Week 13

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Week 13

Conquest & Nation Building (24-30 Mar)

  • Joshua 9-24; Judges 1-5

When is the last time you started something new, something you have never done? It might have been for work, something at home, or just a new hobby. There is often a lot to learn. Research, reading, watching videos … then trial and error until you get it right.

When I was learning about hunting, there was so much that I didn’t know. I started with some bow hunting, and then did some rifle hunting. Some of the things I needed to know I could adapt from other areas of my life. I knew how to stay warm in the cold, I knew how to sit still and be quiet. I wasn’t fond of some of the tree stands my brother had set up, but I made it through that fear. I had to understand and practice with weapons. I needed to know where to go, and learn some basic habits of deer, plus figure out how to communicate with the other hunters in our party. And that was only the beginning!

Not only did Joshua have the “academics” of taking charge of the Promised Land as God had commanded him, but he also had to get out and do it. He couldn’t just learn about it, there was action required. Nations to be conquered, procedures to follow, land to be distributed to different groups. On top of all of this the nation put too much faith in themselves and some had lost faith in God. They needed to choose to serve God again (Joshua 24).

After Joshua dies, this pattern continues. Israel disobeys God and sins. Failure in one area leads to other failures, and God hand them over to their enemies for judgement, usually oppression and slavery on a national level. Israel repents and cries out to God who hears their pleas and through his grace raises up a leader, often a military leader, to rescue them. What follows is a period of victory and obedience to God, but they fall in to sin and idolatry again only to start the cycle over again. Each time, they fall further and further into the hole and their lives get darker and darker. But God continues to rescue them through his grace.

Do we see this pattern in our lives? Are we trying to conquer something God has given us to conquer but we can’t seem to do it? Or maybe we have learned how to do it, and are doing it well, but we fall into old patterns and sin and/or idolatry rears its ugly head and takes us captive. We can repent and cry out to God, but each time our sin gets deeper and deeper. This is absolutely the same as the nation of Israel.

They took land, divided it up, but did not follow God’s direction for how the land was conquered. They did not destroy the Canaanites, but instead intermarried, worship their Gods, and adopt their traditions regarding worship especially. They needed a rescue mission!

Whenever I am learning something new, I am never perfect from the start. Most of the time I never become perfect at doing something as well. But I do know that after I learn the “academics” of how to do something I can practice. I need to follow whatever steps I’ve learned as well as pay attention to any changes that might happen. I can’t lose sight of my Savior, or everything else will fall apart as well. I need to stay away from rescue missions, but if I need one, I know how to call one right now.

Do you need a rescue mission? Do you need to repent and cry out to God? Will he give you a measure of his grace? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward grace? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 12

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Week 12

Strong and Courageous (and more law) (18-23 Mar)

  • Deuteronomy 21-34, Psalm 91, Joshua 1-8

Have you ever felt like you’ve had a task that is completely overwhelming? Something that you’re not prepared for at all, but must accomplish? Or that you can’t really understand why it is YOU that has to do it? We’ve seen this pattern over and over so far in Israel’s history, and it continues with Moses and Joshua in this week’s reading.

Just about every time I turn around, I’m faced with tasks large and small that fit the description. It could be figuring out how to disciple and parent three boys, or it could be something at work. It can be something physical too – like looking up at a mountain peak wondering if I’ll make it up there. It is also the opposite with my favorite winter sport, skiing. Standing at the top of a steep drop off thinking, “Down is the best way to go” and wondering not only how fast I’ll go, but praying that I can stay mostly upright. There have been a few “incidents” in my life, but looking back, it is fun, courage-building, and amazing.

Joshua, like the rest of the nation of Israel was being prepared for the next big task, to enter the promised land. God gives him Moses to help disciple him, so he can learn the importance of doing exactly what God says even when it doesn’t make much sense. Moses writes down the law and has the Levites put it next to the Ark of the Covenant. He prepares the people for the consequences of their eventual sinning against God, and he commissions Joshua with the words “Be strong and courageous.” God tells Joshua the same thing, and more than once.

What is the basis of his courage and strength? From the renewing of the Covenant in Deuteronomy 29 to Moses’ encouragement to him, to the song Moses teaches the people, the key is to obey God. Moses gives a choice of life or death, good or evil. Joshua later presents the same alternatives, and Jesus calls his disciples to take the path that leads to life. We are presented the same choice – life or death – and know that the path that leads to life is obedience to God in our lives.

Obedience is not blindly following a set of rules for a reward, Deuteronomy 30 tells us that it is all about loving God, walking in his ways, and lastly by keeping his commandments. Our other choice is to turn our heart from God and serve anything other than him. There is no middle ground, we can’t be neutral in other words. If we are not serving God, if we are not loving God, if we are not walking in his ways, then we have chosen death and evil. If we are not for God, then we are against him. The other gods I’ve seen people serve are sometimes their own ego, a particular public persona they have created, a love of money, their spouse, kids, or other people, the list goes on and on.

Strength and courage comes from obedience. As Joshua takes command militarily and works as the political and spiritual leader of the nation, he is given tasks by God which would not make sense to many leaders. Seriously, take over a city by walking around it and then blowing trumpets? Fording a river by having priests walk to the middle of it so it dries up? Spies making an allegiance with a prostitute? Conquering another city with some very specific instructions? Joshua follows God’s plan and he is able to experience exactly what God intends.

It isn’t all obedience and butterflies though; the nation of Israel sins and Joshua repents for them. They have been told that they will disobey God, and if they are like me they may not think that will really happen. Of course it does, and of course they suffer the consequences that God has already warned them about.

What about us? Where does our strength and courage to follow God come from? Just like Moses, Joshua, and the entire nation of Israel, it comes from obedience to God. Loving him entirely, walking in his ways, and obeying his commands give us the strength and courage to help us follow his will in our lives. When I stand at the top of a powder-filled, steep, amazing ski run wondering if I can make it I remember what my ski instructors have told me, point my skis downhill and take off. Doing what I’ve been taught gives me the courage to roar down the hill and enjoy every moment of it!

How are you obedient to God? Do you focus on loving him? Does obedience lead to strength and courage for doing his will in your life? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward grace? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 11

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Week 11

Remembering and Law (10-17 Mar)

  • Deuteronomy 1-20

A few weeks ago, my brother and I were cleaning out things for my dad. He needed help selling his “snowbird” home in Florida and he wanted us to get rid of clutter around his home to make it easier to get around. We kept finding things that reminded us of our childhood. We also found things that reminded my dad of various times in his life. Sometimes we wondered why certain things were still there (not one, but two sealed decks of playing cards from late 80s East Germany, for example). Other times we were able to launch into stories that led to more stories, and recounting other events. This was all fun and exciting, mostly because we were all able to recount our lives together.

The beginning of Deuteronomy is exactly that. The first four chapters are a reminder of what God has done for the nation of Israel. Think about it, this book happens very quickly (just a few days) and there is a new generation about to enter the promised land. They did not participate in the Exodus out of Egypt nor some of the events that happened in the desert. The entire nation was under 40 years old, and ready to get onto what God had for them.

But Moses was instructed to take a quick pause, a couple down days, in order to reiterate the ways in which God deals with his people. First the account of what happened, and maybe some reminiscing from people about stories they heard from their parents, grandparents, that crazy uncle, or an older friend. God is indeed faithful and will be faithful to them as they cross the next river.

And then in chapter 5, a reiteration of the Law starts. God first lays the foundation with the Ten Commandments, even creating new tablets of stone for the nation. We can see the passion Moses has for making sure the people know how to relate with each other and with God. He is about to die and is reminding them of their obligation under the covenant. He tells them the most important thing is to love and serve the Lord, and then how to do that.

As you read the laws, look for examples of God’s grace, not loopholes. Look for ways to be obedient instead of ways that the nation would be legalistic. Don’t’ find things to do or not do, but find things that we need to be even today. We need to have our hearts circumcised. We need to love and serve the Lord. We need to forgive each other. The list goes on and on. And how do each of these laws point us to Christ?

When you read the second account of the Law, do you see it as a burden? Or a means of grace that helps you worship God? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward grace? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 10

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Week 10

Waiting and Preparing (3 – 9 Mar)

  • Numbers 21-36

As a kid I remember eagerly anticipating Christmas, my birthday, or any time when I might get a gift. It was always a hard wait, all the anticipation that builds, wondering what gifts would be, and hoping one of my brothers didn’t get something better than me. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Then wondering, and more wondering. Finally, the day would come.

That is where we are in the last part of Numbers. Thirty-eight years of wandering is done and now God is preparing the new generation to enter the promised land. He is a just God and is using Israel to pronounce judgement on those whom he has judged. Is this fair? From our perspective probably not. But from God’s perspective, of course. We remember that each and every sin deserves death and we don’t get that punishment because of God’s grace alone.

These chapters contain tremendous amounts of preparation and history for Israel. It may be hard to put it all together, but when we look we see the same themes here as the first part of the book. God is just, Israel complains when God does something they don’t understand, and he has to teach them an object lesson somehow.

Look at Numbers 21:5-9, the account of the bronze serpent, and how Jesus used this as an example when he talked with Nicodemus in John 3. We also see the story of Balaam and his ass, a perfect rebuke just when it was needed. Balak tries to use his prophet to turn Israel to Baal, but it doesn’t work – God sends the Angel of the LORD to tell him, “Go, but speak only what I tell you.” He pronounces blessings instead of curses and finally we get the ultimate prophecy, when Balaam says, “A star and a scepter shall rise in Israel.” Perfect object lessons for the people who are getting ready to go into the land.

The preparations for the promised land are extensive. The new generation must have a new census, two nations are destroyed as Israel approaches and enters the land. Of course as the Israelites are getting ready to go, we see that the only two who would survive and be a bridge between the generation of wandering and the one of conquering were Joshua and Caleb. It really does pay to serve God faithfully!

Charles Swindoll describes it this way, “More than just a history lesson, the book of Numbers reveals how God reminded Israel that He does not tolerate rebellion, complaining, and disbelief without invoking consequences. He taught His people how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in service, and lives as witnesses to the surrounding nations. He was their God, they were His people, and He expected them to act like it.”

Paul gave us perspective when he wrote to the Corinthians, “These things happened, as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” That really helps us to understand why these accounts are here and 38 years of wandering are not recorded in depth. It helps us understand why specific events are recorded – not so we can argue with God’s logic, but so we can avoid sin!

During waiting and wondering, are we focused on God, or are we looking to do things our own way? As we prepare to do God’s work in life, are we listening to him and what he wants? When do we need God the most? Do you trust in God’s guidance? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 9

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Week 9

Grumbling and Rebellion (24 Feb – 2 Mar)

  • Numbers 5-20

During my time in the military, it became evident that one of the best measures of military member’s motivation was how much they complained. There was a balance between complaining and how well work got done. It seemed that when there was no complaining, things were worst. If there was only complaining, even some rebellion, and no working, things were pretty bad but not as bad as the no complaining state. But somewhere in the middle was the sweet spot. The right amount of complaining and grumbling led to the best performance.

Over and over in these chapters of Numbers we see grumbling, complaining, and rebellion. It really doesn’t stop – the nation of Israel always has something to stay about God’s guidance, his plan, something Moses says, or any number of other issues. The leadership is not immune from it either. When they are complaining, they are not following directions, or they are not paying attention to God. Sometimes they are in open rebellion to what God wants for them during the journey.

Interspersed between these instances of complaining are more instructions for Israel. We need to remember these things, though the nation observed them daily, accounts of them do not always appear in the Bible. For example, we learn about the Nazarite vow here, but we don’t have accounts of every Nazarite or even how the Nazarites impacted daily life in Israel. What we do have is how God used this vow in dealing with his people.

The first, and maybe most impactful complaint (and rebellion) is after the report of the spies sent into the promised land in Numbers 13. They return completely afraid of them because the people there are huge compared to them, like there was no way they could conquer the land. The rebellion followed the complaining and grumbling. They refused to listen to Moses, they refused to follow God. Moses does intercede on their behalf, but the judgement of god is that not one of them will actually enter the land. It is years of wandering in the desert until the judgement is fulfilled. This pattern is repeated over and over through the years.

What is the best way to grumble or complain? First, we need to avoid serving God and expecting something in return. God’s free grace is the Gospel and its service rewards. Second, we need to recognize the sovereignty of God. Like the Israelites, we don’t know why God does what he does when he does it, but faith tells us to trust in his plan and not our own sinful, flawed wisdom. And third, we need to watch out for envy. If we try to work for a reward, or if we think we know better than God, we have misunderstood grace. We don’t deserve anything from God except destruction, hell, and the miseries of life. Any reward we get is gladly given by God in an infinite measure of his grace.

So that doesn’t tell us how to grumble or complain, but just the foundation, the place from which we need to start. We can look to our examples in Numbers for some guidance here. First, we need to repent. Our attitude of grumbling, like the Isrealites, is displeasing to God. We need to look out for bitterness, jealously, envy, anger, and any other sour attitude in our lives. Repent of those and our attitude will change. Any complaining will eventually turn to worship of God, even in sharing our concerns with him while pledging to follow his ways and not our own.

Second, we need to believe God’s plan and his purposes for us. It is amazing to give up control to him and follow instead of trying to pull God along into our plans. When we do this, our rebellion becomes faithful obedience to him. Remember that Christ faithfully believed and came to die for our sin, and rise again to pour out his infinite grace for believers. He has resisted the temptation of bitterness, envy, jealously and all those other sour attitudes, so he will understand us as we cry out for his help.

Complaining that leads to rebellion shows that things are pretty bad in our relationship with God, and I would say that like in the military that when we stop complaining we are not even interacting with God. We do not share our concerns and worries with him so he can bear our burdens. We do not give the Holy Spirit a chance to change our hearts. And we do not experience God’s grace in our lives.

