Saturday, February 4, 2012

What Does it Mean to Blasphemy the Holy Spirit?

    Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 12:22-45
  • Psalm 16:1-11
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Matthew 12:22-45
In this passage I read about how Jesus cast demons out of a man, demons that had prevented the man from being able to speak and to see.  I know that the bible tells us that we can utilize the power of Jesus to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to perform many deeds.  I am hungry to learn more  about these things.  Right now I feel so naive that I wouldn't even know how to discern demons.  Jesus also says that when a demon leaves a person, that demon will come back with 7 other demons that are each stronger than the original one cast out if there is nothing there to fill the void that was left.  That's a scary and powerful thought.

Jesus also says that all sins are forgivable except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (12:31).  I am uncertain as to what that means so I did a little bit of research to try to determine what that would be.  I know that Jesus said you can blasphemy against him, and that is forgivable (12:32) so it is not that.

Right now what I see (based on research I've just done) is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when one knowingly attributes acts of the Holy Spirit to be that of the devil, or vice versa.  I believe this right now because Jesus directed this context against those who said Jesus used the power of Satan to cast out the demons, not the power of the Holy Spirit.  For now this is my understanding, but my understanding is likely to grow the more studying that I do in the bible.

Psalm 16:1-11
David sure knew how to pray, didn't he?  Here he tells the Lord how great he is, how his godly people are his greatest heroes, and how the Lord is his "cup of blessing" (16:5).  David's faith is remarkably unshakable; he trusts the Lord to keep him safe and says so many times.  To me thisp salm is a lesson in great prayer and thanks to the Lord, the Lord who watches over us and blesses us and keeps us safe.

Today's reading has been an informative reading that has peaked my interest, challenged me to look more closely at myself, and has left many questions unanswered.  I can't wait to study further to learn the answers to these questions and learn more about the Lord and all that He wants to teach me.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Least Righteous Person in Heaven

    Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 11:7-30
  • Psalm 14:1-7
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Matthew 11:7-30
Here Jesus introduces us to John the Baptist and tells us that John is the one foretold of in the prophecy as Elijah.  My bible references the scriptures Jesus referred to as Malachi 3:1 and 4:5.  We are told that John the Baptist is the messenger and right after he arrives so will the Savior.  Jesus also says that out of those who lived and all who have died, none are better than John the Baptist.  But then Jesus says that John is not even as great as the least person who is in the Kingdom of Heaven.  So I guess that means that even the best man to ever have lived just cannot compare with even the least righteous person in Heaven.  I guess it just goes to show that no matter how good of a person you are, you are still nothing without the blood of Jesus.

Jesus then warns of the judgement coming to those who don't believe.  He says the judgement is even worse than judgment that awaits the people of Sodom, because these people have seen the miracles, still turned away after seeing them.  How does someone turn away once they've seen such great miracles?!

Psalm 14:1-7
David tells us that those who say there is no God are corrupt and but those who trust and obey the Lord are with God.  To those who refuse God, terror will come.  Once again, the message is reinforced that it doesn't matter how good a person is; that person is not and will not be with God without going through Jesus Christ.

I really am pleased that I chose this plan to follow for reading the bible in a year.  Many other plans simply cut the bible into straight slices so that you still read through it end to end.  Until now, I've never tried anything other than reading the bible straight through.  With this plan I get to sample parts from all over the bible and watch as different stories unfold.  It truly is a much better plan for newbies like myself!  The link to the plan I'm following was in the introductory post, but here is the link again in case you missed it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rachel's Tomb

    Today's Reading:
  • Genesis 35:1-36:43
  • Proverbs 3:21-26
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Genesis 35:1-36:43
Once again God appears to Jacob, this time to help Jacob flee the land his sons had just ravished.  I found something odd when reading this.  Jacob told his household to remove all idols and pagan gods and to purify themselves before the journey to Bethel.  It then says that all the household surrendered their idols and their earrings.  I am curious about the "earrings" part of this passage.  My bible (NLT) has no footnotes or anything related for me to know more about that.  Were these earrings shaped or imprinted with idols?  What was wrong with the earrings?

After the household surrendered their idols and moved on ,Jacob arrived at Bethel, where God renamed him Israel.  I'm confused more now, because didn't God already rename Jacob as Israel in Genesis 32?  What is the difference between God appearing in man form and renaming Jacob Israel, and God appearing to Jacob and renaming him Israel?

