Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul

Today’s Reading: Psalm 103

 

Psalm 103: 1- 5

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

    and all that is within me,

    bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

    who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s

A brief outline of David’s life: 

  • The youngest of six brothers
  • He was placed in complete isolation from the family as a shepherd.
  • Serving his brothers in the midst of war and not being able to fight.
  • Defeated a giant.
  • Becoming a musician to the king.
  • Becoming best friends with the prince.
  • Becoming the son-in-law to the king.
  • Running for your life from the king.
  • Committing adultery.
  • Committing murder.
  • Losing your child as a baby.
  • Losing another child.
  • Running away from your son trying to murder you.
  • Having a kingdom.
  • Loving God.

This is just a brief outline of the life of David, the king of Israel. Throughout his life he experienced so many lows and highs. Some of the lows and highs that he experienced gives us a glimpse into his heart and his devotion to God. By no means, did David have an easy life. The majority of David’s life he was running for his life, literally. He did have some peace, but many times in his life he was being tripped and tried and trapped by the “fowler”. He did not have true peace that he was able to give himself. The only peace that he could get was from God. It may be because of all of his tribulations that is why he loved God so much and was able to truly understand God.

The 103rd psalms is a reflection of his true devotion and his love for God for everything that he had experienced through his life. We can have days, weeks, months, and years of tribulation and hardship and sometimes we question how this is working for God. When we think of David and look at this song we have to be encouraged that we will endure many things. Hopefully we won’t have to endure the same trials and David did, but we will have our own trials and tribulations that we will be faced with. We have to understand that it is not through our own peace and understanding that we are able to get through these hard times, but it’s only through God’s love that is within us.

You are not alone.

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 16:1-19

 

Atonement. When you hear this word or think of this word: visions of isolation, despair, desolation comes to mind. These are the same images that we think of when someone loses a family member, especially a child. This loss can be emotionally loss, spiritually loss, mentally loss, or even physically loss. The myth of these losses is that you are alone and no one can understand you or the needs that you are going through. This is a very hard place and difficult place to comprehend and cope.

This past week, my family and I were blessed with a magical blessing. We have met the criteria with Ruby’s and Ollie’s health condition to be recipients of Make-a-wish. Ruby’s wish was to go to Disney world. Both of the children’s conditions are genetic and non terminal, but they had the chance to do something that was top of their list. As part of the this beautiful organization, there is another organization called “Give Kids the World.” This entire experience is so surreal. Both organizations are made to give hope to all kids no matter their abilities.

Give Kids the World, GKTW, provides unlimited meals and accommodations at no charge to the guest. They are staffed with employees and over 16,000 volunteers. They make the wishes and the week you spend there truly magical. Each week that the guests are there they have a theme for each day. Monday – Halloween, Tuesday-Taco Tuesday, Wednesday- surprise birthday for the imaginary bunny Mayor, Thursday- Christmas, Friday – Fairy Tale day. Each week gives the guest a time that might not come that year for the guest that has a terminal illness. The entire concept of GKTW came from a hotel owner.

The story goes, one day a child had a wish to come to Disney World. The parents called looking for a reservation, but the phone call was not able to go through. The parents could not find a room anywhere in Orlando. Unfortunately, the child passed away before their wish was granted due to no rooms available. The owner of the hotel made a promise that any child that needs a place to stay for a wish, there will be a place for that child. Due to the unfortunate loss of this child a new vision and mission was created that has helped over 170,000 families have their wishes granted. Nothing can take the place of a child, but their lives and legacy can have profound impacts.

In today’s reading we are presented with the loss of Aaron’s sons. These sons had played a very crucial role in the establishment of the Judaism priest duties. They were some of the original priests and keepers of the tabernacle. They are referenced at the beginning chapter of Leviticus. They knew God better than the majority of the people, they were the connection between God and the children of Israel as they assisted their father, Aaron. Unfortunately, they succumbed to their own insights and perished. But the loss of the sons was not the end of the people. God created a new connection to the people. He created a way of renewing the relationship between the people and God. This could have been seen as insignificant, but this is the beginning of how God showed us how to reconnect with us in the midst of our losses, failures and inadequacies.

The loss of anyone is always hard. The loss of children is unimaginable and unfathomable. But in the midst of this heartache, God still finds a way to connect us and create a space where we’re not alone. The diagnosis of an illness or disease seems to isolate us. The loss of a child isolates us from the very people that we still have and love. But when we allow God to work in us, and work with us He will show us that we are not alone. Aaron was not alone in his suffering or his renewal. The first family at Give Kids The World, GKTW, was not alone in their sufferings. We are not alone in our suffering, God has placed others in our lives to give us support in all that we do, all we have to do is listen and sometimes look up.

Be blessed

*The above photo is a collection of stars from the children that have visited the GKTW.  This is a tower that is part of the castle , there are over 170,000 stars here.  Each week there are more multiplied.  Ruby’s was added this week. www.gktw.org

And, There’s More…

 

Today’s Reading: Mark 16: 1- 20 

A cup of coffee. The warmth; both the feeling of warmth in your hands and the warmth that you get as you take that first sip. The taste of the coffee. The mellow notes of woody and berries of the coffee. The taste of the cream. Delight of the cream, the body of the cream, the hints of French vanilla. The body reacts to the coffee: the mind is awakening, the warmth of the body from the heat of the coffee, the stirring of the whole being. And, there’s more… As we drink this coffee we are reminded of the ones who made this coffee for us. If at a café, a barista makes the coffee for you. At home, we think of the coffee brewers and the dairy farmers and the sugar farmers. We think of their families in the process that these individuals had to bring us to this one moment in time to enjoy our coffee this morning.

In the simplest of daily tasks, we can see how just in a moment so many individuals are connected to us. This one moment in time we can see how families and generations are connected to us through this simple act. In our reading today we see the resurrection of Christ but through different lenses.

In the original text, we see the three women are coming to prepare a Jesus body on the first day of the week. Mark 16:1-3

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

And, there’s more…Next we see the women are greeted by an angel who gives instructions to go tell everyone. Mark 16: 5-7

 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 

And then there’s more… The three women are given instructions to go and tell Peter and the disciples that Jesus is risen. And, this is the last of the original text. But through recent findings we have found additional text for the Gospel of Mark.

In these additional texts we see three additional appearances of Christ to his followers. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. Mark 16:9-11

9 [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

And there’s more… Jesus appears to two of his disciples and followers on the road.

Mark 16: 12-13

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

And there’s more… Jesus appears to be 11 and gives him the great commission. Mark 16:14

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 

And there’s more… With the resurrection we are not at the end of our journey, but we are at the beginning of my journey. From this passage we find that even after the original text was documented there was more found that gives us even a better glimpse of Christ after the resurrection. And every day we can get more glimpses of Christ through everyday living. 

And there’s more… Christ is not finished with us. Christ is continuously remaking us and conforming us for his glory. The glory that started on the resurrection, but continues to us through this help of the spirit of God. Have a blessed Easter season.

 

Prayer Reset

Today’s Reading Daniel 9: 20-27

This passage in Daniel, is an echo from Jeremiah, where we are communicating with God and listening intently to what he has to say. Prayer is not a one time thing but it is a continual communication between God and us. It can be structured, it can be improvised, or it can be short, or long. The main thing we have to remember is that it is a connection with you and God. On Saturday, Stephanie did a great job of prefacing today’s continuation of the prayer of Daniel.

It is so interesting that in my last blog, I spoke about Jeremiah and his prayers while he was in prison and how Jeremiah followed God‘s word through God‘s voice. In this passage from this week Daniel actually references Jeremiah‘s prayer. Daniel also reflects on the 70 years for Jeremiah foretold. Then Daniel tells of the “Seventy sevens”. We look at the seventy sevens is actually a reference to the years not weeks before Christ comes in to the world 490 years.

But the main thing from what we see with Daniel is when he prayed, he prayed in such a way that God answered him with the angel Gabriel. This is Major. God does not send angels to speak to us in this fashion often.

The context of this prayer is: Daniel is after exile, after the fiery furnace,  after his early visions, and this is after the lion’s den. Daniel is about 85 years old when he is praying on behalf of the people of Israel and asking for their salvation.

What we can get from this and how we can use this passage of prayer and petition is how to pray.

We can get into a place where we are completely quiet where we have no distractions. A lot of times in the Bible that you referenced going to a closet or a shut-off room. For most of my life I was really skeptical about being in a closet, being secluded, being scared. But for the past couple weeks I’ve actually found rooms to be in silence and in the dark and quiet for about five minutes and the response that I have received in my daily life has been tremendous.

The next thing that we can take away from Daniel’s prayer is how to communicate with God through the acts of prayer. A. C. T. S.

  • A is for adoration of God. Opening with an attitude of praise of God being God. Reflecting on how He contains the universe and still thinks of us.
  • C is for confessing to God. Acknowledging that we have committed something against God’s hope for us. Have we doubted his love and will for our lives? This is one that I’m continually asking for forgiveness. I am flesh and spirit, these two sides constantly battle for my thoughts.
  • T is thanking God for whatever he has done for us.
  • S is for supplication or the request to God.

This model of prayer can take a minute or as long as an hour but it really takes us out of the prayer and puts God in the prayer.

So with this new update on our prayer life, we actually have something that Daniel and Jeremiah had… a relationship with the Spirit of God. This relationship gives us access to the intimate space with God the Father and allows for intentional communication.

Be blessed

 

Buy a Field

 

Today’s Reading: Jeremiah 32:1-15

Heartbroken. Upset. Distraught. This was one of my first times to really dive deep into the book of Jeremiah and meditate on it and allow it to minister to me. From today’s reading there is a small amount of information about buying a field. This seems like a simple request, but the implications are far greater than just this action. To really understand the small passage you have to dig deep into the full book of Jeremiah which has 31 chapters before this present chapter.

As I read through the entire book of Jeremiah, I was saddened. You can sense the heartache and the disappointment that God had for the children of Israel for leaving him. This is a hurt that father experiences through with losing their child: either by death, estrangement, differences of opinions, or tragedy. It shows the true level of love and despair that God went through with the loss of the love of the children of Israel.

But as we progress through the book, God reminds us of his steadfast love. He reminds us that his love outweighs everything that we can do against him. This also shows how he is committed to his promise to protect us and to advance us. Jer 29:10-12

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

 Jer 31:1;3

“At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

    the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Many times in our lives we need to have something factual and tangible to really understand the spiritual. By having God instruct Jeremiah to buy a field with these certain instructions, God has made a tangible and a real manifestation of his word. There were several prophets at this time and the people needed to see the evidence of God and the spoken word of God. From the action of Jeremiah buying the field that God had witnessed to him through the vision and the manner he purchased the field, this ensured God’s fulfillment of his promise to Israel.

In our society, today it sometimes feels that people are going away from God. Sometimes when you look at the news, it shows that we are going away from the statutes. But this passage is reassuring that his promise is continuously with us. This shows that his promise will be with us as his people. This passage shows us that when we listen to God and do as he has asked us it can be beneficial for all people.  Have you been asked or Are you being asked to buy a field?

Be blessed.

Unexpected Blessings on a Perilous Road

Today we get to revisit one of the most famous parables that Christ spoke about: the Good Samaritan. In this parable Christ tells us who our neighbor is through a parable where an individual is robbed and then not regarded by two individuals: the priest and the Levite walks by, but the Samaritan stops and cares for the neighbor. The essence of the parable is: the most unexpected blessings on a perilous journey.

Here is the account from the perspective of Luke: Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

As I have reviewed and meditated on this parable, I see it from a different and more profound point of view than I did as a child. I’ve noticed as I go older I need to see things in a certain way. I believe that to really understand the full essence and the impact of Christ teachings, sometimes we need to dig deeper to see how these parables were in their original form. We have the luxury of hindsight where we can see things differently, but we must readjust our understanding of Christ’s teaching these words to the crowds and we have to look at it from their point of view. Looking at it from the speaker’s point of view and the audience’s viewpoint is a shift that we must take to see the fullness of the story. We can get some amazing insights from the text but we really need to dig deeper for the true essence.

First tidbit: “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”. At first glance this may seem like going from city to city. But upon further inspection this one sentence has so much of the weight of the entire parable. This one sentence spoken by Christ held so much gravity. Upon research it was found that when people “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho”. This was also known as “The Way of Blood ” because there was so much bloodshed that happened on this one road that it was stained red.

This road or path is 17 miles long. This is a substantial amount of space that can be inhabited by many different bandits and vandals. One of the most profound and interesting parts of this road is its elevation and height: the total change is 3,600 ft. As a point of reference for this height the third highest mountain in the Alps, which is the Matterhorn, is 3800 feet in elevation. This is the same mountain that many rides at Disney World and carnivals refer. It’s height is so substantial that people know it by it’s name alone. So by this short phrase so much is contained in going from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is a risky and scary place. Christ was making an allusion to the phrase of David’s: “The valley of the shadow of death.”

Second tidbit: This journey from Jerusalem to Jericho was know for many because it was major thoroughfare of travel and many people are on this path going up and down continuously. Because of the amount of travelers and the hidden alcoves this particular place had become a common place for robbers.

This particular traveler in Christ’s parable is so badly mangled and beaten that from a casual observation it looks as if the person was dead. In the Hebrew tradition there are many laws governing purity and cleanliness including us especially with dead bodies. The priest and Levite were too consumed with the right thing by the Law and decided not to concern themselves with checking on the traveler and assumed that he was dead. They allowed their own thoughts and presumptions to prevent them from even checking on the traveler, their “love” of the Law outweighed their love for others. The Law that was given by Moses in Numbers 19 details how to deal with a dead body, and the rituals that you had to perform before you were clean. Interestingly the period that you were able to be found clean was three days.

These new insights into the Good Samaritan makes it even more profound that a person would risk everything to take care of a person. This is a complete stranger to the other. We do not know the position of the stranger, which was completely left out on purpose. The stranger could have been a priest. The stranger could have been a Levite. The stranger could have been a rich merchant. The stranger could be a peasant. But no matter what the Samaritan, who in Jewish society was looked down upon, found mercy on the person regardless of their statute but because of their current need and position.

The stranger actually was the beneficiary of an expected blessing on this journey.

How many times are we strangers? How many times are we the Good Samaritans? How many times have we been the victim and everyone seems to walk pass us without the slightest of glances? How many times have we been affected to the point of death: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and we wanted someone to notice us? If we have been through these similar situations, how can we not have empathy and compassion for our fellow neighbors.

Be Blessed

  • The picture is that of the Matterhorn.  This is representation of the height of the trail that the traveler was on when the Samaritan found him.

New Clothes

Today’s Reading : Colossians 3: 1-17
Every night the kids and I have a devotional that is titled “Jesus calling” and in each of the many devotionals there’s some profound knowledge and wisdom in each page. The passage of Colossians 3:1 – 17, is such a passage that it has been repeated in expounded upon many times over. The main message of this passage is to keep your eyes up and focused on Christ and with Christ we are given new clothes.
Every day we are presented with circumstances and situations that will determine how we will react. We are all still in the flesh, but with the Spirit is within us we can adjust our reaction. It is actually interesting to see that Paul uses clothes in this particular passage. Many times we think that it’s the “person” that’s changing, but Paul uses the clothes. Paul understood that the flesh is hard to change in everyone. But we change our clothes daily, but in his day it could’ve been weekly or monthly.
When you were changing the actual person it is harder imagine or relate, but in Colossae where they were known for their clothes and signature fabrics which makes this example is easier to understand. We are all presented with these difficult situations on a daily basis.  These situations will arise if you are Christian or not. The question is how will you respond to the situation? Being Christian does not mean that you will not respond as you did before, but you will have remorse and try to make amends for your reaction. You are in new clothes. In the midst of these situations we have to remember Christ and His example. This is not saying that Christ did not get angry or upset, but he did give us compassion in the midst of the situation. We have on His clothes of redemption and love.
We must continue to look up and focus on Christ. The new clothes that we have are not visible to all others, but the life we live will direct others to Christ.
Be Blessed.

The Impact of One

 

Today’s Reading : I John 2:18-29

Snow day. Yippee-yippee-yay. In a house with small kids these days come with two different expectations. From the kids this is a day to have fun inside and have fun in the glorious snow. For the adults, this day is a day of shoveling snow and salting driveways and preparing for work. This past Wednesday and Thursday the kids had snow days and adults who could go to work went to work.

This past Wednesday we had over a foot of snow in our location. This snow fell for over 12 hours and the accumulation and drifting made it somewhat impossible for normal travel to occur. On Wednesday, I attempted to go to work but unfortunately the roads between Bloomington and Peoria were completely blocked. On my return to home, I saw a vehicle stranded on the side of the road and decided to assist. The gentleman in the vehicle was trying to get to ACE Hardware to purchase a shovel to scoop out his driveway. On the way to the store he hit a snow packed drift that stranded him on the side of the road.

I attempted to shovel him out, but was unable. Then the firefighters came by with a snow plow and shovels, but still were unable to get him out. Next the police officers came by to assist, but to our efforts we still were not able to get him out. After an hour of scooping and scraping under the car we were able to move the car for this elderly gentleman and get him home. This was a concerted effort from many parties to help this one gentleman. Each person was from different backgrounds and races and creeds. But we were all able to come together to help our neighbor that was in need. At the end of this ordeal everybody was joyous that they were able to help their neighbor.

The impact that one person can have on another or a situation can turn the tides of that situation. But taking small steps we all can accomplish great things together. From the example of Christ, he impacted individuals at one time. From his conception to his death and burial, he focused on the individuals and that made the big difference. From his example when we impact one life, many other lives are impacted, it is like a spiritual domino effect. The example Christ gave us was not to try to change the world in a big swoop but to focus on one individual at a time. To be like Christ, take it one at a time and make the most impact in that situation. To be unlike Christ is to do nothing. How can we be more like Christ today?

This quote summaries this completely : “To the world you are one person, but to one person you may be the world” Dr. Seuss

Unconditional Forgiveness

 

Today’s Reading:  John 8: 1-20 

Since the beginning of the year, I have become more intentional about my prayers and my request to God and his direction in my life. One action that I have been doing is asking God to show me direction and allow me to work in His favor daily and for Him to direct me to where he wants me to be: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A couple weeks ago an acquaintance of mine asked me about my faith journey and what I was doing differently these last couple weeks. I told him that I became more intentional and shared some of my experiences that I have encountered in the last year that has made me who I am today. I also recounted some of the past experiences from over the last several years in which the person who I am today is completely different from the person who I was 10 years ago. I am a person who is more into others and listens more to God‘s will in my life.

Several days later, the same associate came and told me that they were trying to be better and live a more intentional life as well. But they confessed that they had slipped away from their promise and felt remorse and regret. Upon hearing this I gave them encouragement and told them that God is working in them, because they have the acknowledgment of the transgressions and have remorse. This is the beginning of growing. This is the beginning of learning how God forgives us in our transgressions. This is the beginning of a new being.

Many times we feel that when we start something new and we regress we have failed. But that is a trick that the enemy has been reiterating to us for our entire life. The actuality is when we start to acknowledge our failures and start to press toward the better of ourselves we are growing from ignorance and doubt into peace of knowing. This peace does not come easily and freely, there will be some aches and pains.

In today’s reading we see how Jesus gives unconditional forgiveness in the midst of the actual act of sin. We see how his gentleness and compassion overrules all the other frustrations and anxieties that we have in the midst of our sin. How many of our accusers ( our own hidden feelings and items of our past) are standing on the edge right now pointing fingers and accusing us of the things that we know we have done? How many times can we try to run away from our sins but we are still caught in those sins? In the midst of our most sinister sins God and Jesus gives undying unconditional love and forgiveness. This forgiveness is for all.  This forgiveness is available to each of us. 

Be Blessed

 

God’s Words Of Life

Today’s Reading John 6:1-24

It is a great pleasure and honor to start this new year again with the Biblejournal. Being part of this community has truly been a blessing to my family, my friends, and myself. It is an honor that I take deeply and with a lot of humility.

As we start this new year we are focusing on God’s Word of Life. Today’s reading comes from John 6:1-24. In this passage we see two miracles of Christ: The blessing of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water.

Throughout the past several years, this chapter has come up in many of our discussions here in the Biblejournal. As I read and prepared for this blog writing I noticed a highlighted portion of this chapter which gave me pause.

The particular section is within the first several verses of the chapter. I have to be honest, I sometimes glance over the first sections of literature and try to get into the true meat of the subject. But when I allow the Spirit to slow me down and direct me, I am able to find little gems of knowledge. In the first verse of the chapter we have the setting of the two miracles that Jesus performs.

First,  the timing of these miracles is during Passover which is the Jewish New Year. Next, this is the second Passover of Jesus’ ministry. He has been healing and spreading the gospel for over a year and people are aware of his power.These gems are great, but one that has my undivided attention is John 6:3.

 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.

In this sentence, God gives us direction on what is important in the new year… sit and be with him in a secluded spot. This is the essence of Quiet time. How often do we just sit with Jesus on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis? I can attest that my quiet time has been lacking for the last several months. I have been in prayer and devotion, but my intentional quiet time has not been what Jesus is wanting. What is you quiet time like? How can we go forward this year and become more intentional in our quiet time? How can we start: 1 min, 5 min, 10 min? No matter where we start He is waiting and wants to enjoy anytime with Him. Have a blessed week.