The Parable of the Wicked Farmers

Today’s Readings: Matthew 21:33-44, Mark 12:1-11, Luke 20:9-19, and Psalm 131

As we look at the Parable of the Wicked Farmers (Tenants) found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke I’m reminded of the meaningfulness used in all of the parables by Jesus.  These parables were used to tell a story to the listeners that would connect to their hearts and souls. This parable as well as the story of the two sons from yesterday connect when Jesus is being questioned.  A story that would connect with the crowds current lives as well as our present day.  The difference in this next parable is its direct pointedness to the priests, Pharisees, and religious leaders that had stopped him to question who he was and questioning his authority. This all came after Jesus called them out on their hypocrisy.

In Jesus’s last week of life on earth, Jesus had just entered the temple and had turned things upside-down. (literally)  He was upset and saddened by what they were doing. The high priests and religious leaders had just asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things?” After sharing one parable about the Two Sons, Jesus shares His second of three parables in this questioning of His authority.  Jesus paints a picture to those that have gathered to hear him preach.  One that they would all relate to at that time.  Verse 33 a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug the winepress, and built a watchtower.  This illustration in 33 shows the landowner taking care of self and others by building the vineyard, he protected the vineyard by hedging around it, then added a winepress that would turn their grapes into grape juice, then finally a tower which would have multiple purposes.  It would provide security, shelter, and a place for storage.    The stage is set for Jesus to tell about three servants sent by the landowner to receive his portions from the land given to the farmers. What happens to the three servants sent?…beaten, killed, and stoned. All dead. After each death the landowner showed grace that in sending his next servant the belief was they would repent and give back the fruits provided for them.  Lastly, the farmer sends his own son.  Sound familiar… His own son to collect the fruit.  What do they farmers do? They plot and murder him in hopes they would then be given the inheritance.  In verse 40 Jesus then asks those questioning his authority, “When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?” 

Their response and Jesus’s response varies.  The high priests respond with judgement and replacement, where Jesus asks first if they have ever read the scriptures. (ouch)

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.’43 I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. 44 Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.

The priests knew they were just called out and were upset.  In reality they would have been better to repent.  Their eyes and ears were not open to this parable.  The Psalm surely song a couple days earlier as Jesus entered the town. Psalm 118:22-23 says The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.

What does the parable mean for us?  I think of the vineyard is where we are at now.  If you have a chance read the connection to Isaiah 5 God’s people are His Vineyard. We are in a place where we hear Him, produce fruit for Him, and respond to Him when he calls on us.  How are we responding? How are we doing with the vineyard he has put us in to produce fruit? It’s amazing to think that one day God will be sending His son once again to see how we have done? Will we be ready to hand everything over or standing with those who have rejected Him? My prayer is for us all to be praising Him together standing with handfuls of fruit, giving Him everything we have.  That as we stand in our vineyard our and build cornerstone of the tower we call home is the foundation of Christ.

God has chosen us to be the living cornerstone’s for Christ, what an amazing blessing.

1 Peter 2:4 says 4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.

Resources

Tysdale Life Application Bible

Grace To You –

 

 

 

Acrostic Poem

Good Tuesday Morning Bible Journal Family,

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

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

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

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

Dear God,

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

Amen

A Parable about the Parables

Matthew 13:52 and Psalm 111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

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

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

 

 

Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

Salt Life

SALT

• Adds Flavor to Life,

• Purifies Set apart,

• Preserves  the souls of man for the Kingdom of God

Good Morning,

Today we get a chance to look at Matthew 5:13-16. The Salt Life image that we see on cars or shirts is imprinted my brain. Verse 13 says how we are the salt of the earth. A couple characteristics of salt that can be seen as a parallel to our Christian life includes the ability to make me thirst.   Last week as I battled a cold and went to the good ole’ gargling of salt water,  it made me thirst.  That even as I poured the salt into liquid it never lost its saltiness.  As we are living in this world do we lose our flavor? As we are watered down by worldly pressures do we keep our saltiness  in every part of our life? Colossians 4:6  says Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

Salt also adds seasoning. It makes a better taste. Does the flavor of being a Christian make others come back for seconds? Seasoning brings out the best flavor of our foods.  Do we bring out our best and point it all back to God?

 

I have learned I can’t always control the circumstances I face, but I am the keeper of my “saltiness.” Will I be bitter, broken down or better and making a difference? Less seasoned or more flavorful? When God comes back, what good am I if I’ve lost my flavoring?

 

Light of the World

If we all understand that the light of the world is God we will be able to see. Matthew 5:14-16 what living for Christ is like. That God’s light should be in full display in our hearts, minds, works and actions. That as we let our light shine others will see the reality of God in us.   God’s light will guide us as we speak to Him and for Him. God’s light will shine when we are trying to avoid a situation.  Let’s not let sin dim our light.  Let’s not put our light to the side when others need to see.

Ephesians 5:8 says For you were once darkness, but now you are the light of the world. Live as children of the light.

Have a blessed day being the salt and the light.

Today’s Readings: Matthew 5:13-16, Psalm 59

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; you are my fortress , my refuge in times of trouble.

He Wants Us

2 Samuel 19 and Psalm 51 – Resurrection Eve

Have you ever wondered when the deniers, doubters, crucifiers, and liars had their moment of realization of who Jesus was and their role in His death? Was it immediate, like Peter when the rooster crowed the third time? Or did it take longer, after Jesus had been taken from the cross and put in the tomb? Or was it not until days later, when word got around that Jesus was alive, and Thomas even put his hand into his side.  Did they respond like David does, in his Psalms about his own sins? Had I been there, would I have realized it immediately, or would it have taken me awhile to understand? What would have been my response to knowing I put Jesus on the cross?

From an early age I learned about Jesus and have never doubted who He was or what He did for me.  As I got older, my heart to please God was challenged by my selfishness and temptations to sin. In high school especially, I was stuck on this hamster wheel of wanting to “be good” and do the right thing, but time and time again would fall into cycles of sin and rebellion. I would go through a period of mourning, praying, and vow to not fall into that junk again. I would “be good” for awhile and then it would start over. I was so frustrated with myself and lack of self control. Everything seemed so easy and made so much sense sitting in church on Sundays and at youth group on Wednesday nights.  But by Friday night – it all flew out the window.

I made a decision when I was 16 to try to get off that hamster wheel for good, and I wanted a REAL CHANGE. While I had always believed in Jesus, I needed to do something different and drastic in my life so that I could be more consistent in my choices to follow Jesus. I believed. I could talk the talk. I needed to WALK the WALK – even on the weekends.  I joined a conservative faith community that was rich in tradition and strong in holy habits.  The fellowship of the close-knit group was unmatched. The believers there invested time and energy in helping me understand God’s Word. I learned so much in this season of life and thank God for putting people into my path to draw me to Him.

One of the biggest things I learned is that even with all of the holy habits, fellowship, and accountability, I still sinned.  As much as I wanted to ‘be good’, I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And it took my early adult years to figure out that God doesn’t want me to ‘be good’. He wants me forgiven. This is why He brought us Jesus. In my youth I found myself categorizing sin and thought mine was the worst – if I could just stop those major sins, then I would be acceptable in God’s eyes. It took a lot of years to really believe that ALL sin is unrighteousness in God’s eyes. While sins may have greater or lesser consequences on earth – the sin itself is all the same: separation from God, no matter how big or small.

During this time of growth, the elder of our church, a kind and sweet man named Ervin, would point me back to Psalms 51. Over and over again, I would counsel with him, pour my heart out, trying to figure out why I would still from time to time fall back into those old sinful ways and make bad decisions.  He was so patient with me, and would read this scripture with me.  Even though it was twenty years ago, I can clearly recall our conversations.  He would encourage me to go home and pray the prayers that David did, a man who loved God so much and would still find himself in a mess of sin. And just like David, I would weap and mourn over my sins and ask God for forgiveness.  My quest to “be good” was a fruitless journey – and through prayers like Psalm 51, I found that a broken heart for my sin drew me closer to Him more than my checklist of ‘being good’ ever did.  As C.S. Lewis said: God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants US.

Today, on Holy Saturday, the time between Jesus’ death on the cross, and His victory over the grave tomorrow, I can’t help but put myself there and walk through the range of emotions.

It is our sins against God that crucified Jesus that Friday vs. 4 and David calls his own sin what it is – evil.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;

I wonder how quickly we would have realized this and sought forgiveness and change. Would it have been the very next day, on Saturday?  Would we have prayed vs. 10?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And then to wake up Sunday morning and learn that HE IS ALIVE! Would we really believe? Would we spend the rest of our days living in the JOY that salvation brings (vs. 10)?

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

How would our lives be different if we lived everyday with the utmost JOY for Jesus conquering the grave and the utmost JOY for our salvation?

The King Who Wins

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 8 and Psalm 40

Hello Monday! Are you looking for signs of spring? Each morning I look for fresh green buds in our front yard or any other sign of new life. This time of year leading up to Easter is always sort of dreary. Christ’s death is eminent and there is a heaviness that comes with recounting the days before his burial and resurrection. Of course our reading today pre-dates the birth and death of Christ by about one thousand years. David’s rise to power began around the year 1003 BC. Today we hear about the fulfillment of God’s promise to defeat all of the enemies of the Israelites. David defeats the Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites and entire armies of 22,000 men. He takes their chariot horses, weapons and money and then makes them his servants. So basically everything is going right for ol’ David. All the Israelites loved him:

“All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them.” 2 Samuel 3:36

Kind of a hard thing to hear on a Monday morning right? I have to be honest, when I first read this chapter I thought, “must be nice to conquer and plunder every enemy you face!” We all have that person (or two) in our life that seem to win every battle no matter how big or small. They effortlessly rise to power in their workplace and are successful in their personal life. All the people take note and are pleased! And you are left feeling a little jelly and maybe even a smidge resentful. Now, if I’m just talking about myself here, I hope you’ll take my confession and pray for me to mature in my faith! If on the other hand, you’ve ever struggled with the patience required to God to fulfill a promise then stay with me! Verse 15 says this:

 “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15

 This is an important clue about the character of King David. Yes, he pleased his people but not because he tried to satisfy them. Instead, he showed them in all of his actions that he was trying to please God. Often, those that try their hardest to become popular never make it. Spending our time and money on devising ways to gain acceptance with our peers is fruitless. God wants us to spend our time striving to do what is right and just. King David’s reign was characterized by doing what was just for his people. Justice means interpreting the law and administering consequences with mercy and respect. David became a trusted leader among his followers because they respected his convictions. After some dedicated study of today’s word I came around to truly appreciating King David for his integrity and commitment to fulfilling his covenant promise with God. Through more reflection and prayer I understood that justice is not always the same as fairness. God doesn’t deal in fairness. Some will have riches, some will be poor. Some will have love and companionship, others will be alone. God fulfills His promises and reveals them in His time. We are not kings and queens and we won’t win every battle. We can trust God to give us the authority we need, in his time, to do the work that he wants us to do.

I encourage you to read Psalm 40 today in its entirety. It’s a perfect companion to His message in 2 Samuel 8. It begins like this:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand…” Psalm 40

 

Standing on the Promises

2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 39

With a gapped tooth grin from ear to ear, I handed my mom an egg carton jewelry box on Mother’s Day, over thirty years ago.  It was a soft yellow styrofoam carton, that was covered with paint, paper shapes and flower pipe cleaners.  It was BEAUTIFUL! I had worked so diligently on her special gift, and she proudly displayed it on her dresser and put all of her treasures in it… I was so proud to give her something so beautiful that she could see and use every day.

David, he sure loved His God. In a similar way, we read in 2 Samuel 7, how he wanted to build something special for the Lord to dwell. It sure made sense to me – David’s living in a beautiful cedar home, and he wanted something even better for God. We know God cares about details, order, reverence, and respect, and this seemed right in line.  But God’s ways are always above our ways, and while I believe David’s heart was in the right place, the Lord used it as an opportunity to reveal his future plans and make a covenant with him.  Instead of David building a house for the Lord, the Lord outlines the eternal house (kingdom) that He will build through David and his heirs.

God later refers to this in Psalms 89:3 as:

“I have made a covenant

with my chosen one.”

God promises to raise up David’s offspring, establish their kingdom forever, and they will build a house for the Lord’s name. This promise, the foretelling of Jesus, is an early picture of God’s future plans for the Messiah.

God makes this covenant, with full knowledge of the future. He knows what David’s choices will be in the years to come.  From times of obedience, to times of sin, God’s perfect ability to bring discipline and steadfast love is unmatched on this earth.

The second half of this chapter is David’s bewildered response to God’s promise to Him. He has been forgiven, protected, guided, changed, and God just told him He will do even MORE than that for David and his offspring! The soft heart of David, full of humility and love for the Lord, is one I want to emulate more consistently.

Thinking back to times when my heart was softest and focused on closeness with God, several instances come to mind:

  • the ‘first love” feelings of Jesus overwhelmed me when I first became a Christian
  • seasons of deep repentance, forgiveness, and gratitude
  • God answered prayers with my newborn daughter’s spina bifida and surgeries
  • discovering a new truth or lesson in the Word

I can go back to those moments and feelings that nothing else in the world mattered – God was with me and would be with me in the future, and I was firmly standing on that promise.

When I stumble across an old journal entry or something written down during those time, it is so faith affirming to see God’s work in my life. The book of Psalms often reads like David’s own journal entries of God’s promises, God’s deliverances, God’s protection. David loved proclaiming what God has done and will do in his life. He believed it, and he stood firm on those truths.

Are you standing firm in the promise God has given you? A promise of a life with him forever, filled with love and joy, where there will be no more tears and death. He is the perfect promise keeper.  When the world around you fails, His promises never fail.

Wait on the Lord

1 Samuel 26 and Psalms 27

1 Samuel 26 reads like a repeat of 1 Samuel 24, that we explored two days ago with Jennifer Armstrong.  The circumstances are two different events, although  similar, with Saul once again pursuing David. David has another opportunity to kill him, yet he shows mercy for the second time.  The picture Jennifer painted of choosing reconciliation over revenge, and trusting God’s authority, is applicable to this chapter as well.

I love how Psalms 27 so clearly describes David’s experiences outlined in 1 Samuel. He shows us that putting the Lord at the center of his life removes his fears (verse 1). Surrounded by enemy armies, he declares his confidence in God’s protection (verse 2-3). Even when David had the opportunity to take control, kill his enemy, he chooses to show mercy and allow God to work how He will.  TWICE!

Like David, we can trust God to deal with our enemies. Do you have a Saul in your life that you need to commit to the Lord’s hands?  He is the supreme authority, the righteous judge, and the ultimate miracle worker.  As a mentor once told me, “Let that go… it’s above your pay grade. That’s work that the Lord will do”.

I’m so encouraged by David’s cries out to the Lord in this Psalm, seeking wisdom and leadership (verse 11) in the middle of his drama. He chooses to WAIT for the Lord, even when under duress.

In contrast, my instinct is to take action. The Lord continues to give me opportunities to be patient and wait on Him. I’m a problem-solver, coming up with a mental action plan for the 12 “what-if” scenarios I create in my mind for any given situation. Inaction can make me uneasy, even when I know that immediate action isn’t always the best solution.  Waiting – whether it’s on direction from the Lord, or for my kids to get in the car – does not come easy.

I can think of a big season of waiting in my life, while handling hurts at the hands of others. God used this time to grow my trust in Him, He provided more wisdom, and delivered hope.  He protected my heart from seeking revenge, and in time, turned it toward reconciliation.  Had I taken immediate action, the outcome would be very different.  While the waiting can be the hardest part, in hindsight, we can see the beautiful work God does. For me, more time brought more truth.  And more time and truth brought more healing.

Lord, Thank you for being a righteous judge.  Please give us an ear to hear your direction and a heart to follow. Help us to know the difference of when you are leading us to wait and when you are leading us to action. Amen 

Who Shall Dwell On Your Holy Hill?

Today’s readings come from 1 Samuel 14 and Psalm 15.

Yes, it’s mid February. And yes, we are still listening to Christmas Carols. Earlier this week my four year old son asked me to pause the song and wanted to know what the third verse of Away in a Manger meant – “how do we fit us for heaven”?  I tried to explain it in the simplest way possible that a tiny (yet growing) mind may understand:

  • God is so holy and perfect in every way.
  • We must be made pure and clean to be with Him in heaven.
  • We sin and are unclean, but because Jesus is perfect, when He died on the cross to pay for our sin, He makes us clean.
  • Our time here on earth is to truly believe in Jesus, every day love Him with all of our heart. This is how we “get ready” or “get fit” to live with God in heaven.

Psalm 15 takes us through a much better description of who can be in God’s presence, in His holy place, or “fit for heaven”.  And WOW, it’s convicting and motivating! I can’t wait to read this scripture with my little guy as a follow up to his question.

Psalm 15

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

While this isn’t a checklist to enter heaven, if it were, we would all fail.  We are all disqualified at the very first qualification: blameless. Because we have all sinned, we all have blame. But Jesus took our blame and shame that day on Calvary. Our belief in Him is what allows us to dwell with Him in His holy place.

As I continue studying the different verse meanings and praying through each one, the Holy Spirit is challenging me to rid and repent of any of these sins in my life.  One characteristic that really stands out is the end of verse four. Am I able to keep my word and commitments even when it hurts?  Am I unchanging even when it’s hard?

I’m humbled that my God still loves me through my failings, continues to cleanse me through His perfect Son, and keeps calling me to a deeper communion with Him.  I can’t help but think of another kids’ song I’m thankful for:

He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me.