Thoroughly Equipped: The Covering

Our reading today includes Genesis 3:1-4:26, Matthew 2:13-36, Psalm 2:1-12, and Proverbs 1:7-9.

In today’s reading we move from the beauty of creation to the tragedy of the fall.

How quickly things change.

Adam and Eve were supreme in the garden but once their pride was pricked by Satan’s simple question, the process of the fall was in place.  “Did God really say…”  (Genesis 3:1) How many tragic falls have subsequently occurred with that same little question.  Did God really say to remain pure?  Did God really say to be faithful?  Did God really say not to gossip?  The questions go on and on.  The answer is in His Word.  Find out what God really did say and stick with that truth.  I do warn you not to separate single verses from its context, but I also encourage you to find out for yourself what God did really say.

Adam and Eve tried their own methods of covering their nakedness, their shame.  They tried to cover it up with the insufficient covering of fig leaves. There are many references to sitting under a fig tree throughout the Bible.  According to the NIV study Bible, the covering of a fig tree is a “proverbial picture of peace, security, and contentment”.  Adam and Eve were trying desperately to cover up their sin and to go back to the peace, security, and contentment they had experienced before the fall.  But, as is still the truth today, our own efforts in this arena will never achieve what our hearts long for.  But, even in their fallen state, God did not leave Adam and Eve in their sin, nor in their own insufficient covering.

The tragedy of the fall is followed immediately by the gracious, all-sufficient covering of God the Father.

After Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord sought them out and said, “Where are you?”  Of course He knew where they were, but they needed to be aware of where they had ended up. The Lord Himself made clothes for them to cover their shame.  This was foreshadowing of the ultimate covering that would come … the covering of the Blood of Jesus.

It is important to note that the covering God provided was not mere fig leaves.  His covering was animal skin.  It was protective, it was warm, it truly covered their nakedness and was not easily moved by the outward elements.  This was the first recorded sacrifice.  This system of shedding the blood of an animal to cover sin began with the first sin.  God did not wait to begin His plan of redemption.  This plan of sacrifice was set in place and would be established for a season until the Ultimate Plan of the Ultimate Sacrifice came through His Son, Jesus.

The number symbolism in scripture is always fascinating to me and the number 7 is always symbolic of completion and perfection.  It is interesting and revealing to note that the span of the covering up of sin to the first prophesy of the true, all-sufficient covering to come is in a mere 7 verses.  Seven verses reveal the sin, the punishment, the removing of the cover up and the prophetic revelation of the divine sin covering to come.  The very first prophesy of the coming Savior is found in Genesis 3: 15, the seventh verse from God’s question, “Where are you?”

So the Lord God said to the serpent [Satan, who had tricked Eve], ‘Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!  You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  [Here comes the first prophesy!]  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he [Eve’s future offspring, Jesus!] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’”                                            

                                                                      (Genesis 3: 14; author emphasis added)

You see, Jesus would use His anointed feet to spiritually stomp Satan’s headship, forever giving victory to all who believe!

And so I must ask: Where are you?  Stop to think about it for a moment.  Do you even know?  God does.  If you are not sure, ask Him.  He may reveal some things that you didn’t realize about yourself.  But with that realization, He will also offer you the perfect, holy covering.


Thoroughly Equipped: In the Beginning

Happy New Year! And welcome to our year-long journey of reading through the Bible together!  Each week I will post some of my study notes.  Hopefully, it will coincide with what the week’s reading is, but be forewarned, sometimes one part will spark reading and studying in another part. I may also post repeats of other posts but hopefully the scripture addressed will be a joyful reminder of life-changing truths.  So, let’s just hang on for the ride and go in whatever direction the Lord leads!

My reading today includes Genesis 1:1-2:25, Matthew 1:1-2:12, and Psalm 1:1-6.

In the beginning God created.  There was great darkness and God was hovering over it, above it.  And yet, he was willing to change it, the great darkness, the great emptiness.  He didn’t just hover over it, he changed it.  And how did He change it?  He spoke.  His words changed the darkness.  His Word still does that today.  He changed the darkness by speaking forth light.  He said, “Let there be light!” and there was light.  May this first day of the new year be a year of great light.  May he use His Word to create new things in your life, bring light to your soul.

Here we are on the first day of our journey through the Bible and we have to talk about sin.  You know what?  I don’t like to talk about sin.  It’s true.  I like to talk about the good stuff—the love, grace, and mercy of God.  But sin is the thing that truly blocks our relationship with God and keeps us from receiving the good stuff.  So even good Southern ladies need to talk about it. Psalm 1 gives us a great example of how sin works, in a backward kind of way:

                        Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

                                                                                                                                            Psalm 1:1-3

In this verse, we see a man traveling down the road and making the right choice.  But we also see what the progression of sin would look like if he did not make the right choice.  The actions in verse one are walk, stand, and then sit.  The picture of choosing sin is this:  Someone walks down the road, approaching wickedness.  Instead of walking straight away, he slows down, gradually accepting the wickedness, until he is standing in the midst of sinners.  And before he knows it, he is sitting among them, justifying his actions, mocking the truth that he once believed.

We have all had the experience of hearing “that news” of a godly brother or sister who outwardly was doing just the right things, but suddenly (or so it appears to us) the truth comes out.

It is shocking to us, but the progression had been taking place for a while. The truth is, sin will always be revealed eventually.  All will be laid bare.  Secrets will never stay secrets forever.  For God is light, and light reveals, and light exposes the dark places. He will reveal all hidden things eventually.  Hebrews 4:13 tells us that nothing is hidden from God’s sight and everything will be uncovered and laid bare.

Let that help us be scared straight. When I was a teenager, there was a television show—one of the first reality shows—called Scared Straight.  It took young people on the edge of destructive choices into a jail and showed them the reality of poor choices.  We must bring our whole hearts into His light immediately so that we too can be scared straight, and experience a holy fear and respect of God, His truth, and the consequences of neglecting to follow in His holy ways.

 

            Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

                                                                                                                 Hebrews 3:15

We have discussed the Walk, Stand, Sit progression of sin; now let’s look at the Sit, Walk, Stand progression of avoiding sin.

Watchman Nee was a famous Chinese Christian who died for his faith.  He wrote a small book called Sit, Walk, Stand.   In this book, he says our spiritual journey each day should begin by sitting.  We are to sit in the presence of God, soak up His Word, and worship Him.  We are to sit with other believers, fellowship, and learn from each other.  It is this sitting time which makes us ready to walk down the godly road.  It is sitting that gives us strength to faithfully serve others while we walk.  This is the preparation for the journey.  But it is not a one-time preparation; it is a daily preparation.  Nee wrote:

What is the secret strength of the Christian life?  Whence  has it its power? Let me give you the answer in a sentence.  The Christian’s secret is his rest in Christ. His power derives from his God-given position [of sitting]. All who sit can walk, for in the thought of God the one follows the other spontaneously.  We sit forever with Christ that we may walk continuously before men.                Forsake for a moment our place of rest in him, and immediately we are tripped and our testimony in the world is marred.  But abide in Christ, and our position there ensures the power to walk worthy of him here.

He goes on to give an illustration of this concept of sitting to walk.  He said to think not of a runner in a race, but of a cripple in a power-driven wheelchair.  What does he do?  He goes, but he also sits.  And the power behind his going is the chair.

Let’s climb up in the lap of God, sit on His great Throne Chair, and let Him give us the power to walk this journey in a godly way.


Thoroughly Equipped: The Why

 

2 Timothy 3: 16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

By now, you know of my invitation to read through the Bible this year.  I hope you have invited your friends and family!  I hope you have your Bible ready!  As I have previously said, I use the One Year Bible.  I have used the NIV version for many years.  This year I will use the NLT version.  Any version is fine.  Or use your regular Bible and find an online daily guide to get through the whole Bible in a year.

Today I want to prep us for our reading through the Bible.  I want us to think about the “why” of this endeavor.  Stop for a moment and read the above verse, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 aloud.

Let’s use this verse as our reason.  This verse captures the reason we want to do this.  The reason we will commit to reading and studying and being inspired by the Author of everything.  So let’s break it down.

All scripture.  This means the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  The Old Testament gets a bad rap sometimes.  It is filled with history and laws and customs that can be confusing and sometimes downright boring.  However, if we take the time to study it out, we will find that the Old Testament is key to truly understanding the New Testament.  The Old Testament is Jesus concealed, the New Testament is Jesus revealed.  But both parts of the Bible are vital in discovering the life-changing truths our hearts long to know.

God-breathed.  This truth needs to stay in the forefront of minds.  I love to hear and quote many wonderful authors from many different backgrounds.  C.S. Lewis, Spurgeon, Tim Keller, Francis Frangipane, Oswald Chambers … these are some of my favorites.  God does equip and inspire many people to share their experiences and insight.  But only the Bible is God-breathed.  Only the Bible is the final word.

Is useful.  These two words are a comfort and a challenge to me.  These two words tell me that The Bible is for me today.  It is not just a history book.  It will help me day in and day out.  It will bring wisdom and comfort and strength and hope.  It will give me the mind of Christ.  It is useful for me each day, and is not a waste of time.

