Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 16:19 - 17:10
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 16:19 - 17:10
Today I read the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  In this story there is a rich man who lives in luxury, denying himself nothing.  A poor diseased man named Lazarus laid at the rich man's gate, wishing for scraps - but instead dogs would lick his open sores as he laid there suffering.  Both men died, and Lazarus went to be with Abraham while the rich men went to be with the dead in suffering.  The rich man implored Abraham to let Lazarus come and relieve some of his suffering, and asked him to send Lazarus to his family so that they might repent.

Abraham told Lazarus a few things: First, he said that the divide between the the rich man and Lazarus was a chasm that none could cross.  That serves as a reminder that your state, once you are dead, is permanent.  Abraham also told the man that he had everything he wanted in life with Lazarus had nothing - and thus Lazarus was being comforted while the rich man was in anguish.  I am conflicted about this part of the story -- after all, all my needs are met, as are many of my wants.  Does that mean that I will be in anguish after I die?  I don't think that's quite what this story is saying, and I will say why as I continue.

When the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his family, Abraham also refused.  The rich man wanted to warn his family to repent and turn to God.  To me this implies they are in a completely unsaved state to begin with.  Lazarus didn't say to repent and tell them to not indulge themselves - no, he knew that they would wind up with him if they didn't turn to God.  Now, that's not to say that a person who is a Christian should have everything they want -- far the opposite.  But I would assume that if the rich man had turned to God, that he wouldn't allow Lazarus, the man who lay right outside his gate, to remain in suffering and poverty.

There's a lot to be said about that too.  After all, poverty will be a condition of this world until Jesus Christ comes back -- so how do Christians draw the line between helping those who are in need and managing their own lives?  It's a fine line, I think, that every Christian has to make for himself.  I will say this, however -- if there is someone in suffering at your door, you should do all you can to help them.  After all, the Lord brought them to you so that you could help them.

Finally, Abraham makes a point to the rich man.  He says that if the rich man's family did not believe Moses and the prophets, then nothing -- not even a man risen from the dead -- would cause them to believe.  I don't know about you, but for me it's easy to think that if God would just show this person this one thing then they will believe.  But the bible is telling us right here that isn't so.  And if you want more proof, look to Moses and the people of Israel!  How many miracles did the Lord show those people, yet they continued to doubt, and gripe, and debate God's greatness?  These people had the visible presence of God living in their camp, had encountered many many miracles, yet still failed to truly believe.  In the end, I think people will believe what they want to believe, no matter what they are shown.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Psalms of Asaph

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 82
  • Psalm 83
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalms 82 and 83 are psalms of Asaph.  Once again I find myself wishing that I had better context in which to read these psalms.  I enjoy my bible reading plan immensely -- it gives me a little taste of everything, all at once.  It allows me to read through the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs simultaneously.  This helps me to stay focused and interested when I might otherwise lose interest (like when reading through some of the arduous laws, sacrifices, generation lists, etc) and give up reading for awhile.  Instead, I know that the next reading allows me to shift gears.  The downside is that I don't know the context behind many of these psalms. 

These two psalms that I read today implore the Lord to come and do away with the enemies of the Lord.  Asaph begs the Lord to give justice to those who are poor, those who are orphans, and those who are oppressed.  He tells of some of the deeds of the enemies and of how those enemies signed treaties against the Lord.

The psalms ended there -- with many cries for help.  Although I don't the story behind these psalms, I have a feeling it will all work out to God's greater good in the end.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Achan is Stoned, Ai is Destroyed

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 7:16 - 9:2
Read Bible Passages Online

Joshua 7:16 - 9:2
The last reading in Joshua left off with a cliff hanger -- someone had sinned against the Lord and that person was going to be singled out and punished.  The people were first dived into tribes, where the tribe of Judah was identified.  Next, that tribe divided into clans, and the clan of Zerah was singled out.  Next, the family of Zimri was singled out.  Out of that family, Achan was identified as the offender.

Achan admitted to taking what belonged to the Lord.  Achan and his entire family was stoned to death.  Reading stuff like this is very hard; after all we live in an age where people are taught mainly about love, grace, forgiveness.  But we must remember that sinning against God makes him angry, and it will be punished if we do not repent.  Achan had a direct order from God to not take any of that plunder from the battle, yet he directly disobeyed God's orders.  The result was that the Israelites failed at their battle to taking the town of Ai. 

After the sin of Ai was addressed, the Israelites went on to successfully ambush the town.  Verse 8:28-29 says:
So Joshua burned the town of Ai, and it became a permanent mound of ruins, desolate to this very day.   Joshua impaled the king of Ai on a sharpened pole and left him there until evening.  At sunset the Israelites took down the body, as Joshua commanded, and threw it in front of the town gate.  They piled a great heap of stones over him that can still be seen today. 

The reading ends with all the other kings conspiring to gather together in an effort to beat the Israelites.  We'll see what happens, but somehow I have a feeling that all will turn in the favor of God's people.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Battle of Jericho

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 5:1 - 7:25
Read Bible Passages Online

Joshua 5:1 - 7:15
The main focus of today's reading was the battle of Jericho, which was told in chapter six.  I was surprised at the brevity of the story, as it was told in a mere 27 verses.  Nonetheless it is a very powerful story -- the men were told to march around the city once a day for six days.  On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times, then shout after the long ram's horn was blown.  That is when the walls of the city utterly collapsed and the town was captured.

I am surprised there wasn't any more detail to the story than I already knew.  The people did not complain or question the Lord's instructions, they merely followed.  There was no talk of how the people of Jericho reacted. 

I have to imagine that the people of Jericho were utterly unprepared for this invasion.  After all, they are watching this army simply walk around the town, doing no harm to them.  Then, out of no where, the walls to the city simply collapse!  How could they prepared for that?  It's amazing.

All the people of Jericho were destroyed, save for Rahab and her family.  All of the things were destroyed, save for precious metals that were to be dedicated to the Lord's treasury. 

The people of Jericho then go on to defeat their next enemy -- AI -- only to utterly fail.  Joshua then discovers (when the Lord tells him) that someone in the camp has stolen items from Jericho.  The next day, the Lord would point out the guilty party, and he will be punished.  And that is where today's reading leaves off -- with a cliff hanger!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Parable of the Lost Son

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 15:1 - 32
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 15:1 - 32
The Pharisees were angry that Jesus was associating himself with notorious sinners.  Jesus responded with a series of parables about finding the lost.  In the first parable, Jesus talked about a shepherd who left all 99 sheep in search of the 1 that was lost, and the shepherd rejoiced when the 1 was found.  In another parable, a woman looked all over house in search of 1 coin that missing, and rejoiced when the coin was found.

The most powerful parable, however, was the Parable of the Lost Son.  Jesus talks of a man who begged his father for his inheritance and went off to squander it and live in sin.  Meanwhile the man had a faithful son who stayed by his side.  The wayward son spent all his money and came close to starving to death.  That is when the son decided to go back to his father, and beg to be a servant in his house so that he might have enough to eat.  When the son returned, humbled, the father rejoiced and embraced him as his son once again.  The other son was angry, for he had been faithful the entire time, but the father responded that they need to rejoice - for his son was lost and dead, and now he is found and alive.

Here are the things that I take away as key points in this parable:

  1. The son returned completely humbled.  He confessed his sins to his father, repented of his behavior, and asked only to be a servant again. (Luke 15:18 - 15:19)
  2. The father was watching for this man's coming from far off -- though he was lost, the father was always watching, always waiting for his son's return.  (15:20)
  3. The father rejoiced immediately when he saw his son coming.  The son's sins had been forgiven and the father was just relived that his son had come back. (15:22 - 24)
  4. The son was dead, but now he had returned to life.  He was lost, but then he was found.  (Without Jesus, without the Lord, we are all lost, we are all dead, our life is only temporary).  (15:24)
  5. The other son was angry -- this is an emotion to be expected.  After all, he had been faithful the entire time.  But the father responded with the words "Everything I have is yours".  So even though the faithful might not be celebrated, they still share in everything the father has (15:31).
 This parable is so powerful, for both the lost and for the faithful.  When we are lost, when we are afraid that the Lord could never take us back, we must remember that the Lord is ALWAYS watching for our return, and when we return He will rejoice.  For those who are faithful already - everything the Lord has is already yours to share with him.  Rejoice in that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We Must Not Bow Before Anyone but the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 80:1 - 80:19
  • Psalm 81:1 - 81:16
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalms 80 & 81

These two psalms are psalms of Asaph.  In the first psalm, Asaph implores the Lord to turn back to his people.  Asaph vows that his people will never abandon the Lord again once they are rescued.

I can't imagine what life would be like if the Lord abandoned me.  The thought of living without the Lord is simply devastating.  As someone who falls far from grace, I should pay more attention to showing the Lord how much I love him.  Being more righteous.  Obeying God's laws.  I thank you, Lord, for embracing me even through all my faults, through all the things that separate myself from you.  All I can say is thank you, Lord.  Amen.

In Psalm 81, the people were told what they need to do when the Lord does turn back to them.  The people would need to stay away from foreign gods and not bow down to worship a false god. 

The statement that the people shall not bow before a false god really has me thinking.  Is it okay to bow (as in a bend of the knee, not an upper body nod) before anyone at all?  I recall reading a verse in Exodus, and I think I shrugged it off at the time because I was writing about all the ten commandments, so I was trying to do an overview.  Here is the verse:
Exodus 20:4-5  You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.
This verse says you must not bow down OR worship them.  It seems that the two are mutually exclusive and that bowing, even if not intended for worship, is a sin.  It's funny how little I've ever thought about topics like bowing, yet all it takes is a random bible verse to spark an interest in me.  Something that was insignificant before suddenly became entirely relevant, and I was forced to form an instant stance on the subject.  That's the bible for you - the most phenomenal book of all time!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Jordan River is Parted; 12 Stones Remain to this Day

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 3:1 - 4:24
Read Bible Passages Online

Joshua 3:1 - 4:24

Today's passage was an amazing read!  The people of Israel began their journey into the promised land.  They followed the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant.  Here is where the amazing part comes into play -- when the priests stepped into the Jordan River with the Ark, the river parted for all to cross! 

When I read that, my mind was blown -- how could there be a whole other water-parting story in the bible that I completely didn't know about?!  Was I slacking off in Sunday school?  What happened here?  The surprise was truly thrilling, mostly because I love the story of the crossing of the Red Sea.  The pure power the Lord demonstrates is breathtaking; yet it's not even a fraction of what he can do.

I then read Chapter 4, verse 9, and became even more excited -- before the river returned to its normal course, Joshua constructed a monument of 12 rocks in the middle of the Jordan River, where they crossed.  The bible says that those rocks are there to this very day.

As I've stated many times before, I absolutely love it when I come across those words in the bible.  To know that these things remain, well -- I would just love to see them.  I don't need visible proof of God's existence -- the entire world is that -- but it sure would be nice to see some of these things that are written in person.

For most of my life, I have had no interest in visiting Israel.  Today, all you hear about are the deaths and wars and dangers over there.  The more I read the OT, however, the more I want to go to Israel, to see the places where Jesus physically walked to earth.  That would be so amazing!  I do plan on taking that trip -- eventually.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Carry Your Cross and Follow Me - Becoming a Disciple of Christ

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 14:7 - 35
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 14:7 - 35

Following Jesus completely requires our entire heart and soul.  It requires giving up all the things we think define us.  Chapter 14 of Luke was a hard one to read because it really forced me to think.  Starting in verse 25, Jesus told the large crowd that was following him around what it would cost for them to truly be a disciple of Christ. 

Jesus told the people that they must love him so much that they hate everyone else by comparison - family, spouses, children, even themselves (14:26).  Jesus told the people that they would need to carry their own crosses (14:27) in order to follow him.  He then says that they would have to give up everything they own to follow him (14:33).

Reading passages like this one makes me feel widely inadequate as a Christian.  I know there are many people out there who do this very thing to this day - they preach in areas where following Christ could easily mean the death of them.  They give up their possessions, they become poor - they give up everything and go out onto the world as disciples of Christ.  Those, I think, are the most blessed of people on this Earth. 

I need to reevaluate myself -- what am I truly doing to follow Christ?  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Discipline from the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 12:26 - 13:1
Read Bible Passages Online

Proverbs 12:26 - 13:1

Proverbs is one of my favorite books in the bible because it truly tells how to live a godly life and how to become truly wise.  Today's reading is four verses from Proverbs, which I haven't read yet - so let's see what words of wisdom I have in store for me today!

12:26  The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.
I do try to give good advice to my friends.  Good advice, in my opinion, is telling the person what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.  It is also telling them the truth, not some lie that will make them feel better at the moment but will make it hurt more down the road.  I have friends who give me good advice, and those friends are treasured in my heart. 
12:27  Lazy people don't even cook the game they catch, but the diligent make use of everything they find.
When I read this verse, I thought of the saying "waste not, want not."  This was odd to me because this translation (NLT) uses the word "diligent" to those who make use of everything they find, whereas the dictionary defines it as "Having or showing care and conscientiousness in one's work or duties".  Regardless, we are being told to make the most of everything we have, and this is definitely something I need to work on!
12:28  The way of the godly leads to life; that path does not lead to death.
I have seen this over and over and over and over; yet the message rings true each time.  Being godly, being wise; that is the path to life.  It is the path I want to be on!
13:1  A wise child accepts a parent's discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction.
When I first read this verse, I didn't know what to think about it - how could a child really decide he or she wants to become wise.  In other words; how is this relevant?  Then it hit me - duh! - we are all children of God.  And for us to be wise children of God, we must accept discipline and correction from our Father with a happy heart.  I have children, and I know the reason I discipline them is because I love them.  I want them to be happy, I want them to be safe, I want them to be healthy, I want them to be well managed, functioning adults.  I want them to live a long, happy life.  When I think of discipline from the Lord in this manner, it reminds me that the Lord somehow manages to love me!

