Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

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When the four gospel writers set out to write an account of Jesus’ life, they had to decide where to start. Luke began with a detailed narrative of Jesus’ birth story. Mark skipped all that and jumped right in with Jesus as a 30 year old man. Matthew went way back — 42 generations, in fact — to Father Abraham. Each of them had their reasons, based on the audience they were trying to reach.

But John?
He did something very different.
“In the beginning….”
John’s started his gospel by plagiarizing Moses’s opening line in Genesis 1.

John’s point?
Jesus was here in the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning began.

To accurately tell the story of Jesus’ life, John decided to reach back farther than John the Baptist and the Jordan River and the dove.

John comprehended that he needed to push past the immaculate conception and Bethlehem and the manger and the shepherds and the angels.

John understood that he had to venture beyond Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Abraham.

John was compelled to somehow communicate that Jesus is beginning-less, that He existed before time and space and the created order as we know it. So, John started at the very beginning.

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“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God
in the beginning.”
John 1:1-2

Each gospel provides a unique picture of Jesus.
Matthew shows us that Jesus came from the line of Abraham and is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
Mark shows us that Jesus came from Nazareth, portraying Jesus as a Servant.
Luke shows us that Jesus came from Adam, presenting Jesus as the Perfect Man.

But John?
He goes where no gospel writer had gone.
John shows us that Jesus
came straight from heaven,
declaring Jesus is God.

That’s a very good start to 2020.

*My 2020 Bible reading plan will take us on a slow stroll through the first ten chapters of the gospel of John over the next three months. Come along! Treasures await!

This week’s reading: John 1:1-18 (deeper study on John 1:1-5)
Next week’s reading: John 1:19-34 (deeper study on John 1:6-13)
Something to think about: How does Jesus’ eternal nature (no beginning, no end) impact you? 

Keeping Christ

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It seems we really do want Christ around at Christmas time. We do want the baby in the manger and the shepherds and the angels. It’s such a nice story. There’s a longing to hear that story, evidenced by the number of people who come to church once a year on Christmas Eve. Without it, Christmas would simply be a commercial boon to those who want to get into our pocketbooks. Without the nativity, Christmas would become a secular day off because of a fictional man in a red suit. Without Jesus, we’re left with trees and twinkly lights and paper and ribbon. We do want Christ in Christmas — it’s the only way it can mean anything.

But the sign in my neighbor’s yard will come down soon. And it won’t be long before it’s obvious that we don’t want to keep Christ in the rest of the year. Certainly not in the public square. Certainly not in our personal space. Most of us are not too keen on letting that sweet baby who is asleep on the hay, wake up and grow up to rule the world with truth and grace. So the sign comes down and the decorations get put away and we get on with our lives until next year.

Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, yes. But let’s free Him from the manger bed and see what happens when we give Him the right to rule and reign in our lives every day, all year long.

2020 Vision

FOCUS.
That’s my word for the year because, well, 2020.

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When I was in 2nd grade I got glasses.

I walked out of the optometrist’s office and said,
“Wow, I never noticed that church steeple before.”

I went to school and said,
“Wow, I can see the chalkboard from the back of the room now.”

I sat down to watch Gunsmoke on TV and said,
“Wow, I don’t have to squint anymore.”

I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing until my first pair of cat-eye glasses helped me focus. The steeple, the blackboard and the TV didn’t change, but my ability to see was altered by those corrective lenses and everything around me changed.

I have a feeling there are beautiful sights in front of me
that I’m not noticing.

Maybe there are lessons for me to learn if I step back
and get a deeper perspective.

It’s likely I’m trying too hard, straining to sharpen
what seems blurred and confusing.

I need the corrective lens of God’s truth to bring perspective and clarity to this nebulous, secular culture. I need the light of God’s Word to distinguish what’s true and what’s false. Most of all, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus.

“Stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”
(Heb. 12:2)

This is my prayer for 2020 vision:
“Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou has for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now, I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.”

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2020 Bible Reading Plan

Well, hello there.
Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?
It’s a good time for a fresh start.

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I’ve got to have a plan or else I tend to wander aimlessly. A guide helps keeps me on track. I may stumble and fall off at some point during the year, but it’s easy to get back on and keep going. At the top of the home page, you will see an update  — “2020 Bible Reading Plan”.

This year’s plan is a balanced diet of Old and New Testaments.

  • 3 months in the first ten chapters of the gospel of John (Jan.-Mar.)
  • 3 months in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (May-July)
  • 3 months in the historical account of Joshua (Sept.-Nov.)
  • 3 months in the Psalms (Apr., August and Dec.)

Click on 2020 Bible Reading Plan for all the details!

I hope to write weekly reflections based on the readings. Please feel free to share your insights in the comments as well.

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Presenting…. Theo John!

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I am proud to present Theo John Overlien!
Born on October 8, 2019
8 lbs. 14 oz.

