Sunday, December 27, 2015

Everyone will be a Citizen of Jerusalem

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 86
  • Psalm 87
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Psalm 86
In the middle of psalms of the descendants of Korah comes an interjected psalm of prayer from David. David starts by asking the Lord to hear his prayer - David needs the Lord's help. One of things I love the most about the psalms of David is that he always gives praise to the Lord, no matter what tribulation he facing. David tells the Lord that He alone is God, He is good, He is faithful, He forgives, He is slow to anger - no other God is like the Lord Almighty. How many of us have the true faith of David? Where we cry out in praise to the Lord, despite going through the worst of times?

Psalm 87
Psalm 87 is a unique and beautiful piece. This psalm speaks of Jerusalem, of the city on the holy mountain founded by the Lord himself. Today we think of Jerusalem and the middle east as being ravished by war and fighting, yet we know that the Lord Jesus Christ will come back and reign from there for 1000 years. This psalm tells use that everyone will enjoy the rights of citizenship there (87:5). Jerusalem is set to become the international city for all of God's children. Not only are we welcome there, we will be citizens. How glorious will that be?

I often wish I could visit Jerusalem, so that I could be in the places where the Lord himself had been. But Jesus will be back there, reigning over the entire earth for 1000 years. How brilliant will that be? To make a pilgrimage to worship the Lord in Jerusalem? The psalm ends with "The people will play flutes and sing, the source of my life springs from Jerusalem!" (87:7). This will be a glorious time indeed.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Will Being a "Good Person" get us into Heaven? (Parable of the Rich Man)

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 18:18 - 18:43
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Luke 18:18 - 18:43

Today's reading was a short one, and the primary story in it is the Parable of the Rich Man. This is a man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by telling him to sell everything he had and give to the poor, then follow Jesus. Jesus then said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. This ended with people wondering who on earth could possibly be saved? The answer Jesus gave was simple: "What is impossible for people is possible for God" (18:25). We need to make sure we are putting the Lord ahead of our money, and all other aspects of our lives. But none of that matters by itself - we must rely on the saving power of Jesus Christ to gain eternal life.

The single verse that stood out for me in this reading was Luke 18:19, where Jesus spoke to the rich man:
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked him. "Only God is truly good."
This is such a powerful verse. Of course we know that Jesus was both God and human, but at that time it was not yet realized. This slight correction is so powerful. No matter how good we think we are, no one is truly good. We all fall short of the glory of God. Every single human to walk the earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has sinned. Being a "good" person cannot get you into Heaven. I feel like many people live their lives, expecting karma to take care of them. If they are "good" people, if they do good things, if they are nice to others - then whatever awaits them in the afterlife is justly earned. But that is not the way it works at all. We need the precious blood of Jesus to be cleaned, to be good, to be redeemed, and to enter Heaven. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - that we can do by ourselves to earn this, besides believing that Jesus Christ is Messiah whose sinless blood redeemed our souls, made us clean and tore the veil. Believe, repent, and be saved.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Poor or Rich, Light and Darkness, Pride and Wisdom - Readings of Proverbs

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 13:2 - 13:8
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Proverbs 13:7 - 13:10

I could use some words of wisdom from my favorite book of the bible today.  Lets see what words of life there are in store for me as I go through these four verses from Proverbs.

13:7 Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.
Appearances aren't always what they seem. In the end, God knows our true hearts and motives. There is no pretending that will fool Him. We may fool people, but we will never fool the Lord.

13:8  The rich can pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor won't even get threatened.
Which is better - to have the ransom to pay and be a target, or to be poor and left alone? I have been on both sides of the equation - dirt poor, without even a home to live in - and well off enough to have all my bills paid, food in the cupboards, have many of my wants, and take vacations. Money doesn't solve everything, but it does make life easier when you don't have to worry as much about your basic needs. But it's a mixed blessing, as it is all too easy to let money control you and, in return, pull you away from the Lord.
13:9  The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.
It's very difficult to live in this world. The closer I grow to the Lord, and the more that I understand how God expects us to live and obey, the more I realize how far apart we are set from the rest of the world. It's intimidating, it's relentless, it's disheartening. But in the end, the Lord tells us that we will have victory, and then we will no longer be ridiculed as those "hate-filled bigots" (which couldn't be further from the truth), for people will know the truth.

13:10  Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.
It truly is a hard thing to learn how to take advice. I have no problem taking advice from God's Word, but when it comes to people it's far more of a struggle. This is especially true in today's information technology world, where we can answer our own questions in seconds. But learning to take advice is a growing process. I have to recognize the value of other people's wisdom - especially when it comes to age. I've learned a lot in my 33 years - so what of my grandparents, who have had over twice as long to gain life experience? It's invaluable. How many times have you heard someone say they wish they could go back to their younger selves with the wisdom they have gained throughout their lives? We should soak up all the wisdom we can get.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Promised Land Conquered; Caleb's Faith and the Promises of God

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 13:1 - 15:63
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Joshua 13:1 - 15:63

Today's reading focused on the distribution of the conquered land by Joshua to the tribes of Israel. I did some online searching for a visual to show me the distribution, since I don't really have a mental map in my mind of the region. I found this image from the following URL:

Looking at this map, I'm astounded by the amount of land they were able to conquer. When God makes a promise, He delivers - no matter how big the promise may seem.

This reading also talked more about Caleb, who was with Joshua when Moses sent the twelve scouts out to the land. We were told then that, out of the 12 scouts, 10 of them came back terrified and told the Israelites that the land could not be conquered. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith in God's promise to the people, and thus Joshua and Caleb were the only two who were allowed to go into the promised land.

In chapter 14, we are told that Caleb came to Joshua to ask for the land that God had promised him. We are told that Caleb had waited 45 YEARS for the fulfillment of that promise, and his faith was still just as strong. Joshua gave Caleb his allotment of land, and Caleb went and drove out the inhabitants and cashed in on the promise.

I am still blown away - 45 years is how long Caleb waited, faithfully, for the fulfillment of the promise. I am again reminded that all things happen with God's timing. It was said in verse 14:11 that, although Caleb was 85 years old, he was still just as strong as when he first went out to scout the land. So even though it took 45 years for the promise to be fulfilled, Caleb was still able to enjoy the gift when it was given.

All things with God's timing. Too often, when something doesn't happen right away, or in what we consider to be "reasonable" timing, we lose faith and turn away from the promise. But God loves it when we remain faithful to the very end, and will reward us accordingly for our faithfulness.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bringing our Grievances before God, God's Justice, Forgiveness, and Child Like Faith

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 18:1 - 18:27
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Luke 18:1 - 18:17

Okay, I'm going to start today with yet another apology. I looked at the date of my last blog - and it was in January! I couldn't believe it. I've had a lot of life in the way - the birth of my 4th child (Sept 2014), the resumption of grad school, and a side business. That's no excuse for going so long without a blog though. I will try to do better in the future.

 I do want to point out that I haven't quit reading the Word - in fact, just a couple nights ago, I finished my first complete reading through of the bible!!! From start to finish, I've read every word! In some ways I am ashamed - I am 33 years old, so that's a long time to take to read through the bible. But regardless, I am so thrilled that I finished through with that. I will NEVER be done reading the bible - ever! The book is so full of life that it's different each time I pick it up - even if I were to read the same passage multiple days in a row. I love that! So now I need to figure out how I'm going to read the bible next (chronologically, a different translation, etc). And, as always, I'm going to keep chugging along at my goal to BLOG about the whole bible as I read too :)

Now, onto today's reading:

Today's reading told two parables. The first was the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In this parable, a widow persistantly petitioned a judge for justice against her enemy. The judge was not at a godly man in the least, but in the end he gave in and executed a just ruling against her enemy. In this example, Jesus reminded us that even sinners who don't fear God are capable of rendering just actions. Therefore, don't we know that God hears us when we cry for just and that he WILL deliver? For we are His children, we believe and fear Him. We trust in him for all our needs.

I am reminded as I read this about God's timing, versus our timing. I so easily become impatient with the things I want and need NOW. God is always listening, and He knows my needs and desires, and His timing is always perfect. And when it comes to justice, there is something else I need to remind myself, and this one is so much harder - God loves the offender as much as He loves me. And if the person is not saved, still God longs for them to turn to Him. That's the hard thing about justice, right? We have earthly justice, and then we have Godly justice. If someone murders a family member of mine, that person might be caught and punished with earthly justice. Perhaps they would spend the rest of their life in prison, and/or be executed. But if that person turns to God and truly repents, then he is forgiven unconditionally by the Lord - and that is the justice that truly matters. My takeaway from these thoughts is that I need to focus less on obtaining "justice" for an offense (any offense, not just big ones - perhaps someone truly wronged me with his or her actions) and focus more on forgiving and letting go. Now, I haven't had to deal with anything huge like a murdered family member, so obviously I'm dishing advice I haven't had to take. But, regardless, my life is more joyful when I'm not focused on all the minor grievances - when I am truly forgiving and letting go.

The second parable is the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. This is a simple parable, where two men - one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector - brought themselves before the temple and prayed to the Lord. The Pharisee gave thanks for his righteousness and lack of sin, whereas the tax collector was humble and sorrowful. Jesus gave a clear message here - those who exalt themselves before the Lord will later be humbled, while those who are humble now will be exalted later. I know which of those categories I want to be in - how about you?

Finally, the reading concludes with a famous passage: (Luke 18:17):
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
I have four children, so I have seen faith through a child's eyes. Children are truly special in that they can have true faith without doubts and without the world getting in the way. Simple, pure, faith - it's amazing, really. As we grow older and mature and are influenced by the world, this gets a lot harder to maintain. I feel doubts creep in on me, and I push them out. My focus, whenever I'm doubting, is the Word of God. The bible speaks to my very heart, and it is the Word that gives me the strength when times are tough. The spirit of God is always in me, but perhaps he's closest to me when I'm engaged with His Word. I don't need natural explanations for the things that are in the bible. I don't need archeological evidence of the events that are transcribed. I just need to open the bible and feel with my heart to know that God is there, and that my faith is true.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Joshua Defeats 31 Kings; Obeying the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Joshua 11:1 - 12:24
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Joshua 11:1 - 12:24

I'm learning that Joshua fought far more than just the battle of Jericho!  In my last reading I saw how a group of kings banned together against the Israelites but the Israelites easily defeated them with God's help. 

What I learned today was even more astounding.  Dozens of kings banded against Joshua.  Their numbers were so numerous that they "covered the landscape like the sand on the seashore (11:4)".  Dozens of kings banded together!  To a person who does not have the help of the Lord on his side, that entire situation is 100% hopeless.  It not only looks hopeless, it is hopeless.  It is only with the help of the Lord that Joshua defeated all these enemies without any trouble at all.  All together, 31 kings each of the Jordan were defeated by Joshua (12:24).

I don't have much to say about this passage today, just that with God all things truly are possible.  I did notice that in verse 11:15, we are told that Joshua did everything he was told and very carefully obeyed all the commandments that the Lord had given to Moses.  So yes, with God all things are possible, but there is also an expectation that we will obey Him.  He is faithful to those who place their faith in Him and obey Him.  I think we are quick to call on the Lord for help getting ourselves out of the situations that we put ourselves into.  The Lord will not forsake us, and we have our true salvation by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  That being said, when you are calling for help from the Lord, do a check and make sure that you are obeying both his commandments and his direction.  Joshua was successful in his conquest for three reasons:
(1) God directed path and Joshua followed
(2) Joshua had complete faith that the Lord would fulfill the promises made
(3) Joshua was careful to obey all the commandments the Lord gave to him
Too often we think about the love the Lord has for us and the saving grace, but we forget that we are also expected to obey Him.  If He is truly our Lord, then we should obey Him as we are his subjects and any loyal subjects would wholeheartedly obey their king as well as seek the king's direction in their lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Joy for those who can Reside Forever in the House of the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 84
  • Psalm 85
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Today's reading covered Psalms 84 and 85.  Both are psalms of the descendents of Korah, however they have two different themes.  Psalm 85 is another plea for the Lord's redemption from the hardships that were brought upon the people for their previous sins.  The author of this Psalm wonders if the Lord's wrath will last forever, or if it will ever end.  I personally fear the Lord's wrath -- I never want to be in the place where the Lord shuns me.  That would be a terrible, desperate place, and it would probably feel like it lasts forever. 

Psalm 84 talks about the joy of the place of the Lord and how great it is to be near him.  This is a beautiful psalm that is full of expression of how we should all long to feel about the Lord.  I admit there are times I go further away from the Lord and in those times I lose the feeling that we read about in this psalm.  In those times I need to remember this psalm, re-read it, and keep the words close at heart. 

The psalm starts out talking about how lovely the dwelling place of the Lord is and how the author faints with longing to be there.  Faints with longing.  Longing for such a beautiful place.  And if you really think about what the Lord offers us -- really really think -- we would all faint with longing to be near Him too.  He offers us peace, joy, an end to sorrow and death, protection, love, and just the completeness to our spirit that nothing else can fulfill.  Or, as Psalm 84:4 says:  "What joy for those who can live your house, always singing your praises."  Amen!