Psalm 10-12 B

This is a major juxtaposition between the proud, arrogant, wicked man– who struts around saying, “there is no God,” –and the afflicted, orphaned, and oppressed.

“O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.” (10:17-18)

Pride vs Humility is a major Biblical theme. Growing up in a culture that encourages pride, means I am always in good need of a reminder about the power of God among the humble.

Countless times throughout Scripture, the LORD comes to the defense of the defenseless. He is strength and shelter to the weak. He is near the broken-hearted.

Many years in various ministries made it feel like success was a constant uphill battle (spiritual warfare, it was even sometimes called). What were those goals then? Numbers? Western measurements of success? The minute I stepped out of marketing and into doing a sloppy job of loving afflicted people, my uphill battle became a slide. Haphazardly falling in to favorable situations. I know many people who work with the poor, orphans, widows and refugees, can attest to the power of God feeling pretty different in these circles. He is always saying He’s with these groups.

If you’re looking for Him; there’s a good place to find Him.

-Bethany

Psalm 7-9 B

“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.” 9:1

Reading the Psalms is such a great reminder to simply praise God. There is a lot of asking, a lot of complaining, even some fist-shaking. But in all of it, there’s praise.

How often do we just praise God? Not right after he gave us something we wanted, or because we’re trying to earn his favor, but simply because he deserves it?

I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. My first reaction is to start a list of all the marvelous things he’s done for me. But why stop there? Celebrate and give him praise for the marvelous things he’s done in other people’s lives too!

What makes God worth praising?

What is something he has done recently in your life that prompts you to thank him for who he is?

What is a marvelous thing he’s done for someone else?

The more we practice seeing God’s hands in things, the more obvious it becomes.

-Carly

Psalm 4-6 B

Carly focused on 4:8 last time and it’s worth a second look.

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“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (4:1)

“The LORD hears when I call Him.” (4:3)

“Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning.” (5:1)

“The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer.” (6:9)

I am familiar with this back and forth. The initial desperate plea to be heard, quickly followed by the assurance, He has heard. What an incredible experience. What gives David this assurance the LORD has heard Him? How do I know? Sometimes I know, because of the peace which subsequently floods my heart. Other times, it’s a response, an answer, the answer I was looking for.

My soul is very thankful to be in the Psalms. Why is the winter such a time for reflection, lament and mourning? Seasons are weird, but necessary. I think the psalms help me navigate those complicated emotions. I’m a late-Spring into-Summer person. I like to avoid dark, cold winters. I can easily get that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This winter, I’m trying to be better at embracing the season, and facing all that it is. For this, I am glad the psalms are here for the journey.

Above all, extremely thankful that ours is the God who Hears.

-Bethany

 

 

Psalm 1-3 B

I grew up thinking I shouldn’t associate with people who were not Christians. (My definition of a ‘Christian’ was someone who regularly attended church and recited a prayer with an adult when they were younger which got them a get-out-of-hell-free card indefinitely). And people who were not Christians also happened to be who I thought the Bible was referring to when it mentioned “sinners”, the “world” and anyone Jesus pointed fingers at, really.

I’m still learning to approach Scripture with fresh eyes and no pre-conceived notions. Today, this verse jumped out to me:

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.” 1:1-3

At first glance, I see this is a warning to stay away from Sinful Unchurched People and bury yourself in Bible studies and groups of other Christians who agree with you. But this doesn’t match up with the gospel, or the way I saw Jesus engage with people. Here’s what I think it’s saying instead:

Seek godly wisdom. It is important to engage in a Christ-like community with other believers. Maybe that’s within a church, maybe it’s not. Be mindful of who and what influence you.

Be intentional with your time around broken people and don’t mindlessly join in. There is definitely a time and a place to remove yourself from sinful people and develop appropriate boundaries. This is not a blanket-statement, but a reminder to use discernment.

Study God’s word every day. It will ground you and guide you so that you can develop spiritual health and maturity and engage with people outside of your belief system.

What verse encouraged you today? Here’s  some insight the Bible Project offers on how the book of Psalms is arranged.

 

-Carly

 

Philemon B

What a strange book. Sometimes I wonder at the selection of Paul’s letters to be included in the Biblical cannon. This little note is rife with power dynamics. Since a huge theme of the Bible is the LORD reforming natural, fallen power dynamics, maybe this book is important.

First off, here’s the dynamic in play: One esteemed upper class guy (Paul), asks another esteemed upper class guy (Philemon), if he can have permission to keep his runaway slave (Onesimus). In their respective social circles, Paul has the upper hand.

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

Paul goes on and makes a case that Onesimus should be considered as a peer to them, now, but he still plays by the rules. Then he makes a sort of cheeky move and says,

“If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.”

All at once, Paul is putting the ball in Philemon’s court, but also setting the stage for compliance. We never get Philemon’s response to this letter. Isn’t that interesting? This request is canon for us and we don’t know what ended up happening to Onesimus!

This little book has probably been used on both sides of the slavery isle. On one hand, it could be said, “slavery is a fact of life, and there is a request for a transaction over this man, his usefulness in conversation”. On the other hand, Paul is pleading for this man to be elevated to their “brotherhood” status.

Anyway, I think the point I tend to glean from this, is that no matter our stations in life: customer service rep, CEO, pastor, instagram influencer, retail associate, receptionist, neurosurgeon, etc. In the Kingdom of God we are brothers and all things must addressed on the basis of love. 

I don’t know what Paul means when he throws out his authority over Philemon “in Christ”, but we can save that nugget for another time.

-Bethany

Joshua 23-24 B

“The people replied, ‘We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.’ ” 24:16 

We always have the best intentions, don’t we? Yet, soon enough, fear creeps in, doubt grows and disobedience occurs.

What is the key to staying faithful to God?

Remembering. These people have first-hand seen God rescue them with big, sweeping miracles. What have you personally experienced in your life that you can look back on in moments of doubt?

Destroying your idols. What do you reach for in your life when you need help or you’re trying to escape? What (or who) do you worship instead of God?

Turn your heart towards God. How do you posture your desires and fears towards God? For me, it’s often prayer or worship (read: singing off-tune songs in my car or kitchen). When I’m feeling shut down, it takes a measure of discipline to direct my attention to God. I’d rather eat, drink, spend money, nap, over-exercise and just overall distract.

Take a minute and reflect on the journey Joshua has been on with God. How do you make a daily choice to serve God?

Tomorrow we jump back in to the New Testament with Philemon.

 

-Carly

 

Joshua 21-22 B

Since Carly cites 21 in her prompt, I will focus on this madness in 22.

The tribes who faithfully conquered the land west of the Jordan are sent home, commended for their faithfulness; and their first move is to build an alter.

“And the sons of Israel heard it said, ‘behold, the sons of Rueben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.’ When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.” (22:11-12)

Talk about a quickly escalating misunderstanding! This feels way too relatable. We discover the true purpose of this alter is actually smart, God honoring, and important.

“It shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in the time to come, ‘you have no portion in the LORD’. Therefore we said, it shall also, come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, ‘see the copy of the altar of the LORD which are fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.'” (22:27-28)

Another smart idea for creating reminders.

It is incredibly important to talk before we fight. I try to make a habit of believing most strife is caused by misunderstandings. Maybe it’s harder to recognize, because we don’t strap on swords and head to the river, but I think we tend to fight by slandering the person we’re misunderstanding. Maybe what we perceive to be an act of division, is really an attempt to keep us on the same team. Interpersonal conflict is the root of all kinds of hardship. We can spare ourselves a lot if we just ask, “what is the meaning of this?” Instead of assuming to know the meaning and getting riled up, rallying troops against an unknowing offender.

Is there someone you need to clear the air with today? Ask the LORD for help in humbling our hearts to anticipate misunderstanding, believing the best in one another.

-Bethany