Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 17

Jeremiah 30:1-31:26; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Psalm 87:1-7; Proverbs 25:18-19

Two things really stuck out to me about today's readings:

First, Jeremiah gets a break. He finally gets to prophesy some happy news. "He who scattered Israel will gather them...for the Lord will ransom Jacob....they will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord" (Jer. 31: 10-12).  He must have been so glad that though Israel will fall, the Lord will still redeem them. He must have been so glad to carry that message.

That is still true for us today. Though we may turn away from the Lord and fall, he is waiting and longing to redeem us. The Lord loves us with an everlasting love and he will build us up again (see Jer. 31:3). So much so that we will “go out to dance with the joyful" (Jer. 31:4). I know that seems almost impossible to imagine when we are in the midst of our crisis. But if it could be true of Israel at that time, it could be true for us as well. 

Second, I was again reminded "that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Everywhere I look, I see God calling us to pray and trust in Him, not in the government, not in ruling bodies, not in powers or authorities of this world, but in Him. One of the ways we trust and partner with Him is in praying for these ruling bodies. And we don't just haphazardly pray, but we do it in earnest, with requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving. That's a tall order.

Why do we do this? One, so that we may live peaceful lives and also because "this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3-4). So, we don't just do it for our own comforts, but for the sake of their salvation! The order gets taller. 

Lord, we thank you that you always show mercy and you always bring restoration to those who have wandered from you. May we turn our hearts towards you and joyfully anticipate the abundance you bring. We also pray for those in positions of authority over us and our lands. We pray that they will be just and good rulers. We thank you for them. We ask that they may know you, the one true God, and bend their knees to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 


- 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, October 16, 2017

October 16

Jeremiah 28:1-29:32; 1 Timothy 1:1-20; Psalm 86:1-17:Proverbs 25:17

Almost exactly six months ago, I wrote a post on this very psalm, looking at it from a structural point of view to extract a fuller meaning.  I love how Scripture speaks to us in so many different ways, even the same Scripture.  Today, I'm moved again by these words, but this time in recognition of the way they articulate my heart and circumstance.  

I need the Lord to hear and answer me.  I am poor and needy, dependent on him.  I choose, again and again, daily, sometimes even hourly, to trust him, but I need mercy so very much.  In a time of discouragement, I look for joy, and the only place to find joy is by looking to him.  (See Ps. 86:1-4.)

I am immeasurably grateful that God forgives and is good and abounds with love to all who call on him.  That's me!  He forgives me.  He is good.  His love spills onto me, more than I could ever need or even experience.  It abounds.  I love that word.  (See Ps. 86:5.)

Because God is so good, because there is none like him (Ps. 86:8-10), I can turn to him in difficulty, knowing that he hears and cares (vs. 6-7).  He will meet me.  

But he's not a genie for me to rub when I'm in trouble.  He desires my change, my growth, my sanctification.  The only way to make such an alteration in me is to teach me his way.  If I learn to hear (Ps. 86:11a), then I can obey (vs. 11b).  If my heart is wholly his (vs. 11c), then I can honor him in all I do, with all I am (vs. 11d-12).

The last verses of the psalm remind me to remember God's activity in history, both universal history (creation, the cross-burial-resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit) and my personal history.  God has delivered me from the depths of the grave (Ps. 86:13), experienced in torn relationships.  I have encountered his compassion (vs. 15a) in the forgiveness of my anger.  He has never failed me (vs. 15b), and this history gives me the courage to ask him to turn to me and meet me once again (vs. 16-17).

Hallelujah.


- 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, October 15, 2017

October 15

Jeremiah 26:1-27:22; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18; Psalm 85:1-13; Proverbs 25:16

The Nation of Israel, specifically Judah, is coming to an end. Jeremiah is preaching in the last years before the Nation will be conquered by Babylon. Jeremiah has such a difficult task—he is to announce gloom and doom to the people of Judah though they will not listen. And he does this for about fifty years. What an example of faithfulness and perseverance.

In today’s reading, Jeremiah tells the envoys of the nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon that they, too, like Judah, will be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jer. 27:3-7). Presumably, they greet this news in much the same way that Judah does: with disdain and disregard.

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul asks the church to pray for him that the Word of God would spread rapidly and be honored. And he asks them to pray that he would be delivered from wicked and evil men (2 Th. 3:1-2).

When I see the evil that is in our society, I am encouraged to read of these godly men who followed the Lord through very tough times. They were faithful to preach and teach God’s Word, though in Jeremiah’s case the results were meager.

Psalm 85:6 is a verse I’ve memorized as it brings hope to me in a culture moving away from God: “Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You?”

Our nation needs revival. I have often prayed for that I might see a revival during my lifetime. I feel less hopeful that it will happen than I did when I began to pray that many years ago. Yet God is still on the throne. “Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation” (Ps. 85:7).

Lord, I’m grateful that righteous men and women went before me and have shown me that it is possible to stand for You in a godless and pagan world. Give me wisdom and courage, I pray, O God. And will you revive us, O Lord, that we may rejoice in You?


- 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, October 14, 2017

October 14

Jeremiah 23:21-25:38; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; Psalm 84:1-12; Proverbs 25:15

Such contrasts in our reading today!

On the one hand, we have lots of warnings and condemnations of false prophets and teachers.  On the other hand, there's such promise for good, such rejoicing!  And both extremes appear in both our Old Testament and New Testament readings!  I love how Scripture has this extraordinary unity across centuries, physical locations, and languages.  Truly, it's amazing.

Look at Jeremiah's words as God's mouthpiece.  Over and over in this book, God denounces the false prophets who are feeding comfortable lies to the nation of Israel.  Instead of reiterating Jeremiah's message of repentance and destruction, these men prophesy return and restoration.  God is, understandably, very angry with these prophets: "I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence.... I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace -- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten" (Jer. 23:39-40).  Their dreams and delusions (see vs. 25-27) promise a rosy future, but seal their own destruction.  

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, reassures this church.  They were unsettled by false teaching that caused them to worry that they had missed the return of Jesus (see 2 Th. 2:2).  Paul goes on to warn them about "every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing," reminding them that the dying "perish because they refused to love the truth" (vs. 10).  Such an emphasis on deception versus the truth.

I can't help but think of the lies spread so eagerly by our enemy.  Lies about our value (it comes through our beauty or weight or age or occupation), lies about our future (we are unsafe, there's not enough, we can't afford to give), lies about our relationships (chastity and modesty - pah! - and pornography is victimless).  We have pundits selling us an agenda and headlines prophesying safety in governments or fitness programs or retirement accounts.  We are surrounded, no less than the nation of Israel or the church in Thessalonica, by false teachers and prophets.  It's enough to make one despair or throw hands up in frustration.

BUT....

Directly after denouncing these liars and dreamers, both Jeremiah and Paul offer such gentle hope and encouragement for the faithful followers of God.

"My eyes will watch over them for their good.... I will build them up...I will plant them.... I will give them a heart to know me.... They will be my people...." (Jer. 24:6-7).  What a promise to cling to!  What a prophecy to hope for fulfillment!  In the midst of the untruth, God is yet responsive and working toward his goal.

Paul's forward-looking resembles a prayer of blessing.  "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2 Th. 2:16-17).  That's pretty comprehensive! It's eternal encouragement; it's good hope.  We're strengthened in every good deed and word.  Amen and amen, Paul!  Let it be!

And our psalm today puts an exclamation point (to rival all those I used in the first two and the last two paragraphs) - blessing and blessing, belonging and safety, God's presence.  Go back and read Psalm 84 again, maybe even in another version.  Say it aloud, and feel the truth of the last verse.

"O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you" (Ps. 84:12).

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, October 13, 2017

October 13

Jeremiah 22:1-23:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12; Psalm 83:1-18; Proverbs 25:11-14

Today we are starting 2 Thessalonians. I’ve often wondered, as I did again today, why Paul writes a second letter. Did he remember something else he wanted to say? Did some new information reach him, letting him know about what was happening at the church, and he felt like he had to address it?

We know from our study in 1 Thessalonians that Paul began his relationship with this church during the middle of his second missionary journey. Paul, Silas and Timothy leave Philippi, and travel 90 miles to arrive in Thessalonica, where Paul began his evangelistic activity in the local synagogue. At first, his teaching is met with great interest and lots of conversions, but this success arouses opposition, and in the end, Paul and his companions have to sneak out in the middle of the night and flee to Berea (Acts 17:10). From there, he is forced to flee again and ultimately ends up in Corinth, where he writes both of these letters, probably not that far apart in time (both were written in 51 AD).

From what we read in 2 Thessalonians, it seems like Paul is writing to correct some false teaching about “the day of the Lord” and also to commend the church for enduring persecution. We saw in 1 Thessalonians that he encouraged them to endure persecution well and it seems like they must have been succeeding in that, as Paul writes, “Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring” (2 Th. 1:4). What an encouragement that must have been to this young, struggling church! I love how Paul uses his letter to encourage and to teach, which we’ll see in the days ahead.

Today we also read one of my favorite proverbs: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Pr. 25:11). Isn’t the imagery and the language of that verse so beautiful? But more than that, I love its meaning. Have you ever had someone say something to you that just really made sense? That answered the question you hadn’t even been able to formulate yet? Or maybe it added clarity to a problem you felt had no solution. Maybe you’ve had someone say something that verbalized the beauty you were feeling but couldn’t quite put words to. When the perfect words are said, at just the right time, they really are as beautiful as apples of gold in setting of silver. I’ve had many such examples in my life, but I’ll just share one quickly, from around 12 years ago.

I was dating someone from my church that I wasn’t sure about. I liked him and knew he liked me, but I couldn’t quite tell where, if anywhere, things were going. And I knew that if things weren’t headed somewhere serious, then I should end the relationship before anyone got more attached. I can distinctly remember talking to my parents about it at a restaurant one night, and my mom asked me if, after he and I spent time together, I left him feeling like I wanted more time with him. “After he drops you off,” she said, “do you wish you had more time together?” In that moment, I knew I had my answer. Because I didn’t usually long for more time with him. While I had enjoyed the time together, I was always happy to get back to my roommates or whatever book I was reading. I didn’t wish the night would never end. And my mom’s words, so perfectly spoken, showed me that my heart wasn’t really in it, that I wasn’t moving toward building a life with this man. And good thing, because when I started dating my husband a few years later, I knew exactly what she meant. I wanted to spend every spare moment with Ian, and any day where I didn’t see him felt like a wasted day. I’m so thankful she knew just what to say to help point me away from one relationship so I would eventually have room for the right one. Gold apples in a silver setting. May our words be healing, clarifying, encouraging, hopeful – aptly spoken at just the right time.


- 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, October 12, 2017

October 12

Jeremiah 19:1-21:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28; Psalm 82:1-8; Proverbs 25:8-10

The day of the Lord is coming! That was prophesied, or mentioned, in 3 out of 4 sections in our reading today (I tried to stretch it to Proverbs, but it just couldn’t work).

We first see the prophecy of coming disaster in Jeremiah 19 as Jeremiah warns Israel that God will bring wrath upon them due to their disobedience in following other gods and their refusal to hear and obey his word. In 1 Thessalonians 5, we read yesterday that the “day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (vs. 2). And today we see Paul exhorting his readers to be ready for that day and “not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (vs. 6). And finally our Psalms reading shows a God who “takes his place in the divine council,” and who will “arise to judge the earth” (Ps. 82:1, 8).

Some people eat up this whole the world is ending, doom and gloom kind of stuff. Not me. It tends to overwhelm me and make me feel a little bit of uncertainty and fear. I know the Lord is coming to bring judgment and ultimate redemption to the earth, but what do I do with that? How do I “stay awake and be sober,” ready for his return?

I think the Scriptures today provide some of those answers right along side the prophecies that predict this coming day of the Lord.

First, we can listen to the voice of the Lord. As we see in Jeremiah and the other prophets, not listening was Israel’s first and gravest mistake. They did not heed the word of the Lord, neither in his Holy Word nor from the mouths of the prophets. Let us learn from their mistake. What words, or even prophecies, might the Lord be speaking to us today? Where are we stopping up our ears and going our own way because we don’t want to hear that particular word from the Lord? We must listen, and respond, to the voice of the Lord.

