Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28

The Bible is full of difficult things, as we've noted before.  God sets firm limits on his people, and Jesus calls his followers to a narrow obedience.  Sometimes I resent that boundary; other times, I'm grateful.  Today, I'm both.

In our reading in Mark, Jesus says two hard statements: one that brings me conviction and one that brings me comfort.  I've sat with this reading for a couple of days, trying to figure out what to write as a post, and I've realized that I'm really grateful for the comfort, and I really want to ignore the conviction.  I want to pick and choose what I listen to, what I live by, but that's not the way Scripture works.  If I am willing to submit to the one - and reap its benefits - then I must accept the other.  Perhaps there will be benefits there, too, but regardless, my act of responsive love toward God is to obey.

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me..." (Mk. 9:37).  Oh, wow.  Eric and I have five children, aged 13 to 4.  It's a house full of noise and laughter and love, but also full of people who get into and move my stuff, who eat up food I had mentally set aside for later, who leave cupboard doors open and toothpaste smears in the sink.  Every single thing I do is undone in a matter of days or even hours. There are days that I consign my job to the garbage bin, and I'm ashamed to say that I often make sure my "employees" know of my dissatisfaction.  All too frequently, I am selfish and petty and mean - definitely not welcoming.  And then I encounter this verse again and I'm shot through with conviction.  Sometimes I feel angry at the way God's word has confronted me, other times I'm simply pricked and pierced by my sin.  Each time, though, I'm forced to look at the ways that I am unwelcoming to these little children and what that disobedience and failure communicates.  What does it reveal about my love and welcome for Jesus?  What does it show my children about how Jesus welcomes them?  What hurts does it inflict in their young souls?  It's uncomfortable.  It's hard.  And I'm still held to it.  I hear God's word; thus, I obey.

Mark 10 holds statements just as unsettling.  His comments about the sanctity and permanence of marriage are counter-cultural and difficult.  "It was because your hearts were hard..." (10:5).  "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (vs. 9).  "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her" (vs. 11).  Strong, serious words.  They're easier for me, though, because I'm rooted very deeply in a strong and sturdy marriage where we've forbidden the word 'divorce' even in our thoughts.  Eric and I don't entertain any other option except lifelong fidelity; in fact, there is no other option for us.  This commitment takes the sting out of these particular hard sayings of Jesus.  And, just like my failure with my children, this obedience and success communicates something.  What does it mean when the world sees the kind of marriage that mirrors the steadfastness of God's love for his people?  What do I learn about God's covenant with me as I keep my covenant with Eric?  What beauty is wrought in me as I continue to persevere?

Maybe you're like me.  Maybe you live with people who are sometimes difficult to welcome, but you're grateful for the boundary of God's expectations about marriage.  You, like I, need both these hard sayings.  But maybe the reverse is true.  Perhaps for you, the words about little children are comforting, but you balk at Jesus' guidelines for your relationship with your spouse.  You, too, like I, need both these hard sayings.  We live in a tension between the desires of our hearts (and the persistent encouragement of the world to follow those leanings) and the direction of Jesus, which is a narrow road that only a few choose.  We have that option before us daily.

Jesus, give us the determination to absorb your plan for our lives in totality.  We need courage and the presence of the Holy Spirit to live this way.  Thank you for clear expectations and for the gift of your word.  You have not left us without a guide (your Word), and you gave us your Spirit to guide us further.  May we follow these guides in a way that brings you glory.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27

Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18

Holiness. That is the subject of our reading today. Holiness for the people. Holiness for the high priest. The holiness of Jesus displayed in his transfiguration. And even the holiness needed to cast an evil spirit out of a young boy.

The Hebrew word for holiness in Leviticus 20 is ‘qados’ or ‘qades’ (The NIV Exhaustive Concordance). Though it is used often in the Old Testament, somehow we feel uncomfortable with the concept of being ‘holy.'

It’s a scary concept.

Because we know we aren’t.

Here the text describes the example the high priests must set for the people of what it means to be set apart from the local people in the land where the nation is going to settle. They are not to adopt the wicked practices of the local people but instead choose to be distinct from them; “you are to be holy to me, because I, the Lord, am holy and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (Lev. 20:26). And the word ‘holy’ appears 4 times in just one verse—Leviticus 21:8. Clearly, this separation, this being set apart, is important to God. And in Leviticus 21:1, the Lord declares that His Name is holy and that He (vs. 16) is the One who makes the offerings holy.

In Mark, we see the awesome holiness of Jesus as He is transfigured before Peter, James and John. Dazzling white clothing portrays the idea of ultimate purity, ultimate holiness.

The psalm writer says, “Send for your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain” (Ps. 43:3). The place where God ‘dwells’ is holy because He is there.

The Lord will always require that his people be a holy people, but we learned through the failure of Israel to obey the covenant that it can’t be done in human power. It’s not a scary truth, but it is an awesome truth. Holiness is conferred on us as we let God’s light and His truth guide us. As Peter says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:16); his words are based on Leviticus 20:7 from yesterday’s reading.

Thank you, Lord, for your holiness. We have none of our own to offer You, but we accept Your holiness as part of Your gift of salvation.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26

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

What a cry for God we find in Psalm 42!  This first verse is likely familiar to you - there was a popular song from Marantha in the mid-80s that featured it.  Perhaps you, like I, started humming it a bit to yourself.  Then - wait!  There's nothing about Jesus being my friend and my brother, nor any verse about God being my strength and shield?  And where's that refrain that wants God "more than any other, so much more than everything"?  What's going on here?

That is a beautiful song, and those are true words (from other portions of Scripture, even), but this psalm is not that.  Rather, here we encounter a psalmist who is desperate, is discouraged, is waiting and waiting for God, wondering if God has abandoned him.  It's still worship, but it's agonizingly honest in its need for God.  It flips frantically back and forth, from the joy of the past and the certainty of God's steadfast love to the self-reflection, fear and pain of the present.  Like a deer needs the life-giving provision of water, so the psalmist's soul needs the life-giving provision of God.  He's not going to make it if God doesn't show up.  He is in physical pain ("my bones suffer mortal agony" - vs. 10), emotional distress ("my tears have been my food day and night" - vs. 3), and spiritual upset ("my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'" - vs. 10).  He fears that God has forgotten him, though he remembers the way he used to worship with the congregation of Israel (see vs. 4).  The psalmist is in dire need of God, but God doesn't seem responsive.

I've been there; I'm sure you've been there, too.  We don't feel God's presence, even though we know he has been active in our past.  We're not necessarily doubting God (though we might be); it's more like we can't see him in the midst of our mess.  We're scared and lonely and hurt.  Jesus himself has been there: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Jesus, though, was truly forsaken by God; we feel that we have been abandoned, but we have not.  The psalmist has not.  And underneath all his fear and pain, he knows it.  Look at what he does.

The psalmist, at this crisis point, turns toward God.  Instead of taking the easy road of passivity, he gets active.  He encourages himself, almost like a pep talk: "put your hope in God" (vs. 5, 11).  He chooses to praise and to declare who God is ("I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" - vs. 5, 11; emphasis mine).  He deliberately recalls the history of God's past work in his life (see vs. 6).  He reminds himself of such a beautiful truth - "By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me" (vs. 8).  God is with him, day and night; God is aware, day and night; God is attentive and inclined toward him, day and night.  These truths are true, even if the psalmist doesn't feel them.

It would be easy, in a difficult time, to float in the pain, moved and tossed around by it.  This psalm gives us a different direction, one that is purposeful and God-oriented and, ultimately, more likely to be life-giving.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 25

Leviticus 16:29-18:30; Mark 7:24-8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 10:15-16

I’m excited about our readings today. When I first sat down to read today’s passages (especially the Old Testament), I was a little afraid it’d be more of the “if the sore has a hair that’s white” business that we’ve been slogging our way through recently in Leviticus. And, of course, I know those verses have a purpose and that God was protecting his people, as Mary pointed out to us a few days ago, but I think we can all be honest and say that sometimes, Leviticus is a bit dull. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was today to find these truly profound words: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev. 17:11). I’m sure you’ve noticed as we’ve worked out way through recent weeks how much blood there is in these verses, how much blood there must have been in the tabernacle. If we’re reading carefully, we see verse after verse about blood being spilled and splattered and spread all over the tabernacle. Not to be too graphic, but it must have had a terrible smell and been very, very messy! 

But God is telling us here that there’s a purpose to all this blood spilling– it is the life source for each living creature and it makes atonement for sin. If you’re not familiar with the word atonement, it basically means reconciliation between man and God. Somehow, miraculously, when the blood of an innocent and perfect sacrifice (lamb, pigeon, bull) was spilled, sins were covered over and God’s people were made clean. Their guilt was taken away and their sins forgiven. Their wrong doing was atoned for and they were reconciled to God. How incredible! And, of course, this should make us think of another innocent and perfect lamb whose blood was spilled – the reconciling blood of Jesus that was shed as an atonement for us. As his blood, his very life source, was drained out of his body on the cross, we became clean and were granted new life. These are pretty amazing concepts! It never ceases to amaze me how the Bible is telling one continuous story, all of which points to Jesus and his death on the cross and resurrection.

Then we come over to the New Testament reading and find Mark’s telling of the Canaanite woman with great faith (as a side note, I find it kind of funny that Matthew’s version of this story was also on my day to write a blog post!). As I was reading in Mark today, I was struck by the hurry everyone and everything seems to be. Have you noticed that yet? Just in our reading today, the word “immediately” is used twice – “But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at as feet” (Mk. 7:25) and at the end of our reading, “Immediately he got into a boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha” (8:10). I did a quick look back through Mark up to this point and I found 21 uses of the word “immediately,” not counting the 2 in our passage today. And more uses of it to come!

Why the urgency? Why does everything in Mark happen “immediately” and not just “next” or “in a while”? To me, it seems as if Mark is driving us onward to the climax of the story. He spends only 10 chapters on Jesus' early ministry – three whole years summed up into 10 chapters where events happen one right after another, "immediately." And then Mark spends 6 chapters on just one week. He brings the passion week, the week leading up to Jesus’ death, into great focus and detail, laboring over events that we’ll read about in days to come. As a reader, we’re drawn into Mark’s sense of urgency as he points us to the cross and draws us closer and closer to the heart of his gospel – the Christ-Messiah who has come to save us by going to the cross for our sins.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 24

Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14

I was raised by Mae Fenska, and I know a thing or two about cleanliness. My mother liked to do the laundry and hung our sheets outside even in the cold winters in Round Lake, Illinois. I can remember her bringing them in, stiff as a board from the freezing temperatures. She taught me to wash the sheets every week and to vacuum and dust often. As an adult, I love folded clothes in the drawer and floors that are clean enough to eat off of, more or less.

Today’s reading has a lot in it about laundry. An enormous amount. It makes me wonder how in a primitive culture they could possibly do all that laundry! Not only must the man with the discharge have his bedding washed, but anyone who touches his bed must wash his or her clothes and bathe (Lev. 15:5-7). According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, however, the “purpose of the cleanliness codes was not primarily hygienic but religious and theological” (pg. 195).

And Leviticus16 enlarges upon that idea. Aaron, as the high priest, offers a sacrifice for his own sins (vs. 11) and then for the sins of the people (vs. 15), washing himself before and after the required sacrifices (vs. 4, 24).

That a lot of hauling of water, scrubbing of clothes, drying them on rocks or primitive drying stands. That a lot of soap to make and fabric to squeeze dry.

All for the sake of cleanliness.

And, yet, in Mark we learn that true cleanliness really doesn’t come about by all that washing. Because it is not what we discharge from our bodies, or put into our bodies, or touch or sit on, that make us unclean. Our uncleanness comes from the inside where we harbor sin and resentfulness, arrogance and folly, and selfishness. The kind of cleaning we need for that comes only from God (Mk. 7:21-23).

We see the ugliness in our own hearts and know we need cleaning. And thank you, Lord, you provided a way for that through your death and resurrection.

“Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me… I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay” (Ps. 40:13, 17).

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23

Leviticus 14:1-57; Mark 6:30-56; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 10:11-12

This psalm leaves me undone and amazed before the Lord.  It’s such a song of rescue and deliverance; the psalmist is pulled out of desperate situations into security and safety.  His relief  is palpable. 

Because of his great salvation, he cannot help but praise God.  He knows where true help can be found (not the proud, not false gods [see Ps. 40:4]), and he cannot fathom the great mystery of God’s love and goodness.  “The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare” (vs. 5).

But praise isn’t enough, wonderful as it is.  The psalmist understands that God’s incredible deliverance prompts a response.  A willing heart, a committed heart, an obedient heart – this is the natural byproduct of such rescue.  The writer is available and eager to do, and knowledgable about, God’s law.  “Here I am, I have come….I desire to do your will…your law is within my heart” (vs. 7-8).  This man has been loved much, so he loves much.  And his love is demonstrated by praise and obedience.

I’m moved by this psalm in a personal way, too.  My mom posted last month about the life of Jacob, as he moved back to the land of his fathers, and how that paralleled a prompting my father heard to move them back to California.  She didn’t go into tremendous detail about it, but I clearly remember those months.  She was distraught over the idea of moving away from Texas – from her grown sons, from her dream home, from the community of friends.  Day after day, she worked to align herself to God’s will.  Many days she was less than successful. 

In the midst of that painful time, my mother decided to get her ears pierced.  As a slave indicated his desire to remain permanently with his master (see Ex. 21:6) by having his ears pierced, so my mother – whose children were all nearing or past college age – chose to declare her allegiance to God Almighty in the same way.  Where he led, she would follow.  (Kicking and screaming, if need be, but following nonetheless.)  

When I read this psalm each year – twice each year, in fact – I’m reminded of this great mark of obedience.  The psalmist and my mom are fully committed to the Lord.  It’s a permanent mark, too; their ears remain pierced.  It’s a symbol, a witness to their devotion, a reminder of their decision to live  faithfully and obediently. 

And the lives of these brothers and sisters – these saints before me – encourage me also to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly…[to] speak of [God’s] love and salvation” (Ps. 9-10).

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22

Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10

As a pediatric nurse of 15 years in a large LA County hospital, I have seen all kinds of crazy diseases. Some of them all the harder to witness because they affect young children. I remember one young girl, about a year and a half old, who was really painful to look at. Not because of any physical disfigurement or malformation, but because of the red and purple, scaly, peeling, blistering, and oozing rash that covered her entire body. We all truly winced when we first saw her because it looked so painful. But we had another reaction as well - to draw back and move slightly away. Was she safe to touch? Was this skin disease contagious? As medical professionals, we can't always immediately tell if something is contagious or infectious right away, so we place those patients in isolation as a precautionary measure until we can better determine the nature of the disease. This girl was, of course, placed in "contact isolation." 

In Old Testament times, she would have been considered unclean and would have gone under the examinations and periods of isolation much as we see in our reading today in Leviticus 13. At first it may seem like God is making arbitrary or unnecessary rules that create outcasts in society. Yet if we really look at these rules and see how they might even play out in today’s medical world, we see that God is actually setting up a healthcare system that will keep his people healthy. Our God, the creator of mankind, the Great Physician, isn't making arbitrary rules, but rather is prescribing a way of living for the health and well-being of the nation as whole. In his wisdom, he is setting into motion the idea of isolation to prevent the spread of disease and infection. 

But how hard it was for those people who were in isolation, or who were considered "unclean." All the more revolutionary when Jesus came and touched them and even healed them. I am reminded again of the women in our reading yesterday and her bleeding for 12 years. She would have had no human touch or contact for 12 years. Can you imagine? And yet Jesus would "lay his hands" (Mk. 6:5) on these people and heal them. What good news. And so as nurses and physicians, we don our gloves and our gowns and enter into isolation with that little girl. We lay our hands on her and apply salves and medicines in hopes of restoring her skin to the healthy glow that young skin usually bears. The kind of skin that makes people want to grab young children and kiss them all over.

O Lord, where are the unclean of society today? How can I join them and offer healing to them? I am convicted when I read your words in Psalm 39:6 - "[Man] bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it." Lord, I don't want to bustle about in vain, to seem to keep busy with all these things I think are important but may not be. I don't want to spend my energies on what does not satisfy. My hope is you. Show me and lead me in your work. Your kingdom come, your will be done. 

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 21

Leviticus 11:1-12:8; Mark 5:21-43; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 10:8-9

One of the things I LOVE about The One Year Bible is how, even though I've read it more than a dozen times, God always has something new to show me.  Today, I was thinking about the difference between the immediate uncleanness of the woman who has just given birth and the interval of time called "the days of her purification" (Lev. 12:4).  For the first week (if the child was male) or two (if the child was female), the new mother was "contagiously unclean" versus "individually unclean" (a distinction I uncovered in The Bible Knowledge Commentary) for the following 6-12 week period of time.  In the first case, anyone who came into contact with the new mother would "catch" her ceremonial uncleanness (and therefore, like her, be unable to participate in the religious life of the nation).  In the second situation, the new mother was still excluded from corporate worship, but she could interact with her friends and family and neighbors without making them unclean as a result of associating with her.  She may not have been able to be a part of religious activities, but she didn't experience any isolation or separation.

Then, in Mark 5, we read the story of a woman "subject to bleeding for twelve years" (Mk. 5:26).  This chronic hemorrhaging has stolen her health, has kept her in pain, and has impoverished her (see vs. 27).  This on-going discharge makes her contagiously unclean; because of it, she's a social pariah.  Everyone who knows her avoids her because they want to retain their religious privileges.  This woman shouldn't be in this crowd of people; she's endangering the ability to worship of all those around her.  (I suspect she travelled from some other location to be in Jesus' presence, so that no one would recognize her and force her away.)  She is desperate - financially, physically, socially, religiously desperate - and, out of her need, turns to Jesus in such confidence.  "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed" (Mk. 5:28).  Such faith!  Such certainty!

Everywhere else in Scripture, if something unclean and something clean touch each other, the unclean thing makes the clean thing unclean.  (Say that five times fast.)  We see this transfer of unclean to clean in our Old Testament reading, where the unclean dead reptile makes the clean pot unclean (see Lev. 11:32-38).  But not with Jesus!  Here, the clean Jesus and the unclean woman touch - and she is made clean because of his cleanness!  Amazing.  The holiness of God wipes away her stain (and heals her, too).  

I am so glad for this reminder.  Even in the darkest hours of my sin, Jesus' cleanness is cleaner than my uncleanness.  It's the ultimate Magic Eraser.  No matter how long-lasting, no matter how foul, no matter how ostracizing, Jesus' holiness can instantly do away with my sin.  I, like this bleeding woman, am healed in all the ways that really matter when I trust Jesus with my uncleanness.  Praise be to God!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20

Leviticus 9:7–10:20; Mark 4:26-5:20; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 10:6-7

Do you have a son, or even sons, who disobey God? Is there anything more grievous for a parent than to raise sons in the knowledge of the Lord only to see them turn away in adulthood? I have sons who disobey. And, therefore, I am intensely interested in today’s account of the actions of Aaron’s disobedient sons, Nadab and Abihu.

These two men were given the same commands as Aaron and his other two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. They knew the regulations for the burnt, grain, sin, guilt, ordination and dedication offerings (Lev. 7:35-37). They had participated in the detailed preparations for the tabernacle and the ark. They had heard the laws that Moses gave their family, chosen to be the priests for the nation Israel. It was not lack of knowledge that caused them to offer strange fire to the Lord.

And it was not a lack of consecration, either, for they had been washed and clothed in special garments unique to the priesthood (Lev. 8:7).

Aaron had been instructed by Moses (Lev. 9:7-10) to come and offer his sin sacrifice and his burnt sacrifice to make atonement for himself and the people. Aaron humbly did what was required for right standing with God. Then he blessed the people, went with Moses into the tent of meeting, and then together again blessed all the people after coming back out. The Lord showed his pleasure in the obedience of their actions by sending fire to consume the portions on the altar (Lev. 9:23-24).

Now something goes wrong. Terribly wrong.

Nadab and Abihu perceive that they want glory for bringing fire from heaven! In their pride, they defy the Lord. He immediately sends fire, consuming fire, but not the kind they wanted. Instead of being exalted before the people, they are extinguished before the people as the fire consumes them.

One can only imagine the pain Aaron is experiencing at this moment. His two sons have died a horrible, violent and tragic death! Yet Moses forbids him and his remaining sons to exhibit the usual signs of mourning—they must not tear their clothes or muss their hair because the anointing oil is on them. Imagine the self-control it took for Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar to carry on with their ministry assignment having witnessed the death of their sons and brothers!

