Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's Time for me to Fess Up

Alright, it's time for me to fess up and tell you where I've been.  I have let this blog fall by the wayside ever since I started this little thing called grad school.  Yikes.  I was afraid that my graduate studies would get in the way, but saying it got in the way is an understatement.  It has consumed most of my non-working time.  This post is being written during my first break from school -- I have about three and a half weeks between my fall and spring semester.

I have not quit reading the bible, I just had to give myself permission to quit writing about it.  For awhile I was doing neither -- not reading, and not writing -- and feeling mighty guilty about it.  I realized that it was better to keep reading and not writing than it was to not do either.  That being said, I haven't been that faithful to my daily studies. 

It's almost a new year, and with that new year comes the realization that it's been a year since I set this blog up and made the original commitment.  My commitment still stands in that I WILL read through the entire bible and I WILL write about the entire thing, it just won't be in a year's time.  I will try to continue to get posts out, and will commit to doing better than I have in these previous few months.  I am also going to break the posts down further -- currently each post contains two readings, in the future they will contain one.  Anything I can do to keep myself reading, and writing when I can.

Please know that I haven't given up on this blog, and that I will never ever give up my faith or my commitment to study the word of God in its entirety.  May you all have a blessed 2013!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Fall of Satan; Jesus Friend of Sinners

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 10:13 - 37
  • Psalm 75:1 - 10
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 10:13 - 37
Today's reading in Luke was a short one that touched a few topics, such as loving your neighbor and the judgement of cities who reject or accept Jesus.  The portion I want to focus on is pretty brief and regards demons and Satan.

The 72 disciples returned to Jesus, pleased that they the demons obey the name of Jesus.  Verses 18 - 20 tell his reply:
"Yes," he told them, "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you.  But don't rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven."
The most interesting thing to me in this verse was the mention of Satan falling from the sky light lightning.  I realized, after I had read this, that I had yet to read anything about the fall of Satan from Heaven.  

Satan is also referred to as "the enemy".  I am guilty of not taking Satan as seriously as I should have for the majority of my life so far.  It wasn't until the past couple years that I started to change my thinking.  Previously, being a Christian meant to me that I loved the Lord, that I accepted Jesus as my savior, and that I tried to live a life that was pleasing to the Lord.  Now I am realizing that it is not enough to just know God, I also must know my enemy.  

There is something else I have noticed, too.  When you announce to others that you believe in God or praise the Lord for something that has gone well in your life, other people don't seem to much or think anything of it.  Very few would think you were actually crazy just because you believe in God.  But if you make mention of Satan coming up against you, that's a different story.  It's like there is a disconnect -- its okay to believe in God, but it's not as okay to attribute things that have happened as to being the work of Satan.  In fact, a lot of times when tragedy happens, people will say that it must just be the Lord's will.  Just because Satan has done something to attempt to destroy your life, and has succeeded, does not make it the Lord's will (but the Lord will bring something good out of it if you have faith, regardless).  I think Satan has succeeded here in driving this disparity between having faith and believing in an evil force that is destructive.

Psalm 75:1 - 10
This is a short Psalm with a simple message:  The Lord will judge the wicked.  The Lord will judge the wicked when He wants to, not when we want Him to.  And it is no one's job but the Lord's to judge.  There is a song I really love called "Jesus Friend of Sinners" by the Casting Crowns.  Here is verse two of that song:
Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did
I just think this song truly encompasses the truth behind what happens when we are the ones to judge others instead of the Lord.  We don't help people who are lost by judging them.  Many people view Christians as judgmental and hypocritical, and it turns people away from wanting to find out what the Lord is all about -- love and forgiveness. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Should a Person Make Vows to the Lord?

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 23:1 - 25:19
  • Proverbs 12:12 - 14
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 23:1 - 25:19
Chapters 23 - 25 of Deuteronomy outlined various miscellaneous laws for the people of Israel.  The laws covered the treatment of slaves, foreigners, widows and orphans.  There were many verses that commanded the people not to harvest every last morsel out of their fields.  Instead, they were to leave small amounts for others to find. Whereas society might ridicule the poor, the Lord looks after those less fortunate.

We saw more laws outlining what happens when a widow dies without an heir.  In that case the brother of the man who died is supposed to step in, marry her, and give her an heir.  I've read that many times over, but there was a part of it I hadn't read before.  Mainly it just struck me as funny, because in the US today this wouldn't be considered much of an insult, but I suppose it was serious at the time.  If the brother ultimately refuses to marry her, despite being talked to by the elders, this is what is to happen:
25:9  The widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face.  Then she must declare, "This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children."
25:10  Ever afterward in Israel his family will be referred to as 'the family of the man whose sandal was pulled off!'
 On a more serious note, the verses that spoke most strongly to me was 23:21 - 23.  In these verses the bible talks about making a vow to the Lord.  We are told that it is not a sin if we do not make a vow to the Lord.  However, if we make a vow to the Lord, we must be quick to fulfill that vow.  Any vow we make to the Lord is voluntary; He does not require us to make vows.  But should we make a voluntary vow, we shall be guilty of sin if we do not fulfill that vow. 

Have you ever made a vow to the Lord that you knew you might not keep?  Maybe it was in the form of, "I promise Lord that I will do better at this", "I promise Lord I won't do this again", "If you do this for me Lord, I promise that I will do this."  Be wary of making those promises.  Even if the thing you're promising is not to commit some sort of sin, should you fail you would then be committing more sins -- the sin of whatever it was you did, plus the sin of breaking a vow to the Lord.  That's food for thought, eh?

Proverbs 12:12 - 14
12  Thieves are jealous of each other's loot, but the godly are well rooted and bear their own fruit.
13  The wicked are trapped by their own words, but the godly escape such trouble.
14 Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.
Verse 12 talks about thievery.  Godly people are not thieves -- no matter how one might try to justify thievery, even "Robin Hood" situations, the bible clearly lets us know that thievery is in no way godly.  

Verse 13 isn't telling us that the godly escape the trouble of using wicked words.  Instead it is understood (or at least, this is what I understand) that the godly don't get themselves in a position to be trapped in the first place.  With all the verses about our words betraying our hearts and wicked people saying wicked things, the godly as set aside because they do not do as the wicked do.

Verse 14 talks about wise words and hard work.  As a contrast to wicked words that trap people, wise words bring reward.  Wise words are godly.  Another thing that is godly is hard work.  No where in the bible that I have read so far does it say that God will just up and bless people without them putting work into it.  I call this the "lottery syndrome".  "Well, God will provide for me, God will bless me, so therefore I just know I'm going to win this lottery drawing on Saturday!"  Yes, the Lord will always provide you with provision, but that doesn't mean riches.  Yes, the Lord will bless those who are faithful, wise, honest and hardworking.  But that doesn't mean you're going to be filthy rich, and it doesn't mean that you're going to realize that blessing here on Earth.  I'm not saying you won't realize it on Earth, but the bible does state the blessings that await in eternity for those who are faithful to Him.  While I enjoy being comfortable on this Earth, if I have to choose between the two, I choose abundant blessings for all of eternity.  This life, after all, is just the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jesus Sends an Additional 72 Disciples to Preach to the World

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 9:51 - 10:12
  • Psalm 74:1 - 23
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 9:51 - 10:12
Here we read about how Jesus sent his disciples out to preach to the world.  I read about this in Matthew 10:5 - 15 and again in Mark 6:7 - 13.  There is one distinct difference in this account than the ones before -- here we are told that Jesus chose and sent 72 disciples out in pairs, instead of just the twelve.

Needless to say, I was a bit confused when I read this. I referenced back to the previous mentions in Matthew and Mark to confirm that, indeed, the only previous talk was of the twelve disciples.  So what is the difference here? 

I found my answer in the account in Matthew, when Jesus tells his twelve disciples:
"Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel -- God's lost sheep"  -- 10:5-6
Jesus sent the 72 disciples out to "all the towns and places he planned to visit" (Luke 10:1).  So it seems that the first mission, the one to send out the twelve disciples, was targeted to the people of Israel.  This second mission, which is a separate occurrence from the first mission, was to spread the ministry ahead of Jesus to all the places he planned to visit.  These places included the territories of the Gentiles and the Samaritans. 

Jesus instructed the 72 in the same way he instructed the 12 -- they were to go without money, provisions, extra clothes, etc.  They were to stay in the same place the entire time, preach the good news, and heal the sick in the name of the Lord.  If a town refused them, they were to shake the dust of their feet and move on with a stern warning about the judgement that was to come.

As a side note, I love how I started off today's reading with the expectation that I was reading a third account of how Jesus sent out his twelve, yet in the end I learned something totally new.  You never know what is going to be housed in those few verses you read for a day.  This reading only consisted of 23 verses, yet I have a whole new understanding of this aspect of the ministry of Jesus.

Psalm 74:1 - 23
This was an interesting psalm to read in that it didn't quite follow any previous format or theme.  In this psalm, the writer (Asaph) reports the destruction of the temple and of all the places that the Lord was worshiped.

Asaph asks the Lord how long He will allow this destruction to go on and why the Lord was so angry against them?  He points out all the offenses of the enemy; how they burned down the temple, smashed everything with their axes, burnt down the places that God was worshiped and defiled the sanctuary.

Asaph tells the Lord to "Arise, O God, and defend your cause. Remember how these fools insult you all day long" (74:22).  Asaph does tell the Lord how he is his "king from ages past" (74:12), but I only see one brief reference to praise.  This occurs in 74:21: "Don't let the downtrodden by humilated again.  Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name."

I can't help but feel that this psalm is a bit haughty.  Asaph doesn't know why the Lord has rejected the people.  He tells the Lord to remember his people and remember his promises, and see the offenses occurring against him, yet Asaph offers very little praise to the Lord, and that praise seems conditional, like the people cannot praise the Lord in their current state.

The psalms of David are characterized by extreme faith in the Lord, no matter what is happening.  David also knew what to attribute his suffering to, and while he might have been desperate for the Lord to save him, he pleaded to the goodness of the Lord.  He showed his absolute faith no matter what.  He didn't tell the Lord to remember that the Lord appointed him king and save him (or at least not as far as I remember).

This psalm has been a very interesting and contrasting read, indeed!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Responsibility, Adultery, Rape and Liability in Deuteronomy

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 21:1 - 22:30
  • Proverbs 12:11
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 21:1 - 22:30
Today's reading was a list of rules and regulations.  Some of them I do not recall reading before, but that doesn't mean they weren't there, just that I don't remember.  The rules covered many things,and I found many of them interesting, so I'm going to just jot down a list.

The first thing that caught my eye was in verses 21:1 - 21:9. These are instructions on what to do if a person is murdered and you do not know who did it.  In these situations the elders and priests must perform a ritual to cleanse the community from the guilt of murder.

What strikes me about this is that murder is a community sin.  Murder isn't the only community sin, however -- many of these punishments are designed to purge the sin or evil from the community.  I see that, at least according to the Old Testament, that God deals with people at the community level.  I don't know if there is ever a shift where the Lord deals with mainly individuals (since I haven't read much of the New Testament) , but from what I'm reading so far, the community/nation/etc that you belong to matters and can be judged as a whole.  God knows our individual hearts and we will be saved at death as long as we are faithful believers in Christ.  Since a community is composed of individuals, I suppose it would make sense to say that the heart of the community will reflect the majority of people in it, and for that reason the Lord can (and has) purged many entire communities from the land. 

Moving on to verse 22:22:
"If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the woman must die.  In this way, you will purge Israel of such evil."
This verse tells me that there isn't a  so-called "double standard"for adultery, in that women are unfairly judged while the men go free.  There are other verses in this chapter that reiterates the point, where both men and women are charged equally.

Verses 22:-25 - 27 talk about rape.  If a woman is raped, she is "as innocent as a murder victim."  I don't have much to say about this, except that the Lord considers the rape victim to be innocent. I have never been raped, but I imagine that many women who have struggle with realizing that they are victims.  Just know that in the eyes of the Lord, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Verse 22:1 - 4 talks about responsibility.  If you see your neighbor's lost property then you must retrieve it and keep it safe until it is returned.  If you see your neighbors animals running away, you must alert your neighbor.  If you see your neighbor's animal collapsed on the side of the road, you must help your neighbor to get it back on it's feet. We have a responsibility to others in trouble, we are told not to look the other way.

There are many interesting verses in these chapters, but the last I will focus on is 22:8:
When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof.  That way you will not be considered guilty of murder if someone falls from the roof.
Even today, when we own property, we can be considered liable if something causes harm to another person while they are on our property.  In some cases it wouldn't matter if the person was on our property illegally, we could still be held liable.  This verse makes me think of the dangers of pools.  Many people have small pools set up in their yards, and every year there are stories of drownings.  In the most heart-wrenching of cases, these were pools owned by neighbors instead of the person who has the young child.

I have a three year old, I have refused to even put our pool up for the past two years because of his ability to get into anything, no matter where it is or the obstacles you place in front of it.  It doesn't matter, he can get into anything.  When we did have a pool up, we'd always remove the ladder so that no one could easily climb in.  That wouldn't ultimately inhibit a determined child like mine from getting into the pool, but it might at least defer them for awhile.  So please, if you have a pool, take some measures to keep neighborhood children out of it.  The same goes for any glaring hazard on your property.  

Proverbs 12:11
A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense.
This verse made me laugh out loud, I guess because I wasn't expecting it to conclude with "has no sense."  I expected it to say something like, "goes hungry" instead.  Either way it's the truth, if you're going hungry because you're chasing fantasies, then you don't have any sense.

I don't think this verse discourages against having dreams.  But if you're chasing the next big thing, or spending all your money plus more on this idea you're sure is going to make you rich, then take a clue here.  There are people who strike it rich accidentally,  but for the rest of us, we work hard.  Work hard first, chase those other things with more hard work.  The Lord expects us to work hard, it is mentioned over and over again.  If you want to achieve your dreams, then work for it.  Don't expect it to just fall from the sky and land in your lap.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Least Among us Are the Greatest; Welcoming the Children

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 9:28 - 50
  • Psalm 73:1 - 28
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 9:28 - 50
"Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me.  Whoever is the least among you is the greatest."
This quote is verse 9:28 and is spoken by Jesus to his disciples.  The disciples had been arguing over who was the greatest disciple, and this was Jesus' response to their argument.  On the surface this verse seems to say (to me anyways) that those who welcome the children -- the innocent, the mold-able --  in the name of Jesus welcomes him.  Well, that most certainly would be true.

My study bible points out something more to this verse.  It says that in Jesus' day, children were viewed as their parent's property and had no social status within the community.  Hence children were being compared to the lowest and most vulnerable children in the community. 

Just like Jesus befriended the tax collectors and other people of lowly status in his time, so must we remember that the people we deem to be lowly -- prisoners, the homeless, people with addiction problems, people on welfare, people who are straight out disagreeable -- these are the people that Jesus wants us to reach.  It's a beautiful thing to be able to worship with Christians in church on Sunday, to hang out with them during the week, and to socialize with them.  Beyond that, however, we have to remember to show the love of Jesus to those we are most inclined to turn away from. 

Psalm 73:1 - 28
This is the first Psalm in the third book of Psalms.  It is a psalm of Asaph -- a person I do not yet know anything about.  The psalm speaks from the heart of a person who is trying to understand why the wicked prosper and the godly struggle. 

The writer of this psalm says that he used to envy the wicked and struggled not to abandon the Lord.  In the end, however, he realized that the destiny of those boastful, wealthy, wicked people was nothing but a path to destruction. 

This psalm was a great reminder that we are not alone in our struggles of remaining close to the Lord while the seemingly unworthy people prosper.  Let this psalm serve as a reminder that this is not just a problem of our day, and we are not the only ones to struggle with this.  The path of those who are wicked always leads to destruction -- always.  Our path leads to eternal life.  And to quote Jesus in verse 9:28 listed above: "Whoever is the least among you is the greatest."  The inverse to that implies that the seemingly greatest are the ones who are the least among us.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Witchcraft is Forbidden in Deuteronomy

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 18:1 - 20:20
  • Proverbs 12:10
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 18:1 - 20:20
Moses instructs the people of Israel on a variety of topics today.  These topics range from the Levites, to cities of refuge, to judgement and punishment of people's crimes, to prophecy and witchcraft.  The part I want to focus on is in Chapter 18, verses 10 & 11:
Do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead.
What I find most interesting about verses like these is the confirmation that things such as witchcraft, sorcery, and communicating with the dead certainly exist.  I recall how shocked I was, when reading the story of the Exodus from Egypt, of how the Pharaoh's sorcerers were able to perform many of the things Moses had done (though to a much lessor extent) using magic.

I am finding that being a Christian and truly studying the Word of God shows that there is more to the spiritual world than many people believe there is.  In the New Testament we are told of the casting out of demons and sickness.  In the Old Testament we are told of sorcery and of communication with the dead.  And that's just the parts of the bible that I've studied, which is only 1/4 of the bible.  I can't even imagine all that I will learn by the time I am done with this first thorough study of the bible.

Proverbs 12:10
The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.
This is a seemingly odd verse out, and at the moment I'm not sure how to interpret it right it this second.  As visions of puppies and kittens are dancing in my head, I have to first stop and realize that the bible is likely referring to livestock in this case -- aka, work animals -- not fuzzy little kittens.

This verse is also hard for me to interpret when I apply the definition of a "wicked" person as being a person without salvation.  But from my studies of the bible so far, I see being wicked as being more of a condition of the heart.  If your heart is wicked -- if you long to spite people, cause trouble, speak rudely to those around you, spread mischief and rumors, hurt others, etc -- then I can't imagine that you'd treat your work animals very well either. 

So when I take this verse under the conditions that (1) animals == work animals and (2) wicked == a condition of the heart; then the verse finally makes more sense to me.

I am 1/4 of the way through this bible study!  I have complete read: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Matthew, and Mark.  I am currently studying Deuteronomy, Luke, Psalms and Proverbs.  I have learned and questioned so mch around me.  I have opened up spiritually in ways I have not before.  In short, this experience is fulfilling.  It's enlightening.  It's outstanding.  It's life changing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Portraying a Christian Mood

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 9:7 - 27
  • Psalm 72:1 - 20
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 9:7 - 27
At the end of the last reading the disciples were sent out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons.  When the disciples returned to Jesus, he more or less tried to sneak everyone out to avoid the crowds.  The people found Jesus and his disciples regardless.

Instead of becoming irritated that he had been found, Jesus welcomed them and continued his teachings.  I find that in itself to be amazing.  Jesus was traveling, he was trying to slip away quietly, he had been teaching, healing, and casting out demons continually.  He attracted a crowd no matter where he went so was constantly bombarded with requests on a day to day basis.

So when Jesus was found by the crowd of 5000 men (no small crowd!), even an extraordinary person might have been a bit dismayed and perhaps might have been a bit less than friendly.  But not Jesus.  No, Jesus welcomed the crowd and embraced the chance to minister to them.  Not only did he minister to them, he fed every single one of them, thus using the opportunity to demonstrate God's power to the people.

I imagine we could all take a lesson on this one.  How many of us let the stressful/bad/wearing things going on in our lives radiate out of us and unto others?  Maybe we're having a bad day (or week/month/year!), or perhaps we're tired or weary, or perhaps we're stressed and busy.  When we feel like that, how do we treat those around us?  How do we treat others in those situations?

As a Christian, I feel like we should demonstrate certain qualities to others with our moods.  We should make them ask, "Why is this person so happy/pleasant/joyful/fulfilled/uplifted even though so much is going on in their lives?"  The moods and actions we display to others should reflect the fact that our hearts that have been changed by Jesus.

Psalm 72:1 - 20 
This Psalm, written by Solomon, is the last in the second book of Psalms.  This Psalm describes the traits a godly ruler will have (fair judgement, defender of poor, righteous, etc) and the profound blessings that the godly people would reap during his reign.  This truly is a beautiful, shining Psalm that shows the desired traits of our leaders, as well as the benefits that come from being a godly people with a godly ruler.  

I am excited to start book three of Psalms with my next reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Laws of Festivals, Judges, Trials, and Appointed Kings in Deuteronomy

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 16:1 - 17:20
  • Proverbs 12:8 - 9
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 16:1 - 17:20
 Moses told the people which festivals they were to celebrate each year.  These festivals were to be celebrated at the single place God chose for his sanctuary -- the people would have to travel there.  These festivals were: Passover, Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters.

Moses also informed the people of God's instructions for dealing with idol worship, disagreements, lawsuits and more.  The people were to appoint local judges and officials to hear cases.  Should these people be unable to decide, the case was to be brought to the Levitical priests to decide.  Should a person be found guilty, their punishment must be carried out exactly as stated by the judge's sentence. 

People who worship idols or natural elements (sun, moon, etc) were to be put to death, but only if at least two witnesses saw them.  Those witnesses had to throw the first stones before the rest of the community could join in.

The people were also told requirements for a king, if they were to appoint one.  First of all, the people must make sure that the Lord has chosen the king.  The king must be an Israelite and must live humbly as a king.  He shouldn't build himself a fortune, and he should keep the instructions written on a scroll to read daily so that he would stay true and humble to both the citizens and to the Lord.

It's interesting to see the parallels between our democratic society today and the society the Israelites were to be a part of.  It's always reassuring that the Lord insists on fairness out of the leaders and the judges, and that there must be multiple witnesses if someone was going to be convicted of a crime with a death penalty.  No one said that the Lord our creator had to attempt to be fair to us.  Yes, I know life isn't fair -- but the Lord lays basic rules in attempt so that people be treated fairly.  The Lord created us all -- what if He wasn't concerned with our treatment, with how we treat others?  I am truly thankful that we have a Lord who is concerned with our fair treatment.

Proverbs 12:8 - 9
8  A sensible person wins admiration, but a warped mind is despised.
9  Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be a self-important but have no food.
 It is better to be a sensible, ordinary person than a pompous, poor person with a warped mind!  Whenever you might think you're too ordinary, just remember the things that make you beautiful to God -- because those are the only things that truly matter.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Healing Power of Jesus is Still Relevant Today

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 8:40 - 9:6
  • Psalm 71:1 - 24
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 8:40 - 9:6
Jesus traveled to the other side of the lake where he was met by a large crowd.  A man named Jairus met Jesus at the shore and begged him to come heal his daughter, who was dying.  Jesus and his disciples headed out to the home of Jairus.

Along the way, a woman who had bled for twelve years straight touched the robe of Jesus, because she knew if she could but touch it, she would be healed.  When she touched the robe she was instantly healed -- and Jesus felt the healing power go into her.  He praised her extreme faith, saying that it had made her well.

Jairus was met by a messenger that told him it was too late -- the daughter had died.  Jesus told Jairus to have faith, and she would be healed.  Jesus walked into the house and told the girl to get up, and miraculously she did.

Those two miraculous healings took place within a short time of each other.  Although they were two entirely different problems -- one woman who couldn't stop bleeding, and a girl who had already died -- the result was the same.  They were both healed by faith in Jesus.

I am a firm believer that miracles and healing can be achieved to this very day through the power of Jesus Christ.  And I'm not just talking about healing while the person is still alive -- I believe that people can be raised from the dead.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think that happens often, but I think in extreme cases it is possible -- especially when a child dies.

Take for instance this very recent case, where a 26 week old baby was stillborn.  A baby born at 26 weeks has a small chance of survival as it is, but this one was declared dead by multiple doctors.  Twelve hours after the baby died, the mother insisted on seeing the baby in the refrigerated morgue.  There she found that her 26 week old, premature, freezing baby was still alive.  Her response was: "I'm a believer. All of this was a miracle from God."  Indeed it was truly a miracle from the Lord.

If faith alone can (on very very rare occasion) raise a person from the dead, healing from ordinary diseases should be easy.  Healing from terminal illnesses isn't much of a stretch beyond that.  Miracles are still very much occurring today.  We don't need to see Jesus in person for a miracle to occur.  We don't need to touch his robe.  Faith is what is needed.  These people (the woman and Jairus) came to Jesus because they had faith in him before they ever met him.  So have faith and study the word of God.  That's my plan anyway, so that if anything ever comes against my family, I will be equipped with all the bible has to say about that situation.  

Psalm 71:1 - 24
This Psalm doesn't seem to be attributed to a single person.  My study bible doesn't offer me a suggestion of who the author might have been.  I don't think it was David because the psalm doesn't have the same extreme highs and lows that I am used to reading in the psalms of David.

