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Julie Ferwerda Christian Blog and Commentary

OYB January 17

  • Julie Ferwerda
    Are you ready for change in 2009? Grab a One Year Bible (NLT), commit to reading it daily, and join Julie Ferwerda on an extraordinary adventure that will transform your life as you experience its relevance in a fresh, understandable way. In addition to 20+ years in Bible teaching ministry, Julie is a professional speaker and writer. Her works have appeared in publications such as Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, Christianity Today, Marriage Partnership, Brio, and Revolve Biblezines & Devotional Bible (for teens). She's also the author of "The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love," and also the upcoming book, "One Million Arrows for God: Raising Your Children to Change the World." Learn more at www.JulieFerwerda.com.
  • 2009 Jan 16
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Today’s One Year Bible (NLT) Reading

Genesis

35:2 So Jacob told everyone in his household, "Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. I find it interesting that Jacob is directed to move to "the house of God," and to build an altar of worship and remembrance. Before God can be worshiped properly, Jacob gives three principles: destroy idols, wash, put on clean clothes. Don't miss that it is the same today for YOU (and me). God still invites you to BE the house of God (as a believer you are now His temple), and He still asks you to build altars throughout your life for worship and remembrance, as we discussed a few days ago. But first he gives the principles for worship that are still valid today...

Destroy your idols. Notice that they buried their idols under a tree. You only bury something after you have put it to death. Before we can truly show we are readying ourselves for authentic worship, we must demonstrate that we are so serious, we are willing to put to death our idols and give them a proper burial where will not dig the up or resurrect them to life.

Wash yourselves. There is only one bath that counts-the blood of Jesus. "...the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin (1 John 1:7)." Through confession and repentance in the deep places of heart by washing ourselves in His blood, we truly wash away the sin of our idolatry in preparation for worship.

Put on clean clothes. What are the clean clothes necessary to enter the place of worship? "It was given to her (the Church) to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." Revelation 19:8 (NASB). Donning clean clothes throughout the Bible is referred to as righteous acts. So what are righteous acts? Some people might say, "Well, not doing anything bad," but I digress! We proactively live righteously by carrying out the two greatest commandments--showing love to God and people, and pursuing our God-given purpose to spread His message of salvation to the world through our own unique gifts and callings.

Encounter the Holy. After their sincere worship and steps of readiness, God appeared once again to Jacob in vs. 9-10. In fact, God blessed him!

Remember how we talk about applying these passages on different levels-in layers? I also love the future implications when someday God will once and for all destroy our idols: "And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them (Ezekiel 11:19)," some of us may be washed by our suffering for Christ, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white (Revelation 7:14)," and finally we will encounter the Holy as we live and reign with Him forever in the permanent "House of God." He also says that in that place He will give us new clothes and a new name! Which now that I think about it, in this passage, God gave Jacob a new name, too (verse 10).

36:6 Maybe Jacob and Esau parted in peace, but their descendants have never been at peace since. Remember Edom? We learned that it is the enemy Israel thought their Messiah came to conquer in the flesh because Edom oppressed them for so long. And remember, Esau (Edom) is still oppressing Jacob (Israel) today as Edom is from where Islam has its roots.

Fun with genealogies. But what can we learn from them? First of all, God knows each person by name (you), and remembers. Secondly, for those who try to dumb down the literal meaning of the Bible, saying that it speaks in generalities and hidden riddles, specific names are proof that God is very detailed and specific even remembering people and events in literal context. And also, remember the Bible serves as a historical record for tracing and proving events of the Bible.

Matthew (another important principle today!)

12:3-4 Principle in action. In my own understanding of this verse, Jesus was not agreeing that David broke the law. The law said that only priests could eat the bread, but in actuality, according to 1 Peter 2:9, all of the Jewish people are a royal priesthood. Maybe they weren't aware of it, but David did not truly break the law. Jesus was trying to show the Pharisees a more important principle, and that is, the Sabbath was a day where the Lord provided for His people. Hence, feeding and healing were part of this provision. And if I understand correctly, since Jesus is God and the Sabbath is God's day to provide for His people, Jesus was announcing to the Pharisees that He is indeed God.

12:12 "Yes, it is right to do good on the Sabbath." I am in the process of studying under our Messianic Jewish friends and learning so much about our Jewish Biblical roots. For one thing, as we can see in this and other passages, Jesus upheld the Sabbath; He did not dismiss it.

