Hey, Siri. What’s an ephod?

Wednesday – Judges 8-9

Judges Devotions-3

While Gideon is presented as a mighty warrior earlier in Judges, his legacy becomes more muddled in today’s reading. When you first learned about Gideon in Sunday School, your teacher probably didn’t tell you about his seventy sons (one of whom killed nearly all of his brothers) or the ephod he made out of gold.

If you’re like me, you’re asking Siri right now what an ephod is, but let me save you the trouble. An ephod is a sacred, decked-out, garment worn by the high priest that hung from his neck, similar-ish to a vest. After the Israelites invade the Midianite camp, Gideon requests that everyone bring him a gold earring from their share of the plunder. From the forty pounds of gold gathered, Gideon makes an ephod. He’s not Israel’s first leader to build something grandiose out of gold (we’re looking at you, Aaron).

Unfortunately, like Aaron’s golden calf, the Israelites begin worshipping Gideon’s ephod, which resided in his hometown. I’m not exactly sure why Gideon made the ephod, perhaps to mark Israel’s victory or assert his dominance as a leader. At any rate, I don’t think Gideon’s intent was to make something for the Israelites to bow down and worship. After all, he had just told the Israelites that there is only one king: God.

I think there are two valuable lessons we can learn from Gideon’s mistake:

1. You can hurt people even when you don’t “mean to.” Whenever I got in trouble as a child, my go-to phrase was, “I didn’t mean to.” However, even if I didn’t mean to hit my brother, he still had a bloody nose. My intent wasn’t to make my brother’s nose gush uncontrollably, but that was the impact of my actions. In the same way, Gideon didn’t intend to build something that would create a rift between the Israelites and God, but it did. It is important to take responsibility for our actions, even when they’re not premeditated. With urgency, deal with the hurt you may have caused.

2. Watch out for snares! The author of Judges describes the ephod as a snare to Gideon and his family. Be on guard, avoiding traps that try to rip you from God—maybe it’s a lie that keeps running through your head, a movie you know you shouldn’t be watching, or a friend who pressures you into something you’re uncomfortable doing. Also, be proactive in looking for snares that could trip up a brother or sister in the faith; the church works best when we look out for each other. If your roommate struggles with pornography, don’t let them sit alone on their computer. If your friend is a recovering alcoholic, don’t take them to the restaurants covered in beer advertisements. If your classmate is tempted to cheat during a test, cover your answers.

In a world where sin is often celebrated, let’s make sinning as difficult as possible.

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=judges+8-9&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Judges 10-12 as we carry on with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Blessings

Joshua 12-15

Joshua 14 8 NIV

Chapter 12 records all of the Kings the Israelites defeated in taking back the Promised Land to this point.  They did it with God’s help of course. Chapter 13 then describes the land that was still left to be taken.  But they would not need to fight for some of that remaining land.  God would do it for them.

 

A commentary on easyenglish.bible.com says, “This is like the Christian life. Jesus has defeated the enemy for us. He did this when he took the punishment for our sins on the cross. God still has other good things for us. He wants to give them to us. God promises all these things to us, my dear friends. So we must keep ourselves morally good. We must keep away from things that make our bodies or our thoughts morally bad.”

 

Thank goodness that Jesus removed the enemy of sin, so that we may be forgiven.  And he will ultimately defeat the enemy of death once and for all as well.  That will permit his followers to live forever with him.  But we need to be free of a lifestyle of sin in order to inherent that gift.

 

Verse 13 of Chapter 13 says, “But the Israelites did not send away the people from Geshur and Maacah. And so these people still live there among the Israelites.”  We know that God’s people had trouble down the road because they allowed traditions and religious symbols of other peoples to mix with their own.  They did not completely eradicate the things God had wanted them to, and paid the price later.  Similarly, we as Christians must defeat all of our enemies, namely sin in its many forms, in order to enjoy the full blessings of God.  Strive every day to do just that.