In the middle of chapter 35, Rachael dies giving birth to her son Benjamin.  It says that she was buried in a tomb that "can be seen there to this day" (35:20)  This naturally made me look it up and discover that Rachael's tomb is indeed believed to exist today.  I think it's interesting to see how the tomb has been enclosed over the years -- many times in its history, it has had various domes and buildings and walls put around it.  Today, it is surrounded by a wall, and barbed wire, and guards.  To visit Rachael's tomb these days you are required to travel by bullet proof bus since it is so near the Palestinian territories.

Chapter 36 goes into the lineage of Esau.  If I were following clans and tribes, or if I could keep any of this straight, then I'd probably be very interested in these lineages.  The truth is that these lineages are very hard for me to follow and I have no chance of recollecting any of it in the future.  But it is a nice resource to have; I just couldn't follow it very well this time around.

Proverbs 3:21-26
The first half of these verses focus on having common sense and discernment.  We are reminded to hang onto those and not to lose them.  To me, those things seem hard to gain and I don't really think of anybody losing them after they are gained.  It's an interesting thought to think of someone "losing" their common sense and/or discernment.  I'll have to think on that one a bit.

The other half of these verses talk about trusting in the Lord.  On the surface it says that you don't need to be afraid of being destroyed because the Lord is your security and "he will keep your foot from being caught in a trap"(3:26).  The meaning I obtain from that is if the Lord is your security and you are one of His own, then you would naturally avoid the trap of the wicked and getting caught.  Trust in the Lord, stay by His side, and you will not succumb to these traps.

I especially love the days where I get to discover a part of the bible that is tangibly evident today, as is the case with Rachael's Tomb.  I would love to do a further study where I can map passages, voyages, migrations, events, etc.  I know so much of it these things are debated but I would still love to get in on that debate, mainly so that I could really learn it myself instead of relying on others. 

In the end, however, I have a very hard time keeping all these locations straight in my head and they kind of blend together so it would be quite a challenge to me.  I think after I finish the initial read through of the bible that I might do some heavy research into finding a really good study bible for my next read through the bible.  I can't believe that I've barely started my study of the bible, yet I can't wait to read the whole thing again.  I just know that this is a book that can be read over and over and over again, and you will gain new perspective each time you read it.  I look forward to the challenge.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God's Will vs. Attacks from Satan

    Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 20:29 - 21:22
  • Psalm 25:16 - 22
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Matthew 20:29
Jesus appeared in Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, causing uproar as he made the proclamation of his fulfillment of the prophecy known.  In chapter 21 verses 13-14 Jesus performs his famous clearing of the temple where he let it be known that a church is not supposed to be about ripping the patrons off to grow its own wealth. 

The most interesting part of this reading to me occurs after Jesus curses the fig tree (21:19).  When Jesus' disciples asked him how he did that, Jesus tells them that they have the power to do the same.  In fact, Jesus tells them that they could move mountains if they had but the faith and were without doubt (21:21).

 Jesus also told his disciples that they will receive anything they pray for as long as they have the faith (21:22).  First of all let me say that I do not think this is an open endorsement of receiving all our heart desires.  In fact I would think that it is far from it.  I think that to be in a place of true, pure doubtless faith that is strong enough for us to call on God's power as his own, then our request wouldn't be for our own desires in the first place.  We might pray for our survival or for our needs, but not our desires.

When I read those two verses I think of our ability to wield God's power over Satan.  This includes Satan's influence over our lives -- be it in the form of temptation, "natural" disaster or sickness.  Before you can get to that, however, you have to let go of your doubts.  That is so much easier said than done.

The pastor at my church has covered this topic recently and that's where my added insights come into play on this topic.  For my entire life I have attributed everything bad that has happened as being "God's Will."  I see more and more now that these things in general are not "God's Will".  Sure, God does deal out punishment on people, but His Will is that we we are healthy, strong,provided for, and that we live our lives for Him completely.  I also believe that no matter what happens to us, whatever is thrown at us, that God will take that situation and turn it for the good.  So just because Satan attacks doesn't mean that God won't turn that around for good later.

My overall point for all of this is that we can, with doubtless faith, wield the power of Jesus to overcome Satan.  But like I said, this is easier said than done.  I don't only mean for this to pertain to healing, but that is the application I am applying this to today.  My pastor said, "If you don't have faith in God to heal your headaches, how can you have faith enough to have cancer cured further down the road?"  That really struck home with me, so I am really trying to learn to utilize the power Jesus allows us to use over sickness right now.  It's going to be a long road but I'm going to take it one step at a time.

Psalm 25:16 - 22
In this second half of Psalm 25, David begs the Lord to ransom himself and Israel from all its troubles.  A simple reminder that when life is at its worse, there is only one person to turn to -- the Lord Almighty. 

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

     Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 12:1-21
  • Psalm 15:1-5
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Matthew 12:1-21
In this short passage Jesus basically tells us not to be ridiculous about the laws of the Sabbath.  Yes, we are to rest, but if someone needs help you help them.  If you're hungry you eat.  And someone has to run the temples where everyone is coming to worship, right?  Observe the day yet have common sense and do what's right in the end. 

In this case, Jesus completely healed a man's deformed hand on the Sabbath.  Jesus did this in front of the Pharisees, and the response from them was to plot to kill him.  I just don't understand how people can look at a person who is truly performing miracles and then immediately plot to kill that person. 

In the end Jesus moved on before the plots could be completed.  Before he left his followers he healed all the sick who were among them (12:15).  Not just one, not a few, not just the ones who caught his attention -- Jesus healed each and every one of them.  Here he is, on the move because people are trying to kill him, yet he ensures each and every sick person who follows him has been healed.  What does this say for those of us who follow Jesus Christ?  It tells me to put my full trust in the Lord, because those who follow Christ will be completely taken care of -- each and every single person.

Psalm 15:1-5
In Psalm 15 David talks about the character of those who may enter the Lord's presence.  There is a list of things to abide by; things from living a good life (don't we all generally think we are good people?) to not gossiping, to lending money without charging interest.  This Psalm reminds me that I still have a lot of work to do, that even though I do think I'm a good person, I still fall well short of God's standards for me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Looks like I missed another post in my earlier mix-ups.  Here is a missed reading from Genesis.

    Today’s Reading:
  • Genesis 18:16-19:38
  • Proverbs 2:6-15
Read Bible Passages Online 

Genesis 18:16-19:38
Today’s reading started with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. After talking to Abraham, the Lord sends two angels to search for any righteous people who might remain. The angels came across Lot, who insisted they come to his house. While the angels were in Lot’s house, men from the city surrounded Lot’s house, demanding that the newcomers be brought out so the villagers could have sex with them.

This entire story baffles me – those cities really must have been wicked! I mean, I know that they’re wicked, but I would have to wonder at what point people are so wicked that God personally decides to destroy entire cities (or even the world). These visitors were men. I’d understand more if it were two beautiful women that Lot was hiding inside his home. Instead Lot offers up his own daughters to protect the male visitors. That, to me, is unbelievable! Apparently I’m not righteous enough, because I wouldn’t give away my own children in order to protect two strangers I didn’t know. That’s a pretty powerful trade to maintain integrity.

The second part of this reading was very disturbing to me. Lot’s two virgin daughters took it upon themselves to get their father drunk and then sleep with him in an attempt to continue their father’s blood line. To me that sounds despicably wrong, but the passage I read made no judgment to the situation at all. It simply reads as the account of how Lot bore male heirs. I know that marriages were usually kept in the family, but even those were usually cousin marriages, not parent-child relationships. I just can’t imagine this entire situation. I’ll just have to wait and see if anything I read elaborates on this further.  

Proverbs 2:6-15
It’s amazing how powerful a few choice proverbs can be. These verses teach that the Lord gives wisdom and understanding.  It also says that those who are righteous -- those who follow him and open their hearts and mind -- will receive wisdom and understanding. This wisdom and understanding will help protect against evil people and keep you safe. I hope the Lord always shares and shields me with his wisdom and understanding.

I find that I’m really looking forward to my daily readings. I find it hard to stop reading when I’m supposed to quit for the day, but I know this will help keep me interested and help me keep my pace. I really am enjoying this process. I am approximately 1/24th of the way through my first reading of the bible!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Love Jesus Before All Others

    Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 10:24-11:6
  • Psalm 13:1-6
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Matthew 10:24-11:6
The story continues of the words Jesus spoke to the apostles before sending them out.  Jesus warns that we must love him beyond anyone in our lives -- our mothers and fathers, our very own children.  That's really hard to do isn't it?  I love Jesus, I love him greatly.  If I had to choose between him and my children, I would choose him, but I hope that day never comes. 

Jesus continues to say he came to set us all against each other, and in the end it's him we are to follow.  If we follow him above all others we will be rewarded.  Our lives are just our bodies, but our souls belong to the Lord.  Jesus also says that he did not come to bring peace on earth, but rather a sword (10:34).  That to me is profound.  I always thought of Jesus coming to reign in peace on earth.  Of course I expect the tribulation and judgements, horrors and terrors and deaths galore.  But then the peace, right?  I'm interested to get to the parts where I read about what his reign on earth will be like.

The reading finishes with a look in at John the Baptist.  John sends out a messenger to find out if Jesus is the promised Messiah.  The messenger returns with news of all the miracles being performed.  And here the reading stops until next time.

Psalm 13:1-6
David seems at this point to feel very defeated and afraid that God is not with him to help him defeat his enemies.  He seems to want an answer as to when the Lord is going to pull him out and raise him above his enemies.  Though it seems he is despairing, David ends this psalm on a note of faith, saying that he trusts in the Lord to save him and he will rejoice when the Lord rescues him. 

Notice there is no IF there, simply faith that there can be no other option but for God to rescue him.  I never have any questions that God will come through with His will for me, but therein lies the problem.  I know that God's will does not always align with my own, so in my own prayers I pray that our wills align, and if they don't, then please be with me to handle it and see the inevitable good in the situation in the end.  And in the end I know the outcome will be good, even if we can't see the good in it at that moment in time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sons of Jacob Slaughter a Village

    Today's Reading:
  • Genesis 32:13-34:31
  • Proverbs 3:19-20
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Genesis 32:13-34:31
The previous reading left off with me not knowing how Esau would greet his brother, Jacob.  Jacob must have truly been terrified of his brother's wrath.  The gifts he sent off were incredible -- I counted 550 animals, and that didn't include the 30 female camel's children, which weren't listed. (32:14-15). 

I find it interesting that Jacob sent these gifts in waves, with strict instructions that each wave tell Esau that his brother was in the wave behind it.  I know Jacob wanted to please his brother and make him more and more receptive to receiving him, but it also seems to me like Jacob was basically sending each wave of animals and servants to be slaughtered in his place.

The last night before Jacob met Esau, it says he wrestled all night with a strange man (33:24).  From what I understand, Jacob pretty much kept this man in a stronghold the entire night long.  Even after this man simply touched Jacob, wrenching his hip out of socket, Jacob refused to let go until he had been blessed.  At that point the man blesses Jacob with the name "Israel" because he fought God and won.  What would it be like to literally wrestle with God? We don't even get to see God any more, yet Jacob gets to literally wrestle with him.  It's amazing!

The last part of this reading is a disturbing story.  Jacob's daughter Dinah was raped, but afterwords the man fell in love with her and repented and asked to marry her.  The man's father asked Jacob to let all their children marry.  It doesn't say here how Jacob responded to that.  Instead it says that Jacob's sons spoke privately to the man who raped their sister, and they spoke with deception. 

These sons of Jacob told the man who raped their sister they would form a covenant of marriages if every single man in their village was circumcised.  It's hard for me to think of babies being circumcised, but grown men?  That is a huge commitment to make, yet this village wholeheartedly agreed to do it. 

Two days later, Jacob's sons went into that village and slaughtered every single male.  Then the other sons of Jacob went into the village and looted and plundered and took everything, including the wives and children.  Not only did these men deceive the camp into circumcising all (which is bad enough in my opinion) they killed all the men and took everything!  That's just horrible.  The reading ends when Jacob discovers what has happened.  He is quite dismayed and knows now that they will be a ruined, crushed people.

Proverbs 3:19-20
Two sweet, simple verses convey a lot of meaning here.  They say that it was wisdom and knowledge that the Lord used to found the Earth.  So here we learn that wisdom isn't just important for us, but it was vastly important for the Lord; for without it we would not be here.