Malachi 3-4

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.” (3:5)

Hmmm. Sorcerers and those who turn aside foreigners lined up for judgement together. Interesting.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (3:10)

I love talking about this. God can never be out-given. He says, “Test me! Just try!” Our relationship with money is complicated and, of course, God knows this. It doesn’t have to be like that! Money doesn’t have to be your abusive overlord boyfriend who makes all your decisions for you and keeps you chained to a wall. We’ve got bills to pay, God knows! And He doesn’t need your money, He just says, hand it over to me so I can show you how powerless it is. You don’t have to need it either. 

PLUS: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”‭‭ (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:10‬) Look back at that list of wrongs up top and consider how they could be motivated by a love of money.

We’ve all got room to grow here. It’s an ongoing process.

God is patient, gentle, kind. The kindness of God leads to repentance. (Romans 2:5) Consider His tugs on our hearts and wallets. Do we trust Him enough to surrender one more thing? His plans for us are beautiful. Do we want that, or do we want to roll the dice on our own plans?

Let the Holy Spirit bring conviction where it’s needed and leave condemnation in its place (no where near those who are in Christ Jesus — Romans 8:1).

Monday we’re headed back to Jesus Town in the gospel of Mark. Have a great weekend!

-Bethany 

Malachi 1-2

Watch this to get an overview of the book. 

The intro in my Bible writes that God is instructing Malachi to rebuke the people. Priest were divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women, they were being corrupt and in general their relationship with God was suffering. 

I underlined this: ” ‘You say, ‘it’s too hard to serve the Lord’, and you turn up your noses at my commands’, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings. Should I accept such offerings as these?’ Asks the Lord.” 1:13

When we decide to follow God, our lives are a living sacrifice to him (Romans 12:1). Here, he calls out his people for giving him leftover sacrifices. 

God doesn’t want our leftover money, time or energy. Because remember, he doesn’t need these things in the first place. He’s asking us to put him first, to trust him when  we give, even if we don’t feel like we have enough. 

The two tangible things that come to mind are reading the Bible and tithing money. It’s so tempting to spend time on ourselves first and then read the Bible “if we can”. It takes discipline to set an earlier alarm clock, or give up an episode of Netflix. You are making time for exactly what you want to in your day. On the mornings I’m tempted to sleep a little longer instead of get up and spend time with Him, I’m not trusting that his grace is enough for me. That he won’t come alongside me when I’m tired later in the day. 

Tithing is similar. Dave Ramsey, a godly financial advisor, suggests tithing immediately upon receiving your paycheck. If you wait until you’ve paid your bills, made a budget and set aside savings, there won’t be any left. This is what God says too. He doesn’t want us to offer money we happened to have leftover. He wants the first fruits; he wants us to depend on his currency and not on the worlds.

This isn’t a shame game. Fairly exam your life and ask yourself what do my sacrifices to God look like? He knows our hearts. Don’t misread the text: God isn’t asking us to perform. He’s asking us to sacrifice, and to trust him when we do. 

I feel prompted to repent of turning up my nose to his commands sometimes (er, often). His rules are good. They are designed to protect us, guide our living and prevent us from living fearful, greedy lives. 
-Carly 

Zechariah 13-14

The book ends dramatically. Half of it seems fulfilled and the other half, daunting.

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and His name the only name.” ‭(14:8-9‬)

The LORD Himself will get the job done. Even though parts of this sound intense (like parents stabbing their own children for being false prophets), I have to cling to the goodness of God I know to be true. He always saves those tender toward Him, but in these chapters He sounds like a momma bear who has had enough. 

Yesterday I saw news of a second animal attack against ISIS. The first story I saw was about a lion attack and this other one was a wild boar. You can check it out if you want. Now, I don’t know what this means and I don’t need to over spiritualize, but I think sometimes God puts His foot down and in chapter 14, both His feet are down.

We see this river coming out of Jerusalem and its living. It brings life. Revelation 22:2 says that the trees along it have leaves which heal the nations. Maybe that river will one day literally exist. Maybe, in the meantime, it’s God’s work through us. He uses us to heal, restore, revitalize. Uses us! That’s also crazy.

No one knows when all this will happen, and that’s fine, none of the dramatic end is our job. We just need to live in light of it. Am I going to prepare by snuggling my idols before they go? Will I huff and puff as if I’m the only one bothered by injustice? Hopefully not.

God is good. He is the source of all that is good. He’s going to get the glory He deserves. That’s good news.

-Bethany

Zechariah 11-12

I got a little lost in these chapters; here’s what my commentary said about the two shepherds: 

“In this message, God told Zechariah to act out the roles of two different kinds of shepherds. The first type of shepherd demonstrated how God would reject his people (the sheep) because the rejected him. The second type of shepherd demonstrated how God would let his people fall into the clutches of evil shepherds. (See Ezekiel 34 for more details).” Pg 1177 NLT Study Bible 

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” 12:10 

My heart always lurches when I read a foreshadowing of Jesus in the Old Testament. Here, Zechariah is mentioning the Holy Spirit who he refers to as a spirit of “grace and prayer”. Let us not take for granted this gift. The Holy Spirit grounds us. Convicts us. Prompts us. Assures us. Guides us. I let so much noise into my spirtual life, muffling the Voice of Truth. 

Join me in asking God to fill me more fully with his Spirit! This is a bold prayer, because it will mean living a more intentional, sacrificial and selfless life. Are you up for that? 
-Carly 

Zechariah 9-10

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” (9:9-10)

Jesus brought us salvation. He is The Good Shepherd. He is for all of us, His salvation for every nation.

The Jews had this passage and were looking for the Messiah to be a king who would restore military prowess. This isn’t what He did. He forged a New Kingdom, an everlasting, international one. 

He’s got big plans for the Middle East and the world. That both calms me and excites me. People from the Middle East are my favorite. I see why God started everything with them. 

But waiting for peace is hard. I feel wore out by news and squabbling in the church, (which is supposed to be part of the solution, to gas on the fire). 

Today, one of my Syrian friends, who is waiting in a small village in France for his papers and friends to join him, gave me a healthy reminder to be patient, always thankful and hopeful. It is incredibly humbling to learn godly principles from someone who has experienced much more pain and trauma and much less grace. But I must say these Syrians have introduced me to profound beauty, joy, hope and humility. 

My King has come. He brought salvation and He is Peace. Today I am choosing thankfulness, hope and humility. There is beauty everywhere, even in waiting.

-Bethany 

Zechariah 7-8

At this point in the text, the people had been fasting every year in August in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem was being rebuilt, they were trying to get out of their annual fast. God’s answer was familiar:

Acts of service to Him are not as important as our hearts. He calls them out for going through the motions of fasting rather than having true intentions and points them towards the behavior he truly desires:

“Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” 7:9

God does not care if you go to church every week. He isn’t keeping track of how often you attend Bible study, read your Bible, pray, and how much Scripture you have memorized.

He does want you to desire a relationship with Him. To seek after his truth, know his story, remember his commandments and instructions for living. He designed us to be in relationship with other believers and to pursue opportunities of hospitality. But these things have to go hand in hand with obedience to him. He knows our hearts, he knows when we’re performing for other people (or for ourselves). He knows when we’re just going through the motions. Is this you? Check your motives today. If this convicts you, don’t feel ashamed. Move towards him, repent and move forward. And let’s remember the to do list that he’s given:

-Judge fairly (Show discernment, rely on God’s help.)

-Show mercy and kindness. (Forgive and extend grace constantly.)

-Do not oppress the poor. (Care for the marginalized and show favor to them.)

-Do not scheme against each other. (Love one another and do not make enemies.)

 

-Carly

Zechariah 5-6

“Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD.” Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the LORD your God.” (6:15)

God is not slow in keeping His promises. He is patient. He is waiting for obedience.

The good news is, since 520 BC when this was written, God has accomplished a few things to help us along: He has sent the Messianic King and offered atonement for sins. He has given us His Spirit to dwell inside us to know the will of the Father. He’s done all the heavy lifting.

We’re not to feel policed by laws written in stone, we are compelled by the love of Christ who has exchanged our hard hearts for soft ones. We have a conscience, that yeah maybe sometimes is really the Holy Spirit and not Jiminy Cricket!

The offer still stands: the Kingdom of God can come reign on the earth, but it does depend on some cooperation on our part. We bring the kingdom of Heaven to earth when we are obedient. Why did Jesus teach us to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

Ask the Lord today for a fresh perspective on obedience and see if there is something He’s been patiently waiting on you for.

-Bethany