Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday, April 30- guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 19 - Psalm 23 - Psalm 59 - Luke 21:1-19.

I thought that it was so fitting that the very last verses of today's readings tied everything together like a package with a big bow on top.

Luke 21:12-19
12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Here is God's promise that walking with Him is not easy. In fact, it will be the opposite of easy. They will SEIZE and PERSECUTE you. You will be PUT IN PRISON. You will be BETRAYED. Everyone will HATE you. Some of you will BE PUT TO DEATH. This sounds terrible and yet it finishes with a great promise. "Stand firm, and you will win life." You. will. win. life. Despite all of the hardship, it is worth it.

David was persecuted. His best friend interceded on his behalf (which was pretty brave considering how crazy his dad was!) to try and save David but God still allowed an evil spirit to overtake Saul and David almost lost his life when Saul threw his spear at him. God allowed the danger but gave David a way out (and David's wife was pretty brave too!) and his life was spared and "not a hair on his head perished". I'm sure that David had times when he wondered why God was allowing all of the bad things to happen. Yet he trusted God with everything.

Psalm 23 is one of the most popular passages in the Bible. Even though David was running for his life, he was full of praise. He trusted God fully and completely.
Psalm 23:4
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

We walk through our own valleys in our life. Unemployment, marital stress, infertility, sickness, betrayal, depression, and many more. We need to lean on our Shepherd to guide us, comfort us and carry us through. When we focus on God and His Promise we know that it is worth it.

Often, we may feel targeted. Maybe not so obviously, as David was, but doesn't it seem like when trouble comes it comes all at once? The situations seem to pile on and then seem to overwhelm to the point of impossible. Satan uses these seemingly impossible situations to threaten our relationship with God and cause a division. But we can always call on God to help us.

Psalm 59:3-4
3 See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.
4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!

God is there for us to rely on. Always. It won't always be easy but it will be worth it.

One quick side note I wanted to add that I thought about while reading these verses. We have had many marriages breakdown around us in the last few years. It has been disheartening to me as with each marriage I can't help but wonder if it can happen to them, can it happen to me and Conrad? One of the things that has come up over and over again through these broken relationships is that "I wasn't happy". It always resonates with me because I don't think it says anywhere in the Bible that God wants us to be happy. In the verses at the beginning of this post, he actually promises many things that promise to not make us happy. I don't know if I believe that marriages should end because people aren't happy. These verses of despair in Psalms kind of make me think of these marriages that are dissolving. My prayer is that these marriages will be healed and that it will be possible to stand firm in the promises they made.

Dear Lord,
You are the great Promise Keeper. We can rely on what You say because You are the Truth. You have promised that following you will not be easy but You promise to give us the words and the wisdom to get us through any situation that you put before us. Thank you for never breaking Your promises. Lord, I also lift up friends and family that are struggling with their own valleys. Help them to stay close to You and lift them up and out as only You can. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Samuel 20-21 - Psalm 34 - Luke 21:20-38

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday, April 29 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 17-18; Luke 20:27-47.

I watched a documentary one time about possible scientific explanations for four phenomenons mentioned in the Bible.  The goal was not to prove or disprove the biblical account, but merely to examine whether something would actually be considered miraculous or if there were plausible scientific explanations.  One of the experiments was to determine whether a rock from a sling could actually kill someone, as in the account of David vs. Goliath.

They enlisted the service of the world record-holder in slinging, which is, apparently, a common sport in some middle-Eastern and Mediterranean countries.  They use the same type of slings they've been using for millenia, the same kind David would have had ~ two long straps with a widened, rounded, cradle-like portion in the middle to hold the stone or other projectile.  It is absolutely incredible the velocity and distance that can be achieved by good slingers!  The researchers agreed it was easily plausible that a man could be killed by a slung stone, and indeed, the sling was widely used as a weapon throughout history and in many parts of the world.  The miraculous part, they concluded, was that David had had such incredible accuracy in hitting a relatively miniscule target, given the sort of armour customary for that day.  They figured David would have only had the space of a few inches as a target.

I always wonder why he selected five stones.  I suspect he knew just one would do it, but maybe he knew it was possible he'd have to try more than once, given the size of his target and the pressure of the situation.  Yet he seems so calm in the face of overwhelming odds.

What I love about this story is that David isn't resentful that the Philistines are oppressing Israel or that Israel isn't winning the war.  He doesn't even seem concerned that his oldest three brothers ridicule him for inquiring about a reward for killing Goliath.  What galls David, the reason he steps in, is the Philistines' mockery of Israel's great God.  That's what spurs him to action.  He doesn't step in as the saviour of the army and his fellow-countrymen; he steps in as a protector of God's reputation.  I so admire that about him here and in so many other instances throughout his life.  Oh, that we would so jealously guard and protect the Holy Name of our God!!!

So many times we enter the fight because we've been offended, someone has infringed upon our precious rights, and by golly, we are gonna make. them. PAY!  I wonder how many battles we lose simply because we are fighting for the wrong thing.  And how many times do we win, but at the expense of our testimony?

And then David gets married for the first time...  Anyone else disgusted by the bride-price set by Saul for his daughter Michal?  Eeeww.  But it's interesting how David was relieved that was the price because it was something he could easily afford!  He didn't have material wealth to offer in exchange for becoming the king's son-in-law, but he could sure kill and dismember Philistines!  Gross.

Another thing that popped out at me ~ actually a few chapters ago, but relating to today's passage ~ is the age difference between David and Jonathan.  I've always been under the impression that they were close in age.  And as far as I can remember, all the children's Bible stories depict it that way.  But David is relatively young here, probably only in his mid-teens at the oldest, while Jonathan is an accomplished soldier and warrior; a commander in his father's army.  He's been fighting at Saul's side since chapter 13.

Now, bear with me here a little as I think out loud:  Saul dies in battle at the age of 72 (he became king at age 30 and reigned 42 years) and David becomes king of the tribe of Judah shortly thereafter ~ also at the age of 30.  (he only becomes king over all Israel 8 years later)  If we figure Jonathan at 20-30 years younger than Saul, that still makes him at least a dozen years older than David, probably more.  I'm thinkin' it's possible Jonathan could've almost been old enough to be David's dad.  I never noticed that before.

In light of that little tidbit, I sense that Jonathan was more of a mentor/father-figure to David than a best buddy.  And maybe this is partly why Jonathan is so gracious in recognizing and respecting David as the successor to the thone instead of himself.  A younger man closer to David's age might not have handled it so gracefully.  Maybe this is also partly why David became the man that he did.  Jonathan would have been a perfect mentor ~ wise, godly, and a strong, well-loved servant-leader of men.  In any case, we see the beautiful lesson in loyalty in the life of Jonathan, whose story of friendship with David begins here.

Then we skip over to Luke and Jesus making fools of the religious leaders and teachers left and right!  First they try to trap Him with respect to who people should pay homage to and He answers them simply:  "Give to Caesar what is rightfully Caesar's and give to God what is rightfully God's."  We have obligations both to God and to our governments, which are all, as Romans 13 points out, established by God. But it is important to keep our priorities straight and remember which is the higher authority, especially in times where our governments' regulations run in opposition to God's Word.

Then it's the Sadducees who try to confuse Him with a long story about a poor woman who ends up married to a whole string of brothers because they keep dyin' on her, when their real goal is to get Him to prove or disprove the idea of resurrection after death.  Jesus sees right through them and gives them an answer, indicating that though our souls continue living and we're given new, glorified bodies, our relationships just won't work the same as they do down here.  Then He gets right to the heart of the matter and addresses their REAL motivation behind the question ~ His authority and identity.  The religious leaders knew the Messiah was supposed to come from David's line, but Jesus reminds them that David himself knew the Messiah would not only be human, but be a divine being as well.

Following that exchange, Jesus addresses the onlookers, telling them to beware the religious leaders, exposing them as frauds, and indicating they will be more severly dealt with because they were in position to be earthly examples of God's mercy and grace and they were abusing that position to extort from the poor and gain personal wealth.

And so we return to the theme from the beginning of this long post ~ about having the right motives. In David we saw an example of the right motives; in the religious leaders, we see the negative example. And in Jesus' warning, we also see WHY it's so important to have the right motivation. I trust we will learn to regularly examine our motivation for service, adjust our priorities, and desire to serve for the simple reason that we love God and we know serving in the Body of Christ pleases Him.

Tomorrow's passages: 1 Samuel 19; Psalm 23 & 59; Luke 21:1-19

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 28 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 20:1-26.

Oh, Saul.  Saul, Saul, Saul.  You go from being a humble man, unsure of his own abilities or worthiness, but chosen and anointed, changed, and given the Spirit, to someone who disobeys God, sets up a monument in your own honour, is divested of the Spirit, and tormented by an evil spirit instead.  What a terrible shame.

1 Samuel 15:22 - But Samuel replied:  "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice..."  

Obedience is what is required of us.  Even when we think God must be mistaken, or we know better.  Even when it seems wasteful, as this seemed to the Israelites.  Why kill perfectly good, healthy livestock?  Sure, kill the sickly, weak, or old ones, but what a wasted of resources to destroy good animals!  Makes sense, right?  Don't our "waste not, want not" and "reduce, reuse, recycle" little hearts just love the idea of keeping those good resources?  Disobedience was the downfall of the king of Israel - the man who was valiant and victorious against the enemies of Israel, who stood head and shoulders above everyone else.  They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions - sin is sin, no matter how good we think our reasons are.  Obedience is a really difficult thing for many of us.  It means submitting our will to that of someone else.  But in this case, seeing as how it's the Creator of the universe, who sees and knows more than we could hope to fathom, you'd think we'd figure out that He knows best.  You'd think.  But I find myself so often just truckin' along doing what I think I need to do without consulting the Almighty on what HIS plan might be.

One thing that I wondered about was verse that says God was grieved that He'd made Saul king.  He knew what would happen, so if He knew He'd be grieved, why didn't He make someone else king?

The following is from a site called -

The Lord’s Repentance.

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel saying,
"I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands." And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11).
When we come to verse 29, we shall read that God "is not a man that He should change His mind." And yet, we read here that God regretted His actions.

    • God’s actions are not random. They are part of an eternal and unchanging plan.
    • That plan is revealed to men in a gradual and unfolding manner.
    • The gradual unfolding of God’s plan are like the unfolding of a map which is twisted and turned as it is opened before our eyes. This does not reflect a change in the map, but in how we see its design. The changes that are revealed in time do not catch God by surprise. They are all a part of His plan.
    • God experiences real emotions. He is the Creator of emotions. As such, I believe that our emotions are a pale reflection of His own.
God knew that Saul's actions would grieve Him, but this was the way God chose to bring His plan to fulfillment.  That doesn't mean that He doesn't still feel the grief, just because He knew it was coming.  Similarly, when something happens in our lives that causes us grief and pain, we know that it is part of His plan, that it will ultimately work to reveal His glory (though we may not see how), and He grieves with us.  He's not some remote being pointing fingers at people randomly to see them squirm.  When part of His plan involves painful experiences for us, He feels that pain as well.  We are never alone in our grief, depression, despair, or pain, no matter how isolated and incapable we feel of getting through the situation.

On a brighter note, we also have the anointing of David in today's passage.  In spite of David's faults, he is still one of my favourite people in the Bible.  He's like a celebrity... good-looking, strong, a good musician, a brave warrior, becomes king, sleeps with someone else's wife... well, not all the qualities that make one a celebrity are necessarily good qualities.  But here we have the young guy, full of life, full of promise, an outdoorsman, good-looking, plays the harp... but there was more to him than that.  His brothers were good-looking and tall in stature, but none of them were chosen.  God sees the heart.  He knew something about David that wasn't visible to the human eye.  He knew David's heart.  He knew David would be a loyal friend, a good and humble servant to the king (until he became king himself), a brave and valiant killer of a giant, a well-known poet and writer of music, and would obey Him and be a good leader of His chosen people (for the most part).  God sees the heart.  It doesn't matter how nice we look on the outside, or how we dress up our actions to look good to those around us.  If we're not sincere, if we're putting on a show, if we are like the Pharisees to whom outward appearances were of utmost importance, God knows.

Well, that's all I've got for today.  Have a fabulous Thursday, everybody.

 Tomorrow's passage:  1 Samuel 17-18; Luke 20:27-47.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 27 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 19:28-48

Happy Wednesday all!

I'm going to focus in on the Luke passage of our reading today.

I am always amazed at the 'foretelling' or 'fore-seeing' passages, wherein Jesus predicts what will occur.  And I am sure the disciples were equally amazed every time Jesus tells them something will happen and then does.  Jesus was right on the money, every time.  They could trust that he wasn't some sort of Nostradamus wannabe, but rather that his word was true and sure.  Which makes me wonder what they were thinking when Jesus obtains this colt and goes riding into town on it.

Note in verse 35, it is the disciples who put their clothes on the colt.  It is the disciples who set Jesus on the colt.  Scripture does not record Jesus telling the disciples to do this, but rather we read of them doing it.  Sure, it's implied that Jesus wanted this to happen, given the beginning scriptures.  Otherwise why would he have told them to go find it.

Maybe the disciples thought of this passage, putting two and two together, seeing prophecy long foretold, unfold before their eyes:
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! 
   Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! 
See, your king comes to you, 
   righteous and victorious, 
lowly and riding on a donkey, 
   on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Zechariah 9:9
Ah-ha!  I wonder, if at this point, they finally thought his hour had come.  Even great King Solomon rode a mule to be anointed king over all Israel.  (I Kings 1:38)  'Maybe now', they might have thought 'Jesus will take his place as king, save us from this hardship and we will be his right hand men!'  Jesus even follows up on that thought process by doing something very out of character for him, but very characteristic of a ruler taking over.

He gets mad.

He walks into the temple overturning tables and driving out those who bought and sold in it.

Great, Jesus finally taking charge of injustice.

And we all know what happens next.  Jesus is betrayed, sentenced and then crucified.  Didn't quite happen how the disciples planned in their brains, did it?

But yet it is even better than they ever planned.  Their liberation, their salvation was more than just physical, it was eternal.  As is ours.  We cannot see the future.  Oh, sometimes the Lord lifts the veil and we get glimpses, but we cannot see the whole thing play out before our eyes.  Just like the disciples needed to heed the word of their Lord at that moment so do we.  Even in the face of great confusion, we need to trust what he is doing.  We need to trust what we know of him.  We need to remember the relationship we have with him and his faithfulness to us in the past.  I think that's one reason why the apostles wrote the gospels.  So that we can look back on others relationship with God and draw strength to remain faithful.  These disciples were just like us, human, doubtful and real.  And yet their human selves touched God, walked with God and talked with God.  And they were changed.  So can we, we just need to believe and remain faithful.

Tomorrow's passage:  1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:1-26

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday, April 26th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:1-27

I thought it was kinda funny that in both our passages today we have someone hiding from God. Saul hides in the baggage, and Zacchaeus hides in the sycamore tree. As though we can hide from God! And sure enough, God found them. We can't hide from Him either.

Yesterday's passage and Jody's post brought up some very direct questions....

I cannot believe the patience God has with the Israelites ME. They I keep letting Him down. They I keep pulling back from Him and trying to do things their MY own way. They I keep testing Him and they I keep failing. I always wonder how God could still call this group ME His "chosen people DAUGHTER" if they I keep pushing Him to the limits?!

And our passage today gives us the answer.

For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 1 Samuel 12:22 (emphasis mine)

In his sermon The Pleasure of God in His Name, John Piper says....
God has freely, according to his own good pleasure, chosen to make Israel a people for himself... God delights in the freedom of unconditional election. But there is another pleasure of God implied in this verse, namely, that God has pleasure in his name. When he chooses a people, it says, he chooses them for himself, so that when he acts to spare them, he acts for his great name's sake. Therefore beneath and behind God's delight in choosing a people there is a deeper delight, namely, the pleasure God has in his own name....

The point of the exodus was to make a worldwide reputation for God. The point of the ten plagues and miraculous Red Sea crossing was to demonstrate the incredible power of God on behalf of his freely chosen people, with the aim that this reputation, this name, would be declared throughout the whole world. God has great pleasure in his reputation....

Do you cry for mercy on the basis of God's love for his name? The great ground of hope in all the God-centered servants of the Lord has always been the impossibility that God would let his great name be dishonored among the nations. It was inconceivable. This was bedrock confidence. Other things change but not this—not the commitment of God to his name....

At the bottom of all our hope, when everything else has given way, we stand on this great reality: the everlasting, all-sufficient God is infinitely, unwaveringly, and eternally committed to his great and holy name. For the sake of his own great name he will act. It will not be profaned forever. The mission of the church will be victorious. He will vindicate his people and his cause in all the earth. (emphasis mine)

Do you cry for mercy on the basis of God's love for his name?

Your Great Name by Natalie Grant
Lost are saved, find their way, at the sound of your great name
All condemned feel no shame, at the sound of your great name
Every fear has no place at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Verse 2:
All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name
Hungry souls receive grace at the sound of your great name
The fatherless, they find their rest at the sound of your great name
Sick are healed and the dead are raised at the sound of your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Samuel 13-14, Luke 19:28-48

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 25 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 18:24-3

Happy Monday to you all. Praying everyone had a truly blessed Easter weekend reflecting on The Cross.

I cannot believe the patience God has with the Israelites. They keep letting Him down. They keep pulling back from Him and trying to do things their own way. They keep testing Him and they keep failing. I always wonder how God could still call this group His "chosen people" if they keep pushing Him to the limits?!

1 Samuel 8:6-21
 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
 10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle[d] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

God knew the people were going to ask for a king and He knew that He would allow them this. He also knew, it would end in a more difficult life for them to follow their earthly king than their Heavenly One. Yet he allows them to proceed. God allows this same "freedom of choice" in my life as well. He knows when I'm going to do something that does not align with His will or something that is not in my best interest (whether spiritually, mentally, physically), yet He says to me the same thing He said to Samuel "listen to them and give them a king". He allows us to choose what will have kingship over our lives. He warns us just the same that these "kings" will take from us our sons, our hard work, our money, our flocks, and all the other "bests" in our lives. He also warns that there will come a day that we will not want these things to reign over us anymore.

If we do not relinquish the desire and the appointment of these kings he warns in verse 18: "When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day".  Scary. Not something I ever want to experience.

I can identify with the Israelites in todays passage and also in their journey so far.

I cannot believe the patience God has with the Israelites ME. They I keep letting Him down. They I keep pulling back from Him and trying to do things their MY own way. They I keep testing Him and they I keep failing. I always wonder how God could still call this group ME His "chosen people DAUGHTER" if they I keep pushing Him to the limits?!

The happy ending to this story is that in my weakness, God is made strong. He knows that I will let Him down. He actually expects it. He created me to make mistakes. He created me to struggle with my earthly flesh and humbly crawl to His throne of grace, repent and turnaway from "my earthly kings". He sent His Son so these struggles would NOT define and control me, but that they would be demolished through the victory of The Cross. 

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:1-27

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday, April 24th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 4-6 - Luke 18:1-23

He is risen!! Hallelujah, our God reigns! Happy Easter everyone!

Today's passage starts with Hophni and Phinehas finally making the decision that costs them their lives. God had put up with them and their shenanigans for long enough and this time they finally went too far.

The ark of the covenant contained the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God, symbolized His very presence, and was supposed to be kept in the Most Holy Place - a place only the high priest could enter only once a year. Not only did Hophni and Phinehas desecrate the Most Holy Place by entering it, they had the audacity to remove the ark and use it as a good luck charm!

I can almost hear the angels gasping in horror at witnessing such desecration. Truly we do not grasp the magnitude of what Hophni and Phinehas did as we read it through 21st century eyes. The result of this sin? 30,000 soldiers died, Hophni and Phinehas died (as God had promised in yesterday's passage), Eli died after learning of his sons' deaths, and Phinehas' wife died after delivering her baby, and the ark of the covenant was captured.

Then we come to chapters 5 and 6 which almost make me laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity of the whole thing. I reread what I wrote about this passage last year, and still feel the same way, so I'm going to repost a portion of it here...

When the Philistines capture the ark after God refused to act like a genie, they place it next to their god Dagon in triumph. That triumph was short lived when they came in and saw their god lying face down in the dust. They likely tried to explain that away and secured that puppy real good so it wouldn't happen again. Didn't work. The next morning, not only is Dagon face down in the dust, but his head and hands are broken right off.

I ask you - what kind of god needs repairs?! How could people be so foolish as to worship something that can't talk, can't move, can't protect itself and needs to be brought in to the repair shop? Ludicrous!

After plagues and whatnot that can't be explained away, they realize they need to get rid of this ark. Of course, appeasing God with idols isn't going to work. They devise a test by yoking the ark to two mother cows that are still nursing their calves. If there was nothing supernatural involved, those cows would go straight to their calves, not head off down the road to Beth Shemesh. Well, God's power over-rides nature, and the Philistines scientific experiment proves that this was all the result of God's power.

Well, after conducting such a grand scientific experiment, do they go where the evidence lies? No, they do not. They do not begin to worship God, they return to their useless god in the repair shop.

So often society now does the same thing. They say they want evidence of God, but when the evidence points to God, they still don't follow it.

And then the Israelites, who should know better, are punished as well because they still do not respect the holiness of the symbol of God's presence.

This Easter weekend we celebrate and commemorate the amazing fact that God the Son volunteered Himself as a substitute for our sin and took the punishment we deserved upon Himself, and then defeated death and Satan forever by rising on the 3rd day - Amen!!

And because of this, we can now enjoy intimacy with our Lord to a degree that was unimaginable to the Israelites of the Bible. But sometimes, I think we have taken this intimacy for granted, and have not treated God with the respect and reverence due His Name. We need to remember that though we have the amazing privilege of calling Him our Friend, He is still the Holy One of Israel, worthy of our utmost respect and deepest worship.

Tomorrow's passage: 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 18:24-43

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday April 23rd ~ PamJ

Happy Easter Weekend everyone! I will ditto what Tammi said yesterday and wish everyone a wonderful weekend full of family time, also remembering to reflect on the amazingness of why we celebrate Easter for God sent His son to die for US. That was by far the most amazing sacrifice, all because He loved us. Amen!

Today's passages speak of Samuel's birth. His mother, Hannah was barren for many years all the while being taunted by her husband's other wife who had may children. After much heartache she finally prayed, 

"O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." Samuel 1:11.

This sort of mirrors the new testament later on where God gives up His only Son. 

Hannah was willing to bargain with the Lord just to have a child, wean him, then give him back to the Lord. For He has great plans for Samuel's life. So Hannah fulfilled her promise and brought Samuel to the House of the Lord in Shiloh where Eli the priest was to care for him and raise him. Hannah had a strong, unwavering relationship with God and she honoured her vows, at ANY cost. Can you imagine only seeing your young child but a few times a year? Letting someone else raise him? It wasn't because she wasn't incapable of doing so, it was because she had made a promise with the Lord.

By doing this, the Lord blessed her with many children after Samuel was born.

And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 1 Samuel 3:19

Let's re-visit last year's post about this passage:
a. The Lord was with him: Is there anything better than this? To have, and to know you have, the Lord with you? For the Christian, we can know we have God with us: If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
  1. William Newell, in his commentary on Romans, speaks well to this point: “Our weak hearts, prone to legalism and unbelief, receive these words with great difficulty: God is for us . . . They have failed Him; but He is for them. They are ignorant; but He is for them. They have not yet brought forth much fruit; but He is for them.” God is not for us because we are so good, or so great, but because of who we are in Jesus. God is for you. God is with you, even if you are not as good as Samuel, because you have given to you the goodness of Jesus.
b. Let none of his words fall to the ground: This means ALL of Samuel’s prophecies came to pass, and were known to be true words from God. Therefore, all Israel . . . knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.
  1. Since the days of Moses there have not been many prophets in Israel, and certainly no great prophets. Now, at this important time in Israel’s history, God raises up Samuel as a prophet.
  2. Coming in this place in Israel’s history, Samuel is rightly seen as Israel’s last judge and first prophet. Samuel bridges the gap between the time of the judges, and the time of the monarchy when prophets (such as Nathan, Elijah, and Isaiah) spiritually influenced the nation.
  3. Through the book of judges, when God raised up a judge, he led the nation mostly through political and military influence. Samuel, as a judge, mainly led the nation by his spiritual influence.
In Luke's passage today Jesus foretells what is to come when He returns.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26-27
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. Luke 17:33

If you ask me, that day is coming SOON. This temporary world we live in, is only getting worse. More violent, more self-destructive as every day passes on. We can only hope and pray that when that judgement day comes that we will have done all we could. And that we will be the one taken and not the one left.

Tomorrow's passage:  1 Samuel 4-6 - Luke 18:1-23

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday, April 22 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Ruth 1-4; Luke 17:1-19.

Easter Cross
Happy Good Friday, my friends!

It almost seems a weird thing to say, since today we remember Christ's horrific death on the cross, and yet with that being the cornerstone of our faith, it IS worth celebrating ~ especially in combination with Resurrection Sunday!!  Anyway, I hope this is a wonderful weekend of not only an extra day of rest and relaxation and family gatherings, but a meaningful time of reflecting on God's amazing goodness in your lives.

I want to focus today on verses 1-4 and 7-10 of Luke 17.  Not because Ruth has nothing new to offer, but because her story is quite familiar and we've discussed it here on this blog and likely many other times in our lives.  Same thing with the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and only the one Samaritan returning to say thank you.  Both are beautiful accounts with many valuable lessons, but I want to look at the less popular passages in today's reading today. And it's obvious why they're less popular!!

First, Jesus teaches His disciples about the gravity of causing others to sin, specifically the "little ones." These could be literal children, but it could also mean anyone whose faith isn't very strong or whose relationship with Christ isn't as mature as ours is.  We need to be so careful how we conduct ourselves around non-believers and believers alike because we just don't know everyone's spiritual condition.  We want to attract non-believers to Christ and we want to make sure we encourage and strengthen new believers ~ not confuse them.

I think this message is vitally important in our day when the general belief is that everything is relative only to ourselves.  We Christians have adopted that right along with everyone else and we tend to view our relationship with Christ as being just between ourselves and God; that no one has the right to judge it or expect it to look a certain way.  And yet, clearly, that is not the case!  With Jesus saying it would be better to DIE than to lead someone astray (notice He doesn't say deliberately or inadvertently ~ that doesn't seem to matter!!), we KNOW we need to take this seriously.  We need to accept that how we live our lives ~ our habits, the way we talk, our hobbies, the activities we participate in or encourage our kids to participate in ~ are all part of our testimony to our relationship with Him, and as such, we need to make sure they line up with what we claim we believe.

Then Jesus says we need to help each other remember this.  When we see someone doing something that has given someone else a wrong impression of Christianity, we need to draw attention to it.  This will not make us popular, that's for sure!  But it will go a lot further to preserving the purity of the Bride of Christ than "tolerance" will.  And, of course, there's obviously a right way and a wrong way to present the "rebuke."  We need to remember we are all guilty of not living up to our profession of faith, and we all need to approach this with humility, whether we are the rebuker or the rebukee.

Jesus indicates this will not be an easy process.  It is difficult to change old habits.  If we have pointed out to someone that something they're commonly doing or participating in is detrimental to their testimony, it may take several attempts to change.  It may take years.  And we need to be gracious in encouraging that person and forgiving their failed attempts.

Lastly, in verses 7-10 we get to the passage I love to hate as a stay-at-home mom.  In my old Bible ~ the one falling apart and FILLED with handwritted notes (man, I'd forgotten how much I missed this old Bible!) ~ I have a few things written beside this passage that speak to how we do our jobs and what we're working for.  These are the points I've made beside these verses:
  • it is normal to work hard in God's Kingdom
  • God blesses extra work done willingly, which is also part of God's Kingdom
  • a true servant does not EXPECT thanks and rewards; thanks should not be our motivation for service
  • a true servant of God is more concerned with responsibilities than with rights and privileges
Do you see why this raps my conscience a little??!  I know everyone struggles with this to varying extents, but it seems moms have the most trouble with serving joyfully.  So many of the things we do to keep our households running smoothly and our families happy, fed, and dressed go virtually unnoticed.  (until you don't do them one day!)  I tend to feel very under-appreciated and taken for granted fairly regularly.  And then I start to feel a little sorry for myself.  It's tough to love this job sometimes, even though I deliberately chose it.  It's hard to love serving, and yet I think we see here that it is intrinsic to being a child of God.  It is a CRUCIAL part of being an effective Christian.

And it really is a beautiful reflection of Jesus, who selflessly served in His life and will continue to do so for all eternity.  I pray that reflection will get clearer and clearer as our lives go on, as we earnestly continue seeking to serve our...

Tomorrow's passages: 1 Samuel 1-3; Luke 17:20-37

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday, April 21 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Judges 19-21; Luke 16.

Wow... I hardly know what to say after today's reading.  OK, so the chapters in Judges today were just dreadful to read.  DREADFUL!  It starts off with adultery, then we go on to rape, murder, dismemberment, war, oaths, weeping, mourning, and it all ends with kidnapping!  And the very last verse of the book of Judges says "...everyone did as he saw fit."  That happens a lot in our society today, as well.  "You can't tell me how to live my life."  "It's none of your business what we do in the privacy of our own home."  "If two people love each other, why shouldn't they get married?  What difference does it make to you?"  "Freedom of speech!"  "Freedom of assembly!"  "Who are you to tell me what I'm doing is wrong?"

To a certain extent, those things sound very reasonable.  It is true that each person has to make and be responsible for the consequences of his or her own actions.  I can give someone advice, but it's still their decision to make.  I don't want to know what people all do in the privacy of their own home.  To be truthful, there are homosexual partners in relationships that are better than some heterosexual ones (not that this makes it right - I'm just saying).  People should feel able to express themselves without fear of being imprisoned or otherwise punished...  everyone is entitled to an opinion, although in my opinion, people should be a little careful about the effects the publication of their opinions can have.  Unfortunately, very few people are willing to accept how their actions or their words affect those around them.  They wish to believe that what they say and do affects only them and their lives, and perhaps their immediate family, but the ripple effect is so much more far-reaching than that.  Our society is moving further and further away from the moral standards we believe in, which makes it hard to explain to our children why they should follow those moral standards, and for many of them it's not going to be enough that we say "Because the Bible says so."  In particular, I feel that one of the most important things we need to be careful of is what our children are exposed to and whom our children choose as role models.  There are so many "heroes" out there to choose from, and some of those people have no business being looked up to by anyone.

Moving on to Luke 16:10 - "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."  This is a verse I often think of when I'm feeling like maybe I should skip my tithe this month because we need something.  Sometimes it's really hard to trust God to provide for our needs when I know we don't have this or that and writing that tithe cheque is going to empty my account.  However, I also know that God has provided for us in the past and I tell myself that if I can't be trusted to tithe from what He's given me already, there's no way I'm going to be entrusted with more.

I also noticed that it says "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law."  This indicates to me, once again, that Jesus came to earth to be the fulfillment of the Law, rather than the abolisher of it.  Every letter of the Law had to be fulfilled in order for any of us to have a prayer of going to heaven.

And last, but not least, the last verse of Luke 16 says "'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"  There are many books, sermons, websites, etc. out there that we can read or listen to that teach us more about the Bible, more about living a Christian life, more about life in the time of Jesus, or the culture of Bible times, more about how to raise our children in a godly way... the list goes on and on.  And while I agree that there is much valuable information in many of those books, it all needs to come back to the Bible.  One of the reasons I believe regular Bible reading is so important is that it will help us to notice when something else we are reading or listening to isn't quite sounding right.  There are many things that sound great and logical and smart, but if they don't line up with the teachings of the Bible, they are false teachings.  The only way we're going to know a false teaching when we hear or read it is if we know what the Bible says.

Well, that's all, folks!  Have a great Thursday!

Tomorrow's passage:  Ruth 1-4; Luke 17:1-19.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday, April 20 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Judges 16-18, Luke 15:11-32

Greetings fellow sojourners of the Truth!

I gotta be honest with you, when I started reading our Luke passage, I thought 'blah blah blah, I've read this before a hundred times, what new thing could I possibly see.'  Again, I am humbled.

I've got problems with this passage.  Here we've got a wayward kid, taking his fathers hard earned money, that was meant for after his fathers death, throwing it all to high living, fast women and just plain rebellion.  As far as I'm concerned, he deserves what he got.  Feeding pigs is nasty business.  It's gross.  And for a Jew it was more than just gross, it was unclean.  They didn't associate themselves with unclean things.  If you were unclean you couldn't be around people or go in the temple.  This boy is desperate, clearly.  But he must've known who his father was, even in spite of what he had done.  He must've known his father was a merciful man, otherwise he wouldn't have even tried to go back.  We've read the story, the boy does go back, his father is more than merciful, he is actually quite generous in the face of his sons flagrant rebellion.  The father throws a party and from what I read in scripture, it is quite the shindig.  Food, singing and dancing.  And they waste no time in throwing this partay.  In fact, in their haste, they fail to alert the older brother, working his butt off in the fields, that his irresponsible little brother has returned.

Older brother is ticked.  Indignant.  I would be too.  I mean, here we have the older brother, responsible, working in the fields like a hired servant, patiently waiting the day when his inheritance is given to him.  And the younger brother shirks his duties, tromps off to waste his inheritance on trash.  Then younger brother comes home and the father doesn't even mention his wayward living, but rather turns a blind eye.....

Or does he.

It is subtle, but it's there.  The father does mention it, but he doesn't linger on it.  Note:
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
The father does not gloss over his sins.  If my father said I was once dead and lost to him, that would make an impact on me.  For a long time this son was dead to him.  The son he raised to be better, the son he knew, the son he invested his good morals in, was indeed dead.  The son basically said the father was dead to him when he took his inheritance and the father, in a way, reminds him of that with this statement.  In essence, the sons sin is turned around on him.

But as soon as the father reminds the son of his sin, he follows it with mercy and redemption.  That reminder of the sin will always remain with the son, but, because this father is so good at what he does, he coupled the sin with the redemption.  So that when the son remembers the sin, he will also remember the forgiveness.  I believe that's sometimes why people remain in sin, because they have sinned.  When I eat sweets it's so much easier to keep eating them.  But when we are reminded of our sin and our forgiveness I think its easier to climb out of the muck.

I don't want to forget about the older brother.  In some ways I can recognize with this man.  I don't have children old enough to rebel against me in this manner, yet.  But I do have a brother.  He has a past.  And while his return from prodigal living is slow in coming, he has turned his life around greatly.  I am happy, very happy that he has.  But in a lot of ways while my brother was rebelling my parents paid so much more attention to him.  Lots of time and money was spent on him.  I hated the whole deal.  I truly can empathize with the older brother.  It's unfair.  And the fathers answer seems weak.  I cannot reconcile the end of this story.  Yes, I get the forgiveness of the father, but it's the brother I have trouble with.

We sometimes cannot understand what the Father does, but we can live in gratefulness that our brothers and sisters are not in control of our salvation.

I pray as we near Easter that the mercy and forgiveness of the Cross is made rich and full in your hearts and minds.

 Tomorrow's passage: Judges 19-21, Luke 16

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday, April 19th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Judges 13-15, Luke 15:1-10

Today's OT passage covers a fairly large portion of Samson's life. I find it interesting that, in the book of Judges, some of the characters are practically glossed over in the span of one verse, while others, like Samson, are given 4 chapters! Obviously there are lessons we are to be learning from Samson's life.

The biggest one that jumped out at me today was Samson's wasted potential. Here was a man chosen by God to do great things. The beginning of his life reminds us very much of the beginning of John the Baptist's life (and other great men of faith, for that matter). He was born to a godly but barren couple after an angelic announcement, and he was to be a Nazarite. He was to begin to conquer the Philistines (John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah) and he was given supernatural strength in order to accomplish what God wanted him to accomplish.

Unfortunately for Samson, that's where the similarities end.

Even though both of these men started strong, only one ran the race to completion as to win the prize.

In his sermon Samson, the Promising Start, Pastor David Legge says....
I believe Samson's history is an illustration of Paul's warning that we find in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that reads: 'But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway'. Samson was a castaway as Paul has cited it. Now I know that in Hebrews 11 and verse 32 the writer tells us that Samson was a great man of faith. He had faith in God's word, but apart from that reference to him there's very little else can be said to his credit right throughout the word of God. What I'm saying to you this morning is this: you could have your faith in God, as Samson did, and many people today do. They profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they have trusted in God for their salvation, but their life doesn't go anywhere after that. They receive from God all His provision, they are blessed with everything in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they neglect their spiritual lives and the enemy overcomes them.

We as Christians, once we come to faith in the Lord Jesus, have great potential. There are great prospects ahead of us, and yet the question I'm asking us today in the light of this life of Samson is: what have you done with your potential in Christ? I know you have faith in God, but what are you doing with the resources that God has given to you? What are you doing with the prospects that God has set ahead of you as His divine sovereign will, if you would only obey and follow Him? Paul says: 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning', and this is a great lesson to us - the promising start of Samson, and we need to look at it in great detail, and take heed if we think we stand, lest we fall. (emphasis mine)

So often we want Jesus to be our Saviour, but we don't want Him to be our Lord.

We want all the benefits with none of the responsibility. But in order to live a victorious Christian life, it just doesn't work that way.

The spiritual lives of the Israelites had degenerated so badly that they didn't even see their need for a rescuer (sound familiar?!). How did the Philistines get such a strangle hold on them?

Slowly, through business and pleasure, through trade and intermarriage, they were choking them to death - and it was through compromise and assimilation with the Philistines that God's people were being overcome. Now please note this: it was not military might and dominance that conquered God's people here, but it was both spiritual and cultural seduction. Not the sword! What was it that caused God's people not even to feel the need to cry out to God for deliverance, and look for a saviour? It was materialism, and it was sensuality! Spiritual and cultural seduction, assimilating with the background of the world, compromising in its principles. The two results that we find from that were spiritual apathy - they didn't even see their need, they didn't see themselves as God saw them, and even when Samson tried to deliver them they were trying to hold him back! (emphasis mine)

Spiritual apathy and loss of distinction. Yup, very familiar all right.

He also issues a challenge to both children and parents...
I want to ask you, in the light of Samson having not only the best spiritual start he could have in life, he had the best family start, the best family background that anybody could want - but the question is: what did he do with it? Children, you're here this morning: what have you done with your home life? The family heritage, the parental example that you have been given through God's Spirit in your parent's life - what have you done with it? Even if you don't literally have Christian parents, I'm sure that there is some godly example that has been in your life: how have you reacted and related to it? Those that have prayed for you, sacrificed for you, tried to instruct you? Parents, have you done your best, with God's help? Now I know that many of you have, and many of your children are wayward today - but can I just say to you that the devil can use this as a great instrument of punishment in your mind and heart, by telling you that you must have done something wrong if your children are not following the Lord today. Can I say this: you could do everything that Samson's parents did, and more, and your children will still not necessarily follow the Lord. Do you hear that? It does not mean that they will go the right way, even if you do right by them. (emphasis mine)

That's a lot of lessons and I didn't even finish going through that entire sermon, nevermind the additional ones dealing with today's passage: Samson, the Broken Vows and Samson, the Vengeful Victor.

Samson flirted with what was forbidden him and it was his downfall. He took for granted the fact that he had been chosen, his godly heritage, his vows of consecration (of being separate, being distinct) and the power of the Holy Spirit. He had this all, and he wasted it.

We have all those blessings as well. If you are a Christian, you have been chosen by God. You have a godly heritage (even if not Christian parents, you have the Word as your heritage). You have been set apart from this world. And you have, dwelling within you, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Will we flirt with the forbidden, take our blessings for granted, keep God at Saviour status alone and deny Him Lordship of our lives?

Or will we press on in His power, using all the gifts He has graciously given us and be able to say at the end that we fought the good fight?

The choice is ours. May we choose wisely.

Tomorrow's passage: Judges 16-18, Luke 15:11-32

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, April 18 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Judges 11-12, Luke 14:25-35

Sorry for the late post people! Happy Monday!!

There are several things that stood out for me in today's reading.

1. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. He was sent away from his family because he was an illegitimate son, yet is later called back to save his family from the Ammonites. God uses Jephthah. He is presumed to be of worthless lineage and yet in 11:29 "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah".  No matter how worthless we are in our human sin and lineage, God can send his Spirit upon us and make us great warriors.

2. Did Jephthah seriously provide his daughter as a burnt offering?! God knew Jephtah's vow to sacrifice the first thing that came to his door - why did God send his daughter?? This does not seem to align with what I know of our God? I did a lot of reading on interpretations surrounding this vow. I choose to highlight the discussion found Here.
One of the more troubling passages of the Old Testament has to do with a vow made by one of Israel’s judges, Jephthah, as recorded in Judges 11. Jephthah vowed to God that if the Lord would grant him victory over the evil Ammonites, the first thing that came out to meet him upon his return home, would be Jehovah’s, and/or it would be offered as a burnt sacrifice. When he arrived home, his daughter came out to greet him. He was devastated, but eventually he fulfilled the vow.
It is generally assumed this means that he did sacrifice her as an offering. Some conservative scholars argue vigorously that he fulfilled his vow and took her life (see Kaiser, pp. 193-195). Some of their arguments are as follows.
  1. It is contended that almost all early writers believed that Jephthah did actually sacrifice his daughter. The idea that he dedicated her to perpetual virginity, it is said, commenced in the Middle Ages.
  2. The era in which Jephthah lived was exceeding corrupt, and he was no different from the others of that age.
  3. It is alleged that the grammatical construction of 11:31 allows only human sacrifice coming from his house, not an animal.
  4. The actual sacrifice of his daughter is the most natural way to interpret the context.
Since Jephthah is depicted as one of the great heroes of the Old Testament era (Hebrews 11:32), some scholars feel that this involves the Bible in a moral difficulty.

Possible Considerations

There are two possible approaches to this problem. First, if Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, he did so without God’s approval, for the law of Moses condemned human sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:10). The writer of the book of Hebrews would not have endorsed that particular atrocity any more than he would have sanctioned Abraham’s lying (Genesis 12:10ff), or Rahab’s prostitution (Joshua 2:1ff). Reporting an event is not the equivalent of sanctioning it. The allusion in the book of Hebrews would reflect a characterization of Jephthah’s life of faith, viewed in its entirety, and would not discredit him simply because of an isolated (though horrible) act of sin, the fulfillment of a rash vow.
On the other hand, a number of prominent scholars (e.g., Edersheim, Archer, Geisler, etc.) believe that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering; rather, it is argued that he devoted her, as a virgin, to the service of Jehovah for the remainder of her life.
In support of this view, a number of arguments are proffered.

Human sacrifice against the law

Since human sacrifice was clearly a violation of divine law, does it seem likely that Jehovah would have granted Jephthah’s victory (Judges 11:32), knowing that such would result in a gross, pagan tragedy?

No condemnation

There is no condemnation of Jephthah’s act in the record of Judges or elsewhere. This seems rather strange in view of the fact that another judge’s heathen conduct is reprimanded (see the case of Gideon — Judges 8:27).

Idiomatic language

The “and” (Heb., vau) of verse 30 may be an idiom in the sense of “or” (cf. Exodus 21:15 in the LXX [v. 17 Eng. text] — “he who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death”). Thus, this Old Testament character may have been merely suggesting that whatever met him as he returned home would be dedicated to Jehovah, or, offered as a burnt offering — depending upon which was appropriate. See Dr. Hales’ comments (Clarke, p. 153).

The maiden’s behavior

The girl went into the mountains to bewail her virginity, not her impending death (11:37).
If she knew she was about to die, why did she spend the final two months of her life in mountain solitude, rather than remaining with her family (11:36-37)?

Puzzling language

Jephthah fulfilled his vow (11:39). If this meant he killed her, why was it necessary to add, “and she knew not [i.e., she was not intimate with] a man”?

Jephthah’s daughter: a heroine

Each year thereafter the daughters of Israel “celebrated” (the word can mean to “praise”; cf. “rehearse” — 5:11) Jephthah’s daughter (11:40). Would this have been the case had she voluntarily offered herself as a sacrifice in a pagan ceremony in plain violation of the will of God?
One respectable scholar, Goslinga, who contends that Jephthah did actually kill his daughter, concedes that the “perpetual virgin” view is also possible. He says that the fact that Jephthah continued in his judgeship after the incident favors this view. In fact, the law of Moses imposed the death penalty upon anyone who sacrificed one of his children to Molech (Leviticus 20:2).
If Jephthah had sacrificed his daughter — even to the Lord — it is difficult to see how many of the Israelites would not have strongly reacted against that atrosity. Goslinga says the Bible exegete must exercise caution in this regard, rather than being dogmatic (p. 396). For a balanced discussion of this incident, see McClintock & Strong (pp. 818-820).

What are your thoughts about this story?? Other articles I found said that Jephthah should be celebrated because he went through with his vow, others say it was an "off the cuff" vow and not of the Holy Spirit at all and that one should not make careless promises and vows to God without seeking Him out first. Good advice for sure, but do you think it applies here?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Tomorrow's passage: Judges 13-15, Luke 15:1-10

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday, April 17th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Judges 9-10 - Luke 14:1-24

What hit me today was the amount of time that passed between Jotham's courageous declaration (and curse) and God's execution of His judgement. 3 years.... 3 long years!

Why the 3 yr wait? Why didn't God bring down judgement immediately, as He had numerous other times?

We don't know why. But we know that eventually Abimilech and the town of Shechem both were punished by God. In His time, not anyone else's.

We cannot understand the mind of the Lord. His ways are not our ways.

I am, once again, reminded of this during our now 2 week ordeal with my nephew. According to the doctors, things do not look good.

We know though that God is in control. We know that God knows what is going on even when the doctors do not. We know that even if the doctors say there is nothing left to do, there is still lots God can do. We know that God is the same today as he was two weeks ago when Baret was still a normal, healthy 3 yr old. We know that the outcome is in God's hands.

But we do not know the mind of God. We do not know what His timing will be (whether He will heal Baret on earth or in heaven).

And so we wait, trusting in the God who can still the sun and calm the waves.

Tomorrow's passage: Judges 11-12, Luke 14:25-35

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday, April 16-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Judges 7-8; Luke 13:23-35.

Scripture: Judges 7:2 2The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand,(D)lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'

Observation: When the impossible is accomplished, we are forced to recognize that it is all about God.

Application: I'll be the first to admit that it is a whole lot easier to be thankful to God when things are going right (or my way!). It is much more difficult to be thankful or praise filled when things are not going well or when things seem out of control. It is increasingly difficult and extremely hard when things are not going according to plan and/or things are impossible. However, it is through these times that God draws us in, holds us close, and reminds us that we are never alone and that He is in control. God sometimes asks us to surrender our ideas, (our plans, our needs, our security, our safety) and take a leap of faith, (step out onto the water, into the furnace, serve the loaves and fishes) in order to truly see that the impossible IS possible through God.

Surrendering is not easy. In fact, the world tells us to be independent and self reliant and we don't need anyone. God asks us to separate ourselves from this and rely fully on Him. He sometimes places us in impossible situations just to give us a glimpse of His power over everything. This strengthens our faith and makes us less reliant on our own knowledge and more willing to accept His leading. When things seem possible by our own hard work or by our capabilities it is easy to forget that everything is designed by God and that we do not accomplish anything without God already knowing what is going to happen. When we are successful on our own, it's too easy to think we did it ourselves. I was recently awarded the Outstanding New Teacher award for our province and it was an honour to receive such recognition so early in my career. I did not do this by myself, God blessed me through opening doors in university, supplying the student loans that I needed right at the right time, blessing me with financial gifts and awards to off set the cost of student loans, health to complete my degree without missing a single day in 5 years of classes due to illness, childcare for children, memory to do well on tests and exams, and a passion for teaching. God gave me all of these things-His gifts to me. I can think I did this all on my own but that would be an extreme lie. God made this all possible.

It's still not easy to submit to God's plan when it seems impossible. When I hear about a 4 year old boy's parents being spoken to about palliative care, it's hard to imagine a full and complete recovery. When I hear about couples struggling with infertility, it's hard to imagine them ever having a child. When I hear about the immorality and promiscuity that abounds among high school students, it's hard to imagine that my children will be able to withstand and avoid the temptation to give themselves away before marriage. God makes all things possible (Matthew 19:26). It's not about us or what we can do, it's about God and what he is capable of. When Gideon's army is reduced from 32, 000 to just 300, there was no human way possible for that army to defeat the Midianites and yet they did. People are miraculously healed, infertile couples get pregnant, young people remain pure--these impossible situations are possible but only through prayer and petition and the faith that God can make it possible in His timing and in His way.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Oh Holy and Awesome Lord. We want to do it by ourselves. We think our way is best, we think we know what we are doing, and we ignore you. Thank you for reminding us through impossible situations that You are in control. Help us to see these are growing opportunities. Give us Your wisdom to know that You know best and that Your plan is perfect. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Judges 9-10 - Luke 14:1-24