to the realization of the fact that we are, within the confines of this physical world, but finite beings. We are inseparably connected to the measure of our existence by time. Unlike God, who is "...even from everlasting to everlasting..." (Psm. 90:2), the days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years..." (vs. 10) and "we finish our years like a sigh." (vs. 9)
Time is a relative thing. For little children, time passes by agonizingly slow. This is seen in a child's anticipation of having another birthday. How many times do they ask how long it will be until their next birthday? Or how many times have we heard a child say, " I can't wait till I'm -- years old?" But as we become advanced in years our birthdays seem to come more swiftly and we are often heard to say, "It doesn't seem like it's been a year."
Once again, we are to be reminded that our perspective of time is so limited compared to that of our Creator, that the psalmist has said of Him that "...a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night." On the other hand, Job expresses our existence upon this earth as being "...swifter than a weaver's shuttle" (Job 7:6) To those of Job's day, this was a fitting analogy of how quickly our days pass. As the weaver would pull the thread into the weaving machine from the "shuttle" upon which the thread was wound, the shuttle would spin at a very rapid pace - each rotation being compared to each passing day in our lives. What a fitting illustration!
In our modern age of technology and scientific discovery, we are no less at a loss to express time in its proper perspective to the eternal nature of God. However, one thing that we have learned about time is that its measurement is based upon a highly sophisticated and extremely accurate standard. Due to advances in astronomical studies, we are able to determine the measure of a year as being 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 9.54 seconds in length. That's a far cry from the ancient sundial!
How sad it is that many of those, whose abilities in science have been able to render the measurement of time in such accurate terms, have failed to acknowledge the God of heaven who gave us such an accurate time piece as this universe. Such accuracy of motion that allows the rotation of the earth's 585 million mile journey around the sun to be measured down to the one hundredth of a second, can only be attributed to intelligent design and not by accident or coincidence. Truly, "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork." (Psm. 19:1) Even time is a part of His handiwork. So, as the world watches while "the ball drops" at Times Square in New York City, and another year passes, God's hand is in it all.
While we put a great deal of emphasis on the beginning of a new year and how dependent we are on the measuring of it to the events of our lives, we must not lose sight of the fact that time is a creation of God intended for our benefit. In the midst of God's eternal existence, the longevity of the universe and His sustaining of it is but a mere blip. Time is the measure of that brief period between the bookends of human existence amid the endlessness of eternity. The eternal God of heaven has no need for time, as the psalmist clearly points out; "For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night." (Psm. 90:4) Or as Peter expressed it, "...with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Pet. 3:8) Therefore, it was for man's benefit that God gave us a means of measuring time.
The omnipotent God, the Creator of this universe, on the fourth day of creation said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years." (Gen. 1:14) No Swiss movement ever matched God's celestial time piece. We ought to be aware of this - even as we think about the passing of another year.
So, as we greet one another with those words that wish for a "happy new year", let's be aware that time is fleeting and the only control we have of it is how we use it. This was the emphasis behind the words of Paul as he wrote, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:15-17) Anyone who feels that new year resolutions are in order would do well to resolve to "understand what the will of the Lord is." Each of us ought to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15) In this way we will make the best use of God's time that He has loaned to us, for this is how we "buy back" (redeem) the time that we are allotted.
The facing of a new year ought to be a clarion call for many to "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." (Eph. 5:14) Many in this world are letting time pass them by with little or no thought of the fact that time is running out and an accounting of how we used it is somewhere upon the horizon immediately this side of eternity. To ignore the coming of that day is to be as guilty as those whom Amos the prophet warned by saying, "Woe to you who put far off the day of doom..." (Amos 6:3) Rather, they ought to "...consider that the longsuffering (patience) of our Lord is salvation..." (2 Pet. 3:15) and that the reason any of us are still here is because He is patiently waiting - allowing time to repent for those who will do so.
Likewise, those who are "in Christ" ought also to be conscious of the fact that our work is still before us and time is of the essence. It is not time to be sleeping through our responsibilities, for "...now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed." (Rom. 13:11)
If anyone is to realize a happy new year, it will be found only on the terms of God's grace and by the pattern of His wisdom. Jesus' sermon on the mount is a good place to begin. A reading of Mt. 5-7 and the application of it will insure that your year will be a happy one. - Gary V. Womack - January 2006

Most boring book in the Bible? by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Most boring book in the Bible?

We call a thing boring if it doesn’t hold our attention. A thing doesn’t hold our attention when it doesn’t reward our investment or, at least, when it is less rewarding than other things that are going on at the same time. Some literature is like that. Some biblical literature is like that. The book of Numbers is a bit like that, with its reams of names that are hard to pronounce and lots of laws that mean nothing to a modern reader. Even if the names were easy to pronounce, we don’t know the people and so they hold no interest for us. It’s like reading a telephone book. Much of the information in the book of Numbers was out of date even for ancient Israel once they entered the land of Canaan and what wasn’t out of date would have meant little to a generation that had never experienced the various stations in the Wilderness wandering.
As a novel a book like Numbers wouldn’t sell. As a history book it wouldn’t be readable and would lack all kinds of things that a history book calls for. As a tour guide it would be tossed aside and as a sheer information source it would be as useful as a 1950’s bus schedule. How did a book like that get into the Bible? How did it remain there all these centuries? The answer’s complex and ranges from saying that God wanted it there to saying it is an integral piece of a larger whole to saying it has riches that a modern reader with a short and limited attention span has no interest in.
And it doesn’t help English 21st century readers to notice that the book is named Numbers (the Greek is Arithmoi). Unless you’re an accountant or a mathematician you'd tend to think the book tedious.
The most adopted Hebrew name is Bamidbar ("in the wilderness") and it's probably true that that Hebrew name is more appropriate. For it’s when we remember that the events all take place in the wilderness that our appreciation of what happens there is sharpened.
One of the appropriate criticisms I’ve heard of a lot of writing is that it leaves nothing to the imagination. The reader must be told every single thought in a character’s mind and detailed explanations or descriptions must be offered for every scene. I suspect that hurts our capacity to read and imagine. We’re supposed to use our imagination in reading the Bible and our imagination is nowhere more fruitful than when reading a book like Numbers (Bamidbar).
With only a little imagination we can imagine Abraham and Sarah standing on a high hill somewhere, looking down on the assembled and organized nation and remembering the call of God. A man old in body and his wife unable to have children and yet this vast family below them is their family.
With only a little imagination as we look at the nation encamped below we can imagine a series of circles within circles (or squares within squares). In the center is the sovereign and holy Lord who is exalted above all, encircled by priests who no longer are numbered with the tribes of Israel but who in standing between God and the people protect the people from the wrath of God. And priests who "protect" God from the profanation of the people who would tend to become too familiar with him. Familiarity may not breed contempt but it can weaken one’s sense of awe.
With only a little imagination we can see God at the physical center of the entire encampment and nation and by that we’re told that that is the place he not only deserves but the place Israel must acknowledge him to deserve. If they do not, they are in mortal danger from many destructive inner enemies.
With only a little imagination we can read the names and divisions in the book of Numbers and see the army of the living God. We’ve seen epic movies like Spartacus or Braveheart or The Gladiator and were awed by the size and power and unity of the divisions. It draws the reader or viewer into that world of purpose and mission and they become part of that enterprise. In the New Testament the Hebrew writer does that very thing (and more) when he reminds the believers what they had become part of (see 12:22-24). There’s something about that that gives us added strength and assurance. Knowing that we’re standing and marching shoulder to shoulder with a vast company of others and that we all have a single purpose and destiny gives us a strong sense of belonging. To know that others are "laying their lives on the line" give us the courage to do the same.
With only a little imagination we can guess at how astonished we would be to see such a thriving multitude of living, worshiping people surviving—and more than mere "surviving"—in such an impossible environment. We’d note the chaos of the wilderness and the harmony of the encamped or marching people. The very "impossibility" of it would make us wonder at how they could be there and thrive there; we would wonder how it was accomplished and how they came to be there and that would lead us to the larger Story. And if God can gather and sustain a nation in the chaos of the Sinai wilderness maybe he can gather and sustain a nation in the chaos of the nations.
Bamidbar (Numbers) is about a people that forgot both the power and faithfulness of their God. They forgot that he created wilderness and that he was the Lord of it (he turned Egypt into a wilderness—see Exodus chapters 7—11). They forgot that it was his faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that led him to deliver Israel from oppression in Egypt. [Contrast 22:6 with Genesis 12:3.]
Bamidbar (Numbers) is about a generation that was too afraid and too tired and too trustless to follow the dream (the promise) and reap the benefits.
Bamidbar (Numbers) is about a generation that prized basic essentials in slavery greater than freedom and hope through hard times. [See 11:4-6 and 33 where they desired Egypt again for its meat and got its plagues. See too 16:13 where they called Egypt a land flowing with milk and honey. Contast this with Exodus 3:8.]
Bamidbar (Numbers) cures us of our over-eager tendency to side with sinners against God. In this way it exposes our own (perhaps) subconscious tendency to murmur that things aren’t going as we would like them. We note their wilderness conditions and "understand" too easily Israel’s complaining; we feel sorry for Moses that he didn’t get into Canaan; we’re inclined to think God was harsh in excluding that entire generation, including more than 14,000 in the Korah rebellion and 24,000 at Peor (25:9). But Bamidbar (Numbers) while it is pervaded with grace as the ground for Israel’s very existence has little time for excusing constant and trustless moaning against God and his ways and the flagrant rebellion that such a spirit often leads to.
Bamidbar (Numbers) is about the importance of God-appointed leaders. Leaders are to understand that they represent God and must honor him before the people (see 20:1-12, 24 and 27:13). Leadership must not be seized or sought out of jealousy or discontent with the way things are going (see 12:1-15 and 16:1-50 and especially 17:5,10 and "grumbling"). When God appointed leaders the people were expected to obey them (27:12-22 and 17:5).
Bamidbar (Numbers) is about various forms of legislation that shaped and enabled Israel as a single people to express its faith. Bamidbar (Numbers) concerns itself with Israel proclaiming in act and structure what it believes and not just how "nice" they are. The book says there is more to being God’s people than being nice and kind and upright. God’s people is to be a community of witness to whom the Lord is, to what he has done, is doing and will do. By living in the structured way they did the entire nation proclaimed a single faith. Ordinances and ritual have power that mustn’t be belittled or dismissed. There must be devoted hearts and individual commitment but the people of God must not be splintered into thousands of individual free-standing units. Ordinances and structures help to see that that doesn’t occur and that God’s people offer a united witness to the world.
We don't have to pretend that everything in the book of Numbers makes exciting reading to recognize that there's more in there than easily bored people are able to see. Maybe the problem isn't with the book. Didn't one man look at a masterpiece and say, "I don't see anything in that"? And didn't someone beside him say, "And don't you wish you could?"

Making God Centre by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Making God Centre

It doesn't make a lot of sense to say, "If I were to do it all again I would" (this or that) because I would be speaking from my present experience--something I wouldn't have if I were truly beginning again. But I think you know what I mean. If I were to begin my life as a Christian again I would make the centre of it a Person--God himself.
That's not as simple as it sounds though I'm sure it's the right thing to do. Strange as it might sound, the centre of the Bible is not the Bible but the God of the Bible. The central subject in the Bible is God himself. It isn't all the interesting people and events and stories we read in the Bible. It isn't even the purpose of God that takes the central place in scriptureno, the centre is the God who has a purpose. The heart of the Bible is a Person!
Of course we can't get to know the God of the Bible without learning "things about him" but it's definitely the God of the Hebrew--Christian scriptures that we want to get to know. The word "God" means so many things in the world today but it's "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" we want and we won't settle for some other.
To make God, who is "personal," the centre is not only what he calls us to do, it is absolutely essential to our self-understanding and growth as humans. We can't pray to "the force" or "the stars" or "the ground of being". We can't "worship" creation itself (however much we love trees and the lovely things of nature) and we desperately need to believe in someone higher than ourselves. "Worshipping" health, fitness, education, intellect, acclaim, beauty, wealth or power isn't enough for us.
For all kinds of reasons the poet was right:
"When earth's lights are fading and stricken men call
To say less than 'God' is to say nothing at all
Life's ultimate hour calls for ultimate power
Only God's enough."
So If I were beginning again I'd focus on God himself.