During our complaining, are we focused on God, or are we looking to do things our own way? When do we need God the most? Do you trust in God’s guidance? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 8

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Week 8

More Guidance (18-23 Feb)

  • Leviticus 16-27

  • Numbers 1-4

Ever been to a foreign country and have to learn to navigate on your own? Or had to teach someone how to get around? Somehow the task fell to me to teach some of our Soldiers about the culture of Korea and how to navigate Seoul, one of the largest cities in the world. I thought the most fun way to do this would be a scavenger hunt through the city. They could learn to get around and find some landmarks along the way. Long story short we put our guys into groups and had a native Korean follow them so they wouldn’t get hopelessly lost. Each month, it seemed that there would always be one group that got so lost that our “follower” had to intervene and guide them back to the finish point. We cast it as a contest, people were really into it.

The groups that finished first always said the same thing – the rules they learned and the ways we taught them to get around worked well. The ones who lost, and the ones who got lost always thought they knew best how to get around, how to do it themselves.

Even though they were God’s people, and had been for many years, the Israelites were entering a new era in their history. They were moving into a new country. They were leaving a life of slavery and heading to a life of having their own land. To do that they needed to follow God’s guidelines. As we saw last week the most important rules revolve around worship.

In the rest of Leviticus we learn about the calendar of holidays or feasts that will guide the nation’s calendar, we learn about the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath Year, the Year of Jubililee, and a few other topics. Are these topics thrown in for any reason? We need to think about why God includes them.

Not only are there words about how their year should be structured so that they constantly remember what God has done for them, but we also see guidance about how to relate on an individual basis with God, and with each other. It is important to note that the key to all these relationships is in Leviticus 16 where Moses writes about the Day of Atonement. The main message in all of this is forgiveness, of each other, of how God forgives us, and even of ourselves.

How do these laws point Israel toward God? How do they show us our sin and help us see God? When do we need God the most? Do you trust in God’s guidance? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 7

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Week 7

Concerning the Levites (11-17 Feb)

  • Exodus 36-40

  • Leviticus 1-15

Have you ever had to set out some rules or guidelines? There have been a couple places where I’ve worked that we’ve had some weird rules. Things like where to park your car are normal, but sometimes we see rules and wonder why someone even had to say that. One place I worked there was absolutely no moving furniture without prior coordination. We also could not plug anything into the wall without special authorization. Another place we had banned popcorn all because one of our coworkers had nearly burned the place down by not microwaving it correctly not once, but three times. After that… no popcorn. In a family the rules are sometimes common sense – like clean up after yourself or throw your trash away. When I see a strange rule or policy, I often wonder what specific thing happened that led to someone deciding that particular rule or policy needed to be explicitly stated.

As we jump into the book that contains the guidelines for the Levites and the rules for worship in the Old Testament, let’s keep in mind the location of God’s people during one of our lengthy forays into the laws of God’s people. They are wandering in the desert, headed to the promised land after just having left slavery in Egypt. It is at this time they receive the laws from God that will govern them for many years to come. And more importantly, the rules will both show a need for a Savior and point to the coming Savior.

We can discuss each of these things at length, but let’s step back and take a look at the big picture. This really is a continuation of what we’ve read in Genesis and Exodus. God tells his people what is acceptable for worship and how to worship. Why does he do this? There are examples we’ve seen already such as the people will create a golden calf to worship when that really isn’t acceptable to God. Or left to their own devices they will choose things that are easy for them and do not ascribe the worth to God for everything he has done. So God tells them what works.

A big myth I’ve heard over and over is that worship must be spontaneous. Related is the myth that worship needs to matter to the worshipper and be relevant to each person. When we look at the Bible, we see precisely the opposite. God tells us how to worship, that worship matters to him, and that our worship needs to glorify himself and not lift us up or be focused on ourselves.

In this week’s reading, we see the five main sacrifices in the life of his people. How are these sacrifices different from each other and how do their actions relate to their purpose? What about them points us to Christ? The book may not be as exciting as what we’ve read already, but it is important to understanding our spiritual ancestry and how God deals with his people.

He came and lived amongst them in the camp and told them how to live for their own good. God does not destroy his people for their sin, he provides forgiveness through the sacrifice, and (spoiler alert) salvation through the coming Savior who will offer the once-for-all sacrifice. God shows his grace to his people through each of the laws written, he shows his grace through the Levites, and he shows his grace because each detail reminds his people of their sin and his holiness. To live in God’s presence requires that they be clean. For us to live in God’s presence requires that we be covered by the atonement that Jesus Christ offered on our behalf on the cross and through the resurrection.

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a boring book. There are rules, and these rules are there for a reason. Look at the intricacies and why God would have made the rule. If you can’t figure it out, then ask Sunday … or look in a reputable commentary or reference work for ideas. Each rule is there for a reason. I’m just glad no one decided to microwave popcorn for too long in the tabernacle and cause God to ban it for eternity!

How do these laws point Israel toward God? How do they show us our sin and help us see God? When do we need God the most? Do you trust in God’s guidance? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 6

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Week 6

Exodus pt 2 (4-10 Feb)
Exodus 16-35

Have you ever thought about the logistics of the Exodus? Up to three million people moving through the Egyptian countryside, crossing a miles-wide passage of the Red Sea, and being pursued by the Egyptian Army. The tons of food and water that were needed daily, and the problem of waste disposal. Yes, waste disposal. Where did all of that go to and how did God keep things clean for his people?

My time in the military taught me a lot about logistics. Being part of the staff of a group of about 700, it was difficult to get things sorted out at times. We needed a lot of space as well when moving through the countryside. And that was hard enough, but going on vacation with a baby really drove the message home. Each kid needed so many things – at least half of the family luggage was baby related whenever we had one. So much stuff, so much to think about.

And this is the challenge Moses faced as he left. Not just one baby, but thousands. Not just one 700-person unit, but up to three million people. Food was provided by God, water supernaturally, and the community rules came from God also. Moses was leading, but God was providing. Despite the various sin that happened, and happened so frequently at all levels of the community, God provided for them. When they didn’t deserve it, God provided.

Many of the things that God tells the Israelites point to Christ. Watch the rules as you read them and ask yourself, “How does this show us the coming Messiah?” It may show a need for Christ, it may show Christ’s role in salvation, or it may show God’s promise and provision – among other things.

In exquisite detail God tells his people how to worship him, it took Moses 40 days to receive the instruction from God. Every detail points to the coming Messiah, and I have wondered why God didn’t provide the Messiah right then and there. But that isn’t his plan. The plan is that Israel would recognized the need for the Messiah first, and then at a time of God’s choosing his Son would be sent. Those details are so important to each and every aspect of the nation’s religious life.

This isn’t the end of God’s guidance for the community, but it is the basis. Their worship is more important than any other aspects of their life together, and that worship is to be done as God says. Is it the same today? Does God tell us how to worship him? Of course! Throughout the remaining books of the Bible we read about what is acceptable worship of God. So why don’t we do some of these things today?

Simply because Christ fulfilled the need for many of these basic provisions. We do not need to provide sacrifices for our sin because Christ provided that for us. We do not need to have a mediator between us and God because Christ serves that role for us. We do not need to have a special place or furniture for worship because of God’s provision of Christ for us! These ceremonial aspects which pointed to Israel’s need for a savior and God’s provision of that savior have been fulfilled when the Savior came, lived and died for each of us. How does each aspect of the tabernacle point to Christ? What part of God’s character do you think of for each piece of the tabernacle?

So many questions for lots of description in this week’s reading. It is important to understanding God’s dealing with his people. Without understanding how the tabernacle works, what the exodus consisted of, the need for God’s provision in the desert, or Moses’ interaction with God during the journey we can’t understand how God works in our lives either. What are the parallels? Maybe we need to focus on his provision, or maybe we need to look to his rules for worship today.

Maybe we need to understand the narrative here to understand God’s work in our lives. When do we need God the most? Do you trust in God’s guidance? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 5

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Week 5

Genesis 46-50
Exodus 1-15

When the time each year comes up to learn about the exodus from Egypt, my kids have done an activity of some sort to illustrate part of the event. We’ve had pictures, various dioramas, Lego stop-action movies, songs, and lots of creativity. My favorite though are the demonstrations of the flaming column. It is just an excuse for boys to play with fire! But they don’t forget how this special event in God’s history of dealing with his people unfolded.

In the last part of Genesis, we have the theme of sovereignty. We’ve read about the tragedies that happened to Joseph and his family, and in forgiving his brothers, Joseph says, “As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” This theme helps us to understand not only the entire book of Genesis but also every single detail of the Bible. It may not seem fair or right to us or those in each event, but God meant it for good in dealing with his people.

The beginning of Exodus glosses over years of history with a quick summary that Egypt was full of Israelites. We have to remember that the Bible is the story of God’s dealing with his people, not a comprehensive history of his people, the world, explanations of things, or even a master rule book. Right after the summary, we learn about some specific events that God uses to save his people from the shrewd dealings of the new king over Egypt.

Moses is born and raised in the king’s household, and then God miraculously uses him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to their own land, a place that Moses is told that flows with milk and honey. This will be their destination, and Moses will lead them, but it doesn’t unfold how one would expect. It unfolds in a way that makes it very clear that God is leading the entire event.

This movement of hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom are slaves in Egypt, is not a logistical task that is easy to undertake. There wasn’t social media to use to organize people, there wasn’t a way to get the news out to people very quickly, there wasn’t an emergency alert system for the slaves. But God got the word out to the people and he used the plagues to soften Pharaoh’s hard heart. It took a lot of work, and despite the destruction, God meant it all for good in dealing with his people.

The movement out of Egypt starts, and we’ll discuss this quite a bit more next week as we go through the exit, the years in the desert, and the events that happened as God continued to deal with his people on their way to the land flowing with milk and honey.

Those activities the kids did to learn about the Exodus have become a highlight of our family devotional life. I just hope that the kids don’t burn anything down when showing us the flaming column and that they don’t infest my house with actual frogs or locusts anytime soon! It is important to remember the story, the events, and what God did for his people in bringing them out of Egypt. He deals with his people, you and me, every day in much the same way.

Sometimes we need to be rescued from slavery – not always the same as the Israelite slavery, but we are slaves to temptation and sin at times. God brings us out of that slavery. Sometimes we forget his power in our lives. God shows us that power. Sometimes we need to remember that when setbacks happen, God intends it for good for us. How easy it is to forget God’s grace and his glory. Our focus is often ourselves, what we think we need, and how we think it should happen. Why not focus on God and his grace for each of us?

How have you focused on yourself instead of God and his plan? Look for the areas where you are slaves to something other than God, look for his power in your life, and look for his grace. Do you trust in God’s plan? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 4

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Week 4

Genesis 27-45

There are so many times in my life when I’ve felt like all events are leading to a setback. What happens when things don’t quite go our way? A friend and I were driving through Colorado one day. Looking at the map, the road looked like a perfect shortcut through a high mountain pass. It was unpaved, but labeled as passable, and there was no word about needing a high clearance vehicle. We were driving a small Toyota Corolla up this mountain, into a beautiful pass. The road was getting worse and worse. Darkness was threatening, and the rocks on the road were growing larger and larger. We kept hearing them scrape against the bottom of the little Toyota, until we finally encountered some that much larger than the WHEELS of the car.

We would have to turn around, but wait, that wasn’t quite possible. We’d have to back up a ways, then turn around, go down the mountain, and around through another pass that was paved. We would be hours behind plan, we were risking not getting enough rest for the rest of the trip. Definite setback. The shortcut turned out to be a huge mistake that years later my friend still reminds me that I was the one who chose that road.

This week, we will spend a majority of the days reading the story of Joseph, a person whose life seemed to be one setback after another. His brothers want to kill him, he is a victim of human trafficking, he gets a quaint stay in a small room with bars, none of which we would ascribe to someone who was successful or even on the right track. He was separated from his family, unable to return, and unjustly accused of sexual assault. Upon first glance, setback after setback seems to lead him to destruction.

But things take a turn when he meets some fellow prisoners. Formerly working for the Pharaoh, these servants were thrown into prison with Joseph. As people tend to do, they share stories, talk about what they’ve experienced, and listen to each other as they react to what the others say. Joseph told them about their dreams, but then two years pass with nothing but time in jail. Until one day he is called out to talk to Pharaoh about dreams.

Quickly promoted from prisoner to something akin to the Chief of Staff in the kingdom. He was able to use his position to set the kingdom up to survive an upcoming famine. But that wasn’t the end of God’s plan for Joseph, he was able to meet his brothers again and help them survive the famine as well. What kind of forgiveness would that entail? How would he be able to build a good relationship after all he had experienced because of them over the past couple of decades?

Most of us would not be able to make that jump of forgiveness. But it is likely those years in jail, the time of communion with God and dependence on him that allowed Joseph to know that it was the right thing to do, even though it would be hard. He was able to get some time alone with them, and then convinced them to come to Egypt where he is happily united with his father. In the midst of setbacks and severe famine, Joseph is able to provide for his family in ways that no one could have ever imagined possible.

This picture of redemption is amazing. The forgiveness that Joseph shows to those who wronged him and the way he provides for them foreshadows how God forgives us in our sin and provides a Savior when we do not deserve it at all.

When we have setbacks in our lives – no matter if it is because we seem to be treated unfairly or events are conspiring against us, it is the story of Joseph that helps us keep our eyes on God. Joseph was a man of patience, character, and integrity. He had the confidence that God will come through for him with amazing timing. Are you ready for that? In the midst of adversity, setbacks, and suffering are you ready for God to come through with perfect timing?