For teaching.  I remember clearly when I was nine or ten my mom telling me to sweep the floor after dinner.  I did that, and then went out to play.  A little while later, I heard, “Sara Stevens Williams, get back in here!”   Of course, I went immediately, because when I heard that tone I knew there was no messing around!  When I went in the kitchen, with much fear and trepidation, she said, “I thought I told you to sweep the floor!”  I said, “I did, Mama.”  And she began to point out all the places that I had missed.  I can remember tearfully saying, “But Mama, you never showed me how.”  At that point she took the broom, showed me how to hold it, showed me how to get under the cabinets, and pointed out all the spots to look for crumbs.  That was instruction.  Now I’m sure she thought I was old enough to have understood that all by myself, and maybe I could have, but after that night I never had another excuse not to do a good job, because now I knew how to do a good job. After instruction comes discipline, not before.  However, it is our responsibility to discover God’s instruction through reading and studying His Word.  He has given us a complete instruction manual but we must read it.

For rebuking.  My mother was extremely loving and a pretty strict disciplinarian.  She kindly instructed, but then was wise to rebuke or discipline me when I did not follow the instructions.  After my instruction of floor sweeping, she expected me to follow through on the instruction.  This is rebuke.  God has provided the proper rebuke in His Word when we stray from His path.  And we all will stray, just as all children disobey at times.

For correcting.  Sometimes, we unknowingly disobey.  We unknowingly cause harm or hurt.  The correction in His Word woos us to realign our hearts in every word and deed.  The small things become big things if not dealt with properly and immediately.  The Holy Spirit will correct us through the reading of the Word of God.  If we correct our course, we will not need the more severe rebuke.  We should keep short accounts with the Lord, and pray that our hearts are soft and pliable, quick to discern the course corrections which the Holy Spirit whispers through God’s Word.

For training in righteousness.  Now, I am grown and responsible for my own floor sweeping.  I am finally a great floor sweeper!  And I am responsible for training my children to become great floor sweepers themselves. Martin Luther King’s said: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”  I believe this is an accurate description for being trained in righteousness.

Why?  So that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Then, we are ready to go out and serve others with our sweeping.

My favorite phrase in this passage is “thoroughly equipped”.  This is a promise for all believers.  Scripture will provide what we need.  We can store it up, hide it in our hearts, and then the Holy Spirit will whisper it to our souls when we need it.  We will be thoroughly equipped for every situation, for everything God calls us to, for every trial and temptation.  But if we don’t read the Word, study the Word, memorize the word, savor the Word, we will not have the ingredients needed to make us thoroughly equipped.  So keep reading, my friends!


30 Days of Prayer: Godly Patterns

Day 3:  Godly Patterns

(When you see “these children”, insert the names of the children for whom you are praying.)

Lord, may these children not conform to the pattern of this world, but may they be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they may be able to test and approve what God’s perfect will is.         Romans 12:12                          

                                                                                                                                                In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I remember when my mother used to sew for us.  I remember the feel of the thin paper pattern, I remember watching her lay the pattern on top of the cloth, pin it onto the fabric with straight pins, and then slowly and carefully cut along the pattern lines.  It makes me smile to remember that.

What pattern is laid on your life?  What is pinned to you, determining how you will be shaped?  We are told that we are not to conform to the pattern of this world.  Instead, we should allow God to lay His pattern found in His Word on our hearts, pin it securely there and cut away the access, so we may look and act the way He intends for us to look and act.  But it won’t look much like the rest of the world.  And for us to be okay with that, we must change our thinking—renew our minds.  Then we will clearly see and be glad of His perfect will being fulfilled in our lives.  May it be so for us and for our children.


Real Hope for our Past, Present, and Future

Well, friends, we made it!

What a year! As many of you know, I like to read through the Bible each year, following the One Year Bible plan. There are many other great plans out there which accomplish the same thing.

I am not perfect. I skip a day every now and then. But this has been a wonderful way for me to stay steady and sane over the past 30 years, which is when I started.

This morning, I read the last assigned readings for the year from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Here is a sample of what I read:

From the Old Testament, I read these words in Malachi 4:5-6.

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

This is our past hope. As we know now, the “Elijah” that he was talking about was John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord. Yes, the land and all of us were cursed before Jesus came to take our curse away. For it was written in Galatians 3:3,

But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

 

From the New Testament, I read these words in Revelation 22:3.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him.

This is our future hope. Even though 2020 has seemed a bit “cursed”, we know the end of the story. Not only did Jesus take away our personal “curse” so that we can have eternal life in heaven and abundant life on earth, He also will one day take away every curse in every situation. One day, there will no longer be a curse upon anything. What beautiful future hope! No wonder the entire Bible ends with these words:

20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

 

The last words in the assigned reading in Proverbs included these words from Proverbs 31:25.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

This is our present hope. We can laugh without fear of the future. We can have dignity and strength going forward, no matter what the past has taken from us.

So, it seems right and good that the last assigned reading of the year for Psalms is from Psalm 150:1-6.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

 

So, Happy New Year, my friends! Let’s remember that our only hope for the past, future, or present is found in Christ alone. No matter what comes, let’s praise the Lord. It seems fitting to end the year with the following song: