I shall not be greatly shaken

Psalm 62 “My Soul Waits for God Alone”

Our family is in the midst of packing up for a move across the ocean and phase one of the move (shipping our belongings to Italy) is only a few days away.

The Middle of the Night

I’ve been waking up around 3:00AM-4:00AM in a sweat almost every day these last couple weeks. Mind and heart racing. Lists growing, deadlines approaching. Fear. Panic. What ifs. Worry. Stress.

Then I pray and eventually come to repentance when I remember all this worry and fear is not Godly. It is me selfishly trying to control things.

Regardless of any earthly, human outcome, God has it. He holds you and me in his hand. He is a refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
  pour out your heart before him;
  God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 64:8)

The Peace of Dawn

Then morning brings a new day, a new perspective, a new opportunity to get it right and continue to learn to lean on Jesus.

Today’s Sermon on the Mount Content… lust!

Today’s verses from the Sermon on the Mount are Matthew 5:27-30 where the topic of lust is addressed. I posted on this on February 9th, 2016. Here’s a link:

Do Not Open This Door

Not an April Fools’ Joke

After Jesus died and was buried, the priests and Pharisees went to Pilate and asked to secure the tomb until the third day. Pilate granted the request by sending “a guard of soldiers” and said to “make it as secure as you can”.

Roman soldiers were known for their precision, brutality, training, and being well committed to their assignment (or face severe consequences). We’re not talking about clown cops. These were tough dudes who didn’t mess around. Remember the brutal torture (scourging) from Friday? If you’ve seen “The Passion of the Christ”, you know what I’m talking about.

Except the guards were no match for God’s plans.

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

This brief account strengthens my own belief in the resurrection. No one was going to be able to steal the body. No one was going to roll away that stone. No one would dare attempt to overtake the guards.

We know that Jesus lived and his miracles were well documented. It is documented that he died on the cross and just to be sure, the soldiers pierced him with a spear (John 19:33-34). There were witnesses to the burial as well.

Up to this point we can say he was an amazing man. Humble, giving, peaceful, a good teacher, and even a miracle worker. All these are great qualities however without the resurrection, he would have been just another dead human.

He Has Risen!

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:5-6)

The Old Testament foretold of him long before these events occurred and we must choose to believe it or deny it.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Jesus walked out of that grave. In his death, he was the sacrifice for our sin. In his defeat of death, he proved his worthiness as a savior and allows us to run out of our own graves that we’ve dug through our sin.

Doubters Welcome!

What will you choose today? Doubters are welcome so start with a simple prayer as one who seeks. He knows your doubts so why not share them with him right now?

Jesus said,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8) 

Crucified

2 Samuel 18 articulates the events that lead to the death of King David’s son Absalom.

Absalom rebelled against King David, waging war against him with the hope to take over the throne. Absalom ultimately hung on a tree alive then had three javelins thrust into his heart. King David mourned deeply for the demise of his son. It was a broken relationship, and much like most broken relationships, sin was at the heart of it all.

Like Absalom, we’ve all gone astray. We rebel, wage wars, seek selfish results, we have broken relationships, and we even put others at risk when with our sin, just like Absalom.

Today, Good Friday 2018 we reflect on another man who hung on a tree because of sin. Except the sin he was paying for was not his own; his name was Jesus and he was innocent.

Matthew 27 provides an account of Jesus being brought to trial, the crucifixion and his death. Can I ask you to read this today aloud with friends and/or family to reflect on who Jesus was and the price he paid to set us free from the bondage, death, and separation of sin?

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 18 & Psalm 50

It was before the Lord

Two recent Bible Journal posts have mentioned verses or themes from Matthew 5-7 (also known as the Sermon on the Mount). Stephanie’s post on 3/10 and  Lyndon’s post on 3/12 mentioned loving our enemies.

2 Samuel 6 also reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if Jesus had these stories of David on his mind as he gave this sermon. Jesus would have heard these stories and understood the text from being a young boy, so it seems quite possible.

David had been celebrating and worshipping God, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14a). We witness David not holding back whatsoever, giving his all solely for the glory of God.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

As David returns to bless his household, he is greeted rudely and angrily by his wife Michal. Why did Michal respond the way she did? 2 Samuel 6:16 says she “despised him in her heart”. Ouch, his own wife!

This chapter doesn’t tell us her reasoning for being upset. I’ve got some thoughts on this, and all relate to what I believe is the root for most of our sin: Selfishness.

  1. Was Michal jealous that David put God first in his life?
  2. Was Michal full of pride and embarrassed that David lowered himself before the people, dancing like a maniac? As though the king should behave more “kingly”.
  3. Was Michal bitter that David held greater esteem than her father (Saul)? Did she think the throne should be in her own family?

Whatever the reasoning, I see this as persecution directly related to David’s love for God and his desire to serve him first. This brings me again to the Sermon on the Mount.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

David’s response to Michal was more than fair, and he chose to keep it above board without snarling back insults at her. I loved this statement “It was before the Lord” because it reflects his priorities and that he really didn’t care what anyone thought about what he was doing – he cared about being right with God.

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

All of this once again leads me to the cross. I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be despised but Jesus does. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life yet he was despised, betrayed, beaten, spit upon and unjustly killed. He didn’t have to do any of this, but he did it anyway in direct obedience to The Father’s plan, for our sins. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. I choose you today. Amen.

Today’s readings: 2 Samuel 6 & Psalm 38

Extra credit reading: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

A way out.

Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 25 has a fascinating story where David shows kindness to a man named Nabal, then humbly asks Nabal for a favor. Nabal’s response is selfish, rude and offensive. David is so furious he makes plans for revenge, and a bloody one at that.

I see God’s story and our story throughout this chapter. I love how God speaks to us in every Biblical story showing us his good nature, his good plans, his love, his mercy, and his grace!

  1. There was a gift, one that wasn’t earned: David’s initial assistance to Nabal. I think of all of the gifts we are given on a daily basis from a loving God that point to him as the giver, asking for our hearts to turn to him, to acknowledge him as the giver, give thanks, and give back to him what is his.
  2. The response to the gift was sinful. This is our sin. We too often take God’s good gifts and use them for our own selfish desires or we don’t acknowledge God as the giver by thanking him.
  3. God’s vengeance is justified in that without Jesus, just one sin can separate us from him.  Our vengeance is not justified (as David planned to do). Vengeance is God’s: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
  4. Forgiveness was requested. Nabal’s wife Abigail lowered herself, humbly begged for forgiveness and acknowledged The Lord.
  5. Mercy is granted. Praise God loving us and for his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ! All we need to do is humble ourselves before him and acknowledge Jesus and our slate is clean.
  6. God’s eventual judgment of the non repentant heart. Yikes! “And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38)

What also was clear in this chapter is the reminder that God always gives us a way out when we are tempted to sin. David was tempted yet given a way out through Abigail’s intervention.

On my heart through writing this post were some of the lyrics from the song “Do it Again” by Elevation Worship. He makes a way when it seems there is no way… something about this part of the song nearly always brings me to tears.

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Praise God for this promise and the countless times he’s given us a way out. Amen.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Today’s reading links: 1 Samuel 25 & Psalm 26

Wait

In 1 Samuel 13 we find the King Saul of Israel and his armies in big trouble with the Philistines. Saul’s armies numbered somewhere around 3,000 and the Philistines were numbered like the sand on the seashore. Not good odds.

And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude.  (1 Samuel 13:5a)

Not surprisingly, the men of Israel were trembling in fear, so they hid.

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, …. 7b  Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. (1:Samuel 13:6, 7b)

That’s the current picture. Now let’s recall the instructions given to Saul from Samuel back in chapter 10:

“And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do” (1 Samuel 10:8).

Simply put, Saul was instructed to wait. His response… he waited until he thought it was long enough, but he didn’t follow the instruction to wait until Samuel came to him. With this one act of fear, impatience, and self-reliance Saul’s legacy as king was destroyed.

On one hand this seems like a harsh punishment for one mistake, however Saul was entrusted to be king over all of Israel, a huge undertaking and great responsibility. We can also assume this wasn’t Saul’s first sin or act of disobedience.

My takeaway is that God has all of us waiting on all sorts of situations right now. Pause for a moment and mediate on what you’re waiting on an answer to or direction on. Consider things like health, friendships, career, major purchases, living accommodations, family relationships, or education.

For me, with each opportunity to wait, there is the battle between taking matters into my own hands or seeking God’s guidance, as though He is saying “just wait… trust me”.

There is this pull at my flesh. I desperately want to give Him all control however if I’m real truthful, I want it all, and I want it now (and that’s not okay because that is a reflection of sin in my life). This struggle brings me to my knees because the more I let go, the closer I feel to Him and I sense His love, power, and ultimate wisdom. His answer and timing is often far different than my own plans but the God of the Heavens and the Earth has never let me down, nor will He let you down either.

Through it all, he’s not impressed with our outward sacrifices, he wants our heart and our faith to be in Him alone so that we may grow closer to Him and be a living example to our family, friends, and colleagues.

Challenge: Identify at least one situation right now in your life that needs a resolution involving waiting, and commit to giving it over to God, 100%. Journal the story (privately or on this site as a comment) and share what God does with it for his glory.

Dear Jesus, we thank you for your ultimate faith and obedience in The Father’s plan for us. Forgive us for our impatience and futile self-reliance. The glory is yours God. Amen.

Today’s readings: 1 Samuel 13 & Psalm 14

Turning our worries into worship

1 Samuel 1 covers the birth of Samuel. It seems right to start with his birth and the faith story of his mother’s miraculous pregnancy. 1 & 2 Samuel consist of 55 chapters which leads me to believe that God really wants us to pay attention to this man.

While preparing for this post and praying for a story this week, I was introduced to a new friend whose name is Mark. In our very first conversation that lasted only 22 minutes, Mark opened up to me and shared that his wife had been told they wouldn’t be able to have kids without major medical assistance. He told me about miscarriages, fertility treatments, and a lot of waiting. He then shared that they now have two children.

Then Mark said “we recently were shocked to learn that we’re now expecting our third child.” This time there were no medical procedures or medications, so they are completely blown away. Praise God!

Have you heard stories like this? I have and witnessed similar stories first hand in our family. Years of heartache, miscarriages, and some medical procedures resulting in tears until late 2004 when we got past the first trimester, and in May 2005 our son Peyton was born.

We were prepared to wait years until baby two, then we absolutely believe that it was a miracle when Peyton’s brother Preston was born healthy and strong only 15 months later. No medical procedures or medications. We praise God daily for these two boys. None of the timing was our plan, but reflecting on these last 13 years we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Father God, I confess my frustration with your timing in so many life situations, but you always know what is best for us. Thank you for showing your power, love, and mercy. Amen.

And then there was Samuel’s mother, Hannah (I wonder how many palindromes are in the Bible; maybe a topic for another post). Hannah went on through many years of marriage and suffered several hardships as a result of not having children.

But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. (1 Samuel 1:5)

Hannah’s womb was closed. God’s plan, God’s timing. Then we find Hannah praying with “troubled spirit”. So troubled that she was thought to be drunk. In this event, Eli the priest listens to her story and tells her that God will grant her petition.

This distraught woman’s spirit turns from mourning to peaceful and we also find her worshipping. Soon after these events Hannah becomes pregnant and with much jubilation and Glory to God, Samuel is born. I love it when God shows off!

May we seek his plan, turn our hearts to obedience, and our worry into worship today and every day. In the name of Jesus Christ our king. Amen.

Today’s readings: 1 Samuel 1 & Psalm 2

More thanks, more joy

A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

A joyful heart, oh yes, good medicine indeed! What comes to mind when you think about a joyful heart?

Joy seems to be the product of thankfulness, especially when choosing thankfulness over getting upset, being prideful or selfish. For example:

  • Hearing the footsteps of my children at a time when they’re supposed to be in bed, or when I’m trying to get some rest.
  • When our basement nearly flooded due to a frozen pipe or when our dishwasher flooded our kitchen. Both could have been 1,000 times worse. We caught both just in time. No small miracles.
  • Thinking about how long and how earnestly I prayed for a wife. The one I have is the one I will keep, for better or for worse.
  • A nice blanket of snow.
  • Deep, deep laugher, or remembering a time when we deeply laughed. That wasn’t just happiness, it was joy.
  • Getting a glimpse into the wretchedness, the weight, and the cost of my sin. What greater joy than knowing that it is forgiven?

Today’s featured photo is of Atalie Joan Somers, the newest addition to Somers family. Newborn baby foreheads: GREAT JOY! Congratulations Mike, Jamie, and Eleanor! May God continue to bless and keep you.

Today’s reading: Joshua 17 & Proverbs 17

No Secrets

Everyone has secrets that we would be horrified if anyone knew. Secret mistakes, embarrassments, sins, thoughts, pridefulness, and shortcomings.

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths. (Proverbs 5:21)

The thing about secrets is that no matter how hard we try to hide them, God knows every single detail of all things. All of our words, thoughts, and actions are known by the Lord Almighty. I wonder what today would look like if every one of us had the full realization as to what it means that God sees it all. I confess to sometimes making the huge mistake thinking that no one knows my sin.

While it should strike fear in our hearts we also need to remember our God is not “out to get us”. He also sees our good deeds, how we love, how we forgive, when we humble ourselves, and when we’re in pain.

It is embarrassing to know that He knows all my sin, but I’m thankful at the same time. This holds me accountable and reminds me that He’s our God, our Heavenly Father who loves us and wants a relationship with us. If we were able to hide from him then he wouldn’t be a very good God would he?

He’s not waiting for us to mess up so he can punish us. He made a way by sending Jesus as a sacrifice for our not-so-secret sins.

Father God, I confess and repent of my sins right now. You’re so good to us. Thank you for loving us even in our most unlovable state, for making us new and white as snow through forgiveness in the name of your son Jesus. Amen.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 5 and Joshua 5

Keep your way far from her,
    and do not go near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8)

That verse from Proverbs reminded me of a prior post that I thought would be good to revisit along with today’s readings: Do Not Open This Door

We are speaking to the creator of the universe!

This is my last post for 2017 so I’m reflecting on the past year along with Psalm 141, a Psalm of King David.

Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
 Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
 and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalm 141:1-2)

Note the exclamation points and the direct manner by which David starts out speaking to God. This is from the heart, passionate, and urgent. We should all pray like we mean it… we are speaking to the creator of the universe! He doesn’t need our empty words or empty promises, he wants our hearts! Lift up your hands and cry out to him right now. I triple dog dare you. Yes, ’tis the season to go straight to the triple dog dare.

Consider the urgency of Jesus as he prayed on the Mount of Olives, praying so hard that his sweat was like blood.

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

I’ve seen God move in mighty ways this year, no doubt as a result of crying out and the faithful prayers of friends and family. When I say that I’ve seen God move, I don’t mean that he’s answered every prayer in the way that I wanted him to answer it. He also moves through saying no, not yet, or revealing a completely different plan. While it is easy to say right now that I’m thankful, there have certainly been times of frustration, sorrow, fear, and doubt.

Sitting at my favorite place to write inside, I am thinking about the people, habits, or events that had the biggest influence on my life this year.

  • Absolutely the greatest influence on my life in 2017 (same with 2016) has been writing for Bible Journal. This habit and responsibility causes me to look for the Holy Spirit in all events and to constantly be thinking about God’s ways over my ways. It teaches me to see others as who they are: first and foremost, children of God, loved by God, and therefore I must love others. After completing one post, it is time to start praying about the next one, asking for wisdom and for God’s will to be done. There are so many stories going on in all of our lives, and this journaling habit brings the stories closer to my heart. I am so thankful, humbled and honored to be part of this community.
  • Words of encouragement. Do not underestimate the power that our words have on other people, positive or negative. I’m thankful for those who have lifted me up and challenged me in a way that is pleasing to God.
  • Grace. I spent a few minutes thinking about all that I’ve been given this year that I didn’t deserve. Sit quietly and ask God to show you a glimpse of what you’ve been given this year. I believe he wants all of us to see this so that we may give him, the ultimate giver, the thanks he deserves.
  • Surprises. Meeting new people, especially those who are humble and joyful.
  • Seeing my sin as what it is: unacceptable in the eyes of God. This one stings but let’s not sugar coat it. I’m thankful to have a savior who gave his perfect life in exchange for my all too often wretched life. I’m a sinner in need of a savior. Thank you Jesus.