Ezekiel 37. Some readers may not exactly be on friendly terms with the book of Ezekiel. Because, to be honest, it can be a little intimidating. More than a little intimidating depending on where you are in the book. But. There is something wonderful about the imagery in Ezekiel 37. The "valley of dry bones" is such a great illustration of what happens in regeneration--in being born again. We are dead--yes, DEAD, in our sins, past the point of needing a little boost, a little healing. We need God to breathe life in us.
He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the LORD's word! The LORD God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the LORD. (Common English Bible)Jeremiah 31. I love reading about God's new covenant. If you spend (much) time reading in the Old Testament, you know that a new covenant was very much needed. Because it was obvious from the start, that the old covenant could not be kept by the people. Keeping the law couldn't save them, for they could never keep the law.
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (English Standard Version)Psalm 139. This psalm is such a great one--from start to finish. A bit humbling, a bit refreshing, a bit encouraging. We learn so much about God, but we also learn a little something about ourselves. That we do have purpose, that our lives do have meaning, that we are part of God's plan.
LORD, you have examined me. You know me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. There isn't a word on my tongue, LORD, that you don't already know completely. You surround me--front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it's so high above me that I can't fathom it. Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean--even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! If I said, "The darkness will definitely hide me; the light will become night around me," even the darkness isn't too dark for you! Nighttime would shine bright as day because darkness is the same as light to you! (Common English Bible)Luke 15. Luke is a gospel with many highlights. But Luke 15, for me, has to be one of the best. I love the parables found in Luke 15. I especially love the parable of the prodigal son. I love what it shows us, what it teaches us. I love how we can learn from the prodigal son and from the 'good' son who stayed behind.
11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.
14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’” (Common English Bible)
Revelation 21. Before this year, I read Revelation fearfully and reluctantly. I saw it more as horror than a worship book full of rich promises for God's children. But this year I've read and reread and reread Revelation. And I've found much to rejoice in. Including chapter 21!!!
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. 7 Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters. (Common English Bible)1 John 4. I love the entire book of 1 John. And to pick just one chapter, well, it seemed almost impossible. The whole book is just full of treasure. There is so much to think about, so much to reflect on. The book is beautiful AND challenging. But I chose 1 John 4 because of these verses:
1 John 4:9-21
9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (English Standard Version)Romans 5. Romans is one of my favorite, favorite books. One of those oh-so-essential books that is much-needed for building a foundation of faith. Romans 5 is potentially life-changing. At least it was for me. For in this little chapter we learn about what the cross means--more about what the cross means. It's all about imputation. Exchanging our sins for HIS righteousness. Our sins just aren't wiped away. We just don't have a clean slate or new beginning. God counts Christ's righteous life as ours. As I just recently read--not only is justification about 'just-as-if-I-never-sinned' it's also 'just-as-if-I-always-obeyed.' Anyway, there is something wonderful about realizing that you don't have to earn God's love.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (English Standard Version)Ephesians 1. And I thought it was impossible to choose a favorite chapter in 1 John!!!! How could I ever begin to choose one in Ephesians??? I did narrow it down to Ephesians 1, 2, and 3. Which was a good start, I suppose, but then I decided to go with the first chapter. But I can't choose just a few verses from it. I just can't. Read the whole thing. And keep going!!!
Romans 8. This was an easy choice, of course. And probably expected. After all it is one of the greatest chapters in the whole Bible. It says SO much. And we could all profit from it if we read it each and every day. It's one of those chapters that just satisfies and uplifts. It's a much-needed chapter, a much-needed comfort.
28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)Romans 8:31-39
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[h] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[i] 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)
John 14. I love, love, love John 14. I love the whole gospel of John. It is definitely my favorite gospel. And it is, in fact, my favorite book of the whole Bible. I just love each and every chapter of John. But John 14 is so wonderful, so comforting, so perfect.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (King James Version)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible