Monthly Archives: February 2014

Numbers 21-23; Mark 7:14-8:10

Balaam is a man with a reputation for being more spiritually attuned than the rest of the crowd. He’s some sort of international, polytheistic diviner sought out by kings,  but does he really know God? It takes a protesting, talking donkey to stop him in his tracks long enough to have his eyes opened by God to see the danger ahead. I need to remember this story next time I get stuck in traffic or behind the slow shopper (with the full basket) who holds up the check out line.

My study Bible indicates that Balaam knew enough about God to report back to Balak what God said, BUT (warning: spoiler alert) not enough to prevent him from offering up sacrifices to false gods or practicing repulsive forms of divination (see Joshua 13:22).  This eventually becomes his undoing. The Pharisees were no less guilty of keeping God at arms length. They were happy to have God make them look acceptable on the outside, but drew the line when it came to allowing God to change them from the inside out. Truth be told, I can be just like Balaam, just like the Pharisees.

So how do I not just know about God, but KNOW Him?  What does it mean to have a “personal relationship” with the almighty  and holy God?  I don’t have a bullet point answer. This I know so far: it means telling God about the wrong within and accepting his grace and forgiveness.  It’s been about falling down and getting back up again. It’s meant extending grace received when it seems impossible.  It’s been about reading the Scriptures and letting them settle down in my soul. It’s meant praying and talking to God, telling Him thank you and praising Him for who He is. It’s meant being still and quiet.

I started on this road over 40 years ago and I feel like I am just beginning to learn what it means to have a “personal relationship” with God.  What has it meant for you?

Klueh

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Numbers 18-20; Mark 7:1-13

Clean and unclean in Old Testament and New Testament.

OT tells how you need to clean yourself up, third and seventh day washings, a week’s worth of uncleanliness or a night’s worth. NT makes mention of washing up before eating. Mentions of rituals and procedure. Jesus cuts to the core by quoting scripture from Isaiah:

So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Mark 7:5-8 NLT

He’s looking beneath the skin. He goes straight to the heart.

In Numbers, I draw a big circle. It is labeled Tabernacle. God tells Aaron what’s required of caring for the Tabernacle, and who will help him–people God picked himself.

“You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the Lord’s anger will never again blaze against the people of Israel. I myself have chosen your fellow Levites from among the Israelites to be your special assistants. They are a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord for service in the Tabernacle. But you and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain. I am giving you the priesthood as your special privilege of service. Any unauthorized person who comes too near the sanctuary will be put to death.” Numbers 18:5-7 NLT, emphasis mine.

Inside the big circle, I add a smaller one at the core. The very heart. A priesthood.

And maybe it’s a stretch, but I see a parallel. A big circle of community, of people God puts in a lifetime’s context–but at the core is one heart. One heart that works out the faith. That place in all of us Jesus is most concerned with.

Lord, bind this wandering heart to you.

Courtney (66books365)

29 Be sure to give to the Lord the best portions of the gifts given to you. Numbers 18:29 NLT.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Leviticus 16, 17 / Mark 6:33-56

45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. 46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them[g]straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the [h]fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. 49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were [i]terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they [j]had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but [k]their heart was hardened.

 

Weird things about this passage I’ve skipped over before :

1)      Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him to get some quiet time. 

2)      It’s NIGHT when Jesus sees the boat… in the middle of the sea, during a storm. How did he do that?

3)      He decides to casually walk out on the water—perhaps just to check on them? And he intends on passing by.

 

 

I puzzle over these things and I think Jesus wanted to give his disciples a chance. He saw that they were having a tough time rowing and decided to pay them a visit. I don’t think he was planning on getting in the boat at this point. I think he just wanted to say hi. It was when we saw that they were terrified and thought he was a ghost that he spoke to them.

 

If Jesus didn’t think they could row the boat, he would have sat down and rowed with them. He wanted them to know him, so he stopped the wind.

 

Their key hang up wasn’t their physical struggle at handling the oars, it was their spiritual blindness at discerning his identity.

 

I think Jesus is more concerned with our ability to see and know him than our ability to physically and emotionally handle life’s situations. He does see and care that I am struggling. He knows my pain. But he is adamantly more interested in my ability to notice him in the storm and see his power, his ability to get me through it than giving me a hand out.

 

The point of their day; the loaves, the wind the waves, was to test and prove their belief in Jesus and see him as wholly sufficient and able.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Numbers 14,15; Mark 6:1-32

If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in the wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better to return to Egypt?…It is an exceedingly good land. The Lord is with us, do not fear them..The Lord said to Moses, how long will these people reject me?…All these men who have seen my glory and the signs I did in Egypt.” Numbers 14:2-23 NKJV

I don’t want to admit when my heart is very much like the people of Israel. I complain and grumble, instead of remembering God’s faithfulness. I am so short sighted and forgetful. I was reminded of this the other day when I went for an eye exam. I took off my contact lenses and everything was blurry. I could only see right in front of me. Isn’t that what God intends though? For me to live in the present and to ask Him to meet me right where I am in the moment? Trusting that He will? Walking by faith, not by my sight? (2 Cor. 5:7).

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and even after He had healed the sick, the people were still offended by Him. “He marveled because of their unbelief.” Mark 6:3-6  NKJV

I remember anxiously awaiting the news as to whether our first born son was forming like he should in my belly. After having two miscarriages before, everything was still uncertain. I had nothing to lean on but Jesus. Out of an act of faith, I would sing the song, “More than Enough” by Jeremy Camp.  I wanted to believe that Jesus was more than enough for me no matter what happened. Today I am thankful to have a happy, healthy ten year old son. But, I know my tendency to forget God’s faithfulness when things don’t happen like I think they should.

Dear Jesus, You know I have moments and days when my faith wavers. I am thankful that You are the same yesterday, today and forever. You hear my cry and understand my doubts. You are sovereign, yet You care about the details of my life. I love you for who You are. Thank you for loving me. “I believe, help my unbelief!” Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Mark, New Testament, Numbers, Old Testament

Numbers 11-13; Mark 5:21-43

When I was a newer believer (I say newer because I still am yet a new believer, and hope to always see myself that way) I was much more self-righteous than I am now. I still am, but I’m hoping I’m at least slightly less than I was at first.

I still have spells of that vile feeling of ‘better-than’, but I have worked at least a bit of that out in the past few years.

Being self-righteous caused me to read the scriptures in a certain way.

I was never the Jews complaining in the wilderness or straying from God,

I was the leader, who was burdened by the people.

I was never the people calling for the release or Barabbas and the crucifixion of my Lord;

I was Pontius Pilate, washing my hands of the business.

I was never Peter or Judas, denying and betraying Jesus,

I was the perfect disciple (at least in my own eyes) and never the hypocritical Pharisee.

I have at least in part changed some of that, due to the work of the Holy Spirit in opening my eyes, seeing the scriptures this way probably feels similar to something David would have known, as Nathan proclaimed, “You are that man!”

(Again, in that story I thought I was Nathan for years)

This rang especially true for me as I read the account in Numbers 11 of the Israelites complaining about their circumstances.

—–

 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!”

Numbers 11v4-6

—–

I realized how close this hit to home. You see my wife and I just moved to a place we used to make fun of and despise, saying, “I hope we never have to live there!”

As is so often the case, that place is exactly where God was moving us. I was unemployed, and he provided us a job there.

We still complained for the first few months, because we still held on to the hope that it might only be temporary.

But now he has given us yet another undeserved blessing, a promotion to what I think is my dream job (I can’t know for sure until I start next week).  And it’s starting to look like he might have us here for a while.

The ungratefulness in my spirit hit me like a ton of bricks.

This whole thing, the moving around, the jobs, the ministry, I’ve made it about me! I’ve made it into, “yeah god I’ll do your will but only if it’s like this or that” which means I really just want to do my own thing and expect God to be a part of it.

I wanted meat instead of manna – even though the manna was from the Lord

I wanted city instead of desert – even though the city meant slavery

God has been bringing us through the desert, and I’ve been whining the whole way, forgetting that we’re on our way to the promised land.

Not only that, I’ve realized that I’d rather be in the wilderness with God, than in Egypt or Babylon alone.

Father we ask forgiveness for our ungrateful hearts, we ask that we’d seek your presence and be fulfilled in you alone, and not seek wholeness anywhere else. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

Sam Anglin

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Numbers 8-10; Mark 5:1-20

Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Mark 4:35.  Awaiting on the other side was a demon possessed man which no one could bind and who roamed the tombs and mountains, crying out and cutting himself. Mark 5: 2-5.

In Numbers, we read the prayer of Moses who said, “Rise up, O Lord! Let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.” Numbers 10:35

I appreciate the image of a God who is ready to defend His most precious creation, mankind.  I wonder if, when Jesus told His disciples to get in a boat and go to the other side, He knew that a legion of demons awaited Him.  And did Moses, too, expect enemies full of hatred to await the Israelites as they journeyed through the Wilderness?  It appears so since He entreated God every time the Lord told them to move. And oddly enough, the only thing that Jesus did on the other side was free the demoniac from bondage before shoving off to the next mission field.

So many times, and especially lately, I have prayed for peace and comfort from not only the storms without, as Julie described, (66 Books, Juliet2912, Feb 22, 2014), but the inner wrestling of my own fleshly soul. I think I am surrendering to Him my concerns by laying them at His feet.  The problem is, though, that I have usually started a fight then ran home to Daddy to protect me.  Yet here we find that our God and Lord Jesus knowingly marches us into the fray, not shielding us from the battle to come.  For me, the picture of God waiting around for the next bad thing to happen in my life so that He can show up right on time, changes to God already on the side of victory just waiting for me to walk through the battle. Now that is an idea I do not readily cherish!

Lloyd Ogilve once said, “It’s our struggle with His uncompromising call to make Him absolute Lord of our lives that causes us to continue to do battle with the anxieties of life.” (The Other Jesus, 1986).

So why do I react with incredulity at the troubles I experience at work, at home, or in relationship with others? Might these situations be occasions for God’s glory to blast open the hardened heart or spread His grace like sweet honey to cover the sins of those whom I would prefer He just plain blast away?  As is so often the case, my self-centeredness leaks toxic waste at the end of my prayers.  Toxic because I want justice (on others) and not mercy; I want to win to boost my pride; I want to be vindicated of any wrong in my doings to be satisfied in my self-righteousness. Instead, God calls me to the other side not for my comfort, but to watch Him free the demon possessed, and to learn to watch the Holy Spirit, much like the cloud, who says, “Follow me.” Is He calling me when I am whining about misfortune or squirming under authority?  Yes, He is calling me to walk toward Him, especially in these times. For then my eyes are on Jesus, and His image is what others will see in me.  No matter the outcome of my struggles – in my favor or not – there is no better place to walk than toward Him.

Janet

2 Comments

Filed under 66 Books, Mark, New Testament, Numbers, Old Testament

Numbers 7; Mark 4:21-41

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:37-40

More often than I’d like to admit, when in the midst of a crisis my faith wanes. Like the disciples, I become fearful, overwhelmed, and full of anxiety. I begin to feel hopeless. I know in the deep recesses of my brain that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me, but I can’t always see the calm through the storm. I begin believing the lies of the enemy more than I trust Christ in me. It breaks in over me and negative circumstances fill up my boat like water. I feel like I might drown in the turmoil of the squall; I wonder how I will survive.

My current storm is one I think most mothers (and fathers) experience: the chaotic, all-consuming task of parenting small children while juggling life. I am stress out and exhausted, physically and emotionally.

On top of that, I am struggling with finding ways to keep my children occupied so that I can manage my house, and struggling to keep the to-do list small enough so I can focus on my kids. I am fraught with the frustrations of conquering one task only to find three more tasks have taken its place. I am still shocked at how quickly the girls can demolish a room – laundry I spent the morning folding but didn’t have a chance to get put away strewn across the bedroom , toys littering the play room floor, yet another wall covered in crayon mural (how did she get the crayons off the top shelf anyway!?)…Not to mention the fighting, the biting, the temper tantrums at full blast on and off all day long, the bed time resistance, the climbing all over mommy…Mommy…MOMMY!

This storm frequently feels like more than I can handle. It seems too big and some days, I am slow to remember that God is with me in the boat. I try to manage things by myself, but I am quickly overcome. I don’t feel peace. I don’t experience joy. I struggle to stay afloat. I am terrified. I am anxious. I am angry. I am impatient. I lose control and yell. “Mean mommy” rears her ugly head, producing fear and confusion, and in turn, my behavior becomes a storm for my children.

At times, when I finally do ask Jesus for help, I ask out of fear – “Don’t you care that I am overwhelmed by this storm? Don’t you care that I am afraid of drowning in it? Don’t you see I need help?”

Of course He cares. Of course He sees. He calms the storm and I am given a (temporary) breather.

However, I am learning that when I ask Him for help out of a place of faith, even when I am afraid, the storm is calmed and peace is restored in my home, and also in in my heart. He protects me. He gives me strength. He gives me wisdom. He shows me the best path to take. His love casts out my fear and I am able to lay my head in the cushion of His shoulder and rest, though other storms may come.

 Yesappa, I know you’re always there. Thank You for being with me in the midst of the storms I experience in life. Thank You for casting out fear and replacing anxiety with peace that surpasses understanding. Help me hold onto faith even when I am feeling overwhelmed. Help me trust You in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, Mark, New Testament, Numbers, Old Testament