Leviticus 1-2

Here’s the overview on this book by The Bible Project. I’m so thankful for the work they do! They make this overly-detailed book in the Bible come alive and tie in seamlessly with the gospel.

It’s interesting starting this book on the heels of reading Luke. We read a detailed story about the atonement for our sins by the son of God and now we’re stepping back and reading about what atonement looked like before Jesus. And it looked bloody and complicated.

Chapter 2 gives the specifications of how to give a grain offering to the Lord. The Bible Project overview defined this as a way for God’s people to say thank you. Bake something really complicated with or without honey. And apparently this offering will be considered a most holy part of the special gifts presented to the Lord (2:10). My initial reaction is think, wow, I’m glad I’m not bogged down by a bunch of specific hoops to jump through to repent or show thanks to God. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t required to sacrifice to God. He tells us our lives are to be poured out as a living sacrifice to him, not just our baked goods. We don’t get to compartmentalize areas of our life to him, every moment belongs to him. 

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1

How are you showing thankfulness to God? What are you offering up to him?

It’s easy to glaze over the book of Leviticus; it’s not exactly a roaring narrative. But I’m thankful to see what Israel endured to be in God’s presence. It gives me perspective on what I take for granted in my relationship with the Lord and reminds me of how perfectly holy he is, deserving of all revere.

 

-Carly

Luke 24

The sorrow, fear and disappointment of the disciples leaps off the page. They were there when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. He was supposed to rise up, like David, and take back Jerusalem with some old fashioned God-powered military might. Instead, Jesus quietly accepted death. Now His body is missing.

It didn’t make sense He would die, and it made even less sense He’d be alive again, after just three days.

There are numerous witnesses. Everyone in town knows what’s happened. Who is this guy on the road with no clue? Word spreads fast. Are these merely the delusional reports of emotional women? Where could His body be?

Quite thankfully, Jesus explains everything to them. I want to hear this 7 mile sermon:

“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (27)

Then later with the others:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (46-49)

Forgiveness of sins for all the nations.

Indeed, Jesus did not bring a momentary relief, dressed in a golden age of Jewish political independence and prominence. He brought healing, life, freedom and salvation to the souls of humanity. His death and resurrection, although a confusing disappointment at the time, has been revealed as the single most important event in history.

The implications of a God-powered resurrected Christ is the difference between being a disciple of Christ and all religion.

Don’t go anywhere without this power! Otherwise, it’s merely a strange story fueling a strange new religion.

The purpose of many New Testament books, including this one, was to show Rome that following the resurrected Jesus was not a new religion (starting new religions was a violation of Pax Romana, Roman Peace). No, Jesus says, can’t you see this is the fulfillment of Moses and all Jewish history and prophets?

Are you waiting for Jesus to be something else? Are you waiting for Him to grant you relief from your momentary afflictions? Are you moving forward in your “Christian walk” without His power? Bring all these things to Him. He is excellent at gently explaining Himself and opening minds to understand.

Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! You gave us the most incredible gift and display of power, in history, and You didn’t wait for us to want it. We love you.

-Bethany

Luke 23

The most prominent trait of Jesus I notice when I read this chapter is his meekness. He doesn’t defend himself as he’s being dragged around trying to be convicted like a criminal. They frame the God who came to bring Life and Peace for murder and violent revolting (23:5). Yet he remains silent, answering only when necessary.

He has completely submitted himself to God’s plan and authority. He doesn’t plead his own case, flex his authority or go into a (very deserved) fit of rage. He waits for God to defend him, and in the meanwhile, forgives these people and offers them kindness. He intercedes on their behalf, asking God to forgive them in the midst of their wrong-doing (23:34)

What is your response when you’re wrongly accused, taunted or mocked? 

I’m always really quick to defend myself, yet it never brings me the peace that God’s defense brings. Let’s look to Jesus’ perfect example of meekness and lean into God’s timing and protection. He always gets the last word and fiercely brings Truth to every situation.

 

-Carly

 

 

Luke 22

Here’s part 2 of the Bible Project’s Luke.

“There arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest. And He said to them, ‘the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called “benefactors”. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.'” (24-26)

Jesus has been reconstructing His disciples values and worldviews over the course of their time together. The upside-down Kingdom, as we call it, is nothing they were conditioned to expect. And down to the last hour, their priorities are still barking up the wrong tree.

