Read Through the Bible – Week 24

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This week, we will begin what (at least for me) is one of the most difficult books in the Bible. The book of Leviticus is packed with rules and regulations. We’ll begin by reading rules about burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings. We’ll read rules about sin and guilt offerings, about clean and unclean types of animals, about purification rites that women should perform after childbirth and about boundaries that God’s set in place to define healthy sexual relationships.

But rules are sometimes hard to follow, aren’t they?

Last week, when I was on vacation, I almost always set the cruise control on my car to 5 (or even 10) miles-an-hour over the speed limit. I’ve been known to run into a store and hurry things along, so that I can return to my car before someone notices that I didn’t put any money into the parking meter. I, sometimes, break God’s rules by refusing to forgive people who have hurt me, and the words that come out of my mouth aren’t always kind and up-lifting. I, perhaps like you, used to worry about the fact that there might be a big balance in the sky where God weighs all of the bad things that I’ve done and all of the good things that I’ve done – all in an effort to determine my eternal destiny.

Rules are important and the book of Leviticus is an important part of the Bible for us to read; but, as you’re working your way through Leviticus, I’d like you to continue to ask yourself an important question: “What makes me ‘right’ in the eyes of God?” The God of the Bible says, “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you may not vomit you out.” (Leviticus 20:22) But, in the very same Bible, St. Paul writes: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21)

How do you make sense of that? How do you live in “community” with other followers of Christ in a world where some Christians want to argue that the Law means nothing – and where other Christians still argue that “good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell?” How do you balance the Law of God with the Love of God? And, perhaps just as importantly, how will you “use” the words that you read as we work our way through the book of Leviticus? Will you highlight certain verses and use them to point-out the sin in the lives of other people, or will you struggle to make sense of what it means to live in a world where the God who writes rules continues to love us and forgive us?

Here are next week’s readings:

Sunday: Ephesians 1-3 – Monday: Leviticus 1-3 – Tuesday: 1 Kings 10-13 – Wednesday: Psalms 69-71 – Thursday: Proverbs 4 – Friday: Ezekiel 1-6 – Saturday: Luke 11-12

Reading Through the Bible – Week 6

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week! If you have missed a few days along the way, that’s OK. We are glad you’re staying with us – and hope that you’ll feel free to simply move forward without feeling burdened by the need to return to what you have missed.

We completed our first book of the Bible this week!

The book of Joshua began with the commissioning of the son of Nun; and continued with a story of dramatic conquest. We watched Israel cross the Jordan River and celebrate the first Passover in Canaan. We read the story of the fall of Jericho, and heard about the sun miraculously stopping in the sky. And then, the land God had promised to the Hebrews was divided between the tribes of Israel and cities of refuge were established for people who had accidentally killed other people.

The book of Joshua ends with a renewal of the covenant at Shechem: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Choose whom you will serve this day!” (Joshua 24:14-15) And Joshua adds: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn on you and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:20)

Those are haunting words that put God on the spot. What is the nature of God? What is God’s response going to be when people fall short? How does this support or conflict with the image of God that we’ve come to know in Jesus Christ? We’ll see this image of God put to the test, again and again, as we continue to read God’s Word together.

And now, here are the readings for next week:

Week #6

Sunday: Romans 11-12 – Monday: Genesis 20-23 – Tuesday: Judges 1-6 – Wednesday: Psalm 15-17 – Thursday: Job 11-12 – Friday: Isaiah 29-33 – Saturday: Matthew 14-16

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

 

 

 

Reading Through the Bible – Week 5

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week! If you have missed a few days along the way, that’s OK. We are glad you’re staying with us – and hope that you’ll feel free to simply move forward without feeling burdened by the need to return to what you have missed.

I was struck by several verses that we read in Psalm 11 this week.

The psalmist writes: “In the Lord I take refuge.” And then, several verses later, he writes: “The Lord is in his holy temple.” The Lord who guides and protects us can be found. The Lord is as close to us as our own breath and is always near. But, sometimes, God can seem both distant and far away. And why is that? Has God moved away from us – or have we moved? Has God withdrawn his presence from our lives – or have our eyes become blurred by distractions and interference?

Stop for a moment and ask yourself: Where am I seeing God at work in my life right now?

We probably all have times when God seems to be particularly close – and we probably all have times when God seems to be quite distant. And so, let me ask you a question…. What makes you feel close to God and what makes God seem distant? Are you looking for God where God has promised to be – or are you trying to find God, by yourself, in other places? The Bible tells us that “the Lord is in his holy temple” (Psalm 11:4). The Lord has promised to be “where two or three are gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20). The Lord has promised to be with us as we gather around gifts of broken Bread and shared Wine in Holy Communion (Matthew 26:28). The Lord has promised to be present when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers, and visit the sick (Matthew 25:36-40).

And now, here are the readings for next week:

Week #5

Sunday: Romans 9-10 – Monday: Genesis 16-19 – Tuesday: Joshua 21-24 – Wednesday: Psalm 12-14 – Thursday: Job 9-10 – Friday: Isaiah 23-28 – Saturday: Matthew 11-13

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

Reading Through the Bible – Week 4

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week!

You’ve done it! I mentioned, last week, that studies have shown that new routines become a regular part of our lives after 21-days of consistent change. If you’ve been sticking with your daily times of reading the Bible with us, you’ve just created a life-changing spiritual practice. Congratulations! If you’ve missed a few days along the way, that’s OK too! We are glad that you’re staying with us – and hope that you’ll feel free to simply continue to move forward with us this week without feeling burdened by the need to return to what you’ve missed.

Perhaps, some of the things that you’ve read this week struck you?

Have you noticed the sharp contrast between the “peace with God” (that St. Paul describes in Romans 5:1) and the brutality that we’ve been seeing in the book of Joshua?

I was struck (on Wednesday) by the sharp distinction that I see between the words “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears” (Psalm 6:6) and the words “What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4).

Where do you find yourself in your journey of faith, right now? Is your walk with Christ one that’s filled with harsh realities, or peace with God? Are you traveling through a time in your life when you are flooding your bed with tears, or are you mindful of God’s gentleness and compassion? Perhaps you would describe this particular point in your spiritual journey with other words? If that’s true, what words would you use?

That’s something that I’d encourage you to think about as you move through the rest of this week’s readings.

And now, here are the readings for next week:

Week #4

Sunday: Romans 7-8 – Monday: Genesis 12-15 – Tuesday: Joshua 16-20 – Wednesday: Psalm 9-11 – Thursday: Job 7-8 – Friday: Isaiah 18-22 – Saturday: Matthew 8-10

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible over the course of the next 52 weeks. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

 

Reading Through the Bible – Week 3

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I’m hoping that you continued your journey through the Bible this week.

Today, I have some good news for you! Studies have shown that new routines become a regular part of our lives after 21-days of consistent change. And so, if you’re sticking with your daily time of reading through the Bible with us, you’re well on your way to creating a life-changing spiritual practice. Congratulations!

We came face-to-face with the beating heart of the Christian faith this week.

On Tuesday, we encountered the words: “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7b) But, on Monday, we read a very different truth: “For we hold that one is justified (made right in God’s eyes) by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

How have you found peace with God?

Does your journey of faith send you out into the world knowing that you have to find ways to “rule over sin” today – or does your journey of faith send you into the world knowing that you have peace with God because of your relationship with Christ? That’s something that I’d like to encourage you to think about as you move through the rest of this week’s readings.

And now, here are the readings for next week:

Week #3

Sunday: Romans 5-6 – Monday: Genesis 8-11 – Tuesday: Joshua 11-15 – Wednesday: Psalm 6-8 – Thursday: Job 5-6 – Friday: Isaiah 12-17 – Saturday: Matthew 5-7

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible over the course of the next 52 weeks. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you! I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into the schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that, when you do, you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word with you.

Blessings!

Reading Through the Bible – Week 2

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I’m hoping that you were able to begin your journey through the Bible this week!

The Bible is so diverse! We’ve already read part of a letter that St. Paul, one of the most famous of all Christians, wrote to the Romans. We’ve read about God’s creative activity; and we’ve watched Job’s closest friends – Epiphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – demonstrate the fact that, when tragedy strikes, our presence is often more important than the words that we have to say. And we been reminded that we are “blessed” when we spend time in the presence of the Lord, and when we meditate upon God’s Word each day (Psalm 1:1-2).

And now, we’re ready to move forward with our next week of readings.

Week #2

Sunday: Romans 3,4 – Monday: Genesis 3,4,5,6,7 – Tuesday: Joshua 6,7,8,9,10 – Wednesday: Psalm 3,4,5,6 – Thursday: Job 3,4 – Friday: Isaiah 7,8,9,10,11 – Saturday: Matthew 3,4

Please remember that this journey through the Bible is meant to encourage you to explore God’s Word and to help you move through the Bible over the course of the next 52 weeks. It’s not meant to place a burden upon you. I’m hoping that if you miss a reading (or a few of the readings) along the way that you’ll feel free to simply jump back into schedule of readings that I’m providing – knowing that when you do that you’ll be re-connecting with faithful people who are committed to traveling through God’s Word together.

Blessings!

Have you ever read the whole Bible?

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Reading through the Bible, as a whole, can be a deeply enriching experience for Christians of every age! God opens our hearts and minds as we explore His Word, and the Holy Spirit stirs our spirits as we read and digest Holy Scripture. The Bible, itself, tells us that “the Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and that the words of the Bible judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

With that in mind, I’ve added a new menu option to the ExploraStory Cafe!

Perhaps, you’ve tried a “Through the Bible” program that encouraged you to begin to read the Bible in Genesis; but, your progress ground to a complete halt when you began working your way through Leviticus. Many people who enthusiastically begin to read through the Bible become discouraged when they fall behind – and realize they just don’t have enough time to catch-up with the scheduled readings. I’m hoping that this attempt to guide you through the Bible, over the course of a 52-week period, will be different!

Please take a few moments to check the new menu option above and to join us as we move through the Bible together as God’s people! I’ll be providing the new readings on a weekly basis each Thursday. If you’d like to receive an automatic update when the new readings are provided, please feel free to “follow” the ExploraStory Cafe – by providing an email address where you would like to receive information about the updates, or by connecting the ExploraStory Cafe to your existing WordPress account.

Blessings!

 

God’s Taking Us to Court!

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Have you ever thought about what would happen if God took us to court?

A lot of us believe that “good” people go to Heaven and “bad” people go to Hell. A lot of us probably picture God sitting on a great, big throne in the sky – always keeping an eye on us and making a list of “good things” and “bad things” that He sees us doing, so that He can judge our “worthiness” to enter Heaven after we die.

But, have you ever thought about the fact that God speaks to us and tries to point us in the right direction when we fly off course, right now? Have you ever thought about the fact that the Holy Bible, the “Sacred Story” of God’s journey with His people, is part of a story that’s continuing to unfold even now? We can find ourselves in the midst of the Exodus during times of dramatic change and transition. We can learn how to live with faith, in a world where God’s grace is often only sufficient for today, when we find ourselves in the “Sacred Story” of people who trusted that God would provide “manna” in the Wilderness each day. The “Sacred Story” we find in the Holy Bible is OUR story. The “Sacred Story” we find in the Bible is not just a story about historic events that happened long ago. It’s the story of OUR journey. It’s the story of OUR struggle to make sense of what it means to live our lives with faith in changing (and sometimes scary) times. The “Sacred Story” that we find in the Bible is the story of OUR continuing relationship with the Risen Christ, who came into the world to set us free from the power of sin and to raise us up to a new life.

In this week’s message, “God’s Taking Us to Court!”, we find ourselves in the midst of a courtroom. The prophet tells us that God’s taking us to court! We listen to God’s clear and pointed testimony. We hear the “Sacred Story” of God’s continuing love. And, as we are drawn into that “Sacred Story,” God challenges us to think about how we treat people who are hungry; how we respond to people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol; how we respond to the cries of refugees who are fleeing from their homes and countries to escape certain death; how we treat people who are being victimized by domestic violence, child trafficking, our inability to forgive, and “systems of power” that trap them in poverty, homelessness, fear and uncertainty.

This is a challenging message, but it’s a message that will speak to your heart. It’s a message that will remind you that YOU are a part of the “Sacred Story” that God’s been writing since the beginning of time. Perhaps, you’ll hear a Word that challenges you to be more forgiving and embracing? Perhaps, you’ll hear a Word from God that challenges the ways you think about people who are less fortunate than you are? Perhaps, God will speak to you in a different way and help you to discover a new and life-giving way to respond to the “Sacred Story” of God’s faithfulness in your own daily life?

Blessings!