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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Love and Repentance

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 19:28 - 19:48
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Luke 19:28 - 19:48
Today's reading starts with Jesus humbling riding into Jerusalem on a donkey colt. My study bible tells me two things: first, his ride on the donkey is fulfillment of prophecy; and second, that choosing a humble donkey instead of a war horse is symbolic of the reconciliation and peace that Jesus would bring.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, a huge crowd gathered and threw their clothes on the ground in front of him, shouting and signing songs of praise as they followed along side. I can hardly imagine this scene. A man, riding on a donkey on top of piles of clothes thrown in front of him and crowds singing and praising all around. What a glorious sight that would be. It is hard to believe that human nature is so fickle, that many of these same people would soon be publicly demanding his crucifixion.

Jesus then wept, for he knew the people would reject his salvation and come to ruin. Jesus is there for all of us, he died for all of us, yet how many of us will refuse that wonderful gift? How many souls of the people we know and love will be forever lost and separated from God? It's a terrible thing.

We are then told of how Jesus drove the money changes and merchants out of the temple. Luke's account of this event are fairly mild. John 2:15 tells of how Jesus made a whip to drive these people out. It seems that in today's world, people only want to talk about the love of Jesus. Every sin seems to be covered by the fact that Jesus loves and forgives. It is very true - without the true love Jesus showed by dying for us, without his forgiveness, we are destined to hell. But too often it seems to be overlooked that Jesus also condemns the sin. He drove those people out with whips! The woman who was caught in adultery, whom Jesus saved from being stoned, was told to "Go forth and sin no more" (John 8:11).

Jesus came to save us. Jesus came so that we could be forgiven. Jesus loves us more than we can ever comprehend. He died for each of us - the ultimate gift one can give. Jesus is full of love and forgiveness, but we must also repent. The love does not excuse the sin, as seems to be taught today. Through repentance our sins are forgiven, but they must be repented of. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word repent as: "to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life". To repent, we turn from our sin. We then make amends for our sins by changing our ways. The Lord is gracious to forgive us, and the Lord absolutely loves us, but love does not excuse our sins.

 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Dream Fulfilled is a Tree of Life

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 13:12-19
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Proverbs 13:12 - 19
Today's reading is a series of verses from one of my favorite books - Proverbs. I love Proverbs because it gives us clear directions on how to go through life. Not just go through life - but to soar through life, how to succeed in what you do, how to have happiness, and how to obtain wisdom.

There were a few reoccurring themes throughout today's reading. I found verses 12 and 19 to fit together:
13:12: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
13:19 It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them. 
 I do agree that never seeing one's hopes and dreams fulfilled can be quite crushing on one's spirit. I am caught on the words: "a dream fulfilled is a tree of life". This phrase makes me picture my life as a tree, soaring up into the sky. My dreams are branches, some developed and blossoming and full; others budding and taking shape; some withering and dying. Is your entire tree withered up? That would certainly make one's heart sick. My tree is pretty full and happy. But should something happen to my tree, crushing as it would be, my hope is in the Lord. I know that he can take a tree that has withered and passed away and revive it into the most glorious tree ever seen. Nurture your spirit with the words of the Lord. Turn away from the evil ways of this world. Let his essence feed your tree of life, and see your tree reach it's full, beautiful potential.

Verses 13 through 18 are about one of my favorite topics: Wisdom. Here is a summary from these verses.

To obtain wisdom:
  • Respect commands for a successful life
  • Listening to wise instruction is like a life-giving fountain that helps one avoid the snares of death
  • People with good sense are respected
  • The wise think before they act
  • Accept correction and be honored
The unwise:
  • Those who despise advice ask for trouble
  • Treacherous people head to destruction
  • Don't think before they act, and often brag about their foolishness 
  • Ignoring criticism lands one in poverty and disgrace
Every time I read Proverbs, especially when Wisdom is being discussed, images of the world as I know it today floats through my mind. People, places, current events, pass situations. These images, these thoughts, they affirm everything I read. Just look at those lists. I'm sure you can easily place people you know into both of those extremes. I want my life to look like that first grouping. I want to have a successful life where I am respected and honored. Eventually I want to be the wise one who is helping to fill the fountains of others. I've got a long way to go, but I've got the best helper in the entire universe to help me - the Word of God. 

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.