Month One - Today we wrap up Month One of our One Year Bible readings! Congratulations! Your marathon pace is looking great. The wonderful habit of reading from God's Word every day is starting to settle into place in your life. Keep your eyes forward on the path before you this year and your eye on the prize! As Paul tells us in Philippians 3:14 – "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Let us each press on toward the goal!
Old Testament - This is a big day in our readings today - The Israelites officially begin their exodus from Egypt! Today in Exodus chapter 12 we read about God instituting the Festival of Unleavened Bread along with Passover. These both are still observed today by practicing Jews. Verse 14 states the importance of these festivals to the Israelites: "You must remember this day forever. Each year you will celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD."
Chapter 12 verses 29 & 30 tell us: "And that night at midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died." Below is Dutch painter Laurens Alma Tadema's "Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn Son" from the year 1872:
Verses 37 & 38 are amazing: "That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. And they were all traveling on foot. Many people who were not Israelites went with them, along with the many flocks and herds." 600,000 men equals probably at least 1.2 million people all together - and probably close to 2 million. This is a massive Exodus! Verse 38 is very interesting in that some Egyptians were joining the Israelites in this Exodus! Think these Egyptians believed in God?
In Exodus chapter 13 we read about God's instructions for the dedication of the firstborn. Note that based on this law that Jesus, the firstborn of Mary & Joseph, was dedicated to God in the Temple in Jerusalem as we read in Luke chapter 2 verses 21 through 24: "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”" I think it's also interesting to note that Mary & Joseph did not present a lamb, but a pair of doves or two young pigeons. This portion of the law came from Leviticus chapter 12 verse 8: "If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering."" Below is an image of Jesus being dedicated in the temple:
Bible.org's commentary on "The Passover and the Plague of the Firstborn" is at this link.
New Testament - Today in Matthew chapter 21 verse 22 we read these words from Jesus: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."" This is a powerful verse if you really stop and think about it... Do you believe Jesus' teaching here? Do you believe that if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer? I do believe this... but then there is always in the back of my mind - "but what about so-and-so who was ill and was praying in belief that they would be healed. But then they weren't..." I don't have any easy answer on this one. I have to believe there are probably some good resources out there for this tough question? If you know of any resources / books on this subject of prayer - or, more specifically, unanswered prayers - please post up in the Comments section below? Thanks.
Whoo-hoo! Today is Palm Sunday in our Gospel reading today! :) Hosanna in the Highest! Hosanna means "Save Now" - Amen!
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 21 titled "The Triumphal Entry" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 25 verse 22 really stood out to me today: "O God, ransom Israel from all its troubles." As I read this, the Christmas carol, "O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel" comes to my mind. Indeed, God would answer this prayer of King David's and send his Son to ransom Israel!
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 6 verse 14 today tells us: "Their perverted hearts plot evil. They stir up trouble constantly." This is a powerful reminder of the utmost importance for us to guard the condition of our hearts continually!
Worship God: Reading about Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem today reminded me of the Hillsong United song "Hosanna:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture this week: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:22 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would believe in Jesus unfailingly each and every day. Ask for things in prayer that you believe are the will of the Father.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: It's interesting to me how fast January seems to have flown by. February is now before us. I don't know about you, but I set some big goals and resolutions this year and somehow I'm suddenly a month behind on progress on those goals. However, even though I am feeling behind on some goals for this year, I know that ultimately my life is in a very good place because I am moving forward with my relationship with God. Reading and studying God's Word every day is a higher priority than any of my other goals and resolutions. Those other goals and resolutions can wait. My relationship with God cannot wait. As long as I am in a growing and loving relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, nothing else really matters. How about you? Are there some goals and resolutions for this year that you feel like you might be behind on? Do you agree that reading from God's Word each day and growing in your love relationship with God is more important than those goals and resolutions? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - In Exodus chapter 10 today we read about the Plague of Locusts! In ancient times locust plagues were greatly feared and were often considered to be a sign of divine judgment.
Next up is the plague of darkness. Some Biblical commentaries have found Pharaoh's statement to Moses to be quite appropriate and ironic that he said this during the plague of darkness in 10:28: "The day you see my face you will die." Apparently Moses couldn't quite fully see Pharaoh's face during the plague of darkness? Makes sense to me. Commentaries have also suggested that this verse was a death threat to Moses, and that this death threat was responded to with the coming plague on the firstborns of Egypt, including Pharaoh's son. Below is an image of the plague of darkness:
In Exodus chapter 11 we read in verses 4 & 5: "So Moses announced to Pharaoh, "This is what the LORD says: About midnight I will pass through Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest slave. Even the firstborn of the animals will die." And an appropriate image for this announcement might be this - (except for the fact that they were in the midst of the plague of darkness... so this image should have the lights turned off. Oh well... :)
Today we read in Exodus chapter 12 about God giving Moses and Aaron instructions on the First Passover. Verse 2 stands out: "From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you." Here we see that God is actually instituting a new religious calendar for the Hebrews with the month that Passover is in being the first month of the calendar year. This month is in the March-April spring timeframe and is called Abib or Nisan in Hebrew. The feasts that were and are celebrated in this 1st month were - Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. Here is a very interesting note on the Jewish calendar from the NIV Study Bible - "In the ancient Near East, new year festivals normally coincided with the new season of life in nature. The designation of this month as Israel's religious New Year reminded Israel that its life as the people of God was grounded in God's redemptive act in the Exodus... Israel's agricultural calendar began in the fall, and during the monarchy it dominated the nation's civil calendar. Both calendars (civil and religious) existed side by side until after the exile. Judaism today uses only the calendar that begins in the fall." Below is an image of the Jewish religious calendar:
The significance of Passover was that God was introducing the concept of a sacrifice or a substitute for a life. The lamb was sacrificed as a substitute for the Hebrews first-born sons. The blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts as a sign that the household had sacrificed an innocent life - the lamb. By the blood of the unblemished/perfect lamb, the household was protected from death. This is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb for us. He was a substitute for us and our sins. He was an innocent unblemished/perfect lamb - sinless. By Jesus' blood, we are protected from eternal death. Do you see the parallels between Passover and Jesus' death on the cross?
Exodus chapter 12 verse 11 is of note: "Wear your traveling clothes as you eat this meal, as though prepared for a long journey. Wear your sandals, and carry your walking sticks in your hands. Eat the food quickly, for this is the LORD's Passover." By wearing their traveling clothes, the Hebrews were faithfully acknowledging God's Word that they would very soon be freed from slavery and bondage in Egypt. The Exodus would soon begin! And the traveling clothes signified that the Hebrews were ready for the journey! How about us today? Do you think that God may still call us on journeys today? Do you think that God might be calling you on a journey here in this new year? If so, will you be ready for the call? Will you wear your "traveling clothes", so that when the "Exodus" comes, you are ready for it? Below is a sketch by 19th century English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti showing the Israelites wearing their traveling clothes for the Exodus:
Bible.org's commentary on the plagues of Exodus titled "The Finger of God" is at this link and commentary on "The Passover and the Plague of the Firstborn" is at this link.
New Testament - Matthew chapter 20's parable of the vineyard workers is one that I have at times had challenges with. I, like the workers who labored all day, would think - "that's not fair!" Well.... but then I came to realize that I believe this story is a parable of Grace. God's grace. And you know what - God's grace is not "fair." And thank God for this being so! God's grace is so powerful and all-encompassing and life-giving and healing and saving. And God's grace is offered to me. And to you. And to our neighbors. And to everyone. God's grace is offered to people that have sinned against God. Me. You. Our Neighbors. Everyone. God's grace is offered to people who become Christians early in their lives and live wonderfully giving lives. And God's grace is offered to people who become Christians on their deathbed after living destructive lives, but who finally repent and surrender to God. God's grace is given freely. Like these workers in this story, we may accept God's grace at different points in the "day" of our life. Though, of course, some never do ultimately accept God's grace and there is grave risk as the day grows longer... How about you? What part of the "day" are you in? Have you accepted God's gift of grace? Will you do so today? While it is still "today" for you? Below is an oil painting by Rembrandt from 1637 of "The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard":
Jesus' teaching in Matthew 20 verse 16 has always been convicting to me: "And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then." I see the wisdom in this verse... but yet, I still think that I try to be "first" in many ways in my life. I don't like being "last". I like being honored. I like being the star. I don't like being the servant. I don't like to be the guy supporting the star. And yet, Jesus is calling us to be last. To serve others. To let others go first. How about you? Are you trying to be "first" in your life? Or do you see the eternal wisdom in being "last"? Continuing this thought of serving others - below is a painting from 1856 by British painter Ford Maddox Brown of "Christ Washing St. Peter's Feet":
As this chapter proceeds we read about Jesus prophesying his own death and resurrection. And then, we see Jesus prophesy about the end of James & John's life when their mother and they ask to sit at Jesus' right & left in heaven. Check out verses 22 & 23: ""You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" "You will indeed drink from it," he told them." You will indeed drink from it... James ended his life being martyred for his faith in Jesus. And John ended his life in exile on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation. And I wonder again about us today... sometimes we hear about the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel", and think that's what we've signed up for as Christians. But... do you think that it might be possible that at some point in your life that you might be called to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow that Jesus drank from? If you are called to drink from that bitter cup, will you indeed drink from it? Below is a painting by Flemish artist Pieter van Mol from the early 17th century of "Jesus with the cup":
The last 10 words of verse 28 remind me of the Passover Lamb / Jesus parallels discussed above in this post: "For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. Do you believe that Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for you?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 20 titled "Workers in the Vineyard" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 25 has some amazing verses today! I think I could write some reflections and questions on each of the verses today... Maybe a good thing for each of us to do is to re-read this Psalm today and really reflect on what the verses are saying to our hearts. David wrote this Psalm as a prayer for God's mercies when he was suffering affliction for his sins and when enemies were seizing this occasion to attack him. It's a very penitential Psalm. One that we might need to pray to God from time to time as David did. I do like verse 5 a lot and I believe it will speak to each of you going through the One Year Bible this year - "Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Do you believe that reading God's Word each day is allowing you to be led by God's truth? Are you being taught each day? Then - that last sentence in verse 5 is amazing. I cannot honestly say that all day long I put my hope in God. I pray that I do... but I think sometimes I drift away from putting my hope in God and I put my hope in myself - or maybe even sometimes I lose hope! I get discouraged about a situation. I get stressed. I worry. If we put our hope all day long in God, do you think we would get discouraged, stressed, or worried? I don't think we would...
Psalm 25 verse 15 really stood out to me today - "My eyes are always looking to the LORD for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies." I have come to realize more and more lately that the Enemy is indeed constantly setting traps for us. I don't mean to scare anyone here - but I think this is something very important for us to realize. It has been said that the greatest trick the Devil can play on us is to make us think that he does not exist. If we don't think the Devil exists, then we logically won't think that he's setting any traps for us. Let me assure you - this is clearly Biblical - the Devil exists. Evil exists in this world. Temptation exists. And evil does not rest. However - the good news - God is so much bigger and stronger and brighter (and this list can go on) than the Devil - the Enemy. David says in this Psalm that his eyes are ALWAYS looking to the Lord for help. Why? Because God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit alone can rescue us from the traps of the Enemy. Again, the traps are out there for us in this modern world. The temptations and dark alleys and wrong turns call to us unceasingly. But - again, great news here - we can be saved from all of that nonsense; all of that darkness; indeed all of that death, through a relationship with Jesus. Jesus saves. Jesus saves us from ourselves. From our sin. And from the Enemy that sets traps for us. Like David in this Psalm, are your eyes always looking to the Lord for help? Please don't ever take your eyes off God and His mercies, power, and strength.
Proverbs - Okay, Proverbs chapter 6 verses 9 through 11 make me smile. I do absolutely see the wisdom in these verses... but reading the word lazybones makes me smile. Is this a New Living Translation thing?? I honestly wondered for a split second if I was getting The Message translation on this Proverb somehow today! :) These are powerful words of wisdom I think for each of us to consider: "But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? I want you to learn this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber." It is pretty amazing to consider that this Proverb also tells us to take a lesson from the ant! The seemingly lowly ant! We're told to emulate. I love that... and it's so true. The ant works hard for its keep! What lesson can you learn from the ant today?
Worship God: Today's readings in Proverbs about the sluggard reminded me of the Jars of Clay song "Dead Man (Carry Me):"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." Proverbs 6:10-11 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would work hard in the Lord 6 days a week, and take 1 day a week of Sabbath rest and worship. Pray that each day that you work that you will work for Jesus - no matter what your job is. Pray that you would get plenty of sleep each night, but not too much. Pray that you won't be lazy.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on the lesson from the ant in today's Proverbs, how do you balance working hard in your life with getting proper rest and relaxation? How do you find the balance? I think balance in our life is a challenging thing to find in almost all areas of our life. We have to be vigilant about balance in all things, or else we'll lose our balance. I know there is the modern day adage of "Work Hard and Play Hard." But I'm not so sure about this adage... seems to me like you could end up being a selfish workaholic weekend warrior who spends money and time only on your own gratification with this adage. I hope that wasn't too harsh?... :) I do agree that we need to work and play - but I'm just not sure about playing hard. I'm thinking the adage should maybe be "Work Well and Play Well" or "Work Smart and Play Smart." Or something along those lines. Please post up in the Comments below how you balance work and play and rest in your life? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Today in Exodus chapters 8 & 9 we read about many of the plagues! I've got to say, for some reason the plague of frogs really resonated with me in today's reading. I'm not sure why - but for some reason I could really envision frogs being everywhere... and how disgusting this would truly be...
An interesting thing I read in a commentary today is that the plagues in some ways were direct attacks on the Egyptian "gods". For example, the Egyptians had a god named Hopi, who was god of the Nile river. Hopi couldn't stop the river from turning to blood. They had a cow-goddess named Hathor, who couldn't stop the livestock from dying. They had a sun-god named Amon-Re who couldn't stop darkness from coming over the land. (in tomorrow's readings). God's plagues were going after these false gods - and showing to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and the Hebrews too I think, who the one true living God is, was, and forever shall be. Did you ever stop and wonder if there were masks out there that depicted the various plagues of the Exodus? Me neither. But they exist! :)
Chapter 8 verses 18 & 19 stand out: "Pharaoh's magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. And the gnats covered all the people and animals. "This is the finger of God!" the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh." The magicians tricks were beginning to fail! They realized that God was creating the plagues with their exclamation, "This is the finger of God!" God's name & fame was becoming known. Have you seen or experienced the finger of God in your life? Below is a super-sized image that will give you an idea of the grossness of the plague of gnats:
Chapter 9 verse 16 is powerful: "But I have let you live for this reason--that you might see my power and that my fame might spread throughout the earth." In the New Testament, Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:17, which we'll view in context here from Romans 9:14-18 - "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." Wow... great stuff in this Roman's verse... it does not depend on our desire or effort, but on God's mercy. Do you believe in God's mercy? Will you relinquish any of your own desire or efforts over to God's mercy? As you probably have seen by now, I'm trying to cover many of the plagues in today's readings with images... so now I give you pharaoh and the flies! :)
Exodus chapter 9 verse 20 is also powerful, as we read about some Egyptians beginning to believe in God: "Some of Pharaoh's officials believed what the LORD said. They immediately brought their livestock and servants in from the fields." How about us today? Do we believe what the Lord says? Like these Egyptians in this instance, do we then also immediately do what the Lord says? In verse 27 Pharaoh finally confesses his sin: "Then Pharaoh urgently sent for Moses and Aaron. "I finally admit my fault," he confessed. "The LORD is right, and my people and I are wrong." Though he doesn't stay repentant for long. How about us - do we confess our sins to God - and then not stay repentant for long? Can we instead confess our sins to God and make a complete U-turn - go completely in the other direction and not look back? Below we have the plague of hail - and I guess that fire is from the lightning strikes.
Bible.org's commentary on the plagues of Exodus titled "The Finger of God" is at this link.
New Testament - Today in Matthew 19 we read some challenging verses about the Rich Young Man. I have read some commentaries say that we don't need to take Jesus' words literally that each of us must sell all of our goods and give to the poor. However, these words in context to this rich young man were indeed to be taken literally by him - and he knew it. He wouldn't do it. Jesus called him to do this, I think, because the young man's "stuff" was an impediment to his relationship with God. Perhaps the young man literally valued his stuff more than God. So - while the commentaries say that we don't have to take Jesus' teaching to this young man literally, I do think we should keep in mind that Jesus may ask of us something along these lines. Jesus may ask us to pack up and become a missionary. Or maybe he'll ask us to leave a high powered, high paying job, to go serve the poor in our town. Or he may ask us to not spend our money on luxury items, but to invest in micro credit loan programs in third world countries. So - while this may seem like Jesus was asking a lot of this rich young man, keep in mind that Jesus asks much of each of us. And really, Jesus simply asks us to follow him. Will you follow Jesus? No matter the cost? No matter what you have to "give up"? Will you follow him? Below is a painting by Heinrich Hoffman from the late 19th century of Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler:
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 19 titled "Wealth and the Kingdom of Heaven" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 24 is a beautiful Psalm! Check out this brief snippet of commentary on this Psalm from bible.org: "The Israelites have returned from a battle with the Canaanites. They are proceeding up to the sanctuary on the holy mount to give praise to Yahweh for the great and mighty victory in battle, carrying with them the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Yahweh’s presence with them. As they approach the gate, they are met by the Levites who function as gatekeepers. It is their part to ask who may enter the sanctuary of the Lord; and it is the priests’ part to answer with the stipulations from the Law. Whoever meets these qualifications may enter and fellowship with Yahweh... The psalm then concludes with the worshipers calling to the gates to make way for Yahweh to come in to His sanctuary, for why should the King of Glory stoop to go under a doorway? " This quote is from, and there is much more commentary on Psalm 24, at bible.org at this link. (also, any Chris Tomlin fans out there will definitely recognize this Psalm - on his CD "Arriving" I think the 2nd or 3rd to last song is called "King of Glory" based on this Psalm - it's the best song on this overall fantastic CD in my humble opinion! :)
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 6 verses 1 through 5 were intriguing to me. I guess my first thought was that getting our own selves in debt is bad enough - but then to be a guarantor for our friends debt? Well, these verses certainly warn against doing this. Let us avoid debt!
Worship God: Today's readings in Psalm 24 reminded me of the Chris Tomlin & Jesse Reeves song "King of Glory." Here's a great story behind the song and the song itself too, performed live:
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today:"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." Matthew 19:29 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you will place your relationship with Jesus and spending eternity with Him above all else.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on the Proverbs verses today about debt, does anyone have debt-relief resources, websites or books you could share with everyone in the Comments section below? I've heard Financial Peace University is good and I hear there are some other good Christian financial management / debt relief books & seminars out there. I'm personally not that familiar with them - well, I did run sound once at a church for a 4 hour session on one of these seminars once, and it was quite good.... it's amazing how wise it is to get out of debt and to save $. I've often heard that it is wise to give 10% of your income and save 10% of your income with each check that comes in. What's your reaction to this type of formula? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Exodus Chapter 5 verse 22 starts off our readings today with what seems to be an awfully bold question & complaint from Moses to God: "So Moses went back to the LORD and protested, "Why have you mistreated your own people like this, Lord? Why did you send me? Since I gave Pharaoh your message, he has been even more brutal to your people. You have not even begun to rescue them!"" That first question initially made me wince - obviously God was not mistreating his own people - Pharaoh and the foremen were. I don't fault Moses for this question, since he saw the Israelites suffering so much - and God didn't seem to fault Moses either as we see in the beginning of chapter 6 he tells Moses what he is going to do to Pharaoh - and he doesn't address Moses question & complaint. I think Moses was probably really instead trying to ask God what he gets at in the last sentence - why haven't you started your rescue of your people? Then, the second question in verse 22 above takes us back to Moses' words to God at the burning bush near Midian when God first called Moses to this task - "why me??" This second question kind of made me smile... I guess because I've probably asked this question of God a lot of times in my life in various forms - why are you asking me to do this? Why not pick someone else? Don't I have enough going on? How am I going to pull this off? Etc. Etc.... Etc.... any of these questions sound familiar to you? :) And yet, even in the midst of this protesting, God is still going to use Moses in a big way for his Kingdom purposes. I pray he will still use me in the midst of my protesting. Do you want God to still use you in the midst of your protesting? What's your protesting all about?
At the end of Exodus chapter 6 today we come across a short genealogy - only 3 of Jacob/Israel's son's are listed - as the third son, Levi, brings us to Aaron and Moses. I liked coming across this genealogy in today's readings. It's kind of a brief interlude in the "action" of the narrative. It's kind of like God saying to us - pay attention! These 2 guys, Aaron and Moses were real! Here's their real genealogy. This is a real factual history. And maybe this genealogy helps remind us of the reality of this book of Exodus before we soon get into the plagues... Below is an image of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh by an unknown Netherlands or French artist from the mid-16th century - (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
In Exodus chapter 7 we read about Aaron's staff becoming a snake and the plague of blood. It is interesting that Pharaoh's wise men & magicians did the same thing as these miracles with their "secret arts." However, it's obvious that what the magicians did was not as powerful as what God did - because God's snake wins! :) And, it is indeed ironic that the magicians turning water to blood would really only make matters worse for the Egyptians. I read commentaries that suggested the magicians were either coming up with illusions or potentially tapping into dark / demonic forces to make their tricks come to fruition. Check out tons more great info on the nature of the plagues, the magicians tricks, the pattern of the plagues and the point of the plagues in Bob Deffinbaugh's essay titled "The Finger of God" at bible.org at this link. This is worth the read before we dive into all the plagues over the next few days! Below is an image of the plague of blood along the river Nile:
New Testament - Today in Matthew chapter 18 we read about Jesus' strong teaching on the need for us to forgive others in our life. And not just to forgive someone once... but many many many times. Why? Because God has been so gracious to us - he has forgiven us for our many many many sins through our faith in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. If God has forgiven us many times over - who are we to not forgive others many times over as well? Are we better than God? :) We all know the answer to this one. No. But, we are all called to forgive as gracefully as God has forgiven us. We are to forgive, just as we have been forgiven. Is there someone in your life today that you need to forgive? Will you? Below is the famous painting by Thomas Blackshear II simply titled "Forgiven":
In Matthew 19 we read a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees on divorce. The context of this discussion basically revolved around 2 Jewish schools - Shammai and Hillel - and their differing viewpoints in Jesus' day on Deuteronomy 24 verses 1-4: "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD . Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." From the NIV Study Bible commentary - The Shammai school held that "something indecent" from verse 1 above meant "marital unfaithfulness" - the only allowable cause for divorce. Hillel emphasized to the preceding clause, "who becomes displeasing to him" in verse 1 above - they would allow for a man to divorce his wife for anything she did that he disliked. Jesus in the midst of these 2 viewpoints seems to take to the side of Shammai - but, only after first pointing back to God's original ideal for marriage. So... there you have the context. What does that mean for us today? I honestly will say that I don't know. I do know that many folks participating in this blog are divorced. And many are married. And many are single. So... I guess I'd encourage you to read more or study more about the topic of divorce if you feel God is calling you to this. I do believe in God's grace in each of our lives and I believe in Jesus... Bible.org does have a pretty long overview of Marriage, Abortion and Divorceat this link - I haven't read it all, so I can't say that I agree with everything at this link... but, if you're interested in diving more into this topic you may want to read. Also, Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 19 titled "Questions About Marriage and Divorce" are at this link. No matter what happens in our life - marriage, divorce, health, sickness - we always have One whose love will never fail us:
Psalms - Psalm 23! What a Psalm!! This is the first Psalm for sure that I ever really read and was comforted by without a doubt. Psalm 23 is a profession of joyful trust in God as the good Shepherd-King by David. I like The Message's take on Psalm 23 at this link. Bible.org has a wonderful commentary on Psalm 23 titled "A Psalm that calms the soul"at this link.
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 5 verses 22 & 23 are just amazing wisdom for each of us of why we should FLEE from sin... don't entertain it at all! "An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his incredible folly." Please know that if for some reason you are caught in the ropes of sin, please know that Jesus can truly set you free. Please pray for this freedom in Christ. Only in Christ are we truly set free! Please seek this freedom in Christ with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Don't die for lack of self-control. Don't be lost because of the folly of sin. Please accept the free gift that Jesus offers you this very day.
Worship God: Have you seen the video yet of a young princess (see her T-shirt :) reciting Psalm 23?? This is a must see. I pray this inspires you to memorize and meditate upon Scripture!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on six verses of Scripture today:"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23:1-6 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would memorize Psalm 23 today. And pray that you would believe and live out Psalm 23 all the days of your life.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on the topic of divorce that comes up in today's Matthew readings, please do share your wisdom / thoughts / books / websites / other resources on this topic. Please be graceful in your remarks as many of our participants have gone through a divorce. If you yourself have been through a divorce, and are willing to share your learnings / experiences from it, this could be beneficial perhaps to some others who might read your comments. But I can understand if it's too much to post up publicly thoughts on this topic in this type of forum. Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Today in Exodus chapter 4 we read about God discussing with Moses from the burning bush how Moses will lead the Israelites out of Egypt! Below is a portrait by Guy Rowe of Moses having this conversation with God before the burning bush:
Moses has a classic line to God in Chapter 4 verse 10: “Moses said to the LORD , "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." I think what is classic about this line is that probably many of us have some sort of line similar to this one that we say to God when God is calling us to do something big for His Kingdom. Or maybe even if it is something medium-sized or small God is calling us to, we probably have some pretty good excuses. "Why me God?" "I’m too young." I’m too old." "I’m too busy." "I’m not that smart." "I’m not that talented". And I’m sure our list of excuses could go on. BUT – check out what God says to Moses in verse 12: "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." Wow. Is there an area of your life where God is calling you to move forward? Maybe calling you to some Kingdom work? And are you making excuses? Will you leave those excuses behind? Do you realize that God will help you do whatever you need to do? Do you realize that God will teach you what to do as you go? You may not know exactly what to do right now – but if you move forward, do you believe God will show up and help you accomplish the task? Will you go? Now? Below is a wonderful stained glass image of God in the burning bush telling Moses to "now go!"
Verses 24 through 26 probably raised some questions for you today... :) "On the journey, when Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah, his wife, took a flint knife and circumcised her son....After that, the LORD left him alone." The obvious question being, why was God about to kill Moses? Didn't God just call Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Well, yes he did. Commentaries I read suggest that the primary issue here was an issue of obedience. Moses had not circumcised his son, which was a requirement of God's covenant with Israel from Genesis chapter 17 - you'll recall Abraham and his household all getting circumcised in that 1 day. So, Moses - and actually Zipporah his wife performed the task of the covenant - had to circumcise his son before God would let Moses go forward to deliver God's people out of Egypt. Don't you like it when the Bible throws in some quick curveballs like this? :) Bible.org's commentary on Exodus chapter 4 is at this link - scroll down a bit. Below is an image from the Sistine Chapel of Zipporah and her and Moses' two sons Gershom and Eliezer:
I like Exodus chapter 5 verse 1, which builds upon some of our readings in chapter 4: "After this presentation to Israel's leaders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh." What I like about this is that there was Moses & Aaron going to see Pharaoh - the 2 of them. This reminds me of Jesus sending out the disciples in pairs. Sometimes in life it seems like we can accomplish more, or stay on task better, if we are partnered with someone else. It's sometimes tough to do things on our own. I think sometimes we want to make ourselves out to be Lone Rangers - thinking that we can shoulder the weight of the world on our own. But... we can't. First and foremost we need to be in relationship with God through Jesus. Secondly, in relationship with our family. Thirdly, relationship with our community - as we saw Moses and Aaron spoke with the Hebrew leaders at the end of chapter 4. And then... we are ready to take on Pharaoh! Then, we are ready to take on the world! Yeah, sure, on rare occasions God will call us to pull off Kingdom tasks on our own - but... 9 times out of 10, I think you are going to need brothers and sisters in Christ to help you make it. Currently, are you in a community, a church, with brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you know who your Aaron is??? Below is a painting by James Tissot of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh -
New Testament - Jesus' teaching in Matthew chapter 18 verses 3 & 4 are something for each of us to consider: ""I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." I find it interesting the order of the words - first, turn from your sin. THEN - after turning from your sins - become as little children. It seems that we cannot become humble as children without first turning from our sins. This makes sense if you think about it. If you are still living in sin, how can you become humble like a child? You must first repent of the sin before moving toward humility. I think this teaching is a tough one in our modern age. It doesn't sound quite right... become humble like a child? Why?? But, there is so much wisdom in it. Do you want to become humble like a child? Will you ask God to show you how to do this in your life?
Verses 19 & 20 are awesome: "I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." Again, these verses remind me of the importance of being in community with other believers regularly. The importance of church. And not just showing up to church on Sundays, but really investing in your church. Serving. Giving financially. Being part of a small group. Doing life together with others. Being the body of Christ. I will admit that there have been periods of my life where I really felt like I did not need the church. That I did not need to be in community. These have turned out to be lonely or hurried or stressful seasons when I look back on them! I realize now more than ever that I need the church. I love my church. I love everyone in my church - warts and faults and all - and I believe they love me in return, warts and faults and all. How about you? Do you have a church that you love? Do you have a community of believers that you love and that loves you? If not, will you pray to God to lead you to such a community? Do you believe that Christian community is important for you? (Please know that when I say church I am speaking very broadly of the body of Christ and all the various ways it manifest itself as church. For example, I have many friends who are part of the growing house church movement, which is a wonderful way to do church for many folks. For others it's the mega-church and for others the mainline church, and this list of examples of church could go on and on...)
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 18 titled "Life Under Kingdom Authority" is at this link.
Psalms - Okay, since I'm going off on my church soapbox today :), I'll continue the theme here. What's one good reason to go to church at all? Check out Psalm 22 verse 22: "Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people." Praising God with other brothers and sisters through worship, tithing, learning, serving and being in community in church is a great reason to go to church! To declare the wonder of God's name! To praise God among all his people. Wow... yes... this is church!
Proverbs - Proverbs 5 verses 16 & 17 are powerful true Sex Education verses: "Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don't share it with strangers." I like this a lot. Is this something we can teach young adults today? Is this something we can teach ourselves? Don't have sex with just anyone - it is degrading to you. Don't share something so holy as sex with just anyone. Save this holy bond for your spouse. I once heard a powerful sermon by John Ortberg at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. And John was preaching on "Don't Quench the Spirit". And it was a powerful sermon on how we are so blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives as followers of Jesus. And yet, we can quench, temporarily, the power of the Spirit in our life when we sin. It is basically like turning our back on God when we sin. And then we need to turn our faces forward again toward God in repentance. And while we are sinning and turning our back on God, we have effectively quenched the Spirit. And as I heard this sermon, I realized that sexual sin is one sure-fire quick way to quench the spirit. We degrade ourselves through sexual sin and I believe we quench the spirit. I don't know if this line of thinking will help you at all if you are struggling with sexual sin. But, it helps me. It helps me to realize that the quick little temporary highs we think we might get off sexual sin are so not worth it. What is worth quenching the Spirit in our life?? Is sexual sin? Nope... you know it's not. Living fully in communion with God and with the Holy Spirit is one of the most amazing things we can possibly experience this side of heaven. Will you please, please, no longer quench the Spirit for the cheap lies sexual sins sells?
YouTube: Rather than post up a Worship video today, I'd like to share with you a sermon Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle preached on Sunday, January 24th, 2010, after spending 32 hours in Haiti just after the earthquake. After viewing this sermon about Haiti, please get involved at: http://www.churcheshelpingchurches.com/.
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:19-20 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would pray with others regularly. Pray that you would gather with two or three others regularly, coming together in Jesus' holy name.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: With my thoughts above on the serious topic of sexual sin - does anyone have any resources, books, websites, that you can recommend to folks that are struggling with sexual temptation or sin? Have you seen people in your life be enslaved to sexual sin? Hopefully you have also seen people also be freed from that enslavement through Jesus? Do you think that sexual sin - lust, pornography, adultery, etc. - is a rampant issue in our society today? Do you think it's worse now than the past? Or do you think sexual sin has always been an issue in the past and will be until Jesus returns again? (Bob Deffinbaugh with bible.org's essay on "Sex and the Spiritual Christian" based on 1 Corinthians 7 is at this link.) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Well, I debated posting up this water color of Moses killing the Egyptian from chapter 2 today, but the image probably captures things accurately enough. We cannot hide from some of the things in the Bible that are not squeaky clean & perfect. The Bible is not always squeaky clean & perfect in terms of the behaviors of people in the Bible. Life is not always squeaky clean & perfect. However God will ultimately make us squeaky clean & perfect - forever. And in this life God can even redeem Moses after this act:
Please do read up more on this act of Moses' in chapter 2 at bible.org at this link. At this link you'll see this line: "We dare not seek to defend Moses in the murder of the Egyptian, no matter how cruel he may have been. Moses’ act was in defiance of the authority of Egypt, and it was premeditated murder (“he looked this way and that,” v. 12). While Moses’ method of dealing with this problem was wrong, we can see that his motivation was commendable. Moses sought to defend the oppressed. When he sought to rebuke his Hebrew brother for wrongly mistreating another Hebrew (v. 13), Moses revealed, once again, the disposition of a deliverer." Moses was 40 years old when he killed the Egyptian. Moses then escapes to Midian - an area on the eastern side of the Red Sea that was very dry and desolate. Moses ends up living in Midian for 40 years:
In Chapter 3 today God speaks to Moses through the burning bush! What I love about this is in verse 4: "When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses' attention..." It seems like Moses probably could have seen this burning bush - and kept going. He could have somehow walked on by - maybe because he had to get the flocks back home or he was late for dinner or who knows what. He could have missed the adventure and the calling of his life. But he doesn't. He stops. He investigates. He has a conversation with God. God caught his attention. And I wonder in our lives today, is God trying to catch our attention? Is God trying to tell us something important? And are we just passing God by - or will we stop and investigate and have a conversation with God?
Exodus 3:14 is a biggee in today's readings as Moses asks God who he should tell the Hebrews who sent him: "God replied, "I AM WHO I AM. Just tell them, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" I AM WHO I AM translates into Yahweh in Hebrew. I read a great little commentary that said when God speaks of himself, he says "I AM". When we speak of God we should say "He is." I like that. He is. I actually heard a sermon recently about the unchanging nature of God. He is omniscient. Omni-present. Eternal. He is wisdom. He cannot learn anything, because He knows everything. He is. The Hebrew letters yud, hey, vav, hey (below) -- often depicted in English as YHWH or Yahweh -- spell the ineffable name of God:
Another powerful thing to note is that Jesus uses this same phrase of I AM and nearly gets stoned to death for sharing this truth in the Gospel of John chapter 8 verses 58 & 59: "“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." Do you believe that Jesus is? So - when God says I AM! - what is our response? He is! :) I like that. He is. A great commentary on the Burning Bush & I AM in Exodus chapter 3 is at bible.org at this link.
New Testament - Today in Matthew chapter 17 verse 20 stood out to me: ""You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."" As I think about this verse, I wonder about my own faith. How much faith do I really have? Do I have enough faith in Jesus? And in all of God's promises? Or - am I hedging my bets? Do I also place a lot of faith in my own power? My own skills? My own "smarts"? Do I truly have complete faith in Jesus and Jesus alone? If so, and if it was Jesus' will, do I believe that I could move mountains? Could you? I don't think that this idea of not having enough faith means that I need to "try harder" in any way. I think it means I simply need to depend more - rest more - relax more - give more - to Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Trust that his grace is enough... As a great Chris Tomlin song goes - "All of you is more than Enough, for all of me." Is Jesus more than enough for you?
Verses 25 & 26 are awesome as Peter is about to ask Jesus about the Temple Tax: "But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, "What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the foreigners they have conquered?" "They tax the foreigners," Peter replied. "Well, then," Jesus said, "the citizens are free!"" Here we see that Jesus is recognizing himself as the King - and his disciples are his citizens who should not have to pay the tax. But - as to not offend those who did not realize that Jesus was the King, Jesus tells Peter where to find a coin, in the fish's mouth, to pay the tax.
Psalms - Psalm 22 is an amazing Psalm! This Psalm is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Re-read this Psalm again and see if you see parallels to Jesus' crucifixion? There are a lot in this Psalm. I'll list a few - Psalm 22:1a was quoted by Jesus on the cross - "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?" As we see in Matthew 27:46 - "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Psalm 22 Verse 8: ""Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him! If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!"" We see in similar fashion in Matthew 27:42-43: "“He saved others,” they said, “but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
Psalm 22 verses 16 & 17 make me want to cry... "They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count every bone in my body." The piercing of the hands and feet of Jesus are apparent with how the crucifixion took place. And these Psalm 22 verses are similar to John 19:33-37: "But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”"
And Psalm 22 verse 18: "They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments." Compare to John 19:23-24 - "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let's not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let's decide by lot who will get it.”"
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 5 verses 12-14 are some sad verses to imagine saying in our lives: ""How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why didn't I listen to my teachers? Why didn't I pay attention to those who gave me instruction? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace."" Do you love or hate discipline? Do you demand your own way? Are you listening to your teachers today? Who are your teachers today? Who is disciplining you? For Whom will you not demand your own way?
Worship God: Based on Psalm 22's look at what Jesus endured for us, it seems appropriate to share Darlene Zschech & Hillsong United singing "Here I am to Worship" which features the powerful line "I'll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:14 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would know God truly as the great I AM. Pray that God would be your personal I AM each and every day. Pray that our world would come to know God and Jesus as the only one and true I AM.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: I realize that reading Psalm 22 and seeing some of the images I posted up can evoke a lot of emotions. I am wondering, how often do you meditate upon Jesus' passion and death? Do you do this just around Good Friday / Resurrection Sunday each year? Or more often? How do you meditate upon the Lord's passion and death? Are passion plays, movies, or books helpful for you to do this? Or are their other things you read or watch or do? Do you think we should or should not meditate upon Jesus' passion and death more often than once a year? Why or why not? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Today is a big reading day! We finish up Genesis and begin Exodus! Genesis chapter 50 verses 19 & 20 stood out to me as Joseph spoke to his brothers: ""Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people." Again, I am impressed with Joseph's character here. His brothers seemed to think that Joseph hadn't really forgiven them, and that he was waiting to get back at them after their father had passed away. But, I think we see here that Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers! It was water under the bridge. And not only had Joseph forgiven them, but he saw the power of how God turned something bad into something incredibly good. I wonder about this in our lives today - do we truly forgive other people like Joseph forgave his brothers? Or, do we maybe hold some piece of unforgiveness within us? Maybe we keep bringing up the wrong that somebody did to us? Maybe we do this to make them feel a bit guilty from time to time? Will we instead fully forgive and fully move forward?
One interesting side note in chapter 50 was the embalming of Jacob & Joseph. Embalming was an Egyptian custom - not a Hebrew custom. Some commentaries suggest that Jacob & Joseph were likely being respectful of the Egyptian customs of the day. The Egyptians believed in an afterlife - and believed that the embalming allowed the deceased to utilize their body in the afterlife. Below is an illustration from the 13th century "Psalter of St. Louis" of Jacob´s corpse being laid in the tomb by his twelve sons:
~Exodus~ Author: Moses Date: 1420 or 1220 B.C. Content: The book of Exodus deals with the significant facts surrounding Israel’s emergence as a nation. Moses’ great leadership is described as he accepted God’s call to return to Egypt in order to lead God’s people to freedom. God sent the ten devastating plagues upon Egypt because the Pharaoh refused to obey his command. The ceremony of Passover was established during the last plague and became a memorial of God’s deliverance for all time to Israel. The Israelites crossed the sea and arrived at Mt. Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments and the plan for the tabernacle, and the covenant was renewed the nation. Theme: The power of God over evil is clearly shown when God defeats the enemy of his people by delivering them from bondage, but God expects that we trust and obey him in return. Worship in the Tabernacle and adherence to the law were two aspects of Israel’s obedience. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pages 1-2) Terrific in-depth commentary on the book of Exodus can be found at bible.org at this link.
In Exodus chapter 1 verse 12 is awesome: "But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more quickly the Israelites multiplied!" It's amazing how when God wants people to flourish, they flourish! Even in the midst of oppression. This verse kind of reminds me of the flourishing of churches over the centuries and even today where the body of Christ is still often oppressed. It flourishes! Praise God for flourishing his people then - and now!
In Exodus chapter 2 we are first introduced to Moses, who is the author of this book of Exodus - along w/ the overall first 5 books of the Old Testament - also known as the Pentateuch or the Books of Law. A fun little Bible factoid for you in Exodus chapter 2 verse 6 is that this is the only mention anywhere in the Bible of a baby crying! :) "When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said."
Bible.org's commentary on Genesis chapter 50 titled "The End of An Era" is at this link, and commentary on Exodus chapter 1 titled "Pharaoh’s Fears and Israel’s Faith" is at this link.
New Testament - Today we read about Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew chapter 16. In verse 15 we hear Jesus ask: ““But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” And then in verse 16 Peter replies – “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I believe this is a question that is asked of each of us today as well. Who do you say that Jesus is? Is your answer the same answer as Peter’s? If not, will you pray to God about who Jesus truly is? Below is a fresco from 1481 by Pietro Perugino of "Christ Giving the Keys to Peter" from verse 19:
In verse 18 we read - "Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Praise God for Jesus instituting the body of Christ, Jesus’ church! And all of the powers of hell will not conquer the body of Christ! Do you praise Jesus regularly for the church you attend? Do you pray for the ministry of your church regularly? Do you pray often for your pastors / ministers / priests? Do you pray for others that attend your church? Do you pray for those that will soon be coming to attend your church? I have to say - I absolutely love my church. I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like without the church. I met first met Jesus thanks to the church about 6 and a half years ago. And Jesus changed my life forever. Thank God for the church! I realize that some of you may feel that some churches have some issues and so you don’t go to church at all at this time. However, I honestly do believe that we are called to be in community with others in a church – be it a big church, small church, house church, etc. - and that you really can find a great church if you search prayerfully. Trust me, they are out there! If you are not currently attending church - maybe because of bad experiences you had at another church in the past, will you pray about this with Jesus? Will you attend a different church again soon? I honestly believe it will bless you immensely to attend church again on a regular basis. Also, I am reminded of a classic line from Billy Graham – "If you ever find the perfect church, please do not join it. You’ll mess it up!" :) Indeed, there are no perfect people out there, and hence no perfect churches. But let us be the church anyway! The church may be a majestic mess, but it is Majestic indeed! And I do honestly believe that the body of Christ is the "hope of the world". Please be an active participant in this Hope.
Verses 24 - 26 are so powerful today: ""If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?" Wow... there is so much going on in these verses... I pray they speak to you powerfully as well? Do you want to follow Jesus? Will you put aside your selfish ambition? Will you shoulder your cross? Do you know what your cross is? Are you trying to "keep your life" in any area of your life? Or, will you give up all of your life - every area - to Jesus so that you will find true life? Is there anything that this world has to offer that is worth more than your soul?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 16 titled "Peter's Confession and Christ's Church" is at this link and commentary on chapter 17 titled "The Transfiguration" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 21 today follows up Psalm 20 from yesterday - yesterday's being a prayer for victory for the king as he goes out to battle - and today's being a psalm of praise for victories granted to the king. I like the credit given to God in verse 1: "How the king rejoices in your strength, O LORD! He shouts with joy because of your victory." The king is not rejoicing in his own strength. He is not claiming victory as his. He is giving credit to God! How about you in your life today? Do you give credit to God for the blessings and gifts he has given you? Do you shout for joy and rejoice simply because God is in your life?
Proverbs - Today we read in Proverbs chapter 5 verse 6: "For she does not care about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn't even realize where it leads." For some reason this year, as we've been going through the One Year Bible, the idea of "paths" keeps jumping out at me over and over again. Every time we read about paths now in the Bible, it stands out to me. And here it does again. The idea of paths in the Bible seems to clearly indicate that there are good paths - straight paths - paths through the narrow gate - paths of life - that we can choose to take. Or, unfortunately, there are also crooked trails and we don’t realize where they lead. Or we can take our eyes off the path. Or we can stumble on the path. How about for you? What type of path are you on these days? Is it a straight path? Are you keeping your eyes straight ahead on the path and focused on the prize? Will you pray to Jesus regularly to keep you on the straight path? Will you allow God's Word, the Bible, be a lamp unto your feet and a light on the path of life that you walk each day?
Worship God: Today's readings in Matthew 16:24-25 about taking up our crosses and following Jesus reminded me of the beautiful song by Leeland called "Follow You:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today:"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matthew 16:24-25 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you are following Jesus, denying yourself and taking up your cross daily. Pray that you have lost your life for Jesus.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: In our Matthew readings today Jesus institutes the church. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the church today? And I'm not talking about any one denomination - I mean church as the overall "body of Christ" Christian churches worldwide. Big churches, small churches, house churches, cathedral churches. Do you personally go to church regularly? Why or why not? Have there been periods of your life where you have not gone to church regularly? Have these been good or not so good periods of your life? What would you say to someone now who might be reading this blog who does not go to church about church? How might you encourage someone to go to church? Why does it matter if they go to church or not? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Today in Genesis Chapter 48 we read about Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh! One thing I thought about when reading this chapter and the next chapter was how interesting it is that blessings had so much importance and significance back in the days of the patriarchs. And I wonder - do we have blessings today that are as significant? Do fathers bless kids or grandkids these days? Maybe so... I guess I just haven't noticed it in my family... :) I do think there are still some "blessings" today that hold some incredible significance today. Wedding vows come to mind and the blessings that come from the pastor/priest/minister during this time. Church ceremonies or rituals come to mind - Communion, Baptism, Funerals, etc. And then certainly above all else, there is the amazing and eternal blessing we receive from Jesus himself - the free blessing and free gift of salvation. What else is there today that I'm missing? Have you been "blessed" by others in some way, like we read about in today's 2 chapters? Have you "blessed" others? Please share in the Comments section below. Below is a painting by the American artist Benjamin West from the early 19th century of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh - and with his arms appropriately crossed as per the text :) -
In Genesis chapter 49 we read about Jacob blessing his sons - and these are some very accurate blessings he gives as we will see as we continue through the Bible this year. Perhaps Predictions or Prophecies might be the better term for Jacob's blessings in this chapter. Verse 10 is awesome: "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey." This verse can apply to 2 descendants of Judah - King David and then ultimately and eternally to Jesus. In verse 22 we read this about Joseph: "Joseph is a fruitful tree," And this is certainly true, as his descendants will include Joshua, Deborah & Gideon & Jephthah (3 judges of Israel), and Samuel the prophet. Below is an image of Jacob blessing his 12 sons:
Below is a map that should be helpful to review based on today's blessing from Jacob of his sons. Obviously we still need to get through the Exodus and a few other things before the twelve tribes have this land below :), but this is a nice overview for now of where things are going and correlate with Jacob's blessing in today's readings:
Bible.org's commentary on Genesis chapter 48 titled "The View from the Graveyard" is at this link and commentary on chapter 49 titled "The Purpose of Prophecy" is at this link.
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 16 verses 11 & 12 stood out to me today: "So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' " Then at last they understood that he wasn't speaking about yeast or bread but about the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." And I wonder today - are there false teachings that we should beware of today? I believe there are... and there have been times in my life where I have bought into false teaching's. How can we know if a teacher is false? That is a great question. I would say that each of you are doing an amazing thing to help discern whether a teacher is false by reading the entire Bible. I believe the Bible to be the ultimate Truthful teaching that we can read - and thus, if you come across teachers that differ radically or go against the teachings of the Bible, you need to be wary. Don't get me wrong - every pastor / minister / priest is going to have some different takes or views or interpretations of the Bible. By slight degrees... If there are major differences, then you should be worried. In addition to knowing the Bible relatively well, the key to discerning false teachers will be the Holy Spirit. If you are getting bad "gut feelings" (hopefully coming from the Holy Spirit) over and over again about a teacher, there might be an issue. Pray to God about this and ask for his guidance. I realize this can be a sensitive issue! I'd say don't freak out about this and start wondering if your pastor is a false teacher.... :) But, be aware. I do believe there are still false teachers out and about today unfortunately. If you ever feel like you are being confused by someone today, keep your eye on the way out of confusion through God's Word!
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 15 titled "A Lesson in Hermeneutics" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 20 is a prayer for a king as he goes out into battle - check out verses 1 through 5 again and you can imagine a group of people saying these words to the king. Maybe another way to read this Psalm, personally, is as a prayer for yourself as you go out into battle against a sin or a struggle in your life. And this verse 5 then is for you as you go into this battle: "May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers." Amen! Let the banners fly soon in your life!
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 4 verse 23 holds so much truth... "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." Check out yesterday's posting below for tons more reflections on why it is so critical for us to guard our hearts. How are you doing on guarding your heart these days?
We would do well to obey the teaching of verse 24: "Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech." I have found it sometimes far too easy to be pulled into perverse talk - even if I didn't start it. (look at me - blaming others here! :) I do think we really need to be aware of situations where talk amongst our peers or friends is going in the wrong direction and to realize that we need to get ourselves out of these situations as quickly as possible. Sure, try to do it gracefully. Try to change the subject if you can. But if not, just excuse yourself and get out of Dodge...
YouTube: Today's readings in Genesis about Jacob blessing his son's reminded me of Tenth Avenue North's song "You Are More:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. " Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that your heart would be guarded by God's Word today. Pray that Jesus is the Lord of the wellspring of your life today and forevermore.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Proverbs verses 25 & 26 are powerful and bring up a question I'd love feedback on: "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe." One thing that stood out to me in these verses is the ideas of setting goals. Are you a goal setter? I honestly am not really. I mean, I kind of set short-term goals - work projects, ministry projects, etc. But I don't really sit down and write down any big lifetime type goals. Part of my thinking on this is that I want to be as flexible as possible - if Jesus calls me to do something, I don't want to be hung up on some other goal... :) But, I'm not sure if this is the best thinking. This Proverb verse kind of makes me wonder if setting goals helps us keep looking straight ahead? If goals help us mark out a straight path for our feet? And to stay on it? So, let me know in the Comments section below if you are a goal-setter? And to the extent you can share how you set goals? How often? In writing? How often do you check back in on your goals? Do they make a difference in your life? In your spiritual life? I am really curious on this one... I am thinking I might need to be setting some goals here! :) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - Today in Genesis Chapter 46 we read about Jacob and his family's journey to Egypt! I really like that God speaks to Jacob in a vision at Beersheba - the same place where both Abraham and Isaac had worshiped God earlier in Genesis. As Jacob was about to leave Canaan, God reaffirms his covenant promises. Very reassuring for Jacob I am sure! I wonder - sometimes in our lives - as we are about to embark on something big: Maybe a new ministry. Maybe a mission trip. Maybe a new job. Maybe a new marriage. Maybe a new child. Does God speak to us? Does God reaffirm his love to us? Does God tell us that he will be with us on this new thing - as he did to Jacob in this chapter? I can't say that I've verbally heard God speak to me during times of big change in my life. But, I have most definitely sensed amazing peace many times during big changes in my life. I do try to pray more than ever during times of change. I try to stay as absolutely close to God as I possibly can. Maybe I'm kind of like a scared child trying to huddle up to my heavenly Father during times of change. Which I am okay with. :) And - it seems almost without fail, God does "speak" to me with a peace that surpasses all understanding. If the peace is not there... then I do begin to worry if what I am doing is really God's will for my life. If the peace is there - I know without a shadow of a doubt that what I am embarking upon is God's will for my life. I will say this - that even if I cannot discern or sense the peace during a time of change, I still do not doubt that God will be with me. That he will not leave me. That he will be there. Do you believe that God is with you always? That he will go with you wherever you go? Below is a wonderful engraving by Gustave Dore of Jacob traveling to Egypt:
Verses 33 & 34 stood out to me in today's readings, as Joseph gives his brothers this instruction: "So when Pharaoh calls for you and asks you about your occupation, tell him, `We have been livestock breeders from our youth, as our ancestors have been for many generations.' When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the land of Goshen, for shepherds are despised in the land of Egypt."" I like Joseph's wisdom here. I guess you could look at this as Joseph being manipulative of Pharaoh. But I don't really see this. I see that Joseph is telling his brothers what to say - which is true - and that this will allow the nation of Israel to begin to grow and flourish in the land of Goshen, removed from the cities of Egypt. It seems like Joseph is definitely catering to Pharaoh's generosity - "let your family come to Egypt!" - and Pharaoh / Egyptians prejudices - "shepherds are despised in the land of Egypt." For a win / win. It's a Stephen Covey win / win business principle here! :) Below is a map showing Jacob's family's journey from Canaan to Goshen:
In Genesis chapter 47 I find it very interesting that Jacob blesses Pharaoh twice. I haven't studied why this happens. My thought is that Jacob is indeed very appreciative of this current Pharaoh - for literally saving the Israelites by allowing God to move mightily through Joseph. We will see soon that there are future Pharaoh's who are not so kind to the Israelites... So, perhaps Jacob realized that this Pharaoh was deserving of two blessings. Let me know your thoughts on these blessings in the Comments below? Below is an image of Jacob blessing Pharaoh:
We then read about Joseph's leadership and business skills during the famine - as things get really bad with the famine and people are on the brink of starving. Overall, I initially thought that Joseph was making wise decisions that ultimately ended up saving lives - and in verse 25 the people said the same thing. However, I have one good friend who was in a Bible study with me who felt that Joseph was being way too harsh. I can see both sides... :) Did Joseph have other options / ways to do this? We actually got into quite a heated discussion on this point in our Bible study on this topic a couple of years ago. What do you think? During this time of extreme famine, was Joseph being too harsh or being wise and even being compassionate? Below is a Victorian era painting from 1874 by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema titled "Joseph, Overseer of the Pharaoh's Granaries":
Okay, I have to say that I absolutely love Bob Deffinbaugh's humor over at bible.org! Check out his commentary on Genesis chapter 46, with the awesome title of "Life Begins at 130"at this link. I love it! Bible.org's commentary on Genesis chapter 47 titled "A Proper Perspective of Poverty and Prosperity" is at this link.
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 15 today we read about Jesus confronting the Pharisees on their "age-old traditions." I read in Zondervan's & Tyndale's commentaries that after the Babylonian exile (we'll read about the exile late this year in the One Year Bible), Jewish rabbis began to make meticulous rules and regulations governing the daily life of people. And that these rules were added to God's law and were essentially elevated to the same sacred status by the Pharisees. In 200 A.D. these traditions of the elders were put into writing in the Mishnah. I think what Jesus gets at here in this chapter is that the Pharisees were allowing the "rules & regulations" to overshadow the spirit of God's law. They were not honoring their parents because of the practice of Corban - giving $ to the temple. Which, giving $ to the temple is a good thing... but at the expense of the great thing of caring for your parents? I know we all could probably go round and round on what is the greatest good - how should we spend our time and our money and our lives. I like that Jesus basically takes it to the heart. What is the heart of the matter? No matter what the matter is - taking care of your parents, giving to your church, obediently following God's will, receiving God's grace - what is the heart of the matter? One thing that I have been so blessed to learn over the past few years is that the condition of our hearts matters. Immensely. The motives of why we do something - anything - matters. Immensely. We are called in Proverbs to "guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of life." If we do not care for the state of our hearts, we can become very regimented or insensitive in our thinking and doing. We might even get to the point in verse 8 of this chapter where Jesus quotes from Isaiah: "`These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away." How is the state of your heart today? Is it close to God? Does your heart yearn for Jesus?
Jesus continues to speak about the importance of what is in our hearts in verses 18-20 today: "But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you." I think this takes us back again to the Sermon on the Mount - where Jesus teaches us in one example that yes, it is wrong to commit adultery. But, if you commit adultery in your heart, it is just as wrong. Because if you commit adultery in the heart, you have defiled your own heart. And from the heart could come the actual act of committing adultery - which would then shatter several lives. But it all starts in the heart.... So - the good news? Jesus can heal our hearts! Jesus is in the business of heart-healing! Maybe in your life, you might need to refocus from some external actions and start focusing on the state of your heart? Maybe by focusing on what's going on inside your heart, the external actions will ultimately change? Maybe allow Jesus to heal your heart - and then your external life will be healed as well? I'm not sure you can go about this the other way - trying to work from the outside back in... I think you need to start on the inside first and work your way out. But don't do this alone - let Jesus walk this healing path with you. Let Jesus tattoo your heart with his healing love! (very interesting name of the theater in the image below, based on our Genesis readings today... :)
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 15 titled "Jesus and the Traditions of the Elders" is at this link and "The Faith of a Canaanite Woman" is at this link.
Psalms - Today we read Psalm 19, which is one of my favorite Psalms! In large part this Psalm is one of my favorites because one of my former pastors taught from this Psalm 3 a few years ago in such a powerful way. Have you had this type of experience? Where you hear a sermon on a chapter of the Bible and then that chapter becomes one of your favorites? I do hope that this One Year Bible experience will allow you to tune-in a little bit more whenever you hear your pastors or ministers or priests teaching you from the Bible in church. I know this is the case with me. Thanks to reading the Bible each day, I now have better context of what is being taught from the pulpit and it makes going to church a richer experience overall. I also now often catch some Bible verses in the worship songs or hymns we sing as well. And this adds a lot to my worship of God now through music. This year, as you go through the One Year Bible and as you go to church, will you tune-in to the sermons and the songs in church more than ever and look for and appreciate how they tie in to the Bible?
