Is it Worth It?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 13 & 14
Psalms Reading: Psalm 35
*New Testament Reading: Romans 5

Some may be tempted to think the burden of living a Christian life just isn’t worth it.  Life is boring, you can’t have any fun, and all the rules make life almost not worth living.  If someone ever thought that, Romans 5 is for them.  This is an exciting chapter in an exciting book.

Romans 5 talks about justification – which refers to how a person can be declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus Christ.  The first half of Romans 5 talks about the benefits of being justified, and the second half tells how justification is possible.  

You might think the benefits are just for the future, limited to eternal life in God’s future kingdom.  Think again.  There are real benefits to living a life completely sold out to God right here and right now.

Romans 5:1 starts out in the past tense, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Chapter 4 pointed out that being justified before God has always been through faith, not through works.)  If we’re living the life God called us to live, and we are living by faith, we have been reconciled to God through Jesus.  If we meet the criteria, whatever else we have done in our past is forgiven, and we have been declared righteous.

We’re told the alternative in Isaiah 48:22, “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.”   Peace with God versus no peace.  Let me think, which should I choose?  I want peace!  When you live a life of sin, you’ve declared war against God.  If you’re currently at war with God, how’s that working out for you?  Consider peace.

Romans 5:2a continues by talking about the present, “through whom [speaking of Jesus] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”  In the Old Testament, Jews didn’t have direct access to God.  Only priests could even enter the tabernacle, and only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies only once a year.  And Gentiles couldn’t even come into the inner courtyard.  Through Jesus, we have gained access to God’s grace, and ultimately to God.  And this is for today, not just in some distant future.  We can boldly approach His throne of grace, and pray directly to God in Jesus’ name.

Romans 5:2b tells of the future “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”  When Jesus returns, the faithful will live eternally with God.  That’s not just a “hope” in the ordinary meaning of the word, that is our assurance.  And in the assurance for our future, we can rejoice today – no matter what problems today may bring.  Again, I want that tangible benefit today.  Especially when times are tough.

The next passage points out that we won’t be immune from suffering, just because we have a great relationship with God.  But instead of destroying us, that suffering will be for our benefit, building Christian character, and making us more firm in our future hope.

Romans 5:5 finishes this paragraph by saying, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  As we wait for our future hope, we also have the love of God in our hearts today (that goes right along with the peace above).

The next section tells us that God loved us so much, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We didn’t deserve it.  In fact, since we were at war with God, we deserved only death.  That shows how much God loved us, even when we were in open rebellion against Him.  So since we have been justified, we have been reconciled with God, and He will save us from His coming wrath through Jesus’ blood.

I’d say all of this is a powerfully compelling reason to live a Christian life today, completely sold out to God.  Even if there wasn’t a future reward (which there is!).

The rest of Romans 5 tells us how we are justified, but first, it reminds us how sin entered the world.  Adam sinned, and all of his descendants inherited his punishment – death.  You might think that isn’t fair.  Honestly, God was gracious in establishing this pattern, and I’ll explain why.  If each of us had the opportunity of never dying in this current age if we just didn’t sin, we’d still all sin, and all die.  So the result would be the same as inheriting our punishment from our first ancestor.  But since God established the pattern of one person earning something, and many others inheriting that… God was able to use the same pattern to have Jesus live the only perfect life, and to have his spiritual descendants inherit His reward.

This shows God’s incredible grace.  One sin caused innumerable deaths, even for those before Moses (when the law was given) who didn’t break a specific law of God.  But Jesus’ one act of obedience – paying the penalty for sin with his perfect life – was after a seemingly infinite number of sins.  Romans 5:19b says, “…so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The bottom line is this:  Only Jesus deserves eternal life, because only Jesus lived the perfect life God requires.  Jesus wrote us into his will with his blood, leaving his reward (eternal life) to those who would believe in him and live the life God called them to live.  Jesus died to put the will in effect.  He now lives, and is distributing some of the benefits of that will to believers today including: 

  • Peace with God
  • Access to God’s grace and to God himself
  • Hope today for a future in God’s kingdom
  • Building Christian character through suffering
  • God’s love in our hearts

The final distribution of Jesus’ will will be at the Great White Throne Judgement when Jesus will judge the living and the dead.  Those whose names ARE NOT found in the book of life will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.  Those whose names ARE found in the book of life will have God “wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4) And will get to live with God and Jesus in paradise forever.

