Posts Tagged “Exodus”

6So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say “my wife,” ?thinking,? “The men of the place will kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is a beautiful woman.”
Genesis 26:6-7 (HCSB)

Sins of the Father Visited Upon Their Children

This verse records Isaac committing the same sin as his father Abraham. In Genesis 12 verses 2 and 3, God makes a covenant with Abraham (then called Abram) to make him into a great nation, to bless him and to bless all the people of the earth through him. (The covenant is repeated in Genesis 17.) He also told Abraham to leave his country and go to the land God would show him.

Also in Genesis 12, just 10 verses later, Abraham instructs his wife Sarah (Sarai at the time) to pretend to be his wife “so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:13).

We have a classic example here of the sins of the father continuing in the son. We read this in Exodus 20:5 (and other places):

5You shall not bow down to [idols] or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [sins] of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Exodus 20:5 (ESV)

Hmmm…does this mean that the children commit the sins or they simply experience the negative consequences of the parents’ sin? I would say both. It’s easy to understand how children experience consequences of their parents’ sin, but if we look around us, we also see many examples of children committing the same sins as their parents. This leads me to believe that the passage can also indicate that the sins of the father somehow spiritually give the children a proclivity toward that sin. John Piper, author of Desiring God and many other books, agrees and says this about the passage:

We are not told how the father’s sins become the children’s sins. That is a mysterious thing left in God’s mind. But they do. What we are told is that when father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children have become sinners like the fathers. The father’s sins are the children’s sins.

It All Comes Down to Trust

What impressed me more than the repetition of sins through generations is that Abraham’s sin and Isaac’s sin both boil down to being acts of not trusting God. Both men had a covenant with God (although Isaac hadn’t yet received it personally). Both men chose not to trust that God was able to keep them safe so that He could, at some future time, fulfill the promise He had given them.

It was only ten verses of Scripture from the time God established His covenant with Abraham until Abraham denied Him. God’s covenant with Abraham wasn’t a small thing. He made it clear that He was going to make Abraham into many nations and that Abraham would not only be blessed himself, but that he would be a blessing to all people on the earth. So Abraham began to follow God. But along the way, he quit relying on God and began to rely on himself.

I’m sure Abraham (and Isaac) didn’t see that they were missing the mark on this. They were simply doing “what seemed right in their own eyes” (ref. Judges 17:6). They were protecting themselves. Protecting ourselves often seems like wisdom. So they too action – probably without a lot of thinking and certainly not a lot of praying. Abraham and Isaac developed plans to protect themselves in a foreign country.

What they didn’t do was trust God to protect them.

We’re Not So Different from Abraham and Isaac

I suspect that most of the lies people tell come from the same root – wanting to protect themselves either from the consequences from something they’ve done or not done, or from some real or imagined threat. So we make compromises hoping (or perhaps “helping” God) to “protect” our current life so that God can fulfill His promises for the future!

Can there be any Godly wisdom in that? Of course not. It is foolish, earthly wisdom. God wants to use our present situations to prepare us for the future fulfillment of the promises He’s given us. He wants to teach us to trust Him in the little things and the big things of today so that we are better prepared to trust Him in the little and big things we will face tomorrow and ten years from now.

We know that God uses all things for the good of those who love and pursue Him (Romans 8:28). So He takes our lies and our other missteps (aka sins) of the present, redeems them and uses them in our future if we submit them and ourselves to Him. But how much the better to have not sinned at all! How much the better to trust God in our present so that He can bring about the fulfillment of His promises

Where Do We Go from Here?

  • First, friends, ask God where you have made compromises in your life. The Holy Spirit will reveal them to you. Repent in those areas. Make changes where changes are necessary. Trust that God is in the process and He will be faithful as you do the right thing in difficult situations. I’ve lived by one maxim for many, many years: Do the right thing and trust God with the results. I find it especially helpful when faced with difficult decisions. Ask God to reveal the right thing, then do it, trusting Him to protect you.
  • Trust God to forgive past sins. Don’t carry around old guilt. That’s condemnation from the enemy, not conviction from the Lord. Confess your sins and trust that He is faithful to forgive them (1 John 1:9).
  • Be appropriately transparent with your children. Seek God about what, if anything, of your past sins you should discuss with children. They will see the change as you repent of past sins, but if a discussion with them helps them to avoid the same sins, ask God if and when the time is right to have those conversations.
  • Serve God in confidence that He is working in you and will fulfill all the promises He’s made to you as you continue to pursue Him.

God is very good, friends. He already knows your sins and He still loves you. Rejoice in that!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartThis week Phil and I are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary.

It coincides with the 25th anniversary of our business.

We have a lot to celebrate!

