Perfect in God’s Eyes

Exodus 40

February 15

Who here is perfect? No one? Being perfect in society is hard and being a Christian in society is probably even harder. Society has built a whole view of a perfect person. In school you’re perfect if you have a 4.0 gpa, are a scholar athlete, and are participating in 20 billion extracurricular activities. Being a perfect person at work is doing your job to the “T”, having perfect attendance, being dependable, and maybe even being 20 different people at one time. Life is
hard.

As Christians our job is to set an example and show God’s work. Easy, right?

Exodus 40. Building the perfect tabernacle. Building a place fit for God.

Imagine being Moses for a second. This man not only was the one who got to come down from a mountain with God’s commands, but he also got to make this tabernacle a perfect place for God.

Now we can’t be Moses, because God has created us on our own path. But we can work at making our bodies perfect.

James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” James 3 is about taming your tongue and your body. I relate these two together. Though I’m not creating a tabernacle, I can create a holy body.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Many of the chapters in Exodus that we didn’t specifically read this week were giving detailed directions for how to make the tabernacle according to God’s plan. Go back and read Exodus 25:1-9. What was the purpose of the tabernacle? How did Moses get the supplies needed? Why so many directions throughout the rest of Exodus?
  2. In Exodus 40 how many times do we read Moses did, “as the LORD commanded him”? Why is that important?
  3. What directions are given to us throughout God’s Word for creating ourselves to be a perfect place for God?

Knowing to Trust

Exodus 32

February 14

When the people didn’t know what was going to happen with Moses, they turned to Aaron to create new gods. God was very angry.

We have struggled with plenty of fear just in the past few years. Not knowing is a great fear of mine. I struggle with not knowing which college I should go to or what I should do with my life.

The people were dancing and worshiping a golden calf. It says in Exodus 32 that the people are prone to evil. They asked for gods that will go before
them. Do we all struggle with evil or dirty desires? Most likely, but how we handle those desires is what matters the most.

Just because you can’t see what has gone over a mountain or you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for greatness. The kingdom is our goal. It is our motivation. We must trust in what we can’t see or can’t understand at the moment. We must understand that just because God sent Moses over a hill and we couldn’t see him and his plan – we must know there is one.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The people were quick to take (sinful) action when they felt like they had been abandoned by God and Moses. Have you ever felt (even for a moment or a day) like you were abandoned by God and/or those who have represented Him to you? What options did you have in how you reacted? What would have been the best course of action?
  2. How can you build your trust in God so that even when He is harder to see, you know He and his plan can be trusted?
  3. What false gods or unhealthy practices are you tempted to turn to when you battle fear? What consequences are there in these actions or attitudes?

Why the Fear of God?

Exodus 20

February 13

God, as we know, is all powerful. He freed the people from a land of slavery. (Exodus 20:2) God is a loving God, but he can be a jealous god. (Exodus 20:5). He can show us just how powerful he is. (Exodus 20:5-7,25-26) When I was younger, I was always confused by the saying “Fear God”. As I got older I have come to better understand this. We aren’t to fear God like we are the devil, but we are to fear him because we know His strength and power. We are supposed to fear Him so that it keeps us from sinning.

He has shown us and told us what we are to do and not to do. We are to honor our mother and father. We are not to commit murder. We are not to commit adultery. We are not to steal or give false testimony against our neighbor. These are just a few of the commandments. In order to follow these God wants us to fear His power and in a way fear disappointing him. He is our Father in heaven. It’s the same fear we should have for our earthly parents. Exodus 20 is a great chapter because it shows us all the things we should do to please God.

-Genesis Dylewski

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Look closely at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). How would you describe each commandment in your own words? Now consider, why do you think God included each of these commandments?
  2. What is the overall subject of the first 4 commandments? And of the last 6? Which do you generally find more challenging – having a good relationship with God or having good relationships with people? While recognizing the importance of all 10, choose one commandment from the first 4 and one commandment from the last 6 to focus on this week. How will you better align your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions with these commandments?
  3. Can you think of a time the fear of God kept you from sinning? Explain. Can you think of a time you should have feared God more? Explain. How can you work on developing a healthy fear of the LORD?

Keeping the Awe

Exodus 14

February 12

It always amazes me that the Israelites respond this way after seeing the great works and power of God:

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

If we aren’t careful though, I think we all can easily lose the awe and reverence for God that He so richly deserves. We all have been witness to the great and mighty things God has done, but we can quickly forget all of it if we don’t take the proper precautions. The Bible is an amazing tool to continually remind us of just how worthy God is of our praise, reverence and adoration and just how fallible our hearts are. As noted in, Hebrews 4:12:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

His word keeps our hearts in check. If we are missing that frequent interaction with it, our hearts can wander astray. We read in Matthew 13:15: For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Romans 1:21 also speaks to the dark turn that our hearts can take, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.”

