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Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 3

Since the recent Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study on 1 John, one verse has come to mind repeatedly. 1 John 3:1 in The Voice translation says, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.

This week’s Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge begins with a passage that tells us about one woman’s act of love that could rightly be described as an act of extravagant love.

Day 11: Matthew 26:6-13

The woman in this passage, identified by John in his gospel as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, was first described in Luke 10:39 as one “who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Her heart was filled with love for the Lord, and what takes place in today’s passage springs forth out of that love.

Jesus had explained to His close followers that He would be crucified, buried and raised from the dead on the third day. Mary had embraced this truth that the Lord Jesus was on His way to the cross, and her desire was to do one final act of expressing her love for the Lord, through anointing Him in anticipation of His burial. This was a costly act of worship, the account in John 12 tells us it this expensive perfume was worth a full year’s wages. But because of her love for Jesus, the cost didn’t matter.

The disciples, especially Judas, were critical of Mary’s act of adoration. Their response: “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:8-9) Jesus’ words are a sharp contrast to these.

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew‬ ‭26:10-13‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Day 12: Romans 10:11-16

As believers in Christ, we are called to not just be disciples who are growing personally in our faith but also to share the message of salvation with others to start them down the same path. Are you making an effort to take the great message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to others who don’t know Him? If so, God’s Word says you have “beautiful feet.”

Day 13: Acts 3:1-10

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. The words following the actual miracle stood out to me this morning, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those entering the temple. According to several extra-biblical sources, this was as close to the temple as the lame or blind were allowed to go. (Scripture does not actually say this, but in Leviticus 21:16-23 we are told that the offspring of Aaron who were blind or lame were not allowed to serve as altar priests, offering sacrifices and food offerings to God.)

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’re interested in a more in-depth article on this Scripture, check out my full post at: https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/walking-and-leaping-and-praising-god/

Day 14: Isaiah 61:1-11

I love this passage that not only speaks of what Jesus came to do – to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, and to proclaim the favor of the Lord – but also of what He has done for us. All of this and so much more was accomplished at Jesus’ first coming. Because of what He did, we are now clothed with a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, with garments of salvation and righteousness. How can we not rejoice on what He has done for us! We are His bride, and when He returns we will be a part of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Day 15: 1 Peter 1:20-25

Isaiah spoke of a voice of one crying out in the wilderness with these words:

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah‬ ‭40:6-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Quoting these verses, Peter reminds us as believers in Christ Jesus that this world and the things in it are not to be our focus. Everything in this world will eventually fade away. Only God’s Word, His will, and His work will last forever. Are you putting your focus on the temporary or on the eternal?

Day 16: Psalm 135:1-7

As I read today’s passage which encourages us to praise the Lord, a different verse from Psalms came to mind. Psalm 33:1 (NASB) says, “Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright.” Praise is becoming to the upright, because it acknowledges that the Lord is good, that He is greater than all gods, that He and he alone is the true God. To sing praises to God’s name is to commend Him for who He is and to thank Him for all He has done. I’d say that makes praise a beautiful thing

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Day 17: Job 5:8-18

As I read the final passage for this week and prayed about how to tie all of these verses together, an old hymn I haven’t heard for many years came to mind. Take time to read the words and as another week comes to an end may they be your prayer.

There shall be showers of blessing:

This is the promise of love;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:

Showers of blessing,

Showers of blessing we need:

Mercy-drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing,

Precious reviving again;

Over the hills and the valleys,

Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;

Send them upon us, O Lord;

Grant to us now a refreshing,

Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:

Oh, that today they might fall,

Now as to God we’re confessing,

Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,

If we but trust and obey;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

If we let God have His way.

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St. Patrick’s Day: The True Story Behind the Annual Celebration

St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated each year on March 17th, is about more than shamrocks and leprechauns. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the life of an early Christian missionary.

In the fifth century, Ireland was a beautiful island enshrouded in violence and spiritual darkness. Warlords and druids ruled the land. But one man would be used by God to break through the darkness and introduce the light of Christ to this heathen land.

The man we now know as St. Patrick was born in Roman ruled Britain to a middle-class Christian family around A.D. 390. The grandson of a priest and son of a deacon, Patrick was exposed early to the truth of the Gospel, yet by the time he was a teenager he had rebelled against his Christian upbringing to the point that he was pratically an atheist.

Then his life took a drastic change for the worse. Irish raiders attacked his home and he was abducted from his village and thrown onto a slave ship headed for Ireland. At 16 years of age he found himself a slave in a foreign land, separated from everything he’d ever known. He was sold to an Irish chieftain named Milchu, who put him to work as a shepherd.

Patrick saw this difficult situation in his life as God’s chastising him, believing he deserved what had happened because of his rejection of the faith of his fathers. And while a slave in Ireland, his life began to change. Instead of becoming bitter, he turned to the God he knew about but had previously refused to acknowledge as his God.

Rev. Brady, the Roman Catholic Archbiship of Armagh and Primate of All of Ireland, says of young Patrick,

“He says, ‘I prayed a hundred times in the day and almost as many at night,’ Through that experience of prayer and trial, he came to know another God — God the Father, who was his protector. He came to know Jesus Christ in those sufferings, and he came to be united with Christ and he came to identify with Christ, and then of course, also the Holy Spirit.”

Patrick’s hard years of slavery came to an end six years later, when during a time of prayer and fasting God spoke to him that he would soon return to his own country and gave him clear direction when it was time to leave. He escaped and traveled 200 miles to the west coast, where he found a ship – the ship God had shown him in prayer – ready to sail. Though at first refused passage, after desperate prayer Patrick was allowed aboard. He returned to his home and family, where he began to study for the ministry.

Patrick had no desire to return to Ireland, but that was exactly what God asked of him. Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland, says:

“One night, he had a dream. There was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters. And he opened up one of the letters and it said ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ And then he heard a voice coming out of this letter that said, ‘Holy boy, please return to us. We need you.'”

Patrick struggled in his soul, not convinced this dream was from God and having no desire to return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him. Once again, he turned to God in prayer. He received the answer in a dream. God truly was calling him to return to Ireland as a missionary, and he stepped out in obedience to God’s leading.

Patrick gave 29 years of his life to ministry and established the first Christian church in all of Ireland. During that time, he preached the Gospel, baptized over 120,000 Irishmen, and planted 300 churches. Freeman declares, “What Patrick did was really lay the groundwork for Christianity.” Because of Patrick’s willingness to die to his own will and return to Ireland, the land of his suffering, in obedience to the Lord’s call, that nation was forever changed. Reflect on this truth as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.

“Walking and Leaping and Praising God”

For the last couple months, I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s monthly Bible Reading Challenges to put together a weekly blog post, daily adding a brief reflection and graphic on that day’s passage. I still plan to continue doing this, but as I was reading today’s passage from the Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths and I felt compelled to go beyond my short entry for the weekly post and do a separate blog post.

Today’s Everything Beautiful passage is found in Acts 3:1-10 and tells of one of the miracles during the early years of the church. It took place at the gate of the temple that was called the Beautiful Gate, probably so named because of it’s ornate decorations, but commentators are divided about the actual location of the gate. It was apparently one of the gates or doors through which the Jewish men who came to worship entered, but it’s exact identity is of little importance. The emphasis in this passage is on what happened here.

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those who were entering the holy place.

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. This morning, the words following the actual miracle stood out to me, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

As I read these words, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that this was of great significance to this newly-healed lame man. So I did some research to confirm what I was sensing. If the lame man had never before been allowed to enter the temple, was this somehow a case of looking down on those who had less than perfect bodies? As a woman with a long list of chronic illnesses and disability as a result of an automobile accident and actively involved in ministry to others with chronic illness, this definitely had my attention.

Were the blind and lame restricted by God from entering the temple, forced to stay outside the temple gates because of their infirmities? Scripture does tell us (in Leviticus 21:16-23) that the blind and lame were excluded from serving as altar priests, presenting sacrifices and food offerings to God. But there are no specific verses that teach the physically disabled were to be banned from the tabernacle or temple. So we know this was not God’s plan.

Yet there are extra-biblical sources that seem to indicate this was common practice by the time of Jesus. The fact that the man was at the gate, which Peter and John were about to enter, and not inside the temple, seems to confirm this. If so, it came about either through Jewish tradition or the misreading of Scriptures such as Leviticus 21 and 2 Samuel 5:8, where David is quoted as saying on the day he was anointed as king, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the house.” But this could not refer to the temple, since it had not been built at that time, and in context doesn’t even appear to refer to the physically blind and lame.

We do know, according to Matthew 21:14 and other passages, that Jesus healed the lame and blind in the temple. This shows they were at least able to go into the court of the Gentiles, and it along with the many healings during His earthly ministry show us Jesus’ heart was to include those who were afflicted or disabled.

If the lame and otherwise afflicted were actually banned from the temple, as many believe, when the previously lame man who had been healed entered the temple with Peter and John he was probably as excited about this as he was about being able to walk. No wonder he was “walking and leaping and praising God!

Today, regardless of what was true at the time this miracle took place, we can be confident that chronic illness neither separates us from God’s presence not makes us unqualified for ministry. Jesus’ death and resurrection instituted a new way of life, a life described in Hebrews 10:19-20 as “the new and living way.”

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”

We are no longer under the law. We now live by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Romans 6:14 clearly states that we are not under the law but under grace. Why is this true? Because one of the things Jesus came to do was to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ESV)‬‬

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

And that’s such good news that we, like the once-lame man of Acts 3, should be “walking and leaping and praising God!”

The Christian Origins of Valentine’s Day

This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every year on February 14th, this special day of romance is celebrated through the exchange of cards, chocolate, gifts or flowers with a special “valentine.” What we seldom hear mentioned is where the name of the holiday comes from. The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century.

Saint Valentine was a bishop in Rome who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The Roman Empire was collapsing from corruption within and also facing attack from several fronts, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. When Claudius became emperor, he was faced with recruiting many capable men as soldiers and officers to protect the empire from takeover from these foreign aggressors. He believed married men did not make good soldiers because they were too emotionally attached to their families. So to assure top quality soldiers he issued an edict forbidding marriage.

Not surprisingly, this edict met heavy resistance from the people of Rome. As a priest and bishop of the Roman Catholic church, Valentine refused to comply with the emperor regarding this ban on marriage. The church taught that marriage was a sacred union between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. So in spite of the edict from the emperor, Valentine began holding marriage ceremonies in secret. But as his fame in Rome spread, Valentine was caught, imprisoned and tortured. Valentine stood firm in his belief in the sacrament of marriage, and on February 14th, 270 A.D. he was executed for his stand for Christian marriage.

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 as “Valentine’s Day” to honor Bishop Valentine. It has since become a yearly celebration of love and romance around much of the world.

As in the time of the Roman Empire and Emperor Claudius II, marriage is again under attack. This year, as you celebrate this special day with the ones you love, reflect back on the history of this holiday. Remember, marriage is God’s plan, given to us as a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, a gift from God meant to complete us. As Christians, may we like Bishop Valentine stand without compromise for marriage. As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:3, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”