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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bringing our Grievances before God, God's Justice, Forgiveness, and Child Like Faith

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 18:1 - 18:27
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Luke 18:1 - 18:17

Okay, I'm going to start today with yet another apology. I looked at the date of my last blog - and it was in January! I couldn't believe it. I've had a lot of life in the way - the birth of my 4th child (Sept 2014), the resumption of grad school, and a side business. That's no excuse for going so long without a blog though. I will try to do better in the future.

 I do want to point out that I haven't quit reading the Word - in fact, just a couple nights ago, I finished my first complete reading through of the bible!!! From start to finish, I've read every word! In some ways I am ashamed - I am 33 years old, so that's a long time to take to read through the bible. But regardless, I am so thrilled that I finished through with that. I will NEVER be done reading the bible - ever! The book is so full of life that it's different each time I pick it up - even if I were to read the same passage multiple days in a row. I love that! So now I need to figure out how I'm going to read the bible next (chronologically, a different translation, etc). And, as always, I'm going to keep chugging along at my goal to BLOG about the whole bible as I read too :)

Now, onto today's reading:

Today's reading told two parables. The first was the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In this parable, a widow persistantly petitioned a judge for justice against her enemy. The judge was not at a godly man in the least, but in the end he gave in and executed a just ruling against her enemy. In this example, Jesus reminded us that even sinners who don't fear God are capable of rendering just actions. Therefore, don't we know that God hears us when we cry for just and that he WILL deliver? For we are His children, we believe and fear Him. We trust in him for all our needs.

I am reminded as I read this about God's timing, versus our timing. I so easily become impatient with the things I want and need NOW. God is always listening, and He knows my needs and desires, and His timing is always perfect. And when it comes to justice, there is something else I need to remind myself, and this one is so much harder - God loves the offender as much as He loves me. And if the person is not saved, still God longs for them to turn to Him. That's the hard thing about justice, right? We have earthly justice, and then we have Godly justice. If someone murders a family member of mine, that person might be caught and punished with earthly justice. Perhaps they would spend the rest of their life in prison, and/or be executed. But if that person turns to God and truly repents, then he is forgiven unconditionally by the Lord - and that is the justice that truly matters. My takeaway from these thoughts is that I need to focus less on obtaining "justice" for an offense (any offense, not just big ones - perhaps someone truly wronged me with his or her actions) and focus more on forgiving and letting go. Now, I haven't had to deal with anything huge like a murdered family member, so obviously I'm dishing advice I haven't had to take. But, regardless, my life is more joyful when I'm not focused on all the minor grievances - when I am truly forgiving and letting go.

The second parable is the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. This is a simple parable, where two men - one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector - brought themselves before the temple and prayed to the Lord. The Pharisee gave thanks for his righteousness and lack of sin, whereas the tax collector was humble and sorrowful. Jesus gave a clear message here - those who exalt themselves before the Lord will later be humbled, while those who are humble now will be exalted later. I know which of those categories I want to be in - how about you?

Finally, the reading concludes with a famous passage: (Luke 18:17):
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
I have four children, so I have seen faith through a child's eyes. Children are truly special in that they can have true faith without doubts and without the world getting in the way. Simple, pure, faith - it's amazing, really. As we grow older and mature and are influenced by the world, this gets a lot harder to maintain. I feel doubts creep in on me, and I push them out. My focus, whenever I'm doubting, is the Word of God. The bible speaks to my very heart, and it is the Word that gives me the strength when times are tough. The spirit of God is always in me, but perhaps he's closest to me when I'm engaged with His Word. I don't need natural explanations for the things that are in the bible. I don't need archeological evidence of the events that are transcribed. I just need to open the bible and feel with my heart to know that God is there, and that my faith is true.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Joshua Defeats 31 Kings; Obeying the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 11:1 - 12:24
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Joshua 11:1 - 12:24

I'm learning that Joshua fought far more than just the battle of Jericho!  In my last reading I saw how a group of kings banned together against the Israelites but the Israelites easily defeated them with God's help. 

What I learned today was even more astounding.  Dozens of kings banded against Joshua.  Their numbers were so numerous that they "covered the landscape like the sand on the seashore (11:4)".  Dozens of kings banded together!  To a person who does not have the help of the Lord on his side, that entire situation is 100% hopeless.  It not only looks hopeless, it is hopeless.  It is only with the help of the Lord that Joshua defeated all these enemies without any trouble at all.  All together, 31 kings each of the Jordan were defeated by Joshua (12:24).

I don't have much to say about this passage today, just that with God all things truly are possible.  I did notice that in verse 11:15, we are told that Joshua did everything he was told and very carefully obeyed all the commandments that the Lord had given to Moses.  So yes, with God all things are possible, but there is also an expectation that we will obey Him.  He is faithful to those who place their faith in Him and obey Him.  I think we are quick to call on the Lord for help getting ourselves out of the situations that we put ourselves into.  The Lord will not forsake us, and we have our true salvation by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  That being said, when you are calling for help from the Lord, do a check and make sure that you are obeying both his commandments and his direction.  Joshua was successful in his conquest for three reasons:
(1) God directed path and Joshua followed
(2) Joshua had complete faith that the Lord would fulfill the promises made
(3) Joshua was careful to obey all the commandments the Lord gave to him
Too often we think about the love the Lord has for us and the saving grace, but we forget that we are also expected to obey Him.  If He is truly our Lord, then we should obey Him as we are his subjects and any loyal subjects would wholeheartedly obey their king as well as seek the king's direction in their lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Joy for those who can Reside Forever in the House of the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 84
  • Psalm 85
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Today's reading covered Psalms 84 and 85.  Both are psalms of the descendents of Korah, however they have two different themes.  Psalm 85 is another plea for the Lord's redemption from the hardships that were brought upon the people for their previous sins.  The author of this Psalm wonders if the Lord's wrath will last forever, or if it will ever end.  I personally fear the Lord's wrath -- I never want to be in the place where the Lord shuns me.  That would be a terrible, desperate place, and it would probably feel like it lasts forever. 

Psalm 84 talks about the joy of the place of the Lord and how great it is to be near him.  This is a beautiful psalm that is full of expression of how we should all long to feel about the Lord.  I admit there are times I go further away from the Lord and in those times I lose the feeling that we read about in this psalm.  In those times I need to remember this psalm, re-read it, and keep the words close at heart. 

The psalm starts out talking about how lovely the dwelling place of the Lord is and how the author faints with longing to be there.  Faints with longing.  Longing for such a beautiful place.  And if you really think about what the Lord offers us -- really really think -- we would all faint with longing to be near Him too.  He offers us peace, joy, an end to sorrow and death, protection, love, and just the completeness to our spirit that nothing else can fulfill.  Or, as Psalm 84:4 says:  "What joy for those who can live your house, always singing your praises."  Amen!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Didn't I Heal Ten Men? God's Hand in Medicine

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 17:11 - 17:37
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Luke 17:11 - 17:37
Jesus entered a village where ten lepers awaited him for healing.  Jesus told the lepers to go see the priests.  They did as he said, and all were healed.  One of the men came back to praise Jesus for healing him.  Jesus asked where they other nine men were?  Why did only one come back to give praise and thanks for healing? 

Those ten men received a miraculous healing - all they had to do was go show themselves to the priests.  Yet even then only one came back to praise Jesus.  I wonder how that translates to today, when so many are healed through medicine, doctors, treatments, and hospitals?

How many of us consistently return our praise to the Lord for being healed, even amongst those who firmly believe in Jesus Christ?  I think it's too easy to attribute healing to some medicine or some doctor, or simply time.  And, truthfully, a lot of time it is a medicine or doctor who is able to help us to manifest a healing.  But I ask you, who created the doctors and the people who make such great advances with medicine?  When was the last time that you visited a hospital that did NOT have a strong religious affiliation?  I am a firm believer that God's hand is in the natural - medicines, doctors, treatments, hospitals - that we so eagerly seek out.  These things are wonderful blessings given to us, but we need to remember that they are, indeed, a gift.

God is all around us, healing us and helping us.  If we pray to the Lord for healing, relief, etc., and we receive it, then we should ALWAYS return thanks and praise to the Lord.  These passages are a simple reminder.  We should be the one who remembers and gives thanks to the Lord -- not part of the nine who go off and forget the things that the Lord has so graciously done for us. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sun and Moon Stand Still; Seek the Lord Lest Ye Be Deceived

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 9:3 - 10:43
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Joshua 9:3 - 10:43
Joshua and his men continued to conquer all the lands that the Lord had instructed them too.  The kings of five lands were afraid, so they banded together to come at Joshua and his army.  They stationed together at Gideon and the Israelites went out to meet them.  There the enemy was defeated both by sword and by a terrible hailstorm.  This hailstorm, sent by the Lord, killed more people than the Israelites did.  I can't imagine a storm so powerful -- but it must have been terrifying for the enemy.

Verse 4:12 mentions one other supernatural thing that occurred.  Joshua declared that the sun and the moon should stand still until the enemy was completely defeated.  We are then told that the sun did not set that day because the Lord answered his prayer, and that there has never been a day before or since like that (10:13-14).

Joshua called to the Lord to stop the sun and the moon in the sky.  The Lord answered him as he requested.  This made me think of Mark 11:22, where Jesus tells us that if we had the faith, we could tell the mountain to jump into the sea and it would listen.  Can you imagine the faith it would take to request the sun and the moon to stand still, and believe without a doubt in your heart that it will be done?  The faith Joshua had was immeasurable.  

There was one more part of today's reading that really caught my attention.  In chapter 9 we learn that the people of Gideon decided to deceive the Israelites into creating a peace treaty with their people.  They knew that Joshua had the Lord on his side, and the people were rightly terrified.  Some people of Gideon dressed up in old, worn clothes and sandals.  They packed old wineskins and moldy, dry bread.  They then road up to Joshua's camp and pretended as if they had been on a very long journey.  They asked Joshua for a peace treaty with their people, and Joshua granted it to them. 

Verse 9:14 says something very important -- that the people did NOT consult the Lord before making this decision.  How often do we let ourselves be deceived?  And not just by things that you need divine guidance to discern?  For example, how many people get hooked into phony or misleading social media stories and pictures?  We have the resources to validate these things at our fingertips, yet too many choose to stay in ignorance and be deceived. 

There are many people in this world who try to deceive others.  It might not be as easy to find out about the person who appears to be suffering -- usually with some financial matter.  It is the Christian thing to do to help these people out, is it not?  But just because we are Christians does not mean that we have to accept deception.  So what can we do about it?  Well, verse 9:14 tells us precisely what to do -- we must seek the Lord about those situations.  Seek the Lord, read His word, and listen for His answer.  He is there and He WILL guide us.