Falling Short

After much thought, I have decided not to rush the study to complete it in the time frame.  As my pastor said, studying Scripture isn't about completing a challenge; it's about immersing oneself in the Word and being divinely inspired by it.  I may double-post if I find the time to do two full studies in a day, but I'm not going to squeeze two studies into the time set aside for one.  And I may let a few days pass if the Spirit leads me down a particularly complex train of research.

Day 4: Romans 3:23


for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (ESV)

Key Thoughts

 

  • All are equal (verse 22)
  • All have sinned
  • None are worthy of the glory of God

This verse really needs the last half of the previous verse to complete it: For there is no distinction: for all have sinned... Paul is tearing down the spiritual barriers between those who were steeped in the faith for generations (the Jews) and those who have always been spiritually outcast (the Gentiles).  Today we might compare the pastor's child and the hardened criminal.  Regardless, neither can stand before God on any sort of intrinsic moral superiority; all have sinned and thus all fall short of God's glory.  It's the answer to the perpetual question, "How good is good enough for God?"  This verse says, "God's standard is so high that we can't even imagine it in our sinful,fallen little mortal minds, much less reach it."


Key Verse


This verse does not explain today's selection so much as it provides a necessary completion to it:

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24, ESV)


Application

How should my life become a proper response to this passage?


This is a verse to knock me down when I start feeling too superior - to remind me that as good as I think I am, I am still woefully inadequate to the task of being a cherished creation of God.  I actually had a pastor say such a lie of me when I was a preteen - he was praising me for serving so faithfully in the church (apparently I was the only kid my age who would show up when I was schedule to serve in the seven a.m. mass) and he said to other church members that I "was a good person."  But I'm not.  I sin and I stumble and I fall every day, same as every other person around.  Humility is the proper attitude of such a broken person.  Not pride in the meager, insignificant successes I occasionally have in following God.

Read ahead!  Next verse: Romans 6:23

This is going somewhat slower than I anticipated.  Between the holiday, the grout-cleaning-and-sealing project that took much longer than expected, and the fact that I really wanted to do a quality study on this verse, I'm much later than I wanted to be.  I'm not sure yet if I'll try double-posting or just carry on from here and finish in August.  Stay tuned.

 Day 3: John 10:10


"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (ESV)

Key Thoughts

 

  • Jesus brings life
  • Not just life, but abundant life
  • Jesus is no thief; no false prophet

One of the reasons this verse took so long is because it is an integral part of a much longer passage - John 9:39-10:21.  And even this speech is set up in the entirety of chapter 9 in the miracle of Jesus restoring sight, the effrontery (to the Pharisees) of doing so on the Sabbath, and the expulsion of the formerly-blind man from the temple because he would not denounce Jesus as a sinner.  Jesus then starts chapter 10 with a parable of sheep, shepherds and thieves.  He associates himself variously as the sheepgate (10:9) through which pass only those who have the Master's blessing and as the shepherd himself (10:11, 14).  This does make the parable more confusing to assimilate, as it seems to say that Jesus enters the sheep pen by way of himself, which begs the question: is this some sort of profound statement on the nature of the Trinity, or am I just over-analyzing a parable which isn't meant to have a one-to-one allegorical relationship with the truth anyway?

However, Jesus does clearly set up a foil to the gate and the shepherd in the person of the thief.  The thief climbs into the pen and circumvents the door (10:1); he will not be followed willingly by the sheep (10:5, 8); and he does so solely for his own good or the negative good of others (10:10).  As he started the parable by rebuking the blindness of the Pharisees (9:41), it seems logical that the "thief" in this case also refers to the Pharisees and other false prophets, but I suppose it could also be a more general reference to the devil and all those who are prompted by him.  Regardless, Jesus is using the metaphor to illustrate his unique love for us and complete trustworthiness in the face of danger (10:11-12).


Key Verse


In the whole extended passage, not one verse seems more appropriate than the one suggested for the study.  I was checking out different translations, and I rather liked the Orthodox Jewish Bible:

"The ganav does not come except in order that he may steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have Chayyim (Life) and that they may have it more abundantly."
When I was looking into the word "ganav," Strong's concordance did not define it any more elaborately than, "a thief."  The actual Greek word for "thief" in this passage has not much greater detail, though it has a metaphorical relationship with false teachers.  But I found a monograph differentiating between different Hebrew words for thief, and according to it, "ganav" was traditionally used for those who had more fear of people than of God - in other words, it was a person who devalued the opinion of God more than the opinions of those around him.  Now, these verse were not originally in Hebrew, of course, but I always find it fascinating to check out other languages, as they can be more nuanced than English in some places.

