Scripture Reading Challenge (#33)

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of David and Goliath.  This is a story of a young teen facing impossible odds and through the grace of God was victorious.  The stance that David made is admirable.  The faith that he displayed is inspirational.  The commitment he had to God is challenging us to us.

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16

The Spirit can leave a person. Saul is a testimony to this. Scripture reminds us,“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬). The Holy Spirit is the testimony to our soul that we are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Saul grieved God so deeply and for so long that the Holy Spirit moved away from Saul.  This is the sad condition of many people, and like Saul, they do not repent of their secret or open sins and errant thinking.  Instead, the chasm between them and God widens.

God will raise up leaders after his heart.  The Scriptures substantiates our hopes at this point.  These leaders may not always replace toxic leaders, as in the example of David and Saul.  They may challenge leaders in the wrong, they may only offer a new direction to follow, or they may inspire and bring hope to those while enduring a difficult situation.  God would remove Saul from leadership and David would step up into the position of king.  However, David was leading the people long before he was king.  You lead from proximity and manage from a position.  David spent time with the people while Saul became separated.  Leaders today must guard their relationships if they hope to remain a good leader.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#30)

This short book in the Old Testament is the first of two books named after women in the entire Bible.  One may wonder why she is included in the Scripture.  After all, she is not of Hebrew descent but was brought in through marriage.  However, through her story, we see the faithfulness to God and God’s grace.  We also learn that everyone is welcome to be part of God’s story.  Finally, we know how God works through families and salvation history.  Ruth would become the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king, David.

Read Ruth 1:1-4:22

Isn’t it amazing that such a sad beginning to this tale ends up with a beautiful love story?  And, all the way through it, we see God’s hand orchestrating events.  The Lord is present in the painful situations and the pleasant ones.  I am reminded of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  You may have heard the cliche phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.”  People may even reference this verse.  I think that is a  wrong interpretation of Romans 8:28.  Instead, it seems to say that things can happen without reason, at least for those not seeking to live in the Lord.  Instead, we should say, “everything can have a holy purpose or else it happens in vain.”  Ruth demonstrated that even the death of her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law, could lead to God’s glory through faithfulness.  May we be found faithful and find handfuls of purpose along the way (Ruth 2:16).

Scripture Reading Challenge (#23)

Transitions from one part of life to another is never easy. People are resistant to change and are quick to defend against change. Israel went through such a transition. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, an entire generation passed away. God raised up a new leader, Joshua, to take over where Moses left off. It is intimidating to follow someone who has already been successful. Even though Joshua has proven himself already, this new challenge of leading the people of God to the Promise Land was not for the faint of heart.

Read Joshua1:1-18

There is not much to be said about this passage except, be strong and of good courage. This admonition is repeated four times. Three times by the Lord to Joshua and one by the people to him. Encouragement goes a long way in providing a safe an open environment for leaders and followers to be morally courageous. We must continually check ourself to see if our critiques provide positive reinforcement or are simply negative and hurtful to others. In our local churches, we need to create opportunities for people to lead without fear of others in the community attacking their ideas. Sharing leadership encourages others to take responsibility and to think creatively, something a lot of pastors long from a congregation.

How long has it been since you offered a word of encouragement to someone struggling with life? Have you complimented someone for doing a good job or being their for you? Taking notice of others and offering a kind word at just the right time can impact someone for a lifetime. We need to build each other up more instead of tearing down. First Corinthians 5:11 reminds us, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, evan as also ye do.” Scripture tells us to do everything we can to build up the Kingdom. We do that by building each other up.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#19)

Does your family have any traditions that are times of celebrations?  More than likely, you do.  It’s a way that we stay connected to our heritage.  There are some traditions that probably should be changed, but there are those traditions that are so rich in meaning that it would be detrimental to a groups history by bringing change.  To this day, Jews still observe Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread.  What is significant about this celebrations?  In our reading today, we will learn about the historical event that is still celebrated even now.

