Going Through The Motions

Today’s reading is Amos 4.

I have to admit in preparing for this I did not know much about the prophet Amos and this book of the Bible which is, quite frankly, a little difficult to interpret. Thankfully, my brother in Christ and fellow Bible Journal writer David LaFrance turned me on to John MacArthur’s “Grace to You” app a few years back which I highly recommend if you have questions and want to learn more about a book or passages from the Bible.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer,” and he was from a small town Tekoa 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He bred sheep and tended sycamore fruit (yet another example of how God can use anyone from anywhere for big things and His glory). He lived in a time of peace during the 8th century B.C. when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. As can happen in times of peace when everything seems merry, we can tend to lose sight of true worship of God and God used Amos to bring attention that and also a lack of justice.

“Come to Behtel and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim free will offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! declares the Lord God.”

Amos 4:4-5

God wants to bring attention to their idolatry and them going through the motions in giving and worship. I’m sure we can all relate to doing this…I know I can! I notice when I’m in prayer time and realize I’m distracted thinking of my “to do” list, meetings that day, or personal or professional goals. I notice this when my mind wanders in church, and I’m not focused on the sermon but instead thinking about lunch or the game of my favorite team later that day. I even noticed sleep being an idol today when I was going to wake up early Sunday morning to work on this but am instead working on it in the afternoon! Don’t get me wrong..making an impact professionally, our spouses, our kids, our favorite sports team or hobbies, money, sleep, and food are all blessings from God which we should enjoy. However, are we prioritizing and thinking about them over him? Are we thanking Him for these blessings and using them for His glory or for our own? All of these and more can become idols if we are not careful…yes..even our spouses and kids.

Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says..

“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.”

The people of Israel Amos speaks of were giving and going through the rituals of worship without truly worshipping God and giving to Him with a thankful heart to further His kingdom.

I may have mentioned this in past writings, but I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who became moved to tears nearly every week at some point when talking about Jesus. I just didn’t get it then and thought it was very strange, but I do now. I know the times I’m living out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 is when I’m nearly moved to tears during a worship song, prayer, communion while thinking of His sacrifice on the cross, while reading the Word, or while looking at my wife and kids in thanksgiving to Him for these blessings and more.

As you read through the book of Amos, it can become very confusing, as the wrath and punishment from God is discussed. I must admit again that I have a hard time understanding this other than knowing we should suffer the wrath of God and be separated from God due to our sin. However, I’m thankful that in Amos 9:11, he speaks of Jesus by stating, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Romans 8:1 also says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 2:2 tells us that God sent Him as the “propitiation” for our sins. I’m extremely grateful God loves us so much that He sent Him to suffer the wrath that should have been mine.

Let us keep this in the forefront of our mind in thanksgiving as we live, give, and worship. When we do, it becomes easy live out Deuteronomy 6:5-6 and love God with all our heart, soul, and might!

One Wish…

As many await the release of the remake of the Disney classic Aladdin later in 2019, we read of an “Aladdin” or “genie” type event in 1 Kings 3 as God comes to King Solomon, the son of David, through a dream asking him what He should give Solomon. Be honest with yourself, before reading Solomon’s answer here, what would you ask for…wealth, happiness, health, love, or something different? Solomon answers in 1 Kings 3:9, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Wisdom…Solomon asked for wisdom, so we should not be surprised that he later wrote 2 books of the Bible which were filled with wisdom in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How many of us would have asked for wisdom?

We can learn a few very important lessons here from Solomon. The first being humility. The saying often goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” How many of us actually realize and think about that regularly, as opposed to believing we have all the answers? I know I don’t. Solomon says in the 2nd part of 1 Kings 3:7 “….although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.” Here, the leader of God’s people who he says in 1 Kings 3:8 “are too many to be numbered or counted for multitude,” does not get cocky or arrogant upon his throne which God placed him, but instead humbles himself to say he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he needs help from God asking for wisdom.

