Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jesus Calms the Storm and Casts out Demons

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 8:22 - 39
  • Psalm 70:1 - 5
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 8:22 - 39
This short reading in Luke tells two stories that have previously been detailed in other gospels.  The first of the two is the story of how Jesus calmed the storm on the lake.  Jesus and his disciples were on a boat, crossing a lake (my study bible says the Sea of Galilee but I don't know how they determined that) while Jesus napped below deck.

A fierce storm arrived and the boat was quickly filling with water.  All this time Jesus slept.  Eventually the disciples wakened Jesus to tell him they were all about to drown.  Jesus got up and instantly rebuked the waves and the wind.

The disciples were amazed.  Jesus had been performing miracles all along -- healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons -- but now they had seen him control the very forces of nature itself.  At this point I don't think Jesus had revealed his true nature to the disciples, but they were certainly wondering who Jesus was and how he could command even the sea.

 The second story was an account of how Jesus cast out many demons from a man named Legion.  This man was so possessed that he could break free of any chains placed upon him.  He ran around stark naked and the people of the town were scared of him. 

These demons called out the true nature of Jesus -- that he was the son of God.  I think it's amazing how the demons knew who Jesus was before Jesus actually revealed himself.  All of these spirits, all of these demons, all of these things we don't see -- they follow a very natural order, and Jesus is the authority above all of them. 

Authority.  That seems to be the topic of today.  The authority of Jesus above all.  The authority of Jesus to heal people, to cast out demons, to perform miracles, to feed the hungry and to calm storms.  I know that Jesus allows us to use his authority, but I'm unsure yet as to what that entails.  But I do know that, as a Christian, I should learn these things, because Jesus expected his students to learn and grow -- not learn and stand still. 

When Jesus calmed the storm he asked his disciples where their faith was.  Had they had faith, they could have calmed the storm.  With the proper faith, they could cast out any demon.  With the proper faith, they could heal people.  So, the question I am left with for today is: What is proper faith?

Psalm 70:1 - 5
This quick Psalm combined the basic elements of the Psalms of David.  There was a plea for help and vengeance, as well as praise and worship of the Lord.  If we look at these Psalms as a template for how to pray, then it is clear that we should be praising the Lord in our prayers, no matter how dire our situation at the moment.  We should certainly bring our troubles before the Lord, but at the same time never forget to praise Him. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to Show the Lord your God that you Love Him

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 11:1 - 12:32
  • Proverbs 12:4
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Deuteronomy 11:1 - 12:32
11:22:  Be careful to obey all commands I am giving you.  Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.
 Moses continued to talk to the people of Israel about obeying the Lord in their new land.  He told them where to worship (in a centralized location), and how to worship (how the sacrifices should be carried out, what can and can't be eaten), what to do once they reach the land (tear down all sanctuaries to false gods) and what not to do (worship false idol).

Moses reminded the people that the children had not experienced the same things that they had.  They did not see the mighty hand of God as he delivered the people from Israel, nor did they see his wrath as he opened the ground to swallow Dathan and Abiram.  Moses tells them to teach the commandments to the children, ensure they know them -- to write the commandments on their doorposts, and tie them to their wrists and foreheads.

The verse that stuck out to me the most was verse 11:22, written above.  This verse tells us to show our love for the Lord by obeying him and by leading the life he'd have us to lead.  That's a profound statement.  How many of us (myself included) profess to love the Lord wholeheartedly, yet intentionally disobey his commands for us?

I don't think that we are unable to love the Lord if we don't obey his commands -- plenty of children love their parents, even though they don't always obey them.  But I do think that, if we truly love the Lord, we should think about our actions. 

Suppose you are married, and you know that your spouse despises something you frequently do.  Let's say this thing you do really hurts them, and you can tell you have caused them pain.  Out of love you might stop doing the thing that hurts them.  But if you don't stop doing this thing, it not only hurts your spouse, but it can tear your relationship apart -- to the point where it feels irreparable and ends in divorce.

Our relationship with the Lord can always be repaired, no matter how far we have strayed from Him.  But when we consider sinning against the Lord, perhaps we ought to step back and think about how this hurts the Lord -- who we to love above everything else.  And if we love the Lord above all else, why are we intentionally sinning against Him?

Proverbs 12:4
A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.
Wow, that's a powerful verse.  I haven't yet read anything about what makes a good wife.  I will have to pay attention for that topic as I come upon it in the future.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Does One Fear the Lord?

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 9:1 - 10:22
  • Proverbs 12:2 - 3
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 9:1 - 10:22 
Moses continues his monologue to the people of Israel.  Now that I think about it, this monologue makes a lot of sense.  Moses is addressing the second generation of Israelites.  Because the time is near for the people to enter the promised land, that means that almost everyone from the rebellious first generation has already died. 

It must have been odd for this generation.  They grew up in the wilderness, being led (quite literally) on a journey by the Lord.  They might not have realized the severity and oppression of the situation they had left.  They also might not have realized how rebellious their parents had been throughout the entire journey. 

So Moses continued to tell them their history.  He told them of their many rebellions.  He told them how he interceded on their behalf when the Lord was so angry that he was going to destroy them all.  Moses told them that it wasn't because they were good that the Lord was giving them this land - instead it was because the people in the land were more wicked than they, and the Lord had promised plentiful land to their ancestors. 

Moses concludes by giving them guidelines to live by.  In verses 10:12 - 13, Moses outlines what God requires from his people.  These four things are:
  1. Fear the Lord
  2. Live in a way that pleases the Lord
  3. Love and serve the Lord with all your heart and soul
  4. Always obey the Lord's commands
Looking at those four things, there is one that leaves me with a bit of wonder.  What does it mean to fear the Lord?  Should I literally be afraid of Him?  I don't think that would be possible for me -- I love and trust the Lord too much to literally be afraid of Him.  It doesn't seem that the words trust and fear go together.  Fear and obey, maybe -- obeying out of fear.  But trust -- how can one trust someone they are afraid of?

My study bible notes that fearing the Lord meant that the Lord "wanted his people to recognize their finiteness and unworthiness in His divine presence".  That does make more sense to me.  The people who lived in the presence of the Lord remained fearful of entering His presence if they were not purified, for the holiness of the Lord would instantly kill them. 

Every single one of us is completely unworthy of the Lord's salvation for us.  We are unworthy of His forgiveness.  Yet the Lord still loves us, and the Lord still provides for us!  It's truly amazing.

So what does it mean to fear the Lord?  Honestly, I don't know yet.  I'll have to keep reading, and see what the Word of God says to me about this topic in the future.

Proverbs 12:2 - 3
2  The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness.
3  Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.
 So what's worse than doing something wicked?  Planning it!  Have you ever planned something -- an event, an outing, a night out -- where you knew that you were planning to be sinful that night?  How that must anger the Lord when we plan in advance to sin. 

I find the second verse interesting -- I would not have linked wickedness and instability together on my own.  But it makes sense.  I am to handle each and every thing thrown at me in life better because I have the Lord in my life.  I know that the Lord is always there for me, no matter how dire the situation, no matter what I am going through.  He is with me.  He is my stability.  My roots are planted in Him, and they can't be up-heaved.  The Lord and my salvation are my stability.  Thank you, Lord!