Bible Reading, Jan. 29

Jan. 29
Genesis 29

Gen 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of the east.
Gen 29:2 He looked, and behold, a well in the field, and, behold, three flocks of sheep lying there by it. For out of that well they watered the flocks. The stone on the well's mouth was large.
Gen 29:3 There all the flocks were gathered. They rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again on the well's mouth in its place.
Gen 29:4 Jacob said to them, "My relatives, where are you from?" They said, "We are from Haran."
Gen 29:5 He said to them, "Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor?" They said, "We know him."
Gen 29:6 He said to them, "Is it well with him?" They said, "It is well. See, Rachel, his daughter, is coming with the sheep."
Gen 29:7 He said, "Behold, it is still the middle of the day, not time to gather the livestock together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them."
Gen 29:8 They said, "We can't, until all the flocks are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the well's mouth. Then we water the sheep."
Gen 29:9 While he was yet speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she kept them.
Gen 29:10 It happened, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.
Gen 29:11 Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
Gen 29:12 Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son. She ran and told her father.
Gen 29:13 It happened, when Laban heard the news of Jacob, his sister's son, that he ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things.
Gen 29:14 Laban said to him, Surely you are my bone and my flesh. He lived with him for a month.
Gen 29:15 Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what will your wages be?"
Gen 29:16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
Gen 29:17 Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and attractive.
Gen 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. He said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter."
Gen 29:19 Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me."
Gen 29:20 Jacob served seven years for Rachel. They seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her.
Gen 29:21 Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her."
Gen 29:22 Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
Gen 29:23 It happened in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. He went in to her.
Gen 29:24 Laban gave Zilpah his handmaid to his daughter Leah for a handmaid.
Gen 29:25 It happened in the morning that, behold, it was Leah. He said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Didn't I serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?"
Gen 29:26 Laban said, "It is not done so in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn.
Gen 29:27 Fulfill the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years."
Gen 29:28 Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week. He gave him Rachel his daughter as wife.
Gen 29:29 Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her handmaid.
Gen 29:30 He went in also to Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
Gen 29:31 Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
Gen 29:32 Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she named him Reuben. For she said, "Because Yahweh has looked at my affliction. For now my husband will love me."
Gen 29:33 She conceived again, and bore a son, and said, "Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, he has therefore given me this son also." She named him Simeon.
Gen 29:34 She conceived again, and bore a son. Said, "Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore was his name called Levi.
Gen 29:35 She conceived again, and bore a son. She said, "This time will I praise Yahweh." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

Jan. 29, 30
Matthew 15

Mat 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying,
Mat 15:2 "Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don't wash their hands when they eat bread."
Mat 15:3 He answered them, "Why do you also disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition?
Mat 15:4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.'
Mat 15:5 But you say, 'Whoever may tell his father or his mother, "Whatever help you might otherwise have gotten from me is a gift devoted to God,"
Mat 15:6 he shall not honor his father or mother.' You have made the commandment of God void because of your tradition.
Mat 15:7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
Mat 15:8 'These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Mat 15:9 And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine rules made by men.' "
Mat 15:10 He summoned the multitude, and said to them, "Hear, and understand.
Mat 15:11 That which enters into the mouth doesn't defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."
Mat 15:12 Then the disciples came, and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying?"
Mat 15:13 But he answered, "Every plant which my heavenly Father didn't plant will be uprooted.
Mat 15:14 Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit."
Mat 15:15 Peter answered him, "Explain the parable to us."
Mat 15:16 So Jesus said, "Do you also still not understand?
Mat 15:17 Don't you understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the belly, and then out of the body?
Mat 15:18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man.
Mat 15:19 For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies.
Mat 15:20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands doesn't defile the man."
Mat 15:21 Jesus went out from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Mat 15:22 Behold, a Canaanite woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, you son of David! My daughter is severely demonized!"
Mat 15:23 But he answered her not a word. His disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away; for she cries after us."
Mat 15:24 But he answered, "I wasn't sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Mat 15:25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, "Lord, help me."
Mat 15:26 But he answered, "It is not appropriate to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
Mat 15:27 But she said, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
Mat 15:28 Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Be it done to you even as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Mat 15:29 Jesus departed there, and came near to the sea of Galilee; and he went up into the mountain, and sat there.
Mat 15:30 Great multitudes came to him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others, and they put them down at his feet. He healed them,
Mat 15:31 so that the multitude wondered when they saw the mute speaking, injured whole, lame walking, and blind seeing-and they glorified the God of Israel.
Mat 15:32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away fasting, or they might faint on the way."
Mat 15:33 The disciples said to him, "Where should we get so many loaves in a deserted place as to satisfy so great a multitude?"
Mat 15:34 Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish."
Mat 15:35 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground;
Mat 15:36 and he took the seven loaves and the fish. He gave thanks and broke them, and gave to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.
Mat 15:37 They all ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces that were left over.
Mat 15:38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
Mat 15:39 Then he sent away the multitudes, got into the boat, and came into the borders of Magdala.