27 November 2014

25 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 32:1-33:6

While reading this week’s lesson, it was easy to point my finger at Aaron and the Israelites because they quickly turned from God and built an idol.  But there are many ways we can create idols in our own lives now.

An idol is something in creation that is inflated to function as a substitute to God. An idol can be an object, a person, an activity, an organization, an idea, a hobby and so many more things. When your loyalty to something or someone causes you to disobey God, you are in danger of idolatry.

In this passage in Exodus, the Israelites’ faith is weak because they can’t wait for Moses to return from his mountaintop experience with God. So they go to Aaron and request that they build a physical god. Aaron tells them to bring their gold earrings to him. He is weak himself. He uses the earrings to create a calf idol.

The people begin to celebrate and run wild. Translations of this passage indicate that this is a time of drunkenness and sexual immorality. The people are worshipping like the pagan nations around them, not like the holy nation God called them to be.

Later we will see that Aaron is to blame for the people’s actions. Moses and God put him in charge, yet Aaron didn’t stop the people and point them back to God. Instead, he gave in to what the people wanted.

On the mountain, God tells Moses that the people are misbehaving in his absence and worshipping an idol. God says He is ready to destroy them all. He calls them a stiff-necked people – they know idolatry is a sin, yet they do it anyway.

God tests Moses by offering to make a new nation out of Moses and his family. Moses doesn’t abandon the Israelites but pleads for the people on their behalf. God relents. He changes His action toward the people, but He doesn’t change His behavior. He let Moses pray and intercede for the people. Even today, our prayers combined with God’s determination make His will come to pass. He involves us in His will.

Moses comes down the mountain with two tablets of God’s law, written by God’s own hand. Moses hears the people shouting in their revelry. In his anger, Moses destroys the tablets and burns the calf. He shows the people that they have broken God’s law and that the idol was worthless and powerless.

Next, Moses approaches Aaron who refuses to accept responsibility for his sin. He blames everyone and everything else – he blames the nature of the people, he blames the people for forcing him to do it, he blames Moses for being gone for too long and he blames the fire saying the calf idol appeared from it.

More people need to be punished for this sin. Moses calls for everyone who stands with the Lord to come to him. The Levites obey. Moses commands the Levites to kill some of the offenders, including their friends and families. About three thousand people are killed. How could God call for us a harsh punishment? It is because God demands absolute holiness.

Moses realizes that a price must be paid for the people’s great sin. He attempts to atone for their sins by offering himself as a substitute. Moses asks God to take his life for the people’s lives. God refuses Moses’ offer because he is a sinner and can’t reconcile the people to God. We cannot atone for the price of our own sins. Instead, God sent His sinless Son to die for the sins of the entire world.

God tells Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land. God says He will not go with the people but will send an angel to accompany them. The people mourn for their sin, especially because their sin caused God to remove His presence.

Things to Think About

  • What in my life is in danger of becoming an idol? What is consuming my money, time and attention? Ask God to reveal these things to me and then get rid of them.
  • Am I so intimate with God that I can reasonably talk with God like Moses did?
  • For whom am I praying (interceding)?
  • Idolatry is disobedience to God’s command to love Him wholeheartedly and to worship Him only.
  • Self-centeredness drives idolatry. The opposite of self-centeredness is selflessness.
  • Where in my life am I more concerned with my own comfort or convenience than for the kingdom of God?
  • Which worldly practice am I making into a habit?
  • For which of my own sins am I blaming someone else?
  • Only God can give us the happiness, peace and joy that idols deceptively promise.
  • The Israelites were impatient while waiting for Moses and God. It takes faith to wait for God.

20 November 2014

18 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 25-31

This week we see a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ in the details about the Tabernacle, the place where God came to dwell with His people.

Through Moses, God gives instructions for the Israelites to build the Tabernacle. He told them to build everything exactly as God instructed. Why? Because Everything in the Tabernacle pointed to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything foreshadowed in the Tabernacle.

God tells Moses to collect offerings from the people. These offerings are not to be forced or demanded. These are gifts given from an overflow of hearts that are grateful to God. The gifts are to be gold, silver, fabrics and jewels. This wealth was provided by God through the Egyptians, when the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites brought so many items that they were told to stop (Exodus 36:3-7)!

God instructs the Israelites to make six furnishings for the Tabernacle:

  • The Ark of the Covenant – The ark was located in the Most Holy Place, the place where God dwelt. The Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s staff were inside the ark. The Atonement Cover (or the Mercy Seat) was on top of the ark. Once a year, blood from the sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the Atonement Cover. The Atonement Cover pointed to Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood as the atonement for our sins.
  • The Table of the Bread of the Presence – The table was located in the Holy Place. Twelve loaves of bread (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) were baked weekly and placed on the table. The table pointed to Jesus as the Bread of life.
  • The Lampstand – The Lampstand was located in the Holy Place. Seven lamps on the lampstand lit up the dark Holy Place so the priests could work. The lampstand burned all of the time and pointed to Jesus as the Light of the world.
  • The Altar of Burnt Offerings – Sin offerings were placed here. This altar pointed to Jesus as the perfect sacrifice.
  • The Altar of Incense – This altar represented the prayers of believers.
  • The Basin – This basin was for the priests to wash their hands and feet before approaching God.

