Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30

2 Kings 17:1-18:12; Acts 20:1-38; Psalm 148:1-14; Proverbs 18:6-7

Today as I sat down in the quiet of afternoon nap time (oh, how I love thee, afternoon nap time!), I opened my One Year Bible and began to read. As I read the first few verses, I stopped reading and thought to myself, “Did I read this already? Am I a day ahead somehow?” But, no, I am on the right day. It’s just case after case after case of the same bad news for Judah and Israel – “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD…” (2 Ki. 17:2). Have you lost hope that the kings would ever get it right? As I read the history of Israel and Judah, I find myself wondering how a king would even know how to do right, given all the bad examples before him. In fact, Scripture itself says this: “But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God” (vs. 14).

But then…Hezekiah. “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD,” and not just a little – “according to all that David his father had done….He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him” (2 Ki. 18:3, 5). What a blessing to his people King Hezekiah was, bringing prosperity with him and blessing on the land. What a breath of fresh air; what a wonderful change of pace. I’m afraid to read tomorrow’s passage, for fear that we’ll go back to the same old story!  But that’s the way of human nature, right? Three steps forward, two steps back? (Or maybe ten steps back, if you’re Israel.) Still, it’s okay to be encouraged today.

And in our own lives, it’s okay to be encouraged and feel excited when we see progress in our walk with the LORD. We won’t get it perfect, either. Like the Israelites and their kings, we will sometimes blow it. I think we’re all pretty well aware of the ways we fail. But do we celebrate and praise God for the ways we succeed? For the times when we are able to hold our tongue and we do put someone else’s needs ahead of ourselves? Are we present and engaged in those times as well? I hope so. God wants to rejoice with us, in our growth and victory, just as he wants to walk with us through the times we disobey and need discipline.

Speaking of blowing it – did you take in the power punches of today’s proverbs? “A fool’s lips walk into a fight and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Pr. 18:6-7). No mincing words there. Our mouths are a powerful thing and, left to their own devices, our lips can bring us into great trouble. I know I’ve written before on this subject (are you trying to tell me something, God? Is there a reason that my day to blog always has something about our words? Hmmm…) and it’s made all the clearer in this passage. We need to continually guard our mouths, as they have the greatest potential to bring us to ruin. Better to be silent than like the fool who is led into a fight!

(PS – Happy Birthday to my fellow blogger and WONDERFUL mother, Nell Sunukjian!)

- 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, June 29, 2017

June 29

2 Kings 15:1-16:20; Acts 19:13-41; Psalm 147:1-20; Proverbs 18:4-5

When I was 16 years old, I broke completely through both bones in my left lower leg. The break was severe enough that I had to be in a cast from my hip to my toe for 3 months, followed by about 6 months of physical therapy and rehab to get my leg back to normal functioning. For anyone this would be a painful inconvenience in life, but for me it was much more than that. I had always been an athlete and sports were a huge part of my life. So much of my identity and what I understood myself to be good at revolved around using my legs for running, kicking, jumping, etc. Who was I going to be if I couldn’t be an athlete?

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 147:10-11).

This is the verse my mom gave to me during those first few days of my injury. I pinned it up on my dresser where I would see it every day to be reminded from where my true identity and worth comes.

While athletics are not nearly as much a part of my life now, I still struggle with wanting to use my strength and the works of my legs and hands to bring the Lord “pleasure.” I strive to do things for him and his name through my works and deeds. While this is not bad, there can again come the temptation to find my identity in what I do. In my zeal to please the Lord, great harm can be done by trying to do it in my own strength, apart from him.

We see an example of this over-eagerness in our Acts 19 reading today. The “itinerant Jewish exorcists” who “undertook to invoke the name of the Lord over those who had evil spirits” (Acts 19:13-14), acted on their own strength and will. And they were in for quite a surprise when the man wasn’t freed from those evil spirits, but rather “leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded” (vs. 15-16). These Jewish exorcists were trying to do something in the name of Jesus, but not under the authority or by the true power of Jesus. Big difference and it totally backfired.

I don’t want to be hasty in my own life to make the same mistakes . There are so many needs around us, but need does not necessitate the call to act. How do we work for the Lord with all our strength, but not get caught into performance Christianity?

For me it looks a lot like listening and praying. Am I constantly going to the Lord to ask what his will is and if I should do this or do that? Am I reminding myself of the truth of his words that tell me I am valuable to him because I fear and hope in him? The Lord doesn’t need my legs or my strength, and yet I am his precious child and he delights in sharing his good will and purposes with me.

- 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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28

2 Kings 13:1-14:29; Acts 18:23-19:12; Psalm 146:1-10; Proverbs 18:2-3

Israel is just so pitiful, both the nation ("the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before" [2 Ki. 13:6] - what a terrible commentary that this fact is worth noting) and the army ("nothing had been left of the army...except fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers" [vs. 7]).  Such terrible decimation and destruction.  No wonder Jehoahaz has a moment of clarity: "Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord's favor" (vs. 4).  The relief is brief, however, and the succeeding kings are no better.  Even so, "the Lord was gracious to [Israel] and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (vs. 23, emphasis mine).  God is a vow-keeper, a faithful promise-fulfiller.  He saw the oppression in and of Israel (see also 14:26-27), and he acted to preserve his people.

We see just this sort of steadfast trustworthiness at work in our psalm.  Israel had "put [its] trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save....[whose] plans come to nothing" (Ps. 146:3-4) and had seen devastation result.  But God - "the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them" (vs. 6) - is a God who "upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry[,]....sets prisoners free, sight to the blind,...lifts up those who are bowed down, over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow" (vs. 7-9).  Even though Israel has lived like the fool in today's Proverbs reading, bringing contempt and shame and disgrace upon itself, God is yet faithful.  God is yet present.  God is still at work.

Perhaps you are like Israel today, full of shame and devastation.  Have hope; God is yet faithful.  God restores.  God redeems.  He longs to bring freedom and life, to give sight, to encourage and protect.  Seek his favor this day; his covenant of love toward you is ready.

- 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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27

2 Kings 10:32-12:21; Acts 18:1-22; Psalm 145:1-21; Proverbs 18:1

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you" (Ps. 145:1-2a).

I love this psalm of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Being thankful and having a heart that is quick to praise are such safeguards against so many types of evil (discontentment, jealousy, anger, self-pity, and bitterness, to name just a few) that want to take hold of our minds and hearts. Many times, we have stressed being thankful in this blog, and that's mainly because it is so many times stressed in the Scriptures again and again. Every single day, we are to praise him.

"One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works" (Ps. 145:4-5).

In the service at church this past Sunday, our pastor was using this idea of praise and thanksgiving to talk about hope and faith. He made the point that being thankful and praising God for the deeds he has done in the past isn't just about being thankful and praising for those things. It is also about developing hope and faith and certainty that God will again be faithful and provide for us in the future. Being thankful strengthens our faith, our trust. He did it before; he will do it again.

"We will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness" (Ps. 145:7).

It is good to celebrate God's goodness to us, to have a party.  We don't try to downplay his goodness or have false humility, but rather have joy and exuberance as we revel in his goodness. Our hearts will become so tender and soft to the One who prompts that kind of celebration.

"The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down" (Ps. 145:14).

Even in times of hardship, we can praise him. We know he will lift us up. He has in the past; he will again. We can praise him because he is the kind of God who bends down to lift up his creation.

"The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (Ps. 145:15-16).

For me, these are the most powerful verses in the psalm. They conjure up images of a kind and loving Father who delights to hear from his people. All eyes look to him and he is anxious to satisfy their desires. He knows the right time to open his hand and abundantly provide. Too soon might not be good, and too late would not be beneficial either. But at just the right time, he opens his hand and the desires are completely fulfilled.

O Lord, we do praise your name. We cannot help but praise your name. You have been abundantly good. Give us thankful hearts. Give us eyes that look to you and wait upon your goodness. Give us faith to know that you have always provided and you always will. 

- 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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26

2 Kings 9:14-10:31; Acts 17:1-34; Psalm 144:1-15; Proverbs 17:27-28

Summer in LA is, in many ways, practically perfect.  The days are long and sunny; the nights retain a bit of warmth, but cool off enough to bring house temperatures down overnight; traffic eases (a tad); and cultural events abound.  You can watch movies at the park, listen to symphonies under the stars, or take in a free Shakespearean production or two.

Last night, we did the third.  We drove out to Griffith Park, near famed Dodger Stadium, to see a performance of Richard III with our children.  As an English major and live theater enthusiast, I was confident in my own ability to understand the movement of the play.  For our kids, aged 4 to 14, I wasn't so certain.  So we read through a plot summary and made connections to real-life events and made sure that everyone knew "who the bad guy was."  It was a great show, but the title character is unrelentingly self-serving.  His single-minded thirst for the crown leads to deception, seduction, and murder.  It's a bloody, evil road that ends at the throne.

You can see, I'm sure, why I'm reminded of Richard in our Old Testament reading today.  Jehu eliminates more than 115 persons of the royal family (see 2 Ki. 9:24, 27, 33 and 10:7, 11, 14), and then a whole temple-full of Baal's priests.  This is a one-track, violent purging of the house of Ahab.  Not for his own self-interest, though, but in fulfillment of the word and judgment of God (see 9:7-8).  Hundreds of people, some children and innocent, killed.  There's no respect for the dead (as we see when Jezebel's body is eaten by dogs, see vs. 35-37) or for national identity (as we see when Jehu kills men from Judah as well as from Israel, 9:27-28 and 10:13).  This slaughter passes gender, age, political allegiances - and is commanded by God.  Unsettling as it is, this regicide is God's tool to cleanse the land of Israel of its adultery.  Jehu is even commended by God for his dedication: "You have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do" (10:30).  All these people dead, and God says "good job."

If I take this portion of Scripture as revealing a true aspect of God's character, I have to sit in this tension.  I have to accept that God is both merciful and Judge, returning life to the Shunammite's son (see 2 Ki. 4:18-37) yet demanding the same from idolaters.  God brings famine (8:1) and appoints awful leaders (vs. 12-13).  God is faithful to his promises (9:25-26) and concerned with holiness (10:18-28), even when those promises and that holiness require death.  

I want God to be neat and tidy, to be comfortable and palatable.  I want him to be easy for my neighbors to acknowledge and to be undemanding in what he asks of me.  The God of today's reading exposes my desires; I'm uncomfortable with this reading because honesty requires me to admit that I'd really prefer a tamer God.  

Once again, I am grateful for Scripture and the way it casts my own heart and misconceptions into relief.  If I didn't read passages like this from the Old Testament, I would live with a false view of God, making him into my own image.  Instead, I am pushed and prodded into a fuller understanding, one that can hold both 2 Kings and Psalm 144 ("What is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?" [Ps. 144:3]) together.  

And, because I can't let verses like these pass, I rejoiced in my family last night.  Yes, the four-year-old asked repeatedly for her brownie, and, yes, the children poked each other frequently with sticks, but still!  I leaned over to my husband during the intermission and said, "I am a rich woman and I live a rich life."  It was my modern experience of the psalmist's joy: "Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision.  Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads.  There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.  Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 144:12-15).


- 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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25

2 Kings 8:1-9:13; Acts 16:16-40; Psalm 143:1-12; Proverbs 17:26

In 2 Kings 8 & 9, we read the ending of several stories we’ve been following.

First, we again meet the Shunammite woman who built a room on the top of her house for Elisha to stay in (2 Ki. 4). She and Elisha have stayed in touch and when Israel was suffering from a famine, he sent her to the land of the Philistines for her family’s survival. Now, seven years later, she has returned, and ‘coincidentally,’ just as Gehazi is telling the king of Israel (this has to be wicked Ahab) about her and how Elisha had raised her son to life.  At that moment, she appears in the court, asking for her land to be returned to her (2 Ki. 8:5). Talk about coincidences! Need I mention that, yes, she gets her land restored! And the income on it from the last seven years (vs. 6)!

Next, we see the fulfillment of the assignments that the LORD gave Elijah back in I Kings 19 (see OYB blog post here), when He told Elijah that his life was still worth living and that he had work yet to do. Elijah had appointed Elisha as instructed (I Ki. 19:16).

Now Elisha goes to Damascus—note that this isn’t even Israel’s territory—and appoints Hazael as the next king of Aram—what authority does Elisha have over a king of Damascus (2 Ki. 8:13)? Then, Elisha sends one of the young prophets from the prophets’ school to complete the third and final part of the Elijah’s assignment: he will “anoint Jehu king over the LORD’s people Israel” (2 Ki. 9:6). And it will be Jehu who will eradicate the line of Jezebel and Ahab. Elijah, though no longer living on earth, will finally get his full vengence against Jezebel and her prophets of Baal (vs. 8; see also tomorrow’s reading).

Psalm 143 wonderfully brings together the thoughts of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

            v. 1      O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
v. 5      I remember the days of long ago;
            I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
            v. 8      Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
                        for in You I have put my trust.
                        Show me the way I should go,
                        for to you I lift up my soul.

If God so cared for the woman from Shunem, if God fulfilled the prophecies he spoke to Elijah, if he released Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16:39), will He not care for us?

- 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.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24

2 Kings 6:1-7:20; Acts 15:36-16:15; Psalm 142:1-7; Proverbs 17:24-25

Do you realize we're almost halfway through our One-Year Bible?  Yay, us!  Keep reading, catch up if you can, start anew if you've fallen off the pace.