At the end of this awful day, Moses is angry with Aaron that he hasn’t eaten the goat that was the sin offering, but burned it instead of eating it. Aaron answers, “Such things as have happened to me today. If I had eaten the sin offering would the Lord have been pleased?” He is saying, “My heart is broken; I cannot eat on such a day as this. Would the Lord have been pleased to have me eat when my stomach refuses food because of the pain of losing my sons?”

And Moses is mollified.

God is very serious about sin. He is serious about sin that exalts itself against him. Though we don’t know exactly what the strange fire was that Nadab and Abihu used, we can be sure that it was forbidden, based on pride and human exaltation, and designed to bring glory to them instead of to the one true and holy God. And God would not tolerate this offense to His holiness. What God did was right, and Aaron, in his pain and sorrow, acknowledged it. He continued to obey God, even though it cost him his sons’ lives.

And I wonder—Lord, do I have that kind of strength? Do I have enough faith and trust in you to follow you no matter what my sons do? I want with all my heart to see them humble themselves, for pride is the root of their sin, too. But if they don’t, I pray that you will be my stronghold in trouble, that you will help and deliver me (Ps. 37:39-40). In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray they be set free from the demonic oppression they suffer under just as You set free the man who had an evil spirit (Mk. 5:8).

Give me courage to follow You whether my sons are set gloriously free from the chains that hold them or whether they face your righteous judgment. This I pray in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19

Leviticus 7:28-9:6; Mark 3:31-4:25; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 10:5

Wow.  I have a million different little thoughts that don't connect to each other at all.  So I'm going to do a smorgasbord of bits'n'pieces that caught my attention:

- Lev. 8:6-9:  I was strongly reminded of the moment in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy when one of Theodin's commanders is dressing him for battle, putting on his armor piece by piece, serving him as the king readied himself to fulfill his duty.  Is it not the same here?  Moses engages in a humble service of equipping a leader to do his responsibilities - he prepares and makes possible the work of the priesthood.  And then he releases Aaron and his sons for their job, knowing his own place and responsibilities.  A striking visual image.

- Lev. 8:18 (and also 7:30):  God wants the person offering the sacrifice to be intimately involved, touching the animal as it is slaughtered.  I wonder if this was to move the person toward an understanding of his/her own culpability?  To prevent him/her from distancing him/herself from the reality of sin and the need for sacrifice?

- Mk. 3:34-35:  Jesus defines family anew, and this new definition includes me, includes us!  As I do God's will, I am Jesus' brother and sister and mother.  Amazing.

- Mk. 4:3-9:  My husband referenced this on Sunday as he was teaching about spiritual disciplines.  I've always thought of this parable as a story about evangelism - those various soils are the kinds of people that I talk to about Jesus.  Some will never really have the chance to hear because of Satan's efforts, some will have initial (but only initial) joy in the good news, some will be distracted and consumed by the worries of life, but some will produce good fruit.  And that's true. But it is also true that these soils can describe my own life.  Even as I follow Jesus, how am I preparing the soil of my heart to receive God's word?  How much of what God wants to show me about himself and about myself is seed that falls along the path, that I don't accept because I'm too busy believing other lies? How much falls on rocky places, where I hear with initial joy, but don't live out those truths because of the demands of my world?  How much seed lands among the thorns, which steal life and fruitfulness as I fret and worry and focus on the "other things"?  (I'm reminded of Mt. 6:25-33.)  How instead do I prepare my heart to be good soil, so that when I hear the word, I accept it and produce a crop?  

- Ps. 37:25-26:  This is so, so true.  And such a sweet reminder to me.  For some reason, I'm always a bit anxious about money during February.  I don't know why, but each year as I read this psalm, I'm so grateful for the reassurance.  I'm not old yet, but I can still attest to this truth: God does not forsake the righteous; my children will never be reduced to begging for bread; as I am generous and give freely, my children will be blessed.  They may not be wealthy; I may not be wealthy.  Wealth is not the only or even primary blessing here.  As I am righteous, I am blessed with the knowledge of God's love for me, his attentiveness to me, his heart toward me.  And as I see in the lives of our parents and in the life I now share with Eric, people are blessed by following Jesus and living generously.  As my children hear the stories and see the evidence, they too grow in their certainty that God loves them, God is with them, God is for them.  What greater blessing could I desire for my children?

- Pr. 10:5:  What are the opportunities in my life right now?  How do I "gather" them, rather than "sleeping" the harvest away?  Those opportunities may be occupational, they may be relational, they may be centered more internally.  What are the crops that God has placed before me?

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18

Leviticus 6:1-7:27; Mark 3:7-10; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 10:3-4

My baby has been sick the past few days. Nothing too serious, but enough to keep him (and me) up at night for several hours each night. Last night, I put him to bed at 7, as usual.  But I was back and forth about whether I should wake him at 10 p.m. for the dream feed I usually do before I go to bed. I wanted him to sleep because I knew he needed it (and I wanted to increase my chances of getting more sleep!), but I was also a little worried about his hydration because he’d refused two nursings that day. My husband voted for not waking him; I felt like I should try to get more fluids in him. So we agreed that I’d wake him, but that if he didn’t go back to sleep, as had been happening during this illness, that I’d take the first shift. I’m sure you can tell where this story is going. Not only did he not go back to sleep until 2 a.m., he also spit up that whole nursing because he was so congested that he choked while coughing. As I’m lying on the floor of the nursery trying to get him to sleep, all I can think about is how tired I am and how unfair life is (I’m a little dramatic when it comes to lack of sleep).

So this morning as I sat down to read today’s passages, I felt like I could really use a little pick me up, a little comfort. And what do I find? Lots of rules and regulations in the Old Testament (not to mention plenty of blood and gore) and the very distressing passage about “eternal sin” and “never having forgiveness” (Mk. 3:29). Well, that’s not what I’m looking for. Surely the Psalms will hold something lovely and encouraging? As usual, Scripture surprised me.

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:3-4). Not exactly the “all the hard work of mothering pays off later” sort of psalm I was looking for, but, in truth, something so much better. Yes, God cares about the sleepless nights I have, and he cares about the health of my children; but these verses remind me there is more to my life than the very narrow here and now I sometimes get caught up in. It is so easy to get bogged down in our everyday lives – whether that’s diapers and running noses or board presentations and budget meetings or roommate conflict and academic deadlines. And those things do matter. But there’s more to me than just the mundane of today. There are the desires of my heart – grand things, marvelous dreams, huge hopes. God is interested in those, too, and he’s working for my good to bring those things about in my life. As I trust and do good (and I’ll add wait), and delight myself in him, he gives me these grand desires.

Even on the days when your car won’t start, your babies won’t sleep, your co-worker dumps extra work on you, or your spouse doesn’t help with the dishes – don’t lose hope. There is more to this life than just those things. Dream big and trust in the Lord, because he wants to give you the desire of your heart.

