Friday, March 29, 2013

A Terribly Good Friday

Happy Good Friday!  If you're like me, you have a hodge podge of emotions on Good Friday.  On the one hand it is this solemn, sad day.  On the other hand is the gorgeousness of John 3:16.  So if I wish you a "Happy Good Friday!"  I promise I'm not being sacrilegious, I really mean, it's the happiest, heartbreaking day for me.

The other day my girlfriend Carla brought this article to my attention: "What's Plaguing Passover Feasts? Some Say Rituals Need Spicing Up" I thought it was interesting and funny.  Nobody better bring any live frogs to a party of mine, but to each his own!  Not everyone is excited about some of the twists on old rituals, but I don't think God minds one bit, do you?   Especially if kids are taking part in the action.  Obviously they're going to remember the Passover story much better if they get beaned with a fake locust. 

Speaking of twists on rituals, my cousin is married to an Indian gentleman, so we went to her house yesterday to celebrate Holi.  Easter and Holi generally fall around the same time, so she likes to combine the two holidays for her daughters.  Yesterday she organized an egg hunt for the kids, but the eggs were filled with colored powder.  Traditionally, Indian kids throw this powder at each other to celebrate the beginning of Spring and the return of color to the world.  My kids got a huge kick out of it and I was happy they were getting some culture.  But I tried to reign them in a bit today and remind them that for us, Easter is not about eggs, jelly beans, colored powder, bunnies, or cute little chicks.  Just one perfect Lamb.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Boundaries (Josh. 12-15)

While reading Joshua this week, I've got to say, I'm having a hard time concentrating on this story line (can I call it a story line?  That sounds a little soap opera-y, doesn't it?  You know what I mean.)  The thing is, with all due respect to Joshua, this time of year is all about Jesus.  And His sacrifice.

I'm hearing a lot about churches this year canceling Easter services, or rather... relocating the service. Easter service is so rejuvenating and lovely, there is no doubt about it, but these churches are choosing to honor Jesus by serving the "least" on Sunday morning and how awesome is that?  One church for instance is taking it to the streets of Austin and feeding the homeless, no strings attached.  Just feeding the hungry without handing out literature or making them promise to attend church.  Just meeting a physical need in the name of Christ.

Joshua is busy in these chapters putting up God-sanctioned boundaries for the tribes.  But Jesus took down boundaries.  Leapt over them, shattered them, busted straight through them, obliterated those sons of guns.  And that?  Is worth getting distracted over.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1-4)

Welcome to Joshua!  The first book in my Bible-reading project with a name I may consider giving my kid. (Sorry Leviticus!)  Let me just start by saying I am a huge wimp.  Wimpy wimpy wimpy.  Here are a few things I'm scared of:

~Mice  (I can barely even type it.)
~Getting the mail (Anything could be in that little box!)
~Traveling with a baby (People get so crabby about babies on planes!)
~Parking garages (Obviously.)
~Scary movies or movie trailers.  Or scary books.  Or scary urban legends. Or someone alluding to a scary story.  You get the point.
~Narrow staircases. (They're so... narrow!!)
~Running out of Diet Coke (Just kidding.  But seriously.)

So I feel like God is grabbing my shoulders, squaring me up, and looking me straight in the eyes when he says (four times in the first short chapter of Joshua!), "Be strong and courageous..."  Truly, these people, especially Joshua, must have had God-infused bravery to do what they're doing.  And Rahab!  Her bravery won her a spot as one of Jesus' great-grandmothers.  A prostitute!  As an ancestor of Jesus!  I love God so much for giving us that little miracle.

I heard once that the most frequent command in the Bible is, "Fear not."  God is so darling to repeat that over and over for us.  He just understands how human we are and that we have these fears- rational and irrational.  For those of us less brave than Rahab, He knows we need to hear over and over and over again things like, "Fear not." "Do not be afraid." And, as seen in Joshua, Chapter 1: "Be strong and very courageous."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Book Recommendation

If you are looking for a more uplifting spiritual read after the seriousness of Deuteronomy 28-29, may I recommend You Are Special by Max Lucado?  My daughter's teacher gave it to her at Christmas and it brings me to happy tears every time we snuggle up to read it (it's a great snuggling book).

The Wemmicks are little wooden people who have made it their job to judge each other day in and day out.  Until one little Wemmick visits his Creator.  He starts spending time with the Creator every day and... well, I don't want to spoil the ending!  You can imagine though, right?  He realizes his worth. (Ok, I spoiled it.  Oops.)  I hope that's what we're doing here at Face In The Bible.  I hope by spending a little time with our Creator every day we are finding that his opinion of us is the only one that matters.

Here is the book.  Read it to your babies or by yourself.  And stock up on the tissues.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Be Good! Have Fun! Be Good! (Deut. 23-27)

As I mentioned, my oldest daughters are on vacation with their grandparents for a few days.  Before they left I drenched them with reminders: "Don't go anywhere with someone you don't know!" "Wear sunscreen!" "Make healthy food choices!" "Say 'please' and 'thank you'" "Keep your elbows off the table" "Be kind to each other!" "If you're separated, find a mom or grandma to help you!" "Be good, be good, be good!"  I repeated myself over and over, even as I was buckling them into the car.  Of course I also sent along notes for them to open every day with... You guessed it- the same reminders again.  I'm certain that my kids love this about  me.

Here we are in Deuteronomy where poor, not-going-to-the-Promised-Land Moses is (bedgrudgingly?  Probably not, that would just be me in his sandals) repeating and reminding the Israelites about how they are to behave.  Sometimes these verses seem a little cobbled together, but of course they are cobbled together!  Moses has a lot to remember.  He's probably going on about something or other when he sees whatshisname who always carries rocks and feathers around and "Oh! That reminds me, no differing weights in your bag!"

Today a friend asked me if the chronological reading plan would have us jumping around anymore or if it's just a straight shot now.  I'm not entirely sure to be honest.  When I Googled a chronological list of the books of the Bible, there were so many versions my head spun.  So I still don't know.  Helpful, right?  If I find a reliable list I'll let you know; in the meantime it will just be a daily surprise!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Soft Words In Harsh Times (Deut. 17-23)

Sometimes I’m just reading along, and wham!  I hit a blurb that just lays me out.  In this case it was Deuteronomy 20:5-8.  By itself the section isn’t anything particularly surprising, but in the context of these cutthroat, impossible-to-follow-in-our-modern-day rules and laws and punishments?  These verses were a breath of fresh air.  It’s threat after threat in Deuteronomy; a lot of quick movement to capital punishment!  But then God sneaks in something sweet and soft like, “Hey!  You should have a chance to enjoy your new home, your new vineyard, your new wife.  Or if you’re afraid?  It’s better that you don’t fight.  I get that you are human.”

Every now and then God gives us words in the Word that remind me he is not just a Judge, but also our Father.  It’s no secret that the Old Testament can be difficult to read, and even harder to understand, so it’s absolutely critical to listen carefully and be on the lookout for our Creator to speak lovingly to us in the harsh atmosphere of the Old Testament.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Church (Deut. 8-13)

My oldest daughters are spending a few days with their grandparents and it is quiet around here!  I am taking the opportunity to clean, clean, clean!  And I'm hoping to keep it that way even after they return. (I heard that muffled laugh!)There are going to be some stricter rules about keeping things organized.  And speaking of rules, how's your Deuteronomy reading going?!

In the version of the Bible I'm reading Chapter 12 is entitled, "The One Place of Worship".  I especially like verse 7: "There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you."  I take that to mean that even our scary Old Testament God wants us to rejoice in church (and eat there! Bring on the pot lucks!).  With the appointment of the a new Pope, there has been a lot in the news about organized religion lately... the decline of the church, namely.  A lot of sources I'm reading talk about how my generation and the next just don't see church as relevant to their lives.  Heartbreaking. 

