The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: What Does it Mean to Live With “An Open Purse?”

Margaret —  February 25, 2013 — 19 Comments

OPEN PURSE

It’s time to check off Week Two of reading for the 40-Day Bible Challenge. Whether you’re reading the entire Bible or listening to an audiobible (free copies here!) during Lent, we’re excited you’re joining in. We never expected nearly 2000 people to download the free 40-Day Reading Guide in the first 24 hours. You can grab your copy by clicking here.

Reading the Bible in 40 days provides a wildly different perspective than a slow read. [Tweet this] I must confess:

Some days I fall behind.

Some days my eyes glaze over.

Some days I wonder, “What did I just read?”

Some days I think, “I haven’t heard that story in eons.”

Some days I can’t shake the images, words, stories, and language.

Reading the Bible at this pace, as a 40-Day Challenge, causes me to see and reflect on details I’d otherwise miss. [Tweet this]

A few things I’ve been noshing on this week:

1. The slow, steady, repetitive declaration, “I am God, your God” which echoes throughout the Old Testament reminds us of the possessiveness of God. [Tweet this] This popped off the page while reading the beginning of Leviticus 18 and the declaration:

Tell them, I am God, your God. Don't live like the people of Egypt where you used to live, and don’t live like the people of Canaan where I am bringing you. Don’t do what they do. Obey my laws and live by my decrees. I am your God. Keep my decrees and laws: The person who obeys them lives by them. I am God. [Tweet this] (Italics added)

God’s people are often referred to as God’s possession. Yet in this weeks reading, I sensed the possessiveness of God anew. The repetition of “I am your God” and “You are mine” echoed so many different ways—in the laws, the decrees, the commands, the calls to holiness, the words of affection—it was as if I could feel God’s jealousy for you, me, all of us, as I read.

Deuteronomy 4 resounds the message, “God, your God, is not to be trifled with—he’s a consuming fire, a jealous God.” [Tweet this] My prayerful response was simply, God, remove my every idol. Free me to be wholly yours.

2. The Book of Numbers and all those numbers reminded me that God cares very much about the details. [Tweet this] God reveals Himself in the details, speaks through the details, loves us through the details. [Tweet this]

3. God desires to give us a good life. God is wild for us—more than we can imagine. Embracing the life God has for us requires us to make choices—choices to follow God. Obey God. Respond to God. Listen to God. Choose God.

The Scripture that haunted me this week came from Deuteronomy 15:

Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you. Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.

Walking downtown in San Diego, the image of living with an open purse resounded in my heart as I passed homeless women and men on the streets. I didn’t have cash in my pockets or even gift certificates to a fast-food chain in hand.

I popped into a local grocery store and passing by a display of apples, the thought popped into my mind, “Buy apples to hand out to the homeless.”

Um. That’s crazytown. And oh-so-random, I reasoned. What if they think the fruit is poisoned? What if they have issues with teeth? What if a woman is walking the streets handing out apples? Didn’t I read somewhere in the beginning of Genesis to avoid all women handing out apples or fruit?

The thought persisted as a sacred echo. At the check out, I couldn’t shake the feeling any longer. I left the checkout lane, ran to the display, and grabbed a handful of apples. On the walk back to the hotel, I handed them out to homeless people—most of whom greeted me with a smile and offered a simple thank you.

The experience reminded me that living with an open purse isn’t about a one-time action as much as it is an attitude of living—ready to greet those we encounter with both freedom and spontaneity when it comes to giving. [Tweet this] (For a wonderful organization that cheers people onto generosity through their gatherings, videos and testimonies, check out Generous Giving)

The imagery of living with an "open purse" echoed throughout this week's reading--demonstrated in Boaz's willingness to allow Ruth to glean from the edges of his fields (Ruth 2), the open table provided for Mephiboseth (2 Samuel 9), and more. The expression of living with an "open purse" takes endless forms--all inviting us to reflect God's generous heart and "open purse" with us.

But it also reminded me that during this season of Lent, as we go through the Bible, that it’s not just about reading the Book but acting on it—doing and living the words we read.

What image or word or phrase or idea has been popping off the page as you read the Bible this Lent? [Tweet this] What is the Holy Spirit echoing to you? [Tweet this]

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19 responses to The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: What Does it Mean to Live With “An Open Purse?”

  1. Simply – obedience and faithfulness.

  2. I feel terrible at how far behind I am…I’m on Ruth.
    I keep trying to catch up, but I’m failing horribly.
    I’m trying hard, but scared I’m not going to get it done…

  3. Since last week’s readings took us through Joshua and Judges, I was continually struck by the fact that God continually used flawed people to carry out His plan. And what great hope and expectation is found in that fact!

  4. I’ve read through the Bible in a year many times, but reading through the Bible in 40 Days is so different. I’m devouring it; reading it as the unfolding story that it is. Seeing God’s purpose for his people; corporately and individually, is faith and trust building for me.

  5. We are doing “The Story” at church which is the whole Bible in 31 weeks, but some stories are left out. Since I am one of the leaders doing a discussion each week I have added in some of those stories with my group, and some other little details. While reading the Bible in 40 days is quite different than studying it slowly, I am remembering people, places and things that we have already talked about in our lessons. Right now we are just starting the New Testament part. I am also happy that God has shown me during Lent how I really do have an hour each day that I can read His Word! Thank you God!

  6. You nailed it, Margaret. You just described my experiences during this 40-day Bible reading challenge so far. I hear a lot “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God”. He is holy and he wants what’s best for us, too.
    This has been a wild ride for sure. I am a bit behind but I am hanging in there. It might be easier when I let it be a different experience and just enjoy the wild ride! Thanks for inviting all of us to experience God’s word in this way. Big Blessings!
    P.S. I just love you for handling out all those apples. Those sacred echoes are so precious!

  7. I like an earlier post am VERY behind…. caring for my family while spending weekends with my husband who is caring for his terminally ill father and his invalid mother is running me ragged but I undertook this with a still, small voice telling me that this might just be what gets me through the rough days ahead!

    I am behind but I have been very faithful to do all that I can each day! I’m listening (not very well) some and reading some. The thing that has struck me the most is truly HOW MUCH God loves the Israelite people. They do so many things ‘wrong’ and still God seeks after them and continues to give them chance after chance to get it right!

    How then, must God love us, even when we get it ‘wrong’ over and over! Thanks, Margaret for challenging us to do this! I’m learning, growing and I KNOW that God will bless us and even, honor us for undertaking the challenge.

  8. Margaret ~
    Not only a couple days behind in my bible reading – a couple days behind in my blog reading! Firstly, I am LOVING this speed of bible reading. It almost commands you to take note of the bigger picture and bypass details. Details are for when we dig in and mediate. Lenten Bible Speed Reading is for getting the big picture of God. I love you. Love me. I love you. Obey me. I love you. Trust me. I love you Choose me. The plaintive cry of God that so often we’re deaf to because of hardened hearts (in one way or another). How easy it is to hear Him and yet how often do we not? It makes me tear up to think about.
    OK – that being said – thank you again for obeying Him and organizing this little party! I truly believe that when we (all those participating) agreed to this crazy challenge, God supernaturally blessed us with the ability to receive what He wants each and every one of us to receive as we plow through His word this Lenten season.
    May God bless you richly, as well as Leif, your families, and staff (don’t forget Hershey!).
    Felecia

  9. Blessings Margaret and fellow 40 day challenge readers,

    I really love your honesty in this blog, Margaret and the following post! I’m pressing on listening to 1st and 2nd Kings, falling a bit behind at times and then catching up on the day of ‘grace’ you gave us but truthfully that day is already quite full. However, I am enjoying this and try to do so in Spanish as well as English (one in the morning and the other in the evening) but it’s way over an hour. So I can only imagine if I was actually reading it…although as you have indicated, other versions are easier read like The Message!

    Another way, is coming available 3-3-13 on the History Channel that I have been sharing about on my blog for the last 3 days. A new miniseries “The Bible” done by Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett. I just assumed everyone knew this and I was late in learning but just in case … let’s get the word out. I have many links in my blog post and I wanted to share them here but then my comment goes to approval mode…

    I am being so blessed by this and even more WONDERSTRUCK as I read your writings … and your ponderings as you read and share. Since I’m also trying to read when I can in the new Names of God Bible … I too was keenly aware of God as Esh
    Oklah “Consuming Fire and Jealous God”. But coming and reading this wonderful application of God’s Word to living it out really is what makes me want more like you. I love the association of Ruth to the Open Purse and now that image is firmly planted in my head … as I give to others along my journey, I will remember this… thank you! Thank you for your “generous giving”… even a little temptuous apple can say so much! Thank you for your enthusiasm and servant heart as you teach and encourage us in God’s Word.

    Peace in Christ,
    Peggy

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