Our Old Testament reading today is such a series of far-reaching extraordinary moments, some extraordinarily good, some extraordinarily awful, some just extraordinarily extraordinary.  Consider the floating of the iron axe head or the tremendous fortune of the lepers in the Aramean camp. Consider the bloodthirstiness of the king of Israel ("Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?" [2 Ki. 6:21]) or the absolute horror of the two women's cannibalism.  Consider the "hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around" (vs. 17) or the incredible 24-hour reversal from siege to abundance.

Our New Testament reading is also full of extraordinary moments, but they are near-reaching extraordinary moments in the lives of individual people.  Consider Timothy's willingness to be circumcised in adulthood, or Paul's vision of the pleading Macedonian, or Lydia's conversion to Christianity.  Each of these men and women hears and then responds to the call of God.

Not only do men and women hear God and then respond, but God hears men and women and then responds.  The psalmist is dependent upon that premise today.  There's an honesty and dependence in Psalm 142.   God must hear him, for "no one [else] is concerned for [him]. [He has] no refuge; no one cares for [his] life" (Ps. 142:4).  He needs rescue; he needs to be set free (vs. 6).  And so he cries to the Lord, sure that eventually refuge (vs. 5) and goodness (vs. 7) will result.

Lord, let us turn toward you as a refuge in the ordinary moments of our lives, whether they be moments of pain or of joy or mundanity.  Help us to "[keep] wisdom in view," not letting our "eyes wander to the ends of the earth" (Pr. 17:24).  Teach us to live faithfully, that we might be attentive to the extraordinary moments you may place before us.  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. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23

2 Kings 4:18-5:27; Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 141:1-10; Proverbs 17:23

There’s a ton in today’s reading – Elisha raising the Shunammite’s child; the story of Naaman, commander of the army, who is healed from leprosy and makes a dramatic proclamation of faith; and the false teaching in Antioch from the Judeans, that you have to be circumcised in order to be saved.

But we’re also coming oh-so-close to the halfway point. On July 2, we’ll be halfway through 2017. And you know that that means? In just one week, we’ll be halfway through the Bible (more, technically, since we’ll have read all of Psalms and will begin to re-read them come July 3). That’s something to celebrate! Way to go, you! Way to go, me! Way to go, us!!

I feel led to take some time now to just pray for us, as we continue on in this journey.

Our Dearest Father,

Thank you for helping us make it halfway! Regardless of whether we’ve hit each day on time or had to skip ahead to catch up, we’ve come a long way and we’ve learned a lot about your word. And we’re so thankful – thank you for preserving this wonderful, mysterious and life-changing book. Thank you for providing us the means to have it not only in our language and in our own homes, but also the many tools we have to help us understand it better and grow more in our knowledge of you. Thank you for the people who developed the One Year Bible and all the thought and effort that went into it.

And I thank you for the people who have journeyed with us thus far on this blog, reading your word every day and pursuing ways to have it impact them more deeply. I pray you would bless them: I pray that their marriages would thrive, that their children would walk with you, that they would find success and fulfillment in their work, and that they would know their place in helping your will and your kingdom come on earth. Grant them perseverance as we come soon into the second half of the year.  Help us all to be diligent and faithful in our reading, and also grant us grace for ourselves when we just can’t keep up. Thank you that you have revealed yourself in the pages of this book; help us to know you more deeply and grow in our love for you and for others.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

- 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, June 22, 2017

June 22

2 Kings 3:1-47; Acts 14:8-28; Psalm 140:1-13; Proverbs 17:22

I find the exchange between Joram and Elisha so interesting. Joram, fresh out of sheep from the uprising Moabites, goes out to war with his allies, the kings of Judah and Edom. But while they are in the wilderness, they run out of water. So Jehoshaphat suggests they ask a prophet if they’re even on the right track; Joram agrees and goes to Elisha. But Elisha asks, “What have I to do with you?” (2 Ki. 3:13). Basically, Elisha is telling Joram that he owes the king of Israel nothing  - Joram is loyal to Baal (Elisha refers to him as the prophet of his mother and father), and Elisha mockingly implies that he should look to this false god for help. This forces Joram to admit that it’s really the LORD who is in charge, and because of Jehoshaphat, Elisha is willing to seek God’s wisdom on their behalf. I love that Elisha is not pulled into Joram’s schemes (but knows the truth that the kings are all wandering in the wilderness because of Joram’s own initiative not God’s direction), but that he also fulfills his role as a prophet and delivers the words of God.  And what a result! The Moabites are tricked into rushing headlong into their enemies and ultimately surrender everything but the city of Kir Hareseth.

In our Acts reading, it’s easy to read quickly along, so much so that you might even miss something like “Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19). What?! Aren’t these the same crowds that were trying to worship and offer sacrifices to them? How fickle the crowds are! And how blandly Scripture reports the stoning of Paul. Can you even imagine being stoned to the point of death? Obviously this is very far from anything most of us have ever experienced.

But what’s really amazing is what follows – on the next day, Paul “preached the gospel” and “made many disciples” (Acts 14:21), and then we see city after city in which they preach the gospel. We read it as a list of deeds and geographical references, but what we’re really seeing is the movement of the Christian church. This is how it all began, folks. This is how the word of God eventually got to you and me. Paul and other Christians like him traveled around and spread the word. As it says at the end of our reading, “he opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:27). Amazing. Truly amazing. Let’s pause today to thank God for the spread of our faith and the men and women who came before us who made that possible.

That also makes me want to pause and pray for the current missionaries, who, like Paul, are going to the ends of the earth to tell people about Jesus. What an amazing calling!

And I love how the psalm ties into that theme too: “I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and will execute justice for the needy” (Ps. 140:12). In many of these remote places, injustice runs rampant; victims are afflicted and it can seem like no one cares. But this psalm reassures us that God sees and that he’s working for their justice. Please, Lord, may your justice come speedily to those in need!

If you have some time today and you feel like an extracurricular Three65 activity, how about contacting a missionary you or your church support? Maybe send them an encouraging email or text, just to say you’re praying for them and you believe in their work of bringing the gospel to all the peoples. Just an idea!

- 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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21

2 Kings 1:1-2:25; Acts 13:42-14:7; Psalm 139:1-24; Proverbs 17:19-21

Today, these bits of Scripture caught my attention:

- 2 Kings 1:13-14: The humility of the third captain as he approaches Elijah through the smoldering remains of two men who caused the deaths of one hundred more.
- 2 Kings 1:16: These are almost exactly the same words as the message God sent via Elijah via the messengers of the king (vs. 3-4).  God's word and plan are steady.
- 2 Kings 2:3 and 5: I hear Elisha's grief.  He can hardly bear to contemplate the loss of Elijah.  So human, so poignant.
- 2 Kings 2:17 is such an interesting verse.  Why should they persist?  It seems clear that the company of prophets did not see the chariot and horses of fire, but they should still recognize that something miraculous has happened.  And why is Elisha "too ashamed to refuse"?
- 2 Kings 2:23-24: !!!??? What?  Really?  Mauling by bears for juvenile taunting?
- Acts 13:43: Paul and Barnabas "urged them to continue in the grace of God."  What a beautiful exhortation.  To continue, meaning they were already in the midst of it.  The grace of God, his mercy and love and provision and acceptance and blessing.  Wow.
- Such perseverance and courage on the part of Paul and Barnabas.  Time and again, we read of them speaking boldly (Acts 13:46, 14:3), withstanding persecution (13:45, 50; 14:2, 5), and always preaching the good news (13:44; 14:1, 7).
- Psalm 139 is an expression of awe and wonder from a creation to his Creator.  How much it says to us of God's love for us and how we can view ourselves in the light of this love.
- Our verses in Proverbs show the high cost of anger, lying, and folly: the ruin of self, of relationships with others, and of a relationship with God.  Sobering words.

