Learning from Obedience & Disobedience

Deuteronomy 3 & 4

Deut 4 9 NIV

We live near apple country. In the fall we have driven to the mountains and visited apple orchards. The taste of ripe apples from the tree is amazing. The apple trees are pretty hanging with the delicious varieties of apples and the views are really beautiful. In Deuteronomy 3, Moses is told that he can “Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.” Imagine Moses standing on the mountain looking at the Promised Land. He would not enter the land because of his former disobedience. I think this consequence was important for the Israelites. Moses was so close to God and was an example for the entire Israelite community. He was their appointed leader and they followed his example. They could also learn from his disobedience. Experiencing this consequence of not entering the land probably made a big impact on the Israelites and Joshua. In fact, God tells Moses to “charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he will give them as an inheritance the land which you will see.”

I grew up with siblings. I had an older brother and sister and I learned from their example. If they did something good at school or church, they were rewarded with awards and praise. It was great because I learned what I should do by their example.

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses is giving his all to make the people understand the importance of obedience to the LORD. Not only will the Israelites and their children be blessed by obeying, but if they keep the decrees and laws they will have wisdom and understanding. They will set an example for other nations. People will hear these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

Our personal obedience to God can be a positive example for others. Obedience leads to blessings for us and for others.

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+3-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 5-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

Transformation

Exodus 22-24

Exodus 22 31 a NIV

                Social transformation is often a long and painful process.  Think about efforts at equality within the United States.  The founders’ vision was for a society where everyone had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The Declaration of Independence expressed this in 1776.  Yet it took nearly a century and a Civil War to bring an end to slavery.  It took nearly 150 years for women to be able to vote and it nearly 200 years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make significant strides toward racial equality.

                How does one take a community that has been enslaved for over 400 years and transform them into a nation that shines a beacon of light to all other nations in the world pointing them to the true God.  How does an entire nation become holy, set apart for God’s service and God’s glory?

                This is the challenge that was before God, Moses and the nation of Israel.  They were leaving behind one type of structure, slavery, to enter into a new way of living.  They needed a new structure to help them know how to live.  They had to be taught how to live in community.  They had to be taught how to work, and how to rest, how to care for their neighbors, and how to punish wrongdoing that threatened to destroy their community.

                In today’s reading we see how God begins to organize and structure the transforming community of Israel.  He teaches them how they are to live and become a holy nation and a royal priesthood.  This transformation would not come quickly or easily.

                They had to be taught how to show respect for personal property: “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.” (22:1)  Those who steal must give restitution.

                They had to be taught to respect the family structure and to place their sexuality within proper boundaries: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.” (22:16-17)

                They had to be taught that there were severe consequences for failing to follow appropriate sexual boundaries: “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.” (22:19).

                They had to be taught to have empathy and to show kindness to strangers and people who were different: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (22:21).

                They had to be taught to have compassion for people in the community who had suffered major losses: “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. (22:22).

                They had to be taught to show respect both to God and to their earthly leaders: “ Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” (22:28)

                They had to be taught how to live as a just community by not giving false testimony, and by neither showing favoritism toward the poor nor withholding justice from the poor (23:1-6).

                They had to be taught to care for their bodies and minds by getting appropriate rest. (23:12).

                It was also important that everyone be taught these and other guidelines for how to live in community as God’s people and that they verbally acknowledge that they understand and intend to follow “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (24:3)

                Israel’s transformation from slavery to covenant people of God living a set apart life as the community of God’s people was a slow and challenging process.  It was painfully difficult, but necessary.  In the end, people failed more often than they succeeded to carrying out their assignments.  And yet, somehow, despite tremendous opposition from aggressive and hate filled neighbors, the Nation of Israel survived.

                As Christians, we can learn much from studying how God worked with His people Israel to bring about their transformation.  It is important to note that they were God’s people first, and then they were given this particular set of laws.  In the same way, as Christians, we become God’s people first, through faith in Jesus Christ, and then we commit to following Jesus and obeying Jesus’ commands.  We do not become God’s people by following laws, but by following Jesus Christ.  However, when we follow Jesus Christ, we do not descend into lawlessness.  Structure is still required.  So Jesus spends three years teaching his disciples how to live as the people of God who are called to be holy, set apart to be a light to all nations.  We complete the mission that the nation of Israel began, and we do so following the yoke or community guidelines as laid down by Jesus Christ.  The foundational teaching of Jesus is to Love God and Love our Neighbors.  That is a good place for each of us to start each day.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+22-24&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 25-27 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sweet & Sour

Revelation Ch. 10

Revelation 10 11 NIIV.png

Every time that I go back and read through Revelation, I think about how awesome it would be to see it in a movie or comic book, since it is full of amazing imagery, suspense, and some humor. I see a little bit of dramatic humor coming out in chapter ten, as we are about to get the information that we have been desiring since chapter five… and then we don’t. I feel as if John wants to keep us on the suspense train as long as possible in order to make his point.

