Our Responsibility

Today’s reading is Psalm 78.

Here in verses 9 through 66 the psalmist recalls the history of God rescuing the Israelites from slavery and then providing for them in the desert as they traveled towards the Promised Land. Yet despite this, they continued to doubt God’s greatness and provision and continued to sin against Him. I could not help but read this and think of the parallels between the Israelites and our country today.

Our American ancestors moaned that they were not free from British rule and rightly so, yet after fighting for freedom they did not give the same freedom and rights to Black Americans or women…keeping Black Americans as slaves for nearly 100 more years and not allowing women to vote for about 150 more. Nearly 250 years later, we still see racism and sexism present in our country. And although we should continue to pray and take action to end both, I fear we can only improve but that neither will end fully as long as there is sin in this world until Jesus comes again. Our country also continues to glorify lifestyles that the Bible clearly states are not what God wants by normalizing these ways of living in movies, TV shows, and even commercials. Christians who stand firmly on the Bible’s word are then alternatively demonized.

Not only do we as a country continue to move away from God’s will for our lives, but we also continue to question God’s greatness and provision similar to the Israelites (see Psalm 78:10-20). Suicide rates, depression, and anxiety continue to increase. We fear the next virus or economic crash and despite our lack of trust and faith, God continues to richly bless us in similar ways to the Israelites. It may not be parting of the Red Sea, manna and quail falling from the sky, or water spewing from a rock, but God continues to provide for us and improve our lives…even if we don’t attribute to Him because we are not viewing things through the correct lens.

For example, in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected President, 50% of the world lived in extreme poverty, now it’s about 10% with even less in the US. Despite the recent pandemic, US households have the highest inflation adjusted incomes in history and paid down record amounts of debt in 2020, as well as hold two times the amount in checking accounts as they did at the end of 2019. Many are still struggling yes, but the data shows most people’s lives are improving financially and poverty and hunger are becoming closer and closer to being eradicated each and every year. Most junior high students have a phone in their backpack with more computing power than was used to power the first Apollo mission to the moon. Yet we continue as a country to doubt God’s provision and separate ourselves more from Him and His biblical values and instruction. See the parallels when it comes to the Israelites and us now?

With even public schools now removing prayer and God from nearly everything and forcing the teaching of other worldly, non-Biblical views at very young ages, what are parents and grandparents to do? How do we change this trajectory our country is on currently to move further and further away from God and His teachings? Psalm 78:1-8 tells us.

Give ear, O my people to my

teaching;

incline your ears to the words

Of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable.

I will utter dark saying from

of old,

things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers told us.

We will not hide them from

their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord,

and his might,

and the wonders that he has

done.

He established a testimony in

Jacob

and appointed a law in

Israel,

which He commanded our

fathers

to teach to their children,

that the next generation might

Know them,

The children yet unborn,

and arise and tell them to their

children,

so that they should set their

hope in God,

but keep His commandments;

and that they should not be like

their fathers,

a stubborn and rebellious

generation,

a generation whose heart was

not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.

 

We as believers and followers of God’s Word must teach it and tell of His great works and provision in our lives to our children and grandchildren. We cannot merely leave it up to attending church and Sunday school and think that the next generations will believe and follow God’s will based on that alone. The Bible has always taught us it’s our responsibility in our homes. However, it is even more necessary in today’s world where God’s teachings are merely not just excluded, but again demonized as hate and discrimination while other ungodly views are forced upon our children in media and schools.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

God knew the teaching of His Word was needed at home and that we needed consistent exposure…even before the outside influences of Hollywood entertainment and social media of today.

Think of the impact we can have by teaching our children. God has blessed my wife and I with three children and a fourth on the way. If our four children have four children who they teach God’s Word who have four children who do the same and so on and so forth…in 10 generations that would be 1,048,576 who have believed and followed the will and Word of God. And think of the impact each of them would have telling others about God who might believe and teach His Word and the Gospel to their families to not only follow God’s will but have eternal life?!

I would encourage each of to reflect today and pray for wisdom on how we can improve in the frequency of teaching God’s Word, telling of his provision, and of course speaking about His saving grace on the cross to our children and grandchildren. Imagine the difference this will have on them and their lives and generations to come!

Mordecai…Do you know him?

Today’s reading is Esther 3:1-15, 5:9-6:14, and 10:1-3 with a focus on Mordecai.

I have to admit, sadly, that I was more familiar with the major league baseball pitcher and manager from the first half of the 20th century, “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown, than I was with Mordecai from the Bible. I at least knew the major league pitcher and manager had three fingers but couldn’t tell you anything about Mordecai in the Bible until this post. A famous comedian Rodney Dangerfield main punchline was always that he didn’t get any respect. Well, I feel like Mordecai might be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of biblical heroes who stood up for God and what was right despite the risks. Many of us know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, and even Rahab to name a few, but may not know much about Mordecai. Although I don’t think Mordecai himself would really care, what he cared about doing what was right in God’s eyes for God’s glory, despite the risks and lack of notoriety. We can learn from this and should strive to do the same.

If you like soap operas or just a good drama, take the time to read this entire book of Esther. I’ll try to sum up who Mordecai was and what he did as briefly as I can. Mordecai took Esther, the daughter of his uncle Abihail, as his own daughter because she had no father or mother. This was after King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews from Jerusalem during the rule of King Ahasuerus while the Jews were still exiled. Not only had Mordecai sacrificed to help make Esther his own, but he also helped her behind the scenes to rise to queen while her Jewish beliefs and lineage were hidden. He went to great risks to foil a plot from some of King Ahasuerus’ own men to kill him, even though he received no credit. Like the more well-known Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he refused to bow down anyone other than God when he did not bow down King Ahasuerus’ right-hand man Haman. As a result, Haman plotted to annihilate all the Jews across the land and eventually hang Mordecai. However, Mordecai convinced Esther to potentially put her life at risk by asking her to reveal her Jewish lineage by telling King Ahasuerus about Haman and his plot to kill all her fellow Jews and him. After much time had passed since the event, the King learned it was in fact Mordecai who exposed the plot some time earlier to kill him and saved Mordecai’s life, as well as all the Jews, promoted Mordecai to his right-hand man, and ultimately hanged Haman instead.

I’ve heard the quote before, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” This is what Mordecai did time and time again, despite the risks to himself, all the Jews, and Esther who he raised and obviously cared so much for. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Mark Whitacre speak on two occasions. You may recognize his name as the FBI informant who exposed the ADM price fixing scheme in nearby Decatur, IL and may have even seen the movie with Matt Damon starring as him. I admittedly have not seen the movie, but what you may not know (I’m not sure if it is in the movie…) was that his wife, Ginger, told Mark that if he didn’t go to the authorities, she would. Although Mark did and was responsible for initially helping to expose the scheme, he did not fully cooperate with authorities and served 9 years in prison while the average stay of the others involved was only 30 months! Do you think Ginger who gave up a wealthy life and who was now raising their children alone without her husband and their father might have regretted her decision and might have been bitter about the others’ lesser sentence? I don’t know if any of these thoughts crept in, but I do know that she prayed for her husband consistently throughout this time. Ultimately, Chuck Colson, who was guilty as part of the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal, witnessed to Mark while he was in prison, and Mark gave his life to Christ. Mark now travels the country sharing his story and witnessing to thousands about the saving grace of Jesus he received which they can also receive. If Mark doesn’t go to prison, or has a shorter sentence, it’s likely he doesn’t find Christ, nor help others find God’s grace through sharing his story. This all started by Ginger Whitacre doing the right thing and encouraging her husband to do the same.

While we may not be in the situation to step in the middle and stop criminal activity, we are faced with opportunities each day to stand up for God and His Word. The world keeps telling us that there is no right and wrong and everyone should just do like they feel, seeking pleasure and whatever makes them happy. It’s their choice, right? If we don’t agree, we are looked at as being in the wrong. Well, God is clear in His Word what is right and what is wrong, and we must not let the world convince us differently. We must also let the world know what God’s Word says is truth, despite the risks of being ostracized and despite the fact that we who are witnessing and standing up for God are also sinners in need of God’s saving grace ourselves. Like we learned from Mordecai in the book of Esther and Ginger Whitacre, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”

If you want to read more verses on how we must not heed to what the world says is right, despite the risks, check out James 4:4, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Matthew 24:9, Galatians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and finally Matthew 5:10-12.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

The Word Became Flesh

Good morning friends! As my son would say, “It’s Christmas Evening!” Jesus’ birth is upon us today and I’m wondering how you are? Are you surrounded by friends and family this morning or are you welcoming Him in a more quiet and personal way? Whether you are experiencing the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ or experiencing the need for peace, I’m so glad you’re here. Although the primary focus of today will be Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, I’d like to share another scripture with you:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

I wrote down several verses in preparation for my post today. I came up with about 10 different verses that have held me up when I needed them most. But this morning I opened my bible and this one was underlined. Three years ago around this time I was asked by a total stranger to write for Bible Journal. I’m not sure why I said yes! I don’t have any qualifications and certainly didn’t have experience with Christian theology. I had no way of knowing the personal and spiritual challenges that lay just a few short months ahead. I know now that it wasn’t a stranger in the form of BJ Armstrong asking me to study and write. It was God, inviting me to go deeper in His word and develop my relationship with Him. The Word has truly become flesh for me in the hands that have reached out to our family and the feet that have walked the miles with us. As I sit down to write to you for the last time tonight I can testify that I have seen His glory. John says, “The Word became flesh…”in other words it became human. By doing so, Jesus became our perfect teacher. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth today, he truly becomes flesh in our lives. He goes on to become a model of what we are to become. Those who welcome Jesus as Lord of their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God. Through faith in Christ, this new birth changes us from the inside out. Jesus is born today. We don’t have to wait until the new year to reaffirm our faith and put our trust in Him! 

I am grateful to each one of you for reading our posts but more importantly, I am grateful to you for helping me to grow. If it wasn’t for you andthe Monday morning deadline, I wouldn’t have come to know God as I do now! To the rest of the Bible Journal team, I am forever humbled by your wisdom and grace. I wish you all a very blessed Christmas season. I look forward to reading with you each day and promise to guest post a time or two for my beloved Mr. McGriff. 

The love of Christ be with you-

Jillian