Genesis 11-12

Genesis 12:7

_then-the-lord-appeared-to-abram-and-said-to-your-offspring-i-will-give-this-land-so-he-built-there-an-altar-to-the-lord-who-had-appeared-to-him-_-genesis-12_7

“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.”

Despite the fact that Abram has not been able to have children, he builds an altar to praise the LORD in anticipation that His promise will be fulfilled.

It can be difficult to trust the Lord in light of our current circumstances. By all appearances, Abram shouldn’t expect his wife to suddenly bear him children after years of barrenness. But when the Lord appears, Abram trusts His promise, and his response is to praise the Lord for what He is going to do. We can trust that when the Lord promises something, He will follow through. Our circumstances  never dictate God’s power.

Lord, thank You for Your communion with us. Thank You for loving me even when my faith is weak. Help me to trust You as Abram did- not only to trust, but to praise You in anticipation of what You’re going to do.

This Week’s Reading Schedule:

1/16: Job 38-39

1/17: Job 40-42

1/18: Genesis 11-12

1/19: Genesis 15

1/20: Genesis 16-17

Advertisements

Job 1-2

Job 1:21

_and-he-said-naked-i-came-from-my-mothers-womb-and-naked-shall-i-return-the-lord-gave-and-the-lord-has-taken-away-blessed-be-the-name-of-the-lord-_-job-1_21

“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'”

In the midst of great loss and suffering, Job recognized that all of the good things in his life, which he had just lost, were all gifts from God; he didn’t deserve any of them. Understanding this enabled Job to worship God for the blessings he still had in life and those which he had lost.

Our response to loss is often self-pity and a lapse of faith. It is easy to question how God could take away when we view ourselves as blameless bystanders, not realizing that we’ve done nothing (and can do nothing) to merit the initial blessing. From there, we question how a good God would allow such things to happen. Instead, our focus needs to be on God’s goodness. When we see God as good, we realize, like Job, how everything we have is a gift and how God has provided for us in so many tangible ways. We are not entitled to anything that we possess in this life.

Lord, create in me a heart of gratitude. Help me to recognize the blessings You’ve given to me and to praise You for who You are- not what my circumstances suggest or how they make me feel.

What stuck out to you in these first chapters of Job? How does this story challenge your understanding of God’s character and His involvement in our lives? Please comment below!

Next Week’s Reading Schedule:

1/16: Job 38-39

1/17: Job 40-42

1/18: Genesis 11-12

1/19: Genesis 15

1/20: Genesis 16-17

Genesis 8-9

Genesis 8:20

_then-noah-built-an-altar-to-the-lord-and-took-some-of-every-clean-animal-and-some-of-every-clean-bird-and-offered-burnt-offerings-on-the-altar-_-genesis-8_20

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”

After God told Noah to go out of the ark with his family to multiply the earth, Noah’s first response was to build an altar and to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Noah’s actions not only showed gratitude, but they also exhibited faith; he gave some of every animal and bird which would have been a source to populate the earth. He had to trust that God would supply for every need.

After a difficult season, it isn’t often our response to give thanks. We are usually to focused on the things that went wrong rather than using God’s perspective to see what went right and how God provided. Gratitude is oftentimes a result of seeking perspective, which is a gift of the Spirit.

Lord, create in me a heart of gratitude. Help me to recognize, acknowledge, and respond to Your provision over my life and to give You praise. Even when circumstances are difficult, help me to trust, by Your Holy Spirit, that You are working all things for my good and Your glory.

What did you walk away thinking about after this reading? What did you learn about the Lord from reading this passage? Please comment below and share your thoughts!

This Week’s Reading Schedule:

1/9: Genesis 1-2

1/10: Genesis 3-4

1/11: Genesis 6-7

1/12: Genesis 8-9

1/13: Job 1-2

Genesis 6-7

Genesis 7:5

_and-noah-did-all-that-the-lord-had-commanded-him-_-genesis-7_5

“And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”

When the Lord gave Noah specific- and rather involved- instructions to build an ark, Noah obeyed. He didn’t question the Lord about His plan or his own role in the plan; he simply gave himself to the Lord in obedience.

How often do we submit to the Lord when He leads us to do something? It’s easy to say that Noah should have obeyed when we look back at the results. But in the moment, obedience may not have come so easily. Nevertheless, Noah followed through by faith with action. From his example, we are reminded that the Lord has a plan for His creation that is good, even when we can’t see the complete picture.

Lord, help me to put my faith wholly in You. Help me to be a woman of action , responding only and quickly to Your instruction. Thank you that I can trust in Your plan and rest in Your goodness.

Any surprises for you while reading this familiar Bible story? What stood out to you in these chapters? Please comment below!

This Week’s Reading Schedule:

1/9: Genesis 1-2

1/10: Genesis 3-4

1/11: Genesis 6-7

1/12: Genesis 8-9

1/13: Job 1-2

Switching Gears in the New Year

New Years brings such freshness to the days and a hope for change. It’s a chance to re-center, re-focus, and re-evaluate how time is spent, how habits impact productivity, and how to achieve overall well-being.

During my New Years Eve pondering, several priorities instantly settled in my mind, and one relates to you.

First and foremost, I determined that this year I would put the first fruit of my efforts into cultivating a deeper relationship with the Lord. Second, I would pour my free time (when I’m not caring for my precious little lady or fulfilling my duties as a homemaker) into my novel and subsequent publication of that novel. Third, I realized that I needed to revisit my blog.

I miss our conversations on classic literature and how they correspond with scriptural teaching. I miss reviewing books. I miss having the opportunity to share life with you. I miss writing.

But none of us have time to do everything, and certainly not enough time to do everything well.

With my focus on seeking the Lord with all my heart, soul, and strength, I was led to a solution that would unite my resolutions into one pursuit.

I’m participating in a discipleship group in which we follow the F260 Bible Reading Schedule. If you read a couple chapters of the Bible five days a week, this schedule carries you from Genesis to Revelation in one year (minus a few ancient laws in Leviticus and a handful of genealogies)!

This year, I will share my reflections with you, and hopefully we will be able to spark some conversation through these readings.

As for the classic literature devotions and book reviews, my hope is to still offer these as my reading schedule permits. (I’m currently reading Jude the Obscure, and I would love to chat with you about that in a devotional context!)

This is going to be a great year. Not because I’m going to do anything amazing or go to the gym six days a week or be the best wife/mom/friend/person in the world, but because the Lord is with us. He is good, and He is working in us through each and every day.

I would love to grow deeper with the Lord with you this year, friend. Will you join me?

Here’s the schedule for next week:

Monday 1/ 9: Genesis 1-2
Tuesday 1/10: Genesis 3-4
Wednesday 1/11: Genesis 6-7
Thursday 1/12: Genesis 8-9
Friday 1/13: Job 1-2

Note: This is one week behind the F260 schedule in order to allow me time to write and post  🙂

Happy Reading, Friends!

The Scarlet Letter and Casting Stones

Wishing You copy

The Scarlet Letter is a fascinating exploration of the impact of sin and confession in our lives. It is not difficult to draw numerous parallels between this text and what God says about sin and our response to it, and to learn a great deal about ourselves in the process.

Because this story is set back in the 1700’s, some of the shock of the story is lost on us modern readers. A woman who has a child outside of marriage is not scorned as she once was, though perhaps a woman who is married and has a child by another man receives some public disgrace.

Even if we cannot relate entirely with the circumstances of the time period, the fact remains that we are prone to pass judgment on others, belittling them for our own benefit.

Though Hester Prynne is publicly shamed for her actions, repents, and is yet compelled to wear the emblem of shame on her breast, the Puritan townspeople cannot dismiss her past and allow Hester to live in redemption from sin.

Looking on as she leaves her prison cell, the townswomen converse:

“ ‘The magistrates are God-fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch . . . At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead. Madam Hester would have winced at that, I warrant me. But she,-the naughty baggage,-little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown! Why, look you, she may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever!’

“ ‘Ah, but,’ interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, ‘let her Wishing Youcover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.’

“ ‘What do we talk of marks and brands, whether on the bodice of her gown, or the flesh of her forehead? . . . This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statue-book. Then let the magistrates, who have made it of no effect, thanks themselves if their own wives and daughters go astray!’ ” (Hawthorne, 36)

Through these voices, we hear judgment on Hester. Though the second shows a modicum of mercy, the others come from women who believe they are in a position to pass judgment, distancing themselves from Sin in order to feel better about their own conduct. Further, they believe that they are in the position to suggest what Hester’s punishment should be.

In the book of John, we see Jesus’ response to very similar circumstances. The Pharisees bring a woman to the temple where Jesus is teaching, a woman caught in the act of adultery. They refer to the law transcribed by Moses calling for the woman to be stoned, trying to maneuver Jesus into a corner where they wished him to either refute Jewish law by letting her go or to refute Roman law which did not allow Jews to enact their own executions.

Wishing You copy 2“But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when the continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’

“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers or yours? Has no one condemned you?’

“She said, ‘No one, Lord.’”

“And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” (John 8: 6-12)

Jesus’ response is perfect. He acknowledges that while adultery is sin, as outlined in scripture, there is redemption in Him. The woman was not defined by her sin, rather, she was permitted to start anew walking in the light of Christ.

Jesus’ focus is not exacting punishment for sin. Jesus’ focus is on breathing life, his life, into the woman. In telling the woman to sin no more, He shows that his focus is on her future.

God has given us great grace and mercy, and by His example we ought to offer the same to our fellow man. This does not mean we don’t know sin for sin, but that our focus is on the future rather than the past.

What if we treated people with the same love? What if we, rather than chronicling some sinner’s past deeds, considered the potential they have in Christ.

This week, the challenge for us is to second-guess ourselves when we think and talk about other people. Are we gossiping as the townswomen did about Hester Prynne, distancing ourselves from Sin to appear more righteous? Or do we show mercy to others as God has shown to us, by allowing us to walk free from the sin of the past?

Thanks for stopping by, friends. Happy reading!

“On Shifting Sand” by Allison Pittman

Summary

Nola Merrill longed to leave her small hometown in Oklahoma long before the Dust Bowl first barreled through. But her husband, Russ, is the town’s preacher, and maintains that they need to keep their family rooted in the community. To Nola, everything is slipping away–she once dreamed of going to college and having adventures–twelve years after their hasty marriage, Nola and Russ have two children, they live above a shop that makes no money, and Nola watches everyone and everything in her landscape drift away or die.

When Russ’s old friend Jim comes to stay with them, Nola is reminded of her desires and is further troubled with discontentment. Jim stirs feelings of adventure and romance in Nola as the two of them plan clandestine meetings to read novels. Nola knows she needs to distance herself from the sinful relationship, but continues to seek Jim’s attention. As Nola’s desire for change grows, and as she shirks her inner voice telling her to plead for help, Nola slips further into an affair and even further from the contentment she seeks. With an unspoken secret between them and the constant threat of dust storms wreaking havoc on their nearly desolate town, Nola and Russ drift further apart, making it increasingly difficult for Nola to find forgiveness.

The Pros

As a historical fiction novel, On Shifting Sand presents great insight into the lives of Americans living through the Dust Bowl. Pittman includes plenty of historical detail in the novel, including the preventative measures people took to keep dust out of their homes, the ailments that plagued them, popular culture of the day, and an overview of the lifestyle. The story is written in clean, descriptive language.

Infidelity is not a common topic in Christian Fiction. Rather, it is something shied away from as too messy and too sensational to talk about. Pittman does a thoughtful job negotiating this delicate topic with honest first-person narration that never slips into graphic explanations of sexual encounters. Nola’s story is an important story to tell. Within the Christian community, people are suffering from the ramifications of adultery, reeling from the loss of trust and the shame. Nola’s story, as well as Russ’s, gives readers a powerful insight into the nature of infidelity–the seeds that plant it and the ways it is nurtured into something even more destructive.

The Cons

While Nola’s discontentment with her living conditions is understandable, the reason for her attraction to Jim is not well-developed. The reader is told they read together and have lengthy, personal conversations while the family is away, but does not actually witness much of this. Nola is suddenly infatuated with Jim with little reason. Thus, Nola’s character is oftentimes unsympathetic. She continually puts herself in emotionally dangerous situations while ruminating on the potential pitfalls, which also makes the plot circular and redundant.

Nola’s marriage to Jim is ultimately meant to be a positive example for readers. However, Jim often makes decisions for the family without consulting Nola, decisions that directly impact their family’s well-being. This may be a character-flaw or a product of the setting in which the story takes place, but Jim often comes across as domineering and apathetic.

With the subject of the novel, some of the content may not be appropriate for younger readers. There is no graphic sexuality, but there are thematic elements including dark emotional content and some innuendo.

Conclusion

On Shifting Sand is a powerful read for those who have dealt with infidelity. Pittman often brings the reader back to the example of Christ’s love for His bride, the church, and His unfailing love for her.

You can get a copy at Tyndale House Publishers or at your local library!

Pittman, Allison. On Shifting Sand. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2015. Print.

Love reading Christian Fiction_(1)