66 in 52 Challenge

Job – Week 16 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Week 16 - Job

The Big Picture of Job:

The book of Job, named after the key character in the book, starts out giving an interesting glimpse into a conversation between Satan and God. Satan claims that the only reason Job is following after God faithfully is because he has been blessed. If the material things in life, his family, and later on his health, were taken from him, Satan claims Job would walk away from God. Despite more tragedy and loss than we could imagine, Job remains faithful. Much of the book includes conversations between Job and three of his friends (and a fourth in later on). They don’t seem to get it though and blame Job for all the bad things that came upon him. They believe he MUST have done something wrong but that was not the case. While Job doesn’t go along with his wife’s suggestion to just “curse God and die” it does not mean Job didn’t have any questions. The last section is a series of conversation between God and Job where God reminds Job he is in control of everything, Job is humbled, and much that Job had lost was restored.

Key Themes:

  • JUSTICE – One huge theme in Job is justice. God’s justice is called into question, yet he proves himself faithful.
  • PAIN – Any kind of pain imaginable is covered in Job: physical pain, grief, emotional pain, broken relationships and more.
  • FAITHFULNESS – Satan doesn’t think Job will remain faithful. Job’s friends accuse him of not being faithful. Job’s wife struggles to be faithful in the face of grief and loss. Throughout the book we also see God’s faithfulness.
  • GOD’S ALMIGHTY POWER AND CONTROL – Near the end of the book we see a few whole chapters where God declares His power and control in the world. Yet that is not the only place this theme arises. Even back in the conversations between Satan and God it is clear that God is completely in control. He set limits on how much Satan was allowed to mess with Job.

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse (two this week since we’re in two books!). This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.”

  • “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” (Job 1:20)
    REFLECTION: What is your normal first reaction in grief or suffering? What might it look like to make worship part of that response?
  • “Then [Job’s] wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity?  Curse God and die!’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all of this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)
    REFLECTION: Describe a time when someone close to you challenged your faith and beliefs. What was helpful during that time to stay focused on God?
  • I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)
    REFLECTION: The word repent means to turn around and go the other way. What is one place where you see the need to repent in order to get your eyes back on Jesus this week?

  • I know that my Savior lives,and at the endhe will stand on this earth.My flesh may be destroyed,yet from this bodyI will see God.Yes, I will see him for myself,and I long for that moment.” (John 19:25-27)
    REFLECTION: Job couldn’t be sure about a lot of things, but he claimed complete confidence in this fact: His redeemer lives and he will get to see Him.

God’s Grace in Job:

I’m a book like this, where a huge theme is God’s justice, it’s easy to miss God’s grace. While I could point to a few areas where it is clear (for example God’s restoration of what was lost at the end), as I think about God’s grace this time it comes in the not-so-obvious ways. If I faced the kind of loss Job did and then endured those kinds of conversations with people who were supposed to be my friends, I would only be able to get through by the grace of God. I believe the same was probably true for Job. God’s grace provided (and provides still today) the strength to get up each day in the face of trial and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Thyroid

Our Bodies are Amazing! So is the Creator.

The more I consider it the more I realize just how amazing the human body really is!

I can get a cut on my finger and within a few days, you would have never known if was there. Without having to think about it, hundreds of times a day, my lungs fill up with air and oxygen is taken to cells all over my body to allow them each to do the work they need to do and my heart pumps blood and my eyes blink.

In some miraculous way I don’t understand, my brain thinks a thought and instantly my fingers move in a specific way hitting the screen of my phone or keys on a keyboard in just the right place to put a series of letters together that make up this sentence. Then somehow your eyes can scan those letters on some screen potentially across the world and your brain computes a message. Mind-boggling.

When we’re sick our body’s immune system kicks in.

When we’re tired or hungry our body sends us signals that it’s time to eat or sleep.

Seriously our bodies are incredible! The more I think about it the more I am convinced this can’t all have happened by chance. Our Creator God is incredible!

This also makes me consider the times our bodies don’t work the way they should. While God designed them to last forever and function perfectly, that got messed up when sin entered the picture back in Genesis. Ever since then humans have been living in less-than-perfect bodies, bodies that ache, bodies that fade, bodies that get sick.

I’ve thought about this more recently, as I deal with some health issues of my own. Long story short, I will be having surgery in May to remove half of my thyroid. A thyroid is a small gland, shaped kind of like a butterfly located in our neck. If you would have asked me 6 months ago what our thyroid does I would have potentially stared back at you confused and barely been able to say where it was even located in my body. But now I know exactly the amazing, miraculous things this gland does for us. Each moment of every day our thyroids produce hormones that impact the function of almost every vital organ in our body including our bones, the heart, and on some level, basically every cell in our body! It’s work in these areas regulates our metabolism, weight, and energy levels. So it does pretty important work each day that often we are clueless about.

While mine thankfully functions very well, some extra cells have decided to grow on one side of it and I now have two very small nodules on the right half of my thyroid. One is not a concern at all and the other likely isn’t anything serious either however it was still labeled, “suspicious” after a few tests.

So, we’re on to the next step which is just get rid of those cells just in case. This is scheduled to happen in May. I won’t know until I wake up from surgery whether they removed just half or the whole thing. It will just depend on what they find when they get in there. Either way, the recovery should be pretty quick. (That also is amazing evidence of the incredible complexity of the bodies God gave us!)

As I mentioned before, the thyroid gland is a pretty crucial part of our body. Without it eventually our other organs would stop functioning properly too. If my entire thyroid is removed, I will need to take medicine that replaces the thyroid hormone in my body. That may or may not be the case if they leave the left half, but either way I find it incredible that God created humans with brains that at some point in history were able to figure out what a thyroid does and what is in the hormone it produces. Then they discovered how to replicate that in such a way that our bodies can take a little pill each morning and continue to function well even when that part of our body is removed. It’s amazing!

I am feeling good about the surgery and at peace with taking this next step.
I am confident in my amazing surgeon.
I am thankful for the awesome family and friends walking the journey with me.

And I am finding myself even more and more amazed at our Creator God who also happens to be our Healer as well!

That, too, is an amazing design! 🙂

woman-591576_1920

66 in 52 Challenge

Esther – Week 15 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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The Big Picture of Esther:

Around 100 years after God’s people were taken into exile. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we heard about some of the Jews who had gone back to Jerusalem. However, many stayed where they were. Esther was one of those people and this story takes place in the capital of the Persian Empire at that time. Early on in the book we see that the king gets mad and gets rid of his wife and starts a search for a new one. Unknown to him, Esther, the woman he chooses as his new wife, is a Jew. This become a problem, and also a good thing, when one of the king’s “right-hand” men, Haman, comes up with a plot to wipe out the entire Jewish race. Esther has some big decisions to make as she navigates this tough situation. Thankfully, she is not alone and has some key people helping her along the way including her uncle Mordecai. While God’s name is never mentioned in the book His hand is clearly at work in all kinds of amazing ways to save His people. This story also explains the history of the Jewish festival of Purim which is celebrated for the firs time at the end of the book.

The Main Point:

“Despite exile… and Israel’s moral compromise, God has not abandoned His promises. It invites us to see that God can and does work in the real mess…” – The Bible Project

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse (two this week since we’re in two books!). This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: ‘Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?'” (Esther‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)
    REFLECTION: Where might God be calling you to “not keep quiet? Is there something you are uniquely positioned to do? What fears creep in and encourage you to keep quiet or not act?
  • Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die. (Esther‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬)
    REFLECTION: We may or may not literally be facing death with something God is calling us to do, but whether literal or figurative, where is one place God is calling you to say, “I will trust you God and if I must die, I must die.”?
  • “When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged.” Esther 3:5
    REFLECTION: Who is trying to get you to kneel down or pay honor to someone or something other than God? What does it look like to have courage in that situation?

God’s Grace in Ezra and Nehemiah:

As we mentioned before, God’s name is not mentioned even once in the whole book of Esther. It’s fascinating but perhaps intentional. I am thankful for this book because sometimes in life it feels like God’s presence is a little hard to find, it’s not right there on the surface. However, just because God’s name is absent doesn’t mean God is. His work is clear throughout the book from our perspective, however at the time of these events, when individual lives along with a whole nation were on the line, I’m sure they wondered at times where God was. He showed up through, in ways bigger than they could imagine. The same is true for us!

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Bekah's Heart, Bible Journaling, Devotional

Reflections on Ezra and Nehemiah

“HE IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!”

These words echoed through the halls of churches all across the world this past Sunday. However, when I look around our world, we still see so much hurting, pain, and even death. I saw it in the eyes of a friend, in words across Facebook, in stories of suffering splattered all over the news. I’m guessing each one of us can look back on this past week and find at least one moment where the reality of sin in this world seemed, if only for a split-second, bigger than the resurrection.

I read a blog post earlier this week in which the author described her struggle to believe the resurrection of Jesus. She resonates with the Jesus of Good Friday because suffering, she knows; new life is just too distant of a concept. She said,

“… I found I couldn’t even envision a risen God. A victorious living God.

A suffering God? A dying God? An oppressed God? Yeah, I could see that.”

– Sarah Moon in “Resurrection and the Surviving God”

While I may come to different theological and personal conclusions on some things than Sarah, I very much appreciated her insights. Her view into the struggle we all face sometimes in reading God’s Word claiming ‘new life’, ‘resurrection’, ‘victory’, and then look around our world (or even our own life) seeing destruction, suffering, and pain made a lot of sense to me. I loved the concept she presented that sometimes resurrection simply is the power to get up and walk through another day here on earth. She shared:

“I didn’t single-handedly defeat depression and the pain from my past when I rose off that floor. I didn’t defeat the powers of evil or anything like that. But I survived.”

“Today, I’m going to embrace the idea of resurrection as this: Fellow survivors, God is with us.”

These are the thoughts I had on my mind as I began reading Ezra and Nehemiah this week. These books of the Bible (likely originally one book together) set up a pretty bleak situation. Exiled for years… these people were slaves… their city and place of worship in complete ruins.

In the midst of it all God calls some people to begin rebuilding. It wasn’t glamorous. It didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of pain along the journey. Enemies rose up in every situation. At one point God’s people were forced to even stop rebuilding work on the temple for about 20 years! Later on in the story as they each worked together rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem, they had to have their work tools in one hand and keep a weapon in the other in order to defend themselves. This promise of restoration wasn’t feeling much like a reality right then.

There, in the midst of all of that, this verse in a prayer of confession stood out to me:

“We are slaves, but you have never turned your back on us. You love us, and because of you, the kings of Persia have helped us. It’s as though you have given us new life! You let us rebuild your temple and live safely in Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:9)

Even as the people turned their back on God, they recognized that their God never had, and never would, turn on them. They saw His love. They saw new life.

They survived. They got up and did what they needed to do for another day. While we live here on this earth, sometimes that’s exactly what new life and resurrection look like: power to get up and do it all again another day. Right there in the middle of death and suffering, illness and disease, violence and hopelessness, we have hope to take another step.

We have hope because one day, none of those things will be there. A true Resurrection Day is coming, one that will destroy death FOREVER! God is rebuilding His world and there we will live fully in safety, never again as slaves, only as beloved children.

Revelation 21:3-5 says it this way:

“I heard a loud voice shout from the throne:

God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are goneforever.

