1 Peter 2

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (9)

This chapter is tied to the truths laid out in chapter one. Our identity calls for action. Having the identity of a king, doesn’t just mean you sit around, on top of the pile. It implies you’ve got some governing to do. 

Likewise, in these chapters, we are learning about our identity and its implications. Maybe these Gentiles had previous knowledge about the God of Israel, but knew they were outside of the story. This inclusion changes everything. More than becoming children of Abraham, we have become like the tribe of Levi, serving the LORD directly. 

Chosen to be His. The wording is very passionate. Peter was a passionate guy, made in the image of a passionate God. Like a bride, chosen by a groom, are we. An understanding of that identity changes things. 

It changes what we can endure, like being under various authorities. I can be compliant, knowing no one owns me, but my Love.

It changes how I treat others, humbly and with a desire for them to know Him too.

What might it change for you today?

-Bethany

1 Peter 1

We’re going to read through the letters of Peter, and since they’re so hearty, we’ll be reading one chapter at a time. You can get a quick overview of the whole book here.

“So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desire.” 1:13-14

I like the way these verses are written out; it reads like a long train of thought. Or like someone’s self-talk: Think clearly and exercise self-control. How? By keeping the perspective that eventually Jesus will rescue us from our sinful selves forever. So we need to represent him well while we wait. How? By dedicating ourselves to living for him instead of ourselves.

Take a minute and remember what you were like before Jesus started changing your heart and reshaping you. What did you think about? How did you spend your time? Who did you spend your time with?

What are the answers to those questions these days? What influences the change? What desire are you trying to satisfy, God’s desire for your life, or yours?

 

-Carly

 

 

 

3 John & Jude

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my Children walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)

What does it mean to “walk in” something? To actively apply a belief. We walk in the truth about gravity, and make sure our steps land on ground and not into empty spaces. The hope and desire to walk in truth is what fuels this blog! When I’m not actively pursuing truth in the Word everyday, I allow the ideas of friends, social media, television, movies, co-workers, you-name-it to become the confusing concepts I walk in. 

These past months I’ve been way outside my normal Bible believing bubble and it is a battle to stay grounded on truth as to walk in it, but a battle well-worth waging! I wish we all could walk in the truths of Scripture each day:

  • God, our Creator, knows best about everything and has made His designs known.
  • God, our Father, loves us so deeply, He sacrificed Himself/His Only Son Jesus, to be with us.
  • God, our Provider, knows what we need and is able to care for us, just like He care for animals.
  • God, our Healer, is able to redeeem, restore and eventually resurrect our broken down bodies.
  • God, our Protector, is entirely trustworthy and full of grace.
  • Etc. etc. you get the idea.

This is why I so strongly desire for people to grow in their love of Bible study. It’s the 500th anniversary of the Reformation! This is what it’s about folks! Don’t let other people sell you “truth”, God has given us His Word!

Here is the Bible Project overview of Jude 

I know, the video is longer than the book. Don’t get caught up in the references, but remember the point: maintaining a fear of the Lord, as you receive grace, knowing God has historically not let His favor be twisted into self-indulging practices for long. 

Don’t let people deceive you, by manipulating Scripture to bend toward gratification. Know the gospel. Know the Old Testament. Know the LORD for yourself! 

As LaVar Burton would say at the end of Reading Rainbow: “Don’t take my word for it.”

-Bethany 

1 John 5-2 John 1

“If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.” 5:16-17

What a humble response to other people’s sin. The Bible is clear about how to respond to unconfessed, severe sin. This is not advice for that.

One of the best pieces of marital advice I received came just a few months after I walked down the aisle. I wasn’t seeking it out, but was instead listening to a friend share about her husband’s obnoxious behavior. Another friend piped in, that whenever she had a complaint about her husband, she just prayed about it. I thought that was dumb. Why not deliver my fantastic, godly advice first hand?

Because. My husband is a Christian, hosts the Holy Spirit and hears from God as well. He doesn’t need his wife constantly tapping on his shoulder and addressing his failures. (Again, this pertains to non-life threatening behavior. Do not sit on your hands if there is something severe going on.) 

Obviously, this doesn’t just apply to marriage. My husband is just who I happen to be around the most, and whose life I look into constantly. (Therefore I am an expert on thinking I should correct him, sigh.) Have a roommate? A coworker, family member, close friend, partner in ministry, etc etc etc? It is so easy to spot someone else’s sin. Here’s a good response:

1. Why does this sin bother you so much? The weaknesses I easily notice in others are often weaknesses I have as well. This is common. First exam your own heart before inspecting someone else. (Matthew 7:3)

2. Give grace. Remember that we all have sin patterns, and are in process of becoming more like Jesus. Some people are further along in their process than others. Something that helps me when I’m being prideful and impatient with someone’s failures is remembering how far I’ve come in my own journey.

3. Pray and trust the Holy Spirit. Pray for them! We are not at war with each other, but we are in a spiritual war against Evil (Ephesians 6:12). Prayer is getting in on the battle without nagging and discouraging them. It’s showing love instead of heaping on shame. Is this person a Christian? Then they also hear from God. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can convict and change hearts. You are not in charge of that. Let go of the control. 

 

-Carly

1 John 3-4

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (4:18-19‬)

What is Love? Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.

This non-linear twirling of thoughts and ideas about love leaves my head spinning. Sometimes the verses about everything boiling down to love for God and people get lost on me. What does that look like? How can I know when I’m loving correctly? What is Love?!

I’ve got John telling me God’s perfect love drives out fear, and also culture and experience telling me love is pain. This brings me back to 3:1.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

The world isn’t going to have insight when it comes to this. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. There is no rest for the man who must earn his own keep and watches his own back. He has the mindset of an orphan. Indeed, many times in my own walk, I can trace fear and impulsive sins back to an independent or orphan mentality. This is my best way of understanding:

“No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” (3:6)

To know Him is to abandon our motivation to sin. To understand His love is to be unbound by fear.

There’s a lot to mediate on in theses chapters. I’m inclined to overthink it, but for now my prayer is for God to speak to our hearts about this truth. It’s a knowing, an experiencing, not a theological arrival point.

Father, help this sink in to our souls. Teach us how to love, sacrifically, knowing You have given us all we need.

-Bethany

1 John 1-2

If you’ve been reading along with us, we just stepped out of the book of Job and it is extra refreshing to read about the hope we have in Jesus. Watch this if you want an overview on 1,2 & 3 John.

“…So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.” 2:27c

This verse summed up both chapters for me. Did you feel like you were reading about a lot of things you should be doing, but maybe aren’t? I did. Don’t love the things of this world. But clothes! And cheese! And mediocre quality television drama! Don’t have any enemies. But what if it’s for a really good reason? Obey all of God’s commandments. I broke this by 9am.

How could I possibly live up to this? Remain in Christ. “…But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 2:1 

We need to stick with him. He vouches for us, pleading our cases to God and siding with us. I cannot even fathom why he does this, when I constantly fail him, tend to other desires and misrepresent him. He shows me how to live in this world without loving this world, he changes my heart to be holier and shapes what I think about, talk about and do. “Living in the light” is not possible without him. And it’s lonely in the dark.

What does it look like for you to adhere to Christ? What needs to change?

 

-Carly

 

Job 41-42

“His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.” (41:18-21‬)

God has a fire breathing dragon and their relationship is not complicated. The most terrifying thing we can imagine is still God’s creation and subject to Him. No matter the fierceness of the animal, it is not in an obedience struggle with the Lord like we are. 

Watching “Planet Earth” or similar Discovery Channel shows can easily turn into a moment of worship. Considering His creation and faithful care of all living creatures should bring us to our knees. 

Jesus brought this up in His sermon on the mount:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew‬ ‭6:26)

He answers our anxiety by this same reminder about the animals. It’s beautiful. Full of trust, obedience, faithfulness and provision.

A few times in my life I’ve put this concept to the test. When confronted with a barking dog, a pesky bee, a panicked bird or bat, I stopped and told the Lord to speak to the animal. “Lord, tell that dog to leave me alone.” “Show that bird the window I opened.” And away they go! Now, maybe that could be schluffed off as a coincidence, but I’ve had a crazy high success rate. Now if I could remember to use that on myself!

Truly His care and authority for the animals deserves frequent remembering. God used it on Job and Jesus used it on us. Use it on yourself today.

-Bethany

Tomorrow we will start 1 John!

Job 39-40

“Then the Lord said to Job, ‘Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?’ “ 40:1-2

These chapters really continue on Bethany’s concept from yesterday of learning to rest in absolute trust of God. But the verse above reminds me how much humility is required in knowing and loving God. Humility and trust really go hand-in-hand.

