What to Expect – Week 22

cast of characters

Some of the stories in this week’s reading from 2 Samuel can be a little confusing. There are a lot of names and many of them are somewhat similar. To help the story move along so you can understand the meaning a little bit better, here’s a bit of a cheat sheet:

  • Abiathar – high priest and the last of Eli’s line
  • Abishai – one of David’s most fearsome warriors
  • Absalom – David’s son
  • Ahithophel – a well respected, though not particularly loyal, counselor to David and others
  • Amnon – David’s first son, Tamar’s half-brother
  • Hushai – one of David’s workers pretending to work for Absalom
  • Ittai – a leader of the Gittite people; fairly inconsequential over all
  • Joab – an official close to David; he is hasty and violent
  • Jonadab – Amnon’s friend and advisor, a sneaky guy; David’s nephew
  • Mephibosheth – Saul’s grandson
  • Shimei – a member of Saul’s house who originally curses David but eventually returns to him
  • Tamar – David’s daughter; Amnon’s half-sister
  • Zadok – a priest who assisted David in Absalom’s revolt
  • Ziba – originally a servant of Mephibosheth but moves to David’s side and is handsomely rewarded

As we closeout John and begin Acts, note the differences of what John includes. For instance, John includes Jesus’ powerful prayers for his disciples and even future believers. Pilate’s character has a different feel in John’s account. He seems much more pained and tormented to convict Jesus. And an additional disciple attends the trial with Peter unlike in any other gospel. What do you think John is trying to emphasize with the way he shares his account?

This week we’ll also finish Psalm 119! Be sure to note the Amy Grant reference – and don’t by shy. Go ahead and jam out to her tunes.

Happy reading! 5 months in the books! Incredible!!

What to Expect – Week 21

Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” should be David’s theme song. He was the 8th son, Saul tried to kill him multiple times, and this week, we’ll read about Saul’s death, which should have meant David’s reign would start without a hitch. But it didn’t. Ish-bosheth, Saul’s only remaining son, causes a serious disruption, which almost leads to an early split of Israel.

It makes you wonder, what trials and difficulties you would face to fulfill what God had called you to?

Then, in our reading in John, we find one of Jesus’ most bold yet simple statements. In 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is a statement that has been white-washed, sanitized, and shape-shifted in our culture until it has no meaning. For some reason, it has even become offensive. But why? It is not as if it is secretive. It’s not even exclusive. Instead, it is a clear if/then statement. If you want to get to the Father, you need to do so by way of Christ. If you don’t, that’s your choice. The context doesn’t suggest that he’s joking or speaking in hyperbole. Instead, it is clear and decisive. But don’t miss verses 1-3 just above it. They remind us that there’s plenty of room in God’s house. He wants us to take the way through Jesus, there’s space for you and me too.

This week, you can also look forward to spending most of your time in Psalm 119. It is the longest psalm, by far, but it is packed to the gills with great pieces of truth. Take, for instance, Thursday’s reading. Verse 37 asks God to turn our eyes from worthless things. Ugh, couldn’t we all stand to ask that!?!

So, now that you’re about to start your 6th month of reading, what have you enjoyed most? What’s one thing you learned for the first time?

We’ve already gotten through so much of the Bible and there’s so much great stuff left to go. Let’s keep moving towards the finish line. It’s well worth it!

What to Expect – Week 20

power transition

Transitions of power are often difficult. No one wants to lose power. Saul was no exception. He was God’s first chosen king to lead His people. He was anointed and appointed and blessed to do the job. He was also given specific instructions…and then disobeyed them. As we know, when God gives specific instructions, he expects people to follow them, specifically. For the rest of the week in 1 Samuel, we will read about the slow, painful, violent transition of power from Saul to David. Don’t worry though, the transition will take much longer than a week’s worth of reading – it’s that good and that intricate.

As you read, make notes of the contrasts between Saul and David. Saul looked much more royal on paper, but, as we’ll read, God doesn’t look at outward appearances. He looks at the heart.

This week, in John, we’ll read a few more of Jesus’ “I am” statements that we wanted to watch out for in John. A couple of them come in a description of Jesus and people compared to sheep and a shepherd. He makes so many comparisons and pulls out so many details, that you might get lost, but I encourage you to focus in on at least one. I suggest thinking a lot about how sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice. Do you know God’s voice? If not, how can you get to know it? If so, are you listening?

The Psalms and Proverbs continue to run us through a range of emotions and opportunities to gain wisdom. You won’t want to miss them. Don’t worry, the ever-popular theme of Proverbs to take your time on actions and decisions pops up again. I think God means it.

So, happy reading! Take time to learn God’s voice through Scripture. You’re doing great! Keep it up!!

What to Expect – Week 19

mother and baby

Who is the most boring character in all of Scripture? Many people would say Samuel even though he is instrumental in the development of Israel and its leaders. If you’re looking for a scandal, deceit, and drama, Samuel is not your guy. He was faithful throughout his service, respected by his people, and followed God’s directions even when they were difficult. But here are a couple of things to watch for in this week of our readings in Samuel:

  • Hannah, Samuel’s mother, prayed fervently for a child but promised to dedicate him to God
  • Samuel was raised primarily by Eli the priest
  • In a time when God didn’t speak much, he chose to speak to Samuel
  • When the Israelites begged for a king, God told Samuel they weren’t rejecting Samuel, but God
  • Samuel anointed Saul as the first King of Israel

This week in John, we’ll read the first of the 12 times Jesus says, “I am…”. This time he says, “I am the bread of life.” Though some of his “I am” statements are cryptic, he reveals himself, in part, through these statements. If our goal is to know and follow Jesus and to become more like him, these “I am” statements are crucial. Look for these throughout the rest of John’s gospel to try to piece together clues into who Jesus is and what he’s about.

Psalm 106, which we’ll read Monday and Tuesday, recounts God’s faithfulness in getting them out of Egypt and caring for them in the wilderness. It’s important to note that the writer of the psalm was not a slave in Egypt, did not witness the water’s part, and never wandered in the desert with Moses. But someone told him about it and those stories gave the writer faith that he shared with others. This is all the more reason that we must share our experiences with God with others.

We have now started our fifth month of reading! That means we are a third of the way through the Bible! That’s no small feat. Keep up the good work and let us know how your commitment to Scripture has impacted your life.

What to Expect – Week 18

spice girls

If you need a reason to jump back into our daily readings, this week will give it to you. We’re starting 2 new books! One today, and one on Friday!

In the Old Testament, we’re finishing out Judges and beginning Ruth. In Judges, you will read about a very famous judge named Samson. Samson was known for his strength, but it’s also noteworthy that he’s a Nazirite. This is a special form of priest – John the Baptist was one too – who holds strictly to certain standards. Nazirites didn’t drink alcohol, cut their hair, come in contact with dead things, and much more.

And Ruth is a fascinating book! If you want to learn what it means to be loyal or see how God can use anyone, even if they seemingly have nothing to offer, this is the right book for you. Ruth is also one of only two books with a female lead character, so pump up “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and get to reading.

And today we get to start the final gospel, John. John is very different from the other three gospels, which tend to share stories and sound somewhat similar. John uses more poetic language. It even begins with a brief poem. Here are a few things to notice in John:

  • A “beloved disciple” is mentioned frequently. It’s assumed this “beloved disciple” is John, but no one knows for sure
  • There is no narrative of Jesus’ birth, but he is introduced as “the Word”
  • Jesus makes a number of statements attempting to define himself that start with the words, “I am…”

Note also in your Proverbs readings this week the continued emphasis on acting and speaking slowly and avoiding rash decisions. This isn’t always natural for us, but it is wise.

Keep up the good reading! We’re already at Week 18! Before we know it, we’ll be half way finished!!

What to Expect – Week 17

crucifixion

Today we start a new book, Judges! Isn’t it crazy that the Israelites went from strong leaders like Abraham, Moses, and Joshua to a system of judges and then to kings? To shed a little light on the concept of judges, it’s important to note that they weren’t just like the judges we think of today. They were looked to for leadership for the people. Many of them led the Israelites in military engagements and all of them were called to help the Israelites remain true to God’s law and commands. You may have heard of names like Samson or Gideon, these were some of the judges. And though this system of leading the Israelites didn’t last, it is an important part of their history.

This week we’ll also read through the majority of Luke’s account of the final week of Jesus’ life. Do your best not to skim it even though it’s our third account to read and we just heard it all during Holy Week. Let yourself recognize the anguish Jesus experienced as he was abandoned by his friends and rejected by the whole city. Notice the great symbolism of Jesus dying for the people during Passover, when they were celebrating another time God had saved them with the blood of another. This story should never become old hat. It is the story that changed history forever but it also changes each of our lives individually. Take the time this week to experience the greatest story ever told.

At the end of this week, we will have finished 9 books of the Bible! And these aren’t just any 9, they are 9 big, thick books that teach us a great deal of how we got to where we are today both through our initial history and through Jesus’ life, death, and ministry. We still have a lot of great stuff to read, but give yourself a high five for a job well done so far.

 

What to Expect – Week 16

as for me

First off, HAPPY EASTER!!! I hope you feel the love of Jesus throughout your day!

This week we have a number of noteworthy verses, passages, and events to read. For starters, in Joshua, there is a really powerful verse that we should all claim for our families. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Joshua has done everything possible to lead the Israelites towards faithfulness and yet they are easily tempted by the presumed glamour of other nations’ gods. So he draws a line in the sand and tells them all to choose who they’ll serve. But he doesn’t have to choose, because he already has.

And this week in Luke we begin reading his account of Holy Week, beginning with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. As you read through Jesus’ last week of life (it will extend into next week’s reading) remember all that we just remembered and celebrated. I don’t want to spoil anything for next week, so I’ll just leave it at that.

We also get to see a cool way that Scripture all ties together. In Friday’s psalm, the psalmist reminds us of the covenant God made with David and how God promised that David’s line would be on the throne forever. As was affirmed in Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ line runs directly from David. When Jesus dies and resurrects, which we know he’s about to do, he becomes the everlasting king. David’s line truly does remain on the throne forever.

What to Expect – Week 15

leave-it-to-beaver

What stories do/will you tell your kids? Are they stories about how your grandpa used to always take you to the same river to fish on weekends? Or how you got your first crush? Or how your mom used to celebrate your birthday with a special dessert? Without fail, we pass down memories to our kids, but we’re not always intentional about which memories we pass down. In this week’s Joshua reading (hooray! A new book!), God instructs the Israelites to build a monument so generations of their offspring will see it and ask why it’s there.

This is the week when Moses dies and Joshua officially takes over. Though Moses’ death was certainly sad because he had been the leader of the Israelites for decades, his death was necessary for them to move into the Promised Land. The monument the tribes of Israel built commemorated God’s faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt, through the desert, and into the Promised Land.

This week in Luke, we read a great deal of Jesus’ teachings. Some to pay particular attention to are found in Wednesday’s readings. These three parables teach us the lengths to which God will go to welcome a sinner into his fold. Maybe you need to hear this personally or maybe you know someone who does. Take a second or two and send it if there’s someone who needs to hear that hopeful message today.

Also, this week’s Psalms can teach us a lot about faithfulness and what happens when we’re not. The Israelites rebelled against God over and over expecting him to keep his end of the bargain when they refused to. As it turns out, when we don’t hold up our end of the deal, we have to face the consequences on our own.

This week will lead you right up to Easter! I’d encourage you to read the story of Jesus’ sacrifice in addition to your daily readings to be prepared for the greatness of the resurrection.

What to Expect – Week 14

jerusalem

Do you know what can make a decision clear quicker than anything? Knowing the consequences of your decision before you make it. You may notice a strong emphasis in this week’s Deuteronomy readings on blessings and curses. Basically, through Moses, God gives the Israelites a scenario and explains that they can choose blessings or curses. One decision leads them down one path and the other down a different path. Whether they didn’t believe him, doubted the severity, or the temptation was just too strong, they unfortunately frequently chose curses. Just to give you a little cheat sheet – faithfulness to God leads to blessings; being unfaithful leads to curses. It’s pretty simple overall.

Starting today, and for the rest of our time in Luke, Jesus is definitively headed toward the cross. In the first verse of today’s Luke reading it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Throughout the rest of our readings until Palm Sunday, we will read over and over that he is headed to Jerusalem. He know his earthly ministry would end and his purpose would be fulfilled in Jerusalem with his death and resurrection.

This week, as we finish up Lent and prepare for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, take time to thank Jesus for his resolute dedication to heading towards the cross.

What to Expect – Week 13

oil and water

A theme you may have noticed, which will be prevalent this week, is that God did not want the Israelites to associate with other people groups in any significant way. To us this may seem exclusive and even hateful towards those people. Entire people groups were wiped out in order to avoid these associations. But these people groups weren’t victims of McCarthyism. God wasn’t accusing or attacking these people without substantial evidence. We see, over and over, the Israelites engaging with other nations and beginning to take on their customs and even worship their gods. God knew the Israelites would be easily swayed and would lose their loyalty to him. Setting the Israelites apart was a way of protecting them.

This week’s Luke readings will definitely keep you engaged with parables, healings, and tons more! Two cool things to look for and think about for a while are:

1) Peter’s recognition and admission of Jesus as the Messiah – Peter’s admission is the first of any of Jesus’ followers. People were still saying he might be Elijah or some other prophet, and obviously many people were thinking he was a heretic. Peter, as he tended to do, steps out in faith and declares Jesus’ identity.

2) Jesus telling a woman that her faith has healed her – Throughout Scripture there are different explanations of why people are healed. Some just seem to be miracles from God without any other explanation. Some are based on the faith of someone else asking for a friend or loved one and others, like the healing we’ll read about on Thursday, are attributed to the faith of the person healed. What do you notice as the difference between the healings? Is there any? If so, why?

Finally, some of our Psalms this week are very raw. They are filled with rage and malice and can be jarring to us. Try to remember that these Psalms are not God talking, but a human, like you and me. This is not necessarily something to model ourselves after, but to remind us that God knows us at our best and worst, and we are sinful.

Keep up the good reading! You’re doing great!!