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Monthly Archives: April 2011

10 and 7

 

Exodus 19:16-21:21

Let’s break down the 10 commandments:

Love God – (1) Have no other gods before Him (2) don’t worship idols because He is jealous (3) don’t misuse the name of the LORD (4) and keep the Sabbath day holy (take a day off to remember who is really taking care of you).

Love Others – (5) honor your parents (6) don’t murder (7) don’t commit adultery (8) don’t steal (9) don’t give false testimony (10) and don’t covet your neighbors stuff.

A lot of people are concerned with keeping the 10 commandments posted in our public places. If we were to get really serious about living out these commandments in our lives the world would change drastically. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, takes these commands even deeper into why we are supposed to keep them.

In what ways do you not loving God that you need to work on this week? How could you better love others this week?

In the beginning of Chapter 19, God tells Israel that He wants to make them a holy nation and their response is that they will do everything that LORD commands. Essentially, God proposes and they say “yes!” How well are they going to do with this new found relationship?

Matthew 23:13-39

Woe 1 – Leading people away from the kingdom of heaven

Woe 2 – Turning converts into empty hypocrites

Woe 3 – Making money has become more important than authentic worship

Woe 4 – Paying attention to things that matter a little at the expense of things that matter a lot…i.e. Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.

Woe 5 – Cleaning up on the outside while hanging onto greed and self-indulgence on the inside

Woe 6 – Creating the impression of holiness to hide hypocrisy and persistent wrongdoing

Woe 7 – Pretending to be morally superior to those who came before

When I run across lists like this I try not to put all the focus on the recipient of such harsh language. I try to put myself on the receiving end and ask myself what Jesus might say to me in this tone! Jesus’ tone is very angry through this section but it ends with a tone of sadness. He longs to take us in under His wings but we are all too often unwilling.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Genocide and Moses’ Odd Family

Did God order an entire people annihilated?

In today’s reading, the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites.  It’s not unusual for Israel to attack others or get attacked, but for some reason, this aggressive act by Amalek is different.  When it’s all said and done, God instructs Israel to never forget that they must annihilate the Amalekites.  God eventually tells Saul to destroy their armies, families, livestock and possessions. When Saul fails at this, he loses his kingdom.  Destroy Amalek is very important to Israel and to God.

But why?  I think the clue is in Deuteronomy 25, where in a long list of law and instructions for living as God’s people, is a command to remember Amalek and how they treated Israel coming out of Egypt.  Israel is supposed to go back and destroy Amalek once they find peace in Canaan.  This passage tells us that the Amalekites attacked Israel when they were weak travelers.  There is also an indication that the Amalekites “cut off Israel’s tail” and tried to kill those who were left behind.  While we don’t know the details, it certainly appears that Amalek attacked the weakest, slowest, least suspecting among Israel.  They went after the women, children, and elderly.

This type of attack is singled out by God as being completely unacceptable and a people who can do this type of thing must be mercilessly destroyed.  While this is very uncomfortable to Christians today, I think we need to understand that God has been doing battle with evil in this world since we left Eden.  He has used floods, promises, relationships, plagues, prophets and swords.  Sometimes you can “outlove” evil.  Sometimes it has to be annihilated.  Amalek’s actions of attacking the weak marked them for complete destruction.

Moses’ Family (beware of some personal speculation below)

When it comes to Moses’ family, there is much more that we don’t know than what we do know.  And that’s the really weird thing.  We know a lot about the children, especially the sons, of every major Old Testament character.  Except for Moses, who is one of the two or three most significant Old Testament characters.  In my mind, the absence of information about Moses’ sons speaks volumes.  As I have been reading through Moses’ story, I can’t help but wonder if Moses struggled as a husband and father.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. Zipporah is a Mideonite woman, and by now we know that it’s a problem when God’s people marry people who aren’t.
  2. In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam express frustration with Moses’ Cushite wife.  This might be Zipporah, or might not.  Either way, there’s more problems.
  3. On his way to Egypt with Zipporah and his son, Gershom, God almost kills Moses.  It’s a really, really weird story.  We know God is mad.  We know that Gershom isn’t circumcised like he should have been.  We know that when his mother hastily circumcises him that God’s anger subsides.  It appears to me that God is angry that Moses is not raising his sons as Hebrews or within God’s covenant relationship with his people.
  4. When Moses leaves Egypt, he has already sent his wife and sons away to be with his father-in-law.  When he returns, he does not send for them.  They hear rumors God has delivered them and go visit.  We only have record of Moses spending time with Jethro.
  5. This is a big one to me.  Neither Moses, nor anybody else in Israel, ever gives any indication that any of Moses’ sons might be his successor as leader over Israel.  In that culture, every expectation should have been for the sons to take over from the father (See Isaac, Jacob, Pharaoh, Saul, David, Samuel, etc.).
  6. In Judges 18, Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses, becomes priest for an idol in Dan.  Moses does not seem to have passed down the values or relationship to Yahweh to his son Gershom in a way that would create a legacy of faith in their family.
I say all of this to point out that great leaders and great men of faith can still struggle to be the husbands and fathers their families need.  In fact, their families can even suffer because of their calling.  As men of God, we are called to serve and lead, but not to the detriment of our families.
Matthew 23
Jesus says more critical and harsh things to religious leaders.  They keep trying to trap him and he keeps knocking their questions out of the park.
Proverbs 6
Committing adultery is like setting your pants on fire (loosely translated by me).
 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Grumble Grumble Grumble

Exodus 15:19-17:7

God and Israel continue on their journey of dependence. God is going to continually place them in positions where they will have to depend on Him for their needs. He is teaching them relationship with Him. I love the way He does that through only providing them with what they need for each day and not letting them store up food and rely on themselves. In 16:18 it basically says that no matter how much each person picked up for themselves God made it the perfect amount for their needs. I find that verse very comforting. When we measure out what God has given us it is never too much or too little. In what ways do you see God providing for you? In what ways do you need to depend more on Him and less on yourself? Israel is going to continue to grumble against God and it’ll get really annoying for Moses, God, and us as readers. We can tend to be hard on Israel but all too often we fail to depend on God ourselves. Let’s do our best to be very self reflective as we look at Israel’s relationship with God.

Matthew 22:1-33

Jesus continues in these passages to tick off the Pharisees. I try not to be too quick to say I know exactly what Jesus is talking about. In the first parable today, Jesus talks about the wedding banquet and how the first group rejected the invitation. This first group seems to point to the Pharisees and their forefathers who killed the prophets who proclaimed God’s message. People from the streets were then invited to the wedding banquet. What I feel like needs to be emphasized here is that there were still expectations of those who came to the wedding. Though God has called us off the street to come to His banquet, He still has expectations of us. I don’t think this is talking about a dress code here. What would you say the wedding clothes that are expected to be worn represent?

In the last part of our reading today I just want to point out that when it says in 22:30 that we will be like the angels in heaven, it is not saying that we will have wings and wear a halo. This is a common view of what we will be like in the next life that I feel is off. This passage is referring to marriage and that we will be like the angels in those regards. There is a lot of debate from other passages as to whether or not we will be married in heaven. I don’t really feel like addressing it right now…I just wanted to point out what I don’t think this passage is talking about.

Psalm 27:1-6

I found a lot of comfort in this psalm this morning. I went back and allowed it to shape my time of prayer. It really opened me up to look at areas of my life where I need to seek God and let Him take control.

Proverbs 6:20-26

Oh the imagery of the Proverbs…follow the good teachings…we’ll leave it at that.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

God’s Trap and Why Jesus Really Died

Exodus 13:17-15:18  Matthew 21:23-46  Psalm 26:1-12  Proverbs 6:16-19

In today’s reading, God marches Israel straight into a trap so Egypt could have them cornered with no escape.  The reading tells us that they could have gone the short way, but in the open field, God knew that the “struggling-in-their-faith-with-a-new-God” Israel would flee before he could even have time to show them he would protect them.  So he backs them into an inescapable corner and sends Pharaoh chasing after them.

He then begins to demonstrate through pillars of cloud and fire that He is going to intercede on Israel’s behalf.  He will protect them and rescue them, no matter what.  (Although it is surprising that after the 10 plagues that further reassurance is needed.)  The big rescue comes one night when God sends a strong wind to seperate the waters and dry the ground so that Israel escapes and Egypt’s army drowns.  It’s the final act of closure on their times of slavery.  No more fear of Pharaoh’s army.  No more turning back.  No more questioning God’s faithfulness (at least no merit for questioning).

This passage ends with “…they were filled with awe before him.  They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”  FINALLY!  Was that all it took?  Apparently God knew exactly what extremes were required to win Israel’s heart and mind.

Does God still guide us into traps so that he can rescue us and remind us that he will always protect and rescue us?  I think so.  Do we always notice?  Not always.

Matthew 21 and Why Jesus was Killed

It’s one of our favorite Bible school questions: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”  Because he loved us and died for our sins.  Ultimately that is the reason for his ministry and willingness to die, as well as the final result of that act of love.  However, a more practical answer might be, “Because he often went out of his way to insult and criticize powerful people.”  Enter Matthew 21.

A couple of days after turning the Temple upside down, Jesus is asked by the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (owners of the tossed tables) who gives him the authority.  Knowing they are trying to trap him, he reverse traps them by asking who gave John authority.  They can’t answer, so neither does he.

Deeply insulting parable 1: Prostitutes and government thieves deny God regularly but when they heard John preach they repented.  You proclaim God and heard John preach and now deny God with your lifestyle.

Deeply insulting parable 2: If a bunch of farmers are lazy, selfish, immoral, and greedy and their master sends his son to get them to do their job then they will kill him.  Those farmers deserve to have the master come and slaughter them (implied God should kill you).  Pharisee and Teachers of the Law response, “We have to kill this guy.”

Not many people could say this many bad things to the leaders of Israel and live.  Not even their own Messiah.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Passover and Triumphant Entry

Exodus 12:14-13:16  Matthew 20:29-21:22  Psalm 25:16-22  Proverbs 6:12-15

The Passover seder meal is the traditional meal that Jewish families share every year to commemorate the passover event in Egypt.  Every item is served individually and has meaning so that as the food is served the parents can teach the children about every detail of how God delivered them from slavery.  Here is a brief description of the Jewish meanings behind each of the food items:

http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/passoverfoods.htm

Most Christians don’t know much about the Passover meal, but Jesus and his Apostles certainly did.  When we read about this event and the instructions to Israel to commemorate this event every year, this will eventually lead to The Last Supper, Jesus’ final Passover meal with his disciples.  That meal, in turn, becomes the origin of the Lord’s Supper, or communion, which we take every Sunday.

So when Jesus tells his followers that this bread represents his body and the wine represents his blood, that is news to the disciples.  They have attended a Passover meal every year of their lives and that’s not what the bread and wine have always represented.  The matzo represented the haste with which the Israelites left Egypt and the wine is served at four intervals to remind the participants of God’s fourfold plan of redemption.

Jesus is taking some of Israel’s most important symbols and explaining that he is the new and ultimate fulfillment of these events and celebrations.  He is the ultimate freedom from slavery, but not to Egypt, but to sin and death.  Jesus is the greatest part of God’s plan of redemption, that his blood paid the price for ours.  Never again would the disciples at that Passover meal think of the bread and wine the same again.  It would forever be a new time for them to eat and remember how the blood of Christ freed them from slavery.

In today’s Matthew passage, Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king.  I can’t imagine how hard it was to be celebrated by people who would so quickly turn on him.  To see the joy in children’s faces with Messianic hope and expectation…knowing that that hope was so close to being destroyed.  To sit with his Apostles that night as they would be thrilled with the anticipation of what this Passover weekend held in store, with such an unbelievable entrance and beginning.  How quickly their joy would turn to sorrows.  How hard it must have been for Jesus to watch all of this, knowing what he knew.

