Revelation

Link to Today’s reading: Exodus 24; John 3; Job 42; 2 Corinthians 12

Despite being a lukewarm, cultural Christian most of my adult life, I still had many great conversations about God, the Bible and truth. Conversations, that despite their assumed relevance, lacked something they seemed to beg for. Without a deeper personal commitment to my faith, and a constant connection to God, or without the relentless pursuit of spiritual transformation; my conversations lacked real power.

I wanted my words to be more engaging, more compelling, filled with power that came from authenticity.  But ultimately, this power could only come from God, and without the presence of the Holy Spirit, my discussions were still constrained in every way possible by the limits of my flesh. Eventually, I found myself in more conversations where the Holy Spirit’s participation seemed present — and these were very different. They were conversations with people who were pursuing lives of demonstrative faith through action, conversations that spoke beyond our words, in silent power. Perhaps, someday, I too would learn how to communicate like that.

Sometimes, Christians view discussions of faith as contests of ideas. And while the competition of ideas can be a good thing; when it comes to matters of faith, and in particular, understanding God, sometimes it is best to plead, “no contest.” Yes, I believe reason is still important in the discussion about God, but it isn’t the main thing — God is! We communicate with each other through language and ideas, limited by our understanding and experience, also by our capacity for abstract thinking and logic; but God communicates with us in other ways. In addition to revelation through the lives of people, God reveals himself through nature, and also by the law laid down in scripture (Psalm 19, and Psalm 119). In each of these three forms of revelation, it is through the Holy Spirit that God speaks directly and miraculously to the hearts of those, who by faith, choose to listen. It is He, who gives us ears to hear and eyes to see, profoundly, if that is what we ask for and what we seek (Matthew 7:7-8). How we choose to respond to God’s revelation, however, is personal, and something we must decide.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” -John 14:6-7

In a conversation with a freind the other day I was presented with this question: aren’t all major religions worshipping the same God? My response was, “no.” Different religions worship different gods, that is the main point of them. However, if there is only one true God, a God above all gods, then it makes sense that anyone, in any religion, seeking God with all their hearts, minds and souls, will find Him. God is calling out through time and space to his whole creation. In a sense, all paths could lead to a God who is always next to us, always calling to us, waiting for our answer; but it seems that our answer, regardless of our religion, is often at best, a timid whisper, “maybe.” Then my freind challenged me with the history of Christianity, filled with abuses and hypocrisy. “If Christianity is the one true path to God, why then is there so much evidence of Christians behaving poorly?” Now I understood his point, much of my life offered evidence to support it; but I said this: “Christianity is a religion practiced by imperfect people, imperfectly. And not all who claim it are true followers.” There are people in all religions who profess a faith that they don’t live up to — Christianity is no different in that sense. This fact however, doesn’t prove that the Christian story is false, any more than the millions of changed lives through out history, prove that it is true. Either it is or it isn’t, and it remains for all to consider: is there a Divine Creator of everything, who is personal, who can be known, who desires to be known?

God has written a story on the hearts of men, and in history; by creating a nation through one family, then rescuing that nation from slavery, delivering them to “the Promised Land.” Finally, through that same nation, after generations of prophesy (that is eventually fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus), God provides the means to rescue all humanity from their sin. God’s story is one of promises made and kept; deliverance and provision and restoration. God created the world, then intervened in its history to finish His work; the undeserved perfection of the Human soul. We need only to respond in faith to God’s overwhelming and constant revelation. How will you respond today?

Jesus said: While I am in the world, I am the light the world. -John 9:5

Choices

Exodus 23; John 2; Job 41; 2 Corinthians 11

Stack of cards with Question Marks on them

Today’s post is written by my friend Carol Snyder. Carol and I met about 6 years ago when I moved down the street from her.  We were fast friends!  Carol currently picks me up at 5am to go to the gym 2-3 days per week.  It’s amazing what ground we can cover in 11 minutes to the gym and 11 minutes home!  I love those conversations.  Carol has encouraged me in a lot of ways over the past couple of years, including cheering me on as I accepted the challenge of writing a Biblejournal.net post each week during 2016.  When Carol learned of my plans to be out of town for a few days this week, she was quick to volunteer as a guest writer.  What a great friend!