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17

Leviticus 4:1-5:19; Mark 2:13-3:6; Psalm 36:1-12; Proverbs 10:1-2

Well, we’re only two days into Leviticus and, already, I’m feeling it. I know there is a purpose to Leviticus, I know there is, but sometimes I struggle to feel it. As I read today, it felt like a lot of random specifications and a lot of sacrifice. But then I’m struck by the necessity of this, as I read in Mark about the revolution Jesus begins. That’s why I love reading the Old Testament along with the New Testament. I know some days it can feel like a lot, or like we’re rushing through Scripture, but one of the benefits of reading large chunks of Scripture like we do in The One Year Bible is that we get to see the big picture.

See, the Israelites didn’t have Jesus, walking among them, to bridge the “breach of faith” (Lev. 5:15) when they committed a sin. They needed a system in place to bring restitution for the wrongs they committed because the cross had not yet happened. The Israelites needed the priests to make “atonement for [them] with the ram of the guilt offering” so that they would “be forgiven” (vs. 16). Leviticus serves as a reminder to us of the regulations we’d still be under if Jesus hadn’t come, turning the religious world upside down, bringing new meaning to old commands and healing those in need, all of which we see today’s reading in Mark.

And then we come to our psalm, which speaks affirmation and encouragement over us. “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens your faithfulness to the clouds” (Ps. 36:5); “how precious is your steadfast love, O God!” (vs. 7); “for with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (vs. 9). Today’s reading is like a well-balanced dinner – nutritious and filling and just what we needed. 

I’m so thankful for God’s word and I’m so thankful that we’re on this adventure together to know him better by reading it every day!

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16

Leviticus 1:1-3:17; Mark 1:29-2:12; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9:13-18

During Christmas last year (just a month and a half ago; how is that possible?), "Immanuel" was everywhere.  I couldn't escape it: in my OYB readings, in the songs we sang at church, in my own need to know that God was present.  "God with us" - over and over and over.

And I remember reading the same account in Matthew that we read today in Mark.  I think I even commented on the willingness of Jesus.  He goes to Simon's mother-in-law and heals her.  He meets with the sick and demon-possessed well into the night.  And even though Jesus goes away, to a solitary place (Mk. 1:35), when he is interrupted, he responds with genuine warmth.  Jesus is with the people who need him.  He is available.  He is active.  Immanuel.

The psalmist pleads for this same presence.  He begs for God's interaction and response (Ps. 35:17, 22-25), but seems simultaneously confident that God will intervene (vs. 27-28).  His history with the Lord leads him to expect that he will be vindicated.  God will be with him in this specific situation because God has always been with him before.

I need these reminders.  I forget that Immanuel has come; I lose sight of the truth that God is with me.  I need the community of God's people - the Church - to be the body of Christ to me and for me.  I need to cultivate a heart of gratitude, of remembering, of noticing and praising God.  This is an incredible concept: God WITH us.  It changes everything.  It confers value on us, it imbues our lives with meaning and purpose.  We are not alone.  We are not abandoned.  We are cared for, intimately and continually.

As I think of God being with me, being present, being active and responsive, I cannot help but concur with the writer of today's psalm: "My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long" (Ps. 35:28).  Truly, what a wonderful thing: God is with us, friends.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15

Exodus 39:1-40:38; Mark 1:1-28; Psalm 35:1-16; Proverbs 9:11-12

Life is full of beginnings and endings, starts and stops, new and old. This morning, I remember last year, when I nursed my almost 14-month-old for the last time. An ending and a beginning. A little sad, but also exciting as well. Today we have an ending as we close up Exodus, and a new beginning as we start into the gospel of Mark. We are making good progress, and I am excited to see what new and old things the Lord will continue to reveal to us as we plunge ahead into his living word.

As we begin to engage in this new gospel of Mark, some background information might be useful to help guide us in our study. How is this gospel different than Matthew? What truths are revealed in it? Who is this Mark guy and how well did he really know Jesus? Most writers agree that Mark was probably the first person to write a gospel, with the authorship date possibly as early as AD 65. In fact, Matthew and Luke both seem to draw off of Mark while they are writing their own gospels. Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, most biblical scholars agree that this gospel was written by John Mark, who traveled with Paul and Barnabas one their first missionary journey in Acts (Acts 13:5). He was also a close associate of the apostle Peter.  Peter called him “Mark, my son” (1 Pet. 5:12), and may even have lead Mark to a belief in Christ.  In any case, most scholars believe that Mark relied heavily on the testimony of Peter while writing his gospel. According to early church tradition, Mark was probably written somewhere in Italy and intended for the church in Rome, or at least for Gentile readers. Mark seems to explain in more detail the Jewish customs, translates Aramaic words, and draws more on themes, such as martyrdom and persecution, that would be of interest to Gentile readers.

Maybe that was too much background, but I believe it’s helpful in understanding God’s own word in our lives if we can first have an understanding of his words for the original audience. Each gospel is unique and different, and yet they are all joined together in proclaiming the one Gospel of good news for all people.  And, boy, is Mark different than Matthew already. We already covered Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation, and on into his teaching and miracles in the first chapter! It’s like Mark can’t wait to hurry up and get to the good news of the cross. Let’s hold on and journey with him for a fast paced and exciting ride.

- Mary Matthias

*Background information compiled from www.biblica.com and www.easyenglish.info/bible.

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14

Exodus 37:1-38:31; Matthew 28:1-20; Psalm 34:11-22; Proverbs 9:9-10

"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Ps. 34:18).

Some of you may be broken-hearted today.  Some of you may be crushed in spirit.  Some of you, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, may be forced to confront the reality of the death of a loved one (see Mt. 28:1).  Some of you, like them, may be swallowing the anguish of a lost dream.  Some of you may be experiencing serious physical or emotional pain.  Some of you may find this particular day full of bitter irony and loneliness.  Some of you may doubt that God is present.

The two women in our New Testament passage were on their way to prepare a body for burial: the body of a man who had suffered physically, who had been abandoned by his closest friends, who had lost the presence of God.  He was broken-hearted; he was crushed in spirit.  This is the God - the God who knows what it is to be broken-hearted and crushed - who is close to us in our own pain.  Not only do we love and serve a God who is present to us, who is with us (Emmanuel, yet again) in our suffering, but we love and serve a God who deeply understands our suffering.   He, too, has experienced it.

Jesus meets these two women (see vs. 9-10) in their confusion (see vs. 8).  He greets them; he allows them to touch him, to reassure themselves.  He accepts them, and then sends them on a task. Their suffering encounters the risen Jesus - the God who is close to the broken-hearted - and they find joy.