What caught your attention?

- 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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 20

1 Kings 22:1-53; Acts 13:16-41; Psalm 138:1-8; Proverbs 17:17-18

After finishing 1 Kings, our psalms readings begin to make more and more sense. Today as we read Psalm 138, we can really understand why David would write these words - “before the gods I sing your praise,” and “all the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth,” and “you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies” (Ps. 138:1,4,7). Those are just a few of the verses, but really the whole psalm could be applied to what we have just read through in the sagas of all the kings.

We do, in fact, see David, as well as subsequent kings, sing and speak praises to the Lord in the midst of the idols and false gods around the nation of Israel. We see a few of the kings of Judah refusing to follow after them and staying true to the One True God. We also see a number of them not staying true and being led astray.

All the kings of the earth truly did hear the words of the Lord, mostly through David’s son Solomon. As we read last week, kings and queens and rulers from all over the earth would come to sit and hear Solomon’s great wisdom. Wisdom that had been given by the One True God. Wisdom that contained His truths for how to live life well according to His ways.

And numerous times we see the Lord stretch out his hand and deliver his people from their enemies. Even when the kings leading Israel or Judah are not good kings, God still delivers his people during the battles and many wars they face over the various reigns of the various kings.

So, David is remembering, as well as proclaiming what is to come, in this psalm. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is on high, yet he regards the lowly (Ps. 138:6). He fulfills his purpose for us (see vs. 8). Just as he did for David, just as he did for Israel and Judah and all their kings, he will do for us. He is a good and faithful God.

I take great comfort in these truths. It's easy for me to think the Bible is disconnected or narrow or old-fashioned. But so often I can see many common threads of truth running throughout it. Even today we must fight false gods and rulers and enemies who would set themselves up against the Almighty. We take confidence in his regard for the lowly and ask to join him in his work of salvation and redemption for all the peoples of the earth.

- 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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19

1 Kings 20:1-21:29; Acts 12:24-13:15; Psalm 137:1-9; Proverbs 17:16

Ahab is weak-willed.  He is, by and large, under the influence of his very evil, very pagan wife (see 1 Ki. 21:25).  But he yet understands the purity and holiness of God.  See how responsive he is to the words of the prophets.  He relies on their words (I Ki. 20:13-17), and smarts under their rebukes (vs. 41-43; don't you just love the childishness of Ahab's reaction: "sullen and angry"?).  Though his repentance seems to be only temporary (I Ki. 21:27) - he is, after all, the worst of Israel's kings (see vs. 25-26) - it is genuine.  God is not fooled by false humility, so there must have been true contrition.  What a merciful, forgiving, patient God.

(Jezebel, however, never indicates any remorse or conscience.  She goes from bad to worse to deplorable.  Her underhanded deception and murder of Naboth for the sake of a piece of land is, truly, appalling.)

There's an interesting contrast in today's reading.  I Kings 20 is a dramatic battle scene, but it's almost entirely played between unnamed characters (Ben-Hadad is probably a title-name, like Pharaoh, not an individual name).  Ahab is referred to almost exclusively as "the king of Israel" and the prophets are never named.  The real actor in the situation is Yahweh himself (note that his personal name, written as LORD, is used repeatedly throughout the chapter), strategizing and encouraging and defeating.  The lack of human names pushes us toward the Most High God.

And then in our New Testament reading, we're on the opposite end of the spectrum: inundated with specific names and places.  We've got personal names for John, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul/Paul; actual physical locations like Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos; more people in Bar-Jesus and Sergius Paulus; more locales in Perga, Jerusalem, and Pisidian Antioch.  These were real people, in real places, doing real things.  I love all the detail!   The labor and travel and boldness and physicality of these men and places reveal their passion to see the world won for Christ.  All this specificity also pushes us toward the Most High God. 

How were you pushed toward this same mighty God today?

- 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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18

June 18

I Kings 19:1-21; Acts 12:1-23; Psalm 136:1-26; Proverbs 17:14-15

Although I have read the One Year Bible almost every year for over twenty-five years, I took a break in the middle of those years to do a different kind of reading of the Bible. I decided to take a ‘long, slow’ read through the Bible, cover to cover, just moving my bookmark each day. If a passage spoke to me or intrigued me, I lingered over it. That journey took me three years, and then I returned to the OYB.

When I came to this passage in I Kings I lingered. I read it for three days, trying to understand what was happening: why was Elijah so discouraged and what was God saying to him and what was God saying to me. I was discouraged at this time, feeling unappreciated by the church we were serving, and a bit like Elijah, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty… I am the only one left” (I Kings 19:10, 14). Sounds pretty self-righteous, doesn’t it? Sometimes ministry leaves one depleted and I think that is what left Elijah vulnerable to Jezebel’s threats, and me vulnerable to self-pity.

I observed how tenderly God cared for Elijah. When Elijah ran away from Jezebel and prayed, “I have had enough, LORD,” he said, “Take my life” (vs. 4b), God doesn’t argue with him but lets him sleep and sends an angel to minister to Elijah with food, rest and then more food. That strengthened Elijah to proceed to his destination—Horeb, the mountain of God (vs. 8b). I noticed that Elijah, in his despair, focuses his energy on reaching the mountain of God. In his deep depression and trouble, he runs toward God. That speaks to me. I don’t understand all that happens to me and to those I love, but I do know from Elijah’s example that the answer is to run toward God, to put all my energy in seeking Him to find the answers to life dilemmas and trials.

When Elijah arrived at his destination, God met him and asked what he wanted. Elijah explained his complaints—legitimate complaints—and his fear that he would be killed. Then God demonstrated his power in the cyclone, the earthquake and the fire but His voice came in the gentle whisper that followed. He told Elijah to “Go back the way you came” (vs. 15) and assured him that he still had future ministry for Elijah. He then reassured Elijah that there were, in fact, seven thousand faithful followers of Yahweh in Israel. And, He gave Elijah three very specific ministry assignments. We’ll see in the days ahead that Elijah himself will fulfill only one of those assignments—anointing Elisha to succeed him as prophet—and the other two tasks will be done by Elisha.

I read this until I felt encouraged, until I understood that ministry can be very depleting, even if our ministry was nothing like the scale of Elijah’s magnificent defeat of Baal on Mt. Carmel. I understood that God knows our weaknesses and cares about our body’s needs. And I saw that God wasn’t finished with Elijah—he had ministry ahead for Elijah. From that I believed that God would bring me through the discouraging time we were in and that He would provide a meaningful life and ministry ahead. He didn’t plan for me to sit under the broom tree for the rest of my life.

And now, many years later I can look back and see how God so fully fulfilled that in our lives. He is a good God, giving us purpose in life, encouraging us along the way, showing us his power at times, but speaking in a gentle whisper to keep following him. I was encouraged by the simple words, “Go back the way you came” in vs. 15. We can retreat to the wilderness to find God, but we can’t stay there. Go back the way we came—go back to the unfruitful ministry and wait for God to change it, go back to the diapers and sick babies, to back to the ungrateful church members. And then do the next thing! Take a risk for God. Take the next assignment from God; He is not finished with you so stay in the fight.

“Thank you, Lord, that you don’t expect more from us than our physical bodies can do. You provide rest and restoration. And then You graciously entrust us with another assignment for Your Kingdom. May we each accept that assignment with joy.”

- Nell Sunukjian

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17

1 Kings 18:1-46; Acts 11:1-30; Psalm 135:1-21; Proverbs 17:12-13

Ooooo.  This is a good one.  I have to say I flipped ahead to see if this would be my day to write a post - and, huzzah!, it is.  I knew I wanted to write about Acts, but then the OT reading caught me, too.  Isn't Scripture great?

I'll start with Acts.  Chapter 11 is the THIRD time we've heard this story now.  We saw it happen as it happened in the first half of Ch. 10, and then we heard Peter tell what happened to Cornelius (who is just an amazing character in Scripture, by the way), and now we read Peter's public explanation/defense of what happened - three virtually identical tellings of the same story, all in less than 80 verses.  I hope you noticed.  (Did you have a bit of deja vu?  Groundhog Day?)  I hope you asked yourself "why?"  

This situation parallels what we find in the Gospels, where the same event or teaching is told multiple times.  Surely the repetition highlights the significance of the moment.  We hear this story in Acts so many times because it's important.  Really important.  For me, this is the pivotal moment in my conversion story.  Without it, I would not even have a conversion story because, you see, I am a Gentile.  The graciousness of God in showing the vision to Peter - again, three times to emphasize its importance and unshakeablilty (Acts 11:10) - is graciousness extended to me.  Though I was "impure...God has made [me] clean" (vs. 9).  The seeking of Cornelius and the timing of the arrival of the men from Caesarea - that's the same cry of my heart: "We are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us" (10:33).  This man and his household didn't even know why Peter was there, but their hearts were prepared.  I want to be this kind of follower, full of faith and eager to hear what God has to say.  And the gift of the Holy Spirit (11:15) is the same gift I have today.  It's so par-for-the-course today, for a non-Jew to come to faith in Jesus.  But this event was the radical beginning to an outpouring of evangelism to the Gentiles.  It was no longer a Jewish religion that some outsiders happened into (like, perhaps, the Ethiopian eunich); now this group of Christians (see vs. 26) was clearly designed by God to be both Jew and Gentile.

And just a quick shout-out for Barnabas.  Not only was he bold enough to disciple Saul in his early and uncertain days (see Acts 9:27), we read today about his commitment to  the church and his further investment in Saul (11:22-23, 25-26).  God himself gives the greatest commendation for this admirable man: "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (vs. 24).

Obadiah is the same sort of man.  Though a very highly placed official, he jeopardizes his political career by supporting the priests of an unpopular religion.  Even as the queen who holds his national allegiance sets upon a killing spree, Obadiah risks his job, his fortune and even his life to protect the prophets of Yahweh (1 Ki. 18:4).  This major undertaking must have required enormous planning and secrecy, not to mention financial outlay.  Truly, Obadiah was "a devout believer" (vs. 3).  He demonstrates his faith even further in his conversation with Elijah.  He justifiably fears that Elijah, though the latter has summoned Ahab to a meeting, will fail to appear, thus putting Obadiah in an untenable position.  Obadiah has the choice of risking his life on the word of an unpopular hermit-of-a-prophet or refusing to act as the messenger of the one true God.  Obadiah chooses to live into the uncertain-yet-clearly-expressed mission, and that, my friends, is faith.  Obadiah does what God requires, and God comes through.

Lastly, how can we forget about Ahab?  No, he's no follower of God the Father or God the Son.  No, he doesn't live a life of faith and tenacity.  No, he's not even a good man.  But he still knows who is in control.  Though king of Israel, when Elijah - as God's mouthpiece - says "jump," Ahab only needs to know "how high?"  Elijah says "come," and Ahab comes (1 Ki. 18:16).  Elijah says to summon the people, and "Ahab sent word through all Israel" (vs. 20).  Elijah sends Ahab home, and "Ahab went off to eat and drink" (vs. 42).  Though Ahab may have done "more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him" (I Ki. 16:30), he cannot help but recognize - and obey - the voice of God.

So many interesting men in our reading today: Obadiah, Ahab, Elijah, Peter, Cornelius, Barnabas, Saul. 

- 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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16

1 Kings 15:25-17:24; Acts 10:24-48; Psalm 134:1-3; Proverbs 17:9-11

I know Sarah mentioned in this post that up until a few years ago, she wasn’t a huge fan of the book of Acts. I have to say, I’m the opposite. I’ve always loved Acts. I love Acts because of passages like today’s. Whereas Jesus can be vague and confusing (“I have food to eat that do not know about” [Jn. 4:32] – he knows the disciples don’t know what he’s talking about! Why does he say that?), Acts is straightforward and clear. And after five months of nothing but the Gospels, I was ready for straightforward and clear.

Just look at these verses: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses…to him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:39b-41a, 43). It doesn’t get clearer than that. Those who believe in him receive the forgiveness of sins through his name. Amen!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course the Gospels are important, and Jesus' words are wonderful and beautiful and worth meditating on. But are you, like me, just a little frustrated with Jesus when Pilate asks him if he’s the King and he answers, “You say that I am a king” (Jn. 18:37)? I sometimes wish Jesus would just say, “Yes. I’m the King and the Savior and I’m about to die on the cross for your sins, so believe in me to be saved.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Well, that’s what we get in Acts. All the clarity and confirmation we need that Jesus is the Son of God, come to save the world from our sins. I love how many times Acts recounts the history of Israel, leading right up to the point at which they crucified Jesus on the cross – Peter tells the story, Stephen tells the story, and Paul tells the story. And each time they declare with such boldness that Jesus is the Christ. I love it. These are the verses I cling to when other parts of Scripture seem unclear.

