I trust you are continuing with a commitment to daily reading of the Bible in this new year? For a variety of reasons, you may have decided to try a different reading plan this year. That is fine as long as you are still reading – that is the overall goal of this devotional I write. Namely, to encourage all participants (including myself) to see the daily reading of God’s Word as an integral part of our lives. If we persist, it becomes something that we cannot live without – because it just gets our heads in the right place to face the great variety of experiences each day offers.

I was privileged to visit the awesome country, Iceland, in recent months. I have never experienced such raw exposure to God’s power in Creation as we encountered there! It is a land of water, fire and ice – manifested in storms, waterfalls, rivers, darkness, glaciers and volcanoes. Unfortunately, we did not go in-season for animal life (other than the lovely ubiquitous sheep and horses) – but puffins, whales and seals will be on the agenda for my next trip. Iceland is truly a magnificent, startling and frightening place! I was reminded of that amazing country when I read The Storm Psalm (29) today. Our God is magnificent, startling and frightening at times, as well.

Isn’t it exciting to push the restart button and start the Bible afresh in January? I love this aspect of the Robert Roberts reading plan. Back to Genesis. Back to the beginning. Back to basics. And that is what keeps coming to my mind as we read these first several chapters in Genesis. All of the basic tenets of Christianity are easily discerned right from the get-go in this incredible book. Easily discerned- that is – if we take the time to truly listen to what the Master Storyteller is choosing to tell us in panoramic, sometimes almost unbelievable events that are meant for our instruction.

While I do not have time for a full-fledged blog, my mind this week has gone to a quote I discovered recently on a tombstone of a famous Chicagoan and (ironically) former Governor of Illinois:

I am not discouraged. Things will right themselves. The pendulum swings one way and then another, but the steady pull of gravitation is toward the center of the earth. Any structure must be plumb if it is to endure. So it is with nations: Wrong may seem to triumph, right may seem to be defeated. But the gravitation of Eternal Justice is toward the throne of God. Any political institution which is to endure must be plumb with that line of justice.

I once had a person who was a pedophile tell me that part of the explanation for this problem was a terrible childhood. While I truly sympathize with having been mistreated as a child (and there is nothing more horrendous!), it still does not make allowance for continued sin. I’m sorry, but a bad upbringing is no excuse. It seems that some people in the Israel of Ezekiel’s day were getting into the habit of also believing that people are incapable of breaking out of cycles of inherited sin. Or perhaps they were blaming their own sin and suffering on their forefathers’ behavior. This is a common worldview embraced in our time as well. Today we often call it a “Victim Mentality.”

Violence is a hot topic in our world. From bullying, to domestic violence, to police brutality, all the way up to terrorism and war; violence fills our homes, our schools, our cities, our nations and our daily news. It is impossible to get away from it. Speaking for myself, however, I sometimes get taken by surprise – as though violence is a new thing in human societies. Today’s readings in Mark 15, reminded me that violence is as old as the hills. It started with Cain (and his murderous seed) and will continue until the Prince of Peace comes to set things right.

We are going to discuss a sensitive subject today. I think it is a topic that is not openly discussed, and is largely misunderstood – especially in the Christian world. I have had several people at the Bible Education Center ask me (in hushed, apologetic, and deeply shamed tones) if their loved ones who committed suicide are banished forever to a place of torment. My friends carried a heart-rending grief because religious authorities had told them this was the case. If you do not already know the answer to this question, perhaps you will find more peace as we discuss Ahithophel, Judas, and Bible thoughts on suicide.

“Regarding the resurrection”…those are Jesus’ words from Matthew 22 verse 31. He taught about resurrection. He taught clearly and succinctly about the pivotal importance of the resurrection of the dead to the faith of those who would be his disciples. Let’s use today’s readings to remind ourselves of this critical teaching which has its roots in the very essence of the Old Testament.

I was really puzzling over one of the verses in Jude this morning so I decided, as a rare deviation, to look at what some Bible scholars had to say. This was a truly enlightening experience – but not in the way you might expect. The light came in the form of a reminder that “supposed” scholars are often full of bluster and nonsense when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Sadly, they have a great deal of clout anyway, because they sound authoritative and seem like they know more than other people. I mean they’re scholars, right? Wrong.

The chorus of one of my favorite children’s Bible songs we used to sing around the campfire in the summer is based on Jesus’ parable of the Man who held a Great Feast in Luke 14:16-24. It came to mind as I was thinking about the words of Hebrews 10:22-25. It carries some of the profound messages of this passage boiled down to simple truths sung by children. Music is good that way. So today, let’s explore these verses a little further, shall we?