Beginning with the End in Mind

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests that “one should begin each day, task or project with a clear vision of one’s desired direction and destination”.  I must admit that when I began the Bible Project on January 1, the destination I had in mind was getting THROUGH the Old Testament and getting TO the New Testament as rapidly as possible. For me, the Old Testament was a means to an end…something to be endured in order to gain a deeper understanding of Christ’s teachings in the New Testament (NT).

Congratulations to those tenacious participants who started with “in the beginning” in January and have kept up with their daily readings. We are now rapidly approaching the midpoint of the Bible Project. But there are still nearly 80 days of Old Testament (OT) readings remaining before we arrive at the good news of the Gospels on August 24. Wow, this is an incredibly lengthy OT journey!

Yes, the OT readings can sometimes be laborious, but after reading for 5+ months I am beginning to understand that the OT offers important historic context and advice that allows us to better understand the NT while helping us to become better decision makers in the process.

For example, isn’t it interesting that Matthew begins his Gospel by describing Jesus as the “Son (i.e., descendant) of David?” So, why is this so important? Had we not read the OT, we might be tempted to say “so what?” to Matthew. I now believe that it was worth the effort to read about the 12 tribes of Israel, their leaders and interrelationships just to understand the connection to Matthew’s lineage of the house of David.

Also, isn’t it amazing that 700 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah was inspired by God to write:

“For this reason, the Lord himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

These passages afford a glimpse into the Master plan that God had devised centuries before this prophecy was fulfilled through the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah was a divinely inspired instrument who provided evidence that God began creation with the end in mind.

Here’s another thought from my reading of the OT: Ever since creation and the Garden of Eden, there has been a documented human propensity to disobey God. It seems that many Israelites were fundamentally incapable of learning from their mistakes and becoming loyal followers of God. This precipitated a perpetual cycle of God’s revenge/forgiveness with an abundance of life and property destroyed in the process. While reading the OT, I have often wondered why God selected Israel as his chosen people in the first place. What was God thinking? Surely he knew that the Israelites would eventually become disobedient. Was God desperate? Were there no other contenders?

Perhaps at least part of the OT takeaway for each of us involves patience and perseverance in our Biblical reading habits, a healthy appetite for understanding, learning from our mistakes as well as those of our forbearers, and perhaps most importantly, conducting our lives with God’s Master plan in mind.

Eric Fulmer, SPC Member

 

Teach Me Your Ways

Dear fellow believers in Jesus Christ,

I just finished reading 2 Kings and am left wondering when will we humans learn to obey God with all our heart, soul and strength? You’d think that we would have learned a thing or two from Adam and Eve, but no! Each king  is given the golden opportunity to obey God and to be a shining example of righteousness to the people of Jerusalem and Judah, but most failed miserably! Hey, this sounds all too familiar! King George Carlton Leeper was 13 years old when he became king, and he reigned in Pittsburgh fifty-two years. His mothers name was Jane. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord! You see, this is not the king that we should aspire to emulate. We need to be like King Josiah! Josiah was eight years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. The Old Testament is very dense and difficult to read. However, there is one thing that I will remember. Do evil in the eyes of the Lord and it will not go well for us. Do right in the eyes of the Lord and life will be a more fulfilling ride. Each day I pray that God will teach me his ways, that I may walk in the truth (Psalm 86:11-13). 

George Carlton Leeper, SPC Member

 

Old Testament Stories

 

I think many of us are “wondering” about these Old Testament stories. I certainly am. Sometimes, I don’t even wonder, and just am uncomfortable. Why are so many being killed and often in excruciating detail? What am I to learn from these events? But, I plough on, thinking ‘this too will pass.’ As I start each day on my iPad, I’m able to stay current, so far.

I really enjoy the videos. They are helpful in keeping me focused on the bigger picture. Several times, I’ve gone to the video portion of the website for some relief from the numbing violence. 

Tim Merrill, SPC Member

 

Wondering

Greetings Fellow Bible-in-a-Year Readers,

I am wondering how everyone is progressing. I wonder if anyone is like me – some days I am playing catch up and some days I am right on schedule. I wonder if anyone else is inspired to Google for more information. And I wonder if anyone else “wonders” about some of the stories.

Maybe for some of you this is a re-read. I confess that this is a first for me to read from beginning to end. I find reading the stories in context different from reading verses here and there. I am enjoying “aha” moments as I realize the meaning or the origin of bits and pieces of biblical knowledge I have accumulated over my lifetime. Mostly, I am realizing that there is always something new for me to learn.

I was unable to attend the first Bible Bash, but look forward to the next gathering for the opportunity to share the experience. Hope to see you all there!

Tina Thomas, SPC Member

Resolutions & Challenges

I love resolutions and challenges. Some people hate the idea of making changes and trying new things just because it’s a new year, but honestly, what’s wrong with starting something on January 1st if it helps you get excited for it? I think it’s smart to capitalize on the excitement and use it as momentum.

One of the most difficult parts of starting to form any new habit or complete any new challenge is when we have reverted back to our old selves. Whether it’s a new diet we’ve started and we just caved in to have pizza and soda, or we skipped the gym in the morning when we said we’d be there three times a week, or we have forgotten or neglected to read our Bibles when we said we wanted to read them every day and finish reading them through in a year — we all fall short of our own expectations at some point. But that’s completely normal, and happens to just about everyone who sets out to try something new. We are imperfect people.

Since starting the Read the Bible challenge, I have had great spurts and bad ones. I was 5 days behind at one point, which makes you feel like you might as well quit now. But that’s just crazy talk! We are all on this journey together and are figuring out how best to make it work for us. So I encourage you to keep pushing on, and recognize that even when you fall behind you are still in good company. I am more focused on how crazy some of the stories are that I haven’t heard in years than I am on how many days behind I am. I usually don’t spend much of my time in Leviticus, so I’m looking forward to the next few days (sort of). But keep pushing through, and know that you are not alone in this journey. We all see the crazy stories and scratch our heads. We all get behind. And we all catch up! You’ve got this!

Mike Creamer, Director of  Youth Ministries