And what about our Proverbs reading? This one cuts right to the heart of the matter: “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (Pr. 17:9). Talk about not beating around the bush. How convicting these words are! Do I do that? Do I pursue love over being right? Or do I tell everyone and anyone the ways I’ve been wronged, spreading the matter among my family or friends until everyone is worked up and in a tizzy?

Thank you, Lord, for these words of truth. May my life be formed by both of them - the truth that I am saved by your death on a tree and the truth of the power of my words and what I do with them.

- 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, June 15, 2017

June 15

1 Kings 14:1-15:24; Acts 10:1-23a; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 17:7-8

When our daughters (Sarah, Mary and Esther of OYBthree65) were in high school and junior high, they attended a Saturday conference called “Walk Thru the Bible” with the youth group from church. And they learned a quick and accurate history of the whole Bible that has contributed to their knowledge of the Bible to this day. I remember them practicing at home “Israel’s kings: all bad. Judah’s kings: some good, some bad.”

“Israel’s kings: all bad.” What a dreadful commentary. Not one good king for two hundred years.

Today’s reading focused on Judah’s kings and events that cover over sixty-one years. We learn that Judah and Israel were constantly at war with each other during the long reigns of Asa (a good king) in Judah and Baasha (yes, a bad king) in Israel (1 Ki. 15:16). This period, often called “The Divided Kingdom,” will last just over two hundred years until Israel is taken captive by Assyria. Judah will endure another one hundred fifty years before being taken captive by Babylon. All the hard work of the Exodus, the conquest of the land, and the glorious kingdom of David will come to an end as Israel and Judah consistently refuse to obey the LORD God.

A kingdom is dying.

In Acts 10 we see the opposite; a kingdom is thriving. A devout Gentile named Cornelius, who is a high ranking military officer in the Roman government, is about to learn from Peter, who is just understanding this truth himself: that Jesus died for all the people of the world, not just the Jewish people (see Acts 10:43 in tomorrow’s reading), and that “anyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Peter experiences a vision of a large sheet with all kinds of animals and reptiles in it, and to be sure he understands it, the vision is repeated three times. There’s no mistaking the fact that the Lord is communicating a truth to Peter! He is told, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” While he is still pondering the meaning, men come from Caesarea and ask him to come to the house of Cornelius (vs. 22).

Things are about to change in the advancing Kingdom of God. Peter and Cornelius will lead the way in the fledgling church’s understanding that the Law is no longer needed; Jesus’ lifeblood erased the distinctions that formerly existed.

This new kingdom cannot end; it is growing to this day over two millennia later.

“God’s Kingdom. One King. Always good.”

- 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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 14

I Kings 12:20-13:34; Acts 9:26-43; Psalm 132:1-18; Proverbs 17:6

I've been asking God a bunch of questions recently.  Some friends lost their only son in a tragic car accident just about two months ago; his death came while we were celebrating Easter Sunday.  Death and resurrection, all in one emotional day.

There was no folly involved in that accident, no reckless teenage driving, no drinking, no drugs.  There was only an "accident" and then - death.  I was angry (I am angry still) about this young man's death.  Nineteen!  Characterized by all who spoke at his service as kind and sweet and loving, committed to Jesus.  His uncle wrote and prayed a lament, one that echoed all the pain and suffering and frustration of the Israelites' worship songs, the Psalms.

And our Old Testament reading today makes me ask some of those same questions again.  Why, Lord?  This prophet was doing your work, was faithful, was bold.  Why punish him for the lies of another man?  Why allow the encounter at all?  How was he supposed to know that the old prophet was not telling a true prophecy?  And then why use the lying prophet to cast judgement on him?  And, oh!, the hypocrisy of the old prophet to weep over the body whose destruction he caused (I Ki. 13:30).  It just seems unfair.  It seems wrong.  It doesn't seem like God's playing by the rules.  Unjust.

Did you feel any of those emotions?  Did you wonder why the Lord spared Dorcas (Acts 9:36-41) and not the prophet?  Could you think of families where Proverbs 17:6 is definitely not an accurate description of the parent-child relationships?  

Though I'm asking all these questions, I'm actually deeply grateful today.  Our God is sturdy enough to handle my anger.  He's strong enough to let me ask these questions.  He's mysterious enough to work in ways I don't comprehend.  He is loving enough to allow my confusion, and compassionate enough to understand my frustration.  God is faithful enough to make right all these grievous wrongs.  As I write, I realize that God is faithful enough to have already addressed these injustices.  The day our friends' son died, we proclaimed the truth of God's triumph.  I don't see all things made new yet, and my heart aches for people in such loss and sorrow.  God's will is not yet done on earth as it is in heaven, and I watch folly and deception destroying lives still.  But (and that is the operative word) - but! - redemption is at work.  Saul's conversion and growth in Christ (Acts 9:27-30) are evidence.  The funeral for this boy, such a powerfully God-honoring worship service, is evidence.  Our daily decisions to live in ways that glorify God are evidence.

Lord God, I trust you.  Even in the midst of pain and bewilderment, your goodness is unchanged.  Thank you for your constancy and faithfulness.  Bring comfort to the hurting and truth to the deceived.  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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 13

I Kings 11:1-12:19; Acts 9:1-25; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 17:4-5

I am a happy woman right now. I've got my cup of coffee next to me and some worship music playing in the background as I sit here to write about the words of life given to us today. We had a busy weekend with two family birthday celebrations, a high school graduation, and an all church picnic. We have much for which to be thankful. I am also in need of some quiet downtime and a little re-centering with my Jesus. 

"There is power in the name of Jesus..." That is the line from a song I am listening to right now from the Jesus Culture Awakening: Live from Chicago album. The second half of the line says " break every chain."  I can't help but find this song especially true and powerful as I couple it with today's reading in Acts. We see a huge act of Jesus to completely change the life of a man most people thought would never bow his knee to the name of Jesus. The Damascus road conversion of Saul is a well-known Bible story. We can have a tendency to read over it without connecting to the incredible act of mercy, power, and miraculous healing that took place.

Today the part that caught me most was Acts 9:9 - "For three days he [Paul] was blind, and did not eat or drink anything." Three days is a long time when you are completely in the dark, with no food and no water. How completely disorienting and almost grave-like that must have been. What was happening with Paul in this time? Was he praying and seeking Jesus? Was he believing in Jesus at that point, or was he struggling to find the truth? Were the 3 days that followed the blinding light encounter with Jesus when the real conversion took place? Maybe he was recounting the Psalms and Scriptures he had memorized from his training as a Pharisee. 

"My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too lofty for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul...put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore" (Ps. 131:1-3). I can see how those words would have been very apt to his situation,  just as they are in our lives when we read them today.

I am glad for the dramatic conversion story of Saul. Even though my own conversion story is nothing like it, it gives me hope for those around me who seem so hardened and closed to the gospel. They've heard it all before, they have baggage from the church, they tried Christianity and it didn't work for them, they don't want to live under such rigid "rules" - these are all reasons they may give. It seems almost impossible for the good news of Jesus Christ to break in.

But it can. It did. It will.

There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain! There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain! There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain! Praise the name of Jesus. 

- 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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12

I Kings 9:1-10:29; Acts 8:14-40; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 17:2-3

I've always loved the story of the Ethiopian eunich (Acts 8:26-39).  It's such a perfect meeting of "coincidence" - Philip, running alongside at just the right moment (vs. 30), hears the eunich read just the right words from the prophet Isaiah (vs. 28, 30, 32-33).  He asks just the right leading question (vs. 30), to which the eunich responds eagerly (vs. 31) as they just happen to come alongside a body of water (vs. 36) - and boom! a conversion, a baptism, a new nation opened to the good news of Jesus.

This eunich is a powerful man - he's a direct advisor for the queen of Ethiopia, and he manages her treasury (Acts 8:27).  He's trusted by his queen (else why have control of the money?), and his decisions about spending affect his whole country. He's a wealthy man, too, as seen by his personal chariot and the scroll that he owns.  But he's also an outcast - he's forever barred from the most fundamental of adult relationships, that of marrying and fathering children.  His ability to serve was ensured by castration, but so was his ostracization.  He's neither fish nor fowl, having tremendous political power but not really considered a true man.  On top of this isolating issue, he's a follower of Yahweh (vs. 27).  Somehow, he has heard about the God of the Jews, and he has chosen to worship the one true God.  Even in Jerusalem, though, he would have been excluded.  Not only is he a foreigner, but the Law forbade anyone with damaged testicles from worshiping Yahweh directly (Dt. 23:1).  This man is definitely on the outside.

Not with God, though.  Just before this story, we see the Jesus movement stretching into Samaria; for the first time, non-Jews come to believe in the Jewish Messiah.  Now the next steps are taken with this man.  He, of all the Gentiles in the world, is the first convert.  He, though excluded from community after community, is welcomed into the new covenant under Jesus' blood.  "Why shouldn't I be baptized?"  he asks (Acts 8:36) and no answer comes.  For the first time, there is no reason to prevent him from belonging.  Neither his race, nor his physical mutilation, nor his political position matter.  He is completely acceptable and accepted.  Incredible!

And what is the result of this miraculous inclusion?  JOY (Acts 8:39).  The eunich never sees Philip again, but his life is changed forever by his encounter with the man who revealed Jesus to him.  What a story!

- 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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 11

I Kings 8:1-66; Acts 7:51-8:13; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 17:1

As King Solomon prays and dedicates the temple with a beautiful prayer, it’s hard for me to read it and not think of the future ahead of this king who had it all. He had wealth, power, position, yet he will throw it all away on 700 wives and 300 concubines. We will read about them in the days to come, and we will read of the altars Solomon built to foreign gods, altars that his wives worshipped at and, presumably, sacrificed at. And their gods demanded human sacrifice! Not a pretty picture of what is ahead. But as my husband told me years ago when one of our sons’ youth leaders had been unfaithful to his wife, “It doesn’t invalidate the good ministry he had with our sons prior to that.”

So today Solomon sacrifices and prays. “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your love” (I Ki. 8:23). Solomon knew who God was. He knew he was the God above all gods. He knew God had the power to forgive (vs. 30).

Solomon finished his prayer and then turned to the people and blessed the people with these words: “May He turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers…. Your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands” (I Ki. 8:58-61).

This reminds me that all I have to follow Jesus with is today. On that day Solomon was following the Lord. I must choose to follow him today,  to read his word, to obey his word, to speak of his love to others, to give of my money to His work, to care for the poor and dying. I have only today. If I allow my heart to grow cold and indifferent for even just one day, I am in danger of walking away from the Lord, being lured away from His love, as Solomon eventually was by all his wives and concubines.

“Oh, Lord, may we - the older generation - finish well. I pray that Don and I and our older friends would finish strong, not counting on our past ‘successes’ or ministry positions or personal accomplishments, but having a heart to follow You, dear God, and to walk in humbleness of heart, with repentant spirits. And I pray this for the dear ones who read this blog, too, that each one may serve you today and thus finish well by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

- 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.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 10

I Kings 7:1-51; Acts 7:30-50; Psalm 128:1-6; Proverbs 16:31-33

What an interesting reading!  There was so much that caught my attention, and not much unifying thread, so I'm going with the bullet points again today.

* Why does it take seven years to build the temple (see I Ki. 6:37-38) and thirteen years to build Solomon's palace (7:1)?  Is it because his attentions were divided, and the lion's share was given to the temple, so the palace lagged behind a bit?  Is it because - as I fear - the palace was more important to Solomon and thus its elaborate design and extravagant decoration were given more time?

* Was Huram's mother married twice, once to a Naphtalite man who died and then to Huram's father, a man from Tyre?  Or is this verse saying that she herself was from the tribe of Naphtali and then married Huram's father who has since died, making her a widow?  And why is her status as a widow included at all?  So very specific... (see I Ki. 7:14.)

* I Kings 7:15-37: Such an attention to detail.  Every aspect of the temple is adorned and beautified.  God is aware of beauty (see Gen. 2:9) and commands that his people serve him in beautiful ways (think of the colors and richness of the Tabernacle in Ex. 35-38).  This permanent structure is no different: it reflects the majesty of God.

* I Kings 7:21: Jakin probably means "he establishes" and Boaz probably means "in him is strength."  Great names, especially for pillars marking the entrance.

* Stephen's sermon amongst the Sanhedrin is really a history lesson.  He hasn't directly answered their charge ("Did you speak against the temple and the Law [that is, Moses]?" [see Acts 6:13-14]), but he's reminding them of their past.  He puts Moses in his proper place - a mighty prophet, yes, but subject to a much-mightier God (7:32-33) - who himself experienced rejection and rebellion.  We can clearly extrapolate that Jesus, as the son of God, is mightier than Moses, though he experienced rejection and rebellion.  And Stephen also points out that God is not tied to a specific physical place, quoting both Isaiah 66 and referencing a portion of Solomon's prayer that we'll read tomorrow!  This history lesson addresses the two charges, but also points out the narrowness of the Pharisees' interpretations and the supremacy of Jesus.

* I LOVE this psalm.  I freely admit that I love it in part because we have a quiver full of children (see Ps. 127, from yesterday), but I am so drawn to the poetic imagery of the fruitful vine and the olive shoots around the table.  I looked at our teenage son this morning and realized how he is springing up and stretching out.  Even if I buy shoes with taller heels, I'm not able to stay ahead of him!  What a benediction this psalm is.  What a blessing it gives those "who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways (Ps. 128:1): satisfying work (vs. 2); contentment in marriage and strong children (vs. 3); peace (vs. 5); long life and many descendants (vs. 6).  Amen!  Let it be so in my life, Lord.

