How to prepare for battle

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 20; Psalm 107; Isaiah 47; Revelation 17

June 15th, 2016

Deuteronomy 20 contains laws pertaining to warfare. Today we will dive into those focused on the army (verses 1-9) but instead of closing with a question, here is one for your consideration as you read; if you knew a battle was coming soon that you were going to fight in, what would you do today?  

When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. – Deuteronomy 20:1–4

Like everything else, the Israelite conception of war centered on trust in God. This meant they did things different than most nations. For example, God’s law discouraged them from keeping a standing army. Back in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 we see the restrictions placed on the king. You might think things pertaining to the king would list off rights and privileges, instead we find a list of restrictions and obligations. The restrictions and obligations all pointed to trust in God. The law restricted the king from amassing power; no amassing horses for a cavalry, nor wives, nor wealth for paying an army. He and the people were not to build up trust in things of this world. The obligations pointed to where the king’s power actually comes from and where he and his people should place their trust. The king’s obligation upon taking the throne was to write a copy of the law, to keep it by him and read it every day he lives that he may learn to fear the LORD his God; to keep the law and do it that his heart not be lifted up among his brethren nor turn from the commandments. With this in mind the verses above were to a civilian population formed in to a militia only when needed. The law regarding the army continues.

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And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her. – Deuteronomy 20:5–7

Here we have another oddity when compared to other nations. In the time of war a nation will often call up the young men from among the people to fight for her. Here is the opposite. We see here a list of able bodied men who were told in a sense ‘we don’t need you to fight for us, get out of here.’ Let me explain my presumption at them being able bodied. They either just built a house, planted a vineyard, or married. Interesting. Again clearly we see a different idea of battle plans; trusting in things of this world are dismissed and replaced with trust in the LORD.

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And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart. And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people. – Deuteronomy 20:8–9

The last law pertaining to the army is quite clear. The first two sections we looked at apply to who we trust in and who we do not trust in. This law deals with those we do not subscribe to the truth. Go home. God’s got this. The dismissal of the faithless protects the faithful.

Extra credit:

  • Exodus 17:8-15 – Moses trusts in the LORD in battle
  • Joshua 6 – Joshua trusts in the LORD in battle
  • Judges 7– Gideon trusts in the LORD in battle

 

Gentle Reminder

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 19; Psalm 106; Isaiah 46; Revelation 16 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good his love endures forever.  What a great reminder and song in Psalm 106:1

Please, sit back and give the yoke to Jesus.  He is our co-pilot on this mission.

Our entrance slip for today does require you to think of three mighty acts God has done for you this year. These events can be around yourself, family, or others.  Look close and take a minute to reflect.

  1.  –
  2.  –
  3.  –

Do you have your acts?  A few I thought of included 1) God baptizing my wife Jennifer 2) God joining a group of brothers and sisters in Christ to go through the bible in a year together and journal everyday 3) God providing healing and love through a time of loss in our family.  There has been more but I would love to hear yours. Really looking closely at our lives, there are miracles daily we can find when we take time to notice.

Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise? Psalm 106:2

I’m amazed and captivated as I learn more about the amazing miracles performed by Jesus in our Bible.  Still even being a witness to these mighty acts then or mighty acts today we can forget about our eternal kingdom and look for instant gratification.  Why do we struggle with this?

Psalm 106:13 But soon they forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.

How often do we do leave out His counsel? I struggle when I want things now and of course my way.  I sit here and laugh at this because it is right here in our face but yet I still try to take the wheel and think I’m in control. I’m at times enticed by worldly things that draw me away from remembering all of what God has done and is doing for me. I’m sorry. In our instant gratification world we need to look to the Lord and ask if this is what He wants us to do. Just like in the Psalms we need this reminder often so we don’t get lost in this world.  Here is your reminder for the day!

God puts amazing and hard events in our lives to remind us of His amazing power and help us to avoid the instant gratification lifestyle.  He uses our struggling times to humble us, help wean away from worldly things that can control us, lift up our prayers, make us more compassionate, remain faithful and dependent on Him, and encourages us to submit it all to God and His purpose for our lives.  I know there are things weighing on your mind or battling you for attention. Push submit now…

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. Psalm 106:44-45 

How great is our God! His love endures forever.  He gives us grace even when we  don’t deserve it. He is faithful and gracious and sent His son for us and to die for our sins. What a wonderful Father.

Dear God, please give us the wisdom, understanding, and love to call on You in all we do. Give us Your timely reminders that it’s not about us or the other gods we hold up, its about You.  It’s about trusting in the promise You made to us.  Father, we pray you help us to recognize Your voice and follow Your lead in all we do. Amen

Have a God counseled day!

Conquering the Beast

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 18, Psalm 105, Isaiah 45, Revelation 15

Like a little fool I’m going to write to you today about the book of Revelation. I’ve been a little hesitant about the book of Revelation from the beginning. Ok, if I’m being honest, it’s more like I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. It seems like all the seasoned Christians I know have very distinct and specific beliefs about the meaning and implications of its teachings. Usually, I don’t put much effort into researching and learning about the Revelation passages because I know I’m just not going to get it in that broader contextual this is the meaning of life sort of way. Today though, I couldn’t get away from it. I took some great notes on other ideas for the journal but there’s something in Revelation today for all of us.

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire-and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” Revelation 15:2-3

Those who had conquered the beast. The beast. What is the beast? Is it Satan himself, or is it the empty promises he sells? I can’t begin to tell you and neither can my three study bibles. But what’s alive in this passage today is the image of me standing on the banks of a sea that is on fire. And in my hand is my beast, the image of my beast and the number of its name. Isn’t that a powerful image? If just for a moment we put down our Starbucks and iPhone and imagine ourselves there, on the shore, next to the sea, on the day that all evil in this place is abolished. You have conquered the beast forever more, and now you stand as the fire burns out with the harp of God in your hand singing the song that Moses and the Israelites sang when they were delivered out of Egypt.

If you are anything like me, you woke up this Sunday morning to learn that yet another 50 people had been gunned down at the hands of terrorists and instead of crying you started to feel a little bit numb. Our day-to-day life is now permeated with the reality of hatred and violence. It’s getting harder and harder to take these stories in, to see the photographs and absorb the real time video. If you are anything like me, it’s because you realize that it’s not just happening in a place far away anymore. It’s not just happening to people in another country that are awake when we sleep. It’s happening to people that aren’t so different from us, that live not so far away from us. If you are anything like me, you may look at your children and wonder whether they will be called to stand firm in their convictions for Jesus in the face of real danger.

It’s all very scary stuff. Until you read the word of God. Until your realize that the song of Moses that we hear from the Israelites in Exodus 15 is repeated by the apostle John in Revelation 15. Revelation was originally written to the seven churches of Asia but it was meant for believers everywhere. As modern Christians it reminds us that the world we live in today is a reflection of the world Moses lived in and the world that John lived in after the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. We hear the angels singing:

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 3-4.

Remember that today. His righteous acts have been revealed. He has already revealed himself to us. Although there are plagues there is also redemption. He alone is holy and all nations will come to worship Him. We need not be afraid. The beast wants us to stand, frozen in fear, to deny what we know is true. But we know we’ll be among those that conquer him, we’ve got his number.

Stand on the shore this Monday morning and light your fire of passion for Jesus Christ.

SELFISH

With wonderment I began to see for the first time how truly selfish I was. Now the question was; what was I going to do about it?

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 17; Psalm 104; Isaiah 44; Revelation 14

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” A second angel followed and said, “’Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.-Revelation 14:6-8

The Book of Revelation is mystical and strange, but there is no mystery that it proclaims the glory of God over all. And like the entire Bible, it draws constant attention to God’s holiness and the importance of seeking restoration with God before the final day of judgement.

Lately I have wrestled with bad behavior of others which has both surprised and disappointed me. Fortunately, now, when I observe this “bad behavior,” I am learning to see myself, like in a mirror, one that I am not afraid to look at anymore.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:5

In the interest of time, due to a crazy week of home improvement colliding with travel plans on both ends and lots of work related opportunity and challenge (as usual); I have selected a page from the epilogue of a book I hope to be releasing next year.

I am able to speak with authority about selfishness and self righteousness, because I have struggled with this disease my entire life, and still do. What I am certain of is this: anytime my focus is more on me than on God or others, I am heading for trouble. This happens time and time again. Fortunately I have been rescued by God, and in His power I have hope of restoration, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

God please grant me the faith and power to surrender my will to yours. Amen.

Here is a page from “Wisdom of The Hidden Places; A Search For God”

American writer John W. Gardner once wrote: “Self pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it gives pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” Eventually I came to see that any focus on self, unchecked, was profoundly destructive, the basis for all that was evil; the very foundation of sin! Slowly, over time, I began to emerge from the poisonous fog of self obsession, trying to escape the prison of my narcissism — my alternative reality.

I was a cultural Christian drowning in the spiritual hydraulic of my narcissism only to be rescued by a collaboration of principled atheists and agnostics, true believers and the Holy Spirit. God was everywhere, even in the places he was not invited or rejected. His Spirit didn’t have to be embraced or even acknowledged, but it couldn’t be denied.

My story is not the proclamation of personal holiness, or a testimony of some great spiritual achievement, it is rather a story about a lost boy who struggled to find the love of an earthly father, who wrestled with grief, personal power and other powers while learning how to love.

I found my Heavenly Father in the end, but in no way do I consider myself better than anyone I have met along the way — I remain a sinner. The difference is this — I have been set free from my slavery to sin and have chosen to follow the righteous path; and only in God’s power, not my own, did this journey became possible.(Romans 6:6)

Through my father’s struggles and mine; and in the struggles of my children to find their place with God, I learned who I was, and who I was meant to be. As I began to rest more and more in God’s perfect will, I was less inclined to over-reach for the things of this world. That’s when everything finally started to fall into place. The more I learned to trust God, the greater my peace and joy. Situations that had once caused anxiety were now turning into anticipated opportunities to see God’s hand in my life.

Belonging

Mom and his young son holding hands

Deuteronomy 16; Psalm 103; Isaiah 43; Revelation 13

My nine year old daughter Annika has been going through an interesting “phase” for the last couple of years. Every time we take her somewhere (school, church etc.), she is petrified we are going to forget to pick her up.  I’m happy to say I haven’t actually forgotten to get her, so I can’t really figure out where this fear comes from.  I do know for certain, however, it frequently causes her to worry and occasionally get really upset.  Case in point – we had a pretty good snow storm in Central Illinois this past February 24.  Because of the snow, Annika’s school arranged an early (12pm) dismissal and cancelled all after school activities.  I received the mass email/phone message from the school and made arrangements for my Mother (her grandma) to pick her up early.  No problem.  In our house, you don’t get your own phone until 5th grade, so I had no way to let Annika know of the plan.  The school supervisors don’t go home until all kids are picked up, so no big deal, right?  Wrong!  My Mother received a phone message from Annika.  She was sobbing so hard she could barely get the words out.  She had called from her teacher’s phone to make sure my Mom knew of the early dismissal, then Annika pleaded with my Mom to be there at noon to get her.

Another interesting characteristic of Annika’s current “phase” is she also loves to hold my hand. I’m pretty sure this is because she just likes to be with me, or perhaps this is just her way of keeping track of me?  Either way, Annika’s actions demonstrate an acute awareness of who she is, to whom she belongs and who is watching over her.  She gains an incredible sense of comfort from simply knowing I am there.

The context for verses 1-7 of Isaiah 43 is the tribe of Judah suffering under Babylonian rule. In the first seven verses, we see God reminding his people who they are, to whom they belong and the protection he provides them in the midst of their hardship.  The comfort I find in this passage comes from the unchanging nature of God.  These truths were applicable in the Old Testament and they still apply to our lives today.

Truth #1 – We are created by God (verse 1)

  • He who created you, he who formed you
  • I have called you by name

Truth #2 – We belong to God (verse 1, verse 7)

  • For I have redeemed you – as a verb, redeemed means to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment
  • You are mine
  • Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory

Truth #3 – God watches over and protects us (verses 2 and 3)

  • I will be with you
  • You shall not be burned
  • I am the Lord your God, your Savior

I won’t lie. As a mom, I love that Annika loves to be by my side.  (At least for a little while longer, age 13 will be here before we know it!)  But what I really hope to teach Annika is that her identity, her belonging and protection come from Jesus.  I’m an okay mother.  He is a perfect father who will watch over and protect her all the days of her life.

Why doesn’t everyone worship Jesus like that?

Deuteronomy 15; Psalm 102; Isaiah 42; Revelation 12

My wife Amy and I recently attended a live music event with approximately 22,000 other fans. It was a sold out show so the stadium was packed. This band has enjoyed great success over the last several years represented by multiple awards as well as a large and energetic fan base. Amy and I are familiar with every one of their songs and it seemed the crowd was as familiar as we were. From the opening song through the encore, the crowd cheered, clapped, and sang with hands held high.

Amy looked at me during the show and asked “why doesn’t everyone worship Jesus like that?” I love her simple, yet insightful observations… what a great question because he is SO WORTHY of our heartfelt, relentless worship! When I IMG_7135shared the theme of this post with a peer, (thanks to Kerry Myers for your input on this) he responded: “People exhibit great passion and enthusiasm at their favorite concert because they’ve approached the event with great excitement and anticipation about who they are going to see”. Shouldn’t that be how we approach our worship, no matter where we are? Are we excited and in great anticipation as we approach our God because he alone is God, or are we going through the motions, serving him our leftovers?

Jesus did so much for us, and he has promised much more goodness to come. Today’s reading has several worship-worthy attributes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and here are just a few:

  • Psalm 102:12 tells us that he is enthroned forever. All other earthly kings have been, or will be dethroned. Our king will never be dethroned; he will remain in authority over all things for eternity!
  • He “hears the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die” (Psalm 102:20) While this can hold true for physical prisoners which is likely the context of this verse, I cannot help but think of this metaphorically in that the prisoners are us in our sin, and that Jesus is the one who sets us free from the death of our sins.
  • Psalm 102:25 tells us that God made the earth. He made this place! Think for a second about the making a planet. He did it, and it is oh so good! Thank you God!
  • Praise God for what he says is true, that he gave prophecies that have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament (before Jesus walked the earth) prophecy in Isaiah 42:1 refers to God’s servant, in whom his soul delights and that God has put his Spirit upon him. Isaiah 42:1 gives me chills because I know deep in my heart that it plays out much later in the New Testament in Matthew 3:16-17: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
  • He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street (Isaiah 42:2). This verse is also documented in the book of Matthew as being fulfilled:  Matthew 12:14-21

Today I’m praising and thanking God for my dad, Don Harris, and wanted to say happy birthday to him. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my dad as a lifelong trait is that he is wise. He has always taught me the importance of seeking wisdom, and has always shared his wisdom with me. In addition to his wisdom he’s an excellent businessman, humble, forgiving, kind to all, generous, and fun. My commitment to exercise comes from his example; too bad I did not follow his example in being an excellent golfer… Happy birthday dad!

Two Diseases

1200px-Biohazard.svgDeuteronomy 13–14; Psalms 99–101; Isaiah 41; Revelation 11

According to John Calvin, “every man labors under two diseases. In prosperity, he exalts himself extravagantly, and shakes off the restraint; of humility and moderation; but, in adversity, he either rages, or lies in a lifeless condition, and scarcely has the smallest  perception of the goodness of God.”[1]  I was thinking about this as I read Psalm 100 today.  Consider how each of these “diseases” cause us to interpret the Scripture differently.

Psalm 100 (ESV) In Prosperity In Adversity
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Declare your gratification and happiness for everyone to see. Grumble to all the world, as loud as you can!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!   Come into his presence with singing! Be happy with what you have done. Sing away, life is good! Do your work, even in agony. Come into God’s presence with despondency
3 Know that the Lord, is God! Know that you have everything under control. Where is God?
It is he who made us, and we are his; We have evolved so wonderfully If he didn’t want us to be this way, he shouldn’t have made us this way!
and the sheep of his pasture We live in the land of plenty.  Go get yours! God doesn’t care!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Look what you have done for yourself. Others should come to you for help! Go to God complaining and blaming him for all your problems.
Give thanks to him; bless his name! You should be thanked for all that you have done! Curse God for all of your troubles!
For the Lord is good; Man, you am good; The Lord is tired of us all!
His steadfast love endures forever for all the days of your life His wrath is upon us.
and his faithfulness to all generations Your kids and your kid’s kids will be set for life! we are on our own.

Father God, help us to see our attitudes as they really are and make us aware of the spiritual diseases in our hearts.  Heal our hearts, Lord, with your Word and your Truth.  Make them new.

[1]
Calvin, John (2011-11-15). Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 173172-173175). . Kindle Edition.

Looking for direction?

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 12; Psalms 97–98; Isaiah 40; Revelation 10

June 8th, 2016

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:3

One of the most peace filled promises our God makes to us is to provide us direction. This life is filled with choices and consequences. We desire to know our future holds an improved state today, yet we live in a fallen world. God promises direction amidst the wiles of the Devil. From the beginning the prophets had clear direction.  Isaiah 40:3 is a prophecy of John the Baptist. If you went down to the Jordan river to see John the Baptist this is what you would hear:

Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 3:2b

Throughout scripture the prophets came, Jesus came and then the Holy Spirit came and they all brought with them the truth and it pointed in one direction. This prophesy is no different. The prophets, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all brought a message of repentance, identification that it was needed and to highlight a way to it and with it redemption with God. Here Isaiah is paving the way for John the Baptist who paved the way for Jesus the Christ who died on the cross, rose from the dead in three days and went to heaven. Jesus thus paved the way for the Holy Spirit who brought to remembrance all truth Jesus spoke to the disciples and now we have the divinely inspired New Testament (John 14:26). From the beginning there was direction. Everything pointed to the cross. Which is where we should still be looking and headed today. Clear direction.

All truth points to the cross. The Word is truth (John 17:17). The Word became flesh (John 1:14) and the truth helps the lost find their way (Luke 19:10). It reveals and indicts (John 3:19). Jesus pardons those who believe on Him and confess with their mouth (Romans 10:9). The love of the pardon’s heart pours out in obedience to their Master (John 14:15). They love the LORD their God with all their heart and soul and mind as they begin to calibrate with their eternal citizenry in God’s kingdom. The works are evidence of the belief (James 2:17). Works do not save (Galatians 5:4). Faith saves (Romans 5:1-2). The works bring forth a testimony of salvation (James 2:18). The works belong to God (James 1:17). Do you feel God working in your life? Are you sure you truly believe?

From Isaiah 40:3, the word translated as ‘make straight’ is ישׁר. It means to please, to be straight, smooth and right. It is the same word that is translated several other ways, one other way is ‘direct’. It’s translated as ‘direct’ three times in the KJV, one of these three is in Proverbs 3:6:

In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.- Proverbs 3:6

The word translated as acknowledge is ידע, it means to know, notice, hear of, learn; to reveal, be/become known; to realize. The idea here is simple to understand. By God’s grace may we observe it and truly believe. God is worthy of all our trust. All of it. He has provided a way through the cross to salvation. Acceptance of this way brings with it abandonment and repentance from all and every attempt to attain salvation or reconciliation with God by our own strength or wisdom. Realize this truth. Do not forget it when you walk in the way. When you go out and come in. Carry it with you. Make use of it. All the time. When you are deciding left or right, go or stay, this or that; realize. IF you truly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the LORD, your future is already made perfect. You have already been purchased. You are a child of the light. Bring this truth with you to all your decisions and go in peace. There is one way. There is one path. Their is one direction. It is narrow and strait and it is headed to the cross. Are you on it?

Morning worship: Lead Me to the Cross

May God bless you all today and give you a single eye for Him. Amen.

Rain Down

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 11; Psalms 95–96; Isaiah 39; Revelation 9 

Deuteronomy 11:13-16
And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them;

Good Morning & Happy Tuesday!

As only God can do, the rain perfectly comes down as I reflect on where to start for this week. God has his perfect timing for all seasons. He has his perfect timing planned for you today. Enjoy the moments! I pick up my raindrop filled bible and journal and head in.

In Deuteronomy 11 Moses reminds the Israelite’s to love the Lord our God, keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, his commandments. In addition we shall lay His words in your heart and soul, binding them to your hand and teaching them to your children. Now it may sound easy but we know that even the Israelite’s witnessed amazing miracles like the splitting of the Red Sea and they still had trouble remaining faithful.(v. 3-6) Moses reminded the Israelite’s and he reminds us to obey and remain faithful. We all need this invitation or reminder.  For myself, waking up in the morning reading the beautiful heartfelt and God-filled journal writings in addition to the daily reading is that reminder.  It is my highlight of those early hours that helps me through the day.

There are miracles all around us if and when we look. As I start to write this Saturday morning it’s the rain. Tonight, I watch a sliver of a moon in the midst of a red to blue sunset.  I’m filled even as I do drive my son around trying to get him to sleep:). I pray you look for those moments today and praise Him. In the season of deadlines, summer schedules for our children, and everything else that can direct your day, love the Lord, obey Him and serve. He will provide everything you need. He always has, he always will.

God has given us the Bible that has shared a panoramic view of his amazing miracles. This picture is being developed and divinely planned out by Him still now. We are part of this picture. Today, his Word lives in and through us. If you haven’t spent time reading the daily scriptures that go with these journals I encourage you to wake up 15 minutes earlier to feel and allow scripture to live in you. I guarantee the start of your days will change for the better.  They have for me.  He provides lessons from the past, instructions for the present, and opportunities in the future to strengthen our love and faith.

In verse 26 God gives the Israelite’s a choice between a blessing and a curse. A blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, and a curse, if you don’t obey the commandments, turning aside from the way he is commanding you today, to go after other gods. We have this same choice today. We can live for ourselves and other gods or live for the Lord our God who promises eternal life.

What choices will you make today? What gods will surround you pulling you away from our eternal God?  Acts 3:19 motivates us, “So change the way you think and act, and turn [to God] to have your sins removed”.

In addition, Psalms 95 says, “if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Come into his presence with thanksgiving and when you’re put to the test, remain faithful”.  As we wrap session 8 of Follow by Andy Stanley I encourage you to refuse to Unfollow.  Keep God close.  Along your faith journey you will be tempted to Unfollow.  But to whom shall we go? John 6:68-69 says Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. Many things will test us.  His words are eternal.

Moses was speaking to the Israelite’s, he is speaking to us. Don’t be deceived today.

Dear Almighty Father, Show me your ways, Lord, teacher me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

Ask yourself today,

  • Did I spend time in Scripture today?
  • Did scripture live in me?
  • Did I grow in awe and wonder of God today?

The Big Ask

Ollie Hospital

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 10, Psalm 94, Isaiah 38, Revelation 8

Good morning! I’m writing to you on this Monday with the McGriff party of 5 all under one roof! We thank you deeply for your prayers and acts of generosity as Ollie has struggled through this illness. I brought him home from the hospital on Wednesday night and we began a new chapter of our family life. We don’t have any clear answers about why he got so sick and we also don’t know if it’ll happen again. We’re living this messy uncertainty, trying to take joy in the now and put the future in God’s hands. I’ve spent hours making phone calls to cancel camps or activities that I had planned for him and then scramble to replace them with caregivers we can trust. With each time I share his story, there is a piece of me that is protesting. There is a little voice in my head shouting, “He shouldn’t be missing space camp to be at the hospital for tests under anesthesia!” This isn’t the plan we had for him, not the plan we had for us.

The last few weeks in my world it feels as if everyone around me is proceeding with life as it should be. People get married, buy houses, go to their jobs, have healthy children. They travel, they buy boats, they invest, they buy bigger houses. Is that true? Does that really happen for everyone? Have you ever felt while in the midst of a crisis, whether big or small that you are the only one for whom the world has stopped turning? Have you ever had that feeling of being trapped in your own frozen world of pain and sadness, completely unnoticed by others that are just going to work or heading out to dinner with friends? When those things happen we find ourselves yearning to go back to our normal life. The truth is, we’re not alone in those moments. As I often tell parents in my practice as a pediatric PT, we all get hit by the proverbial bus at one time or another. When I began studying today’s scripture, I was reminded that our biblical ancestors faced these same circumstances. In Isaiah 38, Hezekiah becomes terminally ill. The king of Judah and ancestor of David is just as vulnerable as you and I. His son Manasseh was only 12 years old when the prophet Isaiah comes to him and says it’s time to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah had dreamed of having an heir to continue his legacy, but now, all was seemingly lost. The scripture acknowledges his “bitterness” at his impending death. But still he turns to God and prays:

“Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” Isaiah 38:3

 Then the word of the Lord comes to Isaiah and tells him that Hezekiah will live 15 more years. What follows is a record of Hezekiah’s writing after he has recovered. A poem describing his fear and pain:

“…My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety! What shall I say? For he has spoken to me, and he himself has done it. I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul. O Lord by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh restore me to health and make me live!” Isaiah 38:14-16

 The notes in my NIV study bible for this passage today says this:

“When Isaiah went to Hezekiah, who was extremely ill, and told him of his impending death, Hezekiah immediately turned to God. God responded to his prayer, allowing Hezekiah to live another 15 years. In response to fervent prayer, God may change the course of our lives too. Never hesitate to ask God for radical changes if you will honor him with those changes.” NIV Life Application Study Bible

Wait. Do I ever just ask? Do I ever place enough trust and hope in my heavenly Father to get on my knees and fervently ask him to change my circumstances. I’m not sure I do. I spend lots of time trying to find the lesson in my trials, but I never just give it all up to Him and ask him to change it. I think this requires a few major commitments. First, I have to believe that my Father has the power to intervene in my life. Of course it’s easy to say that I do, that’s what Christians say, right? I need to actually go back and search my bible for that evidence that our God has this power. I need to revisit folks like Lazarus and reconnect with Mary the mother of Jesus and connect with her and the very real pain she endured while her child suffered on the cross. The second major commitment is placing all of my hope and trust in God the Father. This means consciously resisting temptation to put all of my hope and faith in worldly solutions.

The NIV study bible sends the reader back to 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 to read about what happens after Hezekiah is given his 15 extra years. The ESV tells it like this:

“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. 2 Chronicles 32: 24-26.

 Did you catch that? Hezekiah wasn’t perfect. He asked God to save his life and promised to be good…but then he broke his promise a little bit. He and his people got proud, they lost their humility and they didn’t follow through. Are you like me? When you first read this Hezekiah 15 more years story, did you get caught up in the part about old Heze saying that he had walked before God with faithfulness and a whole heart all the days of his life. I read that and thought to myself, hmmm well I’m not eligible for a “big ask” because I haven’t walked with Him with a whole heart all the days of my life. I thought, I’m not worthy of the big ask. But we ARE! We ALL are. And what would it look like if we all got on our knees today, and put our faith in God our Father and set our wordly hang ups aside and made Big Giant Asks? Would the town of Blo/No suddenly be blown up with big miracles? I think so. No, I know so. I’m going for it, and I hope you will too. Whatever it is, whatever giant bus circumstance that is running you over…pray about it. The last time I was in the road and a bus was headed my way, a friend shared this verse:

“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Mathew 7:9-11

I met Jesus that day for the first time.  Our Father knows how to give us good things.  Do we know how to ask?