Deuteronomy 9-10

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name. He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.”  ‭(10:18-21‬)

Everything we do should be in response to Who God is. We aren’t His because we’re better than other people (as He makes abundantly clear in chapter 9), we are His because we are made in His image and He chose us. 

We love the widow, orphan and foreigner (those needing help and defense), because they are made in His image and has chosen to be their Defender. 

We praise Him because He is infinitely worthy. What a glorious, mighty God we serve! 

Think about His goodness and compassion today, and consider how you, too, can be God’s love to the orphan, widow and foreigner. They are not a burden. They are closest to the heart of Our Father.

-Bethany 

Deuteronomy 7-8

“When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.” 8:10-11

I struggle with this, maybe you do too. I have most of my direct needs met, I’m well-fed, I have a warm home, I’m healthy and my family members are relatively healthy. This creates the illusion that I don’t need God as much. But what is that saying to him about our relationship? If I only remember and obey him when I’m in dire need, I’m treating him like a dispenser. My obedience becomes a performance to earn something from him. Our relationship with God shouldn’t be hinged on our circumstances. Are you in a hard season of life, one thing hitting you after another? Draw near to him. Hunker down daily with your Bible and read. Write down whats hard for you, write down what you need and want. Are you in a joyful, plentiful season of life? Draw near to him. Hunker down daily with your Bible and read. Write down what he’s blessing you with and what you’re thankful for.

Moses gives us good advice: praise God, remember him and be obedient. These habits will bring you closer to God and will prevent pridefulness. I feel convicted by this! I don’t want my relationship with God to mirror a greedy kid, putting on my best behavior because I need something. I want an authentic relationship where I obey him because I trust and love him. I come to him with the good and the bad, my prayers of thankfulness and my cries for help.

Take notice of your tendencies today, do you only seek out God’s presence when you need something?

 

-Carly

Deuteronomy 5-6

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” (6:4-6‬)

This is the central command to our entire faith. Our Creator God loves us and wants a relationship with us. He created us to love Him, so when we are deeply in love with Him, we are the most satisfied we can be possibly be.

The Israelites were still trying to grasp this, “Wow, we can hear God speaking out of the fire and not die! I’ve never heard of this before!” Indeed everything about this aspect of God will fly in the face of other gods. The gods of Egypt and Canaan were known for being indifferent at best. Mostly they were angry and needing to be appeased. Human sacrifice was needed in order for these “gods” to “send rain”. They were ruthless and perverted. Worship of them was detrimental to the human spirit. Most likely because they were powered by our enemy, the accuser of mankind who will always try to kill us in order to hurt God. 

Jesus reiterates this commandment in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

How does the entire Old Testament get summarized in this way? Let’s start with the 10 Commandments:

LOVE GOD

  1. Have no other gods before Him
  2. Do not make idols
  3. Do not misuse His name
  4. Keep His Sabbath holy

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR 

  1. Honor your parents
  2. Do not murder 
  3. Do not commit adultery 
  4. Do not steal 
  5. Do not lie
  6. Do not covet

Every law can be found under one of these two categories.

Consider today, then, what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Is your heart divided? Is your soul uneasy? Your mind bouncing between truth and falsehood? Is your energy misdirected?

Look full in His wonderful face. Whenever I lock the eyes of my heart and soul to His, I cannot waver. He is the Everlasting Creator God who loves me and created my heart to love Him. In His great and glorious design, He commands us to love and care for one another. His commands are not burdensome, superfluous, unreasonable or detrimental. 

So let’s keep this truth on our hearts, telling our friends, our kids, making notes to ourselves. Never forget the foundational love of God. May it find its home in each of us. 

-Bethany 

Deuteronomy 3-4

“Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” 4:9

At this point, the Israelites entire identity is being in relationship with God, and if they miss out on that, then everything else is irrelevant. That is why idolatry is mentioned repeatedly with great emphasis.

“The Lord your God is a devouring fire; he is a jealous God.” 4:24

I love 4:32-39 where Moses is retelling their story and reminds them what he rescued them from. “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is not other.”

Becoming a Christian at first is hard and primarily based on faith. You’re choosing to believe the stories you read in the Bible or the stories that someone else is telling you about God in their life. But staying in relationship with God is fueled by remembering what he has done.

A few years ago after reading Deuteronomy, I wrote down my story with God to read to myself in times of doubt. I wrote about the times he rescued me from myself, took me in and blessed me with deep relationships and community. I specified the details, the timelines, the people. Remember when the walls were caving in and I opened up an escape door? Protected you, provided for you and exemplified my love in deep, tangible ways?  I’ll spare you the exact details, but writing them down to reread is a beautiful gift. When life feels like trudging through mud and you’re trying to remember the way out: read your rescue story with God. It throws water on the flickering flames of doubt and drenches your heart with his hope.

Take a minute and jot down a few times God has rescued you and been with you, keep it somewhere where you can reach it, even if you type it up on your phone somewhere.

What was happening? What were you afraid of? How did God meet your needs? What people did he bring into your life? What did you learn about him?

