Saturday, June 2, 2012

John the Baptist Begins His Ministry; The Holy Spirit Inside Us

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 3:1 - 22
  • Psalm 61:1 - 8
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 3:1 - 22
These few verses in Luke tells us the story of John the Baptist, starting with when he was called by God to begin his ministry and mission to baptize the people.  The baptism is to signify one's new life as they turn away from sin and towards the salvation of God. 

Verses 7 - 9 were very interesting to me.  John called some of descendants of Abraham a "brood of snakes" (3:7).  He warns them not to just say to each other that they are safe because they are descendants of Abraham.  Instead, John says one must "prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God" (3:8).  He finishes by saying: "Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire" (3:9).

I am 100% aware that without Jesus Christ, not a single person, no matter how righteous, can gain salvation.  But I also feel that more is expected of us than just believing in Jesus Christ.  We need to produce good fruit and good works for the Lord, and live as though we have turned towards God, instead of continuing to live in sin. 

On the other hand, I think that the person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their savior goes through a transformation, and in that transformation our lives naturally evolve to be more righteous, to produce good works, to walk in love, and to turn from sin.  When Jesus Christ enters our heart, it changes us from the inside out. 

If you know Jesus is in your heart, yet you keep Him locked away into a small space inside of you, let Him out!  Allow Him to take over ALL of you.  Allow Him to shine through you.  Show your love for Lord both by your faith and by your actions.  If you allow Jesus to shine through you, the good fruit is produced effortlessly. 

Psalm 61:1 - 8
4  Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
 This is another psalm of David.  Verse four sticks out to me because of the stark differences between our lives now, and the lives of those in the Old Testament.  David had to flee his home and no longer had access to the Tabernacle.  Without the Tabernacle, David was unable to have to close relationship with God that he once had.  These psalms are filled with the longing of David to be near the Lord again.

Today we take for granted the close relationship we have with the Lord because the Holy Spirit is within us whenever we decide first let it in.  But that was not the case then -- then you had to go inside the Tabernacle to converse with the Lord, but only a choice few were allowed. 

All of that changed with the death of Jesus Christ.  That closeness with the Lord is attainable to all of us.  And if you've lost it, if you can't seem to figure out where it's gone or why you don't feel close to the Lord anymore, then just sit down and start studying your bible again.  Then you will feel the Holy Spirit rise up inside you again. 

Jesus Christ was an incredible gift to the world.  Not only do we have this amazing thing called salvation, we also have the ability to feel the Holy Spirit living within us.  To study the bible and to feel it stir within us.  To transform us, to make us into new people with more fulfilling lives.  To rule us and to shine through us.  Thank you, Lord for the allowing us this awesome gift so that we can forever be near you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

God is Fair; Moses Prepares to Die

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 26:52 - 28:15
  • Proverbs 11:16 - 17
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 26:52 - 28:15
God told Moses to divide up the land among tribes.  The divide should be proportional to the population -- so larger tribes received more land than the small tribes, but all was in fair proportions. 

In the beginning of chapter 27, we see a complaint brought before Moses regarding the provisioning of land.  The daughters of Zelophehad were upset because he had died without a son, and thus the remaining family was not entitled to any land.  Moses brought this before the Lord, who said that the daughters should receive their share of inheritance.  Should there be no sons and no daughters, then it goes to his brother instead -- and so on. 

The point I got from these things is that our God is a fair God.  Always, he is fair.  He is fair in punishment (an eye for an eye), He is fair is equal proportions of land; He is fair in that he had multiple tiers of sacrifices that depended on what the person could afford; He is fair when requiring that we all tithe 10%, instead of a set amount that many cannot afford; He is fair in that the family is entitled to inheritance; He is fair in punishment (an eye for an eye) -- He is fair.  He is a fair Lord.  The world is not fair; this life is often not fair -- but the Lord is fair!  I am thrilled that our Lord is a fair Lord.  Thank you, Lord for being fair to your children!

Later in Chapter 27, the Lord tells Moses that he will soon die like Aaron.  Moses asks the Lord to appoint a new leader and the Lord chose Joshua.  Moses transferred some of his power to Joshua, and prepared the people for the change in leadership.  The reading ends with instructions for daily, weekly, monthly and bi-monthly sacrifices. 

Proverbs 11:16 - 17
16  A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.
17  Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.
Gaining wealth sounds great to so many people.  There are only a select few of us who would not like to gain more wealth than we already have.  But it's not worth it if we're gaining that wealth while being ruthless, or by being cruel.  Wealth is fleeting, this life is fleeting.  Kindness, graciousness, wisdom -- those are the traits we should long to acquire.  The Lord will provide for our needs, and we might even gain wealth that we can enjoy during this first life. But if we're going to gain wealth, lets do it the right way.  Let's be kind and gracious to others, share knowledge and wisdom, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all those around us.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jesus Remains Behind in the Temple

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 2:36 - 52
  • Psalm 60:1 - 12
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 2:36 - 52
Here we get a small glimpse into Jesus as a child.  We are told that Jesus was strong, healthy, filled with wisdom, and had God's favor on him (2:40).  Then we are told about the story where Jesus went missing for three days.  Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, and didn't realize (because there were so many travelers migrating together) that Jesus was not among them.  Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem and eventually found Jesus in the Temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions.

When questioned by Mary and Joseph about why he made them search for Him, he responded with:
"But why did you need to search?" he asked.  "Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" (2:49)
I have to wonder at what age did Jesus become aware of who He was?  Was there a point where Jesus was told who He was, and He accepted out of fate? Or did He always know, was that knowledge always a part of Him, just as we know the parents who raise us? Did Mary and Joseph ever tell Him of His special birth and of the angel visits?

It's all useless speculation, but I can't help but wonder what what life was like for Jesus as a child, and how he was as a young child.

Psalm 60:1 - 12
In this Psalm of David, David's armies are conquering many territories.  At some point in the conquest, however, David has to call for the Lord's help against his enemies.  As always, David's faith remains strong, and he calls on the Lord with praise of the Lord.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Descendents of Korah Live; Securing the Debt of Another

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 26:1 - 51
  • Proverbs 11:15
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 26:1 - 51
Once again the Lord ordered a census of all the Israelites who were able to fight in a war.  The criteria criteria was the same as the first census -- all males 20 or older, who was not a Levite.  The original census tallied 603,550.  This second census showed a slightly lower number -- 601,730 (26:51).

These passages were all lineage lines and tallies of people.  But there was an interesting passage tucked away that answered a previous question I had about the descendants of Korah.  I have noted that I've read a few Psalms that were about the descendants of Korah, so when Korah's name came up in the story of his rebellion against Moses, my ears perked up. 

The story told us that Dathan and Abiram were swallowed alive by the earth, along with their descendants.  We were also told that Korah and 250 of his followers were blazed to death in a fire set by the Lord.  But those passages didn't tell us anything about the descendants of Korah, who I knew had to be alive because of the 42nd and 43rd Psalms that I had read. 

My question was answered was answered today, tucked away among lineage lines and tallies:
10  But the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed them with Korah, and fire devoured 250 of their followers.
11  However, the sons of Korah did not die that day.
 Question answered, as simple as that!  It's funny how I used to abhor lineage lines and the such, and now I can find little details preciously tucked away for the finding.  Even on days like today, where I see my entire reading is a lineage list, still I can find something of profound interest to me.  The bible is truly amazing!

Proverbs 11:15
There's danger in putting up security for a stranger's debt; it's safer not to guarantee a person's debt.
This is a very reassuring verse for me.  I have been asked in the past to co-sign on things, and as bad as I felt about not helping, I still have told those who ask that I will not do that.  I am willing to help a person in need, but putting my own security on the line is (as the verse says) not a very safe thing to do.  I'm glad that I don't have to feel like less of a Christian for saying no in this type of situation.  Now if this person needed a place to stay, I would gladly open my home to them.  But I wouldn't put up security on their debt so that they can live in a place that is out of their means.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why Jesus was Born in Bethlehem, and When did Mary and Joseph Get Married?

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 2:1 - 35
  • Psalm 59:1 - 17
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 2:1 - 35
I knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but I didn't know why until today.  Chapter two of Luke tells us that the Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census of all the people, and because of this, everyone had to return to their ancestral towns.  Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, Joseph had to return to David's hometown of Bethlehem.

Joseph took Mary, his fiance, with him (2:5).  I wonder at what point did Joseph and Mary actually marry?  We know, according to this verse, that they were not yet married this late in the pregnancy.  But we also know, according to Matthew 1:24, that Joseph married her before Jesus was born.  Coincidentally, Matthew tells us that Joseph married Mary directly after being visited in a dream by an angel.  So the marriage would have had to take place sometime during the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census.  I wonder if any details on the marriage will be given somewhere else in scripture.

Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, but were unable to find a place to stay.  Therefore Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was born in the humblest of places -- a manager, clothed only in strips of cloth.

After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph were visited by three shepherds.  An angel had visited those shepherds, telling them that the Messiah had been born.  Later, a man named Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  The Holy Spirit then led him to the Temple, where the couple were giving their purification sacrifices to the Lord.  Simeon took the baby Jesus into his arms and praised the Lord.

Both Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  Even then it must have been astounding to have people coming out of the woodwork, praising the child.  It even says, in verse 2:33, that Mary and Joseph were amazed at the things said about Jesus.  How would one cope knowing that their child was the Messiah?  I can't even imagine how that would make me feel as a parent.  I also wonder what Jesus was like as a baby, a toddler, and as a child.  Was He wise beyond His years?  How fast did He learn, walk, talk and grow?  Did He get into everything like my three -- requiring the entire house to be toddler proofed?  We know Jesus as a baby, as a man, and as the Messiah, but still I long for a few little glimpses into what he was like when he was young.

Psalm 59:1 - 17
In this Psalm, David calls for protection from the Lord against his enemies.  David's faith is remarkable.  Throughout all his trials and tribulations, he never doubted that the Lord was there.  He might have been desperate at times, but always he returned to the Lord for protection and for vengeance against his enemies.  David's faith was truly remarkable. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Israelites Engage in Worship to Baal; Absorbing the Wise Word

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 24:1 - 25:18
  • Proverbs 11:14
Read Bible Passages Online

Numbers 24:1 - 25:18

Balaam was set to converse with the Lord for a third time regarding the people of Israel.  We are told that Balaam realized instead that the Lord was not changing his mind -- the Israelites were blessed.  Balaam spoke to Balak in the Holy Spirit.  Balaam blessed the Israelites and cursed everyone who curses them.

Balak was extremely angry and ordered Balaam to leave.  Before Balaam left, he prophesied the destruction of Moab, Edom, Amalek, and the Kenites.  As far as I can tell right now, Balaam obeyed the Lord's commands.  My study bible, however, suggests that the story of Balaam is not yet over.

In Chapter 25 we learn of a serious offense that many Israelites partcipated in.  Many men of Israel took the Moabite and Midianite women to their beds, and began to worship the women's god -- Baal of Peor.  Of course this angered the Lord, and a plague began to spread throughout the people.

Moses conversed with the Lord, and the Lord commanded him to execute those men who had started this rebellion.  We are told that while all this was happening, and while people were weeping in front of the Tabernacle, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into his tent, presumably to have sex with her.

The son of Eleazar immediately grabbed a spear and ran into the tent.  He thrust the spear through the man, which also traveled through to the stomach of the woman.  The Lord was instantly appeased with the action, and the plague stopped -- but not before 24,000 had died.

The reading ends by ordering Moses to attack Moab for tricking the Israelites into worshiping Baal.  This suggests to me that the plot was hatched by Moab itself, since Balak had been unsuccessful at getting Balaam to curse the people, perhaps the Israelites could manage to curse themselves by worshiping another god.

Proverbs 11:14
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.
This verse also applies to those of us who are leaders of a nation.  We are still leaders of our lives, leaders of our ministry to others, leaders of our interactions, leaders of our flesh, leaders of our families. 

Be wise, and take heed from your advisers.  Don't shrug off the advice of others, the wise person takes it to heart.  And don't forget to consult the best source of wisdom ever written -- the Word. 

The Word is available at our fingertips.  We are blessed in that way.  Many people have multiple bibles in their houses.  We have bibles on the internet, bibles on our phones, bibles on our tablets -- bibles everywhere.  Copies of the New Testament can be had for a dollar.  There are people willing to provide bibles for those who don't have one.  In our nation, we truly have the wisdom of God available at our fingertips -- here for the taking.  Open your eyes and open your heart -- be a wise leader of those around you and absorb the Word of God.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Birth of John the Baptist (His Name is John)

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 1:57 - 80
  • Psalm 58:1 - 11
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 1:57 - 80
John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Many people came to the circumcision ceremony when John was 8 days old.  The people then began to argue with Elizabeth over the name John, since it was not in the family at all.

We are told that people then turned to Zechariah, using gestures to ask him what he wanted the son's name to be.  Zechariah wrote "His name is John" (1:63), and instantly Zechariah could hear and speak again.  Praise the Lord!  Isn't it amazing how we can be instantly blessed for having faith?

We are then told that the Holy Spirit overcame Zechariah, and he prophesied over John.  Zechariah foretold the coming of the Lord, and that John would be come the prophet of the Most High (1:76).  John would lead people to salvation (1:77), give light to those in darkness (1:79), and -- most importantly -- prepare the way for the Lord (1:76).

In verse 80 we are told that John grew up strong in the spirit and lived in the wilderness until he was ready to go public with his ministry.

Psalm 58:1 - 11
8  May they be like snails that dissolve into slime, like a stillborn child who will never see the sun.
9  God will sweep them away, both young and old, faster than a pot heats over burning water.
This Psalm talks powerfully of the vengeance of the Lord against wicked people, people who have lied and gone their own way, even from birth (58:3). 

The imagery here is quite powerful -- snails dissolving into slime, stillborn children, and people who are swept away in no time at all.  I don't want to be wicked.  I don't want to be insignificant to the Lord so that I am swept away in a tide with the rest of those who have gone their own way. 

Thank you Lord for being with me, for making me complete.  Thank you Lord for filling me with your spirit so that I am not washed away with the lot of sinners who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ, who refuse to repent.  Thank you, Lord -- Amen.