Beset With Weakness

Small Fish With Ambitions Of A Big Shark - Business Concept

2 Kings 23; Hebrews 5; Joel 2; Psalm 142

How often are we told to focus on our strengths? There are, in fact, countless tools that help us identify and live from them. While I do not disagree with the strategy, focusing only on our strengths masks the reality of our lives. You see, we are all born into a fallen world, subject to sin.  Relative to God, we are weak.  Hebrews 5:2 says that we are “beset with weakness.” The risk, therefore, in living from our strengths is that we become fully reliant on our flesh. The results of which are well documented in the Bible.

  • Self-Glory
  • Admiration of others
  • Subject to error
  • Subject to death

Contrast living from our strengths with embracing our weakness.  Jesus, for example, chose the latter.  Rather than embracing achievement and soliciting the praises of man, he embraced his weakness.  We find the evidence in his prayers.  He “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him” (Hebrews 5:7). The result? God heard him “because of his reverence” (v7).  God, therefore, bestowed upon Jesus perfection.  In perfection, Jesus would no longer be subject to error or death.

Jesus submission to God was so perfect, that he also became our eternal source of salvation. He is the ultimate proof that weakness is not something to run from. Instead, we are to offer our weakness to God “with prayers, supplications, and with loud cries to him who is able to save us.” Just as God honored Jesus reverence, Jesus showers our weakness with grace.  Not just any grace, but a grace that is so powerful that it conquers death.

Enter into His rest

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:9-11

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13-15

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:14-18

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4

Suggestions for prayer: Ask the LORD to help you not to want, to go last, to let your desires go. Ask the LORD to make His will your will, on earth as it is in heaven.

For further study: Make an exercise of Psalm 23:1. Study your response of resting from self and the peace of following Christ. Go an entire day without wanting. Do not want food or drink, let go of taking hold and positioning to have anything of this world. Instead let the LORD provide what you need. Be patient and meek, succeeding your will to others. First go an entire day. Then go another. Let God lead you and go in peace. 

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 22; Hebrews 4; Joel 1; Psalms 140–141

Election Day

November 8, 2016

Happy Tuesday, today’s post is written by good friend Kris Walker who has written for biblejournal.net a few times. Enjoy!

Who are you voting for?

Well? What’s it gonna be?!? Trump? Hillary? Johnson? Where do you stand? Democrat? Republican?! Third Party? Who is gonna be in control?! To some, these are the most important questions going on right now.. and with the election today, how could it not be.. but the reading in 2 Kings makes me think of a couple things.. it really has some horrible characteristics listed about these wicked rulers… it makes me think about the commercials we see these day… What if there were elections back in these times of the kings??

My opponent Manasseh.. he has been responsible for.. rebuilding the alters his father took down. He erected alters to Baal, he led God’s people away!”

It says he ruled for 55 years… that would be a long time to be under a horrible ruler.. 

His son ruled for 2 years.. and then was assassinated.. crazy… 

I feel this reading was perfectly timed for this week.. no matter what happens, we are going to have a ton of people NOT happy with the results.. for 4, or possibly 8 years.. but can you imagine 55 years under a horrible Ruler? I can’t… a ton of the people I know blown my FB feed up filled of “impeach him” posts to this day.. and that is just from the recent 8 year rule.. kind of mind blowing that it could have been 55… that is my first thought.. I guess it just makes me think that I am happy that we have a relatively short ruler time.. 

What makes me even happier.. is that.. we can think about this spiritually.. we know who really holds the power..  it’s not in the reading.. but …the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes.

Daniel 4:17

I really think that’s important to remember.. we have to know God is going to take care of his people.. in this insane election.. it is a really good point to remember.. I also like how God made his promise to punish the kingdom for what was done.. what the leader and what the people have done… God kept his promise. We all know he is our God who keeps his word.. I am so thankful for both of these thoughts..

Politics is not the only thing we can take away from today’s scriptures.. some amazing psalms are in today’s scriptures.. 

I think it’s amazing to think about how well our Father knows us all.. 

Psalm 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

I find this so comforting. Our father knows us, and understands us. He has always been there. He always will be there. I think we are so lucky to have that.. and know that.. there are those that don’t. I think it’s important to know and realize that.. when we feel alone, or when we are upset, or when we need someone to talk to.. our father is there.. that’s where I think I’m gonna leave this. I hope everyone gets a chance to vote and make their voice heard.. say a prayer, and ask for God’s hand on our future.. no matter which way it goes.. God is with us.. he knows us.. he will take care of us.

Have a great Tuesday everybody!

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 21; Hebrews 3; Hosea 14; Psalm 139 

Miracles and You

Empty wheelchair on the meadow at sunset. Miracle concept. Healed person raised and went away

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 20, Hebrews 2, Hosea 13, Psalms 137-138

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” 2 Kings 20: 1-6

So, I was really hoping to find something in my readings today about healing. Ta -da!! I just picture God sitting on his throne saying, “ta-da!” all day long. No really, I spent some time earlier this week studying my scripture for today and had a totally different post in mind. After church, I was so moved by the number of people that responded to an alter call for healing I wanted to write about it. Some research revealed that Hezekiah’s reign lasted 29 years. His kingdom was invaded in the 14th year which means that this sudden and severe illness must have occurred in the same year as the Syrian invasion. Imagine how he must have felt knowing that his kingdom was threatened and his body is now failing. I think Hezekiah’s situation truly embodies our worst fears. The fear that we will fall ill quickly, lose our life and our “kingdoms” will perish. What follows of course is an instruction from God through the prophet Isaiah to “…put your house in order.” This immediately got me thinking. Do I have my physical, emotional and spiritual house in order?

What so moved me today in church was first the number of people that came forward asking for prayers of healing. I know that for every single person that came forward there were at least two more in the seats that were too fearful to do the same. The line grew and grew as the songs came to a close, those people still stood bravely in silence. The second thing that was so truly convicting was the love and support of our congregation for each one of those sick people. Not one person went to an elder alone, and in some cases there were 7 or 8 people gathered with arms around each other. I was listening to a TED talk this week about beating cancer. The speaker said that one day we will all be faced with big decisions about our health and ultimately confronted with death. He spoke about planning for that day ahead of time by making decisions ahead of time about quality of live versus quantity of time for life. What he didn’t speak about is prayer. I noticed that the very first thing Hezekiah does after being told about his impending death is pray. And yes, the very next sentence says that he wept. Bitterly. The story goes on. The Lord tells the prophet Isaiah to tell his servant Hezekiah that he has heard his prayer, that he has seen his tears and he will extend his life!

Through prayer and wholehearted devotion Hezekiah is healed. God performed a miracle. He saved his servant Hezekiah and his people. Are we brave enough to go to him in that whole hearted way? I found myself asking this question today in church. In fact when the alter call came, I asked my husband if we should go to get our 5 year old son out of Sunday school so that we could bring him up. I quickly decided against it, saying to my husband that he was learning and praying in his space and we shouldn’t interrupt that. The more I think about it though, what held me back was a feeling of unworthiness. A feeling that I couldn’t ask for our son’s Crohn’s to be healed. I’m not sure why. I wonder how many other people are feeling that same way. How many others think that maybe they aren’t a good enough Christian or maybe they have made mistakes that somehow disqualify them from God’s grace.

After reading and praying over this passage from 2 Kings I realize now that God saved Hezekiah not just for the one man but for the entire community of people he represented. Yes, he was a King but he was also responsible for defending the lives of God’s people. We are all God’s people. No matter what mistakes we have made, no matter how old or young, what kind of life we’ve led, we are worthy of being saved. What God responded to was not the seriousness of Hezekiah’s position but his heartfelt plea for salvation. What would happen if we made that same plea? Are we willing to believe in a miracle? Are we brave enough to ask for one? As I watched the line at church grow, my fear diminished. It’s not easy to share our vulnerability in public or online as the case may be. I pray that this post reaches at least one person that needs healing. I pray that you will reach out to Him and ask for it. We are all worthy.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Again I’m grateful and privileged to have my wise and wonderful sister-in-law Lisa Pruitt write for Bible-journal. Thank you Lisa!