Application

How should my life become a proper response to this passage?

There are two basic appropriate responses to this passage.  The first is to seek after that abundant life that Jesus promises by trusting Him and following His lead.  But the other (this occurred to me when I was reflecting on the word "ganav," and thus I justify what is otherwise a rather irrelevant linguistic digression) is that I must guard against falseness and "thievery" in my own spirit.  Pride is a constant struggle for me, and because of this I am often tempted to elevate myself and thus diminish God - which seem to me to be substantial character traits of the ganav false teacher.

Read ahead!  Next verse: Romans 3:23

Day 2: John 3:16


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV)

Key Thoughts

 

  • God loves us
  • Jesus was a gift
  • Belief in God's son saves us from perishing

This verse is everywhere.  It's so common to see that it's easy for Christians to start to gloss over.  It's practically Christianity 101.  I'm willing to bet a lot of Christians see this verse and start thinking, "Yeah, yeah - God loved the world and sent Jesus to save us; I've already covered this part when I got saved."  I have to admit that I'm one of them most of the time.  But because this verse summarizes the basic foundational truths of the faith it needs to be given more than a cursory thought.

I found it useful to look at the broader context of the passage.  Nicodemus the Pharisee has just come to Jesus to discuss spiritual truths, and Jesus makes an analogy in verses 14 and 15: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."  It's worth noting that, in Numbers 21:6-9, only after repentance and prayer were the Israelites given salvation from the snakes.  So it is with Jesus; we must repent and pray as well to gain salvation.  Belief in him is a serious, committed act of the heart.  Yet, though salvation comes after prayer, Jesus was still given to us first because God loved us.


Key Verse


So... the journaling guidelines for the 31-Day Scripture Challenge say to "write out word for word the Key Verse of the passage in which God spoke to you."  Given that a lot of the daily passages are single verses, either the guide was cribbed off a more in-depth study, or we are expected to do a lot of cross-referencing.  So in that spirit, I choose to write out verse 17:

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (ESV)
God loved us; He did not want to condemn us.  While the Israelites had to see their sin and repent of it before God allowed Moses to give them the totem of His salvation, He gave us His Son first, to help us understand He is not first a God of judgement but of love. 

Application

How should my life become a proper response to this passage?

The obvious answer is "believe in the God who loves me."  But this is easier to say than to do.  What exactly does that kind of belief look like?  The most tangible way to relate to God is through the words He left us in the Bible.  Committing to really study those words is a good first step.  But it has to be more than just reciting chapter and verse; the words have to become a foundation for the way I live my life.  That means trusting the words even when they aren't convenient or don't make sense.  Words like "love thy neighbor as thyself" can be some of the hardest ones to live by, yet they are the most important ones.  So important, in fact, that Jesus began to prepare his disciples for his imminent crucifixion with these words:
 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35 ESV)
Today I am starting more of an online journal as I follow a 31-day scripture challenge suggested by my church.  It's more of a blogging exercise than anything else, but I hope it may be of some benefit to others as well.  I'm not a theologian by any means, but perhaps my thoughts can help others have some insights.

Day 1: Jeremiah 29:11-13


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (ESV)

Key Thoughts

 

  • God has a plan for us
  • His plan is for our good
  • God will be found by any who seek him whole-heartedly

The context for this passage appears to be the Lord speaking to His exiled followers - the Israelites who had fallen away yet again and were captured by the Babylonians.  Yet God still has plans for their good, despite their enormous lapses of faith.  This is a most encouraging thought; that through all the sin God still so loved the world that He doesn't stop making plans to benefit us.


Key Verse


I really like the NIV's use of the word "prosper" for verse 11:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Application

How should my life become a proper response to this passage?


Prayer is a central theme in this passage.  And not just drive-by prayer, but real, honest, whole-hearted body, mind and soul prayer.  Too often I rush prayer because it's too much work to stop and shift gears into any sort of meaningful reflection on who God is and how I want to approach Him.  But rushed prayer doesn't bring me closer to God.  I really need to sit down regularly and make real space for communion with God in prayer.
 
Hope is another big theme.  Here it's not merely wishing for nice things but an assurance of good to come.  It means that none should despair of God's promises.  Despair is not merely an emotional state, but it is a choice that we make by our actions.  So long as I persevere in faith I am choosing to walk away from despair.

For the last two months, I've had the 30-Day House Cleaning Challenge picture up, but no actual posts.

I tried to do the challenge, but my pregnant self was always a day or more behind.  I had just caught up with the old chores and was about to clean the bedrooms when the contractions started in force.  And four hours later...

Meet "Rose."

And that's my excuse for not cleaning and blogging.