A number of years ago, I was introduced to an acronym that helps us with prioritizing our prayer and approaching God in a manner that is worthy of Him: A.C.T.S. I don’t quite remember the source of this acronym, but it has always stuck with me. The “A” is for adoration and reminds us first and foremost to adore God. “C” is for confession and reminds us to confess our sins before God and repent. “T” is for Thanksgiving and reminds us to give thanks to God. The “S” is for Supplication and reminds us to ask God about whatever is on our hearts (praying for a need for others or ourselves). Oftentimes our prayers can get very out of balance and are simply reduced to an act of supplication. The God of the universe deserves so much more from us. We are reminded from this week’s readings that God hears our cries and cares about us; however, that should not be the sole focus of our prayers. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you consistently give God the praise, glory, adoration and thanksgiving that He so richly deserves? If not, what are some steps you could take today to change that?
  2. How is your prayer life? Do you find that you sometimes bypass the important part of prayer where you get a chance to adore God and just go straight to the asking? Why not create a challenge for a week to see if you can start out each day with a praise to God when you wake up?

Next up – Exodus 20

The Saving Blood of the Lamb

Exodus 12

February 11

It’s a beautiful thing to read of the Israelites’ obedience regarding the Passover meal and God’s subsequent command to continue observing it through the generations and to teach their children about the significance of it.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” 

It is a powerful story of salvation and it is worth telling and celebrating. I love that we as Christians can mirror this celebration of God’s beautiful provision of salvation through the observance of Communion. The salvation at the original Passover was temporary and specific and only pertained to being shielded from that particular plague of death at that specific point in time. Thanks be to God that the salvation offered through the Passover Lamb Jesus Christ is not limited to a specific group of people in a specific time in history. It is a free gift with an eternal reward that is open to all of mankind who choose it. 

While God’s provision for salvation is so beautiful and worthy of celebration, we would be remiss if we did not recognize those who fall in the shadows outside of God’s protection of salvation. I can’t help but imagine what a terrifying time it was for the Egyptians as the angel of death struck the households that were not protected by the blood of the Passover lamb. Verses 29-30 give us a glimpse of the sounds of that night,

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

As I read that passage and experienced compassion for those not covered by the blood, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the pressing urgency there is to reach out to those today who are not covered by the blood of the ultimate Passover Lamb Jesus Christ. As the Israelites were instructed about how to avert sorrow and disaster being brought upon their household by covering their doorposts with blood, we need to help others find the way to salvation by being covered with the blood of Jesus. 

May we be challenged to revisit the story of the Passover with a new set of eyes and a heart full of compassion for those who need to hear the greatest story ever told.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you feel a sense of urgency for the lost? If so, pray to God to instruct you on how to increase your effectiveness in reaching others. If not, pray to God that He will change your heart in this regard and give you a newfound sense of urgency and compassion for the lost.
  2. The Israelites were saved from what by the blood of the Passover lamb? Describe as fully as you can. Christians are saved from what by the blood of Jesus? Describe as fully as you can.
  3. How can we make sure we are covered by the blood of the Lamb? How will we make sure we – and our children – do not forget? Who do we know who is not covered by the blood of Jesus?

Tomorrow – Exodus 14

In Your Weakness

Exodus 4

February 10

God is the very epitome of a patient and loving father in the beginning of this scenario. Moses is feeling very insecure and inept for the task God has called him to do. I personally can really relate to Moses’ fear and apprehension when it comes to public speaking. God doesn’t respond with anger or derision in this moment with something along the lines of “Don’t be ridiculous Moses! You are speaking to the God of the universe here. I’ve got you covered.” Instead, He very patiently answers Moses’ questions and actually gives him a step-by-step game plan of how to carry out his mission. 

Even with this carefully thought out plan so carefully and lovingly delivered to him, Moses is still overcome by his own anxiety and insecurity.

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Moses still doesn’t seem to get the point God is making. Even after He assures him that He will be with him to help him speak and will teach him what to say, Moses has the audacity to tell the God of the universe no!  13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” The audacity! But, wait?!? Have I been like Moses in my life more than I care to admit? Do we let our own fears and insecurities keep us from carrying out our God-given missions? Do they overshadow our confidence in God and His abilities? Are we ultimately saying that we don’t believe that God is up to the task?

Disobedience is dangerous! We read in verses 24-16:  24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

Moses knew the requirements for circumcision and he also knew that the God of the universe was calling him to complete a task and he had been disobedient in both regards. Genesis 17:12: “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.”

I am not sure if this scene was in any way a reference to Jesus being a bridegroom of blood to us, but it certainly came to mind for me. What a gift that Jesus’ blood covers our sins and we are given a chance at new hope!

Getting back to Moses’ insecurity and lack of belief that he could carry out what God called him to do. While reading this chapter, I called to mind Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 concerning the thorn of his flesh,

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What a comforting reminder that we can actually boast in our weaknesses because Christ’s power is actually made perfect in our weakness. We don’t have to have it all together, God meets us right where we are and equips us as He sees fit in order for us to carry out his missions. Trust Him!

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever felt led to do something for God but shrinked back because you were afraid you were not good enough for the task? What would God tell you?
  2. What are some ways that we can use our weaknesses to glorify God and honor Christ? What strengths will be provided?
  3. How did Zipporah and Aaron each add to or compliment Moses’ ministry? How have you been a help to the spiritual life and work of another?
  4. What will you learn from Moses’ example that you can put into action this week to help ensure that you will participate fully in God’s plans for you? What excuses will you overcome? What does God want to teach you what to say? Who may God be calling to be on your team in ministry?

Tomorrow we will skip ahead to Exodus 12

God Cares

Exodus 3

February 9

Two powerful themes stand out to me in this third chapter of Exodus. One is the holiness of God and the second is God’s continued compassion for His people.

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

This scripture always strikes me as an extremely important reminder of the holiness of God and the importance of recognizing it and considering if our actions adequately reflect that recognition. Are our hearts and minds in the right place when we go before God in prayer or worship?

The second theme of God’s continued compassion for His people jumps out at me in verse 7:

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” 

God chooses to hear our cries and to care about our suffering. I have been through a very difficult season the past few years that has been punctuated by many great losses. For this reason, reading those words in verse 7 takes on a whole new meaning. There is power in being reminded that He is listening and that He cares so very deeply.

Not only does He care about our suffering, but He also understands our insecurities and the challenges they can present for us.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what ways might you need to “take your sandals off” before God so that you can properly acknowledge His holiness?
  2. When you encounter hard seasons in life, what are some ways that you can be reminded that God hears you and cares about your suffering?
  3. How might God be calling you to help others who are stuck in suffering? How can you bring God’s words, power and compassion to them?

Tomorrow we will read Exodus 4.

God’s Character

Exodus 2

February 8

In today’s reading, we read what is probably a very familiar story of a Levite woman giving birth to a very fine baby. In spite of the pharaoh’s orders for every Hebrew boy that is born to be thrown into the Nile, she makes a courageous decision to hide him for three months. At that three-month mark, she makes an even more courageous decision. 3 “But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.”

As a mother, I really can’t imagine the horror of being in her position. We are given a comforting reminder though in verses 23-25 that God cares when we go through tough things:

23 “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

A couple of years ago, I heard about a challenge of reading the Bible all the way through with a specific goal of seeing what could be revealed about God’s character. I had never read the Bible through that specific lens—and let me tell you—it was powerful! It brings me great comfort to read in the above verses that the Israelites’ cries reach God and He heard their groaning and remembered His covenant and He looked on the Israelites with concern. I am often awestruck that the creator of the universe is mindful of us and our feelings and what we are going through. The truth is, He cares very much. It is almost incomprehensible to me that His son suffered and died so that we can have the hope of the kingdom and that God had to bear the pain of witnessing it while Christ called out, “My Father, My Father, why have you forsaken me?” God gave us a way out of our mess because He loved and cared about us just that much! Praise God!

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you use this story to deepen your understanding of the character of God?
  2. How was God working even when it seemed hopeless for this baby left in a basket in the Nile? How was God still working when Moses fled from Egypt?
  3. When have you been reminded of God’s character – even during a scary, hopeless or uncertain time in your life? How has He provided what was needed, even if you thought you needed something else? How did He show His concern for you?
  4. What do you find most powerful in the sacrifice of Jesus planned and orchestrated by a loving Father who loves and cares for His Son and for you?

