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Friday, January 11, 2013

There are More Important Things than Tithing

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 11:37 - 12:7
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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
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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
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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
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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.