The second lesson we can learn from Solomon is life is not about us. Solomon asks for wisdom because he realizes he has a great and important responsibility to “govern this your great people.” Not only did he not ask for riches, happiness, or love, but instead for wisdom, which likely would lead to those other things, not for that reason, but rather to help the people around him which God had put in his life and entrusted him to lead. How cool is that?! How many of us would have the same “other focused” mindset? Should it not surprise us that when Solomon takes the focus off himself, God says in 1 Kings 3:13 that he would give him “riches” and “honor,” as well as “lengthen his days” if he continued to walk faithfully in His ways like his father David.

The verse 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Fear always comes back to us and our insecurities and selfish worries. Love is focused on others, removing that fear. God put us on Earth for a purpose to impact the lives around us to bring Him glory by modeling the love He showed us by giving His life on the cross for us to bring us together with Him. Let us show love to those God has entrusted us to lead (family, co-workers, team members) and put in our lives (the waiter/waitress, gas station attendant, cashier) in the same way King Solomon and later Jesus did.

Many of our stresses in life also come from wondering what the right answer is, what the right direction to go is, or wondering what God’s purpose is in certain things happening in our lives and in the world around us. We are paralyzed about making the right decision, not only in the big things, but even in the little things. Let us pray for wisdom daily to make small and large decisions for His glory and to know His purpose for what’s happening to and around us….or at the least to have the wisdom to give us the peace to realize we don’t know the purpose of what’s going on, but He does…..and has a perfect plan.

Loud and Clear

Good Morning Bible Journal fiends.  Today we will be reading Deuteronomy 28.  This chapter has 68 verses in it.  The first 14 verses provides us insights of the many blessings you will have when you fully obey the Lords commands. The next 54 verses cover the curses that will be faced when you disobey the Lord. Looking at these verses helps me to understand the heading Loud and Clear.  It seems like we would be able to obey. Yet, after reading this chapter my next step was to figure out how I apply this chapter to my life.  God what are you telling us? For myself,   I’m able to look at all the amazing things that God has provided.   Many blessings through faith filled relationships, physical needs being met, healings in the midst of pain, a heart transformation, and ultimately a true relationship with God.  All the good in our lives can always point  back to God.  “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. – Deuteronomy 28:1

On the other hand, all the bad things can often point to myself and my selfish desires. This can include pain that I have caused to others, my many years of confusion about life, seeking short term pleasures through worldly substitutes… these can all point back to me, and my selfish desires to fulfill my own will. When I don’t obey. 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.

In Deuteronomy 28 Moses tells us through the use of repetition similar to what Lynden was saying yesterday with Dora cartoon connection ( have small kids too) What God desires from us and what will happen when do and don’t obey. Moses is telling the Israelites, and us, that God has always provided and always will.  These first 14 verses tells of the blessings of walking in covenant with our Lord. Moses also reminds us of our disobedience. This choice is ours. God loves us, He sent his only son to wash away all our sins. That even in our sinful nature, Gods love is always present for us.  For me this covenant language can be easy to read through, underline, highlight, and reflect on but, I need more than doing that .  It has to be in my heart.  Because when I just write it and not put it into my heart, I can easily forget. Deuteronomy 6:6 reminds me 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.   

Our small group is starting a 4 week study on family discipleship.  One of our first goals is to focus on our modeling.  Jim Probst shared a story before that has stuck with me for years.  Him and some other guys were meeting and thinking of ways to honor God.  Many people had great ideas of serving, additional financial giving, possible additional mission trips.  One gentleman said, ” I just want to obey. ”  In Luke 11:28 Jesus reminds us that, “28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

There was a Promise Land that the Israelites were looking for then, there is a Promise Land for us now.  In the midst of our lives, God has provided for us a way to get to this Promise Land.  His love for us is always there, our its our choice to be obedient and remain faithful. To know and apply this obedience into our lives we need to make His words an integral part of everyday of our lives. Think about the Parable of the Sower. 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Loud and clear, there are blessings and curses based on our faithfulness.