My other favorite passage today comes from Proverbs 6:16 (which is actually tomorrow’s reading but I accidentally read one verse to far and tomorrow is Ryan’s turn so I am commenting on it anyways).  “There are six things the LORD hates — no, seven things he detests:”  Apparently this verse was written before white-out was invented and I think it’s hilarious.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Get Ready for the Journey and God’s Generosity

Exodus 10:1-12:13  Matthew 20:1-28  Psalm 25:1-15  Proverbs 6:6-11

Exodus 10:1-12:13

We’ve come to a tough passage of scripture about God in today’s reading. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, which he told Moses he would do. At first, Pharaoh was hardening his own heart but God hardened it more as time went by. In doing this, lots of people die. Does God still harden hearts today? I am very careful in answering that question. God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart for very specific reasons (as Kent mentioned earlier) so I am hesitant to say this is how God continues to act today. As Moses is leaving Pharaoh, after telling him all the firstborn will die, he says, “Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

In Chapter 12, the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread are established. This is the foundation of our Lord’s Supper that we take part in every week. We easily see the connection to the blood of the lamb that saves and the unleavened bread. One thing I’d like to point out in the Passover Meal that we don’t typically connect with the Lord’s Supper, is the since of readiness for exodus. Your cloak is tucked into your belt. You shoes are on. Staff is in your hand. You eat quickly. All of these things point to your readiness to follow God out of the land of oppression and into the Promise Land. How often do we take the Lord’s Supper in a mindset of being settled in this land? The Lord’s Supper should be a constant reminder that we are not home!

Matthew 20:1-28

I wasn’t born on a church pew but I was there shortly after I am sure. I haven’t missed worship but maybe a few times in my life. I was baptized when I was 10. I’ve been pursuing a relationship with God for over 17 years now. None of this saves me. What saves me is the generosity of God through Jesus Christ! Whether you’ve been a worker in His field for seven days or 77 years, you’ve been given the same wage! How great is the generosity of God! If we want to better understand the Kingdom of God, those of us who are “first” need to put ourselves as last. What can we do to make sure younger Christians are receiving the generosity of God through us?

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

TJ’s Sermon and Being Rich

Exodus 8:1-9:35  Matthew 19:13-30  Psalm 24:1-10  Proverbs 6:1-5

Let the Little Children Come to Me…

Well TJ isn’t the little boy we all remember.  In fact, he is growing up into a young Christian man.  Here is his 10 minute sermon from LTC this weekend.  He did a fantastic job and received a gold medal.  Congrats TJ!

Today’s reading also features the story of the rich man who insists that he has so obediently followed all of the law that he needs to know if there is anything else he needs to do.  Jesus, of course, isn’t going to let somebody so self-righteous get away with a comment like that.  “Sell your possessions and give everything to the poor.”  The young man walks away saddened.

This story often scares us and the disciples felt the same way.  “If that’s true, then who in the world can be saved?”  Jesus says something like, “Humanly speaking, it’s impossible.  But with God, anything is possible.”  That’s the good news for us too, that while we struggle to have the priorities and obedience that Jesus demonstrates and calls each one of us to, that we need God to truly become the people he has called us to be.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Plagues and the Greatest

Exodus 5:22-7:25  Matthew 18:21-19:12  Psalm 23:1-6  Proverbs 5:22-23

The plagues served three major purposes:

  1. They convinced Pharaoh to let Israel go.
  2. They were a direct attack on a polytheistic culture.  Many of these plagues were God’s way of saying, “There is no god of livestock, I am the God of everything including livestock.  There is no god of the Nile, I am the God of the Nile and everything else.  There is no…well you get the idea.”
  3. They were intended to show God’s glory to all the nations.  This includes Israel.  After 400 years in Egypt, many in Israel have forgotten that Yahweh is their God and that they are God’s people.  Perhaps this is why the first three plagues were inflicted even on the people of Goshen, which is where Israel lived.  It was because at this point even Israel needs to experience and be reminded of God’s glory.
This is another passage that we often teach to children and it becomes so well known that we don’t go back and study it.  This means that we often sugar-coat our understanding of exactly what’s going on.  If you really want to better understand the plagues, read through each of them again and imagine the smells and sounds that would have accompanied each one of them.  When you actually think of the disasters, decay, death, and destruction that accompany each of these plagues, you will realize the horror that Israel experienced.
 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

God Waits for Dependence

Exodus 4:1-5:21  Matthew 18:1-20  Psalm 22:19-31  Proverbs 5:15-21

Exodus 4:1-5:21

Yesterday, Kent pointed out the arguments that Moses gave God for not going to Pharaoh. Recapping the conversation again…Moses – “Who am I that you want me to go?” God – “It doesn’t matter who you are because I am going with you!” Moses – “And who are you?” God – “I AM!” Moses – “I don’t speak good!” God – “Who gave man his mouth? I will speak for you!” Moses – “I really just do not want to go! Send someone else!” God – “You are really making me angry! I’ll let you take Aaron but it’ll still be me talking through you!”

