New Challenge starting September 15

Dear FPC family and friends,             It is hard to believe that we are so close to finishing the entire Scripture together.  We started with the Gospels and since then have made our way through the entire New Testament and are very close to finishing the Old Testament.  How has the journey been for you?  We started back in the New Year of 2016 and we have made it very, very far, so far.  I can’t believe that it will be over 4 years since we started.  So, how has the journey been?  Have you gained a new appreciation of Scripture, or, as they say, is ignorance bliss?  Sometimes we run across Scriptures that are simply difficult and we would rather not read.  How come there is so much violence?  How come women are seen as nothing more than property in some areas?  How come Jesus says he comes to bring peace but then war seems to be the mainstay in some areas of Scripture.  I hope this blog will put things within context.  You can follow along at: http://www.straspres.org/90-day-challenge-viii on our website.              This journey will take us through the books of I and II Samuel, Hosea, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi.  As we continue along in our Old Testament keep in mind that these books of the Bible were primarily written to a people who understood God to be in control.  But, as God was in control, the prophets who speak in these books, or the priests and kings who act in these books, were first and foremost interested in making sure that God’s will was done, not the will of a leader, or the people, or even of the nation.  Sometimes God’s will was that the nation be punished, and so the prophets had to bring that message as well.  You will find that in some of these chapters it is easier to find modern day application, and in others not so much.  In all of it I pray that you will find an opportunity to ask the question: how does God want me to act in relationship to my neighbor as I read this Scripture?             Happy reading and I pray that these next 90 days will provide you with a tremendous amount of insight.   Your servant in Christ, Pastor Bob
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July 26, 2019: Day 90 – Haggai 2

We find ourselves with the Lord speaking directly to the leaders of the people, Zerubbabel who was the governor of Judah, and Joshua who was the high priest.  They were basically the two most influential and important people in the land of Israel.  He begins speaking with them in vs.4 in the same exact way that we see it depicted in I Chronicles 28:20 where David speaks to Solomon as he is about to build the temple and says: "Be strong and of good courage, and act.  Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord  God, my God, is with you."  In the same way the Lord says to Zerubbabel and to Joshua, and we also see to all the people of Israel who were gathered: "Now take courage...for I am with you."   What a great way to leave this 90 Day Challenge with these words from our Lord who tells us in our big and small projects, whether we are building the temple or trying to fill the usher list for Sunday, "Take courage for I am with you."  I want this to be your mantra as you make your way through life these days.  Don't allow the cultural message of fear and anxiety pervade your style of life so that all of your decision making is impacted and affected by a fear of what could be.  Allow it to be directed by the promise of what will be given to us by our Savior: Take courage for I am with you. As a result of that promise the people of Israel were able to face their future in the midst of just returning from captivity to rebuild their nation to a point of the Lord saying that He would overthrow all of their enemies.  When we face life with the courage and the confidence that the Lord instills within us then we do not need to fear, we do not need to wonder "what if?", we simply need to live our lives to the fulfillment of what God has in store for us.  Let's do that together in community.  See you next 90 Day Challenge and thanks for following!
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July 25, 2019: Day 89 – Haggai 1

The word Hag in Hebrew means festival and so maybe the author and the one depicted in this book of the Bible was someone who either was born on a festival day..., or just liked to party.  When we read about this king Darius in the first verse we are able to get a pretty good indication of when this was written.  Darius was the one who dedicated the temple after it had been rebuilt.   So we are talking about around the years 515 BC.  Let's look at the content.  We see the prophet speaking to the people about how is it that you can live in such nice beautiful houses while the house of the Lord, the temple, lies in ruins?  They were convicted and we see that in vs.12 the people mobilized and set off and did what they needed to do in order to put the house of the Lord back in shape.  They worked hard to do it.  The mobilization of the people happened from the top down in this example.  First it was the ruler and the chief priest, and they spoke to the people, and the Spirit of the people rose up.  It was top down, but it doesn't always work that way. I will never forget spending time in Latin America, not just Honduras but primarily, and all the  countries between there and here.  I  was often shocked by the abject poverty which surrounded me and yet the place of worship in the town, a church, would be a place of utter wealth and splendor.  It was shocking, it was troubling, and I sensed a disconnect which was obvious and appalling as someone who  professed faith in Jesus Christ, but the Jesus that I believed in would not be caught dead in that church.  He would have been sleeping on the streets in the filth with everyone else. What is interesting about this prophet, that is Haggai, is that he speaks  and the people respond overwhelmingly.  In almost  all the other books of the Bible that we have read  we see  the prophet speak and it has to be about doom and gloom because the people absolutely refuse to respond to the message.  But not here.  They respond  and in the next, read last, chapter we will see what comes of that response.
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July 24, 2019: Day 88 – Habakkuk 3

This final chapter is more of a song and it is designed to be used in a house of worship.  You can see that from the very beginning to its intermediary Selah stances after vs.3, 9, and 13 that this was meant for a choirmaster  to put it together to song and musical instruments.   When we read about  Shigionoth in vs.1 we find that name also mentioned in Psalm 7.  We don't know what it means, but again, it is another piece of evidence that this "prayer" was supposed to be put to some music.   So we finish this book of the Bible and we also finish another 90 Day Challenge.  We find ourselves with only 16 books left out of 66 books of the Bible.  We are almost there!
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July 23, 2019: Day 87 – Habakkuk 2

So the prophet asked God a question in chapter 1, where are you when things are really going bad, and now we find in chapter 2 that he is waiting for an answer.  The depiction we get is that of a sentinel on a tower waiting for the word of the Lord which he expects to come which will answer that question.  Right away in vs.2 we see that the Lord answers the prophet.  Look at vs.4 and we find a Scripture which is taken up in Romans 1:17,  Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38-39.  Go ahead  and look them up and read them.  What we read is that the righteous will live by faith.   So the answer God gives is wrapped up in taunts to the wealthy.  Those  nations who are ravaging the Israelites will meet their doom.  The enemy nations which are causing so much grief to the prophet and his people will meet their demise at the hands of those that they have persecuted.  Basically the question of where are you when it hurts is answered with vs.3, if revenge tarries, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not delay.  Wait, but it is delaying which is why I'm calling out to you.  I don't feel like you are doing anything, I'm getting impatient.  The answer: wait for the Lord.  Look at Psalm 27 and you can see a similar theme.  Actually if you look at Psalm 27:13-14 you hear the author convinced that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  So that would be here and now.  If we would just wait for the Lord.  These two themes go well together.
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July 22, 2019: Day 86 – Habakkuk 1

The question the author of Habakkuk poses to God is: "Where are you when bad things are happening?"  It is a question that I'm guessing most of us have asked at one time or another in our life.  As Israel sees its destruction, as it faces the Babylonians, here in chapter 1:6 they are called the Chaldeans, the question arising from the nation must  be why does God not act to save us?  Why is God allowing the total destruction of the land and the temple, and His people to be taken away into slavery? This question is posed on a personal level in Job.  The book of Job asks the question: Why do bad things happen to good people.  The book of Habakkuk asks the question: Why do bad things happen to the chosen people of God and God does nothing about it?  It is a bit of a longer question but it does take people from the individual to the communal as you would expect within a writing of Scripture.  Our relationship with God is not just one on one.  It is not just us and God, but a community, in our case a church, is involved and it is supposed to have an impact upon our individual relationship with God.  Who we are as a child of God has much to do with our status as part of the family of our church.   A classic quote which captures this feeling is seen in vs.13: "Why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?"  But the way, those who are more righteous would be, of course, us.  We  tend to put ourselves in that position, as the more  righteous, even though as we read in Isaiah 64 that all of our deeds are sin and like filthy rags.  But we tend to forget that and put ourselves in the tier of the righteous.   So, just to put this book of the Bible and this first chapter in context it is said to be spoken of Habakkuk who was a prophet of the Lord.  Once again one of the 12 minor prophets that we are covering which start in the Bible with Hosea and ends with Malachi.
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July 21, 2019: Day 85 – Nahum 3

It seems like Nineveh is getting what it deserved, at least this is what was mentioned in vs.19 as the rhetorical question posed is: "who has ever escaped your cruelty?"  With that question comes the statement that we can assume, and so you will not escape the cruelty that is falling on you because you did the same thing to everyone else.   This prophecy of  Nahum, an oracle against  the nations, is from the beginning to the end a tirade against Nineveh and a description of her destruction which is posed in a somewhat matter of fact yet gleeful way.  The author, you can tell, is pumped about Nineveh being destroyed.  It is such a different perspective than the author who described the destruction of the Benjaminites and called them mighty warriors where here the soldiers of Nineveh in vs.13 are described in this way: "Look at your troops; they are women in your midst."   Now some may take offense especially if they happened to see Black Panther and  recognize the strength of the warriors, all of whom happened to be women.  But certainly this was meant as a snub and an insult.  Notice also that Nineveh is a "she", which make sense because in the Hebrew the word is also in the feminine, so it would only work if the place were described as a she.  So this book of the Bible comes to a close, a vivid, graphic description of the downfall of Nineveh and all of its citizens.
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July 20, 2019: Day 84 – Nahum 2

This chapter depicts  the destruction of Nineveh, as it is described in vs.8 like "a pool whose waters run away."  The kiss of death is seen in vs.13 as  we read about the Lord of hosts who says that they will be burned down and that those who hunt them will not be stopped.  It is a pretty wicked continuation of what was promised in the first chapter as we definitely see Nineveh in this book of the Bible as the enemy of God, again in contrast to Jonah where they are seen as enemy and then protagonist, with Jonah, a Hebrew person, the enemy, or at least the antagonist.  There will be no change in theme as we move to the next and last chapter.
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July 19, 2019: Day 83 – Nahum 1

Do you remember Jonah who was given a mission to proclaim Good News to the Ninevites, even while God said that they would perish because they were wicked?  Do you remember how they repented and turned to God and God had compassion on them and rescued them?  Well, not so much in the book of Nahum.  We find ourselves in another minor prophet, and this time we find this prophet speaking many oracles against the nations, beginning with Nineveh.  You may wonder about this seeming schizophrenic approach to a nation.  No, it makes sense, because in one, Jonah, we see that the grace of  God is allowed to extend to whomever God chooses to extend the grace of God.  In another, so in this case Nahum, we see  that the justice of God is allowed to extend as far as God wants the justice of God to extend.  He wants to be sure that Israel knows that God is an avenging and jealous  God.  Remember in the New Testament, in Romans, where God says vengeance is mine.  The implication is that we are not to take vengeance because God is able to do it on His own.   When we get to verse 15 we find that the Gospel is proclaimed.  Remember that Gospel really means Good News, and so when we read about one who proclaims peace  and is able to help us celebrate with good news, well, that is Gospel.  The good news is  that the enemy is about to die, which will, of course, bring about peace. Nahum, like Joel, is also short, just 3 chapters.
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