Then the one sitting on the throne said:

I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. my words are true and can be trusted.” (CEV, emphasis added)

That’s the resurrection Jesus made possible in His own death and resurrection. That’s the resurrection that begins in little ways even now amid the death, suffering, crying and pain: God making His home with us and giving us power to get up again and again each time one of those things beats us down. That’s the resurrection I long for. That’s the resurrection I believe in.

He is alive! Alleluia!

Crossroads, School of the Week, Youth Ministry

West Seneca East High {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for West Seneca East!
Fast Facts:

  • Grades: 9-12
  • Mascot: Trojans
  • Colors: Green and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of West Seneca East High, but especially our First Trinity high school student: Daisy. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Jason Winnicki
    Assistant Principals: Mary Beth Sweeney and Paul
  • Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are on sports teams, in music programs, or participate in other extracurricular activities that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

2018-04-03 09.50.14

66 in 52 Challenge

Ezra and Nehemiah – Week 14 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I am focusing in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will post a summary page with some thoughts about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey! Click here to see where we’ve been so far!

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Week 14 - Ezra, Nehemiah

The Big Picture of Ezra and Nehemiah:

Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah were considered one book. In some later manuscripts they were divided into three, telling the three main stories of the book, though most modern Scriptures have two books. Together they tell of the return of some of God’s people from exile. First, Zerubbabel leads a group to rebuild the temple. Then Ezra works on reminding the people of God’s commands, and Nehemiah returns in the midst of this to rebuild the city walls. This all happens over the course of almost 100 years (Approx. 538 B.C. – 443 B.C.).

Key Events in Ezra and Nehemiah:

(The approximate dates below were found at this website.)

  • Ezra 1 –  – King Cyrus declares that the Jews can go back to Jerusalem (Approx. 538 B.C.)
  • Ezra 2 – A list of all who returned and the gifts they gave to rebuild the temple.
  • Ezra 3 – Altar restored, sacrifices were made, temple reconstruction begins (approx. 536 B.C.)
  • Ezra 4 – Construction on the temple stops (approx. 535 B.C.)
  • Ezra 5-6 – Temple construction resumes and is completed (approx. 515 B.C.)
  • Ezra 7-8 – Ezra returns to Jerusalem with more exiles (approx. 458 B.C.)
  • Nehemiah 2-3 – Nehemiah returns to lead a group of people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (approx. 444 B.C.)
  • Nehemiah 4-5 – Conflict with people surrounding the city trying to stop them from rebuilding
  • Nehemiah 6 – The wall rebuilt in only 52 days
  • Nehemiah 8 – Ezra reads the Book of the Law to the people (approx. 443)
  • Ne

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse (two this week since we’re in two books!). This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • ‘Rise up, this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it!” Ezra 10:4
    REFLECTION: Sometimes we need to stop and let someone else, maybe even God take care of a situation. Other times we need to rise up and do what we’ve been called to do. What “matter is in your hands” this week that you need to take courage and do? Who is around you to support you?
  • “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord.” Ezra 3:11
    REFLECTION: What can you praise and thank God for today? Is there a song your can play or sing that represents your praise well?
  • Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14
    REFLECTION:  What does fighting for your family look like this week? Who is “them” that you need to not be afraid of? How can you focus on the great and awesome Lord who fights for your family in the middle of whatever you’re facing this week?
  • “Yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.” Nehemiah 13:2
    REFLECTION:  Where has God turned a bad situation into a blessing in your life recently?

God’s Grace in Ezra and Nehemiah:

Grace is all about what’s undeserved. Multiple times throughout these two books these leaders get undeserved gifts. Just take Nehemiah for example. When he asks his leader, the king, for permission to return, God’s favor is upon Nehemiah. The King not only lets Nehemiah go, but sends all kinds of supplies to help in the process. God provides all Nehemiah needs to do what He has called him to do. This grace had to be encouraging to him as he thought about the huge task before him and endure great opposition. I am so thankful that we serve a God who provides all we need… and then some.

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!