Zephaniah B

A while back, Bethany and I were hanging out with our friend Josh. I can’t remember the details, but I think he needed to write a worship song for homework at Bible college, or something. Anyway, he strung together a few chords and effortlessly turned the last few verses of Zephaniah 3:17 into a song. (One that I still sing regularly.)

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” 3:17

I liked the way the Bible Project broke down this book for us, describing how Zephaniah shows us God is equally just and loving. 

Reread that verse above. God is with us. He is mighty to save. He celebrates with us delightfully. He calms our fears with his perfect peace. And he sings over us, like a loving parent comforting their child.

That verse sneaks up on you at the end of such an intense book, doesn’t it? How can this Old Testament, fire-and-brimstone God love us so gently and intimately? Sing over us?! I like singing that verse (and the catchy tune, thank you Josh). It snaps me back to the truth about God; he doesn’t abandon us in our sin or to our enemies. He has a plan for us and will continue to be with us.

God loves us very, very deeply and will fully restore all brokenness. 

I’ve felt quieted by his love lately from my anxiety. Where have you seen God doing something from verse 17 in your life recently?

 

-Carly

 

 

Habakkuk 2-3 B

Following a lament in chapter one, The LORD responds to Habakkuk as he asks the age old question: “How can God be good when He allows so much evil?”

In chapter two, the LORD brings five woes to evil rulers. He is watching and He is bringing justice to these atrocities:

  1. Becoming wealthy off charging poor people interest on loans (2:6-8)
  2. Building a personal empire at the expense of others (2:9-11)
  3. Building with violence, AKA slave labor (2:12)
  4. Drunken exploitation (2:15-16)
  5. Idolatry (2:18-19)

Habakkuk sees and remembers the justice of the LORD and how He has brought deliverance before. He will do it again. He is comforted to know the LORD sees and wicked men will not get away with murder forever.

When we see evil winning, that discouragement can lead us to joining in on evil. What does it mean for “the righteous to live by faith?” (2:4) It is an ongoing trust in the LORD, and a choice to make decisions based on a fear of Him over a fear of man. It is humility toward Him instead of pride.

In contrast, by faith, we put the interest of others above our own. What a powerful weapon against the 5 sins facing woes! Choosing love over selfishness is an act of faith, along with praising the LORD, even when everything looks terrible. This is how Habakkuk finishes chapter three:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (3:17-19)

No matter the atrocities we see in the world today, we can live by faith, building up others and loving selflessly. These actions have eternal endurance and honor our LORD. How can you put the interests of others above your own today?

-Bethany

Nahum 3 – Habakkuk 1 B

“…But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god.” 1:11

Habakkuk’s description of Babylon rising up is just devastating. 

I like this disclaimer that he writes, noting that just because God is using Babylon to discipline his people, doesn’t mean they’re innocent. (I get lost in the logistics of God using sinful people for his purpose, but it’s efficient, if nothing else.)

Their strength is their god. It’s good to pan out and take a look at what the godless nations in the Bible are doing and try to do the exact opposite in life. Sometimes object lessons are the most straight-forward lessons given in Scripture. Human strength, whether it’s physical, financial, social class, etc, does not last and holds no eternal value. Don’t envy it in other people, don’t rely on it if you have it and don’t tirelessly seek after it. It’s meaningless to God and he uses it to his advantage like it’s the wild card in a card game.

He is the only one who offers true strength, and it’s packaged completely differently. It’s not having the quickest tongue in an argument, it’s remaining controlled and patient. It’s not flexing the most impressive social status, it’s meekly seating yourself at the end of the table.

Whose strength are you trying to tap in to right now? 

Take a minute and revisit Bethany’s summary on these two chapters. She gives an overview of what’s going on contextually and it’s great.

 

-Carly

Nahum 1-2 B

“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” (1:7)

His wrath is coming to town. This prophesy of Nahum against Nineveh is serious business. The LORD’s fire purifies. He knows who His advisories are, and He knows what He must do.

I’m not sure why this is comforting to me, today. In this age of misinformation and conflicting views, it’s so hard to know who’s a friend and who’s a foe. We like black and white. We like good guys and bad guys. We like painting in large strokes. We like playing judge.

Thank God this isn’t our actual job. Praise Him for knowing, for being good, for being responsible for retribution.

It’s easy for me to get into my own head and forget which way is up. I must always crawl back to the feet of the LORD I know. He is good. His judgements are righteous. I need to remember to trust Him, leaving His job His job.