The creature Behemoth that is mentioned in 40:15 is (according to my Bible commentary) a primeval monster used in ancient literature as a symbol of chaos and evil. “It is a prime example of God’s handiwork, and only it’s Creator can threaten it.” So, is God claiming to be the creator (and controller) of chaos and evil? Could this book POSSIBLY complicate my apologetics any more than it already has?!

So to answer God’s earlier question to Job, no, I don’t have the answers. And I really don’t want to have the answers. Almost every interpersonal relationship I’m in gets so much better and healthier when I introduce humility. When I acknowledge my strengths and recognize my weaknesses and when I take my given place. My marriage is heavenly when I recognize my role and take a seat in the spot I was given. Parenting is (harder and) more rewarding when I swallow my pride. There is so much freedom in relinquishing control. Because we never really had it in the first place.

Practicing humility with God when you are suffering is really hard. It’s learned. Practiced. Put on. But the more you discipline your heart to trust Him, the easier it gets. We write about this a lot, lot, LOT on here, but one of my favorite, fool-proof methods in teaching myself to trust God is to write it down. Don’t journal? That’s fine. Make two columns on a page. On one side, write “problem”, on the other “solution” and keep a list of what’s going on in your life and how God showed up during it. Do it for a month, and the next time you’re worried about something, refer to your list.

We are closing out the book of Job tomorrow! What has changed for you, thought-wise, since we started this book?

-Carly

 

 

 

Job 37-38

Something happened a couple years ago that unleashed an anxiety beast I’d never had to face before. I know some people have battled with stress, depression or anxiety for years and experiencing it, first hand, gave me new perspective.  

God approaches us in different ways in different seasons. He’s been very kind and gentle, leading me to truth, and drawing me to repentance by His kindness. But sometimes He jolts me with a Snap out of it! reality check. 

I don’t know about you, but at the root of much of my anxiety is either feeling responsiblity for something entirely outside of my control or zeroing in on something small, making it too big.

From my limited perspective, one reason God’s response to Job is so incredibly genius, is how He puts things into their appropriately sized categories.

“Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.” (38:18‬)

One of the best feelings in the world is absolute trust. It’s a feeling of comfort when you don’t know, but someone else does and is answering. When you are weak, but someone else is strong, and has your best interest at heart. You don’t have to see the big picture, you don’t have to have all the answers. You can leave it to them.

Chapter 38 is a big reminder that we are small, but He is big and trustworthy. He’s handing things like ocean tides, sunrises, sunsets, the weather and feeding all the wild animals, even when it hadn’t crossed our minds to worry about it!

So when I suddenly am overwhelmed, but have the wherewithal to pray, He’s like, “already gotcha covered.” Which means it doesn’t even depend on my remembering to pray! (Prayer does make a difference, but I think more often than not, the best difference is remembering Who is in control).

This season has been been marked by a gradual healing from this anxiety. Sometimes really small, stupid things (like booking bus tickets online) can trigger a stress spiral, but thank God, He has surrounded me with friends who remind me of size.

We’ve waded through many different kinds of bad/unhelpful/incomplete advice in these 37 chapters. I am glad today is the day we remember how big God is and how small we are. Especially when He makes it so beautifully safe for us to be small. He is in control and trustworthy.

-Bethany 

Job 35-36

“Do you think it is right for you to claim, ‘I am righteous before God’? For you also ask, ‘What’s in it for me? What’s the use of living a righteous life?’ ” 35:2

Elihu brings up a very interesting point to poor ol’ Job. Does God owe Job something? 

We’ve read as Job has gone on and on and on about how he’s done no wrong, and what a great, selfless life he’s lived. This is normal. Suffering prompts self-reflection and often a why me reaction. And also, Job HAS lived a great, selfless life. Elihu reminds him (and me), that good behavior doesn’t protect us from suffering. We cannot earn an easy life.

Elihu doesn’t have all the answers for Job, and it’s REALLY easy for him to announce a point of view, when he isn’t the one siting all alone, in the wake of his former life. We want answers though! I’m 36 chapters into this book and still looking for clear cut answers about human suffering.

Pretty soon we are going to hear from God about all of this. In the meanwhile, do you agree with Elihu? Is Job prideful to think he doesn’t deserve any of this punishment? What do we deserve from God? 

 

-Carly