Psalms: Lord, Teach Us to Pray – The Bible in Lent: Day 6

Today in The Bible in Lent, we’re tackling the Book of Deuteronomy and continue to read through the Psalms. Because of the importance of prayer and the focus on growing our prayer life during Lent, I want to explore the Psalms and how they help grow our prayer life.  Prayer is something we need to develop and grow. Like all spiritual disciplines, it is a gift we need to steward and develop.  The Psalms are a great way to develop prayer and practice being both honest with our emotions and putting them into an eternal perspective.  The words of the psalmists both help me understand my emotions and help me keep a proper perspective on their validity. They often remind me that while all my emotions are real, they may not all be valid. They put into perspective my flawed perspective, limited by my view of time and experiences, and remind me of God’s faithfulness, even in trials. The Psalms show me that I can both be honest and raw with God about my emotions but that I can also rely on His faithfulness even when I can’t see how He will bring it about.  Psalms remind me to praise God. Over and over again, they highlight different aspects of God’s character, His creative ability, His justice, His mercy, His faithfulness, and many more. They give language to the characteristics of God that I know in my heart but have trouble verbalizing. Powerful metaphors help me understand God’s heart and His nature.  Each and every time I open the Psalms, my prayer life deepens as I learn to order prayer properly and put my life in the context of God’s divine plan and holy attributes. There are highs and lows in the Psalms but in both pain and joy, the Lord is the source of strength and endurance. When I read the psalms and pray them for myself, they remind me that I need to rely on God for all things.  Praying the Psalms strengthens my heart and reminds me that my emotions and experiences aren’t unique. Other believers have walked through similar valleys and experienced similar joys. Not because we are all the same, but because the God who gives life to us and sustains us is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  As we read through the Psalms every day during The Bible in Lent, I encourage you…

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The Book of Numbers: We are a Forgetful People – The Bible in Lent: Day 5

A theme that keeps coming up again in the book of Numbers, and really the whole Old Testament, is that people are fickle and forgetful. That despite seeing God’s faithfulness and might, they regularly fall into fear and doubt that their next steps will be safe.  God used Moses to lead them out of slavery, but they were afraid of the wilderness, wanted to stone Moses, and choose another to lead them back to Egypt.  God had provided water out of a rock for all of them, yet they doubted He could do it again and feared thirst.  The Egyptians had been peppered with plagues and their armies had been swept into the sea, but they doubted God would be able to lead them into the Promise Land without the opposing armies defeating them.  They saw miracles with their own eyes, but even witnessing the miraculous power of God on their behalf was not enough to convince their hearts that God was trustworthy.  Like Eve in the Garden, they doubted whether His plans for them were good and trustworthy and schemed to create their own paths.  But as I sit here, in Michigan, my battle is still the same as the Israelites in the Book of Numbers.  I wonder if God’s plans truly are trustworthy, if He sees my sufferings and trials, if He has led me here to abandon me or if He is still working and fighting on my behalf.  But the Book of Numbers reminds me that God is indeed trustworthy – that despite the Israelites many failures, Moses asked God, “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” – Numbers 14: 17-19, NIV I am prone to wander and prone to doubt, but God is slow to anger and abounding in love for me. Like the Israelites wandering in the desert, I need to remind myself over and over again of the ways He has sustained me in the past and put my faith in His character, not…

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5 Takeaways from Leviticus – The Bible in Lent: Day 4

We’ve made it to the end of the first week of The Bible in Lent!  If I’m being transparent, today’s readings in Leviticus were a little hard to get through. In general, I try to avoid encountering details about skin in infections, mold, and bodily discharges so many of the chapters were, if I’m being honest, a drudgery.  It is in the Bible so I know that Paul’s words in the book of 2nd Timothy apply to Leviticus and it is, “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2nd Timothy 316-17, RSV-CE).  For me, reading the book of Leviticus is mostly an act of faith, I believe that the Word of God will not return void and that every part of the Bible is profitable. So I read it out of obedience and trust that God is using it in a way not immediately obvious to me and share some reflections on a few passages that immediately stood out to me. 5 Takeaways from the Book of Leviticus  While sin is sin, there are different expectations based on roles in the community and different requirements for them to make atonement. Priests have high requirements, not just requiring them to live to different standards than the rest of the community but also requiring a more costly sacrifice than the sin. This isn’t because priests are innately better, but because they’ve been set-apart and have a higher calling. Likewise, other leaders are required to offer more costly sacrifices than the average person for their sin. (Chapter 4) Even if we don’t intend to sin, we are still guilty for the sins we commit unknowingly. Sometimes, we are so lost in sin that we don’t even realize we are transgressing, but we are still guilty of transgressing the perfect law of God. In Leviticus, we see that God still requires offerings to be brought even if the sin was not intentionally committed. (4:13)  God’s commandments are not intended to be burdensome, but restorative. He makes so many accommodations for the Israelites to offer as they are able so as to not marginalize the poor. I was amazed at over and over again how God said, “and if they can’t afford that, then instead they may offer” so that each person could bring a…

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The Bible in Lent: Day 3 – How Exodus Reveals God’s Gift of Art

Exodus is a complicated book. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever read the book all the way through. I’ve read the narratives of Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt and God carving the 10 Commandments into the tablets Moses destroying them in anger when he saw the golden calf.  But there were new stories today.  And new reminders of the roles God has given each of us and His love of beauty.  The detailed instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and intricate garments for the priests impressed on me the importance of beauty. I’d written off these books as “instructions that no longer mattered” without taking the time to realize they were instructions that revealed the heart of God.  Beauty matters. He could have instructed the Israelites to worship in an economical or functional space, but He designed a beautiful place for them to build with the finest materials. The priests could have worn something simple, but instead, they fashioned something ornate, fitting for the honor and gravity of the role they filled in their community that would be passed down from generation to generation.  And God told Moses that there were people He had particularly gifted in the arts to build such things. “You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” – Exodus 28:3, ESV God had specifically gifted people in the community, people coming out of enslavement, with the gift of making things beautiful that the place and manner of their worship might be beautiful. Several times throughout Exodus, it mentions God having gifted people with the skill to construct the Tabernacle, make the clothing for the priests, weave the fabrics, all for the sake of bringing beauty and glory to the place the Lord would dwell in the midst of the people.  And I believe there are still people He has skilled in our communities to bring beauty and glory that honors the Lord to us.  The arts, the skills that often get overlooked, matter to God. He fills people with a spirit of skill to do His work in these areas.  Today, I’m reminded to honor God’s gifting in the artists in my community. To look for opportunities to support their work. To recognize that they have been given a gift from the…

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The Bible in Lent: Day 2 – A Glimpse of Forgiveness

Today in The Bible in Lent, we’re reading through the rest of Genesis! It’s not too late to join in The Bible in Lent reading plan! Visit this page to learn more!  I’d love for you to join me on this journey through the Bible.  Psst – If you missed Day 1, you can read it here.  From yesterday’s beginning in the Garden, we’ve quickly escalated to a complete mess. There was so pause, no time for adjustment. It went from Eden, to one brother killing the other over envy to deep-seated family betrayal, sexual assault, and we’ve jumped into grand-scale national sins of slavery and genocide.  But in the story of Joseph, we see something new – forgiveness and restoration. We see a man who was betrayed, enslaved, falsely accused, and imprisoned choosing to forgive the ones who caused his suffering.  And not just forgiving, but embracing and entering into a restored relationship.  Not only do we see Joseph’s forgiveness, but we see true repentance of sin.  Joseph’s role in his father’s heart was filled by his son Benjamin, but the envy that the brothers felt towards Joseph was not extended towards his younger brother.  Instead, Rueben felt guilt over his part in Joseph’s enslavement and Judah’s heart had changed so dramatically that he offered himself in place of Benjamin as a slave.  This is a far cry from the brother who wanted to kill Joseph.  And Joseph’s forgiveness and perspective on how God used the evil in his life for good is far from the vengeance we would expect.  But I think the saddest part of the story of Joseph, is that the seeds of sin were sown so deeply into the brothers’ hearts that, even after they were forgiven, they assumed that forgiveness was a facade for their father’s sake.  When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil which we did to him.”  – Genesis 50: 15, RSV-CE Even when they had been forgiven, honored, and reunited as a family, deep in the hearts they assumed all was not well.  I’ve heard many times that Joseph is a foreshadowing of Christ. And today, I noticed a new similarity – many deem their forgiveness too good to be true.  We assume God wants something more of us. That even…

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