Monthly Archives: February 2014

Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

I know this much about both ancient and modern farming practice.  Seed is precious. Purchasing seed usually comes at great cost and is a huge investment. Accordingly, the farmer takes great care to plant in season, after the winter freeze and before the summer sun threatens to scorch delicate seedlings.

I’ve read the parable of the sower numerous times and to be honest, it has prompted feelings of guilt. What have I done wrong that the seed  of faith planted in my life hasn’t taken off and grown more vigorously? This reading is different. It seems that God has me asking me a different set of questions.

What precious word has He planted in my life in this season?  It’s not the same word that He had for me 6 months or a year ago. What is He longing for me to hear and understand that is important today?

What changes do I need to make in my life today, so that that word can take hold and develop roots that reach down deep and support the new life He wants to bring? Maybe it’s churning up the soil of a hard worn path or habit (maybe it is time to actively listen more and speak less). Maybe it’s time to look for the stones that get in the way of growth, things that are easily picked up and removed (time wasted being distracted by something without much meaning…a tv show, a book that has no redeeming value).

I think that God doesn’t intend this to be an exercise is self flagellation. Jesus points to the preciousness of His word planted  in us. He asks that we value the “seed” sown  so that we carefully tend the soil of our lives. It is then, through his grace that the word takes root and grows within so that our humble lives become something beautiful and reveal the hand of God at work in unexpected and marvelous ways.

klueh

Ps 119:175

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Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

I was looking around at other women, looking to see what they were doing–and it put me at odds with my life. They were at women’s retreats and Bible studies and community groups and part of service opportunities. I was at home–a substantial commute away from church that would require my husband to take on my responsibilities after he came home from (crazy long hours of) work, two young kids at home, and (at the time) I was homeschooling one of them. There didn’t seem to be a fit for someone like me. I struggled with wanting what I had and wanting what other women had. I struggled with feeling like I was less a part of God’s plan because my calendar was not filled with church things.

***

In Numbers, God tells Moses how the Levites will assist Aaron, these Levites like first-born sons.

11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, 13 for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the Lord.” Numbers 3:11-13 NLT.

I made a list of this tribe, and their duties. They had a role to play, and the roles didn’t cross over but were specific to the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarite clans.

***

The other day, I sat across from a mom at her kitchen table and we talked about gifting, purpose and service. I understood that in those early years as a mom of littles, I was still able to serve God and that it didn’t have to look like what everyone else was doing. I found community and Bible study here, online through 66 Books. I was able to assist a church hospitality ministry by handling scheduling and emailing from my home at my convenience. And my service opportunities looked more like play dates and coffee dates, cultivating friendships with other moms where we supported and encouraged each other.

My kids are growing. My responsibilities look different today than they did six years ago. We even moved. Those years of hosting and hospitality were the training ground for other opportunities, preparing the way for what I’d encounter today:

One woman let her guard down and asked for prayer for a serious health problem. Another one doesn’t know her purpose. And still one admits to a lifetime at church, but now, late in life, isn’t sure she ever really believed. I saw the vulnerability of their hearts when I stopped looking at what other women were doing, and started looking at what God was doing. This happened over play dates, dinners, and doing the things God wired me to do.

24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Mark 3:24-25 NLT

I imagine how relationships would be strengthened and blossom under the encouragement of other women, cheering the other on–instead of secretly coveting or criticizing another’s life and opportunity. (A good listen about comparison with Andy Stanley over here.) It tears relationships apart. Note to self: don’t do this.

34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:34-35 NLT.

Lord, thank you for putting a desire to serve you in my heart, and for calling me to look to you for opportunities to grow close to you and serve others. Thank you for so many examples in the family of faith whom you’ve equipped and prepared to run amazing races for you–and for telling me that you’ve got a plan just for me. Thank you for loving me, and making me part of your family.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach… 

I struggle with the distinction between Jesus calling disciples to “follow” Him, as with Levi (Matthew) in Mark 2 and “appointing” them in this chapter.

Is there a crucial difference between Jesus calling one person at his job on the spot to come with Him and simply appointing a select number at one time?

Here’s a possible difference in the Greek: Poieõ, to make, from poios, quality. To endow a person or thing with a certain quality; to qualify, to make, appoint, constitute. 

The keyword study contrasts this with another derivative prassõ: to do or perform. Poieõ, it says, brings out more of the object and end of an act while prassõ brings out more the means by which this object is attained.

It may be that prassõ, which I take liberties to extend to “following,” or consistently patterning ones life after the example of Christ, is vastly different from being made—poieõ. Being called up to a standard of discipleship and being equipped to be a disciple are two distinct things.

Do I stress the following of Christ based on my own accomplishments, progress, and spiritual success and forget that I have already been wanted, called, and appointed specifically by Christ to accomplish His work?

Sometimes I think I allow my work to replace His Workmanship.

Jesus,

I rest today in Your finished work. I am what You have made me. I am appointed. I have a different quality than before I received the call. And I am fully equipped by Your Holy Spirit and able by Your power to do the work.

Amen.

– C

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Leviticus 26 – 27; Mark 2

Wait. What God?????

I don’t Understand Completely.

I feel inadequate to talk about your word.

This Old Testament passage leaves me feeling frustrated – unsure and without all of the answers.

I am not a natural writer and I don’t always write with the eloquence of talented writers; but I do like to make sure that I have a complete thought explained or a plan when I begin to write. Today I write to you without all of the answers. I will give you my thoughts, ideas and unanswered questions.

Leviticus 26 and 27 are two chapters that address Blessings for Obedience, Punishment for Disobedience and Vows for God’s people written by Moses during the events happening in Exodus.

In Summary:

Blessings for Obedience – if you walk in my statutes and observe my commands I will give you a great harvest, multiply your people, and give you peace throughout your land.

Punishment for Disobedience – if you spurn my statutes and if your soul abhors my rules I will visit you with panic, the crops will not yield their fruit and I will set my face against you.

Vows – for another day…

My Takeaway:

Obedience produces blessings and disobedience produces destruction. If leaves me to ask the question that many of us have asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” According to Leviticus obedience = blessing and disobedience = destruction.

What about Job? What about our world being broken and sinful? What about NOT being able to earn God’s blessing and that salvation is a gift?

I don’t have all the answers and I am still wrestling with how this passage fits with the New Testament; however, I do have a couple ideas…

Prior to investigating this passage I believed and still believe that bad things can happen to good people and that God is not a simple formula to produce a simple blessing filled life. I still believe that to be true today.

Here is where I am landing for the moment – Perhaps, just perhaps, this passage is figurative as much as it can be literal. There are times when my life feels pulled out from under me or when I feel like “God, I am doing all the ‘right things’ yet my life is complicated and messy – why?” and He reminds me of his presence. He brings me rest and he provides my soul with a great harvest by speaking his truth into my life.

God is never changing.

The God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament. God cannot change because that would be out of His nature. This passage must still be in alignment with the other passages in the bible I know to be true.

This is why I have Jesus – I cannot perfectly follow and receive blessings for obedience all the time – I am a sin filled person. Even my best is filthy rags in comparison to the greatness of my God.

When Jesus was asked why He ate with tax collectors and sinners his response was simple: “I came not to call the righteous but the sinners.”

He came to call me, to call us, to call the world! God knew that his chosen people would never be able to perfectly obey – that I would never be able to perfectly obey – and that we needed Jesus.

While I do not have all of the answers for every single detail of every single law in the Old Testament, I do know that God is consistent and His word is true.  If I stay in close relationship with Him (see yesterday’s post by Courtney – it was incredibly encouraging!) He will continue to guide, answer questions in His timing, and bring peace for of the questions and inadequacy I can feel.

Would you join me in relationship with our God?

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Leviticus 24-25; Mark 1:23-45

I couldn’t hear God. I had gone to him, rushed and under pressure–sending out SOS prayer.

“God, I can’t hear you. What should I do?”

If I was lucky, I’d get the prayer out in one coherent sentence. Hardly waiting for the response. More often than not, it was a started prayer, interrupted by whatever demands straining for my attention.

“God, I have to give a reply soon. What should I say?”

I had a deadline approaching and an answer to give. I didn’t know what to choose, and my mind was overrun with my own thoughts of possibilities. I felt a little panicked. A little uncertain. A lot of desperate to hear from God. So I started setting up terms.

“Ok, God, how about this: if it’s yes, then how about I hear it loud and clear. Like from a separate source. Or if it’s no, you could do some highly unexpected miracle like (this).”

Still no response. I ended up moving forward in uncertainty. In fact, after my response, I felt a sickening second-guessing.

God, I didn’t hear from you. So I just moved forward because you didn’t tell me not to.

But as I think on it now, after reading about how Jesus spent time in prayer, I see that I was trying to get God to fit into my busy schedule.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:35-39 NLT.

Everyone was looking for Jesus. He had things to do. But instead of grabbing prayer like a mid-meal snack, he sat down before his Father to be in relationship with him. No quick, abbreviated text-talk. He made his time in prayer a priority before his lengthy list of to do.

Lord, I didn’t hear your voice. And maybe it’s because I was too rushed with my day-to-day to stop and listen for it. Maybe it was because I was so busy listening to myself and my list of worries and what-ifs. Lesson learned. I think I might have heard you if I had taken the time to listen, instead of trying to have you fit yourself into my days and thoughts. I see now you wanted more for me–that time together, so I would be able to move on with peace and confidence–in you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Leviticus 22-23; Mark 1:1-22

I find it fascinating to read about the Jewish holidays as set out in Leviticus, particularly, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32). This is considered by Israel even today as the High Holy Day of the year.  How the Jews celebrate this day of fasting and prayer is significant in my own understanding of repentance.

Repentance from the Greek word metanioia is a compound for meta meaning ‘after’ suggesting change and nous meaning ‘mind.’ The word also implies remorse for each sin, a desire to turn away from one’s sin, and a hope to God for salvation. On the Day of Atonement, it is necessary to afflict the soul to encourage repentance, and this is done by making the body uncomfortable through fasting. The Jew is also prohibited from wearing leather shoes, washing and bathing, using perfumes and lotions, and having marital relations. It seems to me that the effect would be similar to that of being a homeless person.

I once experienced a missionary challenge to find out what homelessness might be like – not knowing how to find transportation to a destination, not knowing anyone to ask, having only $2 in my pocket to feed me and another person, and having no cell phone to call for help. The purpose of the experience was to feel pain to understand how others feel when they are in pain. How better to prepare oneself to focus on giving charity and asking others for forgiveness?

Repentance is also privately and publically confessing sin. At the beginning of Yom Kippur, the congregation repeats three times, “May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault.” If sin can be kept secret, confessed only to God in silent prayer, then why would we make amends? Confessing one to another, as is commanded in Scripture, (James 5:16) holds us accountable to those whom we offend with our sins (and don’t we offend others, no matter what our sin?), and God knows I need accountability.

Yet beyond confession and making amends, in the Book of Mark, Jesus Christ calls all to “ believe in the gospel”(Mark 1:15).  Another interesting tradition on Yom Kippur is that the congregation actually sings words describing sin to a tune, representing the joy of being cleansed from one’s sins. This is foreign to me because I find myself mournful and despicable as I recite my sins to God.  Yet being joyful should be the result of believing in the gospel.

The gospel is the good news of “peace (restoration of relationship with God – Ephesians 6:15), of hope (the hope of heaven and everlasting life – Colossians 1:23 ), of truth (God’s word is true and reliable – Colossians 1:5), of promise (he rewards those who seek him – Ephesians 3:6)), of immortality (God gives everlasting life – 2 Timothy 1:10), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God – Ephesians 1:13).”  [Excerpt from “The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation,” by Don Schwager, 2010].”

So for me, every day is the Day of Atonement, and it should always end with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Janet

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Leviticus 20, 21; Matthew 28

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

A commissioning directly from the mouth of Christ…

He has authority in heaven and in earth and now He is passing on that authority to me.

GO. Make disciples. Baptize. Teach.

He will be with me forever.

As a teenager, I went on a mission trip to Guatemala. It was a life changing experience, as most mission trips are. It opened my eyes to a different world, to different customs, to different beliefs. It opened my eyes to lack – financial scarcity, shortage of love, and poverty of spirit – and to need. During that trip, a desire to serve people entered my heart. A short time later, at a Christian conference for teenagers, I felt God’s call to the mission field.

The timing wasn’t right…I was 16. I couldn’t just go. Though I applied for other mission trips, I was consistently turned down. It discouraged me and I gave up the dream. I turned away from my faith.

Fast forward nearly 15 years later. My passion for the Lord reignited, I was on fire. I went to every gathering, Bible study, or worship session I could go to. In one meeting, while Heidi Baker prayed for me, I heard the call to ‘GO’ once more. It was time.

I still didn’t know what it meant to ‘GO’. At first, I thought that it meant traveling to a foreign nation, going to an underdeveloped county in the third world. I though it meant living in a small pocket of the 10/40 window. I thought it meant going to Africa or China or India.

And, it does mean that…

But, it also means going to friends and family who don’t know Christ. It means going into my neighborhood, to the hospital, to the nearby retirement home or assisted living community. It means being a mentor to children who don’t have many quality role models. It means reaching out, giving my time, my energy, my talents, my money.

‘GO’ means loving the ‘unlovable’ no matter where I am and stopping for the one God asks me to stop for.

Yesappa, Thank You for stopping for me; for giving everything you have for my redemption, for my life. Thank You for making me holy, for separating me, and making me Yours (Leviticus 20:26). Thank You for calling me, for giving me Your authority to preach the gospel, and for sending me to Your children who have yet to recognize You as Father. Help me make disciples. Help me baptize in Your Holy Name. Help me teach Your commands. Thank You for Your strength, and for being with me forever. 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.

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