Keeping up with the Joneses: What an exclusively American cultural statement of our sense of entitlement. If my house were on fire, in the literal heat of the moment, what would I grab as I made my way out the door? Certainly my family and pets – but what else? Well, I love my Omega juicer, my Breville tea maker, my Kuerig coffee maker, my phone, iPad, pottery, some of the art I have created, and the treasures from my daughters’ early years. But these are mere things. I can live without them and live happily (probably).

Psalms 135-136 remind us to praise God’s goodness and greatness. We should thank Him for all he has given us, the natural wonders, for delivering us from our enemies, for providing food and the land sustaining our food. God’s love does and will endure forever.

But – I take note that while his love endures, the material things do not. The juicer, coffee maker and electronics are temporary. I am reminded not to sweat the small stuff because most material things are small; even things which are big in size. Someone once asked me what would be my first act if I won the lottery. My answer? “I would go immediately to the Tesla dealership.” Is this wrong? Maybe so for perhaps my first thought should have been to thank God and give money to Him and to those in need.

Psalms 135-15 ESV reads that:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!

We all must be careful not to make idols of our material things. Isn’t it interesting that the IPhone comes in the tones of silver and gold? The iPhone may have a camera and a screen but has not eyes, it can not see. The juicer makes noise like a cow chewing grass but it can’t hear or talk. Manufactured goods make our lives easier but we must be careful not to elevate them above the things that matter. When my daughter wants the IPhone 7 or another Simply Southern t-shirt just because her friend at school has that color, isn’t this keeping up with the Joneses which is tantamount to making idols of the work of human hands?

I remember reading a novel about an artist who painted herself as a mermaid, swimming down to the ocean floor. As she swam from the surface down, she dropped items such as jewelry, money, wine glasses, electronics, tools, and keys. It was a symbolic letting go of superficial items. The deeper she got, the more free she felt.

We aren’t the things we own. If we can separate our identities from our things, we have more space to acquire good habits. Rather than striving to collect more amber jewelry, I should strive to collect discipline, time management and listening skills. I should seek friends from all social layers and refrain from our society’s tendency to decide a person’s worth based on their money or profession.

When we concern ourselves with the material world, we are easily drawn in by the “deceitfulness of wealth”, thinking that we will be happy or fulfilled or content if only we had more of whatever it is we are chasing. Satan wants us to be chasing after something he knows will never satisfy us so we will be kept from pursuing that which is the only thing that can satisfy—God Himself. We should seek to be content with what we have, not strive for more and more and more, all the while telling us that this will be the answer to all our needs and dreams. The Bible tells us that a person’s life is not about an abundance of things and that we should seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

I will strive to remember this the next time I have a decision to make and remember that it is only God’s love which endures forever.

Todays reading: 2 Kings 19; Hebrews 1; Hosea 12; Psalms 135–136

Unity

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Unity; noun, plural unities.

          1. the state of being one; oneness.
          2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
          3. the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.
          4. absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.
          5. oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.
          6. (in literature and art) a relation of all the parts or elements of a work constituting a harmonious whole and producing a single general effect.
          7. Mathematics.

a. the number one; a quantity regarded as one
b. identity

I am back writing for Jennifer this week.  She left me with such an easy yet powerful word “Unity”.  Unity is a word understood by most everyone throughout the world.  Unity exists everywhere around us and we may not even recognize it or appreciate it.  We are unified in our Bible Journal network.  We are unified in our church congregations.  You could take each one of these definitions above and write a chapter on it. You can also google unity and find many examples, including the name of a Church, a video game development, symbols and pictures of hands, a name of a college, a health insurance company and the list goes on.

When writing this post, two thoughts popped into my mind immediately:  how we unite every day and then how as a world we unite in response to a crisis or disaster.

Last Sunday, the Pantagraph was filled with photos of sporting events.  My oldest son made the front page in a crowd of NCHS foot supporters, cheering on the team to advance to the next round of playoffs.  There were pictures on the subsequent pages of UHigh winning the soccer state title, and I smiled as we picked out players we knew, all united for one reason: to win the state title as a team.  There were pictures of random people disappointed by the Cubs loss on Saturday and also fans cheering on the Cubs to victory.  Whether it was fans coming together “as of the parts of a whole; unification” to cheer their team to victory of whether it was the actual teammates, working as “the state of being one; oneness” toward victory, people were united.  How fun to rally with others to win, “…constituting a harmonious whole”.  How important to rely on others and unite when you fail or when life doesn’t go your way.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

If you are not an avid sports fan, we can all think about others ways people come together:  Marching Band, Spanish Club, Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, small groups at church, bridge group, Book Club, a cooking club, a French class, Operation Christian Child, Lutheran World Relief, all ways we unite in common bonds.  We find a common purpose that brings us together.

The second thought I had was around crisis and disaster.  Unfortunately, during this Hurricane season, we did see part of the world impacted.  Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the US, and promised to cause significant damage with wind and water.  We saw people on the news working together to prepare.  The state of Florida was on high alert.  South Carolinians were told to evacuate.  The strike wasn’t as bad as expected and loved ones could reunite here in the US.  However, in other parts of the world such as Antilles, Bahamas, St. Lucia and Haiti, significant damage occurred.  People united to rescue others, to help those in despair and to begin the process of rebuilding.

Just in October alone;

                            • An earthquake hit India
                            • A Flash Flood in Indonesia killed one and damaged multiple homes
                            • A Landslide in Columbia killed seven
                            • Torrential Rain killed eleven in Egypt.

These nations and people throughout the world were struck with fear, with panic and ultimately with disaster.  Yet, these moments of crisis bring people together as a nation: “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.”

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

As the election approaches, we need unity within our country.  Whether you follow politics or not, there is no dodging the division of the nation over the Presidential candidates.  Whatever the outcome, our new President will have the difficult task of finding a platform on which to unite our divided country.

As we move about our daily lives on Wednesday, let us remember the need for unity.   We can be unified in God’s word.  We can be stewards of God’s word in our thoughts and in our deeds.  Let us unite and come together as one nation.

2 Kings 18; Philemon 1; Hosea 11; Psalms 132–134

Goat? Yes please.

The first person I thought of when reading the following two verses was our eleven-year-old son. If you know the young man in this post’s featured image, you know one of his many fine qualities is that he is a rule-follower, doesn’t speak falsely of anyone, and is gentle and courteous. Adults gravitate toward Peyton; in part I believe because he’s polite and can come off as very mature. He enjoys engaging with adults and asking good questions, loves trying food that would horrify most kids, and shows genuine interest in what people have to say.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

Several of these attributes played out the other night at our favorite restaurant when we noticed the famous chef/owner Stephanie Izard was there running the kitchen. It was Peyton’s first time at this restaurant, and he was delighted to learn that he could just walk right up and meet his newest hero. It was a brief chat and a great photo opportunity, but what made it excellent was observing the dialogue and demeanor of both individuals. Peyton conveyed how much he loved the goat belly and escargot ravioli, which put a big smile on the chef, as well as myself.

I’ve taken the time to share this today because I thought about the reasons why we’re taught to live out the attributes in Titus 3:1-2. Titus 3:8 points to the crux of the reasons: so we can be role models for other believers and because these things are excellent and profitable. We’ve got a saying in our home “good things happen with good behavior”, and it is true. When we’re genuinely courteous, we are much more fun to be around. I see these as simple truths that regardless of someone’s belief in God, we can observe a real-life situation, something excellent, we are moved by it, and we want more of it.

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:8)

In the big picture here this points to us seeking to live like Christ, the one who showed the ultimate act of kindness and love toward us through his perfect sacrifice. What could be more excellent and profitable than that?

2 Kings 17; Titus 3; Hosea 10; Psalms 129–131

Sound Doctrine

Little child girl plays superhero. Child on the background of sunset sky. Girl power concept

2 Kings 16; Titus 2; Hosea 9; Psalms 126–128

There is no shortage of inspirational messages these days. They are readily found in books, speeches, podcasts, blogs, and videos. With the abundance of information available to us, it is critical that we know what we are filling our hearts and minds with. Today, in Titus 2:1, Paul is encouraging Titus to maintain “sound doctrine.” Rather than skip over those two words, I want to take a close look at them. In many ways, they can become a filter for us both in what we hear and in what we are teaching to others.

Let’s start by defining “sound.” Paul is talking doctrine that makes us well, in good heath, pure and uncorrupted.   I like the way John Calvin puts it. He says, “Sound, means wholesome, that which actually feeds souls.”  is the inspirational information that you are consuming feeding your soul?  Don’t forget, the doctrine with which we feed our souls can be evil too. So the question to ask is, “does this conversation also turn my heart toward Jesus.” When the answer is “yes,” we can move forward in confidence that we are engaging “sound doctrine.”

Anything that moves our soul is also going to move our mouths (Luke 6:45) and feet (James 2:14). Therefore, consider the resulting actions of our “sound doctrine.” The second question to ask is, “does it move me to action that exults Jesus?” if not, Jesus, then who? Again turning to Calvin, if it doesn’t promote Jesus, it “promotes ostentation.” Ouch!  You see, there are plenty messages that can stir my soul, but not all of them cause me to worship Jesus.

As you go about your day and your week, consider more closely what you are filling your heart and mind with. Make no mistake; they are changing your attitudes and actions. Are they moving you closer to Jesus?

To Serve the LORD

Paul opens his first letter to Timothy by straight away identifying himself as a servant of the LORD. It seems to me as though this were the first thing he should like anyone to know about him. First things first as it were.

Imagine for a moment that you were asked to provide a short bio so as you could be introduced at an event. Say you were giving a talk or sitting on a panel, etc. What sort of bio would you submit? Would it lead with your being a servant of the LORD? Would it end there also? God grant us the courage to put you first on a list of one.

As a younger man I look for older and wiser God fearing men to learn from. Here are some simple statements of truth from a note that a local business man shared with some of his business partners:

“I  am a servant of Jesus Christ. I am just a servant, and that is really all I desire to be. Just to serve Him and to be His. I don’t want Him to be a servant to me, I want to be His servant.   

It gives me the greatest joy to be His servant.  It is the greatest joy I have ever had. I want to be His servant and I want to serve Him…

I am owned totally by Him. I belong to Him. The things I have in this world are owned 100% by Him and are not mine…

I am His servant and this is the very first thing I want everyone to know about me. It is the most important thing about me and the only thing that matters. I belong totally to Him. I am here for Him and to serve Him…

He can do with me what He wants, where He wants and when He wants for His glory and to exalt Himself.”

Suggestions for prayer: Ask the LORD to show you how His Word in Psalm 23:1 and Matthew 10:39 intersect in your life. 

For further study: Read Matthew 10:32-42 and reflect on what Christ has called us to do and how your actions and attitudes reflect or reject His calling.

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 15; Titus 1; Hosea 8; Psalms 123–125

Finders, keepers

Finders, keepers     

Today’s readings: 2 Kings 14; 2 Timothy 4; Hosea 7; Psalms 120–122

My son found a dime on the floor the other morning in the garage.  With a big smile he said the phrase “finders keepers” to me and went to put it in his pocket. He soon realized he was still in his pajamas and didn’t have any.  The coin was then placed in my pocket. Today, as I read Psalm 121 I’m reminded of how just like that coin we are all lost at some time. This lostness is preceded by me with smile that you can’t hide. It is the joy in knowing  you are found. Similar to The Parable of The Lost Coin in Luke 15:8-10. This joy is the begining of a promise made and kept to keep us safe always. 

Psalm 121:7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

Knowing how the Lord keeps us is reassuring as we struggle with our earthly desires that can overwhelm and consume us at any moment of any day. Our household can relate to Jillian as we are currently dealing with the same sickness and sleepless nights she mentioned in Qoph from yesterday. Our God promises to keep us thoughout our earthly lives and eternity.

So, no matter your current age, history, or situation God promises to keep us under his protection. Protection keeps us from being harmed or lost.  Protection gives you the faith to handle hardships and challenges. We are told to put on the armor of God so He can keep us. Ephesians 6:10. Don’t let our selfish minds feel like we can do it all alone and allow yourself to get into stress mode.  Lift your eyes and heart to Him and God will provide you with everything you need.lift-up

So as you read through the beautiful song of Psalm 121 face the day in a assurance that He will protect you. We are safe. 

Enter into the day knowing God is our great protector who will keep us.  

2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I Lift My Eyes Up Brian Doerksen