Carol, I’m grateful for our friendship. I look forward to many more early morning conversations in the days to come!

———————-

As I start to write my first bible journal entry, I am nervous yet excited. How can I follow in the footsteps of this team of bloggers?  Back on January 1st when I heard the team was going to “read the bible in a year”, I was all in.  Even after growing up the daughter of a Lutheran minister, I am sadly remiss in reading the bible.  As I have been reading along, I am rereading many stories I know, but also working through hard chapters (such as Job), which I never spent much time with before.  The daily blog entries are just as inspiring and enriching as the bible verses; they speak to me in an every day interpretation of the bible.  Thank you for my daily enrichment!

On to our daily reading and the verses I chose for today’s journal entry. It was a tough choice between the almost fairy tale “Wedding at Cana” in John 2 which I love or the “Do this, not that” story line of Exodus.  I chose the latter because it reflected the choices we are given on a daily basis.

Think back to the time when you were a little child and your parents told you:

  • “Don’t touch that stove, it’s hot.”
  • “Don’t put that toy in your mouth, you might choke.”
  • “Don’t wander off, a stranger might take you.”

Oftentimes, they did not give you an alternative. They just said, “Don’t do that”.

As we grew older, our friends started to weigh in:

  • “Don’t hang out with that person, they are different. Hang out with me!”
  • “Don’t dress like that, people will think you are weird. Wear this!”
  • (We were even bombarded in magazines by the DO/DON’T fashion police!)
  • “Don’t join that club, it’s for nerds. Play this sport.”

Sometimes we followed our friends but sometimes we made our own choices as we started to develop into adults.

As adults, we will hear the same “don’t do that, do this” messages:

  • “Don’t be a couch potato, exercise 30 minutes five days a week!!”
  • “Don’t eat bread or sugar, go paleo or do the 21-day fix.”
  • “Don’t vote for that candidate, they are corrupt. Vote for this guy or gal.”

We are faced with many mixed messages on a daily basis. How can we go through the day and not feel some pressure from our own choices?  Do we make the best choices possible?  Do we help others make good choices?  Do we follow God?  Most likely, we don’t make perfect choices, for we are sinners.

In Exodus 23, God is very clear on his expectations for what we should not do:

1You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

If we are presented with gossip, do we spread it? Or if we are presented with helping someone in need who might have lost something, do we return it?  We can make many parallels just to these verses.  I sum it up as “Do the Right Thing” or as I tell my kids “Make Good Choices”.

God continues with his expectations, including taking a break from the daily pressures. He knows we aren’t perfect and we do have a lot on our shoulders.  We have many mixed messages and as each week unwinds, he gives us time to refresh, renew and relax.

12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

He understands we need to start anew each week. He gives us a chance to improve and to make better choices.  The best part is he sends an angel to help us.  All we have to do is listen for the voice, the inner voice helping us through our daily choices.

20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

As we get further into the New Testament, he references the Holy Spirit in John 14:26:

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Lord, please help me to make the right choice in my daily life. Let me refresh and begin the week with a new outlook.  Shine your Holy Spirit on me so that I might be a light for you.  Amen.

Boast in the Lord

From the sermon at Eastview Christian Church on 6/15/14, I captured that 80% of the world’s population makes less than $2.50 per day. Interestingly enough, as this blog post and readings were permeating through my mind, one of my kids asked if we are “rich”. Compared to 80% of the world’s population, all of us in the USA are financially rich. Apart from financial riches, God also blesses us with the other “riches” such as spiritual, joy, health, and talents. Sadly, too often “riches” are thought of in the financial realm, and attributed to our own good works or success, and we use those riches for our own purposes instead of their Godly intent.