But how can we listen for the voice of the Lord. What does that look like?  Well, that takes me to my second point, we can “pray with out ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances” (1 Th. 5:17-18). We practice talking to the Lord at all times, about all things, in every circumstance. And we don’t just barrage him with our requests; we spend time praising and thanking him. We spend time listening to what he might be saying back to us. Sometimes even just saying, “Here am I Lord, speak to me.” The Lord will take us at our word and honor that request.

Thirdly, we are to take prophecy seriously and not despise it, not quenching the work of the Spirit (1 Th. 5:19-20). In modern day America, it doesn’t seem like we see a lot of prophecies or works of the Spirit, but they are there. Are we listening? Are we staying awake? Let’s sober up and pay attention!

Finally, we can do works of justice and redemption in the name of Christ while we wait for the Lord to come and bring ultimate justice and judgment to the earth. When I was in high school, I began to see the desire to help the poor and needy begin to arise in my heart. But I wasn’t always sure how to do that. I didn’t have a lot of interactions with the poor or weak or fatherless or widows at that time. My mom gave me Psalm 82:3-4 to memorize and pray on behalf of those people groups. I quickly memorized it and have been praying it ever since. And as I pray it, the Lord gives me opportunities in my life to be that agent of justice and redemption in his name in whatever small ways I can.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


- 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, October 11, 2017

October 11

Jeremiah 16:16-18:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3; Psalm 81:1-16; Proverbs 25:6-7

What a beautiful image of fruitfulness we find nestled amongst the doom and destruction of Jeremiah.  I love the description of "the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him" (Jer. 17:7).  This person will be like a well-watered tree: productive, sturdy, healthy, vibrant, secure (see vs. 8).  

A psalm we'll read again in a couple of weeks uses this same imagery.  "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,...planted in the house of the LORD....They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green" (Ps. 92:12-14).

A tree is used as a symbol for renewal and restoration in Isaiah 61:3.  A tree stands in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2, and a tree reappears in the city of the new creation in Revelation 22, bringing fruit and healing and life.

I'm writing this post, sitting and looking at the liquid amber tree we have in our front yard.  There's a jacaranda tree, too, sometimes purple and green, sometimes only green, sometimes bare.  They're both big trees, well-established and sturdy enough for our children to climb on.  When they're green, they are spectacularly green.   When they are bare, it's always just 'bare' and never 'barren.'  Spring comes again.  Their vitality is revealed once more, and they quietly go about their business of growing and leafing and bearing the "fruit" that attracts bees and birds.  Even the decade of drought that we've just come through hasn't daunted them.

The person described by Paul in our New Testament reading is like my trees: leading a quiet life, minding his/her own business, working with his/her hands, living a daily life that wins the respect of outsiders, not dependent on any other person (1 Th. 4:11-12).  Faithful living, bearing fruit.

"Heal [us], O LORD, and [we] will be healed; save [us] and [we] will be saved" (Jer. 17:14).  Water us, and grow our roots deeply.  May we not be concerned by the heat of the day, nor worry in the year of drought.  May we always bear green leaves and much fruit, even as we age.  Amen and 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, October 10, 2017

October 10

Jeremiah 14:11-16:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13; Psalm 80:1-19; Proverbs 25:1-5

Who made it through Jeremiah today without cringing? It was a little rough, was it not? Maybe more than a little rough. God truly seems so angry at Israel. And then what a contrast we come to when we get to Thessalonians. It's so full of joy and happiness and applause for those who are walking in God's ways.

Let's focus on the happy today. We have been posting a bit about Jeremiah the last couple of days, so I'm going to take the easy way out (can you really blame me?) and focus on the happier content in today's reading. 

"For we know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory" (1 Th. 2:12). I can truly hear Paul's fatherly overtones in these two chapters. He so wants good for this church. He is anxious about them. He wants to go and check on them. He fears they are going to fall away and not hold fast to the true gospel first preached to them. 

"When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that is one way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love" (1 Th. 3:5-6).

Doesn't Paul just sound like an anxious father, pacing back and forth in his living room, wondering how his child is doing? Maybe this father thinks about picking up the phone to call his child, to check in and make sure everything is okay. But he doesn't want to hover too much. But he really wants the child to be well and thriving. So he paces and prays and hopes the best for his dearly beloved child. This is the image I get with Paul and the church when I read these passages.

It's beautiful. This is how our concern for the church should be these days. We should pray night and day for the flourishing of the church, much as we do for the flourishing of our own children. We should long for the purity of the church, being free from pollution, defilement, and false doctrines. 

We do this easily for our own children. It's so easy to want their lives to reflect holiness, righteousness, and the well-being that comes when you walk in right relationship with God. We pray for our children to have their "love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else" so that their hearts will be strengthened and they "will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father" (1 Th. 3:12-13).

May we pray with the same fervor and desire for the purity and holiness of our churches. We need healthy, thriving churches in America and around the world. The tempter is very much as active today as he was in Paul's day. May others rejoice when they see our churches faithfully reflecting and living out the truth of the gospel.


- 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, October 9, 2017

October 9

Jeremiah 12:1-14:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:8; Psalm 79:1-13; Proverbs 24:30-34

So I got behind this week in my reading.  It happens, and when our family has extra events on what are usually "off days" (like Fridays or Saturdays), it throws me off even more.  I'm trying to get myself back on track (meaning, back on time), which means that I read yesterday's portion and today's portion back-to-back.  Paul's words yesterday in Colossians are, therefore, very fresh and tie in nicely with today's reading in Proverbs.

Paul entreats workers (he uses "slaves," but since he speaks mostly to the labor that slaves do, I'm going to substitute a more universal and applicable "worker") to work with "sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord" (Col. 3:22).  He gives an example of what this sincerity and reverence might look like as he encourages us to "work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord" (vs. 23).  I couldn't help but think about what my work reveals about my heart toward the Lord.  The manner and attitude and excellence of my work (or the lack thereof) indicate how seriously I honor the Lord (or, once again, my lack thereof).  This is serious business!  I thought about those verses as I did my work for today: scrubbing my sink, wiping down my kitchen cupboards, wet mopping dirty spots under the table again, reading Tikki Tikki Tembo to our four-year-old, walking back and forth to school, making my bed, sitting with children as they do their homework.  It's a good thing I'm not working only when my master's eye is upon me or to win his favor (see vs. 22), because I'm pretty sure no one will really notice that the floor is clean, or comment on the newly-white porcelain, or appreciate that I got people to school on time.  But the Lord noticed and knew.  My work today - with the proper attitude, of course - became a form of worship.  Any time I honor God, any time I fulfill my responsibilities with a cheerful heart, I worship him.  My work, mundane as it is, has a value and meaning. Paul gives us the positive side of the coin with his words.

On the flip side, the negative side, we see the sluggard (don't you just love that word?) in our Proverbs reading today.  He can't be bothered.  He can't think of the future.  He is unwilling to work when and where the work is needed (Pr. 24:30-31).  His livelihood is jeopardized and he doesn't even care.  He prefers his sleep, his leisure, his entertainment to his work (vs. 33).  The consequences of his inaction will be dire - poverty and scarcity - and they will come with fury and strength (vs. 34).  We don't work in an agrarian society, so we don't see sluggards at work (or not, as the case may be) very often.  Those who habitually prefer their own ease and comfort still exist though.  This person lets the bills pile up and overdue library fines accumulate because the work of finding and paying and keeping on track is no fun.  He or she grows delinquent on the utilities and, all of a sudden, there's a collection agency calling and the car has been repossessed.  This man refuses to discipline himself or his children when it is needed because it's easier not to bestir himself.  His own momentary ease is more appealing than the long-term, delayed benefits of teaching himself and his children self-control and good work habits.  This woman hasn't scheduled her regular healthcare appointments because she loathes being on hold and waiting in doctors' offices.  The way she prefers her own comfort and convenience threatens her good health.  

I'm a "sitter."  My sisters are both "movers," as is my mother.  I always like sleeping in, reading on the couch, putting my feet up.  I sometimes have to consciously resist that pre-disposition.  Sometimes I need to treat myself for "doing the right thing" (like after my annual Well Woman exam - sheesh!), and sometimes I just grind through my work because it has to be done.  But, oh!, how much I want to avoid the consequences of laziness!  And how very much I long to see the results and rewards of working for Jesus.


- 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, October 8, 2017

October 8

Jer. 10:1-11:23; Col. 3:18-4:18; Psalm 78:56-72; Prov. 24:28-29

Fall is finally here, even in southern California. I enjoy seeing pumpkins and pots of mums on porches. On my porch, alongside a pumpkin I have a funny scarecrow with a crooked smile sitting in a chair with his legs sticking out. He makes me smile.

And I thought of that silly scarecrow during this morning’s reading in The One Year Bible. Jeremiah likens the idols that Judah is worshipping to a scarecrow. “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jer. 10:5).

I wondered, what are the idols which I am tempted to worship? And what are the idols that the culture in which I live embraces? I believe that money is an idol in America and success seems to be one, too. And I even wondered about all the smart phones I see people using constantly—could this be a form of idol worship, putting our confidence in a phone and constantly paying attention to it?

The truth is that anything I put before worshipping the Lord God who made the heavens can be an idol in my life—even good things like having a comfortable home and exercising can turn into idols.

I like the thought that I do not have to fear idols—they have no power; they are worthless. I remember seeing idols for the first time when we visited Singapore. Our friends there invited us into their apartment and warned us that on the way we would see food set out before an idol, and an ugly idol, I might add. It seemed very strange and even eerie to me, then, though I have seen it many times since. Our friends warned us that the people in that apartment with the idol took it very seriously and that we should not make fun or laugh. But how silly it was to see food rotting in front of a useless idol. I was glad I had been warned not to laugh for I was very tempted!

Thank you, Lord, that You are real and true. You are, according to Jeremiah 10:16, “the Maker of all things…. The Lord Almighty is His Name.” Our God is not worshipped with rotting food; He is worshipped when we obey Him, when we turn away from useless idols that cannot give us eternal life.

Lord, may we be able to discern when we are tempted to waste our time and money on useless idols. May we be your obedient people, obeying even such words from You as “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Col. 3:18-20).

We choose today to obey You and turn away from useless idols that are just silly scarecrows. 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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

October 7

Jeremiah 8:8-9:26; Colossians 3:18-4:18; Psalm 78:56-72; Proverbs 24:28-29

Woohoo!  We're more than 75% through The One-Year Bible!  Kinda crazy to realize that, bit by bit, we've worked our way through so much of God's Scriptures.  I hope you are seeing his Word work at and in your life, and that you're geared up for the last 25%.

As we move forward, I want to encourage you to pray portions of Scripture for yourself and for others.  Today, in our New Testament reading, we encountered one such prayer.  (There was another earlier this week that we prayed together, too.)  I memorized Colossians 3:12-15 several years ago to help me in a relationship where I needed to temper my quick tongue and also to keep short accounts.  Take a moment to pray these verses for yourself.

Lord God,

Because I am your chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe me with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience as I interact with _____.  Teach me to bear with him/her/them, and to forgive whatever grievances I may have against him/her/them.  Teach _______ to bear with me also, and to forgive whatever grievances he/she/they hold against me.  I want to forgive as you forgave me.  Over compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, I want to put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  

Let your peace rule in my heart.  Again, let your peace rule in my heart.  Like these virtues are bound together in unity by love, let me be bound together in unity with _____, especially if ______ is a fellow believer. 

Teach me to be thankful, and let me learn to be content.  

May your word dwell in me richly, not just for my own sake and transformation, but for the sake of your body as I speak and praise with other members of your body.

Whatever I do - whether forgiving or speaking or working or caring for others, whether in word or deed - may it all be done in your name as I give thanks to you.

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, October 6, 2017

October 6

Jeremiah 6:16-8:7; Colosians 2:8-23; Psalm 78:1-31; Proverbs 24:26

Whew! How are you holding up with Jeremiah? There’s some pretty strong language in there, huh? The last few days I’ve really been struck by the despair and depth of depravity Jeremiah is seeing in his people. Here’s a quick recap:

2:5          “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?”
2:7          “I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.”
2:34        “Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor…”
3:1b       “You have played the whore with many lovers…”
4:19        “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain.”         
4:22        “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding.”
5:7b-8   “When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to houses of whores. They were well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.”

