Week 4 (January 22-28, 2019): Read through Genesis, Hosea, and Matthew

Have your plans ever met with reality? Life doesn’t coordinate with or make compromises with your expectations. You adjust to life and reality. You may be a Christian, and you may have a close walk with Jesus. However, that doesn’t excuse you from life’s disappointments and fiascoes, yet through it all, you have the opportunity to remain faithful or turn tail and run (but where are you going to run?)

This week you’ll read…

Genesis 37-47: Joseph was Jacob’s favored son, and he had a special gift of dreams and of annoying his brothers with them. God’s hand was on this young man who desired to please God above all else, but at times it seemed like God’s hand was against him. However, God had big picture plans for this man which included putting him through the fire to accomplish His purposes.

Hosea 11-14: You’ll finish Hosea this week. Congratulations!

Psalms 10-12: Have you ever felt like God wasn’t paying attention to you? “God, are You avoiding me? Where are you when I need You?” (Psalm 10 in The Message Bible) If we could see the whole picture, we’d see that God knows it all and is aware of it all and that He has it all in control and will work it according to His master plan.

Matthew 20-25: You’ll hear Jesus teach through parables, scold pompous religious leaders, and prophesy about the temple and the end times. Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

Week 3 (January 15-21, 2019): Read through Genesis, Hosea, and Matthew

Every family has issues. Some are obvious, and everyone knows. Others are hidden, but close family members know the dysfunction. Family issues stem from sin ultimately but can also be the products of health and life situations, poor decisions, greed, selfishness, and character flaws. You can’t solve the problems of the world or even your family’s glitches, but you can work on you. You’ll learn about a dysfunctional family in Genesis this week, and as you do, let God work through you to make your family better, not by nagging or being overbearing but by loving unconditionally.

This week you’ll read…

Genesis 25-36: Isaac and Rebekah have their twins, Jacob and Esau. Deceiver Jacob leaves town and eventually goes back toward home with a large family and has a name change. Later, a well-orchestrated massacre happens.

Hosea 9-10: God continues to warn Israel. Is there something from which you should be turning and turning back toward God?

Psalms 7-9: David asks how God could even care about mankind in the midst of the wonders of the heavens. “I look up at Your macro-skies, dark and enormous, Your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do You bother with us? Why take a second look our way?” (Psalm 8 in The Message Bible)

Matthew 13-19: Jesus has much teaching in this section including the parable of the sower. He heals, walks on water, feeds five thousand, and castigates the religious leaders. Peter makes his heavenly declaration, and later he experiences the Transfiguration. Then Jesus encounters the rich young ruler.

Daily readings are linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

Family You’ve Never Met

How did the gospel make it to Colossae?
(Christocentric Lesson 1)

Family reunions. They’re loved and hated. Perhaps you go to one every year. A great thing about family reunions is that you get to see faces which you only see once a year. Some of those relatives you’d never see if it weren’t for that get-together. That can also be the bad thing. You have to visit with those relatives from whom you tried to stay away all during the year. Then WHAM! You’ve got to deal with them at the reunion. But then there are those family members which you never get to see. You know they exist. You know they are Uncle Jack’s grandkids, but you’ve never seen them—never met them, but you know they’re part of your family. They just never show up at the reunions or anywhere else where you happen to be.

Family can be a tremendous blessing, but when you’re a believer, you have another family, a spiritual family, because you have a common Father in heaven. Everyone who has turned from sin and turned to Christ in faith and repentance is a member of God’s family, and that bond is eternal. That’s the situation of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He’s writing to a group of believers which he’s never met, and the letter serves as Paul’s point of contact with his spiritual family in Colossae which he’s heard about through Epaphras, a beloved brother in Christ. Because he’s seen the concern of Epaphras for the Colossian believers, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes up the task of proclaiming Christ and His supremacy to the Christians in Colossae.

A Big City, a Big Message

Paul was a missionary, and he started churches where he traveled. In one particular metropolis called Ephesus, he started a church and stayed on for around three years. He ministered daily in Ephesus as he shared the gospel and built up the believers in solid Christian teaching. Because Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, the largest city in the area, and a great commercial center, people came from miles around to do business in the city. The city also housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world—the temple of Artemis, or Diana.[1] Paul was able to spread the gospel to people from all around as they came to Ephesus and crossed his path there. In fact, so great was his daily teaching influence upon Ephesus and upon those who visited that Dr. Luke said, “…all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

A New Believer, a New Church

I grew up in rural Southwestern Louisiana and lived about seven miles from the nearest small town. My sisters and I made the trek each day to attend school there. My family could get most of our basic needs met right there, but sometimes we needed to go a little farther away into the city. Similarly, this seems to be the case with a man by the name of Epaphras. Possibly, he had traveled to the big city of Ephesus from a smaller town called Colossae which was about 120 miles east of Ephesus. Perhaps, Epaphras went to the city to sell merchandise or buy supplies, or maybe he journeyed there to visit the synagogue or to worship the goddess Diana. For whatever reason, he found himself in Ephesus and possibly heard Paul teaching somewhere in the city. Whether after his first hearing of the gospel or after multiple hearings, Epaphras believed the good news about Christ and repented of his sin. He became a follower of Christ, and Paul became his father in the faith.

At some point, Epaphras left Ephesus and went back to his hometown of Colossae. The evident fact is that he could not keep this news to himself. He shared it with others in Colossae. Paul wrote, “…You have already heard about this hope in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you….You learned this from Epaphras….” (Col. 1:5-7). Soon there was a group of believers meeting together worshipping the one true God and honoring Christ, His Son. Since Paul’s life was Christocentric, or centered on Christ, he was faithful to the task of sharing Christ’s message, and countless lives have been changed by Christ through Paul’s faithfulness. Paul made himself available for the Lord’s use, and God used him to change a man’s life and that man’s eternal destiny and thus bring change to a town he’d never even visited and become a spiritual grandfather of sorts to family in Colossae.

Questions to Ponder

  • Have you considered that what you think is a chance encounter with someone may be a God-ordained opportunity to share the gospel with that person?
  • If you’re a believer in Christ, is there an Epaphras in your life? If not, why not?

For Further Study

[1] Stott, John R.W. God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1979, 1980), 23.

Week 2 (January 8-14, 2019): Read through Genesis, Hosea, and Matthew

Making a yearlong commitment to read the Bible can seem big. In order to finish well, you’ve got to prioritize. Sure, you have 50 things to do in the morning, but you have to carve out time for first things. Start your day with the word. Other things will crowd your time during the day, so make the word your first thing.

This week, you’ll read…

GENESIS 13-24: God and Abraham discuss Sodom and Gomorrah, and God forms some future enemies for His future people through the descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot who fled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. You can count on it. God keeps His promises. However, He’ll test you, too. Abraham’s promised son is born, but God puts Abraham to the ultimate test. Are you being tested right now? Are you passing the test?

HOSEA 6-8: God warns Israel and Judah and calls them to repent. Are you ignoring God’s chiding in areas in which you need to repent?

PSALMS 4-6: I always love the Psalms.

MATTHEW 6-12: We could spend a year just in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but a quick read is good, too. Soak in as much as you can. Jesus heals and teaches. John the Baptist has a doubting spell. Are you doubting God? Are you not believing His word in some way? Trust Him today.

Daily readings are linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.

Week 1 (January 1-7, 2019): Read through Genesis, Hosea, and Matthew

New years are exciting, and resolutions abound. Oftentimes, people don’t live out their resolutions, and they give up. We’re in Christ, and we’re in grace. You may have a goal of reading through the entire Bible in a year or the New Testament in a year or just a Bible book each month. Whatever your goal, keep in mind that your pursuit of the goal is not making you. God is, and He’ll use your reading of His word to redirect you to Him each day. You’ll probably agree that we need redirecting daily, so have self-determination and try to keep up the pace with your reading goal. However, if you get behind at some point, don’t give up. Failure would be to quit. Remember grace. God wants you in His word, so just step back in and keep going.

This week, you’ll read…

GENESIS 1-12: Who needs a new beginning? Lamentations 3 states that God’s mercies are new every morning. Whew! I could use some of that. I love Genesis, the account of the beginning. This week, you’ll go from beginning to new beginning in Genesis 1-8, from start to restart. Whatever you’ve experienced in 2018, just humbly take this new year as a restart, a chance to jump into God’s new mercies for you. A new beginning also happens with Noah and his family. Later, God begins forming a new nation through Abraham and his descendants. Allow God to do a new work in you.

HOSEA 1-5: On display is God’s grace for His people in “unbelievable” goodness and forgiveness. God says, “I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope” (Hosea 2 in The Message Bible). God warns Israel and Judah and calls them to repent. Are you ignoring God’s chiding in areas in which you need to repent?

PSALMS 1-3: Personal, refreshing, hopeful.

MATTHEW 1-5: Speaking of new beginnings, a world of people oblivious to their darkness and desperation and under the dominion of the devil are given the Light of the world, and this Light gets tempted by the prince of darkness but perseveres by the word. I’ve not been tempted as extremely as Jesus was, but combating temptation with the word definitely works even though it can be quite difficult to keep your mind on the word and not your temptation. Jesus then begins His Sermon on the Mount.

Daily readings are linked to The Message Bible on BibleGateway.com.