I am heavy today for those of you who are suffering.  I pray that you would experience the truth of this verse in our Psalms reading today: though you "may have many troubles," may "the Lord [deliver you] from them all" (Ps. 34:19).  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13

Exodus 35:10-36:38; Matthew 27:32-66; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 9:7-8

My friend, Ann, is skilled with her hands. She not only cooks from scratch and sews, but she is also a potter. She once made lunch for several dozen women, threw a vase for each one on her potter’s wheel, filled each vase with flowers and gave them as a favors. She can not only tile a kitchen counter, she can even make the tile! She is like Bezalel and Oholiab in Exodus 35 and 36, “with skill and knowledge and ability in all kinds of crafts.” Just as Bezalel and Oholiab used their skill to build the Tabernacle, so Ann uses her skills to construct food, pottery and crocheted blankets to serve others.

The New Testament passage today stands in sharp contrast to the Exodus reading. In the NT, we see de-struction, not con-struction. Or at least that is how it appears. Everything Jesus had planned is falling apart, or so it seems in Matthew 27.  Jesus is crucified by the Jews and Romans, forsaken by his disciples, and then, most horrible of all, he is forsaken by his Father in his moment of greatest anguish. A few dear women, Mary Magdalena and others (including the mother of Zebedee’s sons who had previously asked for seats of honor in the Kingdom for her sons), watch at a distance as Jesus dies alone. A horrible, disgraceful death. Even the robbers on the other crosses tormented and despised Him. This is the saddest day in history.

But Psalm 34: 5 encourages us to hope: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

The shame and horror of the cross is real; but it is not the end of the story.

It is the beginning of the story.

Keep reading.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12

Exodus 34:1-35:9; Matthew 27:15-31; Psalm 33:12-22; Proverbs 9:1-6

Esther wrote yesterday about sometimes wishing that God would give a tangible sign of his presence, like a golden calf or handwriting on the wall or a pillar of fire.  I totally resonate with that desire and I thought about it during today's reading.  Yesterday, Moses himself asked for reassurance of God's presence in his life (see Ex. 33:12-18), and today we see God reveal himself to Moses in response to this request.  He gives Moses this experience to be a marker, a defining surety of his continued nearness and activity.

And what a self-revelation it is!  I love this passage: "The Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord.  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin'" (Ex. 34:5-7, emphasis mine).  In addition to his self-description (which I'll come back to), God descends to Moses' place, aligns himself with - not opposite - Moses, and shows himself to Moses in the greatest measure a living being could experience.  I mean, wow!  What a response to Moses' request.  God comes to be with man.  Emmanuel, God with us, here in the Old Testament.

And then - his self-description!  I wrote a bio for myself yesterday, for a speaking gig in April, and I'm aware of how I stuck in all the "important" stuff - my education, my experience, our church ministry, our family.  Well, God did the same thing here in his bio: he identified himself, as and by himself.  He is compassionate; gracious; slow to anger (thank you, Lord, for you know how much patience we need); abounding in love and faithfulness (extravagant, over-flowing, excessive); forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin (yep, yes, yup).  This is the important stuff.  This is what God wants his people to know about him.  These are the qualities that define who God is.

Our New Testament reading, too, gives us a glimpse of who this God is.  But here, it's Jesus in the mockery of his trial and judgment.  While the Roman soldiers mean every action as a farce, they yet reveal who Jesus really is: a king, a ruler, worthy of homage (Mt. 27: 27-31).  The bitterness and sting and agony cannot hide the truth.  

I am so grateful that I serve this kind of God.  He is not capricious or unpredictable.  He is not vindictive or resentful.  He is a God who knows and sees me (remember Hagar?), who deals gently with me, who loves and loves and loves, and who forgives beyond all ability to measure.  He came to earth, aligning himself with humanity (with me, with all of us!), and he is yet the king, worthy of my allegiance.  Praise God for who he is!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11

Exodus 32:1-33:23; Matthew 26:69-27:14; Psalm 33:1-11; Proverbs 8:33-36

Doesn’t today’s reading just make your blood boil? That’s my first response when I read both the actions of the Israelites and those of Peter. How can these people desert God/Jesus so quickly? The Israelites have seen God demonstrate incredible power, not just in the plagues that caused Pharaoh to drive them out of Egypt, but in the days since with manna from the sky (Ex. 16:14) and water from a rock (Ex. 17:6) and the PARTING OF THE RED SEA (Ex. 14:21), for goodness sake!! I mean, talk about miracles! And all that’s happened in just about 3 months; yet at the end of those 3 months, when Moses is gone for a few days, they forsake everything they know about God and build a ridiculous golden calf (Ex. 32:4). And what about Peter? Just hours before his betrayal, Peter swears to Jesus that he will never fall away, that he would even die with Jesus (Mt. 26:33) rather than desert him and yet a mere servant girl (vs. 69) is enough to scare Peter into turning his back on the man whom he has walked beside for the past three years. What is wrong with these people? Surely if I were in the same position I would do better than that! But before I start playing too much of the blame game, let’s take a look.

The OT reading for today opens on a people who are bored. Moses, the normal cause for excitement and direction, has been up on Mount Sinai for several weeks and the people are growing restless. This causes them, and Aaron, to begin making a slew of bad decisions. They demand an idol, and Aaron acquiesced, though it does seem like he tried to minimize the damage by proclaiming a feast for Yahweh (Ex. 32:5). But this feast is nothing more than pagan revelry. God is very angry, and rightfully so. (As a side note, I find it very interesting that Moses implores the LORD on behalf of the people, that God might spare them [vs. 11] only to have his own anger burn so hot that he smashes the original 10 Commandments tablets [vs. 19]. Can you imagine how mad he had to be to smash solid stone?) How can these peoples so quickly turn – and not just a little rebellion but a total breaking of the first and second commandments? But I wonder if there isn’t more here. 

Perhaps these people thought Moses wasn’t coming back at all. Perhaps they were afraid that without him, they would lose sight of God all together and so they ask Aaron not for a replacement to God, but rather for a visible, tangible object to follow (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 155). Can I really blame them for doubting their own steadfastness and turning to idols? There have been many times in my own life when fear has caused me to make poor decisions, caused me even to mistrust God’s faithfulness and goodness. I’ve often wished he would give me a tangible sign that he’s with me, rather than trusting his past actions. The Israelites wanted something tangible, which I can’t blame them for. True, their idol making was foolish and sinful, but so is mine. My idols may not look like golden calves, but I have them – fear, self-importance, self-reliance, believing money will solve my problems – you name it. How like the Israelites I am, after all!

And what about Peter? He was Jesus’ most intimate follower – he has seen him heal hundreds, feed thousands, walk on water and more – and yet at the first sign of testing he falls away. Even though Jesus specifically told him he would deny him three times before the rooster crows, Peter is still not able to avoid disaster. Three times he completely denies even knowing Jesus. He completely turns his back on his best friend. He, like the Israelites, couldn’t hold onto the truth of who Jesus was when tempted and scared. But this isn’t the end of Peter’s story, thankfully, and it isn’t the end of mine.  It isn’t the end of yours either. We will all fail; we will all run away when facing danger or temptation or even when we are scared or restless. But the good news is that God is always waiting, always forgiving. Thank you, Jesus!

- Esther McCurry

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

February 10

Exodus 30:11-31:18; Matthew 26:47-68; Psalm 32:1-11; Proverbs 8:27-32

I have really been enjoying this journey so far. I hope you have, too. I love to open up the Word of God each day and see how he is going to speak to me and show me more of himself. And then I get the double fun of seeing how one of my co-bloggers understood God's word as well as your responses and reflections. Thanks for journeying with us and steady on!

Let's talk first about how awesome it is that the Lord chose Bezalel son of Uri and "filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts" (Ex. 31:3). God used his Spirit to fill an artist with skill and craftsmanship to make beautiful things for his house and altars. This should fill all of you artists out there with joy! (I would definitely not fall in that camp as I can't really even draw a stick figure that well.) God delights in beauty and art and chooses us to reflect his image of beautiful creator.

Now let's move on to the New Testament for a bit. One of the things that stands out to me so clearly when I read the gospels and the different accounts of Jesus' life is that his whole objective from the beginning was to get to the cross. Nowhere do we see that more clearly than in this account on the Mount of Olives. Several times Jesus has the opportunity to escape his fate, but he never takes it. In fact, he refuses to answer when questioned.  It's not until they push him to a breaking point that he responds, and then he says the most incriminating thing he possibly could! He is practically running toward the cross.

Some years ago, it was very popular to wear little bracelets with WWJD on it. Many of you will remember that the WWJD stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" I was one of those who jumped on the bandwagon and proudly wore the bracelet as a reminder when I was making decisions or choices. But as time has gone along, I wonder if that was really the right slogan for us to follow. So many of Jesus' choices and actions were all part of going to the cross. That was his main goal from the beginning. But that isn't actually my goal, or what I make my choices around. The cross was Jesus' mission. What is mine? Maybe I should make some bracelets with WDJCYT (What Does Jesus Call You To?).  Any buyers? 

I am so grateful Jesus was so eager and willing to go to the cross for me and you. The words of Psalm 32 seem like such an appropriate response of our hearts after reading about Christ's journey toward the cross. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him" (Ps. 32:1-2). This whole Psalm is so beautiful. I could spend so much time meditating and praying through the truths, promises, and comforts found in the Psalm. If you have a few extra minutes today, join me in doing just that. 

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 9

Exodus 29:1-30:10; Matthew 26:14-46; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 8:14-26 

Today when I read, I was reminded of Mary's post last month about the nature of covenant (see here).  It always needs blood; the promise can only be ratified with sacrifice.  Blood and sacrifice and priesthood are all over our Old Testament reading today: blood on ears and thumbs and toes; sacrifice of pure animals; the approach of the high priest to the most holy of places.  I couldn't help but think of the blood of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, the high priest who made it possible for me to enter the most holy of places. And I was struck by the public eating that Aaron and his sons do when they eat the meat and bread "at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting" (Ex. 29:32-33).  How similar that is to the communion that I take publicly each week!  This ancient sacrifice was a reminder of God's presence (29:42-43, 45-46); the bread and wine of the Lord's table are a similar prompt.

Isn't it amazing how fully Jesus realized the covenants of old?  I'm a bit staggered at the moment.  I got all excited about writing on the installation of the priests and the blood required and so started writing before I finished reading.  (Didn't want to lose all my insightful thoughts, you know.)  And then I turned the page to our New Testament reading and realized we were reading about the Last Supper!  Could you get any more apropos?  To be thinking and writing about the new covenant of Jesus and our recognition of that through communion and then to be confronted by the first Bread and the first Cup?  This 'happenstance' is one of the elements I love most about The One Year Bible.  We get to see all of Scripture blended together in a seamless whole, flowing into and through each other.

One more note on the Lord's Supper as we read it for the first time this year: Jesus is making what would have been almost an obscene connection between the bread and his body and the wine and his blood.  Think of what he's asking his disciples to do as he says, "Take and eat; this is my body....Drink....this is my blood" (Mt. 26:26-28).  These men have never drunk blood in their lives; they were good, orthodox, obedient Jews who knew that the lifeblood of any animal should be poured out before God (see Lev. 17:10-14).  These men have been rigorous about maintaining their dietary restrictions, and so would be appalled by the thought of eating human flesh, even in comparison.  Jesus is taking a traditional activity - the bread and the cup - and upending it entirely, establishing a new normal.  His disciples had to be willing to let go of what they thought they knew to embrace all that Jesus offered.

Lord God, I, too, need to let go of what I think I know.  Remind me of your great love and sacrifice offered through the death of Jesus on the cross.  Thank you for the blood that washes away my sin; may I never take it for granted.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8

Exodus 28:1-43; Matthew 25:31-26:13; Psalm 31:9-18; Proverbs 8:12-13

Isn't it funny the things the Bible goes into details about? Jesus' whole childhood is summed up in something like 2 verses that say he grows in stature, wisdom, and favor with man, or some such general synopsis. Yet, here in Exodus, we have whole chapters devoted to how long the measurements of the curtains were in the Tabernacle, or what the posts in the courtyard should look like, or what kinds of yarn are to be used in the priests’ garments. When I get to heaven, this will definitely be one of the aspects of Scripture I ask the Lord about.

So I pulled out my commentaries today, trying to get a little more insight into what is the significance of Exodus 28. And it was actually very interesting. I will attempt to summarize the significance of the priestly garments, but for a more in depth look, Matthew Henry's Commentary is easy to read and helpful and you can view it here.  

First, we need to understand what is happening in Exodus at this point in time. They are setting up a nation, a system of government, the general rule of how things will work for this massive group of people. So we see all these instructions about buildings, clothing, various laws, etc. Thus far, the heads of the families had acted as the priests- being the ones to bring sacrifices and represent their families to the Lord. Now we see that responsibility being passed on to Aaron and his sons, and to the Levities, and so it continue until Christ comes. As the ultimate High Priest, Christ does away with the need for priests. When he comes we no longer need someone to represent us to God or bear our names on his shoulders or breastplates.  Christ does all that on the cross. In understanding these Old Testament systems, we actually begin to understand the significance of the cross to greater and greater degrees. Now we can enter the holy of holies in our morning pajamas with a cup of coffee, rather than having to be all decked out as these priests were. 

And one day all the nations will gather before him as we see in Matthew 25. Around his heavenly throne, he "separates the sheep from the goat" (Mt. 25:32). This passage can be a bit unsettling as we think of one day standing before God and being judged on what we did or did not do.  (Can't you just hear that Keith Green song in your head when you read this?)  How will I respond to this passage? For me, it begins in prayer. It begins with me going into the holy place to meet with God, just as the priests of old did. To discern (we don't need the Urim and Thummim now) where God is at work, where the people are who need clothing, who are sick, or imprisoned. And then praying for boldness to act on their behalf. 

Lord Jesus, show me how I can love the stranger or the poor and needy person in my life today. Thank you for the freedom to come into your presence. I can anoint you and “do beautiful things" (Mt. 26:10) for you and for your children. Give me the eyes to see and the courage to act.  