Monday, April 29, 2013

An Introduction to Joshua

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 1:1 - 2:24
Read Bible Passages Online

Joshua 1:1 - 2:24

Today is a monumental day, because today I started the book of Joshua.  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number and Deuteronomy as well as many parts of the New Testament- those are all books that I have at least read parts of here or there over the course of my life.  Joshua is one that I have yet to ever even begin to read.  Don't get me wrong - I know the most famous story of Jericho - but I have not yet read it.  So today I embark on a journey further into the Word of God; and I am very excited to do so.

Joshua was the appointed successor of Moses - he was the man who was to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.  He had the full support of the people he was leading (1:16-17) and they were ready to take the promised land for themselves. 

Joshua sent out two scouts to spy on the area around Jericho (2:1).  Those scouts met a prostitute named Rahab who had remarkable faith in the Lord (2:11).  Rahab hid the scouts from the king's men and helped them to escape the city after the gates had been closed.  In return the scouts agreed to spare Rahab and her family, so long as she remained true to her oath not to betray them.

Chapter two ends with the scouts recounting the fact that the people were already terrified of the Israelites (2:23).  It looks like I should soon be reading the account of the battle of Jericho.  I am very excited to continue my studies!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Psalms of Asaph; Godly Advice

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 79:1 - 79:13
  • Proverbs 12:25 - 12:26
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 79:1 - 79:13
Psalm 79 is a Psalm of Asaph.  The people are in the midst of great destruction brought upon them from the Lord.  The people are begging the Lord not to punish them, but to instead punish the godless who caused their demise.

I have a few problems with the cries from these people.  First of all, they do not account of any sins.  They claim they are being punished for their ancestors.  I have not yet read about these people anywhere else but these Psalms -- since my readings are broken up, I am reading Psalms along with my regular readings.  That being said, my study bible quotes two verses that state people will no longer be judged by the sins of their parents -- Ezekiel 18:20 and Jeremiah 31:30.  I assume, based on those two verses being quoted here, that the timing of this destruction took place after people were eradicated of the sins of their parents. So in other words, these people are not yet even realizing what sins they have committed (or they are ignoring them and passing blame elsewhere).  If they don't realize the sins they have committed, how can they ask for forgiveness from them?

The other thing that bothers me about this psalm is that the people don't praise the Lord at all.  All they do is ask the Lord to save them, and only then will they praise and thank him forever (79:13).  All the great psalms of David made sure to praise the Lord, even during the midst of the storms he faced.  Our Lord is worthy of praise, always.

The writer of the psalm begged the Lord to punish the offenders, not His own people.  I could certainly see why the Lord would be more harsh with his own people.  I think of my own children -- when one of them knows that they are disobeying, they are always punished far greater than the one that does wrong yet does not realize it.  As the Lord's people, we are expected to love him, and show that we love him, we obey him.  That is how we choose life instead of death. 

Proverbs 12:25 - 12:26
25  Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers them up
26  The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray
These are two very good verses to consider.  I would like to focus on the second one (verse 12:26).  I can say I do my part by giving my friends good advice and not trying to lead them astray.  So when I read that verse, I thought about the reverse of it -- about receiving advise.

According to this verse, I should be wary of the advice of those who are not godly and give much more esteem to the advice of those who are.  I will certainly keep this in mind for anytime that I am faced with a dilemma! 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Short Parables of Jesus, According to Luke

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 13:1 - 14:6
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 13:1 - 14:6
Today's reading contained many short parables.  These parables are:

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (13:6-13:9)
A man planted a fig tree, but that tree had yet to produce fruit.  So he was going to cut that fig tree down, until the gardener pleaded with him not to.  The man decided to give the tree one more year to produce figs; if it failed to produce fruit after all the extra nourishment then it would be cut down. 

This was a very short parable that was very open to interpretation.  Jesus in his time was talking to Israel, so perhaps it was a warning to them.  I read it as a warning to myself -- what I am doing to produce a fruitful crop?  How am I trying to help grow the Kingdom of Heaven?

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:18-19)
Jesus told the people that the Kingdom of God was likened to a mustard seed.  It starts off as the tiniest of seeds; yet grows into something so large that it houses the birds in nests. 

Again, this parable is so short and has no extra explanation to it, which leaves one to decipher the meaning of it themselves.  My study bible says the birds who nest in the tree are likened to the people who find protection and security within the Kingdom of God. 

The Parable of the Yeast (13:20 - 21)
In the final parable of this reading, the Kingdom of God is compared to yeast.  It takes but a tiny sprinkle to completely permeate all of a loaf of bread dough.  My study bible suggests that this is reference to the Kingdom of God permeating the entire world.  It is amazing how the Kingdom of God continues to grow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Lord Buried Moses

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 33:1 - 34:12
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 33:1 - 34:12
Today's reading finished off the book of Deuteronomy and was a relatively short reading.  In chapter 33, Moses blessed all the tribes of Israel in preparation of his death and their journey into the promised land.

In Chapter 34, the Lord had Moses up to Mount Nebo to see the promised land in its entirety.  I am sure it was painful for Moses to know that his one huge mistake cost him the ability to ever set foot into that land.  Regardless, even though he punished, the Lord still loved Moses greatly -- and there is a lesson for all of us to be learned in that.

We are then told that Moses died and that the Lord buried him (34:5-6).  I thought that was very strange -- I don't recall any reading so far where the Lord buried someone.  We are told that the burial place of Moses remains a secret to all men, even to this day.

I really wonder why that is.  I did a little looking online, hoping for some answers.  What I found was a reference to Jude 1:9, where there is a short reference to the archangel Michael having a dispute with the devil over the body of Moses.  Right now I do not know any more than that, and given the results of my search, I am doubtful that I will know anymore, even after reading through the entire bible.  But hence is the nature of the Lord -- some things are His secrets, only to be revealed to us at the time of His choosing.

We are told that Moses was 120 when he died, "yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever" (34:7).  I think this verse shows us that the Lord wants us to be strong and healthy, not sick and frail.  Even if we are 120 years old and about to die, we should be doing the work of God until the day we die.  And the Lord will always give us the ability to do so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He Leads us with a True Heart and Skillful Hands

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 78:56 - 78:72
  • Proverbs 12:24
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 78:56- 78:72
This psalm continues to tell the tale of how the people of Israel fall out of the Lord's favor and into destruction.  The psalm is full of imagery and beautifully told, even if it is a sad story.  The people rejected the Lord, as He said they would, and the anger of the Lord poured down over them.  We are told that the people fell to their enemies, which the Lord allowed because he was so angry with them.

This was not to be the end, however, because eventually the Lord rose up and returned to His people.  The Lord chose David to be the "shepherd of Jacob's descendants" (78:71) and had a shrine built on the top of Mount Zion.  The Lord then "cared for [the people] with a true heart and led them with skillful hands" (78:72).

Even when the Lord is angry with us, He is always faithful.  Always.  He leads us with a true heart and skillful hands.
Proverbs 12:24
Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.
God never tells us to be idle and lazy.  We need to work, He expects us to work.  And if we want to be a leader, we should work hard.  If we do only what we need to slide by, then we are becoming slaves by our own accord.  Don't sitting around waiting for something wonderful in life to happen to you -- get out there and make something happen for yourself.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sin in Ignorance vs. Intentional Sin

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 12:35 - 12:59
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 12:35 - 12:59 
Today's reading is a short one, but it comes with a dire warning that sticks out.  Jesus is talking about being prepared for the Lord's return.  He tells the disciples to be ready, for He will come when least expected.  Jesus also gives a short example of the behavior of a servant while his master is away.  Jesus says the following:
47  And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn't prepared and doesn't carry out those instructions, will be severely punished.
48  But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly.
 Sin done in ignorance is still, no doubt, sin.  But Jesus says here that is treated lightly compared to the wrath that occurs when sin is intentionally done.  It seems to me that the more of God's word we read and study, the more we are required to discipline ourselves and follow the Lord's instructions for us.  Once we know, we are no longer ignorant.  We must obey.  That is how we show the Lord that we love him.  It can seem like a lot to take in and a lot to live up to, and I have a LONG way to go.  But the rewards are well with it -- Every time I crack open this bible and I am losing a tad bit of my foolishness and replacing it with life-giving wisdom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Lord is my Rock

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy32:1 - 32:52
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 32:1 - 32:52
Today's reading consists of the song that Moses taught the Israelite people.  This song is to remind them that the Lord is their God, and when the time comes that they are abandoned by the Lord, they will know why it happened.

The people would be abandoned because they would fail to obey the Lord as they should.  They will begin to worship foreign gods and forget the true Lord who was their "Rock".  There are many places in this song that the Lord refers to himself as the Rock.  The enemies had their "rocks", but those rocks were not as strong as the Rock. 

The capitalization is important here, I believe -- The capitalization of the word "Rock" when referring to the Lord implies it is a name, and one that belongs only to the Lord.  All the other "rocks" are just insignificant, common objects.  They might call themselves rocks, the people might think of them as rocks, but they are not THE Rock.  They are not the mighty Rock.  They are insignificant when compared to the Rock. 

I thought all of this was so interesting because I don't recall any previous reading where the Lord was referred to as the Rock.  I've only read 1/4th of the bible, so I'm hardly an authority here -- I just think this might be the first mention I've seen of it (or that I've noticed of it).  Of course I've heard songs and people say the Lord is my Rock, but like many other things, I was unsure of how it tied back to the bible.  I didn't know if was just something people said, or if it was written in the bible.  I hadn't given it any thought, really.  So the whole thing is just very interesting. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quiet Reflections

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 78:32 - 78:55
  • Proverbs 12:21 - 23
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 78:32 - 78:55
This psalm continues the story of all things the Israelites did to grieve the Lord and invoke His wrath against them. It invokes the same feelings I spoke about just a few days ago-- and since it angers me I'm not going to repeat my rant so soon.  I will say that this story is being told beautifully, and I am really enjoying how this story is being told.  I think I have two more reading sessions before I am finished with this psalm.

Proverbs 12:21 - 23
21  No harm comes to the godly, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.
22  The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
23  The wise don't make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness.
 Be godly.  Speak the truth.  Be wise.  These things are pleasing to the Lord. 

I don't have many words to speak today on these readings. The proverbs give great advice and the psalm is beautifully written. I guess I am just in more of a quiet reflection mode today.  Quiet, peaceful reflection.  It's a good place to be :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Unforgivable Sin - Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 12:8 -12:34
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 12:8 - 12:34
There were a few topics covered in the verses I read today.  First we are told that we must acknowledge Jesus on earth if we are to be acknowledged in heaven.  That's something to really keep in mind -- we can't privately be Christians, and then act differently to the rest of the world.  We need to acknowledge Jesus to others, so that Jesus will acknowledge us later.

In verse 12:10, we are once again told about the unforgivable sin -- blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  So far I think I've read and commented on this twice (post1, post2).  I still don't have anymore insight into what that sin actually is.  In my original quick research, it appears to be knowingly  attributing the work of the Lord to that of Satan.  But that's only what I've read from other people.  I really wish I would find more in the bible that will help me to grasp a better understanding.  That will come in due time I guess, for I still have a lot more of the bible to read!

Jesus then talks about greed and possessions.  Verse 12:21 states:
"Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God."
Jesus then goes on to say that we should trust the Lord for provision.  Even if we are running out of food to eat and clothes to wear, we should not worry -- for the Lord will provide.  In 12:15, Jesus says:
"Beware!  Guard against every kind of greed.  Life is not measured by how much you own."
 I still don't know how I feel about wealth and Christianity.  Should we be poor?  Should we be rich?  How does being rich affect our relationship with the Lord?  One thing is for certain; however -- as wealth increases, one needs to constantly reevaluate his or her relationship with the Lord.  We need to make sure that we are still prepared to (1) Recognize that the wealth is not our own, nor our doing -- no matter how hard we have worked.  It is instead a blessing; and (2) Evaluate what condition our soul would be in should we lose everything. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

When God Offers Hamburgers

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 78:1 - 31
  • Proverbs 12:19 - 20
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 78:1 - 31
This psalm of Asaph is broken into a few parts.  Today's reading covered the first 20 verses of the psalm.  This part of the psalm serves as a reminder to the people what the Lord has done for the Israelites.  The people are told not to forget the rebellious things that their ancestors did.

Looking back at these things, at the way these people challenged God -- it still angers me, almost as much as when I was reading it in the Old Testament.  I will never understand the way those people acted and how they could be so full of rebellion and to keep challenging the Lord and complaining about absolutely everything.

I know a few people like that -- no matter what you do for them, you just can't do enough.  And the moment something isn't exactly how they want it, then to them it seems there is nothing good left -- everything is a bust.  I've been dealing with some very hard people this past week, and someone said to me:  "They don't want the hamburger unless they can have the whole cow."  I thought that was a hilarious and very fitting analogy.  Sometimes the Lord give us hamburgers instead of the whole cow.  And you know what, I'm okay with that -- at least that means I am provided for, and that I get to eat.  That my family gets to eat.  So thank you, Lord, for giving us hamburgers!

Proverbs 12:19 - 20
19  Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.
20  Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace!
 Simple lessons here -- speak the truth and not lies.  Plot for good things and not for evil schemes.  The result is life that is happy is filled with much more joy.  I like joy, what about you?!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eternal Punishment and the Choice of Life

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 31:1 - 32:1
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 31:1 - 32:1
The Lord told Moses that he was soon to die.  Moses was 120 years old when he addressed the people and told him that it was soon his time to go.  It pains me that Moses did not get to go to the promised land himself because one of his previous actions greatly angered the Lord.  But the Lord told Moses that his time was near, and Moses was to prepare for it.

The Lord also told Moses that the people will break His covenant when they enter the new land.  They were continually breaking His laws when Moses was there; once he was gone it was going to get much worse, until the point comes where the Lord has to pour down the curses he warned them of.  The reading ends with the Lord giving Moses a song to teach the people, so that when all that has been promised comes to pass, that they know why it has happened and so they know that the Lord has turned away from them. 

That's such a scary thought -- being told by the Lord that these horrible things will come to pass because of how you acted.  If the Lord told YOU of the things that would come to pass if you turned away from Him, would you listen before it becomes too late? 

My last reading in Deuteronomy was about the choice between life and death.  In that passage Moses warns the people to fear the Lord -- suffering on earth is only temporary; but the Lord deals out in eternal punishment. 

Eternal punishment -- that is not a topic I focus on much at all.  I believe whole-hardheartedly in Jesus Christ, and I tend to focus on the great things the Lord provides to me and my family.  He blesses us, He provisions for us, and He protects us.  That being said, I would greatly fear the wrath of the Lord if I wasn't on His side. 

The Lord does warn us about what will happen if we don't follow Him.  It's called Hell - and it is an eternal punishment greater than any curse that we might deal with on the earth.  We are warned, and we need to take heed of that warning.  Do we take the blessings of the Lord?  Do we stand at His side, allow Him to provide for us, and live for eternity in a world with no suffering?  Or do we choose eternal punishment?  The choice for me is clear -- it is a choice of life. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

There are More Important Things than Tithing

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 11:37 - 12:7
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 11:37 - 12:7
Jesus had dinner with one of the Pharisees.  There he preached the Pharisees and to the scholars of religious law.  Verse 11:42 caught my attention:
"What sorrow awaits you Pharisees!  For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God.  You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."
I thought it was interesting that there are more important things that tithing.  Not that tithing isn't important -- Jesus says that it is.  But what is more important to the Lord is that we are right with him; that we recognize his justice and his ways of doing things -- not our own.  The Pharisees were giving money faithfully, but still Jesus was angry because their "insides" were not clean (11:40).  That just goes to show that it doesn't matter how much money you tithe if your heart is not in the right place.

Later Jesus preached to the crowd.  Verses 12:4 - 5 really caught my attention:
"Dear friends, don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.  But I'll tell you whom to fear.  Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell.  Yes, he's the one to fear."
 That's a very powerful statement.  First of all, suppose the absolute worse happens to us, and we are murdered by someone.  We are told not to fear, because that is the worst that person can do.  That's completely contrary to human nature to not fear that someone might kill us, right? 

Jesus tells us not to worry about.  Instead, we should be afraid of the wrath of the Lord -- of being given an eternal punishment of hell.  That would be far worse than someone killing your body on earth.  As scary as that statement is -- and we do need to fear the Lord -- but as scary as that is, it comes with an unspoken promise.  Eternal life.  Someone might kill our body, and if that happens then at least we have an eternal life.  And this eternal life will be so great that we should not even concern ourselves with the loss of this life.  The thought of that is truly amazing!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Choice Between Life and Death

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 29:1 - 30:20
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 29:1 - 30:20
Moses continued to prepare the Israelites for their journey to the promised land.  Moses told then that if they obeyed the covenant then they will prosper; disobey it and they will loose everything. 

Starting at verse 30:15 and continuing out the rest of chapter 30, Moses explains to the people that they need to make a choice of life and death.  Moses basically tells the people that they choose life by loving the Lord and obeying him.  The entire passage should be read, I'd like to quote it all here but it's too long.  Instead I am just going to quote the last verse (verse 20):
"You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him.  This is the key to your life.  And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul, and obey him.  These things bring us life, blessings and provision.  To me, the choice is easy -- I choose life!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Psalm of Desperation; The Perfect Message

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 77:1 -20
  • Proverbs 12:18
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalm 77: 1 -20
This psalm of Asaph is a desperate one.  The writer questions if he has fallen from the Lord's favor forever?  I can't ever imagine being in this deep and dark of a place.  The writer talks about how he prayed all night, yet his soul was not comforted.  Verse 3 stands out to me:
I think of God and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.
Have you ever been in a situation where you longed with all your soul for the Lord to help you, yet it seemed like nothing was ever going to happen?  Like the Lord wasn't listening?

Well, I don't have an answer for that.  The Lord has a reason for all the things He does or does not do.  I pray that I am never in a situation so deep that I fear I will never crawl free from it.  The thought is terrifying. 

What I can say is that this psalm ends with praise to the Lord.  Just when Asaph thought that the Lord had turned from him forever (verse 10), he sat back and remembered all the Lord had done (11).  He then listed so many great and wondrous things that the Lord had done as He delivered the Israelites from Egypt. 

This psalm ends in praise, as have almost all the psalms I have read so far where the writer is desperate for help.  So I cannot know the truly dark, desperate situation.  But I can say this -- remember to praise the Lord in the midst of the storm.  That, and read Psalms!  It is full of desperate people, their trials, and their later triumphs.  

Proverbs 12:18
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now.  Thank you Lord!  I am currently on my lunch break while doing this study.  I have had a particularly taxing morning at work, dealing with a group of 35 people who seem to have little regard for the person behind the project (me).  They have been rude to my face and I have had to resist cutting back at them.  This is not like customer service with your telephone company -- we all work at the same place, so better manners are expected.

I was feeling .. well, many things.  Some anger, resentment, just plain tiredness.  Before I started today's reading I prayed for the Lord to restore my soul, to help me come back from lunch with a renewed spirit.  I hardly wanted to do the study, I had to make myself -- I knew once I did I would feel better, but funny how a person often wants to stay feeling miserable.

So that one proverb -- 12:18 -- was on my list for today's reading.  I read the psalm also, and it was good.  But it was that single verse in my bible that just made my day.  Let me know that the Lord is watching over me, let me know it's okay.  That one single verse was the perfect message for me.

I will continue to not react on the cutting remarks, and will attempt to keep any words I say wise.  Thank you, Lord.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Let Your Little Light Shine; Working with Jesus

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 11:14 - 36
Read Bible Passages Online

Luke 11:14 - 36
Today's reading focused a lot on the casting out of demons.  Jesus cast demons out of a man, and the people accused him of getting his power from Satan.  Jesus rebuked them, saying that a house divided against itself can't stand -- why would Satan be fighting against himself?  Jesus also concluded that only someone stronger than Satan could come in and defeat him like that -- therefore, Jesus comes in with the Kingdom of God behind him.  Jesus then gives his famous talk about demons returning sevenfold (11:24 - 26).  I don't really know what to make of that right now, so I'm just going to file it away in hopes of later insight.

There are two areas I want to focus on for this reading.  The first is verse 11:23:
"Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me."
I find this verse quite profound.  Jesus says here that anyone who isn't working with him is actually against him.  In other words, we Christians can't stand back and let others do our works.  We can't simply say that, because we aren't speaking or doing actions against Jesus, that we are for him.  We can't be lukewarm, otherwise we are working against him.  That makes sense to me -- as Christians, we should show the world that we are different from non-Christians.  This brings me to the next section of scripture I want to discuss:
36  "If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light."
As Christians, we need to make sure that we are filled with light from head to toe.  It should radiate outwards from us, so that other people are in awe of the light.  The light will draw people in the way other things can't. People want to look at us and determine why we are different, how we are different -- and how our lives reflect that.  So let your little light shine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Psalms of Asaph

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 75:1 - 10
  • Psalm 76:1 - 12
Read Bible Passages Online

Psalms 75 & 76
Psalm 76 is a psalm of Asaph.  Psalms 73, 74 and 75 were also psalms of Asaph.  It is interesting to see the contrast between these four psalms.  Psalm 73, the first psalm of Asaph, pondered as to why the wicked prosper.  The 74th Psalm focused on a nation that needed deliverance from its enemies.  I remarked how little praise was in that psalm.  This was a major contrast to the psalms of David, whom praised the Lord even in his lowest of times. 

Psalm 75 is a short psalm that praises the Lord.  All the praise that was missing from the previous psalm was evident in this one.  It opens up by saying "we give thanks because you are near" -- so I wonder if the people are praising the Lord because deliverance was at hand?

The next psalm, number 76, tells of a defeat against enemies at the hand of God.  I think it's interesting how these four psalms together -- 73, 74, 75, 76 -- seem to tell one cohesive story.  This is what I like about studying the entire bible as a whole instead of just individual passages.  You can only divulge so much information from a passage.  The bible is so complex that all these separate passages, themes, stores, etc. all give purpose to one greater understanding. Isn't the bible the most amazing book?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obeying the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Deuteronomy 26:1 - 27:26
Read Bible Passages Online

Deuteronomy 26:1 - 27:26
The people are preparing to go into the land that Lord has promised them.  They are being given instructions, and if these instructions are followed the Lord will bless the nation.  This passage from chapter 26 caught my attention:
18  The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands.
19  And if you do, he will set you high above all the other nations he has made.  Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown.   You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD you God, just as he promised.
 I think it's important to remember that God expects a commitment out of us when we declare ourselves to be a Christian.  We often focus on the fact that Christ died for us and that we are forgiven of our sins, but the Lord does expect that we obey Him after we accept Christ into our hearts. 

So this is what I'm keeping in mind as I start off the year 2013.  I need to be mindful that I am always obeying the Lord in all I do and say.  This is how I will show the Lord that I love Him.