Where do we pray?

Matthew 6:5-6 highlights the importance of where we pray and why. The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God. Our concern should be what God thinks of us and not what others may think. Jesus tells us in verse 6 to pray in secret so that there would be no temptation to impress other people and so that we can receive the Father’s full reward.

Jesus gives us these directions because he saw people praying for the wrong reasons. The hypocritical Jewish leaders pretended to be something they were not. That is what a hypocrite is – someone who acts out a part that is not true in reality. They gave the appearance that they were close to God, but in reality they did not really care what God thought of them. What was important to them was what the people thought. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted the people to think they were pious and close to God, so they made it their practice to pray in such a way as to be seen by men. They made a show out of their prayers. Their prayers did not reach God because they were not meant for God.

Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
Do you have secret place that you can go to be alone with God? Mine is not too secret. It is just the corner of my couch with my Bible, my journal, and usually a cup of coffee. Secret prayer is actually not about the place where we pray. It is about praying, no matter where we are. Look at Jesus’ life of ministry. He did not have a home that he retreated to every night so that He could wake up every morning and have His prayer time on His couch. Matthew 14:23 shows us that Jesus would often withdraw from the crowds and his disciples and pray by himself; “After Jesus said goodbye to the people, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. It was late, and he was there alone”. He was always traveling and finding His secret place of prayer, up on the mountainside (as this Sermon on the Mount began), the Garden of Gethsemane, the wilderness, or a deserted place. It seems the Bible points out that Jesus had most of His alone time with God outside!!! When we are outside, we leave behind many distractions (family members, internet, phones, food, the massive list of to-dos) and we are surrounded by God’s glorious creation. Especially now that the snow is gone and the birds are singing! Jesus lived the habit of secret prayer outside.

When we withdraw from the public to our private place of prayer we can be sure that God is there with us. He comes near to us when we come near to Him (James 4:8). There are benefits to be had for coming to the private place and communing with God. Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who sincerely try to find him.” When we turn to God instead of turning to anything or anyone else, He is pleased with us and rewards us.

What a blessing to set aside a time of prayer in a secluded place. A place where you can pray without being interrupted. A place where you can pour out even the secret things of your heart. Do you have a place designated that you regularly visit to pray?

We are all SO ready for spring and warm weather. Get outside this weekend and have some secret prayer in God’s creation. Go for a walk, notice the beauty around you and listen to how God speaks to you through His creation.

Psalm 69:16
“Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Turn and take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.”

Sermon on the Mount

How can we live a life that pleases God??

This will be our focus over the next 5 to 6 weeks. We are going to take an in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount. We will explore Mathew 5,6,&7 and hear exactly what it looks like to live as a follower of Christ.

Matthew 5:1-2 is the reason that this passage is known as the Sermon on the Mount: “Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them…” The Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave, perhaps the most famous sermon ever given by anyone.

In many ways, Jesus’ teachings during the Sermon on the Mount represent the major ideals of our daily Christian walk. In these 3 chapters we will see Jesus teaching about prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

Jesus addresses our heart in these chapters. How we will live in the reality of our world and all that happens in our daily lives. In the She Reads Truth Devotional, the reference is made that “Jesus transformed the law from a back-breaker to freedom-maker.” Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law so that we may experience freedom. “Freedom from sin, freedom from self. Freedom from hopelessness and death. Freedom from rule-based religion. Freedom to love and be loved by a holy and merciful God.” (She Reads Truth)

Lets look with an open heart over the next weeks as Jesus speaks to us from the hill above. He is not telling us what to do, but how to live. Jesus wants us to be close to Him. To experience freedom in this life, these chapters show us that we will only find freedom in Him.

Also, read Psalm 57

Sin and Consequences

 

Todays reading: 2 Samuel 13 and Psalms 45

Have you had a chance to open your Bible and read 2 Samuel 13 yet? If you have not had the chance, go ahead, open your Bible, and give it a read…

Well, how do you feel? Feel like you just turned on your TV and watched some show that you know is not appropriate?? When I began reading this chapter, I thought, “Seriously?? I do not want to have to write about this!!!” It is eye-opening to read about such sinful, horrible acts that took place back in David’s day and to realize that not much has changed in todays culture. Think Tamar would have joined in the #metoo movement of today???

Here is a quick synopsis of who’s who in this 13th chapter:

Amnon – the firstborn son of King David and Ahinoam
Absalom – son of King David and Princess Maakah, of Geshur
Tamar – daughter of King David and Princess Maakah, of Geshur
Jonadab – son of King David’s brother, Shimeah

Both Absalom and Tamar were very attractive and had luxurious hair. Absalom was the most handsome man in all of Israel. Tamar was a very beautiful girl who remained a virgin. Amnon was in love with his half-sister, Tamar, lust raged in him. However, he could not get near her. Jonadab, son of King David’s brother devised a scheme and asked Amnon to lie down in his bed, pretending to be sick. When king David visited him, he was to request the king to send Tamar to cook food for him. The plan worked and the king did so. When Tamar gave him the cooked food, he caught hold of her. Tamar pleaded with him, saying “No, do not force me!” Amnon gave no attention to her words. Using his physical strength, he subdued her and raped her, against her wish. After his lust was gratified, he hated her more than he loved her earlier. He then insisted that she get out of his sight and leave immediately. Tamar begged again that he not to do this to her, but Amnon would not listen to her words. She was dragged out of his chamber by means of force and the door was shut.
When Tamar’s brother Absalom learned about the disgrace that was brought upon his sister, he waited for the right opportunity to take revenge. He pacified Tamar and asked her to stay calm. King David learned about this incident and did not take any action or issue any punishment.
After two years, when Amnon was drunk, Absalom killed him. He then fled to Geshur, his mother’s place and stayed for three years.
King David mourned due to this sad incident, the death of Amnon and now, because of the absence of Absalom.

After forcing myself to spend some time on this chapter, I have a few thoughts…

In the chapters leading up to this, we read of David being such a Godly man. He upheld King Saul and Jonathan and treated them with kindness, even though he had reason to act otherwise. But then, we see his humanness evolve in chapter 12. David marred the image of God’s love by taking Bathsheba, another man’s wife. Then the whole thing snowballed out of control as his whole family was caught up in the injustice. In the previous chapter, 2 Samuel 12:11 says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.’” This is the beginning of the consequences that will be upon David’s family for the sin he committed.

Whose advice do you take and listen to?? In this text, we see that Amnon listens to Jonadab in verse 5 and takes his advice to pretend he is sick in bed. Jonadab comes up with a scheme so that Amnon can fulfill his lusts for his sister, Tamar. People can lead us into trouble. Before taking the advice from a person, we need to closely watch the personality and character of the person we are seeking advice from. It is so important to keep wise counsel. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”

I remember when my kids were in middle school and we were just beginning to really deal with peer pressure and using the phrase, “if someone asked you to jump off a building, would you do it?” We tried to bring reality to a situation and to help them stop and think before they acted. I do not think that Amnon stopped to think about what he was about to do. He acted on his lust. If we stop for a moment and whisper a prayer for guidance, our steps may change. Imagine if David would not have given in to his temptation of Bathsheba. This might have changed the whole direction of his family and they would not have had to endure the consequences of his sin. God forgives our sin, but we still have to deal with the consequences.

This Word of God is here in explicit detail to teach us that sin has consequences. Yes, you can be forgiven for the act of your sin, but you will face the consequences of the sin committed.  The great news of the gospel is that we do not need to suffer the wrath of God for our sin. Jesus Christ has already paid the penalty for all of us. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”.  We have the choice to receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

David’s Lament

Today we are looking at Chapter 1 of 2 Samuel.  This book begins where 1 Samuel left off.  Simply, turn the page and keep reading.

In verses 1-16, we read that David returns to the town of Ziklag and learns from an Amalekite that both king Saul and Jonathan are dead. The man shows up to tell David what he thinks will be good news. The man probably thinks that David will be somewhat happy after all that David had to endure from King Saul. David had more reasons to kill Saul than anyone, yet he passed up the opportunity to do so two times. We would think that Saul’s deaths would be a huge relief to David, but this would underestimate his character. He lived out what the Lord Jesus taught His disciples, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

David ends the chapter, verses  17-27 with a Lament. A lament is an expression of sorrow and mourning. A “lamentation” is a sad song. David wrote deep, emotional, painful, hard words from his heart for Saul and Jonathan.

We have read about the unique strong friendship of David and Jonathan, so it is not surprising that David mourns his friend. However, you wouldn’t think this was a song written about a man who was trying to kill David.

We can learn from David’s example. We should look for the best in people, hoping to God that they will repent from sin and turn to him. We must love our enemies (Saul) and our friends (Jonathan) until the day they die, trusting God for the best in their lives.

In this first chapter we see David lament his losses and seek the Lord during yet another time of trial in his life. This is a great example for us today. We should turn to Christ despite terrible situations where our emotions may run rampant and try to control us. David knew what sorrow was. In Isaiah 53:3, Christ is called “a man of sorrows”. Because of this, we can turn to Jesus no matter the situation because He will know perfectly well what we are going through.

Also for todays reading…Psalm 33

Is Jesus your friend?

In Proverbs 17:17 we read that, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

David and Jonathan are a perfect picture of Proverbs 17:17. Through many circumstances that have been discussed in the past chapters of 1 Samuel, we see that David and Jonathan have a very close relationship. In our chapter today of   1 Samuel 20, we read about the adversity that David is facing and how his friend Jonathan is there for him. This story teaches us much about meaningful friendship, but as always, it more importantly points us to the gospel.

In the first verse of this chapter David confided in his friend Jonathan. He poured out his heart that was full of frustration. He says, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?” Sometimes, we need a friend to pour our our soul to. Someone who will just listen, not judge. Someone who will not tell anyone else what we are saying.

We continue to read in chapter 20 about a plan that Jonathan comes up with to reveal his father’s plans toward David.  David was going to skip dinner with the king to go be with his family. If the king was ok with him being gone, then everything was fine and David was not in trouble with the king. But if Jonathan told King Saul that David was visiting his family and the king became angry, then they would know that the king wanted David dead.  But David worried about Jonathan’s safety, that King Saul would turn on him as well. Jonathan and David made a covenant (an agreement). In three days after Jonathan knew the answer about King Saul and David, he would shoot three arrows near a certain rock. If he told his servant boy that the arrows were near, then all was well with David. If Jonathan told the boy that the arrows were beyond, then David would know to flee for his life. Jonathan soon learned that the King was furious with David. So, on the third day, Jonathan shot his arrows and announced that they were beyond the boy. When the boy was sent away, David appeared to Jonathan out of hiding. They hugged and wept. Jonathan told David to go in peace and to remember their covenant between them. Jonathan said to David in verse 42, “Go in peace, for we have a sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’”

Jonathan and David were real men who understood what it meant to lay down their lives for one another. How rare is this kind of friendship in the world today! But we can have this kind of friendship with God and Christ. In John 15:13-15 Jesus says to His disciples, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his mater’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

This record of David and Jonathan’s friendship in the Bible is for our benefit. It pictures the close relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ. They desire the same close, personal relationship with every human being. Yes, Jesus is our Savior, and Yes, Jesus is our Lord. But He is also our friend. And that reminds us of the love He has for us. It reminds us of the personal relationship He has with us. It personalizes the gospel for us. Jesus is our friend. Even the great demonstration of David and Jonathan’s friendship pales in comparison to Jesus’ perfect friendship with us. Jesus is the friend who will never fail. He is the friend who will always be there. The friend who loves and cares for us.

Is Jesus your friend??

Also read Psalm 21

Choices

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 8 and Psalm 9

From the first time I read this chapter about 5 days ago, I was blown away at the pertinence of this passage from SOOO many years ago! I can not believe the relevance it still has in our lives today!! The people of Israel were human and faced the temptations of following man, just like we do today!! In our home this week, we have been dealing with typical teenage issues. The underlying problem is that our lives of following Jesus and His Word, look different than many of my girls’ friends lives and they don’t like how that feels. They understand why we have certain rules and expectations, but it is hard, because we are not living like everyone else. We have been battling this conversation for the past few weeks and then I read this chapter and am reminded again how this has been a battle since the days of Samuel. Our human desire is to be like all the other people we are surrounded with.

In 1 Samuel Chapter 8, Samuel is now old. He names his sons to replace him as judges of the Israelites. Both of his sons, Joel and Abijah serve as judges in the town of Beersheba. However, they are not wise or righteous like their father. They abuse their authority and they accept bribes. The people do not like how they rule, so they approach Samuel and ask…

verses 4&5 – Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Look, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations.”

Pay close attention; they did not demand a king “after God’s own heart” but rather a king “like all the other nations”.
Why didn’t the people ask for a king “after God’s own heart”? The people’s eyes and hearts had strayed from the Lord;

The children of Israel want to be like the “nations”. Have you ever felt sick and tired of being “different”? Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just be like everyone else.

Be careful what you ask for. Sometimes God will allow it.

In verses 9 the Lord says; “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”     

What follows is a laundry list of known behaviors of neighboring kings. The list includes all of the disadvantages of having a king rule over them. The Lord wants the people to know exactly what they are asking for and how much it will cost.

One of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person is that God allows us to go forward in our own plans, ideas and purposes. The greatest judgement is that God allows us to have your own way.

Pleasing the Lord was the last thing on the Israelites mind. What they wanted was a guarantee that their enemies would leave them alone. They wanted a real live, tangible, visible, accessible, knowable King. Someone who would judge them, and fight their battles. Someone they could see and follow. They found it too difficult to believe in a God revealed in a book, an invisible God, and obey his commandments. In spite of all that the Lord had done for them (escape from slavery, provision in the wilderness, occupation of the land) they turned their back on the Almighty God and chose a frail, weak, temporal human being to rule over them.

In these verses, Samuel warned the people that the king they were choosing was not God’s perfect will for them. He told them exactly why they would suffer as a result. However, the people ignored Samuel and chose Saul to be their king. This was absolute rebellion to the Most High God.

The people wanted to be like all the nations and have the king they chose. By choosing the king and rejecting the One True God, God would not answer them as a result. What a terrible price to pay for making choices that are contrary to the Lord’s will! When the Lord seems to be silent in our lives, we must examine our hearts and see if we have rejected His directions and gone our own way.

CHOICES – They are so important in our ives in general and especially as we pursue living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. If we make decisions based on our desire to fit in and be like everyone else, we will also suffer the consequences. Many times, our hearts are broken as a result of bad choices we make. However, our Most High God is compassionate and forgives us when we ask Him to do so in Jesus’ name. If Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, we will desire to obey God’s will and the choices we make will lead to the healing of our broken hearts.

Choose Whom You Will Serve

CHOOSE – to select from a number of possibilities, to prefer or decide, to want; desire, to contend with or to decide. (dictionary.com)

Joshua 24:15 says,
“If it is unacceptable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24 takes place at the end of Joshua’s life. In this chapter Joshua gives one final speech to the people. He challenges them to make a decision or to choose what they are going to do with God once he is gone. He recounts for them once again all the miraculous things God has done to give them this land and all the commands He gave them which they must obey to retain it.

The Israelites had a history of following God and then turning away. When things were good for them, they forgot about God and turned away. Yet, when things got bad, they turned back to Him. So Joshua challenged them to either follow God, with all they have, or turn away completely. This so reminds me of myself! Don’t we all have a tendency to be just like the Israelites??

Once established in the Promised Land, the Israelites also were confronted with a multitude of choices. These choices were not always easy. They could worship the gods of Egypt, the gods that their parents had known. Or, they could worship the gods of the Amorites, the nation they had conquered. Joshua was not afraid to make the hard decision!

Choosing to serve the Lord is not always an easy decision. Sometimes it means going against the religious beliefs of your family. Other times peer pressure and the desire to “fit in” make us hesitant to declare openly our commitment to the Lord. Many people find it easiest to behave like a chameleon, changing colors to fit whatever group they happen to be with. But that only temporarily avoids making the hard decision.

Today, decide to take a stand. Whom will you serve? Will it be yourself? Will it be the gods of pleasure or wealth or ease? Or will you choose the God who loves you? Making a decision for Christ may be hard, but it’s a choice you will never regret. The easy choice is seldom the right choice.

Choice is a God given capacity that we must exercise constantly, continually every day. Every day we are confronted with choices of who and what we will serve.

Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 12 and Proverbs 12 are our readings for today.

Joshua chapter 12 simply sums up all of the kings that have been defeated by the Israelites, to date. First, the kings that were defeated under Moses’ leadership, Sihon and Og. Then, the kings that were defeated by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership are mentioned. They conquered the kings of: Jericho, Ai, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Elon, Gezer, Debir, Geder, Hormah, Arad, Libnah, Adullam, Makkedah, Bethel, Tappuah, Hepher, Aphek, Lasharon, Madon, Hazor, ShimronMeron, Acshaph, Taanach, Megiddo, Kedesh, Jokneam, Dor, Goyim, and Tirzh.

No detail is given about any of these kingdoms; how much territory they covered, or anything about them. They are simply listed.

So…how does this relate to us? Or…what can we learn from this passage??

Joshua defeated and killed thirty-one kings in all!  He took their land as their possession for the tribes of Israel.  Each of these battles presented unique challenges and difficulties. Each of these kingdoms presented real dangers. And yet, in the end, God enabled Israel to be victorious in every singe one.

No matter what situation we are in or what challenges we face today, God can and will enable us to be victorious if we will trust and obey Him. And…be like Joshua…STRONG and COURAGEOUS!

What battle are you facing today? What battle will God give you victory in??

What is your Jericho?

The picture above definitely brings out the former preschool teacher in me.  I am a visual learner, so this helps me remember stories of the Bible.  Without reading farther, can you answer the above question in the picture?

Today’s reading is Joshua chapter 6.  The following verse will help you with the answer:)

Joshua 6:20 “So the priests blew the trumpets.  As soon as the people heard it, they gave a loud shout, and the walls collapsed.  Then all the army went straight up the hill into the city and captured it.

Jericho was a city that lay in the eastern provinces of the Promised Land.  The city had to be demolished because it was fully given over to paganism and was a center for worship of many false gods.  God did not want any trace of idolatrous people living where Israel was to worship only God.

The walls of Jericho were nothing like we might see in castles today.  The walls were six feet thick and up to 26 feet high and sat atop a 46 foot hill making the city almost impossible to get into.

This story in Joshuah 6 demonstrates the miraculous power of God.  The strategy to conquer the city of Jericho was unique in two ways.  First, the strategy was laid out by God Himself.  And second, the strategy seemed quite foolish.  God simply told Joshua to have the people march silently around Jericho for six days, and then, after seven times around, on the seventh day, to shout.  Though it was not a traditional way to conquer a city, Joshua followed God’s instructions.  When the people gave a shout, the massive walls collapsed instantly!  Israel won an easy victory.  God had given the city of Jericho to them before they even began to march around its walls.  It was when the people of God, by faith, follwed the commands of God that the walls of Jericho fell down (Joshua 6:20).

This story was recorded in Scripture in order to teach us several lessons.  Most important is that obedience, even when what God has imprinted on our hearts seems foolish, brings victory.  When we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must learn that our Jericho victories are won only when our faithful obedience to God is complete.

What is your battle of Jericho?  What walls do you need to collapse in front of you?

Do you remember singing this song as a kid?

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho                              Joshua fought the battle of Jericho                                                      And the walls came a-tumbling down

It is a very catchy song (believe me, everyone has told me to stop singing it for the past few days!), but it is not really accurate.  It was not Joshua who brought down the walls.  It was God.  And it was not Joshua’s fighting that won the victory.  It was his faith in God.

Do you have faith that God will take care of your Jericho in His timing and in His way??

Read:  Proverbs 6

Before Your Feet Hit the Floor

 

Psalm 143:8
Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Do you grab your phone to look at the latest news or what you might have missed on social media during your sleep? Do you rush to the kitchen for that cup of hot coffee? How about grabbing the remote control to turn on your favorite morning TV show??

In Psalm 143:8, David wrote, “Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go. David saw the necessity of seeking God to direct his steps. He looked to God for guidance for the needs of each day. A sign of spiritual growth is longing to be with the Lord in a time of Bible study and prayer each day. Whether it be in the morning or at night, is there a time in your day in which you spend time with Jesus? Is it a time that you hold each and every day?

This Christmas Eve is a great time to open your Bible and read what the Lord has for you. Start by reading the Christmas Story.  Maybe we could practice this idea of opening our Bibles before our feet hit the floor for the next few days and SEE what the Lord has planned.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day.”

Nothing, not even coffee, will begin your day like time alone with God. Seek Him so that you may grow closer to Him. When you make plans to meet God, He will place an intimate joy within your heart. Then you will learn to desire His Word every single morning.