A NEW YEAR
A FRESH START
TO RUN THE RACE WITH PERSEVERANCE
AND TO “FEEL HIS PLEASURE” AS WE RUN
My challenge for running the race this year is to ramp up our prayer lives, and I have three concrete suggestions for doing so. (You might want to consider doing one, two, or all three!)
1) PRAY SCRIPTURE
No matter what else you are doing in the Word, when you are quickened by a verse — stop right then and turn it into a prayer. Or, when you are done with your daily time, look back and find a way to pray — you can praise Him for what you saw about Him, ask Him for a quality lacking in you…let the Spirit guide you, but pray Scripture. When I look at the regrets in my life, it is because I lacked strength of character when I faced a trial or a temptation. Praying Scripture helps you pray for strength of character — whereas we have a tendency to pray that the trial will disappear.
2) PRAY THE PSALMS
Many of you may want to get Tim and Kathy Keller’s devotional on the psalms. I like it very much. The psalms is God’s prayer book and many believers are always praying through it for you know you are praying within God’s will. Keller’s book divides the longer psalms into several days so you go through the psalter slowly over a year.
3) WRITE DOWN THANKS
When Ann VosKamp took the challenge of listing 1,000 gifts, being alert to simple things like “rainbows on dish bubbles,” “long lisped prayers,” it changed her. I’ve been doing this on my laptop, but this year I’m going to switch to a journal I was given. I’ll keep it with a pen on my coffee table to write in each morning or to seize the moment when I’m aware of a gift.
This week in our study we will link the last verse we are memorizing to the New Year’s Study beginning next week. What will that be? Stay with us!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Did any of you read through the Bible chronologically in 2015? If so, how did it impact you?
3. Pray about the 2016 prayer challenge! : ) What do you think the Lord would have you do and why? Let us know now or by New Year’s Eve!
4. Share one way you saw God in your life this Christmas.
Monday: Complete your passage!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
4. What comments or thoughts do you have on the above?
If it was too wild last week to hear this sermon, here’s another chance — and we’d love your thoughts:
Tuesday-Thursday (Thursday is New Year’s Eve)
We are returning to The Song of Songs, as I’ve continued to study and see so much more from our time in it in 2013. As many of you know, and because of your prayers, Waterbrook is publishing this book and it will come out in the summer of 2017. I must turn in the first draft in March, so I’m testing now, for you are the best audience for this. Do you know how thankful I am for a group of women of depth who dig, who make themselves vulnerable, and who are iron sharpening iron? I am — and I give thanks upon every remembrance of you!
This is my working title:
Jesus Calls You
(Discovering Christ in the Song of Songs)
This study will disappear from the blog at some point, to honor the publisher’s request not to hurt their sales. So I ask your understanding for that disappearance and to not make copies of this. We will take this study through Lent as well, beginning with a review week for those just joining us — and you will be their mentors! In the past, when Christ was seen as central in the Song, it was often done during Lent.
Frankly, this study isn’t for everyone and I’m praying for a diplomatic way to communicate that clearly in the book. The Song has been so trampled upon, sometimes being turned into soft porn. While earthly marriage and the marriage bed are there, they are there to illuminate a much more lasting relationship: Christ and His Bride. Many who have seen only the earthly side cannot believe Christ is there, nor are they willing to look deeply. I’m trying to somehow keep the naysayers out of groups, for they hurt everyone — but how to do it is a bit of a challenge. So I’d love your input on this paragraph that I now have on an Introductory page.
The Song is pearl, but it is not for everyone. Its beauty is so deep and rich, that unless you are able and motivated to take the time daily to ponder it, it would be better to pass for now. But you don’t need to pass if you are single. Though marrieds will find their marriages enhanced, the primary purpose of this study is to discover and respond to the depth of Christ’s love for us.
5. How do you feel about returning to The Song?
6. What do you think of the above paragraph? Too strong? Too weak?
GOD DWELLING WITH MAN
I’m excited to show you how John 1:14, your last memory verse, links us to The Song. Many are perplexed at why God would choose Solomon, the man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines, to write and to be the earthly bridegroom in a book which depicts the beauty of faithfulness in marriage and faithfulness to God. While it may be possible that Solomon was chosen because his failure led to repentance, and then wrote himself into the story depicting how he should have been, and indeed that may be, I think there is a better theory as to the primary reason God chose Solomon to write His Song of Songs.
Ellen F. Davis says to consider what Solomon’s ultimate achievement was. What was that? The building of the temple where man could meet with God. God chose this “man of peace” for this purpose. (The names Solomon and Shulammite, who is the bride in the Song, both derive from the Hebrew “Shalom” or “peace.”)
What was the purpose of this temple? It was a way man could meet with a holy God. Though it was true this temple was just a faint shadow of the True Temple to come, it was a foreshadowing of the day man could have intimacy directly with God, of a day when the intimacy pictured in The Song would be possible.
Perhaps when we thought of Solomon only in regard to his failure, we couldn’t solve the puzzle. But when we look at his success, suddenly we see. We had been trying in vain to force the blue ocean piece into the blue sky! If we try it instead in the ocean, we will find the missing piece.
Let’s take a short journey through history to see how this puzzle piece fits.
The Ark of the Covenant held the tablets of Moses and was carried through the wilderness by the Israelites. The holy presence of God accompanied the Ark.
7. Read 2 Samuel 6:1-11
A. What do you learn about the ark in verse 2?
B. Uzzah felt his hand was cleaner than the dirt — but what happened? (v. 7) What does this teach us about man?
C. How did David respond?
D. How did God bless the pagan house of Obed-edom?
E. How does this story show us both the severity and goodness of God? How does it point to the Gospel?
8. Read 1 Chronicles 28:2-8.
A. Why, according to verse 2, did David want to built this temple?
B. Why did God choose Solomon instead?
C. What promise and condition did God give to Solomon?
My son J. R. asked me my favorite Christmas Song — I told him, “This year, hands down, it’s this.” We listened to it together and were all reduced to tears.
Let your heart be melted by this:
9. Some translations say, “and tabernacled” among us. Why, do you think?
10. When Christ died, the veil in the temple was rent. Why, do you think?
11. What insight does Hebrews 9:1-12 give you concerning the superiority of Christ over the first covenant?
12. When Christ ascended He sent the Holy Spirit to us. Now the hearts of believers are God’s dwelling place! What does this mean to you — and what implications are there for you?
13. If you haven’t told us yet, what part or parts of the prayer challenge might you accept?
New Year’s Day
14. Let’s Try a Day of Ramping up Our Prayer Life
A. Is there anything from the study this week you could put into prayer? I’ll give an idea in red — then it is your turn.
Jesus, thank You so much for being here, our Immanuel.
Help me remember each moment that my body is your temple, and to live accordingly.
B. Meditate on Psalm 1 and turn it into a prayer.
C. Give thanks for some of the gifts from God you are noticing today.
15. What is your take-a-way this week and why?