Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nile Turns to Blood; Held Captive by Our Own Sins

    Today’s Reading:
  • Exodus 5:22 - 7:25
  • Proverbs 5:22 - 23
Exodus 5:22 - 7:25
Moses no longer had the support of his own people whom he was fighting for.  Moses complained to the Lord but the Lord promised Moses that He will avenge the people, and by the time He was done all of Egypt will also know the one true God. 

Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh and turned the staff into a serpent.  The Pharaoh's magicians were able to do the same thing but the Lord's staff swallowed the staff of the magicians.  The Pharaoh still refused to believe so next Aaron turned the entire Nile river into blood.  It also says that all water from the Nile -- even that which was stored in pots (7:19) was turned into blood.  Once again, however, the magicians were able to do the same thing and they also turned water into blood.  The reading ends by remarking that it had been seven days since the Nile had been turned to blood.

I have to wonder about the Pharaoh's magicians.  Their power obviously doesn't come from the Lord, and we know that Satan is quite powerful, but we also know that he's not a fraction as powerful as God is.  When the sorcerers turned their staffs to serpents, their serpents were quickly swallowed whole. 

It also says that the sorcerers managed to turn water to blood, but it doesn't say to what extent.  I know they weren't able to turn the mighty Nile and all water anywhere that came from it into blood.  I know that the Pharaoh's heart was hardened, for God said quite a few times that he hardened the Pharaoh's heart (7:3 is just one example). 

It's still hard for me to imagine that people can see what they see, know what they know, yet still stubbornly insist that God does not exist, or, if He does exist, it doesn't matter or apply to them.  Oh well.  It's not my job to understand these other people.  I know what I know, and I am learning what I can, and sharing with others the things I am learning.  But I certainly will never be able to help someone find God whose heart has been hardened! 

I guess that I would first need to pray that the person's heart been softened so that they might feel the truths of the words spoken to them.  I will start with a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ for anyone who runs across my blog that their hearts will be softened, and that, at the very least, a small fire of longing to know the truth will be light inside of them, so that they might seek these truths for themselves.  Amen.

Proverbs 5:22 - 23
These two short verses in Proverbs tell us that we will be held captive by our own sins like ropes that tie us down, and if we have no self control then we will be lost because of foolishness.  These verses were in reference to extramarital affairs but the application goes far beyond just that. 

I know that every time I sin I feel myself distanced further from God.  If I keep sinning then I keep distancing myself further and further, and eventually I will become lost.  Take heed not to become lost, but if you are, just remember that it is never too late to cut those ropes that are holding you down.  And you don't have to do that by yourself -- you have the power of the Almighty Lord to help you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Forgiving Others; Walking Through the Valley of Death

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 18:21 - 19:12
  • Psalm 23:1 - 6
Matthew 18:21 - 19:12
Today's reading opens up with Peter asking Jesus just how many times a man should forgive another.  Jesus told Peter that the number was an astonishing 70 times 7 (18:22).  Jesus then tells Peter a story about a king who forgave his servant of a tremendous debt, only for the servant to turn around and throw another servant into jail for a much smaller debt.  The king heard about this and got angry because his servant refused to forgive another for the exact same thing he was just forgiven for.  The king's servant was thrown in jail.

Forgiving one another is a tremendous task and just saying the words doesn't account for anything.  Jesus says we must forgive from our hearts (18:35).  There are people in my life that have done me and my family some terrible wrongs.  I am certain that I am not the only person on this Earth who has had people seriously sin against them.  How do we get past that? 

I know that there are things that I am not yet past.  I do make a conscious effort to release the anger, but even though I'm not as angry anymore it doesn't mean that I have been able to forgive them yet.  How can we turn to the Lord and ask forgiveness for our sins, yet still hold our forgiveness from others?  I think this one takes a lot of praying, self reflection, and a lifetime to truly master.

Psalm 23:1 - 6
This is a very well known Psalm.  It is a favorite because of how well it demonstrates the comfort and protection of being with the Lord.  It tells of how the Lord protects us and meets our needs.  The Lord is with us -- regardless of what happens on this Earth, regardless of what happens to our bodies, regardless of who hurts us and regardless of how we die. 

This life we live is a split second in a time span that ranges all eternity.  It is brief and it is filled with suffering; but irrespective of all of that, the Lord is there to walk us through the end -- through the valley of death.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Moses and Aaron Confront Pharoh

    Today’s Reading:
  • Exodus 4:1 - 5:21
  • Proverbs 5:15 - 21
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Exodus 4:1 - 5:21
At the close of the last Exodus reading Moses was protesting his ability to do God's will and lead the people out of Egypt. The Lord had equipped Moses with his special staff, the one that turned into a serpent when thrown to the ground.  God also showed Moses how to cover his hand with disease and then make it whole again.  The Lord told Moses that if he dumped water from the Nile onto the ground that it would turn into blood.  Still, Moses continued to object to the task the Lord have given him until the Lord decided to name Aaron as the speaker for Moses.  Finally Moses had no more excuses and had to undergo his mission to speak to the leaders of Israel and to the Pharaoh.

Moses had no problem convincing the elders of his people.  They rejoiced in the fact that God was finally going to lift them up out of the suffering.  The Pharaoh, on the other hand, was outraged -- after all, who could this "God" be that was greater than he?  As a result of his anger the Pharaoh punished the people of Israel by having them work even harder than before.  This greatly angered the Israelites and turned them against Moses and Aaron.  This is where the reading stops for the day.

In the middle of this reading there was a small passage that really baffled me.  It was during Moses's return to Egypt with his family.  Seemingly out of the blue it says that the Lord confronted Moses and was about to kill him.  Then Moses's wife Zipporah immediately circumcised their son, and the Lord left Moses alone (5:24-26). 

I am wondering if I overlooked something earlier in this book, or if maybe there's more information elsewhere in the scripture that explains this?  I guess my assumption would be that the Lord had commanded Moses to circumcise his son at some point, yet Moses refused or delayed it?  It just seems odd because I didn't see that there was any reason given for God's sudden anger at Moses, and the very first reaction of Moses's wife was to circumcise their son.  Perhaps I'll find another piece of scripture at some point that clears this up for me.  I just felt like it came out of nowhere.

Proverbs 5:15 - 21
This is a continuation of the last reading from Proverbs (5:7 -14) where we were warned that extramarital affairs will destroy our lives.  In today's reading we are strongly cautioned to keep sex within our own marriage.  The man is told to let his wife be enough for her, to enjoy the sanctity of marital relations and not to share that with anyone else.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Humble as Children, All Will Bow Before the Lord

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 18:1 - 20
  • Psalm 22:18 - 31
 Matthew 18:1 - 20
These few short verses of Matthew taught quite a few lessons.  First Jesus tells us that if we are not as humble as little children we will not get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus also says that those who welcome someone in His name is indeed welcoming Christ himself.  Jesus then tells us that those who cause those who trust in him to fall into sin would be better off being drowned.  And, once again, we are told that it is better to cut off a sinful part of your body -- be it a hand or your own eyes -- then to let that part sin and keep you from the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are also told that those who are lost are given more attention than those who obey, and they are rejoiced over far more than those who have been obedient all along.

After reading these verses I have to evaluate myself to see how humble I am.  The problem is that I first need to figure out what exactly these verses mean by being humble.  What aspect(s) of my life does this refer to?  To me, right now, with what little study I've done, it seems to mean that I should have a child like belief in God. 

I think of my eldest daughter, who has an absolute love of the Lord.  I once had someone tell me that she suffered from "magical thinking".  Really?!  Obviously I don't find an utter belief in God to be "magical thinking" -- it's called Faith.  My daughter doesn't think that God is some magical genie who is going to grant all her wishes.  She thinks of Him as being the one, the only, the true God -- the God who created the universe and all in it, including us.  She doesn't have a doubt in her little head. 

So many people have to work at having faith and work against their doubts.  I am lucky, because like my daughter, I have always known God to be true.  I have never had to find Him and realize that yes, He does exist.  All of this faith doesn't matter one bit, however, unless I align my life with how God wants me to live it. 

It's not enough just to believe in God and his son Jesus -- if I don't follow God's rules for my life, if I don't find and fulfill my purpose in Him -- then what am I really living for?  What will my life be worth when I stand before the Gates of Heaven? One thing is for sure, by finally committing myself to truly study the Word of God I know that I am finally on the right track.

 Psalm 22:18 - 31
The beginning of this Psalm that I read a couple days ago was filled with David's suffering at the hands of his enemies.  Even though David was suffering so badly, still he had tremendous praise and reverence for the Lord.   It touches my heart just to read those words of powerful praise. 

David then proclaims that the entire world will bow before the Lord (22:27) and that future generations will all hear about the wonders of the Lord (22:30).  How true is that?  How many generations has it been since David walked the Earth, and more people than ever know the Lord.  And when Jesus returns every single person will know the truth.  I am glad I know the truth now instead of later.  Please remember that there is not always a later, so change your life now.  Change it today -- there might not be a tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Life of Moses, Extramarital Affairs

    Today’s Reading:
  • Exodus 2:11 - 3:22
  • Proverbs 5:7 - 14
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Exodus 2:11 - 3:22
In my last reading of Exodus I met Moses -- first as an infant and then as a child (undisclosed age) when he was handed back to be raised by the princess.  Today I met Moses as an adult.  Again the age is undisclosed, but the study notes in my bible estimate (based on other bible references I have yet to read) that Moses was about 40 years old. 

As an adult Moses decided to visit his people and witnessed the brutality of their slavery firsthand.  Moses then took matters into his own hands and killed a guard that had beaten a Hebrew man.  When Moses later tried to socialize with some fellow Hebrews they responded quite poorly.  They accused him of trying to be their prince and their judge (2:14).  I guess their response was understandable; after all, Moses had led a life of privilege even though he was a Hebrew.  What did he really know of their suffering?  And who was he to just come down, kill a guard, and think that he can make it all better?

Pharaoh learned that Moses had killed the guard and tried to kill Moses.  Moses then became a fugitive and fled to Midian.  There he rescued some girls who were trying to water their father's flocks.  Moses settled with that family, married one of the girls, and had children of his own.  Moses lived that life for around 40 years (again, estimate from my study bible and I have not read enough to back it up).

When Moses was approximately 80 years old he saw the burning bush.  There he was told what his mission would be -- first to meet with the Israelite elders, then to meet with Pharaoh and demonstrate God's hand, and finally to lead the people out of Egypt. 

Moses was understandably baffled at this revelation.  It was a huge endeavor and a great responsibility.  The Pharaoh who tried to kill Moses had died but that didn't mean the new Pharaoh was any more favorable toward Moses.  The new Pharaoh hadn't changed the brutal slavery policies, so why would there be any reason to believe that Moses wouldn't still be a fugitive when he returned?  I also don't think there was any indication that Moses would be any better received by his own people.  He was a Hebrew, but he had lived apart his entire life, even after he fled the palace.

The reading leaves off before Moses actually accepts and undergoes the mission, but of course I know the ending to this story.  Even if I didn't know, Moses was a rescuer, that was easy to see.  The problem was that he went about it via his own devices, first by killing the guard and then by rescuing the girls.  Each of those actions had life changing implications -- for the first he became a fugitive and lost his life of privilege, for the second he gained a new home and new life.  Regardless, the true power to rescue his people, a power he arguably craved, could only come from God.  Finally, Moses was about to embark on the God-led mission to deliver his people out of the brutal slavery in Egypt. 

Proverbs 5:7 -14
This reading continues the topic of having an affair.  The bible strictly warns that you have much to lose -- you will lose your wealth and the fruit of your labors (a divorce would immediately result in a loss of much of your wealth) and the things you have achieved (how many public scandals have ruined people's careers?).  The bible even says you will suffer diseases (sexually transmitted diseases, I assume). 

The last verse tells of the public disgrace that will be suffered.  All of what was said here is true today -- even in our day and age when sexual relationships before or instead of marriage are quite common.  So heed the warnings! 

The bible doesn't say that it's a crime to be tempted, because how could you help the occasional thought that passes through your mind?  But it does say to stay far away from temptation's door (5:8).  In other words, keep yourself out of those situations.  If you actively keep yourself away from it then you won't succumb to it.  But if you keep putting yourself in that situation, how long do you think you will be able to resist it?  When is it ever worth what you're going to lose?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Discernment of Demons, Suffering of David

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 17:10 - 27
  • Psalm 22:1 - 18
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Matthew 17:10 - 27
Today I read about how Jesus healed a demon possessed boy.  The boy was mute and deaf and suffered from frequent violent seizures.  The disciples tried to cast out the demon but could not.  This led to Jesus rebuking the disciples for not having enough faith.

This short story leaves me with so many questions. I see reference after reference of how Jesus and his disciples cast out demons and heal sickness, all in the power of Jesus Christ over Satan.  I am beginning to understand that sickness and disease are not the will of God for his children and that, if we use the power of Jesus in true faith we have the power over such things.  Just a few days ago I read a passage from Proverbs (4:20-22) that said:
My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.  Don't lose sight of them.  Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.
My biggest question right now is how does one recognize an evil spirit/demon?  Not the commercialized, head spinning, pea soup spitting demon; but rather a demon that is harboring sickness in a person?  To Jesus, to his disciples, to the people at the time, there was no question about whether or not there was a demon in that boy's body. 

Our society places so much value into the scientific explanation of things.  I do believe that we should also use our own readily available devices before asking for divine intervention. If there is a problem that a trip to the doctor and a few antibiotics can fix, then by all means go to the doctor and take the pills.  But what if you can't afford the doctor?  What if the problem isn't something minor?  What if you're battling a condition such as seizures or a cancer?  Are all of those things evil/demonic spirits?

So if we say that yes, those things are evil spirits/demons/Satan's work, then we should very well be able to channel the power of Jesus Christ to have them cast out, right?  I wonder how one grows strong in healing.  The disciples themselves had issue having enough faith to cast the demon out so it's obviously not something so simple that you can just do it as soon as you learn that you can channel the power of Jesus to heal others.

This is certainly a topic of high interest to me.  I certainly have the faith -- of course Jesus has complete power over Satan, there's no question about that.  I guess I need to first pray for discernment so that I might better see the spiritual causes of disease and sickness.  That's not a light prayer, it's actually kind of scary to think about.  Do I even want to open that door?  I do, I don't -- but I do, because for me I can't go stick my head in the sand when I realize something is out there.  Then I must read the Word of God and pray to learn how to overcome the things I can see with my new eyes.

It's not going to happen overnight, but I feel a big shift in my heart as I write these words.  I feel a heaviness and a slight dread.  I am somewhat afraid of what I am asking for, but I really can't go back now.  I must also remember that fear is not of God.  I can tell you one thing though -- when I started this project I really didn't think that I'd be praying for a spiritual discernment of spirits.  This one book has power to change your life so completely.

Psalm 22:1 - 18
This partial Psalm is a sad one because David is suffering greatly by the hands of his enemies.  It's hard for me to relate this to context without having really learned David's life story.  I think I've mentioned a few times now about how I don't know much about David aside from his conquer of Goliath and that he was the greatest king of the Jewish people.  I will certainly have to go back and read the Psalms of David after I learn all about him.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Difficulties of Wealth, King of Glory

    Today’s Reading:
  • Matthew 19:13 - 30
  • Psalm 24:1 - 10
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Matthew 19:13 - 30  
The majority of this reading had to do with people who are wealthy entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  I think that many people believe that becoming wealthy will solve all their problems.  Sure, it will make big things in their lives easier.  So many people struggle just to pay their bills and keep food on their tables and keep the utilities on and keep a roof over their heads.  So yes, of course having wealth does make life easier. 

I think the problem with wealth and salvation is coming to depend on your wealth.  Your wealth might make you powerful in today's world, but Jesus says the following about the times after His return:
many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. (19:30)
You can't buy your way into Heaven.  Likewise, your wealth cannot become more important to you than God is.  Do not let money become your God.  Thou shalt have no other Gods before God almighty, and that doesn't just mean people.  It means anything that becomes more important to you than God is. 

I think it's hard for people who work so hard and work their way up to wealth to remember that they would be nothing without God.  There's a lot to be said for hard work and being self sufficient.  Just don't lose sight of God while you're getting there and once you are there. 

If you lost it all today, where would you stand with God?  Evaluate yourself and evaluate your motives. Because when you die, that's where you are going to be -- standing before the Lord with none of your wealth or possessions to hide behind.  Are you strong enough to stand on your own before the Lord Almighty?

Psalm 24:1 - 10
Psalm 24 tells us to let the King of Glory enter into our hearts.  It says that only those people"whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies" (24:4) can have a relationship with the Lord. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I know that is true, because I feel the riff each time I choose to sin and then have to come back to the Lord and beg for forgiveness.  I know that intimacy lacks between me and the Lord until I can get myself right with Him again.  I much prefer the feeling of being close to the Lord over sensing the widening of the chasm between us. 

So I must open my gates and let the King of Glory in.  I don't know why I think that any sin is ever worth losing that.  I guess that's the condition of having human flesh.  It's a constant battle, but I intend to come out on top of this one!

Baby Moses is Sent Down the River, Beware Immorality

    Today’s Reading:
  • Exodus 1 - 2:10
  • Proverbs 5: 1-6
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Exodus 1 - 2:10
At the end of Genesis the Israelites moved to Egypt where Joseph was second in command the entire nation.  Pharaoh knew what Joseph had done for him and was good to him.  In time, however, that Pharaoh died and a new Pharaoh came to power.  He realized that the Israelites were dangerously prolific and soon outnumbered the Egyptians.  He ordered the Israelites to be slaves and worked them very hard.  That only backfired as the Israelites multiplied even more quickly.  So the Pharaoh gave his famous order to kill all sons born to the Israelites.

The Pharaoh first ordered the midwives to kill the sons but they refused out of fear of God.  He then sent the order that all of the sons of Israelites should be thrown into the Nile River.  Forget the fact that the Pharaoh does not know God -- but where is that man's conscience?  How can someone order such a thing and then later live with themselves?  I know that we as a people have a sinful nature, but I don't think the majority of those who never did and never will know God could do such a thing as that.

I would be interested to know how many people followed the Pharaoh's orders, and the measures they took to hide their babies.  Was there a safe age for a boy child to reach?  Let's say they managed to hide a boy for 2-3 years, was he safe at that point if they brought him out?  How long was this order under effect?

The final section of the reading is one of my favorite parts of the story of Moses.  Moses's mother left him in a basket on the banks of the river in hopes that he would survive.  Not only did he survive, but the princess herself found him and then paid the mother of Moses to raise and nurse the child for awhile.  It says that Moses was brought back when he was older to be adopted by the princess.

How old was Moses when his mother brought him back to the princess?  How old was the sister, who watched in the weeds and suggested to the princess a woman to nurse the child?  I know it was all God's work, but did the princess suspect or know that the woman was Moses's own mother?  Regardless, the bottom line is God is GREAT and through him all things are possible, and these passages contain but one small example of His great works.

Proverbs 5: 1- 6
These first few verses of the fifth Proverb warn men to stay away from immoral women.  The immoral woman has lips as sweet as honey and a mouth that is smoother than oil (5:3), but in the end she is poison, she is dangerous,  and her feet lead to death (5:4-5).  Of course this verse is written to the men, but it certainly applies to women as well.  It applies to the women who are tempted to have an extramarital affair as well as those who are doing the tempting.

In those days a person really could be put to death for adultery.  These days, in the United States, that doesn't happen as often, although crimes of passion do occur.  In some countries it's not uncommon for a woman to be put to death (by her own family even!) if it is found that she isn't a virgin when she gets married.  Regardless of whether or not one will actually be put to death for having immoral sex, in the end it's still your relationship with God that winds up tarnished.  You can be forgiven and you can be cleansed, but each and every sin keeps you from becoming as close to God as you could and should be.  In the end, it's you who loses out.