 

After the sixth trumpet sounds, we are introduced to an angel that is holding a “small” scroll in his hand. Now, this scroll is likely the same Scroll that we saw in God’s hand in chapter five, and the same Scroll that had the seven seals broken off through chapters six, seven, and eight. Narratively speaking, we have not learned the contents of that original Scroll yet, so it is unlikely that this is a brand-new scroll that is being introduced into the storyline. The size of the Scroll is not a major point; it is possible that the Scroll had to become smaller for John to later eat it. If the Scroll was the same size as it was in chapter five, being able to fit in God’s hand, John could be eating it for quite a while.

 

Coming back to the dramatics of the story, we are finally going to learn what the Scroll says! This is the moment when we find out what God’s message is to His people!… and then John eats it… and it is sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach… What in the world is going on here?

 

John is acting like one of the Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel, who also was told to eat a scroll from God and then to speak the message of its contents (see Ezekiel 3:1-3). In like manner, whatever John is going to speak next in the story is going to be the contents of this Scroll. Although it is a strange method to communicate to the seven churches, it gets the job done; it is probably better that we don’t question everything God chooses to do, because we could drive ourselves crazy trying to understand it all.

 

What we can learn practically today from this message is that sometimes God’s message can be sweet and bitter at the same time. The gospel is fantastic news that will bring us eternal, perfect life, but is also bitter as we are called to die to ourselves daily as we follow Jesus. Just like everything in life, there are good and difficult consequences to our decisions, and the decision to follow Jesus is no different. I encourage you to look at both sides of the coin before moving forward, because it can become difficult. Is the reward enough for you to go through the bitter consequences?

 

Talon Paul

Signs

READ REVELATION CHAPTER 1

Revelation 1 3 road sign

Why do road signs exist? Road signs are very useful for driving and directing traffic and preventing unwanted circumstances. If followed correctly the road signs are very helpful to everyday life. They stop us before we get hit by other cars in the intersection, they warn us of upcoming obstacles and they generally help us know where we are at and where we are going.

“In the United States, the 1900s also came with a call for signs to meet automobile industry growth.Drivers were easily getting lost without signs. The signs that did exist at the time were often damaged or broken. As a result, Americans were becoming aware of a need for signs.”[1]

What do signs have to do with Revelation? Well I’m glad you asked. Actually, it’s in the very first verse of Revelation. In the NASB Rev. 1:1 says this “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bondservant John,”

The word communicated also can mean signified or to be made known. In other words God used an angel to “signify” (use signs, just like we use road signs) to communicate with John, so he could then reveal to “His bond servants” (Us/Christians) the things that have taken place, that are taking place and that will take place in the future (Revelation 1:19), during the time John was receiving this Revelation.  Hence the name of the book.

So, road signs are a sort of revelation of roadways and intersections, just like the things revealed to John in Revelation, passed down to us, are like road signs to living a Christian life. What John writes in the book of Revelation must be taken seriously just like road signs we encounter every day. That is because what John says, sees, hears, feels, and smells in Revelation are warnings, and guidelines on how to correctly live one’s life as a disciple of Jesus. While at the same time revealing consequences for the unjust/ungodly, and rewards for the Righteous and Godly. Revelation exists in the form it does not to confuse its readers (although it can be confusing at times) but to simplify the life of a Christian and not get lost.

Revelation, as we will find out in further investigation, has many different signs of its own resulting in various objects, colors, shapes, smells, images, numbers, places and characters. I want you throughout this entire study of revelation (Not just my part) to write down all the different colors, numbers, images, metaphors, etc. Look them up and question what they mean. Circle/underline/write down phrases that occur more than twice and also question what they have to do with Christian discipleship. You may be surprised how interesting they can be!

Jesse Allen

 

[1] https://www.degemmill.com/history-traffic-signs/

She Calls Out, But Is Ignored

Proverbs

Proverbs 1 20 a

The wisdom of God is personified as a woman in Proverbs 1:20-33.

20 “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
21 on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:”

These verses paint a picture of Lady Wisdom loudly crying out in the middle of the city for people to listen.  She is desperately trying to get everyone’s attention.  The suggestion here is that God wants everyone to hear and respond to his wisdom.  Furthermore, everyone is eventually going to hear the loud calls, and will have to make the decision to either accept or ignore the offer.

 

Although wisdom is loudly calling out, few are listening to her.  The simple, the mockers and the fools are all ignoring her pleas.

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?”

 

Many will ignore the calls for wisdom, but the wisdom of God is available to those who do listen and turn from their sinful ways.

23 “Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.”

Nobody likes to be rebuked, to be strongly reprimanded, or have their actions criticized.  However, God will give understanding and wisdom to those that do repent when they have been rebuked.

 

Next the attention switches back to all those that continually fail to listen to God’s wisdom and are instead pursuing their own desires.

24 “But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
25 since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.”

These verses reiterate that this group of people had the opportunity to listen to wisdom and obey God’s truths, but they instead willingly choose to ignore God.  There are consequences for their choices.  Notice that these verses state when disaster strikes and when calamity overtakes, not if disaster strikes or if calamity overtakes.

 

The next passage illustrates the need to seek wisdom before we act.  Once we have acted foolishly or sinned, we must face the consequences.  Even if we ask for forgiveness and repent, there are often still consequences that we have to face.

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

We must wisely choose the correct path so that we can avoid disaster or calamity.  Too often we spend so much energy and time trying to get out of tough spots and wiggle our way out of bad situations that were brought on by our own poor choices. We would be far better off to listen to wisdom and avoid these bad situations and tough spots altogether.

 

The last two verses in the chapter contrast the foolish and the wise man.

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Failing to follow God’s wisdom has consequences.  Consequences now, but ultimately the greatest consequence will be on the final day of judgement.  Similarly, wisely following God’s plan does not guarantee a problem free life, but it will give you peace and joy in this life, and most importantly it will ensure a perfect and eternal life in the kingdom.

Jill McClain

Never Too Messy for God

INTRODUCTION to PROVERBS

1 Chronicles 22 9

Solomon, who is he and why should I know that name?  First, let’s review the salacious story that led up to the birth of Solomon.  It was Spring, a time when most of the kings in the land would go to battle, due to favorable weather conditions and plentiful food.  However, King David, decided for whatever reason to send his soldiers out to battle, but he himself stayed back in Jerusalem, which certainly went against the warrior king’s typical protocol.  On one of these fine Spring evenings, King David took a walk out on his roof top. As he was strolling around he gazed upon a beautiful woman bathing.  David inquired who the gorgeous bathing beauty was, and was told she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  King David invited Bathsheba to join him in his bedroom….which lead to…..can you guess?  I’ll give you a hint.  A short time later Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant, with his child.

Upon hearing that Bathsheba was pregnant with his child, King David twice tried to convince Uriah, one of his fiercest warriors, to come home to be with his wife, hoping it would appear that Bathsheba had gotten pregnant by Uriah.  When both of those initial plans failed, David concocted an even more sinister scheme, this time to have Uriah killed.  King David ordered that Uriah be sent to the front line of the fiercest battle, and then instructed that the rest of the soldiers fall back, leaving Uriah alone to face the enemy.  Just as planned, Uriah met his untimely death in the battle that ensued. Following Uriah’s death, Bathsheba moved into David’s home and became his wife.

Not surprisingly, God was very displeased with David for taking Uriah’s wife and then sending him out to die.  David had to face the consequences of his sins.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you (David) king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms.  I gave you all Israel and Judah.  And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.  Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?  You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.  You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now, there, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’  This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.  Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.  You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” (2 Samuel 12:7-12)

After God delivered this message to David the child born to David and Bathsheba became ill.  David was full of remorse and pleaded with God for forgiveness and for his son’s life.  God forgave David, but his first son with Bathsheba died.

David and Bathsheba had a second son, and they named him Solomon.  Solomon means peaceful.  Solomon went on to become King and his reign was one of peace as foretold in I Chronicles 22:9, “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side.  His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father.  And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” God loved Solomon and told the prophet Nathan to name him Jedidiah, which means beloved of Jehovah.

There may be consequences to pay for your sins, but if you seek forgiveness God can still work through your “mess” to accomplish great things. After all, from David and Bathsheba came Solomon.

-Jill McClain

 

(If you’ve been reading with us all year you know we have been working on reading and discussing one chapter of the New Testament everyday – with some FREE THEME days added in to round out the 365 days.  For the month of October we will be reading one chapter of Proverbs a day – the 1st chapter on the 1st of October, 2nd chapter on the 2nd, etc…  It’s a great book to help us all gain a lot of wisdom.  Then, in November we will cover the book of Revelation, and finish off the year with the last gospel we saved for December: Luke.  Keep reading His Word!)

Affecting Future Generations

Gen 16 1
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”  “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.  The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.  Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”  The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”  She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Genesis 16:1‭-‬13 NIV
In this chapter, we see a choice that Abram and Sarai made, that still impacts the world today.  They were trying to fulfill a promise that God had made, by their design instead of waiting for God.  It’s easy for us to sit back and think, ‘Wow no way would I do that if God promised me something!’ Fact is though, we turn our backs on God’s promises all the time.  We force decisions in our lives based on our wants, instead of truly seeking God’s will first.  But what really gets me is the possible consequences of our decisions.
It isn’t always just us that pays the price, our families and friends can be significantly affected by our decisions.  If you’re a parent you see this all the time.  Might just be little things like choosing to stay late at work instead of going to a game, or it could be big things like how a divorce can change everyone’s life involved.  If you’re a son or daughter, you feel those decisions, but you also know that your choices affect your parents.  Could be something minor like not doing something you said you would, or something major like a DUI.  Point is that all of us have to realize that how we live our lives can affect how others live theirs.  And some of, if not many of,  the decisions we make affect future generations.
This is true for good decisions also, the legacy we leave on life isn’t just about our screw ups, it’s about our accomplishments also, all part of God’s design and his plan of grace.  So if you’ve screwed up, no worries, there’s forgiveness.  But that might mean the consequences are set, and we have to rely on that grace and work hard to make better choices moving forward.  Just remember next time you have a major choice in front of you, am I seeking God’s will or my own?  Does this choice honor the people around me as well as myself? If we take time to evaluate our choices like that, I think we’ll have fewer regrets in them.
Jerry Briggs