* Silver is appearing in my hair, quite noticeably against the dark of my Armenian heritage.  Guess I'm living the righteous life (Pr. 16:31)!  (Though maybe this is just wishful thinking - the silver indicating a righteous life, that is.  The silver itself is definitely not wishful thinking.)

* Proverbs 16:32 is so unexpected.  Think about the historical context of the time.  Strength in battle was an imperative for any ancient society, as raiders and foreign invaders could appear at any point.  David, in fact, is praised for his battle prowess (see I Sam. 18:7) - his strong leadership at the head of his army inspired his men and led to military success and, ultimately, peace.  Yet "a patient man...who controls his temper" is better "than a warrior...who takes a city."  That is an incredible statement, and a significant challenge. 

- 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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June 9

I Kings 5:1-6:38; Acts 7:1-29; Psalm 127:1-5; Proverbs 16:28-30

I so love how the Bible weaves together. Today, we have the building of the temple, then the first portion of Stephen’s sermon which basically recaps our January readings and then our psalm, which brings it all back together: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

The desire to build a house for God was one of David’s greatest wishes, but God granted it to his son instead, since he wanted his house to be built in a time and by a man of peace. Solomon does not take this privilege lightly but rather spends seven years and all the best materials and all the best laborers to make it happen. Can you even imagine a project on this scope? Every time Ian and I do a house renovation project (and by “do” I mean hire people) we must say a dozen times, “Wow, this is so much more work and money than we thought!” Just imagine the temple – 60 cubits long by 20 cubits wide by 30 cubits high – in case you’re not up to date on your cubits, that’s 90 feet by 30 feet by 45 feet, not counting the vestibule and other structures attached to it. So it was about a fourth of the size of a football field – that’s pretty impressive architecture for that time period!  And this temple lasted from Solomon’s time (970-931 BCE) until its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar (587 BCE).

Because of the political and religious unrest and sensitives in that area, there haven’t been any excavations in modern times of the remains of Solomon’s temple, so we don’t have access to the artifacts we might have otherwise. But there are still plenty of historical renderings that are helpful in giving us a picture of what it might have looked like:

Ah, that just makes me wish I could go to Israel and see these amazing ruins and historical sites!

Before I wrap it up, I wanted to comment on a few other verses: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Ps. 127:3-5). Between my brothers and sisters, we have 18 children. Clearly, we’ve taken this psalm seriously and then some! But truly, children are a blessing and the babies in our family, whether 19 like my oldest nephew or 19 months like my son who is the youngest, are loved and cherished as a heritage. A warrior needs his arrows in order to be victorious and successful; we need children to teach us about God’s immense love and to shape us to be more selfless. This is, I will readily admit, sometimes a painful process – as my 5-year-old daughter said to me yesterday, “It doesn’t really help us get dressed faster when you yell, Mom.”  Parenting is not always easy nor does it always bring out the best. But parenting transforms us and blesses us and I’m so grateful for my children.

May your day today be full of God’s goodness and blessing!

- 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, June 8, 2017

June 8

I Kings 3:4-4:34; Acts 6:1-15; Psalm 126:1-6; Proverbs 16:26-27

What wonderful stories about two amazing men of God! Didn’t you just love reading about Solomon and Stephen?

This is really just the beginning of Solomon’s story – there is much to come. But today’s passage is beautiful and encouraging. God comes to Solomon in a dream and offers him anything; Solomon responds in humility and gratitude and asks only for “an understanding mind to govern your people, that [he might] discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this great people?” (I Ki. 3:9). This pleases the LORD, and he gives Solomon his wish and so much more. We see evidence right away of Solomon’s wisdom as he uses great discernment to figure out which mother is telling the truth. All of Israel is amazed as their wise king.

And they also benefit as a nation because of Solomon’s reign – look what it says in the next chapter: “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy” (1 Ki. 4:20). After the months of bad news about Israel, isn’t it nice to read such a good report?

Then we turn to our New Testament reading and meet Stephen, “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:8). There’s a problem in the early church – the Greek-speaking Jews, the Hellenists, criticize the Hebrew-speaking Jews (though both groups are Christians) for leaving their widows out of the daily food distribution. This obviously needs to be resolved, but the disciples want to be freed up to focus on their calling of evangelism; so they appoint the first deacons, men they say need to be “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (vs. 3). Everyone agrees this is a good idea and the problem is solved (oh, for ministry and church disputes to be so easily worked out today!). More and more people come to Christ, even some of the priests. Of course, this growth threatens the religious leaders of the synagogues and they want Stephen dealt with. Sadly, we will see in the days to come what happens to this righteous man. But for today, we’re able to see a beautiful picture of the body of Christ taking care of each other, growing in strength and in faith.

Hopefully, you’re encouraged, as I am, to see God’s people work together, knowing what to ask God for and loving each other well. God blesses them and they prosper. May the same be true for us today!

- 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.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7

I Kings 2:1-3:3; Acts 5:1-42; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 16:25

The verse from Proverbs is so appropriate to the rest of our reading that it almost seems like Aesop's fables.  "And the moral of the story is..."

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Pr. 16:25).

Adonijah, asking for Abisihag the Shunammite's hand in marriage - an underhanded method of seeking to usurp the throne from Solomon - earns himself death (I Ki. 2:25).

Joab, a man steeped in bloodshed (murder, really) - who had killed as a warrior, but also to protect his position as commander of David's armies - contracts a death sentence pronounced by David upon his own deathbed.  Though he clings to the altar of the Lord, he is struck down and killed because of his self-serving ambition (I Ki. 2:34).

Shimei, caller of curses - pardoned by David, but not exonerated - agrees to Solomon's restrictions but foolishly (willfully?) pursues two slaves at the cost of his own life (I Ki. 2:36-46).

Ananias and Sapphira, early members of the fledgling church in Jerusalem - desiring to be honored by the community, but wanting to have their cake and eat it, too - receive the judgment of the Lord in the manner of immediate, divinely-appointed death (Acts 5:5, 10).

The wicked of Psalm 125, asserting their self-serving wills, are "banish[ed] with the evildoers" (Ps. 125:5) away from God's presence.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Pr. 16:25).

If there's a way that seems right to a man, but ends in death, then doesn't it make sense that there's a way that seems right to the Lord and ends in life?

The psalm hints at this: "The Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore" (Ps. 125:2); "do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart" (vs. 4).

And the rest of the reading in Acts confirms it further.  See how the apostles, jailed unjustly, are protected and freed and affirmed and commissioned (Acts 5:18-20).  See how they are used mightily in miraculous ways (vs. 12, 16).  See how, refusing to abstain from preaching in Jesus' name, they receive help from an unexpected quarter, from a Pharisee himself (vs. 34-40)!  Though they were flogged (definitely not a way that seems right to a man), they "[rejoiced] because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (vs. 41).  Life.

Lord, so many of my ways seem right to me.  Show me the ways that seem right to you, that I might pursue life with abandon and determination.  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.