Exodus 21-24 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His presence protects and guides us

Much of the remaining book of Exodus consists of laws and regulations for everyday living.  Throughout history, one of the first acts of any group or gathering is to establish guidelines that bring protection and order to the group, and this new nomadic group of Israelites was no exception.  Because of God’s special covenant with their forefather, Abraham, God took special care to establish the very best guidelines for their success.

The laws were based on common sense and respect for others.  Many of the dictates are similar to our laws today, but they were met with very different consequences when broken.  Death was often an immediate penalty.  An eye for an eye was the rule of the day, especially in cases of personal injury.  If this were the law today, lawyers would be out of business, television commercials would be completely different, and we would definitely keep our goring ox under control to be sure. (29) Exodus 22 dealt with the protection of property, the proper treatment of others and finally, their responsibilities to God. Sorcerers, sexual deviants, and idolaters were put to death – zero tolerance.  Regardless of how much we abhor such sins, we can be thankful today for God’s grace and His ultimate justice through Jesus Christ. 

@ Exodus 23
Hidden within the laws of justice (1-9), the Sabbath laws (10-13), the Festival laws (14-19) and the laws of consecration (25-33) was an amazing promise to the Israelites.  “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.  Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.  Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion.” (20-22)  What angel would have the ability to forgive or to not forgive?  Many believe this angel to be a manifestation of God, even an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.  He certainly was, at the very least, a representative of the presence of God in the same way as the pillar of cloud and fire.  This angel was sent to go before them and lead them to the Promised Land.  What a blessed people!

And what a blessed people we are!  Those who have accepted the manifestation of God’s only Son, Jesus, have this same promise of protection and guidance for their lives.  It’s easy for this incredible promise to get hidden by all the laws of man, laws of nature and laws of God that we follow each day.  This account in Exodus of God’s faithfulness to His imperfect people serves as our reminder:  In our obedience to God, His presence is with us to protect and lead us through life. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) It just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward: So thankful that I live in this day of His grace and experience His presence to protect and guide my life as I follow closely after Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 10-14

Romans 3-4 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He counts us righteous because of our faith

The basket of strawberries caught my eye at the grocery store – plump, deep red, juicy-looking strawberries.  Was it strawberry season? I didn’t think so, but they were so very perfect that I had to buy them.  As I unpacked the basket at home, it didn’t take long to realize that the only good strawberries in the bunch were on top, and the rest were mostly white, hard and awful.  I was ripped off, as they say.  No matter how good the ugliness of those unripe strawberries made the five delicious strawberries look, the unripe ones were still useless to me.  As we read in our scripture today, some would disagree.

@ Romans 3
“But,’ some might say, ‘our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?’” (5)  Of course, in reality, it is just the opposite.  The five ripe luscious strawberries served to show how deficient and unappealing the rest of the strawberries were and how far short they were of what they could have been, but they really couldn’t change their condition.  Paul went on to counteract this false assumption for those who were certainly trying to justify their sin, their unripeness if you will.

Paul took this opportunity to open the dialogue about the Law, something that the Jewish Christians stumbled over again and again.  “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (20)  Like the ripe strawberries in the analogy, the law shows us our sin, our deficiency but can do nothing to change us.  Sometimes we get uncomfortable reading the Bible because instead of offering comfort and inspiration at the moment, it reveals our sins and shortcomings, those feelings of resentment, pride, hatred, or whatever.  But we can assume it is serving its purpose in those moments as well.

Fortunately, we no longer must keep the requirements of the Law to redeem ourselves, selecting a perfect sacrifice down at the local farmyard and all the bloody mess that would follow.  “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”(21-23)   After all, those delicious strawberries were at one time hard and pale, but they remained on the vine in the light of the sun and everything changed for them.  Unfortunately, there was no redemption for my unripe strawberries because they had left the vine.  I’m not sure, but I think that will preach. (John 15)

@ Romans 4
Abraham was probably Paul’s favorite example of a faith-filled life, “For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith’… And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (3,23-25)  So when the Lord convicts me of sin or my falling short through His Word, I must run to Him in repentance because only He can make me right – ripe and beautiful in His sight.

Moving Forward:  As I remain in His Word today, I pray He will reveal to me my sins and shortcomings so that I may respond with a heart of repentance and be made right with Him through Jesus. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 4-7

Psalms 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Word is a wellspring of counsel and guidance for us

It’s not a surprise to me that Psalms, this wonderful book of comfort, inspiration and guidance, would open with a Psalm directing us to the Source of all comfort, inspiration and guidance.  We’ve all heard the old joke about the individual seeking guidance through Bible roulette.  One opens the Bible to a random page, places a finger on a random verse that says, “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”(Matthew 27:5)  Not receiving any viable direction from this verse, the seeker once again arbitrarily selects a verse which reads, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)  Not good.  However, some of our sources for advice and direction can be just as misdirected.

@ Psalm 1
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” (1) This is one of the verses that my mom drilled into my heart early in life.  Even now, I can almost hear her saying, “Phyllis, do not ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly.’”(KJV)  Of course, we would never intentionally seek out the counsel or advice of ungodly people, but our lifestyle seems to lend itself to it at times.  I remember working in a bank, sitting around during coffee break and hearing all sorts of counsel coming from my co-workers for me as a young college girl.  No, they didn’t openly mock God, but their lifestyles were in and of themselves contrary to God and His commandments.  The hair or nail salon where we sit for an hour or two or three is another source of free advice that flies around the salon along with all the fumes. Unless these scenarios are Christian environments, I’d rather take my chances with Bible roulette.

And then there is the mother of all free advice – the internet.  According to Google stats for 2017, there were over 3.5 billion Google searches per day – that’s a lot of Googling! These stats represent people searching for advice, guidance, comfort and just a myriad of answers.  The internet is great for advice on how to fix the washing machine, where to buy the cheapest copy paper and how to make Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake, but do I really want to find direction for my life there?  Even with Christian websites like this blog, if they do not point us to the true Source of counsel, they are joining in with the mockers.

Speaking of the Source, “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (2-3)  If we want to prosper and be successful, let our counsel come from Him, His Word.  Meditate on it; get it deep within our hearts so that when advice is needed, we are able to reach down into our roots that are saturated with His Word and bring forth His counsel for our lives.  And then others, some godly others, may serve to encourage, inspire and perhaps provide some tools in sync with His counsel.  With the counsel of His Word, we will prosper in all we do, and who doesn’t want that!

Moving Forward:  As I meditate on His Word, I know He will direct me in the counsel that I will need for this very day because He is the Source and He’s got it covered. 

Tomorrow @ Job 1-2

Exodus 21-24 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His presence protects and guides us

Much of the remaining book of Exodus consists of laws and regulations for living.  Throughout history, one of the first acts of any group or gathering is to establish guidelines that bring protection and order to the group, and this new nomadic group of Israelites was no exception.  Because of God’s special covenant with their forefather, Abraham, God took special care to establish the very best guidelines for their success.

The laws were based on common sense and respect for others.  Many of the laws are similar to our laws today but they were met with very different consequences when broken.  Death was often an immediate penalty.  An eye for an eye was the rule of the day, especially in cases of personal injury.  If this was the law today, lawyers would be out of business, television commercials would be completely different, and we would definitely keep our goring ox under control to be sure.(29)  Exodus 22 dealt with the protection of property, the proper treatment of others and finally, their responsibilities to God. Sorcerers, sexual deviants and idolaters were put to death – zero tolerance.  Regardless of how much we abhor such sins, we can be thankful today for God’s grace and His ultimate justice through Jesus Christ. 

@ Exodus 23
Hidden within the laws of justice (1-9), the Sabbath laws (10-13), the Festival laws (14-19) and the laws of consecration (25-33) was an amazing promise to the Israelites.  “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.  Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.  Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion.” (20-22)  What angel would have the ability to forgive or to not forgive?  Many believe this angel to be a manifestation of God, even an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.  He certainly was, at the very least, a representative of the presence of God in the same way as the pillar of cloud and fire.  This angel was sent to go before them and lead them to the Promised Land.  What a blessed people!

And what a blessed people we are!  Those who have accepted the manifestation of God’s only Son, Jesus, have this same promise of protection and guidance for their lives.  It’s easy for this amazing promise to get hidden by all the laws of man, laws of nature and laws of God that we follow each day.  This account in Exodus of God’s faithfulness to His imperfect people serves as our reminder:  In our obedience to God, His presence is with us to protect and lead us through life. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) It just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward: So thankful that I live in this day of His grace and experience His presence to protect and guide my life as I follow closely after Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 10-14

Romans 3-4 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He counts us righteous because of our faith

The basket of strawberries caught my eye at the grocery store – plump, deep red, juicy-looking strawberries.  Was it strawberry season? I didn’t think so, but they were so very perfect that I had to buy them.  As I unpacked the basket at home, it didn’t take long to realize that the only good strawberries in the bunch were on top, and the rest were mostly white, hard and awful.  As they say, I was ripped off.  No matter how good the ugliness of those unripe strawberries made the five delicious strawberries look, the unripe ones were still useless to me.  As we read in our scripture today, some would disagree.

@ Romans 3
“But,’ some might say, ‘our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?’” (5)  Of course, in reality it is just the opposite.  The five ripe luscious strawberries served to show how deficient and unappealing the rest of the strawberries were and how far short they were of what they could have been, but they really couldn’t change their condition.  Paul went on to counteract this false assumption for those who were certainly trying to justify their sin, their unripeness if you will.

Paul took this opportunity to open the dialogue about the Law, something that the Jewish Christians stumbled over again and again.  “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (20)  Like the ripe strawberries, the law shows us our sin, our deficiency, but can do nothing to change us.  Sometimes we get uncomfortable reading the Bible because instead of offering comfort and inspiration at the moment, it reveals our sins and shortcomings, those feelings of resentment, pride, hatred, or whatever.  But we can assume it is serving its purpose in those moments as well.

Fortunately, we no longer must keep the requirements of the Law to redeem ourselves, selecting a perfect sacrifice down at the local farmyard and all the bloody mess that would follow.  “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”(21-23)   After all, those delicious strawberries were at one time hard and pale, but they remained on the vine in the light of the sun and everything changed for them.  Unfortunately, there was no redemption for my unripe strawberries because they had left the vine.  I’m not sure, but I think that will preach. (John 15)

@ Romans 4
Abraham was probably Paul’s favorite example of a faith-filled life, “For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith’… And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (3,23-25)  So when the Lord convicts me of sin or my falling short through His Word, I must run to Him in repentance because only He can make me right – ripe and beautiful in His sight.

Moving Forward:  As I remain in His Word today, I pray He will reveal to me my sins and shortcomings so that I may respond with a heart of repentance and be made right with Him through Jesus. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 4-7

Psalms 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Word is a wellspring of counsel and guidance for us

It’s not a surprise to me that Psalms, this wonderful book of comfort, inspiration and guidance, would open with a Psalm directing us to the Source of all comfort, inspiration and guidance.  We’ve all heard the old joke about the individual seeking guidance through Bible roulette.  One opens the Bible to a random page, places a finger on a random verse that says, “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”(Matthew 27:5)  Not receiving any viable direction from this verse, the seeker once again arbitrarily selects a verse which reads, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)  Not good.  However, some of our sources for advice and direction can be just as misdirected.

@ Psalm 1
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” (1) This is one of the verses that my mom drilled into my heart early in life.  Even now, I can hear her saying, “Phyllis, do not ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly.’”(KJV)  Of course, we would never intentionally seek out the counsel or advice of ungodly people, but our lifestyle seems to lend itself to it at times.  I remember working in a bank, sitting around during coffee break and hearing all sorts of counsel coming from my co-workers for me as a young college girl.  No, they didn’t openly mock God, but their lifestyles were in and of themselves contrary to God and His commandments.  The hair or nail salon where we sit for an hour or two or three is another source of free advice that flies around the salon along with all the fumes. Unless these scenarios are Christian environments, I’d rather take my chances with Bible roulette.

And then there is the mother of all free advice – the internet.  According to Google stats for 2009, there were 293 million Google searches per day – that’s a lot of Googling! These stats represent people searching for advice, guidance, comfort and just a myriad of answers.  The internet is great for advice on how to fix the washing machine, where to buy the cheapest copy paper and how to make Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake, but do I really want to find direction for my life there?  Even with Christian websites like this blog, if they do not point us to the true Source of counsel, they are joining in with the mockers.

Speaking of the Source, “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (2-3)  If we want to prosper and be successful, let our counsel come from Him, His Word.  Meditate on it; get it deep within our hearts so that when advice is needed, we are able to reach down into our roots that are saturated with His Word and bring forth His counsel for our lives.  And then others, some godly others, may serve to encourage, inspire and perhaps provide some tools in sync with His counsel.  With the counsel of His Word, we will prosper in all we do, and who doesn’t want that!

Moving Forward:  As I meditate on His Word, I know He will direct me in the counsel that I will need for this very day because He is the Source and He’s got it covered. 

Tomorrow @ Job 1-2