Isaiah 3-4 B

Here’s Bethany’s post from these chapters; I revisited it and was thankful for her prompt at the end.

“It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain.” 3:3

Our house has a large, shaded porch. We have a few seating sets, a couple ceiling fans, we’ve propped pillows on a white wicker swing and strung lights above. I’ve laid out a few outdoor rugs, positioned a few plants in the sunlight and regularly kick up my feet and relax there. It’s a second living room for our family.

We live in the south and the summers are hot, the heat relentless. Usually in the afternoons, a thunderstorm will pop up and sheets of rain will dump down from the previously cloudless sky. Our house is tucked in a historic neighborhood right downtown and we frequently have people cutting through our street, strolling by our house. I was pleasantly surprised last summer how often people would request to rest on our porch. They’d approach our brick steps and ask if they could wait out the rain, or take a break from the heat. New to the south, I’ve underestimated dark clouds and been stuck in a huge downpour on a walk myself. Ducking under whatever overhang I could get to, I’d pause and think about how God describes himself as our Refuge from the storm.

Is there something in your life that’s beating down on you like the heat of the day? Take refuge in the presence of the Lord.

This is a learned discipline. Our old selves want to distract. To fill our lives with fleeting comforts and empty promises. Food, shopping, sex, music, and entertainment will not make you feel better. Will not ease your pain or your suffering. Will not take on your burdens or comfort you. Jesus can and he will.

Put on your new self, which finds rest in spending time with God and leaning into his promises. Which chooses sabbathing with God over meaningless pleasures.

“A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10 

I never, ever regret spending time with God. Whether it’s reading the Bible, praying or journaling, listening to a sermon, cranking up the worship music or simply quieting my heart and thanking him, I am a better woman after stepping into his refuge.

Take a moment today and find refuge in Him.

 

-Carly

 

Isaiah 1-2 B

Here is the overview from the Bible Project.

I am excited for Isaiah. This beautiful book is one of the most credible, reliable scriptures we have. It was validated, in its entirety, upon the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, dated to be from 408BC – 318BC. Unchanged. God has preserved this wonderful prophecy.

I will probably never stop pointing out when the LORD reminds people of His priorities with the orphan and widow. A nation’s care–or lack thereof–toward vulnerable people’s, is His measurement of health. Israel’s lack of defense for the orphan and widow testifies against them. (1:23)

When the LORD, Himself, redeems His Holy city, it will be for everyone.

“And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.'” (2:2-3)

And, I LOVE THIS, weapons will be repurposed for gardening. (2:4) A beautiful reversal of how our jobs as mankind, to tend to the earth, took a horrible turn toward murder and warfare.

If we look at the state of the world today, we can rest assured, knowing we are never more perturbed than God at how twisted everything is. We can also rest assured, knowing He has set a plan in motion to make things right.

This book is a hand in hand of Judgement and Hope. Sometimes, it’s a hope that God will judge the wicked, other times it’s a hope that we, the wicked, will come out on the other side of this refiner’s fiery judgement. It’s a both/and.

What hope do you find in these chapters today?

-Bethany

Matthew 27-28 B

As I read these chapters, I’m deeply saddened, and yet fascinated, by the foreshadow it holds for the rest of humanity’s relationship with Christ.

Like Judas, we often betray him. Maybe for money, or the attention. But we are just as guilty of putting Christ up on that cross as Judas.

Like Simon, we join in and carry our cross up the hill. We get to join in his suffering. It is a mark of honor and holy privilege. (Romans 5:3-5, Philippians 1:12-20)

Like the mockers, we questions his power. “If you are really God, do this! Do that!”

If I’m honest, I struggle to engage with this text. It’s a story I’ve been aware of my entire life, praise God. I lack the capacity to fully grasp what Christ is doing and has done. Enter: the Old Testament.

Tomorrow we are starting the book of Isaiah, which holds many, many, many beautiful prophesies of the Messiah. The cross and the resurrection are not just the ending to the book of Matthew, it’s the fulfillment of the first half of the Bible.

Buckle up! It’s gonna be good.

-Carly

Matthew 25-26 B

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” (25:40)

The two stories before this are parables. One about bridesmaids being ready for a wedding, and another about stewardship of someone else’s property. Reading them together helps me frame this passage in a new way.

This life isn’t about us. It’s about our amazing LORD. All about Him. It would be wrong for the focus to be elsewhere.

