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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Passover – Watch!

Numbers 8:1-9:23

The Passover meal was/is a major symbol of who Israel is and what God has done for them. To neglect this meal is punishable by excommunication. For those who are not clean, God provides an avenue for them to take part in the meal. This meal is a constant reminder of who God is and who they are because of what God has done. Foreigners are to take of this meal as well. God wants them to understand the community that they are now part of. Though they are not native born Israelites, it is essential that they understand the formative history that has made God’s people who they are!

Mark 13:14-37

As we continue in this discourse about the signs of the end of time and being ready, Jesus finishes his symbolic statements with, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (v30). When people try to use these passages to decipher when the end will come are ignoring this verse. He ends this sections with a simple instruction, “Watch!” With all the questions currently circulation about the end of times, the wrong questions are being asked. It isn’t a question of “When” but of “Are you ready?”

I am comforted by v31. All kinds of things come along in life that demand your attention and we feel often demand our loyalty, this verse helps keep things in perspective. Heaven and earth, and everything in them, will pass away. All of your stuff will be kindling for the great big bonfire at the end. God’s Word will never pass away. If you find yourself being pulled this way and that by the things of this world that demand your attention, keep them in perspective.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

The Nazirite – Be on your guard

Numbers 6:1-7:89  

The Nazirite – God gives both men and women an opportunity to be dedicated for a time to the LORD. A few main focal points for this dedication is the symbol of the hair, not partaking in anything having to do with the grape, and not touching anything dead. It is interesting that if something happens to die in the presence of the Nazirite, they have then “sinned” and are now in need of purification. Without consulting commentary on the meanings of these things, it seems as though “sin” here is defined as uncleanliness before God, whether intentional or unintentional. Keep this list in mind when we get to the story of Samson. I’ve always found it intriguing that he was set apart as a Nazirite but really only kept up with the whole hair thing.

The Priestly Blessing – This has to be one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible and we should consider praying this blessing on God’s people often.

Dedication of the Tabernacle – If you’re going to throw a house warming party for God…make it a big one!

Mark 12:38-13:13  

Jesus continues to set himself apart from the rulers of the day. He calls them out for their showy lifestyles and how they draw more attention to themselves than to God. When Jesus sees a woman giving out of her poverty, he calls attention to her and praises her for her sacrificial offering. She gave more than all the others. In searching for a picture to depict this scene, a lot of advertisements came up for expensive jewelry with the widow’s mite placed within it. I find it ironic that people would spend $400-900 (what I saw at a glance) on something to remind them to give sacrificially.

The last section of our reading can be summed up in v9, “You must be on your guard.” Jesus then tells them that the gospel is to be preached to all nations and warns them of how they will be hated because of him, “but those who stand firm to the end will be saved.” We often paint a picture that life will be easy once you’ve become a follower of Christ. Seeing that my life has been pretty easy as a Christian I often wonder what I have been lacking. These verses really make me feel lazy! Maybe the reality that I haven’t been persecuted is that I haven’t been worthy of persecution?

Psalm 49:1-20  

This Psalm goes great with Kent’s sermon yesterday…which he did a great job

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

 

Affair-testing and Resurrection

So Israel had a test that men could force their wives to take to determine whether or not they had been faithful and then Jesus teaches about the Resurrection.

Numbers 4-5, Mark 12:18-27, Psalm 48:1-14, Proverbs 10:26

This entire passage about purity, unfaithfulness and the marital infidelity exam that only women have to take is really uncomfortable.  Things that are very odd to me about this test.  First, it can only be used on women.  There is no bitter water test for men.  Second, that this potion, prescribed by God, can actually test for unfaithfulness and give a curse.  Third, this seems to be a lose-lose situation for the husband.  If your wife fails the test and her abdomen swells and her womb shrivels, then you got cheated on and are either getting a divorce or married to an unfaithful barren woman.  If she passes the test then your faithful wife is standing there with a couple of oddly flavored water giving you the worse glare you have ever received in your life.  And, you have to stay married to this woman you have just offended and humiliated because you have no grounds for divorce.  The only good thing I can really say about this passage is that God values faithfulness and honesty in a marriage so we should too.

It's a lose-lose situation.

In Mark, Jesus is teaching about the Resurrection.  This is extremely important because one of the major divisions between some of the factions in Jewish leadership and thought during Jesus’ time was “What happens after death?  Is there a bodily resurrection?”  (Later, when Paul wants to create a diversion among the Sanhedrin, he simply states that he is being persecuted because he believes in the resurrection and a huge debate breaks out.)

There are several ways to understand what Jesus is saying about marriage in the resurrection and most of them make me uncomfortable because I love my wife and want to love her forever.  It’s possible that he means there won’t be any marriage or belonging to people in a special relationship in the resurrection.  It’s possible that all relationships will become equal in some utopian kind of way.  There might be some implications towards gender relationships in the resurrection, although that idea doesn’t seem to fit to me.  What I do know is that Jesus is telling us that there won’t be relationship problems in the resurrection.  There won’t be a divorce court, or jealousy or conflict between the woman and her seven husbands.  How exactly that works, I don’t understand.

Jesus then goes on to plainly deal with the argument about the resurrection.  If God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then clearly they are alive and God is the God of the living.  This proves that there is a bodily resurrection.  Later, this will become one of the most fundamental teachings of the early church.

In a number of difficult situations, Jesus is able to plainly and clearly articulate simple truths about very complicated issues.  These were some of the religious questions that Jewish leaders spent their entire lives debating and studying.  Jesus keeps dealing with them effortlessly and with great wisdom.  I love the teacher of the law who compliments Jesus and is told he is close to the Kingdom of God.  It’s one of the highest compliments Jesus gives to anybody, and certainly among the highest given to a teacher of the law.  I wish I knew that guy’s story.

“Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.”  Tonight Leah said that this should be a poster that bosses hang in their office.  I think that is a brilliant idea.  That poster could really sell.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

603,550 Strong – Trying to Trap Jesus

Numbers 2:1-3:51  

Are you ready for a war!? Israel is…603,550 strong ready. God is having Moses take a census so that they know how many men they have for going to war. Most armies in that time would have been between 100,000 (Egyptian Army under Ramses II – 1300 B.C.) and 300,000 (Persian Armies of the 5th Century B.C.). Israel is finally starting to look like a nation as far as numbers go. This is a reminder of the promise to Abra(ha)m back in Gen. 12. They are still lacking the land to be a great nation but God is still working with them.

Each tribe is given a job so that movement through the desert goes smoothly. I have always been amazed by how they were able to tote the tabernacle (and everything else for that matter) around the desert for so long. I’m looking forward to the stories that come out of Numbers. It’s been a while since I’ve read them so I’m interested to see what new light is shown on them this time around.

Mark 11:27-12:17

The first part of today’s reading contains one of my favorite exchanges of conversation in the NT. Knowing what they are trying to do, Jesus refuses to answer their question unless they answer his! Realizing they are trapped they simply reply that they do not know. It really just cracks me up. To add insult to injury…Jesus then says, “Let me tell you a story…” He then tells them about how God set up this beautiful world and put Israel there to take care of it. When He sent his messengers, they were killed. Now He has sent His Son and they are going to kill him too! The tenants will then be destroyed and new ones will be put in their place. I’m not terribly sure they understood the parable…but they at least knew it was offensive.

Trying to find a reason to arrest him, they send some Pharisees and Herodians to catch him in his words. Jesus calls them out that they are trying to trap them and sends them away amazed. Nothing specific is coming to mind, but do we ever try and ask questions of Jesus that we try and make black and white when we’re really missing the point of the matter and simply just being hypocritical?

 

 

 

 

Psalm 47:1-9

There is a song that comes from this Psalm that I know a lot of churches who will not let it be sung because of the clapping part. The Psalmist seems to have a decent understanding of Who God is and his reaction intends to match his understanding.

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

 

The Failed Coronation

Jesus’ failed coronation and frustration with Israel leads to some good reading today.

Leviticus 27:14-34, Numbers 1, Mark 11:1-26, Psalm 46:1-11, Proverbs 10:23.

If you were the Messiah, the future king of Israel, it was understood that you would ride into the city on a donkey and ride straight to the Temple.  After three years of rumors, teaching, leading, healing, feeding and people wondering who this man is, the moment of expectation has arrived.  The one who many believe is the Messiah has come to Jerusalem.  He enters on the donkey.  Olive branches cover the streets in front of him.  The people celebrate.  Could this be the descendant of David who will sit on David’s throne and restore the kingdom of Israel?

He arrives at the Temple and enters the outer court, the Court of Gentiles.  If you are a God-fearing Gentile, then you are not permitted to enter the actual Temple itself.  There are warning signs on the doors that give notice that Gentiles who pass this point will be killed.  So if you go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh, then you may go as far as the outer courts and worship the Creator God.  When Jesus walks into this place where Gentiles may come to worship, he is appalled that it has become a market place where the Jewish leaders turn a profit on “religious tourism.”

I Must Protect This House!

So instead of a coronation, the Messiah begins tossing tables and chasing merchants out.  “The Scriptures proclaim, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.'”  And then the Jewish leaders decide, this man can’t be crowned Messiah.  He must be killed.

It’s no wonder that the fruitlessness of a fig tree is the last straw for Jesus.  If one more aspect of Creation fails to produce then it will wither.

On a side note, a bit of opinion.  I believe that Adam and Eve could tell fig trees to wither and they would.  Jesus clearly has this authority.  I personally think that humanity, as the caretakers of this creation, were intended to have that kind of control over the Creation and we gave it up.

Random thought of the day: Is it somewhat miraculous that Jesus rode a donkey that had never been ridden before through noisy crowded streets?  I don’t know about donkeys, but I do know it takes extensive training for a horse to let you sit on it, or ride on it, let alone ride it in a parade.  I think this is supposed to be remarkable and I just haven’t ever noticed it before.

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

 

God is Serious About His Law – I Just Want to See

Leviticus 25:47-27:13  

We have reached the end of the laws of Leviticus and God is making sure that Israel knows how serious He is about these laws. Looking ahead in the narrative of Israel’s Story with God, I begin to wonder if they didn’t think God was serious about what He says in this section. In 26:31 God tells them that He will take no delight in the aroma of their offerings, which He then tells them later in Amos 5:21-24. The Pharisees thought that if they could get all of God’s people to be holy for a day, the Messiah would come. I wonder if they had these words of God in the back of their mind as they tried to get their people to be repentant?

A verse that stands out to me as interesting is verse 43, “For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them.” Is this saying that there is a connection between the land and the sins of the people? That the land longs for redemption when the people are sinful? Is the earth quaking in anticipation for our sins to be repented of so that it can experience sabbath?

Mark 10:32-52  

Jesus tells them a third time that he is going to die….they don’t seem to get it. James and John ask for Jesus to do whatever they ask of him and Jesus then reveals a little more about why he is there. He tells them to be servants if they want to be great. It is interesting that Jesus responds to them the same way they he responds to Bentimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bentimaeus, who seems to not have a name other than “Son of Timaeus” (Ben means “son of”), is a man of great faith, and this story about him is absolutely beautiful! Yelling louder and louder for the Son of David to come heal him, he then hears the beautiful words we all should long for, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” The blind man then throws his cloak aside and goes to Jesus. Being asked the same thing Jesus asks James and John, he simply replies, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus heals him because of his faith (the theme we’ve been seeing in Mark) and he then followed Jesus.

All too often we seek to be great in the Kingdom when we should simply be servants. We desire great things to happen with us. Jesus asks what it is that he can do for us. Let us learn from Bentimaeus and simply ask that we can truly see and then turn and follow him.

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

 

JUBILEE…Better than socialism.

It’s time for God to tell his people what kind of economic system they will have.  Teaser: it’s not socialism or capitalism.  It’s called Jubilee.

Leviticus 24-25:46, Mark 10:13-31, Psalm 44:9-26, Proverbs 10:20-21

Need a Jubilee?

I love Jubilee.  As far as I know, it’s the best economics system never tried.  I don’t think Israel ever actually implemented it. It’s so foreign to us that it’s kind of hard to imagine, but here we go.  There are two really important things you have to understand.  First, God owns all the land and Israel is allowed to use it to live on.  It’s God’s land.  Second, when Joshua and Israel take over the promised land, it is divided up among tribes, clans, and families.  That land is intended to “belong” to that family, of that clan, of that tribe forever.  You can’t “buy” land because it’s God’s and it’s intended for the family of the clan of the tribe that it was designated to be the inheritance of.

So, if you have land and want to make money from it, you can’t sell it.  You don’t own it.  God does.  You can rent it until the Jubilee.  So you determine the number of harvests until the Jubilee and charge rent accordingly.  Then, at the time of the Jubilee, that land will be returned to you or your children.

If you are desperate and need to sell yourself into slavery, you can enter the employment of another Israelite who will treat you well.  The price he pays for you is based on the number of years of service he gets out of you until the Jubilee.  Then you’re free.

