But…

It is easy to read Psalm 102 because it is so relatable. If you can’t personally relate to the trials and tribulations this psalmist records, you definitely know someone near you that is facing hardship. We can all identify with the frustration and discouragement we read in this chapter.

The first eleven verses of Psalm 102 describe the trials we face…

102:3 – my days disappear like smoke, my bones burn like a furnace
102:4 – my heart is struck down like grass and has withered
102:5 – because of my loud groaning, I am skin and bones
102:7 – I lie awake, lonely
102:8 – my enemies taunt me day after day
102:9 – my tears run down into my drink
102:11 – My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass.

BUT…..

The the psalmist gives us hope and changes everything with this one word…”but”.

But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever. Your fame will endure to every generation.
Psalm 102:12

This life gives us challenging and scary circumstances, BUT one day, it will change! When Christ returns to rule and reign for 1000 years, it will all be different. He will have mercy on those living.

You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem – and now is the time to pity her, now is the time you promised to help.
Pslam 102:13

The city and the people have endured much hardship, but will be restored. Jesus will appear and rule and reign again. The prayers of those with little hope will be heard. The Lord will be praised. Life on earth will be different.

Let this be recorded for a generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion, his praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.
Psalm 102:18-22

We will face struggles, fears and trials, BUT we have God’s promises to hold onto. We have the promise that life on earth will be different. We have hope when we put our trust in Him. Jesus promises that He is with us to the end of the age. This is His promise to us.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

In God We Trust

I am ashamed to admit that I still find myself questioning God and not fully trusting Him and His promises.  I am definitely getting better at it, but it is not 100% natural to turn directly to Him first.  When I have to face my fears in certain situations, I find I battle in my mind before I turn to God.  

Today in Psalm 56, we read:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

“In God We Trust” can be see on our money.  We say these words in our pledge of allegiance and our national anthem.  It is easy to say in the pledge, or sing about, or even read.  But, is it that easy to apply to our lives when we face a fear?

King David experienced all kinds of fears, anxieties, and pain.  Just because he loved the Lord didn’t mean his life was easy.  Psalm 56 shows us that he was fearing for his life.  It proves to us that when he was afraid, he put his trust in God.  

When we believe in God we have a choice.  We can choose to live in fear, or we can choose give our fear to God and let our faith turn into trust.  When we turn to God our perspective changes.  We can focus on how big God is instead of how big our fear is.  Our faith will grow as we remember that God is for us and we can trust in His promises.

Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.  This I know, that God is for me.  In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me?

Pslam 56:9-11

Which Path?

Let those who are wise understand these things.  Let those with discernment listen carefully.  The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them.  But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Hosea 14:9

This last verse in Hosea chapter 14 sums up the entire book and presents us with a response. 

There are two paths for each of us to choose.  There is God’s way and then there is the way that Israel took. God has given each of us the freedom to choose which path we will take.  The question is, which way will we choose?

We have been reading about Israel and their choices to not follow God’s ways.  We have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  The wise person will take heart and listen and obey God and choose to walk in His ways.

The foolish person will continue to stumble in their sinful ways.  They will disregard God’s commandments.  God will continue to seek and appeal to the sinner, but they will not listen or turn from their ways.  

We have the awesome opportunity to bring our sins to God and He will forgive them.  Then he will delight in us and we will delight in Him.

The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;  my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.  

Hosea 14:4

God, thank you for Your faithfulness to all, even when we go astray.  Thank you for your promises and forgiveness.  Thank You that even when we choose the wrong path, you are still there loving us and calling us back to You.  Thank You for saving us.  Amen

God’s promise for Israel is His promise also to us:

I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven.  Israel will blossom like the lily;  it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon.  

Hosea 14:6

God is Love

The weather is finally giving us a glimpse of warmer days and sunny skies.  Every few days we seem to get a “tease” of what is coming.  As spring arrives it is time for some spring cleaning.  Yesterday, I began with tackling a bookshelf that had been cluttered to the max over the winter.  On one shelf I found a large family photo album.  The next hour was spent looking through every page and feeling the deep love that I have for my children.  It was hard to put it down and move on.  The memories lived on in me throughout the day.

The photos were of my children when they were small.  Oh what dreams and hopes I had for them.  At young ages, the sky was the limit and I as a young mom I dreamed they would have fabulous futures in front of them.  

As children mature, mistakes are made and we as parents are humbled.  Some mistakes can have catastrophic consequences.  But a parents’ love never fails for their child.  God had the same problem.  Today’s reading, Hosea 11:1-11, is a beautiful passage of God’s love for his children.  In this passage we read of all God has done for his children, Israel.  The more God called them, the more they turned from him.  

Hosea uses his writing to try and persuade the people of Israel to reform their ways, to return to God.  In Hosea 11, he uses the language of the love of a parent for her children.  

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  Israel called to the Egyptians even as Israel was leaving them.  They kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.  It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the hand, but they never knew that I healed them.

Hosea 11:1-3

God had been with Israel from the beginning.  Loving them, providing for them, healing them, and leading them.  He was faithfully leading them as their father, but they forgot what it meant to be His child.

We can easily imagine ourselves, and our children in Israel’s shoes.  We have so much in common with these people.  We do not live as we should live.  We forget what God has done for us.  We ignore the hand who heals us.  The amazing part of this story is the faithfulness of God even though we fall short over and over again. 

Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?  How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim?  My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.

Hosea 11:8

While we are like the Israelites and continue to wander, we are not lost.  God will never lose us.  He will roar and we will return to Him.

For someday the people will follow me.  I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.  And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west.

Hosea 11:10

We have a divine parent who exceeds all of our parental expectations.  God has a parental love that never gives up on us, His children, no matter how much we wander.

Sunday is Coming

The stage is set…

Sunday is Coming!

This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath.  As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)  Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet.  The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.  Joseph bought a long sheet of lined cloth.  The he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock.  The he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

Mark 15:42-47

Jesus is buried.  Dead.  But, this is NOT the end of the story.

The stage is set for the greatest miracle in history.  

The resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Sunday is COMING!!!

Wednesday

Can you hear the camel in the Geico commercial saying, “Hump Day!”  

Happy Wednesday!  We may be in the middle of the week but,  Sunday is coming!! 

As we look at our reading for today, Mark 14:1-31, we are reading about the same calendar Wednesday in the last week of Jesus here on the earth.  

We read of a woman (who is not named) and how she readies Jesus for all He is about to face.

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy.  While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard.  She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.  

Mark 14:3

She. Broke. Open. The. Jar!!!!  This jar contained a perfume that was worth a year’s salary.  She did not “drip” a drop of perfume on his head.  She broke the jar and it ALL flowed on Jesus’ head.  She did not hold back any of the expensive oil for herself, she gave it all.  

Those who were also at the dinner began to criticize her harshly.  Did she not know how valuable the perfume was?  Did she realize how she could have sold the bottle and used the money to help the poor?  The dinner guests saw a horrible injustice and a waste in what they thought to be a frivolous act.  But, Jesus quickly comes to the woman’s defense.

But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone.  Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?  You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to.  But you will not always have me.  She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 

Mark 14:6-8

It was not customary for a criminal’s body to be anointed for burial.  The woman was authored by God to do this purposed act on the Wednesday before judgment day.  

The people in this room were focused on the perfume, the money, the tradition, and they missed the act of anointing.  

“She had done what she could”

Mark 14:8

When she broke the bottle, the woman gave all of it contents.  The woman loved the Lord with ALL that she had.  

It is Wednesday…Sunday is in sight. 

What is in your alabaster jar? 

What do you need to pour out at the feet of Jesus? 

Jesus will soon give His entire life for you and for me.  He will be completely broken and poured out for us.  

Have we done all that we can?

Pray like Daniel

Are you a praying person? There are so many different ways we can pray. I remember back in youth group days, we had a prayer time called “popcorn prayer”. This was a time of prayer when anyone could jump in a pray a quick prayer for whatever was on their heart. Of course God hears these types of prayers and any quick prayers we say as we face dilemmas during our days. But, are you a praying person like Daniel?

In the book of Daniel, we find that Daniel had a regular prayer habit. He could be found praying three times a day (which ultimately led him to the lion’s den). His prayer is what we read today in chapter 9:1-19. The prayer in this chapter is far more detailed and inspired from the Word of God than my “popcorn prayers” were back in the day.

Sometimes our prayers flow from our own feelings and emotions at that moment. But, when we look at Daniel’s prayer, we see that his prayer flows from spending time in God’s Word. While Daniel was reading God’s word in the book of Jeremiah, he realized that what he was reading was just about to be fulfilled. The 70 years serving the king of Babylon was almost completed.

This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. “Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the Lord. “I will make the country of the Babylonians a wasteland forever.
Jeremiah 25:11-12

Because Daniel believed they are about to be punished, he prays. He prays much more than a one sentence “popcorn prayer.” Daniel prays in earnest for his people. He prays that God would forgive the people. He puts himself in the place of all the people and pleads with God to intercede.

Daniel puts himself in the middle of the nation’s sin. He does not put the sin on all the other people, he includes himself in the sin.

But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations.
Daniel 9:5

To pray like Daniel prayed, we must take the sin of others upon ourself. Daniel was a righteous man who lived without compromise. Even so, he put others’ sins upon himself and asked God for forgiveness. This is costly for Daniel. He feels the grief. He is overwhelmed with the burden. He is humbled before God. He intercedes for the sins of the people.

Praying to God in any form is a good thing. God loves to hear the cries of His people. Sometimes, the word Jesus is all we can mutter and God hears us. Interceding for others takes time in God’s Word and time on our knees. This type of prayer is humble. May we take more time to intercede for others and be on our knees in prayer for those around us, just as Daniel did.

Persistent Prayer

Would you describe yourself as persistent?  Or, maybe your more like me and find it easy to give up on certain things?  Today I find myself having to be very persistent at writing this Bible Journal Post.  Sometimes, the words come to me quite easily.  Sometimes, it takes a few days to develop the words I want to say.  And, sometimes, like today, I cannot find the words that need to be written for today’s post.  I have to be persistent in my seeking to write these words.

Have you ever felt discouraged or anxious that God was not listening to your prayers because you did not see the relief or the answer you desired?  We’ve all been there at one time or another.  Today, in Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells us why we should continue to persist in prayer and not lose heart.  Even when it seems that God is not responding.

We read of the parable of the Persistent Widow.

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.  A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’

Luke 18:2-3

Widows in this first century had very few rights or resources.  Losing your husband and not having family to support you was a sentence of poverty and helplessness.  There was no Social Security or Life Insurance to kick in when needed.  Widows were essentially helpless.  To survive, they had to be persistent and tough.

The widow in this parable has been wronged by an unnamed enemy.  In her town, the judge was corrupt and only cared about his position of power.  He had little interest in God or the people he was placed in charge of.  This judge showed no interest in the widow or in giving her justice.  No matter how he treated her, she showed up day after day.  And day after day, the judge continually denied her her request.  But, finally, after numerous requests, the judge said to himself,

but this woman is driving me crazy.  I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”

Luke 18:5

The widow finally gets the justice she sought.  Jesus explains His point in telling this parable…

“Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.  Even he rendered a just decision in the end.  So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  

Luke 18:6-7

Are we not similar to the widow?  We do not always get immediate results when we pray.  The persistent widow demonstrates that effective prayer requires consistent faithfulness.  We are God’s chosen people, unlike the judge who was only out to please himself, God hears our prayers and will answer when, where and how He chooses.  God expects us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8

Dedication

 

Have you ever been to a dedication ceremony?  I think of baby dedication day at Church.  It is a sweet time to watch a mom and dad dedicate their young child to the Lord.  There is always at least one child that steals the show.  The pastor prays a special prayer of blessing over the child and the parents.  After the ceremony the family might gather and celebrate this special day.

This is what happens today in our reading of 1 Kings 8.  Solomon has prayed his prayer of dedication for the temple and now is time for celebration.  This was a huge celebration.  The time was the Feast of Shelters.  

Then Solomon and all Israel celebrated the Festival of Shelters in the presence of the Lord our God.  A large congregation had gathered from as far away as Lebo-hamath in the north and the Brook of Egypt in the south.  The celebration went on for fourteen days in all – seven days for the dedication of the altar and seven days for the Festival of Shelters.

1 Kings 8:65

Solomon spoke before the crowd.  He told them of his hope that God would show Himself just as faithful to them as He had to their ancestors.  He also knew that the people would need God’s assistance to remain faithful themselves.  Without God’s help they were powerless to live in obedience.

May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancesotrs;  may he never leave us or abandon us.  May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, decrees, and regulations that he gave our ancestors.

1 Kings 8:57-58

The people had just experienced the amazing completion of the Temple and listened to their King dedicate it to God.  The bottom line is that now they were to live a faithful and obedient life.  The temple would serve as a physical reminder of God’s glory, but their lives were meant to be a demonstration to all others of what a relationship with God looks like.  

After the celebration the people went to their homes full of joy.

After the festival was over, Solomon sent the people home.  They blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad because the Lord had been good to his servant David and to his people Israel.

1 Kings 8:66

May we remember what God has done.  He fulfills His promises just as He did to David, Solomon and the people of that time.  Just as we present our babies to the Lord, may we daily give dedicate ourselves to Him and live a faithful life.

 

The Lord’s Temple

“Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

I Kings 8:13

Growing up my neighbors would tell us that they were going to Temple.  I never really thought about what that meant, but it seemed special and  different.  I never stopped to think about what they did when they went to Temple.  They were Jewish and followed their customs of going to Temple on the days they were called to go.  In our reading today, we learn about the temple that Solomon built.

What is a temple?  Reading the first books of the Bible we see that the temple is a place to worship and offer sacrifices to God.  The sacrifices were made so that the people could be ceremonially clean and holy before God.  

This is true of the temple, but the temple served a fundamental purpose…it’s main purpose is that it is where God lives.  It is God’s resting place.  It is where God dwells among humans.  It is the place where heaven meets earth.  The temple is where God lives.

This is hard to understand because we have the belief that God is everywhere.  So, if God is everywhere all the time, how can He live in the temple?

Have you ever been out in nature and felt the overwhelming presence of God?  Maybe it was watching the sun rise or set?  Maybe it was on a clear night looking up at the moon and the stars?  Or maybe it was standing at the edge of the ocean and watching the waves roll in and out?  You stand there overwhelmed by the mystery of how all of this is possible.  This is the glory of the Lord.  The glory of the Lord is always with us and surrounding us.  Even when we are distracted and don’t notice it, God’s glory is always there.  

When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord.  The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.

1 Kings 8:10-11

Here is the part that is hard to understand.  How can all of that glory of the Lord (the sunsets, sun rises, twinkling stars, rolling waves) all fit in a temple?  How could God live in a house?

This is one of the amazing things about God.  He can be present in more than one place.  But, for the people of the Old Testament, the temple was their place where God was especially present.  

God desires to know us and He wants us to know Him.  He desires it so much that he had a house built among His people (the temple) so He could be near them.  And also, so they could be near him.  

This is God’s greatest desire, to be close to us.  We no longer live in the days of the Old Testament.  The people did not yet have the gift of Jesus or the Holy Spirit so they had to visit the temple to be close to God.  We now have the incredible gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit indwelling in us.  We have become the temple of the Holy spirit.  

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself…

1 Corinthians 6:19

God is dwelling among us.  We get let God shine through us for others to witness.  Until He returns we are His temple.