Everything or Nothing: A tale of two women

John 12

In Judges 17 we meet Micah’s mother. She promises a certain amount of money to God but holds back most (17:3). She built an altar and disgraces herself by not giving everything to God. Fast forward to the New Testament where we meet a woman who meets Jesus and takes her most treasured possession, her perfume, and pours it on Jesus’ feet. The comparison is stark. On one hand, you have Micah’s mother who holds back and on the other hand, you have a woman who lavishly gives everything at Jesus’s feet.

We all have things that we value and take great care to keep. At the beginning of John 12, we see the thing Mary considered precious — a bottle of expensive perfume. This perfume was not just a fragrance to Mary. It was worth nearly a year’s wages. Mary wasn’t just saving this perfume for a special day. This bottle was her financial security.

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

In an act of love, Mary poured her perfume onto Jesus’ feet. She knelt to the ground and washed His feet, ignoring the opinions of others. Mary gave radically. She gave not knowing if she would be able to live through the day but trusting Jesus anyway. She gave with such extravagance that the disciples told her she had given too much.

To put Mary’s situation in today’s terms, it would be like going to church next Sunday, feeling called to give, and tithing your entire year’s salary! Yet, this is the same way God gave to us. He gave His best when He gave us Jesus. God not only calls us to radical faith, but He also calls us to radical giving.

What woman are you like? Are you giving everything to the Lord? Ask yourself how you can be more extravagant in your giving. What’s holding you back from pouring your security out at Jesus’ feet? How do these verses show us that we can trust Him with what’s most precious to us?

Is there anything in your life you have not given to God?

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 17-18 and John 12

Timing is Everything

John 11

Jesus’ friend Lazarus falls ill, but by the time Jesus reaches Lazarus’ house, it’s too late. Jesus weeps for His friend then raises Lazarus from the dead!

Have you ever wondered about God’s timing? You are not alone. Some of Jesus’ close friends did, too. When Lazarus became deathly ill, his sisters, Mary, and Martha, asked Jesus for help. They knew Jesus was traveling and His ministry was growing, but He was a close friend. Surely, he could take a few minutes to heal their brother. But Jesus didn’t show up. Two days later when He arrived, it was too late. Lazarus was dead.

Martha and Mary were not only grief stricken, but deeply troubled by Jesus’ apparent lack of concern. “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again’’’ (John 11:21–23). Even hearing Jesus’ words, the sisters were probably wondering, “Lord, what are You thinking now?!”

“Whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:26).

As they traveled to Lazarus’ gravesite, Martha questioned Jesus’ timing again. His response to her was clear, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” After thanking God, Jesus called out loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did. Lazarus, still wrapped in strips of linen, but fully alive, walked out of the tomb (John 11:38-44).

Maybe you’ve questioned Jesus’ timing. You knew exactly when He needed to show up and what He needed to do, but it didn’t work out the way you had planned. Even when we don’t understand, He can be trusted.

Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

• Have you ever doubted God’s timing? What did you learn from that situation? If you’re unsure about God’s plan or timing in a situation now, would you surrender it to Him? 

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 15-16 and John 11

How, Who, What?

John 10

How can we live a full life? We all want our lives to be fulfilled. We all want to know that answer, don’t we? Well, we can’t answer how until we focus on the more important question: What or who is the source of abundant life?

Jesus compares Himself to a good shepherd who feeds and cares for His sheep. Tired of Jesus’ metaphors, religious leaders corner Jesus at the temple and ask Him directly: Are you the Christ?

Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” What is Jesus saying here? Chasing anything other than Jesus will steal what God has blessed you with, kill your dreams, and destroy your purpose in life. Only Jesus can restore the blessings that have been stolen, bring life to dreams that have died, and give our lives purpose. Possessions come and go, as does the enjoyment they bring. The only way to experience joy that never leaves is to have something that cannot fail. An abundant life comes from Jesus, who never fails.

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

When a reporter asked John D. Rockefeller how much money was enough to make him happy, the millionaire replied, “Just one dollar more.” Nothing on Earth is ever going to satisfy us. But if you ask anyone who has made Jesus the Lord of their life, they will tell you that they are blessed beyond anything they could have ever asked or imagined. A life apart from Jesus will always leave you lacking, but a life centered on Jesus is full of abundance.

• What do you strive for in life? Is what you strive for different from what Jesus strived for?

• What are some common traps that keep us from living the life Jesus wants for us?

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 13-14 and John 10

The Blind See

John 9

Jesus meets a blind man and heals him with a combination of dirt, spit, and the Holy Spirit. When the man’s neighbors learn about his healing, religious leaders come to Jesus looking for answers.

Can you imagine living blind? Your view of the world would be only what people told you.

If you were blind, wouldn’t you be willing to try just about anything to be healed? Can’t you see yourself thinking, “Cover my eyes with a fresh mud pie made out of spit? Good plan!” Because that’s exactly what Jesus did. After covering the man’s eyes with mud Jesus told him to go wash his face. Instantly, his dark world became light.

“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

Religious leaders overlooked the healing miracle because they wanted to ensure it happened according to their regulations. Was this the same man who had been blind, the beggar? If so, who had healed him? Didn’t Jesus know He wasn’t supposed to heal people on the Sabbath? Their interrogation ended abruptly with the former blind man proclaiming, “I was blind, but now I see!” John 9:25

Everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior has a before and after story. If you’ve gone from darkness to light, your story has been written so the works of God might be displayed in you. Your story is just as miraculous as the one in John 9. You were blind, and now you see. Now walk in sight.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 11-12 and John 9

Compare and Contrast

Judges 9-10 and John 8

The people wanted Gideon as king. He declined but Gideon named his son Abimelech (Judges 8:31), literally “my father is king.” So while Gideon had refused the crown (8:23), he had also subtlely claimed it by having a son whose name was “my father is king.” This Abimelech, no doubt exalted by the experience, further exalts himself and betrays his father’s legacy at the insistence of the people of Shechem (9:1-6), killing seventy brothers on one stone (9:5). One brother, Jotham, is not killed, and Jotham curses Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem for their betrayal (9:7-21). 

Abimelech only reigns three years (9:22), and God causes “bad blood” to grow up between him and the leaders of Shechem (9:23-25). They find another leader to betray Abimelech now, Gaal son of Ebed (9:26). Zebul, the ruler of the city, hears of the plot, warns Abimelech, and Abimelech sets an ambush (9:30-45) and ends up burning to death 1,000 men and women of Shechem shut in a tower (9:46-49). 

He tries the same thing again at Thebez (9:50-52), but now aware of his tactic, a woman drops a millstone on his head, mortally wounding him (9:53), so he calls his armor bearer to kill him so that people would not say he was killed by a woman (9:54).

Fast forward to the beginning of John 8 and you have a woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees bring this woman to Jesus and ask him what they should do. He says anyone who is without sins let him cast the first stone. All of them dropped their stone and walk away. Leaves only Jesus left with the woman. He says go and sin no more.

There is a lot of similarities in these stories. The principle that I took out of both is that stones wound! Silly I know but true. Arrogance hurts too. There is a lot of arrogance in both of these stories. Arrogance tends to start when we think we have more power than someone else. Do you feel you have more power than someone today? How do you use that power? That influence. We all struggle with that desire to be above someone. To want to control someone. But the one person that could control us, overpower us, bring us low – chose to die for us instead. What does that tell us? How can you give up some of your power this week? How can you be a servant to someone else? It takes losing some power, control and it takes time. But Jesus calls us to that. Are you up to the challenge?

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 9-10 and John 8

What will it take for you to believe?

John 7

In John chapter 7 you find an interesting story about Jesus’ brothers who question his authority. Jesus’ brothers try to get Jesus to go up to Jerusalem, so that the miraculous works that he had been doing ( 2:1–11; 4:46–54; 5:2–12; 6:4–14, 19, 21) would be more visible: “No man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” His brothers are very excited that Jesus can do such wonders as heal the sick and turn water into wine and feed 5,000 people; so they want him to get on with the business of showing himself to the world. In one sense Jesus’ brothers have a lot of confidence in Jesus: they really believe he can do miracles. They have seen him. Verse 5, then, is a shock: John says that the reason they urged Jesus on in his miraculous demonstration of power was “because even his brothers did not believe in him.” You can believe Jesus is a great miracle worker and yet still lack the faith Jesus wanted. His miracle-working is insufficient for saving faith.

Are we sometimes like Jesus’ brothers? Taking bits and pieces of Jesus but not fully believing everything he has done. Maybe believing he is a great teacher, but not accepting him as our savior. Maybe we believe that he did those miracles all those years ago, but he could never do a miracle for you today. What will it take for you to believe? Read John chapter 7 and Judges chapters 7&8 and try to find the principles for true belief. The goal is to have saving faith and believing fully in Jesus Christ in everything.  Jesus says in John chapter 7:37-38, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scriptures said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Do you believe this? Make it your prayer today.

-Andy Cisneros

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 7-8 and John 7

Faithful

Numbers 31-32

Numbers 32 18

In the second half of Numbers, we have seen plenty of dissatisfaction from the people of Israel. Even Moses was fed up with the complaining of the Israelites. As his life was drawing to a close, he had no patience for any more unfaithfulness. So when the tribes of Reuben and Gad requested to take their homes before crossing the Jordan, he assumed the worst. As it turned out, at least in this instance, these tribes had their hearts in the right place. They were actually satisfied with what they already saw, and God honored their request.
Moses’ reaction is understandable given what he has gone through with Israel. After forty years of wandering and waiting to enter Canaan, a request to not enter the land would have been foolish. Similarly, if Reuben and Gad failed to fight alongside their brother tribes, it would have constituted treachery. But the tribes were merely asking the Lord to provide, not complaining about what they didn’t have. And they did prove faithful to their commitment to fight throughout the campaign in Canaan.
For Reuben, Gad, and a segment of Manasseh, the battle began early. They drove out the enemy, an important requirement for faithfully claiming the land. They even changed the names of the cities to remove the stigma of false gods as well as the people who worshiped them.
What Moses originally suspected as a sinful act became a breath of fresh air in the book of Numbers. Where others had complained, these tribes asked from the Lord. Where others served their own interests, these tribes were willing to leave their families in order to serve their brothers. And where others were drawn to false gods and foreign worship, these tribes drove out the enemy. The key difference was faith. These tribes trusted the Lord to give generously to meet their needs, and that faith produced obedience in their hearts and deeds. Even when Israel seemed desperate or disappointing, God was always in complete control. He doesn’t get overwhelmed by anything, even disobedience. Remember that as your faithfulness waivers or your situation worsens, God’s love and faithfulness remains. When you feel like a failure or threatened by anything at all, know that God’s grace is sufficient, and His faithfulness is assured. Your circumstances will change, but your God will not.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31-32&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 33-34 as we start the 11th week of the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Appointed Time