So, is it worth it to live a Christian life?  As for me, absolutely!  Sign me up!  

What do you think?

-Steve Mattison

Reflection Questions

  1. Is it worth it to you to live a Christian life? Why? What benefits do you receive? What is the alternative and the consequences?
  2. What do you know about God from your reading today? Thank Him.

How do you show up?

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 9 & 10
Psalms Reading: Psalm 33
New Testament Reading: Romans 3

I was struck by verses 3-5 of today’s reading in Psalm 33.

3 Sing to Him a new song;

Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

4 For the word of the Lord is upright,

And all His work is done in faithfulness.

5 He loves righteousness and justice;

The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord. (NASB 1995)

Are we singing the same old song of praise to God? The thoughts that stirred in me when I read this passage were that we are on a journey of getting to know God and His word is His love letter to us. If we are open to it, He is gradually revealing the beauty of His character to us. His word is truly “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV). 

Furthermore, verse 8 reminds us that we should fear Him and be standing in awe of Him!

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;

Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. (NASB 1995)

If we think about everything God has done and who He is, can we even help but do that? Well, I do think about Moses though from the reading earlier in the week. He seemed to lose sight pretty quickly of the majesty of God and that was evident in the way he communicated with God. He was showing up on holy ground with filthy sandals. However, some self-reflection compels me that I sometimes show up with filthy sandals on and don’t always remember to render the reverence God is due.

The contrast between David and Moses keeps revisiting my mind and heart, so maybe that’s a message God really needs me to hear and maybe you do, too. How are you showing up before God? Are we signing a new song of praise that can only be fueled by an intentional quest of getting to know Him more intimately. Otherwise, we will keep singing the same old song in those same old dirty sandals.

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are some new areas you can praise God in? 
  2. What new things have you learned about God’s character in this year’s reading so far that you could praise Him for?

The Weight of Unconfessed Sin

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 7 & 8
Psalms Reading: Psalm 32
New Testament Reading: Romans 2

The weight of unconfessed sin is heavy. Today’s passage in Psalm 32 helps us to see that unconfessed sin takes a spiritual, emotional and physical toll on us. David mentions that his body was wasting away under the burden of his unacknowledged sin.

Psalm 32

3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away

Through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. (NASB 1995)

When we confess our sins to God and repent of them, God is faithful to forgive. Many times we can be like Adam and Eve clamoring to find our leaves to cover our shame and nakedness. It is futile to try and conceal our sin from an omniscient, omnipresent God.  

5 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;

And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (NASB 1995)

I hope the admonition in verse 6 was not lost on you. 

6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;

Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. (NASB 1995)

This verse reminds me that we do not have unlimited time and opportunity to right our wrongs with the maker of the Universe. There will be a time when God can no longer be found, so if you are bearing the weight of unconfessed sin, what are you waiting for?

Romans 2 reminds us of some of the amazing attributes of God’s character: kindness, patience and tolerance. However, it also warns us not to take those attributes lightly.

4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (NASB 1995)

Meditating on how amazing our Heavenly Father truly is and how much He loves us should compel us to repent and to reconcile with Him. However, we are not special and there is a limit to His kindness, tolerance and patience. He is also a God of justice. We read in verse 11 of Romans 2, “For there is no partiality with God.” (NASB 1995) The subsequent verses make it clear what the outcome will be if we remain stubborn and unrepentant.

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (NASB 1995)

I would like to circle back to the Psalm 32 passage of how David’s unconfessed sin was causing his body to waste away.  We see a similar concept in Romans 2 and how our conscience accuses our thoughts and wears on us if we do not confess and repent of our wrongdoing. 

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (NASB 1995)

It all comes down to our hearts. In verse 29 of Romans 2, we see that our circumcision should be of our hearts. If we are a people after God’s own heart like David, we will inevitably have ‘the work of the law written in our hearts’ and our priority will be pleasing God and not man. That means confessing our sins and returning back to God while He still may be found.

29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (NASB 1995)

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. Are you currently bearing the burden of unconfessed sin? Enlist God’s help in confessing and freeing yourself of this burden. Go a step further and ask God to help you alter your course so that you aren’t falling into the same sin traps over and over that continue to get in the way of your relationship with God.
  2. In reflecting on your life, does it seem to show more of an effort toward pleasing man or pleasing God?
  3. What does God reveal about Himself in today’s Bible reading – and why does it matter?

Trusting God

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 5 & 6
Psalms Reading: Psalm 31
New Testament Reading: Romans 1

In today’s reading in Exodus, Moses gives us yet more examples of how not to talk to God. In chapter 5, we witness the irreverent tone Moses uses with the God of the universe.

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (NIV)

Maybe he needed another reminder that he was standing on holy ground. God then clearly lays out His plan to Moses for delivering the Israelites. He explains that He will use the force of His strong hand to make Pharaoh let the people go. 

Since Moses seems to forget He is conversing with Almighty God, God reminds him in chapter 6:

2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. 5 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. (NASB 1995)

The NASB 1995 translation gives the following footnote concerning verse 3: Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord.

Just think, Moses was privileged enough for God to utter His name to him! If this were a work of fiction and I had to write Moses’ response, I would want it to be a picture of Moses falling to his knees and begging for mercy for questioning God and not showing Him the praise and honor He is due. Unfortunately, even though God equips Moses with the very words he should say to the Israelites, Moses lets his fear of man overtake his fear of God. He becomes argumentative with God in verse 12 and 30 of Exodus chapter 6.

12 But Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” (NASB 1995)

30 But Moses said before the Lord, “Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?” (NASB 1995)

Moses’ fear was misplaced and showed a lack of trust in God and a lack of recognition of God’s might. He was more fearful of man at this moment and clearly didn’t trust God to come through for him. The Bible makes it clear that we must not let fear of man cause us to disobey God. Psalm 118:6 and Matthew 10:28 are great examples.

Psalm 118:

6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (NASB 1995)

Matthew 10:

28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (NASB 1995)

In sharp contrast to Moses, David demonstrates his trust in God and a recognition of God’s lovingkindness in Psalm 31:

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,

I say, “You are my God.”

15 My times are in Your hand;

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.

16 Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;

Save me in Your lovingkindness.

and

23 O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!

The Lord preserves the faithful

And fully recompenses the proud doer.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

All you who hope in the Lord. (NASB 1995)

It certainly seemed that David knew God on a much more intimate level and actively praised His amazing attributes. The scriptures tell us he was a man after God’s own heart. For all the flaws David had, that is pretty special to be described in this way.

Acts 13

22 After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’

May our faith always be bigger than our fear. May we be more like David when it comes to relying on God and trusting His character. 

Romans chapter 1 has great words of admonition concerning what our faith should look like:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. How can you deepen your prayer life with God to have it look more like someone after God’s own heart?
  2. On most days, which is bigger: your fear or your faith? 
  3. What picture do you get of God in today’s reading?

God Makes Holy Ground

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 3 & 4
Psalms Reading: Psalm 30
New Testament Reading: Romans Introduction Below

These words in Exodus 3:5 always give me pause:

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (NIV)

In this situation, Moses saw a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire and walked over to investigate it. He hears God’s voice from within the bush and approaches it, but God reminds Him of some important boundaries and guidelines (don’t come any closer, take off your sandals, remember this is holy ground). In verse 6 we read, 

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. (NIV)

If you stop here, you would think Moses gets it. He recognizes he is hearing from God Almighty. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t seem to completely sink in for him. I say that because Moses proceeds to pepper his conversation with God with all kinds of doubt and questioning.

God acknowledges that he has seen the suffering of His people and shares His plan with Moses in verse 10:

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (NIV)

Moses has the audacity to question God. 

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

As we read on, we see many instances of “But God, what about this or what about that.” 

I would like to contrast this dialogue between Moses and God with David’s words of praise in  Psalm 30.

1 I will exalt you, Lord,

    for you lifted me out of the depths

    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

Lord my God, I called to you for help,

    and you healed me.

3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

    you spared me from going down to the pit. (NIV)

David gives God the praise he is due. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. In reflecting on today’s reading, are you more like Moses or David?  
  2. If you find that you fall into a Moses mode more often than you would like, what steps could you take to be more like David?
  3. There have been many different human responses to God – some good, some bad – but what do we learn about God Himself in these passages? How does having a better understanding of who God is and how He works help us have a proper response. Is there perhaps something Moses didn’t understand at the time about God?

For our New Testament reading, we will be spreading out the gospels throughout the year, and reading Acts after we read Luke, so tomorrow we will jump ahead and begin reading the book of Romans, one chapter a day. In preparation, enjoy this

Romans Introduction

I’ll start by saying that I love the book of Romans.  It’s among my relatively few favorites.  

Similar to the book of Exodus, the book of Romans talks about slavery.  Slavery to sin, and deliverance from that slavery.  The book of Exodus records God’s laws for his people; but the book of Romans shows that no-one is able to obey that law completely.  And because nobody is able to follow God’s laws completely, all of us deserve to die.  Fortunately, the book of Romans also gives the antidote.

In the Book of Romans, we find what some call the “Roman Road to Salvation”.  There are a few variations, but it goes something like this…

  1. Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of GOD.”
    • Do you recognize you are a sinner and have disappointed GOD?
  1. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
    • Do you recognize the punishment for sin is eternal death?
      • Do you want this gift of eternal life that GOD wants to give you?
  1. Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    • Do you believe Jesus died to pay the punishment for your sins?
  1. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    • Do you believe God raised Jesus from the dead?
      • Do you agree to make Jesus Lord of your life?  This means living a life like he lived.
  1. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
    • Do you have peace with God?  If not, go back to step 4.
  1. Romans 12:1-2 describes the metamorphosis that takes place in all true believers, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
    • Does this accurately describe you?  If not, go back to step 4.

-Steve Mattison

Obedience in the Face of Fear

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 1 & 2
Psalms Reading: Psalm 29
New Testament Reading: Matthew 28

For me, the theme of today’s reading was obedience in the face of fear. If God is calling us, the only right answer is obedience. In yesterday’s reading of Matthew 28, we read about the agony Jesus experienced on the cross and how he alone had to bear the crushing weight of humanity’s sins. Jesus felt fear on the cross, but that did not stop him from responding with obedience to God’s plan. In Exodus 1 and 2 we learn that Israel is becoming a formidable threat to Egypt. Pharaoh tries to minimize this threat by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill any newborn boys right after they are delivered. The Hebrew midwives would not hear of taking part in such an abomination. They were obedient to God’s laws and the result was victorious. In Exodus 1 we read,

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. (NLT)

We read about more bravery in Exodus 2 when Moses’ mother kept the baby Moses hidden for three months. She then concocted a plan to place him in a basket among the river reeds. Moses’ sister Miriam hung out to see what would happen. As the story goes, Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and takes pity on him. I have to think Moses’ mother and sister had to have been afraid when they went to execute their plan, but they felt the fear and did it anyway. 

I think the acts of boldness of the Hebrew midwives and Moses’ mother and sister demonstrated that they must have had a healthy and reverential fear of God as David did. 

In the first two verses of Psalm 29, David highlights God’s splendor, glory, power and might.

1 Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;

    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.

2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.

    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. (NLT)

Following God often requires boldness and not letting our fears overshadow what God has called us to do. We have a special reminder in verse 11 of Psalm 29 that God equips us during hard times:

The Lord gives his people strength.

    The Lord blesses them with peace. (NLT)

If we trust in God’s goodness, we know that He has our best interest at heart and will supply us with the strength we need. Therefore, feel the fear and be obedient anyway.

-Kristy Cisneros

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with being obedient to God’s calling? Do you feel fear overshadows doing the right thing? Pray to God to deepen your trust. As we learned in yesterday’s reading, it is important to trust in God’s timing and goodness— even in the face of fear.
  2. What do we learn about God and His character in our Bible reading today?

Crying Out to God

Old Testament Reading: Exodus Introduction Below
Psalms Reading: Psalm 28
New Testament Reading: Matthew 27

In today’s reading, I couldn’t help but see some parallels between David and Jesus. In both of these passages, we see a crying out to God in a time of true despair or suffering.  

In Psalm 28, we read David’s heartfelt words:

1 ​​To you, Lord, I call;

    you are my Rock,

    do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent,

    I will be like those who go down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy

    as I call to you for help,

as I lift up my hands

    toward your Most Holy Place.
(NIV)

The words, “For if you remain silent” stood out to me. Up until that point, David clearly felt that God had been silent. He wanted to be reminded that God was on his side and actively fighting for him. 

In Matthew 27:46, Jesus also cried out to God in distress:

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). NIV

To me, that sentence contains some of the most poignant words in scripture. Jesus is truly taking on the weight of the world at this moment by bearing all of humanity’s sins. The weight of it must have been crushing. It must have felt so terribly dark and cold. In this case, he alone had to pay the price and it was not the plan for God to rescue him from death; however, we know how the story ends. We know God did not forsake him in the grave. We read in Acts 2:31: 

31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. (NIV)

When we are in the depths of despair or metaphorically running from danger, it can seem like God is silent and turning a deaf ear to us. However, His word assures us in Romans 8:28 that He is not turning His back to us. 

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

In the latter portion of Psalm 28, we read David’s recognition that God came through for him.  

6 Praise be to the Lord,

    for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

    and with my song I praise him. (NIV)

Notice the words from verse 7: “my heart trusts in him.” How do we cultivate trust in God? One of the best ways is to learn about Him through His word. His character radiates beautifully all throughout scripture. One aspect of God’s character that really spoke to me in today’s reading is His tenderness. In Psalm 28:9 we read: “Save your people! Bless Israel, your special possession. Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever.” (NLT)

Isaiah 40:11 gives us more insight into how He shepherds His flock: 

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

    He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

God carries us close to His heart. Now that’s an amazing image! Where we are might feel very cold and alone in the moment, but God is there holding us close to His heart. Unlike Jesus on the cross, we never have to bear the weight of our burdens alone. He is working things out for the good for those who love Him. It might not look like how we imagined, but it will be beautiful in the long run. Trust His timing. Trust His goodness. 

-Kristy Cisneros

Kristy is married to Pastor Andy Cisneros who pastors Guthrie Grove Church in Pelzer, SC. This May they will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary! They are the proud parents of two awesome children: Brooke and Logan. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you feel that you trust in God’s timing and goodness? If not or maybe not as much as you should, make it an intentional prayer that God will help you grow in these areas.
  2. How can you use this year’s Bible reading plan to grow further in your appreciation of God’s timing and goodness? Remember this year’s plan is focused on reading with a lens for understanding God’s character more richly.

And tomorrow we will begin reading in the book of Exodus for our Old Testament reading. So, here is our introduction to the book of Exodus…

Exodus Introduction

The book of Exodus continues the story from Genesis of God’s creating a nation of His own from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  These people would be different from the rest of the people on Earth.  It tells of the oppression His people faced as slaves in Egypt.  It then tells how God raised up a deliverer (Moses), and miraculously rescued His people from slavery – to eventually bring them to the promised land.  

Many times throughout Exodus, we can recognize parallels to the way God rescued us from slavery to sin by raising up a deliverer (Jesus), so we can eventually inherit the Kingdom of God.

There are incredible parallels between God’s sparing the Israelites at Passover by the blood of a lamb, and the way we are spared death by the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus).

The Israelites were figuratively baptized when the Red Sea parted so they could walk through on dry ground.

As if all this weren’t exciting enough, God, through Moses, led the people to Mount Sinai, where the people saw the mountain engulfed in flame, and heard the physical voice of God, as he gave them the 10 commandments.  (See a parallel of this to us in Hebrews 12: 18-29.)

The Israelites were so terrified they begged Moses to talk with God, and then bring word back to the people.  They thought they would die if they heard God speaking anymore.  God agreed that this was a good idea, and promised to later send a spokesman, raised up from among his brothers – like Moses, who would represent God to the people.  This was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus.

The rest of Exodus, as well as all of Leviticus, and part of Numbers, takes place at Mount Sinai – as God gave His laws to His people.  As you read, you’ll find out that His people had difficulty obeying God’s laws.  

In 1 Peter 2:9, we’re told that God has chosen us, just like he originally chose Abraham’s descendants.  And He expects us to be different – to declare the praises of God.  How well are you obeying?

-Steve Mattison

This Only Do I Seek

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 49 & 50

Psalms Reading: Psalm 27

New Testament Reading: Matthew 26

(Sorry, if you didn’t receive this earlier today – it seems to have appeared on wordpress and facebook this morning, but not to the email list…Or, sorry if you DID receive it earlier this morning and this is now a repeat.)

If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?


For some of you, the answer might be a trip to a neat destination (Ireland seems pretty awesome). For others, it might be to finally marry that person of your dreams. Maybe you would ask to have children one day, or for your current children to have successful lives. If you’re in some financial difficulty, like so many are, maybe you’d wish to just be debt-free. None of those things are bad of course! However, they aren’t the most important thing; and thankfully, you don’t need to have a magic genie in a bottle to acquire the most important thing. It is readily available to each and every believer right now.


In Psalm 27, the author (likely not David due to his references to the Temple) states that the only desire he is seeking after is to be in the presence of YHWH in His holy temple. For the author, God’s presence was the most precious gift one could ask for; it surpassed all the greatness to be found on earth. For in God’s presence, one can finally be at rest and peace (see Psalm 23), and receive the forgiveness of sins that all of us long for (see Psalm 25). Being in God’s presence is everything; and thankfully, it is readily available to us.


In the New Testament, Jesus says that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20), and wherever Jesus is found, God’s presence is found, too (see John 1:14; 14:9). If you truly want to experience God’s presence today, the greatest gift that you could ever experience in this life, it is available with other believers. When we gather together to worship, to serve, or even to eat a meal, the presence of God is there. We feel closest to God when we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in the faith, gathering together in Jesus’ name. And while you can pray to God in private by yourself, you will never experience His powerful glory if you remain alone; we need to prioritize time together as believers (Hebrews 10:25). We were not designed to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but to enjoy fellowship with each other.

Brothers and sisters, come and join with your fellow Christians today and this week. There is no greater gift on earth than what you can experience there.

-Talon Paul

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What verse from Psalm 27 would be a good one to have on your refrigerator and in your heart this week? Make it so.
  2. What are the benefits of being together with your Christian brothers and sisters? List as many as you can. In what ways can you make more opportunities and time to do this more and more?
  3. What do you learn of God in your reading today?

This Only Do I Seek

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 49 & 50

Psalms Reading: Psalm 27

New Testament Reading: Matthew 26

If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?


