Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 38, Mark 8, Job 4, and Romans 8

genesis 38By Laurie Short

I have a confession to make. I took one look at the Old Testament passage assigned to me today, and made a bee-line to the New Testament. But somehow, that Still Small Voice pulled me back.

Genesis 38 is one of those chapters nestled in the Old Testament that makes you wonder what in the world God had in mind having it there. (I wish it were the only one). Right in the middle of the story of Joseph, we find a little sidebar. The story of Judah and, um, his daughter-in-law.

It’s one of those blips in the Bible that makes you scratch your head and secretly hope your non-believing friends never see it.

The funny thing is, when I tried to escape it and find refuge in the New Testament passage, I landed in Romans 8, which is home to a famous verse we’ve all memorized and loved.

“In all things God works for the good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.” (v.28)

“There is plenty to focus on right here in this verse,” I said to myself.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 35-36, Mark 6, Job 2, and Romans 6

mark 6By Patty Kirk

The account of Jesus’ rejection by the people of his own town gets at a faith problem a lot of us struggle with: not really understanding and accepting our own power as believers. Mark writes that, after Jesus preaches in Nazareth—among the people he grew up with, including his own sisters and brothers—“many who heard him were amazed.” So amazed, we learn a few lines later, that “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:2-3 NIV).

A few lines after that in Mark’s story, Jesus is also “amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). He’s probably offended too, judging from what he tells them. “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town,” he remarks disgustedly, even “among his relatives and in his own home” (Mark 6:4).

The word “amazed,” here, is actually two different words in the Greek of Mark’s account, but translators appear to regard the Greek words as synonyms, since most translations don’t significantly distinguish Jesus’ and the Nazarenes’ reactions from each other. If you ask me, though, in neither instance does our English word amazed—or astonished or astounded, as some translations have it—get at what’s really at issue here.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 32, Mark 3, Esther 8, and Mark 3

genesis 32By Lisa Velthouse

We have settled on a name for the wildly moving mass of unborn boy that is taking over my torso. It is still a few months ahead of our son’s arrival, and we’ve known his gender for only a handful of weeks—still, it feels like this process of deciding took forever.

Any name my husband liked, I couldn’t stand, and vice versa. (We knew it would be this way. The disagreements were foreshadowed early in our marriage, when Nathan told me he loved the Puritan practice of naming children after virtues: Patience, Chastity, etc. I twisted up my whole face at him in response.) This time around was the same as with the naming of our daughter: one of us would toss out an idea, and the other would immediately make a face or say, determinedly and disgustedly, NO.

But we hashed it out, because names are important. This boy will wear his forever: infancy, childhood, awkward teenage years, early adulthood, old age—as long as he is privileged to live. The sounds made by his name will reverberate on people’s ears when he first introduces himself.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 23, Matthew 22, Nehemiah 12, and Acts 22

acts 22By Christie Purifoy

1.

Here is the painful truth about following a Bible-reading schedule: you cannot hide from the verses you do not like. Follow the schedule faithfully enough, and you will confront something that confuses you, or makes you uncomfortable. You will, immediately or eventually, read something that triggers doubt.

I do not mean doubts about God, necessarily. His existence, let’s say. Or his character. I have been blessed to walk through that kind of doubt. God proved himself True, God proved himself Love, and I am forever grateful.

But there is also self-doubt. This is the doubt I now face with more regularity.

I wonder, Am I doing this following-Jesus thing right? Was that really God’s voice? Did I actually see God in that place?

Or was it all a trick of the light?

2.

The twenty-second chapter of the book of Matthew is like a briar patch. Here I am and here is Jesus, and between us? A tangle of thorny questions.

Questions about heaven and hell, marriage and the resurrection. Questions about money and political allegiance, and questions about the interpretation of old Scriptures.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: Genesis 21, Matthew 20, Nehemiah 10, and Acts 20

matthew 20By Tricia Lott Williford

I was a waitress all throughout college, waiting tables at Friendly’s (a quick shout-out to the Fribble!), Cracker Barrel (hooray for biscuits with your meal), and TGI Fridays (back when each of us wore a ridiculous hat and 15+ pieces of flair).

We had a good camaraderie among the waitstaff, and I loved my jobs serving ice cream, sandwiches, pancakes, and the occasional Oreo Madness. But we were also keenly aware of the system of justice and fairness in the food transportation industry.

There was a rotating system, a moving ramekin on the hostess’s seating chart, to make sure each server had equal turns with new guests in the restaurant. Some of it was luck of the draw: if it was your turn when two old ladies came in for an afternoon tea, then you missed out on the next guests: a party of ten – five young couples, all probably double-incomes-no-kids, fully expecting to eat much and tip generously.

There were no promises of a good night, and I confess that there were many nights when I envied the servers who had more tables, bigger parties, or just a prettier smile than I had that night, and they were leaving with way more cash.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 30, Revelation 16, Zechariah 12:1-13:1, and John 15

zechariah 12By Stephanie Rische

It’s Christmas Day, the culmination of so much waiting. We’ve been counting down days, lighting candles, wrapping gifts, making plans, and now the day is finally here. Perhaps more than any other day of the year, Christmas serves as a reminder to us who are busy and frantic and enamored with instant gratification that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

I recently heard a Christian leader describe waiting as a form of punishment from God—something of a divine time-out. He said waiting is God’s way of turning his back on us when we do something wrong so we will eventually come to our senses after feeling the pain of his silence.

Now, I have no doubt there are times God uses seasons of waiting to teach us, and it’s true that he sometimes feels distant because of our sin. But as I look through Scripture, I believe there’s something not quite right about that image of waiting. In Scripture, waiting almost always precedes something holy and breathtaking and beyond human expectations.

As we look back on the course of history, before practically every miracle, God calls for a period of waiting.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Kings 9, 1 Timothy 6, Hosea 1, and Psalm 119:73-96

By Stephanie Rische

Not long ago my husband, Daniel, and I went to our friends’ house to introduce ourselves to the latest addition to their family—an adorable eight-pound bundle, newly arrived from the hospital and decked out in a duck-themed onesie.

We asked his parents if there was any special meaning to his name, and we found out that his first name means “Big Hope” in Korean. As I held him, I looked in his eyes—wide and unblinking, taking in everything with solemn contemplation. Big Hope. So much hope wrapped in something so small.

A couple of days after our visit, I met with my weekly prayer buddy. We meet every Tuesday to talk and pray over coffee, and we’ve been praying about one thing consistently ever since we started meeting. Week after week, year after year. But nothing seems to be happening. “I’ve been wondering,” she said. “What’s the point of hoping?”

The question wasn’t bitter, nor did it stem from a lack of belief. She was asking genuinely, almost pragmatically. “Is there any real benefit to hoping?” If you don’t hope for something and God delivers, it’s a pleasant surprise, right?… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Samuel 21, Galatians 1, Ezekiel 28, and Psalm 77

infertilityBy Christie Purifoy

No wonder some speak of an Old Testament and a New Testament God.

My eyes follow the litany of plagues and disasters in Ezekiel 28, and I question if this is the God I profess to love.

I read of bloodshed and holiness, of pestilence and glory. I read words that seem to tremble on the page: Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.

Is anyone safe with a God like this?

I think I may be trembling, too. Then, I remember what I have seen, and the fog of confusion and fear lifts: God is who he says.

God is love. Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow.

***

Ten years ago this month, I lay in a hospital bed and held my baby girl. A precious bundle just the size of my forearm.

My daughter recently wished upon ten candles, but, if I had had my way, she would be a teenager by now. My husband and I were married seven years when she made her entrance. Like the visitation of some Old Testament plague, infertility had been poured into my days.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Samuel 6, 1 Corinthians 16, Ezekiel 14, and Psalm 55

By Stephanie Rische

2 Samuel 6If there was ever a time in our country’s recent memory that raised questions about the character of God, it would have to be this date in 2001.

On that infamous day and the days that followed, as people sifted through the rubble of crumpled cement, seared iron, and splintered faith, a few questions rose to the top of Americans’ consciousness. The questions weren’t new ones, but the rawness of the moment thrust them from somewhere beneath the surface into the harsh light of now.

Is God holy?

Is God good?

We aren’t the first ones who have found ourselves desperate for answers in the face of tragedy. King David, called a man after God’s own heart, asked the same questions some three thousand years ago. On the heels of a few significant victories—receiving news of his archrival’s death (2 Samuel 1), being crowned ruler of a newly united kingdom (2 Samuel 4–5), and defeating the Israelites’ bitter enemy (2 Samuel 5)—David set out to bring the ark of God back to its rightful home in Jerusalem.

This would have been a move of deep significance for David and the rest of the Israelites.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 1 Samuel 26, 1 Corinthians 7, Ezekiel 5, and Psalm 42-43

ezekiel 5By Lisa Velthouse

My relationship with Marcie (not her real name) took several permanent steps backward when she called up my parents one day and told them she wanted to kill me. According to Marcie—who, up to that point had been a casual friend—the flash point for her murderous thoughts was a conversation from years earlier, which Marcie apparently had remembered selectively and fixated on.

That previous conversation was mildly memorable to me too, mostly because the question that prompted it had seemed to come wildly out of the blue.

Marcie: “Lisa, do you get A’s in school?”

Lisa: “Yeah, I get some A’s. But it’s not that important to get A’s in school, Marcie.”

Marcie: “OK.”

She wanted to kill me, she was now saying, because of the A’s. According to a report given by authorities a couple days later, a bigger reason was that Marcie’s guardian had been ill, and as a result Marcie had stopped taking her meds.

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