Paul

Today’s reading is from Acts 22 and Galatians 1-2.

In Acts 22 Paul is recounting his meeting with Jesus. Prior to becoming a follower of Jesus, his name was Saul and he persecuted those who claimed to be Christ followers. He was know for imprisoning and beating them.  Until Jesus stopped him as he was travelling to Damascus.

Acts 22:6-10 “As I was travelling to and near Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me ‘Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?’ I answered ‘who are you Lord’? He said to me ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting. Then I said ‘what should I do Lord’? And the Lord told me, “Get up and go into Damascus and there you will be told about everything that is assigned for you to do”.

This was the turning point for our hero of the Bible, Paul. This was the day that he turned his life around and started promoting Jesus instead of destroying Him. He was used in mighty ways because of his obedience and brought many to faith in Christ in spite of his past. Or was it because of his past that he was able to connect with so many? He was an unlikely choice, an enemy of Jesus, but Jesus chose him anyway.

Paul went on to encourage others in their faith by visiting and writing letters to them.  The book of Galatians was written to the churches in southern Galatia, founded on Paul’s first missionary journey, and Christians everywhere. The purpose of the book was to call everyone to faith and freedom in Jesus Christ and to tell them that they are not bound by the Jewish law in order to be saved. He was the perfect choice to bring the Gentiles to faith because he had been on the other side of it for so long. This post doesn’t begin to detail the life of Paul. He was deeply convicted after his meeting with Jesus to tell others but it also meant pain and suffering for him. It was not an easy life, but he knew Jesus was worth it.

Paul says in Galatians 2:20-21 “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives within me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.”

What is your “come to Jesus” story? Most likely you weren’t “blinded” on the way to work or in a direct conversation with Jesus, but we all have the day we decided to choose Him and be obedient. These stories are important to share with the people around us because they show radical life change through Jesus. There is probably someone around you that would benefit from your story. There is never a story too small or too big, especially when it points others to Jesus. Find someone you can encourage with your story.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever, amen.”
Galatians 1:3-5

Shelly

 

 

 

Pilate

Today’s reading is from John 18:28-19:16.

Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea. After Jesus was captured by the Jewish leaders  for claiming he was the Messiah he was put on trial before Caiaphas. Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus to Pilate to be crucified because any death sentence had to be approved by a Roman leader.  Pilate tried to avoid executing Jesus. He made attempts at sparing Jesus life.

First he tried to put the responsibility back on the Jewish leaders. In John 18:31 Pilate says, “Then take him away and judge him by your own laws”. But the Jewish leaders quickly reminded him that only the Romans are permitted to execute someone. Next he tried to find a way of escape so he could release Jesus. In John 18:39 he offered to release Jesus as it was a custom to release a prisoner at Passover. The Jews chose to release Barabbas (a known criminal) instead of Jesus. From there he tried to compromise by having Jesus flogged and humiliated rather than handing him over to die in John 19:1-3. Lastly he tried to appeal to the sympathy of the accusers in John 19:15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him – crucify him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.” In the end, even though he thought Jesus to be innocent, he sentenced him to death because the crowd was so loud.

John 19:16 “Then Pilate gave Jesus to them to be crucified”

Pilate stated 3 times to the crowd that he found Jesus to be innocent. (John 18:38, John 19:4, and John 19:6). He recognized the truth but he failed to act on it which led to Jesus crucifixion. He was so worried about the politics involved that he missed Jesus all together.

I am so thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Where am I recognizing the truth about Jesus but failing to take action? Where am I missing Jesus?

Shelly

Mary and Martha

Today’s reading is Luke 10:38-42

Company is coming!! There is so much to do to make it look like we are clean and organized and perfect and make it all look effortless. In a pinch we do the “stash and dash” and hope no one opens a closet or looks in the basement to see all the things we let collect when no one else is here. I tend to be an anxious host. Especially when I have a lot of time to prepare. The longer I have to dwell on the event the more overwhelming it becomes in my head. I find that I enjoy it more when it is spontaneous. I already know its not perfect and there is nothing I can do about it but to enjoy the people around me. It’s a mind set really. What is most important? All the things and the preparation or the people? Today’s reading is about Mary and Martha. I see a little bit of myself in both of them. They were sisters but couldn’t be more different. Martha had welcomed Jesus into their home and she immediately got busy serving Him with things – food, drink, a comfortable place to sit. While Mary did not busy herself with all the things around them and instead sat next to Jesus and enjoyed his company. There was nothing wrong with Martha preparing for Jesus and making things comfortable and serving him in that capacity. That was probably the way she showed love to people she cared about. It did become a problem when she became bitter and annoyed that Mary was not helping in the way she thought she should. She hadn’t considered that Mary had chosen the better thing until Jesus told her so.  Jesus knew His time with them was so short and there were no details more important than being with Him.

Luke 10:41 “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it and I won’t take it from her.”

As the holidays approach and there is much planning to do I will keep this verse close to my heart. When I am anxious over all the details I know I can sit with Jesus to be refreshed and reminded of what is important. I am thankful for this reminder today. May we plan like Martha but know when to sit and rest with Jesus like Mary.

Shelly

Judas

Today’s reading is Mark 3:19, 14:3-11, 43-49.

Mark 3:19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

Judas was one of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus.  None of the disciples were perfect and each had their moments of doubt and failure. We single Judas out as the worst one because he made the ultimate mistake……betraying Jesus which lead to his death on the cross. There is no recovering from this betrayal. Why would he want to betray Jesus? In reading I was reminded that the disciples were imperfect people like you and me following a perfect leader. They did not always understand his methods because they were always letting their own selfishness get in the way.  Judas was no exception.

Mark 14:3-11 John Mark shares about Mary and her total devotion to Jesus. She pours a jar of beautiful and expensive perfume on Jesus head, sacrificing what may have been her most prized possession to show her love for him. She did not hesitate. There was nothing more important to her than Jesus and it was obvious in her actions. The disciples complained about how she wasted the sacrifice and should have sold it instead to help the poor but  Jesus honored her with his words and praised her actions. She had done a good deed for Him. In contrast, the next verses are about Judas planning his betrayal of Jesus to the leading priests in exchange for a monetary reward. Mary poured out all she had for Jesus while Judas greedily puts money in his pocket for handing Jesus over to his death. Had he been planning this all along or did Mary’s “frivolous” actions tip him over the edge? Something happened that caused him to stop believing in Jesus and start thinking the reward from the religious leaders was better.

Mark 14:43-49 Judas betrays Jesus with the kiss. As soon as he kissed Jesus and called him Rabbi the religious leaders moved in to attack. That was the signal they were waiting for and they moved in quickly.  It was done, no turning back for Judas. But Jesus knew all this was going to happen. He told the disciples that one of them would betray him, and they all denied it.

It is not for me to judge how Judas is spending eternity. It does cause me to reflect on my own free will and if I have ever “betrayed” Jesus. I have chosen my own way many times over the decision to be obedient to Christ…in my relationships, with my money, with my time. Those are small betrayals in comparison to completely turning my back on him but they are still a choice to do my own thing rather than what Jesus suggests.  Each betrayal takes me farther from His love and care for me and closer to the trappings of this world. Am I lavishly pouring out my very best for Jesus or hanging on greedily to the rewards of this world?

Shelly

 

The Writing on the Wall

Today’s reading is Daniel 5. There is a new king on the throne – Belshazzar. 66 years have passed since Daniel chapter 1 when Nebuchadnezzar was king. Thankfully, he was able to humble himself before God as an example to those that would follow him. Unfortunately, Belshazzar forgot about the one true God. In Daniel 5 he had a party for 1000 of his nobles and they were eating and drinking together. Belshazzar ordered that the gold and silver cups taken by Nebuchadnezzar from the holy temple in Jerusalem be brought out for them to use. These were sacred cups that did not belong to them. They used the cups filled with wine to “toast” their idols made of gold, iron, silver, bronze, wood, and stone. Had they forgotten after so many years what happened to Nebuchadnezzar when he denied God? How he became like an animal until he humbled himself? God got everyone’s attention at the party by literally  writing a message on the wall where everyone could see. Can you imagine, in the midst of your party and all the enjoyment a hand appears and writes a cryptic message on the wall. I think he may have lost a few party guests after this episode. Belshazzar had no idea what the message meant and he was very afraid. He summoned anyone to help and offered a reward of purple robes, gold chains, and the third highest rank in the kingdom to anyone who could interpret the message. Daniel was summoned to help as his reputation for wisdom and solving “riddles”made him the best candidate for the job.

Daniel had to share the very difficult news that the writing on the wall was not in Belshazzar’s favor. It predicted his death and the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians.

Belshazzar dressed Daniel in robes of purple and gold necklaces and made him third highest in the kingdom. In spite of the bad news.

Daniel 5:30 “That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. And Darius the Mede became king.”

Daniel was not afraid to tell the truth.  Even when the truth was difficult to tell. We know Daniel spent time with God. The truth is easier to see and to tell when we spend time with the creator of all truth.

Where am I not telling the truth for fear the truth might be too difficult to tell? Am I spending time with God so I’m able to recognize the truth and speak it in love? Am I known for my truth telling?

What am I taking from God that is sacred and using for my own pleasure? (Like the gold and silver cups taken from the temple).  The Sabbath? Church? My gifts and talents?

Daniel 5:23 “For you have defied the Lord of heaven and have had these cups from his temple brought before you.  You and your nobles and your wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone – gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all.  But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny!”

May we ‘honor the God who gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny!’

Shelly

 

Asaph

Today’s reading is Psalm 73-77 .

Do you ever sit down to pray but lack words? Has there been a time when you wanted to praise God for all He has done but somehow fall short in forming the right thing to say? The book of Psalms is 150 chapters of poetry for the expression of praise, worship and confession to God. It is full of honest struggle, sin, and confusion that turns into beautiful praise and the reminder of who God is and all He has done for us. Today’s reading is focused on chapters 73-77. Asaph, a leader of one of David’s Levitical choirs, has been accredited with writing Psalms 73-89. This third section of Psalms parallels the third book of the Pentateuch – Leviticus.

In these chapters we get to know Asaph and his struggles. In chapter 73 he is struggling with the feeling that the wicked are prospering all around him while he is being so “good” and not having the same kind of outward success. Sound familiar? In the first 16 verses he is complaining to God, asking how this could happen. He struggling to find the answers on his own. Finally in verse 17 he took some action and gained new perspective.

Then one day I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I thought about the destiny of the wicked.”

He stopped complaining and questioning and went to God. In his “sanctuary” he was reminded of God’s promises. As he worked through his questions he realized that their reward is temporary and his reward will be eternal. The reward is not on this Earth. He goes on to praise God for not turning away from him in the midst of his questioning and still belonging to him. When we recognize this in our own lives our perspective changes drastically in how we work, spend our money, spend our time. Do we have an eternal perspective or is it only success in the here and now? Are we mad and envious of other people’s success in comparison to our own? Thankfully, God allows us the opportunity to question and even complain a little. He is waiting to provide the answer but we may have to take a step towards his “sanctuary” and out of our heads to get it.

Psalm 73:21-28 “Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. I was so foolish and ignorant. I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Who have I in heaven but you? I desire you. More than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”

Then in Psalm 77 we hear Asaph again in turmoil. He is in deep distress and holds nothing back in telling God all about it in verses 1-10. He is crying out to God. He feels rejected, overwhelmed, and lost. And then his thoughts turn around again in verses 11-20 and he starts acknowledging all God has done in the past and all the ways He has proven himself faithful. Reminding ourselves of Gods provision in the past is a great way of dissolving our current state of discontent.  He changed his focus from his present situation to worshipping God for all he has done and it changed him.

Even though I did not write the words in these Psalms I am amazed and how they resonate with me. I feel like I could have written them for my present situations. And I am thankful they are here to remind me that it is ok to question and struggle but also to teach me to worship in the midst of my struggle and to remember all that God has done.

Jehoshaphat

Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 17-20

These 4 chapters are quite the read!  Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, became king of Judah. He was a great leader who followed God, but he still made mistakes that cost him greatly. He seemed to be very strong in his convictions, but when it came to choosing alliances he did not make wise choices. He chose to join forces with King Ahab (who did not follow the Lord) by allowing their children to marry. This brought Jehoshaphat into an alliance that almost cost him his life in the midst of battle.  King Ahab “enticed” Jehoshaphat in joining him in an attack against Ramoth-Gilead.  Jehoshaphat eagerly agreed, but then took a step back and said, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says”(18:4). King Ahab appeased him and brought in 400 of his prophets who agreed 100% with the attack and assured them there would be victory. Jehoshaphat was not convinced so he requested that a prophet of the Lord come forward. Instead of 400, there was only one. The prophet of the Lord, Michaiah, prophesied that King Ahab would NOT be victorious like the other 400 prophets had said.  So what did they do? They attacked Ramoth-Gilead anyway! What happened? King Ahab died and Jehoshaphat was spared after his urgent prayer to God to save him. 2 Chronicles 18:31 “But Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord to save him, and God helped him by turning the attack away from him”.

I am struck by the decision to follow the advice of 400 prophets that belonged to a king who did not follow God. These were most likely false prophets who told the king what he wanted to hear instead of the truth. 400 voices are definitely louder than 1, and easier to listen to when they are telling us to do the very thing we want to do anyway. Jehoshaphat was right in asking for a prophet of the Lord, but for some reason he couldn’t stand up and follow his advice when it disagreed with everyone else. Was it because he didn’t want to let his buddy King Ahab down? Was he caught up in the moment of excitement for battle? Was it too hard to turn back and say no? There are a lot of voices in our world today. Like Jehoshaphat, I’m guilty of following the crowd in spite of my convictions. There have been times I have caved and done things that I knew were not in God’s plan for my life. The good news is that God heard Jehoshaphat’s cry for help in the midst of his sin. He made a poor choice and found himself on the brink of disaster, but he “cried out to the Lord to save him” and he did.

What voices are you listening to in the midst of all the decisions of life? The agreeable 400, or the challenging 1? Have you followed the 400 into a disaster? It’s never to late to cry out for help.

Shelly

 

 

Abigail

 

Today’s reading is from 1 Samuel 25.

If someone was describing you to someone else what words would they use? I hope that most of the descriptors would be positive but there is alway the risk that there would be some negative comments too. In this chapter of 1 Samuel we hear some good descriptions of Nabal and Abigail.  We get to know their character quickly in just a few words.

1 Samuel 25:3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife,  Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was mean and dishonest in all this dealings. 

We do not know the details of Nabal and Abigails relationship but we do know that he was very wealthy and was called a fool. Whether their marriage was one of choice or politics we do not know but we can surmise that they were probably not cuddling by the fire at night whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. Abigail probably learned very early on how to deal with him in order to keep the peace. For this, her servants trusted her.

In this Chapter David is traveling and he comes upon Nabal, his men, and his sheep. In an effort to provide for his own men he requests provisions from Nabal after reminding him how he protected his sheep and all his men in the past. Instead of acknowledging Davids kindness, Nabal “hurls insults at him” and refuses to give him anything. This sends David into full testosterone mode and he starts strapping on swords to destroy Nabal and all his men. Thankfully, before a full attack takes place, one of Nabal’s servants goes to Abigail for help. She springs into action and takes provision to David on the trail and falls at his feet in order to protect her household and her husband. She is loyal in spite of her husbands poor behavior. She doesn’t make excuses for him, but she takes responsibility and asks that David not take vengeance on her household. She even acknowledges the Lord and his plans for David.  She uses this to convince him not to proceed with fighting. She has brought peace and wisdom to the table and David accepts it. No one else was offering this. He is thankful that she talked him off the ledge and he blesses her for it.  Without her intervention, David would have brutally attacked Nabal and had needless blood shed on his hands.  She was courageous and bold in her decision to step in the gap. Once she returns home she wisely chooses to allow her husband to sober up before filling him in on the details of the previous day. Upon learning all that had happened God struck Nabal with a stroke like illness and he died 10 days later.

And David and Abigail got married and lived happily ever after….

Nabal was mean and dishonest in all his dealings which lead to stress and untimely death. Abigail was sensible and peacemaking and God took care of her.

If someone was describing you to someone else what words would they use?

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Shelly

 

CALEB

Today’s reading is Joshua 14:6-15:19

My youngest is starting a new school this year. 5th grade. We have been praying about this for years and it finally happened. God said yes. The door has been opened to a new opportunity. School starts on Friday. Our supplies are purchased, registration fees paid, spirit wear ordered. Its a done deal, no turning back now. As I was preparing for this post my boy sat down next to me on the couch and quietly said, “I wish I was going to my old school”. I set my Bible aside and said, “I know, I’ve had the same feelings”. We sat in silence for a few minutes letting those honest words settle and I silently prayed for the right words. What do I say to my worried 10 year old about change and hard things and fear?  Especially when I’m thinking the same thing.

I got to tell him the story of Caleb.  He was a man who “whole heartedly followed the Lord”. Back in the day of Moses, Caleb and Joshua along with 10 other spies were sent to check out the land of Canaan (The promised land). Caleb and Joshua were the only 2 out of 12 that came back giving a good report on the land and trusted that God would allow them to conquer it. (Kind of like having a good attitude about going to a new school).  Everyone else became afraid and confused and wanted to go back to Egypt (or their old school) because they stopped trusting God would take care of them.  Because Caleb “whole heartedly followed the Lord”, God promised him the land of Canaan (or his new school) as his special possession for himself and his descendants. He was promised this land in Numbers 14. Then, 45 years later, the promise is fulfilled in Joshua 14:10-12. 45 years!!! He waited patiently for God to fulfill his promise of allowing him to see the promised land and he claimed the promise. I’m sure the 45 years of waiting weren’t easy but he continued to “whole heartedly follow the Lord” and trust the promise God gave him.  At 85 years old, God fulfilled his promise to Caleb and gave him the strength to conquer the giants of the land. God gives strength to those who whole heartedly follow him and he helps us do hard things……..like changing schools, and sending our kids to new places.

Caleb was brave, convicted, and trusted in God’s promises. I started thinking about the promises of God. The ultimate promise is eternal life to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, but what are the promises for daily living that my 10 year old (and I) can trust as we face our giants?

We decided that we are thankful for the promise that God goes before us – just like he did with Caleb.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“The Lord your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 1:30

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron”. Isaiah 45:2

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand “. Isaiah 41:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ” Jeremiah 29:11-13

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Praying we trust these promises of God in the hard spots of life. He will show up and I can’t wait to see what He does. Claim your promise!

Shelly

 

Saved by FAITH

Today’s reading is Genesis 15,17,22; Romans 4:1-5, 9-25

The Lord spoke to Abram and told him he would be the “father of many nations” even though he had no children and was quite old.  “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his FAITH” (Genesis 15:16). God then made a covenant with Abram and told him that he would make him into a mighty nation. This covenant was not merely one sided, there was a part Abram (now changed to Abraham) had to obey. In Genesis 17:10 God saidThis is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. It was a tall order but definitely a mark that set them apart and Abraham faithfully obeyed. Then in Genesis 22 Abraham’s faith is tested again when God asks him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Again, Abraham obeyed and got as far as lifting the knife to complete the sacrifice when an angel of the Lord stopped him in Genesis 22:12,  “Lay down the knife”, the angel said. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”  And the Lord provided an alternative sacrifice in response to his faith and he promised to bless him and multiply his descendants just as he said he would do in the beginning. .

Fast forward to the New Testament and Paul is sharing the story of Abraham with the Christians in Rome in Romans 4. His theme is FAITH. God used Abraham because he first “believed”.  Romans 4:13 It is clear then that God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was not based on obedience to God’s law, but on the new relationship with God that comes by FAITH. And through our faith, God blesses us beyond what we could even imagine. Did Abraham grasp the depth of God’s promise to him?  Did he have any idea that he would be the beginning of the line to Jesus, the savior of the world? God did not use Abraham because he was perfect. It was his FAITH that made him righteous, not his good works. Because of his faith he was able to act in obedience when God told him to circumcise the males and then go on to sacrifice his son.  God will also ask us to do things in response to our faith but those things do not save us, it is our faith that saves us. Rest today in the fact that Gods promise of salvation is a free gift that only requires our belief, not our perfect performance.

Romans 4:23-25 Now this wonderful truth- that God declared him to be righteous-wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was for us, too, assuring us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.

Shelly