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 7

Exodus 26:1-27:21; Matthew 25:1-30; Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 8:1-11

Well, we've come through all the excitement of Genesis and the plagues and the exodus from Egypt.  What a ride!  And hooray for us to be 10% through our goal of reading through the Bible in one year - great job!  It's possible, though, that as we've moved into the giving of the law (and we know that Leviticus is still ahead) that some of the enthusiasm for this one-year commitment may be waning a bit.  Be encouraged: God has many wonderful things still to reveal about himself and so much love to lavish on us as we remain faithful.

Our reading in Exodus today could be one of those "read-it-to-get-through-it" kinds of days.  I have often wondered why God was so specific about his tabernacle - and why we'll see the step-by-step instructions followed in just a few days' time.  Was it because God is really picky and didn't want to leave too much to chance?  Doubtful - God isn't petty.  Was it because of the years in Egypt and the possible effect of Egypt's idolatry on Israel's worship practices?  Maybe - we do know, however, that various practices, such as circumcision, were still maintained by Jacob's descendants.  Was it because God wanted to see how well Israel would obey?  Possibly - they have already revealed a tendency to mistrust and self-deceive.

I was struck today, though, by the idea that all this detail reveals that God is vitally and essentially and completely interested in the worship of his people.  There is no aspect too small for his concern; there is no area where "good enough" slides by.  Perhaps all this detail reveals how seriously God takes worship.  He's attentive to its form; notice how everything God describes is both symmetrical (see Ex. 27:12-15 for an example) and beautifully adorned (see Ex. 26:31-32 for an example).  How the place of worship looks is important!  In future readings, God will describe the function of worship, too - the how-to aspects of sacrifice and offering.  Both are valuable to God, and therefore both are valuable to His people.  I'm lead to consider how seriously I take God's worship.

Due to my husband's ministry job, we changed churches in the recent past.  One of the most significant things I learned during this move was to begin to understand how much of "worship" is a choice.  Will we worship, regardless?  Will we give, even if we don't approve of the church's budget?  Will we sing, even if we don't like the song or the style of music?  Will we engage in the sermon, even if we don't like the preacher?  Will we invest in getting to know the people around us, even if we've already got our friends or we're introverted?  I'm ashamed to confess that I have frequently expected service on Sunday to be about me, for me.  Truly, though, it - like the tabernacle's decoration - is about God, for God.  Just as Israel needed the reminders to see God's beauty and glory in the way they worshipped, so too do I need to be reoriented toward God in any worship I encounter.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 6

Exodus 23:14 – 25:40; Matthew 24:29-51; Psalm 30:1-12; Proverbs 7:24-27

There are days when we just need hope. We need hope that God will lift us out of the pit of our own self-pity, that He will rescue us from our enemy of despairing that things will ever change, that He will save our rebellious sons from their sin and self-defeating behaviors.

There is quite a bit of hope in today’s readings in the Old Testament. The nation has made it safely out of Egypt, God has met their needs for water and food, and Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders have seen God (Ex. 24:9). They are beginning to learn what will make this fledgling nation into God’s people. They are learning there will be festivals - times of feasting and rejoicing in God’s goodness (23:14ff) - and there will be offerings - gifts to God from those whose hearts prompt them to give (25:1). Their faith will be a participatory one.  A clarity of “who we are as a nation” is emerging. And Psalm 30:7 says, “O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm…”

But the New Testament is more murky. Jesus’ teaching is not easy to decipher as He talks about distress and darkness and the day of the Lord that is coming. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Exactly what the sign of the Son of Man will be is unknown” (pg. 78). Nevertheless, Jesus admonishes his followers, and that includes us, to be very watchful (Mt. 24:42) and to be alert, believing that the Son of Man will appear again on this planet. Hope. There it is. God is in the future.

The Bible contains mysteries and Matthew’s words today are one of them. We need to think carefully, search diligently and wait in expectation of what God is doing in this world. He is always at work—He’s turning wailing into dancing, removing sackcloth and clothing his own with joy so that we may sing to him and give thanks to the Lord our God forever (Ps. 30:11-12).

He gives us hope—in our lives and in this world.

- Nell Sunukjian

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5

Exodus 21:22-23:13; Matthew 24:1-28; Psalm 29:1-11; Proverbs 7:6-23

One of the other ladies involved in this blog sent me a text today, essentially wishing me luck as I wrote this post.  I hadn't yet read today's readings, so I didn't really know why she bade me well, but once I cracked open today, I understood.  We're looking at somewhat obscure laws regarding goring bulls and restitution for theft in the Old Testament and warnings about the end of the age in the New Testament.

But as I sat with the text a little more and re-read some of my thoughts from years previous, I gravitated more toward the reading in Proverbs.  The amount of time and space that Proverbs devotes to warnings about the adulterous woman has always caught my attention.  Clearly, this subject was a most important one for the young man reading and learning from the wisdom of Proverbs.  This particular warning is a passage of seduction: the woman sets out after the "youth who lacked judgment" (Pr. 7:7) and uses every tactic in her arsenal to ensure his downfall.  His collapse, one that always puts me in mind of a balloon bursting or a building imploding, is complete and devastating (see Pr. 7:22-23).  This man unthinkingly throws away his life - so many years ahead of him - by considering the temptation immediately before him.

I've looked at this passage in two ways over the years.  Firstly, I've seen the wreckage caused by adultery.  My husband and I have watched couples lose homes, jobs, marriages, even children because of adultery.  Though the sexual affair promised excitement and energy and vitality, the lies couldn't prevent the mess strewn about afterward.  I've seen similar devastation as a result of pornography as men were caught in their youth and held captive by the ease of the Internet and pay-per-view.  I worry about the men of my generation, dealing with the shame and hidden-ness of addiction, afraid to confess, be known, and seek healing.  So I see the adverse truths of this passage.

I've recently started thinking about this passage in a different light, though.  This woman has prepared for this youth.  She has dressed for him (vs. 10); she has decorated her home for him (vs. 16-17); she speaks words of intent to him (vs. 15, 21).  I wonder if he could possibly have resisted her!  She appeals to him on so many levels - sight and touch and scent.  And here I am, in my mostly-clean yoga pants and a messy bun/ponytail, feeling good that I might have showered yesterday.  (Maybe.)  Now, I am confident in Eric's love and desire for me, but I'm uncomfortably aware that I often take his attraction for granted.  Perhaps I, too, could pay heed to this woman - not to emulate her promiscuity, but to be more alert to the gift of my own sexuality as I move toward my husband.

Marriages are deeply precious to me - my own, those of my loved ones, those elsewhere in the church.  Please, if you're married and in some sort of sexual captivity, confess to your spouse and a dear friend, and then go to therapy for healing.  If you're not in danger personally, perhaps you need to have the courage to ask some difficult questions of your spouse and be prepared to hear hard honesty.  And, no matter your marital status, be aware of the very great power of your body and your sexuality - and use them wisely for the benefit of the church and the glory of God.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.