 

Encouraging verse of the day:

Isaiah 12:2

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

 

 

Greg Landry

 

 

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+12-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Joshua 16-18 as we continue seeking God on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

If you’re not a sinner, you can skip this

Deuteronomy 21-23

Deut 22 21 b NIV 

What we’re pulling out of this text today and applying to our lives today may at first seem contradictory, but I don’t believe that it is.

Throughout these chapters, we see the phrase, “purge the evil from among you.”  In fact, many of the instructions God gave to the Israelites were for this very purpose.

Purging implies a complete eradication.  If my kids had lice, my goal would be a complete purge.  Mostly gone wouldn’t cut it.  That’s how God sees sin.

Purge sin completely

Paul gives a great analogy in 1 Corinthians 5, comparing sin among the body of Christ (the church) to yeast,

“Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?”

And in Ephesians 5 he uses that analogy again, and gives even more instruction on choosing God’s best (living by the Spirit) instead of choosing what comes naturally (the sinful nature).

Let’s come back to that thought after we look at our next principle.  Exclusion.

Come to the Table

In Deuteronomy chapter 23, we’re shown a list of those who are to be excluded from entering the assembly of the LORD.  Those of certain ancestry, illegitimate birth, or certain physical deformities were forbidden.

Instead of applying this principle directly to believers today, what strikes me is my gratefulness that Jesus changed all of this for us.

In Matthew 22 he tells a story of a banquet that the invited guests have declined to attend.  The host decides to invite everyone, even the ‘undesirables’.

“So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Paul addresses this as well in 1 Corinthians 6 when, after listing all of those who will not be a part of God’s kingdom….the sexually immoral, idolators, thieves, the greedy, the drunkards and more… he says to the church,

“And that is what some of you were.”

You might be thinking that these two principles give counter instructions.  After all, how can we “purge the evil from among us” if we are not excluding the wicked and sinful people?

Simply put, we are the sinful people.  God invites us to the table despite our wickedness, despite our illegitimacy. Once invited, the banquet changes us. As we indulge in the presence of God’s pure holiness, we are called to purge sin from our life and from our church body.  But let us never forget, like Paul writes in 1 Timothy, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXxLwxfo0U

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+21-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 24-27 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Confess

Leviticus 5-7

Leviticus 5 5 NIV

Confession – yesterday we talked about Christ’s sacrifice replacing the Old Testament offerings. I also mentioned how we often take for granted the fact we no longer have to make the sacrifices. In those sacrifices, it was just that, a sacrifice – the people had to give something that they could have enjoyed because of their sin.

Even though there was a loss, the people had no clear way to alleviate the weight of guilt and find forgiveness in their lives. God has provided another way to help with that – Confession.

Confession is something that is hard to do. Many lie, deny and push blame on others just to avoid confessing. It is something that God asks of us not for his benefit but for ours. I remember being told often as a kid the only way to fix a problem  is to realize there is one. And that is what confession is.

Further, confession gives a proper view on sin, God and ourselves.

The punishment for sin is death – we need a proper view of sin. I have often heard of people talk about their sin as “Not that big of a deal.” Sin is just that, SIN. If it is wrong, we shouldn’t do it. Sin that is not confessed and not repented of leads to missing out on the Kingdom.

God cannot be in the presence of sin – we need a proper view of God. Our God is a holy God. He expects purity not just in our actions but also our hearts. (Matt. 5:8 says the pure heart will see God.)

We cannot do it on our own – we need a proper view of ourselves. We often try to fix our problems on our own. Sin is not something we can fix on our own or earn enough to repay the debt. We need a savior and Christ is willing to step in on our behalf.

A couple tips on confession:

Confess immediately – when you know you have done something wrong do not push it off. It is easy to push it off.

Confess specifically – I hear a lot of prayer that vaguely ask for all sins to be forgiven. Make it personal and specific.

Confess honestly – Take it serious and do not make promises you know you will not keep.