Read Exodus 12:1-42

Blood was shed almost immediately after The Fall of humanity to make a covering (Genesis 3:21).  From then, we begin to see sacrifices given to God.  The first time we see this happen, God would not accept the half-hearted harvest gift of Cain but received the firstlings of Abels animal sacrifice (Gen. 4:3-5).  Now, God commands that the blood of each family’s lamb be placed on their doorpost.  God would pass over each house with the blood applied and the meal observed but would take the life of each firstborn in the homes that did not follow the command.  The house that was covered was saved from wrath.  It is also interesting to note at this point that the word atonement means, “covering.”  When Christ atoned for our sins, he shed his blood, covered us with God’s grace and saves us from wrath.   What an incredible foreshadowing of things to come that God painted for us in the Old Testament.

God had Moses tell the people, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s Passover” (Ex. 12:11).  It sounds like God means business.  I take this statement as two-fold.  First, God is telling the people that the judgment on Egypt and the deliverance of the Israelites will be so complete, that the people will be quickly ushered out of the country.  Secondly, it was an act of faith to take in the meal with their running shoes on.  Do we have such confidence in God’s Word?  God said he would deliver them and so they should be ready to go at the exact moment He says, “Go!”  Is your life ready for an immediate act of obedience?

The reason given for making an annual tradition of the Passover and Feast of the Unleavened Bread was for the children, future generations.  Sometimes, when we start to change a tradition, we hear someone say, “But, this is the way we have always done it.”  That statement demonstrates a low understanding about the purpose of traditions.  Traditions are not about preserving the old paths as an end to themselves.  Instead, traditions keep history as a way to teach future generations.  In this particular case, it was to show the children about God’s deliverance and favor on Israel.  How many other traditions do we currently have that are kept for the wrong purpose rather than teaching future generations about what God has done in the past?  Traditions can show us what God has done and can still perform today.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#18)

One of my favorite stories is the Chronicles of Narnia.  In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the children are talking about the Christ-like figure, Aslan the Lion.  The conversation goes, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is certainly good, but he is not safe, at least for sin and wickedness to be around. The Lord is going to demonstrate in our reading His power and intolerance of sin and the evil in the hearts of men and women.   God will send ten plagues upon Egypt.  We will learn about the first nine in our passage today.

Read Exodus 6:28-11:10

What does it mean that God would harden Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7:3)?  There are a variety of explanations based on how one understands God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  However, it may be sufficient at this point in God’s story to note that this is ultimately above our pay grade, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Still, I would like to point out God’s dealings with people’s hearts in Romans 1:18-32.  A passage we have already visited.  You will notice that in the Romans passage, three times God says “God gave them over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  I believe this is similar to God hardening Pharoah’s heart.  Pharoah made a choice to live without Israel’s God and when confronted with another choice, kept going against God.  God gave Pharoah over to his desire to not listen, and he reaped the consequences of Godlessness.  In other words, Pharoah chooses where he wants to make to his bed, and God said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

The plagues demonstrate another aspect of God.  God is holy and loving.  They are not separate concepts.  Instead they are two sides of the same coin.  God’s holiness may seem harsh, but it is in His holiness that He is the only real source of Love.  As love, there is the aspect of the Lord appearing tough on those things that cast themselves against what God loves.  Through the plagues, we see judgment fall on those who are against God, but mercy on those who follow God.  Whether God’s action is seen as judgment or compassion is based on what side of redemption you are standing on.  From the side of the unredeemed, God’s actions produce conviction, fear, and at times bitterness.  However, from the viewpoint of the redeemed, all that came before was accompanied by God’s providential grace.  Providence is the grace that God sends before us to bring us to Him.  Thank God for His grace that goes before us to prepare the way.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#17)

What is your biggest fear?  For a lot of people, it is the fear of public speaking.  When God called Moses, his lack of ability to speak became a point of contention.  God wanted to use Moses to deliver his people but Moses, whether it was the real reason for his apprehension or a cover, used his lack of speaking ability to try and say no.  However, God reminds Moses who both of them are.   I find this to be one of the most encouraging Old Testament passages for preachers and teachers.  God will help us share His gospel if we are faithful to obey the calling of God in our life.

Read Exodus 3:1-4:17

To my wife, I am called husband.  My children call me daddy.  My parents call me son.  The people at the church I serve call me pastor Jeremy.  When I teach, I am professor Kamer.  The same person is behind all of these names, but each one denotes a different aspect of my life or activity that I am engaged in.  One name or title does not encompass everything about me, except maybe my full name, but that name only means something to you if you really know me.  God is the same way.  The Bible is filled with the different names used to reference the One True God of Israel (that’s one of the names).  Why so many names?  Each title typically focuses on a single attribute or group of God’s attributes.  There is one name, however, that seeks to encompass all of God’s essence.  It is used whenever you see the name “LORD” in all caps (if you see Lord not in all caps, it is the word Adonai, meaning master).  The Hebrew pronunciation here is “Yahweh.”