Back to Psalm 19 – I do encourage everyone to really read through and meditate on every verse in this Psalm of David and how this Psalm might be speaking to you this week. Please do take a few minutes to go through the Psalm twice if possible and really reflect upon it. You may even want to journal to God some thoughts or ideas or prayers that come to you through reading this Psalm. I find verse 14 in this Psalm to be so powerful – again in large part because one of my former pastors often sang a worship song that simply repeats this verse over and over again – and what a beautiful prayer it is for each of us to repeat over and over again as well: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Are the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart pleasing in God’s sight? Is God your Rock? Is God your Redeemer?
Proverbs - Proverbs 4 verse 18 reminds me of Psalm 19! "The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day." See the parallel? Is your life shining ever brighter as you go forward in life? Are you shining ever brighter for those around you? Are you loving and blessing those around you more and more each day? Are you moving forward toward the full light of day?
Worship God: Today's readings in Psalm 19 and Proverbs 4:18 reminds me of the fantastic Matthew West song "More!"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today:"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that the words of your mouth today would be pleasing in God's sight. Pray that the very meditations of your heart today would be pleasing in His sight. Pray that you would know and experience Jesus as your Rock and your Redeemer this very day.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: In Matthew 15 verses 10 & 11 today we read: "Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth."" Do you agree with these words of Jesus'? Are you cognizant of the words that come out of your mouth on a moment by moment basis? Have you ever had to conscientiously change the words that come out of your mouth because they were not blessing others? Do you use profanity? (or am I being a Pharisee by even asking this question... :) I think it's a fair question - does profanity come out of your mouth? Do you think this is pleasing in God's sight? (Psalm 19:14) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
Old Testament - In Genesis chapter 44 we read about Joseph instructing his servant to place his silver cup in Benjamin's sack. I guess what struck me about all this is that it seemed to me like Joseph was possibly playing mind games with his brothers. Not to say that they didn't deserve it... but, I wonder if in all of this Joseph had a master game-plan - or if it was simply games he was playing? The weeping we see from him kind of makes me think that he was not 100% sure of what he was doing, game-plan wise. The weeping seemed to indicate that he wanted to reconnect with his brothers and his family. It seems in all of this he has kept at least 1 family member around - or has not let them get very far away. This makes me wonder - do we play mind games with others around us? Should we? Would it have been better if Joseph was honest with his brothers from the beginning on who he was? Would it be better for us if we are simply honest with others from the beginning? And don't play mind games? Below is a painting from 1831 by Russian painter Alexander Ivanov of Joseph's household manager finding the silver cup in Benjamin's sack:
Verses 18 through 34 in this chapter is Judah's amazing speech to Joseph! I don't know what it is about this speech. But I love it! It seems like Judah is finally owning up to being who he was born to be - the forefather of the line of King David and Jesus Christ. Verse 33 is the verse that really stood out to me: "Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers." What struck me about this is that now Judah is willing to be the slave, in the place of his brother Benjamin - whereas 22 years prior he offered up the idea of selling his brother Joseph into slavery as we read in Genesis 37 verses 26 & 27: "Judah said to the others, "What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let's sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders." It seems like Judah in chapter 44 has finally grown up and is acting like a morally responsible adult. Judah with this speech today is finally beginning to look like he might indeed deserve to be referred to as the father of the tribe of the "Lion" of Judah!
Genesis chapter 45 begins with Joseph weeping again - and I think that it makes perfect sense that he does so, in light of Judah's impassioned speech! And I wonder if Joseph in part weeps because Judah is offering to be the slave in the place of Benjamin? Either Joseph is weeping because his brothers did not show him this same mercy 22 years prior - or he is weeping because he is happy that Judah and his brothers seem to be very different people from 22 years prior - or he's weeping for other reasons. :) Let me know your thoughts in the Comments on this. Below is a painting from 1816 by Peter von Cornelius of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers in today's readings:
Verse 5 in this chapter is a powerfully mature statement from Joseph to his brothers: "But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." I find this very powerful that Joseph discerned this. He had been sold into slavery for 11 years! He was in a prison for 2 years! And then, yes, things got better for him thereafter - but he was still apart from his family. And yet - Joseph saw God's hand and God's plan in all of this. There was a greater good happening - the preservation of Abraham & Isaac's descendents. The preservation of God's covenant people. I then wonder about this in our lives. Are there times where we go through some hard times - maybe for many years - and in the midst of that, could God be working? Could God's hand and God's plan be moving in the midst of challenging times in our lives? I think it's possible that if I was Joseph that maybe I would have become a bitter man toward my brothers - and maybe done worse than just mind games. But, Joseph was compassionate - he wept - he gave grain in abundance to his family - he forgave his brothers. And more than anything, he saw that God was in control. Do you believe that God is in control of your life? Right now? All the time? No matter how good or how bad circumstances seem? Is God in control? Below is a very unique :) portrait by artist Guy Rowe of Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers and their looks of shock from 45:3: "But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them."
Bible.org's commentary on Genesis chapter 44 titled "The Final Test: Dothan Relived" is at this link, and commentary on chapter 45 titled "The Fundamentals of Forgiveness" is at this link.
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 14 today we read about two miracles - Jesus feeding the 5,000 (or really 10,000 to 15,000 counting men, women & children - Matthew just counted men, as his Gospel was written to a Jewish audience, which had men eat separately from women and children at that time/place) and Jesus walking on water. While these 2 miracles are amazing and again confirming that Jesus is God - a couple of other things stood out me. First was verse 23: "Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray." If Jesus did this - do you think we should do the same? How often do we get away from the "crowds" or even the "disciples" or loved ones in our life to be by ourselves and pray? Do you do this at least for a few minutes each day? Do you do this for longer periods of time too?
Verses 29 & 30 also stood out to me today: "All right, come," Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. "Save me, Lord!" he shouted." These verses made me wonder in our own lives - Are there times or areas our lives where Jesus has said, "Come", and we've moved forward in faith. But then - the waves came... the challenges came... the doubts came... the insults came.... and we started to waver in our faith? Maybe we got scared - and started to sink? Well - I do admire that Peter did cry out to Jesus to save him in this situation - and we then get the reassuring verse 31: "Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him." If you feel like there are some areas in your life where you are sinking - will you cry out to Jesus to save you? Do you believe he will instantly reach out his hand and grab you?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 14 titled "The Feeding of the Five Thousand" is at this link.
Psalms - Today we finish up Psalm 18. (Psalm 19 tomorrow! So excited! :) The closing verse 50 of Psalm 18 today is powerful - and I believe can apply to both David and Jesus: "You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever." Are you a spiritual descendent of David? Do you believe that God shows you unfailing love? Do you think that God's Word, the Bible, shows His unfailing love for you?
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 4 verse 13 was impactful for me today: "Carry out my instructions; don't forsake them. Guard them, for they will lead you to a fulfilled life." I like that last thought - guard God's instructions. Don't forsake them. For they will lead you to a fulfilled life. I think sometimes people think that loving God and following his ways will be BORING. :) This is so not true! It is absolutely the best adventure we could ever imagine. And truly, following God and his instructions is the only way I personally believe that any of us can have a fulfilled life. I do not think there is another way to lead a fulfilled life. Can you imagine a life apart from God being fulfilling? Is this remotely possible?? Today, let us leap into the adventurous life of faith that God is truly calling us to live!
Worship God: Today's readings in Matthew about Peter calling out to Jesus when he was sinking in the water reminded me of the Third Day song "Call My Name:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today:"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!" Psalm 18:46 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would praise God wholeheartedly today in all that you think, do, and say.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on our readings in Matthew today where we see that Jesus slipped away from the crowds to pray by himself, do you model this behavior of Jesus' in your life and slip away from the crowds to pray by yourself? How often? Where and How? Also, do you take spiritual retreats? Do you take the retreats alone or with others? Is prayer a central part of the retreats? I'm just curious about spiritual retreats. I cannot say that I have done a prayer-focused spiritual retreat - or even an alone-with-God focused spiritual retreat. I think I might be due. :) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!