Theo means “divine gift”.
That he is.

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My baby boy has a baby boy.

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PB and I have enough grands to make a football team.
I feel like I’ve already won the Superbowl.

“The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46:7

Buckle Up

This fall, PB is preaching on the full armor of God as found in Ephesians 6.  As he spoke about the belt of truth last Sunday, a song started playing from the dark recesses of my mind. Maybe you remember it? (If you’re over 50.)

Buckle up for safety — Buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always Buckle Up!
Pull your seatbelt snug,
give an extra tug.
Buckle up for safety, everybody — buckle up!

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This jingle, which was on a television commercial in the mid 1960s, encouraged the public to use some newfangled things called “seat belts”. By 1968, all American made cars were mandated to include the safety feature. Twenty years later, laws were passed in most states requiring people to actually use them.

buckleI’m sure the Apostle Paul didn’t have seat belts in mind when he wrote, “Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” (Ephesians 6:14) But, like a seatbelt, truth keeps us from flying all over the place when we come up against something. It keeps us safe.

I’m also sure that the composer of that jingle wasn’t trying to make a theological statement. But just look at these words.

Buckle up for safety — Buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always buckle up!
Show the world you care,
by the belt you wear.
Buckle up for safety! When you’re driving buckle up!

Being honest and truthful is a way to display compassion.
Offering a shaky world the solid ground of the Gospel shows we care.

Buckle up for safety — buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always buckle up!
Put your mind at ease,
tell your riders please.
Get your seat belts buckled! Everybody, buckle-up!

Peace of mind comes from being secure in Christ.
The road ahead is gonna get bumpy, so tell your riders. Please.

The truth is,
we need the belt of God’s truth holding us together.
Buckle up, people.

From Fever to Fervor

Two little verses — that’s all I read.
And then this happened.

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Now, that’s what I call a Bible party.
I usually keep these celebrations private,
but maybe somebody needs to listen in today.
“Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs them.”

Two little verses — Matthew 8:14-15. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.”

Mark’s gospel reports that this happened on the Sabbath. Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James and John were in Capernaum and had just been to church (synagogue). They must have been going to Peter’s house for lunch, after all, he had a wife who could make a mean falafel. Peter might have said, “Hey guys, come on over. My wife won’t mind a bit.” (Holy imagination is at work here. The Bible says nothing about Peter’s wife’s cooking.) Really? Peter was married?

“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter?” 1 Corinthians 9:5

So yes, Peter was married and his wife’s mother lived with them. Did they have any children, I wonder? Did any of the 12 apostles have children? Jesus’ brothers probably had children. Did they refer to the Messiah as “Uncle Jesus”? Ah….probably not. However, at one point, Jesus’ family thought He had lost his mind. Did they ever talk about their crazy uncle? (Time to reign in that imagination.) Back to the story.

Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever — but no one asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus just saw her lying in bed. (Greek word for fever = pyresso, to be on fire.) I’m sure Mrs. Peter was concerned about her mom. Then her husband showed up at lunchtime with four other men (2 were business partners, 1 was her brother-in-law, and one was a preacher.)

Oy vey.

Lunch wasn’t happening with m-i-l down in bed and Mrs. P tending to her. So Jesus went to the older woman’s bed and touched her hand. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t feel her forehead, he didn’t close his eyes and pray a long prayer. He touched her. And just like that, the fever broke. No, the fever fled, disappeared, ceased to be.

What did she do? She did what any good Jewish grandma would do — she got up and started fixing lunch. There were no residual effects of the fever, no decreased energy or lack of strength. She was good as new. (Greek word for “got up”= egeiro, resurrected) This was a mini-resurrection, a foreshadowing, a miracle for an unnamed, insignificant old woman. The dear soul got up and served, which was the only logical response to Jesus’ touch.

What a time they must have had around that dinner table! The ladies hadn’t been in church that morning, so they missed the amazing teaching Jesus gave and the dramatic driving out of an evil spirit. (Mark 1:21-28) Peter and company must have recounted that morning’s unusual worship service to the women. What a day to miss church.

They lingered long over lunch and deepened their relationship with this amazing Teacher. Mrs. Peter was so grateful for her husband’s new friend. Now she could see what drew her man to this Man. He was unlike anyone she ever knew. Could it really be Him? Messiah? Here in her humble home? Eating her falafels?

falafels

I live a fevered life sometimes.
I lie in bed, agitated by concerns and worries about the future.
I burn up with resentment and painful memories from the past.
Jesus sees me lying there, huddled under my burdens.
He touches my hand. I grab ahold. He helps me get up.
My fever is transformed into fervor to serve.

Every morning He resurrects us
so we can be about the Father’s business.

Jesus is aware of the needs
in your home,
in your heart,
in your body.
Ask Him in.
His touch changes everything.