We have seen a general Hebrew word referring to God, “Elohim.”  It means God is powerful.  It refers to God’s power in creation and His greatness.  Still, because of its generic background (“El” could refer to any god), the use of it by the Israelites kept God distant and largely unknown.  Moses asked God “who shall I say sent me?”  God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.”  He told them, simply the one that is, the one who is self-existent.  The God who does not depend upon anything for existence is our God.  This is God’s personal name.  It is sometimes called God’s covenant name and notes a personal relationship.  It’s like me telling someone “they usually call me Professor Kamer, but you can call me Jeremy.”  My personal name is the name I use to sign.  It’s who I am.  Now, all of God’s people have entered into a truly intimate relationship with Him.  He knows us by name, and we know Him by name.

In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses referred to God as Elohim.  In the second chapter, where we see a more intimate creation of humanity, Moses uses both names, Yahweh Elohim, the LORD God.  Why would Moses in this repeat of man and women’s creation use the personal name of God?  Perhaps, he eventually connected the dots that this Yahweh now speaking with Him is the same Elohim that created the world and called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees.  God told him that he was the one that created man and could help Moses speak.  This creator God had given his personal name.  He was no longer distant, but God was near.  Nothing, in the mind of Moses, would show God closer to humanity than breathing life into the nostrils of man.  Wow!  What an amazing God we serve.  He is not far but near.  He is not a stranger, He is a personal friend of mine and can be yours too.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#15)

Have you ever had to keep a surprise hidden but couldn’t keep it secret because you were so excited to share it?  I remember one year at Kohl’s, I set inside the car with our baby boy while my wife and three or four-year-old daughter went Christmas shopping.  When they came out of the store and opened the hatch of the car, my wife said, “don’t tell Daddy what we got him for Christmas.”  Well, after my wife put my daughter in her car seat and before she could sit in her seat, my sweet daughter blurted out, “Daddy!  We got you a watch!”  It was great.  As we come to the end of this part of the story, Joseph is so overwhelmed with emotion, that he can no longer keep his identity secret from his brothers.

After today’s passage, we will be finished with our readings in Genesis and have 85 more readings to go before we are done.  Do you feel that you are getting a better grip on the Biblical story? I pray that you are already feeling strengthed in your faith and encouraged to keep on moving forward with the challenge.

Read Genesis 45:1-46:7

There are two passages that I want to focus on for our devotional today.  The first is Genesis 45:7-8, namely, “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”  Wow.  God took the evil that Joseph’s brothers committed and turned it to everyone’s good.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  God had a plan for Joseph’s life, and nothing would thwart his counsel.  The same is true in our present reality.  Whatever trial and great difficulty come our way, God can take those and turn them into our good and to the benefit of others.  Nothing happens in vain when God is in our life.  Without him, anything and everything that happens good or bad are in vain.  The Lord makes everything have a holy purpose.

The second passage is Genesis 46:3-4.  The focus here is, “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt…I will go down with thee into Egypt.”  I feel that this reinforces the previous point.  Look at Jacob and his families direction of life.  It’s going down.  Some may say it’s going up because they are heading to a land of protection and wealth because of the famine in the land.  However, even some good things can turn out to be wrong things because they are not the great things God really has laid out for us.  The good is that Egypt would supply them during the famine and be a good place to multiply numbers for the future nation of Israel.  However, the good turned to bad as Egypt would enslave Israel.  The great is that God had a promised land he wanted them to live in all along.   God would go down into good land of Egypt, but He did not want them to stay there forever

God would go down into the good land of Egypt but He did not want them to stay there forever, he had something better planned for them.  God does intend for us to be entangled in this world.  There are many good things here to enjoy, however, it is easy to lose sight of God’s Spirit in this world for the elements of the world.  God has something far better in store for the faithful.  He is with us here, but to make us ready and keeping us pure for what Jesus is preparing for us (cf. John 14:1-7).