Advent 2019 – Day 2

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Daniel 1:1-6 — In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.  Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.  The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.  Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

In 605 BC, three centuries after the split of the Hebrews into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and a century after the Kingdom of Israel had been taken by the Assyrians, the Kingdom of Judah falls to the Babylonians.

The people of God are exiled, scattered.  Jerusalem and the Temple will soon be destroyed. Continue reading

Advent 2019 – Day 1

IMG_1017It’s Advent once again.  I began this devotional series as a gift of encouragement for my small group, but as I’ve drawn deeper, my heart is to share with all of those who would join me in some daily moments of reflection this season.  Thank you for joining me in waiting this year.

The first candle we light is the candle of the prophets, the candle of hope.

Scholars differ on the number (as they so often do), but the Old Testament contains anywhere from 200 to 400 prophecies regarding the Messiah – and they aren’t limited to the capital “P” Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, et al.. The coming of God’s anointed was known and passed down as part of the faith of the Hebrews since before they were a people.  Moses wrote of Him, David sang of Him.

I won’t list here the copious references and their New Testament fulfillment – you have Google for that – but I would share one prophecy I have been reflecting on today: the first one, God’s words to the serpent in Genesis 3:14-15.

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Standing Secure in God

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Read: 2 Samuel 22:1-7, 20-35; Habakkuk 3:1-6, 16-19

Reflect: “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.”

There are only two people in Scripture who use these words: David and Habakkuk.  David first sings them to the LORD at the end of his last battle, after his servants have killed the four sons of the very giant David himself killed long ago in his first battle.  It’s a song of victory.  David looks back at a lifetime of God’s providence and rejoices in His goodness and strength.   He’s confident in who God is and in his relationship with Him:

“For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my

darkness.  For by you I can run against a troop, and by my

God I can leap over a wall.” [2 Sam 22:29-30, ESV]

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Resident Alien: Abraham Part II [Hebrews 11:9-10]

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could deal if all we ever read about in scripture were perfectly holy people, never doing wrong, and shining through the ages as beacons of irreproachable righteousness.

I cannot adequately express how much that would suck.

So I am thankful that, for every example of faith, the Bible also keeps record of the mistakes, the sins, the doubts, the “bad-life-decisions”, and the utter failures that remind us God’s historical cast was broken, inadequate, temperamental, imperfect and, well, human.

And Abraham is no exception.  Father of nations or no, Abraham pulled some really stupid stuff in his time.  Like when he passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister.  Or when he tried to take control of God’s plan and slept with his servant to produce an heir.  Or when he abandoned that servant and her newborn child to his wife’s jealousy.  Or when he passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister…again.

Really, Abraham? Not cool.

It is encouraging, then, when we get to Hebrews and find that even a life as flawed as Abraham’s can be marked by faith: Continue reading

Into the Unknown: Abraham Part I [Hebrews 11:8]

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By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8 [NASB]

One of the things I love about opening the Word is that I am never quite certain where it is going to take me.  Take this week for example:  I sat down to look at Abraham’s mentions in Hebrews thinking that I would probably need to look at his faith in two parts – Abraham’s life of faith in a strange land (v. 8-10) and Abraham’s faith in God’s promises (v. 17-19).  As I dug in, however, I realized that there was a lot being said in verse 8 alone, things that needed to stand on their own, things that I needed to hear.

So now, we’ll be looking at Abraham’s faith in three parts.  And we start with his first steps, when he was still Abram: Continue reading

No Contingencies: Noah [Hebrews 11:7]

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These are the records of the generations of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.  And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japeth.  Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.  Then God said to Noah; “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.  Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.  And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.  And behold I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.  But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your son’s wives with you.  And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.  And as for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.”  Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

Genesis 6:9-22 [NASB]

Can you imagine Noah’s thoughts as God gave His instructions?   Whether or not it had ever actually rained, nobody had ever seen that much rain.  Never had a boat (or any structure probably) been built to such scale as God set forth.  What was Noah thinking?  “How can I possibly build something that big?”  “All the animals? Really?”  “Why me?”  “Why my family?”  “This is impossible.”  “People are going to think I am crazy.”  and maybe “Holy cow! God’s talking to me!”
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A Closer Walk: Enoch [Hebrews 11:5]

Did anybody else have this game growing up?

Bible Trivia Board Game: The game where trivia is not Trivial by Cadaco 1984 Religious Game- Spiritual Game- Adult and Child Game- Complete

Good, clean pun for the whole family.

You know, the one with the board that looked like a Sunday School felt board:

Four players only, get your own stinkin’ rainbow.

And the tokens that looked a little too much like communion wafers:

BIBLE TRIVIA BOARD GAME 5400 QUESTIONS 1984 EUC Cadaco PIECES ONLY bin20

Choking hazard? Maybe, but it’s a holy choking hazard.

 

In our family, this game taught a very important lesson: Jesus is always the answer.

Unless it isn’t.

And then the answer is probably John.

Well, the next time you play, here’s one more name that will come in handy:

Enoch. Continue reading

Giving Our All: Cain and Abel [Hebrews 11:4]

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By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Hebrews 11:4 [NASB]

Have you ever read the story of Cain and Abel and wondered where, exactly, Cain went wrong?  I mean, here we have Cain bringing an offering to God of his own accord and God flat out denies him.  So far as we know, Cain didn’t know anything about requirements – Leviticus and the Law were generations away.  But God says “no” and we are left with “why?”  Continue reading

Beyond the Clouds

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Every cloud has a silver lining.

At least that is what they say.  And by “they,” I mean “we.” And by “we,” I mean “me.”

I know I have said it.  You know you have, too.

I want you to do something with me, at least as a mental exercise:  Take out a piece of paper.  Write that saying down nice and big.  Underline it.  Highlight it.  Circle the key words.

Now crumple it up and throw it away.

For too long we have accepted the usage of this idiom as some sort of balm, a way to foster positive thinking.  As believers, this phrase should have no place in our lexicon.  It is empty encouragement that is – at best – limited and short sighted, and – at worst – downright unbiblical.  Continue reading

By way of introduction…

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I find it especially helpful to write when I pray – something about my pencil scratching across the page seems to drown out the distractions, focus my thoughts, and helps me set aside the laundry list of things (like laundry) waiting for me at the other end of my time.  I write about scripture, I work through fears and doubts, I thank God for things, I ask Him what the hell is going on with my life (seriously, if I had a pair of shoes for every time that one came up…), I process.

Sometimes, though, I set aside my agenda, I turn off what is left of my filter, and I listen.  And I write.

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