Monthly Archives: February 2012

Leap day

How are you spending Leap Day?

Use it to catch up on your reading or to get ahead. This is our day off on the reading schedule, and the only one for the year.

We’ll see you back tomorrow!

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Lev 11,12; Mk 7:1-13

Ceremony, Tradition, Unclean, That Which Defiles.

I really felt a connection to the set of verses assigned to me today.  Those very strict laws about what foods to eat and what is considered ceremonially unclean, juxtaposed against Christ’s teaching of that which actually defiles, shows me how God truly planned his creation.

Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. Mark 7:13

Reading this verse in Mark immediately after reading Leviticus 11 – 12, I was initially inclined to think He was referring to those strict set of laws spelled out in Leviticus.  And while His audience was those Pharisees who practiced those laws (and He was in fact refereeing to those exact laws), I was reminded (there’s that still small voice again) that God’s word is eternal and I began to ponder “what more could this mean?”

I realized I have begun my own set of traditions.  For instance, the spiritual disciplines – prayer, worship, scripture reading (and even writing this blog) – sometimes feel like just an exercise instead of an act of worship.  Sometimes I find I must really put my mind to it – to focus on God when engaged in the disciplines and not just check the square.  Turning the disciplines into “traditions” or “ceremony” cheapens them.  God wants me fully engaged with Him, not half way and not after I’m done worshiping something else.  And He deserves it.  His plan was that we would learn the act of worship by practicing obedience, but He never intended for us to worship the ceremonies themselves.

I am fully aware that there is a fine line between practicing the disciplines and turning them into traditions.  In order for them to become a part of my life, I must practice them, often.  But doing that can become a tradition.  The key is, knowing where my heart and head is in all of this.  Knowing inside that while I am setting aside the same time every day to pray, read, worship, write, etc., I am still focused on God and that these things glorify Him – not just satisfy my check list.

Great God – thank you for your guidance.  I know your desire is to have me focus my life on you, for you gave me my life.  Forgive me when I cheapen your Glory with my checklists and help me to keep You in my heart at all times! Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Leviticus 8, 9, 10; Mark 6:30-56

When God does miracles today, people respond in different ways. Some people get scared. Some people get excited. Some people run to find others to tell. Some people refuse to believe that it is possible. Some people think it is fake. Some people are jealous. Some people are encouraged. Some people are amazed.

In today’s reading there are four miraculous occurrences that take place, each with different responses:

Aaron lifted his hands over the people and blessed them. Having completed the rituals of the Absolution-Offering, the Whole-Burnt-Offering, and the Peace-Offering, he came down from the Altar. Moses and Aaron entered the Tent of Meeting. When they came out they blessed the people and the Glory of God appeared to all the people. Fire blazed out from God and consumed the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the fat pieces on the Altar. When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence. Leviticus 9:22-24 MSG

The Israelites witnessed fire falling from heaven consuming the sacrifices prepared for God by Aaron and his sons. In times past, the fires of the sacrifices were started by man. In this instance, fire came out from before the Lord and burned the fat of the sacrifice. This was a supernatural fire. The peoples’ response was to shout with joy and triumph and fall on their faces in fear and reverence.

Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. More than five thousand were at the supper. Mark 6:39-44 MSG

When Jesus looked to heaven and blessed and divided the five loaves of bread and two fishes, food which normally would have fed five to ten people, there was enough was enough to feed everyone eating with twelve baskets of remnants left over. There is no report about how the 5000 men who ate of the loaves and fishes responded to this miracle of provision, except that they ate their fill. The people may have been accustomed to Jesus’ miracles and were not surprised, just assumed that this was a normal thing when in His presence, or they may not have even realized that a miracle had occurred at all.

Jesus was quick to comfort them: “Courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” As soon as he climbed into the boat, the wind died down. They were stunned, shaking their heads, wondering what was going on. They didn’t understand what he had done at the supper. None of this had yet penetrated their hearts. Mark 6:50-52 MSG

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on water they were initially scared. When Jesus comforted them and told them not to be afraid they were amazed. Even though they walked with him and regularly saw Jesus do miracles, they were shocked and didn’t understand.

They beached the boat at Gennesaret and tied up at the landing. As soon as they got out of the boat, word got around fast. People ran this way and that, bringing their sick on stretchers to where they heard he was. Wherever he went, village or town or country crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat—that’s all. And whoever touched him became well. Mark 6:53-56 MSG

These people had heard about Jesus and the miracles He had been performing. They knew that Jesus would heal all those who were brought to Him. The people of Gennesaret responded with belief and great expectation by bringing all of their sick to Him to be healed. Those who needed healing responded in faith by touching Jesus and were healed.

 

I believe in miracles. I pray for miracles on a regular basis and see them happen first hand, in India and elsewhere: A woman’s leg lengthened so she no longer walks with a limp or with pain. A leper who can now open and close his hands to be able to grip a spoon so he can eat again. A joyful song sung by a pastor who wasn’t able to preach the Gospel for a year because an illness damaged his vocal chords. A teary eyed smile from a woman who could see clearly again after cataracts slowly took her eyesight. Tumors in a man’s arm shrinking more than 50% before my very eyes. Chest pain, headaches, and emotional heart aches…gone in Jesus’ name.

Each time I witness God’s miracles I am encouraged to pray for more. I am amazed. I am excited. I am filled with awe at God’s love for me. I don’t understand them or why some receive miracles and some don’t. But I don’t need to. I trust in God’s divine, supernatural power and His ability to do whatever needs to be done according to His will and purposes.

Holy Spirit, thank you for all of the miracles you have done in my life – both the seemingly small miracles to the huge ones. I want to see more miracles in my life and in the lives of others. Help my heart understand and not ever harden to how you are moving today. Keep my heart always soft toward you so that I can freely receive and freely give all that you have given me. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India

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Filed under Bible in a year reading plan, Leviticus, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament

Leviticus 6, 7; Mark 6:1-29

Yesterday,  I stopped by to say good bye friends who were packing up and leaving for Texas.  Their house was a shell full of boxes and random scattered items that didn’t make the cut and wouldn’t make the trip southwest. I rescued a few plants and some stray items from their pantry.  My throat knotted up thinking that the home my friends had created no longer existed.  I was going to miss the comfort of their sofa and the gentle spirit of that place. We had spent hours there breaking bread,  getting to know one another,  praying and pouring over God’s word and watching friends laugh, struggle and grow together. We watched God change lives in this house. The space they created is no more.  Memories remain.  Life goes on.  The moving van is physical proof.

The truth of the matter is that we are nomads in this life. This is not our home.  Possessions may bless and comfort us, but they can also crowd our existence, complicate our lives and snuff out our souls’ deepest desires.  We have to let go.  Jesus knows this about us.  Living in a land of such material blessing,  his instructions take on even greater urgency.

“Take nothing for the journey except a staff-no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you,  shake the dust off your feet when you leave as a testimony against them.”  Mark  6:8-11

To lean back on the simplicity of these words is freeing if not terrifying.  Jesus instructs me to not become dependent upon possessions,  place,  plans,  wit or even outcome.  Like moving, this is all a bit disorienting,  but at the heart of it,  Jesus wants me,  my full commitment and trust in Him.  He doesn’t want anything,  anyone,  any situation to take hold of my heart.  He longs be soul proprietor so that I can walk in the beauty of the truth,  grace and spaciousness that only knowing Him can bring.

Lord,  may this be so. Amen

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Leviticus, Mark, Uncategorized

Leviticus 3, 4, 5; Mark 5:21-43

I was surprised to find a connection in the ritual sacrifices laid out in Leviticus with Mark’s  New Testament story of Jesus healing the woman with “a flow of blood for twelve years.”  Yet God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He is the merciful One who accepts those who come in faith.

In Leviticus, God’s Name is translated as Hashem which represents His Attribute of Mercy.  “Though ancient societies also offered sacrifices to their gods, they did so to turn away the anger of a judgmental, bloodthirsty god,” (The Chumash, p545).  This attitude would have been abhorrent to a Jew who believed that sacrificial offerings were a means to draw closer to Hashem, the Merciful God.

This same Attribute of Mercy is illustrated in Mark’s account of the woman who touched the clothes of Jesus. He described her as being fearful and trembling after being ‘caught’ with receiving her healing.  Yet, Jesus Christ spoke mercy to this woman, not judgment.  He could have told her to proceed to the synogogue and bring her offering for purification according to the laws regarding a woman’s impurity and to give a thanksgiving offering for her healing or to give a sin offering for what surely she must have been guilty.  He said none of these things – only, “Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

Therefore, the only offering that would most likely make sense to this Jewess after her healing would be the peace offering. Such an offering was brought voluntarily by a person to express her love for God’s goodness and to let Him know she wants to be even closer to Him.  (Leviticus 3.) This she may have done.

Sometimes I feel like I have been ‘caught’ receiving more joy, more mercy, more compassionate grace than I deserve.  Determined to grab hold of Him, yet surprised when He blesses me.  Like this woman who turned fearfully to Jesus when He called out, I tremble and feel butterflies in my belly when I recognize His compassionate touch on my life.  These experiences remind me of how much Christ truly loves me, and I am compelled to offer God all that I can – my voice, my body, my mind.  So wherever I am, though I try not to lift my hands while driving, I worship Him for the mercy gifted by Hashem which gives me perfect peace.  Praise is my peace offering.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Leviticus, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament