Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday, February 28th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Leviticus 11-12, Mark 7:1-13

Unfortunately Sandy has strep again, so I am doing her post for her today.

Today's passage in Leviticus deals with clean and unclean things. God is holy and He decided what was clean and not clean. There may have been reasons for His declaration of what was and wasn't clean, or they may have simply been arbitrary choices by our sovereign God. The bottom line is, things are clean or unclean because God declares them to be so.

And it comes down to love. If we love God, we will love what He loves and detest what He detests. And if we love our fellow man, we will not do anything to cause them to stumble.

The part of our passage that bothered me was chapter 12 and why the birth of a daughter was different from the birth of a son. And why a woman was unclean for something that was not only not her "fault", but that was a wonderful event.

When I researched it, I found numerous different explanations.

First, it separated sex and worship. In the other cultures of the day sex and worship were often intertwined with each other, and these designations (along with Chapter 15) would make the Israelites stand apart from the other cultures.

Second, it was a reminder of man's sinfulness, from womb to tomb. We sin because we are inherently sinful. A newborn baby has inherited a fallen and sinful nature.

Third, she might be unclean because of the postnatal discharge of blood. Blood symbolized life doves instead of a lamb and a pigeon or dove. We see in Luke 2 that Jesus' parents were poor as they brought the two pigeons for their sacrifice (which also shows that the Magi's visit was sometime later or they would've been able to afford the lamb). Jesus and His parents were a recipient of this grace!

Finally, why was it a longer purification period for a daughter than a son? No definitive answer, but it could be suggested that it was a reminder to women of the fall, of Eve's sinful decision, of the curse of the pain of childbirth and all the other consequences brought on by the fall.

This sermon had a lot of detail on this chapter.

The OT Law was given to demonstrate our need for a Saviour, our need for grace, our complete inability to fulfill all that the law required. In our NT passage we see that the Pharisees have, instead, wrapped themselves in their perceived robes of righteousness to appear holy and to receive attention for their status. Not only that, they had added their own rules and declared them to be God's.

God is concerned about our hearts.

Yes, our actions are important. But the thing is, we can have the right actions but have wrong hearts and motives. But when we have right hearts and motives, right actions flow from it. That's why the greatest command is to love.

Tomorrow's passage: Leviticus 13, Mark 7:14-37

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday, February 27th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Leviticus 8-10, Mark 6:30-56

Click here to read last year's post on this passage.

God makes a lot of statements by fire.

He spoke to Moses through a burning bush. He led the Israelites with a pillar of fire. Later in the OT, He rains fire from heaven when Elijah prays. In the NT He sends the believers the Holy Spirit that appeared as flames above their heads.

And in today's passage He uses fire twice for the same reason (His holiness), but for two opposite behaviours.

After giving so many particular instructions about how exactly all the different types of offerings were to be administered, finally the time comes for the priests to exercise these instructions for the first time. And they do so, carefully and thoroughly, making sure to follow every instruction down to the last letter.

And after they do so, fire comes out from the presence of the Lord and consumes the offering, a glorious act demonstrating the absolute holiness of God. Their respect and obedience brought down holy fire from heaven as an act of glory, giving approval to their purposeful obedience.

But then Nadab and Abihu got sloppy - whether it was purposeful disrespect, outright disobedience or carelessness we do not know. Whatever their motive, their disobedience brought down holy fire from heaven demonstrating once again, the absolute holiness of God. They were consumed in an act of glory and judgment.

From my Life Application Bible....
It is easy for us to grow careless about obeying God, to live our way instead of God's. But if one way were just as good as another, God would not have commanded us to live his way. He always has good reasons for his commands, and we always place ourselves in danger when we consciously or carelessly disobey them. (emphasis mine)

Our God is a holy God, and we play with fire when we consciously or carelessly disobey Him.

Tomorrow's passage: Leviticus 11-12, Mark 7:1-13

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday, February 26th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Leviticus 6-7, Mark 6:1-29

What struck me about today's passage was the beginning of chapter 6 that talked about deception and theft.

Stealing and deception encompass everything from the smallest deception to the biggest theft, and all of them are sin, not just the big ones. Whether we find something and don't bother to attempt to return it to it's rightful owner, keep extra change given us by a store, go bankrupt without making alternate arrangements to repay our debt, shoplift a $1 pack of gum or a $1 million painting - it is all sin.

One thing that keeps coming back to me too is that when we confess our sins to the person we have wronged, it doesn't end there. Where possible we need to make restitution. And we still need to confess our sin to God and ask Him for forgiveness, because no matter what we have done, we have sinned against His holy standard. This is something I need to remember to proactively teach our children as well. Apologizing to their siblings AND to God is necessary for complete restoration.

I also wanted to share this quote from last year's post as well.....

This commentary on had some good thoughts on these chapters...

The teaching of Leviticus on the Sin Offering has something very important to say to the Christian about personal sanctification. Whenever we sin, we need to remember that it is the shed blood of Christ which God has provided for our forgiveness. Repentance and confession is the means for experiencing that forgiveness and cleansing on a daily basis.

Knowing the high price which Christ has paid for our forgiveness should also cause us to take sin very seriously. Every sin, no matter how insignificant it may seem, required the blood of Christ to be shed. Let us never forget that while forgiveness is free, it was not obtained cheaply. Here is a motivation for godly living.

Then, too, let us be reminded of the seriousness of sin. God takes sin very seriously. God takes unintentional sin more seriously than we take willful sin. And God takes willful sin even more seriously than we wish to think about:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29).

I am not for a moment suggesting that Christians are not eternally saved and secure, but I am suggesting that the willful sin of a wayward saint is a very sobering matter, and one which will not allow that wayward believer to sense any safety and security in what he or she is doing. Let us learn from both the Old and the New Testament how much God hates sin.

Finally, I must say to you that “ignorance is not bliss,” in spite of those who would have you think so. The Israelites were held accountable for the sins they committed ignorantly. Many contemporary Christians seem to think that if they don’t study their Bibles, if they don’t familiarize themselves with the standards and principles God has given in the Bible, they will not be responsible for their sins committed in ignorance. Not so! The Sin Offering strongly suggests that we had better become careful students of the revealed Word of God, for it is disobedience to His word that constitutes sin.

Today, because of Jesus' death on the cross, we no longer have to sacrifice animals. But we still need to confess sin. Genuine confession and repentance shows a realization of our sin, a recognition of God's holiness, humility before God, remorse for our sin, and willingness to turn away from this sin - all of which is required for true reconciliation and fellowship with God to be restored.

It's amazing the extent our human nature will go to in order to conceal our sin, or even to attempt to justify it after it's been revealed.

The story in Mark about John the Baptist's beheading exemplifies this to a T.

Herodias had originally been married to Herod's brother Philip (ruler of Traconitis and Iturea), but she left him to marry Herod Antipas (ruler over Galilee). John the Baptist confronted the two on their adultery, exposing their sin and Herodias was livid. She needed to get rid of the one who had brought her sin to public attention. When Herod offered Herodias's daughter almost anything she wanted, Herodias seized her opportunity and had him killed. Though Herod respected John's integrity, he bowed to the pressure of his wife and peers and had John beheaded.

We're not likely to ask for anyone's head on a platter literally, but we too are susceptible to sin's quick downward spiral. Pride will lead to destruction. But humility will lead to restoration. Let us choose humility.

Tomorrow's passage: Leviticus 8-10, Mark 6:30-56

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday, February 25 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Leviticus 3-5, Mark 5:21-43

I'm not going to spend too much time examining today's Leviticus readings because Miriam did such a great job of summarizing the different types of sacrifices last year, but I do want to share a few thoughts.

One thing that struck me was the constant reminder that even if we sin inadvertently or without realizing it, we have still sinned and are required to repent and ask God's forgiveness.

A while back, my oldest daughter was in the habit of adding this line to her bedtime prayers:  "And please forgive me for all the bad things I've thought, said, and done today."  I almost found it amusing because night after night after night she would say the same thing, and if you knew this particular daughter, you would hardly think it necessary for her to repent like this every night!  She's got an over-active conscience, she's terribly sensitive to the difference between right and wrong, and very concerned with being a good daughter and student who always follows the rules!  She is NOT the trouble-maker in our home!!  She's a peace-keeper, a solution-seeker, and a generous friend

I thought it quite unnecessary for her to be constantly confessing in such a general way, but I couldn't help wonder, as I read these chapters, if maybe she was on to something valuable.  Maybe we need to be willing to confess those "accidental" sins a little more readily ourselves.  I'm sure we'd all concede that we DO sin in our thoughts, actions, and words every day and yet how often to we go before God at the end of the day and beg His forgiveness for our thoughtless and/or accidental sins?

Another little tidbit about the book of Leviticus in general is part of the introduction my Bible gives:

Made in God's image, we were created to have a close relationship with him; thus, when fellowship is broken, we are incomplete and need restoration.  Communion with the living God is the essence of worship.  It is vital, touching the very core of our lives.  Perhaps this is why a whole book of the Bible is dedicated to worship.  After Israel's dramatic exit from Egypt, the nation was camped at the foot of Mount Sinai to listen to God.  It was a time of resting, teaching, building, and meeting with him face to face.  Redemption in Exodus is the foundation for cleansing, worship, and service in Leviticus.

The overwhelming message of Leviticus us the holiness of God -- "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy". (all emphasis added)
I think it will be helpful to keep that perspective in mind as we read through all these "rules and regulations" for worship, as well as the importance of the celebrations that are also detailed further along.

Then we move along to Mark to the very beautiful passage where Jairus, a prominent religious leader, comes to Jesus, begging Him to come heal his 12-yr old daughter who is dying.  Jesus agrees to go to the man's house, but stops along the way when He feels some of His power has been used as a woman with a seemingly incurable blood disorder touches the hem of His robe.  (I wonder how Jairus felt about this little delay??)

Again, my Life Application Bible brings up an interesting aspect to this whole story.  This woman's disorder, whatever it was, would have made her perpetually ceremonially unclean and would have excluded her from most social contact.  Because she was unclean, she would have had very limited physical contact with anyone ~ no hugging, no sitting close together with her girlfriends, no kissing, no nothing.  What a lonely life this poor woman must have led!  Not only did she have a serious health condition that no one could figure out, but she was also very alone.

She knew touching Jesus would make Him unclean according to Jewish law, which is possibly why she tried to hide and just touch His cloak or robe instead of actually speaking to Him.  Perhaps she'd witnessed some previous healings and noticed Jesus had the personal touch, almost always using physical contact in order to restore someone's health.  She didn't want Him to have to defile Himself in order to help, but she was desperate for healing.

I think this is a great picture of how we often think our problems will keep us from God, how our sins make it impossible for us to approach Him, and yet here we see the King of Kings abruptly stop what He's doing and take the time to gently restore this woman spiritually.  Just touching His clothing had already healed her physically, but He takes the time to care for her soul as well.  Though sin seperates us from fellowship with God, the gap is never too wide for Him to extend forgiveness and full restoration.

None of the gospels that recount this story say it, but I'd be willing to bet that, as she knelt before Him, trying to hide her face, Jesus touched her shoulder and took her hand to help her to her feet.  I believe this woman is representative of all desperate and broken believers who have the privilege of full restoration, of standing upright in the presence of God, and seeing the love and compassion in His eyes.

Tomorrow's passages: Leviticus 6-7, Mark 6:1-29

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Psalm 90-91; Leviticus 1-2; Mark 5:1-20.

Right away in the first chapter of today's reading I was struck by verse 10: "The length of our days is seventy years -- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (emphasis mine)  In my Bible study group last week, we were talking about how we are protected by angels, as it says in the Bible, and yet bad things (trouble and sorrow) still happen to us.  One of the ladies in the group asked a question that really resonated with me. She said "Do we put too much emphasis on this life?"  Not in terms of how we live, because how we live our lives on this earth is important, but in terms of protecting ourselves -- avoiding and being so fearful of anything that may cause pain, sorrow or death.  Those things are part of our existence here, and it is human nature to try to avoid or prevent pain, but do we put too much emphasis on protecting our earthly life and not enough on our spiritual or eternal life?  Is that why we have such trouble reconciling a God who loves us, forgives us, and protects us with a God who didn't prevent things, or allows things, or even causes things (and I don't think we can always know which of those three it is, until we get to heaven) like the Holocaust, or the tragedies in Haiti, or the murder of Candace Derksen, for example? 

How we live our lives here on Earth is important. Caring for our physical being as the temple of God is also important. But if worry and fear for our earthly life and physical being undermines our care for our eternal being or spiritual life, that is a problem.  (Easy for me to say, as I don't live in a country where Christians are persecuted, but I still believe this to be true.)

If we accept that angels protect us from harm, as it says in Psalm 91:11: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;" - then we must also accept that in the instances when something like an accident or an illness is not prevented, it was purposeful. There are simply no two ways about it. I know this is not a popular opinion, but it is what I have come to believe.

The following is from the book Come Thirsty by Max Lucado. In a chapter entitled In God We (Nearly) Trust, he says:
We live beneath the protective palm of a sovereign King who superintends every circumstance of our lives and delights in doing us good.
Nothing comes your way that has not first pass through the filter of his love. Margaret Clarkson, in her wonderfully titled book Grace Grows Best in Winter, wrote:
The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering human heart must cling. The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident: they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God. . . . All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it. God is the Lord of human history and the personal history of every member of his redeemed family.

Psalm 90:14-15 says "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble."  (emphasis mine)  To me, this says that we are to take our joy from God, from his unfailing love, from faith in his promises, and be thankful for the years we have on this earth, even in trouble and sorrow, as that's part of life here.  For the Lord says "He will call upon me, and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him."  (Psalm 91:15, emphasis mine)  God goes through our trouble, our pain and our sorrows with us.  He is always with us.  He's not somewhere in the blue yonder looking down at us with detachment and experimenting to see how we'll handle the situations in which we find ourselves.  He is right there with us, waiting to carry us like it says in the Footprints poem, if we'll only trust him and ask.

This post is already getting long, so I won't dwell on the further reading, except to say that in Mark 5 we read about the legion of demons begging Jesus to allow them to go into the pigs and in verse 13 it says "He gave them permission".  He gave them permission!  If that doesn't prove what Margaret Clarkson was saying above, I don't know what does.  "All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it."

For more information on the sacrifices and their meanings that we read about in Leviticus today, see the February 16th post from last year.  There is a summary on when the different sacrifices were to be used and for what purposes. 
Tomorrow's passage: Leviticus 3-5; Mark 5:21-43.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is  Exodus 39-40 - Mark 4:21-41 

When I started todays reading I thought I'd not find anything in the Exodus reading and should just go straight to the Mark reading.  I mean, I've been conditioned to believe that the laundry lists God gives Moses (aka - laws) are boring.  Well, right there, is a lesson.  I am finding there is life application in ALL of God's word!

I first thought it might be helpful to 'see' the garments of the priests and the tabernacle.  Here is a picture of what we think the priestly garments looked like.  You can click all around on the picture of the priest to go to an explanation of the item.

Here are a few links for the tabernacle:
'Cut away' view of the interior
Great index for lots of pics of the tabernacle and furnishings

The first thing that caught me in the reading of this is the detail that God puts into the tabernacle.  I counted 12 some chapters in Exodus concerning the tabernacle and/or the priestly garments.  God puts great detail into the place where He would dwell.  There is great contrast in the production of the Golden Calf, a few verses of a chapter.  The making of this idol is rash, hasty and a reaction to a fear that their leader has left them.  And it does not produce the stability they are looking for.  Rather, it produces chaos.  However, the production of the tabernacle gives the people something to do beyond themselves.  Not only that, but it has meaning.  Each and every furnishing has a meaning to the Lord.  Something for the people to learn from.  The Lord is slowly beginning to construct a society.  They have the beginnings of government when Moses' father-in-law visits and now they have 'visuals' of a relationship (ie. religion, although I don't like using that word, but I couldn't think of a different one).  I think that's part what the golden calf was about.  We give rings in marriage because it is such a big thing in life that we have to look down and think "did I really do that?  Wow!  I can't believe I'm married.  But there's the ring, so I didn't just dream it!"  And here is the tabernacle. They could look out their tents and see it, that yes, God is real and He is leading us.  But it was not an idol, yet it was very real and in some ways more real than an idol.  God knows we are weak and frail and need visual reminders of His promises.

Have you ever been anointed?  Here we see a lot of it.  I come from a tradition that believes in anointing, but honestly I've not seen a whole lot of it.  I was anointed one time and it was a very powerful thing.  Exodus 30: 22-33 shows us the instructions for the anointing oil and the purpose.
29 You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.
The act of anointing is setting some thing or some one apart for service to the Lord.  A simple act with a profound meaning.  We have no idea what it's like to be God, or what it's like to be in His presence totally, but with this display of consecration of so many things and people we begin to see that He is different.  He isn't a God that we can stuff in a bag and take with us.  We have to be Holy to be in His presence.  It takes great strides in order to commune with the Holiest of Holies, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.  I believe God had many intentions with the tabernacle, but one I see here is that He wanted us to see our need for redemption.  That there is nothing we can do to make ourselves good enough.

And how beautiful of an example of the indwelling of God when we do set ourselves apart for Him.  It says the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  How similar His indwelling in us when we take on His son.  We have that same beauty in us.  Do we reflect it?  Ouch.  I know for me the answer is 'no, not always, not even most of the time.'  Something I know I need to work on.

Thank you Father that You 'show' us You.  You have not left us alone.  Thank You for providing for us in our weakness.  

 Tomorrow's passage:  Psalm 90-91 - Leviticus 1-2 - Mark 5:1-20 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Exodus 36-38, Mark 4:1-20

The reading today started off with again talking about skills and abilities the Lord has given. I love that this is a focus in these passages. In my culture and area we are often so quick to be overly humble and hold back the skills we've been given because we don't want to be misunderstood as "bragging" or "showing off". The individuals building the Tabernacle, Ark, Lampstand etc., were very well aware that God gave them these skills and abilities. They were carrying out HIS work with HIS talents (that just happened to be housed in their body). Again, we need to be aware of this in our own lives as we use the talents given us. Are we using them to further only our earthly successes? Are we even aware of the full extent of the skills and talents God has given us? And finally - are we aware that we are only the housing unit for HIS skillls and HIS talents to carry out HIS work? Don't get me wrong, I believe that we still use these abilities in our careers, homes, community etc, but we must always be aware and intentional as to where the glory belongs.

With all of our discussion last week regarding the intricate plans, instruction and direction, and God showing visions what he wanted with the Tabernacle etc, in todays reading we see it all come together. We see the "skilled" workers with "expert hands" do exactly as God instructed. He spoke, they listened. Isn't that awesome?! I love it! I love that we see a re-iteration here of what God explained a couple of chapters ago. All I have to say is that I would have LOVED to have been there. It sounds so beautiful, ornate and detailed. I wonder how long it took them to build all of this. Does anyone of you know??

And finally - I'm going to comment on one last thing that stood out to me today...
Exodus 36:3-6
3 They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. 4 So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing 5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done.”
 6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, 7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (all emphasis mine).

Wow. I read this and was astounded. Does this ever happen in our churches today? That the people keep bringing day after day to give "more than enough" for the work God is doing? It appears that people were bringing more then just money because Moses says they are no longer supposed to "make anything else an offering". The people were taking every thing they had and were offering it up to God's plan. I love that. I love it that they had more than enough to do ALL the work!!

To sum up all of my ramblings today, I just want to encourage all of us to realize that ALL we have - be it skills, talents, money, possessions - belong to God. They are to be submitted to Him, His glory and His plan.

Have a great day!!

p.s. I didn't even comment on the passage in Mark - but isn't this a favorite parable? Everytime I read this passage I am convicted by Mark 4:9  9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear".

One thing I really never took note of was that in verses 13-20 Jesus actually explains the parable. That's what I'm loving about following this reading plan, I actually read entire sections instead of pieces here and there!

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 39-40, Mark 4:21-41

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21st

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 34-35, Mark 3:20-35

I'm going to be jumping all over the place here today mentioning some of the things that jumped out at me.

Yesterday I posted about sin and our response to it, specifically pursuing the holiness of God so that we will develop a righteous anger towards sin resulting in experiencing God's grace, mercy and healing.

At the end of yesterday's passage Moses had asked to see God's glory and in today's passage God shows him His glory this way.....
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (34:5-7) emphasis mine

When Moses asks for a demonstration of God's glory, God not respond with a display of His power and majesty, but rather with His love. And what an incredibly balanced definition of love - compassion, grace, faithfulness combined with justice and consequences for sin.

Sin has serious consequences and affects future generations. We need look no further than alcoholism, divorce and child abuse, rampant in our society today, to see how sadly true this is. Less obvious sins such as selfishness and greed can also be passed down. But, thankfully, we can break these generational sins through the mercy of God the Father made possible by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

The next thing that jumped out at me was the comments in my Life Application Bible about the radiant face of Moses.
Moses' face was radiant after he spent time with God. The people could clearly see God's presence in him. How often do you spend time alone with God? Although your face may not light up a room, time spent in prayer, reading the Bible, and meditating should have such an effect on your life that people will know you have been with God. (emphasis mine)
Does my life reflect the fact that I have been with God?

Chapter 35 deals once again with tabernacle construction and details. One thing that continues to jump out at me in these passages in the constant mention of special abilities and skills. God has gifted each of us with special abilities and skills that He expects us to use for His glory. Even the abilities that are not considered religious (such as construction and tapestry) we are to develop and use for the glory of the One who gifted us with them.

It reminds me of the NT parable of the talents in Luke 19, and the fact that God expects us to develop the talents He's given us. They are not really ours. They are His and have been given to us for a purpose - His glorification!

Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy. (emphasis mine)

The talents and abilities that God has given us are not to be wasted. We can waste them by not developing them (whether the reason is laziness, not bothering to find out what our talents are) or by using them for our glory instead of God's.

Finally, in our Mark passage Jesus describes His true family. My Life Application Bible says this...
God's family is accepting and doesn't exclude anyone. Although Jesus cared for his mother and brothers, he also cared for all those who loved him. Jesus did not show partiality; he allowed everyone the privilege of obeying God and becoming part of his family. In our increasingly computerized, impersonal world, warm relationships among members of God's family take on major importance. The church should give the loving, personalized care that many people find nowhere else.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 36-38, Mark 4:1-20

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday, February 20th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 31-33 - Mark 3:1-19

First, as a bit of a tangent from what the rest of my post will focus on, isn't this verse just amazing?
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (33:11).
Apparently Moses didn't literally see His face because just a few verses later Moses asks to see God's glory and the Lord tells him that Moses cannot see His face because no one could see Him and live (33:20). But even so, Moses and God obviously had an intimate relationship, one that was out of reach for the other Israelites. But that intimate relationship is not out of reach for us today! We can have that intimate relationship with God through Jesus' sacrifice for us and the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Amazing.

Anyway, on to my main focus of this post.....

Today I want to focus on anger.

The anger in chapters 32 and 33 just leaps off the pages. And rightly so. This is righteous anger, holy anger.

God has just done incredible, miraculous things for the Israelites. And they have just promised to obey everything God had commanded them to do.

And just like that, they flagrantly disobey God as they build an idol to worship, even mixing in burnt offerings and fellowship offerings as a festival to the Lord (32:5-6) - which makes it somehow even worse.

And God is angry.

And in His righteous anger what does He demonstrate? Yes, He demonstrates punishment, discipline and absolute intolerance for this sin.

But He also demonstrates mercy.

He did not kill all the Israelites, though all were deserving of death.

And He did not kill Aaron - the Israelites lone spiritual leader in the absense of Moses, who personally formed the calf and led the people in their idolatrous worship.The seriousness of Aaron's sin is staggering. And then he made up a ludicrous excuse in an absurd attempt to justify his actions (32:22-24).

But God demonstrates mercy. Through Moses, He gives the people one more opportunity to choose to stand for what's right. "Whoever is for the Lord, come to me"

And all the Levites rallied to him. (V26)

I love that. The Levites, the tribe chosen to be priests and spiritual leaders, step up to the plate and choose the right path. They choose to repent of their sin of idolatry and stand for the Lord. Even though taking that stand meant they personally had to administer God's justice against their fellow Israelites.

Sin is so costly. We don't even know. We can't even fathom it, I don't think. We don't understand how absolutely abhorrent our sin is to our holy God. And yet, even in the midst of His righteous anger towards our sin, He demonstrates mercy.

In our NT passage Jesus is angry at the Pharisees' uncaring attitudes, stubborn hearts and absolute lack of compassion for their fellow man. Once again, righteous anger.

And in His anger, Jesus heals.

Mercy and healing in the midst of anger. As a result of anger.

How I need to learn from this!!

What gets me angry?

Usually not the things that should, and lots of things that shouldn't.

I WANT to be angry at sin. I want a heart that abhors sin, that abhors my sin in particular.

And I want to hold other believers accountable through eyes of mercy with the goal of healing.

Lord, fill me with Your righteous anger, mercy and healing.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 34-35, Mark 3:20-35

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday, February 19-Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 29-30, Mark 2

Scripture: Mark 2: 3-5
And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

We need to be there for our friends, carrying them to Jesus to meet their needs.

We all know of people who have gone through tough things in their life. When I read this passage today, it made me think of not just the paralytic man, but the four friends who were with him. This man, who was unable to walk, was literally carried by his friends to see Jesus. When they could not get into the house because there were so many other people there, his friends did not give up but made sure that this man would not leave without meeting Jesus. Imagine hauling a man on a stretcher bed all the way up to the top of the roof and then lowering him down before Jesus. These were rockstar friends that were going to stop at nothing to help their friend. They supported their friend, carried their friend, and brought their friend to the One who could heal their friend in every way. What a blessing these friends were to this man.

What kind of friend are you? I am a selfish friend. I am selfish with my time. In this story, I would have likely been the friend who heard about this story after it happened from others. I would have been the one who was too busy to make time to carry this friend to Jesus. If I would have carried him to the house, I probably would have been the one to turn back when it was so crowded.

When our friends struggle, we need to support them. We need to carry them in prayer and in our actions. We need to find a way to get them to Jesus-the healer and ruler of all things. I have friends struggling in their marriages, friends dealing with the pain of infertility, friends who don't believe that there is a God and they all need to be carried to Jesus. We can't do anything on our own, but God can work through us to help our friends with exactly what they need. We shouldn't let any thing stand in our way.

Dear Lord, Thank you for being the maker of all things. You know our needs and you supply all of them. Thank you for giving us friends to share in our lives. Help us to support each other in love and prayer and for giving us the opportunity to come to You so that we can lay our troubles at Your feet. Lord, we can get discouraged sometimes and think that our troubles are too big and that there is too much standing in our way to get to You and yet that is not true. Help us to know the truth of Your power. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 31-33 - Mark 3:1-19

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday, Feb 18 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 27-28, Mark 1:23-45.

Today's reading covers more details of the plans for the tabernacle, specifically oil for the lampstand, the courtyard, and the altar for burnt offerings, which stood in the courtyard and was the first thing the Israelites saw when they entered.  It served as a constant reminder that they could only come to God by means of a sacrifice, the payment for their sins.

Then we get to the chapter giving all the details for the priestly garments and at first, I rather disinterestedly skimmed over it.  But all of a sudden I noticed a couple of new things that I thought were really quite amazing.  Well, they're not new things, but my notice of them was new!

The first thing that stuck out was the shoulder pieces of the ephod, upon each of which was a mounted onyx stone with six of the Israelite tribe names engraved in it.  This served as a physical reminder of the responsibility the high priest had for the entire nation.  The weight of his responsibility to be a godly leader literally rested on his shoulders.

I couldn't help thinking that as a parent, that same responsibility rests on mine.  When I think of how heavy that sometimes feels ~ and I have only two children ~ I can't imagine how huge it will have been for these high priests, who were responsible for MILLIONS of people!!  And then I think of Jesus, our Great High Priest, who bore that weight on His shoulders when He died on the cross for all the millions of people who lived before Him and the billions who have and are living since then.  What great imagery we see here!  Not only were these onyx stones a reminder to the priests of their calling, but they pointed towards the Savior!

The other thing that I thought was really quite interesting about the high priest's garment was that he carried the Urim and the Thummim in, or behind, the breastpiece, and "thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD."  We seem to know little about these stones, but according to my Life Application Bible, the Urim and the Thummim were used by the priest to make decisions.  The words mean "Curses" and "Perfections" and refer to the nature of God whose will they revealed.  They were kept in a pouch and taken or shaken out to get either a yes or no answer.  There are only seven references in the entire Bible to them, and none actually refer to the use of them, only how to use them or in a mention as part of the priestly function.

What struck me is that phrase I quoted above:  "thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD."  To me, this is a picture of the Holy Spirit.  We don't need stones with words engraved on them to make our decisions anymore because we have something even better ~ God's Holy Spirit living in us!  Just as Old Testament priests had to rely on the Urim and the Thummim bound over their hearts to make a decision, we have the power of the Holy Spirit IN our hearts to help us make decisions that will honor God.  Again, we find these seemingly boring details looking forward to something far greater to come.  I just thought that was so cool!!

Then in Mark we see the passage I've come to call "Jesus' Busy Day."  Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, casts out an evil spirit, goes to Peter and Andrew's house for lunch and finds He has to heal Peter's mother-in-law before there'll be any food to eat, then, instead of relaxing with His friends in the evening, the Bible says the WHOLE TOWN was waiting outside the door for His words of hope, the touch of His hand, or the casting out of evil spirits.  I think it's safe to say Jesus was SPENT after this particular Sabbath!

But notice what He does:  early the next morning, even before the sunrise, Jesus gets up and leaves the house for some much-needed, well-deserved ME time.  Wait... what?  NO, Jesus has a date to meet with His Father.  Time and time again, I marvel at how Jesus dealt with the pressures of His ministry and how His leisure time ALWAYS had a higher purpose than just looking after His own physical needs.

How many times has it happened to me that I've taken some self-indulgent, rejuvenating "ME time" and yet still lost my temper within minutes of being back together with my family?

I wonder if I would include them in my relaxation time or spent my ME time as Father/daughter time instead of just pampering myself, would God not be able to give me exactly what I need to face the rest of my day and finish strong?

I wonder if we trust God enough to try experimenting a little with this one...?

Tomorrow's passages: Exodus 29-30, Mark 2

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday, February 17 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 25-26; Mark 1:1-22.

Good day! 

As I read the Exodus portion of today's reading, I couldn't help but think of patterns.  For the last year or so I've been doing a fair bit of crocheting, usually from patterns, although lately I've been venturing into my own designs.  So I have patterns on the brain, and as I read the chapters in Exodus I thought "This is a pattern that God is giving to Moses for how he wants his dwelling place to be constructed."  He gives very specific and detailed instructions and anyone who's ever tried to follow a pattern knows that the more information one is given in the pattern, the better a result one is going to achieve, especially if it is something you haven't done before or aren't proficient at yet.  God is God.  His dwelling place is to be holy, sacred, pure, undefiled.  By giving them precise instructions on how the ark, the table, the lampstand and the tabernacle are to be constructed and decorated, and the materials to be used, God is ensuring that the people understand that this is not just someplace to be constructed according to their design, but according to his.  It is not a place to be treated casually, to be walked into or even touched by just anybody, but a place that is to be revered and held in awe as the dwelling place of the Almighty.

This brought me to two other thoughts. 

#1 - do I treat church too casually?  Church is not the dwelling place of God the way the tabernacle et al was, but it is a place to worship God.  Do I show reverence when I am in church?  Should I treat it as just another public building, or with more reverence as a place where the Almighty God is worshipped?  Does it matter, since it is not the actual dwelling place of God?  My feeling is that we should be respectful of the worship itself, of glorifying God during the services and ensuring that we are  reverent as we sing and pray and learn from the minister or pastor (or whatever title is appropriate in your church).  The building itself, while it should not be used for anything and everything, is not on object of reverence in and of itself.  Anyone else have an opinion?

#2 - as my body is now the temple of the Holy Ghost, do I treat my own body the way I should?  Is our physical being important, or is it merely our spiritual being that we must care for?  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.  (emphasis mine)  This suggests to me that our physical being is important.  For the most part I try to take good care of my body.  I exercise regularly and eat mainly healthy foods, although I do indulge in sweets, which I am trying to keep to moderation (very difficult for me, as I have a terrible sweet tooth).  I rarely drink alcohol and when I do it's a small amount.  My grandpa told me a long time ago that the verse in 1 Corinthians that says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit was what convinced him that he should quit smoking when he was a young man (this was before people knew how bad it was for you and many, if not most, men smoked). 

Anyway, those were the things that I was contemplating - maybe some of you have thoughts on these subjects that you'd like to share.  I'd love to read them.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 27-28; Mark 1:23-45.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16, 2011 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 23-24, Matthew 28

I feel like I'm in the midst of a buffet tonight as I read.  There are so many different things before me that I just have to comment on, that are different from each other, but so powerful alone.  I hope this doesn't come out disjointed.

First, our Exodus reading.  It struck me, as I read, that God deals a lot with how we interact with people who we don't like or who don't like us very much.  Hmmm.  Perhaps that's just to keep the peace, but perhaps it is also for us to learn how God loves and deals with us.  What better way to turn an enemy into a friend than to help them when they need it?  Ok, ok, so it might not turn them into a friend, but for sure it will soften their heart.  It will open a door to communication.  But that is hard!

What's also equally hard is dealing with someone who is different than us.
9 “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
This verse meant something to me as I read it.  I've lived in an area as a stranger for over three years now.  While this is my home now, I still feel like an outsider.  What makes it more difficult is that it is a very small town.  People don't move in and out regularly, so if there is a newbie everyone knows.  I'm new, I'm the outsider.  It can be very lonely.  Granted, I'm not oppressed or a slave like the Israelites were, nor are many of us when moving to a new place, but what about the people who visit our churches for the first time?  Or the new girl at our workplace?  Or what about the new family down the street?  There is a special place for new people in my heart because I know what it's like.  And God didn't want the Israelites to forget it either.

As I read about the laws of the Sabbath I find it interesting how often God repeats Himself over some things.  He mentions about being the only God a lot, not making idols a lot and He also mentions taking sabbaths a lot.  This is an important thing that I think we've lost in today's culture.  Are we afraid that if we actually take the time to rest that we'll fail and our lives will fall to pieces?  I think God is saying 'You need to trust Me for the things that need done and trust Me to supply your needs.'  We are human and He knows that without rest we will run ourselves into the ground too fast.  Resting in Him is truly trusting in Him.

And then did anyone else see this:
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. 11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. 
(Insert shocked smiley).  I thought no one has ever seen the face of God and lived?  Here we have about 74 people seeing the face of God and living!  Am I wrong?  Please, correct me if I am, but that's what I see here.  How could I not have seen this before?!  This is amazing!  Please pardon my shock.  But this is big for me.  Not only that but they had a nice little dinner with Him too.  How awesome that would have been!  I seriously wonder how they were able to eat in the presence of God?  Anyway, just had to mention that little shocker.

In our Matthew passage we see the awesome, exciting and glorious resurrection of our Lord.  What struck me here was this:
11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Does anyone else see the irony in conjunction with our Exodus reading?
8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.
I realize that the persons taking a bribe were the Roman soldiers, but still the persons giving the bribe knew the law in and out and they were outright sinning!  No wonder Jesus called them whitewashed tombs!  This just goes to show just like Paul said that the law did not save, it only shows us how much we are in need of a Savior.  Thank God He provided one!  And we have beautiful proof here in our reading today of that Savior. Praise be to God for His glorious gift!

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 25-26, Mark 1:1-22

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 21-22; Matthew 27:51-66

So much stuff in today's passage!

One of my favourite passage is in this OT text because it, more than any other passage in the Bible, is explicit in it's condemnation of abortion.

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. Exodus 21:22-25

From John MacArthur's two part series on abortion.....

I am convinced that the fury of God will someday fall on the murderers of His creatures who have not sought His forgiveness. God is the protector of the innocent. Now to illustrate this Biblically; go back to Exodus 21. This is one of the really important passages about abortion, Exodus 21:22; and here in this section of Scripture following the Ten Commandments, God gives a number of laws that regard life and all of its myriad of circumstances. In Exodus 21 we have a very interesting account; it says to us in verse 22,

If men struggle with each other (now you follow carefully) and strike a woman with child (I don't know what you version says; some say "so she has a miscarriage," some say, "So she has an untimely birth"), yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Now what is this saying? One of the unfortunate translations in the New American Standard is the translation "miscarriage." I don't know why they translated the Hebrew term here "miscarriage." There is no reason, at least in my mind, to believe that verse 22 refers to a miscarriage. There is a contextual support for that as well as linguistic. The literal Hebrew reading is simply this, "And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child (here's the Hebrew) so that her children come out." That's what it says. In other words, it causes the child to come out. "Yet there is no further injury, then he shall surely be fined as the husband (or the woman's husband) may demand of him; and be paid as whatever the judges or the courts allow." Yalad is the common Hebrew word for child. The only irregularity here in that word is that it is plural. And it is unlikely that it means a developing fetus that has been miscarried.

The verb (Hebrew, yasa) often refers to ordinary childbirth, and so it says the struggle happens: two men are fighting, one gets involved in this fight; and probably a woman steps in (you know, the wife to try to stop the fight) and she gets struck so that her children come out (just looking at it on the plural sense); that is, an ordinary childbirth takes place. By the way, that term (Hebrew, yasa) referring to ordinary childbirth is used in Genesis 15:4 and Isaiah 39:7 of a childbirth generated from the loins of the father and also in Genesis 25 and 26, and Jeremiah 1, about a birth that comes out of the womb of the mother. So from the father's side and the mother's side the term is used to express a child that is born.

In no case does that term (Hebrew, yasa) refer to a miscarriage. Numbers 12:12 uses it but it refers to a still birth—not a miscarriage. The Hebrew word for miscarriage (shakal) used in Exodus 23:26, Hosea 9:14, is not used in this verse. So what you have here is a premature birth.

Now, follow the thought: two men are fighting, the woman probably steps in; she gets hit in the process and consequently the trauma causes a premature birth. If all that happens is that the child comes out and there is no further injury, then there should be a fine for the discomfort, for the problems that might come to take care of the child, and to take care of the woman because of whatever trauma she suffered. If there is any debate about it, then the judges can discern what that should be. "But if there is any further injury. . . ." What would "any further injury" be? Well, it would have to mean something more severe, including the loss of life; "then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life."

What's the point? The point is: if you are responsible for killing an unborn child you pay with your life. That's the point. It is constituted as murder.

"No further injury," then in verse 22, has been incorrectly taken to mean that there has been some kind of a miscarriage. The equivalent of "further" doesn't appear in the Hebrew text. It simply says (you'll notice probably that "further" is in italics), it just says "if there is no injury." If the child is born and there is no injury—fine. Settle whatever be the medical costs, if there are any, but if there is more than that, if there is injury to the child, if there is injury to the mother then "lex talionis" [Latin], that is, "tit for tat" takes place. If the child has suffered in one area—the penalty is the same. If the child dies then the penalty is life. It is just the idea of appropriate punishment, but what it points out is: if the child comes out and his eye is injured—you lose your eye. If he comes out and his hand is injured—your lose your hand. If his foot—his foot, and so forth, and so forth. Wound for wound—that's justice, but if the child dies you pay with your life. "Lex talionis" the law of retaliation.

So Scripture teaches us then very, very clearly that conception is an act of God; that every person conceived is conceived in the image of God, and that each person is the special care of God. Nothing illustrates that more than if you injure a child that is untimely born and you have inflicted that injury—you pay a just punishment including, if you kill that child—you pay with your life. God has special care for those who are helpless. (emphasis mine)

Moving on to the NT passage.

Another one of my favourite sections is in here - it's amazingly powerful and rich with meaning.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. Matthew 27:51-53

Previously Matthew mentioned the incredible darkness that covered the earth - a physical and spiritual darkness.

The temple curtain was torn in two eradicating the barrier between God and humanity forevermore!!

There was an earthquake - nature reacting against the death of its Creator.

And dead people rose from the dead!

I'd love to look into that particular portion a bit more. How amazing was that? I wonder how many were raised to life? They must have had quite the story to tell. Some of the very few that have tasted death (and, therefore, paradise!) and lived to tell about it. (I'm assuming these were believers).

Incredible signs - the death of our Lord could not have gone unnoticed by anyone.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 23-24, Matthew 28

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 19-20; Matthew 27:27-50

Good Morning Friends! I must appologize for my absence in commenting lately. You know those times in your life when you feel like you're driving in reverse?? Well, that's been me!! Thanks in advance for your forgiveness - cause I know you're all cool like that! Now onto the good stuff.

Ok, how do I not write a blog post on the entire reading for today?!? The OT reading covers Mount Sinai (one of the coolest stories ever!), the Ten Commandments (the "rule book" for life!) and the death of Jesus (the most overwheleming love-story ever). I love how God has totally made His Word come alive for me in these daily readings. I find that some mornings I read the designated passages and find that I don't want to be done reading - I want more!!! That's how I felt today.

Exodus 20:1-17
The Ten Commandments
1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
8 “ Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
12 “ Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s

Again, amazing how the OT and NT readings tie together! I found the following commentary here.
This law, which is so extensive that we cannot measure it, so spiritual that we cannot evade it, and so reasonable that we cannot find fault with it, will be the rule of the future judgment of God, as it is for the present conduct of man. If tried by this rule, we shall find our lives have been passed in transgressions. And with this holy law and an awful judgment before us, who can despise the gospel of Christ? And the knowledge of the law shows our need of repentance. In every believer's heart sin is dethroned and crucified, the law of God is written, and the image of God renewed. The Holy Spirit enables him to hate sin and flee from it, to love and keep this law in sincerity and truth; nor will he cease to repent.

Our human nature simply cannot measure up to these Ten Commandments. However, in the New Testament reading we see the sacrifice given so grace can be offered up. Not that the sacrifice offers a "free pass" but as stated in the above commentary, by believeing in the sacrifice "The Holy Spirit enables him to hate sin and flee from it...".

Matthew 27:50 "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit". This line was so hard to stop at today. This line just broke my heart today. I know how the story ends, but the fact that this where we stopped today made me grieve. I realize that, with the story of Jesus' sacrifice I often pause at the moment of his death and keep reading - because I know he rises again. I know the plan. I know this story. Today, reading into his anguish and pain - then actually stopping at his death I ached. Today was a day that I wanted to keep reading, I wanted to get to the "happy ending" part.

This was the reality. Jesus died. Period. Today, I felt the story. I felt the plan. I stopped reading and sat inside the story. I thanked and praised and grieved. Then thanked again. I realized that no matter how many times I read this story, God can reveal himself in different and more tangible ways all the time.

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 21-22; Matthew 27:51-66

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday, February 13th ~Kristi~

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 27:1-26

Good Sunday morning, ladies! Well, there is quite a bit going on in today's readings! It's been hard for me to pick what to focus on here. What first really caught my attention, was the manna that God provided the Israelites. First, let me quote some notes from my bibles...

"The manna, literally means, "What is it?" Not only was it remarkable for its size, shape color, taste, and variety of uses, but especially for its daily appearance at dawn, its tremendous abundance, its strange capacity for breeding worms at the end of each day except the sixth, and its sudden and permanent disappearance as soon as the Israelites entered Canaan. It taught the people to look Godward for their daily bread, and it pointed toward the One who claimed to be the true bread from heaven, even "the bread of life." "-The King James Study Bible

"Manna appeared on the ground each day as fresh white grains the size of pearls. The people gathered it, ground it like grain, and made it into honey-tasting pancakes. For the Israelites the manna was a gift-it came every day and was just what they needed. The Israelites were not to work on the Sabbath-not even to cook food. Why? God knew that the busy routine of daily living could distract people from worshiping Him. It is so easy to let work, family responsibilities, and recreation crowd our schedules so tightly that we don't take time for God."-Life Application Bible

This is just amazing, and special to me, to read these passages. God provided this miraculous substance, this manna, to take care of His people. These whiny, grumbly people who were constantly questioning God's ability to care for them, and saying they'd rather be enslaved again, than face these difficulties. Now I believe that they didn't truly want to be back in Egypt, but they just weren't happy with their situation, and wanted better for themselves and their families. I can understand that, I can. But hindsight for us, we know that had they just trusted God wholeheartedly, this would of been a much quicker walk through the Wilderness.

This manna is exquisite to me. It was just enough...not too much, not too little. It would go bad after just one day, so that God could teach them to depend on Him daily, rather than their own ability to store and preserve; their own means of self preservation. However, on the day that He wanted them to focus solely on Him, and not be distracted with the cares of this world, it would stay fresh from the night before, so that they would not have to gather and prepare it! I mean, how AMAZING! And yet, through this miracle that God provided, in all it's detail, they still resulted to lack of trust in God, and complaining about life once again over water, in chapter 17. We know God supplies water, miraculously, and yet the cycle continues as we will continue to see as we keep reading.

Haven't we done this time and again, in our own lives, even though God has shown us miraculous things as He cares for us, and provides for our every need?! And we've even had all these accounts in His word too, to show us that He will provide and care for His own. My husband recently lost his job, and a close friend of mine, had her husband lose his job a month later, so we have been on this journey together. God has done amazing things for both our families, and we have to stand in awe of how He has orchestrated it all! Our husbands are both in new jobs now, have been for a few months. Life moves on, and we now have to fight the earthly temptation to question whether God will meet our needs once again in new challenges that arise. We are praying so hard, and asking God to help us focus on Him, and KNOW that He will always be there for us, and provide for our needs, and often times, even our wants! She shared a thought out of her devotional a few days ago, and it really touched me. It said this...

"If we would only move straight ahead in faith, the path would be opened for us. But we stand still waiting for the obstacles to be removed, when we ought to go forward as if there were no obstacles at all."

WOW! I mean, think about that for a minute. How blessed would our lives be, if we completely surrendered every aspect of them to God, and just walked in faith, never stopping to doubt?! Never stopping to try and figure out how WE are going to move the obstacles?! God's ways are above our own, and limitless! He created the mountains, and He WILL move them for you, if He needs to. No problem we have is too big for our God!

In chapter 18, the judges are finally appointed by Moses. This really took a large burden off of him. These were not to replace the spiritual elders. They had a whole different set of tasks, and really improved the quality of life for Moses, and the people.

I just want to touch real quick on the verses in Matthew too. Obviously, this is a sad passage, and Judas couldn't handle the guilt from his actions. Many believe that He had political motives for why He turned Jesus over, and wasn't expecting the outcome that came. No matter the reason, he couldn't live with what he had done. The thing that has always gotten me about this passage though, is Pilate.

Pilate was known for being a cruel, harsh leader, and excessively infuriated the Jews. There is a lot going on in his life at this point. Historical records indicate that he already had legal trouble from the people and his job was kind of at jeopardy here, so I know a lot was at stake for him. I just wanted to point out one obvious, but important thing. He had several chances to right the situation. He felt Jesus was innocent, Roman law stated that an innocent man shouldn't be put to death. His wife even told him of a troubled dream she had about this, yet he wouldn't do the right thing, for fear of what would happen to HIM! By not making a decision to do what was right, he chose to do what was wrong. He tried to give himself a false sense of peace, by saying he washed his hands of it all, but you can't do that.

Whenever we chose to do nothing, and not stand for what is right, and against what is wrong, we are in the wrong. Peer pressure, fear, all kinds of things and emotions can keep us from standing up for what it right. But you know what? When you think about it, they are all selfish motivations. What will this mean for me? How will people look at me? As Christians, we are never to be focused on self, but on others. We are to focus on God, glorifying Him, and doing His will. This means always putting God and others before ourselves. We can try to wash our hands of it, and ease our own conscience, but God will know, and we will know deep down inside.

Sorry it got long, that's what happens when I can't pick an area to focus on! lol!

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 19-20, Matthew 27: 27-50

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday, February 12 Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Exodus 14-15, Matthew 26:36-75

I am going to focus in on Matthew 26:36-46 today because it just spoke to me.  Lately the Lord has been impressing upon me the power and need for prayer, instead of worry for myself and others.  It has been so freeing.  The Lord has also been teaching so much about prayer in the past couple of months and I learned more here from this passage.

Here we see Jesus, who has full knowledge of what is about to happen to him, coming to a quiet, desolate place in the middle of the night.  Why our souls tend to rend themselves in the dead of night, I'll never know.  Maybe it's because we have no distractions, or nothing else to do, or maybe it's because we are so tired and all our pretenses are weak and fail.  For whatever reason, Jesus is, as the scriptures say, sorrowful and deeply distressed.  And rightly so!   He brings a few close buddies with him and he seeks out the Father.  What catches me about this text is that he brings friends with him in his darkest hour.  We see other times that he goes off completely alone to pray, but not this time.  This time he chose these men to be near to him, as a comfort and as a witness in prayer.  I am too oft to pray by myself, when really I might be better heard through the prayers of someone else.  Not that God didn't hear Jesus' prayers, but there are just sometimes I don't know what to pray and someone else does.  I guess I'm seeing that life is lonely enough and while times of solitude in prayer are good and healthy in our relationship with God, I believe times of intimate prayer with others where we seek them out to pray for us and with us are also healthy for our relationship with God and our relationship with others.  I have found that prayer with others creates a bond between those persons.  And I believe the Lord intended that.  I think that's why Jesus chose just those few, because he already had a closer relationship with those three.  These were also the same three that saw him transfigured not long before that.
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
I love this prayer.  I love that it shows we can saw what we are feeling and what our desires are.  We can pour out our hearts to God.  We can be frank!  Prayer is not about saying the right things, or being flowery or even being long winded.  Jesus simply was honest and straightforward.  Yet, even in all of that he still submitted to the Father for His perfect will.  I find it interesting, that in this passage we don't see him asking for strength.  He just asks to be relieved of what he knows is coming.

 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless[a] I drink it, Your will be done.”  
Why had I not seen this before?   Someone once told me that the best promise in scripture is 'And it came to pass...'  Meaning, it was done, over, completed.  Nothing lasts forever.  And I guess I'm seeing this for the first time here in the scripture.  The torture of the cross would pass from Christ when he passed through it.  Eventually it would be over.  Is that was got him through it?  Looking beyond the cross to the glory that was on the other side of it?  Is that how we are to see our momentary troubles?  Look beyond them to the glory that shines on the other side?  So many times I pray for a situation to be taken from me.  And I see here in this passage that that's ok!  But I also see that sometimes we need to submit to the Father's hand and walk through the difficult times He's asking us to walk through.  Not easy.  But the little end line there 'Your will be done.'  I see resolve in Christ there.  I see a mustering of strength.  He sort of gathers himself up and just decides to do it.  He submits to the will of the Father.

I'll end with a quote from C.S. Lewis:
"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me." 

Tomorrow's passage: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 27:1-26