There is no mincing words or sugar coating what’s happening in Israel, and Jeremiah, in his boldness, calls Israel out on their sin. Look at this verse in today’s reading: “Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush” (Jer. 8:12). I was really struck by the phrase “they did not know how to blush” because I’ve had a growing sense of that being true today in America. So much is allowed, even encouraged, these days and it seems like our nation has lost the ability to blush. And, unfortunately, I’m not just talking about the non-believers. Those of us who profess Christ but frequently live like He isn’t the King and Lord are often just as guilty and just as unwilling to “blush.”

But then we turn over to our New Testament reading and we are once again reminded of God’s forgiveness and mercy. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…” (Col. 2:13). Not just some, but ALL our trespasses. Thank you, Jesus!

This is why we read the Bible year after year, so that we see God’s whole story and so that we know how fully loved and forgiven we are.

So help us, Jesus, to mourn and grieve over our sin and to truly turn from it in repentance and the forgiveness you so freely offer. 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, October 5, 2017

October 5

Jer. 4:19-6:14; Col. 1:21-2:7; Psalm 77:1-20; Prov. 24:23-25

Jeremiah writes that the defeat of Jerusalem will come. “I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry” (Jer. 4:19b).

Imagine Jeremiah’s pain. He sees what is coming for his people. He knows what will happen to them if they refuse to obey the Lord. He is on a tightwire stretched out between two worlds. He knows the truth and he speaks the truth; the people will not listen to him, nor will they believe the truth that he speaks.

What is he to do? Shall he continue with his fruitless appeals? Should he just give up?

What do you face in your life that is a continuing wall of opposition? Where do you find yourself again and again trying to explain truth to one who does not want to hear it and does not believe? I spoke again and again with dear ones who were planning to divorce. “Nothing good comes from divorce,” I said. “Divorce won’t make anything better. Stick it out and work together,” I said.

But I was up against a wall. Neither one could or, perhaps, would hear me. I understand in a small measure what Jeremiah’s pain is. He knows the truth; he knows what is ahead—he has seen it, literally. God has revealed to him what the future will hold for the Nation of Judah. And it is awful. Judah will be taken captive by an “ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand” (Jer. 5:15). This ancient nation will devour Judah (vs. 17).

And yet Jeremiah is unable to move his people. They simply will not hear him. They are determined to disobey the Lord God and he is helpless to change their minds. I was unable to move my friends; they chose divorce.

So what does Jeremiah do in the face of such opposition? And what should we learn from Jeremiah about how to face opposition to God’s ways?

First, Jeremiah persists. He doesn’t give up. He speaks for God for his whole life and ministry, about fifty years. And secondly, Jeremiah knows the truth and he speaks the truth about God and His ways. And thirdly, he continues to follow God. Though his heart is broken by the disobedience of his people, he himself continues to love and follow God.

Some great principles we can apply. We can determine that we will believe God’s truth and speak up for it whether or not others listen to us. Basically, you’ll see as we read through Jeremiah that no one listened to him. He preached his whole life, he spoke truth his whole life, yet no one listened. And secondly, we can know truth, too, and speak for it. We know truth by knowing God through His Word. That is why we read the Bible, and in particular, The One Year Bible. We have to know His truth to speak it. And we learn it by reading and pondering and applying the Bible to our lives. And then, lastly, we keep on following. Yes, our hearts are broken when people choose to divorce, when people are adulterous, when they lie and steal, when they refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, but we keep on following the Truth. We aren’t deterred by the unbelief all around us.

“Lord, keep us reading Truth, speaking Truth and living Truth in the face of an unbelieving culture. May we be in some small measure like Jeremiah, who cared more about Your Truth and Your Word than he did about himself and his success and even his own safety. Thank you that you are worthy of such devotion. 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.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 4

Jeremiah 2:31-4:18; Colossians 1:1-20; Psalm 76:1-12; Proverbs 24:21-22

God takes sin seriously, doesn't he?  (I know we've said this before, but when Scripture brings up a concept over and over again, how can we as bloggers avoid it?)  

Look at God's criticism of Israel, spoken by Jeremiah.  "In spite of all this you say, 'I am innocent; he is not angry with me.'  But I will pass judgment on you because you say, 'I have not sinned'" (Jer. 2:34-35, emphasis mine).  It is the very act of claiming to be innocent of sin that convicts them of their sin.  God is not swayed by pretty words; "this is how you talk," he says, "but you do all the evil you can" (3:5).  He recognizes that Judah "did not return to [him] with all her heart, but only in pretense" (vs. 10).  Indeed, God values the faithlessness of Israel - who did not claim to be faithful at all, and was not - over the unfaithfulness of Judah - who claimed to be faithful, but was not (see vs. 11).  God woos faithless Israel ("I am your husband.  I will choose you" [vs. 14]), but realizes that Judah will not "circumcise [their] hearts" and therefore "[God's] wrath will break out and burn like fire" (4:4).  And the result will be complete and utter ruin (vs. 13), caused by nothing and no one but themselves.  "Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you.  This is your punishment.  How bitter it is!  How it pierces to the heart!" (vs. 18)

And then, on the other hand, we have Paul's gentle words of love and blessing.  He rejoices over the church in Colossae because of their love and faith (Col. 1:4-5); he unceasingly prays for wisdom and knowledge for them (vs. 9).  Here's why: "That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (vs. 10-12).  

This is what Judah and Israel were intended to do, to live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.  Paul even spells out exactly what sort of life is worthy of the Lord and will please him in every way.  Fruitful.  Growing.  Being strengthened.  Enduring.  Patient.  Joyful.  Thankful.  

While Judah and Israel failed, Paul has greater hopes for the Colossians.  And for us, too.  How beautiful, and how hopeful.


- 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, October 3, 2017

October 3

Jeremiah 1:1-2:30; Philippians 4:1-23; Psalm 75:1-10; Proverbs 24:17-20

I am no Esther McCurry, but I will attempt to give a few words of background information as we begin this new book of Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah was called to be a prophet when he was very young. Some scholars place him as young as fourteen years of age. He began his ministry in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, around 626 BC. He continued to prophesy through the brief reigns of four other kings, until after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, which took place sometime after 586 B.C. 

