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!)

Sucked into Sin

Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29 16 NIV

This chapter of proverbs continues the thoughts from the previous one – speaking on the contrasts from the wicked and the righteous. Proverbs 28 and 29 give us wonderful examples, not only of recognizing sinful ways but, of the habits that could sneak into our own lives. Many a good man and woman have been corrupted in time by the allure of sin. Additionally, it is noted in this proverb that those who we surround ourselves with can lead us into sin. We must choose carefully who we associate with and be wary that they do not drag us into sin and away from God.

In my youth I hung out with people that did a lot of things that I knew were not good. Drugs, alcohol, and other activities were happening all around me. I hung out with them because I liked being around them but I never let myself fall into their ways. I always thought that made me okay but all it would have taken is one encounter with law enforcement and I would have been found just as guilty as the rest. Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks when I first realized that. God was watching out for me but I was really pushing the boundaries of His grace and I realize that now. In that I am reminded that we are not to put our God to the test. Yet that is exactly what I was doing for years. He truly is merciful and gracious!

One last thought from this passage that actually ties back to what I wrote about for Proverbs 27 concerning anger, check it out if you missed it. Giving full vent to our anger as this proverb points out is bad. Yet I said before that it is good. No, not is good, but may be good and can help. Verse 11 says that a wise man keeps himself under control. Anger released rationally, controlled, is what I spoke of the previous day. This is talking about rage. Rage is uncontrolled, irrational, and violent. There can be no compassion or concern in rage but you can have both while angry. Understanding this is important for our relationships. That is why we have the saying, “Count to ten before speaking.”

In closing, I urge you to be aware of the various ways in which we can get sucked into sin. Be careful to not place yourself into a situation where you become guilty by association. And remember that we were created for relationships. They are vitally important to our God and to our daily existence. Treat them with the care that they deserve.

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

Sin Jenga

Proverbs 28

Proverbs 28 14 NIV Jenga

Proverbs 27 was like an onion, or a parfait because everyone likes parfaits. Proverb 28 however is more like a banana. It is more straightforward in its message. It could rightly be summed up as the destiny of good and evil. It is a series of contrasts between those who do what is right and those who do not.

The author calls out those who are well acquainted with poverty and suffering and yet, given the chance, oppress others suffering in the same ways. This sin is greater than those who have never known hunger and are oppressive. For a poor man to be placed in authority who becomes oppressive utterly destroys the hope of the poor. This is like a game of sin Jenga, stacking one sin upon another and hoping that it does not fall down.

In many facets of life we see sinful people praising sinful ways. They promote sin as something to be desired. Truthfully they have great advertising though. Sin is often that which is most physically pleasurable and is easily obtainable. It often helps people to temporarily forget their troubles and sorrows. Temporary is the key to all of this though. Each way that man chooses to sin is fleeting and temporary. The pleasure ends and emptiness is left. The good times come to a close and the pain returns with a vengeance. They believe that the easy way through life is to not care or get involved. But that ultimately leads to a life of loneliness and sinful ways that leave us numb to the good and the bad.

Another point from this passage is that evil men do not understand, or do not want to understand, the judgement of God. Knowing God makes us accountable to someone other than ourselves. It is painful enough for some to deal with their own conscience. It is as inescapable as our shadow after all. Then you add on the thought of God knowing everything that we do. For some people that is just too much. They can numb themselves of their guilt through drugs, alcohol, and other activities but they can never numb themselves from God’s presence. This is why, for some, it is preferable to give in completely to sin and run from God. It is better for the moment but God’s word tells us that it is better to be with Him. All will eventually stand before Him to be judged. At that time they will realize the futility of their efforts to numb themselves in sin’s embrace.

I mentioned earlier that our conscience is unescapable. It is the conscience of the guilty that cages them with bars of fear. A fear that haunts them night and day. They live in fear of being discovered in their sin. Those who are truly bold in their sin are in fear of being proven wrong in their assertions. They make excuses for actions which no one has challenged or questioned. The righteous however are freed from such fears. They can be bold, not because they are without sin, but because they admit their sins and make attempts to remove them from their lives.

I have often been frustrated at people who I know from experience are horrible ungodly people yet they prosper far more than I do. You know who I am talking about. They are the ones that seem to have it all and everything always goes their way. Yet they are the most vile, slimy, loathsome examples of humanity. As my faith and understanding of God’s ways increased, I began to understand that they think that they are successful. Others see them as being successful as well, even I did for a time. But what they are building has no foundation. Everything that they gather around them is perishable. They might as well be gathering bread which will rot and mold. Ultimately, they will be clinging to nothing more than fuzzy green clumps of rotted material. That is what they place their hope in. The righteous however place their hope in God. The one who is eternal, imperishable. I like that image a whole lot more than the image of what the wicked will be holding onto.

To be continued…

 

Jeff Ransom

Seduced by Temptation

Proverbs 7

Proverbs 7 25 26

The first five verses of this chapter again talk about how important it is to have wisdom.

My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.
Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your intimate friend;
That they may keep you from an adulteress,
From the foreigner who flatters with her words

This is re-iterating what a lot of chapter 1 talks about.  It is not enough to just know the commands and teachings.  You must consider them as some of the most important things you know.  Following the commands and having wisdom will allow you to live.  This implies that a lack of wisdom will bring death.  The rest of the chapter details how this can lead to serious harm, and death.

The rest of the chapter can be a literal case of a man being seduced by a woman, or it can be symbolic of any person being tempted and falling to that temptation.  This shows a pattern of falling.  The first step is going to a place where the temptation is found.  This is in verse 8 where it talks about passing near her corner, and then going all the way to her house.  Wisdom would show that we should avoid going around things where we know we will be tempted.

Then, verse 9 says that this is being done in the darkness, or when we don’t think people can see us.  In most cases, if we are going to sin, it is going to be when people are not watching, or at least people that we know would be bothered by what we are doing.  Again, if we are wise, we will surround ourselves with people who will help us avoid temptation and stay away from those who draw us in to sin.

Then, when we are close to temptation, the sin can look very appealing, and it appears that we won’t get caught – so it is okay.  Verses 17-21 are showing this when talking about the couch and bed being adorned, and when it talks about the husband being gone for a long period of time.

With all of this, the man being talked about in this passage falls into temptation and sins.  He does not know this will cost him his life according to verse 23.  This is not saying that falling into temptation once and sinning means death, but when we fall into a temptation and are not wise enough to run from that in the future, we are going to fall into that same temptation again and again.  Then, we will escalate the sin, and get sucked into it until it is a lifestyle.

Wisdom, specifically Godly wisdom, is critical to both avoiding unnecessary problems in this life and in having eternal life in the kingdom.  This can only be accomplished by treasuring scriptures and a relationship with God.

Andrew Hamilton