Acrostic Poem

Good Tuesday Morning Bible Journal Family,

At first when I was looking over our reading for the day I was excited to read about the opportunity to read and reflect on the amazing invite to a great feast provided by our Lord in Luke 14:16-24.  After all, I love meals. There are a few messages being shared as we chew on these few verses.  First we can see that this invite is for us all.  Second, the meal provided will leave us permanently filled and never thirsty.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Third, Jesus wants us to come now with no excuses. As a previous expert in excuses, I can think of times where I resist or delay this call by God with my own actions.  I can’t put this invite off for another day or make up another excuse.  These last couple weeks I have had personal friends who have lost loved ones and celebrated their life.  in addition, I’ve had a few former students lose their lives based on various situations.  In addition to children to others pass away. Reminding me that I need to be grateful for every breath, but keep faith that God has a plan for everything and everyone.

Our 2nd reading is called an acrostic poem, the longest psalm and longest chapter in the bible. Twenty-two sections containing eight verses a piece.   The acrostic part is that in each section of Psalm 119 a new letter to the Hebrew Alphabet is taught starting with Aleph and ending with Taw.  Various bible studies say that this Psalm would allow many to memorize with this type of formation.  To me I love the celebration of the word of the Lord, and a direction for us to follow.  A few of my highlighted words that provide me with hope, trust, guidance, and love include; who walk, who keep, seek Him,  praise, obey, rejoice, meditate, and delight.

Dear God,

Your words have opened my eyes (v.18), they have filled a longing in my heart for a Father and a unconditional love, they have taught me to turn my heart not from selfish gain (v.26,36), but to a promise of hope (v.41,49). Before I was afflicted I was astray, but now I try and pray to obey your commands (v. 67-68). I know His law are righteous and His Living Word is eternal, continuing through all generations(v.89-90).  Your commands are always with me and they provide a lamp to my feet and light to my path.  I pray my heart stays set on keeping your decrees until my very end(v105,112).  Let me live so I can praise you, and may Your laws sustain me. I have strayed like lost sheep. God please seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands, and I know you are the Good Shepherd(v.175-176).

Amen

Which Seat?

 

My children took part in Vacation Bible School last week and it was some of the most enlivened and exhilarating and anticipated parts of the kids’ summer.  Since the early part of May, we have been rehearsing the songs in each car ride with the program CD.  The church that hosts the VBS is also the church that houses the Pre-School that all of our children have attended over the past several years.

A couple of weeks before VBS started my son and I had an interesting conversation.  As we are driving, he starts telling a story of his time in Pre-school.  “ Dad, you know that I really like VBS and preschool at Noah’s Ark.  But one thing that I remember is the seating at preschool.  I really didn’t like where I sat.  At the beginning of the year, you have to choose a place to sit down, and then that is your place for the remainder of the school year.  I really didn’t like to sit in that same seat each day.” As the dad, I followed up with the usual question “Could you have asked to move?” and his reply was  “I didn’t ask.”    In this little conversation, I was able to see that his mind still associated the place with a feeling of questioning and a feeling of familiarity.  How interesting that this particular event would still play a vital role in his memory 4 years later.

Luke 14: 7-14

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

In the reading and parable, Jesus allows us to analyze ourselves and listen for guidance of our proper placement in life and in service.  We cannot arbitrarily create a place of honor and prestige for ourselves above others.  God is the giver of goodness of life.  He is welcoming to all that are in search of Him and He wants us to give to our brothers and sisters that are in need as well.  We have to be aware that we can at anytime be the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind, so we must be patient and loving to others because we will be blessing God in turn.  We must ask if we are seating in the right place or is there a different place to sit.

 

Be Blessed in Steadfast love.   Psalm 118

 

The Importunate Friend

I learned a new word yesterday…importunate. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, importunate means – troublesomely urgent, overly persistent in request or demand, troublesome.

Today in Luke 11:5-8 we read about the Importunate Friend. In these verses Jesus told His disciples a parable about a man going to his friend at midnight and asking “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him” (5-6). Midnight is not a very good time to go asking for bread, but having nothing to set before a guest, regardless of time, was unthinkable for a host in Jesus’ day. The friend of the man refuses to help because everyone in his house is asleep. Jesus said, “though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (8).

I found it very interesting learning about the housing of the typical poor Israelite family. They often lived in a one-room house. Sometimes, the house also served as a part-time stable for the family’s sheep, goats, and chickens. All family members would sleep in the same room on a raised platform. They slept with their clothes on, covering themselves with the cloaks they had worn durning the day. They would sleep side-by-side on straw mats rolled out at night. Getting a whole family to bed was a considerable undertaking, as parents know. Once children were asleep, parents want to keep them that way. Once the animals were asleep, parents would want to keep them asleep too!

This was going to be a huge inconvenience to get up, unlock the heavy door, wake up the whole family + animals to give the neighbor bread. The man did not want to do it! But, he finally gave in and gave the man what he wanted because of his boldness and shameless audacity in asking in the middle of the night.

Jesus goes on to explain in verses 9-13, how much more will your Father in heaven respond to your bold and shameless requests when coming to him to meet your need. Jesus is not teaching us in this parable that we need to pester God until he finally gives us what we are asking for, but that we are to come boldly and shamelessly before God with an expectation that our need will be met.

Jesus told this parable to call us to shamelessly and boldly ask God the Father to help in times of need. An important difference, however, is that God is not answering from a locked house saying, “Do not bother me”, but He is saying, “ask…seek…knock” (9). If you truly need God, boldly come before Him in Prayer and shamelessly ask Him for what you need.

Also read, Psalm 117

Good Samaritans

Luke 10:30-37, Psalm 116

I am the good Samaritan.  That’s right, if I were walking down the road and a beaten man was lying there, I would help him.  It is my love for humanity and generosity that allow me to be so kind.  Do you believe that?  For what its wroth, I’m not sure that I believe it.  I want to, but my experience tells me otherwise.   How far, for example, do I go with it.  Just yesterday, I was sitting at a stop light watching a woman pull a suitcase through a busy intersection.  She was headed toward the airport, but still a couple of miles away.  My immediate thought was, “hey, I bet she could use a ride.”  I continued to watch her, eventually from my rearview mirror, as she made it across the street.  I felt relief when a man greeted her as she pulled her suitcase up on the curb.  That’s when I decided that she wasn’t heading to the airport at all.  She was probably headed to a nearby office and chose to walk so that she could get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather.

I’m hoping that you noticed the shift in my thoughts as I passed by the woman with the suitcase.  I had to change the story in my head.  Had I not, I would have been confronted with feelings that I don’t want to deal with.  For all of us, changing the story is one way that we are able to justify our actions.  Ironically, the same was true for the man the parable of the good Samaritan.  We find it in verse 29.  It says,  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?”   Sadly, my actions are no different than his.  They are just in a different context.

God doesn’t want us to justify our actions.  He wants us to confront them, head-on with full disclosure.  That is why he tells this parable.  His goal is not for us to wallow in guilt and shame, but to rest instead on his perfect grace.  As we do, He will give us the kindness, goodness and gentleness that we need to serve our neighbor perfectly.  Jesus, in fact, becomes our justification.

Got Talent?

Today’s reading is Matthew 18:23-34 and Psalm 115.

We will focus on the parable in Matthew which many of us our familiar with where a king forgave a servant 10,000 talents. Some resources indicate 1 talent is about 20 years of wages in biblical times so 10,000 talents would be 200,000 years of wages! However, when the servant was released and someone owed him 100 denarii which resources say is about 4 months wages, he did not show the same grace. In fact, he had him thrown into prison.

Tonight, I was talking with a friend about a mutual relationship we have with another individual who we both have a disagreement with. My friend made a comment in which he said something to the effect of…”you’re a little more forgiving than me on items like this” with this person. However, while I would like to say I’m living this out…I would say this very circumstantial and is not the case anywhere near to the level the Bible calls us to do. He doesn’t know this, but I actually went off on this person’s boss about them at one point and learned later I was quick to judge, didn’t know some things about the individual, and felt the need to apologize to this person’s boss for my quick and harsh judgement without knowing everything. This person’s boss is also someone I’m trying to witness, too. Oops..I did not show them a very good example to draw them to Christ in this case did I?!

One time I even took a personality assessment which said I’m typically forgiving….to an extent. It said I give individuals chances, but when it reaches a certain “breaking point,’ I’m completely done with them and write them off. I’m not going out on a limb to say my breaking point is WAY less than 10,000 talents!

In fact, I often find my amount of forgiveness depends on the relationship with the person or if I find myself with similar beliefs. I’m quick to forgive family, a close friend. or those that have the same political beliefs as me or are on the sports team I root for. Yet, I am quick to condemn someone who stumbles and makes a mistake that has different political views or is a celebrity I don’t know or is on a rival sports team for example. This is just wrong. It shouldn’t matter. I need to realize that I’m called to forgiven in the same way Jesus has forgiven me as this parable teaches of. If Jesus held me to the same standard I hold others to, I’d be in big trouble.

As we read through the Psalms, we come across many passages that talk about having a healthy fear of the Lord. This passage is very humbling because it reminds us at the end that if we don’t forgive others, the Lord will not forgive us. It is also humbling because reminds me how thankful I should be that the Lord has forgiven my sins that come not just by the hour, but by the minute. By using 10,000 talents or 200,000 years wages…He wanted to show the unbelievable depth of His forgiveness and grace. He washes ALL our sins white as snow. It is not circumstantial like my forgiveness of others which I must improve on. All we have to do is believe in Him and ask…and give the same grace to others. God is great!

Think Again!

Today’s reading is quite interesting as you can look at this parable from two perspectives.  As we read Luke 17:7-10, we can use the lens of the servant and then we can use the lens of God.

“Will any one of you who has a servant[a] plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,[b] and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;[c] we have only done what was our duty.’”

From the lens of the servant, he works all day, he works HARD all day and then his master or boss doesn’t thank him but expects more.  The servant may be wrapping up the last task of the day or so he thinks.  Think again!  There is more work to be done!  Doesn’t this sound like our days sometimes?  We work and work, driving kids, fielding phone calls, cooking, cleaning, picking up groceries and then “can you do (X) for me”?  In your mind, you were almost done with all your tasks and ready to relax.  Think again, you child needs one more thing! Sigh….

From the eyes of God, we are his servants.  We are on earth to be disciples, to do good works, to share the word, to serve him and to serve others.  He expects us to carry on and not to stop.  He does not pause in caring for us at the end of the day because he is “too tired” so why should we stop?   He is there watching over us and expects us to serve humbly.  We are not always given gratitude for doing his good works on earth today.  Our gratitude will come with eternal life.

This last part is sometimes hard in our daily tasks.   We try to please people by doing our jobs or we try to go above and beyond to finish a task to perfection.  I know at the end of the last two weeks, I was exhausted, working very hard on a number of projects and had to keep going with not much gratitude.  Sometimes we are thanked and sometimes we are not and that is the way it goes.  I think back to when my children were very young.  They could not even say thank you.  In those moments, my gratitude came from seeing them thrive or seeing them sleep comfortably.  I didn’t expect a thank you at that age.  I served humbly.  As my kids have grown, I have come to expect a thank you and hope I have taught them to be thankful, expressing gratitude to those who do things for them or “serve” them in even the smallest way.  As my oldest entered the business workplace for the summer, I talked to him about carrying on, even if he’s tired at the end of the day, to be thankful he has a job and to thank others even if they don’t thank him. Serve humbly and be thankful to God for all he has given us, even if we don’t see his gratitude right now.  Carry on.  When your day becomes tiresome and when you think you have done enough, think again!   How can we do more to serve God?  Are we thankful for all he has done for us?  Go forward and serve humbly.

For additional reading:  Psalm 114

 

Sheep, Gate, Shepherd

John 10:1-18 and Psalm 113

Preparing for today’s reading, I read a little bit about what sheep are like as animals. Here are some of the ways they are described: stubborn, picky eaters, social, followers, run from danger/easily afraid, playful.

Being a mom, how can I not associate these descriptions with my children?? And following that, associating the role that Jesus describes as with mine as a parent? In this parable, Jesus is talking about sheep (us – his flock), and explaining his role as shepherd (caregiver, protector, authority figure).

It is the shepherd’s role to provide for the needs of the sheep, to keep them safe, to keep them well, and to keep them out of dangerous places. The sheep don’t always like for the shepherd to do these things, especially when the grass seems greener on the other side of the hill and they don’t realize there is a cliff to fall off on that side. It is not the shepherd’s job to make the sheep happy all the time, but to safely shepherd them from one place to the other so they can fulfill their purpose in life. Sheep learn their shepherd’s voice and respond to it, trusting the shepherd to take them where they need to go and provide what they need. The shepherd acts as a gate to keep the sheep in their pin safely, keeping the sheep from leaving without protection, and also keeping harmful predators away from the flock.

My little boy Samuel is almost five. When he gets in trouble, it is almost always because he did not listen to me or his dad. Much of my time is spent explaining to him that if he would just listen he would not be in trouble. I try to explain that when I tell him something, it is to protect him, to keep him from hurting himself, or because what he wanted to do was a really bad idea.

I’m asking myself right now how much I listen for God’s voice. I’m thinking about how the God’s word and instruction is meant to protect us, because God knows what we need more than we do, and He wants us to be happy, to live fulfilling lives, and to be safe and anxiety-free.

In fact, He tells us not to worry – very specifically. Yet worry and anxiety can own my thoughts and even cause physical distress in my life. Why?? Because I don’t listen.

Reflect today on what Jesus as your shepherd means in your life right now. Do you know His voice? Do you come when called? Do you follow where He leads?

Lord, thank you for Jesus and his loving words laid out for us in scripture. Help me to listen for your voice, and to obey without doubt. Take away my fear and anxiety, and cause me to trust and have faith in your promises. 

 

I loved you enough to insist that you save your money and buy a bike for yourself even though we could afford to buy one for you.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to make you take a Milky Way back to the drugstore (with a bite out of it) and tell the clerk, ‘I stole this yesterday and I want to pay for it.’

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents are not perfect.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘no’ when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I am glad I won them, because in the end you won something, too.”

Mothers, and fathers, are given an incredible privilege and opportunity to have the primary role in helping shape the character of the children entrusted into their care. Words are important, but our actions and examples are more important. From how to treat other people to the habit of going to Sunday School and church to the teaching of stewardship by giving the child a quarter to put in the offering, we can instill good habits, morals, and beliefs into our children.

Come Back Sheep

Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:12-14 and Psalm 112

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Have you ever gotten lost as a small child? Most of us can remember that helpless overwhelming sense of fear as we searched for our parent in a store or at a busy outdoor festival. Even as an adult I can recall that visceral feeling of my heart pounding, my eyes welling up with tears as I shouted for my Mom or Dad. As a parent, I’m now standing on the other side of that equation. Every time I take my three children to a public place I find myself endlessly counting to three as my eyes dart around looking for each little head curls. Of course as a child you believe that when you grow up you’ll leave all that fear and dependence behind. You believe that adults are in command of their world and can control their own circumstance rather than be controlled by external forces. It’s laughable, right? If only children knew just how much less control we have as grown-ups! If only they knew that we too experience the fear and the reality of being lost. That like them we experience abandonment, isolation, persecution and loneliness.  We don’t share that part of ourselves with children because it’s our job to protect them. We shield them from the worst of things and show them the best of things. And, in turn our Father does the same for us.

A lost sheep is totally defenseless. Having no weapon or benefit of speed, all he can do is cry, which signals his enemy to close in. The sheep has no sense of direction or gift of scent. He is surrounded by enemies; whether predators or simply the elements of nature. And when that lost sheep is separated from its herd it is all the more vulnerable to the cunning wit of his enemy. Just as our children are like our sheep, so are we the Father’s. When wander off from Christian life, we are vulnerable. The predators of our world close in, and all we can do is cry out to God. What are the bright and shiny things that can lure us away from our Christian flock? For me, it’s getting out of the habit of being in His word each day and getting into the habit of sleeping in, watching too much TV, too much focus on materialism and money. Suddenly, I find myself far far away from the place I want to be in my journey with Jesus Christ. Although I am just about as defenseless as a baby sheep in God’s eyes, I do have a sense of direction. I do know the way back to God. Jesus tells us that God “rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray…” Matthew 18:13. What that means is that there is everlasting grace for those who are lost. If you are reading today, and you feel like you are a sheep on the mountain, cold and alone, call out to Him. Follow that path that has led you back to Him before. And if you are reading and you’ve never found God, start in His word. Read, and He will find you.

~have a great week sheep

 

 

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

As we continue through this series of parables, we come to a moment where Jesus pauses and asks his disciples if they get the parables up to this point (verse 51), to which they reply a simple yes. I try to put myself in their shoes – would I have the faith to say yes? Or would I have had ten follow up questions to better understand? Even though we know that the disciples didn’t FULLY comprehend everything Jesus was telling them, they knew enough and had the faith to answer yes. And then we come to verse 52 where Jesus shares a parable about all of the parables!

In this mini parable break, Jesus is encouraging them to not replace everything they learned before with all of these new teaching and parables. Instead, add these new parables and teaching with the old (law).  Similar to how we have both new things in our home along with family heirlooms. One doesn’t replace the other – it’s all part of the collection.

I will admit that I have tried to line up God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. The bright light that we can’t look upon and need to remove our shoes for, with the man that is fishing and eating with the lowest of the low. In my heart I believe and know they are one and completely unified, but sometimes my brain goes into overdrive trying to reconcile the two and figure it all out.

Recently a preacher shared this and it’s SO TRUE! Our human (barfo) nature wants our view of graceful bear hugging Jesus to deal with our own sin…. And we want OT fire + brimstone God to show up and deal with people that sin against us.  OUCH – that was a ZINGER! I can think of a time I had those thoughts.

Truth be told, they are perfectly unified. Balancing OT (law, teachings, etc) with the NT (parables, grace, etc) is similar to understanding the trinity. What a beautiful mystery!

Does anyone else love Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth about “now we see through a glass darkly…” – I can not WAIT for heaven, when it will all be crystal clear. Will we be like the disciples and simply say “yes, we understand”, or will we have a million questions?

As Jesus continues to fulfill the law, with his teachings and ultimately his sacrifice, my prayer is that we can have wisdom in balancing the old and the new. The Psalm that is assigned with today’s reading is Psalm 111. I love when the two readings come together so beautifully. Here are a few lines that really spoke to me in light of the parable about parables.

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.

God caused us to remember the law in the Old Testament and Jesus’ parable of parables reinforces this. As we seek wisdom and understanding, knowing who God is and having fear and respect for Him is our first step in understanding.

 

 

Separation

On April 18th & 19th, 2018, a team of movers came to our house to pack and ship what we wanted with us in Italy. The goods consisted of beds, chairs, a couch, tables, clothing, cooking accessories, photos, and cabinetry such as dressers and armoires. The packed items were then taken to a warehouse and further prepped for a very long journey, placed in a giant shipping container, sent (perhaps by train or truck) to Chicago, then placed onto a ship that would make its way for the next few weeks across the ocean. In case you’re curious, it is almost two months later and we still do not have our things… maybe a topic for a future post on patience!

Leading up to this move we had hundreds (perhaps thousands) of decisions to separate our possessions into what goes to Italy, what to send to storage and what to let go of. The items chosen to send to Italy are planned to be used for the next three years. Conversely, the storage items would sit for three years unused. Then the rest of it was deemed unnecessary; useless to us.

Arriving into Europe there was a similar pattern of separation. US currency no longer accepted, and many electronics do not work (or would be fried) due to the difference in voltage.

As humans we separate, and so does our creator:

The Parable of the Net

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

These words are tough to take in. The thought of being thrown into a fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth is truly the ultimate worse case scenario. We often wish these words weren’t true, we’d like to think that perhaps everyone is “good” and we all end up happily ever after.

The fact is that God is real, so is his book, and so are his promises. His judgment is fair (whether we like it or not). Knowing the harshness of eternal separation, he gave us a gift, grace and mercy through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ. Jesus was tortured and killed as he took the penalty so that we would not be separated from him. It is ours to choose; not someone choosing for us. Eternity with him or without him.

Today’s Psalm: Psalm 110