Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday, January 31st: Isaiah 26-27, Mark 6:30-56 ~ tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 26-27, Mark 6:30-56

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

God is the only One we can trust implicitly.  Everyone else, no matter how much they love you, will betray or hurt you at some point, even if unintentionally.

God alone is trustworthy.  He is good.  He is just. He is merciful.  He is sovereign.  He is Lord.  He is is love.  He is holy.  He is unchanging.  He is.

How can we not put our trust in Him?

The One who gave up His heavenly throne to live as man.
The One who gave up His Son to save us.
The One who resides within us to strengthen and guide us.
The One who created us.
The One who loves us.
The One who satisfies our spiritual hunger and fills our empty souls.
The One who is the bread of life.
The One who walks on water and controls all creation.
The One who heals the sick - physically and, more importantly, spiritually.

He alone is worthy of our trust, worship, and adoration.  May we live for His glory today and every day!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 28-29, Mark 7:1-13

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday, January 30th: Isaiah 23-25, Mark 6:1-29 ~ Elizabeth

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 23-25, Mark 6:1-29.

Good morning! Tammy asked me to give a short introduction of myself. I'm a married mom of 3. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran, to quote Grandma. While I've never lived outside of my home state stateside, I lived in the Middle East for 5 years. I also visited Tyre and Sidon years ago, carrying a 1 year-old all over ancient ruins and ducking into a cave to get a look at the tomb of a Phoenician king.

In our Isaiah reading today we find that the Lord will lay waste to Tyre and Sidon because of their pride. Lively commerce and fair trade are blessings from the Lord. But the wealth and prosperity they generate must never be treated as a source of security. With repentant faith in Jesus, who for our salvation became poor, our trade and commerce can be carried out fairly and with honor. In the next chapters the Lord now addresses the whole earth instead of individual nations.

No one, and not even the earth itself, is spared the coming devastation. Along with all of earth's other inhabitants, we stand before God as poor miserable sinners. In thought, word, and deed, we have transgressed, violated, and broken His covenant. Although we deserve to suffer for our guilt, we can sing for joy that the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, has suffered in our place. "He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities."

On Mount Zion, the Lord of hosts will prepare a feast and will swallow up death forever. Death is what we deserve as the just penalty for our sin. No human efforts or resources can shelter us from this reproach. By Jesus' resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory. As we await the day of our bodily resurrection, we are invited to eat and drink with the Lord in His Holy Supper, a foretaste of the feast to come.

In Mark, two very different astonishments stand side by side: Jesus' teachings amaze His hometown neighbors; yet their close-mindedness and hardheartedness leave Jesus amazed. We see similar contrasts today as people experience so much goodness from God and yet remain unthankful and and unbelieving. But Jesus didn't retaliate or write people off, even when they scornfully dismissed Him. He took the world's rejection and, through His sacrificial death, reconciled all people to God.

Later the disciples multiply Jesus' healing and revealing ministry, building on the foundation laid by John the Baptist and anticipating their own ministries, which will bear full fruit after Jesus' ascension. Even as Jesus sends the Twelve, he anticipates that not everyone will welcome the Gospel, as is still true today. Nevertheless, God unfailingly opens hearts and doors to their ministry, and He promises to do the same until the end of time.

Then we have the tragic story of John, which gives an unmistakable foreshadowing of what awaits Jesus: rejection and even violent hostility. But rejection and violence cannot overcome the risen Lord. His victory over death and the grave shows how wonderfully He can turn such antagonism into life and salvation.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 26-27, Mark 6:30-56

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday, January 29th: Isaiah 20-22, Mark 5:21-43 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 20-22, Mark 5:21-43

My ESV Study Bible has this to say about this second series of oracles....

21:10 Babylon. The message of the first oracle is that human treachery leaves God's people with no earthly hope.
21:11-12 Edom. The second oracle of the second series depicts prolonged darkness enveloping a frightened world.
21:13-17 Arabia. The third oracle shows human ferocity scattering fugitives in a darkening world.
22:1-25 Jerusalem. The fourth oracle shows the light of the world growing dark.

In our Mark passage we again see Jesus' power over sickness and death.  When the woman touched Jesus and when Jesus touched the dead little girl, those touches should have rendered Him ceremonially unclean.  But Jesus is greater than any purity laws, and instead of Him becoming unclean, He makes the woman clean by His power and raised the girl to life.

We can't even imagine the kind of suffering this woman endured.  For twelve years she has not been allowed to touch someone without making them ceremonially unclean.  How often during those twelve years did she receive a loving touch from someone?  We don't know, but surely it was not often.  This woman was desperate for Jesus' healing - both physically and spiritually.  We need that same desperation in order to be saved.  We need to know that we are sick with sin, that we cannot heal ourselves, and that our only hope is a divine Healer.

I love that He doesn't let the woman go without having her confess her faith.

I also love how Jesus refers to death as but sleep.  We, as believers, know that death truly is but sleep, and that we will awake to the glory of eternal life with Him.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 23-25, Mark 6:1-29

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday, January 28th: Isaiah 17-19, Mark 5:1-20 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 17-19, Mark 5:1-20

7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense.

There will come a day when every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  There will come a day when there will be no doubt who is God and who is not.  That day will be a great day of rejoicing for believers and a fearful day of judgment for unbelievers.  But it is coming nonetheless.

In our Mark passage this verse jumped out at me....
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Pretty blunt, pretty to the point, pretty simple - but not always easy.  May I be willing to tell my friends how much the Lord has done for me, and how merciful He has been towards me!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 20-22, Mark 5:21-43

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday, January 27th: Isaiah 14-16, Mark 4:21-41 ~ Nathan

In chapters 14 and 15 we see that no man-made kingdom on earth will last forever. The kingdoms of Babylon, Moab, and the Philistines all made God's people suffer and now are no more. The Israelites kept rebelling against God,  but he still loved them enough to send a Savior (chapter 16:5).

In Mark 4:21-24 we read about the lamp on a stand. At first, while reading,  I assume we're going to read about letting our light shine to an unsaved world. In my head I can remember that chorus from childhood about "this little light of mine,  I'm going to let it shine...",  I almost had to stop myself from sticking up my finger and blowing on it!

Seriously, this portion talks instead about using a lamp to make known what is concealed. We turn a light on in a room so we can see what we need to when we enter,  it helps us avoid danger. That in a lot of ways is what reading and doing this blog is about, we read scripture and study it (turning a light on)  in order to help see and avoid danger (sinning against God).

Later in verses 30-33 we read about the tiny mustard seed, and how a tiny seed can lead to a huge plant that gives the birds a place to rest. This should motivate us to do any small thing for God,  it can lead to something great. We also read this in the previous parable about the growing seed. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday, January 26th: Isaiah 11-13, Mark 4:1-20 - Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 11-13, Mark 4:1-20

At the end of chapter 10 in Isaiah, we read that God in His judgment is going to cut down the nations like the trees of Lebanon.   God will wipe out the nations and leave behind some sort of stumps.

In the beginning of chapter 11, it begins with painting a picture saying, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.".

Jesse was the father of David, Israel's greatest king.  God chose his family as the permanent royal family.  God promised here that even though the day would come when it would seem as though David's line would "dry up", God would raise a new shoot from the stump of Jesse to assume the throne of David.    

Today we see the world as it is suffering as a result of man's rebellion against God.  In verses 6-9, I do not see a picture of the world today, but a world as God created it and maybe intended it.  People and wild animals living in harmony with themselves and one another.  Hard to imagine - I've always wanted a tiger as a pet...... 

But there is hope!  We read about the Lord's return, and the Lord establishing His Kingdom.  All glory will be given to Him on that day!  

Chapter 13 provides a tone of triumph for believers - not so much for the others left behind.  The land will be completely destroyed and God will clean out all the sinners.  I found it ironic how sin and evil is typically done in darkness and we read that the sinners will be punished in darkness.  (Isaiah 13:10-11)

It is important for us to ensure that our "seed" in Christ is planted deeply and firmly into good soil.  We need to, "hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." (Mark 4:20)

Lord, I pray that I would have a teachable heart.  Give me the desire to continually add the "fertilizer" required so that I can grow.  Let me be a large, healthy plant that provides good fruit, not just one that is pleasing to the eye, but one that would please You.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 14-16; Mark 4:21-41

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday, January 25th: Isaiah 9-10, Mark 3:20-35 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 9-10, Mark 3:20-35

Our passage in Isaiah 9 is likely the most well-known of all the passages in Isaiah.  It is a beautiful messianic prophecy that was partially fulfilled at the birth of Christ, and will be ultimately fulfilled at the Second Coming.  How amazing that will be - when the government will be on His shoulder, and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and the increase of His government and of peace will be never ending, and His throne will be established forever!  What a glorious day (and eternity) that will be!

The sovereignty of God is also clearly on display here.  God uses human evil for His own just purposes, He can use sin for judgment and His own glory - as He did with Assyria who was a mere tool in the hand of God.  And yet, God always preserves His remnant people.

Our Isaiah passage reminded me of the phrase "You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice".  Rejecting God, rejecting Jesus, comes at a price, and it will be paid.

Ultimate rejection of Jesus, or persistently attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God is the unforgivable sin.  It is the hardening of your own heart past the point of no return.  But we don't know when this point arrives and should never give up on someone - only God knows the heart.

A perfect example of this is Jesus' own family.  They thought He was crazy at this point, but we know that later on several of His family members later do come to faith in Him.  We must continue to pray faithfully for our friends and family who seem so far from God.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 11-13, Mark 4:1-20

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday, January 24th: Isaiah 7-8, Mark 3:1-19 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 7-8; Mark 3:1-19

We know from previous biblical books of history that King Ahaz was likely the most wicked king to reign in Judah.   God still tried to reach him, He offered Ahaz a sign, but Ahaz faked humility and refused it.  So God chose His own sign - the birth of Jesus Christ.

In this dark time, Isaiah's sons' names were significant.  Shear-Jashub means "a remnant shall return" which is both a name of judgment (the nation will be destroyed with only a remnant remaining) and mercy (there will be a remnant, and they will return).   Maher-Shalel-Hash-Baz meant the Assyrians should "hurry to the spoils" - judgment.

Into this darkness the prophecy of Immanuel came.  God with us.  Our dark world desperately needs the Light and yet the wicked love the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil (John 3).  They don't even realize that they're rejecting their only hope.

Indeed, Isaiah tells us to wait for the Lord, to put our hope in Him.

In Mark we see the Light in action - demonstrating His authority over demons and sickness.  We also see Him pointing out the Pharisees legalism, and reminding them that the law required love.

Love God and love our neighbour.  It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 9-10, Mark 3:20-35

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday, January 23rd: Isaiah 5-6, Mark 2 ~ Elizabeth

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is from Isaiah 5-6 and Mark 2.

The parable at the beginning of chapter 5 was likely proclaimed at the Feast of Booths, when Israel celebrated God's blessings of the harvest. It begins in the style of a festival song, filled with harvest imagery, but soon turns into an idictment. Parables of this type are designed to get listeners to pass judgement on themselves (think of David's response to the prophet Nathan). The narrator elicits his listeners' outrage at a hypothetical injustice. Their response is then applied to a real situation involving the audience. Only then do they realize that the story is about them.

God condemns 6 sins: (1) exploiting others; (2) drunkenness; (3) taking pride in sins; (4) twisting moral standards; (5) conceit; (6) perverting justice. Because of these sins, He will discipline Israel using the Assyrian army. Because Israel will not repent, the Lord will send Assyria to punish them with conquest and exile. Today we have an example of that in our popular culture that longs to be "bad", and our "heroes" corrupt basic morality. However, if we reject the excuses of pop culture and instead revel in the community of faith, which knows right from wrong, the Lord our Counsel will guide us to true joy and lasting pleasure in goodness of life.

In chapter 6 Isaiah's vision is the climax of his message. This glimpse of God's glory validates his message from God. (I love verse 3 because we sing it frequently in the Divine Service.) The Lord appears to Isaiah and calls him to be a prophet. Isaiah protests that he is a sinner. In our Baptism and through the Word, the Lord calls us too as His messengers. We are to relate to others what we have heard and seen about the Lord. We must not let the shame of past sins silence us. The Lord Jesus has made atonement for us in the tabernacle of God's presence on high. Just as Isaiah was cleansed when the coal from the altar touched his lips, so our Father cleansed us in the waters of our Baptism by joining us to Christ in His death and resurrection. In Christ, He made us new creations who love Him, trust Him, and have His power to live holy lives. We are now His saints, a word that means "holy ones". Yet our old sinful nature still lives in us. It urges us to give into the temptations of the unholy trinity- the devil, the world, and our flesh. We often yield to them, bringing evil into our lives. We often serve ourselves first, trying to please our friends, and attempt to fit into our world, satisfying our urge to seek pleasure and comfort at all costs. We are saints and sinners at the same time.

The chapter in Mark reminds us of Christ's forgiving power. His critics couldn't stand that, but as Peter reminds us in his first letter, though our flesh will perish, the Word of the Lord stands forever. Through faith in the Gospel, we receive the promise of life forever.

Jesus outrages His critics by calling Levi the tax collector to follow Him, then eats with a household of equally "defiled" people. Later they accuse His disciples of violating the Sabbath. Jesus uses the opportunity to claim divine authority and assert His messianic claims. In this chapter we have sinners and we have saint. Which are which? The answer isn't what either group would expect. The tax collectors and prostitutes who followed Christ are saints because they followed Christ. They're still sinners, as we all are until we die, but they are justified by Christ's work, not by any action of their own. The Pharisees are sinners, like we are, but because they don't follow Him, they can't claim the name saint. They falsely believe that following the Law and living the life of a "good Jew" will count for something. Little do they realize it counts for nothing.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 7-8; Mark 3:1-19

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday, January 22nd: Isaiah 3-4, Mark 1:23-45

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 3-4, Mark 1:23-45

In our Isaiah passage it is clear that God is sovereign and in complete control of everything that happens. He can cause leaders and nations to rise and fall as He wills it - in either blessing or discipline or wrath.

The section on women and their obsession with their outward appearance is definitely applicable today!  When we become obsessed with our outer beauty alone, we reflect the moral decay of the nation and ultimately, detract from the glory of God.  We are not to try to attract attention based on our looks but rather pursue purity of heart in order to give God glory.

A few things stood out to me in the Mark passage...
The disciples didn't understand why Jesus wasn't on a mission to continue healing everyone, but they didn't realize that His true mission was to preach the gospel.  Obviously, it is good for us to help those in need, to serve the poor, to visit the sick.  But all that is really useless without the good news.  We cannot become so consumed with meeting material needs that we overlook people's spiritual needs.

When Jesus healed people by touching them, it shows us that His love, mercy, and power, was so great that not only did He not become unclean by touching them, they became clean by His touch.  We need to remain unpolluted by the sin around us, and instead be intentional about spreading His light into the darkness.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 5-6, Mark 2

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday, January 21st: Isaiah 1-2, Mark 1:1-22 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 1-2, Mark 1:1-22

This passage jumped out at me in Isaiah 1 ....

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how wicked we have become, no matter how much we have sinned - we cannot outsin grace.  God stands willing to forgive - but we have to repent.  We can't only be sorry for getting caught, we can't simply feel bad for the consequences of our sin on ourselves or even of those we've hurt. We need to see how our sin offends God.  We need to see the holiness of God juxtaposed against our own wickedness, and that needs to grieve us.  We need to agree with God about our sin - and not try to justify it.  We need to turn away from our sin and, instead, turn toward God.  Jesus is the only One who can wash our scarlet sins away until they are white as snow.

In our Mark passage we see John's purpose - to prepare the way of Jesus, to announce His arrival.  Are we excited to share the presence of Jesus with those around us?

It's interesting, too, how the testing of Jesus comes immediately after the high of baptism.  We should find it no surprise when we too are tested after a spiritual high.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 3-4, Mark 1:23-45

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday, January 20th: Genesis 49-50, Romans 16 ~ Nathan

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 49-50; Romans 16

In chapter 49 we learn about each of Jacob's sons, in the blessings he gives to each. Some of them he has kind words for (Jacob and Judah), and others he doesn't (Reuben,  Simeon and Levi).  The rest he compliments briefly. Jacob goes on to make a command,   that he is buried with his ancestors in Canaan. This command Jacob honours later in chapter 50. He does this with the blessings of Pharaoh. 

In chapter 50 we see how Joseph and the Egyptian have grown close, we see  this by the respect the Egyptians show to Joseph at the passing of his father (verse 9). We also see how Joseph has adopted some new customs, from the Egyptians, in how the body of Jacob was prepared after death in the "special way of the Egyptians" (verse 3-4). The people of Canaan that were living near by the cave where Jacob was laid to rest,  recognized the huge importance placed on Jacob's death by the Egyptians.

Even though Joseph and the Egyptians had great respect for each other at this time,  we read later in chapter 50 that Joseph remembers that Egypt is not his home and that his people will one day leave and go to the land God promised them. Just as his father did,  Joseph asks that his bones be taken with when God leads his people out of Egypt. 

In Romans 16 Paul starts off by vouching for Phoebe,  and asking for acceptance of her. He goes on to bless many believers he's come across,  and mentions the good they've done for the church and the message of salvation that is being spread.

What a time of excitement this was in church history. It sounds  to me that many believers are on fire for God and can't wait to spread the Gospel. We look at this and think that it must have been awesome to be part of this, but then we also read about all the persecution that the church faced in those days and what heartache their must have been as well.

Overall though, the excitement shown by Paul and other followers of Christ at that time for spreading the Word,  trumps all the headache. It shows that living for Christ is more important than anything else,  and "pays off in the end" . What a great reminder for us.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 1-2, Mark 1:1-22

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday, January 19-Genesis 46-48; Romans 15:14-33-Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 46-48; Romans 15:14-33

 I posted my thoughts on the first part of the Genesis passage here. Instead of copying and pasting my ideas from a few months ago, I thought I'd just link it and focus my thoughts on one of the passages in Romans.

Romans 14:15&16
15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, 16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. (NLT)

So, my dear friends, don’t take my rather bold and blunt language as criticism. It’s not criticism. I’m simply underlining how very much I need your help in carrying out this highly focused assignment God gave me, this priestly and gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God’s Holy Spirit. (the Message)

Observation: It's hard to take advice when we think we have it all together.

Application: I take criticism very personally. I am, by nature, a crier. Therefore I tend to get super emotional over things...even things that don't really matter in the grand scheme of life. As Christians we are criticized. Our lives are so counter cultural (or they should be!) to the way that the rest of society lives. Others hold us up to a higher standard, often forgetting to take into account that they should not be looking up to us as models of perfection because we are just flawed sinners. It is not our lives they should be looking too but Jesus who lived a perfect life. 

Being held to a higher standard means that people are watching us. How we react to things, what we say, what we do, how we conduct ourselves in our workplaces, our language, what we tolerate in music, movies, and tv shows, etc. What we model is sometimes is what draws people to Christ or away from Him. A reminder about this can feel and sound like a criticism but that's not what Paul is saying. He is reminding them that they are the walking talking advertisements for Christ and that is a super important job. As sinners we have have been saved through Christ and now it is our job to invite other sinners to experience the same grace and forgiveness. Jesus died not just for some people but for all people. How will they know this if we do not tell them?

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father,
Your holiness is far beyond our comprehension. As we face daily challenges to sin and step into sin so easily we are reminded daily that we can come to You over and over to cover our debt. Thank you. Your salvation plan was far beyond what we deserve. Help us to share this redemption with others so that we all may become whole by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 49-50; Romans 16

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday, January 18th: Genesis 43-35, Romans 15:1-13 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 43-45, Romans 15:1-13

(I didn't have much time today to get done any original thoughts, so this is a compilation of some of my posts in our previous studies of Genesis).

In Chapter 43 we see Jacob display a complete lack of faith, not to mention bad leadership skills. First, he tried to delay taking any type of action until the situation had reached a crisis peak that could no longer be ignored. Then he tried to play it down, telling his sons to just go buy a little food, as though that would somehow sway Joseph into forgetting his command to bring back Benjamin. When Judah refuted this plea by reminding his father of what the man had demanded, Jacob tried to blame it on them, saying it was there fault for telling the Egyptian personal details about their lives. And then, when they explained that they had only given him the information due to very direct questioning, Jacob basically tells them that they should have done what he would have, and lied about it! Finally, Judah convinces Jacob that they really have no other choice, and Jacob finally, reluctantly, agrees to let Benjamin go to Egypt. Not Jacob's finest hour.

So, he sends them on their way with double the money for the grain and gifts in hand, though he does so with a fatalistic attitude, not a faithful one.

It turns out that all their fears were unfounded. Joseph's part in this whole drama is not vengeful. Moses showed us Joseph's emotions so that we would see the motive behind his tests - love, and the desire for reconciliation if true repentance was evidenced. An important thing to note is that Joseph didn't allow his emotions to cloud his decision making. Emotions are God-given, but we need to filter our emotions through truth found in His Word. We need to act out of love - biblical love, agape love. And sometimes this means acting contrary to our emotions.

Judah has come a long way, hasn't he? I would assume and hope that all the brothers would have matured since selling Joseph into slavery. To be fair, Judah had prevented the others from killing Joseph outright back then, but in the interest of selling him and making some money off of him instead! He probably didn't have Joseph's best interests at heart there. Before Joseph revealed himself to them, he wanted to be sure that they recognized and repented of what they'd done to him.  And Judah's appeal did exactly that.

Judah's appeal to Joseph didn't change Joseph's mind, it showed that Judah had changed. It evidenced true repentance, not just worldly sorry, which is necessary for true reconciliation.

This passage gives us some excellent insight into forgiveness.

Forgiveness should be granted quickly - the sooner reconciliation is achieved the better for all involved.

Forgiveness should be dealt with privately when possible. We do not need to expose the sin to as many people as possible, but rather as few (and as many) as is necessary to truly deal with the issue. Joseph didn't publicly broadcast his brother's sins to Pharaoh, which means Pharaoh didn't have to overcome any feelings of anger towards them, and there restoration was made much easier than it would have been. How tempting it can be to broadcast the sins of others, often under the guise of "needing to vent". How much wiser it would be to consider restoration and reconciliation above retribution and proclamation of our own innocence or victimization.

Forgiveness should be given freely and unconditionally, sacrificially, and permanently.

However, forgiveness does not remove all consequences of the sin. Forgiveness also seeks the correction and restoration of the sinner.

This does mean that forgiveness is easy - far from it! We know we need to forgive, but how?

First, we need to recognize that forgiveness is commanded, it is not optional.
Second, we need to remind ourselves of our own sin and the forgiveness we have received from God.
Third, we need to recognize God's sovereignty involved in the offense committed against us. Suffering is always allowed in our lives for our good and for His glory.
Fourth, we need to battle the natural response of offended pride, and rather submit to a humble attitude.
Fifth, we need to meditate on the biblical definition of love, not as an emotion, but as a decision and an act of the will.
And lastly, that we can only forgive through His strength, not our own.

As our Romans passage shows us, He alone is our hope.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 46-48, Romans 15:14-33

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday, January 17th: Genesis 41-42, Romans 14 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  Genesis 41-42, Romans 14

In our passage today we see God bring Joseph from the pit to the palace.  Though it is true that Joseph was blessed for his faithfulness, God had a bigger purpose than "just" Joseph in mind.  God would use Joseph and his new position of power to reconcile with his brothers and to bring the Israelites to Egypt.  A good reminder for us that our own gifts (spiritual talents, material gifts, etc) are not to be used solely for our own benefit, but to bless those around us and to glorify God.  This passage is not, however, a guarantee that faithfulness will result in the same prosperity in this life that Joseph received.

Sometimes it is necessary for God to elevate someone in order to use them for His purposes, as He did with Joseph.  But sometimes it is necessary to humble us in order to use us for His purposes, as He did with Moses when God had him step down from the palace to become a shepherd and leader of his people.  We don't get to demand that God treat us like Joseph, or even like Moses.  God has a purpose for our lives and our faithfulness will be blessed, if not in this life, then the next.

We also cannot absolve ourselves of our own responsibility to be good stewards of the talents and time God has given us.  It is true that God elevated Joseph because of his trust and obedience (and, of course, because of God's purposes), but it is also true that Pharaoh elevated Joseph because of his skill and diligence.  Had Joseph not been a hard and skillful worker, he would not have lasted long as Pharaoh's right hand man!

I love the fact that Joseph was very quick to give God the glory for the dream interpretation instead of remaining silent and allowing the glory to go to himself.  He spoke up in a situation where it would have been very difficult to speak up, especially to glorify God whom Pharaoh would have had little to no regard for.  Would that we have the same courage!

In Chapter 42, Joseph's brothers appear in the story again.  It is clear from their reactions that they all feel guilt over what they did to Joseph, and they interpret their present dilemma as punishment for it.  It is true that evil does not go unpunished.  Either we will receive the punishment we do deserve, or we will receive Christ who took our punishment on our behalf.

We also see the fulfillment of Joseph's dream as his brother's bow down to him.  I can only imagine what that must have been like for Joesph!  The shock of seeing his brothers, who had betrayed him so devastatingly, after about 20 years, must have been incredible.  His willingness to forgive is humbling.  He didn't spend those 20 years growing bitter and resentful, as he so easily could have done.

In our Romans passage we see that we are to love each other no matter where we are on our spiritual journeys.  Those who are strong or mature in faith, should not look down on the weak or new in faith.  And those who are weak should not judge the strong. In this passage Paul is specifically referring to the freedom from the ceremonial laws (including eating certain foods, observing the Sabbath, etc).  What is key to this passage is to realize that the Christian's life is not his own. We belong to God and He is our judge.  No matter what we do, we need to honour God and give thanks to Him, and love our fellow believers, encouraging each other and striving for peace.

We should never encourage anyone to do something they believe to be wrong, even if it isn't wrong, because that is causing them to violate their conscience which is something we should never purposefully do.  Our conscience is placed there for a reason, and when we purposefully violate it, we make it less effective in the future.

We need to be more concerned with the rights of others, and less concerned with our own rights. We are not to cause a fellow believer to stumble, but we are to build them up and encourage them.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 43-45, Romans 15:1-13

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday, January 16th: Genesis 39-40, Romans 13 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  Genesis 39-40, Romans 13

I've always loved the story of Joseph.  It shows the absolute sovereignty of God, and the fact that He is with us through both the good times and the bad times. It's also a real life application of Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God took all the bad and good things that happened to Joseph and used them for good.

Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but God was with Joseph and he prospered in Potiphar's house, eventually becoming 2nd only to Potiphar himself.  While there he was unknowingly being groomed for when he would become 2nd only to Pharaoh!

Potiphar's wife's false accusation landed Joseph in prison, but God used Joseph's time in prison to arrange an encounter with the cupbearer who would later introduce Joseph to Pharaoh and give rise to his position of power.  It was also a very unlikely answer to Joseph's probable prayer asking God to protect him from Potiphar's wife and her advances.

God blessed Joseph both in Potiphar's house, and in prison.  We, of course, have the benefit of hindsight and the 20/20 vision that comes with that.  But Joseph didn't.  Joseph couldn't see what God was doing when he was unjustly sold into slavery, when he was unjustly accused by Potiphar's wife, when he was trapped in prison with no way out that he could see.

We're often in the same position as Joseph - though usually not so dramatically!  When things go wrong in our lives, we often can't see the end or how God is working to bring about the end result of Romans 8:28.    I love the tapestry analogy - from the back it looks like one giant mess, but from the front it's a beautiful work of art. We often only get to see the back, but what we need to remember is that God sees the work of art.

I found it interesting that our Romans 13 passage dealt with submitting to the government and other authorities that God has appointed in our lives.  Sometimes God appoints good rulers as a blessing, sometimes He appoints evil rulers as a means of trial or judgment.  In general, civil government is a great blessing from God - without it there would be anarchy.  Christians are not to exact personal revenge on those who wrong us, but it is right to turn them over to the civil authorities who do have the responsibility to punish evil. Christians are to pay taxes and obey the law.  We are only to disobey the government when obedience would mean disobeying God.

The final portion of our passage is a wake up call to action.  We do not know how much time we have before our death or before Christ's return.  We are not to live a life of moral carelessness or laziness.  We need to be purposeful about living the life God has called us to live, as a light to the world around us.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 41-42, Romans 14

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday, January 15th: Genesis 36-38, Romans 12

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 36-38, Romans 12

The primary purpose of Chapter 36 (genealogy of Esau) has already been realized. God would command the Israelites to destroy all the Canaanites except the descendants of Esau - so they had to know who they were.

That is not to say there is no value in this passage for us today.

We see here that, though Esau had no regard for spiritual things, he was a man of character. He had graciously received Jacob back upon his return from Haran, and when prosperity necessitated it, he moved away to allow Jacob to use the land (36:6-8). In fact, if God had elected one of the twins based on their likeability, He may very well have chosen Esau. But God's election is not based on our likeability or our works - and we see this in the example of Jacob and Esau.

We also see, that though Esau was not elected by God, he was still a recipient of common grace as seen by the prosperity he enjoyed in his lifetime.  However, worldly prosperity and power does not equal spiritual blessing, which is an excellent reminder for us in a culture that values power and money so highly.

Not only did this record protect the Edomites, it also was a record of God fulfilling His promise to Esau - giving him his own identity, nation, and history. God is faithful and can be trusted to keep His promises.

This record also showed that Jesus was not born through the family line of Esau. It was very important to keep track of all the genealogies to show which ones were included and excluded from the line of Jesus.

The record also shows us that everyone counts in God's eyes. Everyone is made in His image, and He cares for each of us.

What strikes me about Chapter 37 is the sovereignty of God.  God is so powerful that He can use our sin to accomplish His purposes. Who would have ever thought that God would use this horrid event to put Joseph in the position to save Israel from the famine to come, which led to the fulfilment of the 400 year enslavement prophecy, which led to the Exodus, which led to..... and on and on and on. The sovereignty of God is so amazing!

Chapter 38 we see some dirty laundry being aired.  And really, it underscores the need for God's people to be kept separate from the pagan cultures around them.  Judah (the son through whom the Messiah would be born!) married a Canaanite woman, had a pagan for his closest friend, and engaged what he thought was a cult prostitute.  Something drastic would have to be done, and the exile in Egypt was God's remedy.  They detested Hebrew shepherds and would refuse to intermarry with them - racial bigotry would help keep God's people pure.

This chapter also shows us, once again, that God is never limited by man's sinfulness to accomplish His plan.  Thankfully, it seems that this episode was what made Judah take stock of his life, as we see later on as the Joseph story continues.

Unfortunately, none of these people lived out Romans 12.  Thankfully, in Joseph's story, we're about to see the marks of a true believer.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 39-40, Romans 13

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday, January 14th: Genesis 33-35, Romans 11:19-36

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 33-35, Romans 11:19-36

I found it sad that Jacob did not really trust Esau's forgiveness.  Jacob said he would follow Esau to Seir, but instead he settled in Shechem - which resulted in disaster.

All sin is wrong, but sexual sin seems to have some of the most disastrous consequences.  Dinah's family was righteously angry over Shechem's sin, but they reacted unrighteously.  They were right to be angry, but they were wrong to exact revenge the way they did.  A huge reminder to us not to let righteous anger turn into unrighteous behaviour.

Jacob showed a disturbingly lack of parenting in this chapter as well.  Not only did he do nothing about the disgrace to his daughter, but he was going to passively allow the plan of inter-marrying with the Canaanite.

The sad thing is that if Jacob had obeyed God, none of this would have happened.  He wasn't supposed to be near Shechem, he was supposed to be in Bethel.

In Chapter 35 he finally obeys God and goes to Bethel - as he had vowed to do 30 years before, and as he had set out to do when he left Laban 10 years before.  Talk about delayed obedience!  It seems like the disastrous events of Chapter 34 finally opened up Jacob's ears to hear the call of God.  God's purpose is never thwarted by our refusal to obey - but our ability to experience the blessing of God is forfeited when we do so.

Our Romans passage reminds us not to be proud about our salvation, but to continue to work it out with fear and trembling, to remain faithful till the end.  He has given us (Gentiles) salvation due to His mercy and grace alone, not based on any of our own merit, and we must not forget that.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 36-38, Romans 12

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday, January 13th: Genesis 31-32, Romans 11:1-18 ~ Nathan

I'm the second rookie that's joining this blog this year. I'm Tammy's lesser-known other half, and I'm still waiting to see what our rookie initiation will be, ha ha.  Seriously, I'm doing this blog for the same reason Conrad is, which is to study the Bible in a deeper way.  I admire Tammy, Pamela, and whoever else has contributed over the years, and all the time they've put into doing this. I'm hoping for a deeper walk with Christ for myself and all others, both writing and reading this blog.

In chapter 31 we read about Laban,  and his relationship with his son-in-law Jacob. What stands out to me about Laban is the contrasts in his life in this chapter. He's a man who uses Jacob to labour for him for 14 years with the promise to Jacob of eventually marrying his daughter, and never comes through with his end of the bargain. He cheats Jacob in pay, and is a man who keeps false gods (vs 19).

Then he goes on later in the chapter  mentioning how he cares for his children and grand children (vs 55), he even makes an agreement with Jacob later in the chapter and references a strong belief in God. So at times he trusts in God and others he clearly doesn't.

I found it humorous to read in verses 34-35 how Rachel hid the false gods from her father by sitting on them,  then claiming it was her time of the month for bleeding,  as an excuse for not wanting to move! Must have been a good laugh when told later to her sister! 

In chapter 32 we see Jacob's nervousness, by dividing all his possession into two groups, when he was about to meet his brother Esau. The brothers hadn't seen each other in years and had parted on a bad note. God had told Jacob to go back to his home land and that he would take care of him (vs 12), and yet Jacob was still nervous.

In Romans 11:11-12 we read about how a majority of the Jews turned away from God,  and how this brought blessings to the rest of the world. God didn't give up on his chosen people,  but says the world will be that much richer for it when the Jews become the kind of people God wants. There's hope for all!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday, January 12: Genesis 29-30, Romans 10 - Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 29-30, Romans 10

For those of you who do not know me as well as Pamela, I am including an introduction of myself for you.  I consider myself a "reacher" as I married up to an awesome woman, Pamela.  We have been married for 18 years and have been blessed to have 3 kids.  I have worked in retail for 16 years at a locally owned store selling household major appliances.  (if you are in need, I might know a guy)  This is my first time contributing to a blog, and my writing skills will be evidence of this - I apologize to you in advance for this.  I am a part of this blog to gain a stronger and closer relationship to our God by reading His Word, and I trust that we can all learn more as we dig into the passages together and share our comments with one another.

As Jacob is on his journey, it appears that he is on the right path for when he meets the shepherds and begins to ask them questions, Jacob is hearing the answers he wants to hear.  He must have felt an overwhelming amount of relief upon the realization of God's faithful direction and leading him to this point.  His feeling of relief appears to quickly change to a sped up heart beat as he meets Rachel who was, "lovely in form, and beautiful." (Genesis 29:17)  So much so, that he did what any young man would do to woo his future bride - "he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep." (Genesis 29:10)  I would imagine that this task would have normally required a couple of shepherds to complete together, not typically by one man alone, but this man had a woman to impress.

We go on to read that Jacob requested Rachel's hand in marriage after he worked for Laban for 7 years.    I found it interesting that Jacob worked out this deal.  I would think that this would be a high price to pay for a daughter in marriage, but maybe he wanted to show Laban how much he wanted to marry her.  At any rate, the time seemed to fly by to Jacob, and soon enough the time came for him to receive his bride.

Just when it seemed too good to be true, God allowed events to take place that would surprise anyone.  Jacob was deceived by Laban in a switcharoo scheme, similar to what Jacob did to his father Isaac.  Jacob was getting a taste of his own medicine.  Perhaps this circumstance was part of God's plan?  At this point, it would appear that Jacob did not feel that God was in control of this situation.  Jacob's heart was with Rachel, so his reaction was to take this situation into his own hands and still have Rachel as his wife.  He was going to have what he wanted in spite of God's will.  God would have known that Jacob would have rather married Rachel over Leah, and maybe this was the only way to accomplish this?  After all, it was Leah who gave birth to Judah, through whom Jesus, our Saviour, would eventually be born.  

How often are we tempted to take control of a situation that we are in when it does not appear to be going our way?  Jacob's decision to pursue Rachel after being married to Leah, did not prove to make for a peaceful situation.  We have the luxury of reading passages and seeing how much better it could have been had they not been disobedient earlier.  How much better could our situations be if only we were faithfully obedient to God!  God does not abandon us and He did not abandon Jacob.  Jacob lived a life struggling with people and with God.  They say it takes two to fight.  It's the same with a struggle.  When we are struggling, that means that God has not abandoned us.  To discipline our children means we are with them, so how much more true is that of God's discipline on us.  God allowed Jacob's poor decisions to be his punishments.            

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 31-32, Romans 11:1-18

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday, January 11th: Genesis 27-28, Romans 9:16-33 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 27-28, Romans 9:16-33

Once again we see sinful choices being made by God's people because of their unbelief.  God had told Rebekah that Esau would serve Jacob, that Jacob was the son of the promise - but she and Jacob did not trust that God could bring that to pass without their help.  God doesn't need our help, and He most certainly doesn't need us to sin in order to "help" Him.  His way and His timing is perfect.  Whether or not we understand or agree with His plan is irrelevant.

We need to be willing to wait on God, and not recklessly put forth our own agenda, especially if we need to sin in order to do so.

Jacob and Rebekah's deception has long lasting consequences.   Jacob has to flee for his life, and, as far as we know from scripture, he never sees his mother alive again.  Sin is never worth it.

And yet, despite Jacob's sin, despite his deception, despite his unbelief and lack of faith, God reaffirms His promise to Jacob personally - what grace!

Our Romans passage expands on the subject of grace.  No one can earn their salvation.  We don't need to be able to perform superhuman works of faith - God is the one that sent Jesus as the Saviour of the world, God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead, God is the one who enables us to believe, God is the one who sends messengers to proclaim the gospel - it is all God.

We need to believe the good news; to accept it by faith; to not just agree intellectually, but whole heartedly trust in God as the sole means of our salvation.

He truly is our everything.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 29-30, Roman 10

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday, January 10th: Genesis 25-26, Romans 9:1-15 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 25-26, Romans 9:1-15

I find it fascinating how casually the OT mentions people speaking with God.  Rebekah was wondering what was going on within her womb so she asked God and He spoke to her.

God wants to speak to us!  He wants us to come to Him with anything and everything - if we're angry, confused, sad, anxious, joyful, doubting, it's doesn't matter.  He wants relationship with us - just like we do with our children.  We want our kids to come to us with anything and everything.  And though we enjoy meeting our children's needs and wants - we also want them to want more than that in relationship with us.  True intimacy requires time, communication (about both trivial and deep issues), and love.  Do we take time to be with God?  Do we take time to develop a real relationship or do we treat Him like a genie in a bottle, or a sage old man doling out advice?  Do we give Him our time or do we throw up 30 second prayers before dinner and call it a day?

We also see divine election in this passage.  Before they were born, God chose Jacob over Esau - not because of any good or evil works they would do (indeed, Jacob would have many faults), but because of grace.  Very interesting that our Romans passage deals with this exact issue as well!

Then we see Isaac lying about his wife, exactly like his father did before him (twice!).  Though the lie was a sin, the deeper issue was the reason behind the lie - unbelief.  They did not have enough confidence in God's sovereignty to believe that He could protect them in any situation.  Once the problem of too little faith would be resolved, so too would the issue of lying.

In what areas of our lives do we disbelieve God and how does that cause us to sin?  Yes, we can and should deal with the issue, but we really need to get to the root behind it and deal with our unbelief or lack of faith.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 27-28, Romans 9:16-33

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday, January 9th: Genesis 23-24, Romans 8:22-39 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 23-24, Romans 8:22-39

In our OT passage we see the incredible trust Abraham places in his servant as he sends him back to Haran to find Isaac a wife from among their own people.  Abraham's servant must have served him diligently, honorably, faithfully, and with integrity, in order for Abraham to trust him with so great a task.

What a great reminder for us to be faithful where God has called us.  It reminds of Luke 16:10 which says One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

We do not know what God could be preparing for us to do, or how great (or small) a job may be entrusted to us.  But we can be faithful and work diligently where God has placed us, so that we are ready when He calls us to do greater things.

Our NT passage contains so many well-known verses that are true treasures....

8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

8:29-30 speaks about God choosing who will be justified.  The doctrine of election is clearly seen in this passage, which does not negate our own responsibility for our choices.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
8:31b If God is for us, who can be against us?We are more than conquerors because God turns everything (including suffering and death) into good for those who love Him.

8:38-39  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Nothing can separate us from His love!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 25-26, Romans 9:1-15

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday, January 8th: Genesis 20-22, Romans 8:1-21 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 20-22, Romans 8:1-21

A few things stood out for me in today's passage.

This is the first time that I really noticed that Sarah also deceived Abimelech, at the instruction of her husband.  Though the Bible is clear that wives are to submit to their husbands, it is also clear that we are not to do so above the command to obey God.  Sarah should not have submitted to Abraham's request that she lie about their relationship.  Thankfully, God protected her despite her disobedience (this time He likely did so, at least partly, so there would be no doubt as to Isaac's parentage).

What is disappointing is Abraham's response to being caught in his lie.  We never see him repent for this sin, but we do see him making excuses.  In fact, in this passage, as well as the one later on in today's reading, Abimelech makes far more God honouring choices than does Abraham.  A reminder that even though Abraham was chosen by God, and even though we too have been chosen by Him, we have not "arrived" in our spiritual lives.  We always need to be on guard in the fight against sin.

We also see the continuing consequences to Abraham and Sarah's sin of becoming impatient with God's timing, as the relationship triangle with Hagar (and Ishmael) continues to disintegrate. Once again a reminder that God's way is always better than our way.  In God's protection of Hagar and Ishmael, we are also reminded of God's mercy.

In the last chapter of our readings we come to, what has previously been my "least favourite" Bible passage - God's command that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac.  I don't like this passage as the command itself seems completely out of God's character, it seems morally wrong.  However, this is always a good reminder to me that I definitely do not always see things clearly or correctly, and that when my opinion and God's differ, His is always right and mine is always wrong.

My ESV study Bible says...
The outcome of the incident makes it clear that God never intended the directive to be fulfilled. Thus, taken as a whole (in terms of both the command and the outcome), the incident cannot be seen to conflict with God's moral law. 

Even if there was not a human explanation that made sense to me, it is irrelevant.  God is good and everything He does is good, always.

It does seem to be an absolutely perfect test for Abraham - family has always been his "weakness".  Yes, we are to love our families, but we are not to put them above God.  Abraham did that consistently in his lifetime.  He didn't leave Haran at God's command, but because his father chose to.  He kept Lot with him until they had no choice but to separate. He lied because he was afraid of what would happen to him and his beautiful wife.  He grew too attached to Ishmael and was content to have him be the fulfillment of God's promise, until finally God had to send him away.  It really should come as no surprise that giving up his only remaining son, the son of the promise, would be the ultimate test of Abraham's faith.

But this is one test that Abraham passes with flying colours!  He doesn't know for sure how God is going to work around this, but He believes God, He believes that Isaac is the child in whom God's prophecies will be fulfilled, He believes that God could resurrect Isaac from the dead without ever seeing or hearing of such a thing before.  Amazing faith!

And, of course, when God supplies the ram as a substitute for Isaac's death, we see a foreshadowing of Christ who is our substitute sacrifice.   God was willing, not only to give up His only Son, but to pour out His wrath on His only son, in order to provide us a way back to relationship with Him.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 23-24, Romans 8:22-39

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wednesday, January 7th: Genesis 18-19, Romans 7 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 18-19, Romans 7

Reading this passage, I couldn't believe Lot and his seeming determination to get himself killed.  Angels are trying to rescue you and you're arguing with them at every turn?!  The mercy displayed in contrast to the judgment and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is incredible.

But one thing struck me.  Eventually, the time for mercy ends and judgement comes.  Lot's wife took it too far and incurred God's wrath instead of His mercy.  We don't know how long we have, and presuming that God's mercy will continue until we're ready to accept it is nothing less than foolish.

Our passage in Romans reminds us that we should never think we're above acting a certain way or committing a certain type of sin.  Yes, we are justified and sanctified - but our battle against sin is not over.  We live in between the "already" aspect of salvation (that we have been saved) and the "not yet" aspect (that we will be saved ultimately at the return of Christ).  Though we still struggle, we should grow in sanctification throughout our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.  The ironic thing is, that as we grow in sanctification, we also become more aware of our sin and how far we fall short of God's absolute standard of holiness.  We may sin less, but we are even more aware of our sin.

We always need to remember to rely on His power, not our own, in our battle with sin.

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 20-22, Roman 8:1-21

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday, January 6th: Genesis 16-17, Romans 6 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 16-17; Romans 6

This passage is an excellent reminder of how quickly things can go wrong when we get frustrated with God's timing and decide to help Him along with His plan.  His plan is always better.  Always.  His plan, His timing, His method.  Not ours.

Abraham and Sarah decided to help God out because His plan didn't make sense to their finite minds, and got a lot of heartache in return for their efforts.  Not just for them, but for their descendants.  One bad choice had consequences that were unimaginably far reaching.

Any time we go against God's plan, we sin.

Our Romans passage reminds us that, as believers, we are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness.  Of course, that doesn't mean we will never sin, but it will no longer master us.  We will long to obey God out of gratitude and love for Him and all that He has done for us.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The key to this verse is the word wages.  Wages is something we have earned, something we deserve.  We deserve death.  But Christ's death enables us to receive something we do not deserve in the slightest - mercy, and eternal life.  Thanks be to God for this glorious gift!

 Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 18-19, Romans 7

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday, January 5th: Genesis 13-15, Romans 5 ~ Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 13-15, Romans 5

As I begin a new year, I have always made some New Year's resolutions. A plan to change something, accomplish something, or just to make a focused goal. I don't always reach all of the goals that I set out to but I do like to have something to work towards. This year I have done something a little different and I have chosen a word of the year to focus on. I have chosen the word "STAND" as my word of 2015. (You can read more about my decision here if you interested.) My plan for the coming year is to recognize opportunities to stand.

As I read today's passage, a song started running through my head and it was only after I tried to find a youtube version that I realized that it totally matched up with my word of the year.

The final verse says:
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

"Standing on the promises I cannot fall". I. cannot. fall. What a huge encouragement as we begin a New Year with new challenges, new or deeper relationships with others, and new struggles. When we are standing on God's promises we can know that we have a firm foundation.

Today's passage showed us some of the promises we can stand on:

14"The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward,15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. "

When we let others choose first, or go first, or put the needs of others before our own just as Abram did when he let Lot choose his lands first, the Lord will look favourable on us just as He did to Abram. God can use us in whatever land or place we are if we call on Him...just as Abram did.

15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[f] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[g] shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

God has big things ahead for us, just as He did for Abram. Even when we try as rush things as Abram did when he married Hagar and produced his son Ismael, God did not change His plan for Abram's life. Sometimes we can't fully comprehend what God is doing or how He will accomplish something so grand. We doubt God, we often rely on our own way, we try and "help" God's plan along. May we become like Abram when it says" He BELIEVED the Lord" in verse 6. Let us have the faith of Abram in the promises of God.

19 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[h] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Not only did God promised Abram that his offspring would outnumber the stars, God promised that these many offspring would live in a land that currently belonged to nations of others. It seems impossible. Can we believe God's promises when they seem too big or too out of reach? We know that this promise did come to be fulfilled. Nothing is impossible with God. We can stand on His promises....even the ones that seem too big.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We STAND in grace. We have hope where there should be no hope. God promises that we can rejoice in suffering and hard times because to makes us stronger. God promises that the Holy Spirit goes with us. These are hard things to swallow in a world that demonstrates a lack of hope. It is through Jesus that we have hope. Through His sacrifice that we can live. What a promise!

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

We just finished reading about the wrath that God displayed when he destroyed the earth and everyone in it during the flood. But Noah and his family were saved, even though they too were sinners. "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" We have the promise that God takes us as we are. Imperfect, undeserving sinners and yet Christ died for us to pour out His mercy and save us from the punishment we deserve.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man'sdisobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It was one sin that separated us from God and it was one act that brought us back. What an amazing promise to stand on. We are one step away from turning our lives around. Stand and step towards God.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 16-17; Romans 6