Tomorrow we will continue the account with Exodus 3

Faithful with the Little Things

Exodus 1

February 7

In this first chapter of Exodus, we see that the Israelites are viewed as a formidable threat due to their increasing numbers. There was a great fear that the Israelites would continue to multiply and if war were to break out, they would choose to join with Egypt’s enemies and eventually leave the country. In verse 16, we read of the horrific remedy that the king of Egypt concocted and delivered to the midwives: “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

We then read with great relief in verse 17 that the midwives “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” 

Do we always have the courage to do what is right in the eyes of God—even at great risk and cost to ourselves? We might think that we would never be put in such a dire predicament, but I believe our faith is tested in both big and small ways. Our faithfulness in the “small things” can actually speak to the overall health of our faith. As stated in Luke 16:10, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much.” Imagine you are eating dinner at a restaurant and you notice the server forgot to charge you for that delicious artichoke and spinach appetizer. Do you think, “Ha! It’s my lucky day!” or do you remember that the right thing to do in the eyes of our Heavenly Father is to pay for everything that you ordered?

I have a theory. I think that it might actually be easier to make the right choice in dire circumstances as opposed to authentically living out our faith on a daily basis amidst the small trials and challenges of life that constantly wash up against us. Have you ever been in the ocean or even in a tidal pool at a water park and found it hard to regain your footing after getting knocked down by a wave? Even the smallest of waves can wipe us out and deplete us of strength if we don’t feel like we can catch our breath between the waves. Psalm 42 gives us some comfort for these times:

6 “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you in the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”

May we be encouraged by this reminder that God’s song is with us and that He rewards our faithfulness. Verses 20-21 of Exodus 1 demonstrates how God rewarded the faithfulness of the Hebrew midwives: “So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

May our goal always be to please our Heavenly Father in the big and “small” things and to lean into Him when the waves of challenge sweep over us.

-Kristy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you find it difficult to live out your faith authentically when faced with the big and small challenges of life? 
  2. How can we better lean into God during times of challenge?
  3. Which heroes of the faith inspire you with how they leaned into God during times of trouble?

Tomorrow we continue with Exodus 2

The Truth Will Set You Free

In Exodus 23 and 24 God continues to lay out the laws that will help provide a stable foundation for Israelite society, and there are a couple that really catch my eye.

Exodus 23

“You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand.

2 “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice. 3 And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor.

I really think that this can speak to us today in a powerful way, and maybe convict many of us.  I have heard it said that we are living in a “post truth era”, a time when objective facts are not as impactful to people as appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.  Many times these emotional appeals are used to push a political agenda or the narrative of a social movement.  

Every day our society is making judgements on people, and these opinions can move at the speed of light on the internet, and it can be very easy to follow the crowd and help spread a narrative about a person, but we need to be very careful.  If we are passing on unresearched false claims, or choose to ignore facts because they do not fit with the narrative of a movement that we like then we are only spreading lies.  

Proverbs 12:22

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.

As followers of God we need to value the truth very highly, because God is the God of truth, and in the end it does not matter how society judges something because God is the great judge and  we will be judged by God.  It is important to remember that the ends do not justify the means, even if a group has a good message, if they spread it with lies and misrepresentations of events they completely undermine any impact their message would have had.

I have heard a lot of people saying things like “you have to go find the right facts”, and usually they say that because the facts do not match their opinion of how something should have gone, and they are searching for somebody who will confirm their feelings.  This is called confirmation bias when we look for information and interpret facts to all agree with what we already think.  Fundamentally this mindset assumes that we are right about everything and do not need to learn anything new.  We need to be humble and realize that we can easily be wrong about things and look forward to searching out the truth.  As a person who loves knowledge and being right I can tell you that it is not easy to learn that you are wrong about something, but I have had many mentors in my life that have told me many thousands of times that I am wrong about things, but at this point I am ok with that, because accepting that you are wrong is the first step to learning new things and growing.  

In Exodus and Mark we have seen God at work in a mighty way to change his people from the broken people they used to be into his followers. Moses brought them out of Egypt where they turned from God and worshiped the gods of Egypt, and gave them the law of God that would define their society and customs around a worship of God alone.  Jesus broke the Israelites out of their wooden and heartless following of the laws of Moses and taught them to change their hearts and love the way God loves.  We need that message just as much today since we live in a very broken world, and lots of people are pointing out those issues and trying to tackle them, but these social movements will not bring ultimate peace, they may improve some things, but they can also be deeply flawed and do not have an emphasis on truth that God values and we should value as well.

If we wish to remain in a peaceful and stable society, then we need to put truth first and be quick to listen and slow to judge.  We need to learn to see people the way God sees them and humbly submit ourselves to his judgement and not worry about how the world will judge us.  

Thank you for reading along with me this week.  I hope that these scriptures spoke to you and I hope you will stick around for the rest of the year in this series, because if you do there is a ton you can learn.

Chris Mattison

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 23-24 and Mark 9

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