I began my 3 month New Testament Challenge. Along with all the other Kenyans joining gyms, going on diets and starting to attend church, hopefully some of you who are reading this are doing it with me! This time round, I’m using a paraphrase of the bible (not an exact translation but more of an informal rewrite in contemporary language) called ‘The Message’. If you’re doing The Challenge, please invest in an easy to understand version or paraphrase; maybe one you haven’t read through before. You’ll be amazed how the dramatic story comes alive as you read it!
Some of you who take The Challenge will struggle with the reading plan. You’ll come to a great idea or difficult verse and want to stop and camp there; figure out what it means. But while this is a great thing to do, you need to take care not to miss the forest for the trees. Reading through as we’re doing every once in a while is a great way to get the big picture; a bird’s eye view of God’s word. And as Matthew 4:4 puts it, ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth’
Of course the main challenge will involve time. Ensuring you set aside enough time to do this every day. With this one, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. So right from the beginning, set aside a time when you’ll do this daily. And if you miss a couple of readings, don’t beat yourself up! You can catch up by reading on the off-days or even extending the 3 months a bit.
Here are some of my favorite quotes (ala The Message) so far followed by some my resulting random thoughts (that I turned into prayer)…
Matthew 3:17 ‘This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life’
Matthew 5:18 Not only that – count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer even! For though they don’t like it I do!
Matthew 4:23 ‘God’s kingdom was (Jesus’) theme – that beginning right now they were under God’s government – a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and the bad effects of their lives’.
Matthew 5:1 ‘When Jesus saw his ministry was drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.’
If you’re doing God’s work God’s way, expect critics! I tend to get discouraged whenever I’m criticized especially if I perceive it to be unfair. Yet I feel affirmed and encouraged by my Heavenly Father to keep going in 2009 despite what any critics or haters may say. Say after me… I have the Father’s blessing and that’s what counts.
Jesus’ message to his generation was that God is now here to take over. Their only hope of survival lay in their giving their lives over to Him completely. Moving from the driver’s seat and surrendering not only the keys but the logbook as well (not minor repairs but a total overhaul). This is the message of the Kingdom. It’s a coup against my self-directed life. It’s not ‘say this prayer and you’ll be safe forever’. God isn’t interested in just taking over the religious sphere of our lives; in our Sunday piety… in turning us into ‘nice Christians. He wants it all, including Monday to Saturday. Secular and spiritual. It’s only when He has control over everything in our lives that He can deal with our issues and turn us into Fearless Influencers; who in turn take over on His behalf, not just the ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ areas but every sector of society.
When people realized he had a life-giving message, crowds were the result. Jesus raised the bar though. He took it a notch higher so that only those who were willing to go further could. I need to ensure that I’m not just following Him when it’s convenient. Instead I must move from being a consumer Christian and follow Him into those quiet and sometimes lonely places where I’ll hear Him most clearly.
If you’re taking The Challenge, please feel free to add a comment and share what you’re learning with the rest of us!