Through the Bible in a Year – July 27

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ch 19-20; Acts 11; Psalm 108

Nowadays much is made, and justifiably so, of the lack of lament in the liturgy of the church [although this accusation may not be levelled at the Orthodox church whose liturgy encompasses much lament according to the season].

Yet we may well ask – whilst the liturgy of the church shies away from lament and towards Praise – do not our own personal lives of prayer exhibit the reverse tendency? How long is it since you last exalted and worshipped God – praising him for his Glory in your private devotions?

Here again the Psalms come to our aid. Praying Psalm 108 is a great antidote for our self obsessed prayer lives.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 26th

The scheme for July and August can be found here

2 Ch 16-18; Acts 10; Psalm 107:23-end

The ‘conversion’ of Cornelius draws our attention for the very good reason that this message of salvation is received by the Gentiles as well as the Jews. This marks a key point inthe life of the infant church. but there is more, much more. this narrative calls into question so much of what we have been taught to think about ‘conversion’

As the conversion of Paul challenges our self centered religion – leaving Paul with the question ‘What wouldst thou have me to do, Lord?’ (as he recounts on the two occasions when he tells the tale to others) – so today’s reading reminds us that this whole business of becoming Christian is not what so many of us have been told.

Cornelius lives a repentant life – he is turned towards God, and others. He prays continually and his life exhibits the generosity of God. There are many who have bought modern conceptions of ‘becoming a Christian’ who do not exhibit these outward signs of repentance towards God, signs which are looked for in The judgement.

The ‘Conversion’ of Cornelius reminds us that to become a Christian is nothing less that the reception of God’s very Life, the baptism of the Holy Spirit which Jesus’ death and resurrection have made possible.

If we read the accounts of john the Baptist and his description of his ministry with regard to Jesus, we see this plainly. John comes preaching a baptism of repentace towards God. Cornelius is already repentant towards God, and thus is judged worthy of the Life of God – the promised baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 24

The scheme for July – August can be found here

2 Ch 10-12; Acts 8; Psalm 106:24-end

One of the grave errors of the contemporary church has been its abandonment of Psalmody as a regular part of the liturgy.

While we are reading through the scriptures I have included the Psalms on a regular cycle by which we pray through them in their entirety 3 times in the year.

Until recent times, such an approach to the Psalms was common place. In the Patristic era many people would pray through them on a daily basis – giving us pause for thought regarding our busy lives in which we say we have ‘no time to pray’. The monastic communities generally prayed [and pray] through them monthly. Of all our habits with regard to Scripture, it could be argued that this regular recitation of the Psalms is the most important.

For, to paraphrase Thomas Merton, alone in the Psalms ‘we have at once God’s word to human beings and the speech of human beings towards God’. Of no other part of Scripture can this be so truthfully said.

Put another way, praying the psalms places us before God in a way no other part of Scripture can do.

Perhaps this is why, in an age when the narcissistic spirit is rife, and humans place themselves without shame at the centre of the story, even that of faith, we so strenuously avoid the Psalms.

Through the Bible in a Year – July 17

The scheme for July and August can be found here

SoS 5-8; Acts 1; Psalm 99-101

[Some readers may well wish for more comments regarding the Old Testament passages – It is my hope that next year I will rework much of this years material to include commentary on the Old Testament texts]

Yesterday I wrote a little about the Resurrection perspective and how it is missing from our faith today. The focus on the Cross as being of significance for this life and the Resurrection for the life to come, is so familiar to us, we rarely if ever think we may be wrong. But we are. We have a Resurrection faith and are to be informed by a far richer perspective than we might have imagined possible.

As we come once more to the Book of Acts – we encounter the disciples obediently awaiting the new birth which Christ has promised. But while they do this, we note that whilst we are trained into thinking of the boundary between life and life beyond death as a radical discontinuity – this is not there perspective. Indeed, as Jesus has already announced that he does not come to do away with the Law and the Prophets, so also the disciples noting the lack of Judas from the number of the Apostles (witnesses to the resurrection!!), again emphasise continuity with God’s historic people. As there were twleves tribes, so there are to be twelve apostles.

The Resurrection of Jesus announces a radical transformation of life as is, not its dissolution.

Through the BIble in a Year – July 23

The scheme for July and August can be found here

1 Ki 22; Acts 7:17-end; Psalm 106:1-23

1 Kings 22 contains a familiar scenario. False prophets prophecy good things for the whereas the truthful prophet speaks of King Ahab’s end. In the power play, Zedekiah foreshadows the treatment of Christ – slapping Micaiah around the face and calling on his to prophesy. Thus here as in so many places we see the truth that all Scripture points us to Christ.

Micaiah’s reply also echoes one who is to come after him. Truthfulness and discernment of the Spirit is to be found ‘in the inner room’. The place where only God the Father sees and is present. When we have trouble discerning the Spirit – do we too go to our inner room. Indeed have we yet discovered it?

Through the Bible in a Year – July 22

1 Ki 20-21; Acts 6:1-7-16; Psalm 105 vs 26-end

The tale of Naboths vineyard does not resonate with us as powerfully as it ought, so used are we to thinking we might buy and sell land . . .

Herein we are reminded of the deepest of truths – the Earth is the Lord’s – so it is given for an inheritance and not to be accumulated. For the Earth is a source of the gracious provision of God. None of us ‘owns’ land – and we would do well not to mask this behind careless use of the word ‘Stewardship’, a concept that has become so distorted in Christian usage as to be all but beyond redemption, were such a thing not unthinkable.

Ahab – like his ancestor David, looks out from his palace and sees that which is not his own – and covets it.

Jezebel, who is a foreigner to the tradition of Yahweh, the story of the Exodus, and the true King of Israel – tells Ahab to behave like a King. If you want it, you take it! Are you not the king??? ‘Bow down and worship me and all this will be yours’. The covetous desire to acquire is always rooted in false worship – and this tale makes that so explicit it is alarming that we still rarely see – we still seek to say – I want this for myself.

Dust we are – to dust we shall return. We are ‘Admah’ – of the Earth – how can we own it, when one day we will fertilize it?

Through the Bible in a Year – July 21

1 Ki 18-19; Acts 5; Psalm 105 vs 1-25

One of the great sins of Ahab, following in the footsteps of his ancestor Solomon, is to marry outside of Israel – thus steps onto the stage Jezebel, the follower of Baal, and the tumultuous showdown on Mount Carmel.

At stake one question. Who is God?

As Elijah – ‘The LORD is God’ – triumphs spectacularly, that question is answered resoundingly.

But this question is one that Always recurs amongst God’s people. The people of Israel proclaim, The LORD is God! But soon they ‘forget’. The weeds spring up – they have no root – the word is snatched away.

We could do worse than rise each morning to proclaim, The LORD, He is God.

Of course – as we know – the prophets are persecuted for Righteousness sake. Jezebel comes down on Elijah in fury for the slaying of the priests of Ba’al. Perhaps it is that we do not know such furious persecution because the city of our hearts ‘is full of idols’?

‘In your hearts, set apart Jesus Christ as Lord’

Through the Bible in a Year – July 4

The scheme for July and August can be found here

Prov 20-21; Matt 17; Psalm 81-82

John’s gospel declares to us the cross as the glorification of God in Christ. But this theme is not absent from the other gospels.

Jesus has announced that he is to suffer and to die in Jerusalem. Peter has told him that this must never happen and Jesus has rebuked him. Now comes the Transfiguration.

The Cross is proclaimed

Jesus is seen in glory

Through the Bible in a Year – July 20

The scheme for July and August can be found here

1 Ki 16-17; Acts 4; Psalm 104

Onto the stages of the Old Testament stride two of the key figures in the narrative. King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom, Israel – and the prophetic voice that will speak against him, Elijah the Tishbite. Ahab in some regards acts as it were for all the poison of the monarchy – we find in him elements of all the sins of his fathers, come as it were to the surface.

Elijah of course prefigures John the Baptist, the one who calls God’s people (emobodied as they are in their King), to repentance.

First there is the declaration of drought by the word of the Lord. Life giving rain is cut off, revealing the death culture of the monarchy and the people. And shockingly Elijah is sent beyond God’s people to bring life – a theme which is repeated in his successor Elisha and again prefiguring one who is to come. The Word of the Lord will not return to him empty. If the people of God are not worthy to receive life, so the gift will be given to those on the outside.

This story is of course soon to be re-enacted in Acts as the life giving word goes to the gentiles.

Herein also is a warning to us. God’s Word Will not return to him empty. Let us be continually open to his word and live in obedience, lest we suffer drought . . .

Through the Bible in a Year – July 19

The scheme for July and August can be found here

1 Ki 14-15; Acts 3; Psalm 103

One of the names by which God is known in the scriptures is Yahweh Yireh, the God who provides. This name comes from the seminal incident of the sacrifice of Isaac. ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided’

Psalm 103 is the most blessed mediation on the provision of God. It is more than worth taking much time with this and indeed  committing it to heart. One of our great failings as Christians is to fail to recognise God as provider. How infrequently for example do we say grace before eating?

Whilst we do give thanks for the death and Resurrection of Jesus, in many regards we cannot fully comprehend this provision apart from the provision of everything. Put another way, when we fully recognise God’s provision  of Life for us in Jesus, then and only then do we truly appreciate the provision of all things (Romans 8:32). If we are not living lives of blessing towards God for the provision of everything, perhaps that sense of his provision in Christ has at best fallen asleep?