Showing posts with label Bible study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible study. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2012

Exodus

Chapter 1: Blessing During Bondage in Egypt
After many generations, a new pharaoh came into power. He was afraid the Israelites, who were great in number, would overthrow him, so he had them work as slaves. When their population continued to increase, he told the Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby boys when they were born. They chose to obey God and let the babies live. Pharaoh then proclaimed that the Egyptians were to drown baby boys that were born to the Hebrews.

Q? Killing the baby boys would eventually weaken the Hebrews, but why did Pharaoh choose to let the baby girls live? Had he thought far enough in advance, or was he planning to have the Egyptians take the Hebrew girls as wives and weaken the Israelite bloodlines?

Chapter 2: The Birth of the Deliverer (vv. 1-10)
Moses is born, hidden, and saved by Pharaoh's daughter. She has a Hebrew woman (Moses' mother) take care of him until he is weaned, then she takes him as her own son.

*The pharaoh at this time was most likely either Amenhotep I or Thutmose I. Pharaoh's daughter was probably Hatshepsut.

The Presumption of the Deliverer (vv. 1-25)
After killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, Moses must flee to save his own life. He arrives in Midian, marries, and begins a family. He lives there for 40 years. During that time, the pharaoh who wanted to kill him dies and a new one (likely Thutmose III) takes his place.

*Moses' wife Zipporah is a Midianite, a people group who descended from Abraham's son Midian through his wife Keturah (Gen. 25:1-6).

Chapter 3: The Call of the Deliverer
Moses comes upon the burning bush, through which God speaks to him. He tells Moses that He is sending him to Pharaoh (possibly Amenhotep II) to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. God reveals the order of events that will take place and answers Moses' many doubting questions.

Chapter 4: The Source of Sufficiency (vv. 1-17)
Moses continues to find excuses why he should not be the one to represent God to Pharaoh, and God continues to answer him. Finally Moses asks God to send someone else. God gets angry with him and lets him know it will be done His way.

The Return of Moses (vv. 18-31)
Moses asks his father-in-law Jethro for permission to return to Egypt, and it is granted. On the way, God nearly kills Moses because he hasn't followed the covenant of circumcision. Zipporah takes care of the matter, then Moses goes on to Egypt without them. He meets Aaron along the way, and together they share with the Israelite elders all that God had spoken.

Q? In verse 25, it says that "Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off the foreskin of her son [singular] and touched it to Moses' feet." Which son was it? I wonder if Moses followed the covenant with his first son, but after living in a foreign land for so long, he quit following certain practices and didn't circumcise the younger one... His first son Gershom is mentioned by name in Exodus 2:22, but the younger son is only mentioned in the plural form in this chapter. His name (Eliezer) isn't given until chapter 18.

Chapter 5: Opposition to the Plan of God
Pharaoh meets with Moses and Aaron, but he denies God and refuses to let the Israelites go. Then he increases their work and tries to discredit Moses. Some of the Israelites begin to turn against Moses and Aaron; Moses turns to God.

*Moses was forthright with God in his frustration: "...Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? Why did You ever send me? From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in Your name, he has caused trouble for this people, and You have certainly not rescued them!" (vv. 22-23) One commentator (Benno Jacob, The Second Book of the Bible: Exodus) suggests that Moses' frankness was because of his close relationship with God. It makes sense; how often are we more to-the-point with those we're closest to? With strangers and casual acquaintances (generally), we're more likely to sugar-coat our words. God knows our hearts and He wants us to be honest with Him about our feelings - just as Moses, David, and Job were.

Chapter 6: The Assurance of Deliverance (vv. 1-13)
God reassures Moses that the Israelites will be freed - but only after He deals harshly with Pharaoh. Moses tries to encourage the Israelites, but they won't listen to him. God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh again, but he's discouraged after his dealings with the Israelites.

The Ancestry of the Deliverer (vv. 14-27)
The geneaology of Moses and Aaron and the tribes of Israel are recorded.

*God is preparing to fulfill the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to this generation - after the foretold 400 years of oppression (Gen. 15:13).

*The covenant was made with Abraham, then promised to Isaac and to Jacob. Jacob traveled with his family to Egypt, the site of the Israelites' 400 years of bondage, to be with Joseph and to survive the famine. Jacob arrived there with his son Levi and his son Kohath. Kohath's son Amram was in the first generation born in Egypt. Amram fathered Aaron and Moses. Aaron fathered Eleazar, who fathered Phinehas - the fourth generation born in Egypt. In those days, a generation was roughly considered to be 100 years, so with that fourth generation, the bondage period was coming to and end. Moses was being prepared, then preparing the way.

The Authentication of the Word (vv. 28-30)
Again, God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh. Again, Moses makes excuses.

Chapter 7: The Authentication of the Word (vv. 1-13)
God tells Moses about the trials to come, but He reassures him that Pharaoh will let the Israelites go. Moses and Aaron meet with Pharaoh and Aaron's staff becomes a snake. Pharaoh's magicians do the same with their staffs, but Aaron's snake swallows the other ones. Pharaoh refuses them.

*Pharaoh's magicians probably used an old trick of temporarily paralyzing a snake, then "waking" it.

The First Blow: Water to Blood (vv. 14-25)
God instructs Moses to return to Pharaoh at the Nile River, where He turns the water to blood. Pharaoh's magicians do the same thing. Pharaoh refuses to listen to them and walks away.

*God has absolute power and could have easily freed the Israelites, but the series of plagues had a purpose. First, He wanted to judge Egypt for its treatment of the Israelites. He also shows both Egypt and the Israelites His power.

*The Egyptians deified the Nile. God was stronger than their gods and showing how He could turn something vital to life into an instrument of death.

*Many people discount the plagues as coincidental natural phenomena. To be miracles of God that Pharaoh would take note of, they had to be more spectacular than the normal occurrence. At the time the Nile's water turned to blood, the river was high, which would have allowed a reddish-colored mud to wash into the river. A red-colored algae also affects the river, causing a decrease in oxygen which would account for dying fish and, later, a stench. Still, this does not explain how it happened just as Moses struck the water with his staff - or how its tributaries and other small bodies of water, including the water in pots and jars, also turned to blood when Aaron stretched out his hand.

Chapter 8: The Second Blow: Frogs (vv. 1-15)
After a week, God tells Moses to approach Pharaoh again and warn him that Egypt will be plagued by frogs, which then cover the land. Pharaoh's magicians are able to duplicate this as well. Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron to pray to God to take the frogs away and he will release the people. Moses has him name the day ("tomorrow"). After Moses prays and the frogs die, Pharaoh goes back on his word.

Q? Really? How hard was it for Pharaoh's magicians to duplicate this? How could anyone even tell, what with all the frogs already all over the place? How about making them go away?

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Okay, so this is taking waayyyy more time than I have for, and it's putting me further behind in my yearly reading schedule. I'm going to have to rethink what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and what I want/need to do...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Genesis

Note: I decided to do these blog posts after I had finished reading Genesis, and the only notes I have handy are my more recent ones from the end of the book. I'll post those first, then go back and fill in the beginning as I have the time.

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It was written by Moses to the people of Israel, its purpose being to record God's creation of the world and His desire to have a relationship with them, a people set apart to worship Him.

Chapter 1: The Creation of The World
Verse 1 is introductory to the whole chapter. The overview of creation begins with verse 3.

Interesting theme development I'd like to follow: the symbolism of the sea, "the watery deep". The sea represents darkness and chaos "in the beginning", and when the new Heaven and Earth are created, there will be no sea (Revelation 21:1).

Chapter 2: The Creation of Man and Woman

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Chapter 40: The Cupbearer and the Baker
While in prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of the pharaoh's cupbearer (who lives and is restored to his position) and his baker (who is killed). Joseph asks the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him, but he forgets.

Chapter 41: Joseph's Rise to Power
Two years later, Pharaoh has two disturbing dreams. His cupbearer suddenly remembers Joseph, who is brought out to interpret the dreams. Because of Joseph's wisdom, Pharaoh makes him second in command - and in charge of storing up food for the coming famine.

*At the time Joseph begins his service under Pharaoh, he has been in Egypt for 13 years.

*During this time, Joseph has two sons: Manasseh ("he who brings about forgetfulness" - referring to his troubles with his brothers and in Egypt) and Ephraim ("to bear fruit" - referring to his success in "the land of my suffering" v. 52).

Chapter 42: Joseph's Brother in Egypt
Jacob's family feels the effects of the famine, so he sends 10 of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. While there, Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they don't know who he is. (They believe he must be dead, having sold him more than 20 years earlier.) Joseph calls them spies and tests and questions them to find out what he can about his father and brother (Benjamin, who remained at home) and to see if they have changed. When he overhears them discussing their guilt over their treatment of him and how Reuben had wanted to save him, he weeps. He decides to keep Simeon prisoner and to send the rest home with their grain - and their silver, hidden in their sacks. He also tells them not to come back unless they bring their younger brother with them. Jacob grieves that now Simeon is lost to him and his sons want to take Benjamin away to Egypt.

Q? I wonder why Joseph chose Simeon, the second oldest son, as his prisoner instead of Reuben, the firstborn. Maybe it was his subtle way of thanking Reuben for his earlier efforts...?

Chapter 43: The Second Journey to Egypt
Jacob's family needs more grain, but Judah reminds him they won't be allowed to get any more unless Benjamin goes with them. He then promises his own life if something happens to Benjamin. Jacob reluctantly agrees, and the brothers return to Egypt to buy more grain and to return the money that was in their sacks. Joseph sees Benjamin is with his brothers, so he plans to hold a dinner for them.

Q? Why did they wait until they were out of grain before going back to Egypt? How long was Simeon held captive? Didn't they want to save him? Or did they leave him there indefinitely because Jacob wasn't willing to let go of Benjamin until the family was threatened with starvation?

*Joseph feels overwhelming love for Benjamin and shows him excessive favoritism, but the other brothers don't seem to mind. Maybe they've outgrown their jealousies.

*The brothers were astonished that, at Joseph's dinner, he had them seated in order of their birth.

*I found it interesting that the Egyptians found certain Hebrew practices detestable and wouldn't dine at the same table with them. For Joseph's dinner, there were at least three different tables set up: one for Joseph; one for the brothers, who couldn't yet know that Joseph (who appeared to be an Egyptian) was their brother; and one for the Egyptians in Joseph's service. It makes me wonder about Joseph's family meal time. His wife was Egyptian, so she must have eaten at separate table. His children were mixed blood of Hebrew and Egyptian. Could they eat at Joseph's table, or did they have to eat separately, too? I wouldn't think they were allowed to eat at the Egyptian table because of their Hebrew heritage.

Chapter 44: The Final Test
Joseph hides his silver cup in the mouth of Benjamin's sack and sends his brothers on their way. Then he sends his servant to catch them and search their bags. When the cup is discovered in Benjamin's sack, the brothers tear their clothing as an expression of grief, then they all head back to Egypt. Judah gives Joseph a moving speech to save Benjamin.

*NET Bible note: "Joseph's purpose was to single out Benjamin to see if the brothers would abandon him as they had abandoned Joseph. He wanted to see if they had changed."

Chapter 45: The Reconciliation of the Brothers
Joseph is moved to tears by his brothers' love for Benjamin and Jacob. He makes himself known to them, assures them of his forgiveness, and sends them to bring Jacob and all their families to Egypt. Jacob, upon learning Joseph is still alive, is initially shocked, but he recovers and prepares to go to him.

*Verse 5 - "Now, do not be upset and do not be angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life!" NET Bible note: "...Clearly God is able to transform the actions of wickedness to bring about some gracious end. But this is saying more than that; it is saying that from the beginning it was God who sent Joseph here..."

Chapter 46: The Family of Jacob Goes to Egypt
As Jacob/Israel begins his journey to Egypt, God reassures him and reaffirms His covenant. Joseph goes out to meet his father in Goshen and prepares them to meet Pharaoh.

Chapter 47: Joseph's Wise Administration
Pharaoh meets Joseph's father and brothers. He lets them live in the land of Goshen, and he offers jobs to anyone who is able to take care of his livestock.

As the people of Egypt run out of money to buy food, Joseph buys their livestock to add to Pharaoh's herds. Then as they run out of livestock to sell, Joseph buys their land and the Egyptians become slaves to Pharaoh. The agreement is for them to work the land and return 1/5 of the fruits of it to Pharaoh.

After living 17 years in Goshen, Jacob makes Joseph promise to bury him with his fathers instead of in Egypt when he dies.

Chapter 48: Manasseh and Ephraim
Joseph takes his sons Manasseh and Ephraim to Jacob, who takes them as his own sons and pronounces a blessing on them. He intentionally gives the firstborn blessing to the younger brother.

*Jacob's eyesight is poor in his old age - like Isaac's. But here Jacob is fully aware that he is blessing the younger son over the older one, not being tricked as he had tricked Isaac.

*From the Bible Knowledge Commentary: We tend to expect God to work in a certain way, according to our understanding, but His ways are not our ways. He often works in unconventional means.

Chapter 49: The Blessing of Jacob
As Jacob prepares to die, he calls his sons together to bless them. Then he dies.

*As firstborn, Reuben should have taken on the leadership role for the family and received a double portion of his father's blessing. Because he betrayed Jacob (by having intimate relations with Jacob's concubine, Rachel's maidservant), he is passed over. Simeon and Levi are also passed over because of their destructive rage in avenging their sister Dinah when she was raped by Shechem. The leadership is passed on to Judah, who is a descendant of Jesus Christ. The double portion is passed on to Joseph, the firstborn son of his favorite wife.

*Leah (the mother of Judah) was buried in the cave with the patriarchs and their wives, and later Jacob. Even though she was the "lesser" wife in Jacob's eyes, God blessed her abundantly. Rachel, on the other hand, was buried "on the way to Ephrath (Bethlehem)" (Gen. 48:7c).

Chapter 50: The Burials of Jacob and Joseph"
After Jacob dies, both his family and Egypt mourn. Joseph goes with his brothers and an entourage of Egyptian officials to bury his father as he had promised. The brothers worry that Joseph will now take revenge on them, but he assures them again that all is forgiven. Before Joseph dies at the age of 110, he makes the people of Israel promise they will bury him in the land God gives them after their deliverance from Egypt.

Reading Through the Bible Chronologically

Ten years ago, I read through the Bible in a year. It was hard work, but I did it. This year I'm trying to read through the Bible chronologically. I'm looking forward to seeing where things fit together.

There are 13 of us in a private Facebook group who are reading through chronologically together - keeping each other accountable and sharing our thoughts. I started posting my various thoughts on the readings, but they (my thoughts) were getting a little too lengthy - in my opinion. I don't like cluttering the board like that, so I'm going to blog my thoughts here. You can skip it if you like; I promise not to be offended. :o) Of course, I'll still post my thoughts to the board, but they'll be abridged.

My plan is for one post per book, which means I'll be adding to each post every few days or so. For each chapter, I'll use the heading my Bible uses. (I'm using the NET Bible.) As I read each day, I jot down my ideas and questions; then I read my Bible's study notes and notes from the Bible Knowledge Commentary for further clarification. Some chapters speak to me more than others, so my posting will reflect that.

If you have other insights or want to read along with me, please share that with me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Report Card

Last year, I set 6 goals for myself for 2011. Halfway through the year, things weren't looking good. At all. If I were to give myself a grade, I'd have to give myself nearly straight F's. Well, maybe that's being a little too hard on myself, but when I look at the fact that there were only 6 things, well... Instead of dwelling on that, though, let's see how I ended the year.

Goal 1: Bible Study - A
In June, I gave myself a D because I had basically quit having any kind of personal study. I got myself in gear after that and got back to the "Journey Through the Old Testament" that our church had put out at the beginning of 2010. At the end of 2011, I was finishing up the study on a passage from Jonah - which left just 7 passages to study to complete the booklet.

Goal 2: Weight Loss - B
In June, I had given myself a C. Over the 2010 holiday season, I had gotten back into the bad habit of mindless snacking. By the summer, I had gained most of the weight I had lost the previous year! But I had realized it and had gotten back to doing something to get it off. Since then, I've been more mindful of what I eat and I joined a Zumba group at church. I love it! It's helping get me in shape and now I'm 2 pounds less than where I was at this time last year - 10 pounds less that I was at my highest point during the summer. Now if I can just keep it up throughout this year and not slide back again...

Goal 3: Cooking - B
In June, I had given myself an A because I had learned to make some things from scratch - and without relying on recipes. That was great, but I never did take a cooking class at Central Market. Nor did I cook anything from my Now Eat This! cookbook by Rocco DiSpirito. At one point, I was considering signing up for a series of six international cooking classes through Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas, but I've since changed my mind. There are other things I'd rather do with my money...

Goal 4: Photography - F
Wow. As much as I love to take pictures, I hate formatting and filing them. I let it pile up (again) and it got to be too overwhelming. Still, I need to get it done. Yes, 15 months of photos need to be managed now... The monstrosity of all that kept me from participating in Photo Friday and from keeping up with my Project 52. It turned out to be more like Project 3.

Goal 5: Reading - C
My goal was to read 36 books, including one classic a month. The classics just weren't very interesting to me anymore, and reading them slowed me down. I quit after three of them and went back to reading just what I wanted to read. I did read some great books, but several of them were slower reads and cut into my time quite a bit. Then other busyness got in my way. I ended up reading about 25 books this year - slightly more than half of what I read last year.

Goal 6: Blogging - D
Again, busyness got in the way. And Facebook. And then Pinterest. I lost interesting in reading Real Simple magazine each month because a lot of what they promote is either not so simple or it's too expensive to worry with. Then I got behind in reading my issues of Cooking Light. There's also the fact that many of their recipes are complicated and/or have ingredients that aren't very common. I love to cook, but I want easy. I don't want to spend all my time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up. I want to watch some TV and knit or crochet in the evenings.

Once again, this is showing where my priorities lie. They're on track, but I would like to get these things I love to do a little more balanced in my life. Maybe I can in 2012.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mid-Year Review

On January 1 of this year, I blogged about my goals for 2011. As I was thinking about this the other day, I knew I was falling short in most areas, if not all of them. I need to refresh my memory not only with what my goals for the year are but also why they were important to me at one time...

1. Bible Study - D
Sad to say, I've really dropped off here. I was doing well with my own personal study, but I had to change my focus in order to write some articles for a monthly (now bi-monthly, if at all...) e-magazine that a friend of mine was putting out. I'd be so intensely studying for the article that once I finished writing it, I'd "take a break". A lengthy break. A 3-week-long break before starting work on the next one. And now, since I haven't had to turn in an article since late May and I don't know when my next deadline will be, the break has turned into over a month now. I need to return to what I was studying before the magazine articles took my time...

2. Weight Loss - C
Well, the Christmas holidays set me off and I'm just now getting back to losing weight again. Of course, the weight I'm losing now is the 7 pounds I put back on... But it's going well right now. I've lost 5 pounds of that over the last month. I've been exercising more regularly. First it was through 20-minute segments of strength training and cardio, based in part on Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred. More recently it's been through swimming laps at the pool a few times each week. I'm noticing a difference! That's encouraging! Now if I can keep it up, I'm on a good track to lose some more. I'm dreading the plateau I always seem to hit, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve this time...

3. Cooking - A
While I haven't tried many recipes yet from Cooking Light or Now Eat This!, I have been more adventurous in my cooking. I chalk that up to a wonderful book called How to Cook Without a Book. Yes, I know. Funny title. But it's such a great book! Basically, you learn cooking techniques. Then you should be able to cook a wealth of recipes without having to rely on a recipe. I now make my own pasta sauce for a lot less than I was paying for jarred sauce - which I always tweaked anyway! I can make a frittata and I know how to vary ingredients based on what I want or what I have. (Of course, since those are baked, they'll be on our fall/winter rotation. I don't like to turn the oven on if I can help it during the spring/summer...) I've also learned about various pasta dishes that are quick, easy, and flavorful - and I can make it any way I like. Bring on the experimentation! Soon I hope to try a pasta/spinach/ricotta dish, maybe with some Italian sausage mixed in for protein and spice. I also want to try my hand at spanakopita (Greek phyllo pies with spinach and feta). I love what I learned and I'm excited to be able to use it! Yes, I'll still use some cookbooks and actual recipes for things, but I'm no longer afraid to jump out on my own and try something new.

4. Photography - F
I have done soooo little with this. I think it's mainly because I'm overwhelmed with photos on my computer that need to be edited, renamed, and filed into iPhoto. I won't say how many months worth, but I will admit that this is the worst I've let it pile up. I thought summer would be a great time to get it under control again, but it seems we're busier now than we were during the school year. Actually, it's just that when I think about it, I'm busy with something else. When I'm not busy and have some time to work on it, I don't think about it. I need to make a list.

5. Reading - C
Earlier this year, my reading started slow. I think a lot of that had to do with reading classics. While they aren't bad, and it's something I wanted to do, they are definitely a slower read for me. And the fact that I spent a lot of time watching six seasons of Grey's Anatomy on Netflix instead of reading makes for slower-growing book lists. I gave up on reading one classic a month in April, I believe. I had started rereading Lord of the Flies, a favorite from high school, but it just wasn't a great as I remembered. Then I got Decision Points from the library and needed to hurry with it because it was a popular book. I had been 11th in line for it when I placed a hold on it. It was a good book, but it took me a while to get through it. When I had the chance to get back to LOTF, I just wasn't interested anymore. Plus I have too many other library books on my shelf that aren't classics that I need to get read - that I want to read more than classics right now. I'll go back to my old habit of picking up a classic every once in a while... This month, I did read four books, though. I think my total for the year is currently 14...? I've got a long way to go to reach my goal of 36, which I still want to achieve. I can do it!

6. Blogging - D
January was good. February and following months, not so much. I still put some blame on Facebook. I've often come up with statuses for FB that would be better suited for a blog post, but I just shorten them and go on with life. I watched - and enjoyed - Biggest Loser and American Idol this year, but I never felt the need to blog about it. I did write about some articles from my current magazine subscriptions, but not many. And I've let my magazine perusing slide, too. I'm a few months back. I've decided to let Real Simple lapse when renewal comes up. I like it, but it's not one I use much. Cooking Light, on the other hand, has some really useful tips throughout, as well as some great-sounding recipes. Of course, I need to try those recipes instead of just looking at them... My 6-month gift subscription from Lindsay runs out with the August issue, but I decided it's one I want to keep around for at least another year. Last week I renewed it. Maybe I'll pick up blogging about some of that again. As for blogging about life, there's a lot I could do right now. But I feel the need to hold back sometimes. Maybe I'll blog and save the entries as drafts for posting a little later when there's some distance between me and the situations... (I tend to not share a lot of things with a lot of people... That's a big admittance right there.)

So, what does this mid-year review show me? Of the things I thought important at the beginning of the year, only some have held true. I need to decide which of these goals are most important and focus on them. The others can hold off a little longer. Priorities change for various reasons, and right now Bible study and health need to take a higher place in my life. And reading has just always been a pleasure I can't let go of. Writing is an important outlet for me that I've let slide. I need it, and I need to get back to it. I'll work in photography when I can, but I won't worry if I don't do all the things with it that I'd like to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Exodus 4:1-17

...continuing my "Journey Through the Bible - Old Testament" that our church offered for personal study.

Exodus 4:1-17

Observation
God is speaking to Moses at the burning bush. Moses is worried that the Israelite elders won't believe he is speaking for God, so God gives him 3 signs to perform to convince them. Moses then gives an excuse why he shouldn't be the one to do it, but God reassures him that He will be with him. Moses then asks God to send someone else, but God tells him he will do it with His and Aaron's help.

Interpretation
God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, but Moses felt he was a poor choice and gave God many excuses why he couldn't do the job. God knew Moses' abilities and promised to lead him. He didn't let Moses off the hook.

Application
When God chooses us to do something for Him, He will give us all we need to do His will. We are to trust that He is sovereign over our lives and not argue for what is more comfortable for us.

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Notes
Verse 14 says, "Then the LORD became angry with Moses..." I think I'd be frustrated with Moses if he kept giving me one excuse after another to get out of doing something. I know I get angry with the boys when they whine and complain and argue about something I've told them to do. When I tell them to do something, I expect them to do it - and do it now.

But how do I respond when God wants me to do something? Do I not listen? Do I whine and complain about how hard it is or how uncomfortable it would make me? Do I try to argue why I shouldn't do it? Sure, I do. God is trying to stretch me to fill the place He has set aside for me, but I just want to stay the same, to stay comfortable in my own little world. I don't want to be bothered with something outside of my "normal".

I need to remember that God knows better than I do what I'm capable of doing. After all, He's the one who created me. Just as He promised Moses that He'd be with him, God has made those same promises to all His children. He's going to be with me as I do what He wants me to do. It's when I go my own way that I fail and feel miserably alone and inadequate. Yes, He's still with me, but He's letting me learn my lesson and reap the consequences of my disobedience. And just like I don't let my boys' whining and complaining change my decision, God doesn't accept my "no", either.

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My Prayer
Lord, thank you for forgiving me when I repeatedly make excuses for not doing what You would have me to do. Thank you for creating me to do wonderful things for You. Help me to discern Your will and to separate it from my own, and please give me the encouragement I need to carry out what You have required of me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Genesis 12:1-9

I use Bible.org for printing each passage for study. Clicking on the link below will take you directly to the passage in Genesis and provide you with study notes from the NET Bible.

Genesis 12:1-9

Observation
In this passage, God tells Abram (later Abraham) to leave his father's household and go to a land He would give to his descendants. He promised to bless Abram and make him into a great nation. Abram did as God told him and he was shown the land of Canaan.

Interpretation
Abram did what God told him, seemingly without hesitation. He followed God's leading and worshiped Him.

Application
I should follow Abram's example of following God's leading without hesitation and putting my complete trust in Him.

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Notes
From the previous text, it's clear that Abram had already set out for the land of Canaan with his father and his family (including all their servants and their livestock). They had come from Ur, a wealthy pagan city on the southern part of the Euphrates River along the southern edge of the Fertile Crescent.

Along the way, they settled in the land of Haran (where Abram's father died), a few hundred miles north/northeast of Canaan. When I looked at an atlas of the area, I discovered that Haran was located about 560 miles northwest of Ur.

Why did they travel so far northwest when Canaan lie nearly 600 miles almost due west?

I obviously wasn't thinking about travel during ancient times. Haran is located at the northern end of the Euphrates River, which was a major trade and travel route. Canaan was located farther south/southwest, but along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, another trade/travel route with major cities along it. Traveling from Ur due west to Canaan would have been more dangerous, especially for that number of people. There were other trade routes that crossed that way, but they were through desert areas, then mountains, not along waterways.

This makes me think about how God leads me. What I may think is a more direct route may not be the best way. Maybe God wants to lead me through life along a safer path, even though it may seem to me to be a wandering one.

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My Prayer
Lord, thank you for leading me in the ways You know are best. Please continue to guide me. Help me to follow You without hesitation and to put my complete trust in You.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bible Study Methods

When Billy was accepted to Dallas Theological Seminary, they sent him a book by Howard Hendricks entitled Living by the Book. I looked through it and thought it looked like something I'd like to read, but it wasn't until nearly 2 years later when I finally got started with it.

Not long ago, our church decided to encourage the body to spiritual growth in Bible study using the methods outlined in that book. They printed a booklet with one scripture reading from each of the 39 books of the Old Testament, complete with space for writing in observation, interpretation, and application for each reading. Since I'm not a part of any Bible study group right now, and my own personal study of Romans was almost finished, I decided to make that my next study.

When I began, I realized I couldn't really remember what I needed to do for observation, interpretation, and application, so I found Living by the Book on one of the shelves in Billy's study and went through it again. I skimmed the chapters and jotted notes on what I needed to do and look for as I read. I made lists of outside resources to consult, many of them in Billy's personal library. I copied an inventory of personal questions to consider when looking at scripture and how it can affect our lives. Finally, I was ready to begin the study.

Typically I take one week for each passage. The first day, I mark the text, which I've printed from the computer so I can jot notes and questions and answers. I also read the verses immediately before and after to put the passage in the correct context. Then I fill in the observation portion of my booklet. Days two and three are for interpretation. I reread the passage in another translation, usually the Amplified Version. Then I consult a commentary and a Bible handbook to find answers to questions I've come up with. I also look at an atlas to see where things took place. Then I read over my notes and write in the interpretation part of my booklet. The last day or two, I take time for personal reflection. Sometimes I don't get it the first day and I need time during the rest of the day to meditate on what I've learned. If it does take two days, I'll reread everything I've written for that passage and maybe go back to the commentary. After a little more thought, I realize what I need to work on in the application portion.

So far I've finished Genesis through Numbers. Tomorrow I'll start Deuteronomy. (No, I'm not on a M-F schedule. Some mornings I don't get my Bible study done...) I'd like to post some of my observation, interpretation, and application for the passages I've read. Maybe something I've found will help you like it's helping me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Romans 14: 1-12

I've been studying my way through Romans for a while now, taking one section of verses each day. (Well, most days.) I read the day's verses, read Warren Wiersbe's The Bible Exposition Commentary on those verses, and write down notes and observations that I find especially meaningful.

Today's verses (Romans 14:1-12) were not new to me. I remember discussing them in Pastor Kevin's Sunday school class at Open Door Bible Church several years ago. We specifically discussed eating at a particular Asian restaurant - I can't remember which one - where the meat had been sacrificed to Buddha before being prepared. Some people wouldn't eat there because of that. Others didn't mind at all because they weren't the ones making the sacrifices: since Buddha isn't real, the sacrifices don't really mean anything.

As I read these verses and the commentary this morning, I was struck by several other examples. Some people believe Christians should abstain from drinking alcohol; others see occasional use as okay, whether it's for social or medicinal purposes. The Bible doesn't say not to drink; in fact, Paul encourages Timothy to drink a little wine for health reasons (1 Tim. 5:23). The Bible does, however, say not to get drunk (Eph. 5:18), and it gives several examples of the problems drunkenness will cause. Some are taken from a person's experience - Noah (Gen. 9:20-27) and Lot (Gen. 19:30-38), just to name two - while others are given as bits of wisdom (Prov. 20:1).

*Please note: I am not trying to give an exhaustive list of references, just a few examples. There are many more than what I've shown. If you would like to do a more intensive study, I would recommend using NET Bible.org.

Another good example of this is choosing to follow or not follow certain traditions. Some people do not celebrate certain holidays or say the Pledge of Allegiance - and I've heard many reasons for why. Others may choose to celebrate a holiday in a non-traditional way such as not using certain decorations.

One big argument that often arises in churches is which translation of the Bible should be read, often with one group with strong leanings toward the King James Version.

The entertainment arena is another hotbed of controversy. Several years ago, it was focused on music. More recently, the focus has shifted to books, movies, and television.

What it all boils down to is this: If what you do or don't do doesn't go against what God tells us in the Bible, it's up to you to decide if it's right for you or not. It's not anyone's place to determine what's right for anyone else. It's also not anyone's place to judge someone for his or her choices. That is best left to Jesus Christ, before whom we will stand at the Judgment Seat.

I don't want to be judged by others because of my choices, but I know I often judge others for theirs. While I can think of several specific examples on both side, I won't list them here lest the judging begin.

At the end of my notes, I wrote down a prayer:
Lord, help me to not be judging. Help me to accept and respect the choices others make, whether they are choices I would make or not. Help me to remember that You are the Lord of my life and theirs, not me.

I like verse 12: "Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God." (NET)

In reading further, I found that 1 Cor. 8:1-13 addresses this same thing, but more specifically eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. The application here is not to do things that might cause other Christians to stumble.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Different Approach

When you read the Bible, how do you go about it? Do you use a study guide? Do you read straight through? Do you alternate between books of the Old Testament and the New Testament?

I've tried all of those methods, including reading the Bible through in a year - which was so fast I couldn't remember a lot of what I read. After my last group Bible study ended, I started reading the Bible straight through again (more slowly and purposefully this time!), but when I got to 1 & 2 Kings, I realized I was having a lot of trouble keeping up with who did what when. I thought about making some sort of timeline, though there are plenty I could use on the Internet.

Then I read something in 2 Kings (I believe) that referenced Jonah. The Jonah? Of the whale's belly fame? I looked into it and - yes, it was the same one! Well, what's he doing back here when he belongs several books away? I know the Bible is arranged categorically: history, wisdom, major and minor prophets, etc., but I always missed the references to many of the minor prophets in my readings in other parts. (I guess I was rushing through to keep on track so I could finish in a year...) This mention of Jonah stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder what else I had missed. I decided that instead of making a timeline and still missing a lot, I would read through the Bible chronologically.

I found a few chronological guides on the Internet. Of course, they're divided up to read it all in a year, but I'm not going to do that again. I'm going to take my time with it. And I decided I wasn't going to start over again with Genesis, although Job fits in there shortly after the introduction of Abram (between Genesis 11 & 12). I read over Genesis 11 to set the context and the time, then read through Job. I didn't spend a lot of time there because we just finished a year-long study of Job in our Sunday school class. (Actually it was more than a year...) After Job, I read another chapter or two of Genesis to continue with the flow of time. I did that here and there, reading a few of the Psalms that Moses or someone else had written during the Israelites' time of wandering in the desert or finally reaching the promised land.

Now I'm back to 1 Samuel, which has some of the Psalms interspersed throughout. I think I'm going to enjoy reading my Bible chronologically, especially since it will help me better understand the chain of events of all the kings, the split of the kingdom, and the Babylonian exile with events the minor prophets wrote about that happened at the same time.

If you've read through the Bible this way, I'd love to hear what your thoughts are. If you haven't, care to join me?