Confess to someone else – this is something I push in the church. For some reason people are afraid of letting others know about their sin. Most will acknowledge they are a sinner but would never discuss their struggles for fear of other’s judgement. Find someone you trust and create an open discussion and ask for accountability.

John Wincapaw

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+5-7&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Leviticus 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Struggle with Sin Continues

January 3 – Genesis 8-11 

Genesis 9 20 NIV.png

Genesis 8-11 is a story of great hope and promise, and also a tragedy that reminds us all of our brokenness before God. After the great flood that God brought on the earth to remove all the sinful people, He is now ready to start over with Noah and his family. God gives them the same commands that He gave to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (9:1) The story appears to have taken care of humanity’s disobedience; unfortunately, that’s not the case. Noah apparently is just as sinful as everybody else, falling into a drunken stupor, and then something suspicious happens with his son, Ham. While we don’t know exactly what happened in this scene, we do know that it was sinful, as Ham’s son is cursed because of what took place.

 

This story should remind us all of just how broken we truly are. Although we have been redeemed by God through Jesus’ sacrifice and have escaped from the Final Destruction through his death, we still fall short and sin against our God. (Romans 3:23) The apostle Paul tells us his own struggle with sin, by stating that “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) He continues and says that, although his status is “in Christ”, his body still struggles to do the right things and falls into sin (Romans 7:18-25).

 

If you have accepted Christ, you are now experiencing a tension within yourself: the battle between the Spirit and the flesh (see Romans 8). Although you know that you have been saved by Jesus Christ, and desire to do the right thing, your “flesh” still struggles with sin. This is a constant struggle that we will face until Jesus comes back to finally deal with sin completely, in our hearts and in the world. This is a struggle that is painful and reminds us daily that “no one is righteous” before God (see Romans 3:9-12). However, it is a blessing, since God’s Spirit is working within us to clean up the areas where we are still dirty with sin.

 

Today, I challenge you to be aware of the decisions that you make. Is this something that is in line with God’s Spirit, or is it something that would be considered a “deed of the flesh”? (Galatians 5:16-25) Does the action I am about to take bring life or death? Does it build others up, or does it tear them down? Is it beneficial to my faith, or is it a barrier?

 

As you struggle along this journey of the Christian path, I want to encourage you that the hardship is absolutely worth it in the end! God loves you and is with you through this!

 

Talon Paul

 

 

Print your yearly reading plan here –  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read, or listen, to today’s passage here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+8-11&version=NIV

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

Resolving Sin

Luke 20

Luke 20 26 niv
Hey, my name is Jacob and I like playing basketball and I am going to college for computer science. I love being a part of the Blood River Church.
In Luke chapter 20 Jesus is encountered by chief priests, scribes, and some Sadducees all of whom are trying to entrap him into mispronouncing God. Through their futile attempts Jesus is able to counter each of their questions with a response of his own which cause them to ponder, this eventually leads to the dismissal of their question at the conclusion of their answers to Jesus’ question. This is mainly due to the reflection of their own question and how they begin to question God when they know the answer.
In life we sin and make mistakes that we are not aware of, these mistakes and sins have the possibility to snowball into something bigger that becomes a profound issue. From this it takes recognition and reflection through yourself and others to understand what has happened and what has come from something so minor. Similar to how me make mistakes in life the chief priest, scribes, and the Sadducees made mistakes and it took the help of Jesus and reflection to understand what they were doing. From this came correction where they dismissed their question which inherently solved their mistake.
Now solving issues, mistakes, or sins will not always be the easiest thing to do, and its okay to admit, you do not have to experience these struggles by yourself. Find a parent, relative, friend, or even someone in your community to lean on, to help comfort and assist you in your resolution. Sometimes these resolutions will not be instant and will take time, but that is okay because it means you are growing. Growth is what has led you to who you are today, and it is also what will make you in the future.
(Editor’s Note:  Thank you to the Blood River youth for preparing devotions for us this week!  Keep reading and searching God’s Word – and sharing it with others!)