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The Finish Line

It’s about 6:20 p.m. now on Wednesday night, and I am sitting here in our Living Room next to the Christmas Tree to write the final blog of the year 2015. As most of you know, I have been blogging every weekday (except Labor Day) this year through the New Testament. And it’s kind of funny – coming home tonight, I parked the car in the garage and starting to come inside, I realized, “I’ve got to blog!” It’s not the first time I have forgotten this year. But it was kind of funny, as it is the last blog of the year. Maybe it was my friend Kevin who made me forget – he sent me a congratulatory text this morning about having successfully blogged through the Year (and he read them all – a true friend!), so subconsciously perhaps I thought I was done. Not yet. I am close to the finish line though.

Finishing. I haven’t always done it so well. And I suppose I’m not alone.

Starting is dreaming. Finishing is…work.

But don’t be too quick to give me kudos, for with the blog there was significant social pressure. Not having written a blog sometime this year would have been like showing up on Saturday night or Sunday morning without a sermon. I may have come close to this pastoral nightmare sometime in my life’s work, but the sheer terror of letting so many people down has kept me from it. People-pleasing runs strong in my blood.

And so I finish today. And so do you, if you joined us on our journey through the New Testament. Congrats, and hats off to you! I know it has been a blessing (at least the Bible part, if not the blog!). For you regular readers wondering where the blog will go from here, I have an answer: I will be publishing a blog every Tuesday. There, I said it. Now the five of you waiting with baited breath each Tuesday should hopefully be enough to keep my keyboard to the blogstone (like “nose to the grindstone”, but clever, you know, for bloggers). Of course, I won’t be writing exclusively about Scripture, like I did (sort of) this year. I will also write about current events or books I’m reading and such – whatever strikes my fancy, I guess, but all, I trust, to the Glory of God.

If you enjoyed our Inspired reading program through the New Testament this year, and you’re interested in a reading program for the year 2016, you might consider The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan or the M’Cheyne Reading Plan.  However you plan to read the Bible in 2016, consider this thought from the Puritan Thomas Brooks in his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices:

“Remember, it is not hasty reading—but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey—but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

Therefore, if you choose to read the whole Bible this year, then may I urge you to be sure to slow down and meditate on some smaller portion of what you read each day. Draw out “the sweet” and be one, not who reads most, but who meditates most.

Now this blog was about the finish line, and it just so happens that the passage we are reading is also the last chapter in the Bible, and is all about the ultimate finish line, Heaven, and so let me close with the secret to getting there, from Revelation 22:17…

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (ESV)

That’s it – the message of the Scriptures is that God is Holy, and He demands our holiness too, yet not one of us has been holy. However, we can stand before God with the perfect holiness of Jesus Himself. All we need to do is drink the water of life, and that water is only available by the grace of God. You can’t pay for it, and in fact, if you try to pay for it, a sip of its cool refreshment will be denied you.

So, come, ye who are thirsty, come; and drink deeply.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Herod The Great People Pleaser

“What will my friends think?” This pressing question is constantly swirling in the head of one known as a people pleaser. The clothes they wear, who they sit with at lunch, the college they attend, the person they marry – in short, almost everything they do, every decision they make is calculated to please other people, with the ultimate desire…to have their approval and praise.

Herod, of course, is one of the great people-pleasers of history, and his antics are on full display in Matthew 14. He was called Herod Antipas, or just Antipas, and was the Roman ruler over Galilee and Perea for most of Jesus’ life and ministry. One of three sons of Herod the Great, Antipas shared the rule of Palestine with his two brothers.

And undoubtedly he had very poor relations with one of these, his brother Phillip, for on a trip to Rome, Antipas met Phillip’s wife Herodias and “fell in love.” He subsequently divorced his own wife and married her.

But unfortunately for Herod, John the Baptist didn’t have a people-pleasing bone in his body, and the prophet of the Jordan River did not hesitate to call him on it:

…John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.

Matthew 14:4-5 (ESV)

John said a loud “No!” to this union, and Herod locked him up for it, but he feared the people…so he didn’t put him to death.   That motive worked for a time, until as the story relates, another desire to please people took over, and through a series of events including a sultry dance and a foolish promise, he heeded the request of an adolescent girl:

Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.

Matthew 14:8-9 (ESV)

Behold Ladies and Gentlemen: Herod the not-so-great, refraining from killing a man because he wanted to make the people happy, and then killing the same man, because…he wanted to make the people happy. Talk about a buffeted life. You might call Herod a pinball, and the people around him? They controlled the flippers.

But as we sit in judgment of Herod, don’t we have to admit that we’ve all been there to one degree or another? We’ve all been there because all of us have had the sense that if only our friends approved, or the “important” people liked what we did, all would be well, and we would be finally happy. And our search for pleasure in the opinions of others has repeatedly ended only in pain. So into our foolishness, the great prophet Isaiah warned,

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils, for why should he be esteemed?”

Isaiah 2:22 (NASB)

Why indeed?

Herod would eventually be exiled, punished by Emperor Gaius – the one man he would apparently not be able to please. But before that, this same Herod Antipas would encounter another Prophet…at the kangaroo court of the Son of God (Luke 23:6 – 12). Herod would question Jesus at length, and receive only silence. Of course we know better, but you might almost wonder if the conversation lagged because they really had nothing to talk about. For the one who could only ask, “What will make the people happy?” had nothing at all in common with the One who could only ask…“What will please my Heavenly Father?”

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21: Matthew 15

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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