Jeremiah was prophesying to the nation of Judah in the last days of their last kings. The nation of Israel had already fallen, and Judah was the only Jewish nation left intact. According to Jeremiah 1:1, he lived in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, which would have placed his home within a few miles of Jerusalem. So he was able to see first-hand the destruction of Jerusalem that the Lord had commanded him to prophecy.

We see Jeremiah's reluctance to become a prophet in 1:6 when he says, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth." Is it any surprise that he is reluctant? He lived in days when prophets were more common. While he lived after Isaiah had already died, his ministry was immediately preceded by Zephaniah. Both Habakkuk and Obadiah were probably contemporaries of his, possibly Ezekial as well. I am sure he saw firsthand what the life of a prophet would mean: ridicule, oppression, hostility, harsh treatment, and possibly imprisonment.

However, once Jeremiah accepts his calling to the office of prophet, he embraces it whole-heartedly. He has often been referred to as the "weeping prophet" because of how much lament and sadness is contained in his writings.

But how could he not weep and wail? He sees everything that is dear to him, and the world as he knows it, falling apart on every level. He is faithful to deliver words of warning and calling to repentance, but it falls on deaf ears. Yet he continues to speak out the words God has put in his mouth (see Jer. 1:9) throughout his lifetime.

As we begin Jeremiah, let us take encouragement from his willingness and boldness to speak the words of God, no matter how unpopular or unaccepted they may seem. I know I am so often hesitant to speak hard truths if I think it's going to make me look odd or unpopular. Or, sometimes, I talk myself out of exhorting someone in love if I think they are just not going to listen to me anyway. But Jeremiah wasn't called to make them listen; he couldn't control that. He was only called to speak faithfully the true words of the Almighty God. Father, may I be more faithful to speak your truth in boldness and without fear.


- 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, October 2, 2017

October 2

Isaiah 66:1-24; Philippians 3:4-31; Psalm 74:1-23; Proverbs 24:15-16

Lord Jesus,

We want to know you and know the power of your resurrection (Ph. 3:10).  We want to experience the fellowship that comes from sharing - just in part - in your sufferings.  We want to become like you in your death: obedient, purified, given new life.

We are far from this point, but we are committed to moving toward this desire (Ph. 3:12).  We do not want to be held back by our past.  We are no longer captive to our sin.  Instead, we look ahead and move forward in faith (vs. 13-14).

You gave us so very much through your death, burial, and resurrection.  "Let us live up to what we have already attained" (Ph. 3:16).

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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 1

Is. 62:6-65:25; Phil. 2:19-3:4a; Psalm 73:1-28; Prov. 24:13-14

The heart of God is to bless His people.

In Scripture we see this again and again: God is kind, God is generous, God is faithful. And we see his heart to bless his people. Isaiah reminds us of that today: God longs to bless His people—that is his nature; that is his heart. Why did God’s own arm work salvation (Is. 63:5)? In order that, according to verse 8, “He [would] become their Savior…in his love and mercy he [would redeem] them.” From the days of Moses and Abraham, God “acts on behalf of those who wait for Him”(64:4).

Look at the blessings God longs to bestow on those who obey Him. “They will be called Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord....My servants will eat...drinkrejoice…and sing out of the joy of their hearts....They will build houses and dwell in them, they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit, no longer will they build houses and others will live in them or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree so will be the days of my people…they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants after them, before they call I will answer” (65:12, 13, 21-23, emphases mine).

Yes, those promises were written to Israel over 2000 years ago, but they are as alive and true today as when they were written. God cannot change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His character cannot change—if He was kind and generous to Israel, so He will be to us today.

And his character is that He longs to bless His people. If we obey Him, and follow Him, and spend our lives in seeking to know Him, He will bless us.

Asaph agrees. “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Ps. 73:1).

And so does the wise man of Proverbs 24:14: “Know also that wisdom is sweet for your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you.…”

There is a future hope and it is good.

Thank you, Lord, for your immense kindness to us, your people, whom you love and bless.


- 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, September 30, 2017

September 30

Isaiah 60:1-62:5; Philippians 1:27-2:18; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 24:11-12

I was thinking of the names of God today.  How Hagar calls him "the God who sees;" Isaiah's list of "wonderful, counselor" etc.; the Lord Almighty.  These names (and others) reveal aspects of who God is and how he deals with his people.  Our reading in Isaiah points to another characteristic.

Isaiah 60 and 61 show us the God who redeems, who restores, who reinstates.  These two whole chapters are devoted to showing how God "restores the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25).  No longer are the children of Israel orphaned and pitiful; they will be returned, among royal households (Is. 60:4, 16).  No longer will the nation be oppressed and in servitude; the people will be placed as rulers (vs. 10, 14).  No more will there be the broken-hearted, the captive, the prisoner (61:1); instead there will be healing and freedom and wholeness.  I love those "not X, but Y" statements in 61:3!  Damaged places will be rebuilt; dry fields will be watered and worked; shame will be removed to make way for excessive blessing (vs. 4, 5, 7).

This is the same God who redeems, restores, and reinstates in our lives, too.  We are no longer orphaned; we are adopted and loved as sons who inherit.  We are no longer captive to sin or death; we are free and soul-whole and we know what our future is.  The broken places in our lives - marriages, relationships, finances, health - can be rebuilt.  The dry places in our lives - depression, discouragement, lack of passion - can be watered and made fruitful.  The shame of our sin and our pasts can be removed, making way for God's blessing.

What a beautiful and needed reminder today, of who our God is and who we can be because of his extravagant love for us.  He takes what is and what has been, and he transforms those former realities into the great what-can-be and what-shall-be.

Hallelujah!


- 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, September 29, 2017

September 29

Isaiah 57:14-59:21; Philippians 1:1-26; Psalm 71:1-24; Proverbs 24:9-10

Rush, rush, rush! Goodbye Ephesians, hello Philippians. Don’t get me wrong, I love Philippians, it’s just that I was so enjoying Ephesians! At least I can take comfort in the slow forward progress of Isaiah.