In the West, we love our titles. Largely, because we find identity in our work and job titles. Our first questions when meeting a new person is, “what’s your name?” and “what do you do?” We often introduce ourselves with, “my name is _______ I AM A _______.” We want a higher position to make a bigger impression, to do something unique to sound interesting, or something technical to sound smart.

This, unfortunately, makes its way in to ministry settings too. As proclaimers of the upside down Kingdom, we too, like the disciples, want to know who is the greatest. We make celebrities out of pastors and “love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.” (20:46) …I mean…

It’s easy to get off track, slide into cultural norms, or let our pride take the wheel, but Jesus is ready to correct this with His own example.

“For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (27)

It’s not about being impressive, interesting, or smart, it’s about being like Jesus.

-Bethany

Luke 21

My Bible commentary notes that the widow in the story dropped her money into the box for freewill offering, different than the mandatory Temple tax boxes. (Women were only allowed to be in a certain area in the Temple, and I love that Jesus was with them!) Basically this woman was under no social pressure to give the last bit of her money, but willingly gave to God what she could.

Jesus is not quiet about his expectation and love for generous and sacrificial giving; he talks about it a lot. There are usually two reactions to the topic of tithing. People either feel like they should be giving more or that they don’t have anything to give.

I’ve noticed the areas that I don’t feel like I can give from are absolutely the areas I should. I don’t have any time to sacrifice to read my Bible or pray. I don’t have anything to offer to my church and have been hurt by communities in the past. I don’t have any extra money to give away, I’m barely covering my bills. Sound familiar? The things we hold tightly, for fear of losing, need to be the things we surrender to the Lord. 

We are called to live sacrificial lives, which means we need to be willing to “tithe”, or offer back, more than just our money to Jesus. But he sure mentions finances a lot.

He doesn’t want us to idolize it and he doesn’t want us to worry about it. Both of those things take away from him being God. He wants to be the most important thing in our lives. He wants the credit as the provider. He wants to meet our needs and allow us to trust him with tangible things like bills from dental work and rent being raised. He cares about those things! Money means nothing to him, and everything to the world we live in. I’d much rather be at his mercy than the bank’s; he is worth obeying and trusting in this area.

The text today encourages me to give more radically, of all my resources.

What area does he want more of from you?

 

-Carly

Luke 20

There is much to glean from Jesus’ conversations with the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and teachers of the law. He was not gentle with this bunch.

He was exposing their hypocrisy, piety and utter cluelessness. They were supposed to be experts about God, but could not recognize Him in the flesh. In fact, He was a threat to their way of life, because they had turned out to be wrong and could not admit it.

“The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.” (19)

They were the evil vine-growers (Israel is often allegorized as a vineyard), killing the slaves (prophets), and now scheming to kill the son.

“‘What, then, will the owner of the Vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy the vine-growers and will give the Vineyard to others.’ When they heard it, they said, ‘May never be!'” (15b-16)

Instead of taking this moment to humble themselves and repent, they rally all the more to get Jesus arrested. Questions about taxes and questions about resurrection marriages, which are so outside the point, they fall flat.

As someone who “grew up in the church”, this convicts me regularly. I always need to check myself for how I tend toward the religious of that time.

Humility, humility, humility.

It’s importance cannot be overstated. I believe it’s possible to have full assurance of faith while also maintaining the reality: I could be totally wrong at any theological turn. My finiteness means I will never have perfect theology. However, my soul remains at peace; I am His child, He has given me a heart of flesh and put His Spirit inside me. Maybe I’ll never have the words to express how I know those things, but I’m sure many of you get what I mean. “There are no words” for all the best things in life.

How do we present Christ to our neighbors? Do we stick up our noses, deciding they’re not worthy of the gospel? Do we slam the door to the kingdom in their faces because they’re “lost causes”? Do we parade around in our devout, squeaky clean, places of honor so everyone can know what #blessed looks like?

“These will receive greater condemnation.” (47b)

Lord, I repent! Teach me to be more like you!

Bethany

Luke 19

My mind goes to the donkey-owner vaguely mentioned in this chapter:

” ‘Go into that village over there,’ he told them. ‘As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ‘ So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ And the disciples simply replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’ So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. “ 19:30-35

It’s a weird scene! If I saw someone climbing into my car, getting ready to drive off, I’d stop them. If they told me the Lord needs it, I’d call the police. Or, maybe, on a good day, offer to drive them where they needed to go.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how the donkey owner responded, or if it ever got returned to him. I also wonder if he watched his stable animal carry the King into town, an honor he couldn’t fully understand yet if he tried.