My job is faithful obedience. My job is to daily remember who He is and what He has done. My job is to pray as Jesus taught:

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (6:9-13‬)

The LORD handles judgment, I forgive as He forgives me. I remain dependent on Him. I don’t run around pronouncing judgement. I forgive. I stay humble and responsible for myself.

He is qualified in every way. I am unqualified. He knows the heart of every man. I can hardly baseline understand the men in my life.

Today I rejoice in His goodness and take refuge there.

-Bethany

Micah 5-7 B

What can we bring to the LordShould we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oilShould we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?” 6:6-7

The contrast between this verse, and Micah 6:8 really got my attention today. Ten thousand rivers of olive oil? That ain’t cheap. Sacrificing your firstborn children? The ultimate price. These extreme examples are exaggerated responses of gratitude. What could I possibly do to respond to all the Lord has done?! There is no offering big enough.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 6:8

It some ways, it doesn’t feel like enough. And in a lot of ways, it still feels like an overwhelming requirement.

Do you find yourself trying to perform for God? Maybe by ticking enough ‘spiritual boxes’ by attending church or reading your Bible enough. Or exhausting yourself with one thing after another, trying to earn God’s grace in your life.

He keeps it so simple, yet we make it so hard.

Examine your tendency to try to pay back God with good or religious behavior. What are things you can be doing to give him what he really requires?

 

-Carly

Micah 3-4 B

This is one of my favorite prophesies:

“Many nations will come and say, ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths.‘ For from Zion will go forth the law, Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine And under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid, For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.” (4:2-4)

Can you imagine? Weapons turned back into farming tools? Nothing signifies a return to Eden, for me, than that.

No one is making another person afraid?! What a glorious, yet basic, yearning in our hearts!

I don’t know when or how or what this all looks like. I hope it’s physical and not figurative. I’m tired of figurative. I want a physical shift away from war and foolishness toward wisdom and peace.

It’s hard to imagine a place so divided, like Jerusalem, becoming a place of unity. I have no idea how we get there. I’m so glad the LORD is the captain of the ship.

In the meantime, there are ways in my own heart and life where I can decide to repurpose a weapon of warfare (maybe my quick tongue?) for cultivating, with the help of Ye Ol’ Holy Spirit. He has begun His Good works in us and will be faithful in completing them.

As Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If I love this prophesy of peace, it must first come alive in me.

-Bethany

Micah 1-2 B

Something the Old Testament is constantly teaching me is that just because something is written in the Bible, doesn’t mean God condones it, sometimes this is vague.

God is not vague about how he wants vulnerable people to be treated. (I love how Bethany drove this point home last time around.) Honestly, chapter 2 completely terrifies me. God does not mess around about integrity, wealth and our posture towards the less fortunate.

These days, widowed women and orphaned children are not as socially oppressed as they once were. There are some government programs in place, children’s homes, foster care systems, etc etc. But I was thinking today about how caring for widows, orphans and foreigners is not the government’s responsibility. If you love God and believe what he says: it is yours. 

It doesn’t matter how much financial responsibility your chosen political party decides to contribute. It doesn’t matter how many outreach programs your church has. You, personally, as a follower of Jesus, are going to be held responsible for how you treat (or mistreat) the people that God calls us to openly favor.

Isn’t that unbelievably sobering?

There is something terribly wrong with how much we listen to the lies portrayed by greedy rich people and the media. Listen to the voice of truth: God deeply loves and cares for the people that secular society tells you to be afraid of and judge. 

I’m still asking God to teach me what it looks like to apply this to my mostly-white, incredibly-privileged and often-sheltered lifestyle. But I know I can’t ride on the coattails of people who are willing to get their hands dirty, I need to put myself in positions to love on his very important people.

Take a minute and reflect on how you respond to social justice and what it looks like for you to get involved. We are all called to be involved differently, but we are all called to be involved. 

 

-Carly

2 Corinthians 13 B

It has become clear, over the course of these two letters, that the Corinthians talk a lot of trash. Yes, Paul addresses issues of sexual immorality, drunkenness and selfishness, but the main problem we find in this letter is that a lot of people have slandered since Paul left. He spends a lot of time reminding them of the facts. What really went down? Do you remember?

In this final chapter, I see Paul pleading for a better way, moving forward.

“Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (1)

“Finally, brothers, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (11)

I am reminded of the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) This usually gets boiled down to “Don’t Lie” (for time’s sake?), but I believe it’s best understood unedited.

As the LORD set up His society of people, He was also setting up a judicial system. Now, not everything in life ends up in court, but imagine with me, the daily courtroom of our social lives. We hear a juicy bit of information and pass it on. Perhaps this isn’t malicious. Other times, we get mad and exaggerate a person’s wrong-doing. Still other times, straight up slander happens. In court, this wouldn’t fly. You need witnesses, you need statements sworn under oath. Hearsay gets you no where.

The rumors buzzing around the Corinthian church caused a lot of strife among them and with Paul. The last chapters of this book are drenched in sarcasm, because things have gotten ridiculous. Paul is pleading, “PLEASE get your facts straight! Don’t listen to something with no evidence! Don’t pass on a tale without evidence.”

America is swimming in “fake news” (other countries too, don’t worry?). What can we do to move towards unity? We can believe the best in each other. Don’t blindly believe someone you know to be extremely biased. Don’t pass on information that is void of credible witnesses. We can rejoice together over the good things. Don’t let negativity steal all your attention!

In my heart, I feel the LORD leaning in when He gave Moses the ninth commandment to say, “Life is broken enough as it is. You’re going to hurt one another. Please don’t make it worse by spreading stories that your neighbor is worse than he is.”

Tomorrow we start the minor prophets!

-Bethany

2 Corinthians 11-12 B

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 12:9a

God’s response to our suffering is to provide everything we need. (Obviously it rarely seems like this.)

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 12:10

Paul’s response here is intimidating and not very relatable. When I was first studying the Bible, I read this and felt overwhelmed and wanted to flip back into the psalms where I was allowed to lament and shake an angry fist.

But notice, Paul admits to begging God repeatedly to ease him of his relentless hardship. Eventually, he gains perspective that this is a severe mercy on his life that has led to humility and deepened his reliance on the Lord. (I think we can all agree at this point that Paul has a monumental struggle with pride as seen in Acts 9.)

Most people speculate that Paul had chronic health problems, maybe even a physical disability. The way he describes his problem as a tormenting messenger from Satan has me wondering if it’s an addiction. To what? I don’t know. If you’ve ever been around a recovered addict, you will hear them say similar things. They just want freedom, they beg God for change and they learn to live with the thorn in their side.

Whatever it is, health problems, a bad temper, an addiction, crippling laziness etc, God has what you need for your reoccurring hardship.

Something I regularly practice is to take note of God’s grace when something goes wrong. Start with the smaller things throughout your day and then this muscle will be strengthened to notice the bigger things.

His grace is enough for you and you can put that to the test.

Take time to today to notice when God’s grace shows up.

-Carly

2 Corinthians 9-10 B

“For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame.” (10:8)

We have varied gifts and talents, authorities and insights, for the purpose of edification, not intimidation. Whenever someone starts using their strength to dominate someone else, it is NOT in the Spirit of Christ. All gifts and blessings are made to be able to be passed forward. This also harkens back to chapter nine’s section on generosity.

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7)

Whenever generosity is a bummer, an impulse, or a burden, it’s missed the point. That’s not the kind of giving the LORD is looking for in His people. This isn’t to put anyone to shame. It should be liberating. No one is asking you to do something truly detrimental. Give out of a generous heart, knowing the Giver of all things continues to supply all our needs.

Sometimes we read this verse like the sermon on the mount. The command to not commit adultery is underlined by the existence of lust and we double down, attempting to pressure cook ourselves into righteousness. It’s painful! Having that in mind, we then lug ourselves over to the letter and see now, not only do we have to be generous, but we’ve got to be happy about it. NO! The point has been missed entirely in those cases!

If the New Testament is read like an elite marching order toward righteousness, we’re only going to kill ourselves. Jesus pointed out the existence of lust to declare the need for the LORD’s power in righteousness; His miraculous ability to change hearts and breathe life.

Generosity from a happy heart is evidence of a life revolutionized by the power of the gospel, by the experience of the Goodness of the LORD. Thankfulness, dependence and brotherly affection. These things are not mustered by ones own strength, they have a different source.

If these chapters evoke a groan or a level of shame, bring that understanding to LORD and ask Him to renovate it by His power. If you’re nervous about testing this generosity strategy, start small. Find a way to be generous with someone, today, with something you have! We all have something! We’re not asked to be generous with something we lack. Our different resources are to fill up each other’s deficits. Give and see if the LORD does not replenish. I assure you, He will.

-Bethany