Today God dwells in believers with the Holy Spirit.

Then God calls Aaron and his sons to be priests. Some of the garments for the priests include an ephod and a breastpiece. The ephod had two onyx stones (six of the tribes of Israel were included on each stone). These stones remind the priests they’re carrying the burdens of the people. The breastpiece had 12 stones (one tribe on each stone). The stones remind the priests they’re carrying the people in their hearts.

The priests were consecrated and set apart for God. They represented God’s people before God. The priests pointed to Jesus as the Great High Priest.

Finally, God gave His Spirit to skilled workers so they could accomplish what He called them to do – build the Tabernacle and its furnishings.

Things to Think About

  • Do I ask God to make me holy because He is holy? What do I eat, drink, wear? What do I watch on TV? What do I read? What do I post on social media? How do I spend my time and my money? These are areas where I can live out God’s holiness in my life.
  • Because the Holy Spirit is in us, believers are God’s temple. We reflect Him. What area of my life doesn’t reflect God?
  • The most important part of the Christian life is what God sees – the inside of my heart.
  • Am I allowing God to use my skills and tasks to do mighty things for Him?

14 November 2014

Four-month doctor's appointment

I know it's hard to believe, but Damon's four-month doctor's appointment was today. Here are his stats:

Weight – 13 pounds, 14 ounces (between 10th and 25th percentiles)
Length – 24.25 inches (between 10th and 25th percentiles)
Head – 16 inches (25th percentile)

Once again, my main concern was Damon's eating. I'm always afraid he's not getting enough to eat. But since he gained more than two pounds in two months, I guess my fears are unfounded!

I thought it might be time to increase the amount of milk in his bottles or increase the time in between feedings. But the doctor said Damon is doing just fine for now. Since Damon sleeps through the night, there's no need to adjust his feedings...as long as he continues to sleep all night!

Damon is right on track with the developmental milestones. He's rolling both front-back and back-front, grabbing toys and cooing. The only thing he hasn't done yet is laugh! The boy is so happy and smiley that I can't believe we haven't heard a giggle yet.

The new thing now is that we can start feeding him rice cereal followed by vegetable baby foods. I don't think I'm ready for that yet. He's growing too quickly!

To end the appointment, Damon got two shots and an oral vaccine. He screamed during the shots conducted by our beloved Nurse Janie. But as soon as the shots were over and I picked him up, he gave a big toothless grin to Janie!

13 November 2014

11 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 21-24

Since their beginning, God called the Israelites to live differently, to live holy lives that reflected Himself to the other nations. Last week, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites and all of humanity. These commandments are called the moral law. This week, we see God giving the civil law to the Israelites. The civil law is the application of the moral law.

The civil law explains how the Israelites should take care of their slaves, how they should handle premeditated and accidental personal injuries, how they should avoid sorcery and idolatry, how they should care for widows and orphans, how they should rest on the Sabbath and how they should worship God together at three annual festivals.

Many other laws are included in Exodus 21:1-23:19. Some of the themes of the civil law are:

  • The punishment must fit the crime.
  • There must be restitution, which is repayment and restoration, after a wrong.
  • God sees sanctity in life.
  • Do not be like the pagan nations and act like you are set apart for God.

After giving the civil law, God promises to send His angel to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. This angel is the preincarnate Christ. He protects the Israelites on their journey. God instructs the Israelites to pay attention to the angel and obey Him. God promises blessings, care and provisions. He also promises to defeat the Israelites’ enemies.

Next, God calls Moses to the top of the mountain along with Aaron, his two sons and the 70 elders. Moses writes down God’s laws and shares them with the Israelites. The people promise to do everything God asks them to do. Then Moses offers sacrifices to God for the people’s sins. Finally, Moses spends 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain with God.

Things to Think About

  • How well do I obey the Ten Commandments?
  • How well do I obey the civil laws, the application of the Ten Commandments?
  • How quickly do I make restitution when it is needed?
  • Do I obey out of convenience or out of love for God?
  • Do I obey when the obedience is painful?

09 November 2014

Brown Sugar Spiced Pork Loin

If you're looking for a delicious pork entree to serve up to eight people (which is a medium-sized dinner crowd for us), this is it! This sweet, juicy pork dish is perfect alongside potatoes, a salad and rolls, making it a great Sunday meal for your family.

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloins, cut into 4 to 6 chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili power and cinnamon. Coat pork with the rub. Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Brown the pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in the ovenproof skillet or transfer it to a foil-lined baking pan.

Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco sauce and spread the mixture on top of the pork. Roast on the middle rack of the oven until a thermometer inserted diagonally in the center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 25 minutes.

Let pork stand in the skillet at room temperature for 10 minutes prior to cutting it. The temperature will rise to about 155 degrees while standing. Slice on the diagonal and serve, spooning the sauce from the skillet on top of the pork.

08 November 2014

07 November 2014

There's no crying in basketball!

At Avery's basketball practice last week, I noticed that she seems to prefer playing defense instead of offense. She was very attentive to her assigned opponent and even used proper defensive stances to guard him closely. I was anxious to see how this translated into action at her first "real" basketball game last weekend.

She did not disappoint! She was very good about defending her opponents. In fact, she was so intense about it that she often forgot to turn around and help her teammates when they were on offense...something she'll need to work on!

She was tightly guarding one boy, scooting back and forth on the floor with her hands out in front of his face. Not in an obnoxious way, just being a good defender. (Never mind that it was her team's turn on offense!) Then suddenly I saw Avery's opponent crying. He was standing on the side of the court looking into the stands at his mother. Then he ran into the stands to be comforted by Mommy, leaving Avery alone on the court. She stopped her stellar defense and looked a little confused. Her mad defensive skills sent her opponent crying for his mommy! I was proud of her commitment on defense, but at the same time I was a little mortified that my little girl caused someone to cry. Then Chris assured me that Avery didn't do anything wrong. She's just a good defender!

After the game, Avery was rather pleased with herself. I think we need to work on being humble, too!

06 November 2014

04 November 2014

BSF 2014-2015: Exodus 19:1-20:26

In our passage today, God gives clear instructions (in the form of the Ten Commandments) to the Israelites. He calls them to  holy living, and then He tells them exactly how to do this.

Before giving the Ten Commandments, God renews His covenant with His people. The covenant promises three blessings if they obey God. They will be His treasured possession, they will be a nation of priests and they will be a holy nation. But God promises curses if they disobey. The people respond by promising to obey God. But we’ll see later that they can’t keep this promise.

Then God prepares the people for His appearance. He instructs the people to prepare themselves to see God’s holiness. He tells them to be cleansed, be pure, be careful and be listening.

God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses, who then shares them with the people. The Ten Commandments are God’s moral law. They are universal laws for the whole world, not just for Christians.

Commandments one to four show us how to live in our relationship with God, while commandments five to 10 show us how to live in our relationships with other people:

  1. Do not have other gods before God. Put God first in everything. No object, person or thing should come before God.
  2. Do not worship idols. God is jealous. He wants the exclusive rights to our love.
  3. Do not misuse God’s name. The name of God represents the nature of God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. The Sabbath is for God not me. Don’t treat the Sabbath like the other six days of the week.
  5. Honor your father and mother. Speak about them with respect and courtesy.
  6. Do not murder. God considers life to be precious.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal. Do not unjustly take what belongs to someone else.
  9. Do not bear false witness against someone. No gossiping, no lies, don’t twist the truth.
  10. Do not covet, which is wanting what someone else has.

Later, Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments in Matthew 22:37-39:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The Ten Commandments are the standard for everyday life. But they also reveal God’s character. He gave us these rules so we know how to live holy lives for Him. Obeying these commandments does not bring salvation. Obeying these commandments is living out our gratitude to God for saving us from eternal death.

Since our own sinfulness is revealed in the Ten Commandments, we realize that a holy and righteous God cannot be approached by sinful people, except when we are given His righteousness through Jesus’ death. The commandments convict us of sin and reveal how much we need a Savior.

We might look pretty good when we compare ourselves to others. But we always fail when we compare ourselves to God. So God provides Jesus, who kept the law perfectly. He makes us right when we accept that Jesus died as the substitute for our punishment. When God looks at believers, He does not see our sins but Jesus’ righteousness.

Things to Think About

  • You see your own sinfulness when you see God’s holiness.
  • Am I too casual in my approach to God?
  • Which of the Ten Commandments has God convicted me of disobeying? Ask God to help me be obedient.

03 November 2014

Dedicated to God

On Saturday night, we had the joy of dedicating Damon to God at our church's baby dedication ceremony. It was an extra special occasion because Avery joined us on stage. Damon received a tiny New Testament and a special certificate commemorating the event. We also were blessed to have all of Damon's grandparents and Aunt Karen attend the ceremony.

It's been so much fun to teach Avery about God and to hear her memorize truths and Bible verses about God and his character. I know it will be a pleasure to teach Damon all of these things, too. I am praying that both of them realize all that God has done for them and that they choose to become His children.

02 November 2014

Elsa and Olaf

As you might expect, Avery chose to be Elsa for Halloween this year (along with a million other little girls around the country). And then Avery suggested that Damon dress up as Olaf. So Grandma Hromada was presented with a challenge. I knew the Elsa dress wouldn't be a problem. But I was curious to see how she would handle the Olaf outfit.

Well, Grandma came through as usual and made an adorable costume! Damon made a very cute Olaf.

Avery was a beautiful Elsa, complete with an Elsa wig.

Here Avery is doing her best imitation of Elsa's ice powers.

Once again this year, we spent Halloween evening at our church's Fall Fest. Avery was one of a hundred Elsas, and there were several little brothers dressed up as Olaf, too. But no one had costumes handmade with love!