Week 23

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Week 23

Proverbs  (June 3 – 10)

  • Proverbs 1-22

If you have teens in your life somehow you may be familiar with the phrase (or one similar), “I’m 15, I know everything!”  You might even remember it from your own teenage years if you have not already removed those terribly mistaken and errant memories and views from your brain.  There are numerous times when I’ve heard this from my own kids, from their friends, even from younger military members who are still in their teenage years.  I almost always laugh when I hear it, and I’m usually pretty good about keeping my laughter mostly to myself.  And I can’t imagine how often high school teachers hear this phrase!

A young person may feel that they have life experience, that they are able to make sound decisions, and that they understand how the world works.  As we grow older, we start to realize that we don’t really know everything.  Later in life we might reach the point where we feel that we actually know nothing at all, and looking back we might need to apologize to thousands of people with whom we’ve had “discussions” and were absolutely sure of the answer!  We might have found some wisdom along the path of life.

Putting it into a spiritual perspective, wisdom is the application of knowledge to help us avoid sin.  In other words, there is great value to wisdom, and much danger in sin.  Most of the proverbs in this book are attributed to Solomon, but we do know he uttered over 3,000 proverbs, so many are not recorded here.  What we do have, however, tells us about the general patterns of life, how people act and react, how God deals with us, what mistakes and follies we might be able to avoid, and how life can be better for us.

The book starts off with an extended teaching about wisdom.  Solomon starts off telling his readers, and his kingdom, that the beginning of wisdom is first found in respecting, honoring, and worshipping the Lord.  He goes on to talk about qualities of wisdom and its importance to us.  In the latter part of chapter 8, we can clearly see that wisdom is personified as a divine figure at the side of God the Father – Jesus Christ, the perfect embodiment of wisdom.  Even in this book, just like every other, we see a picture of the coming Messiah!

As we get into the main part of Solomon’s proverbs in Chapters 10-22, we need to remember what a proverb is and what it is not.  A proverb is not an iron-clad if-then statement or promise.  It is a statement on a single topic that presents a general truth about life.  When heeded together, proverbs protect a person from the worst associated with sin and folly.

For example, in 10:27 we see that “the fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.”  Does this mean that someone who does not lead a long or full life is not a believer?  Or that a wicked person who lives into their 90s is really a believer?  Not at all.  This is a general truth about life – things generally go well for us in the long run when we are on the Lord’s side, when we follow and fear him.  And the actions of the wicked can shorten their years.  Think about some sins that might have a consequence such as that.  When we over work ourselves and don’t honor God’s principle of Sabbath rest, our bodies do not react well.  The overwork and stress may cause us to knock a year or two off of our life.  We could repeat this for a number of scenarios as well.

Or Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity.”  When we seek to know who are friends are, we need to keep this advice in mind.  Those closest to us will be with us through all sorts of adversity, brother seems to be the “bff” of Solomon’s time.  And when we feel unloved or betrayed consistently by someone who we thought was a friend, this tells us to reevaluate that view since the “friend loves at all times,” through thick and thin.  That doesn’t mean we like what they do, nor that they always make us feel good, but they do love at all times.

Some days we may feel like we are in our teens and we know everything again.  It is those days in particular that we need to jump back and delve into the wisdom contained in this book.  We don’t know much compared to Solomon, and his wisdom can serve us well when we are full of ourselves.  Now to just remember that in the moment!

How do you see God’s grace in Proverbs?  What does Solomon write that ignites a fire for loving God in your heart?  How about Christ?  Where do you see Christ in the Proverbs?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 22

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Week 22

Intro to Solomon  (May 27 – June 2)

  • 1 Chronicles 26–29

  • 2 Chronicles 1

  • Psalms 37, 71, 72, 94, 111–119, 127

  • 1 Kings 1–4

  • Song of Solomon

When we move from David to Solomon, we see a relatively calm transition of power, not as calm as we are used to in modern society, but calm for the time period.  David sets his son up for success as King, and Solomon asks God for the one thing he needs – Wisdom.  His lack of experience, how he will apply his knowledge of the world, country, people, and life in general, and his leadership qualities all depend on his wisdom.  God grants the request, but having wisdom does not mean the king will be sinless, nor that he will sin less than others.

Early on in his reign, he does something that could be construed as smart “politically,” but is not in line with God’s rules for life.  He marries outside his faith and takes Pharaoh’s daughter as his wife.  He violates the prohibition for having a standing army, and at times he trusts more in his riches and wisdom than in God.  No one is immune from sin, and everyone needs the saving Grace of Jesus Christ, even the man widely regarded to be the wisest to ever live.

Solomon was able to use his wisdom to become an administrative genius, diving the country into administrative regions, each having a royal commissioner.  The army and merchant navy were able to provide some stability and trade for the nation.  The fact that his wisdom was sought after by neighboring countries and cultures shows his international influence and ability to navigate complex relationships with Israel’s neighbors.

What does this wisdom mean for us?  Can we ask for wisdom?  Of course – we know this from James.  We also know that we will not get the same level of wisdom that Solomon had.  And we know that, like Solomon and the kings before him, we also have a mix of good and evil in our desires and actions.  This should not be a surprise either, Paul addresses it multiple times in the epistles.  The bottom line – Solomon did exactly what God wanted him to do, the same thing God calls us to do.  We can learn from the actions of this King, not emulating his actions but understanding how God works in the lives of people.

Not only do we learn about the fact of Solomon’s wisdom, but this week we get to read some of his decisions and then some of his more intimate thoughts.  As we read sections of the Psalms that are traditionally used during the Passover celebration (113-118) as well as the lengthy Psalm 119, we can see how Solomon’s wisdom is influenced by his devotion to God and love of the Law.  

Psalm 119 is an amazing psalm to read, especially when we understand a little about the Hebrew poetry in that chapter.  The poem is an acrostic, which means that each stanza’s verses begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the stanzas proceed through all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  This isn’t evident when we see the poem in English, but remembering it helps us see the beauty and passion that the writer put into discussing God’s law.  Coming after the previous psalms, this psalm represents God’s giving of the law to his people at Mount Sinai.

After the introduction to Solomon, are you ready for what will come next?  David has set him up to build the temple, he and the nation have amassed the riches needed to succeed, and they have a focus on the word of God get going.  What comes next?  How does it happen?  What role does Solomon’s wisdom play in the temple?

How do you see God’s grace in Solomon’s life?  What kinds of things happen that point to the coming Messiah?  What do you see in these accounts and psalms?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 21

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Week 21

David Continued (May 20 – May 27)

  • 2 Samuel 22–24 

  • 1 Chronicles 21–25

  • Psalms 5, 30, 38, 41–42, 57, 95, 97–99, 108–110, 131, 138–139, 143–145

NOTE:  THERE IS A TYPO ON DAY 143.  We are not reading 22 Chapters of 1 Chronicles.  It should be 1 Chronicles 21-22 on Day 143.

My brother and I were in some meetings and visits this past week where we both heard the same person say the exact same words, we read the same brochures, walked through the same buildings, and experienced the same experiences.  But when it came time to talk about the meetings, what we learned, our impressions, and so on, we both had different ways of describing what we saw and felt.  We had the same videos and pictures, and our notes were similar.  But in talking about it with others we had a different perspective for our narratives.

As we continue in David’s exploits and leadership, some of the stories are repeated.  Don’t be confused, they didn’t happen again, it is just another author’s turn to talk about some of the events of the time.  Just like you may share an event with a friend or relative and then tell the story at different times or in different ways, Biblical authors did the same thing. When it comes time to discuss the mighty men in 2 Samuel, it is chronologically after the discussion in Chronicles.  Don’t be confused, you have read this before, it fits literally better for one author in a different place than for another author.  And both have different perspectives.

Again, we have a difference in perspective between Samuel and Chronicles.  In 2 Samuel 24, we read that “The LORD … caused David to harm them by taking a census.”  This same event in 1 Chronicles 21 reads “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census.”  What gives?  Was it the LORD or Satan?  The difference is again one of perspective.  People didn’t like the census at the time because it was often a prelude to further taxation or forced military service.  David’s motivation could have been the reason for the census, making it a sin.  The passage in 2 Samuel tells us the story from God’s perspective.  God is sovereign. God does not author evil, but sometimes God makes use of others’ evil deeds to accomplish his good purposes.

We get a behind the scenes look at David’s life as well.  Remember how he was not able to build the temple?  Well, he wrote songs for its dedication (Psalm 30).  Even if he can’t do what he wants, he can still contribute and be within God’s plan.  David is able to participate in the spiritual life of Israel even when his time is past!  What a legacy, are you able to influence your family and friends even when you are not there? It is an amazing measure of God’s grace to be able to be part of someone else’s life, and even better to be a lasting influence for them.  Understand God’s word for your life and communicate your experiences to others as necessary.

How do you see God’s grace in David’s life?  What kinds of things happen that point to the coming Messiah?  What do you see in these accounts and psalms?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 20

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Week 20

David Continued (May 13 – May 19)

  • 2 Samuel 11–21

  • 1 Chronicles 20

  • Psalms 3–4, 12–13, 26, 28, 32, 40, 51, 55, 58, 61–62, 64, 86, 122

When was the last time you saw a drama-free family situation?  Even in the closest (and smallest) families, there is drama.  People have different ideas, different goals, and different desires.  And different ways of getting to the same result.  Think of the family who …

David’s family is no different.  In 2 Samuel 12:10 he is promised that the sword would never leave his family, in other words there would be drama.  As we read the accounts of what happens, we can see that this promise is fulfilled, maybe more than we could ever imagine.  Reading the Psalms for the week, it is clear that David knows that there are consequences for his actions and that he needs forgiveness for his sin.  He also needs God’s strength to overcome his cowardly behavior as well.

I would think this is pretty comforting to David, if God fulfills this prophecy, then how much more will he fulfill the rest of his prophecies?  God makes it clear that he has not abandoned David or his family, in fact he is told that the Lord loved his son Solomon.  God will not let his promises fail despite the drama that tears apart David’s family and his kingdom.  The promises go both ways, things that we might see as negative are really being used for God’s glory in the present time and the future.  When we try to understand God’s ways we enter into a mode of speculation and trying to put our own views onto God instead of being in touch with his ways.  

The Psalms show us that despite the drama, murder, sin, civil war, and other problems, David is back and forth between trying to do things on his own and trusting God’s ways.  Sometimes he engages in activities which show he is doing things on his own and other times he is obviously trusting God’s ways.  When faced with adversity, it is easy for strong leaders to fall back on what they know instead of trusting God.  However, God is fighting for David.  The Lord will not let his promises fail.

David returns to Jerusalem, his house and country restored, and shows God’s forgiveness to those who rebelled against him.  He takes what God has given him and gives it to those in his life.  David has been down a long and often bloody road and it is almost time for his son whom God loves, Solomon, to succeed his father as King.

How do you see God’s grace in David’s adventures?  What kinds of things happen that point to the coming Messiah?  What do you see in these accounts and psalms?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 19

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Week 19

More David (May 6 – May 12)

  • 2 Samuel 7–10

  • 1 Chronicles 17–19

  • Psalms 20, 25, 29, 33, 36, 39, 50, 53, 60, 65–67, 69–70, 89, 96, 100, 101, 105, 132

We often think of rulers and leaders as having advisors, people who help them know what is going on and take care of many details for them.  Having advisors is not just for those in positions of power, it is for everyone.  People who know us, who are able to see through our nonsense, and who have enough candor to speak the truth are important.  Even more important are those who are in touch with God as well and able to help keep us pointed in the right direction.  Not only do we need people like that in our lives to help us with our blind spots, but we do that for others as well.

In our passage this week in 1 Chronicles, we see how Nathan advised David.  He tells David to do what his heart desires, but is quickly corrected by God and needs to correct his advice to the king.  David wants to build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant since it is in a tent and he is living in an exquisite temple.  But God reminds him through Nathan that building a temple is not his purpose at that particular time, he is to continue on the mission of building the homeland for God’s people and defeating the enemies that oppress them.

It is important to note in the correction, David doesn’t complain about not being able to do what God says he can’t do, but instead focuses on the mission that God has given him.  He is humbled that he was brought from the fields tending sheep to the position of King, and he asks God for continued guidance.  How often do we receive some redirection from God only to complain and want to go our own way and do our own thing?  Maybe we ignore that guidance we receive through others.  We think we know it all, but we can’t see the blind spots in our life.  Take a moment to evaluate your direction and make sure you are following God’s will even if it isn’t what you might choose for yourself based on your desires.  David’s desires were noble and Godly, but not in God’s timing.  How about yours?

As we continue to read Psalms that link up with the events in David’s life, we see a string of amazing success in the narratives and varying feelings in the Psalms.  He writes Psalms that praise God for what happens, and then he writes asking God to keep his people in his hand, he might feel somewhat abandoned by God.  David pleads for forgiveness of his sin, and he asks God to answer his prayers.  Life isn’t all victories, butterflies, and unicorns for David, there are dark and down times as well.  When we experience those times, do we focus on the negative?  Or do we ask for God’s help?  When we are down, do we seek to understand what is happening in our life?  

We can learn a lot from David’s feelings during the times of immense success.  The Jerusalem Times may be reporting astounding victories, but the leader is always worried about what is happening around him.  He is trying to serve God in every way possible, not always succeeding, but always asking for help and forgiveness.  He does not let the dark times or the bad moods impact his leadership but instead casts his cares upon the Lord.  And he always takes time to praise God for his character and actions.  He knows that the good things are not of his own doing, but are a gift from God.  The nation, the king, the people do not deserve anything good, it is all because God has given it to them as a gift by his grace.  Don’t lose sight of that in your life either!  Don’t let your own selfishness overpower the gifts God has placed right in front of you.

What do you see in these accounts and psalms?  How do you see God’s grace in each passage?  What points to the coming Messiah?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 18

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Week 18

More David (29 April – May)

  • 2 Samuel 5:10-6:23

  • 1 Chronicles 7–16

  • Psalms 1–2, 15, 22–24, 47, 68, 102–104, 106–107, 133 

When were you so excited that you spontaneously cheered, jumped around, and celebrated?  For many of us, these feelings are associated with our favorite sports teams winning a big game.  In my house, that kind of celebrating ensued when the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl a couple years ago.  Screaming, shouting, jumping, cheering, celebrations!  It also happens when we accomplish a difficult goal, achieve a personal record, or are excited about some great news.

There is so much to write about this week, feats of strength, battles, genealogies, worship, the feelings that go with all of that.  Obedience, disobedience, riches, poverty, spiritual strength and weaknesses, the list goes on and on.

We see this spontaneous celebration as well.  When King David returns from battle victorious, he is dancing in the streets celebrating.  Some of his critics are not happy with the spontaneous celebration and worship that happens.  We read in the Psalms of his praising God at various times, and even crying out for God’s help as seeks to be obedient to God.  Each event elicits a response from David.

It isn’t just David’s successes and failures that get responses, but in 1 Chronicles we read about the mighty men of the kingdom.  These are the men who are celebrated for their heroic acts.  I like Benaiah son of Jehoiada, who is described as “a valiant warrior from Kabzeel.”  But that is not enough, the Chronicler goes on to list some of his heroic deeds.  It is just a few sentences so it is easy to miss.

One of those deeds is going into a pit with a lion on a snowy day, then killing it.  Think about that.  Do you have the equipment to pursue a lion?  On a snowy day?  We’d want a weapon of some kind – tranquilizer, high powered rifle, cannon, anything.  What did Benaiah have?  Likely not much.  Maybe a spear or dagger, maybe his bare hands.  He was a mighty man after all!  Jumping into the pit without modern cold-weather gear, boots, or weapons he slays the lion – amazing!  With that and his other deeds, he was appointed the chief of King David’s Secret Service, to put it in modern terms.

Celebrations are not uncommon, but how often do we celebrate the mighty things God has done in our life?  Do we take them for granted or do we shout and cheer like we would for our favorite team?  Sometimes it is a qets a social media post and some like, other times a brief mention at a small group gathering.  Most often we take things that God does for granted.  When we think about it, every single breath we take is a breath of God’s mercy, which in itself is a mighty deed he does for us.  And then so much more!

As you read the accounts of various events in David’s life and times, watch for people’s reactions.  Some are in the passage, others are in the psalms.  Try to equate them to modern terms, like above, the chief of David’s personal body guard would be the head of the Secret Service roughly.  What would your reaction be if you saw the event or were in the story?  Not saying everything David did was righteous, but we can learn from all of his actions and reactions.

What do you see in these accounts and psalms?  How do you see God’s grace in each passage?  What points to the coming Messiah?  What do you learn about yourself from them? 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 17

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Week 17

Prophecies (21-28 April)

  • Ps 6, 8–10, 14, 16, 19, 21, 43–45, 49, 73, 77–78, 81, 84–85, 87, 88, 92-93

  • 1 Chr 1–6

On a recent trip to the Northeast, I was able to visit Minuteman National Historic Park.  There were a number of curious exhibits in one of the visitor’s center, one of them were some lyrics to songs that the colonists sang after their victory at the battles of Lexington & Concord and the pursuit back to Boston.  The lyrics definitely celebrated the victory, but I had to read them as a poem because there was not a musical score to go with the words.  For me, the words would have been brought to life with a musical score – or better with a group of colonists there gathered in the tavern to sing the songs!

And what about the Psalms?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a musical score or a recording of folks actually singing them?  How much more would they be brought to life?  Think of the psalms which you have sung or heard that were set to music.  Didn’t they seem to make more sense?  The music contributing to the mood of the words, the sounds in the voices singing, and even the reaction of others present all help us to understand the message.

But we don’t have any of that.  So what do we do?  I enjoy contemporary settings for the psalms in order to help understand the message – and since I have a hard time memorizing things, singing over and over allow me to remember the words of scripture.  A catchy tune and God’s own words are a great combination!  

So what about our combination of Psalms this week?  There are a number of prophecies about Christ, watch for those, including shorter sections that help you understand the Messiah.  There is not room here to point out each instance of prophecy and foreshadowing, but consider Psalm 8 for a minute.  David considers the place of humankind in God’s purposes, the ability to exercise dominion over God’s creation.  Later in the Bible, the author of Hebrews uses this passage to point to God’s intention of setting the Messiah – remember, fully human and fully God – on God’s own throne!

We see truth after truth in the Psalms – God’s glory coming for each of his followers, how the attitudes of those who say “There is no God” lead to destruction, please for God’s help in leadership, life, and even love.  Confession and repentance, as well as the country music songs of the Bible – no, there are not wrecked pickups and dead dogs, but there are songs covering the sad events of David’s life and times.  If you journal, make a note of how each Psalm would be categorized in today’s music world, another key to understanding!

There are so many different things we can read in the Bible, and though the genres for this week (genealogy & psalms) are drastically different, we can still see God’s grace in how he chose to use certain people for his glory and how David’s skill in songwriting is applicable to us today.  What do you see in the Psalms?  How do you see God’s grace as you read the lyrics?  What do you learn about yourself from them?  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 16

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Week 16

David I (14-20 April)

  • Ps 7, 17-18, 27, 31, 34-35, 52, 54, 56, 63, 120-121, 123-125, 128-130, 140-142

  • 1 Sam 25-31; 2 Sam 1-4; 1 Chr 10

Do you ever wonder why things happen? Or the background behind what someone says? Often rules are made because of something that someone has done (or not done). I wonder what those stories are – they have to be good to have generated a rule that everyone else should follow. Or some of the things that I’ve heard uttered toward the boys at home. Without knowing the background, the phrases either don’t make sense, or are incredibly funny. There are so many things I have said as a parent that I never thought would come out of my mouth!

This week we start to read one of my favorite sections of the Chronological Reading Plan! I like this part because we get some historical context for the Psalms. We have already read a few Psalms, but we’ll jump into the rest and their background over the next few weeks. How much more amazing it is to understand the background of each of these Psalms. I just list the passages to be read above, please look at the reading plan for how they all line up together.

We are looking for an orderly transition of power after the death of Saul, but of course given the nature of people there is drama. What will happen? Both men start out in dire circumstances, but have diverging paths as the book of 1 Samuel ends. We get to see some of the behind the scenes thoughts of David as we read along in the Psalms. When David is in trouble because he feared for his life rather than trusting God. He ends up between a rock and a hard place and then writes Psalm 18.

In this Psalm, he declares that God is his rock and fortress among other analogies. We see in the midst of the trouble that he decides to turn to God and how God dealt with him. It is like pulling the curtain back and seeing what is going on behind the scene. And given the historical context, the Psalm comes alive even more! He gives praise to God for what God had done in his life and expresses the praise in terms of how God delivered him from both enemies and his so-called-friends.

It isn’t only the context of the Psalms that is exciting, it is also great to refresh ourselves on David’s reign as King. Our story of God’s redemption of his people doesn’t change at all, God is dealing with his people, and with us, by his grace alone. None of us deserve anything in this world, we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory. Even David. We can immediately identify some sins in his life that are a “big deal” to us now in our cultural context, but those sins were just as big to God back in the day. The nation of Israel identified sins in David’s life as well, and I’m sure that this was the topic of various water-cooler, marketplace, and neighborhood talk just like it would be today. In other words, political scandals are not a new thing.

How does God deal with his servant during times of sin or rebellion? The same way he deals with everyone else. We will read about some of these next week, and there are instances this week as well. The bottom line is that God deals with them, and with us, by his grace. We do not deserve to be forgiven, but God forgives us. Look at David’s life – not only will you see this grace, but look for every single way that he foreshadows the coming Messiah. It may be easier to notice looking back and knowing what God has done, but these events and words that you notice were noticed back in the day as well. The Messiah is coming! Keep an eye out for prophecies in the form of both words and events as you read these accounts.

What would others learn about you if they knew the whole story? Do you know why things happen like they do in your life? Are you aware of God’s grace in your day-to-day interactions? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward repentance? 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 15

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Week 15

Beginning of a National Epic (7-13 April)

  • 1 Samuel 1-24, Psalms 11 & 59

Some days start out with anticipation of the excitement that will happen that day. Other days start out quietly and the excitement builds to a frenzy throughout the day. Maybe you wake up ready for a nice quiet day, but as it progresses you find out about a neighborhood block party that you had forgotten about. Looking down the road you see the games being set up, you smell food cooking, and hear the laughter of your neighbors. When it comes, you go and find it to be one of the most enjoyable days in a long time. A quiet day that ends in excitement!

The opening lines of 1 Samuel start very quietly as well. A childless woman who is tormented by another because of her childlessness goes to her family’s annual sacrifice and spends time as usual in prayer. When the priest thinks she is drunk (now that’s a prayer time!) and she explains otherwise, he blesses her by saying her petition will come true. And the Lord remembers this and gives her a child. She continues in prayer, the boy is dedicated to the Lord, ready for a life of service.

Jumping from darkness to light is one of the themes we will see in 1 Samuel. God brings Israel from a time of darkness during the time of the judges to fulfill a promise he has made to them in providing a king. This king will not oppress the people, but serve the people and will be drastically different from the kings around them. The expectations promised in the Pentateuch will be realized, and the people know that they need this king, as we read the epic accounts of the nation here.

We know we are headed toward the ascendancy of King David to the throne, but before we get there, God needs to reset his people’s anticipation of who a king should be and what he should do. Throughout this book we will see the full spectrum of life – from war to peace, humor to seriousness, triumph to tragedy, and so much more.

The nation of Israel ends up in shambles as the Philistines capture the Ark. The Israelites are using God as a good luck charm, waving him around instead of worshipping him and serving him. They think that using his name will help them even when they are not following him. Enter Samuel, who will not be the king, but will be advisor to the line of kings coming next as leaders of the nation, all the way through to David.

God has prepared his people, and he has provided a leader to advise and disciple the kings who would rule the country. Samuel is on the scene, and though things are not perfect, his advice leads to the kings of Israel leading people toward God.

Do you have someone in your life who can lead you toward God? Maybe your day started out quietly, a little Bible reading, some prayer, and then you met your friend who can help you focus on God. Maybe that friend is a long-time friend, a spouse, or someone with whom you connect spiritually and is able to help your relationship with God. If not, seek that person out. Build that relationship, and listen to God speaking to you through other Godly people.

Things may start out quietly and without any expectation of excitement, but as we continue to see where God is leading us, we might see a glimpse of what the future will bring. As we continue to grow closer to Christ, we are able to see more and more of his grace and his purposes for our lives. We build excitement for our relationship with him and for doing his will in our lives. We see his grace more fully day to day!

Who is the one who points you toward God’s grace? Do you have a Samuel in your life? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward repentance? 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 14

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Week 14

Sin and Redemption (31 Mar – 6 Apr)

  • Judges 6-21, Ruth

During my ministry in the Army at the beginning of my military career, it seemed that there were certain things that were never done or discussed. I wasn’t completely sure why, and it varied from unit to unit. A couple of the units I was in considered it bad to talk about or even wash our headgear. After a few hot summer days, this became an issue, so I had to have multiple hats available. Another unit we would not name certain people for whatever reason, just refer to them obliquely by job or relationship. For some reason that carried more weight than their actual name. And there was a group that would never call common items by their common name – for example the Sun was called BOB, “Big Orange Ball” and referred to as if it was a person. “Do you know if BOB is coming by today?”

Similarly, have you ever wondered why we don’t hear more sermons from Judges? This question was asked during the discussion this past week as we started the book of Judges. When you think of it, many of the stories come out to PG-13 or even R-rated. Try to visualize the stories and you will see what I mean.

One of the ways which we can understand the Bible better is to visualize what we’re reading. Our culture has taught us to receive input through more than just reading or hearing, we watch so much media that we are also good with visual means of learning too. Some days it would be helpful to watch what we’re reading, right? When we visualize the stories of Judges, we realize a couple things.

First, we see that not all the details are included. Why is this? If we remember the principles of interpretation that we’ve discussed up to this point, we know that the Bible is about God’s relationship with his people and our redemption. The parts of the stories that are included are the parts that support this goal. As you read, ask yourself how each section explains God’s relationship with his people and how it points you toward Christ.

Second, this book does not mince the details of life. Life is not pure and clean, it is often messy. Sin is messy. Rebelling against God is messy. So what does this book do? It describes Israel’s repeated fall from God and sin against him in detail. It reminds us of our sin and our messy lives as well. We often want to make our life look better on the outside, maybe in social media we only post what we want other people to know, not the messiness of life. We will show the amazing cookies but not the mess that ensued to make those cookies happen, or the pile of dirty dishes. We all have sin and we can’t ignore it or the mess it creates, it impacts all of us.

Third, the need for redemption is clearly evident. The pattern of sin, rebellion, discipline, repentance, and redemption is evident over and over in the accounts of these leaders of Israel. We have the same patterns in our life as well – but our redemption is not through a new leader each time, it is through Christ. Our sin is covered by his death and resurrection, he cleans up the messiness of our life, no matter what it is rated.

By the end of Judges, we know for sure that Israel needs a king, not a pagan king like the nations around them, but a king who follows God and is pursuing him. This king will come, and he will lead them in a way they are not expecting. The coming king will be our king as well and by God’s grace we will be brought into his kingdom for eternity, an eternity that will not include the messiness of sin!

So why have we not heard many sermons or read books on Judges? I honestly don’t know since the stories of grace are so rich. Why don’t people talk about Judges as much as other books of the Bible? Maybe because we don’t know it as well, maybe because the topics are somewhat difficult in our culture. Maybe because we’re not comfortable with the sin that is mentioned in the book. There may be hundreds of reasons, but none of them stand up to the redemption that we know comes through Christ alone!

Do you need to be more open with yourself about the mess of your sin? Do you need to repent and look toward your king? Do you trust in God’s ways to point you toward repentance? 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 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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