When we submit our life to God, we are submitting everything to him. Our time, our finances and our belongings. This story convicted me today to be eager and willing to let the Lord use whatever he needs for his purpose. It’s so easy to get greedy and protective over our things, when really, the things we have are a result of God’s grace in our lives.

We never know what he’s going to ask of us, and we never know what he’s going to use it for. But let’s have open hands that are willing to give when he invites us to be involved in his work.

 

-Carly

 

Luke 18

When Carly and I first started reading together, we challenged ourselves to always find a “promise to claim” and a “sin to avoid”. This chapter feels like a back-and-forth between these two categories. I want to focus on a few.

Promise to claim: God answers prayers.

“And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off?” (7)

Jesus says this sort of analogy at other times, but the general idea is, ‘If an evil person can eventually do a good thing, why do you doubt a loving God?’ If you feel discouraged about a long unanswered prayer, don’t give up!

Sin to avoid: Self-righteousness.

“For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (14)

It’s a dangerous game to compare ourselves to others or think we are in God’s favor because we deserve to be.

Promise to claim: Kingdom Family

“No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” (29-30)

Growing up, I somehow managed to miss the “in the age” part of this verse. Maybe on the heels of “storing up treasures in heaven” I began to think all Kingdom benefits were for later. Than I noticed the promise of now and realized how much I’ve already reaped this reward. I’ve spent much of my adult life away from my family, serving the Lord in various places and capacities. Even though I miss my family when I’m gone, I’ve also become exceedingly rich in the relationships God has given me around the states and around the world. I’ve received many times as much already. It’s glorious.

Unpopular opinion: sometimes it pays to run away from home.

What promises do you claim in this chapter? What sins are you challenged to avoid?

-Bethany

Luke 17

“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” 

A few immediate thoughts I have when I read this:

-We are called to (lovingly) hold each other accountable. Do I have people in my life who are safe enough to call me out? Am I taking my responsibility of holding my friends accountable seriously? I love that Jesus implies we are to have that type of relationship with people. Believers, identifying their sin and quickly forgiving each other. Let’s make this normal and healthy!

If there is repentance, forgive. To be honest, I sifted this verse back and forth a bit, feeling it out and trying to shape it into what I wanted it to say. I want it to give me permission to withhold forgiveness unless there’s an apology. To allow me to store the ways I’ve been sinned against and pull them out like hall passes, excusing my behavior. But, according to the rest of the Bible, Jesus is not approving of bitterness and resentment.

Is he saying we don’t have to forgive until someone repents and apologizes? Apparently. But even typing that sentence, I know I’m still defining forgiveness incorrectly.

The last sentence of that verse reflects godly forgiveness perfectly: forgive freely. If someone wronged me seven times in one day, I would be highly suspicious of the authenticity of their apology. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘make sure they’re really sorry’. Or, ‘find your own ways of punishing them in the meanwhile’. He doesn’t put us in charge of deciding if someone’s really sorry or keeping track of how often they mess up, he only insists that we forgive. It’s part of his other commandment to us: to love people. And loving people is believing the best in them (1 Cor. 13:7). If someone repents to you, choose to believe that they are sincere and forgive them.

Jesus is ready and eager to forgive us of any and all sins, even when he knows we are likely to turn around and repeat them.
What keeps you from being quick to forgive? 
How should you respond towards someone who hasn’t apologized to you? 
Who in your life holds you accountable for your sin? 
-Carly

 

 

Luke 16

What we do with money matters.

“If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust true riches to you?” (11)

“Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.” (25)

The parable of the unjust manager can be confusing, but the basic principle is this: the unrighteous can teach us a few things about planning ahead.

The economy of the kingdom is generosity. The Lord is looking for people who invest their money into others, stewarding resources wisely and generously.

Using wealth to benefit others is the best way to invest in eternity.

When we combine these stories, (which I believe is advised, considering their proximity to one another in this narrative) I am reminded of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

Like the rich man, from Hades, pleading for a second chance, or for ghosts to warn his relatives, Scrooge is thus warned and changes his ways. Whereas, he previously hoarded his wealth, foreshadowing a death mourned by no one, he becomes a generous friend, investing in the lives of those around him.

But Jesus says we shouldn’t need to be haunted by ghosts. We have the Bible! It contains 2,350 verses about what to do with money (contrasted by approximately 500 on prayer and 500 on faith)!

Ask the Lord what He says about your finances. It’s a serious question, so be ready to respond!

-Bethany