Day 1: Every week the devotional starts out with having us write observations of the chapter we read. What came up for me was what comes up for a lot of people: The Old Testament is difficult to digest, and sounds a little nuts. I observed that I can see why people have a hard time with God. He comes off emotional and harsh. But then I saw that that's at face value, if I thought about it, I discovered some other qualities about God: He granted Moses' request to have mercy on the Israelites when God wanted to wipe them out. This teaches me that God listens to our requests and even grants them. Also, at the end of the day I believe that God is bigger than me, and when His character confuses me or the Bible seems like the biggest fictional story of all time, I trust that God knows best, has more information than I do and has a bigger mind than mine. As for the stories of the Bible, I do believe them to be true. I don't understand everything about it but I trust that it is God's written word and I accept that.
Day 2: "As disciples, we are to be in the world (close enough to be seen), but not of the world (looking and acting so much like the world that we don't stand out)." I have struggled with this recently. As a Christian I am aware that I have a responsibility to others to live like Christ lived and to show evidence of my faith through action not word. What has resulted 99% of the time is the exact opposite. I have said many good things in word but failed to live it out myself. It is by God's grace and mercy that His Truth is what is heard in spite of my poor example. I say none of this to be self-deprecating or to come off "humble." If you know me at all, you know I am not the person that comes to mind when you think "faithful follower of Christ." Thankfully, what Jesus did on the cross offers me living hope that He is continually working in me to become a faithful follower of his.
Day 3: After reading about the 10 commandments in Chapter 5 of "The Story" the devotion continues along the lines of what Day 2 was about, except it touches on grace. Take a look: "He makes it clear as day what is required to fellowship with Him. We fail completely, and yet He provides the way to Himself for us through Jesus Christ His only Son. He asks that we stop trying to do it ourselves because we can't (isn't that obvious?), and trust in His provision for relationship through the sacrifice He provides. 'Far from healing the infirmity, the law actually makes it worse in order to move a person to seek the medicine of grace." - Augustine
I was blessed to be reminded of God's grace: not that I don't feel like I don't need to work on being a Christ follower, but to allow that grace to work in my life.
Day 4: If you can't tell by now, I'm a pretty emotional person. My thinking tendencies are low, I do everything out of how I feel. It's not always a bad thing, but it's definitely not always a good thing either. One area I particularly need to not live out of feelings is my current phase of life: unemployment. Hard times happen and I tend to bail on God. You know the saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?" If I could just remember this in hard times, maybe I wouldn't do what I know doesn't work. God has been so merciful to me this year and I love that he's working on me now, as opposed to after my circumstances improve. It gives me hope that he is reaching me now not later. The second part of the prayer for today particularly reached me because it relates to the realization I've had that I haven't been seeking God on a daily basis. "Allow me to live in the knowledge of Your presence with me this day." Remembering God is with us every moment, whether we acknowledge it or not, or feel it or not, He has promised us He is with us. And if I can remember that then I think I can break the cycle of bailing on him when things get rough.
Day 5: Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the Israelites are instructed on how to live life. All throughout these books I keep having the same thought: Thank you Lord I was not born in that time and that I benefit from what they went through! Being God's chosen people was not a piece of cake, but if they'd only listened to God their lives would have been richer both spiritually and otherwise. I can't get away from the thought that I am the same as the Israelites. I know what I should and should not be doing because of the Holy Spirit and because of what I read in God's Word, but I go my own way cause it's easier and feels better, all the while God is like, "Lexi, my way is your only option if you want peace and to be in relationship with me." God is so merciful! Relient K said it best, "...with every passing moment comes a second chance." We have that guarantee in Christ, so why do I live like I don't?!
Day 2: "Daily bread was not only for physical life, but a daily reminder of dependence on God." I'm thankful for this piece of wisdom the writers of this devotional shared today. God even used food to remind the Israelites their dependency needed to be on him. God was trying to build the Israelite's into a great nation and they fought him the whole way. It strikes me as completely loving of God to stick with them and remind them in any and every way possible that His way was how they stayed protected and would thrive in their new lives with him.
Part of today's prayer reached out to me: "Help me as I live in the tension between faith and fear to remember that you are trustworthy and faithful; and by trusting in you I will not be put to shame."
Day 3: Fear was the topic for today's devotional, and again, it's like it was written directly for me. "God had proven Himself to be trustworthy. Fear seems to overshadow faith time and time again." Yep. My M.O. every time is to allow my fear to overshadow my faith. I take God's opportunity to show me his love and strength and turn it into a pity party. I love how this devotional is encouraging me but kicking my butt at the same time. I love that God is reaching me in my darkest hour so far on this Earth and changing my heart.
Day 4: Patterns. I hate patterns. I'm not talking about quilts. I'm talking about our stupidity. Yes. Stupidity. WHY do we do the same stupid things over and over again? It's like we're purposefully making our lives harder on ourselves. God always wants what's best for us and we go and blatantly run in the opposite direction. The devotional points out the Israelite's patterns: "Observe the pattern: lack of faith, testing, grumbling, crying out, being shown what to do, acting on it and thus receiving the blessing." They would do this over and over again, just like you and me. We read about their patterns and think. "It's so obvious, why would you do that?" But ultimately I am no different from them and am trying to heed what the devotional said next: "...we need to trust God, His directions and provisions for our life, and take action as a disciple of Christ."
Prayer I loved: "Lord, help me to break the pattern of life that separates me from the blessings you want to provide. Also, please transform my heart with your spirit and nourish my soul, so that I can do what you have planned for me."
Day 5: I've been realizing since last year that God choosing the Israelites was just like choosing us, "He was, after all, intending to win the world to Himself through the likes of Israel." God knew individuals are just like His people. We fall away just like they do and need him just as desperately. We can't be good on our own and nothing we can do will ever measure up to what Christ did for us, but that was exactly how God intended it to be because He made us and knows how we are. "God requires supremacy and obedience as conditions for His blessing which should be in response to all He has already offered to us. As disciples, we know that our obedience does not bring about righteousness, but Christ's righteousness over us always brings about a desire for holiness and obedience."
Day 1: As I've already mentioned, day 1 doesn't have a devotional, but it leaves a space for reflections on the reading for that week. This week I observed: "It was encouraging to see how God still delivered the Israelite's and kept his promises after they sinned,. He punished them; there were consequences, but HE NEVER WENT BACK ON HIS PROMISES. God was faithful even when his people were not." It's INCREDIBLE to me that God didn't punish the Israelites by removing his love from them or withholding the blessings he'd promised them. He was always there when they came to their senses. You've probably read before this, but I have to say it again, I relate so much with the Israelites. Whenever I'm tempted to think I wouldn't have been like them, I quickly remember that I AM them just in different choices. I may not have bowed down to other people's gods but my time has been spent for me, not spent getting to know God or praying or serving Him. My god has been myself, television, and laziness. Its been said that the God of love that is in the New Testament is missing from the old but I think it's through his love for the Israelites that we see just how loving God is. The OT is FULL of God's promises and provision!
Day 2: The Israelite's are finally receiving the Promised Land. After 40 years, Joshua and Caleb, faithful to God and to Moses for all this time are about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Today's devotional said: "They (Caleb and Joshua) were ready to do whatever it took to receive what God had promised them. What stood between them and their inheritance was an enemy. The same is true for us. Are you willing to fight as the children of Israel did-though not against flesh and blood? Let's trust God in the temporal to deliver the eternal." Amen! If you know the Lord, trust in Him for your salvation and believe Jesus died for you, you can bet your life that we have a very real enemy who would see your hope destroyed. I've been learning to cling to Jesus and to love God's word and because of that, the Holy Spirit is on the move and I LOVE it. Seek Jesus, you will NOT be disappointed.
Day 5: "There is no sin that is individual or private. In some way others are always affected." Unfortunately I know firsthand that this is true. My choices affect my friends and the deep-rooted issues I have affect everyone because out of those issues come the way I choose to live my life and treat others. Just some food for thought.
Day 3: "...they began to intermarry with the other people and worship their gods." As the Israelites began to become known as a nation and win their land, they made a choice God warned them not to make: He told them not to marry foreigners or to worship their gods, Israel ignored him and went for both and so began one of many times away from God (who only wanted to bless them, mind you!). This to me is so prevalent in any age. Christians today choose whether to marry outside of their faith and their faith is henceforth affected. There is either turmoil in the relationship or the person who has faith, loses it. Make no mistake, who you invest in will affect your beliefs, including your relationship with the Lord. I know what I'm talking about from first-hand experience. I've learned that God's best for me is Himself, whether or not that means being in a relationship with a man who loves the Lord or being single remains to be seen. BUT, I have learned through my choices and the choices of countless others that a relationship with someone who isn't pursuing God like I am, is not someone I should be investing in. Not convinced? Deuteronomy and Judges teaches us that because they married outside of their faith and worshipped other gods, "the Lord's protection was removed and Israel had no peace without God."
This week was on Ruth. Ruth is one of my favorite books in the Bible, her loyalty and hard work led to her being an ancestor of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Also, she may be one, if not the only one, in the genealogy of Jesus who was not Jewish by birth. I think that's kind of cool!
Day 4: "God has a plan for restoration and redemption that is both present and future." I love this! It reminds me I've never fallen so far away that God can't pull me back and no sin I commit is so severe I can't be forgiven. In fact, I have the promise that he will restore me and redeem everything for His glory and my benefit. What a friend we have in Jesus indeed! "God is in the business of restoration and redemption. The bitterness of life can turn us from Him or to Him. Return and let God use you through the circumstance. He can give you a name that will bring Him glory." Is your heart not drawn to God because of this Truth?
From Genesis to Ruth I have learned much about God, thought He was a bit nuts, contemplated whether or not the Jewish people who wrote these books were liars and ultimately have found myself falling deeply in love with the God who rescued his people, welcomed them back from rebellion, and continued in relationship with them in spite of their doubt and disobedience. Thank you God for being just as merciful and forgiving to me!