Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thursday, December 31st: Malachi 1-4, Luke 24:36-53 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Malachi 1-4; Luke 24:36-53

It's hard to believe that we've come to the end of another year on the Bible in a Year and Beyond blog, and another year of reading through the entire Bible in a year.  Thanks so much to all the posters, commenters, as well as all the people who follow along and read with us.  If you'd like to participate in a more active way this coming year, please email me to let me know!

Next year we have decided to follow a Chronological Plan - reading through the Bible in the order the events occurred.  I have a Chronological Life Application Study Bible that is set up this way (which makes it super easy for me!) and I have typed out a One Year Bible plan according to the way it is laid out in this Bible. I ended up making it a few days shorter, giving more freedom around the Christmas holidays.  Click here to see the new Bible reading plan for 2016!  I have also changed the link on the sidebar.

On to the final post for 2015!

I appreciated John Piper's thoughts on the beginning of Malachi 1.....

When God said in verse 2, "I have loved you, says the Lord," the Israelites respond skeptically, "How hast thou loved us?"

Now test yourselves here. How would you answer that question in your own life? How would you describe God's love to you. Is your life and family in such a shambles that you feel as skeptical about it as the Israelites did? Do you want to say, "How hast thou loved me?"...

Answer: "Is not Esau Jacob's brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau."

Now what sort of answer is this? The descendants of Jacob have asked, "How hast thou loved us?" How is it an answer to say, "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated"? Isn't that just a repetition of what he already said in the first part of verse 2, "I have loved you, says the Lord"?

No it's not, because of the little question, "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" What does that mean? Why did God ask that? He asked it because he knew that the answer to that question contained the key to the essence of his love.

What is the answer? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? The answer is yes. In fact as every Israelite knew, Esau was not only Jacob's brother, he was his twin brother, conceived in the womb of Rebecca by their father Isaac. Jacob and Esau were not like the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. They had different mothers and one of them wasn't even an Israelitess. But Jacob and Esau were twins. And not only were they twins, Esau was the elder, which means that by all customary rights and privileges he would be the main heir of the father's blessings.

Now what is the point of saying, "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" The point is this: Based on what you and Esau were in yourselves I could just as easily have chosen Esau as you. Isn't he your brother? Weren't you twins? Isn't he in fact your elder? But I chose you, and passed him by.

What then is God's answer to the question, "How hast thou loved us?" His answer is, I have loved you with free, sovereign, unconditional, electing love; that is how I have loved you.

  • My love for you is electing love because I chose you for myself above your brother Esau.
  • My love for you is unconditional love because I chose you before you had done anything good or evil—before you had met any conditions—while you were still in your mother's womb (Genesis 25:24).
  • My love for you is sovereign love because I was under no constraint to love you; I was not forced or coerced; I was totally in charge when I set my love upon you.
  • And my love for you is free because it's the overflow of my infinite grace that can never be bought.

Now I ask you, if you are a Christian here today, and if you say to God, "How have you loved me?" can you answer the way God answered the Israelites? Do you look at your sister or brother living in sin and tremble that you have been chosen? And that your election is not because of anything in you? And that your faith and hope are owing wholly to God? Do you look at that childhood friend or college roommate who took a turn away from God when you stayed on the path, and tremble at the awesome thought that God chose you?

Piper notes that God's hatred of Esau (the descendants of Esau) means that He opposed them, will continue to oppose them, they will be given up into wickedness, and God will be angry with them forever.

Why does God tell us this?

  • To humble you.
  • To take away your presumption.
  • To remove every ground of boasting in yourself.
  • To cut the nerve of pride that boasts over Esau as though your salvation were owing to anything in you.
  • To put to naught the cavalier sense of self-reliance that lets you dally in my presence as though you were an equal partner in this affair.
  • To make you tremble with tears of joy that you belong to God.

As the psalmist says, "There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared!" (Psalm 130:4).

But above all, that we may know that He reigns over the whole earth.
5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
May we humbly give glory to Him and Him alone for our salvation.

Luke 24:46-47 “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

May we proclaim His death and resurrection until He comes again!

See you in 2016!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 1-3

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday, December 30th: Zechariah 13-14, Luke 24:1-35 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Zechariah 13-14; Luke 24:1-35

Zechariah 13:7 “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
Jesus quoted from this verse just before His arrest (Matthew 26:31-32).  He knew His disciples would desert Him when He was arrested.  Are we ready to stand up for Jesus when to do so may cost us something?

The righteous remnant, those that do follow Jesus no matter the cost, are who v9 refers to....
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.

The first coming of Jesus, that we celebrate at Christmas time, was not the time for judgment, but rather for mercy.  He was not ruler or warrior, but rather He came as a sacrifice for us.  But the second coming will be different. He will return to judge and reign over the whole earth.  We must be sure to live in obedience and spiritual readiness as we await His return.  He is coming!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Malachi 1-4; Luke 24:36-53

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday, December 29th: Zechariah 9-12, Luke 23: 26-56 ~ Nathan

The first verse in our reading from Zechariah that stood out to me was
9:9 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
Jesus,  who was righteous,  came humbly to save us. He came to offer forgiveness to all of us. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. 

This ties into the other verse I highlighted later in chapter 10,
10:6 I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
Just as God forgave and restored Judah, His son offers to forgive and restore us. Once forgiven,  our sins are forgotten and we can be free. This is true freedom that satisfies,  which is unlike the freedom we think we have in Canada where we can do what we want under the law. Freedom found after  forgiveness is what we should crave,  not the ability to do what we want with our material items, which only temporarily satisfies.

In our reading from Luke, we see in verse 28 how Jesus was focused on saving souls,  even at one of His most painful times, 
28: Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children

Jesus could have focused on Himself,  He was in extreme pain and stress,  and knew the worst was yet to come. But He loved those around enough to warn them that the real tragedy is not what He was going through,  but those that don't accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Another thing that I took note of was how the one criminal that hung beside Jesus was wise enough to recognize that Jesus was righteous and able to save. This man made a last minute conversion and will therefore be waiting for us in Heaven. Goes to show it's never to late as long as a person is still breathing.

Again,  the story of Jesus being crucified is extremely humbling, and an amazing display of His love for us. We can never repay this,  but we can ask for forgiveness and give our lives to Him, then join Him one day in Heaven!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Zechariah 13-14; Luke 24:1-35

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday, December 28th: Zechariah 5-8, Luke 23:1-25 ~Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Zechariah 5-8, Luke 23:1-25 

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another."  Zechariah 7:9

Reading this verse painted a picture of peace to me.  On Christmas Eve we attended the church service at the church that a brother of mine and his girlfriend attend.  As I was reading this passage, it made me think of one of the verses that their pastor spoke about; Luke 2:14.  It reads, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." KJV

Peace does not happen on its own.  A good example is the world we live in.  There is a lack of trust amongst people.  If we don't get the upper hand in a deal, it means we've lost - there is no "fair deal" concept.  Society says that if it feels right, to do it; even if it means taking advantage of someone else.   

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, justice means the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.  To fairly judge someone is difficult for someone in a fallen, sinful world.  I'll get back to this one a little later on……...  

When was the last time I showed mercy to someone?   I think of Neil from our church who had the right to enforce punishment towards the person who put him in the state that his is in.  But he did not.  He demonstrated true mercy to that individual!  Do I have the heart to do that?  Can I show mercy like the verse says we ought to?

Do I have compassion of others?  Compassion is not just having the feelings of sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, but having a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.  

This is a hard verse for me to implement in my own life which is why it stood out to me.  In order to implement these commands, we are required to put our own selfish desires to the side and to put others first.  In other words, to do goodwill toward men.  Maybe the world needs a little more of that!   

In our NT reading, Pilate discovers that Jesus is from Galilee and he sees a possible opportunity to pass this problem off to Herod, who was the governor of that region, and he just so happens to be in Jerusalem at the this time.  Well, his plan doesn't work, as Herod and his people simply mock and torment Jesus before they send Him back to Pilate.  Luke tells us that Pilate explained to the Jewish leadership that neither he nor Herod could find a capital offence regarding Jesus.

Even though Pilate found Jesus not guilty, he was still willing to have Him illegally beaten in order to satisfy the chief priests and the people (vs 16).  

We do live in a fallen and sinful world.  We cave in to what others want, and Pilate was no different.  He told the people in the crowds "no" three times, but it was their relentless shouting that prompted Pilate to grant the people their desires.  Jesus was not judged fairly.  He was not shown true justice.

Because of God's plan and Jesus' obedience, we will all experience true justice one day.  Jesus has shown us mercy by following his Father's plan and paying for our sins.  We will witness His compassion when we are with Him in Heaven, and all our pains with be gone; He will have alleviated our sufferings by dying on the cross for us!

Jesus lived out this verse, and I pray that I will have the desire to do the same.   

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zechariah 9-12; Luke 23:26-56

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday, December 27th: Zechariah 1-4, Luke 22:47-71 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Zechariah 1-4; Luke 22:47-71

Zechariah was written during the time the exiles had returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple, but the work had stalled.  Zechariah and Haggai confronted and encouraged the people to continue the work.  But Zechariah's message went further than that, and gave hope to God's people by telling them of the Messiah to come, whose birth we celebrate during this Christmas season.

My Life Application bible says this about the visions Zechariah recorded in the first 4 chapters...

(1:7-17) Zechariah sees messengers reporting to God that the surrounding nations that have oppressed Judah are living in careless and sinful ease. Israel was asking, "Why isn't God punishing the wicked?" Wicked nations may prosper, but not forever. God will bring upon them the judgment they deserve.

(1:18-21) Zechariah sees four horns, representing the four world powers that oppressed and scattered the people of Judah and Israel. Then he sees four craftsmen who will throw down the horns. God will do what he promised. After the evil nations have carried out his will in punishing his people, God will destroy these nations for their sin.

(2:1-13) Zechariah sees a man measuring the city of Jerusalem. The city will one day be full of people, and God himself will be a wall around the city.  The city will be restored in God's future kingdom. God will keep his promise to protect his people.

(3:1-10) Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before God. Joshua's filthy clothes are exchanged for clean garments; Satan's accusations against him are rejected by God. The story of Joshua the high priest pictures how the filthy clothes of sin are replaced with the pure linen of God's righteousness. Christ has taken our clothes of sin and replaced them with God's righteousness.

(4:1-14) Zechariah sees a lampstand that is continually kept burning by an unlimited reservoir of oil. This picture reminds the people that it is only through God's Spirit that they will succeed, not by their own might and resources.  The Spirit of God is given without measure. Human effort does not make a difference. The work of God is not accomplished in human strength.

Perhaps this is why Peter denied Jesus three times in our NT passage.  He was sure of himself and his own ability to follow God, but his inability to stand in tough times proved that his own strength was not enough.  Thankfully, Peter turned to Jesus for forgiveness, and his story turned out far differently than Judas'.

May we remember not to trust in our own strength, but to rely on God's power.  It is the only way we can live faithful lives in service to Him.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zechariah 5-8; Luke 23:1-25

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday, December 26th: Micah 6-7, Luke 22:21-46 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Micah 6-7; Luke 22:21-46

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with[a] thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

It's interesting..... the last verse I've heard many times, but I've never really noticed the preceding verses.  God isn't interested in sacrifices made to appease Him so He'll leave us alone.  God wants changed lives.  He wants living sacrifices. And that is something that is impossible to do on our own strength.

So, we need to follow Micah 7:7
But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
And rejoice in the truth of Micah 7:18-20
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.  He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
In our NT passage we see Jesus' struggle in Gethsemane.  He knew what God's will was, but it did not make it easy to fulfill the plan that had been set in motion ever since the beginning of time.  I read a quote today on Facebook by Danny MacKay that referenced this exactly.....

Happy birthday my King.

You went from being the King of Heaven, to a vulnerable and helpless baby. I imagine another type of 'Gethsemane' for you on that night before you descended. Before your arrest, you wrestled in that garden with how much you were about to suffer. I bet it was similar in Heaven the night before you came to earth.

Such cost.

But You came.

You put us before yourself. Our souls were more important to you than your own blood. Our place in Heaven was more important to you than your place, so you gave up yours so we could have ours.

This goodwill is overwhelming and very much undeserved.

Today we celebrate that you wanted peace between us. No greater sign than this could ever be given:

You came.

For all the sinful, the broken, the hopeless, the dirty. The lonely, the oppressed, and the forgotten. For all who have shame. For the inexcusable.

You opened the way home.

What a marvellous hope for us that you include the word "whosoever" in this:

"For God SO loved the world, that He gave His only Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life" Jn 3:16

No single person should ever doubt their worth again.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zechariah 1-4; Luke 22:47-71

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday, December 25th: Micah 4-5, Luke 22:1-20 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Micah 4-5; Luke 22:1-20

Talk about appropriate passages for us to ready today, Christmas Day!

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.

Micah predicts the coming of the Messiah whose birth we celebrate today.

Why was He born?  He was born to die to save us from our sins, the process of which was set in motion during our NT passage.  And how do we remember this sacrifice?  The taking of communion, also described in our NT passage today.

God's Word is amazing and continues to be relevant to our daily lives!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Micah 6-7; Luke 22:21-46

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday, December 24th: Micah 1-3, Luke 21:20-38 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Micah 1-3; Luke 21:20-38

Like most (all?) of the minor prophets, Micah warned God's people of the judgment to come, while offering pardon to all who repent.   It was originally written for both the people of Israel (northern kingdom) and Judah (southern kingdom), but particularly the people of Judah.

Micah is very clear that God's judgment will come, and today's passage mainly focus on that portion of Micah's message.  Once again we see how very serious our sin is to our holy God, and how serious we need to be about evicting it from our lives.

Our NT passage talks about the Messiah's return.

Today is Christmas Eve.  During the Christmas season we celebrate Jesus' first coming to earth.  And, indeed, Jesus' first coming is a day of rejoicing.  For Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world.  However, when Jesus returns it will be a day of judgment, and we need to be ready!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Micah 4-5; Luke 22:1-20

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday, December 23rd: Nehemiah 12-13, Luke 21:1-19 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 12-13; Luke 21:1-19

What struck me was how seriously Nehemiah took sin.

It reminded me of an excellent article I read recently called God's Not Really That Holy, I'm Not Really That Bad  where Tim Challies points out that The gospel says that God really is far holier than I dared even imagine and that I am far more sinful than I ever could have guessed.

We need to live like we believe that.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Micah 1-3; Luke 21:20-38

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday, December 22nd: Nehemiah 10-11, Luke 20:27-47 ~ Nathan

After the exile,  the Israelites wanted to start fresh and do things the way God wanted,  and the way that it was written by Moses long before. It must have felt good to get a second chance,  we all have been given a second chance by someone in our lives at some point.

A second chance at something makes us want to do better the next time, and not make the same mistakes we made the first time. It's like a rematch in football, after losing to a team the players are glad when they can face that same team again,  and learn from previous mistakes and work harder to atone for the first loss.

God gives us many "second chances",  do we try harder the second time to do things the way He wants?  Or do we assume that we'll get a second chance and not try hard the first time round?

God gives us chances while we're still living,  one day we will run out of chances. The problem is we don't know when that day will be,  so we need to do our best to trust and obey now, the first time.

The question asked by the Sadducees in Luke 20 reminds me of a question our kids would ask about Heaven. They ask the question, and my wife or I try to answer the best we know. We can't give a definite answer on all things about Heaven,  beacuse we haven't been there yet to experience it. These types of questions can be fun,  but we can't get caught up in worry over how Heaven will be. We just need to trust and have faith that Heaven will be better than here on earth,  beacuse the Bible says it will be. Once there,  we won't miss earth and want to go back. It is home for Christians, we should think of it that way.

This is the last blog I'll write before Christmas.  To all who read this blog, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas!  I hope we all keep in mind during the Christmas season the real meaning of Christmas and what it represents. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday, December 21: Nehemiah 7-9; Luke 20:1-26 by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 7-9; Luke 20:1-26

A few things stood out for me from today's readings:

“Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
[i] “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

I picked the word "stand" as my word of the year of 2015 and when I read a verse with that word in it, it really focuses my attention to it. I love to think about standing up to thank the God for eternity. Especially at Christmas, it really boggles my mind to think about the Creator of everything becoming human to live among sinners with the purpose of paying our debt of sin. It seems like at Christmas time people become the recipients of random acts of kindness. People pay for another's coffee, Westjet employees performed 12000 mini miracles, schools collect food for hampers and/or Koats of Kids, and we hear of so many other instances where people are serving each other. While all of these things are good, they cannot even begin to compare to what Jesus did for us. All of these acts combined cannot equal what Jesus sacrificed for us and gave to us when He was born and He died...for us. He "made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them" He didn't just give a random act of kindness. He gave it purposely and timely and as part of a magnificent plan to overcome our sin. The verse tells us to "Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting...." instead, I think we tend to sit down and forget. Much like the acts of kindness at Christmas their impact lessens as time passes. The joy and excitements wanes as everyday life reality gets in the way. These acts of kindness become a cool story and little more. May we not let Jesus' gift become the same way.

Related to that were these verses:

28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Even when God's "random acts of kindness" stories became distant memories, God did not give up on his people. When they repented, God heard them. No matter what we do or how far we fall away, God will never leave or forsake us. We can act like spoiled brats, we can ignore his warnings, we can forget what He has already done for us and yet God still forgives. Amazing.

From the NT, this passage stood out for me:

  So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them,“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus never set out to pick a fight....even though he had every right to because he was totally and completely in the right. Instead of proving who he was and where he got his power from he answered a question with a question. I think that when we are sharing our faith we need to be more like this. We do know have the answers to some hard questions but to just tell someone without allowing them to think will not cause them to think. It's kind of like with teaching.... Recently my class was working on mastering skip counting for their morning job. One of my little friends was struggling and her classmate decided to help her by just giving her the numbers to write in the blanks. Sure she got the "right" answers but her inability to understand where those answers came from left her at a disadvantage when she tried to complete the next day's work. However, to ask her what she thought or why she got the (wrong) answer that she did helped me to understand where she was going wrong to help her to understand how to do it correctly herself. We need to do this too. Ask questions to find out where we need to go in our answers to lead people to come to the answers on their own. 

And finally this one:

22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

Sometimes we believe that the government is unfair. We pay too much tax. We should be able to get American Netflix. We shouldn't have to pay renew our driver's licenses or passports...and so on. One member of my family often voices the opinion that whatever you can do to outsmart the government then that it is ok. I think this verse clearly says that is not true. Yes, it is too bad that we have to pay for things through our taxes that we don't agree with (abortions, transgender surgeries, etc.) however, the reality is that in the long term these things are insignificant. What matters is our relationship with God and where we will spend eternity. All other things don't really matter.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 10-11; Luke 20:27-47

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday, December 20th: Nehemiah 4-6, Luke 19:28-48 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 4-6; Luke 19:28-48

I loved how Nehemiah did not become discouraged despite ridicule,  opposition, and even false allegations and character attacks.  He prayed and continue to stay the course.  When we are ridiculed or experience opposition we, too, should not become discouraged, but rather persevere through it, knowing that God will be with us as He has promised.  When God calls us to do something, He will enable us to complete it, but we still have to be determined to get through any obstacles that may appear.  Just because it's God's will, doesn't mean it will be easy.  He is faithful, may we be so as well.

I also appreciated how the people worked together - some built the wall, while others stood guard.  We, too, need to help one another.

We see in both Nehemiah 5 and in our NT passage God's concern for the poor and His intolerance for those who take advantage of people in tough situations for their own greed and profit.  As believers, we should never exploit people, but rather be quick to help.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 7-9; Luke 20:1-26

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday, December 19th: Nehemiah 1-3, Luke 19:1-27 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 1-3; Luke 19:1-27

Nehemiah is a great example of a man who expected God to do what only God can do, but who also did everything he could.  He was grieved about the condition of Jerusalem, but he didn't just despair over it.  He prayed, pouring out his heart to God.  And then he looked for way to improve the situation, using all his knowledge, experience, and organization into figuring out what needed to be done.

This is a great way to approach a crisis or time of tragedy.  First, pray. Then find ways to move beyond grief into action, knowing that without God's strength, our own efforts are in vain.

So often we neglect the prayer part of that equation.  Nehemiah didn't. His prayer was one of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, request, and commitment.  This is a great prayer pattern to follow in order to put things into proper perspective and receive God's guidance on the situation.

Our NT parable illustrates that God expects us to use the gifts and talents He's given us for His kingdom. We will be held accountable for our stewardship.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 4-6; Luke 19:28-48

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday, December 18th: Joshua 22-24, Luke 18:24-43 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Joshua 22-24; Luke 18:24-43

Joshua 22:5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
This verse is a great reminder that our obedience to God should be based on our love for Him.  We don't obey in order for Him to love us - He already does.  We don't obey in order to save ourselves - we can't.  We love Him because He first loved us, and we prove that love for Him genuine when we obey His commands.

The incident between the tribes east of the Jordan and the rest of Israel is a great reminder that we should not assume the worst of people, and that we should want to hear their side of the story before simply attacking them.  We cannot know people's motives or what's in their heart.  It's like I say to my kids (and remind myself!), if someone says something and there are two different ways you can interpret it, where one is hurtful and the other is not, assume that they didn't mean it to be hurtful!  More often than not, we take things personally or the wrong way, when they were never intended to be hurtful.  We would avoid a lot of conflict and tension in relationships if we remembered to give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume the best of them instead of the worst.

Joshua 23 4 Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5 The Lord your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you.
My study Bible makes this point....
Some of the land that Joshua had assigned to the various tribes remained unconquered. Israel's gradual occupation of the land had an ecological reason (see Exodus 23:29-30), a military reason (see Judges 1:19), and a theological reason (see Judges 2:20-3:4). Israel's ensuing unfaithfulness delayed the settlement process by several centuries; instead of driving out the remaining Canaanites, Israel absorbed them, bringing God's people even greater temptations to unfaithfulness. Joshua knew this to be a real danger (Joshua 23:15-16). We need to root out sinful influences in our life rather than allow them to become sinful practices. 

Joshua also reminds the people that just as all of God's promises of blessings had come true, God would also be faithful to His promise of judgment.  So often people want God to simply act as their genie - granting them wishes, protecting them from harm, and ignoring Him in His bottle whenever they don't need Him; and then getting mad at Him for everything bad that happens.  It doesn't work that way.  We are called to be faithful and trust God no matter our circumstances.

Joshua 24:15 choose this day whom you will serve.... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

We need to choose.  We need to choose to love and obey God over all others and over all earthly temptations and distractions.

As our NT passage reminds us, our security is not found in earthly treasures or wealth, but in God.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Nehemiah 1-3; Luke 19:1-27

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thursday, December 17th: Joshua 19-21, Luke 18:1-23 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Joshua 19-21; Luke 18:1-23

My Study Bible makes this point about the division of the land.....
There were several good reasons for establishing these well-set boundaries instead of turning the Promised Land into a single undivided nation.
1) The boundaries gave each tribe ownership of an area, promoting loyalty and unity that would strengthen each tribe.
2) The boundaries delineated areas of responsibility and privilege, which would help each tribe develop and mature.
3) The boundaries reduced conflicts that might have broken out if everyone had wanted to live in the choicest areas.
4) The boundaries fulfilled the promised inheritances for each tribe, some of which were promised as early as the days of Jacob.

God is a God of order.  He always has a reason for doing things the way He does, even though we may not always understand it.  As Nathan mentioned earlier this week, we need to be content were God has placed us, and work within the boundaries of our lives that He has set for us.  He has placed us where we are for a reason and we need to flourish where we have been planted, instead of looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

This verse at the end of our OT passage stood out to me...
45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
God is faithful, and He will always keep His promises to us.  But in His time, not ours. Some of God's promises took years to be fulfilled.  The birth of Jesus took centuries!  We must not become impatient, waiting for God to act and expecting it to be on our time table.  That never ends well (Abraham/Sarah and Hagar is a great example!).  We must trust God for what only He can do, and we must be faithful to do what we know He wants us to do.

That being said, we are also not to give up.  In fact, as our NT passage says, we are to continue to bring our requests before God as we live for Him daily, believing that He will answer.  We need to persist in prayer, thereby continuing to grow in character, faith, and hope.  We know from the Bible's teaching that He loves us, we know He hears us, we know He is working for our ultimate good and His glory - will we live as though all those things are true?

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Joshua 22-24; Luke 18:24-43

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday, December 16th: Joshua 16-18, Luke 17:20-37 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Joshua 16-18; Luke 17:20-37

One thing that keeps popping up in our OT passage is that there were numerous areas where the Israelites had not driven out the people of the land.  This failure to obey God and completely remove the pagan people and their gods would cause many problems for the nation in the future.

Are we guilty of the same?  We are to root out every sin in our lives.  There are no "safe" sins.  Any sin allowed to remain in our lives will cause problems for us down the road.  We cannot trivialize or make excuses for our sin.

Our NT passage makes it clear that judgement for sin will come at a time when no one expects it.  People often mistake God's grace and delay of judgment to mean that judgment is never coming.  It is coming, there is no doubt.  We should recognize God's patience for what it is, an opportunity to repent before the judgment comes, when it will be too late.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Joshua 19-21; Luke 18:1-23

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday, December 15: Joshua 13-15, Luke 17:1-19 ~ Nathan

In our reading out of Joshua we read all about the land being allotted to the different Israelite tribes. The people got their allotted land honestly by lot, and went and settled in. God is the one who decided where each tribe should settle.

Wherever we are settled, or placed, we should act and know that God placed us there. Are we happy with where we live?  Often we (myself included) complain about where we live, but God has placed us here. When we look at it that way it feels foolish to complain. God knows better than us what's best for us.

In Luke 17:1-2 we read about tempting others to sin.
"Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. [2] It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble"

Do I cause others to sin?  I'm thinking of my children,  do I let them watch things on TV that they shouldn't and that may temp them to sin? Do I let them talk like or listen to things that are inappropriate? Do I make it sound like it's OK by not saying anything?

This is a good reminder to stay vigilant and pay attention to my own actions,  as well as those that are looking up to me. I pray for help in this.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday, December 14th: Joshua 10-12, Luke 16 ~ Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Joshua 10-12, Luke 16

In Joshua we read again how we are much better off fighting a battle when we are fighting the Lord's battle.

Before God led Joshua and the Israelites to the routing of 31 kings and all their land, He promised victory to Joshua -  The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”.

God also provided reassurance to the Israelites that He was on there side by hurling "large hailstones down on them from the sky" which killed more Amorites than the Israelites armies swords did.

One thing that stood out to me here is that God wants us to act out of obedience and faith.  Victory would not have been automatic without the Israelites trusting in God and obeying the Lord.  The defeat of Jericho that we read earlier, for example, did not happen by human might but by depending on the Lord's power and obeying His commands.  Conversely, when Achan disobeyed the Lord, the Israelite army fell to Ai in defeat.  It is no wonder then, that God urged Joshua and the Israelite people to be strong and courageous, not to be afraid, but to trust in the Lord and to obey His commands.

Joshua did not know how the victory was going to come, all he knew was that he was about to engage in a battle that he knew he could not win on his own.

God proved to Joshua and to the Israelite people that holding fast to the words of the Lord kept God in their corner.  Just like the old hymn says:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way!  While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.  Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!  

On a different note, I also found it interesting that in verse 12 the sun stood still over Gibeon, and the moon stood still over the Valley of Aijalon.  So did the hail fall out from nothing, or did a cloud quickly appear over the battle area?  Either way, quite a miracle!

Later in chapter 11 verse 20, we read "20 For it was theLord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

  1. It is worth noting that when God works His plan, he not only prepares our hearts, but He also prepares the hearts of others.  So why wouldn't we trust in Him?  

In our NT reading, three points came to my mind.  The first is that wealth should be used to assist others.  Secondly, you cannot be trusted with eternal things if you don't properly take care of your worldly things.  Lastly, you cannot be loyal to both God and physical assets simultaneously.  

The Jewish leaders lacked compassion and loyalty but loved money, so there is no doubt He was addressing them.  However, these three points apply to us too.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, we read about two people who had lived and have now died.  Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man to hell.  The parable is clear that we do not have the opportunity to change our minds or even warn others who are left behind once our time on earth expires.    

This reminded me of the importance of living my life for God, and that people need to hear about God so that they can join us in Heaven.  If we don't tell them about God, who will?