Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Biblical Power of Blessing; When we Tithe, We are Blessed

    Looks like I published the Genesis 25 reading early (part of my posting mix-ups).  Here is a link to that post in case you missed it.  I think the order of the Genesis readings will be fine from here on out. 
    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 26:17-27:46
  • Proverbs 3:9-10
Read Bible Passages Online

Genesis 26:17-27:46
Chapter 27 details how Rebekah and Jacob stole Esau’s blessing. This is only a single chapter, however there are so many elements to discuss. My first thought is how did this come about? I know that the Lord told Rebekah that Jacob would serve Esau (Gen. 25:23). My question is this: did the Lord tell Rebekah this so that she would set up the deception and it would become true, OR did the Lord tell her this because He knew what Rebekah was going to do with the blessing? It's kind of a pointless question I guess, but it was the first thing to pop into my mind. 

The topic of blessings is something that greatly interests me. Not God’s blessings – not to say they aren’t incredibly important, but I already have faith in His blessings and know they will come true.  My interest is the power of ordinary people to cast blessings upon others. Not only do they cast these blessings, but they come true! These men offered promises only the Lord could fulfill, and the Lord delivered. There was a lot of power in a blessing. I wonder what kind of power there is in blessing today? Is there anyone alive today to whom God has given that gift to? I don’t mean priests and their blessings of this and that; I mean true “this is exactly how your life will be from here on out” type blessings. I’ll just have to keep my eyes and ears open for more on this topic.  

Proverbs 3:9-10
Verse 3:9 states:
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.
I used to tithe exactly 0% of my income.  I knew that the Lord would provide back to me, but I guess I was just too afraid to let my hard earned money go.  Then one day I rearranged my budget to allow for a small but regular contribution.  I didn't have a church at that time, so I scoured Christian charities and found a few causes I really liked and started contributing to them.  That year I gave .05% of my income.  Sad, I know! But an improvement over 0.0%.

The next year I increased my contributions.  I began to really enjoy finding Godly causes to give away my money to.  It started to feel really good to know that I could be a blessing to others. Meanwhile, my cup was overflowing plenty.  Of course I'm not rich and I don't have a fancy house or a lot of expensive furnishings, and I hardly buy clothes or go out.  But all my needs are completely met, and some of my wants too, and the money does come back at me.  I don't give to get back monetarily, but it's awesome to see the blessings come back this way.  And with everything that comes back, I get to use a portion of that to give away even more money!  It's truly a wonderful feeling to help others.

This year I increased my contributions further.  No, I am not yet at 10%, and I do feel ashamed for that, but I am giving more and more each year.  I also have a church now (just joined Wednesday night!) so I do actually tithe with some of the money, but for the majority of my givings I still have numerous Christian causes that I love to help out.  It's so wonderful to know that my small contributions have helped out people from all over the world.  The money I give does so much better for others than it could ever do for me right now. 

Of course the Lord Himself doesn't need our money.  But he does need to teach us how to let go of this thing that has a stranglehold on so many of us.  If we were walking down the street, and someone said: "Please help me lift this box!" we would probably stop.  If someone said, "Please spare some change! " the majority of us would walk on by.  I know because I see it every single day in my metropolitan work location. I used to be one of those people who walked on by.  I am proud to say that no longer am I one of those people who keeps on walking, for the Lord is helping me realize that when we honor the Lord with our wealth, we are the ones who truly are blessed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cave of Machpelah; Answered Prayers

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 23:1-24:51
  • Proverbs 3:1-6
Read Bible Passages Online

Genesis 23:1-24:51
At the beginning of chapter 23 we are informed of Sarah’s death and burial. Because the cave Abraham bought was so well described, I wondered if it had ever been found, so I did some research and found out about the Cave of Machpelah. I didn’t do a whole lot of research into it, but it appears as though this finding was recent, and that it is fairly well accepted as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. I love it when events and places listed in the bible can be found in present times. Follow the link above for more information.

Abraham’s servant finds a wife for Isaac. I think it’s so awesome how the servant prayed for specific sign and it shows up before he can even finish praying. Has that ever happened to you? I’m not sure it’s happened to me instantaneously, but it sure has happened to me. That’s one of the reasons I have so much faith in prayer, because I know God listens to me. I just try to remember that no matter how much I want (or think I want) something, God knows best and I have to leave it up to his judgment as to whether or not he will answer me. 

Proverbs 3:1-6
These verses tell us to hold dear to God’s commandments and always be kind and loyal. Following these instructions will give us a long life characterized with a good reputation and favor from God. Such simple commandments – follow God’s word and be kind and loyal. It sounds so easy, but these things can be really hard to follow because of our sinful nature.

I’d also like to comment on verses 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
This hits exactly with what I was talking about earlier (written before I even read this passage) about Abraham’s servant and his quest for a wife for Isaac. There I remarked on how prayer works, I know it does, and how I just have to trust the Lord to decide for me his will because He knows best, not I. I just like how I received the same message twice in one day.  

I think this has been a very productive and thoughtful reading. Each day I read, I want to know more! I’m so glad I did this. I’ve attempted to read through the bible many times, but this time I feel so much more productive about it. Writing really helps me catalog and examine my own thoughts and feelings about this. I also think it helps greatly helps retention. I’m very excited to continue forward from here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making A Conscious Decision to Sin

I realized today that I have published some of my posts out of order.  I read them all in order but obviously mixed something up!  Here's a missed reading from Matthew and Psalms and I will figure out the rest of the missing posts over the course of the next few days.
    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 5:1-26
  • Psalm 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1-26
This passage is really powerful. It starts off by naming conditions for all kinds of blessings – blessings for the persecuted, the mocked, the giving, the merciful, the pure, and more. I just can’t help but wonder, do I fall into any of those categories? I don’t think I do, and that’s not something that I’m proud of.

Jesus goes on to say that all of God’s laws and commandments must be followed. The presence of Jesus does not excuse one for breaking God’s laws. This is a point that hits home to me. I can have all the faith in the world, but none of that matters if I keep sinning and don’t actually change my life. Even though I do believe, I don’t show it if I follow the rules and commandments of my Lord. How can I be forgiven, if I make a conscious decision to sin? I have a lot to work left to do on in my life.

This part of the reading finished with notes on anger, in relation to how people handle it. I think what it boils down to is that everyone is a child of God, and everyone is loved by God. I think anger at other humans inhibit us from closeness with God. I try really hard not to hold grudges against others, but I really need to work on my day to day interactions, from the coworker who sits next to me to those driving around me on my daily commute to and from work.

Psalm 5:1-12
This Psalm was a cry for help from David against his enemies. In it he praises the Lord and prays for vengeance against his sinful enemies. He also prays that God bring together those who take refuge in the Lord and rejoice in Him. I don’t really know too much about the story of David, except that he was a great king. But all the Psalms I’ve read this far have been from David requesting aid against his enemies. How great were his battles? How many enemies did he overcome? I look forward to learning his full story as I continue to read.

These passages have been hard to read and get through, mainly because of the cold, hard truths they force me to see. No longer can I hide behind the excuse that I haven’t read it, therefore I am not accountable for it. It’s time to hold myself accountable.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Everyone Will Enter the Kingdom of God

Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 7:15-29
  • Psalm 9:1-12
Matthew 7:15-29
I love verses 15-20, which talk about good and bad fruit in relation to good and bad people. Just as you can tell if a tree is bad by it’s fruit, so you can tell if a person is bad by their actions. This is very true, isn’t it?

Verses 21-23 are quite scary versus for me, because I know it speaks truth. Here we are told that not everyone will enter the Kingdom of Heaven – all those people who call on the Lord but do not obey his laws will be turned away. We are given the example of those who do things in the Lord’s name. A good example these days would be a preacher who does work in Jesus’ name, but never actually knew the Lord.

I know I lack now in following God’s laws. I try to be good, but there are still things I do over and over again that need to stop. Passages like these make me scared – will I ever truly be good enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  What is important is my salvation in Jesus Christ, and with him I can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but I still have to do my part and live a godly life.

Psalm 9:1-12
Here David praises the Lord, thanking him for helping him to overcome his enemies. The Lord judged fairly, with vengeance, and David came out triumphant, for the Lord “does not ignore the cries of those who suffer.” (9:12) 

Conclusion Again I am left with more reflections on my life and what I can do to improve it. It’s hard to read these passages because I see so much need for improvement, but I’m also happy that I’m forcing myself to open my eyes and take notice. Ignorance is no long an option or a refuge -- ignorance kills.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Abraham is Told to Sacrifice Isaac

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 20:1-22:24
  • Proverbs 2:16-22
Read Today's Passages Online

Genesis 20:1-22:24
Abraham did it again! Once again he visited a strange land and insisted on calling Sarah his sister and allowed her to be taken as a wife to the king. It baffles me, because if Abraham has enough faith to sacrifice his own son, shouldn’t he have enough faith to trust the Lord to protect him and his wife?

This reading also saw the birth of Isaac from Abraham and Sarah, just as God had promised. Chapter 22 contains the famous story of how God told Abraham to go sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham proceeded to do so without question. Can you even imagine sacrificing one of your children? I know that God sacrificed Jesus, and that is such a powerful sacrifice. I know as a parent, my greatest fear is that one of my children will die before me, because I don’t think I could bear it. Even if God came down and stared me in the face, I’m not sure if I could sacrifice my own child. Okay, I'm sure I would obey, but I still can't imagine. No wonder Abraham was so special, and so blessed. And thank God he didn’t have to go through with the sacrifice!  

Proverbs 2:16-22
Here is more on living a righteous life. This time it remarks on the promiscuous woman, and how men who enter her house ride the road to death. I don’t have much more to say about this one, except that I don't intend to ever be the promiscuous woman who “abandon[s] her husband” (2:17).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why do Wicked People Seem to Get Everything they Want?

Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 8:18-34
  • Psalm 10:1-15

Matthew 8:18-34
Here we read about the famous story where Jesus calms the storm while him and his disciples are riding in a boat. Here’s what I don’t get: these disciples -- these men following Jesus for all this time -- have seen him perform miracle after miracle after miracle.

These men have given up everything to follow Jesus, yet the disciples were amazed that Jesus calmed the storm? Verse 8:27 says:
The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’
Next Jesus casts demons out of two men and into a herd of pigs. The pigs immediately plunged off a cliff and drowned. Apparently an entire town came out to meet Jesus after that, yet they all turned him away and begged him to go (8:34). Isn’t that sad? It pains me to think of one person turning away Jesus, let alone a whole town full of people. Yet I know that there are an incomprehensible number of people who will never know or will consciously turn away from Jesus. We’re all God’s people and he loves each of us like a child – can you imagine having your children just turn away from you? It must be devastating.  

Psalm 10:1-15
This Psalm addresses a very real grievance – why, does it seem, that wicked people are often given their heart’s desire? I know how they get it – many do such things that others would never consider doing, no matter what they would get out of it.

The Psalm suggests that because these people get whatever they want by despicable means they think that God is dead, or God pays no attention to them, or God lets them do whatever they want to do. I say let God judge as He sees fit: whatever these people earn will do them no good in the afterlife.

How much do you think these people are even enjoying their lives? I mean, truly? I can say nothing for them, I’m not in their shoes, but I can imagine that a life where I had everything I wanted yet acquired these things in a despicable manner would surely leave me unfulfilled. Even if it is fulfilling, a few years of happiness on earth doesn’t even touch an eternity of pure joy and fulfillment. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Death of Abraham; Do not be Impressed With Your Own Wisdom

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 24:52-26:16
  • Proverbs 3:7-8
Read Tomorrow's Passages Online  

Genesis 24:52-26:16
It’s hard for me to imagine being a woman in biblical times, or even a woman in a country where women’s rights and desires are often ignored. It’s remarkable to me that Rebekah chose to up and leave her family in such a short notice – the next day after meeting Abraham’s servant. I am heartened, however, to see that God blessed their marriage with love (24:67). It just goes to show that God blesses those who follow his will.

Abraham died at 175 years old – but not before spawning many more children. A new wife is mentioned, named Keturah, and they had 6 sons together (or at least I assume they were sons, it doesn’t specifically say the gender in 25:2). It then goes on to say that Abraham sent off the sons of his concubines – not just his new wife, and not just a single concubine, but plural (25:6). That makes me wonder how many there were, and was it only after Sarah died? You’d think it would be, because the story of Sarah and Hagar is so remarked upon, but there’s so little to go on that I really don’t have a clue. Anyway, it interests me to read about the polygamous practices in the bible, and how even Abraham himself partakes of them. I’ll have to keep an eye out for various teachings on that subject matter.

Next we meet Esau and Jacob. First, while the twins were in Rebekah’s womb, she was told by God that Esau would serve Jacob (25:23). Just a little bit later, we see Esau sell his birthright to Jacob (25:27-34). To me, the whole exchange sounds like bickering between brothers and empty promises, but I guess it was quite a serious exchange and oath. I assume we’re being set up for Rebakah’s betrayal of Isaac and Esau, so I’ll save the rest of my thoughts and comments for when we get there.

Finally, it must have been really dangerous times to live in. In 26:7-11 we see Isaac do the same thing Abraham did repeatedly: tell everyone his wife was his sister. It makes me wonder, again, what these men were afraid of – they had God on their side! I guess I’ll never understand it. 

Proverbs 3:7-8
Here we’re told not to rely on or be impressed with our own wisdom. Even if we deem ourselves wise we still need to fear the Lord, fill ourselves with His wisdom, and turn away from evil. No matter how wise we may think we are, we will have true wisdom, discernment and understanding without knowing, fearing and following the Lord.

I find myself so impatient! I desperately want to learn the answers to all my questions and see all the bible has to teach and offer me. But I shall take it one day at a time, one tidbit at a time, one word at a time. Hopefully this will help me to absorb and understand more.  I love how instead of growing tired of reading the bible, I want to read more and more of it.

I love the way this reading program is laid out. Before I always got bored quickly, because it seemed all I was reading about was generation lines and sacrificial rites. But reading the bible like this allows me take many angles and read so many interesting things in just a single day. My sincere thanks goes to the One Year Bible Online for creating and posting these readings lists for me. 

Finally, please not that the reading plan is a one year plan, but as I have remarked before, I have split it up into two years so that I can ensure I will be able to keep up the pace of posting a blog entry each and every day until I've read through the entire bible.  After that point hits I don't know what will happen, but I do know that it doesn't stop there!