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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seeking Those who are Lost; Investing in the Kingdom of God

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 19:01 - 19:27
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Luke 19:01 - 19:27

Today's reading focused on two stories - that of Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the Parable of the Ten Servants. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector; in other words, a regional tax collector who oversaw subordinate collectors. This made Zaccheaus a very rich man. But Zaccheaus was drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ, so much so that he climbed a tree (apparently a very demeaning thing for a man of his stature to do) just to get a glimpse. Jesus called Zacchaeus by name down from the tree and invited himself to dine in his home. This upset people, for they new Zacchaeus sinned by stealing from people, making himself rich in the process. The story ends with verse 19:10:

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost."
It can be hard to remember that Jesus is seeking those furthest from Him. Most of us have been that person far separated from Jesus in our lives. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more righteous we try to become to align with the Word of God and remain obedient, the easier it is to forget that Jesus calls the sinners. He calls the worst of the worst, He wants all to belong to Him. I know many people feel uncomfortable trying to find a church home. They feel like they have to "clean up" their lives to become good enough to find a church and become closer to the Lord. But that is the opposite of what needs to happen. The church needs to welcome the sinners with open arms, to bring them in, to help them with their walk towards Jesus. I know my church has been an integral part of my growing relationship with Christ, for this very reason, and I am so very thankful for that. When I walked into my church for the first time, I didn't feel judged; instead I felt loved. I felt genuine interest for myself and my family, and it was wonderful. I began to attend regularly, and slowly work through the things that were separating me from the Lord. It is a constant work in progress; a never ending work, but it helped me to realize that you don't need to be "fixed" to find and attend a church. The church will help to fix you through the love of Jesus Christ. 

Onto the second part of the reading - The Parable of the Ten Servants. This parable reminds us that God has invested in us and that we are expected to grow that investment. The concept of the story is financial, as a king has given each of his servants ten pounds of silver to invest while he was away. The first servant made ten times as much, the second made five times as much, and the last made exactly nothing; he simply returned the original amount to the king. This, of course, infuriated the king, who expected at least something in return, even if just a little interest. To the other two servants, he gave them proportional responsibilities in his kingdom.

Although the concept of the parable is financial, I see that this parable can apply in many different ways in our lives. Yes, we have a financial responsibility to tithe and to give God what is His, regardless of our own income. The more we can give, the better. That will bless people and help to grow God's kingdom. But there are other things, too - such as giving our time, our talents, and simply spreading the word about Jesus Christ to friends and family. This is a hard topic for me because I know I don't give as much of myself as I should. I try to spread God's Word, but that is very difficult for me too, as I am a very shy and introverted person. I have to remind myself that the work done here on Earth has eternal consequences. What will my reward be in Heaven? What kind of return have I given compared to all the Lord has blessed me with?This parable is a great reminder that we are plant, grow, and harvest the things given to us for the good of the Lord.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cities of Refuge

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 16:1 - 20:09
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Joshua 16:1 - 20:09

Chapters 16-20 covered the vast allotment of the cities and towns to the various tribes. The entirety of the land was surveyed and mapped and divided according to each tribe's share. I love how the Lord ensures everyone is taken care of equally. Chapter 17 talks about Makir, who had no sons. Typically the land was divided by male heirs, but in this case there were none, so the daughters of Makir were granted a share of the land. I struggled at first with the idea of the land being split up by male heirs, but then I realized it made perfect sense. Daughters are given in marriage and then go live with their husbands and set up home there. So if the males always have an allotted portion of land, the females are always taken care of. We live in an age where female independence is desired and esteemed. I enjoy my role in modern society, for sure. I have to wonder, though, how much simpler life would be for me if I were able to manage the household and have my husband work to earn the living. I never thought I'd be content as a stay at home mom, but we live in a different time. It's hard to gauge these things when you're viewing them through a different perspective.

Chapter 20 discusses cities of refuge. I've always thought cities of refuge were a very interesting topic. The Old Testament talks about an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Taking another person's life is a mortally serious thing to do - arguably one of the worst sins (I realize in the scheme of things that ALL sin has mortal consequence, despite the severity). When someone is killed, people get mortally angry. In these times, people were allowed to take the life of the person who killed their loved one. The Lord, however, recognized the need for people who had accidentally killed another person. These were the cities of refuge, located throughout the territories. If someone accidentally killed another person, they could flee to these cities. This did not automatically give someone a free pass - they still had to stand trial with the elders. It did, however, give them a chance to have that trial and hearing and be cleared of wrong doing and protected from retaliation. We take processes like fair trials for granted depending on where we live. That was not always the case (and may not be still today depending where you live in the world). I love how the Lord takes care of all people, even killers.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Everyone will be a Citizen of Jerusalem

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 86
  • Psalm 87
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Psalm 86
In the middle of psalms of the descendants of Korah comes an interjected psalm of prayer from David. David starts by asking the Lord to hear his prayer - David needs the Lord's help. One of things I love the most about the psalms of David is that he always gives praise to the Lord, no matter what tribulation he facing. David tells the Lord that He alone is God, He is good, He is faithful, He forgives, He is slow to anger - no other God is like the Lord Almighty. How many of us have the true faith of David? Where we cry out in praise to the Lord, despite going through the worst of times?

Psalm 87
Psalm 87 is a unique and beautiful piece. This psalm speaks of Jerusalem, of the city on the holy mountain founded by the Lord himself. Today we think of Jerusalem and the middle east as being ravished by war and fighting, yet we know that the Lord Jesus Christ will come back and reign from there for 1000 years. This psalm tells use that everyone will enjoy the rights of citizenship there (87:5). Jerusalem is set to become the international city for all of God's children. Not only are we welcome there, we will be citizens. How glorious will that be?

I often wish I could visit Jerusalem, so that I could be in the places where the Lord himself had been. But Jesus will be back there, reigning over the entire earth for 1000 years. How brilliant will that be? To make a pilgrimage to worship the Lord in Jerusalem? The psalm ends with "The people will play flutes and sing, the source of my life springs from Jerusalem!" (87:7). This will be a glorious time indeed.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Will Being a "Good Person" get us into Heaven? (Parable of the Rich Man)

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 18:18 - 18:43
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Luke 18:18 - 18:43

Today's reading was a short one, and the primary story in it is the Parable of the Rich Man. This is a man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by telling him to sell everything he had and give to the poor, then follow Jesus. Jesus then said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This ended with people wondering who on earth could possibly be saved? The answer Jesus gave was simple: "What is impossible for people is possible for God" (18:25). We need to make sure we are putting the Lord ahead of our money, and all other aspects of our lives. But none of that matters by itself - we must rely on the saving power of Jesus Christ to gain eternal life.

The single verse that stood out for me in this reading was Luke 18:19, where Jesus spoke to the rich man:
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked him. "Only God is truly good."
This is such a powerful verse. Of course we know that Jesus was both God and human, but at that time it was not yet realized. This slight correction is so powerful. No matter how good we think we are, no one is truly good. We all fall short of the glory of God. Every single human to walk the earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has sinned. Being a "good" person cannot get you into Heaven. I feel like many people live their lives, expecting karma to take care of them. If they are "good" people, if they do good things, if they are nice to others - then whatever awaits them in the afterlife is justly earned. But that is not the way it works at all. We need the precious blood of Jesus to be cleaned, to be good, to be redeemed, and to enter Heaven. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that we can do by ourselves to earn this, besides believing that Jesus Christ is Messiah whose sinless blood redeemed our souls, made us clean and tore the veil. Believe, repent, and be saved.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Poor or Rich, Light and Darkness, Pride and Wisdom - Readings of Proverbs

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 13:2 - 13:8
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Proverbs 13:7 - 13:10

I could use some words of wisdom from my favorite book of the bible today.  Lets see what words of life there are in store for me as I go through these four verses from Proverbs.

13:7 Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.
Appearances aren't always what they seem. In the end, God knows our true hearts and motives. There is no pretending that will fool Him. We may fool people, but we will never fool the Lord.

13:8  The rich can pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor won't even get threatened.
Which is better - to have the ransom to pay and be a target, or to be poor and left alone? I have been on both sides of the equation - dirt poor, without even a home to live in - and well off enough to have all my bills paid, food in the cupboards, have many of my wants, and take vacations. Money doesn't solve everything, but it does make life easier when you don't have to worry as much about your basic needs. But it's a mixed blessing, as it is all too easy to let money control you and, in return, pull you away from the Lord.
13:9  The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.
It's very difficult to live in this world. The closer I grow to the Lord, and the more that I understand how God expects us to live and obey, the more I realize how far apart we are set from the rest of the world. It's intimidating, it's relentless, it's disheartening. But in the end, the Lord tells us that we will have victory, and then we will no longer be ridiculed as those "hate-filled bigots" (which couldn't be further from the truth), for people will know the truth.

13:10  Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.
It truly is a hard thing to learn how to take advice. I have no problem taking advice from God's Word, but when it comes to people it's far more of a struggle. This is especially true in today's information technology world, where we can answer our own questions in seconds. But learning to take advice is a growing process. I have to recognize the value of other people's wisdom - especially when it comes to age. I've learned a lot in my 33 years - so what of my grandparents, who have had over twice as long to gain life experience? It's invaluable. How many times have you heard someone say they wish they could go back to their younger selves with the wisdom they have gained throughout their lives? We should soak up all the wisdom we can get.