Day Sixteen: 1st Thessalonians

I can not believe that we are 16 books into this challenge! It has gone by faster than I expected.

Today I am in 1 Thessalonians. I’m not super familiar with this book and right off the bat I learned something new! It states that this letter is from Paul, Silas and Timothy, and as you read the letter clearly reflects that. The word “we” is used liberally as these three praise and encourage the church in Thessalonica.

First they reflect on the first visit with the church- how they came to Christ and how proud they are of the way the new believers imitated Christ.

Then Paul, Silas and Timothy were called to another area and the scriptures say they were separated for a while. So long in fact that Paul admits that he got nervous and sent Timothy to “find out whether your faith was still strong.” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

And the next paragraph is so beautiful! I can practically see the excitement of these 3 pastors and this section is penned. 1 Thessalonians 3: 6-7 says:

“But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports you remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you! So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith.”

As a pastor I can honestly say I completely understand their joy. I love seeing students I’ve poured into standing strong in their faith and doing what God has called them to do! It’s so easy to get caught up in the work that still needs to be done or the struggles we are currently dealing with.

I highly encourage you to look back at pastors or spiritual mentors in your life and call them, text them or send them a card saying how much their ministry is still influencing your life.

For example my youth pastor, Kyle mentored me my last 2 years of high school. He and his wife were like second parents to me in high school and it was while I was in his ministry that I was called into ministry.

Jeff Grof is the one who sat me down and helped me fill out a student leader application and constantly urged me to push myself.

My high school debate coach Colleen Averill taught me how to communicate well and was always there to encourage me or give me a hug.

Mac & Jen Dalton, a couple who constantly encourages our family and walked us through a season of change and waiting.

I could go on and on and on.

I know for a fact that these people are still there for me and rejoice with our family when they see what God has done- and many others. So take a moment and touch base with someone who has poured into you- and rejoice together.

Tomorrow join me in 2 Thessalonians!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Fifteen: Titus

Today I read the book of Titus. I read it. And then I reread it. And then I skimmed my highlighted sections and wondered what I shouldwrite about. There are many verses that I marked up, all encouragements for Christian living but all directed at different audiences- which direction did I want to go?

As I paged through my notes, my daughter came up to talk to me. For a little back story, she’s not had a great day.

We’ve been running errands and she did not want to do that today. Plus, I’ve been asking her for 3 days to clean her room. It still isn’t done. So when we got home instead of opening the new toy we found at the store I told her first she has to clean her room.

She got mad. Locked her door and everything. So I went to do my reading. When she came out she said she was mad and that I was mean for always making her clean.

And then I looked down. I paused. I read the highlighted verse again. I smiled and told my daughter that I wanted her to clean her room for a lot of reasons. I won’t always be here, she’s old enough to be responsible for her space- and God commanded me to teach her how to care for her space.

I read her Titus 2:4-5 which says:

“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

Now before anyone gets up in arms, we are teaching my son to do these things with his family some day- I’ll get into why another day. But for my daughter this moment was huge. She was ready for a fight and instead we had a conversation about why I’m enforcing these “crazy” rules. She still isn’t thrilled- but she at least sees that I’m not just being mean. There is a purpose here. So, now she’s back to cleaning her room.

I know today was very different from how I normally approach these posts- but I loved how immediately these verses became relevant in our home. This weekend I will be in 1 & 2 Thessalonians for anyone following along!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Fourteen: Exodus

Today is the first day that I wanted to give up. It really had nothing to do with the content, and everything to do with me. I am tired and the last thing I wanted to do today was read- a pretty rare occurrence for me. I think reading Genesis and Exodus back to back was a bit much- both are longer books- but I really wanted to see the flow from one book to the next.

It really felt like I was reading the next book in a series- Exodus picked up right where Genesis left off without missing a beat.

If you read yesterday’s blog you know that I had a specific goal in mind- I wanted to see why the people of Israel became so faithless after generations of men with rock solid faith that God would fulfill his promises. What happened to shake that foundation?

As I read, I think I see a large part of the problem. In Genesis Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all men without a place. They wander with their flocks and they literally have to trust God with their daily provision. If they can’t find water or the wells have dried up they must wait for God to provide- and they know he will. It isn’t even a question.

When they move to Egypt at the end of Genesis I think that changed them. The generations that grew up in Egypt grew up in comfort. They had homes provided, food at their fingertips and until slavery happened, a livelihood.

When God rescues them from that slavery they are grateful- until things get uncomfortable. The second they start to get out of their comfort zone, they begin to complain that life was better in Egypt! Israel was ok with living in Egypt and passing on the land that God had set aside for them for generations.

We look at them and scoff thinking, “I can’t believe they did that after seeing everything God did! I would never do that.”

Except we do.

How often do we settle for good things that are easy, instead of God’s best? Corporately as a church and individually? I know I have been guilty of it.

Look around at the church in America- I firmly believe that most are settling for what they can get in today’s culture. But what if we really asked God what he wanted us to do- no holds barred? Anything He commanded we would do. Because that is the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Tomorrow I will be moving back into the New Testament and checking out Titus. See you then!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Thirteen: Genesis

Genesis was a little easier even though it is still 50 chapters, mainly because it is in a narrative format. Everything I have read so far has either been prophetic or a letter to the church on Christian living so this was a nice change!

As I read this stories again (this is one book I’ve read several times) this was the big thing I picked up:

Expectation. Noah built the ark, expecting God to bring rain. Abraham and Sarah, expecting God to bring them to the land He promised them and the children he promised. Isaac and Jacob expecting that God would fulfill the promise he made to Abraham. Even Joseph in his final words in Genesis confirm his expectation of God’s promise. He says:

“Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” -Genesis 50:24

It amazes me that each generation unfailing expects this promise to be fulfilled. Especially since Israel struggles with this kind of faith after they are released from slavery in Egypt. Before their time in Egypt the entire family had an unshakable expectation that God would do what He promised.

As I read Exodus tomorrow it will be interesting to see what changes!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Twelve: 2nd Peter

Yesterday in Peter’s first letter he wrote to encourage the believers as they were persecuted for the Kingdom. Today as I turned the page to 2nd Peter I feel like his purpose was to warn the church.

First, Peter warned the to keep growing. He tells the church to grow in goodness, knowledge, self-control, godliness, brotherly affection and love for everyone. After he lists the in 2 Peter 1:5-6 he says:

“The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.”

-2 Peter 1:9

Without this growth, we regress and forget the saving grace Jesus has done for us.

Secondly, Peter warns the church to be aware that false teachers will come. It’s not a maybe someday- he tells them that the false doctrines are already among them! He makes it clear that those who teach anything contrary to, of teaches something that twists the Scriptures will live in sin and draw others into it as well.

Thirdly, Peter warms the church that Jesus is coming. He tells them that Jesus isn’t being slothful or slow- he is being patient. Patient so more people can be added to the Kingdom! Because of this we need to be diligent in living holy lives- showing those around us exactly who Jesus is!

I really feel that this warning applies to every generation of the church.

Don’t stop growing in your faith.

Know your Scripture and stand firm on the truth.

Jesus is coming back- be holy so others may come to know him.

Tomorrow and Thursday I will be reading Genesis and Exodus- see you tomorrow!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Eleven: 1st Peter

Today I was in 1st Peter. First, it was nice to read a book that had more than 1 chapter, but less than 50. The set up I’m using for this challenge is very intentional. It is designed to get the bigger books completed early, and then slowly as I read the bigger books get smaller and the tiny books get a little bigger.

The purpose of this book is neatly summed up in Peter’s closing statement of the book:

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.” – 1 Peter 5:12b

Ok. So what are they experiencing? If you look at the previous chapters you see Peter calling the people remember 2 things.

First, remember we are called to be a holy people, set apart. Peter encourages his readers to set aside worldly desires because as children of God we are only “temporary residents” of this world. We have a bigger purpose and our lives should show that. He encourages people in all areas of life- slaves, wives, husbands, elders of the church- to remember that the people watching could be brought to Christ by their godly example.

Second, he reminds them that suffering is going to happen and to bear it well. This is something that we don’t like to talk about as Christians. But suffering should be a part of our walk with Christ! 1 Peter 4:12-13 says:

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be very glad– for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Ultimately, suffering is a way to show others our faith. Do we still desire to follow God when it costs us friends, respect or comfort? When it hurts are we still able to say, “Praise God!” or are we more prone to blame him for our troubles?

I know we always ask God, “Why is this happening?”- and what we really mean is “Why did you let this happen?”. What if we actually meant it when we asked the first question?

“God, why is the happening? What do I need to learn from this experience? How are you using this to grow my faith?” If we asked it in this manner, how would our lives change I wonder?

Tomorrow we will delve into 2nd Peter! See you then!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Ten: Haggai

Welcome back! As promised today I read the book of Haggai and officially completed my 10th book of the Bible in as many days. As I’ve said before Sunday’s are pretty packed in our home, so I’m glad a shorter book fell naturally on this day.

Haggai is a minor prophet of the Old Testament, after the people of Israel have begun to return from captivity and rebuild. The messages he receives from the Lord are for Zerubbabel, who is heading up rebuilding. The Lord sends 4 messages in this book.

First, he commands the people to start rebuilding the temple. He asks them why they are living in “luxurious houses” while the temple is nothing but a ruin (1:4). He then tells them that if they do not obey, there will be consequences.

Their response is beautiful. After generation upon generation disobeying the Lords commands and enduring 70 years of captivity this remnant of Israel finally had learned obedience. Haggai 1:12 says:

“Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord.”

That moment alone is worth rejoicing! They have finally reached a point of unquestioned obedience.

As they begin to rebuild the temple it quickly become obvious that this temple will be nothing like the grand one Solomon built. And then, before they can become discouraged, comes the second message from the Lord. He declares that “The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory…” (2:9). And with this encouragement the work continues.

The third message God commends them for their obedience, promising to bless them for it. And then later that same day he sends a message to Zerubbabel, saying that He is getting ready to overthrow the nations and that He will honor Zerubbabel, his chosen servant.

Personally a couple things jumped out at me.

1. We are called to be obedient. And in theory we know this. But do we always leap to obey like this remnant did? How often to I respond to the Lords commands with such enthusiasm?

2. God is always making something wonderful. It does not matter of tiny, dingy or delicate we think it may be- if God had commanded it, He has a purpose for it, and it will be wonderful because it shows His glory. Glitz and glam really doesn’t matter in the Kingdom- it is entirely about the heart. Don’t forget- the old beautiful temple was torn down because of their idolatry, yet this one is promised a future glory that will surpass that!

Are there good things that God is doing but because it doesn’t look like what we had in past we are missing the wonderful purpose He has in store?

Tomorrow and Tuesday I will be tackling 1 & 2 Peter if your following along.

In Christ,

Karen

Day Nine: Psalms

I did it.

All 150 Psalms in one day.

That was much harder than Jeremiah, but I am so glad I didn’t start with this book. I think it would have discouraged me on the first day trying to comprehend everything that the psalmists put forth. As it is I feel like I barely scraped the surface and I have many sections marked for further study (as usual).

I tried to be smart and make this a little easier to manage. When I sat down to read set a timer for 30 minutes and then took a shorter break until I finished a section. Psalms is divided into 5 books, so I made sure to take a significant break after each one.

One major benefit of reading all of them in one day was being able to tell who wrote it. Every author has a very distinct voice. For example, David in his psalms often cried out for rescue- from other people or from his own sins. And frequently when he asked for God’s help it was so that when it came David could proclaim it to the people. His request for salvation was rooted in his desire to return that praise back to God! Psalm 11: 14 says:

“Save me so I can praise you publicly at Jerusalem’s gates, so I can rejoice that you have rescued me.”

The other thing I began to notice was the difference between David’s psalms and the psalms of the other writers. David’s psalms are deeply intimate and vulnerable- at points it almost feels like I could be reading a private letter to God. The way David writes I imagine someone who was compelled to put these things down- that the desire to praise was so deeply rooted in him he had to write and share what God had done for him!

The psalms of Asaph, the psalms of the descendants of Korah and even Solomon’s psalms all had a much more corporate feel. They seem as though the writers sat down with the intent of producing something that the people could use to worship together. Often they reference Israel’s history and what God did saving them from Egypt or specific judges he raised up to rescue them. For example Psalm 107:43 says:

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”

It is a clear reminder for the people to look into their past and see God working for them. A good reminder as we walk out our faith as well. Tell me, what has the Lord done for you in your past?

Tune in tomorrow- I’ll be in the book of Haggai for anyone following along!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Eight: Philemon

Philemon has always been one of my absolute favorite books, so when I saw that it was on my list for today I was really excited!

The letter is written by Paul to a man named Philemon regarding a mutual acquaintance- Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave who had run away from Philemon’s household and it’s even implied that he stole from his master. By the grace of God he met Paul and as a result became a Christian. Now, Paul has encouraged him to return to his master, and in turn encourages Philemon to accept him as a brother in Christ.

It’s a fantastic picture of God’s sovereignty at work. Because what are the odds that Onesimus runs away from his master and ends up not only accepting Christ but does so under the influence of Philemon’s friend? Only God.

One big thing I see here is that even though Onesimus has been forgiven by Christ, he still has to face the consequences of his sins. Paul says in verse 13 that he really wanted to keep Onesimus with him, that he had been doing good and profitable work- but that wasn’t right. He had to return to his master and restore that broken relationship. As believers we are constantly commanded to make things right with those we have wronged and Paul is demanding no less from Onesimus.

The other side of this is Philemon himself. Under Roman law he has every right to have Onesimus executed, and Paul pleads with him to offer forgiveness. He encourages Philemon to consider him a brother in Christ and to see how useful he has been and will continue to be to his master.

He reminds him repeatedly that as an apostle, Paul could demand obedience and is choosing instead to ask. He even offers to cover an debts the slave may owe himself!

Both sides of this are a good example of what we are to do as a member of the body of Christ:

1. When we sin against another, make it right.

2. Forgive just as Christ forgave us- unconditionally.

Tomorrow I will finally tackle Psalms! I’ve been planning and prepping all week so that I can keep the day clear to get this book completed. Hopefully it goes well!

In Christ,

Karen

Day Seven: 3rd John

I have officially been in this challenge for a week! So far it’s been hard but pretty rewarding. I’m seeing themes and connections in Scripture that I haven’t picked up on before and visited some books that I haven’t read in a long time! Mainly some of the prophets.

Today I wrapped up my first series of books 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. As I mentioned in my previous posts the first 2 books had a big emphasis on loving one another. It was repeated again and again.

The third book in the set builds off of that. Again John is writing to an individual a gentleman named Gaius. In verse 5 he commended him for caring for the traveling teachers who pass through saying that word of his “loving friendship” has reached the him.

Conversely, in verse 9 John tells of Diotrephes, who refuses to do the same. Diotrephes refuses to help any traveling teachers and when others in the church attempt to do so, he casts them out of the church. John encourages Gaius to continue in the work he is doing, and not to follow this bad example put forth by Diotrephes.

To me it seems like these two men are perfect examples of what John has talked about in his previous books. Love one another and do so in a way where people can tangibly see that love. Gaius is a living example of that teaching lived out, while Diotrephes gives a clear example of what not to do.

Tomorrow I will be heading to the book of Philemon and Saturday I have made sure to keep my schedule clear so I can finally tackle Psalms! See you tomorrow!

In Christ,

Karen