Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday, September 30th: Nehemiah 5-7 ~ Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Nehemiah 5-7

"I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them"  Nehemiah 5:7

One of the points I got from reading this verse is that despite the fact that Nehemiah was angry with the way the nobles were handling the people and their affairs, he first took time to ponder the situation before talking to the nobles.  How often out of frustration do we want to jump right in with the accusations and not take the required time to ponder like Nehemiah did? 

The other thought that came to mind was the concept of debt.  My Bible had a side note that related this to the fact that God loves the poor and He does not want people to take advantage of them, which is why there were strict regulations on debts.  Like the cancelation of debts at the end of every seven years, and the Year of Jubilee (cancellation of debt, the liberation of slaves, and the return of land to the original owner on the fiftieth year).  

Debt is also used as a symbol for sin.  Christ dying on the cross for our sins is how our debt has been paid.  Christ's death was the only way to pay the price, and this was something we could have never done on our own.

This verse also pointed out to me that we too are required to forgive.  God loved first so that we would love others.  He also forgave first, so that we too would forgive others.  

Nehemiah's deep concern and passion for what God's people were going through and his intense desire to help them is a model for us all to follow.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Nehemiah 8-10

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thursday, September 29: Nehemiah 1-4 ~Cameron

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Nehemiah 1-4

It's easy to focus on Nehemiah's grand story that begins with him hearing the news of Jerusalem's fate, rebuilding the walls of his ancestral city, and becoming the leader of a nation. But I want to highlight the last verse of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2, verses 1-8.

"Now I was the cupbearer to the king." - Nehemiah 1:11

Nehemiah introduces himself as the cupbearer to the king. He was not performing menial work. He served in the king's court, a fact that undoubtedly helped him once he began leading others.

"..I took up wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence." - Nehemiah 2:1-2

Nehemiah had not been sad in the king's presence. He did his duties cheerfully and dutifully. He must have been an exceptional servant for the king to notice that he was a) not himself, b) not sick, and c) saddened.

"And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me." - Nehemiah 2:5-8

Think of the goodwill Nehemiah had to have built up with the king to even ask for the following:
- Send his servant to Jerusalem
- Issue letters to governors authorizing safe passage
- Authorize the use of royal timber to rebuild the walls, the gates, the temple, and Nehemiah's own house

It is easy to think of God performing a miracle and compelling the king to grant these requests. But when we see how Nehemiah manages the rest of his story, I think we can be confident that Nehemiah has built up substantial goodwill with the king from how Nehemiah managed his affairs in the years leading up to these requests.

Do we work at our jobs with such fervor that we would even dare ask for such things? Even if we are never in a position to leverage the goodwill for something great, we will still be noticed and that can be a testimony in itself.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Nehemiah 5-7

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday, September 28th: Ezra 4:7-23, Ezra 7-10 ~ Nathan

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  Ezra 4:7-23, Ezra 7-10

Our reading today in Ezra 4:7-23 reminded me of how those who don't know God, and are against Christians, have some fear in them and respect for God's power, demonstrated in their hatred for God.

Here Rehum wrote to Artaxerxes the king about how the Jews (early use of the term "Jews" here, mostly men of Judah) came back to work on and rebuild Jerusalem, and how he wanted them to stop now before they got too far, because the Jews would go on their own then and have no need for King Artaxerxes.

King Artaxerxes followed through and wanted the work to stop, before the Jews grew powerful again.

Even those that don't live for Christ can see His power at times, and are fearful of Him. This complaining from Rehum was really fear and therefore respect of God's power. He thought they should stop it now, because it would get out of his control.

Do we realize and respect the power God has and uses? Is there anything that can stop God? He is in control at all times.


Ezra shows that he is a man of God, and leads the Israelites back, with King Artaxerxes blessing. Two things stood out to me about Ezra, and how he humbly trusted in God for protection as he lead the Israelites away. They normally would have needed armed guards for protection as they crossed dangerous territory, but Ezra was ashamed to ask for help from King Artaxerxes, and God still protected Ezra.

The second thing was how ashamed Ezra was at the sin the Israelites returned to, shortly after getting a huge break in King Artaxerxes allowing them to leave for their homeland. The Israelite men then gave up their foreign wives and children, which couldn't have been easy, but showed a commitment to God.

Ezra's story reminded me in some ways of Moses story. Both men weren't perfect, but lead God's people to a better land, and had to deal with followers that couldn't help themselves and sinned along the way to a better place.

A good reminder of how Jesus sticks with us sinners along the way of life, we are far from perfect, but He forgives. Makes me thankful for a wonderful saviour.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Nehemiah 1-4

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday, September 27th: Esther 6-10 ~ Danae

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Esther 6-10

In these chapters today we see the culmination of Esther’s obedience.
We see how God rewarded her obedience in both the punishment of Haman as well as the deliverance of the Jews.

Esther had to step out in faith, while feeling completely inadequate for the job (not to mention risking her life), trusting that God would intervene & bring justice.

When we are faced with something, we have to choose how we will respond. Are we going to pray for God's guidance & trust him, knowing our perspective is limited? Or do we demand, expecting God to follow us/our way?  Do we trust & obey, knowing God is in control even when the circumstances seem to us that he is no? Or do we despair, doubting that God can/will deliver us?

If Esther had not turned to God & trusted him to provide a way & to work things out, the outcome would likely have been very different. Even to the point of being willing to give up everything.

Do I have that kind of faith?  That I could step out, willing to take that kind of risk, trusting God to see me through?

Only when we have that kind of faith will we get to see that kind of response from God. It's like they say: “If you believe little you will see little.”

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Ezra 4:7-23Ezra 7-10

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 26: Esther 1-5-by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Esther 1-5

I found this commentary with some insight into the book of Esther:

Did you know that Esther is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other woman? Did you know that the book bearing her name in the Old Testament does not mention God even once? What lessons can we learn today from studying the book about this very remarkable woman?

Background to the book of Esther

The story of Esther takes place in the Persian Empire during the reign of Ahasuerus, known more familiarly to us by the Greek form of his name, Xerxes I. He was the son of Darius the Great and reigned from 486-465 B.C. He ruled over a vast empire that extended from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1).
Esther was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, which had been part of the kingdom of Judah. Her ancestors were among the Jews who had been carried captive to Babylon nearly 100 years earlier. There were many Jews who didn’t return to Jerusalem when it became possible, preferring to continue living where they had settled around the Persian Empire. After the death of Esther’s parents, she was raised by Mordecai, an older cousin (Esther 2:7), who served in the Persian ruler’s palace.
The author of the book of Esther is unknown, though some attribute the work to Mordecai.
The popularity of the story of Esther is great. Listen to this description in The Five Megilloth, a Jewish commentary published by the Soncino Press: “Esther is, among the generality of Jews, the best known of all the Books of the Bible” (p. 193).
There are many reasons for this popularity. The book of Esther tells a compelling story, dramatic and exciting, with clearly defined heroes and villains. It also reveals deep and abiding spiritual truths about God’s power to deliver us from danger and oppression, even when despotic rulers plan to do evil to God’s people. Though God’s name or a direct reference to the divine does not appear in the entire story, nonetheless, God’s presence and deliverance of His people is clearly felt and implied throughout this story.

It is interesting that the book of Esther does not mention God. However, just because the name of God is not mentioned, that dies not mean that He is not an integral part of the story.

One of the things that stood out for me was the last verses in the reading:
And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. 12 Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. 13 Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows[p] fifty cubits[q]high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.
(Emphasis in bold is mine)

How unfortunate it is that sometimes we can be consumed by our own pettiness that we cease to see all of the things that are good in our lives. Here was Haman--invited to a solo banquet with the King and the Queen and all he could focus on was the anger he felt towards someone who didn't do what he asked. Haman even goes so far as building a gallows for Mordecai--not knowing that it would be Haman himself using it.

We too can become consumed with our anger and our resentment that it causes us to overlook the good things in our lives. We become blind and can't see the goodness before us. If only Haman would have seen beyond his hatred towards Mordecai, he would have been able to enjoy his position of power instead of becoming greedy with power and having the desire to kill all of the Jews.

God is in control whether he is at the forefront of the story or working behind the scenes. We can trust Him to place the right people in the right place at the right time for such a time as this.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Esther 6-10

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunay, September 25th: Zechariah 12-14, Ezra 6:15-22, Ezra 4:6 ~ Jay

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is:Zechariah 12-14, Ezra 6:15-22, Ezra 4:6 

As I was reading through today's passages I tried to picture myself listening to the prophet back when this was written. Prophets, including Zechariah were tasked with communicating God's message that could apply to current aspects of their intended audience's faith that needed to be corrected or encouraged, descriptions of near term future events (Temple being re-built), medium term events (Christ's coming), and long term promises that even today have not yet been fulfilled.  We have the ability to look back at the Bible and history to see the fulfillment of the short and medium term promises, which provides assurance of the promises yet to be fulfilled.  We can be assured that just as God delivered on His short and medium term promises...there are many yet to come and He is faithful to His commitments.

Zechariah 14:1-   "A day of the Lord is coming," This is one of the key long term promises that we must keep in mind every day.  Do we truly believe this? There are many references in scripture to the day of Christ's return...."Thief in the Night...", "No man knows the hour or the day..." I challenge myself to bear this in mind and if I began each day with this thought around Christ's return (today could be the day) differently would I prioritize and conduct myself?

The other key thought I took away from today's reading was around the fact that God can change the hearts and thoughts of even His fiercest enemies to fulfill His promises. In Ezra 6:22- "For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread,because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel."   We cannot fully comprehend the power of God's Spirit, and we must remain faithful even in the midst of fierce opposition God is faithful to His promises and demands that same faithfulness from us. Strong individuals who oppose us are no match for a God who has the ability to change people's hearts, to accomplish His will.

Prayer- Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and commitment to fulfill your promises in spite of our inconsistency. May we be reminded every day, that this could be the day of Your return and live accordingly.    

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday, September 24th: Ezra 5:3-17, Ezra 6:1-14, Zechariah 7-11 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezra 5:3-17, Ezra 6:1-14, Zechariah 7-11

The portion of our passage that stood out to me today was Zechariah 11, the section about the good and evil shepherds.

Zechariah acting out the role of shepherd demonstrated how God would reject His people because they rejected him, and how God would let them fall into the clutches of evil shepherds.   The shepherd staff named "Favor" was broken to show that God's covenant with His people was broken, and the staff named "Union" was broken to show that the unity between Judah and Israel was broken. It wasn't long after this that the Jews began to divide into many different groups - Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians, and Zealots - a broken union indeed!

I appreciated the prophetic significance of v12-13.

v12 speaks about paying the shepherd 30 pieces of silver - which was insulting.  It's the same price paid to an owner for a slave gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32), but it's also the same amount of money Judas received for betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3-10).  As my Life Application Bible says: The priceless Messiah was sold for the price of a slave.   

In v13 the 30 coins are thrown to the potter in the Temple of the Lord. In Matthew 27, Judas' 30 coins were returned to the temple and used to buy a potter's field.

And, of course, this passage reminds us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and that He is the one we should follow.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year PassageZechariah 12-14, Ezra 6:15-22, Ezra 4:6

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday, September 23rd: Ezra 5:2, Haggai 2:20-23, Zechariah 1:7-6:15 ~ Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Ezra 5:2, Haggai 2:20-23, Zechariah 1:7-6:15

"The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.'  Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin, and I put fine garments on you.'"  Zechariah 3:4

How often do we judge someone by the way they are dressed and the clothes they are wearing?  I remember when I first started to work in retail sales, I was encouraged to try to see what kind of vehicle the customer drives and to take note of the clothes and jewellery they wear, and to just overall take note of how well they took care of themselves.

I can also recall a time when I was in junior high and someone in my class would tuck in their shirt only in the place that exposed the expensive brand name of the jeans they were wearing.

Quite often the clothes we wear can change how we psychologically feel about ourselves.  For us, clothing is something we wear and typically provides a perception for which social status group we belong to.

Clothing in the Bible is often more than something to wear.  For example, Joseph's coat of many colours was pictured as a "favoured" place in the family.  Even priests would wear special garments to perform their duties.  Kings would wear purple robes to display their wealth and power.  People even tore their robes and sometimes put on sackcloth to express grief.

Clothing in the bible is symbolic.  One of the most important pictures for God's forgiveness and salvation is that of putting on new, clean clothes.  To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and receiving Him, is like putting Him on as a garment.

We like to dress to impress, but who are we impressing?  Are we dressing with brand names so we can impress friends, family or strangers?  Or are we dressed with the Holy Spirit so we can impress our God and Saviour?

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Ezra 5:3-17, Ezra 6:1-14, Zechariah 7-11

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday, September 22: Daniel 12, Ezra 4:24-5:1, Haggai 1:1-2:9, Zechariah 1:1-6, Haggai 2:10-19 ~Cameron

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 12, Ezra 4:24-5:1, Haggai 1:1-2:9, Zechariah 1:1-6, Haggai 2:10-19

A smattering of versus with a scattering of thoughts:

"Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to sham and everlasting disgrace." Daniel 12:2

A note in my commentary caught my eye. The specific Hebrew phrase "everlasting life" only occurs here in the Old Testament. The concept of eternal rewards is a fascinating study, especially as it is alluded to on the Old Testament. It is an item on my bucket list of things to study deeply.

"But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end..." Daniel 12:4a

I love a good story and here is a plot idea that I'm sure has already been made into a novel. Reading these early verses, Daniel does what he is told and writes what he is supposed to write. That could mean Daniel wrote another book, one that has been sealed and hidden to be found when it is needed most. Sounds like a best seller to me.

"...when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase." Daniel 12:4b

I don't subscribe to the end times are imminent paradigm. Verses like this have been referenced through history as a sign the end is near with no fulfillment. But it is an alluring idea that soon things will be complete, and we will see the Almighty return in Power and Glory. For all the wonders we can see with physical eyes, nothing will prepare us for that moment if we are blest to experience it.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Ezra 5:2, Haggai 2:20-23, Zechariah 7-11

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21: Ezra 3:1-4:5, Daniel 10-11 ~ Danae

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezra 3:1-4:5, Daniel 10-11

Two verses spoke to me today. Each different & yet common in that we need to keep our focus on God. When things don't go as planned, when we get impatient or when we think that maybe God isn't even listening, we need to be confident in Him & in the work he has set out for us.  We need to pray harder, never ceasing & trust that when we are within His will, no matter what comes at us, He will help us to succeed.

Ezra 4:4-5-
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah & make them afraid to go on building. They hired counsellors to work against them & frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia & down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

There were people specifically hired to cause problems for the people of Israel as they worked to rebuild the temple. I can't imagine the frustration! Not just for a day or two, or even a week, month or year. They worked to frustrate their plans for likely 30+ years. I don't know about you, but I think I would have given up well before even a year was up!

Satan works to bring down God’s children & his work. We can even expect this.  However, we need to keep our focus on why we are doing what we are doing & keep pressing on. I think, as believers, this is also a great example of how we need to work together towards the common goal & encourage each other. The Israelites didn't give up & just like them, when the going gets hard (even if it's for 30 years), we can't just pack it in, but rather dig in our heels, roll up our sleeves & tough it out.

Daniel 10:12-14-
Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding & to humble yourself before God, your words were heard, & I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

We live in a culture that is so instant & so self-gratifying. We get upset if we can't get/do something right away, when we want it & how we want it. This is in such contrast to how God works. He knows the right timing. When we feel frustrated that we don't get an answer right away, it's not that he hasn't heard us.

The imagery in these verses of the battles going on in the unseen world fills me with awe. It makes me feel small; not in a bad way, but to recognize who I am (& what I think is important) in the grand scheme of things.  It makes me recognize the importance to pray faithfully & earnestly until we receive our answer & to expect an answer from God, but in his time not mine.

God doesn't promise us that everything we do (even if it's for Him) will be easy, but we need to keep going. That doesn't necessarily sit well. In fact, it goes against everything this world tells us. But God hears us & knows what we need. He will provide for us, enable us, & give us His strength to keep going, even if it comes only in the amount we need just to get through each day. God is always faithful.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Daniel 12, Ezra 4:24-5:1, Haggai 1:1-2:9, Zechariah 1:1-6, Haggai 2:10-19

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 20th: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1-2, Psalm 126, Psalm 147 ~ Emma

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1-2, Psalm 126, Psalm 147

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

In my Bible, this verse has a little cross beside it which points me to a different passage (Galatians 6:9) which reads: So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.
When life isn't going our way, and the answer to our prayers seems so distant, we need to not give up. We need to keep doing what is right and honourable in God's eyes. As my wise mother told me once, you can either be a slave to fear, or a slave to Christ. One brings hopelessness and destruction, the other brings love and hope. We may not get our reward here on earth, but we can be sure that if we do what God would find right and honouring to His Name, we will get our reward in Heaven.


Heavenly Father, help us to never lose sight of Your love. Help us to trust in You, the Author of our stories, even when we can't see anything but the troubles around us. Help us to always hope, always trust, and always persevere. Help us to remember that You are good all the time. Bless us today as we walk in a world that does not follow you, and help us to never forget the joy that is coming for the ones who fear You. Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Ezra 3:1-4:5, Daniel 10-11

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday, September 19th: Daniel 5-6 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 5-6

Sorry, there was a mistake in the Reading Plan.  Today is supposed to be Daniel 5, 6, and 9 - but since 9 was covered yesterday, we'll just do 5-6 today.

In Chapter 5 we see Daniel being called upon to interpret prophecy, this time in the form of handwriting on the wall.  (Can you even imagine the panic you'd feel if you saw that during a party?!). The words were readable, but they didn't know what it meant.

Daniel turned down gifts that the King offered, showing that he was giving an unbiased interpretation and another example of his integrity.

It was interesting to note that Belshazzar offered him the 3rd highest position in the kingdom. Belshazzar co-ruled the kingdom with his father, Nabonidus.  Nabonidus was first ruler, and Belshazzar second, so Daniel was being offered a position eclipsed by only the kings.

Once again we also see Daniel giving all the glory for his ability to interpret prophecy to God. Daniel has bad news for Belshazzar - his days were numbered, he had not measured up, and his kingdom would be divided between the Medes and Persians.  God wasted no time in fulfilling this prophecy, as Belshazzar died that very night.

Chapter 6 is the famous story of Daniel in the lion's den.  It serves as another reminder that we need to be very careful with our vows.  The jealous administrators talked the king into invoking an unbreakable law by appealing to his vanity.  The King clearly hadn't thought it through as he would have (should have!) realized that Daniel would not pray to anyone other than the God he consistently gave glory and praise to.

Daniel's testimony was so great that the King knew Daniel's only hope was in the God he so faithfully served. And in this case, God displays His power most clearly and His name is glorified throughout the kingdom.

Are we humble and eager to give God the glory for all of our successes?
Are we swayed by offers of money and power, or do we maintain our integrity?
Do we obey God only when it's convenient to do so, or are we determined to be obedient no matter the cost, even when our life is on the line?
Is our reputation so godly that people know that the only way to accuse us is to base it on our faith?
Is our first response to appeal to God, in the face of the every day and in the face of danger or trial?

Daniel is one of the most godly examples in the Bible - so much so that he would not want the title, and would make sure any credit for his holiness went to God and God alone.  The only way we are able to live the way Daniel did, is through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the mediation of Jesus Christ to bring us into right relationship with God the Father.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1-2, Psalm 126, Psalm 147

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday - Daninel 7-9 - Kelora

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 7-9

After reading these passages I needed some help from my Life Application Bible to help me understand what these chapters mean.  I will focus more on Chapter 9.  In Chapter 9 Daniel pleads with God about bringing his people back to the promised land. In Daniel's prayer it is interesting that he uses the word "we" throughout his prayer which shows he is not blaming others for the adversity and coming up for excuses.  It is so easy to find blame with others and not look at ourselves when something goes wrong. 

Also Chapter 9:18 "We do not make requests of you because you are righteous, but because of your great mercy." 

I read that "God sends his help, not because we deserve it, but because he wants to show great mercy". This reminds me that when I pray to remember that God doesn't need to show mercy but that he wants us to follow His will and that He wants to show His  mercy when we pray sincerely for forgiveness.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Daniel 5-6

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday, September 17th: Ezekiel 29:17-30:19, 2 Kings 25:27-30, Jeremiah 52:31-34 ~ Tammy

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezekiel 29:17-30:19, 2 Kings 25:27-30, Jeremiah 52:31-34

In our passage today we see glimpses of hope that God gave the Israelites.

God used the Babylonians to bring judgment on Tyre, Egypt, and yes, Judah.  But when Babylon didn't give God the glory for their victories or turn to Him, God judged it too.  God is just.

The exiled king of Israel, after 37 years (!) of captivity, was released from prison and treated with kindness.  God continued to show kindness to the descendants of King David, even in their exile.

God always extends grace and the offer of forgiveness, even during times of judgment.

Our passage today also concludes the book of Jeremiah.  My Life Application Bible says....
In the world's eyes, Jeremiah looked totally unsuccessful. He had no money, family, or friends. He prophesied the destruction of the nation, the capital city, and the Temple, but the political and religious leaders would not accept or follow his advice. No group of people liked him or listened to him. Yet as we look back, we see that he successfully completed the work God gave him to do. Success must never be measured by popularity, fame, or fortune, for these are temporal measures...God measures our success with the yardsticks of obedience, faithfulness, and righteousness. If you are faithfully doing the work God has given you, you are successful in his eyes.

Are you and I defining success the way the world does, or the way God does?
Are we being obedient to what God has called us to do, no matter the outcome?
Are we being faithful to what we know to be true from His Word?
Are we pursuing righteousness, no matter how counter-cultural it may be to do so?
Where is God extending grace to you?
Where are we taking His grace and provision for granted?
Are we giving Him the glory for every victory in our lives?

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Daniel 7-9

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday, September 16th: Ezekiel 45-48 ~ Conrad

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Ezekiel 45-48

There were a few things that stood out to me from today's reading:

 "You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple."
Ezekiel 45:20

How many times have we heard our kids say "Oh, I didn't know."?  We don't let our kids get away with not knowing, and God doesn't let us go unpunished either.  Whether we sin with full knowledge or it's unintentional, it is still sin and it needs to be atoned for.  The saying that ignorance is bliss is not going to carry any weight in this area!  When in doubt, we should ask ourselves "what is right with what we are doing" instead of asking ourselves "what is wrong with what we are doing".

As I was reading the passage below, I was trying to imagine the excitement that must have come with the vision of the restored temple.  I know I was pretty pumped upon hearing and coming to the realization that the Jets were coming back, but to know and recognize God's glory of this magnitude would have been unfathomable.   

"When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah,[z] where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.  Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea.  But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.  Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” 
Ezekiel 47:7-12

Like the verse says, where the river flows everything will live.  The same goes for our lives.  If Christ flows in us, we will live.  He is the river of life, and without Him, we are just salt and we become limited in how we can be used.  

The passage ended with these words: "And the name of the city from that time on will be:

the Lord is there.”   48:35b

My prayer is that I can live each day and have others recognize that the Lord is there!

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Ezekiel 29:17-30:19, 2 Kings 25:27-30, Jeremiah 52:31-34

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thursday, September 15th: Ezekiel 41-44 ~ Jeannine

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezekiel 41-44

The detail that God put into designing the Temple is incredible.  And I can't imagine if He put so much detail into a temporary dwelling, how much more detail and perfection will there be in our eternal home.

Ezekiel 42:16-20
He measured the east side with his measuring rod, and it was 875 feet long. Then he measured the north side, and it was also 875 feet. The south side was also 875 feet, and the west side was also 875 feet. 20 So the area was 875 feet on each side with a wall all around it to separate what was holy from what was common.

The temple was completely symmetrical showing the perfection of the building.

Another thing I always think of when reading about the rules for the priests, the sanctuary or the sacrifices, is  how grateful I am that God sent His Son and that I don't have to try to follow all those rules.  It's His grace that saves me, not what I do or how I do it.  I think I would have failed miserably if I had to keep to all the rules.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Ezekiel 45-48

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday, September 14th: Daniel 4, Ezekiel 40 ~ Emma

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Daniel 4, Ezekiel 40

Nebuchadnezzar didn't listen to God's instructions, and so God told him that he would be punished because of it, yet still gave him a chance to change his ways. Nebuchadnezzar still didn't listen, and so God punished him. But, after Nebuchadnezzar realized his mistakes, God showed him mercy and took away his punishment.

God has given us so much mercy and grace. It's amazing that He continues to forgive us after we wrong Him so many times.

The sad thing is, we don't forgive as easily as God. You would think we would, considering we have experienced forgiveness that we don't deserve. We need to forgive others just as our God forgave us.

God, help us to remember how great Your mercy and forgiveness is. And help us to show it to others, even if we don't think they deserve it. Because we don't deserve Your forgiveness, yet You still gave it to us. Thank You for Your unfailing love. Amen.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Ezekiel 41-44

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tuesday, September 13th: Ezekiel 32:1-33:20, Jeremiah 52:28-30, Psalm 137 ~ Danae

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezekiel 32:1-33:20, Jeremiah 52:28-30, Psalm 137

I'm hesitant to say that I'm convicted by verses in the Bible because it's scary to wonder what it will lead to or what is expected of me.  However, some verses today did really stand out to me.

Ezekiel 33:12-
Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, “The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, & the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.

It's easy to read these verses thinking “well, of course” & move on.  It seems pretty straight forward, knowing that we can't rely on past good deeds to excuse today's sins &, knowing the plan of salvation, we understand that if someone turns from evil they will be forgiven.

But to stop & think how this directly applies to us…

As a Christian, it is easy to take for granted that our sins are forgiven. To casually pray a blanket prayer, “forgive my sins today,” without even taking the time to consider what they were, how they affected someone else & how we need to change or with whom we need to make things right.

The verse clearly states “when he turns from it.”  This implies action.  Are we really turning from our sins when we quickly spout off a prayer without changing our ways, making restitution & really acknowledging our mistakes.

Ezekiel 33:15-
If he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, & does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.

That's my challenge; to really consider my words, thoughts & actions & to recognize the sins in my life (big or small).  Then, to not just sit back after a quick prayer, but to make efforts to really “turn from it,” to actually seek someone out if necessary to apologize & right my wrongs.

My mom told us a story the other day about my grandpa. She said that as a teen he had stolen cigarettes from the gas station in Ile Des Chenes. After he had become a Christian a number of years later, he had gone back to pay for what he had taken. The owner had said that was never very worried when young Mennonite boys stole from him because he knew that when they gave their lives to God, they would make things right.

That really hit me & made me think. I was surprised that he felt it necessary to go back to fix something he had done years earlier. I think, though, that I need to learn from him. It doesn't matter what it was or when it happened, if you were in the wrong & haven't made things right, it's our responsibility to do so.  We shouldn't just rely on God’s forgiveness. While that is all we need, as Christians we are responsible to live by example too.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage:  Daniel 4, Ezekiel 40

Monday, September 12: Ezekiel 37-39 by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Ezekiel 37-39

The first thing I thought of when reading the first chapter was that a few years ago we did the story of the dry bones for our Spring Concert at school. To tell the story of how God can make the impossible possible through a musical presentation and songs is amazing as the message of it will last and stay with the students and the families who watched it beyond that night.

The next thing that stood out for me for that first chapter was a song that I've been hearing lately while I'm listening to the radio in the van.

It has a line in the lyrics that say:
When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

I'm quite certain that seeing a valley of dry bones was like seeing broken beyond repair. But God can make all things new.  I like the last part of the chorus too that no matter how far away you seem, you're only 1 step away from coming back to God.

As we read about the judgement coming from God on Gog we can easily substitute our own generation for the people of Gog. There will be consequences for those who have turned from God and who do not follow His commands. God keeps his promises of judgement  but also redemption.

We do have hope. We are one step from home. We are broken. God can heal us beyond belief.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year PassageEzekiel 32:1-33:20,Jeremiah 52:28-30, Psalm 137

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday, September 11th: Ezekiel 33:21-36:38 ~ Jay

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is: Ezekiel 33:21-36:38

Today's passages contain a series of prophesies from Ezekiel to the Israelites.  Even though the message was directed towards the Israelites, there are many truths that apply to us today.

1) Sunday Christians- Ezekiel 33:31-32   31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. The warning here is that it is easy for us to attend church, listen to some nice solos, be attentive to the sermon...yet walk away and have no change of heart or conviction that draws us to make changes in how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.  Today being Sunday...the challenge for me today is to go beyond the  "entertainment mindset" and open myself up to be challenged by God's word and implement the changes God places on my heart.

2)   Leaders / Parents Need to Act Like Good Shepherds – Ezekiel 34:2b-4;8-10  Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally……As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. We can default and say that this passage applies to spiritual leaders, but essentially we are all called to be spiritual leaders in some fashion.  Be it to our children, or within our peer group, God expects us to have a servant attitude and lead by selfless example. A true leader puts the needs of others ahead of their own.  To me, this hit home as I constantly need to be less self focused and keep my eyes open and heart attentive to the needs of those around me.

3) Goats vs Sheep – Ezekiel 17-19: 17 “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? This clear distinction made in the passage that God would judge between the sheep and the goats peaked my interest, so I researched a little on the differences. Both sheep and goats come from the same family of animals but are vastly different in their characteristics and behavior.  Goats are described as inquisitive and notorious for escaping any enclosure they are placed in. Once a goat has discovered a weakness in a fence they will exploit it repeatedly. Sheep on the other hand will stay close and compliant typically to the shepherd, with whom they develop a perceived rapport. Goats are more independent than sheep when grazing and will spread out rather than staying in tight groups like the sheep. Goats will leave their young and go graze while the sheep keep the young together and protect them.  All this being said…this is likely more than you wanted to know about sheep and goats, but it does paint a picture of God’s expectations for us. We are to look out for our fellow sheep and be supportive.  Most importantly when given direction, we need to follow His leadership and direction, knowing that the Shepherd has our best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: