Psalm 83

Psalm 83:1  “O God, don’t sit idly by, silent and inactive!”.

Psalm 83 is the last Psalm of Asaph and a prayer for God to rescue his people, the Israelites. The first verse alerts us to the urgency of the situation.  There are times when we are waiting for God to move and in all of our humanity we wonder and start to worry……”O God, don’t sit idly by, silent and inactive!”. What is He doing? Does He really care about us? Will he allow the enemy to take over and win? Is there a plan? When will it happen? When will we see His victory?

The enemies were all around Israel. They prayed that God would bring them through as He had so many times before.  The evidence of His power was shown to them through defeats of the Midianites and many others.  What moments can you recall throughout your life where God rescued you? Do you believe God will continue to fight for you as He has in the past?

The Israelites are God’s chosen people. He has continued to take care of them to this day.  While this prayer was meant for the protection of the Israelites it is pertinent in our lives today. As believers in Jesus we are also chosen. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and is the blueprint for our lives. As I watch things unfold in our world today I catch myself relating to the cry, “O God, don’t sit idly by, silent and inactive”.  I am concerned about the future if it continues on its current trajectory. But I also know that God has done many miraculous things already and He will continue to do so. I have faith that He is not “sitting idly by, silent and inactive”. He is Lord over all. Our prayer should be that all would come to know the power and love of our savior Jesus.

Psalm 83:13-18 O my God, blow them away like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind! As a fire roars through a forest and as a flame sets mountains ablaze, chase them with your fierce storms; terrify them with your tempest. Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Make them failures in everything they do, until they learn that you alone are called the Lord, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth.

 

 

Psalm 71

 

Psalm 71 “Forsake me not when my strength is spent.”

I spent the summer of 1997 as a camp counselor. I was a nursing student and I stumbled across a camp for kids with disabilities that needed cabin counselors. Summer camp was a big part of growing up for me and I needed something to do for a summer so I said yes. I had no idea how exhausting and impactful it would be. Each week we welcomed kids with similar abilities. Campers included those with diabetes, sickle cell anemia, Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, cancer and more. These kids were given the opportunity to camp with campers like themselves and they were provided whatever they needed to make it in a cabin in the woods for a week.  I recall hiking with electric wheelchairs, feeding kids smores, swimming, helping with showers, brushing teeth, and learning so much.  Some of the campers required one to one care for their basic daily needs. Night time seemed to be just as busy as the daytime with trips to the bathroom for those who needed help or those that needed an extra hug. This was the first time in my life that I was taking care of someone other than myself and sacrificing my needs for another. Their needs were great and I didn’t sleep much. I don’t think I showered much either. The exhaustion I felt at the end of a week was comparable to the feeling of being a parent. I only realized this when I became a parent and recognized the same foggy haze of sleeplessness brought on by putting someone else’s needs above my own. The exhaustion was worth it, but I recall praying for strength…. A lot! And I can say, without a doubt, that God carried me through. I look back on that experience through the eyes of a parent now and I know how important that week was to the parents behind the camper. It was a gift that I didn’t even know I was giving.

I was naive and ignorant going into that summer, but God was present and carried me through. It wasn’t a camp for kids with disabilities. It was a camp for kids made in the image of God. They were delightful and funny and I am so honored to have been a part of their camp experience. Little do they know how much they impacted me. 

Psalm 71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

I love that we can continually come to God with our needs. He is available day and night and is never exhausted by our requests. 

Shelly

 

Psalm 35

Two weeks ago I wrote about using the Psalms as my own personal prayers.  My favorites are Psalm 23 and Psalm 139. I can identify with the words and I feel connected to God as I read them. Today’s Psalm is not so encouraging or soothing. Psalm 35 is one of the many “imprecatory” Psalms. The word imprecatory means “to invoke evil on” or “curse”. David may have written this when he was being hunted by Saul and was looking to God for justice and vengeance. He was not praying for their souls, or asking God to help him love them more. Instead he prayed that God would “humiliate and disgrace them”, “blow them away like chaff in the wind”, and “make their path dark and slippery”. From a human standpoint it makes sense. He was angry, bitter, fearful, and wanted justice to be served! David walked closely with God and he knew that God was powerful enough to do all that he asked. But we know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers or requests the way we ask. David was human and did not have the full knowledge of the whole truth that would come with Jesus and his death on the cross in the New Testament. The Psalms are the middle of the story.

There is a lot going on in our world that may leave us angry, bitter, fearful, and wanting justice to be served. There may be things in your life that have been unheard of atrocities that deserve vengeance. Maybe the words in this Psalm did speak to your soul because there has been injustice in your life. God can handle any words that we give him but he doesn’t want us to stay in that space. He came into the world so that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). He was the true example of loving our enemies as He prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him. Apart from Jesus, it is impossible to love our enemies. But with Him, we know that we are not responsible for judgement and revenge.

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. for he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Why I Believe – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous and most quoted Psalms of the Bible. Most often recited at funerals and in times of turmoil when the reminder of God is most needed.  It is a picture of someone walking closely with God and trusting Him in all things.  There is peace, contentment, joy, trust, hope, and praise in these 6 verses. My favorite way to read the Psalms is to pray them back to God. It’s kind of like a daily affirmation but different from the SNL George Smalley clips. Instead of telling ourselves that we are good enough and can do it all, it is a reminder that our God is good enough and will carry us through all the ups and downs of life.  Join my in praying Psalm 23 (NLT).

Provision: Verses 1-4 You are my shepherd (my leader, my guide); I have everything I need (I am content with your provision right now in my life). You let me rest in green meadows; you lead me beside peaceful streams (peace and rest are a result of time spent with you and only comes from you in difficult times). You renew my strength (not other people, not social media, not things, not success). You guide me along right paths (through the truths of your Word), bringing honor to your name.

Guidance: Verses 4-6 Even when I walk through the dark valley of death (death of a loved one, an illness, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, trauma), I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (you will never leave me or forsake me).

Protection: Verses 5-6 Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil (You pay special attention to me, you care for me). My cup overflows with blessing (because I know you and you know me). Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever (this is the hope that we all have in Christ).

Thank you Father for you provision, guidance, and protection. Thank you for being our Good Shepherd.

 

 

Why I Believe: Psalm 11

Growing up we went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Summers were spent looking forward to church camp and mission trips. I remember my parents reading their Bible’s, having their own quiet time and praying with us through all the difficult decisions and situations of life. I am so thankful that I was introduced to Jesus at a young age. For me, life was easy growing up. I wanted for nothing and I cannot recall any real struggles that kept me down. It wasn’t until I was off on my own that I began to wrestle with the place Jesus had in my life. Even though I grew up knowing Jesus there was still the moment that I had to choose it for myself.  I honestly thought that life with Jesus was supposed to be easy and pain free and bad things were not supposed to happen if I loved Jesus and followed Him. I have since learned that this is not true. There hasn’t been one defining moment, but instead millions of little moments that have brought me to the feet of Jesus…at the end of me. I always end up on my knees falling into the grace and mercy of Jesus. I believe that God loves me and sent His son to die for me and my faith is always deepening as I continue in this imperfect world. There is opportunity to draw close to Him and to pull away. The beauty is that I get to choose. I have chosen both in my  life and the times I have chosen to draw close to Jesus are hands down the best moments. It’s the trials and difficulties in this life that are my refining moments. They are my opportunity to see God. I look back and see my immaturity and wonder how God could even look at me, but he does look at me (and you) as a father looks at their child with love and grace. Always drawing me in and never pushing me away. It’s a daily decision to live for Christ instead of trying to keep up with this world but it is one that is full of peace and joy that cannot be found elsewhere.

In Psalm 11 David was in a dangerous situation where he was forced to flee for his safety.  He says in Psalm 11:1 “I trust in the Lord for protection”, while everyone was telling him to flee to the mountains for safety and run away. David did not let his fear stand in the way of the situation. Instead he let his faith override his fear. Our hope in times of trial can only come from knowing that God is in control of every moment….even the terrifying ones.

I have to remind myself daily that God is in control and it is my choice to choose to trust Him. I am not perfect and everyday I am learning. But He is always faithful to reveal Himself in any situation that I give back to Him. He is bigger than my fear! And as I raise children in an uncertain world I am encouraged by the example of my parents.  I pray that our lives would be a reflection of the love and grace given to us by our Heavenly Father.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

 

 

 

Keep Reading

I’m 47 years old and I have yet to read through the entire Bible. I profess to know God, love Him and follow Him yet I’ve always relied heavily on what I’ve learned from church, books, or pastors with their comedic wit to lure me to the foot of Christ.  Thanks to Bj and his Bible journal invitation I have read more than I ever have in the past 2 years. I admit that it’s hard to read sometimes. It’s old and can be overwhelming. There are really boring parts with names I cannot begin to pronounce and I often find myself rereading portions because I fell asleep a few verses back. In this world of immediate gratification I have snatched up a psalm here and there or a familiar gospel to fulfill my daily reading while avoiding others. Those are the easy reads of the Bible. But if we take bits and pieces of the Bible we miss out on the real power and love of God and Jesus our Savior. It takes time, dedication, and desire to read the the Bible in its entirety, but I have noticed that when I take the time to read a little everyday (and not skip the hard parts) the time is sweet and rewarding. It really does come alive and it becomes a part of my daily thoughts. All the pieces start to fit together and they all point to Jesus.
I found a new appreciation for the book of Chronicles. It is a record of all the kings and whether or not they followed God and how that effected their lives and the people they lead. If you want to read of kings and kingdoms and gruesome wars this is it. My favorite king, of course, was David who followed God so imperfectly. He messed up so many times, but still came back to God. And God still used him in spite of his mistakes.  In 1 Chronicles God gave instructions to David on how to build the temple. SPECIFIC instructions. Then God proceeded to tell David that his son Solomon would be the one to actually build the temple. I wonder if that was hard for David to give up some of that control. To pass on what God told him for the next generation to carry out. Maybe he had a moment of wondering if he had raised Solomon well enough to complete such an important task. As parents I think we can all relate to this. As kids we can relate as well. Carrying out a legacy of faith can be daunting and overwhelming – what if I screw up or fail? How will I move forward? Davids words to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20 are words of wisdom and encouragement for the future.
1 Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you”.
We have much ahead of us as Christians in our world today. Don’t be discouraged by the size of the task…….God will be with us. We do not move through this world alone. Let’s continue to spur each other on in our faith and consistently spend time with our Almighty Father.
Happy New Year!!
Shelly

The Magnificat

Today’s reading is from Luke 1:46-56 

We are 9 days until Christmas and getting closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus. The story of Mary in Luke is so fascinating. After Mary heard from the Angel that she would be the mother of the Messiah she went to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. I imagine she was looking for some comfort and reassurance after all the angel had told her. Growing up in the Jewish faith she knew that the Messiah was promised to them and she was waiting along with everyone else. Did she ever consider that she would be the one chosen? She had two major shocks with the angel’s message. First, that she would become pregnant while maintaining her innocence and secondly that God would choose her to help usher the Messiah into the world. I have often wondered how she so easily accepted this seemingly impossible scenario. I think it was because the Angel was magnificent and she was Jewish. She knew there was the promise of a Messiah  and she was  a direct descendant of David. She knew that only a woman from the line of David could give birth to the Messiah. While shocked that He had chosen her, she was not surprised that God was fulfilling the promise. The doubting would come after the angel left. For me, it would be the second I lay my head on my pillow at night. That’s when the thoughts and the doubts and the fears start to race. But God, in all his beautiful plan already had things in motion for Mary to be reassured. When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and entered the house there was no question that God was fulfilling his promise through her. The reassurance and confirmation that Elizabeth gave elicited Mary’s response to God that we read in Luke 1:46-56. Mary was overwhelmed and full of thankfulness. Her response is famously known as the Magnificat prayer – or her hymn of praise.  

Luke 1:46-56 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever”.

Mary was humble and had a servant’s heart. She was special because she was chosen by God to help bring Jesus into the world, but she was an ordinary person. That’s who God uses, ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things in His Name. And when you know Him, you can recognize when He’s using you. All the glory goes to Him because we are so very aware that without Him none of it possible.

As you celebrate the coming of Christmas think of Mary’s response to God asking her to do something that seemed impossible. She said yes, trusted Him, and thanked Him. It wasn’t an easy road for her, but when God gives so much confirmation there is peace. The peace that surpasses understanding. 

Peace to you,

Shelly

 

The Stars

Are you a star gazer? I can recall a few grade school field trips to the planetarium on ISU’s campus.  We would sit in the dark and stare up at the big domed ceiling depicting the starry sky and all of its wonder. It fell short of the real thing but  I learned how to identify the big and the little dipper. Honestly, I probably slept through the rest, but I do know that there are stars upon stars upon stars. Most we will never see in our lifetime. The best star gazing is done without the intrusion of city lights and somewhere in the great wide open. On a boat in the middle of a lake, from the top of a mountain, or in the middle of an open field. The stars are always a great reminder of how small I am and how big the universe is. Only God knows how many there are and where He placed them.

Genesis 15:1-6 describes a star gazing moment between God and Abram (later to be named Abraham).  God chose Abram and promised to make him into a great nation, but Abram struggled with the details and the execution of God’s plan. He voiced his concerns to God and his concerns seemed quite valid from our human perspective. He was promised to be the father of many nations but had yet to produce any offspring. He and his wife Sarai were getting older and the opportunity to have children was decreasing by the day.  He was worried and questioning. God listened and offered encouragement.  God first said to him in Genesis 15:1, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward”. Picture God putting his arm around Abram’s shoulders and gently walking him outside to look at the stars. He says to Abram, “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be”. There were no city lights obstructing their view and the stars had to have been magnificent against a black sky. Too many to count. This star gazing moment was God’s response to Abrams questioning. It’s as if He said “You have no idea what I have planned but it is beyond anything you can imagine! It’s not going to happen the way anyone expects. Trust me!” God always chooses the most unlikely people to reveal his purpose. Abram did not have the benefit of the Bible to read for reassurance that God was the real deal. He came from the land of Ur where they worshipped many gods, but he left that place because God spoke to him and told him to do it. God had protected him because of his obedience. Abram believed him once again, and because of his faith he was determined to be righteous. Abram and Sarai did have children. Their children had children, and their children had children which became the lineage that led to the birth of Jesus.  The Old Testament is always pointing us to  Jesus.

Have you ever thought of yourself as one of those stars that Abram and God looked at? God knew you then and knows you now. During this Advent season, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus our savior, step outside and do some star gazing. Remember Abram and how his faith set into motion God’s plan for mankind. He made what seemed impossible, possible. To save the world in the form of a baby, the savior….Jesus. He is our hope!

Galatians 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 

 

Preparing for You

Every year we go to Florida. We have spent every Christmas and every Spring Break with my family for as long a I can remember. Our group has grown by marriage and babies over the last 25 years and we currently boast a whopping 18 members. There are so many memories.  In the early days we would walk through the doors with dirty, tired babies. Gabo and Papa would whisk them off for a bath while we sat and ate the food they had waiting for us. We would spend the first days thawing by the pool from our Illinois winter while they cared for those babies and gave us a break from the diapering, napping, and feeding. We could leave our troubles behind for a few days and relax.  It’s one of those places that my kids talk about often. They talk about the sounds that come from the kitchen in the morning. Muffled voices and the clanking of coffee cups. It makes them smile to know everyone is together. Sometimes they stop and say, “it smells like the condo” or “it smells like the beach” and they close their eyes and go to a happy place in their mind.

Over the years, the dynamics have changed with older kids but there is the one constant that remains – my parents preparation for us. They head down to Florida after Thanksgiving and they get ready for us to come to them. My Dad is always planning boat trips or special time with the kids while my mom is cleaning, planning special dinners, and preparing for Christmas. They make it so easy for us to show up and relax because they have taken care of all the details. We pack very little and know that there is shampoo and soap ready for us. My kids even know where Papa keeps his extra toothbrushes when we arrive without any. The bedrooms are immaculate, the sheets are crisp and clean, and the bathrooms are sparkly and fresh. We arrive tired and cold and are met with sunshine and open arms. Our troubles fade for about 10-14 days.

After returning home refreshed, our life quickly returns to “normal”. School, sports, work, church. Looking back on our time with my parents, I always marvel at the way they prepare for us. They spend so much time thinking of us and getting things ready because they want us to be with them. They love us. What an amazing feeling – to be loved and cared for! I realize this is just a glimpse of how God prepares for us. Out of His love for us, He has prepared a place for us, with Him, in eternity. If I get excited about fresh sheets and clean bathrooms, I cannot begin to imagine the things God has prepared in eternity for me.  In John 14, Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure. He is encouraging them not to despair, because He is preparing a place for them. There is a place for each of us and He promises to come back for us.

John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. You trust in God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there”.

We have hope beyond the things of this world!

Shelly

 

Miracles

Today’s reading is John 2. In this chapter Jesus performs his first public miracle. This is the miracle that set in motion the rest of his life and catapulted him into his ministry as Jesus our savior.

It was a wedding. In those times wedding celebrations were more than just a day. The betrothal or “engagement” was for a year or more. During that time the groom would prepare everything for his bride. His preparations were confirmation that he was able to adequately provide and care for her once they were officially married. The wedding itself would last about a week with celebration after celebration. Wine was a very important part of this celebration. It stood for joy and happiness. The groom would be humiliated, ashamed and embarrassed if the wine ran out because it would indicate he was unable to sufficiently provide for his wife. Mary, Jesus mother, noticed that the wine had gone dry at this wedding. She may have been nervous or worried for the groom. So she went to Jesus with the problem. Joseph had passed away by this time so it was natural for her to go to her oldest son for help.  Mary says in John 2:3 “They have no more wine”. Jesus response in John 2:4 was “how does that concern you and me? My time has not yet come”. This response does not seem like the respectful words we would expect from Jesus to his mother, but keep in mind that he was 30 years old and on the brink of his ministry. His thoughts were not on the wine, but on what will happen after he changes the water to wine. People will notice and start to talk. There will be no turning back. Jesus was becoming focused on who He is and and what was next. Mary simply tells the people who are working the party to “Do whatever he tells you”. She knows who Jesus is. Remember the virgin birth? She has known all her life that he was special. So Jesus tells them to fill the jars with water and then dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies. They followed his instructions and the water was turned to wine and the party kept going and there was much joy and happiness! They couldn’t believe that the groom saved the best wine for last.

Jesus turned the grooms humiliation into a miracle. He brought joy where there was embarrassment and shame. The wine symbolizes joy and Jesus was the source. The things in this world that bring us joy will eventually go stale.  Only Jesus can provide real and lasting joy in our lives. He replaces the cheap wine we are used to for the best wine imaginable. Can you imagine what the wine Jesus made tasted like? He provides for everything.

Remember what Mary said to the workers, “Do whatever he asks you to do”. Obedience to Jesus will bring us into His joy. What is the cheap wine in your life? Are you doing what Jesus asks you to do?  I usually know what I need to do, but am slow to do it.  I am looking forward to the miracles that continue to happen in our world today. While 2020 has not been ideal, there is still great joy to be experienced while walking with Jesus.

Joy to you today!