Today’s readings: Exodus 22; John 1; Job 40; 2 Corinthians 10

Recently, one of my contributions at work resulted in some kudos. As I was working on this contribution, I knew it was going to be good. I knew it would result in praise and the anticipation of the praise kept building in my heart and mind. I certainly believed I deserved it. The thing is that when I received the kudos and was under the limelight, it seemed like this millisecond in time, and poof, it was done and over. I was depressed in thinking, “that was nice, but that’s it?” I was then convicted.

No matter how cleverly I try to deny or justify my thinking, I had built up sinful pride and sought to do good so that ultimately I could attempt to save myself. I wanted the praise so that those who make decisions as to the future of my contract would be assured that their investment in me was worthwhile. I was acting under the lie that God has most things under control. It was as if my superiors miss out on something good that I’ve done, well that would be my fault, so it was up to me to be sure to let them know how good I am. What I fool I was. I was putting my trust in me almighty instead of God almighty. Consider God’s response to Job’s pride, a crushing blow to my own pride. God was challenging Job for questioning or doubting Him. God was describing some of his own attributes and basically saying that if Job had these God attributes he could save himself, however Job was a mere human fully dependent on God to save him.

All right, put on your glory and splendor,
  your honor and majesty.
Give vent to your anger.
 Let it overflow against the proud.
Humiliate the proud with a glance;
 walk on the wicked where they stand.
Bury them in the dust.
 Imprison them in the world of the dead.
Then even I would praise you,
 for your own strength would save you. (Job 40:10-14; NLT)

Unfortunately I also gave into the temptation that my works were somehow the result that I might be better than I actually am. I was boasting in myself, perhaps not verbally but in my heart and mind. Maybe no human noticed, but God did, and he revealed this to me through his Holy Spirit. Every gift and talent we have is commended, originated, given by the Lord. It isn’t ours for our own gain.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift? (1 Corinthians 4:7; NLT)

One of the wonderful things about daily Bible reading and daily prayer is that this keeps God’s word and truth close to our heart. I’m so thankful that God’s Holy Spirit and word was with me, to convict me of my selfish line of thinking – and this is what we can and should boast on: He is with us always, speaking, teaching, and correcting. As a result, repentance and redemption gave me far greater joy than any words or rewards from any human, and it will always be this way; this is God’s economy. This sort of joy is so counter to what the world thinks, and I believe it is one of the many reasons this place often seems so messed up, as well as one of the reasons so many people are depressed. We celebrate the wrong things, the fleeting moments instead of the repentant sinner, the prodigal son, the life changed through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Would you consider joining me in repentance today? Every time I humbly ask “God, please reveal my sins”, he certainly comes through on this prayer, and it hurts, but the pain is temporary. In our sin, we’re living in darkness. However, Jesus, the light of the world shines his light in that darkness and through Him, and only Him, are our sins forgiven, and we’re back under the only light that matters.

Undercover Boss

Close up portrait of a retro man in a 1970s leisure suit and sunglasses smiling and laughing

Exodus 21; Luke 24; Job 39; 2 Corinthians 9

Have you ever watched the show Undercover Boss? If you have, you know that business owners and CEO’s participate in the inner workings of their businesses, in disguise so that they get an accurate and unfiltered view of what people think and do. Jesus does something similar today in Luke 24 when he joins two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. Starting with yesterday’s reading, you will recall that we experienced Jesus’s crucifixion. While many people faithfully followed him there, there are two in particular that this story covers. After painfully witnessing his death these two patiently waited for further news. They both knew Jesus and trusted him. They spent enough time with him to easily recognize him. A few days after Jesus death, however, evidence was mounting that it was over. The time had come for them to re-engage in their old lives, reconnect with their families and get back to work. The hope that they so desperately followed was now a memory. Let’s go home, back to Emmaus.

Walking side by side, the conversation is passionate. The two men cannot help but discuss what had happened over the last several days.  About a month ago, This man, Jesus, promised them a better life, offering them freedom and hope.  They dropped everything to follow him; the greatest man they had ever met.  And now, he was gone. Upon hearing the news that his body was no longer in the grave, they were literally, “amazed” (Luke 24:22). This report was so shocking that they were dumfounded and bewildered with no idea how to respond. In fact, the prophecy found in Psalm 88:8 describes the events as “a horror” to them. This is where our story turns and Jesus enters as the Undercover Boss. Joining them in their walk, Jesus wanted to remain anonymous. So, he “kept their eyes from recognizing him” (v16).  For what its worth, I have a picture of Jesus in my head with pork chop sideburns and fake teeth (kind of like this guy), but that’s not part of scripture’s description.

Being undercover allows Jesus inside the conversation. He gets to hear their unfiltered accounting of past events as well as their thoughts about the future. What he discovers is disappointing. These two men were only focused on the past. They had quickly forgotten that the Scriptures promised more. My quick review of the prophecies clearly shows that “his chastisement brings us peace, we are healed because of his wounds, and that his death removes our iniquity, (Isaiah 53).” Surely, these men had this knowledge.  But, they were anything but peaceful. They showed nothing of the freedom and healing that Jesus grants us. Instead, they lost hope (Luke 24:21). How does Jesus respond? Jesus leads them back to the Truth. He points to the promises of the scriptures and lovingly guides them back to himself.  Not just who he was, but the discovery of his resurrection as his living self.  This occurs with simple act of communion. Jesus took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.   And their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31).

If Jesus showed up in your life today as an Undercover Boss, what would he find? Do you display evidence of the hope and life he promises from his resurrection or are you still floundering with doubt like the two walking toward Emmaus?

10 Commandments, 2 Tablets

Today’s reading: Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38; 2 Corinthians 8

March 9th, 2016

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. -Psalm 119:33-35

When God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai why did He give them by way of two tablets instead one, or three? Why two? I mean Moses was not exactly a spring chicken at the time. I could see him saying, “God, how about we reduce the font size and put this on one piece of rock? It will be a little easier on my back as I hike down this mountain.”

Mount Sinai, 10 Commandments

I heard a sermon once that said these 10 commandments were designed to guide a people and how they relate to others. That communities and cities that live by these principles are wonderful places to live, but on the other hand those that do not are not. Rather, they are quite the opposite. That the 10 commandments actually come from 5 principles with two examples for each. The first tablet held instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those above us. The second, instructions for how the principles apply to relating to those alongside us. Here is how it was explained to me:

The first principle: Others have the right to exist.

first tablet: second tablet:
1. I am the Lord your God 6. Thou shalt not murder

I am not the center of the universe. There are others who exist. Their right to exist is real as mine.  I am the LORD your God, is where their right to exist comes from. In general, the source of the power of the second tablet’s strength lies in the truth of the first tablet.

The second principle: Certain relationships are sacred.

first tablet: second tablet:
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Throughout the old testament, when God’s chosen people worshiped false idols it was referred to, by Him, as prostitution. God wants us to have special relationships that are different from others and we are to uphold these relationships as sacred and special.

The third principle: Others, not you, have a right to their possessions.

first tablet: second tablet:
3. Thou shalt not take my name in vain 8. Thou shalt not steal

Property is a good thing. People own things that are theirs and you can not take them. God’s name is His just as your neighbor’s newspaper is theirs. Here we see the link between the two: “…or lest I be poor, and steal, And take the name of my God in vain.” – Proverbs 30:9

The fourth principle: Reputation is a form of property.

first tablet: second tablet:
4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

Reputation made the top 5 list for how to get on with others in a productive society, it must be important. Just as we are called to uphold our peers reputation by not lying about them, God here calls His people to uphold His reputation as the Creator by keeping the Sabbath day. It does not say “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” It says “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The act of keeping the Sabbath is how we uphold God’s reputation as the Creator.