Numbers 28-30

Numbers 28 2 NIV
Numbers 28:2-2″Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’
In this and the next chapter, we have a repetition of the laws concerning the great religious observances of the nation. This repetition is an orderly statement covering the whole year, and thus showing its relationship throughout to spiritual things. It was set forth new and repeated on the eve of their entering upon possession of the land, in order that the arrangements for worship might be duly carried out.
First, we find the religious rites connected with the smaller time divisions, those of the days, and the weeks, and the months (28. 1-15). Then we have those associated with the year, those of the Spring-time, Passover, and Pentecost (28. 16-31), and finally those of the Autumn, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles (29). The words we have emphasized are those which, introducing this section, reveal the value of these rites. In the first phase, the food offering is the Hebrew word Korban. It always refers to the present which secures admittance. Today in the East it is called the Face-offering. In all of this, we see the meaning of these religious rites. They recognized the relation of men to God and their need for Him for all life. They need Him every day, every week, every month, every year. Because all time is arranged for and in Divine relationship. So also, is all activity. If the time is redeemed, all activity is sanctified. Here is a question.  Have you set aside regular time to be with, express love, listen to God?  Is there a rhythm to what you are doing for the LORD? A pattern?  Or are you acting, saying, doing things for God sporadically? When you feel like it? It’s time for you to recognize God wants you all the time, in every situation, for HIM.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+28-30&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 31-32 on our2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Daughters of God

Numbers 26-27

Numbers 27 7 NIV
In our passage today, in Numbers 27:1-11, the five daughters of Zelophehad (what a name) face issues concerning land inheritance. Upon the death of their father, Zelophehad, the five sisters boldly approached Moses and other leaders to ask for the property that rightly belonged to their father’s clan (vv. 2-4). Moses brought their case before the Lord, who said the women are “right.” He proceeded to establish the legal requirement for handling such cases in the future (vv. 6-11). At first glance, this may seem to be a slow and boring account of how property rights for women were established among the Israelites in the ancient Near East, but there is a lot to learn here.
Land is among God’s promises to Abraham (see Gen. 12:113:14-1715:7). It’s an inheritance of God’s children, an expression of their covenantal relationship with Yahweh. There are theological implications for the daughters of Zelophehad and anyone who might disinherit their land. For their “father’s name to disappear from his clan” (v. 4) is to be cut off from the Lord’s covenant community. This explains why the five sisters are “right” in their request.
The case of the daughters of Zelophehad sets the precedent for future Hebrew families without male heirs. The Lord’s response reminds readers that He is always making a way for women to have full rights to His covenant community and His blessings. God the Father watches over the socially vulnerable and cares for them as His children. If you ever feel vulnerable just know that God will always fight to keep you in His covenantal love just as He did for the women of that time.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+26-27&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 28-30 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Trust

Numbers 23-25

Numbers 23 19 NIV
Numbers 23:19 describes a foundational aspect of God’s character, his faithfulness. Scripture says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” As believers, we need a revelation of God’s faithfulness. Being able to fully trust God is the beginning of living an abundant life. If you don’t fully believe that God is faithful to lead you into the best possible life you could live, then you won’t seek out his will, trust him with your possessions, or be able to fully enjoy his presence.
God’s word promises us in Numbers 23:19 that God is perfectly faithful, steadfast, and true. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:28 promises, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Your God is faithful to you. No matter what you do, he will be there for you. His faithfulness isn’t dependent upon your works. All he requires is a willing heart to bring about the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
You aren’t meant to live life apart from the knowledge of God’s faithfulness. You aren’t meant to live with the weight of doing life on your own. Man may fail you, but your God will not. Family and friends may not be there when you need them, but your God will always be there for you.
Where do you feel on your own? In what ways do you need a fresh revelation of God’s faithfulness? He promises to be true to you. He promises to see you through any situation you find yourself in. Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Faithfulness is foundational to the very character of God.
Respond to God’s faithfulness today. Let His promises calm the parts of your life that feel unsure. Think about the things you’ve put your trust in. Remember, God promises that His faithfulness will outlast anything you see. May your affections for him be more today. May you respond to his faithfulness with your own. And may you experience the love and joy of a Father who loves you perfectly and completely.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+23-25&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 26-27 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan