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?

 

The Road Less Traveled

“……I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

By Robert Frost from “The Road Not Taken.”

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 9; Psalms 92–93; Isaiah 37; Revelation 7

Driving through the familiar Appalachian Mountains last week gave me a chance to reflect. Returning from a short trip to visit my two oldest boys, I took a new route that not only saved me an hour, but surrounded me with great scenery and wilderness that reminded me of the struggles most of us face; sometimes raising children. The road that led through the years, to the joy of family in the restoration of relationships, through the power of love and perseverance.

Yes, there were still those moments I longed for the time when my children were younger; the sweet, innocent years, moving away fast in the rearview mirror. As I thought about the challenges we had all faced, how we had survived, tears of gratitude filled my eyes. My children were healthy, happy and productive, but it hadn’t always been this way. As much as I wanted to protect them and love them, it wasn’t always possible. Things often got in the way. Sometimes it was the things I couldn’t control; and sometimes it was me!

My trip to North Carolina began with nearly twelve hours of driving, arriving in Raleigh just in time for dinner. I had picked up Brendan, my twenty six year old, in Hendersonville, continuing on to Raleigh meeting up with Travor (my twenty eight year old), and his awesome wife Samantha. I can’t begin to describe the joy of celebrating life, breaking bread with these three extraordinary people who have found productive paths by overcoming personal challenges.image

After our feast at the legendary Angus Barn, and a good night’s sleep in Chapel Hill, Brendan and I drove back up the mountain, another four and a half hours to Hendersonville. There I was privileged to enter Brendan’s world, which included a short trip to the home of Carl Sandburg; the hobo poet who won the heart of the country in the early 1900’s. I had visited this special place with my two sons in 1995; now it was one of Brendan’s sanctuaries. A place he went to find God who had revealed love for His children and for the human race through nature; and by kindness expressed in the lives of others. I believed God’s love was also revealed in the Bible, the story of His disappointment at our reluctance to receive His blessing and keep his commandments; and the story of redemption.
image

Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ” -Revelation 7:15-17

Yes, it was true that God loved us enough to reconcile us back to Himself, whether we thought we deserved it or not. This was the amazing love that I wanted to emulate and yet fell short of every day.

How much can a parent love a child? You can answer this for yourself, but I think most of us would say “a lot.” How much would we sacrifice for them? Would we die for them? Many parents defer their dreams and pleasures (and more) for their children. Carl Sandburg had written that “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Truly our children are miracles to whom we pass the eternal torch. My hope was to pass the story of the Messiah on to mine by demonstrating love and leading a life that pointed to the truth.

As I drove through Pikeville, KY, the ghosts of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s roamed the hills, shooting memories of how fast relationships can go bad from harboring resentments, and from acts of vengeance. People who were once close, even family, can become hostile to the point of no return; or so “the enemy” would have us believe. The truth, was that by God’s power and love, restoration was always possible in the grace of forgiveness. image

Now I drove a new route from Asheville to Ashland, one that I hadn’t considered before. It made me think that the restoration of our relationships was similar. Sometimes we needed to try a different way. Sandburg said, “Anger is the most impotent of passions. It effects nothing it goes about, and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed.” The power of love over anger and indifference is a gift from God. One so powerful it is able to restore goodwill between parents; between parents and children; between people; and between people and God.

We are all God’s children and to reconcile us back to Him, and in a sense to each other, he demonstrated amazing love by becoming human and dying for the sins of all humanity. By becoming the sacrifice of atonement, he redeemed each and every person. So by accepting this propitiation, by faith, we can receive God’s grace along with His Holy Spirit, which gives us the supernatural power of sacrificial love and restoration. Loving our children in the difficult things, and one another when it makes no sense, demonstrates God’s love; this is how we help inspire loving children, and so on. It is for me, my road less traveled, “and that has made all the difference.”

What have you done for me lately?

Illustration of a Male Teenager Surrounded by Different Electronic Gadgets

Deuteronomy 8; Psalm 91; Isaiah 36; Revelation 6

Do you love new products or new technology? Would you call yourself an early adopter?  Investopedia defines an early adopter as, “An individual or business who uses a new product or technology before others.” Early adopters are often mavens – trusted experts in a particular field, who seek to pass knowledge on to others. Companies market to early adopters for a variety of reasons, including their ability to quickly impact market penetration by passing on their knowledge or experiences to others. I have a friend who is an early adopter. He has an uncanny ability to get us (mostly my husband) hyped up about new stuff, especially electronic devices and cars. Remember when the Garmin first came out? He had one. Think he’s pre-ordered every new iphone model? He has. His wife and I still giggle when we think about the Hummer he just had to have. Fortunately that one never really caught on with the rest of us…what an awful vehicle!

While early adopters are an important piece of an Innovation Adoption Curve, successful products need much deeper market penetration to get to sustainability (and actually make money). Why? Early adopters often possess a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. They are always in search of the latest and greatest thing – new technology, new features, new colors. They are on to the next big thing before the last one ever even comes close to mainstream.

As I reflect on the Israelites’ journey in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers I think about their “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Remember Exodus 16:1-2? …on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. He miraculously parted the Red Sea, overtook their enemies, and led them safely to freedom on the other side.  Less than two months later, they were already grumbling…what have you done for me lately God?

Think about Exodus 25 when Moses and Joshua went up the mountain to get instruction from God. They were gone so long (40 days) that the Israelites became impatient. By Chapter 32, they were wondering…what have you done for me lately God? They took matters into their own hands and built themselves a golden calf to worship. When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:1).

As we get to Deuteronomy 8 today, Moses is warning the second generation of Israelites about the consequences of having this “what have you done for me lately” attitude. He starts with the word “remember”. As if to say, look back before you move forward. Don’t forget your foundation. God sustained your forefathers for forty years, you wouldn’t be here without him, don’t be tempted to go this alone. The consequences are grave.

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years (Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:19-20).

Think about your life today. Are you in this for the long haul or are you wondering what God has done for you lately?  Are you relying on your firm foundation or do you find yourself asking God to prove himself to you?

Today, may I gently remind you of Jesus? Jesus is always the answer to what God has done for you lately.

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Good Morning!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

When I read that verse it reminded me of one of the questions I’ve been so intrigued by recently: What do you look forward to when you wake up each morning?

Deuteronomy 7; Psalm 90; Isaiah 35; Revelation 5

I heard a sermon a while back where the question was asked, “why wouldn’t your first morning act be to thank God for the new day?” Every breath we have, and every new day happen because he allows it. This act helps remind us of who God is, that he is in control, and it acknowledges him as first in our lives.

Think about the other things that we often look forward to when we wake up. While I’ve made progress in my first thoughts and actions in the morning I still too often fall short and make it “me first”. I’m praying over this verse right now that it will speak to all of us as we consider seeking God’s help to grow into the people he designed us to be. This is a verse to help us acknowledge our sins; he already knows our sins, we have no secrets from him.

You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence. (Psalm 90:8)

Let’s look to some of the Ten Commandments to help guide us.

“‘You shall have no other gods before me. (Deuteronomy 5:7)

What sort of habits can we develop as our first morning thoughts and acts so as to reflect there is no other god before God Almighty? What are our actions as adults saying to our children and others who observe us in the morning? How can we influence our children to develop “holy habits” in the morning without becoming legalistic and thus pushing them away?

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Deuteronomy 5:8-9)

Have our smartphones become our idols? Do our phones serve us or do we inherently serve them? While hopefully no one “bows down” to their phone, do we metaphorically bow down to social media with the amount of time we spend, with our seeking to be validated by someone else rather than our God who made us and loves us unconditionally?

but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Deuteronomy 5:10)

It is refreshing that this portion of the Ten Commandments closes with a promise of love. Our God is not a god who seeks to destroy us; he is seeking relationship with us, he is seeking the best for us because he loves us.

So teach us to number our days
  that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Time is our only limited commodity. We can earn more money, we can buy more things, but what equalizes the super wealthy and super poor is time. While we may not have an equal amount of time on this Earth, none of us can make more time, so let’s not waste it! Let’s LIVE ROBUSTLY and say no to the good things so that we can say YES to the GREAT things!

Father God, teach us to number our days; to live them robustly for your glory, to live in a way you designed us to live. Reveal to us the distractions and increase our faith to focus on you. Help us to be a light that shines for you so that our friends, families, and those who observe us notice a difference; that we may not be “of this world” but living with eternity in mind.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)

Amen.

Flowing With Milk and Honey

Side view of breakfast set with chocolate walnuts in wooden bowl jam honey in gift jar dry toast bread butter and milk. Everything on craft paper and vintage knife and spoon with patina.

Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 89; Isaiah 34; Revelation 4

If you live in the State of Illinois, you are familiar with its current conditions. Countless families and businesses are leaving the state in search of more favorable conditions. According to a recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois’ decline is the result of “a state debt crisis largely driven by unfunded pension obligations, the country’s worst credit rating, weak job growth. Oh yes, and winter.” The same is said of our humble little town Bloomington/Normal. Daily complaints are issued about potholes, the arena and property taxes. All of them have us questioning if it is time to relocate.

As a business owner, this is a question that I wrestle with continuously. It appears that I can be far more successful – assured of success even – if I pack up and move to the sunshine, along with countless others. But, is it true? Are Arizona, Florida or Texas the Promised Land? Are they flowing with milk and honey?  The mere thought of the Promised Land conjures up images of abundance and fertility. Lush landscapes and rich soil that promote health, growth and, yes, even wealth. Are you ready to move yet? Before you answer yes, consider one more thought.

We have been reading from Deuteronomy, watching patiently as the Israelites get ready to walk into the promised land. Before they go, Moses hits them with a whole bunch of rules. Chapter 5 reveals the Ten Commandments and now, in chapter 6, Moses expounds on them emphasizing their importance. Why? The answer is revealed in verse 3.

Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 6:3 ESV)

As I read it carefully, I see clearly that I have improperly assumed that “it will go well” with the Israelites because they are in the land that flows with milk and honey. How could it not? Verse 3, however, tells us otherwise. Moses is chiding them to listen and listen well, saying, “be careful to obey.” In this sentence, wellness clearly goes with obedience. It is, therefore, our obedience to God that promotes our health, growth, and wealth, not our location. In fact, the location is superfluous to the conversation.

Just like the Israelites, we are called to obedience right where we are. This is true whether we live in the Promised Land, or in the State of Illinois. In both places, God works. When we assume that our growth has come from, or is only possible when living in the Promised Land, we have stolen God’s glory. We honor God with our obedience and it is our obedience that God honors, no matter where we are.

Lukewarm

Today’s reading:Deuteronomy 5; Psalm 88; Isaiah 33; Revelation 3 

June 1st, 2016

Last Wednesday we studied Satan’s promises and wrestled with whether or not we were trusting in them. Today’s reading brings us to Christ promises in Revelation chapter 3, where we find the last of seven letters to the seven churches. Each letter follows a general outline; a greeting, an ‘I know’ statement, a praise, a rebuke, a command, a warning, and a promise to the one who conquers. The last letter is to the Laodiceans. Their letter is different from all the rest in that it includes no praise. Here is the letter, see if you can pick out the other elements:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. – Revelation 3:14–22

The ‘I know’ statement indicted them as neither cold nor hot. The consequence? Being spued out. Translated as vomited. A violent rejection and most fearful woe, to be utterly rejected by Christ as loathsome. A pretty serious consequence in my estimation. Certainly then worth consideration and meditation. Why did this happen? Luckily we have clear answers. They had placed their trust in things of this world (v17). They were deceived (v17b). They had fallen for Satan’s lies. I wonder, if there was one letter that American churches (that is you and me) should mind, which it would be?

While Satan’s promises are empty lies that leave us alone and destitute our LORD’s promises are full of the truth and they lead to our being adopted into His family (Revelation 21:7). After the rebuke they are then counseled to buy true riches that they may begin to see. Take one step and see it true. That their eyes may be opened to their deception (18). Then the way is laid out for us to repent. Restoration to relation with Christ. Believe and abide in Jesus. Let thine eye be single (Matthew 6:22). Trust in Him and Him alone. Reject the world and remain in Christ. Live simply (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Put God at the top of your list of one.

I’ll conclude this entry with an excerpt from Believer’s Rewards by John MacArthur. I Highly encourage you to listen to it in its entirety, perhaps on your way to work this morning;

Did you know the Bible talks about five crowns: the incorruptible crown, crown of righteousness, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of glory, the crown of life. Each a separate reward for faithfulness. There’s going to be wonderful rewards. The incorruptible crown, that’s for the one who obeyed the Lord’s command and made self-sacrifice and disciplined his life to live for God. The crown of righteousness, that’s to all who love His appearing. That means everybody who is so in love with Jesus Christ that the looking for His coming dominates their life. The crown of rejoicing, the soul winner’s crown, the crown of glory, the shepherd’s crown, that’s for the elders, the pastor teachers. The crown of life, that’s for the guy who went through the persecution and martyrdom for Jesus’ sake.

 

Extra Credit: a quick history lesson as we consider another why from verse 16

Verse 16 tells how lukewarm people will be spued out. In considering why such a violent rejection if the state of the gaze of the follower is not fixed on Christ, consider a bit of history. Why such a harsh consequence? After all why wouldn’t lukewarm be better than cold?

lukewarm

After Jesus died the New Testament outlines the persecution of the early church. All the apostles were martyred except John who was exiled to the Island of Patmos by Emperor Domitian who demanded his subjects worship him as lord and god. He and John didn’t get on. The persecutions that followed through the second, third and fourth centuries were horrific to say the least. Christians were heretics, believing in a religion not ordained by the state. In these times that meant death. Thousands upon thousands of Christians were killed as the state invented new ways to torture people into renouncing Jesus. Yet people continued to choose death. This continued on through the third century until Emperor Constantine installed the Edict of Milan in 313. Emperor Constantine claimed that while in battle he saw a cross in the sky and heard the words “by this symbol conquer.” After he won the battle he converted to Christianity. The Edict of Milan reversed the role of religion in the Roman Empire. Now the pagans were heretics. At first glance you might think this a ‘win’ for the church. However as history played out we see that it was horrendous. Instead of the state going around killing Christians who would not convert to the religion of the state, they now went round killing pagans who would not convert to Christianity. Christianity then became the new tool used by the state to unite the kingdom. This powerful tool then began to attract all the wrong sorts of people. People seeking popular status even power and riches.

Those seeking power and riches sought new found titles in the Catholic Church. Papal power was out of control and trumped the Emperor. In fact, in 800 Pope Leo the third crowned Charles’ Martel’s grandson also called Charles who became Charles the Great or as we know him Charlemagne, as the Holy Roman Emperor. So now we have Pope’s making Emperors. One more quick example on this, and there are several. Pope Gregory VII who lived from 1073-1085 produced the Dictates Papae which was a compilation of 27 statements of powers arrogated to the Pope. So basically he created authority for himself. Here’s a sample of one of them for you to consider; “Only the feet of the Pope shall be kissed by all Princes. His name alone shall be spoken in the churches and this is the only name in the world. The Pope’s judgement may be retracted by no one and he himself cannot be judged. The Roman church has never erred nor will it err throughout eternity.” The current Emperor Henry IV was not too pleased with this and threatened to remove Pope Gregory VII. So Greg exiled Henry and absolved all Greg’s subjects from having to obey him. Henry was eventually reinstated by Greg, but only after performing the penance assigned; walking across the Alps barefoot and waiting outside Greg’s door for three days in sackcloth.

Commoners gave up worshiping several gods for a more convenient single god, not to mention the not dying part, that seemed to swing some folks too. People ‘converted to Christianity’ for seemingly every reason but the love of Christ. A lukewarm Christian state indeed.

While the Christian state was becoming lukewarm and Papal power was raging out of control. There was a man named Mohammed who lived from 570-632 AD. It is my understanding that, in the early 600’s he was in Mecca looking for religion, he had tried Judaism and Christianity but found that neither lived up to what they promised. He found Christians in his hometown to be worldly and didn’t live according to their gospel which meant to him that it was faulty. He was sickened by this and retreated to a cave. He came out of the cave with the book of reservations, the Quran. He then founded the first Muslim community and by the time he died most of Arabia had been converted. He was a warrior king. His successors also took the message by way of massive armies starting in Mecca, conquering Jerusalem in 638, the Persian Empire in 651, Carthage in 695, all of India to North Africa defeating the Vandals 711, the Visigoths and Spain with it in 750.

 

Worship

Happy Tuesday everyone! I pray you had a great Memorial Day. We are blessed to live in a country where we can worship, praise, sing, and write about our God. Thank you to all those who have, do, and will lay down their lives for us to have this freedom.

Today we welcome back Kris Walker to share on our readings for today!

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 4; Psalms 86–87; Isaiah 32; Revelation 2

Here we have it! Documented, worship music before Matt Maher, or Kristian Stanfill, or Mercy Me, were ever in the picture!! Worship music!! There is something about singing that makes our souls feel free, and happy.  After becoming a Christian 3 years ago. The feeling for me was made even better when I was singing to our father. I know this may be different for everyone, but, I feel closest to God when I am singing. I joined the worship team at E-Free, and it is one of the best feelings ever, to look out, and see everyone praising God together, some with their arms raised, some holding their loved ones. Even those simply bowing their heads praying, just being in the moment. But everyone is there praising God. Sometimes I feel the musical form of Worship can lead the church and individual to being closer to God more than the message presented afterwards.

So, that novel of a paragraph to say I was excited to read our scriptures in Psalms! One is a prayer. But the other one specifically says it’s a song!! And honestly… Some of the best worship songs these days, are literally taken right out of the psalms! They are prayers!! They are just set to music and the words repeated in a catchy chorus!

One of my current favorites right now is by Matt Maher. It’s called “Rest“. I highly recommend it. It even ties into Today’s reading. One of the lines is “I Trust in you”.

Psalm 86: 1-7:
Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.

I so badly wish I had musical writing ability. Because these words are so beautiful to me! We are all in so much need of God to Guard our lives! I wish I could write about the stories and feelings I’ve read on this bible journal program. I find you guys inspirational! I don’t know Jillian’s family personally, just what I’ve read, but I have been so impressed with their display of calling on God! Praying to him and showing that they TRUST in God! I love that we are all praying for her Family, and God is Answering prayers. And I feel a part of this. Without even being a close personal friend of theirs. It’s because of our bond through Christ, and reading what she has written, and reading what some of what what written in her stead. It’s truly inspiring. This is the stuff worship music is made of!! I really appreciate you letting me partake in reading everyone’s thoughts and comments on these scriptures..

My thoughts were primarily on Psalms, but Deuteronomy really ties into my thoughts. Worshiping and praying to our God is such an amazing thing. And it really is an honor. Who else has this?

Deuteronomy 4:7
What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

We really are special! We have our God near to us when we pray! And I add worship. I think it makes me feel just as close! After all, as I said, some of these “songs” are really just prayers put to music!

I really love the musical aspect, and it’s what my thoughts kept going back to. But I guess what the important part to take away from today’s reading is in my opinion: Don’t hold back.. Sing!! Pray!!! Don’t waste this privilege, this honor. This pleasure! This is a great way to grow close to our Father! It’s says we have him near to us when we do this! Doesn’t matter if you’re at church, at home, or in your car. Give it your all. Pray hard, sing hard.. Worship hard! Lift up our friends, brothers and sisters in this wonderful form of worship!

Father,
Thank you so much for this ability! Please help us use it to our fullest ability, so we may grow ever closer to you!

Amen

God our One and Only

Oliver

Today’s Readings: Deuteronomy 3, Psalm 85, Isaiah 31, Revelation 1

Hello friends. I’m so grateful to be writing again for this very special Memorial Day Monday. I wish that I could say that today’s journal is about our Oliver coming home from the hospital and an end to our suffering through Jesus, but not quite yet. What I can say is that His love is alive and well in our family life. I’m so grateful to each of you that have prayed for our five year old first born. I ask that you continue to lift him up each day as we look for an answer to his suffering. Tonight he is cozy in his hospital bed at Children’s in Peoria and I am rocking our youngest in his empty room at home. Each time I walk past his empty bedroom, I lose my breath a little. Every day since he got sick has been broken into hours and minutes. It’s not until I come home for a few hours that the full impact of it all hits me.

This isn’t our first journey with Oliver and this hospital. Not our first time sitting and watching him suffer while doctors scramble to find the answer. But you know what…it IS our first time doing it with Jesus in our life. I promise you that this time is so very different. I am not afraid of the diagnosis. I have not spent hours in the darkened corner of his room feeling alone or isolated, tears streaming down my face. Instead, I have spent the hours holding him up, reminding him of God’s love and purpose for his life. Instead, I have spent the hours marveling at the tangible manifestation of Holy Spirit that is absolutely within us on this journey. I know that at the end of this hospitalization we will get a name, a word, a medical explanation. I also know that it won’t matter a bit. The last time we walked this 5 long years ago, I feared those words. Feared the impact on our lives, feared for his future, feared for the sadness and the loss of what we dreamed of for our son that may never come to be. Now I know that those words are just that. Empty words.

 Today’s scripture takes us to Isaiah 31. We are on the fifth woe by the time we reach Chapter 31. The issue yet again is that God’s people are trusting the Egyptians rather than God to help against their enemies. They are counting their cavalries and soldiers and putting all their faith in the flesh. The 8th century prophet Isaiah opens this chapter with:

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” Isaiah 31:1

He goes on to remind us that the Israelites attempt to get help from the Egyptians will backfire because the both the helper and the helped will be destroyed by God. The ultimate lesson here is that only God can protect his people. He is our fearless lion and He is the bird circling above our heads. This is BIG. In a world where we are constantly looking for ways to arm ourselves against our perceived enemies, here it is friends. The prophet Isaiah told us…no he showed us that all we need for protection is our Father. I don’t need build an army of physicians and specialists for my son. I don’t need to depend on them to transcend and save my son. He’s already saved. I catch myself some mornings during rounds placing all my hope in the white coats. Hanging on their every word, their plans for my son’s future. But all too quickly that moment passes and we learn that the plans we had and the plans they had are not the plan that God has for Oliver. Instead, we are all in this boat together. Day by day we wait for His plan to be unveiled and more importantly, his purpose.

Already, there have been big open door glimpses of our Father at work. I’m not supposed to share this with you but I can’t help it, because it’s evidence of Him. Oliver’s daddy and I have been praying and hoping and planning for new job for him. Our family has literally been carried to the edge of a cliff with the strains of his current job. He is gone from us for hours, days, weeks and often in the most critical times. We miss him and we ache for his presence at the dinner table, on weekends, and at bedtime. On the very day Ollie got sick an opportunity arose. A few days later there was an interview and then another and another. All under the cover of Oliver’s pain and in the darkness this small light was burning brighter and brighter. At the end of last week our Daddy accepted a new position with one of Ollie’s doctors. He gets to come home and be a family with us every single night and every single weekend. We get to be a real family for the first time ever.

And so my friends, the McGriff party of 5 can certainly identify with the five woes of the Israelites. We’ve had our fair share. But the truth is, we’ve placed our trust in Him and only Him. If you are sad today, fearful, hopeless or just doubt his presence, I hope our story has inspired you to look to Him. Our eyes are up and I hope yours are too.

 

 

Fellowship of the Word

“I’d rather spend every Sunday of my life hanging on a cliff to rescue someone than spend more time sitting in a pew next to hypocrites that talk about what they will do to better themselves and the world when they get around to it.”  – Shannon L Alder

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 2; Psalms 83–84; Isaiah 30; Jude 1

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. -Jude 1:17-23

As I attempt to stand against the tide of culture and the temptations of the world, it is my honor to have good friends who share this journey. Those, who by the grace of God, fight the battle to stand among the righteous, endeavoring by surrender and perseverance, to win the race for the greatest prize in all creation. So it is to my fellow bible journal.net writers I say, “thank you!”  Each of you hold a special place in my heart, among others with whom we share this journey of faith. image

This is a remarkable journey. Amidst the delusions of life, my faith in Jesus Christ stands out as a metaphysical and experiential reality of Divine proportion. Life is but a series of existential crises for us all. Thankfully, God has not only spoken the universe into existence, but he has also placed His profound truth in the hearts of all people, to be discovered and responded to through His revelation in nature; law; and powerful examples from others (Psalm 19). God offers a complex, yet simple, written history of His plan for the restoration of a fallen world. Truth is offered to all and begins with the desire to know who God is; and is bound in the decision to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two things don’t always happen at the same time, as I can attest.

What is remarkable, is how God’s plan is tailored specifically for each of us. It is a plan based upon who we are, and upon who God is. It is a plan that challenges us to become the “people we were designed to be” (Jon Harris). imageIn the process of pursuing this plan, as we learn to love God and others, we find supernatural joy and peace in our lives. As we live lives of faith, following the path of Jesus, we are transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, and it is in this transformation that we gain spiritual traction, moving faster into the arms of God.

It is extraordinary how common it is for believers everywhere to experience divine appointments; holy conversations; God’s perfect timing; peace that transcends all understanding; and a true and lasting joy. Interestingly, this common experience is still unique to the individual. Our precious identities are not lost in Christ, but there they are found!

Despite this truth it hasn’t always been easy for me to see it.

They say to the seers, “See no more visions !” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” -Isaiah 30:10-11

Yet beyond all the confusion, among the many voices that surround us, it is from the best examples of believers (above all) and acts of love from others who seek the light, that Christ is seen. This is the truest, straightest and most illuminated path to the richest fellowship with God.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John14:6

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So thank you to: Jillian Koch McGriff for your brilliant words and empowering faith; Jennifer Armstrong for your sharp mind and insightful teaching; David Lafrance imagefor your open heart and amazing faith journey; Michael Somers for your wisdom, dedication and perseverance; imageJon Harris for building people up through constant encouragement; and BJ Armstrong for your mighty faith, vision and leadership. Each of you have enriched me in countless ways in the past five months of writing. Thank you! May God continue to bless you and your families with wisdom, truth and power from His Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus. Amen.