He tells these two parables on the heels of chapter 24’s explanation about the Day of the Lord; warning against acting as if He’s never coming back. These virgins/bridesmaids needed to be ready, and it was foolish of them to only plan on waiting a short while. These slaves/stewards needed to invest whatever their master left them, and it was foolish to do nothing out of fear of failure.

Jesus left us with some tasks and an expectation of return. Just as the LORD told Abraham he was blessed to bless others, Jesus expects His people to take care of the least of these.

Chapter 26 is the beginning of proof: He is worthy of our obedience. He prayed:

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (26:39‬)

When He understood the will of the Father involved a horrific death, He became our example of obedience.

He healed everyone who came to Him and died to remove the sting of death for us. He is our example of caring for the least of these.

Mankind was created for obedience to God through service toward each other. Our commands are to Love the Lord and to love others and they are one and the same. We can’t say we love God, if we don’t demonstrate love for others, as He demonstrates His love for us.

This passage at the end of 25, about separating sheep and goats, makes some people nervous and others hopeful. There’s no separating personal salvation from outward expressions of love toward God and others. The sooner we reconcile the two, the better!

What does this look like for you? How are you loving the least of these?

-Bethany

Matthew 23-24 B

“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 23:12

Jesus’ kingdom is so entirely upside down. Reading chapter 23 is such a thorough reminder of how little God cares about your religious follow-through and how deeply he cares about your heart.

The verses above jumped out to me because it’s so counter-intuitive to how our flesh reacts to any sort of power or control. Serving others with humility are truly godly qualities that flow out of knowing and loving a humble, serving God.

But you know what I’ve noticed recently? Pride can seep in everywhere, even our servanthood. We begin to adore ourselves and how sacrificial, prayerful and loving we are. (I write this after realizing I was way too pleased with myself earlier today for taking time to pray for a friend.)

Do you find yourself mistakenly laying your worth in your behavior, good or bad?

It’s so easy to slip into a box-checking relationship with God.

He doesn’t just want you to mindlessly tithe. He wants you to trust him with your finances and give freely, preventing greed from growing in your heart. He doesn’t want you to focus on the fleeting currency of this world, but on the eternal currency of the kingdom. He invites us to come alongside him in his work; he doesn’t need our money, but so much beauty comes out of offering it up to him.

He doesn’t want you to merely appear godly. To attend church every week, to display an open Bible, to mindlessly check off a Christian To Do list. He wants to be in relationship with you. He wants to sort out the hurt in your life, unpack the past and heal you. Redeem you. Reform you.

Today, take time to notice your spiritual tendencies. Are they flowing naturally out of a relationship with God? Or are they more of a spiritual performance you find yourself forced to display?

-Carly

Matthew 21-22 B

“But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God’.” (22:29‬)

Jesus is thoroughly questioned by every prominent group, in these chapters. The response above is given to the sadducees after they asked a question and who’s wife will be whose in the hereafter. The question, itself, exposes just how little this philosophical group understood.

Our best rebuttals and arguments against God often double as our most blaring weakness: lack of understanding. If we think we’ve got some doozie of a question that can stump God, we’ve wading into some territory we don’t understand.

The problem from the beginning, which enticed Eve to take the fruit, was a hunger to independently know right from wrong, becoming her own judge. We were created to depend on and trust our creator.

If you’re having a crisis of faith, or there’s a burning question that, left unanswered, could topple your whole belief system, press in. Press on to know, to understand the Scriptures and the power of God. He’s not intimidated, and He’s gentle to respond. He knows we don’t see the whole picture. That’s why He tells us not to set ourselves up as judge. That’s why He tells us to trust Him. Trust the Creator!

Bring your questions to Jesus today.

-Bethany

Matthew 19-20 B

“As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ ‘Be quiet!’ the crowd yelled at them. But they only shouted louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord,’ they said, ‘we want to see!’ Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.” 20:29-34

Isn’t that just how it goes sometimes? You’re desperately overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, so you cry out to Jesus for help and the others shout “be quiet!”

Take a minute and think about who tries to silence you when you cry out to God.

What’s your response? These men were desperate, and also very faithful. They believed that if they could get Jesus’ attention, he could and would heal them. I love that Matthew notes that Jesus had compassion for them. He’s the best.

I’m curious why the crowd barks back at these men pleading for Jesus to heal them. Sometimes I wonder if I’m creating the noise that drowns out other’s connection with God? Picking stupid fights with my husband. Keeping a schedule that’s too rushed for my family. Bombarding friends with my own opinions instead of just listening. Complaining. Complaining makes a lot of noise. It steals joy. It sizzles out peace. It creates a negative environment and excludes God’s voice from the dialogue.

Who do you identify with in this story? Are you the crowd, pushing yourself to the front to be heard first, neglecting the needs of your peers?

Are you the blind men, desperately calling out for Jesus and not feeling heard? Call out to him again!

 

-Carly

 

Matthew 17-18 B

Since Carly focused on chapter 17 last time, I’ll zero in on 18.

First, there’s a warning against causing others to stumble.

“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (7)

Don’t become a reason someone else does wrong. It’s definitely in me too rebel rouse, instigate, stir the pot and rile people up. I need to keep myself pretty reigned in with this. Much of my sloooooow sanctification processes is the LORD redirecting my powers of influence to lead others into truth and a culture of honor, instead of leading mutinies for my own entertainment.

Next, how to correctly have confrontations.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (15)

This leads into a series of bringing in more people as the brother ignores you, but too often we tell everyone else the offense before clueing in said brother. That in private part should not be overlooked! Oh the pain we could avoid if we immediately, privately confronted those who hurt us instead of recounting our woes to others! I’m sure we’ve all be on all sides of this, including being the one who offended and not knowing, or having the opportunity to clear things up and apologize, before the whole world knows. There is a huge temptation to take someone down who hurt you, but this is NOT THE WAY.

And thirdly, the importance of forgiveness.

“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'” (33)

This is a major Christian principle, referenced also in the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Think about it. What if the level at which you forgave others is exactly the level at which God forgave you? Think hard, because it seems like this is what He’s saying.

This chapter is always super convicting, because it’s easy to get loosey-goosey and careless about how we interact with each other’s sinfulness. That easily spirals into hurting each other instead of “speaking each other on toward love and good deeds” like we’re supposed to.

Which of these three do you struggle with the most? Let’s ask the LORD for healing and the powerful help of His Spirit to lead us into His most excellent way.

-Bethany

Matthew 15-16 B

” ‘Don’t you understand yet? ‘ Jesus asked. Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you. ” 15:16-17

I love what Bethany drew from these chapters last time :

“It’s not about splitting hairs over washing rituals, doctrines or prophesies, it’s about reconciling all humanity to God, teaching them to discover His perfect original designs: Loving Him and loving each other.”

I often catch myself sliding into the habit of fixating on religious rules. I want to check off a list instead of truly working on my heart issues.

Whenever I’m reading the gospels, I often wonder, would I have been a loyal disciple of God, oblivious yet dedicated? Or would I have been a finger-wagging Pharisee, constantly following Jesus around with the rule book, trying to prove him wrong?

Unfortunately, probably the latter.

Religiosity is so much easier. You follow a detailed list of rules. Your worth and value are much more calculated because it hinges on your actions. But this is not Jesus! Jesus came to heal our sick hearts, not check our report cards.

I love getting to know Jesus. It’s a life-long process that humbles me deeply. The more I open up the Bible and read about this perfect man, the easier it is to believe him that it’s not about the rules, it’s about my heart.

And my heart is bent towards slavery. Holy Spirit, free me from this more and more and teach me to be pure of heart.

-Carly

Matthew 13-14 B

“Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” (14:13-14)

Jesus got a front row seat to humanity’s dysfunction. His cousin was brutally murdered for a party trick. He was surrounded by more sick people than an ER admitting nurse. He was rejected by the people closest to Him.

At every turn, when my reflex would be to tell everyone to leave me alone, or do a magic trick to silence my haters, Jesus chooses compassion and humility instead. Because what we needed was for Him to come in and be altogether different than us.

The mark of Christ’s disciples is love. We may not have been born with the ability to to embody self-less compassion, but He Himself has given us His example and Spirit, and that counts for something. He makes us able to respond like Him, through His power at work in us.

We tell this to ourselves and each other, a lot, but sometimes it turns into a heap of shame to “do better” or “work harder”.

When Jesus left to return to heaven He gave them strict instructions to wait. Don’t do anything until the power arrives.

If you are tired (following on the heels of yesterday’s post about yokes), wait. I always end up hurting someone when I rush ahead in my own strength.

If you don’t know what that looks like or feels like, ask. He would love to show you.

-Bethany