Driving over a mountain pass in a car that would not make it was definitely my fault, but God honored our patience in the midst of the setback. I don’t remember the next day, but I do remember the wonderful trip my friend and I had. The setback was a problem for a moment, but it became exactly what we needed at the time and was not a problem at all in the long run because of God’s unfailing grace in our lives.

Let’s all ask ourselves about our reactions to setbacks. Do you trust in God’s plan? How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 3

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Week 3

Job 38-42
Genesis 12-26

Time doesn’t stop in the reading plan, moving forward from Job we jump right into Abraham. When did you first learn about him and the covenant? What do you remember? I started to follow Christ in high school, so I missed all the fun Sunday School lessons that many people experienced. Reading for the first time of this guy who was told to leave what he loved and trusted, to a new land, to be a father of nations I was surprised that he did it. And more surprised at God’s promise as the story unfolds, the promise of a son, and Abraham’s faithfulness. I wondered why Sarah didn’t get furious with him so many times. I had heard about him in the many places in the rest of the Bible he is mentioned, but the perspective of reading his story all at once was different.

In just a few chapters of Genesis, which we will read in 4 days, Abraham’s entire life is covered. His entire life that lays a foundation for what comes next in redemption as well as the foundation for the rest of God’s plan for his people in history is easy to read quickly and not internalize or understand.

Abraham is not perfect, but he was ordained as the “father of nations” by God. He was set apart for holy purposes and God made a covenant with him. He isn’t a young man when this all happens, how much energy did he have during the journey and all the events that happened in Genesis? I wondered about the seal of circumcision that came with the covenant and how awkward it might have been for that whole event to happen. There was so much there!

What would Abraham think about his life as he reflected in his older days? I think he would miss Sarah. He lived over 40 years without her, but the memory of the journey they shared would remain fresh in his mind. He would remember his miracle child, Isaac, the source of much joy and comfort for him. He would know for sure that God’s righteousness was imputed to him and his family.

Mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments, he has an enduring legacy in history and in each of our lives. Who are your spiritual ancestors? To whom do you trace your faith story? If you build a spiritual family tree and keep going, you’ll eventually end up back at Abraham. God often spared his people because of his covenant with Abraham, that means he spares us – his grace is evident again and again in the pages of Genesis. Think about that – your faith comes from God through Abraham!

Not only does his legacy include being the father of nations, but there are at least 18 events of his life that are mentioned in the New Testament. Stephen uses him as an example in the book of Acts, Jesus talks about him, Paul shows how he was saved through faith in the coming Messiah, he is a key figure in Hebrews, and James and Peter draw on the events of his life as well. What a legacy, all for listening to God’s call to pick up and move while he was living a comfortable life!

How do you answer God’s call? Do you even hear the call when it comes? What spiritual legacy are you leaving? Who are your spiritual descendents? There are so many things to ask, but this is a start.

We need to remember the basics of what happened here. While still a sinner God called a man and made him into who he became! It wasn’t because of something that this man did or was going to do, but because of God’s grace that Abraham becomes who we read about in Genesis. Let’s all ask ourselves the basic question of redemption also… How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!

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Week 2

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Week 2

WEEK 2
Job 14-37

As you read Job this week, ask yourself these questions:

  • How is God portrayed? What do you learn about His character? What about Christ?

  • What do you learn about his so-called friends?

  • And what is the basis of Job’s faith?

This book deals with the suffering of the righteous. I’ve often wondered about that in my life. Why am I “blessed” with that terrible boss? Or why am I “privileged” to experience drama in my life? Are these some of the questions Job thought of as well? Things don’t always go our way, nor are we promised a life free of suffering. I’d argue that we are promised suffering for the sake of the Gospel, so we need to be prepared for that eventuality.

From our perspective, we may not see that suffering as “fair” or even “just,” but we need to look at this book from God’s perspective. There are a few different explanations for the suffering that might help us understand. These are based in God’s character – his justice, goodness, and sovereignty to be specific.

The first explanation could be that God is not just and good, that we experience suffering because God is partly evil. Fortunately, Job rejects this possibility by explaining and affirming God’s extreme goodness in both the prologue and epilogue. Job is overwhelmed by God’s goodness in the midst of suffering and restoration.

The second explanation is something I’ve heard from many people – that suffering and evil is beyond God’s control. This means that God is not sovereign. But as our reading for the coming Sunday tells us in Job 37, God is all powerful and completely sovereign in all things. Job dismisses this possibility also.

A third explanation is that God is just, good, and sovereign, but his creation doesn’t always understand how he works, how his big picture happens, and what he is doing. God’s ways are sometimes so beyond human understanding that we can’t even start to analyze them (Job 28). Does Job know what is going on in his life, why it is all happening? And how did that conversation between God and Satan at the beginning of the book happen? There are so many unanswered questions (like much of the Bible) that we are left in faith and humility to worship our Creator and know that he has the best for us in mind, even in the midst of extreme suffering. He has the best for us in his plan even when it doesn’t seem “fair” or “just” from our perspective.

What did Job do? He heard his friends giving an earthly or human-centric perspective on his suffering. They did not seem to take God’s plans into account in their speeches, nor does it appear that they have a strong faith in God. Job knew that Christ was the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24) and that in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Both Job and his friends yearned for wisdom and understanding, something which only comes through Christ and his mediation on our behalf with the Father. Job knows this and repeatedly expresses how we are desperate for a mediator between ourselves and God (Job 5;1, 9:33, 16:20, 19:25, 33:23, et al). We are helpless to plead our case before God, and only Christ fills that role on our behalf.

Job was not without sin, but he did have a strong faith that God would carry him through the suffering he experienced. He was able to put aside the earthly perspective that was right in front of him for the heavenly perspective of God. His reward is not his “stuff,” but is his salvation and relationship with God. When we, like Job, fail to be perfect in suffering we can rest assured that Christ has suffered on our behalf and that his righteousness is imputed to us through God’s grace alone.

Don’t get distracted by the wrong perspective of events in your life, look to God’s grace and his perspective. Again, let’s all ask ourselves the basic question of redemption… How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!






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Week 1

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Week 1

Welcome to the Bible in a Year at ARCC! Through the next year, the plan is to take a look at the entire Bible in a chronological order, the order in which the events of redemption happened. The group is using the Chronological Reading Plan at:

ESV Chronological

It is also a plan in the Bible App as well as outlined in the ESV Story of Redemption Bible. On Sunday mornings at 8am, the group will meet in the Board Room to discuss the week’s readings as well as ask questions that have come from the week’s text. Most days will have 3 chapters, depending on the length of the chapter, and please attend even if there are still readings to do. Over the past couple years, the group reading through the Bible has experienced accountability, been strengthened spiritually, engaged in mutual discipleship, and countless other benefits. Please register through the ARCC app if you’d like to attend.

Each week I’ll also write a short blog on the week’s readings, expect the commentary to cover portions of the text for the coming week. The blog will cover readings from Monday through the following Sunday and will be the same readings as those which will be discussed on Sunday mornings. Also, please feel free to comment on the week’s posts below.

Where else to start this week than the beginning. In fact, that is exactly how the book of Genesis starts, “In the beginning…” What a fitting way to open the story of redemption. This book is a story of God’s dealing with His people in the story of redemption. It isn’t a collection of good writings, ways we should think about behaving, rules to follow, a treatise on how the world works, or a number of other ideas. It is purely how God deals with His people. It is about His grace. The story of redemption starts where things should start, with how God made the world in which we live, and of course humankind.

Shortly after creation, we see the first tragedy. And as we continue in our readings for the week, there is tragedy after tragedy. That first tragedy is the root of our disobedience and key to the entire story. If it weren’t for sin, we wouldn’t need redemption. Sin continues in familial relationships, in the world in general. In fact, it gets so bad that God decides to destroy the world with a flood. As a kid, I wondered if God thought he had made a mistake. Like he wished we were never born for the way our forefathers rebelled against him. I only wondered that until the sign of the Noahic Covenant was revealed.

You see after that first tragedy where Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the tree, God provided a promise to them – a promise both of the consequences of their sin and a promise of redemption. And then with the flood, the rainbow was God’s promise that he’d never destroy the world again, it is a sign of His grace toward his people who don’t deserve it, at a time when they don’t deserve it. Remember this, it is the best way to sum up everything that comes up in the next year of reading. The way God deals with His people in mercy when we least deserve it.

But then we switch gears to the book of Job. Why do we think these events happen at this point in the story? There isn’t a clear statement in the book, but from context we can tell that the events date from the patriarchal period and occur in a non-Israelite setting. We cannot know when the author of Job lived, but the classical Hebrew of the prologue places him after 1500 B.C. There is so much to admire about the book – the poetry, language, artistry, skillful living, wisdom, and themes just to name a few.

As you read Job this week, ask yourself these questions:

  • How is God portrayed?

  • What do you learn about His character?

  • What do you learn about his so-called friends?

  • And what is the basis of Job’s faith?

And let’s all ask ourselves the basic question of redemption… How much do you need God’s grace? How have you seen His grace in your life? How have you seen His grace this week, or even today?

See y’all Sunday!


WEEK 1

  • Genesis 1–3

  • Genesis 4–7

  • Genesis 8–11

  • Job 1–5

  • Job 6–9

  • Job 10–13

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