Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jesus Reveals Himself as the Son of God

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 16:13 - 17:9
  • Psalm 21: 1 - 13
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Matthew 16:13 - 17:9
Jesus revealed that he was the Son of the Living God to his disciples.  Simon Peter was the first to be given this knowledge -- not through Jesus, but instead revealed to him through God himself.  Jesus then told his disciples that they must keep this news quiet and not tell anyone.

Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer and that he would die.  Peter found this incredulous and took Jesus aside to tell him so.  After all, Jesus was the Messiah.  He should take his worldly throne and rule.  Jesus recognized this as an attack from Satan and rebuked it.  Of course Jesus would be tempted to take this route, he is both man and God in nature.  Satan had tempted Jesus many times throughout his entire life and he always failed.

It had to be devastating for the disciples to learn what was going to happen.  It had finally been revealed to them the true nature of Jesus Christ -- he was the son of God Himself!  And then they learn that he is going to be killed and suffer greatly? 

It has been a couple millennium since Christ came to this earth so we have the benefit of hindsight.  We know that in order for us to have a relationship with God we must go through Jesus Christ, who lived a completely sinless life before being sacrificed.  The disciples didn't truly understand that, they wanted to know why Jesus, the son of God, didn't use his powers to avoid that fate.

Jesus then took Peter, James and John to a mountain.  There the face and clothing of Jesus were transformed.  The face of Jesus shone and his clothing became pure white.  Then Moses and Elijah appeared and began to talk with Jesus.  Peter was enthused and proclaimed so (did he interrupt, I wonder? It doesn't say).  Then the voice of God boomed down and proclaimed to them that Jesus was His Son.

I often wonder what it would have been like if I were alive to meet Jesus.  I can't even begin to fathom being on a mountain top with Jesus, Moses and Elijah all at once.  And then to literally hear the voice of God at the same time is just awe inspiring in thought. 

I often think how great that would be, but then I recall all the tribulations the disciples went through.  Am I happier here, living my comfy life, writing about things I already know in my heart to be truths, even though I haven't physically heard the voice of God or seen Jesus perform a miracle? 

Or would I be happier having those truths revealed to me through great miracles, visions, and by hearing the voice of God Himself and then suffering greatly for sharing what I had seen?  Even today many people suffer by spreading God's Word, many are still martyred for doing so, but from where I sit here I have the freedom to share the word of God and my thoughts without physical harm coming to me. 

It doesn't really matter, I live the life I live; I was born when God deemed me to be born into the times and country and situations He deemed me to be born into.  I will take what I have, which is a true knowledge in my heart of the existence of God and Jesus, and do what I can to share that with others.  I still know Jesus Christ, and I still know God.  I might not physically tremble as His voice booms above me, but His voice still speaks to my heart. 

Psalm 21: 1 - 13 
In this Psalm the people of the kingdom of David rejoice in the Lord for granting David's victory against their enemies.  The people proclaim that the Lord is truly great to David.  He grants David a long life, victory over his enemies, blessings, splendor and majesty.  They talk of how others who scheme against the Lord run away as soon as they realize that God is going to strike against them.  The verse further affirms how I feel -- there is no side to be on but on the side of God Almighty. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

End of the Beginning, One Nation Under God

Today's Reading:
  • Genesis 48:1 - 50:26
  • Proverbs 4:20 - 27

Genesis 48:1 - 50:26
Today I read the end of the beginning of mankind.  As I read the final words of Genesis I really felt like an entire chapter of mankind had closed.  I know that the history included in the book of Genesis spans over a couple thousand years (this is according to the timeline in my NLT Study Bible) and therefore it feels really odd for me to feel like this is an era that ended, but somehow that's just how it feels to me.

I read about the deaths of Jacob and of Joseph.  I saw Jacob's twelve sons divided into the twelve tribes of Israel.  These tribes became the foundation for all Jewish people.  From this point on Israel is a nation that God deals with as a whole, instead of individuals and their descendants.  Perhaps this is why I feel like there is such a shift with the closing of this book.

I am saddened to see the end of this era and to experience the deaths of Jacob and Joseph.  The book of Genesis ends with a promise that God will deliver the people of Israel out of Egypt.  And while I know how this story goes, I look forward to truly studying the book of Exodus for the first time in my life, just as I have now finished truly studying Genesis for the first (but not last, God willing!) time in my life.

Psalm 20:1 - 9
This is a simple Psalm that calls upon God to be with and bless his followers.  God had delivered David from his enemies through His mighty power, and David knew who to attribute his victory to.

It's the end of this Psalm that commands most of my attention.  This Psalm says that the nation who relies on chariots and horses will fall, yet the nations who rely on God will rise up.  I am so thankful that I live in the United States.  I fully realize that living in this country is unlike living in any other country and that I have great advantages that people all over the world desperately long for.

Multitudes of people make our way into this country with a need to succeed, and they work so hard to obtain a better life for themselves and for their children.  In this country that is completely possible.  But I am scared to live here because I know that our nation -- which was founded under God -- is turning away from God.

I feel a blessing when I look upon our currency, and see the words "One Nation Under God."  Should those words ever be removed, well, God help us all.  Our nation will only be great as long as it is a nation under God. I believe this with all my heart and soul.  When our nation removes itself from God -- and I believe it will -- then our nation is going to fall.

Many may argue that our nation is already crumbling.  Our demise might not happen right away.  The bible is full of examples where empires continue to rule for long periods of time.  Regardless, it will fall eventually when we move away from God.

Please, fellow followers of Christ, pray for our nation.  Pray for God's continued protection.  Pray that it remains a great place for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren to live.  Pray to God that He might recognize that a good deal of people in this nation are His people, and that He watch over us and our families, keep our nation strong, and help us to move the focus back to being one nation under God.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miraculous Signs, Seven Verses to Guide One's Life

Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 15:29 - 16:12
  • Psalm 20:1 - 9
Matthew 15:29 - 16:12
Today I read about two more miracles Jesus performed.  A large group of gentiles had followed Jesus into the wilderness.  They brought all their sick -- the crippled, the blind, the deaf, the mute.  Jesus healed every single one of them.  He then fed the crowds of 4,000 men (and an additional undisclosed amount of women and children) with only 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

Later, his disciples argued about how had forgotten to bring any bread with them on a trip.  Jesus then stopped them from arguing, reminding them of the thousands of people he fed with very little.  It is astonishing to me that these disciples who walked with Jesus and saw all of the miracles he performed would be concerned with something as small as food.  They had seen Jesus feed thousands, with more leftover than they started with!  How can you see something like with your own eyes yet still doubt?

In 16:1 the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign.  Jesus refused.  He said that the only sign he would give them was the "sign of the prophet Jonah" (16:4).  I am a bit clueless as to what that means.  Can anyone fill me in?  It seems I have not yet read far enough in the Old Testament to understand this at the moment.

Proverbs 4:20 - 27
Pay attention to what the Lord says, hold it deep in your heart.  These words will bring you to life and keep your body healed and whole.  Keep your feet from following evil, fix your eyes on what lies in front of you.  Guard your heart above all else, watch what comes out of your mouth.  Those are the lessons of these 7 short verses from Proverbs.  

I think those 7 verses are enough to guide your whole life by.  Read the bible, absorb the Word. Keep it in your heart, protect your heart, let your heart guide you.  Watch what comes out of your mouth, for the words that come out of the mouth are initiated by what is in your heart.  Make good decisions, let your feet keep you away from bad situations.  Always pay attention to what is in front of you to ensure you follow the right path.  Enough said!

Are you waiting for a miraculous sign before following the Lord?  Beware, because for most people that is never enough and is soon forgotten.  Are you studying the Word? What has the Lord shown or told you through the Word?  Are you following it with both with your heart and with your feet? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jacob Migrates to Egypt, Do Not Do as the Wicked Do

    Today's Reading:
  • Genesis 46:1 - 47:31
  • Proverbs 4:14 - 19

Genesis 46:1 - 47:31
Joseph's family moved from Canaan to the land of Goshen in Egypt.  The NLT version of the bible says that there were 70 total descendants of Jacob and that all made the journey to Egypt.  When they arrived they were given the very best land of Egypt to choose from.  I can hardly comprehend how well regarded Joseph was; to have Pharaoh tell Joseph to take the best of all his land had to offer for a full 70 people is extreme.  No doubt about it, Joseph was highly blessed for his faithful service.

Jacob was 130 years old when he moved to Egypt.  Then he lived 17 more years after that!  I noticed how Jacob said that he was old, but not as old as his ancestors (47:9).  I wonder what the average lifespan was?  Was it only Jacob who was especially blessed with long life?  We think about how much the lifespan has increased in the last century or two, and we feel accomplished to have an average lifespan of 78+ years.  Yet the bible tells of these incredibly long lives.  I have already seen it mentioned many times that if you follow the Lord wholeheartedly and listen to His wisdom and live right, you will be blessed with long life.  I wonder what the correlation is between current long life and being a Christian.  I'm not sure how we would even being to test that though, since we cannot see into a person's heart to see their true relationship with God.

The famine continued to worsen, and Joseph doled out food to all.  First the people spent all their money on the food.  Then they spent all their livestock.  Finally, they sold Joseph all their land and promised their work to Pharaoh.  By the time the famine was done, Joseph obtained all the money of Egypt, all the livestock, and all of the land except that of the priests for Pharaoh.  Joseph also gave the people seed to grow crops, and told them they could keep all but one-fifth of their produce -- that part would be given to Pharaoh.

Such overwhelming responsibility was given to Joseph when he was told to prepare for this famine, yet he succeeded with flying colors.  How could he not, when the Lord chose him?  Through all of Joseph's major trials in life, never did he give up and never did he lose his spirit.  Some might argue say that they're tired of hearing the old story of Joseph, but Joseph was such an amazing example of how we should always trust the Lord and never give up.   Even in the worst situations in life, the Lord is there with us.  And the Lord has something planned for us that is better than we could ever have imagined. 

Proverbs 4:14 - 19
The message of these few verses are direct and simple: do not do as the wicked do.  Turn away, walk away in righteousness.  Being wicked is like being in complete darkness.  Or, like so many of our parents like to say: "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"  Don't let the wickedness of others, the sins of others, the wrong doing of others, influence you to do what you know that you should not.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spoken Words that Defile Us; Obtaining True Joy in Life

    Today's Reading:
  • Matthew 15:1 - 28
  • Psalm 19:1 - 14
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Matthew 15:1 - 28
Today's reading told a story of how Jesus scolded the Pharisees for misleading God's people.  Jesus accuses them of using the Torah as an excuse to violate commandments.  The example given was of using financial gifting to God as a means to avoid financial responsibility for one's parents and thus violating the commandment to honor thy father and thy mother.  In verse 15:4, Jesus reminds us that the penalty for not honoring your parents is to be put to death.  I realize the penalty for breaking any of the commandments is death, and I do not yet know enough about the subject to know if the Jesus was referring to instant death (like a stoning) or as death because we are sinners. 

Jesus then goes on to say that it is the things that come out of our mouths that defile us, for what comes out of our mouths comes from our hearts.  What comes out of our mouths show our true character.  What comes out of our mouths shows our inner being.

We will all have ungodly thoughts and feelings throughout our lives -- possibly many times a day.  It's how we react to those thoughts and feelings, the actions we take or don't take, the decisions we make, and the words that we allow to come out of our mouths that show our true nature and defile us.

How often do you say something you really don't mean?  Or say something just to hurt another person, because you know just how to push their buttons?  How often do you say something just because you are angry?  How often do you try to influence another person's emotions toward another person because of how you are currently feeling about that person?

The answer for me is too often.  If I want to grow closer to God (and truly, I do!) then I need to work on the things that come out of my mouth.  I need to think before I talk -- or write/text/IM/post to Facebook -- and I need to ask myself, will this defile me?   I have a long road ahead of me for this one, that's for sure!

Psalm 19:1 - 14
Psalm 19 is truly a beautiful Psalm.  The Psalm begins by stating that the Lord created the sun, the stars and the heavens.  The mere beauty and perfection of our universe shows that everything the Lord does is stunning and flawless, even when not a word is said.  Likewise, all the words God speaks to us, all the commandments He gives to us, all the wisdom He bestows on us -- all is beautiful and perfect, and we should revere in it.  The psalm concludes with a prayer that the Lord protect David from the deliberate and hidden sins in his heart, so that he can stay bathed in the glorious beauty of the Lord's glory.

I find everything about this Psalm to be beautiful and glorious, and a reminder that God's commandments to us are not a punishment to us, or set to restrict us from obtaining joy in life.  The exact opposite of that statement is true -- God's teachings is the key to obtaining true joy in our individual lives.  This is a joy that I am going to continue to strive to obtain, through all my shortcomings.

I am always astounded at how a singular or few bible verses can spark so many thoughts, emotions and questions in my person.  Thoughts enough that I could write and write and write on all the things that go through my mind and spirit as I read these words, yet never be finished.  What other book provokes so much thought through its entirety?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Joseph Reveals Himself to his Brothers: True Forgiveness

    Today's Reading:
  • Genesis 44:1 - 45:28
  • Proverbs 4:11 - 13
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Genesis 44:1 - 45:28
Finally I got to read about how Joseph told his brothers who he really was.  I thought perhaps the telling would be full of vengeance.  After all, Joseph was tormenting his brothers quite a bit by constantly baiting their bags with stolen goods.  He had manipulated them into bringing Benjamin to Egypt and then tried to keep Benjamin in Egypt as a slave.  But when Joseph confronted his brothers, he didn't even let them take any blame.  He told them not to be angry with themselves, for God did this so that they might have food to eat and not starve to death.  That is perfectly true forgiveness and serves as an example to us all.

Proverbs 4:11 - 13
These few versus from Proverbs tells us that if we listen to the Lord, learn and obey his teachings, and walk His straight path, that the Lord will give us a long good life.  Amen to that!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Miracles Performed by Jesus Christ

Today's Reading:
Matthew 14:13 - 36
Psalm 18:37 - 50

Read Bible Passages Online

Matthew 14:13 - 36
This passage was all about the miracles Jesus performed.  First He fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.  Then he walked on water to save his disciples from a storm.  Finally, Jesus visited a land where all who touched his robes were healed.

Over and over again I read about the miracles Jesus performed all over the land, and I wonder how could anyone NOT believe?  I know it is said there were many healers and such in those times but I know that none could have even come close to comparing to Jesus Christ.  So how can people be so doubtful?  How can they see a true miracle and then look Jesus in the face and tell him to perform another miracle so that they might believe?

I have to believe without physically seeing Jesus Christ .  I do have the benefit that the religion I grew up in already came to the belief that the man named Jesus is the Son of God.  Therefore I take for granted who Jesus is.  I guess I would probably be more weary of a new person who came along.  I'd like to think that I'd see Jesus and be instantly mesmerized, and would have dropped everything to follow Him as much as I could.  But I don't know what I would have done.  It would have been amazing to meet Jesus Christ, but perhaps I'm better off living roughly 2,000 years after he did.  I will meet him eventually.

Psalm 18:37 - 50
David sure sings some glorious praises in these verses.  My bible has a note saying that David sang this Psalm to the Lord on the day that the Lord rescued David from all of his enemies.  I don't know much about David presently.  I know that he was a shepherd over his family's sheep, and that he took out a giant with a single stone, and that he was the greatest king of men to ever come along.  But I haven't read any details into his life and reign.  With all the Psalms I've read so far I know the bible must be lush with the details of David's life.  I can't wait to learn all about him.  One thing is for sure -- he really did know how to praise the Lord.

I have yet to read even a full month's worth of teachings (remember I split a one year bible plan into two years), yet I feel like I've learned so much.  Truth be told, I'm a bit overwhelmed at the thought that I can never ever "master" the Bible.  I am a person who is used to accomplishing mastery over the tasks I undertake.  I am not used to doing something that simply cannot be mastered.  No matter how many times I read the Bible; no matter how many different ways or alternate orders I read it in; no matter how many different versions I read it in; no matter how many study guides I use -- no matter what, the Bible will never fail to teach me new things and speak to me in new ways.  What other book can you read 1,000 times yet still not master?  The Bible is truly astounding.