Yet it would be very easy to let the occasions go by with barely a nod to their significance. It seems that there’s always more “important” things to do or to spend money on. I’m reminded of a Proverb:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (NIV)

It may seem right to spend our time and money on things that are more important (and I’m not advocating squandering either), but that would lead to death. Celebration is important. Celebration remembers and Scripture is full of injunctions to remember. Here’s just one of them – God is giving instructions to celebrate the day He brought them out of Egypt:

14“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time…17“Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation.
Exodus 12:14-17 (NLT)

Remember the day, celebrate it with a festival. They are instructions that interrupt our “life as usual” living – instructions that cause us to pause and change our focus for a short time.

So this week we are remembering and celebrating – focusing on the goodness of God, remembering both the good and the bad because through it all, God has proven Himself to be good to us. When remembering the bad, we don’t focus on how horrible it was at the time, but on how God faithfully pulled us through it. We focus on how blessed we are to receive whatever it was that came from those horrible experiences. And when remembering the good – well, I confess to being as tearful in the good memories as in the bad – because I didn’t do anything to deserve all this good that has come my way.

It’s not that my life has been so much better than yours. We’ve experienced (and in some cases are currently experiencing) lack of finances, failure, depression, loss of parents, caring for elderly and disabled parents, loss of job, major health crises, betrayal, and disappointment. There are probably other things I could throw into that list, but I’m happy to stop there. 🙂 You get the idea. Despite it all – or more appropriately said “through it all” – I choose to see God’s goodness, even when I’m seeing it only through a cloud darkly.

After all, that’s how God sees me – my “goodness,” that is, not through a cloud darkly. He has no trouble with His vision – he sees me more clearly than I see myself. He knows there is sin in my heart. He knows my faults and weaknesses. He sees that there is no true, unselfish goodness in me. Yet He loves me and He sees me through the blood of Christ – “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11a, NIV).

And He celebrates me! “He delights in me” Psalm 18:19 says. He takes pleasure in me.

Friends, take time out of your busy lives to remember those special days – birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t let your celebrations become such a hassle that you lose the time to remember and celebrate. Remember God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and the pleasure He takes in you. And enjoy life. We’re not able to live a life of celebration, why would others be attracted to our God?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartMake thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

We’ve spent several weeks on the topic of giving thanks, and I hope you are all working on your thanksgiving muscle. Yet I would be remiss to leave the subject without recognizing that there are times when it’s difficult to give thanks.

There are times in our lives when our bodies, spirits and/or hearts are broken. There are times when we feel like God is very far away. At those times, it is difficult to give thanks. Yet still, the commands of Scripture remain that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s at times like this that we need the blessings that come with thanksgiving. Yet making those thanksgivings is a challenge. That’s when we truly learn to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because we do it out of obedience and out of a long history of knowing God’s goodness, even if we’re not able to feel that goodness at any given moment.

So I’ve gone to Scripture recently. Because I believe that if God tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He will also teach me how to do so. I’ve looked up all the verses that say “give thanks” and believe I’ve found a secret in them – God’s secret about how to be thankful, even in those times when thankfulness seems hard.

There are 33 verses in the Bible that command us to “give thanks.” Those 33 verses identify 4 things that help us to be thankful. Two of those things are reasons to be thankful. The other two things are actions that help us to be thankful. So Scriptures gives us both reasons why we can be thankful and things we can do to help us to be thankful. We’re going to look at those 4 things.

Psalm 136, verses 1 through 3 give us the reasons to be thankful:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

The two reasons are right there in verse 1 — Because God is good and because His love endures forever.

“God’s love endures forever.” Almost half of the Scriptures that command us to “give thanks” tell us to do so because God’s love endures forever.

No matter what is happening to you today, no matter what your circumstances are you can know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you with an everlasting love and His love endures forever. That word “forever” includes all circumstances and is for all times.

He loved you so much that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live on earth as a man and then to die on the cross so that the penalty for your sins could be paid. Scripture says that we are all sinners; that we have all asserted our independence from God, gone our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And Scripture is clear that the penalty for sin is death. But the Gospel message is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die in your place and in my place so that we can live for eternity with God. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

My favorite verse in Scripture is found in Romans 5:8. It says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s a love that endures forever.

God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever. It endures forever. And that’s something that you can be thankful for every day of your life. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter how people around you are treating you, no matter how cranky you feel, God still loves you.

When we turn our attention away from the things that have gone wrong in our world and instead think about or meditate on God’s love for us, God changes our perspective and enables us to be thankful.

The second reason Psalm 136:1 gives for giving thanks is a simple one: because God is good. When I think about how powerful God is, how He spoke the world into existence, how the winds and storm obey Him, I am very thankful that He is a good God.

God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Listen to this:

6And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

That’s the goodness of God – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving sin. I can be thankful for a God that is so good.

Now those of you who know Scripture, know that I didn’t finish God’s description of himself. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and he does forgive sin.

But the verse goes on to say that the does not leave the guilty unpunished. A good God cannot overlook sin, and we wouldn’t want him to. God’s goodness requires justice. That means that the price or penalty must be paid for our sins. But His goodness also provided a way for that justice to be served. He sent His own son to die for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him. God has already told us that when he judges sin, the penalty for it will be death. But He’s also already paid that penalty through the death of Jesus. When we accept Jesus into our heart and make him Lord of our lives, God no longer sees our sin. He sees that Jesus has already paid the penalty for it. That’s something to be thankful for.

I wrote earlier that Scripture identifies 4 things that help us to be thankful. The first two are reasons we have to be thankful: Because God’s love endures forever, and because He is good. Scripture also gives us two actions or assignments that help us to be thankful.

The first one is found in Psalm 100, verses 4:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to God and praise His name.” We are to praise God. It’s pretty hard to praise God without developing a thankful heart. It’s hard to praise him and stay in a bad mood. Even when circumstances are difficult around us, we can choose to praise God. When we do that, we soon find that our spirits rise and we’re no longer looking at the difficulties around us, but at the goodness of God. Even when things seem to be at their worst, there are things we can praise God for.

We can praise Him for his goodness and for his never-ending love. We can praise him for his mercy and for sending Jesus. We can praise him for his presence in our lives. We can praise him for the wonders of His creation. We can praise him for giving us His Word to read. We can praise him for the peace and comfort He gives us.

The second action I see tied to giving thanks is related to praise. We can find it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-9:

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Scripture tells to “Tell of God’s wonderful acts.” When it’s hard to be thankful, remembering the good things God has done and telling others about them changes our perspective and produces a thankful heart in us. Do you know God as your savior? Tell others about Him! Has he blessed your life? Tell others about it. We looked at the first three verses Psalm 136 earlier. If you are struggling to give thanks, I encourage you to read the entire psalm. It doesn’t tell us to proclaim the mighty deeds of God, it simply does it. Here are just a few of the things the psalm says to give thanks for:

Give thanks…

to him who alone does great wonders, (v4)
who by his understanding made the heavens, (v5)
who spread out the earth upon the waters, (v6)
who made the great lights — the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night; (v7-9)
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder (v13)
to him who led his people through the desert, (v16)
to the One who remembered us in our low estate (v23)
and freed us from our enemies, (v24)
and who gives food to every creature. (v25)

The Psalmist is proclaiming the deeds of God. If you were to write your own psalm, how would it read? Mine would read something like this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.
He saved me when I was running from Him
He set my feet on a solid rock, He removed my need for striving
He blessed me with a wonderful husband
He leads me in adventures of ministry, He gives me joy in serving Him
He forgives my sins
He teaches me the mysteries of life with Him
He restores my soul and He will give me the crown of life

I challenge you, the next time it’s hard for you make thanksgiving your sacrifice, write your own Psalm 136. You will find that God’s goodness will overwhelm your heart; that His goodness is bigger and better than everything that is pulling you down. Your circumstances may not change, but your heart and your spirit will.

You’ve all heard of Hellen Keller. She was born in 1880 unable to hear or see. The circumstances of her life were pretty bad. Yet she found things to thank God for every day. Listen to this quote from her:

“For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, you can say that same prayer. “Thank you, God, for giving me knowledge of Your works. Thank you for bringing to my darkness the lamp of faith. Thank you, Lord, beyond measure, for the promise of eternal life with you.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can do that now. If you have never said “Yes” to God, you are headed toward an eternity without Him – an eternity in hell, separated from God’s goodness and love. But that’s not what God wants. He loves you, and His love endures forever. He has made a way for you to spend forever with Him in heaven. That way is by asking Him to forgive your sins and to be Lord of your life. It’s His deepest desire for you.

You might pray a prayer something like this one:

Father in heaven, thank you for making a way for me to spend eternity with you. Forgive me, Lord for going my own way. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Teach me what it means to live my life for you. And Father, thank you for the promise of spending eternity in heaven with you. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

If you’ve prayed that prayer, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You have more to be thankful thank you ever have before.

When you find yourself in times where thanksgiving is hard, make it your sacrifice to the Lord. Turn to Him, remember His goodness, and give thanks.

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Those of you who are following our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule just finished reading the book of Exodus. I enjoyed it so much that after reading the entire book, I went back and outlined it. The process revealed many themes that I might have otherwise missed. As I reviewed the book, I saw the tender and attentive care the Lord took leading His people. I saw how God controlled the timing of things, even when the events seemed to be happening too slow or too fast. (That’s a lesson I need to hear frequently.) The overriding lesson, however, was how I need to live my life totally dependent on God. It’s such a large part of what God was teaching the Israelites as he brought them out of Egypt.

And it’s so much a part of what I need to learn. Without the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I tend to rely on myself instead of God. If I don’t somewhat regularly run into problems that are bigger than me, I tend to rely on myself instead of God. Note to self: Taking on more God-sized challenges will teach me to depend on Him more. (And watching Him work in those challenges will teach me more about God and will be a ton of fun.)

Let’s step into the Exodus story with a quick review. Over a period of about six weeks, the Israelites had seen the Lord perform twenty miracles – there were 10 plagues and each of those plagues were stopped. They also experienced the Lord give them favor with the Egyptians as they left, enabling the Israelites to plunder Egypt simply by asking their neighbors for their jewelry. Then, of course, they walked across the Red Sea on dry land! That’s a lot of miracles in a short period of time.

Let’s pick up the story in chapter 16:

1Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there … one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
3“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
Exodus 16:1-3 (NLT)

After ten or twelve weeks jam packed with miracles, the Israelites were not happy campers as they journeyed through the wilderness. Faced with the challenges of the wilderness, the Israelites begin their complaint against Moses and Aaron with the words “if only.” It’s a phrase that is a clear indication that you are looking backwards instead of forwards. It’s a clear indication that in looking back, you’re not looking at the miracles God has done in your life. It’s a clear indication that you are not looking toward what God is about to do.

The Israelites could have said “God has brought us out of Egypt and protected us with His mighty right hand. He held the water at bay as we walked through on dry ground. He turned the bitter water sweet just last week. We can trust Him to provide for our needs today.” They could have gone even a step further and said “Let’s look forward to God’s miracle! Let’s let our actions reflect the faith we have that He will provide.”

But they made the choice to look backwards and complain. What a strike in God’s face that complaint was! Their complaint reveals that they are fully convinced they will die in the wilderness. Their complaint reveals that they do not believe that God can and will save them.

Lord, help me to walk in faith, not in fear and doubt. I don’t mean this blog to be an indictment of the Israelites. Rather, it is a challenge to me to see how easily I can become like them! I do not want to live my life in fear and doubt.

As I re-read this passage while reviewing the book of Exodus, God impressed upon me that it’s necessary to leave home to get to the promised land…and leaving home brings with it lots of discomfort, fear and doubt. No matter how wonderful or horrible home is (or how wonderful you remember it as being), you have to leave the familiar to step into the new things that God has for you. You have to experience “different” and “change” – and that typically means you have to experience “discomfort” – to enjoy the full salvation of God. That’s what faith is – it’s leaving what you know with your physical senses to follow what you have come to know with your spiritual senses.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

If we flash forward a couple of millennia, we see Peter leaving the security and safety of his boat to trust Jesus and join Him walking on the water. What a miracle those first steps were! But just as the Israelites saw the wilderness and were afraid, Peter saw the waves and was afraid.

28Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

30But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT)

Experiencing all that God has for us in this great salvation means leaving the safety and security of home and stepping into the discomfort of the unknown. It means learning to trust Him in the wilderness and on the water. It means leaving the baggage of fear and doubt at home because that baggage will be too much of a burden – it’s the baggage that causes us to sink.

Some of you say “I don’t want to walk on water, I just want to make it through the day.” Yeah, I get that. But I’m here to tell you that getting through the day is a whole lot easier (and more fun) when you can walk on water. When the storms come, and they will come, being able to walk on water is like living in a houseboat – you face the storm, but you’re riding the waves and you’re protected by the strength of His right hand.

And that brings us to what has impressed me the most as I read through Exodus – the Israelites utter dependence on God. They had no water…until God provided it. They had no food in the desert…until God provided it. Joshua went into battle against the Amalekites and the only reason he won was because God provided the victory. When Moses raised his arms, the Israelites were winning. When his arms grew tired and he lowered them, the Amalekites were winning. What in the world did Moses’ upraised arms have to do with the battle? Absolutely nothing! But Moses and the Israelites were learning to be totally dependent on God.

The more self-sufficient we are, the less God-sufficient we are. And we’re way more self-sufficient when we’re at home. Home has most of what we need. Home lulls us into a satisfaction with the status quo. But God wants us to leave home and head for the promised land. God wants us to step away from the comfortable into the journey – the exciting journey He has for us.

He wants us to step away from self-sufficiency into God-sufficiency.

4The one thing I ask of the LORD— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. 5For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Psalm 27:4-5 (NLT)

Let’s do it! Let’s trust that God is leading us into wonderful things He has for us, not to our death in the wilderness or the storm. Let’s have a mindset that says “I’ll follow you, Lord” and be willing to leave home to follow Him and don’t look back. Place your full dependence on Him and leave the baggage of fear and doubt at home.Fully

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

God’s Word allows us to see God at work throughout history…and that allows us to get to know Him in a greater way. Through reading His Word regularly we learn who God is, how God thinks and how He wants us to live.

Resting at the River’s Edge provides a schedule that enables you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. Our schedule includes “Additional Readings.” If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

Join us! Let’s read through the Bible together this year. God will speak to you personally as you read. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

 

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then e-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. Tell me about the treasures you’re finding in His Word. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for March is below.

Resting at the River's Edge March 2013 Reading Schedule JPG

 

 

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word opens His heart to us, giving us the opportunity to learn how He thinks and see how He loves. It also opens our spirit to His spirit, giving us the opportunity to breath in His peace. God’s Word carries His power and presence. It is living and breathing, and it gives us life. There’s some motivation to spend time in it each day.

You’ll find our February reading schedule in the January/February bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the January-February bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the January-February 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Don’t forget to share what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for February is below.

RARE February 2013 Blog Schedule

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartAs we begin our series Living God’s Heart the first characteristic we want to focus on is developing a seeking heart. A seeking heart looks for God. It watches for what He is doing because what He is doing reveals His nature, His plans and His purposes. It seeks Him in every situation.

A seeking heart wants to know God – know ALL of Him – the good, the bad and the ugly we might say…except that there is no bad and ugly in God. There might, however, be some things that appear bad or ugly to us. If that’s the case, it’s because we don’t yet know God. What might seem bad to us might be things that are good for us but we resist them – like eating our vegetables when we were a child (or perhaps still as an adult). Or what might seem ugly to us is really God’s justice – or even His love. If we seek to know God, we will set aside our agendas, our expectations and even our opinions and say “Lord, I want to know You. Teach me Your ways.”

We are in good company when we develop a seeking heart. Moses, a man God called His friend, desired to know God better:

12One day Moses said to the LORD…“13If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.…18bThen show me your glorious presence.”
Exodus 33:12a, 13a, 18b (NLT)

King David, the only man Jesus described as after God’s own heart desired to know God better. He wrote these passages in Psalms:

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.
Psalm 25:4 (NKJV)

LORD, teach me your ways, and guide me to do what is right because I have enemies.
Psalm 27:11 (NCV)

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Psalm 86:11 (NLT)

And although it doesn’t specifically say that King David wrote Psalm 119, it bears his fingerprints and many scholars attribute it to him. I like this verse:

Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law.
Psalm 119:29 (NRSV)

Clearly, King David desired to know God.

A heart that seeks God wants to know Him personally and intimately. A heart that seeks God takes delight in Him. Such knowledge and such delight doesn’t happen without intentionally pursuing the One who wants us to be caught.

In his book The Stronghold of God, Francis Frangipane reminds us that God “will not fight for our attention, He must be sought.” God does not impose Himself upon us. In my first blog of 2013, I quoted Isaiah 65:1:

The LORD says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.
Isaiah 65:1 (NLT)

God waits for us to seek Him. And when we do, He rewards us – we have His assurance that we will find him

13“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a (NASB)

His promise to the Israelites remains His promise to us today. We will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart.

God wants us to seek Him and He promises that He will respond – He promises that we will find Him. What a reassurance, when our earthly bodies and spirits feel so inadequate to touch the heart of God! Next week we’ll look at how to seek God – how to develop a seeking heart. This week, let’s work on desiring to know God – let’s work on the desire to develop a seeking heart. Pray with me:

Lord, I want to know You and I want to know Your ways. Yet I get caught up in this world at times. Grab my attention – remind me that You are waiting to respond to me. Teach me Your ways so that I see You at work in this world. Lord, develop in me a heart to seek You in every situation and every moment.

I encourage you to pray a prayer like this each morning this week. God will answer your prayer and next week you’ll be ready for the next step.

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1The LORD said to Moses, 2“Give the Israelites instructions regarding the LORD’S appointed festivals, the days when all of you will be summoned to worship me.
Leviticus 23:1-2 (NLT)

Imagine! The Israelites worshipped God not only on Sunday, but there were festivals throughout the year – “appointed festivals” – when they set apart time to worship God. I want to live in that society! Sure, we worship God every day…but how many days a year do we set aside to focus solely on Him?

You may work for six days each week, but on the seventh day all work must come to a complete stop. It is the LORD’S Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day to assemble for worship. It must be observed wherever you live. 
Leviticus 23:3 (NLT)

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I am a big fan of practicing a Sabbath. I’m a fan…but I don’t do it as well as I’d like. Now before you voice the objection, let me clearly state that I am also not that Sabbath be Saturday, as it is in Judaism. I prefer to call it a Day of Rest (DOR at our house), and in the Christian culture that’s often Sunday. You may call it the Lord’s Day. Call it what you want, and make it whatever day you want, just do it! Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater because we’re no longer under the Law. Scripture is full of injunctions about keeping the Sabbath – and I’m convinced it’s a principle God instituted that remains in effect.

Back to Leviticus 23:3. Words that strike me in this verse…“complete rest,” “worship” and “wherever you live.”

In Exodus 34:1 God instructs the Israelites to observe the Sabbath “even during the plowing season and harvest.”

No matter where you live,

No matter how busy you are…

Complete rest.

Lord, help me. Complete rest. Once a week. Even when my schedule is over-the-top. Help me get better at it, Lord.

I do pretty well with the “worship” part. I sometimes struggle to define “rest”. The word used there generally relates to occupational work and “creation” type work. Remember, the Lord practiced a Sabbath Himself – after creating the world we live in, He rested on the seventh day.

What Counts as “Rest”?
So, what kinds of activities can I be involved in that honor God? I am firmly convinced that visiting family falls within the boundaries of activities that would honor God on the Sabbath…but do they still honor God if they leave me drained? Somehow I don’t think so. So what needs to change – my perspective (so that I’m not so drained by visiting) or my activity (not visiting family on my day of rest)? I’m working on that one. (I mean no disrespect to family with this example – I have to travel an hour or more to visit family and doing so after church just makes for a long day that often tires me out.)

Is writing a blog a violation of the Sabbath? I am both energized and drained by writing blogs – I love hearing from God, but the act of getting the thoughts on paper is hard work. If I can write the blog, can I post it? While writing a blog is often enjoyable, posting it is drudgery.

Is mowing the lawn a violation of the Sabbath? Does it matter whether or not I enjoy mowing the lawn? Is taking a walk in the woods an acceptable activity? Is exercising? Is organizing a room if it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction?

I am not becoming legalistic about this…I understand the principle of staying God-focused and providing rest. I also understand the value of the Sabbath being a full day, not just the hours we spend in church or the day and an afternoon. Whether or not we like to admit it, our bodies were created to need down town. Our brains also work better when rested – and I don’t mean when we get the sleep we need. Our brains work better when they are given a break from thinking about the issues associated with our work, regardless of what that work is. I recognize that everyone’s work is different, so defining what constitutes not working will differ from person to person.

It’s important to recognize, though, that most of us are so un-Sabbath oriented, that our tendency is to violate the concept. I try to combat that by being very conscious of what I’m doing (and not doing) on my Sabbath.

Not only are we un-Sabbath oriented, we are as a culture to me-oriented. For example, a few paragraphs ago, I asked if I could organize a room on the Sabbath “if it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.” Do you hear how me-focused that is? The Sabbath is supposed to be God-focused. It’s not about my accomplishments – actually, it’s supposed to be an anti-accomplishment day! (I’m thinking organizing the room violates the whole Sabbath principle.) God commanded the Sabbath as a blessing for us – a time toget away from our world and enter into His. What a great God He is!

Festivals! More Occasions to Worship God
In addition to the Sabbath, God identified annual festivals:

  • Passover
  • The Festival of Firstfruits
  • The Festival of Harvest
  • The Festival of Trumpets
  • The Day of Atonement
  • The Festival of Shelters (or Booths)

Each of the festivals focused on a different element of God’s goodness. Each involved worshipping God, although in different ways.

What impressed me most about the establishment of the holy days is that they developed a culture of worshipping God in special ways throughout the year. They took the people away from their daily lives to focus on the God who delivered them, who provides for them, the God who forgives them. These festivals were in addition to the practice of the weekly Sabbath.

We have lost that culture. We rush through church to be off doing our own thing. We take vacations (designed to help us “vacate”) instead of setting aside days and weeks throughout the year in which we worship God. I know few people who set aside a day or more during their vacation to celebrate, worship and honor God.

God is most honored by His people honoring Him. In America, I’m afraid we honor our time more – insisting that it be OUR time that we schedule Him into.

I don’t have answers in this blog – just questions about how we ought to live in a way that honors God. We’re not required to keep the festivals God instituted in Leviticus. But I think they reflect an approach to living that keeps God at the forefront of our life, and that requirement remains for all Christians. Lord, challenge us to return to You.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my ramblings here. Comment below or on Facebook.

In the meantime…enjoy God!

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Is the Book of Leviticus Relevant Today?

After reading the excitement of the books of Genesis and Exodus, we come to a book of regulations and instructions – the change in drama is significant. Leviticus seems boring compared to the two books that precede it. It is, however, part of a natural progression of the same story.

  • In Exodus we read about how God had chosen the Israelites as His “treasured possession” and a “nation of priests” (Exodus 19:5-6). The book of Leviticus establishes regulations for the priesthood. .
  • In Exodus, the design for the tabernacle was given, it was built and the Lord’s glory filled it. In Leviticus God teaches the Israelites how to minister in the tabernacle.
  • In the final chapter of Exodus, the glory of the Lord – His very presence – filled the temple. The book of Leviticus begins with God calling out to Moses from the tabernacle. What follows are instructions to the Israelites about how to live a holy life in and with the presence of God.

Do the instructions, regulations and lessons of Leviticus have relevance for us today? Yes. As I wrote in my previous blog, even when we can’t find or see the relevance of a passage, we believe that it is profitable for study because Scripture says it is. Beyond that, however, looking at the three bulleted points above, a New Testament Scripture comes to mind:

5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:5,9 (NIV)

Believers today are a part of the “treasured possession” and “nation of priests” that God called out in Exodus. We gain a much deeper and richer understanding of that role and its responsibilities by understanding its history.

Finally, in response to the question “Is the book of Leviticus relevant for believers today?” let me say that I was surprised to learn that it is quoted at least forty times by New Testament writers! That alone makes me think there’s more to this book than I was getting as I began reading it this week. And there is! Let’s take a deep breath and dive into the first seven chapters.

Leviticus 1-7: It’s All About the Sacrifices

Chapters one through seven are all about sacrifices (but then you knew that if you’ve been following along with our Resting at the River’s Edge readings). It’s easy to get lost in the details of the five different types of offerings identified in these chapters, so we’re going to take them one at a time and look at what they teach us that is relevant to us today.

Burnt Offering: The word used to describe the burnt offering is olah. It comes from a root verb (alah) that means “to ascend.” The burnt offering ascends to God, going before the priests as a way of purifying the path so to speak.

He [the priest] is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Leviticus 1:4 (NIV)

Laying his hand on the head of the animal to be sacrificed shows his identification with the animal. The action reminds the priest that it is for his sins that the animal is being slaughtered and the burnt offering goes before him making him acceptable in God’s sight. It also a “complete” offering – the entire offering is burned, which reminds us that we are to surrender not just a portion but all we are and have to the Lord.

Grain Offering: This offering was made of flour, oil and incense. A portion of it is burned before the Lord and the remainder given to the priests for food. The burned portion and the burnt animal offering seem to me to be a complete “plant and animal” offering – a picture that God is redeeming to Himself all that He has made. The portion of the grain offering that is given to the priests for food foreshadows the One who would become the “Bread of Life” and who would give eternal life to those who trust in Him. Interestingly, honey is forbidden to be used in the preparation of this sacrifice. No reason is given, but one writer made note that honey “does not smell very nice but frankincense [the incense that was commonly used] receives its highest degree of fragrance after it had been burned.” (http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/levitic.html)

Peace Offering: Unlike the burnt and grain offerings, everyone shares in the peace offering – the one giving the offering, the Lord and the priests and their families. It is truly an offering of reconciliation – between the one making the offering and the Lord, and all those involved.

Christ has given us – delegated to us – this ministry of reconciliation:

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us” We are that peace offering. A portion is to be burned to rise to the Lord atoning for our sins and the sins of those we represent, and the rest is to be shared with others. Wow!

Sin Offering: The first three offerings were made as burnt offerings on the altar in the Tabernacle. The sin offering, on the other hand, was burnt on the bare earth outside the camp. The writer of the book of Hebrews references the sin offering and tells us that Jesus’ death outside of Jerusalem is an atonement for our sins:

11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Hebrews 13:11-12 (NIV)

Guilt Offering: The sin offering and guilt offering are very similar. It is also burned outside the camp. Christ’s crucifixion outside Jerusalem takes away not only our sin, but also our guilt. He sets us free, indeed! The guilt offering includes financial compensation to parties who have been wronged, introducing the principle of restitution. Christ frees us from our sin and guilt before God, but we have a responsibility to be reconciled with others and that often requires restitution.

Interestingly, this offering is the only one which is not described as a soothing aroma. Perhaps I am stretching an analogy too thin, but I can’t help but remember that guilt is never pleasing to God. He brings condemnation and desires/requires repentance. But ongoing guilt is simply a malodorous burden from the enemy.

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
Romans 8:1-3 (NIV)

We were guilty, but Christ’s offering removed that guilt from us. Hallelujah!

Final Thoughts about Offerings

The word for “offering” in Hebrew is corban. It comes from a root word meaning “to bring near.” The offerings described in Leviticus brought the Israelites nearer to the Lord and to the holiness that the Lord required. The offering itself brought them near to God – it went before them to make them acceptable to Him. The act of bringing the offering demonstrated their obedience and that obedience was a precursor to holiness. The offerings we bring today do the same – they bring us near to God and develop an obedience in us that moves us closer to the holy standard God requires. I am not, of course, saying that we become God or we earn a righteousness by our actions. We are righteous only when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the atonement for our sins – when we believe that He paid the price we owe and we live our life according to His plans and purposes.

Is the Book of Leviticus Relevant for Today?

You bet it is! When Jesus represented Himself to be baptized, John the Baptist proclaimed:

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29b (NKJV)

John the Baptist recognized that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system – that Jesus’ death met all the requirements and did so forever. Hallelujah!

Many thanks to the following blogs for their help in writing this blog:
http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/levitic.html

http://bible.org/seriespage/learning-love-leviticus#P89_4464

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10Then the LORD told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my visit. Purify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. 11Be sure they are ready on the third day, for I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch…14So Moses went down to the people. He purified them for worship and had them wash their clothing. 15He told them, “Get ready for an important event two days from now…”
Exodus 19:10-11, 14-15a (NLT)

What’s your Sunday morning routine like? For most people it’s rush, rush, rush to get out of the house and make it to church on time. Then there’s likely an argument in the car on the way to church. Finally, there’s the rush into church (on time if they’re lucky), put all their stuff down and join the already in progress time of worship. Ouch!

Even if your Sunday morning experience is only half as frantic as I’ve described, it’s a far cry from preparing for worship in a way that honors God. In this Old Testament passage, the Israelites were told to prepare for three days – three days! – to meet with God. I wonder how much richer my experience with God would be if I prepared for three days before meeting with Him!

Well, like you, I don’t have three days to set aside each week to prepare to worship God. There are some things that we can do on Saturday and Sunday to help us prepare to meet with God. Over the years Phil and I have developed seven strategies that help us arrive at church ready to worship.

  • We plan to arrive early. If we plan to arrive at the start of the service, the probability that we’ll either be late or frustrated increases dramatically. We’ve found that arriving early gives us time to get settled, read through the bulletin, visit with friends and be ready to worship when the service starts. So, depending on our responsibilities that Sunday, we plan to arrive anywhere from ten minutes to an hour early.
  • We come with an anticipation of participating in worship and meeting God. That anticipation helps to keep us from becoming a spectator. If you have children, develop and reinforce this sense of anticipation about going to church with your children. Be careful about your speech – “Tomorrow we get to go to church” instead of “Tomorrow we have to go to church.” This might seem minor, but our words mean things and convey to others our real attitudes about our activities.
  • On the drive to church, there are topics that are verboten in our car. Finances and schedules top the list. No matter now innocuous a question or comment on those subjects may seem, at best it has the potential of causing stress or discouragement in one of us. At worst it could cause a disagreement. So when we’re on our way to church and I remember that I meant to ask Phil if he had paid a specific bill or cashed a check the day before, I stop myself. It’s not that those things inherently carry stress. It’s just that we’ve learned that they are topics that quickly lead us to the cares and frustrations of this world. That’s not where we want to be on Sunday mornings. Put at the top of your list any topics that are likely to cause stress, frustration, annoyance or discouragement for anyone in the car.
  • We try to take care of the practical things the night before. Things like learning the shirt we were going to wear is dirty or not being able to find what we need to take with us can lead to a cranky rush as we make our way toward the car.
  • We are sensitive to what’s on the television while we’re getting ready for church. On a typical day, I have a news program on TV while getting dressed in the morning. On Sundays we often change that routine and listen to televised church services.
  • We are careful about the time we go to bed on Saturday night. Sometimes we miss this one and when we do, we’re usually sorry. It’s hard to truly worship God and even harder to hear His voice when we’re fighting fatigue and sleepiness.
  • We frequently pray on the way to church. (What a radical idea)! We pray for our selves, the worship team, those teaching and giving the message. We thank God for the privilege of meeting openly in this country. Sometimes we’ll sing praise songs or old hymns while we drive. It’s amazing how the attitude in the car changes when we do this.

We have this awesome opportunity to spend time with the creator of the universe in corporate and private worship every Sunday morning (or whenever your church meets). Let’s make the most of it by preparing in a way that honors Him.

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