Under the Jubilee economic system, you can’t have fixed upper, middle or lower classes.  They reset too often.  Poverty gets wiped out twice a century and everybody gets a clean start.  Besides, God also instructs Israel to not allow poverty in between Jubilees.  There would be no predatory lending, since Jubilee is the ultimate debt cancellation.  It has all of the “if you work you are rewarded” benefits of capitalism, but just as it starts to allow the wealthy to take advantage of the poor, the scales are all reset and everybody starts over.  Then it has one year of socialism to “level the playing field” without ending work ethic or putting power in the hands of the few (as tends to happen).  It’s a brilliant plan.

Too bad it never really got a chance.  So many of God’s ideas were perfect except for one thing…he needed people to actually carry them out.

Mark

Jesus likes children.  If you love money more than God or other people, you need to change your priorities.  I don’t think there is any historical or archeological evidence to support the often used sermon illustration of their being a gate called the “Eye of the Needle.”  It’s more likely that this is one of Jesus’ hard teachings.  Peter reminds Jesus, “We gave up everything for you.”  Jesus agrees and tells them that those who give up much will eventually receive much, although definitely not to imply that would happen in this life.

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

 

Celebration – Slow to Get it…

Leviticus 22:17-23:44  

Leviticus has put a lot of focus on how to keep things holy. The holiness of God deserves holy sacrifice. To skimp God with a inadequate sacrifice is more or less a slap in the face. God goes ahead and lays out His expectations for what He considers a holy sacrifice.

I remember as a kid my mom and dad telling me, “because I said so” when I asked, “why” about just about anything (I asked why a lot…and now I understand more so why they answer the way they did). Basically my parents were saying that they were the parents and they know better, therefore putting me in my proper place of submission to their authority. Four times at the end of chapter 22 (in the last four verses), and throughout the Old Testament (around 154 times according to the word search on biblegateway.com) God says, “I am the LORD.” He is basically reminding us who He is and who we are. He is God and we are not. Enough said. Sometimes we arrogantly question that because we have so disconnected ourselves from Him. I think it would be healthy to constantly remind ourselves who He is and remember who we are.

When Israel enters the land they are to make a first-fruit offering to God. A friend of mine from North Carolina helped me, in a very real way, understand what kind of faith this took. When he finished school and got his first job as a Physician’s Assistant he gave his entire first paycheck to God as a first-fruit offering. He recognized that God was the one who provided that job for him and the fruit of his job truly belonged to God. While I often hear people argue about how much should actually be tithed, his example has always stuck out in my mind as to what the heart of giving should look like.

I love that there is a trumpet festival!

Reading through all of these festivals it has become apparent that God wants us to celebrate in a relationship with Him! What would it take for us to have more of a celebratory mood in our relationship with God? We sometimes take the attitude that we don’t have to “go to church every Sunday” to be a “good Christian” or we don’t have to give to God till we are financially secure and “able” to. We sometimes (maybe often) lack true sacrifice in our lives and also lack true celebration in our relationship with God. Could this lack of dependence lead to a lack of true gratitude? I might be generalizing too much but this is something I want to search out in my own life more.

Mark 9:30-10:12

“Because he was teaching his disciples.” This phrase at the beginning of v31 sums up a shift in my view of what one of Jesus’ main focal points in his ministry was. Jesus spends almost all of his time making sure that his disciples get what he is talking about because they will be the ones who will carry on the ministry when he is gone. What are you doing to disciples others to carry on this ministry once you are gone?

Jesus tells them a second time that he is going to die and then after three days be raised. They don’t get it. I feel like they are pretty dumb but I also know the end of the story and I don’t want to be too terribly harsh. That being said…they do get into an argument about who is the greatest and when asked about it they don’t really want to tell Jesus what they were arguing about. Remember…this is the guy who knows the hearts and thoughts of all the different people that he gets into fights with all throughout the gospels. I wonder if the writers of the Gospels ever felt dumb reflecting on these comments that they wrote…but I digress. Jesus then tells them to quit acting like children and then pulls a child over and tells them that whoever welcomes the little children in his name doesn’t welcome him but the one who sent him…they probably didn’t get that either.

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

 

Keep it Holy – Transfiguration

Leviticus 20:22-22:16

God is going to great lengths to make sure His people know how to keep holy what He has made holy.

