Saturday, January 14, 2012

Good Deeds Should be Done Privately

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 6:1-24
  • Psalm 7:1-17
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Matthew 6:1-24
This reading teaches very good lessons. It starts off by saying not to give publicly – do good deeds, pray, and fast, but it do it all privately. Each of these verses reinforces that if you do any of those things for the attention that you get from other people, then that will be all the reward you will receive. Do it instead for your heavenly reward. So it seems to me this passage isn’t saying that doing these things for recognition is a sin, but I don't think you'd get your full heavenly award and fulfillment if you do it for recognition.

Psalm 7:1-17
This was another very powerful psalm from David calling for protection and vengeance against his enemies. I like how David doesn’t just beg the Lord to save him. Instead he tells the Lord to punish him if he’s been wicked and prays for the Lord to take vengeance against those who are wicked. To sum up this reading, I just want to remark on how I love verse 14. This is the NLT version, so take that into account, but they did a great job with it regardless:
“The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Abram Circumcises His Household

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 16:1-18:15
  • Proverbs 2:1-5
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Genesis 16:1-18:15
I guess it’s a good thing that Abram didn’t divorce Sarai for being barren throughout their marriage. That aside, I can’t imagine handing a woman over to my husband to sleep with and bear a child. I would be afraid I’d hate the child because I’d be reminded of it every time I saw him. But that’s just what Sarai does. She hands her servant, Hagar, over to her own husband. Hagar becomes pregnant and begins to treat Sarai with contempt. My question is, how did Sarai treat Hagar? The bible tells so little of the story, but there had to be anger and resentment there when Hagar became pregnant, don’t you think? I feel sorry for everyone in that situation.

After Ishmel is born to Abram and Hagar, the Lord visited Abram again, this time to form a covenant. For this covenant to be fulfilled, Abram must take every male of his household, himself included, and circumcise them. That could hardly have been well received! I wonder how hard of a time Abram had when he rounded up everyone, explained to them what had to happen, and then physically had to do it. I can’t imagine!

Abram (100 years old) and Sarai (90 years old) are from this point forward known as Abraham and Sarah, and God tells them that they will have a son together. I know that people lived a lot longer back then, but 90 years old must have been far past their prime. I would imagine it’s like a 65 – 70 year old woman trying to bear a child. So I can see how they might both have been skeptical of the promise from the Lord. Regardless, they were told – twice – that it would happen. The reading ends with Sarah’s skeptical laughter.

Proverbs 2:1-5
These verses focus on seeking out wisdom. We’re told to find insight and understanding, to seek them as you would a hidden treasure. This will teach you to both fear the Lord and gain knowledge of him. I feel like that’s happening to me right now as I am undergoing this study – learning all these things has already given me new fear and appreciation for the Lord. At the same time, I am literally gaining knowledge of God. While it is a bit scary to truly examine my life against God’s standards, I am becoming better prepared to steer out a new path to follow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cutting the Sin from One's Body

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 5:27-48
  • Psalm 6:1-10

Matthew 5:27-48
This chapter continues to be a hard one to swallow. It is better to cut off a sinful body part than for your entire body to burn in hell. Now that’s powerful stuff! Too powerful. I don’t know if I can ever live up these expectations. Or, if I can, it’s going to take a lifetime to master, so I sure hope I have a long life.

Then there are the verses on divorce (31:32) that says one is committing adultery by marrying a divorced woman. Does that make me an adulteress? After all, this is my second marriage.  Does my marriage count in the eyes of God?

In verse 38:42 we are taught about revenge, and turning the other cheek. Yup, I have a lot of work to do there, too! Finally, verse 43:48 stress about loving our enemies. It’s hard to remember sometimes that God loves everyone, especially those that are lost. It’s not our place to pass our own judgments. I try really hard at that one, although it’s very hard when anger grips you to keep that in mind, isn’t it?

Psalm 6:1-10
More from David. This time he’s sick with grief and weeping about his enemies, begging for the Lord to return to him. What did he do? More questions, I guess, until I read the story of David for myself.

I’m really enjoying my readings, but I have to say parts of it are real hard to swallow. It forces me to become accountable for my life. No longer can I hide. I know that the readings will get easier, and as I read more I’ll understand more and learn more that will help me to turn my life around. I have truly started to change my life. There’s no turning back now!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Riches of Abram Whose Descendants Will Number the Stars in the Sky

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 13:5-15:21
  • Proverbs 1:29-33
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Genesis 13:5-15:21
In this passage Abram gathered his 318 trained males and marched against the enemies that captured his nephew Lot. Abram was remarkably rich! Abram was like a king of sorts, or at least he acted like one; pulling his men together, marching on and defeating the enemy all by himself, when four kings combined couldn’t stop the invading force. I am quite impressed.

The rest of the passage told of the covenant, where God told Abram what was to come in the future – Abram will have a son (even though Sarai is barren) and his descendents will number the stars in the sky. God told him that his descendents will be enslaved for 400 years before returning to the promised land. God even told Abram how he was to die – in piece, at a ripe old age.

I wonder what it was like to receive promises straight from God himself, and how wonderful it must have felt. Or simply how glorious it was to know the Lord was always with you, because he spoke to you personally. Don’t get me wrong, I know the Lord is with me, but I still can’t help but long for the personal closeness and interaction Abram had with the Lord himself.

Proverbs 1:29-33
This proverb is a continuation of what I read yesterday. It reinforces that all those who mock wisdom will be “destroyed by their own complacency” (32). All of this is very true. No one likes to hear “I told you so,” but that’s essentially what this is. If someone tells you, and you don’t listen to their advice, you can expect no more than “I told you so” from them, can you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You

Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 6:25-7:14
  • Psalm 8:1-9
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Matthew 6:25-7:14
This passage began with a warning not to worry about having food, money and clothes, for the Lord will provide. I have mixed feelings about this. I feel that the Lord is providing for me already – I have a good job, and this job allows me to pay my bills, buy a house, save for college and retirement. I’m thinking of the future, but using the resources God gave me to fund it.

I know people, on the other hand, who will spend every dime he or she has, often before paying the bills. Then those people will cry that “God will provide.” But isn’t He already providing them with the means to live? If I squandered all the resources I’m given to provide for myself and my family, I wouldn’t expect God to bail me out later.  Now, if I had nothing, if something happened and I became broke, I would trust God to provide. But God is already providing me, isn’t he?

The second part of the reading contains the all-important verse 7:12:
 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 
 Isn’t that a fabulous verse, I mean really? How can you expect forgiveness from your sins if you don’t forgive others for theirs? And these passages say exactly that!
 “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged (7:2).
 Now I’m awfully critical of people, and I know I need work there to avoid “judging” people. But I don’t judge people for their sins. Who am I to say what they did is right or wrong? Who are they to say the same of me? It is God’s job to judge our sins. And I do try -- truly -- to forgive those who wrong me. I know it does no good to hold a grudge. Sometimes it takes a while for me to let go, and it surely isn’t easy, but I do try my best.

My problem is I sometimes think back, and thinking about it causes angry emotions to arise. Even though I’ve long gotten over it, quit “punishing” the offending party for whatever it was, it can still cause me to be privately upset. I don’t know what to do about it. Am I truly forgiving the person then? How can I just make those emotions disappear? Do I just refuse to think about it, would that be good enough? Or must I feel peace in my heart when I think on the situation?  

Psalm 8:1-9
This psalm brings up a strong point: that we humans are but “mere mortals” (8:4), yet the Lord made us in his own image, and put us in charge of everything he created. Isn’t that an awesome, spectacular privilege?  I only hope that someday I can be worthy of the honor bestowed upon me as a human who has been put on this earth by God.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Will Wisdom be There for You When Disaster Strikes?

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 11:1-13:4
  • Proverbs 1:24-28
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Genesis 11:1-13:4
The first part of chapter 11 is the story of Babel. It occurred just as I was always taught, however I’m a bit confused by the language. My bible, an NLT version, gives verse 11:7 as: “Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages.” What confuses me here is the word “let’s.” I even looked this verse up the King James, and it says the same thing. So my question is, who is the Lord talking to in this verse?

The rest of my reading introduced me to Abram and his wife, Sarai. The Lord calls to Abram, promising future blessings throughout the generations, and Abram answers and moves his family on. I am intrigued by the stop in Egypt. I would have liked to see Sarai, someone so beautiful that even the pharaoh is notified of her beauty. She must have been breathtaking to behold! But I can’t believe that Abram let the pharaoh take her as his wife. I wonder how long she played the part of his wife before she was sent back to Abram? Can you imagine being taken away from your husband and given to someone else? And having to play as if nothing was wrong? I think if I were Abram I would have asked the Lord to protect me and my wife and trusted in the Lord, instead of my own devices.

Proverbs 1:24-28
This passage contained a strong warning from wisdom. It says that wisdom tried to reach the people, tried to tell and show them the warnings, but they did not heed them and therefore wisdom will not be there to help when disaster strikes. Wisdom will answer no cries of help. There’s not much that can be done for that, is there? When you tell someone “if you do this, the following will happen” and they don’t listen, and then they do it anyway. There’s nothing that can be done at that point. We can’t run the live of others. All we can do is hope that they listen to wisdom.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Phenomenal Power of Jesus Christ

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 4:12-25
  • Psalms 4:1-8

Matthew 4:12-25
Yesterday I read about the baptism and temptation of Jesus Christ, and today I read about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Matthew talks of the first four disciples – Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John, and how they dropped everything immediately and followed him.

Can you imagine just dropping everything you know in a very instant to follow someone, to devote your life to them, to change everything you know? That’s the awesome power Jesus Christ has! We then got to read about how Jesus cured everything … everything! Diseases, demon possession, blindness – you name it, he cured it. The power there is just phenomenally awesome. No wonder he had huge crowds following him wherever he went – I would have been in those crowds, too.

Psalms 4:1-8
There is much good advice in this Psalm. It talks about how sin occurs when you let anger control you, which is so very true. How often do you say and do things that you shouldn’t, just because you were angry? My favorite part of the Psalm, however, is this verse 4:7
“You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvest of grain and new wine”
It is always joyful knowing that you have the Lord with you, no matter what the situation or what you’re going through, and that he always have a plan for you, as long as you “trust the Lord” (4:5).