The man who was slow in speech sure had a lot to say! It is amazing that 40 years earlier, Moses was ready and eager to lead his people out of oppression. When he attempted to, they were unwilling and turned against him because he murdered the Egyptian. Scared, in hiding, and 80 years old, Moses then receives his call from God. All too often we want to do things in our time and with our power. God waits till Moses would have to depend on Him to bring his people out of Egypt.

Matthew 18:1-20

What are your thoughts on these passages?

V 15-20 – In dealing with sin issues, Jesus wants us to take it seriously. I’ve been part of one church that has had to disfellowship someone because they would not stop living in their sin. This seems really harsh but I think Jesus wants us to understand how serious sin is. At this point in time though, if you’re asked to leave one church you just go down the street to the next one. Is there a different way to deal with sin in the church that still captures the heart of what this passage is getting at?

Psalm 22:19-31

I love this Psalm! Jesus, from the cross, cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is calling the Jews around him to remember this Psalm. The Psalm ends with a proclamation of praise, “He has done it!” We are the future generations, those who are yet unborn, and we know His righteousness! Lets continue to proclaim it to the generations to come!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Excuses, Excuses and the Strength of Jesus

Exodus 2:11-3:22  Matthew 17:10-27  Psalm 22:1-18  Proverbs 5:7-14

Two things about Moses’ family.  First, regardless of what you have seen in every Moses movie ever, it isn’t likely that Moses was actually raised as a “prince of Egypt.”  There’s a decent chance that he didn’t even really know Pharaoh.  Considering that the household of Pharaoh would have been extremely large and very patriarchal, it is possible that Pharaoh’s daughter could have acquired a child without it having a significant impact on the royal family.  Certainly Moses benefited from family wealth, education, and opportunity.  However, he probably didn’t have chariot races with Pharaoh’s other sons, his uncles.  Secondly, Moses and Zipporah have a son named Gershom.  You won’t ever read about Gershom again (other than genealogies).  In a world that is huge on blessing, inheritance, and bloodlines, it is really unusual to me that Moses’ son is of no significance.

Moses’ Excuses 

God calls Moses from a burning bush and tells him to go to Egypt (where Moses fled for his life) to confront Pharaoh and insist that he release God’s people so they can return to Canaan.  In a normal calling in the Old Testament, you can expect the servant to issue a single objection.  It acknowledges the task and the obstacles for success.  The master explains how to overcome the obstacles and the servant should then accept the task.  Moses, however, gives four objections following three signs.  Here they are:

  1. Who am I to do this?
  2. Who are you to send me?
  3. What if they don’t believe me/you?
  4. I don’t want to go.  Send somebody else.
(Spoiler alert for tomorrow’s reading.)  This makes God angry.  Morale of the story: When God calls you to do something, you are allowed to offer one objection to the task.  When God acknowledges your excuse and tells you He will make sure you are successful, then you need to shut up and go.
Matthew 17
Things are getting more intense.  “Get behind me Satan,” was said to Peter yesterday when Peter didn’t like the plan for Jesus to be killed in Jerusalem.  This chapter features a reference to the beheaded John the Baptist as Jesus says he will be treated much the same way.  Shortly afterwards there is a random two verse passage where Jesus simply reminds the Apostles he will soon be killed.  They are filled with grief.  The tone of Matthews Gospel has shifted dramatically from the teachings early in the book to the miracles that were common later on, to a heavy sense of impending conflict and death.  Pay attention to how much conflict exists between Jesus and religious leaders in the coming chapters.  We often think of the pain of the last week of Jesus’ life, but we often overlook the fact that he had to spend much longer knowing that he would become the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.  There is no question that Jesus was a man of great strength.
 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Bible in One Year