This Psalm is similar to the psalms of David in that the writer is begging the Lord for help, begging that he not be abandoned to his enemies.  The writer seems to be older (And now, in my old age, don't set me aside" verse 9), and he seems to have led a pretty straightforward life in God's favor until this point.

This Psalm might not have the extreme highs and lows of the psalms of David, but it is still a lovely example of true faith in the Lord.  The writer knows that the Lord has been with him his entire life.  He prays to God to be delivered from his enemies, and he praises the Lord over and over.  He tells of how he always has praised the Lord, and how he will continue to praise the Lord,  Psalms truly is a book of praise and worship to the Lord.  It's certainly the book to turn to when you're struggling to get through hard times in your life. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tithing, Debt Cancellation and Slavery in the Old Testament; Godly Advice is an Extension of Virtue

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 13:1 - 15:23
  • Proverbs 12:5 - 7
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 13:1 - 15:23
These three chapters in Deuteronomy had many interesting topics, including tithing, debt cancellation and the release of slaves.  Rather than write a long post on just one of these topics, I think I'd like to write a little bit about each one.
Tithing, Debt Cancellation and Slavery in the Old Testament
I am always interested to learn what the bible says about tithing.  I've seen little about it so far.  Chapter 14 says that the family must take their 1/10 tithe of their crops and eat it before the Lord.  If it's too far to journey with the crops, they should be sold and then the money should be used for a great feast and celebration before the Lord.  Every third year, the money or crops should be given to the Levitites, the widows, the foreigners and the orphans.

As I've mentioned before, my tithe is a combination of donations to my church and to various Christian charities that I believe in.  I don't know enough about tithing to know if that is acceptable -- should I be giving 10% to my church, and then contribute to charities in addition to that?  This passage at least gives me reassurance that tithing can be a combination of the two, and it seems like the formula is 67% to the church, 33% to charities.  I am certain I will learn tons more about tithing, but for now I at least have something to go on!  And without looking at my budget right now, I can say that's probably close to the ratio I have going on now.  

I thought the topic on debt cancellation was interesting.  Chapter 15 tells us that debts were to be cancelled every 7th year if they were not paid back.  I think that many types of debt in the US today also have statues of limitations -- the most common being 7 years.  There are debts that are not subject to those rules, but credit cards, utility bills, etc often have limits like that imposed.  I think it's interesting how I can read about debt cancellation in Moses's time and still see a correlation to today's time.

Chapter 15 also discussed slavery.  You were to release your slaves after a period of six years, and you were supposed to send them away with a generous gift.  I hear people often refuse to even consider Christianity because the bible talks of slaves.  But I have yet to see how slavery in the bible is the same as slavery as we seem to think about it -- with an entire single population being forced into lifelong slavery.  I certainly haven't read enough of the bible to take a stance, but I can say that the things I've read so far -- such as freeing your fellow slaves with generous gifts after a six year period -- seems to fall more along the lines of indentured servants than slavery.  But please remember -- this is my opinion as of this point in time.  I am almost 1/4 through the bible -- so I still have quite a bit to read that could change my mind!

Proverbs 12:5 - 7
5  The plans of the godly are just; the advice of the wicked is treacherous.
6  The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.
7  The wicked die and disappear, but the family of the godly stands firm.
More words of wisdom to consider from Proverbs.  These words make a lot of sense -- the passages about the godly and their words and their advice makes me think of the virtue ethical theory.  In this theory (from what I remember in college), if a person was deemed to be virtuous, then by default any and all decisions that they made would automatically be considered virtuous and correct.

So I see these verses as an extension of the ethical theory of virtue -- if a person is godly, then the things they do, the plans they make, the advice they give -- is automatically just and right.  Now of course that theory has many flaws, I was just noting the similarity between these passages and that ethical theory.  It makes sense though -- if a person truly is godly, and their plans are godly, their lives are godly -- then the Lord has bestowed upon them favor, blessing and wisdom to pass along to others.  So where should you turn to when you are in need of advice or direction?  Turn to the godly person you trust! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jesus Calms the Storm and Casts out Demons

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 8:22 - 39
  • Psalm 70:1 - 5
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 8:22 - 39
This short reading in Luke tells two stories that have previously been detailed in other gospels.  The first of the two is the story of how Jesus calmed the storm on the lake.  Jesus and his disciples were on a boat, crossing a lake (my study bible says the Sea of Galilee but I don't know how they determined that) while Jesus napped below deck.

A fierce storm arrived and the boat was quickly filling with water.  All this time Jesus slept.  Eventually the disciples wakened Jesus to tell him they were all about to drown.  Jesus got up and instantly rebuked the waves and the wind.

The disciples were amazed.  Jesus had been performing miracles all along -- healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons -- but now they had seen him control the very forces of nature itself.  At this point I don't think Jesus had revealed his true nature to the disciples, but they were certainly wondering who Jesus was and how he could command even the sea.

 The second story was an account of how Jesus cast out many demons from a man named Legion.  This man was so possessed that he could break free of any chains placed upon him.  He ran around stark naked and the people of the town were scared of him. 

These demons called out the true nature of Jesus -- that he was the son of God.  I think it's amazing how the demons knew who Jesus was before Jesus actually revealed himself.  All of these spirits, all of these demons, all of these things we don't see -- they follow a very natural order, and Jesus is the authority above all of them. 

Authority.  That seems to be the topic of today.  The authority of Jesus above all.  The authority of Jesus to heal people, to cast out demons, to perform miracles, to feed the hungry and to calm storms.  I know that Jesus allows us to use his authority, but I'm unsure yet as to what that entails.  But I do know that, as a Christian, I should learn these things, because Jesus expected his students to learn and grow -- not learn and stand still. 

When Jesus calmed the storm he asked his disciples where their faith was.  Had they had faith, they could have calmed the storm.  With the proper faith, they could cast out any demon.  With the proper faith, they could heal people.  So, the question I am left with for today is: What is proper faith?

Psalm 70:1 - 5
This quick Psalm combined the basic elements of the Psalms of David.  There was a plea for help and vengeance, as well as praise and worship of the Lord.  If we look at these Psalms as a template for how to pray, then it is clear that we should be praising the Lord in our prayers, no matter how dire our situation at the moment.  We should certainly bring our troubles before the Lord, but at the same time never forget to praise Him. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to Show the Lord your God that you Love Him

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 11:1 - 12:32
  • Proverbs 12:4
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Deuteronomy 11:1 - 12:32
11:22:  Be careful to obey all commands I am giving you.  Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.
 Moses continued to talk to the people of Israel about obeying the Lord in their new land.  He told them where to worship (in a centralized location), and how to worship (how the sacrifices should be carried out, what can and can't be eaten), what to do once they reach the land (tear down all sanctuaries to false gods) and what not to do (worship false idol).

Moses reminded the people that the children had not experienced the same things that they had.  They did not see the mighty hand of God as he delivered the people from Israel, nor did they see his wrath as he opened the ground to swallow Dathan and Abiram.  Moses tells them to teach the commandments to the children, ensure they know them -- to write the commandments on their doorposts, and tie them to their wrists and foreheads.

The verse that stuck out to me the most was verse 11:22, written above.  This verse tells us to show our love for the Lord by obeying him and by leading the life he'd have us to lead.  That's a profound statement.  How many of us (myself included) profess to love the Lord wholeheartedly, yet intentionally disobey his commands for us?

I don't think that we are unable to love the Lord if we don't obey his commands -- plenty of children love their parents, even though they don't always obey them.  But I do think that, if we truly love the Lord, we should think about our actions. 

Suppose you are married, and you know that your spouse despises something you frequently do.  Let's say this thing you do really hurts them, and you can tell you have caused them pain.  Out of love you might stop doing the thing that hurts them.  But if you don't stop doing this thing, it not only hurts your spouse, but it can tear your relationship apart -- to the point where it feels irreparable and ends in divorce.

Our relationship with the Lord can always be repaired, no matter how far we have strayed from Him.  But when we consider sinning against the Lord, perhaps we ought to step back and think about how this hurts the Lord -- who we to love above everything else.  And if we love the Lord above all else, why are we intentionally sinning against Him?

Proverbs 12:4
A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.
Wow, that's a powerful verse.  I haven't yet read anything about what makes a good wife.  I will have to pay attention for that topic as I come upon it in the future.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Does One Fear the Lord?

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 9:1 - 10:22
  • Proverbs 12:2 - 3
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 9:1 - 10:22 
Moses continues his monologue to the people of Israel.  Now that I think about it, this monologue makes a lot of sense.  Moses is addressing the second generation of Israelites.  Because the time is near for the people to enter the promised land, that means that almost everyone from the rebellious first generation has already died. 

It must have been odd for this generation.  They grew up in the wilderness, being led (quite literally) on a journey by the Lord.  They might not have realized the severity and oppression of the situation they had left.  They also might not have realized how rebellious their parents had been throughout the entire journey. 

So Moses continued to tell them their history.  He told them of their many rebellions.  He told them how he interceded on their behalf when the Lord was so angry that he was going to destroy them all.  Moses told them that it wasn't because they were good that the Lord was giving them this land - instead it was because the people in the land were more wicked than they, and the Lord had promised plentiful land to their ancestors. 

Moses concludes by giving them guidelines to live by.  In verses 10:12 - 13, Moses outlines what God requires from his people.  These four things are:
  1. Fear the Lord
  2. Live in a way that pleases the Lord
  3. Love and serve the Lord with all your heart and soul
  4. Always obey the Lord's commands
Looking at those four things, there is one that leaves me with a bit of wonder.  What does it mean to fear the Lord?  Should I literally be afraid of Him?  I don't think that would be possible for me -- I love and trust the Lord too much to literally be afraid of Him.  It doesn't seem that the words trust and fear go together.  Fear and obey, maybe -- obeying out of fear.  But trust -- how can one trust someone they are afraid of?

My study bible notes that fearing the Lord meant that the Lord "wanted his people to recognize their finiteness and unworthiness in His divine presence".  That does make more sense to me.  The people who lived in the presence of the Lord remained fearful of entering His presence if they were not purified, for the holiness of the Lord would instantly kill them. 

Every single one of us is completely unworthy of the Lord's salvation for us.  We are unworthy of His forgiveness.  Yet the Lord still loves us, and the Lord still provides for us!  It's truly amazing.

So what does it mean to fear the Lord?  Honestly, I don't know yet.  I'll have to keep reading, and see what the Word of God says to me about this topic in the future.

Proverbs 12:2 - 3
2  The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness.
3  Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.
 So what's worse than doing something wicked?  Planning it!  Have you ever planned something -- an event, an outing, a night out -- where you knew that you were planning to be sinful that night?  How that must anger the Lord when we plan in advance to sin. 

I find the second verse interesting -- I would not have linked wickedness and instability together on my own.  But it makes sense.  I am to handle each and every thing thrown at me in life better because I have the Lord in my life.  I know that the Lord is always there for me, no matter how dire the situation, no matter what I am going through.  He is with me.  He is my stability.  My roots are planted in Him, and they can't be up-heaved.  The Lord and my salvation are my stability.  Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Psalms -- A Book for Those Who are Suffering

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 69:1 -18
  • Psalm 69:19 - 36
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 691: 36
This Psalm screams desperation.  David is suffering terribly from the wrath of the wicked.  He compares his suffering to that of almost drowning -- he says the flood waters are up to his neck and he can't find a foothold to cling to (69:1 - 2).  David says that he is hungry and he is thirsty, yet his enemies sit before fine tables (69:21 - 22).  Everyone he knows -- even his own brothers -- pretend that they don't know him (69:8).

David says that he has suffered much humiliation for worshiping the Lord.  He says he is scoffed at when he fasts (69:10) and made fun of for showing sorrow (69:11).  He says that he is the favorite subject of gossip, even among drunkards (69:12).  David is suffering greatly because people are telling lies about him.  He says that those who hate him outnumber the hairs on his head (6:4).

This Psalm paints a very desolate picture of the situation David is in.  He is outnumbered and everyone seems to hate him, even his own family.  He is suffering emotionally and physically.  Those who despise the Lord have all taken up issue with David himself.  He is carrying a terrible burden.

I can't imagine being in such a dark place.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I felt like I had no one on this earth to back me up, to be on my side.  I can't imagine how desperate it would feel to have everyone become so spiteful towards me.  He said he felt like he was drowning, and the end was very very near (flood waters up to his neck).

All these Psalms of David make me desperate to read his story and find out everything that was going on at the time these were written.  There's obviously so much more to the story than what I've learned in Sunday school -- primarily that David defeated a giant, was the least of his brothers, and was the greatest king of all (until Jesus Christ, of course).  Yet obviously there's a big, sinister story of suffering I don't yet know about.  Reading these Psalms makes my spirit agonize for David's suffering, so I would like to find out the rest of the story.

Like David's other desperate Psalms, this one highlights David's complete faith throughout his turmoils.  David knows the Lord is there, he knows the Lord will avenge him -- he just doesn't know how long he will have to endure the terrible suffering.  And, like the Psalms before it, this one ends in praise to the Lord.

These Psalms are written to speak through those going through the hardest parts of their lives.  They remind us that we aren't the only ones who have suffered, and we are not the only ones who might have felt abandoned by the Lord at times.  But these Psalms remind us have faith, and to sing praises to the Lord regardless -- because the Lord is faithful to those who are faithful to Him.  And for that, Lord, I sing my praises to you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed -- How to Get Out of the Rut You are Planted In

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 7:36 - 8:3
  • Luke 8:4 - 21
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 7:36 - 8:21
The first part of chapter eight tells the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed.  I recall reading this parable and its explanation before -- not once, but twice!  The first time I read and wrote about it was while reading the book of Matthew, and the second time I read and wrote about it was while reading the gospel of Mark. 

The parable is about a farmer who scatters seed.  Some seed lands in pathways and gets stepped on and eaten by birds.  Other seed falls among rocks.  It starts to grow and then wilts.  Still other seed falls among weeds and eventually dies out.  Finally, some seed lands on fertile soil and produces an abundant harvest.

Here is a summary about what each type of seed represents:
  • The Seed Eaten by Birds
    • These are the people who hear the message of Jesus Christ, yet Satan speaks to them and therefore these people do not believe, and never get saved.
  • The Seed that Landed in Rocks
    • These are the people that joyfully receive the message of Christ, but have no roots.  Therefore they believe for a time but fall away to temptation
  • The Seed that Lands Among Weeds
    • These people hear and believe the message, but the message is soon crowded out by the pleasures of this life. 
  • The Seed that Falls on Fertile Soil
    • These are the people that hear the message, cling to it, and produce their harvest.
When this parable is told about the seeds, it might seem like one doesn't have a choice about what type of seed they are -- for the seed is randomly scattered.  But that is entirely not true.  The great thing about this message is that you CAN control what kind of seed you are.  Here's how I see it:

  • The Seed Eaten by Birds
    • If you hear the message of Christ, but are still struggling to believe -- don't give up.  Keep doing what you're doing -- reading Christian blogs, talking to friends who are saved, perhaps reading a bit through the bible.  Visit a few local churches, see if you can feel the spirit moving in you.  Better yet, take a preemptive measure and pray for your spirit to be moved!  I know it seems odd to pray to a God you're not sure you believe in yet, but whether or not you believe, He is there.  And he is not willing that any should perish without knowing Him.  He will soften your heart.  So open your heart, feel -- and kick Satan and all those little doubts out to the curb.
  • The Seed that Landed in Rocks
    • You're on the right path!  You felt the joy of the Lord take over your spirit.  But maybe you lost your way.  Perhaps you got angry at the Lord, perhaps you got preoccupied with life and forgot how the joy of the Lord made your heart sing.  The good news is you can get that back at any time.  Pick up your bible, start studying it.  Pray for the Lord to overtake your spirit once again.  Focus once you receive it.  Study the Word -- the Word is your roots, so plant them firmly now.
  • The Seed that Lands Among Weeds
    • It's time to get out that weed whacker!  You've heard the message, but perhaps it didn't overtake your spirit completely.  Perhaps deep down you know there's a God, but you figure you have time to add Him to your life.  For now, you're just going to live your life the way you want to and think about salvation later.  Life does not stop being fun just because you become a Christian.  And your life doesn't instantly have to become perfect, either.  You need to bring God into your life NOW.  There might not be a tomorrow.  There might not be a tonight!  At any moment you could die, or Christ could return.  I used to be among the weeds.  I knew the Lord was there, I had deep faith in the Lord, but I didn't listen to His call.  I would sometimes wake up in the morning and run to my children, afraid that the Lord had returned overnight and taken them and left me.  I used to wish the rapture would hold off just long enough for me to "enjoy" my life.  What I didn't realize is that enjoying life and obeying the Lord are not two separate things at all.  In fact I feel more satisfied with my life now than I ever have before.  So keep that in mind -- it's not a choice between enjoyment and faith -- the two go hand-in-hand.
  • The Seed that Falls on Fertile Soil
    • Congratulations on growing maturity in your faith!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Remember Where your Blessings Come From

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 7:1 - 8:20
  • Proverbs 12:1
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 7:1 - 8:20
Chapters 7 and 8 of Deuteronomy convey a strong warning to the people of Israel.  In these chapters Moses summarizes the people's struggles with food and water on the journey to the promised land.  Moses reminds the people that the Lord provided them with manna and with water.  Their clothes did not wear out for the entire 40 years, and their feet never blistered or swelled in all of their travels.  The Lord provided for every single need of the Israelites for forty years.   

Moses tells the people what the land that will be theirs is going to be like.  It is going to be overflowing with food and water.  There will be wheat and barley, grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.  They will lack for absolutely nothing.

Moses also tells the people what their lives will be like.  The people will lead blessed lives.  They will be fertile -- we are told that there will be no men or women who are childless (7:14).  They are told that the Lord will protect them from illness and from the diseases that they suffered in Egypt (as a side note, I wonder what those are?).

Moses does have some warnings for the people.  Most of it involves not being drawn up into worship of other gods.  Some of the ways this can happen is by marrying someone who worships for other gods.  For this reason, the people are order not to intermarry with the people of the lands.  They are also told to tear down all the alters, destroy the alters, and to not covet any of the gold coverings of these idols. 

One warning struck higher with me than any of the others, though.  Moses tells them to be careful, when they are happy and wealthy, have fine homes and are prosperous, to remember where these blessings came from. 

The following is a clip from 7:17 - 18
He did all this so you would never say to yourself, 'I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy'.  Remember the Lord your God.  He is the one who gives you power to be successful ...
This reminds me that, even though we might have worked with our own hands to obtain our comfort and happiness, none of it would have been possible without the Lord.  We wouldn't even have the power to be successful without the Lord.  Those of us who are highly driven -- and like to attribute our success to being driven, need to remember that it was the Lord who made us this way.  Without the Lord -- we could be driven and we could work hard, yet not gain comfort in our lives.  These chapters are a nice reminder that we need to remember the Lord, even when we are sitting comfortable in our fine houses with plenty to eat.

Proverbs 12:1
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.
This verse is a nice reminder to me that this entire bible study project is a lesson in discipline and correction.  After all, I want to study every single word of the bible so that I can learn -- learn how the Lord expects me to live for every minute of my life.  To learn how the Lord wants me to worship him.  To learn how the Lord wants me to treat others.  To learn how the Lord wants me to treat my children.  To learn the history of my religion.  To learn to future of my religion.  To L-E-A-R-N. 

But it's hard to have learning without correction.  While I'm learning all these things, I must apply them to my life and correct my ways.  I must love correction.  And my reward is the wisdom that I gain each and every day, and the ways I change my life to be more pleasing to the Lord.  Thank you, Lord, for giving us your Word.  Thank you for correcting us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Compassion of the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 7:11 - 7:35
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 7:11 - 7:35
Today's passages started out with a bang.  It's funny how often that happens when we are reading about the amazing life of Jesus!  We are told that Jesus was walking along when he intercepted a funeral procession for the only son of a widow.  This widow was very distraught, for her livelihood was now at stake. 

Verses 7:13 - 15 says that the heart of Jesus overflowed with compassion for the woman and so he raised the son from the dead.  That act alone is an amazing miracle, but it's not what I want to focus on.  The words that caught my attention were "overflowing compassion."

How wonderful is it that our Lord -- the creator of billions of people -- can have compassion in His heart for all of us?  That is especially awe inspiring when you think of how often we refuse to have compassion for others, even those that we love.  Yet the Lord has compassion for all of us,even though we don't deserve it.

The reading goes on to talk about how the Pharisees had rejected Jesus because he didn't act in the manner they thought he should.  They apparently thought that in order to be the Messiah, that Jesus had to act like a king -- wear fancy clothes, dine with the best of the society and religious leaders, live in a palace -- mainly, they wanted Jesus to direct all of his attention on them -- and they wanted him to do so in splendor. 

I am so thankful that our Lord does not act like society.  Our Lord is forgiving, yet our society is condemning.  Our Lord is gracious, yet society is selfish.  Our Lord is filled with compassion, yet society has a cold heart.  Our Lord is filled with love for all, yet as a society we tear each other apart. 

Thank you Lord for being a friend of sinners.  For loving us even when we fall short.  For forgiving us of all the horrid things we do.  For sending Jesus Christ to bridge the gap between your holiness and our sinfulness.  Thank you, Lord for being forever gracious to us.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Does One Become Righteous?

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 5:1 - 6:25
  • Proverbs 11:29 - 31
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 5:1 - 6:25
I loved these two chapters in Deuteronomy.  These chapters both sum up the commandments and tell us why we should obey them.  These chapters also sum up the events surrounding the issuance of the commandments.  I have a feeling I'm going to really like Deuteronomy for the way it summarizes Israel's journey in a more conversational tone.

There were two sets of verses that most caught my attention today.  The first is 6:5 - 7:
5  You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength
6  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.
7  Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  
 I was thrilled when I read verse 6:5 -- to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength -- because it is such a famous verse, and one I love dearly.  And unlike some of my other favorite verses (like John 3:16), I didn't know where this verse was in the bible.  Such a lovely verse to live by!

Verses 6 and 7 struck me differently.  Here we are told to wholeheartedly give ourselves to the commands, as well as teach them to our children every chance we get.  When I read this it made me wonder how often do I wholeheartedly give in to the Lord's commands?  It seems that I give away to failure too easily.  And don't get me wrong, I'm not talking just about the Big Ten -- but I'm talking about all the ways that we are supposed to live according to Jesus Christ. 

The verse about teaching the children made me pause.  I take my children to church each Sunday and they enjoy going and learning.  I ask them about the things they learned, and I offer them children's bible study packages to complete for "bible bucks".  But what I don't do very often is discuss with them the way that the Lord wants us to live.  I realize now that I need to make an effort to teach this to my children so that they are equipped to handle all of life's situations with grace.

The second set of verses that caught my attention are verses 6:24 - 25:
24  And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day.
25  For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.
 We aren't being told that we need to obey arbitrary commands because the Lord wants us to lead lives that are less fun.  No, we're being told that these commands preserve our lives and that the Lord blesses those who follow his commands. 

I especially like verse 25, because I have seen many references to the righteous and the godly vs. the wicked and those who don't obey.  But this is the first place (that I recall) where we are told how to be righteous.  And it is summed up very nicely, isn't it?  To be righteous, to carry all the blessings and protection of the righteous, one must simply follow the Lord's commands.  That's it.

Proverbs 11:29 - 31
29  Those who bring trouble on their families inherit the wind.  The fool will be a servant to the wise.
30  The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.
31  If the righteous are rewarded here on earth, what will happen to wicked sinners?
I love how the word "righteous" is used in these verses, after I just wrote about the meaning of the word.  I suppose that if the righteous (those who follow the Lord's commands, as noted above) are rewarded on the earth, so must the wicked be punished on earth.  I know that is not always the case, or that might not seem to be the case from what we see, but I'm really not concerned about the punishment of the wicked.  It will come sooner or later.  But I love that the Lord protects and provides for us who trust in Him.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Father to the Fatherless, Defender of Widows

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 68:1 - 18
  • Psalm 68:19 - 35
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 68
This Psalm seems slightly different than most of the other Psalms.  I don't know quite how to explain it -- there are the normal calls for the Lord to vindicate His people, and much praising of the Lord, but it is all combined with storytelling.  Verses 5 and 6 are my favorite from this psalm:
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows -- this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
For some reason I just find those verses really comforting.  I am not the fatherless, I am not lonely, and I am not a widow -- but nonetheless, I know these verses are for me as well as everyone else.  Our Father in Heaven is all things we need and desire.

This Psalm also talked about Mount Zion and Mount Sinai.  This lead me on an internet search -- how many biblical sites are there to see in and around Israel?  The answer is a phenomenal amount.

Israel has never been on my desired places to visit list.  Probably because of the constant turmoil there, I had no desire to be in the danger zone.  But after doing this research, I see there is so much more to Israel than violence and terrorism.

The history there is absolutely amazing.  All the sites linked to the bible and to Jesus and his ministry.  The more I have read the bible, the more I have become interested in finding biblical sites in today's world. 

To make a long story short, Israel is now on my radar.  I definitely want to visit -- I don't think any other vacation can offer me the fulfillment that this one would.  I will make it a reality one of these years -- as long as the Lord doesn't come back before then!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Words of Life -- Lovely Little Tidbits to Ponder Straight from the Mouth of Jesus

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 6:39 - 7:10

Luke 6:39 - 7:10
Jesus gives us quite a bit to ponder in these few verses of Luke.  It's a hodgepodge of great verses to evaluate our lives against, so I'm just going to address these lovely little tidbits separately. 
39  Can one blind person lead another?  Won't they both fall into a ditch?
It is a great thing when a person manages to find faith and salvation with another new Christian.  But it is also important that we find a seasoned teacher to guide us along on our journey.

40  Students are not greater than their teacher.  But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
Even though we need a teacher at first, we can study so that we can be trained to help others.  I started this blog with the intention of becoming trained so that I didn't feel so clueless about my faith.  Along the way I am learning so much that I feel confident enough to help others in some situations.  I still have so much more learning to go, and no one can ever know everything there is to know about the bible because new things are revealed each time you read it -- even in verses you've previously read over and over.  Regardless, I love that I am able to apply the bible to my everyday life, and at least point others to sections of the bible that are pertinent to their questions and/or struggles.  If my faith has opened up to me so much in such a short time, I can't imagine what it will be like when I've studied the entire bible through for the first time!
41  How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.
 What is interesting to me about this verse is that Jesus doesn't say that we can't help others remove sins in their lives.  But he is saying that we will be unable to do so if we can't deal with our own problems first.  This reminds me of the post I wrote a few days ago about the dangerous "holier than thou" mentality.

45  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  What you say flows from what is in your heart.
I've seen a lot of references to how your words can bring life or death.  I believe that a big part of this is because the words that come out of your mouth reflect what is in your heart.  If your heart is filled with hatred, anger, despair, lies, revenge, faithlessness, etc -- then the words you speak simply reflect what is already there.  You have death in your heart, and therefore it is death that comes out of your mouth.  If you speak hope, love, faith, fellowship, friendship, compassion, understanding, etc -- then you have life in your heart, and the words of life will come out of your mouth. 

But what if we have a good heart, yet still say some bad things?  We all say things we don't mean at some point or another, but when something we think we don't mean comes out of our mouth, we need to truly our heart to see why that thought lingered there in the first place, and why it was so easily released from our mouth.  I don't think we are judged for any thought that comes through our head, but instead judged on those thoughts we act upon.  We are told in more than one place that it is better to cut off a sinful part of the body than for us to let that part sin.  That includes our tongue.  I believe sin is in our actions and in the things we say.  So just because we stifle a thought we know shouldn't be there doesn't mean we are evil.  It just means that we are human in nature, and there is always room for us to improve ourselves to become more Christlike.  

What if a person has an evil heart, but manages to fool the people with his words?  The words that come out of our mouths reveal the person's nature to man.  Man can be fooled with words.  But the Lord knows our heart, so in the end these people will be judged for what is in their heart, not for what they have done or said on this earth.  It's hard for our human nature to sit back and see the unfairness.  But in the end the righteous will be celebrated, and all who fail to judge themselves before the Lord in this life will be judged.

49  Anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation.  When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.
 I certainly don't want to collapse into a heap of ruins at the first storm that passes by.  That is why I am finally making a very detailed study of the bible, so that I can learn how to build my foundation.  Everything the Lord has to say to us is in this book, yet how many (including myself) have never read it through, let alone studied it thoroughly?  I thank the Lord for calling me to do this!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seek the Lord with All Your Heart and you will Find Him

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 4:1 - 49
  • Proverbs 11:28
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 4:1 - 49
Moses continued give his monologue to he people of Israel.   In chapter four he stresses greatly on being faithful to the Lord.  He reminded them that there was a covenant, there were laws, and there were things that anger the Lord (such as idol worship).  But if the people were to only obey these things, if they would only stay faithful to the Lord, then they would be blessed with long lives in the land that the Lord had provided to them.

Moses also tells us that those who break this covenant will be scattered among the nations.  They will eventually start worshiping other gods and forget about the Lord. 

Even though we might be scattered, one glorious promise still remains: (4:29)
But from there you will search again for the Lord your God.  And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.
We might be reading the Old Testament here, but that promise is still true to today.  The Lord is merciful and forgiving, and He is waiting for us who have scattered to turn back and seek Him.  And when we do, if we search with our hearts and souls, He will be there for us to find.  Isn't that wonderful?

Proverbs 11:28
Trust in your money and down you go!  But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.
It is so hard to have money and not to trust in it, isn't it?  Even those of us who have been blessed financially by the Lord and who realize it can still fall into this trap.  The Lord loves the poor, for they rely upon Him for everything that comes their way.  They are eternally thankful for every day that they manage to make an end meet. 

No matter how little or how much money we have, we must still remember that we can't trust in it.  It can be gone tomorrow.  But the Lord is there for us always, so we should constantly be thankful that he meets (and often exceeds) our needs.  Thank you, Lord, for blessing me and my family. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thirteen Ways to Distinguish Ourselves from Sinners

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 6:12 - 38
  • Psalm 67:1 - 7
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 6:12 - 38 
32  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them.
33  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!
34  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
 Jesus is telling us that even those who are unsaved can do good things for others.  Our job as Christians is to distinguish ourselves from sinners.  We have to do things that will make people stop and take notice of our generous, calm, and forgiving nature.  Something that makes people wonder: Wow -- how is it this person is so much different than I am?  Is becoming saved really that powerful?

Unfortunately for many Christians, the answer to that question is no.  Well, let me qualify that statement.  Becoming saved, receiving the power of Christ -- it's the most powerful experience of your life.  But those who actually buckle down and let this power permanently make over their lives are fewer and further between. 

So what sort of things are we supposed to do to distinguish ourselves from sinners?  Today's reading in Luke offers an abundance of suggestions:
  1. Love your enemies (6:27)
  2. Do good to those who hate you (6:27)
  3. Bless those who curse you (6:28)
  4. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek (6:29)
  5. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also (6:29)
  6. Give to anyone who asks (6:30)
  7. When things are taken from you, don't try to get them back (6:30)
  8. Do to others as you would have them do to you (6:31)
  9. Lend without expecting to be repaid (6:35)
  10. Be compassionate (6:36)
  11. Do not judge others (6:37)
  12. Do not condemn others (6:37)
  13. Give and you will receive (6:38)

Psalm 67:1 - 7
This simple, short Psalm calls for the entire world to know and praise the Lord.  And what better way for the entire world to know the Lord, than for the people of the Lord to truly distinguish themselves from amongst the sinners?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't Covet the Blessings of Others

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:29
  • Proverbs 11:27
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:29
These first three chapters of Deuteronomy are a monologue by Moses that summarizes the forty-year journey of the Israelites.  I found the compact telling of the events to be quite interesting.  Sometimes I think the overall story can be hard to follow when it's dragged out over multiple books.  Not that I think the story "dragged" -- I have learned so much more than I ever thought possible.  I will say that the details of their journey -- where they traveled, how long they were at each place, etc -- were hard for me to follow.  So this concise summary is nice.

I noticed something in Chapter two about the lands the Israelites traveled through.  The Israelites traveled through many lands and conquered much land as they went.  But there were lands they were told specifically not to touch.  The Lord even told them He would not give them any of that land.

Why?  Because the Lord had already given it to someone else.  That land had been promised and provisioned for others, and it would be theirs.  Yet the people of Israel were not without land -- soon enough the Lord gave them their own lands to inhabit.

What I liked about these passages is how the Lord protects His people -- even from His own people.  The Lord had rewarded those people with land and it was solely theirs.  The Israelites were God's chosen people.  He led them out of Egypt and personally stayed within in their camp.  He led them for 40 years.  They committed offense after offense due to their continuous lack of faith, yet the Lord still resided with them. 

One might even be jealous of the blessings bestowed upon the Israelites.  Perhaps one might feel like the blessings would be better spent on them.  But the point of all I've read comes down to this -- The Lord has an infinite amount of blessings to bestow upon His people.  All those who are faithful to Him will receive their share.  And the Lord will honor the blessings He has given to you, as long as you honor the one who gave them to you. 

So next time you feel like God gives more favor to another person, keep this in mind.  The Lord has plenty to give to each of us.  The Lord loves us and he wants to bestow these things upon us.  And if you're looking towards the blessings someone else has, you're missing what is right in front of your face.  Don't be shortsighted. 

Thank you, Lord for the profound blessings you have bestowed upon me and family.  May your strength stay with me and might your Word remind me to always be aware and always to be thankful for the blessings you have given to me.  Amen.

Proverbs 11:27
If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!
That's a strong warning.  What do I want to find me, good or evil?  Of course I want to find favor, so I must remember to set my sights upon the Lord, for He will never lead me down a perpetually dark path.  When I follow Him I will find the light.  It is always there, beaming and beckoning to us from wherever we are.  We have but to seek it.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Holier Than Thou; True Joy of Salvation

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 5:29 - 6:11
  • Psalm 66:1 - 20
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 5:29 - 6:11 
5:31 - 32 "Healthy people don't need a doctor - sick people do.  I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent."
This quote was how Jesus answered the disgruntled Pharisees who complained about how Jesus frequently feasted with the lowliest of all -- tax collectors.  If Jesus were to come back today and feast with someone, what types of people do you think it would be? 

Alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes?  What about politicians, or highly paid executives who wouldn't think twice about throwing someone under the bus to further their profits?  Or prisoners serving out varied sentences, or the sex offender living in your neighborhood?  How about you?  And how about me?

We are all sinners, and we all need to repent.  I never forget that I am a sinner, no matter how hard I try to commit my life to the Lord.  A sense of righteousness is dangerous.  I don't know about you, but I would be thrilled to dine with Jesus Christ, no matter who the company may be.

I still haven't read enough of the bible to decide if I have a true opinion on severity of sin.  I only know what I've read so far.  Those studies have taught me that adultery is a particularly devastating sin that affects one's entire life.  I just read about how murderers were required to be put to death. 

Severity of sin aside, the only sin I know can't be forgiven is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  All other sins, no matter how bad they are, can be repented of.  And I might not have ever murdered anyone, but that time I decided to try shoplifting in high school would keep me out of heaven just the same without the atonement of Jesus Christ for my sins.

The more I study the bible and the more I try to align myself to the Lord's will, is the more that I have to fight any feelings of righteous that spring out from inside me.  All of these people who might appear to sin more than you do need Jesus Christ just as much as you do.  They need Jesus Christ just as much as I do. 

These are the people we need to minister to.  These are the people we need to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with.  Jesus spent his time in their company because those people needed him most.  We must never let our so-called "righteousness" get the better of us so that we ever feel more worthy of salvation than another person.

We must remember that we are ALL God's children.  He loves each and every one of us.  And it's the prodigal son that gets the most attention from the parent.  When I was a teenager my younger brother decided to live with my father in California while my mother and I resided in Missouri.  My mom's heart would ache over the loss of him.  I would often have to fight jealousy, because I was the child that stayed -- but that rarely seemed to be appreciated when compared to her sense of loss for my brother. 

I'm twice as old as I was then.  I have children of my own.  I now understand what was going on then.  I was never loved less, but I was the one that was there.  I was where I was supposed to be, and therefore I was not the one who was missed.  But that didn't mean she loved me any less, she just longed for my brother more because she couldn't have him at the time.

Our Father in Heaven is precisely that -- our Father.  And our Father longs greatly for His lost children.  Whenever a feeling of righteousness rises up in my throat, that is what I have to remind myself.  I am a sinner.  I repent.  I am forgiven.  But many others are sinners that have not repented and who are not yet forgiven.  The Lord would want us to dine with them.  He would want us to try to bring them home, instead of looking down our noses at them. 

I am so thankful that I am not the prodigal son, because I have salvation already.  The Holy Spirit fills me.  The bible and these studies are food for my soul.  I have a feeling of purpose and love and support in my life that I simply couldn't have without Jesus Christ.  So I will aim to keep my spirit full with the Holy Spirit and to share this amazing feeling with those who don't yet know it.

Psalm 66:1 - 20
66 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will you what he did for me. 
 Come and listen, and I will tell you what he did for me.  Come and listen!

The Lord gives my life fullness and purpose and security.  I have no fears because I know that the Lord will always be there for me.  The fact that fear has been released from me is such a burden lifted. 

No matter what happens to me, the Lord will be there with me -- providing for me and family and protecting us.  Whatever happens -- no matter how Satan interferes with my life -- the Lord will turn it into something great.  Tragedy might strike, but with the Lord I will come out stronger than ever. 

No matter what happens in this life, I have an eternal life waiting that is free of any sorrow whatsoever.

Salvation truly sets you free.  So come and listen to what the Lord has done for me. 

I am no one special, but the Lord still loves me as His own child.  He loves you as His own child.  So come and listen to what the Lord has done for me. 

Embrace the Lord.  Embrace salvation and experience the same freedom. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Generosity is Food for the Spirit

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 36:1 - 36:13
  • Proverbs 11:24 - 26
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 36:1 - 36:13
The book of Numbers ended abruptly today.  I did not realize that only 13 verses remained in this book until I sat down for today's reading.  The book of Numbers ends by saying that any woman who inherits property (because of a lack of males in the family) must marry within her own tribe.  This way all the ancestral land stays within its original tribe. 

Just like that the book of Numbers was finished. I expected to see the death of Moses before Numbers ended.  I guess that is because we saw the death of Aaron earlier in the book and because the Israel people were poised to enter the promised land.  I just assumed that Numbers ended with the death of Moses, but looks like I'll get to read another book whose authorship is credited to him.

Since I had so few verses for my readings, I re-read the introduction to Numbers and then read the introduction to Deuteronomy.  I also just flipped through the bible a bit and marveled at the wonder of it.  I feel like there's an entire world's worth of secrets waiting to be exposed to me in this greatest book of all time.

In this study that started on January 1st of this year, I have read the books of: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Matthew and Mark.  Additionally I have read a lot in the books of Proverbs, Psalms and Luke.  So I have read six full books and 3 partial books, yet I feel like I've learned an indescribable amount already.  There are 66 books in the bible -- a vast amount of information lies before me, waiting to be revealed.  The thought is astounding, overwhelming, and wondrous all at the same time. 

The bible is such a glorious book.  Many of us have multiple copies lying around our homes.  You can buy the New Testament for a dollar or less.  The bible is the greatest selling book of all time.  It might be hard to get a hold of a bible in some countries, but the bible will always be available and will never be eradicated.  Yet how many of us, myself included, have never read this entire book?

I am so thankful for the Lord putting this project in my heart.  By the time I am finished I will have scrutinized every single page of this bible.  I will have written about the entire book.  All of this knowledge that has been available to me at my fingertips for my entire life will finally be realized.  And then, when I'm done reading it, I will read it again and learn even more!  The bible never ceases to me amazing.

Proverbs 11:24 - 26
24  Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
25  The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
26  People curse those who hoard their grain, but they bless the one who sells in time of need.
 These verses seem very straightforward to me -- generosity leads to prosperity.  Not everyone who is generous will prosper financially, but these verses have implications that surpass just the monetary aspect of generosity.

Generosity is good for one's spirit.  Being generous to others, sharing with others, blessing others has a profound impact on one's own life.  Who is the most generous person you know?  What do you feel when you think of that person?  Do you feel jealousy or hatred?  Most likely not.  That's what you think about when you think of the greedy person who hoards his or her wealth.  But the generous person, they are dear to your heart, no matter how well you know them or don't know them. 

We all tend to love people who are generous.  Being generous is synonymous with being a good person.  What would it feel like to be that most generous person, I wonder.  I have a feeling that generosity and happiness go hand in hand.  I try to be a generous person but I have much work left to do.  I started with donating to charities and seeing my hard earned cash help others.  The more I help others, the more I want to do more!  It feels so good.  Generosity feels good. 

I could certainly be a more generous person though.  And I aim to become one!