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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

21 January 2012

Week 4 In Review

January 22 Job 1-5
January 23 Job 6-9
January 24 Job 10-13
January 25 Job 14-17
January 26 Job 18-21
January 27 Job 22-24

This week we begin the book of Job. Frankly, Job is my least favorite book. Not because of the glorious story of God’s care for one man and the knowledge that God is not only aware of my problems, but that Satan can’t touch me without God’s permission, but because of  the constant arguing between the friends.  On and on and on go the friend’s conversations and justifications as they try to find a human reason for Job’s pain. It’s the one book I dread! (I want to be honest as we go through the Bible.)

Here’s a guy who had it all. Satan comes and talks to God and God allows him to take everything Job owns. Now this is interesting. Satan goes to the throne of God after he roams the world? Satan needs permission from God to do whatever he wants to? 

Satan kills Job’s 14 kids and causes him to lose all of his possessions in a short period of time.  Job, a man of perfect integrity does not “sin or blame God for everything”.

Satan goes back to God and basically says “yeah, but it’s only because he’s still healthy that he chooses to praise You.” God allows Satan to make Job physically ill. Job’s “friends” Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, come to comfort Job. Instead of praying or commiserating, Eliphaz tells Job that he must have done something to cause these problems! Job’s reply:

It would still bring me comfort, and I would leap for joy in unrelenting pain that I have not denied the words of the Holy One. (6:10)
(This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.  Job 6:10 (ESV)


Can you say that? Can I? No matter what happens, I won’t deny Jesus?

Job calls for help to God and pleads for respite. His next “friend”, Zophar, wonders what God has against him – tells him to get rid of sin and everything will be good. Job reminds him that everything is in God’s hands. Basically asks him to shut up – says he’d rather talk to God directly – reminds Zophar that no matter what, his hope is in God.
Eliphaz chimes in and accuses Job of lack of trust, and Job tells them that they are all miserable comforters. (The application here is obvious. We need to watch what we say when we offer comfort!) Job's next words of faith:

But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. (19:25-26)

We close the week with Job wondering how to find God. He feels very alone. His friends pay lip service to his problems.

Have you ever felt that God is far away? That your prayers aren’t getting anywhere near heaven? God’s turned His back? Life isn’t worth living?

If you have, then you can have empathy with Job’s anguish. His friends blame him for the loss of his kids, livestock, possessions and even health. He doesn’t think that God is really paying attention. But even though everything is going wrong, Job chooses to continue to praise God!

How can we apply this to our lives? Here’s what I see so far:

1.       Satan has to ask permission to annoy us. God, therefore, knows what’s happening to us, even if we feel that God is far away.
2.      Our friends aren’t always the ones to turn to in times of trouble. In fact, most friends will probably try to blame me for the problem rather than looking at the bigger picture and seeing how it fits into God’s plan.
3.      I need to persevere in prayer and thanksgiving. (give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess 5:18 (ESV)
What applications have you found? Has this story impacted your life? I’d like to know!

Tell your friends about the challenge – and about this blog. We can read through the Bible in a year – together!

14 January 2012

Week 3 In Review

January 15 Genesis 30-33
January 16 Genesis 34-37
January 17 Genesis 38-40
January 18 Genesis 41-43
January 19 Genesis 44-46
January 20 Genesis 47-50

This week we learned the early history of Israel – the people chosen by God. We see Jacob reconciling with Esau, then separating from him again.

We see Dinah raped by Prince Shechem – and then he demands her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers (Joseph’s family) takes revenge, tells all the men to receive circumcision, then kills them when they were still in pain. They plunder the city. This story reminds me that our sin nature has been in evidence since the Garden.

Jacob follows God’s lead and moves to Bethel. On the way, God gives him the name Israel.

And then… Joseph. We’ve all heard his story many times. It’s a story of jealousy, murder plots, false accusations, selling of a family member… and God’s hand clearly shown when the one who was hated by his family ends up saving them, the fledgling people of Israel and the nation of Egypt.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Gen 50:20 (ESV)

There are many principles we can learn from Joseph’s story:
1.       The need for forgiveness and reconciliation,
2.       Having absolute faith that God is in control,
3.       Store up what you can in times of plenty, so when times of need come it’s available for you and your family. The Egyptians lost everything in the famine – their money, then their livestock, and then their land. 
If you have “plenty” today, store up for times of hardship. This principle is important for us as we look toward hurricane season, but it also applies as we watch the world’s economy falter. If we store up now and lose our source of income, we will still be able to eat and pay our bills as we search for a new job. If we’re prepared, we can also show Christ’s love to others who are in need.

In the middle of the Joseph story, we hear about Tamar. Judah unknowingly impregnates his daughter-in-law after he fails to keep his word to her. She has twins – Perez and Zerah.

At the end of Genesis, we see Jacob’s preparations for death. He blesses all his children, and makes Joseph’s sons Ephriam and Manasseh “mine” for purposes of blessing them.

At the end of this week’s readings, we find all the patriarchs buried in a cave near Mamre. Joseph has died as well.

What lessons can we take from this week’s readings? Sin has been the same since the beginning of time. Our sin problem doesn’t stop God from bringing about His purposes. We need to trust in God’s plan – even if we are in deep trouble because of our own sin. There is nothing that God can’t turn to good if we simply turn our lives over to Him. My sin today can have repercussions for years to come, and my sins can tear apart a family or a personal relationship. Listen to God and plan ahead for times of need. God loves me even though I’m flawed!

Next week we begin the book of Job. I look forward to continuing to read through the Bible with you and encourage you to comment. God will bless you for your persistence and dedication to reading His Word throughout this year. We can do this – together!

Week 2 in Review

January 08 Genesis 12-13
January 09 Genesis 14-16
January 10 Genesis 17-19
January 11 Genesis 20-23
January 12 Genesis 24-26
January 13 Genesis 27-29

What did you notice in this week’s readings?

Genesis 24:26 stuck out most for me: The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord.
He didn’t wait for “devotional time”. He wasn’t embarrassed. He just bowed and worshiped God for answering his prayer. How many times does God answer a prayer, give us safety, or show us something wonderful, and our response is to go on with our lives? We’ll put the “thank you” into our next prayer time, maybe, or we might share it in a small group, but do we, unashamedly, stop, bow our heads, and worship God? 

(You’ve seen my standout verse for this week. What’s yours?)

I also noticed the familial line of deceit. Abram lied and told the ruler that Sarai was his sister – twice. Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and she gives birth to Isaac. He follows in Dad’s footsteps and tells a ruler that Rebekah is his sister. Each time, God keeps the people from taking the women to be wives and thus defiling the line. Each time God supernaturally saves them from themselves.

Did you see the prophecy which led to Israel’s ultimate enslavement in Israel? Even before God covenanted with Abram, He knew that the people would be slaves for 400 years.  I know that the prophecy is written, but I wonder what Abram felt when God told him. Did he pretty much ignore it, other than making it a part of history, because it was so far in the future? Did he even understand?

Sodom and Gomorrah:  Lot would have sent his daughters to be killed and raped in place of the visitors… women had no value in the culture! Lot and his daughters were the only people saved. Daughters take matters into their own hands and become pregnant through Lot (to keep the family line going, of course). Their kids become the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

This week we meet most of the “big guys” in Israel’s formation:

Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah. God promises to make Abram’s offspring as great as the stars. Sarai wants to “help” God because she’s old and gives her servant, Hagar, to Abram. Although Abram has faith, his libido gets in the way of his good sense and he impregnates Hagar. 

Ishmael. Abraham and Hagar’s son. God says that everyone will be against him, and he will father 12 tribal leaders. This is not the seed that God had in mind when he made the promise to Abram. 

Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac is the heir to the covenant; God’s promised seed, and we see him as a type of Christ. He is Isaac’s only son, set up to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah. Abram believes that “God Himself will provide the lamb”, and He did – not only then, but near that same area, the spotless Lamb that took away the sins of the world – Jesus Christ.

                                Esau and Jacob. Jacob purchases Easu’s birthright, then plots with Rebekah to receive Abraham’s dying blessing. As a result of Jacob’s treachery (and because God planned to make the covenant people from Jacob’s seed, of course),  Jacob is given the first son’s blessing. Esau holds a grudge (ya think?) and plots to kill Jacob. Rebekah, who loves Jacob most,  helps in Jacob’s escape. Esau marries a Cannanite woman to spite Abraham – Jacob vows to serve God.

                                                Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Jacob finds a woman to love in Rachel. He makes a deal with Laban to work for seven years to pay her dowry. At the end of those years, Laban says that he can’t have Rachel until he marries the older sister, Leah. Jacob does so, then marries Rachel as soon as he can. He works another seven years for Rachel. Can you imagine loving someone so much that you work, basically as a slave, for 14 years just to be married to them? Because Leah is unloved, God opens her womb first, and she bears the first sons of the 12 tribes of Israel: Reuben (the Lord has seen my affliction); Simeon (the Lord heard that I am unloved); Levi (my husband will be attracted to me); Judah (I will praise the Lord). I love the progression – crying to God for the pain of being unloved, hoping to get Jacob’s attention, and then finally accepting what God has given to her – I will praise the Lord.

We’ve come a long way in these first two weeks – from the creation of the world, through the flood, to scattering of the people and formation of languages, to the creation of the nation of chosen people. We’ve seen a couple prophecies, some of which are in the beginning of the fulfillment stages, some to come to pass in the future. We’ve seen that even those who habitually lie can be used of God. We’ve seen incest, offers of rape of daughters instead of guests, men willing to work to marry a beautiful woman, God opening and closing wombs at will… and there’s still more to come!

May God richly bless you as you continue to delve into His Word next week!

10 January 2012

How do you study?

I'm curious how you study the Bible. Do you read it and then think about it? Pray over it? Talk about it?

For the Read Through the Bible Challenge, I do what I've always done in my yearly read-through. I read with a notebook nearby. When I'm reading, I write down a synopsis of my reading. If a Bible verse stands out, I'll write it out in it's entirety. I mark both the Bible and the notebook so I know that there is a highlighted verse, and in most cases, I attempt to memorize the verse.  (I also copy the verse to a pretty picture and run it on a playback loop in my home. It's a nice way to keep the Bible in mind, and seeing the verses and their respective photos brings back the details of my reading -- or it might bring to mind someone to pray for. But I digress.)

The notebook is also a good place for me to write about what's going on in my life -- a joy, or a sorrow, or a frustration. I can later review and see what God's doing through my life, and more important, through His Word.

I've found it interesting to read back through previous years and compare what jumps out at me from year to year. It's amazing how that changes. The Bible is truly a living Book!

Right now, the challenge is new and fun. Later, it will be a little more difficult as we read through the "boring" parts (whatever they are to you!) but I can promise that if you will be faithful, God will reveal new things to you -- even in the boring parts. If you skip a day, take the time to make it up. If you get frustrated, email me. I'll try my best to help you get over the hump of frustration.

Please let me know how you use the Read Through the Bible Challenge. I'm sure the only "wrong" was is to not do it at all!

07 January 2012

Week 1 musings

I’ve not read through the Bible with “days off” before. It’s an interesting experience, and it does allow reflection time, and it reinforces the creation story, allowing us to remember that on the seventh day God rested.

This week we learned how the world was created – everything perfect, with man charged with ruling over all that God created. We saw the serpent tempt Eve, and then we watched as both of God’s children played the blame game instead of taking personal responsibility for their actions. We watched as they were banished from God’s perfect garden and cursed by God.

We saw God curse the earth because of Adam’s sin. I wonder how the earth physically changed in that moment? Did weeds spring up? Animals that were friendly suddenly turn away from the banished pair?

Another thing I never thought of before: By the time Cain killed Abel, the earth was populated. How long after the banishment was that? How many sons and daughters did Adam and Eve have? God doesn’t mention the Nephilim until chapter 4. Were they a part of the population growth before the Cain/Abel incident? There are so many unanswered questions, and each time I read through the Bible I discover things that I never noticed before!

In chapter 7, we find one of my favorite trivia questions: how many animals did Noah take into the ark? People who blithely say “two, of course” are surprised when they actually read the passage – two unclean and seven pairs of clean. Noah needed something to eat on the voyage, and he also needed something to sacrifice! I imagine that God kept the animals from procreating – with some animals, six months in seclusion could have practically repopulated the ark! So Noah had to have provision for the trip and the end of the trip. Again we see God’s ability to think ahead for us – I don’t know if I could have thought things through clearly while building an ark, suffering the jeers and taunts of my peers (and probably some from my family).

I would have enjoyed watching the animals, some of whom were mortal enemies, calmly go into the ark. What a mighty God we have! How loving is He who makes the animals docile when needed!

God’s sign of the covenant – the rainbow. A beautiful symbol of his love, which reaches from the east to the west, and whose beginning and ending cannot be found!

But of course, man’s sinful nature takes over once again and they plot to build a tower to reach to the heavens. God scattered the people. I wonder how he did that? Teleportation? Scattered means just that. If the people marched or traveled, wouldn’t that be what the Bible says? I wonder how the people felt when they found themselves in a new land, with a new language. Did God give them memories of their old language so they would understand that He is God and that He caused this to happen? Or did He only allow memories to a few – the chroniclers?  Did the people retain memories of old friends, or did God wipe their minds? I wonder if there are “movies” in heaven, so we can get answers to some of these questions?

This week ends with Abram settling in Haran with his dad, Terah. What a great “cliffhanger” for next week!

I would love to know what you’ve learned this week. Have you noticed something in this read-through that you never noticed before? Has God given you a new insight? Email me or leave a comment!

I will try to post a couple times a week. Subscribe to the blog to keep up with these posts. They will come to your email box – and if you have trouble getting them, email me and I’ll make sure you get them.

We’ve had a good start. Let’s keep going strong so we can grow in God’s Word!