The Holy Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 1

 Luke was a physician and historian. He was a friend of Paul’s and also wrote the book of Acts. Luke refers to the Holy Spirit more than any other Gospel writer. As a friend of Paul’s and a witness to the events in Acts, he was well acquainted with the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this first chapter of Luke we learn about the birth of John the Baptist and the call of Mary to be the mother of Jesus. The Holy Spirit played a major role in the happenings of this chapter. Even before Jesus was in the world, God used the Holy Spirit to accomplish His plans.
The first mention of the Holy Spirit was when the angel spoke to Zechariah about his soon to be son, John. He told him in Luke 1:15 that  “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth”. Then the angel appeared to Mary to share the news that she would be the mother of Jesus. In Luke 1:35 the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you”.  Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:41, “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit”. She then proceeded to affirm Mary and all that God had said would happen. What a gift to Mary! Someone older, wiser, and pregnant giving reassurance that she wasn’t crazy and God had called her to this task. Then in verses 68-79 Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave a beautiful prophecy of things to come. After losing his voice for 9 months he had a few things to say!
 All these people filled with the Holy Spirit takes us to Jesus. Gods beautiful orchestration for the promised Messiah. He used people that were faithful, humble, and willing.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God (Eph 1:13) that we have access to all the time when we believe in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf. Roman’s 8:8 says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words”.
Rest in this assurance today.
Shelly

Faith

Enjoy Mark 5 today.

Mark 5:25-34

She is alone. Banned from society because she is “unclean”. She has tried to make herself well by going to all the doctors she could but none of them were able to heal her. All of her money was spent trying to find a cure that never came. 12 years……bleeding. 4,380 days. Never clean. Always waiting….hoping the next day would get better. Silently suffering. The dark circles under her eyes tell the story of loss. That’s what bleeding does…..it depletes you of life. She was being depleted daily……of nutrients, relationships, and connection. Hope was gone.

Or was it?

She heard about Jesus performing miracles. Maybe this was her chance. She was so desperate and tired. So sick of feeling sick. She decides to reach for Jesus, at least the edge of his garment. Just the edge….just a piece of his clothing……something……anything. She doesn’t come to him with a big speech. She doesn’t even ask him for help. She approaches her healing as the outcast she had been for the past 12 years.  She comes from behind……reaching through the crowd of people, for a scrap of healing.
“If I just touch his clothes I will be healed” Mark 5:28.
She reaches until she feels the rough texture of his clothes on the tips of her fingers. Amidst people, animals, dust, and dirt she feels his clothing in her grasp. Hopeful. Trusting.
And then…….it happens…..healing. The bleeding and suffering stop. And Jesus stops. He asks who touched him and the disciples remind him of all the people around him…..everyone is touching Jesus! But He knew the difference. This was a touch of faith. A purposeful touch. Jesus felt the power go out of Him. She fell to his feet knowing she was healed.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” Mark 5:34.
Jesus knew exactly what was happening. It was monumental to heal this woman and acknowledge her. In a culture that put men first and sent women away when they were “unclean”……this was a big deal. And everyone saw and witnessed his care for this woman.
I love this story. I love that he called her daughter. He healed her physically and called her his own. All while walking in a crowd of people, heading to raise Jairus’s daughter from her death.
This is our Jesus! Oh that we would have the faith to reach out and touch the edge of his garment.
Shelly

Matthew 21

Wow, does Matthew 21 have a lot of great stuff!  Tonight/this morning, we take you on a walk through the eyes of a simpleton.

“Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey”

Jesus was all about fulfilling the old testament prophesy…in this case Zechariah 9:9:  “Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!  Look, your king is coming to you.  He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt.”  To me, it is very meaningful that Jesus goes out of his way to fulfill the writings of the old testament…and to validate his prophets.  I did wonder what it would be like for the two disciples that were sent ahead to get the donkey.  Jesus tells them what to say if they encounter anyone, but it doesn’t say that they did encounter anyone.  What do you think the conversation was like between the two disciples on the way there?

“Jesus clears the temple again!”

This one is short, but much to it.  It is clear that the people who needed Jesus, put their faith in him and knew who he was.  After Jesus drove out the merchants and their customers, “The blind and the lame came to him, and he healed them there in the temple.”  Then, once again, he used old testament scripture to set the doubters straight:  “Haven’t you ever read the scriptures?”

“Jesus says the disciples can pray for anything.”

Do you ever wonder what “funny” stuff Jesus may have done that wasn’t recorded in the bible?  In this case, he wilted a fig tree that didn’t have any fruit…to create an example for the disciples.  If they had faith, they could do much more than wilt a fig tree…they could make a mountain thrown into the sea.  The verses like this make me wonder how strong my faith is…could I make a grain of sand thrown into a creek?  Why couldn’t I have a mountain thrown into the sea?

“Religious leaders challenge Jesus’s authority.”

THESE ARE GREAT!  Every time the religious smart guys try to catch Jesus in his own words, he turns the tables on them…baffling them…they have no idea what to do…except get mad.  “So they finally replied, ‘We don’t know’.”

“Jesus tells the parable of the two sons”

I wonder what these ‘leading priests’ thought after hearing this parable.  Do you think any of them changed their ways?  Surely, they all weren’t completely stubborn and set in their ways.

“Jesus tells the parable of the evil farmers”

I really wonder what all of them felt after they heard the parable.  “When the leading priests and Pharisees heard Jesus, they realized he was pointing at them – that they were the farmers in this story.  They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid to try because the crowds considered Jesus to be a prophet.”

Our all church study is focusing on “remembering” this week.  We had a great discussion tonight going over the Armstrong and the Thomas family history.  Shelly and I also shared where we were on 9/11.  Shelly was working in the pediatric ICU in Peoria and I was at the State Farm facility in Canada…it was a month plus before we were to be married.  I was amazed at how much our kids were interested in these stories.  Don’t sell your story short…and share it with others…God may be using it…and/or you!

MT

Healing

 

Todays reading is Matthew 9.

Jesus is performing miracles of healing, recruiting disciples, and dealing with critics. I love the stories of healing. These verses in Matthew 9 remind me that Jesus is powerful and has the ability to heal. The common theme in all of the healing was faith. They believed Jesus could heal them and they showed up for it. I can picture the paralytic running home to tell everyone about Jesus. The blind man describing what Jesus looked like to anyone who would listen. The mute man telling his articulate story of what Jesus said to him while he was being healed. The woman who had been bleeding 12 years was no longer a lonely outcast. These are the stories that ignite our faith. People come to know Jesus through these miraculous stories of healing. And then they realize the real miracle….forgiveness.

I’m covicted that I forget this as I’m praying for physical healing in the here and now. I don’t want anyone around me suffering sickness and physical limitations. I want friends and loved ones to be healthy, radiant, and full of life. But I know this world is not perfect and I know God’s plans are much bigger than my own. Illness and death will happen.  God has the power to heal and we should continue asking for it in faith. But we can be thankful and rejoice in the healing of our souls first. That was the first thing Jesus offered the paralytic…”Take heart son, your sins are forgiven” 9:2. He then proceeded to heal his affliction to show the crowds that he had authority. God does miracles all the time. He can heal whatever your affliction is. But have you thanked him today for the healing of your soul to have eternal life with Him?

Shelly

Love, in deed

A Trilogy from Another Brother:

1 John 3:17 – 24

But if anyone has the world’s goods sand sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

Have to admit that I read this morning’s verses several times and came up with:  “it says what it says”.  So, what do you do when you have no other trains of thoughts…you go with movie themes.

Verse 17, Trading Places

I would like to think that if any of us saw someone in need, that we would respond in a generous way.  How far would we go out of our way to help others?  How far could we go out of our way to help others?  There are so many aspects to both of these questions.  If I spent all of my time helping others, how much would I have to share with them?  Yet, there are some that their spiritual gifts are giving and are SO amazing at it.  There are also some that thrive with what God has given to them and thrive at sharing with others.  What this verse speaks against is having the means and doing nothing with it.  Don’t go down that road:  don’t be Louis Winthrop III toward the beginning of the movie…be Billy Ray Valentine toward the end of the movie.  “Mortimer…we’re back in business!”

Verses 18-20, Forrest Gump

“I may not be a smart man, Jenny…but I know what love is.”  Forrest was really good at walking the walk…once he learned to walk.  He showed love to his mama, Jenny, Bubba…and little Forrest.  He loved his momma through obedience…loved Jenny by never giving up on her…loved Bubba by going back in the thick for him (it’s like a snake jumped up and bit me)…and loved little Forrest by “fixing his breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day”…and putting him on the bus with Dorothy Harris.  Forrest didn’t talk the love game…he flat out lived it…with passion!  You could see the love for Lt. Dan in the excitement for his gain:  “Lt. Dan, you got new legs!”  May we be generous and genuine in our love for someone in our circle…or someone running from one coast to the other coast that we don’t know.

Verses 21-24, Pinocchio

In this verse, we need to let The Trinity be our Jiminy Cricket.  I think we all believe in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus or we wouldn’t be reading this.  These versus tell us to believe in the name of Jesus and that we can have a clear conscience in Him, with the Holy Spirit in us.  Is there much more exciting and inspirational than verse 24:  “Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with him, AND HE WITH THEM.  And we know he lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.”

Have a blessed Wednesday and please pray for all of the students and teachers starting another school year.

MT

Open Door

Today’s reading is Revelation 3:8-11

8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”
We watched the movie Armegeddon the other night. Not on purpose…kind of stumbled on to it and couldn’t shut it off. While watching I thought about end times. It’s a real thing. But we don’t have to be afraid if it. God has a plan.
These are the words of encouragement written to the church in Philadelphia. They are also an encouragement to us, the Bible Journal Community in 2018. I love the word picture of the door of salvation. He has set an open door before us that no one can shut. No one! It’s done and promised. This is the door of hope, the door of eternal life. He knows we are weak and has opened it for us if we accept it. These verses encourage us to continue obeying and persevering because God sees us, knows us, and will protect us. I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of “the hour of trial” but I trust that God will protect us in that moment because He said so. He is coming soon. Keep doing the things He gave you to do on this earth for Him. Keep going. Don’t give up. If you don’t know what He’s given you to do…..ask Him. He will answer because He has given each of us gifts and talents for His kingdom. And make sure to look for your gift…..not the one you wish you had. I’ve done that……it’s exhausting. Be patient….it will come. Keep your eyes on that open door.
Have a blessed Wednesday!
Shelly

Wisdom

James 3:13-18 “Wisdom from Above”

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of his wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

 

This is a passage that I needed to read a few times to soak it in. First let’s take a look at two definitions of wisdom. Wisdom according to Wikipedia: “Wisdom or sapience is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight, especially in a mature or utilitarian manner.” Wisdom by Psychology Today: “Wisdom is one of those qualities difficult to define—because it encompasses so much—but which people generally recognize when they encounter it.” I then took it a part a little bit more and looked up “meekness” on Google. The first definition showing screamed at me ‘world view’ because of the example sentence: “The fact or condition of being meek; submissiveness. ‘All his best friends make fun of him for his meekness.’” That doesn’t sound very flattering or fun. Then, under Wikipedia, you see the more biblical version: “Meekness is an attribute of human nature and behavior. It has been defined several ways: righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering, long suffering willing to follow gospel teachings; an attribute of a true disciple.” So, if we do have wisdom, we are to show our works in the humbleness of our wisdom…in the teach-ability of our wisdom…in the true discipleship of our wisdom.

 

BJ asked us to focus on the character of God…and I think this reading speaks it loud and clear: “But the wisdom from above (God’s character) is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Quite the example and all character traits that you would want in your Heavenly Father.

 

Happy Wednesday and may people see your works in the meekness of wisdom.

MT

 

The Wedding Banquet

Todays reading: Matthew 22:2-14 and Psalm 132

We recently celebrated a wedding in our family. My step daughter Paige married Ross on 6/16/18. It was perfect. Even though it poured down rain 25 minutes before the outdoor ceremony……it was perfect. And at the end of the day they were married!!! We spent many hours preparing for the ceremony and the reception. Then we waited for people to RSVP to the blessed event. As we waited, I was convicted of all the times I was slow to respond or failed to respond all together to various invitations. Why would I be so slow to respond to an invitation to a banquet with free food and drink, entertainment, and celebration with friends and family?

The parable in Matthew 22:2-14 speaks to an invitation and is an illustration of the kingdom of heaven. There was a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. Invitations were sent out but the people were too busy to respond (RSVP). Their minds were on other things. They were busy with work, family, illness, animals. When it came time for the banquet the people that were invited didn’t accept the invitation. They actually got mad and violent towards the servants that were inviting them! So the king, who spent so much time preparing for the event, invited other people off the street to come to the party in place of the ones initially invited. They accepted the invitation and came to the banquet. Once there, the king noticed someone who was not dressed appropriately for the banquet. At that time, when Jewish people  had a wedding banquet they gave the invitation and provided clothing for guests to wear to the event. This particular guest came to the banquet but wasn’t wearing the new clothes given to him. He showed up, but didn’t fully accept the invitation. He was only half present.  The king got rid of him because the guest arrogantly arrived in his own clothes and wasn’t willing to put down his pride and fully commit.

Have you RSVP’d to Jesus invitation?In accepting Jesus invitation have you fully committed by also putting on the new clothing of Christ? God asks us to clothe ourselves in His righteousness, not our own.  It’s part of the celebration of fully accepting the invitation of salvation from Jesus.

Isaiah 61:10 “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.”

All In!

 

Today’s readings:

Luke 14: 28-33 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise you might only complete the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh at you! They would say, “There’s the person who started that building and ran out of money before it was finished? Or what king would ever dream of going to war without first sitting down with his counselors and discussing whether his army of ten thousand is strong enough to defeat the twenty thousand soldiers who are marching against him? If he is not able, then while the army is still far away, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace. So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.”

Psalms 120 – A song for the ascent to Jerusalem. Page 957 in my Bible 😉

When I read these versus of Luke, 28-32 were kind of simple to understand. Do some serious research and seek wise counsel before making a MAJOR decision. OK, I get that and it makes sense. However, I can’t be a disciple of Jesus without giving up EVERYTHING for him. When I read this, my first thought always goes to ‘I have to sell all that I have and become a missionary in a country that doesn’t know Jesus and have my family live off the land until we convert everyone to Christ followers.’ Then I read the verses prior to our reading today. There were great crowds following Jesus. He starts off: “If you want to be my follower….” Then he puts it to them in this modern day term: you have to be, “All in!” There’s no, “Let’s give this a try and see if this works out.” You must be willing to put all of your trust in Jesus and who he says that he is.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know fully what that means. Again, I often go back to my earlier statement about becoming a missionary…and He does call some to that position. In my simple view, I think it means to put Jesus first. Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” After self-examination, do you? If you do, how do you fix that? Jesus loves you no matter where you’re at…how will you love him back today? May God bless your 20th day of June, 2018!

MT

 

Hidden Treasure

Todays reading: Matthew 13:44, Psalm 108

”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”  Matthew 13:44 NIV

Last night I discussed this parable with my family. We were all a little unsure of the meaning. We were thinking the guy stole something that wasn’t his and took credit for it! That doesn’t seem right! Yes…..on first reading that’s the initial feeling. But in remembering the purpose of the parables we knew there was deeper meaning. I found my BSF notes from a 2007 study on the book of Matthew to help gain some insight. They noted that the people of that time often buried their “treasures” in the ground to keep them safe. According to Jewish law, if someone found buried treasure it belonged to them. The man in this parable found hidden treasure that became his once he found it. He was so excited about his “find” that he promptly buried it again so he could sell everything else in order to buy up the land and get the treasure too. He was all in. He knew what he found was special. Nothing else mattered anymore except holding on to that treasure. He got rid of his old life because the treasure he found was better than anything he had before.

The treasure is Jesus Christ.

Am I so excited about Jesus that I‘m willing to sell all I have? Am I willing to completely redirect my life for the treasure of heaven instead of the treasures of this world? Do I really believe the kingdom of heaven is better than the things I’m trying get in this life?

Luke 14:33 “In the same way, anyone of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”. NIV

Matthew 16:25-26 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” NIV

Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” NIV