Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church

Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim: Day 15 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 15, 2012, 10:09 am
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Hebrew TextThe Bible in 90 Days

Day 15: Deuteronomy 23:12-34:12 || Read the CEB online.

If you’re keeping up with us, it’s Day 15…congrats! You’ve completed 1/6 of your reading for the summer! By the end of today’s reading, we’ll finish off Deuteronomy…and with it, the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible. Known as the Torah (“law” or “instruction” or “teaching”) or Pentateuch (“5 books”), this was the earliest part of the Bible regarded by God’s people as Holy Scripture. Begun as oral stories and eventually written down over the course of centuries and then edited into what we read today, the Torah provides the foundation for people of faith to know who God is, who we are, and how we each live in relationship with the other.

The next part of the Bible we enter is called in Hebrew the Nevi’im or Prophets. What we often call “The Historical Books,” covering the entrance to the Land until the Babylonian Exile, is known as the Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings. These latter books were so lengthy as to be divided into 2 different scrolls when written down, but should be regarded as a single work each. The Latter Prophets are probably what you have in mind when you think of the collected works of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve “Minor Prophets.” The Nevi’im were the next collection to be canonized, or collected as Scripture. By the time of Jesus, these were the two main collections of Scripture–which is why Jesus refers to the Bible as “The Law and the Prophets.”

The final collection of Scripture texts in what we call the Old Testament is the Writings or Ketuvim. While some of the books in this part were considered Scripture fairly early (ie, the Psalms), some were not fully considered to be included until the second destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. When you think of Writings, you might think of things like the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs…but other books in this category include I & II Chronicles, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra & Nehemiah, Lamentations, & Job. The five Scrolls or Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, & Esther) are each read in their entirety on certain Jewish festivals each year.

While God’s involvement in the inspiration and creation of these texts — full of beauty and truth — is mysterious to us, what is clear is that from the very beginning up to right now, God has involved human beings in the process of writing, editing, collecting, reading, translating, and sharing Scripture. The Holy Spirit is still at work!

What do you want to know more about how the Bible came to be?
What is your favorite book of the Bible?

Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!


If-Then: Day 14 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 14, 2012, 11:10 am
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The Bible in 90 Days

Day 14: Deuteronomy 8:1-23:11 || Read the CEB online.

I remember my very first foray into computer programming as a child, making a turtle (a green dot) move around the screen by typing in commands. Soon, I was learning basic computer languages, and encountered for the first time the “If…Then…” command. Simply put, you ask the computer to evaluate the conditions (“If”) and, assuming the conditions were met, perform a function (“Then)”. One of the simplest yet most necessary functions.

I think about writing those “If-Then” commands as I read through Deuteronomy. While in some places, God indicates the eternal nature of his loving presence, in many cases, the benefits of life with God are conditional upon fulfillment of a certain set of instructions. Over and over again, the link between obedience and blessing is reinforced, involving all of us in the process of making decisions. We are knit into the very fabric of God’s kingdom by living God’s way. But God does not intend for us to be outside the work of salvation; as Saint Augustine wrote, “God, who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.”

What is the connection between salvation and our obedience?
What is God asking from you right now?

Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!

Hear: Day 13 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 13, 2012, 7:01 am
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The Bible in 90 Days

Day 13: Numbers 32:20 – Deuteronomy 7:26 || Read the CEB online.

Minimalist Visual Bible: DeuteronomyIsrael, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 CEB)

Deuteronomy: Second Law, in Latin. We might say, “Recapitulation.” Moses re-tells the story of God’s gracious and mighty acts as his farewell address at the edge of the Promised Land which he will not enter. That this new generation of God’s faithful people will go where he is not able makes his warnings all the more pointed and poignant. And that’s at least one of the goals of Deuteronomy: warning. Don’t forget, Moses says at the end of chapter 6. Remember…not just passively, but actively put what God is doing for us and future generations in front of you all the time.

In Hebrew, this is called the Shema: “Hear.” I like how strongly the CEB states it: “Israel, listen!” This is important! I’m given to understand that this passage is the closest thing Judaism has to a creed, and it forms the daily liturgy at the center of Jewish faith and life. Put reminders, calls-to-action everywhere, talk about it all the time, Moses says to them–and to us. This idea, that the One who brought us out of Egypt and through the wilderness is the only God, is forgotten at great risk. That’s the point of us being a people that belongs to God, so we can’t lose that purpose. In hearing, listening, & remembering, we will continue to live — fully and abundantly!

What tangible, concrete reminders of God are in your life?
How do you take your faith out of private?

Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!

“Deuteronomy” image from Ryan Kemp-Pappan’s Minimalist Visual Bible project.

Daughters: Day 12 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 12, 2012, 7:20 am
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Five DaughtersThe Bible in 90 Days

Day 12: Numbers 21:8-32:19 || Read the CEB online.

“If a man dies and doesn’t have a son, you must hand his inheritance over to his daughters. If he doesn’t have a daughter, you will give his inheritance to his brothers. If he doesn’t have any brothers, you should give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, you should give his inheritance to his nearest relative from his clan. He will take possession of it. This will be a regulation and a case law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Numbers 27:8-11)

You maybe haven’t heard of the Daughters of Zelophehad before you got to the reading today. Amid a bloody and disturbing reading of Israel’s advance towards the Promised Land (how many nations did Israel wipe out, again?), these 5 women come to ask for their forgotten inheritance. “Why should our father’s name be taken away from his clan because he didn’t have a son?”

Justice is often neglected because the people who need it most are the ones without recourse or sometimes even a voice. Yet these daughters speak out, counting on God’s wisdom and righteousness — even if there’s no precedent. Reworking the inheritance must have been a tiresome job for those in charge, yet God doesn’t let that stop Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah from receiving justice. What an example for God’s people today!

Where have you experienced God’s graciousness towards the forgotten?
What does Israel’s advance through other nations mean for us?
Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!

Character Education: Day 11 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 11, 2012, 7:03 am
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The Bible in 90 Days

Day 11: Numbers 8:15-21:7 || Read the CEB online.


“The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people disrespect me? And how long will they doubt me after all the signs that I performed among them? I’ll strike them down with a plague and disown them. Then I’ll make you into a great nation, stronger than they.'” (Numbers 14:11, 12 CEB)

Here’s an interesting story. God’s tired of complaining! Can you feel the frustration? And out of that irritation, God tells Moses, “I’ll dump these yahoos and start all over with you. I like you. Your descendents wouldn’t be like this. Stand back & watch this!” But Moses won’t have any of it. Moses argues with God! In talking him out of pulling another Noah, you can see Moses’ maturity. He reminds God of God’s own nature! “That’s not the kind of God you are. Can you imagine what all these other nations would say about that? Where’s your vaunted compassion & patience?”

Following God in the wilderness hasn’t resulted in change amongst the Israelites yet…but it has among Israel’s leaders! Moses’ virtues & interior life is being shaped into exactly the kind of person God is hoping for.

What’s the most important characteristic for God’s mission?
How can we know God’s life is taking root in us?
Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!

Questions: Day 10 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 10, 2012, 5:44 pm
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The Bible in 90 Days

Day 10: Leviticus 26:27-Numbers 8:14 || Read the CEB online.

One of the things that’s interesting about the Bible is that it resists our efforts to make it all about us. Again, we’re overhearing words spoken and written originally to people who are not us! So, when we ask, “Why should I care about the census taken in the wilderness?” or “What does it mean that the Tribe of Naphtali had 53,400 people listed?” we’re actually asking the wrong questions.

Sometimes, the Bible is simply uninterested in our queries. It sometimes is arcane. It sometimes goes down a rabbit trail that we don’t understand at all. Laws, census data, correspondence between long-gone churches and pastors, philosophical quandaries, love poetry–it’s all there in the Bible, and that’s what makes it so mysterious and wonderful! If the Bible isn’t answering a question that we here and now have, it isn’t that God can’t answer that question…but maybe, just maybe, we aren’t asking the right ones.

It’s not all about us.

And there are plenty of concerns we have that simply weren’t shared by the people God began speaking to in the Bible. Though we often turn to the Bible for answers in our lives, it isn’t an instruction manual like our cars or toaster ovens have. It doesn’t have a “troubleshooting” section in the back. And it asks more questions of us than we do of it. Maybe, it’s time to change the question from “God, why aren’t you answering my question?” to “God, what questions of yours am I not answering?”

What’s one thing you wish the Bible answered?
What’s one thing you think the Bible is asking you today?
Share your thoughts in the comments below,
and don’t forget to pray for our U.M. ARMY team in West Monroe, Louisiana!

Sabbath & Jubilee: Day 9 of The Bible in 90 Days
June 9, 2012, 2:56 pm
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The Bible in 90 Days

Day 9: Leviticus 14:33-26:26 || Read the CEB online.

Leviticus 25 is perhaps my favorite chapter in the entire law given to Moses. It details the crucial practices of Sabbath & Jubilee years. These aren’t just years for the Israelites to “take a break” because they’ve worked hard & need a rest. They are an important part of how God keeps justice & righteousness at the heart of the community of faith.

Sabbath year not only gives a fallow year for the land to recover from agricultural exhaustion, it also means the entire nation has to rely on God …and not their own efforts …to provide. Reliance upon self makes us as human beings arrogant & compassionless, as we’ll see a bit later in the story. Reliance upon God develops our care for one another and keeps us humble.

At the end of the 7th cycle of 7 years, a Jubilee is held. In this year, debts are forgiven so no one person becomes so rich or so poor as to be beyond the community. Slaves are released in a recognition of our common humanity. Property reverts back to the original family holders so hoarding and dispossession cannot happen. Jubilee means that every 50 years, we reset our common life and we get a chance to start over!

What would Jubilee look like today?

Why would God ask the Israelites to do such a strange thing?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!