The modern day abandonment by Christians of a Saturday Sabbath, came about as a result of persecution against Jews in the early centuries after Christ. I highly recommend that you read the book, "Restoration" (see my sidebar) because it is eye-opening as to many wrong assumptions and incorrect teachings that have been passed down as a result of church corruption, this persecution, and the non-Jewish Christians being fearful about being associated with Jews in the early centuries.

Also, our generation has basically abandoned a true weekly day of rest all together. I believe this is partly due to the ascetic (stern & legalistic) enforcement in recent centuries, and in more recent days, disregard for the intent and instruction of the Word due to our self-centered lives and schedules. In other words, preferring our human agendas over Holy agendas.

So here's what I'm learning about the Biblical Sabbath, which I believe is worth regarding for all who believe and who want to experience God's spiritual blessings to the fullest:

  • It should be observed on Saturday as established by God in the first chapter of the Bible and upheld by Jesus and other Jewish believers in the New Testament (it is not obsolete).

  • It is not a day of restriction and deprivation, but one of feasting in God's presence in joy, rest, delight, and luxurious pleasure.

  • It is a day away from work, including usual routines and schedules.

  • It is a necessary part of teaching our children to feast on God and fast from the distractions of this world.

  • It is still one of the Ten Commandments by which we are to live.

  • It begins on Friday at sundown with lighting of candles and ends on Saturday at sundown with a joyful meal (for more understanding of Sabbath, visit Biblical Holidays).

Okay, personal testimony here. I have not taken a true day of rest in ages (if ever). Produce, produce, produce! That is my mantra. Who has time to stop on the weekend? There is so much to be done in my all-important life. In fact, Saturdays and even Sundays have always been "business as usual" except for a gratuitous nap on Sunday afternoons.

But God has stopped me in my tracks as I've begun to learn about this holy day, Saturday, that He set apart and established forever. Check out this verse: "The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day forever. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with them. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but he rested on the seventh day and was refreshed (Exodus 31:16-17)." He has shown me how self-centered it is of me to think I'm so important that the world can't survive without my work one day a week, and how rebellious I am to think that I don't need to pay attention to something He commanded for me to follow, and how ungrateful I am to recognize that He has established this day to refresh me and to provide for me. Hmm...who knew?

I often feel tired, overwhelmed, and burdened by the work God has given me to do. I often feel the guilt of, "I can't stop, I have to get this done or I will get so far behind and then I will let God and people down." And really, there are so many things I want to study in the Word and feast on, but I always feel too guilty to put aside my "important work" to do this. But God has shown me recently that He established this day of rest from my writing, from my computer (by the way, as I write this I only have about 4 hours left until Sabbath begins-yahoo!), from email (double yahoo!), from analyzing, from processing. He established a day FOR ME (Mark 2:27: Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath"). A day when I can feast in God's presence, nap, play games with my family, leisurely pray, study His Word, hang out with friends, enjoy the day!

Sabbath is a day God established to give me rest. How did we ever twist it to be about being deprived or somber? It is a day to be refreshed so that I can be more effective and empowered the other six days for the work He has given me to do. It will make me more productive, more focused, more able. It will fill me up when I am otherwise drained from the responsibilities of life. It is a great day of celebration!

Lastly, Sabbath is symbolic of a thousand years of rest on this earth, called the Sabbath Millennium, when He will provide for us, feast with us, enjoy us, and invite us into His rest from all of our toil, as Hebrews 4:1-4 tells us, "God's promise of entering his place of rest still stands...For only we who believe can enter his place of rest. We know it is ready because the Scriptures mention the seventh day, saying, "On the seventh day God rested from all his work (selected)."

Psalm 15

I cannot believe how many corrupt Christians live in this world today. Money, greed, power, pride, position-such are besetting sins of many Christians worldwide, in my personal experience. God is searching for those with upright hearts full of integrity. Not perfect hearts, but honest and sincere hearts set upon obedience!

Questions for personal reflection:

  • Okay, we've wrestled with God, and buried our idols, you've been washed in the blood of Jesus, now what are the righteous acts that you sense God is asking you to do?
  • Have you ever thought about why we don't keep the Sabbath anymore? What did you learn today that has changed your thinking about it, if anything?
  • Do you ever feel burdened and weighed down by the cares of life and responsibilities? What are you willing to do take hold of the provision God has given you to give you rest?