Looking For the Right Heart

1 Sam 16

Today as we read 1 Sam 16, we get to see God’s choice for the next king of Israel after Saul. The tricky part is that Saul wasn’t dead yet. Saul had become rebellious and stubborn against God. He was more concerned with what others thought of him than he was with his relationship with God, so God took his kingdom away from him. If you look back in chapter 15, Samuel the priest was so grieved by Saul’s terrible choices that when God told Samuel He was going to replace Saul, Samuel “cried out to the Lord all night long”.  It says later in chapter 15 that “Samuel mourned constantly for Saul”.  Samuel was heartbroken because he loved the Lord and he loved Israel. He had been Israel’s spiritual leader since he was a boy. (And he was old and grey in chapter 12) The people weren’t happy because they wanted a king just like all the other countries had, and God had given them what they wanted in Saul. So when Saul was failing to follow God, it was crushing to Samuel. God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to meet with a man named Jesse to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. 

I want to concentrate on verses 6-7 today. Samuel was obeying God. His only purpose for this trip was to do what God had asked him to do. His heart was right and his motives were right. He was in close relationship with God. Vs 6 “Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”   Then Vs 7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Samuel thought he knew where God was headed with this one after he saw Eliab, tall, good looking, from the right family…it all added up in his mind because he was in town to anoint the next king. But God knew what heart He was looking for. He knew the characteristics He needed in the man who would be anointed king but not become king for fifteen years. God knew what those fifteen years would look like and He knew who’s spirit would be teachable, dedicated, loyal, devoted and reliant on Him throughout his life. God knew who He could build leadership skills in to become the leader God needed for His people. Samuel couldn’t see all of that by looking at a family of boys. 

Two points stand out to me in this story. First, when our hearts are right and our relationship with God is close, we still have to listen for His voice. I’ve been noticing something in the past few years as I have read the Bible and then on Sunday, our pastor said exactly what I had been noticing, God rarely does things the same way twice. We serve a mighty and creative God who has every atom in this universe (and beyond) at His disposal to accomplish whatever He decides to accomplish. He works however He decides He needs to in any situation to accomplish what ever He needs accomplished and I would say that a lot of the time we only see or understand a small portion of the effects of His work. Even when we think we know where God is headed in a circumstance or issue in our lives, we have to listen to his direction and leading because He very well might surprise us with something different than what we expected. 

Second, we make mistakes when we asses people on appearances instead of on character. We just can’t help ourselves, we see and we judge. Because we see people or circumstances with our eyes, we feel like we have the ability to judge. We forget that only God sees inside, we forget that only He knows what motivates a person’s actions or choices, we don’t know the truth about what another person’s heart looks like, only God knows. God is the only one who can judge. Appearance doesn’t reveal what people are really like. It doesn’t show their true value. 


Obey My Instructions

Lev 26

The final verse of this chapter says, “These are the decrees, regulations, and instructions that the Lord gave through Moses on Mount Sinai as evidence of the relationship between Himself and the Israelites”.  This entire chapter explains God’s punishment for disobedience. It is a harsh chapter. God uses strong explanations and very descriptive words to tell the Israelites what will happen to them if they choose to disobey Him. He says, “ If you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, I will punish you.” Then the bulk of the chapter tells exactly what He plans to do if the people continue to turn away from Him. If you read through the list you know how heavy the consequences get for their choices. These are rough, life altering and sometimes life ending punishments…”those who hate you will rule over you”, I will punish you seven times over for your sins”, “your land will yield no crop”, I will send wild animals that will rob you of your children”, “your numbers will dwindle”, “I will send armies against you”, “I will leave your lifeless corpses piled on top of your lifeless idols”, this list is not close to exhaustive but I think you get the picture. 

All this harshness and punishment might make us question how our loving Father is capable of these decrees. I think we need to ask why. What is motivating Him to be so strong in His instructions? We have to be willing to see that for God there is so much more at stake here than just this group of Israelites obeying Him or not obeying Him. We need to realize that God is already at work completing his long-term plan. God knew His Savior of the world was coming through the Israelite people so they had to be preserved for Him to fulfill His promises. His lens for this chapter is so much bigger than what we see when we just read these verses. He was doing everything in His power, besides choosing for people, to preserve this group of people so not only the Israelites but all people through all of time could have a way to have relationship with Him. He was pursuing them (and us) with everything He had. He needed, at least a portion of these people to commit to His covenant to send Jesus to earth to pay the price for their and our sins.  So it was of ultimate importance that these people choose God. He wasn’t just being harsh or trying to get back at disobedient people. He was accomplishing His plan through people that He loved so deeply He was willing to give His Son’s life to save, and maybe grow and develop the Israelites along the way.

As I sit with this chapter today, I hear God say, this is how much I love you. This is how valuable you are to me. You are worth fighting to the death to keep, protect, and to preserve. I want relationship with you more than anything and I will go to extraordinary lengths to help you keep your covenant with me so we can maintain relationship.  

Sulfur From the Sky

Gen 19

Just a few days ago we were looking at the wickedness of all the people on earth and God’s decision to start over with mankind through Noah and his family. Today, about 10 chapters later we see two cities so wicked that God is moved to wipe them off the earth. When I first saw the topic of this chapter I was shocked that so soon after Noah, an entire people group was so far from God. I did a little research and found that there were actually about 400 years between Noah and Abraham, which helps me understand a bit better how these people ended up where they did. 

I would like to mention here that in my adult Bible reading years, this chapter is one of my least favorite chapters in the Old Testament. I hate reading about people abusing each other and sick depravity in people’s actions. When this chapter is plucked out of the context of Abraham’s life it seems so off the wall crazy that I wonder why it is included. I strongly suggest that you work your way back to at least Gen 18 to get some framework for this terrible set of events. 

Abraham has a long discussion with God to try to find out if God will be fair to people that might be following Him. So God keeps His word to Abraham and sends two angels to search Sodom and Gomorrah for any righteous people. Lot, who is Abrahams nephew meets the angels at the city gates (which lets us know that he was probably a prominent business man or a government official) and invites them to his home for a meal and a place to stay. (This is customary hospitality in this time period as there were no hotels or restaurants. Travelers relied on townspeople for food and rest when traveling.) Here is where the story gets terribly disturbing. The men of the town surround Lot’s house and demand Lots guests come outside so they can rape them. Lot goes outside to try to appease the crowd by offering the men his two daughters (gasp) but the crowd goes nuts and tries to kill Lot so God Has to intervene to save Lot’s life. God blinds the entire crowd, which shocks and scares the men so much that they give up on their rotten intentions and disperse. Back inside the house, the angels tell Lot to gather up the rest of his family and get out of town before God destroys the city. Lot doesn’t appear to grasp how dire this situation is because he drags his feet leaving and the angels have to grab his hand to hurry him out of the city. God tells him to run to the mountains for safety and instead of being grateful for God’s escape route, Lot asks God if he couldn’t please just go to a little village outside of town instead. God graciously agrees but tells the entire family not to look back as they flee for their lives. Then God “rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed the people and every bit of vegetation”…but Lot’s wife looked back and she turned into a pillar of salt.  Good Wednesday morning to you all! 

This is a very sick and demented group of people and in a few short verses I think we get a pretty good taste of why God decides to end the wickedness. There is so much that disturbs me in this passage, it’s hard to know where to start, but every time I read it I am dumbfounded as to why any dad’s solution to his guests (strangers) being harmed is to offer his daughters to “do with as you wish”. Really, this is the best he can come up with? I think Lot’s lame solution had more to do with saving his own neck than protecting his family or strangers. Lot had lived so long in a depraved community of people that his moral compass was broken and useless. I think he allowed his life to be shaped by his community instead living a Godly life and influencing those around him to God. I think he was reluctant to leave when God was trying to save his life because he didn’t want to give up all he’d worked for and accomplished in his town. I think I’m starting to understand why this chapter is included. The struggle to conform to your surroundings, and over time forsake God’s ways is a timeless and universal struggle. So I have to ask myself, am I willing to obey God, or do I choose the attractions of my culture? How much of my cultures ways am I willing to tolerate in my life? Am I consistently evaluating my choices with God’s principles? Let’s let this chapter motivate us to consider evaluating our choices today. Let’s take these next 12-14 hours and be mindful of every choice we can recognize and measure each against God’s principles. Let’s be honest and be willing to look for the truth in what motivates us to choose what we choose. 

Praise the Lord

Today’s reading is Psalm 146

 

Like Jon wrote earlier this week, I find myself thinking back over the past year and evaluating this Bible Journal year. It has been a gift that I am grateful for. It has pushed me and challenged me to look more closely at God’s word and to determine more of what God is trying to say to me. Deb mentioned yesterday, these final Psalms are perfect Christmas gifts. I agree!  Ps 146 is a beautiful way to sum up the truths we have discussed together this year.

 

  • Praise the Lord! No really, praise the Lord as long as I live, with every breath, to my dying day. Praise Him for who he is, what He has done, how He loves us, how He has saved us, because He loves us so much He wants to save us, because He desires to be with us, because He loves the ones I love more than I am able to, because He protects me and the ones I love, … we could make an entire journal devoted to documenting the praiseworthiness of God. We could write in it every day for years and years until we die and still not be able to list all of His worth. Yet this Being chooses us. He wants to share our lives with us. He wants to make a way for us to be with Him here on this earth and for eternity. Who are we to deserve this kind of lavish love and pursuing?
  • Don’t put your confidence in powerful people, there is no help for you there, but joyful are those whose hope is in the Lord your God. vs 6 “He keeps every promise forever.” Can we really even comprehend this promise? Can we really grasp that the Creator of the universe keeps every promise forever? Maybe we should look into starting another blog where each time we come across one of His promises in the Bible we document it and leave the running list open to meditate on, search through, seek encouragement from and lean on in hard times.
  • The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! This my friends is hope for 2018 and every year after. With all of the “hard”, sin, and disaster swirling around us in this world right now I need to know that He will reign forever, that He will be my, and my kids, and grandkids, God throughout their lives and beyond. I need to know that He knows what is going on and that He is reigning when it feels like things are spinning out of control. God being my God throughout generations brings peace and hope in the turmoil that this world continues to hand me. Praise the Lord! “Praise the Lord” is a weak “thank you” for this kind of gift. I find myself frustrated by my lack of words to express my gratefulness for this kind of promise. I have to ask  the Holy Spirit to intercede for me, to put into words, or convey my heart to God when I can’t find the words to do it justice. When I think on this, I understand why David said over and over in the Psalms to shout for joy, praise Him with the cymbals, dance before Him. Our words are not enough to express our joy and gratefulness!

As we come to the end of another year and  take a few minutes to reflect on 2017, can we take the time, and maybe find a different way to “praise the Lord” this year to express our gratefulness for how He has loved us?   

Is Anything Worth More

Today’s reading is Mark 8 and Ps 132

 

This year we have spent quite a bit of time looking at the Gospels and the relationships between Jesus and His disciples. Mark 8 tells us two miracles that Jesus did and it shows us several conversations that Jesus had with His disciples. I’ve had the privilege of writing on both of those miracles and the discussion Jesus and Peter have in this chapter so today I want to concentrate on the last few verses of Mark 8.

Vs38” Calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your own soul?”

I think as Christians, we have heard this passage or portions of it, quoted so often we get a little callous to what Jesus was trying to convey to the crowd, His disciples and to us. When this was written, the people it was written to were under Roman rule and the phrase “take up your cross” was common knowledge to all. Everyone knew that death on a cross was the form of execution used by Roman soldiers for dangerous criminals and they knew that a prisoner had to carry his own cross to the place of execution to show submission to Rome’s power. So Jesus was saying to these people, take up your cross and follow Me, meaning, show submission to Me by choosing to follow Me instead of choosing to satisfying yourself. One of the commentaries I looked at said, “Jesus asks us for submission, not self-hatred; He asks us only to lose our self-centered determination to be in charge.” That makes the meaning hit home hard and fast for me. Lose my self-centered determination to be in charge. Isn’t this what we all want, control? Don’t we want to manage our own schedules, set our own priorities, value the people we choose to value, spend our money the way we want to and then fit Jesus into what is left of our life? “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.”

Jesus knows we need more convincing…more to think through and consider. “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We are so human. It’s all we know. Life on earth is all we have experienced. It’s hard to be human and live for eternity. It requires trust, belief and real relationship with God. We humans have the hardest time grasping that life on earth is temporary. Stuff, position and power are worthless compared to our souls, eternal life with Him. Is anything worth more than your soul? When I am able to get my perspective right on this and give over my desire for control, stuff, position and power to follow God’s plan, God is so gracious. He gifts eternal life plus an abundant and joy filled life here on earth. He loves us so well that eternal life isn’t enough of a gift for Him to give. We matter so much to Him that He wants to help us change and become more like Him while we are on this earth. He gives us part of Himself, to live inside us to guide, teach, convict and grow each of us in His Spirit. So as we close today, I ask you to spend some more time with Jesus question. “Is anything worth more than your own soul?”

Anchor For Our Souls

 

Today’s reading is John 16 and Ps 118

John 16 is mostly comprised of Jesus telling His disciples about plans for the future, what they should expect and what they will experience, and what will happen to Himself. None of this is easy news for the disciples to hear or grasp. I sort of feel like after a short three years of time with Jesus, they might just be getting the hang of how to do ministry with Him. They might just be beginning to understand God’s power in themselves and the call to bring the good news to the rest of the world. They are just now figuring out their role in traveling with Jesus and teaching with Him. …and then Jesus sits down with them for a discussion and everything changes.

Jesus tells His disciples that they will be kicked out of the synagogues, people will be trying to kill them, they will be scattered, each one going his own way and worst of all Jesus is leaving them. They are so taken back by this news that they don’t even think to ask Him where He is going. They are shellshocked and can only deal with how this is affecting their lives. Then Jesus continues by saying that it is actually best for them if He goes away. How can this be? He IS the ministry, how can they continue to teach and convert people to faith in Him if He is not with them?

We know the end of the story. We know that God’s plan is that Jesus gives His life to pay for our sin so we can be made clean and new. We know that His perfect blood draining from His body is what pays the price to purchase us and make it possible for us to be in God’s presents. We know that we live with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit in us every day. These poor disciples have their entire world flopped upside-down in one conversation and they don’t seem real comfortable or confident in the new plans. They don’t understand. I can only guess that in their minds they are wondering why everything can’t just stay as is, and why they can’t continue Jesus ministry WITH Him. They can’t see God’s plan. We have a different vantage point to view this chapter, and boy are we grateful that God completed His plan and made a way for us to be with Him.

How often are we scared, sad or frustrated with our circumstances because they don’t make sense to us? We don’t understand why we are going through this pain or hardship. It doesn’t make sense that God would allow us to land where we have landed. Surely He hasn’t seen how this affects us? This seems harsh, but sometimes the stuff we face isn’t about us. Jesus was accomplishing He and His Father’s plan to save all of mankind. Even though He loves His friends dearly, and knows how hard these circumstances will be for them to live through, He still needs to finish the plan. So knowing the disciples’ fear, frustration and questions, Jesus says three things to them in this chapter to help them through this really hard time.

1, vs 12 “I want to tell you so much more, but you can’t bear it now.”  He knows how they feel. He sees their fear, and feels their frustration. He wants to help them through this with more information but He knows that more information is too much for them to take right now so He protects them from more than they can handle.

2, vs 22 “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” Again, He knows how they feel after this news, but He gives them hope. He tells them that it will get hard, but He will see them again and their joy will be great.

Finally 3, vs 33 “I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Who can comfort us this way, with these powerful words? No one but God! Knowing that we will face hard things, He wants us to have His peace. He assures us that no matter how hard our lives are, eternity is with Him because He has overcome the world. Does this truth make our lives easier? Does it remove the sting of pain when life is hard? Does it take away our frustration when we feel we have been wronged? We still have to live through the pain, frustration and fear on earth but we have hope. Heb 6:18-19 tells us, “ We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

Believe

Today’s reading is John 2 and Ps 104

Shortly after Jesus gathers His disciples and starts spending time with them, He attends a wedding with His mom and His new disciples. I’m guessing that it was either a family wedding or a close family friend getting married because when the party runs into a snag, somebody let’s “Aunt Mary” know that there is a problem that needs solving quickly. The party has run out of wine and the festivities are far from over. This issue requires a remedy to keep the host from being completely ashamed and embarrassed in front of his entire guest list, and the happy couple celebrating their special day with all their friends and family. Mary knows who her Son is and knows He can change this situation so she tells Him that they are out of wine. Jesus seems reluctant to step in and do a miracle because He hasn’t publically or maybe officially started His ministry. He is not ready for the entire town to hear about Him yet, maybe because He hasn’t had enough time to teach and train His disciples for the ministry they are about to embark on. The time isn’t right for a big public display, the kind of story that will spread like wildfire through families, friends and towns. So Jesus discreetly goes in the back room with the servants, gives them some simple instructions and returns to His seat. The party continues. The host is praised for saving his best wine for last, the happy couple continues their celebration and the guests are having a lovely evening enjoying a great party. But something else happens. Look at verse 11. “His disciples believed in Him.” Why would John make mention of this? What makes him document the disciples belief? Isn’t it obvious that they believe because they left their families, homes and jobs to follow Him?

 

Today, let’s consider the depth and expanse of the meaning of “believe”. I started my relationship with Jesus at a young age. 45+ years later I am sure that my commitment and declaration of belief in Jesus was very real and sincere when I prayed with my mom asking Jesus into my heart. I would say that the next 8-12 years after my declaration were a time of learning about Jesus and His expectations for my life. After that training period, my belief was tested in very real ways by other people in my life asking questions about the reasons I chose to live the way I lived. They were questioning my motives, and for me to make my belief my very own and not just information passed down by my parents, my belief grew deeper and more resilient to keep up with my need to answer others. Then I got married and we had kids. My belief had to grow again to accommodate the discipline I needed to teach our kids truth. Then I got sick. My illness was serious enough that we spent several months, maybe years not sure if I would survive. This required a new type of belief and trust than I had ever even considered possible. Did I believe that God loved my husband and kids more than I did? Did I trust Him to care for them if I couldn’t be here? This kind of “believe” looks different than the 4 year old kind. I would say that initial belief is very real and genuine even if it is simple belief, but the more we experience of God and His work in our lives, the deeper and more broad our belief grows. The disciple’s belief and commitment was real and genuine when they left their lives to follow Jesus, and their belief and trust grew from each experience they lived through with Jesus. This miracle at the wedding was one of, if not the first miracle that they saw and experienced. Before this experience at the wedding, Jesus was talk and ideas. When they experienced what He could do, this was noteworthy. Vs 11, “His disciples believed in him”.   

If you need a refresher or just want some extra assurance that your God is worth believing in today, read through ps 104 and see how He cares for earth and the creatures He created. Vs 31, “May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!” Let all that I am praise the Lord!

Life is Hard

Today’s reading is Matt 17 and Ps 90

 

As we read through Matt 17 today, my heart goes out to Peter. I know that the main focus of the Gospels is Jesus, but when I look at this (maybe) month of time in Peter’s life I feel like I can relate to the spiritual and emotional roller coaster he seems to be riding. Yesterday, Deb wrote about the disciples being questioned by Jesus, “Do you not remember what I have done? Remember just a few days ago I fed the crowd with a few loaves of bread? They had to feel frustrated by the fact that Jesus had to remind them who He was. Then Jesus asks them who they think He is. Definite high point for Peter as he answers correctly to Jesus, but I can’t help feeling for him again by the end of the paragraph as Jesus places the weight of the future of the church on his shoulders. Then Peter gets in a conversation with Jesus where Jesus predicts His death. Peter loves Him so much that he pulls Jesus aside and says, “Heaven forbid, this will never happen to You”. Jesus response seems harsh, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human standpoint, not from God’s”. I think I feel sorry for Peter here because I can hear myself saying the exact same thing if I were in his shoes. Because of Peter’s relationship with Jesus, he knows just enough about Jesus to be dangerous. He wants so much to love and protect Jesus and continue the good work that they have been doing as a group. He has walked away from his entire life to follow Jesus and has thrown himself at the work whole heartedly. He can’t possibly fathom that God’s plan is for Jesus to actually lose His life. It just can’t be!

Six days later, Peter goes with James, John and Jesus to get away to pray. While they are up on the mountain Peter witnesses Jesus transfiguration. I would say this is a spiritual “high” that none of us has ever come close to experiencing. Again Peter is eager to jump into action and commemorate this glorious thing they have witnessed by building altars as memorials. This time not Jesus but God Himself speaks to Peter and poor Peter is scared out of his mind. He falls face down on the ground. As the four men travel back down the mountain, a large crowd is waiting for them. They are instantly thrown right back into ministry with very little time to digest what happened earlier. A man comes to Jesus and asks for help for his son. He tells Jesus that he had earlier brought his son to the disciples to be healed but that they weren’t able to do it. Again what feels like a harsh statement from Jesus, “You faithless and corrupt people, how long must I be with you?, and Jesus heals the boy. Peter is there watching and listening to all, I’m sure feeling very small.

The next thing we know from Matthew is that the disciples and Jesus gather in Galilee, and Jesus again tells them that He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead. “And the disciples were filled with grief”. Are you feeling for Peter by now too? I feel like his heart had to have felt twisted and pulled in so many different directions…His earthly mind was being taught and challenged to heavenly living. The plan was bigger than he could see or understand. He couldn’t make sense of his circumstances and he couldn’t possibly see how what he was going through was going to end up being good and a part of God’s plan. Have you ever lived in this space? Have you wondered what God’s plan is and how all that is happening to you can possibly be known by God because it is such a big mess?

The last four verses of this chapter are one more conversation between Jesus and Peter on a yet another issue needing to be dealt with. The tax collector is waiting for them when they get back to town. He is looking for what is due for Peter and Jesus’ temple tax. Jesus teaches Peter another lesson about who He is and how to live on this earth, heavenly speaking. To keep from causing a ruckus with the government at this time in His ministry, Jesus asks Peter to go ahead and pay the tax even though the temple is Jesus’ “home/kingdom”. Apparently neither of them had the cash on hand for the tax so Jesus has the goodness of heart to send Peter to the lake as he knows Peter loves to fish. Jesus has him throw out a line and open the mouth of the first fish he catches to find a large silver coin which will pay for their taxes.  I’m so glad that Jesus shows His love for Peter in this miracle. I’m thinking after all Peter has gone through in these last few chapters, he has to be about worn slick, at the bottom of his emotional barrel. Don’t you think that being cared for by Jesus in this personal and practical way, was meaningful to Peter?

Today I want to encourage you to take some time to look back through your life and see if you can see some personal touches from God at specific times in your life. Has He changed circumstances that you were powerless over? Has He comforted you or shown His presents in a personal way when you felt alone or abandoned? Has He provided money when you couldn’t pay for something you needed or really wanted to pay for? Has He gifted you with a relationship or another person when your heart longed for companionship? How about a miraculous intercession in a dangerous situation or accident where you know He stepped in to change circumstances to safe your life or a loved one’s life? I can’t possibly list all the ways God reaches out to show His love to us. I do think it is worth taking the time to look for and even list the ways that you know God has intervened in your life to show you personally how much He loves you and cares for you. Like Deb said yesterday, we need to remember because it helps us understand Him and His work.

God Has a Plan

Today’s reading is Matt 2 and Psalm 76

 

As I read through Matt 2 this morning I am struck by two things. One, the number of prophecies quoted and fulfilled in these few verses and two, the level of protection that God  had to lay over this young couple and their new baby to keep Him alive.

Let’s start with the prophecies. In vs 3-4, King Herod who is jealous of this baby and concerned for his job because of what he has heard about the baby’s future, calls all his best priests and teachers together to ask them some questions. He wants to know where this baby is to be born, and they reply with what a prophet of God wrote over 400 years earlier. Then in vs 17-18, Herod kills all of the baby boys in Bethlehem to try to wipe out the baby and his actions fulfill what God said through Jeremiah 500-600 years earlier. Then at the end of the chapter Joseph is told by an angel to take Mary and the baby back to Israel, which fulfilled a third prophecy which said that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. From this list of prophecies I learn:

1-God Has a plan. I am so easily swayed and discouraged by my circumstances. When I think about and remember that God has a plan and He will complete His plan, it changes the way my circumstances affect me.

2-Nothing is a surprise to God, nothing makes Him think, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming”. Living each day knowing that He knows what is coming my way brings a sense of security and the beautiful reminder that my God knows everything!

3-God is trustworthy and faithful to keep His word every time. If he says it, it will happen!

Next let’s look at and think through the early years of Jesus life and watch how God’s plan unfolds with God’s protection accomplishing every step in the plan. We saw yesterday how God prepared Mary and Joseph (kids) to be Jesus earthly parents. Then we know from Luke that these kids, had to make a trip to be counted for a census. Pregnant and almost due for delivery, these two take off from Nazareth to walk to Bethlehem, around 80 miles. Look, I’ve got to be honest here and say that the fact that Mary actually made this trip pregnant and on foot or better yet, a donkey is almost as big a miracle as her conception! (I am sorry, but I have to mentally put myself in the shoes of Mary and Joseph to actually grasp the meaning of the story.) Then, Jesus is born in a barn. This, in my mind requires a level of protection from God that spans more ground than I have time to cover here. Sometime within the first year of Jesus life, God sends His angel to Joseph in a dream and warns him to take the baby and get out of the country and to stay until God says to return, because the king is trying to kill their baby. What must have been going through their minds at this point? Is it not enough to go through the embarrassment and shame of a pregnancy before marriage, a scary and physically daunting trip and childbirth in a barn? Now they run for their lives because the king/President wants to kill their child. But they trusted that God would be faithful and keep His word and accomplish His plan so they obeyed. Really, when I put myself in their shoes it is amazing to me that they were able to trust and obey. Then when Herod dies, God tells them in a dream that it’s safe to return. God has a plan. Nothing that happens is a surprise to God. God is trustworthy and faithful to keep His word every time. If you need more evidence that this is truth, read through Ps 76 and watch for Asaph’s description of God accomplishing His plan fourteen generations before Jesus birth occurred.

My Refuge

Psalm 62

 

Vs 1-2 “ I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” vs 5-8 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.”  

So much power, truth and beauty in these words. “I wait quietly before God”. How often do I sit quietly and wait before God?  What does that look like? Can you grasp how much self-control it takes to sit quietly and wait before God… without asking for forgiveness, help, or intervention from Him? Shoot, just without talking! How often am I willing to sit quietly and wait? First, waiting takes time. Time that we don’t feel like we have to give. Time, may arguably be our most precious commodity in this country, society, and age. Honestly, “waiting” is probably considered one of the biggest wastes of our time and causes us more frustration than most other things. Second, I have thought for years that waiting for answers to the unknown is one of the hardest things in life. I was reading earlier this week the story of Abraham and Sarah waiting for a child. The commentator wrote, “There probably isn’t anything harder to do than wait.”. Finally someone said it! Waiting is hard. Waiting shows us that we are not in control. A lot of times when we wait, we are powerless to do anything to change the situation or make the process move any faster. Hmmm… I wonder why God asks us to wait before Him?  

When we are willing to use one of our most precious commodities, time, and put our hearts in the proper place of knowing we can’t control our own circumstances we are in the prime place to hear what God wants to tell us. I want to challenge you today to try this. Take 2-5 minutes this morning to sit quietly before God. (If you are anything like me, you will probably have to start over several times as your mind will wander to anything but waiting on God…and you may need to look at a clock. I can easily lie to myself about how long two minutes actually is.) Just try it today to see if it is a valuable practice that needs to be implemented on your calendar on a regular basis.

“ My hope is in Him, He is my rock, my salvation, my fortress and my refuge. Trust in Him at all times and pour out your heart to Him, He is our refuge.” What can I not face with these truths? I need these words in front of me all of the time! It is so easy to get sidetracked with responsibilities, activities, and schedules. A lot of life, because we need to concentrate and think on other things to complete tasks, pulls us away from thinking on these truths. I want to live my days mindful that my hope is in Him. I want to remember to pour out my heart to Him instead of worrying, telling a friend or complaining about my circumstances. I want to trust Him at all times instead of spending hours trying to figure out how to solve a situation. I want to remember His love for me and every person He created as I interact with others. I want to run to Him first when I think I’ve been wronged, scared or misunderstood.