You’ll notice that often he was providing a solution before there was even a problem. He doesn’t see our story like we do, one day at a time. He knows the beginning and the end and is with us along the way. Emmanuel.

 

-Carly

Deuteronomy 1-2

The book of Deuteronomy is incredible. I’m very excited to get into it with y’all. Watch the Bible Project overview here.

Yes, this is the last book of the Torah. Israel has met their God, been mightily rescued from Egypt, given the Law, rebelled and experienced 40 years of consequences. I see it as God’s charge, that He’s going to do incredible things in and through them, but they MUST do it His way. 

It’s a volatile situation and He knows it completely: the terrain, the social, religious, economical climate, the potential pit falls and the one chance at miraculous success. Listen up, people! As the BP guys note: listen and OBEY

“Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,” (1:29-30‬)

He is with you with you with you! This is a call to cast aside fear. It’s interesting to note, then, how this manifests in chapter 2. God sets out perameters. He is going to give them powerful success in the specific, strategic land He promised Abraham. He’s not going to wildly mow down everyone in their path. He commands them to leave people in the surrounding areas alone. “I’m giving you this, don’t grab for that.”

We live in the glorious era of the Holy Spirit. God has transformed the hearts of His people, we can hear His voice and follow His commands. God longs to communicate with us. We can see this in Deuteronomy’s detailed instruction. He doesn’t leave us to guess. So are we listening to what He has to say?

My OT professor in Bible college called Deuteronomy the “key to the Old Testament”. By it we can measure the actions and outcomes of Israel. Their rises and falls will come in direct correlation to their obedience and disobedience. As you read Joshua through Malachi, you can notice and know the grace and justice of God, based on an understanding of what He said about it here. You will see it is comprehensive and detailed. A good law for people living between 1400-400 BC, with principles spanning throughout every generation. Much is repeated from Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This is a beautiful summation and I hope you enjoy it as you meditate on the principles and engage with the text. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions along the way! 

-Bethany 

John 21

Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 21:21

Good, ol’ relatable Peter. His teacher, friend and savior has risen from the dead, is eating breakfast with him and foretells his death. And he has doubt, fear and questions. Who wouldn’t? Jesus’ answer gives me goosebumps:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” 21:22

Comparison is poisonous. It strangles out gratefulness, hope and contentment. How come they’re married and I’m not? Will I get cancer too? Will I have kids? Is my career going to take off like theirs? 

I always laugh at how much John refers to himself as ‘the disciple that Jesus loves’. Alright, we get it! You guys were close. Sheesh. No wonder Peter felt insecure about him. But really, what would it change if John, most likely the apostle Peter was referencing, had the same outcome as him?

Think about someone in your life that you envy, or that you compare your life/situation/self to. What’s the root of it? Are you questioning God’s justice? Are you discontent with what he has for you? I love the cure for this that Jesus gives: don’t worry about it and stick with me.

Don’t look sideways. Look ahead, eyes on Jesus. Keep your hands busy with lists of gratefulness and prayers.

Tomorrow we start the book of Deuteronomy. I don’t know this book that well (enter: Bethany’s knowledge), but love reading it. It helps reframe my understanding of the beginning of God’s relationship with mankind.

 

-Carly

John 19-20

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.”‬ ‭(20:31)

The long awaited, unconventional King died to save His people. 

When people describe the crucifiction process, they never fail to mention the fatal aspect of affixation. Hanging in that position puts your body-weight’s pressure on your lungs. I’ve heard some pretty gruesome stories about how it must have been for Jesus, back ripped open from all the flogging, being scraped by the wood as He pushed himself up for a breath, against the nail in His feet. But this struggle is what prolongs the agony and was, undoubtedly, why the other two were still alive when the time to remove the bodies for the Sabboth came around. Jesus was already dead. No one needed to break His legs so He’d stop scrambling for oxygen. He didn’t go to the cross to fight for His life, He went there to die. 

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”‭‭ (Isaiah‬ ‭53:7‬)

Pilate kept coaxing Jesus to speak up and save His own life, but He wasn’t there to plead, He was there to die. 

When the Magi visited Jesus as a baby, they brought Him three prophetic gifts: Gold, because He was the rightful King of the Jews. Frankincense, because He would become our Great High Priest. Myrrh, a burial balm, because He was born into this world to die for it.

He became the ram, caught in the thicket, provided as a substitution for Isaac. He became the object of God’s wrath. All the wrath we deserve. We, mankind: serial killers, rapists, molesters, idolaters, fascist dictators, tantrum throwers, slanderers, traitors, thieves, liars, terrorists, zealous whores, insatiable, violent rebels. All the death we brought on ourself fell on Jesus and HE DID NOT FIGHT IT. 

At the center of our Christian faith lies chapter 20: the empty tomb. He didn’t just come to die for our sins, He came to defeat the power death has over us and present to us LIFE.

“WHERE, O death, is your VICTORY? WHERE, O death, is your STING?” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:55‬)

HALLELUJAH! Merry Christmas everyone! 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”‭‭ (Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬)

-Bethany