For some of you, the answer might be a trip to a neat destination (Ireland seems pretty awesome). For others, it might be to finally marry that person of your dreams. Maybe you would ask to have children one day, or for your current children to have successful lives. If you’re in some financial difficulty, like so many are, maybe you’d wish to just be debt-free. None of those things are bad of course! However, they aren’t the most important thing; and thankfully, you don’t need to have a magic genie in a bottle to acquire the most important thing. It is readily available to each and every believer right now.


In Psalm 27, the author (likely not David due to his references to the Temple) states that the only desire he is seeking after is to be in the presence of YHWH in His holy temple. For the author, God’s presence was the most precious gift one could ask for; it surpassed all the greatness to be found on earth. For in God’s presence, one can finally be at rest and peace (see Psalm 23), and receive the forgiveness of sins that all of us long for (see Psalm 25). Being in God’s presence is everything; and thankfully, it is readily available to us.


In the New Testament, Jesus says that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20), and wherever Jesus is found, God’s presence is found, too (see John 1:14; 14:9). If you truly want to experience God’s presence today, the greatest gift that you could ever experience in this life, it is available with other believers. When we gather together to worship, to serve, or even to eat a meal, the presence of God is there. We feel closest to God when we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in the faith, gathering together in Jesus’ name. And while you can pray to God in private by yourself, you will never experience His powerful glory if you remain alone; we need to prioritize time together as believers (Hebrews 10:25). We were not designed to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but to enjoy fellowship with each other.

Brothers and sisters, come and join with your fellow Christians today and this week. There is no greater gift on earth than what you can experience there.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. What verse from Psalm 27 would be a good one to have on your refrigerator and in your heart this week? Make it so.
  2. What are the benefits of being together with your Christian brothers and sisters? List as many as you can. In what ways can you make more opportunities and time to do this more and more?
  3. What do you learn of God in your reading today?

Put IT to Work

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 47 & 48

Psalms Reading: Psalm 26

New Testament Reading: Matthew 25

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about a man who entrusts his money to three of his servants while he is away. They each receive a different amount of wealth: 10, 5, and 1. The master doesn’t instruct them on what to do with it; he simply leaves it in their possession and takes off. The first two double their money: the 10 now having 20, and the 5 now at 10. However, the servant who only had 1 chose not to risk losing it; he chose to bury it in the ground so that his master wouldn’t be upset with him. He was terrified of what his master might do to him if he was to lose his one and only amount of money. Unfortunately for him, this was the wrong choice and he was punished for it, because he could have made at least a little amount from it at the bank.


The parable is revealing of our Christian walk as well. Our Master, Jesus, has entrusted us with different things in this life to use and bring others to saving faith. Some of us have more money and opportunities than others, but every single one of us has been entrusted with something. You might have money, people, a position at work or school, a certain hobby, physical health, or a variety of different gifts. Jesus expects us to use whatever we have been given for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t want us to waste it, and honors it when we give it a shot (did you notice that both of those who tried doubled their investment?). When we choose not to make an attempt, we are operating out of fear, which is the opposite of what Jesus and God empowers us with (2 Timothy 1:7).


What have you been entrusted with by your Master? Take some time to write down what skills, people, and possessions you have been given in a column on a piece of paper. How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Take some time to brainstorm and write down in a separate column next to that first list any ideas that come to mind.


You’ve been given something; don’t waste it. And Jesus is with you always through the process, so don’t fear anything (Matthew 28:20)

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. Take some time to create your two columns: What have you been entrusted with by your Master? and How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Return to it throughout the weekend with more thoughts. What have you been given that you never considered using to spread the good news of the Kingdom?
  2. Has fear stopped you from using your talents? What should we be most fearful of (men, what others think, what if I mess up – or – what will happen when the Master returns)?
  3. What can we learn from the other two parables in Matthew 25?
  4. What do we learn of God and His Son Jesus in our reading today?
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