Reading the Old Testament – Part 5

old testamentToday we are continuing our discussion around reading the Old Testament by looking at two more Old Testament passages and what we can extrapolate from them after just a cursory read-through.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

We know that this command, to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might is repeated for us in the New Testament as the “great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:36-40). I always enjoy seeing the original OT passage that a familiar NT passage references (Deuteronomy 8:3 was another cool one I read this morning).

I also appreciate the obvious importance and urgency of the OT command. While we are no longer under the law, and therefore don’t have to follow the passage in Deuteronomy word for word, it is still helpful to see how strongly God feels about this command. Is God’s Word as much on my heart and mind as it should be? What things are keeping it from being so? Is there something I need to put away? Is there something I need to repent of? Am I faithfully raising my children under the umbrella of loving God with all one’s heart?

Deuteronomy 13:6-11

“If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you.”

Over and over in the OT we see how jealous God is for His Name and His people. Deuteronomy 13 gives three examples of people who might urge an Israelite to turn away from the one true God to serve other gods. The first is a ‘prophet or dreamer of dreams’ and the third is ‘some worthless men in the cities’. But between the two we have family and friends, those who we love the most – “the wife you cherish” and “your friend who is as your own soul” – these are strong, soul-stirring words! But even here God shows exactly where He ranks – no pity is allowed, they are commanded to kill the person who “has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God.” Even more strongly than just to kill the person but He goes on to say “your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”!

When I stop to think about this, I feel some of the fear mentioned in verse 11. My mind literally cannot fathom ever hurting my brother, let alone being first in line to put him to death! So what should our reaction be to these verses? Well the first should be great thanks that we are under the new covenant, the covenant of grace. But the second should be to consider our own actions, decisions, and thoughts. We see how strongly this command was worded, how jealous and our God is that His people love and serve only Him. Do I take my life as His redeemed daughter this seriously? Or do I take the immense grace that was freely lavished on me in Christ for granted? Too often it is the later.

I have some other examples for later weeks but in the meantime, what are some of your favorite Old Testament passages and why? 

Reading the Old Testament – Part 4

old testamentIn my last two posts, I discussed what not to do when reading the Old Testament, what to do, and different Bible reading plans. Today I want to give two examples of some OT passages and why I have them marked in my Bible.

Numbers 32:6-27

We all know the story of the Israelites coming to the promised land and then not trusting in God to deliver it into their hands as He had promised, the result of which was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had completely died off, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. In Numbers 32, we see a similar situation occur where the tribes of Gad and Reuben balk at going against certain cities and kings. They are happy with what they have and don’t want to fight alongside the other tribes. But when God warns them that they are about to make the same mistake as their fathers did before them, they repent immediately and go to fight. As a result of their obedience, God gave the cities into their hands.

I like this passage for several reasons:

  1. God gives them a chance to repent. He reminds them of the past and warns them of what will happen if they don’t obey.
  2. They actually do change their minds! So often in the OT you want to pull your hair out reading about the Israelites’ decisions but here is an example of them doing what was right.
  3. Verses 20-22 “If you will do this…cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven His enemies out before Him, and the land is subdued before the LORD…” (emphasis mine). I just love passages that speak to God’s absolute control over situations here on earth. Israel was about to go out and fight but the passage speaks of God being the one to drive out the enemies and subdue the land.

So what can I extrapolate from this chapter? A few things:

  1. God is a sovereign God with complete control over every outcome.
  2. God is patient.
  3. Repentance is good!

This is in no way an exhaustive list but is only what came to mind as I was reading this passage earlier this week. Do you see how simple it can be to take a narrative passage and pull some truths about God from it? And which of us does not benefit from reminders and examples of God’s sovereignty and patience and constant calls to repentance? I know I do.

Job 27:1-6 (this one is shorter so I’ll include it here for you)

“Then Job continued his discourse and said,

‘As God lives, who has taken away my right,

And the Almighty, who has embittered my soul,

For as long as life is in me,

And the breath of God is in my nostrils,

My lips certainly will not speak unjustly,

Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.

Far be it from me that I should declare you right;

Til I die I will not put away my integrity from me.

I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.

My heart does not reproach any of my days.'”

I like the book of Job because he has suffered more than most of us probably ever will. Most of us will never know the pain of losing all of our possessions and all of our children in one day. Most of us will never be afflicted with the same kind of physical pain as Job. Most of us will never be surrounded by unhelpful, critical ‘friends’ as we navigate through the worst trial of our lives. This makes Job a powerful reminder of the immense blessings I have even in the midst of a trial.

This passage speaks directly to Job’s bearing up under his suffering. Who doesn’t feel for his pain? Who can read of his rejection of speaking unjustly or deceitfully and his desire to hold fast his integrity and righteousness even in the midst of his pain and not feel the twinge of conviction and encouragement to do the same? It can be easy for us while in a trial to speak unjustly about the situation, others involved, or even God Himself. As my mom used to say “It is an opportunity for sin but not an excuse.”

It is also a great example of a man speaking truth to himself in the midst of suffering. So much of the fight against sin and the effects of sin takes place in our minds where we declare truth to ourselves and resolve to continue to acting in such a way as to bring glory to God. 

Reading the Old Testament – Part 3

{Part One}
{Part Two}

old testamentIn my last couple posts I talked about things to do and not to do when reading the Old Testament. Since we are now ready to get started, lets go over some Bible reading plans that can help us focus our readings for a successful outcome.

Here are some of the most common:

BibleGateway.com:

  • Old and New Testament in 365 days – daily readings from both the OT and the NT
  • Chronological in 365 days
  • The Bible in 90 Days

BibleStudyTools.com

  • Book Order – reading from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 in the order in which the books of the Bible are arranged.
  • Chronological – read the Bible in the order that the events happened.
  • Classic – read 3 passages each day, starting with Genesis, Psalms, and Luke
  • Ninety-Day Challenge – Read the Bible all the way through in only 90 days)
  • Stay-on-track Plan – Specifically designed to help readers stay on track. There are readings only scheduled on week days, with weekends left free to catch up or get ahead.
  • Thematic – the goal here is to make as many associations as possible between the different parts of Scripture while still reading individual books for the Bible from start to finish.
  • Prof. Horner’s Reading System  – A unique system where you read 10 chapters a day
    • This is actually the plan on which my current plan is based!

I got these lists by googling “Bible Reading Plans” and clicking on the first two results, which took about thirty seconds. There are many other plans available so if none of these sound good to you, take time to do some research. Look online or talk with your friends and find out what works for them.  Finding a plan you enjoy is key to faithful and complete Bible reading.

Are you using a plan? If yes, what is it? What do you like/dislike about it?

How Has Your Time with the Lord Been?

actsSo, it’s that time of the year again, and yes I’m going to ask again, how are your disciplines going? Our time with the Lord is very appropriately called disciplines because as you’ve probably noticed it can be difficult to maintain any and all the disciplines. I will speak briefly of some of the disciplines–bible reading, prayer, memorization, meditation, and study. These disciplines are the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for His glory!

We are commanded over and over to be in God’s word. Psalm 119 is a very long  psalm discussing the benefits associated with knowing His word as well as problems we can avoid if we are faithful to read the Bible. This psalm also includes prayers we can pray before we read. John 15 speaks of the necessity of abiding in Him — if you don’t read, study, memorize, and meditate on the bible how will you abide in Him? Hebrews 2 says that we must pay closer attention to what we’ve heard, warning that if we don’t, we could drift away. God is our comfort, our hope, our strength, and our peace. We are foolish if our pride leads us to imagine that we could bring Him glory without knowing His word. There are many bible reading programs: YouVersion, Bible Gateway, Olive Tree, etc. I have some printed that, if you ask me, I will gladly give you.

The bible also tells us that we need to pray without ceasing.  I pray two types of prayer: formal and informal. Informal prayer is simply the time that I talk with Him throughout the day. Formal prayer is a time that I set aside to speak with our Father. I use an acronym to help me to pray:

ACTS —

A is adoration, which is simply telling God the things that I love about Him. Psalms are a good place to find His attributes, but I strongly recommend that as you read through the bible you mark all the verses that tell you about Him.

C is confession. After I confess everything I can think of, I ask Him to show me the rest of my sin so that I can confess all of it (1 John 1:9) and work to repent.

T is thanksgiving. I also include different aspects of all that I’ve been given because of the gospel.  Keeping the gospel forefront in your mind by including it in prayer causes so much joy and keeps it ready on your lips to speak to those without Him.

S is supplication, which is just taking your requests to Him. There are many prayers included in scripture and many times what you read that day will cause you to think of things to pray.

Nichole recently wrote an excellent article on memorizing — it’s not too late to join us! Everyone should have gotten the bulletin insert a few weeks ago with memorization tips. Meditation is easy if you are memorizing.

Matt offers an Acts study on Tuesdays at 6:30p and Thursdays at 9p. The only homework is reading the chapter discussed prior to the study.

This is my prayer for you: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. But you have to do the work and stay in the battle!

Ephesians Memory Challenge: Chapter 1 Complete

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This past week marked the completion of the first chapter of our Ephesians Memory Challenge!! I just want to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all the ladies that persevered through and have successfully memorized chapter one. It went by a lot faster than I had been expecting – I mean, Pastor Matt hasn’t even started preaching in Ephesians yet!

In order to celebrate our achievement, my mom and I are going to go out for dinner on Monday, February 10th at 7pm at the Olive Garden in Kenosha and we would like to invite all of you to come with us! We hope that all of the ladies that are memorizing will be able to join us and have a relaxing evening of celebration and encouragement.

If you are planning on coming, please comment below so that I know how big of a table to request. While you are commenting, I’d love to hear how the first chapter went for all of you.

Now I know that some (including myself) have fallen behind and that not everyone has had a chance to catch up. To those people I will say: DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!! God has not commanded us to memorize two verses a week. This is something we are doing out of a desire to know God better and to hide His Word in our heart as a way to love Him more. With that as your motivation and purpose in memorizing, you cannot go wrong. For many this is the first time in a long time (or ever) that you are following a Bible memory plan. It takes a while to develop up habits – do not do yourself the injustice of expecting perfection right out of the gate. Instead approach this opportunity with humility and prayer and when you get behind, just pick up where you left off and continue on with a heart of thanksgiving for God’s Word.

With all this in mind, I have updated the Ephesians Memory Plan with two review weeks built in after every chapter. During the holidays I was continually kicking myself for not thinking of this in the first place!! Please download the attached updated schedule.

Just to clarify, dinner on the tenth is not intended only for those who have finished chapter one. It is for those who have committed to memorizing Ephesians and have been working through it regardless of where they are at in the process right now. It is an evening intended for encouragement – and what better opportunity is there for encouragement than for those who are feeling discouraged by getting behind?

I very much hope that you will all be able to join us! Don’t forget to comment below if you plan to come!

You can click this link to RSVP via Facebook.

Reading the Old Testament – Part 2

old testamentIn my last post, I talked about four things to avoid when reading the Old Testament. Today I want to look at the opposite of that – things we should do when reading the OT.
  1. Accept that it is just as much the inspired Word of God as the New Testament – Our Sovereign God saw fit to give us both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Humility dictates that we must approach both then as necessary revelation pertinent to us in some way. Just because it may be easier to find relevance in the NT doesn’t make it okay to bypass the ‘harder’ revelation of the OT.
  2. Pray before you read – This is honestly something that should happen before we read the NT as well, but it is important, so I’m including it anyway. Pray and ask the Lord to help you concentrate, to reveal more of Himself to you through your reading, and to cause passages to stick with you afterwards. Thank Him for giving you His Word and for making it so easily available to us.
  3. Don’t read it with a goal of finding something specific to YOU – read it with a goal of finding something specific about GOD – This is probably the biggest point I want to try and get across. We are not Israel and we are not under the Old Covenant. At first glance, this can seem to take away the value of reading and studying the OT. But we are Christians and our hope rests in the gospel of the one true God, the God of both the Old and New Testament. The more we know God the more we love Him and the more thankful we become for our salvation. Reading the complete revelation from God gives us a MUCH more complete picture of who God is than focusing on just one section. So as you are reading the OT ask yourself, “What does this reveal to me about God?” and “Is this unusual or unexpected? Is it encouraging?”

I strongly recommend reading the Bible cover to cover at least once – and preferably multiple times. It is how I read the Bible for probably the first twenty years I was reading. However, the past several years I’ve taken a different approach that is very popular and can be good for people really struggling with the OT – reading the OT and the NT together! A few chapters from both, or whatever you’ve set as a daily goal.

Having a plan will help a lot. Next time I’ll go over some helpful Bible reading plans for those of you who are looking to use one for the first time or who are looking for something different in 2014.

Reading the Old Testament – Part 1

old testamentI really enjoy reading the Old Testament. And I don’t just mean Genesis and Psalms – I also enjoy Leviticus, Chronicles, Isaiah, and Joel. Over the years, I’ve heard many people say how much they struggle with the Old Testament, how much the prefer the New Testament, how the NT is more relevant to them than the OT, etc. I hope over the next few weeks to show how important, rewarding, and encouraging it can be to read and study the Old Testament.

Before I begin, full disclosure: I am not an Old Testament scholar. I’m writing strictly based on what I’ve learned through my own readings of the Old Testament. I don’t have any special training and I’ve sat under the same teaching as most of you my entire life. So these are observations from an “average reader”, if you will.

I also quickly want to thank my parents for making all of their children begin reading the Bible, start to finish, every year from the time we were old enough to read. That training has proved invaluable in my life and the older I get, the more and more thankful I am for the way they raised us.

I will start by covering things to avoid when reading the Old Testament, things to do when preparing to read the OT, and then spend a few posts drawing observations from several ‘less-familiar’ OT passages.

Now to begin….

Things to avoid when reading the Old Testament:

  1. Getting bogged down in lists
    1. We all know about the seemingly endless genealogies in the beginning of the Old Testament (just today I read the first five chapters of 1st Chronicles, all of which are almost exclusively this). Don’t feel as though you have to mentally sound out each name when you read these. That could take hours and has almost no value to the average reader. Don’t be afraid to scan down through these – but be careful. There are very often surprising nuggets buried in these passages and you don’t want to miss them by simply skipping down to the end of the chapter.
    2. One of my favorite examples of this is in Numbers 7. The tabernacle has just been built, anointed, and consecrated and each of the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel are bringing an offering. One leader a day brings his offering and each of the offerings are the same. Six verses are dedicated to each offering – which means there are twelve identical (except for the name of the leader and the tribe) paragraphs in a row. And then there is a helpful summary paragraph at the end that states how much in total was given as an offering. Once I read the first two and realized they were all the same, all I needed to do was scan down and note the name of the tribe and look out for if there were any differences in the offerings (there weren’t) which turned an 89 verse chapter into only a couple minute read.
  1. Becoming too detail-oriented
    1. This is a generalization and should be taken as such, but the Old Testament should be read with the bigger picture of what’s going on very much in mind. Of course this is true of the New Testament as well but in the OT you are almost always in the middle of a story or prophecy or group of instructions. By pulling back and thinking about what is going on in the greater scheme of things, you will better understand the meaning and importance of what is being said.
  1. Reading as if you were the Jewish recipient
    1. Much of the Old Testament does not apply directly to us today. It was part of the Old Covenant between God and His people Israel. If you go into reading the OT with the expectation of finding something that will relate directly to you and your life today, there is a very good chance you won’t find anything. That’s okay, the Bible wasn’t written with that purpose in mind.
  1. Assuming that since you aren’t an Israelite, much of the OT isn’t relevant to you.
    1. This is absolutely not true. The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT. The Lord is unchanging, eternal, and sovereign and He has given us both the OT and the NT. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in later posts.

Next time I’ll go over things to do when reading the Old Testament.

Ephesians Memory Challenge

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Hello Ladies! I was very excited to hear that the next full book Pastor Matt will be preaching through is Ephesians. It is one of my favorite New Testament books (is it okay to admit I have favorites??) and I can’t wait to dive into it. As I was contemplating my excitement today, I had an idea and I’d like to share it with all of you and invite you to participate with me.

I am going to memorize the book of Ephesians and I’d love for you all to do it with me! I’m setting a goal of two verses a week which comes out to 77.5 weeks (or a year and a half) to memorize all 155 verses in the book.

I know that this is a big time commitment and I also know how easy it is to start a large Bible memory project and then to not finish it, (I have memorized the first two chapters of Philippians and the first two and a half chapters of James) which is why I think doing it with other women will be really helpful.

So, if you are interested (and I hope you are!), come up with an accountability group and get started! Maybe memorize with your teenage daughters, with your discipleship group, with the women in your community group, or with a woman that you’ve been wanting to develop a relationship with. Anyone that you will see or talk to on a regular basis will work well and if you can’t think of anyone, let me know and I’ll do it with you.  Commit both to memorizing yourself and encouraging others to keep going and pursuing the end goal together.

I’ve attached a schedule so that we will all be on the same page. Looking forward to memorizing and learning alongside all of you!

Ephesians Memory Plan

Guest Post: A Personal Reflection on Revive ’13

Guest Post by: Liz Salica

I recently had the opportunity of attending the Revive Our Hearts Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois. The theme of this year’s meeting was Women Helping Women. I was encouraged to learn about helping the women that God has put in my life. Learning begins with the word of God.

Doubt, unbelief, and insecurity are some of the struggles I face. If someone comes to me for advice, I find myself inadequate to help her because I do not have the confidence that what I am going to say is right. God showed me that what is right is His word. The Bible has to be the place I reach to at all times. God’s word is sufficient for everything. I have to stop relying on myself, and simply share God’s word. I need the Word. God has called me to be faithful and disciplined with my time in the Word.

I have a conviction to pray for the women that God has put in my life. I am not in this alone. God has surrounded me with other believers and I can learn so much from a woman who God has brought along in areas where I am weak. I need to honestly share what God is doing in my life and be encouraged to obedience by the sisters in Christ that He has given me. I am a sinner. I am not perfect. In fact, the only good thing in me is Christ. Elyse Fitzpatrick said it like this, “Let’s just be real!” That resonated with me. God sees the real me. He knows my heart, my motivations, and my sin. He loves me still, who can hold anything against me?

It was a privilege to praise and worship alongside believers from all around the world. In many ways, I was shown how vast and diverse the body of Christ is. God gives the gifts of the Spirit and they are spread over the whole congregation. I have sisters in Christ and when they minister to me, I grow in love towards God who fulfills my need through the body of Christ. There is great peace that comes from that. I remain in awe of our God who is vast and powerful and all.

God has renewed my hope, grown my faith, and given me blessing upon blessing. If my eyes are on this world, I start thinking that the future is uncertain; but, when I keep my eyes on God, I remember and have assurance that He has overcome this world and that is certain! Gathering together with the body of Christ gives me an excitement for that day when we can all sing His praises together in Heaven forever.

The sessions were recorded and are available for listening HERE.

How Do You Find Time to be With Our Lord?

My time with our Father has changed many times over the years due to different scheduling challenges. Life gets so crazy busy, but we must find time for Him if we are to continue to learn who He is, love Him more deeply, and bring Him glory. So what’s a girl to do; how can we fit the most important part of our day into our hectic lives?

I have what I call my “formal” time with our Lord. It consists of sitting down and being with Him in the form of reading my bible using some type of reading plan and prayer. This time with Him started out being first thing in the morning the way it’s “supposed” to be done. Sometimes it would be on the bus on the way to work or at lunch if I got up late. This worked very well until I had our first child. I was tired due to sleepless nights and wanted to sleep in until I had to get up. Which meant sleeping until a hungry baby woke me! I first took care of our Nichole and various other necessary chores and then had my time with Him. No big deal — still in the morning. Then I had more kids, more chores, and home school. So when I put the kids down for a nap with strict instructions, something like, “you will be disciplined if you don’t stay in your bed until I tell you it’s time to get up,” I had my time with our Lord. I began to break the “morning rule” but it worked with my new schedule. Then the kids grew and somewhere along the way my time with Him changed again — it was at night. I really began to push the envelope with that morning rule. The point is that what really matters is making sure that you have time with our Father.

I also have what I call informal time with our Lord. It consists of taking a peek at a memory verse, so that while I’m doing something that doesn’t involve thought, I can work on my verse. This is a great way to bring your focus back to Him when you need an attitude adjustment. This took place in the car when my home schooled kids were taking a couple of classes at local high schools. It ended up being the only time I had to work on my verses during that time in my life. Other examples of informal time would include listening to a sermon or praying, especially asking our gracious Father about things causing us to be anxious through out the day.

Now, I’m back to first thing in the morning for my formal time with Him, listening to sermons while I get ready to go out, and studying at various times between appointments three days a week. The rest of the week I have exercise class, so my time with Him looks a little different depending on what I have scheduled for the day. I work on my memory verses anytime that I have a few minutes and before bed. I pray informally throughout the day and night, which, by the way, is a great way to spend your time when you can’t sleep!

I have a friend who taped her memory verse on notebook paper (not laminated) to the bathroom wall so that she could work on it while she showered. Another friend has her memory verse come to her via email reminder from her goggle calendar each day. The point being that we have to be creative — where there’s a will, there’s a way!

I’d love to hear how you have fit your time with our infinitely loving Father into your crazy busy life. Please comment and share your ideas with the rest of us. Perhaps what works for you could help a sister fit her time in with the most important One in her life.