Okay, ranting aside, it’s exciting today that we’re starting Philippians. When I was in middle school, my church small group memorized this book together. It was great, especially so because of how much I’m still able to remember. What they say really is true – it’s easier to memorize when we’re younger and it sticks with us longer! (Though I memorized it in the NIV and nowadays I read the ESV, so I’m always a little off my game.) Anyway, this is probably my favorite epistle. So cheerful, so joyful, and so encouraging, with none of the uncomfortable verses about someone sleeping with his stepmom (see 1 Cor. 5:1).

As usual, I’d like to give a little background so we can be well-informed as we read.

Most scholars agree that Paul wrote this letter during his Roman imprisonment (around AD 62), as we discussed with Ephesians, but it is also possible that he wrote it while still imprisoned in Ephesus (around AD 53). Either way, the purpose behind his writing remains the same – to thank the Philippians for a generous gift, to warn them against theological error, and to encourage them to strive for unity.   

Some of the key themes in the book are:
  • The fact that the gospel is spreading and how that should give us joy even when we’re suffering.
  • Christian unity, achieved by following the selfless example of Christ.
  • That a right standing with God is available by faith in Christ alone.
  • Mature faith as working faith.
Philippi was a leading city in its region (now northern Greece) and had become a settling place for retired soldiers. So by the time of Paul’s writing, Philippi had a very Roman feel. Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke brought the gospel to Philippi, though it hadn’t been Paul’s original idea. Do you remember from our reading in Acts 16 that Paul wanted to go to Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (Acts 16:7) and instead they went to Troas where Paul had a vision of the man from Macedonia who begged them to come? (When the Romans conquered Macedonia in 167 BC, they divided it into four districts, with Philippi being the leading city in the first district.) So that’s how Paul came to minister in Philippi. It was in Philippi that Paul cast the fortune-telling demon out of a local girl, thus angering her owners and resulting in Paul's and Silas’ beating and imprisonment. On the surface, Philippi seemed like hard soil, and certainly the fledgling church underwent much persecution, but by the time of the letter's writing, the gospel had flourished.

One of the things I love most about this letter is Paul’s deep affection for this body of believers. Look at verse 3: “I thank my God in ALL my remembrance of you, ALWAYS in EVERY prayer of mine for YOU ALL, making my prayer with JOY, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-4). Paul cares about these people and prays for them constantly.

I also love his prayer for them in verses 9-11. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, think about memorizing that and praying it for your friends, roommates, spouse, children, co-workers, parents, etc. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see how God answers? Don’t forget to pray it for yourself! And we will be praying it for you.


- 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, September 28, 2017

September 28

Isaiah 54:1-57:13; Ephesians 6:1-24; Psalms 70:1-5; Proverbs 24:8

I love the insight Paul brings out from the Old Testament in his teaching to children. Now that I’m in my late 30s (gasp!), I read these verses from the perspective of a parent. (I still need to honor my parents, but I now think of myself primarily as a parent rather than as a child.) I want my children to obey me and I appreciate that Paul draws out the promise that God gave to the Israelites if they were obedient to their parents – the commandment says, “Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ex. 20:12). This is the promise – if you honor, if you obey, things will go well for you.

We’ve talked about obedience a lot in this blog (because, as we always say, the Bible talks a lot about obedience) and today’s passage is another good reminder. Children are to obey their parents “for this is right” (Eph. 6:1); slaves are to obey their earthly masters “with a sincere heart” (vs. 5). Obviously, slavery in our nation has been abolished but the principle of obeying not “by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ” (vs. 6) is still such a call for us in all our work. When we’re doing a task for our employer, or even as a volunteer, we don’t do a good job only when the boss is looking; rather we work as servants of Christ.

Of course, I have to talk about the “whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) that Paul details in the final portion of our Ephesians passage. There’s been much discussion about the six items that Paul chooses to write about, some people looking to the Roman solider and his gear. But in one of the commentaries I was reading, the author made an amazing connection to Isaiah, which I thought was so interesting given that we’re also reading in Isaiah in our OYB. Here’s a quick breakdown (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, 337):

Image                                   Reference                                           Spiritual Weapon
Belt                                       Is. 11:5                                                Truth
Breastplate                          Is. 59:17                                             Righteousness
Feet fitted                            Is. 52:7                                               Gospel of peace
Shield                                   Is. 21:5                                                Faith
Helmet                                 Is. 59:17                                              Salvation
Sword                                   Is. 49:2                                               Spirit/Word of God
                                                                                                           Prayer

The real point, though, isn’t the exact metaphors, but rather Paul’s call to us to be prepared, to be aware of the spiritual warfare that we face, and to join with other believers in praying against it. I will readily confess that I’m not as faithful as I should be in preparing myself, either in prayer or in mental steadiness, and I can go weeks without thinking about the “rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12) that are at work against us. I don’t know if that’s because my life in the US is easy and comfortable, or if the effects of these powers are subtler and I falsely attribute them to “bad luck” or “coincidence” or some other such thing. Either way, I am challenged afresh by this reading today and hope something in it also struck a chord with you.

Help us, Jesus, to be prepared, to arm ourselves with your truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, salvation and spirit, so that we “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:13). We want to stand firm, Jesus. 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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 27

Isaiah 51:1-53:12; Ephesians 5:1-33; Psalm 69:19-36; Proverbs 24:7

There must have been such comfort for the exiled people in Isaiah's prophetic words. Thrust from their homeland and unable to worship their God properly, the promises for "joy and gladness [to] be found in [Zion], thanksgiving and the sound of singing" (Is. 51:3, a description repeated in vs. 11) must have been a lifeline.  They needed the hope.  And what hope it was: "My salvation will last forever; my righteousness will never fail" (vs. 6, repeated almost verbatim in vs. 8).  The prospect of vengeance, too, must have been reassuring (see vs. 23).  They were reminded: God remembered them; God heard them; God would respond.

We are reminded: God remembers us; God hears us; God will respond. 

And God is with us. "The LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard" (Is. 52:12).   God is ahead of us; God is behind us; we are hedged about by him.  I'm reminded of Psalm 139: "You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me."  What comfort!

And God delivers us.  The rest of our passage in Isaiah today draws a picture of Jesus - tender, despised, carrying our sorrows, pierced for our transgressions, oppressed.  "He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Is. 53:12).  The sin of many - that's my sin, and it's yours.  The transgressors - that's me, and it's you.  

