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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 16:19 - 17:10
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Luke 16:19 - 17:10
Today I read the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  In this story there is a rich man who lives in luxury, denying himself nothing.  A poor diseased man named Lazarus laid at the rich man's gate, wishing for scraps - but instead dogs would lick his open sores as he laid there suffering.  Both men died, and Lazarus went to be with Abraham while the rich men went to be with the dead in suffering.  The rich man implored Abraham to let Lazarus come and relieve some of his suffering, and asked him to send Lazarus to his family so that they might repent.

Abraham told Lazarus a few things: First, he said that the divide between the the rich man and Lazarus was a chasm that none could cross.  That serves as a reminder that your state, once you are dead, is permanent.  Abraham also told the man that he had everything he wanted in life with Lazarus had nothing - and thus Lazarus was being comforted while the rich man was in anguish.  I am conflicted about this part of the story -- after all, all my needs are met, as are many of my wants.  Does that mean that I will be in anguish after I die?  I don't think that's quite what this story is saying, and I will say why as I continue.

When the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his family, Abraham also refused.  The rich man wanted to warn his family to repent and turn to God.  To me this implies they are in a completely unsaved state to begin with.  Lazarus didn't say to repent and tell them to not indulge themselves - no, he knew that they would wind up with him if they didn't turn to God.  Now, that's not to say that a person who is a Christian should have everything they want -- far the opposite.  But I would assume that if the rich man had turned to God, that he wouldn't allow Lazarus, the man who lay right outside his gate, to remain in suffering and poverty.

There's a lot to be said about that too.  After all, poverty will be a condition of this world until Jesus Christ comes back -- so how do Christians draw the line between helping those who are in need and managing their own lives?  It's a fine line, I think, that every Christian has to make for himself.  I will say this, however -- if there is someone in suffering at your door, you should do all you can to help them.  After all, the Lord brought them to you so that you could help them.

Finally, Abraham makes a point to the rich man.  He says that if the rich man's family did not believe Moses and the prophets, then nothing -- not even a man risen from the dead -- would cause them to believe.  I don't know about you, but for me it's easy to think that if God would just show this person this one thing then they will believe.  But the bible is telling us right here that isn't so.  And if you want more proof, look to Moses and the people of Israel!  How many miracles did the Lord show those people, yet they continued to doubt, and gripe, and debate God's greatness?  These people had the visible presence of God living in their camp, had encountered many many miracles, yet still failed to truly believe.  In the end, I think people will believe what they want to believe, no matter what they are shown.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Psalms of Asaph

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 82
  • Psalm 83
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Psalms 82 and 83 are psalms of Asaph.  Once again I find myself wishing that I had better context in which to read these psalms.  I enjoy my bible reading plan immensely -- it gives me a little taste of everything, all at once.  It allows me to read through the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs simultaneously.  This helps me to stay focused and interested when I might otherwise lose interest (like when reading through some of the arduous laws, sacrifices, generation lists, etc) and give up reading for awhile.  Instead, I know that the next reading allows me to shift gears.  The downside is that I don't know the context behind many of these psalms. 

These two psalms that I read today implore the Lord to come and do away with the enemies of the Lord.  Asaph begs the Lord to give justice to those who are poor, those who are orphans, and those who are oppressed.  He tells of some of the deeds of the enemies and of how those enemies signed treaties against the Lord.

The psalms ended there -- with many cries for help.  Although I don't the story behind these psalms, I have a feeling it will all work out to God's greater good in the end.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Achan is Stoned, Ai is Destroyed

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 7:16 - 9:2
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Joshua 7:16 - 9:2
The last reading in Joshua left off with a cliff hanger -- someone had sinned against the Lord and that person was going to be singled out and punished.  The people were first dived into tribes, where the tribe of Judah was identified.  Next, that tribe divided into clans, and the clan of Zerah was singled out.  Next, the family of Zimri was singled out.  Out of that family, Achan was identified as the offender.

Achan admitted to taking what belonged to the Lord.  Him and his entire family was stoned to death.  Reading stuff like this is very hard, after all we live in an age where people are taught mainly about love, grace, forgiveness.  But we must remember that sinning against God makes him angry, and it will be punished if we do not repent.  Achan had a direct order from God to not take any of that plunder at all, yet he directly disobeyed and as a result the Israelites failed at taking the town of Ai. 

The Israelites went on to ambush the town of Ai.  Verse 8:28-29 says:
So Joshua burned the town of Ai, and it became a permanent mound of ruins, desolate to this very day.   Joshua impaled the king of Ai on a sharpened pole and left him there until evening.  At sunset the Israelites took down the body, as Joshua commanded, and thre it in front of the town gate.  They piled a great heap of stones over him that can still be seen today. 
Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I love statements that end in "can still be seen today".  I love being able to investigate and possible see picture.  I believe wholeheartedly that the bible is God's word, so I don't need to see these things to prove it to myself.  I just like to see them because I find it totally awe-inspiring that something written thousands of years before is speaking directly of this piece of evidence that can be found today.

The reading ends with all the other kings conspiring to gather together in an effort to beat the Israelites.  We'll see what happens, but somehow I have a feeling it will all turn in the favor of God's people :-)  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Parable of the Shrewd Master

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 16:1 - 18
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Luke 16:1 - 18
Today's passage contained the Parable of the Shrewd Master.  In this parable, a manager was fired for wasting his employer's money.  The manager then called in all the people who owed his employer money and lowered all their debts.  By doing this he ensured that he would have people to take him in when he lost his home. 

Jesus goes on to say that children of the world (i.e., unsaved) are more shrewd in dealing with this world than the children of light (the saved).  He tells us to use our resources to benefit others and to make friends, and that way we will have an "eternal" home when all our earthly resources are gone.

I don't believe that Jesus is telling us to steal from others in order to make friends.  He's just pointing out how a shrewd child of the world would not hesitate in using his position to gain friends and resources.  Jesus is telling us to benefit others and gain friends, but in a generous way.

Jesus then goes on to say that those who are faithful in the small things will be faithful in the large things, and if you are untrustworthy with worldly wealth, then you wouldn't be trusted with the riches of heaven.  He also says that if we are not faithful with other people's things, how could we be faithful with our own things? 

That single passage I described above just has so many different meanings and implications to me.  First of all, it confirms that Jesus doesn't want us to steal to benefit others, as that would mean we were being unfaithful with the things of others. 

The passage also tells me that we need to faithfully (and with a happy heart) manage the responsibilities that the Lord has given us.  For example, there are many people who expect that God has this BIG calling for their lives.  They keep passing up all the smaller opportunities around in search for that BIG one.  But if God cannot trust us to take on a small opportunity, how could we expect him to give us a large opportunity?

Another thing I see in that passage involves the management of our worldly wealth.  Jesus used the phrase (in my NLT translation) "untrustworthy of worldly wealth".  So what would constitute being untrustworthy of our worldly wealth?  Well, to me that would mean failing to use our money (ie, our resources - as Jesus covered in the parable) to benefit others.  We need to be givers, we need to help others.  We need to tithe to our local church.  When we are faithful with our money we are given more responsibility to work with.  The more responsibility we are given, the more friends we make who will be with us should we suddenly lose all our own earthly possessions. 

Should we lose our earthly possessions?! *GASP*.  That can be one of people's biggest fears.  And you would have to wonder, if I'm being faithful WHY would I lose all my earthly possessions?!  Well I can't answer that now, although it could be one of many reasons.  But it does tie in with the very last sentence Jesus speaks of this parable (16:13):

"You cannot serve both God and money."
While we might definitely be hurting if we lost our possessions and lost our money, it would be but temporary.  You can't live with the fear of losing your money (or giving it away to someone in need), because that would not be trusting in the Lord to provide for you should you need it, and then would be serving money.  And the Lord WILL provide for you, and quite possibility through those glorious friends you made along the way as you helped others out. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Words to the Wise, Words to Live by

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 13:2 - 13:8
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Proverbs 13:2 - 13:8

I could use some words of wisdom today.  Lets see what words of life there are in store for me as I go through these six verses from Proverbs.

13:2  Wise words will win you a good meal, but treacherous people have an appetite for violence. 
 I liken this verse to wise people who are eating the bread of life.  The treacherous and/or wicked have appetites that are never satisfied.  What could be more satisfying than the bread of life?!  The sinners just keep trying to satisfy their hunger in vain, and their souls can never be fully satisfied.

13:3  Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.
 Do you ever watch a TV show or movie where a person catches a real break -- let's say a judge hands down a lightened sentence -- but then that character has to open his mouth and ruin everything?  Life is a lot like that, I think.  We allow our tongues to control us, instead of us controlling our tongues.  The bible is clear that the tongue is a dangerous weapon.  It is detrimental to our lives, to our souls, to our hearts.  We must control our tongues.

13:4  Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.
I've met them.  They are the people who want to complain that life just isn't fair for them.  That they should have what so-and-so has.  That this other person doesn't deserve this or that.  Sometimes it might be true.  Bad things happen to all of us, we all fall on hard times.  But these people are always in a hard time, and they always want to blame someone else for their problem.  I wish I could shake these people up -- tell them that life is yours to grab by the horns.  If you want something, work for it!  Achieve it!  Prosper!  The Lord is telling us this right here in this verse.  He's not going to just hand it to us, but the Lord will bless those who work hard.  So go for it -- work for it!

13:5  The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace.
As people who are redeemed, we should hate lies.  Lies are of this world only; lies are of satan only.  The Lord never lies to us.  The Lord does not deceive us.  The Lord does not trick us.  I used to pray fearfully, that if I said the wrong thing I might create a "loop hole" or open up a means for something bad to happen.  And then I realized one day (probably while reading the Word), that I needn't be so fearful.  The Lord is not looking for a means in which to trick me, or deceive me.  That is not the Lord, that is what satan does to the Lord's followers.  The Lord is good, the Lord is awesome, the Lord is Holy and the Lord does not deceive.

13:6  Godliness guards the path of the blameless, but the evil are misled by sin.
Sin is like an entity that is alive.  It grows inside you, blackens your heart, takes over your soul.  It lies to you, it tells you to accept it, it blinds you to the truth. It helps you to reconcile the sin to yourself that you believe that you are justified in what you are doing.  YOU ARE NOT JUSTIFIED.  You are not an exception.  I am not an exception.  When we sin, we are blamed for our sin.  We are misled by our sin.  The Lord will judge us for our sin.  I would rather be godly and blameless before the Lord, though it is the hardest path of all to take -- and I am not even close to being there yet.  I will never be there, for I am human, but the important thing is repentance and forgiveness.  For the Lord will make us blameless, if we truly repent and change our ways.