It is my fervent prayer that Pope Francis, other priests, ministers, pastors, and all Christians for that matter, can work together to show the world just how relevant the church is, what a joyful place it is, and just how desperately we need it to have strong relationships with Christ.  And I'm not above using food to lure people in.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gems From Deuteronomy (Deut. 3-7)

Deuteronomy pleasantly surprised me yesterday, and again today!  There are such shiny little gems in these decrees and laws that Moses is reviewing.  I know sometimes it can be dangerous to take verses out of biblical context, but there was much in these chapters that I can apply to my life.  I love it when that happens- it's like the Bible was written for me! :)

One of my favorite verses from these past couple days was 4:7.  "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?"  As you may know I'm in the middle of a study by Priscilla Shirer.  In one of her videos she describes a Buddhist temple in which followers have to climb one hundred plus stairs just to pray. She gives thanks to have a God who comes down to her.  God's accessibility is this amazing drink we can gulp up at the slightest hint of thirst.  And this verse was written pre-Jesus!  If God was accessible before?  He lives inside us now!  Talk about accessibility!

Chapter 6, verses 6-9 is a great famous-for-good-reason bit of the OT.  Today we'd look crazy with words tied to our hands and bound on our forehead... or would we?

I'm not suggesting we all run out and get tattoos, but I have to say, I like the sentiment.  I like that it that was so important to the Israelites to keep God at the front of their minds, that they made it impossible to forget Him or His Word.

Here are a couple other verses from these chapters that resonated with me:
4:9  "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them."

6:10-12  "When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers... a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Deuteronomy!

It looks like it's time to learn how to spell "Deuteronomy"!  I certainly won't be able to work in as many puns as I could with Numbers, but I'm happy to be in Deuteronomy, nonetheless.  It's the last book of the Torah!  I heard once that in Jesus' day, young boys (think first-graders) had to memorize the Torah- can you imagine?!  Here is a blurb about Deuteronomy from the Asbury Bible Commentary:

"Much of Deuteronomy was first delivered orally and then put into writing.  Its skillful poetics and documentary structure indicate this dual origin.  Its admonitory and sermonic material is especially geared to encourage and persuade its readers to complete commitment to the Lord and his proffered covenant."

The Bible series on TV has already zoomed past Deuteronomy.  I love the series, but it has to skip so many important details to squeeze everything in.  Also, one just doesn't feel the same connectedness to God watching television as with cozying up to his living Word.  So bring on the Deuteronomy!  I'm excited to read this verse by verse and hear what God has to say in this final book of the Torah.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sheepish (Numbers 28-30)

I follow the hilarious author, Jen Lancaster, who tweeted the other day, "Eight hours and thirty dollars worth of ingredients later, it turns out no one here actually likes lamb. (Except three very lucky dogs.)"  It made me laugh and reminded me of a story another hilarious author, Jen Hatmaker, told at a conference I attended in November.  She was trying to prepare lamb for a traditional Passover meal and was boiling the meat when she figured it was safe to take her kid to school.  On the way home her girlfriend called and invited her over and Jen, completely forgetting about her lamb on the stove, agreed.  Three hours later she remembered and flew home to a completely destroyed meal.  You could say she felt sheepish.  Anyway, I won't be attempting to serve lamb anytime soon, which is fortunate because these Jens are brilliant gourmet chefs next to me.

There's a lot of talk about sheep and lambs and bulls and rams in today's chapters.  A lot.  And all I have to add are some baaaad cooking stories.  And the interesting fact that sheep are the most mentioned animal in the Bible.  No surprise, since they were such a common sacrifice in the Old Testament.  Of course, there will be much, much more about sheep: a shepherd turned king, parables featuring sheep, shepherds worshipping a tiny baby, and the Lamb of God.  With Easter coming up there are lots of cutesy little sheep all over the place; I have to admit, I have a whole new respect for the species knowing the role they've played in Scripture.

For more interesting facts about sheep in the Bible, check out www.sheep101/info/sheepbible

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Moses Misses Canaan By A Hair (Numbers 26-27)

I am about to lay a disgusting confession down on you.  On Saturday I made a homemade pot pie.  (Such a good pot pie!  Check it out on  Search Chicken Pot Pie IX.)  We sat down to enjoy our dinner and.... my sister found a hair in her serving.  A red hair, which means it was either mine or... no, definitely mine.  Hair in food is gross, but I told her it was just ME, her own flesh and blood and to eat it anyway.  Which she did, but surely it put a damper on the whole dining experience.

Poor Moses, he gets to see the feast that is the Promised Land laid out before him, but doesn't even get to take a bite.  He just knows everyone else will get to enjoy their pot pie new home, but not him.  God warned him this would happen, but didn't we all sort of hope he would change his holy mind?  But Moses doesn't even flinch, he knows he didn't give God the glory at the Desert of Zin, so boom.  No Canaan for him.  But maybe it didn't matter- haven't we always heard, "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey"?  And Moses has nothing if not an amazing journey.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Big Curse, Little Curse, Red Curse, Blue Curse (Numbers 23-25)

It was Dr. Seuss' birthday on Saturday!  Oddly, he came to mind when I was reading Numbers 23 today.  Balak said, "Will you curse them over here?  Will you curse them over there?"  "No!" cried Balaam, "I will not curse them in a box, I will not curse them with a fox!  I will not curse these Israelites here or there or anywhere!"  Or something like that.

To tell the truth I could sort of understand Balak's frustration. Is there anything more maddening than when you're describing an injustice to a friend and she refuses to take part?!  The nerve!  Or maybe you're describing to your spouse the person who honked angrily when you clearly had the right of way, and your spouse instead explains why the honker had the right of way?  Don't you want to scream, "Just curse him with me!!!"  I imagine that was how Balak felt.  Of course Balaam was still in the right here and I'm happy for him- way to stick to your guns Balaam!  In fact, I could learn a thing or two from him.  I especially liked chapter 23, verse 8: "How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?" 

More truth from Numbers.  Which, come to think of it, sounds like it could also be the title of a Dr. Seuss book.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Repetitive Redundancies (Numbers 14-22)

I had a lot of reading to do today!  A busy (and fun!) weekend with company meant skipping a couple days on the reading plan. But I'm all caught up now!  Did you watch The Bible on the History channel last night?  I thought it was terrific. Never mind we know how all these stories end; I was as anxious as if I were hearing about them for the first time.  I'm already looking forward to next Sunday night.  Thank you History channel, for filling the hole that the season finale of Downton Abbey left in my heart and my weekend!

Of course, the series is leaving out some things, as the producers would just have to do because of time restraints. One story I'm willing to bet is cut is the talking donkey part in Numbers. I do not remembering hearing about this before!  It turns out Balaam was the stubborn one in this story, that I know I've never heard a sermon or lesson on.  My Sunday school kids would love it, although I worry they'd liken it to the donkey in Shrek...

For an outsider looking in, the Israelites can come across as such twerps. They mention the lack of menu options for the bajillionth time, and are always asking Moses for the same things.  Just like, um... me!  Darn it!  It's so true.  It actually ould not be truer.  I ask God for the same things over and over.  And over and over.  And if Moses were chronicling my prayers, my requests?  They'd certainly come across like the redundant cries of the Israelites.  I wouldn't blame God if he wanted to beat me like that poor, chatty donkey. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bible Breakdown (Numbers 7)

I actually wrote this post the other day, but apparently never posted it. Oops!  Better late than never!

So far, Numbers is not a book of the Bible that stirs my soul.  You might say I'm numb(ers).  I'm trying to get pumped up about some of these chapters, but not every verse is going to speak to me, right?  Maybe I'll glean more from chapter 7 next time around.

When I purchased my Bible study workbook, the bookstore was giving away free booklets entitled (get this!) How To Study the Bible by Robert M. WestIt was very interesting.  Here are a blurbs I especially liked and found useful:

"Over a period of fifteen hundred years, the Holy Spirit directed forty holy men of God, living on three continents, to write His words into sixty-six books.  These writings were preserved and collected into the single volume we know as the Bible." (p. 9)

"The thirty-nine Old Testament books can be divided into five categories:
  • Genesis through Deuteronomy, the first five books are known as the Law or the Pentateuch (meaning five volumes).
  • Joshua through Esther are the twelve historical books.
  • Job through Song of Solomon of the five poetic books.
  • Isaiah through Daniel are the five major prophets.
  • Hosea through Malachi are the five minor prophets." (p.61)
"The twenty-seven New Testament books, originally written in Greek, can be divided into four categories:
  • The four Gospels and Acts are the historical books.
  • Romans through Philemon, the next thirteen books, are letters of the apostle Paul to churches or individuals.
  • Hebrews through Jude, the next eight books, are called the general letters.
  • Revelation, a prophetic book, appropriately ends the New Testament." (p. 62)
It's full of other good biblical facts and stats.  Numbers, if you will.