Thursday, July 19, 2012

Father to the Fatherless, Defender of Widows

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 68:1 - 18
  • Psalm 68:19 - 35
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 68
This Psalm seems slightly different than most of the other Psalms.  I don't know quite how to explain it -- there are the normal calls for the Lord to vindicate His people, and much praising of the Lord, but it is all combined with storytelling.  Verses 5 and 6 are my favorite from this psalm:
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows -- this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
For some reason I just find those verses really comforting.  I am not the fatherless, I am not lonely, and I am not a widow -- but nonetheless, I know these verses are for me as well as everyone else.  Our Father in Heaven is all things we need and desire.

This Psalm also talked about Mount Zion and Mount Sinai.  This lead me on an internet search -- how many biblical sites are there to see in and around Israel?  The answer is a phenomenal amount.

Israel has never been on my desired places to visit list.  Probably because of the constant turmoil there, I had no desire to be in the danger zone.  But after doing this research, I see there is so much more to Israel than violence and terrorism.

The history there is absolutely amazing.  All the sites linked to the bible and to Jesus and his ministry.  The more I have read the bible, the more I have become interested in finding biblical sites in today's world. 

To make a long story short, Israel is now on my radar.  I definitely want to visit -- I don't think any other vacation can offer me the fulfillment that this one would.  I will make it a reality one of these years -- as long as the Lord doesn't come back before then!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Words of Life -- Lovely Little Tidbits to Ponder Straight from the Mouth of Jesus

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 6:39 - 7:10

Luke 6:39 - 7:10
Jesus gives us quite a bit to ponder in these few verses of Luke.  It's a hodgepodge of great verses to evaluate our lives against, so I'm just going to address these lovely little tidbits separately. 
39  Can one blind person lead another?  Won't they both fall into a ditch?
It is a great thing when a person manages to find faith and salvation with another new Christian.  But it is also important that we find a seasoned teacher to guide us along on our journey.

40  Students are not greater than their teacher.  But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
Even though we need a teacher at first, we can study so that we can be trained to help others.  I started this blog with the intention of becoming trained so that I didn't feel so clueless about my faith.  Along the way I am learning so much that I feel confident enough to help others in some situations.  I still have so much more learning to go, and no one can ever know everything there is to know about the bible because new things are revealed each time you read it -- even in verses you've previously read over and over.  Regardless, I love that I am able to apply the bible to my everyday life, and at least point others to sections of the bible that are pertinent to their questions and/or struggles.  If my faith has opened up to me so much in such a short time, I can't imagine what it will be like when I've studied the entire bible through for the first time!
41  How can you think of saying, 'Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.
 What is interesting to me about this verse is that Jesus doesn't say that we can't help others remove sins in their lives.  But he is saying that we will be unable to do so if we can't deal with our own problems first.  This reminds me of the post I wrote a few days ago about the dangerous "holier than thou" mentality.

45  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  What you say flows from what is in your heart.
I've seen a lot of references to how your words can bring life or death.  I believe that a big part of this is because the words that come out of your mouth reflect what is in your heart.  If your heart is filled with hatred, anger, despair, lies, revenge, faithlessness, etc -- then the words you speak simply reflect what is already there.  You have death in your heart, and therefore it is death that comes out of your mouth.  If you speak hope, love, faith, fellowship, friendship, compassion, understanding, etc -- then you have life in your heart, and the words of life will come out of your mouth. 

But what if we have a good heart, yet still say some bad things?  We all say things we don't mean at some point or another, but when something we think we don't mean comes out of our mouth, we need to truly our heart to see why that thought lingered there in the first place, and why it was so easily released from our mouth.  I don't think we are judged for any thought that comes through our head, but instead judged on those thoughts we act upon.  We are told in more than one place that it is better to cut off a sinful part of the body than for us to let that part sin.  That includes our tongue.  I believe sin is in our actions and in the things we say.  So just because we stifle a thought we know shouldn't be there doesn't mean we are evil.  It just means that we are human in nature, and there is always room for us to improve ourselves to become more Christlike.  

What if a person has an evil heart, but manages to fool the people with his words?  The words that come out of our mouths reveal the person's nature to man.  Man can be fooled with words.  But the Lord knows our heart, so in the end these people will be judged for what is in their heart, not for what they have done or said on this earth.  It's hard for our human nature to sit back and see the unfairness.  But in the end the righteous will be celebrated, and all who fail to judge themselves before the Lord in this life will be judged.

49  Anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation.  When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.
 I certainly don't want to collapse into a heap of ruins at the first storm that passes by.  That is why I am finally making a very detailed study of the bible, so that I can learn how to build my foundation.  Everything the Lord has to say to us is in this book, yet how many (including myself) have never read it through, let alone studied it thoroughly?  I thank the Lord for calling me to do this!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seek the Lord with All Your Heart and you will Find Him

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 4:1 - 49
  • Proverbs 11:28
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 4:1 - 49
Moses continued give his monologue to he people of Israel.   In chapter four he stresses greatly on being faithful to the Lord.  He reminded them that there was a covenant, there were laws, and there were things that anger the Lord (such as idol worship).  But if the people were to only obey these things, if they would only stay faithful to the Lord, then they would be blessed with long lives in the land that the Lord had provided to them.

Moses also tells us that those who break this covenant will be scattered among the nations.  They will eventually start worshiping other gods and forget about the Lord. 

Even though we might be scattered, one glorious promise still remains: (4:29)
But from there you will search again for the Lord your God.  And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.
We might be reading the Old Testament here, but that promise is still true to today.  The Lord is merciful and forgiving, and He is waiting for us who have scattered to turn back and seek Him.  And when we do, if we search with our hearts and souls, He will be there for us to find.  Isn't that wonderful?

Proverbs 11:28
Trust in your money and down you go!  But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.
It is so hard to have money and not to trust in it, isn't it?  Even those of us who have been blessed financially by the Lord and who realize it can still fall into this trap.  The Lord loves the poor, for they rely upon Him for everything that comes their way.  They are eternally thankful for every day that they manage to make an end meet. 

No matter how little or how much money we have, we must still remember that we can't trust in it.  It can be gone tomorrow.  But the Lord is there for us always, so we should constantly be thankful that he meets (and often exceeds) our needs.  Thank you, Lord, for blessing me and my family. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thirteen Ways to Distinguish Ourselves from Sinners

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 6:12 - 38
  • Psalm 67:1 - 7
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 6:12 - 38 
32  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them.
33  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!
34  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
 Jesus is telling us that even those who are unsaved can do good things for others.  Our job as Christians is to distinguish ourselves from sinners.  We have to do things that will make people stop and take notice of our generous, calm, and forgiving nature.  Something that makes people wonder: Wow -- how is it this person is so much different than I am?  Is becoming saved really that powerful?

Unfortunately for many Christians, the answer to that question is no.  Well, let me qualify that statement.  Becoming saved, receiving the power of Christ -- it's the most powerful experience of your life.  But those who actually buckle down and let this power permanently make over their lives are fewer and further between. 

So what sort of things are we supposed to do to distinguish ourselves from sinners?  Today's reading in Luke offers an abundance of suggestions:
  1. Love your enemies (6:27)
  2. Do good to those who hate you (6:27)
  3. Bless those who curse you (6:28)
  4. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek (6:29)
  5. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also (6:29)
  6. Give to anyone who asks (6:30)
  7. When things are taken from you, don't try to get them back (6:30)
  8. Do to others as you would have them do to you (6:31)
  9. Lend without expecting to be repaid (6:35)
  10. Be compassionate (6:36)
  11. Do not judge others (6:37)
  12. Do not condemn others (6:37)
  13. Give and you will receive (6:38)

Psalm 67:1 - 7
This simple, short Psalm calls for the entire world to know and praise the Lord.  And what better way for the entire world to know the Lord, than for the people of the Lord to truly distinguish themselves from amongst the sinners?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Don't Covet the Blessings of Others

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:29
  • Proverbs 11:27
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:29
These first three chapters of Deuteronomy are a monologue by Moses that summarizes the forty-year journey of the Israelites.  I found the compact telling of the events to be quite interesting.  Sometimes I think the overall story can be hard to follow when it's dragged out over multiple books.  Not that I think the story "dragged" -- I have learned so much more than I ever thought possible.  I will say that the details of their journey -- where they traveled, how long they were at each place, etc -- were hard for me to follow.  So this concise summary is nice.

I noticed something in Chapter two about the lands the Israelites traveled through.  The Israelites traveled through many lands and conquered much land as they went.  But there were lands they were told specifically not to touch.  The Lord even told them He would not give them any of that land.

Why?  Because the Lord had already given it to someone else.  That land had been promised and provisioned for others, and it would be theirs.  Yet the people of Israel were not without land -- soon enough the Lord gave them their own lands to inhabit.

What I liked about these passages is how the Lord protects His people -- even from His own people.  The Lord had rewarded those people with land and it was solely theirs.  The Israelites were God's chosen people.  He led them out of Egypt and personally stayed within in their camp.  He led them for 40 years.  They committed offense after offense due to their continuous lack of faith, yet the Lord still resided with them. 

One might even be jealous of the blessings bestowed upon the Israelites.  Perhaps one might feel like the blessings would be better spent on them.  But the point of all I've read comes down to this -- The Lord has an infinite amount of blessings to bestow upon His people.  All those who are faithful to Him will receive their share.  And the Lord will honor the blessings He has given to you, as long as you honor the one who gave them to you. 

So next time you feel like God gives more favor to another person, keep this in mind.  The Lord has plenty to give to each of us.  The Lord loves us and he wants to bestow these things upon us.  And if you're looking towards the blessings someone else has, you're missing what is right in front of your face.  Don't be shortsighted. 

Thank you, Lord for the profound blessings you have bestowed upon me and family.  May your strength stay with me and might your Word remind me to always be aware and always to be thankful for the blessings you have given to me.  Amen.

Proverbs 11:27
If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!
That's a strong warning.  What do I want to find me, good or evil?  Of course I want to find favor, so I must remember to set my sights upon the Lord, for He will never lead me down a perpetually dark path.  When I follow Him I will find the light.  It is always there, beaming and beckoning to us from wherever we are.  We have but to seek it.