Mark 9:1-29

Jesus takes his closest apostles up high on the mountain where they got to experience his transfiguration. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be what Jesus will be like in his resurrected body or what. The point seems to be that Jesus is being encouraged by Moses and Elijah (why not Abraham? I don’t know) and his three closes apostles are getting front row seats to the presence of God. Peter, in his usual form, isn’t sure what to say so he just starts talking….and God more or less tells him to shut it and listen to Jesus. The three, receive conformation that Jesus is in fact God’s son. Did Jesus need to hear this too? How do you think this changed Peter, James, and John’s understanding of Jesus and what he did throughout the rest of his ministry?

Mark seems to put a lot of focus on people’s faith in connection to whether or not they are healed. This last section makes sense to me if you stop reading after v27. It seems as though the man did not have faith that the disciples could heal his son and wanted Jesus to come do it. This understanding is strengthened when the man asks for help to overcome his unbelief. THEN, when asked why they were not able to drive out the demon, Jesus replies that this kind can come out only by prayer. Does anyone have any clear thoughts on this? Maybe something will come later in our reading that’ll make this one more clear.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Third Times a…Massive Failure

Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves and 4,000 with seven loaves and three fish.  So when Jesus tries to use bread as a teaching illustration and the Apostles get upset when they realize they are hungry and only have one loaf to eat, things get interesting…

Leviticus 19-20:21, Mark 8:11-38, Psalm 42:1-11, Proverbs 10:17.

From Leviticus:

If you are going to by my people, then you must be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.  This passage is so important to our understanding of Christian living.  What can we do?  What is forgivable?  Are their grey areas when it comes to moral living?  These are all the wrong questions.  From the beginning, God’s people have been called to be holy like he is holy.

I also love the attention that God’s law continues to give to honoring parents, obeying the Sabbath, and being just in your legal and professional dealings.  God’s people should be people who continually do the right thing. We like to compartmentalize the many areas of our life, but with God, holiness and godly living are part of everything.

From Mark:

The Apostles are on a boat and begin to hungrily look for bread and realize they forgot to buy more.  They only have one loaf.  Jesus is wanting to teach them about the danger of the influence that the Pharisees and Herod can have on them and the Kingdom of God.  This conversation quickly becomes confrontational.

  • Jesus, “Be careful about worldly influences.  They are dangerous and can quickly grow like yeast in bread.”
  • Apostles, “Bread….wait…who bought the bread!?  I am so hungry!  Seriously, nobody bought any bread?!
  • Jesus, “Are you kidding me?  Are you actually talking about bread?  ARE YOU IDIOTS!?  ARE YOU BLIND?!  DO YOU HEAR ANY OF THE WORDS THAT COME OUT OF MY MOUTH!?
  • Apostles, “…………………………………”
  • Jesus, “When I fed FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE WITH FIVE LOAVES, how much LEFTOVERS did YOU pick up?
  • Apostles, “…………twelve.”
  • Jesus, “And what about FOUR THOUSAND WITH SEVEN LOAVES?”
  • Apostles, “…….seven….um……seven large baskets.”
  • Jesus, “ARE YOU GETTING ANY OF THIS?”
I can’t help but wonder what ever came of that single loaf of bread.  I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be the guy who handed it to Jesus and said, “Well if you don’t mind, we could use about a dozen loaves.  Leftovers aren’t necessary.  Thanks.”  Or maybe Jesus just grabbed it and they sat there while he filled the boat with bread for them to eat.  Of course, all of this is speculation, but Jesus is clearly annoyed that he can’t move on to more important teachings because the Apostles keep getting hung up on their little faith.
I wonder how often God looks at me and asks, “ARE YOU GETTING ANY OF THIS?  How many more times will you forget who I am and what I have already done for you?”
On a side note, I think it’s good to acknowledge that there are some things in the Bible we will never fully understand.  When we start to act like we have all the answers we are in trouble.  I say that to say that when Jesus heals the blind man completely on his second try, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on there.  Why spit?  Why didn’t it completely work?  Why a second attempt?  I have no clue.  Maybe somebody else reading this can shed some light on this passage.
Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah is followed by Jesus predicting his death.  When Peter questions this, Jesus reprimands, “Get behind me Satan!”  I think that this temptation to rule the world right now, not in accordance with God’s plan, was with Jesus throughout his ministry.  When Peter supports that view, Jesus reacts to the temptation, to Satan, and to Peter with this stern reprimand.  Clearly, Jesus had no interest in being strongly tempted by one of his best friends.
 
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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year