The fifth principle: Our rights have limits

first tablet: second tablet:
5. Honor your father and mother 10.  Thou shalt not covet

Covet seems to be ‘I want what I have not been given and I do not want you to have it.’ This seems to come from a feeling of “I do not want you to be better than me.”, but most, “I do not want you above me.” Coveting is stepping out of our place, it flies in the face of things like contentment and trust in God. Not honoring our parents is stepping out of the divine order with respect to those placed above us by God.

In closing here is some more scripture that points to the duel nature of the law pertaining to one’s relationship with those above us and their fellows:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36–40

Complete Confidence

Today’s Reading: Exodus 19; Luke 22; Job 37; 2 Corinthians 7

The more I’m around kids the more I realize growing up is difficult. There are so many things you think you have control of that you really don’t.  Depending on your circumstances having confidence in God, yourself, or others can be slim or obsolete. Four years ago (while on vacation) I laid in a hospital bed with my wife sitting by my side and our 1 year old walking around the room touching everything possible that a baby probably shouldn’t be touching.  As the doctor came in, she stood next to me and proceeds to tell me that they are going to need to have surgery and that with any kind of big stomach surgery there is a chance that I won’t make it. (wow) As I swallow the knot currently in my throat, I think about my wife breaking down in tears as I struggle to catch my breath while wiping tears grasping for air.  I wished I never came in.  I lacked faith. I lacked faith in many things but mainly God. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

In this moment I wish I could tell you I gave it all to God but I know I didn’t. God’s grace that I didn’t deserve poured over me and provided the strength to make it through the surgery.  Another chance to live for Him and share His love with others. My stomach was healed but there was still more work for God to do. I  lacked confidence in God and myself.  In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul encourages the Corinthians to make room in their heart for him. He understood the importance of fellowship among believers.  This also holds true with us today. God has divine appointments planned all the time if we keep our eyes open.

While recovering from surgery in Florida we got a call that our house we had put up on a whim had sold and we would need to find a place.  Our frantic 2 day online search followed by a packed 1 day search around Bloomington landed us right across from a couple who were Christ followers and attended Eastview. They then invited us to small group one night.  We had been to Eastview before but never allowed ourselves to get connected.  Long story short this offer turned into us joining their group and getting to know some fellow believers that have helped change our lives. Thank you to the couples that open their hearts to us. They have helped build up our confidence in the Lord. Small group allows you to move from a surface level relationship into holding each other as accountability life partners. Living life together where we are in His Word, laughing, loving, have crucial conversations, holding each other accountable, raising children, and following Jesus together.  We are blessed by our small groups and by the amazing other Christ followers we have met through Eastview.  As I reflect on this weeks message I’m reminded how church has helped us to see His essential light, opened our ears, and shown us the path to “Follow Him”.  I thank this biblejournal group of believers that share their daily insights into the Word and help others build the confidence that Jesus is all we need. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Like Paul who was sharing his joy with the Corinthians for opening their heart and repenting, I feel this same joy when as a group of believers we do the same repenting.  Often in our small groups we allow our vulnerability to come out. We share our true selves asking for repentance in addition to encouraging and praying  for each other to keep faith and confidence in God.   If you currently are not in one please contact me and no matter the distance we can look to start one. It will help with personal discovery, smaller communities can be more effective, deeper friendships, and maximum participation.

Francis Chan How to Have Real Community

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

~ Thank from the bottom of my heart everyone has has shared scripture, love, and encouragement along the way. Without your genuine care I would not be here today. When your confidence comes from God, no matter how unstable things in the world may get, you will always remain rock solid and secure in faith.

I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.  2 Corinthians 7:16

 

Dear Father,

I pray for complete confidence in you and your will every moment of my life. I turn it all over to you.  Whenever I am at a loss and don’t understand why certain things happen let me close my eyes and turn it all over to God since I know that He knows everything and will guide my heart. Throughout my day fill me with your love and guidance so that when I start to rely on my own selfish ways I turn to you in prayer and repentance.  Help me build confidence and show ridiculous love and be a dangerous witness to others for your Kingdom.

Amen

Too Heavy

Exodus 18, Luke 21, Job 36, 2 Corinthians 6

What’s different for me than the other Bible Journal authors (and readers, I suspect) is that I am reading most of these scriptures for the very FIRST time. Maybe this will be my last week of journaling now that my secret is out! My process for reading and responding really begins with developing an understanding of the historical context of the scripture and then reading a few commentaries to deepen my knowledge of the surrounding text.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the people in the daily readings and try to relate to each of them. Although today’s New Testament readings are rich with symbolism and connection to our modern life, I can’t get seem to let go of the story of Jethro and Moses in Exodus 18. This is the first time I’ve read this story despite three decades of Catholic education! I’m so excited to share the big message I found in a short exchange. So, in Exodus 18, Jethro, Moses’ father in law comes to visit him where “he was encamped at the mountain of God” (Exodus 18:5). They go into that tent we heard about yesterday and Jethro counsels Moses. At this time Moses has been patiently settling disputes among the people of Israel from sunrise to sunset according to God’s Law. Jethro says to Moses:

“…Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? And Moses said to his father in law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statues of God and his laws” Moses’ father in law said to him” What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone”” Exodus 18:14-18

 Some commentaries compare Moses at this time after leading the Israelites out of Egypt as a “type of Christ” or the way I like to think of it, a “preview” of Christ. Not to say that he is in any way an embodiment of Christ, but instead that he acts as a law giver or judge among them. The scripture describes him as doing this duty in a tireless manor with great care and kindness to his people. The people come to him all day, every day, seeking advice and asking him to settle their disputes. Then Jethro arrives and throws him off his game a little bit. He reminds Moses that indeed he cannot do it alone. The task of leading all of the Israelites under God’s law is too much for one man.   Of course, Moses doesn’t throw a tantrum when his father in law speaks truth to him (like I would!) Instead he considers the advice, sees his error and makes a change. Essentially he relinquishes his role as top educator and dispute settler and delegates to a team of men as honorable as he is. How often do I want to do it all? How often do I consider myself an authority on a given topic and give tireless advice to anyone that will listen? God is sending us a direct message here that His word and law is meant to be shared among all of his people and ultimately judged by Him.

How often do we as Christians make judgments of others without first judging ourselves? Bible Gateway commentary for today’s scripture states, “Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful.” Am I seeking each day to strengthen my vertical relationship with God before counseling and making judgments in my horizontal or earthly relationships? In other words, am I in conversation with God first before correcting my spouse, friend or co-worker? The commentary goes on to say, “Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counseled.” Moses had God’s law on his lips but he wasn’t too wise to look within and be counseled on how to best share it.

Later in today’s readings Luke tells us about Jesus foretelling wars and persecution. In Luke 21:13, Jesus says:

“This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Luke 21:13-15

 Heavenly Father,

Help us not to meditate on our words and set our answers before you speak truth into our minds and hearts. Help us to be patient with our modern “Israelites” as you have been so patient with us. Lord, we know the weight of your law is too heavy for any one man or woman. Help us to strengthen our relationship with you and avoid temptation to hand out injustice. Instead, tune our ears to the sound of your voice through others’ and help us to remember that we are never too wise to be counseled. Speak to us Lord through your word and through your people.

Have Tent Will Travel

Today’s reading link:  Exodus 17; Luke 20; Job 35; 2 Corinthians 5

When I first started camping the idea of living in a tent was compelling. Detached from the world back home, for weeks on end, I traveled through the wilderness in reasonable comfort. Over the years I had tents in different sizes and designed for various conditions. Some for backpacking, or canoe camping; engineered to sustain high winds, extreme cold, or heavy rains. I cherished my tents, for without them, traveling into the wild would have been difficult.

In 2 Corinthians 5, our bodies are compared to tents, and like tents, they lack durability. Our earthly bodies are temporary, so inadequate that we groan for something better. The heavenly body we long for will allow us to be in the presence of almighty God, but the body we have now allows God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within — if we choose.

Earthly needs, like food, clothing and shelter are used in the Bible as simple metaphors, which are reflections of more durable, holy things; helping us to understand their better eternal counterparts. Certainly it is a different life that awaits our arrival in the Celestial City, while our present lives offer glimpses of what awaits us in the better one. I believe my eternal citizenship is in God’s kingdom — a place I can choose to dwell today.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. –2 Corinthians 5:1-4

Tents provide the simplest and most portable housing. If we are nomadic wanders, the tent is perfect. But it isn’t until we build up permanent settlements of towns and cities, that we form more advanced civilizations. Ironically, Jesus speaks of, and demonstrates, the simple life of a nomad, while Paul contrasts tents to more desirable, permanent structures. I think this shows that our desire to build something better is often misplaced when we seek to build too much with the things of this life for ourselves.

Our earthly bodies are magnificently designed to serve the present needs of this life, while at the same time, housing our souls, which are destined for eternity. But earthly bodies are something much less than what we would expect of those designed for eternity. Our present bodies are referred to as jars of clay, for they are fragile; but they are also referred to as temples — sacred structures meant to receive God’s Holy Spirit. And by this we are transformed!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness ,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. –2 Corinthians. 4:6-7

Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not  your own; -1 Corinthians 6:19

In this present life we have the opportunity to build earthly kingdoms that fade away. Some fade faster than others, but most, in a sense, are gone in an instant. Alternatively, we can live life by  investing in the treasures that await us in the next. Now in a way this may sound foolish; betting by faith on a the existence of an eternal kingdom, and against the ones we might build here and now. In extraordinary circumstances, people build dynasties that last, perhaps, hundreds of years. What God offers mankind, through Jesus Christ, is a spiritual legacy that lasts forever — and an eternal home. If this offer is true, it represents incredible value. I believe the proof of this is the simaltainious offer of a better life on earth, a life filled with lasting peace and joy in all circumstances. A life of transcendence, directing our energy away from us and to the benefit of others. This even seems to line up with other belief systems; but what they don’t offer is the indwelling, transforming, life giving, power of the Holy Spirit of the living God — the comforter promised to us by Jesus.

In this life, within our tents, we are given the opportunity to experience hope, peace, joy, love, and wisdom through fellowship with the one true God. And in our struggles, when we turn to God, we grow. If we follow God into an eternal kingdom, in our surrender, we become a new creation. This is when we begin to see and experience the world in a whole new way.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! -2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Dear God, your power is supreme and your love is fathomless. Thank you for your wisdom and your Grace. Please help me to know you better each and every day, for the rest of my life eternally. Amen.

Selfishness

I Love Me card with beach background

Exodus 16; Luke 19; Job 34; 2 Corinthians 4

Over the last couple of years, have you followed the story of the Texas teenager who’s attorney’s used an “affluenza” claim in his legal defense for causing a wreck that killed four people? It was a sobering story for me.  Beyond making my heart ache for those directly impacted, it made me stop and think about my children and my approach to parenting.  What am I teaching, or not teaching them, that will impact in their behavior?  Will my influence show up as good or bad choices?

Merriam-Webster defines “affluenza” as the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence regarded especially as a widespread societal problem, such as feelings of guilt, lack of motivation, and social isolation experienced by wealthy people; extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.

I would argue this condition is rampant in America. It extends beyond those who most of us would consider as super affluent, successful or wealthy.  For example, almost every kid in my children’s school has some kind of electronic device, gaming system or smart phone.  They wear designer clothes.  They travel often.  They want for very little.  My children are no exception.  I am a pretty average mother who is trying to teach my kids right from wrong, how to make wise choices, how to be a good friend, to love Jesus, and so much more.  These are really hard lessons to teach and to learn, especially when we are focused primarily on ourselves.  Most of the time, even if we don’t want to be, we are just down right selfish.

When I started today’s reading in Exodus 16, the first two verses hit me with an unfortunate sense of familiarity. Exodus 16:1-2 says …on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Wait a minute. God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  He miraculously parted the Red Sea, overtook their enemies, and led them safely to freedom on the other side.  Less than two months later, they were already grumbling?  Weren’t they even the slightest bit grateful for the significance of what had taken place over the last 45 days?  Like me, their true selfish nature came through.  They couldn’t see past themselves (and their hungry bellies)!

Despite their grumbling, God provided for their needs. He did so in order to try and shift their focus off of themselves to him.  Exodus 16:4, Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

Exodus 16:11-12, And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

We are made in the image of God, we are created to glorify him, and he desires relationship with us. Even so, we are often unable to resist the urge to focus on ourselves/our wants/our desires and forget that he is the source of everything we have.  As we read on through the Old Testament, we will find the Israelites struggling with this for many years.

Now jump to our New Testament scriptures for today…

Luke 19 starts with the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a wee little man (couldn’t resist singing the song in my head) with a deep rooted history of selfishness.  He was a tax collector who acquired his riches by overcharging/ripping off taxpayers.  Luke 19 doesn’t give a lot of background on why Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, it just states that he was.  After spending time with Jesus, we see evidence of Zacchaeus turning his focus away from himself.  Luke 19:8-10, And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We don’t have the opportunity to spend time face to face with Jesus. But through his blood, we have direct access to speak to him through prayer all the time.  This is the cure for our selfishness!

Where is your focus today? Will you commit to spending time communing with God, letting him help to shift your focus to him?

There is no one like Him

Today’s reading: Exodus 15; Luke 18; Job 33; 2 Corinthians 3

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

There is no one like our God. It was only a few years ago that my human brain and emotions started to grasp this concept, and now every time I say it with all of my heart believing that it is true, I get chills, and sometimes tears. There is no one like him. He created this earth and its inhabitants. He gave us the ability to love. He designed our brains to think, to process emotion, to create, to wonder, to worship, to choose.

The more I know God, the more I love him. The purpose of this post is to share some of the attributes of God so that we may know him better, some attributes of the enemy so that we can be vigilant, and some of our proper responses to who God is and what he has done. The Song of Moses found in Exodus 15 is a beautiful poetic song and extremely robust with content. It is worth reading over and over and taking a deeper dive into. Each bullet point below lists a verse reference from Exodus 15.

Names & attributes of God from this song:

      • Triumphant; has power over the enemy. (1, 4, 5, 6, 7)
      • Strength, song, salvation. (2)
      • Masculine gender. Refers to God as “He” or “Him”. (2)
      • Warrior (3)
      • In control of the earth. (5, 8, 10, 12)
      • Powerful (6)
      • Great (7)
      • Majestic (7, 11)
      • Furious (7)
      • Holy (11)
      • Full of glorious deeds. (11)
      • His love is steadfast. (13)
      • Leader (13)
      • Redeemer (13)
      • Guide (13)
      • His home is holy. (13)
      • Purchaser; he purchased us. (16)
      • Creator (17)
      • Reigns forever (18)

Attributes of the enemy:

      • Pursuer, taker, selfish, ruthless, destroyer (9)
      • Powerless against God. (10, 12, 16)
      • Melts away. (15)
      • Filled with terror and dread. (16)

Proper responses to God: The entire song is their acknowledgement of his many attributes and deeds, but here are a few specific responses within the song.

    • Sing to him. (1)
    • Acknowledge him as our strength and savior. (2)
    • Praise him. (2)
    • Exalt him. (2)
    • Tremble (14, 15)

God’s ultimate act was to send his son Jesus to this earth, to become human but yet still God, and to sacrifice his life for our sins. How can our response to this even compare to the magnitude of what he has done? We cannot repay him so we must do what he designed us to do, worship him, praise him, acknowledge him, and with trembling hearts in awe of what he has done.