Prepare and Persevere: The Bible in Lent Day 31

It is hard to narrow down one topic, one focus for the book of Matthew. A few years ago, I did an entire series just on a few verses from Matthew 5! There is so much beauty, teaching, and fulfillment in the life in Christ. But today, I decided to focus on a theme at the end of Matthew, perseverance and preparedness.  Shortly before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus warned His disciples about being prepared for the coming of the Lord. He told them of great persecution and trials that would come to them and the whole earth before that day.  He told them they would be reviled, that some would be led astray by false prophets and others would betray them, but then he tells them, “he who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13 RSVCE Enduring the end. Pressing on despite obstacles. Continuing the love despite the increase of wickedness.  Jesus was preaching a message of perseverance and was helping equip His followers by telling them what was to come.  But He also reminded them of the need to prepare themselves. The Lord is going to return. Jesus made that very clear to His disciples. Not only is the Lord going to return, but it is going to be suddenly and unexpectedly. And the people of God need to be prepared.  In several parables, Jesus emphasizes this need for preparedness, but I particularly appreciated the one at the end of Matthew 24 this week.  Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matthew 24:42-44 RSVCE The coming of the Lord is compared to someone breaking into a house. Unexpected. Those in the home are caught off guard and unprepared. In the previous passage, he compares it to the coming of flood on the people of Noah’s time. Both analogies are dramatic and highlight the need for preparedness.  Because we need to prepare our hearts and lives for the return of the Lord. If our roots aren’t deep, if our foundation isn’t solid, our faith…

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Takeaways from the Minor Prophets: The Bible in Lent Day 31

Today, we wrap up the minor prophets and the Old Testament! Since we’re going through so many books again today, I decided to share a little about one passage from each book.  Habakkuk Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds’ feet, he makes me tread upon my high places. – Habakkuk 3:17-19 Like Lamentations, the pain and suffering in Habakkuk are evident. Reminders of hope that don’t ignore or minimize pain always prick my heart. They remind me that circumstances do not dictate my joy, they are not the source of my optimism. True strength in trials is found only in God Himself.  Zephaniah  The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing – Zephaniah 3:17 I love passages that talk about God singing. Especially singing over us in love, as a parent sings over their child.  Haggai I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. – Haggai 2:7 This verse gave me such a clear mental picture of the world being shaken like an apple tree in autumn and the wealth pouring out upon the Temple.  Zechariah  There were two verses that stood out to me in Zechariah   In that day, says the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree. – Zechariah 3:10 This verse reminded me that peace is not something solitary, but rather something to actively invite others to participate in. How can we invite others to join us in the peace that God provides?  Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.- Zechariah 9:9 I’ve written several times during The Bible in Lent about how humility is the posture…

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The Christian Woman’s To-Do List: Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with God: The Bible in Lent Day 30

I haven’t spent much time in the minor prophets. I’ve read the story of Jonah, but Sunday school skipped over the way his heart remained hardened when the people repented of sin. I’ve heard of Hosea and grew up with trendy home-schooled families whose affinity for naming their children after minor prophets and other lesser-known biblical players was truly ahead of their time. But I would not say I’ve had more than a passing familiarity with any of the minor prophets before this week.  One thing that made this attempt to read through them different than prior attempts was having so recently read through Kings and Chronicles and being able to recollect some of the historical events surround the prophets words/lives (also, having a study Bible with a good chart helped with this!).  But today, I want to focus on a portion of Micah, and the call to live lives honoring God.  Micah, like many of the prophets, spoke against the injustices the people of God were perpetrating and the hypocrisy of their lives. He reminds the people that there is nothing they could offer up to God that isn’t already His, that even if they offered up thousands of rams or their own sons as an offering, it wouldn’t be what the Lord wanted.  Instead, Micah then reminds the people what the Lord is seeking from them:  He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8 RSVCE Do justice.  Love kindness.  Walk humbly with God. Simple words, but often hard to live. Because honestly, sometimes it seems easier to trade in a sacrifice for the ability to love. I’d rather take the proverbial sheep to the temple than do the hard heart work of seeking to live a just life. A sacrifice later seems a lot easier than kindness or, as another version says, steadfast love today. And humility? Walking humbly in a way that recognizes I’m the created and not the Creator? Well, let’s just say that laying down my pride and remembering that my good God knows better than me is a battle with each and every breath I take.  But yet, this is what my God is asking of me.  Do Justice.  He’s asking me to actively take up justice…

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Replacing Our Stone Hearts with Hearts of Flesh – The Bible in Lent: Days 28 & 29

The Book of Ezekiel has many bizarre and dramatic passages. It opens with a dramatic, hard to grasp vision of the glory of God. After that, God calls Ezekiel to perform a variety of tasks that are very reminiscent of performance art. He calls Ezekiel to speak about the coming exile and the fall of Jerusalem.  But similar to the book of Isaiah, we have passages of hope that point to a future time, a time when the exiles will be brought home and their relationship with God restored.  I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. – Ezekiel 11: 19-20 RSVCE In Ezekiel, we see that God recognizes our frailty and inability to keep His laws. But we see here something new, God’s promise to give us the spirit and the heart we need to follow Him.  God doesn’t just call us to follow Him, He equips us through the work of Christ to live as a new creation, with new life animating our hearts.  He is giving hope, a promise to those who have been overrun by the sin buried in their hearts that exile and destruction are not the end of the story. There will be reconciliation.  In chapter 37, we see this prophesied again in the Valley of Dry Bones, where God raises up the dead bones in front of Ezekiel, covers them in flesh, and breathes His spirit upon them to give new life. God tells Ezekiel that He will restore the people of Israel and they will be filled with His Spirit.  If God can raise up dead bones and give them new life, surely He can work in our hearts and restore us.  In Christ, we see the fulfillment of the promise to give us new hearts.  Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,…

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Lamentations, Baruch, and Daniel: The Bible in Lent: Day 27 

I knew that it would be difficult to read through the Bible in Lent and post reflections each day. But I really underestimated the role technical difficulties would play! After a few days of computer hiccups, I’m back and sharing reflections on a few books below!  Here are some quick reflections from the Day 27 readings:  Lamentations – Hope in Trials Lamentations is full of deep, previous lament. The descriptions of the siege of Jerusalem are so horrific, it is difficult to even read. But in the middle of the book, there is a passage that, in my own trials, I have regularly found as a source of hope.  Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:19-24 RSVCE  There is great hope in the renewed mercies of God each and every day. And this hope doesn’t just apply to “first world problems,” but is presented to us in the midst of true and deep horror. If the mercy of God is deep enough to renew and bring strength, it is surely more than sufficient for anything I will endure.   Baruch  – A Call to Confession  Baruch is a great reminder of the importance of confession. The book opens with a call to make respond: Then they wept, and fasted, and prayed before the Lord; and they collected money, each giving what he could – Baruch 1:5-6 RSVCE  Baruch is a collection of the response to sin – both the acknowledgment of sin and the call to God’s mercy.  Daniel – The Importance of Purity Over and over again in the Book of Daniel, Daniel is called to set himself apart from the people and remain undefiled. He denies the indulgent, but unclean, food offered to him, continues to pray when it is illegal, and stands apart from the rest. Daniel was able to stand apart from the rest because he remained pure instead of seeking to blend in with the culture around him. He sought the welfare of the king holding him…

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