2017 Bible Reading Plan
For many, the Old Testament prophets are intimidating. Other than Isaiah 53 and a handful of other passages, they are mostly unread and seldom studied. We know that the 17 books of the prophets are found at the end of the Old Testament, but we don’t really know what they are saying. When we think of “prophet” we normally think of someone who reveals future events, but the term refers to anyone God uses to reveal His will. Thus, the main thrust of the Old Testament prophets was to reveal His will to the people at that time.
Even though these prophets had specific messages for the peoples of their day, most of the prophets also had a second message...a message of future hope...a promise of the coming Messiah. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12, NASB95)
Commit to spending some time each week in 2017 paying attention to the message of the prophets! Download the Bible reading schedule here. This week's reading is Amos 6-9.
When the Sermon Isn't About Other People by Joshua Creel
When Amos first began his prophesy, I imagine that his message was quite popular. After all, he began by declaring God's pending judgment against all of Israel's enemies. Syria (1.3-5), the Philistines (1.6-8), Tyre (1.9-10), Edom (1.11-12), Ammon (1.13-15) and Moab (2.1-3) all received threats of impending judgment because of their transgressions of God's will and their mistreatment of God's people. I imagine Amos' Jewish audience as nodding their heads in approval with several "AMEN!"s being raised as they heard about what their God would do to their enemies, heathens deserving of Jehovah's indignation.
But then Amos reached the second point of his prophecy. "For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the Lord..." (2.4) and "For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals..." (2.6). The sermon wasn't about other people anymore; the sermon was about Israel!
Unfortunately for Israel, they didn't give heed to Amos' message from God. Amos was threatened if he should continue prophesying (7.10-13) and Israel's punishment was cemented by their refusal to heed God's message (9.7-10). Things could have been different. If Israel had been willing to take a tough look at their actions, how they had violated their covenant with God, they would have listened to Amos' words and turned back to God. And turning back to God would have resulted in salvation! "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, just as you have said!" (5.14)
And that lesson from the prophets isn't just for a people that lived a long time ago. It's for us too.
Trusting God's Word by Steve Patton
New scientific discoveries are announced almost daily in the news. Many seemingly challenge the biblical account of things. It would be easy to begin to doubt God and His Word as we read these headlines. But I have learned some things over the years that help me maintain my faith. First, I read the headlines with some skepticism. Reporters have a real tendency to overstate discoveries for headline effect. Rarely is the claim in the headline actually true. I have seen a hundred headlines claiming life has been created in the laboratory. None of them were true. But it sure got you to read the article. Reporters are not scientists and rarely have an understanding of what discovery has been made – or claimed.
I have also learned to trust the scriptures. There have been literally thousands of claims of discoveries showing inaccuracies in the Bible. Many such stories often reveal the reporter’s ignorance of what the Bible actually says. The same can often be said for the person making the claim. And many times the claim does not contradict the Bible. It rather says the Bible mentions someone or someplace and no extra-biblical reference has been discovered. Remember that only about 3-4% of all archaeological sites in Bible lands have been excavated. Thus an accurate historical record from the first century might refer to many things not yet confirmed by physical evidence. I take such attacks usually with a grain of salt. Usually time and the archaeologist’s shovel confirms the accuracy of scripture.
I would readily acknowledge that there are some seeming inaccuracies or contradictions in scripture. The word “seeming” is important here. Not having an answer to the problem does not mean there is no answer. Again, time and further study have resolved many such difficulties. Such a track record causes me to believe there are answers to other knotty problems. We just have not figured them all out yet. Overall I have come to see that the evidence for God and His Word is powerful, even overwhelming to the honest truth seeker. Do not let a sensational headline undermine your faith. There are answers. Trust God and your faith will withstand the onslaught of unbelievers.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Transitioning into a new year can cause a lot of emotions. We may look back with regret and disappointment. We may look forward with fear and intimidation. But we should never doubt that in Christ we have been given everything we need to endure and thrive.
The letter to the Colossians addressed the outside influences that were beginning to creep into the lives of the Christians in that area. These teachings were causing doubt, conflict, misunderstanding, and departure from the truth. Paul’s letter makes it very clear that only the teaching of Christ can grant “the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:9-11). The words “all,” “fully,” and “every” stress that Christ’s message has the exclusive ability to equip us, making every other teaching, power, and influence incapable and unnecessary.
Can we thrive throughout this upcoming year? Can we grow stronger in our faith to Jesus? Absolutely, because our dedication to the Lord’s teaching can strengthen us with “all power, according to His glorious might.” Can we overcome the challenges and negative experiences we may face? Yes, because He gives us “all endurance and patience with joy.” Everything we need comes from the Lord, so let's start 2017 with a firm commitment to "the knowledge of His will."