Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Psalms -- A Book for Those Who are Suffering

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 69:1 -18
  • Psalm 69:19 - 36
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 691: 36
This Psalm screams desperation.  David is suffering terribly from the wrath of the wicked.  He compares his suffering to that of almost drowning -- he says the flood waters are up to his neck and he can't find a foothold to cling to (69:1 - 2).  David says that he is hungry and he is thirsty, yet his enemies sit before fine tables (69:21 - 22).  Everyone he knows -- even his own brothers -- pretend that they don't know him (69:8).

David says that he has suffered much humiliation for worshiping the Lord.  He says he is scoffed at when he fasts (69:10) and made fun of for showing sorrow (69:11).  He says that he is the favorite subject of gossip, even among drunkards (69:12).  David is suffering greatly because people are telling lies about him.  He says that those who hate him outnumber the hairs on his head (6:4).

This Psalm paints a very desolate picture of the situation David is in.  He is outnumbered and everyone seems to hate him, even his own family.  He is suffering emotionally and physically.  Those who despise the Lord have all taken up issue with David himself.  He is carrying a terrible burden.

I can't imagine being in such a dark place.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I felt like I had no one on this earth to back me up, to be on my side.  I can't imagine how desperate it would feel to have everyone become so spiteful towards me.  He said he felt like he was drowning, and the end was very very near (flood waters up to his neck).

All these Psalms of David make me desperate to read his story and find out everything that was going on at the time these were written.  There's obviously so much more to the story than what I've learned in Sunday school -- primarily that David defeated a giant, was the least of his brothers, and was the greatest king of all (until Jesus Christ, of course).  Yet obviously there's a big, sinister story of suffering I don't yet know about.  Reading these Psalms makes my spirit agonize for David's suffering, so I would like to find out the rest of the story.

Like David's other desperate Psalms, this one highlights David's complete faith throughout his turmoils.  David knows the Lord is there, he knows the Lord will avenge him -- he just doesn't know how long he will have to endure the terrible suffering.  And, like the Psalms before it, this one ends in praise to the Lord.

These Psalms are written to speak through those going through the hardest parts of their lives.  They remind us that we aren't the only ones who have suffered, and we are not the only ones who might have felt abandoned by the Lord at times.  But these Psalms remind us have faith, and to sing praises to the Lord regardless -- because the Lord is faithful to those who are faithful to Him.  And for that, Lord, I sing my praises to you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed -- How to Get Out of the Rut You are Planted In

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 7:36 - 8:3
  • Luke 8:4 - 21
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 7:36 - 8:21
The first part of chapter eight tells the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed.  I recall reading this parable and its explanation before -- not once, but twice!  The first time I read and wrote about it was while reading the book of Matthew, and the second time I read and wrote about it was while reading the gospel of Mark. 

The parable is about a farmer who scatters seed.  Some seed lands in pathways and gets stepped on and eaten by birds.  Other seed falls among rocks.  It starts to grow and then wilts.  Still other seed falls among weeds and eventually dies out.  Finally, some seed lands on fertile soil and produces an abundant harvest.

Here is a summary about what each type of seed represents:
  • The Seed Eaten by Birds
    • These are the people who hear the message of Jesus Christ, yet Satan speaks to them and therefore these people do not believe, and never get saved.
  • The Seed that Landed in Rocks
    • These are the people that joyfully receive the message of Christ, but have no roots.  Therefore they believe for a time but fall away to temptation
  • The Seed that Lands Among Weeds
    • These people hear and believe the message, but the message is soon crowded out by the pleasures of this life. 
  • The Seed that Falls on Fertile Soil
    • These are the people that hear the message, cling to it, and produce their harvest.
When this parable is told about the seeds, it might seem like one doesn't have a choice about what type of seed they are -- for the seed is randomly scattered.  But that is entirely not true.  The great thing about this message is that you CAN control what kind of seed you are.  Here's how I see it:

  • The Seed Eaten by Birds
    • If you hear the message of Christ, but are still struggling to believe -- don't give up.  Keep doing what you're doing -- reading Christian blogs, talking to friends who are saved, perhaps reading a bit through the bible.  Visit a few local churches, see if you can feel the spirit moving in you.  Better yet, take a preemptive measure and pray for your spirit to be moved!  I know it seems odd to pray to a God you're not sure you believe in yet, but whether or not you believe, He is there.  And he is not willing that any should perish without knowing Him.  He will soften your heart.  So open your heart, feel -- and kick Satan and all those little doubts out to the curb.
  • The Seed that Landed in Rocks
    • You're on the right path!  You felt the joy of the Lord take over your spirit.  But maybe you lost your way.  Perhaps you got angry at the Lord, perhaps you got preoccupied with life and forgot how the joy of the Lord made your heart sing.  The good news is you can get that back at any time.  Pick up your bible, start studying it.  Pray for the Lord to overtake your spirit once again.  Focus once you receive it.  Study the Word -- the Word is your roots, so plant them firmly now.
  • The Seed that Lands Among Weeds
    • It's time to get out that weed whacker!  You've heard the message, but perhaps it didn't overtake your spirit completely.  Perhaps deep down you know there's a God, but you figure you have time to add Him to your life.  For now, you're just going to live your life the way you want to and think about salvation later.  Life does not stop being fun just because you become a Christian.  And your life doesn't instantly have to become perfect, either.  You need to bring God into your life NOW.  There might not be a tomorrow.  There might not be a tonight!  At any moment you could die, or Christ could return.  I used to be among the weeds.  I knew the Lord was there, I had deep faith in the Lord, but I didn't listen to His call.  I would sometimes wake up in the morning and run to my children, afraid that the Lord had returned overnight and taken them and left me.  I used to wish the rapture would hold off just long enough for me to "enjoy" my life.  What I didn't realize is that enjoying life and obeying the Lord are not two separate things at all.  In fact I feel more satisfied with my life now than I ever have before.  So keep that in mind -- it's not a choice between enjoyment and faith -- the two go hand-in-hand.
  • The Seed that Falls on Fertile Soil
    • Congratulations on growing maturity in your faith!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Remember Where your Blessings Come From

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 7:1 - 8:20
  • Proverbs 12:1
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 7:1 - 8:20
Chapters 7 and 8 of Deuteronomy convey a strong warning to the people of Israel.  In these chapters Moses summarizes the people's struggles with food and water on the journey to the promised land.  Moses reminds the people that the Lord provided them with manna and with water.  Their clothes did not wear out for the entire 40 years, and their feet never blistered or swelled in all of their travels.  The Lord provided for every single need of the Israelites for forty years.   

Moses tells the people what the land that will be theirs is going to be like.  It is going to be overflowing with food and water.  There will be wheat and barley, grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.  They will lack for absolutely nothing.

Moses also tells the people what their lives will be like.  The people will lead blessed lives.  They will be fertile -- we are told that there will be no men or women who are childless (7:14).  They are told that the Lord will protect them from illness and from the diseases that they suffered in Egypt (as a side note, I wonder what those are?).

Moses does have some warnings for the people.  Most of it involves not being drawn up into worship of other gods.  Some of the ways this can happen is by marrying someone who worships for other gods.  For this reason, the people are order not to intermarry with the people of the lands.  They are also told to tear down all the alters, destroy the alters, and to not covet any of the gold coverings of these idols. 

One warning struck higher with me than any of the others, though.  Moses tells them to be careful, when they are happy and wealthy, have fine homes and are prosperous, to remember where these blessings came from. 

The following is a clip from 7:17 - 18
He did all this so you would never say to yourself, 'I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy'.  Remember the Lord your God.  He is the one who gives you power to be successful ...
This reminds me that, even though we might have worked with our own hands to obtain our comfort and happiness, none of it would have been possible without the Lord.  We wouldn't even have the power to be successful without the Lord.  Those of us who are highly driven -- and like to attribute our success to being driven, need to remember that it was the Lord who made us this way.  Without the Lord -- we could be driven and we could work hard, yet not gain comfort in our lives.  These chapters are a nice reminder that we need to remember the Lord, even when we are sitting comfortable in our fine houses with plenty to eat.

Proverbs 12:1
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.
This verse is a nice reminder to me that this entire bible study project is a lesson in discipline and correction.  After all, I want to study every single word of the bible so that I can learn -- learn how the Lord expects me to live for every minute of my life.  To learn how the Lord wants me to worship him.  To learn how the Lord wants me to treat others.  To learn how the Lord wants me to treat my children.  To learn the history of my religion.  To learn to future of my religion.  To L-E-A-R-N. 

But it's hard to have learning without correction.  While I'm learning all these things, I must apply them to my life and correct my ways.  I must love correction.  And my reward is the wisdom that I gain each and every day, and the ways I change my life to be more pleasing to the Lord.  Thank you, Lord, for giving us your Word.  Thank you for correcting us.