I initially thought I would write this post about the marriage relationship as described in this chapter in Ephesians.  But I'll instead say that Tim Keller's sermons on this passage, available on Redeemer Church's website, would be the basis of my thoughts. Instead of paraphrasing his sermons, I will leave him to say all that's needed and with much more eloquence.  (Personally, I don't recommend the sermon on gender differences; the rest of it is g.r.e.a.t.)

And, truly, I was overcome by the movement of God toward his people.  It's condescension, in the best possible way.  It's inclination; it's orientation.  God was intimately involved in his people's lives in the past and nothing about that has changed in the present.  Nor will it in the future.  

God remembers us.

God hears us.

God will respond.

God is with us.

God delivers us.

Hallelujah.


- 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, September 26, 2017

September 26

Isaiah 48:12-50:11; Ephesians 4:17-32; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 24:5-6

I am going to try to resist writing all about Isaiah today. It’s very hard to do because each day I am so struck by God’s majesty and his splendor portrayed in our passages. And who can escape getting excited about words that talk about how dear we are to God such as, “The Lord called me from the womb…I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Is. 49:1,16)? I just want to lift my hands and praise every time I read Isaiah these days. But wait, I was going to resist. Yes, here we go.

Let’s talk instead about our tongue. I am often struck by how many times Scripture addresses our tongue. We see it talked about frequently in Psalms and Proverbs; in the gospels, Jesus addresses the issue of our tongue and words; and now we will see it mentioned over and over again in the epistles as we read through them. Why, I wonder? Probably because it’s such a big issue. It was then, and it is now. Our words have such incredible power for destruction or for building and restoring others. We all know this, but we probably don’t realize the sheer power of our words. That’s why Scripture reminds us over and over and over again.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29).

What if every word out of our mouths was truly only helpful for building others up according to their needs? How radical would that be. How far I am from this. Lord, have mercy. I like how Paul talks about using words according to the individual. We don’t just say meaningless platitudes, but thoughtful, appropriate and edifying words. This takes intention and practice.

A few years back I decided to give up harsh words for the Lent season. Not something people usually think of giving up when it comes to Lent. But I was convicted that my thoughtless and sometimes harsh words were keeping me from walking with the Lord in the way that I wanted to. It was also causing destruction within my marriage and my family.

This was a difficult discipline for me. I just wanted to say what I wanted to say, what I often felt so justified in saying. Yet I don’t want to destroy those I love the most. My words are so powerful in the lives of my children and husband. It’s a discipline to use them for building. We need help from the Lord in controlling our tongue. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit and he enables us to get rid of the bitterness, rage, anger, and slander.

Lord, help us to use our tongues and words to only build and not to destroy. May we be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (Eph. 4:32).


- 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, September 25, 2017

September 25

Isaiah 45:11-48:11; Ephesians 4:1-16; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 24:3-4

I love it when the format of The One-Year Bible causes us to see the inter-relatedness of God's word.  Today brings just such an example: Paul quotes Ps. 68:18 (our Psalms reading yesterday) in our New Testament reading today.  I'm grateful to the editors of the OYB for making these connections more obvious to us, and I'm grateful to the inspired word of God for being so consistent within itself.  Amazing...

Today I needed the reminders Paul gives in his discussion of giftings in God's body.  Paul sets up a domino effect to drive home his point.  Though the work is varied (the apostles, prophets, etc. [Eph. 4:11]), the purpose of the work is the same.  All are equipped by God in order "to prepare God's people for works of service" (vs. 12).  That's the first domino.  Why are God's people to do these works of service?  "So that the body of Christ may be built up" (vs. 12).  That's the second domino.  What is the point of building up the body of Christ?  "Unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" (vs. 13).  Third domino.  Fourth domino falls when we realize that such unity will cause us to "become mature" (vs. 13), and the last one plunks over as we recognize that maturity can be at least partially defined as "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (vs. 13).

For some reason, the cause-and-effect of these two verses was highlighted for me today.  Perhaps God wants to remind me that all gifts given to the body of Christ - regardless of how I perceive or rank them - are equally useful in knocking down the rest of these dominoes.  Perhaps I need to remember that my gifts aren't for my own personal use and growth, but that I'm part of a larger organism which needs me and is needed by me.  And perhaps I could use the encouragement that I am moving toward the fullness of Christ, bit by little bit.

Maybe, today, you are looking for these reminders, too.


- 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, September 24, 2017

September 24

Isaiah 43:14-45:10; Ephesians 3:1-21; Psalm 68:1-18; Psalm 24:1-2

Our nation, though blessed by God in many ways, has been moving away from God and toward idol worship. There is little in our culture to draw our children to God. They are growing up distracted by games and toys and cell phones.

The children growing up in Isaiah’s lifetime were living in a culture not all that different from ours. It was a pagan society, for Israel had abandoned her devotion to the God of Israel. And she would soon be going into captivity in Babylon where the God of Israel was not known.

And here in Isaiah 44 we find wonderful promises to pray for our children—pagan culture and cell phones, distracted by games and toys and all.

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered these verses in Isaiah, but somewhere in my children’s youth, I began praying these words for them. I prayed that the God who formed them would also help them (Is. 44:2). I asked for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on my children and for the Lord’s blessing to be given to my descendants (vs. 3). I prayed that my descendants would be as numerous as grass springing up in a meadow (vs. 4) (and with twenty-three direct descendants I’m seeing this come true—thank you, Lord). And I also prayed these most important words in verse 5: “One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”

And then verse 6: “This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God” (Is. 44:6). I prayed that my descendants would know that apart from the LORD Almighty there is no God.

If I have no inheritance to leave my children (and I hope I will), the very best thing I could leave with them is a knowledge of the Holy God. My fondest hope and prayer is that each of my descendants would know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and live his/her whole life for Him and His glory. Nothing could be better. There is nothing greater I could hope and pray for them—not riches, not fame, not world leadership, not a happy family nor a satisfying job—nothing compares with knowing the God who made them and loves them.

Have these promises all come true for my family? No. I have some descendants who don’t yet follow the God who made them.

Does that change my prayers? Not one bit. I still pray these same words for my children, and now for my grandchildren.

“May each of our children write on their hands—'The LORD’s'. May each one of our descendants love and serve you, O Lord. 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.