  • Pray continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Set our minds on things from above. Colossians 3:2
  • Let the message of Christ dwell among us. Colossians 3:16

Dear God, Thank you for your living word that we can be in every day. Create in us a soil that will take your words  to grow closer to you.  We love you and pray for obedience and faithfulness to you. 

Amen

Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

To Him Be The Glory

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:1-4 and Psalm 67.

The title of these verses in Matthew is “Giving to the Needy” in my Bible. The Bible tells us in many occasions we are called to help those in need.

“Give justice to the week and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the week and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  

Psalm 82:3-4

“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday soon.”

Isaiah 58:10

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40

However, I feel like the title should really read, “Whose Glory Are You Really Seeking?” Pastor J.K. Jones always says something to the effect that, “There is a God shaped hole in all of hearts.” When God fills that hole and we develop a relationship with Jesus, our hardened heart softens, and we become more like Him. Why did Jesus do what He did during His life on Earth and ultimately suffer the ultimate pain and affliction of the cross when He didn’t have to? He did it to show the love our Father in Heaven has for us..to be the reflection of His light in the world and to glorify Him. These verses in Mathew 6:1-4 clearly tell us to do the same. Every single one of us was put on this Earth to glorify Him. Many of us have read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman which are touch, service, gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. I believe words of affirmation are near the top for most of us. Who doesn’t like it when someone tells them “good job?” In fact, much research has shown many men in prison will admit they still yearn today to hear words they unfortunately never heard their dad say, “I love you , and I’m proud of you.” I’ll be transparent in that I like it when someone says to me “Good post today..” when writing for Bible Journal. This is my human, self-serving, and sin filled natural emotional reaction.  I then stop, think, and respond by borrowing the words of I heard author Jon Gordon say at the Christian Fellowship Breakfast for Northwestern Mutual a few years back, “God is the author. I just hold the pen.” This puts me in check, and reminds me I’m striving to live a life where truly everything I do is for His Glory..to be the reflection of the Father’s light like Jesus.

When we fully comprehend the love Jesus showed on the cross and the love the Father showed by sending Him to do so when He didn’t have to, and we develop a relationship with Him…our hearts will soften and we will give to the needy and do everything in our life for His glory rather than ours. This will in turn, draw others to Him through seeing His love in us. The God shaped hole in their heart will be filled, and they will in turn, do the same for others who will see the same. Then, we will be living out The Great Commission Jesus gave us in his last words in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

To Him be the Glory…

He Wants Us

2 Samuel 19 and Psalm 51 – Resurrection Eve

Have you ever wondered when the deniers, doubters, crucifiers, and liars had their moment of realization of who Jesus was and their role in His death? Was it immediate, like Peter when the rooster crowed the third time? Or did it take longer, after Jesus had been taken from the cross and put in the tomb? Or was it not until days later, when word got around that Jesus was alive, and Thomas even put his hand into his side.  Did they respond like David does, in his Psalms about his own sins? Had I been there, would I have realized it immediately, or would it have taken me awhile to understand? What would have been my response to knowing I put Jesus on the cross?

From an early age I learned about Jesus and have never doubted who He was or what He did for me.  As I got older, my heart to please God was challenged by my selfishness and temptations to sin. In high school especially, I was stuck on this hamster wheel of wanting to “be good” and do the right thing, but time and time again would fall into cycles of sin and rebellion. I would go through a period of mourning, praying, and vow to not fall into that junk again. I would “be good” for awhile and then it would start over. I was so frustrated with myself and lack of self control. Everything seemed so easy and made so much sense sitting in church on Sundays and at youth group on Wednesday nights.  But by Friday night – it all flew out the window.

I made a decision when I was 16 to try to get off that hamster wheel for good, and I wanted a REAL CHANGE. While I had always believed in Jesus, I needed to do something different and drastic in my life so that I could be more consistent in my choices to follow Jesus. I believed. I could talk the talk. I needed to WALK the WALK – even on the weekends.  I joined a conservative faith community that was rich in tradition and strong in holy habits.  The fellowship of the close-knit group was unmatched. The believers there invested time and energy in helping me understand God’s Word. I learned so much in this season of life and thank God for putting people into my path to draw me to Him.

One of the biggest things I learned is that even with all of the holy habits, fellowship, and accountability, I still sinned.  As much as I wanted to ‘be good’, I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And it took my early adult years to figure out that God doesn’t want me to ‘be good’. He wants me forgiven. This is why He brought us Jesus. In my youth I found myself categorizing sin and thought mine was the worst – if I could just stop those major sins, then I would be acceptable in God’s eyes. It took a lot of years to really believe that ALL sin is unrighteousness in God’s eyes. While sins may have greater or lesser consequences on earth – the sin itself is all the same: separation from God, no matter how big or small.

During this time of growth, the elder of our church, a kind and sweet man named Ervin, would point me back to Psalms 51. Over and over again, I would counsel with him, pour my heart out, trying to figure out why I would still from time to time fall back into those old sinful ways and make bad decisions.  He was so patient with me, and would read this scripture with me.  Even though it was twenty years ago, I can clearly recall our conversations.  He would encourage me to go home and pray the prayers that David did, a man who loved God so much and would still find himself in a mess of sin. And just like David, I would weap and mourn over my sins and ask God for forgiveness.  My quest to “be good” was a fruitless journey – and through prayers like Psalm 51, I found that a broken heart for my sin drew me closer to Him more than my checklist of ‘being good’ ever did.  As C.S. Lewis said: God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants US.

Today, on Holy Saturday, the time between Jesus’ death on the cross, and His victory over the grave tomorrow, I can’t help but put myself there and walk through the range of emotions.

It is our sins against God that crucified Jesus that Friday vs. 4 and David calls his own sin what it is – evil.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;

I wonder how quickly we would have realized this and sought forgiveness and change. Would it have been the very next day, on Saturday?  Would we have prayed vs. 10?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

And then to wake up Sunday morning and learn that HE IS ALIVE! Would we really believe? Would we spend the rest of our days living in the JOY that salvation brings (vs. 10)?

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

How would our lives be different if we lived everyday with the utmost JOY for Jesus conquering the grave and the utmost JOY for our salvation?

Love vs. Law

 

Today’s Reading:  I Samuel 21; Psalms 22

In today’s reading, we find David, our anointed king running for his life. King Saul has been attempting to trap and kill David, but Jonathan has been a savior for David. This friendship has proven more valuable than the relationship that Jonathan and his father, Saul, had together. In I Samuel 21, David is fleeing and terrified for his life and safety. David enters the temple of God and request food and weapons.

I Samuel 21: 1-6

 Then David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

It was against the Levitical Law for anyone to eat of the holy bread except the priest and this was a very important law, which had fatal consequences if broken. The priest was faithful, even with the potential of death to show love for David. David had been anointed the next king of Israel, but it was not revealed to many.   But the Spirit of God revealed something in David to the priest, and this caused the priest to show compassion toward him. By listening to the Spirit, the priest empowered David to face his adversaries with the needed nourishment and protection. This account with David is so impactful that Christ in the New Testament about the Love vs. Law scenario references it.

Matthew 6: 1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Over the last several weeks, I have been reading and spending meaningful and intentional quite time and have had several enlightenment times that circle back to the necessity of learning the word of God, but allowing the Spirit of God to lead and direct me. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the “obligatory” and traditional ways and manners of worship and lose sight of the true purpose of the “why”.   In this passage the priest listens to the Spirit of God and loves the person and presence of God in David.   I have attempted to be more like David and search for God’s heart. As Christ and David understood and lived, “God desires mercy, not sacrifice”. It’s not the “act” that God wants from us, it is the “want and need” to be close to him. Can we desire God more today, this week, and so on going forth?

Lord, allow us to desire you the same way that you desire us. Allow us to love you as you have loved us. I pray that my prayers and actions are not just to perform them, but to actually seek you and your presence. Amen

We are speaking to the creator of the universe!

This is my last post for 2017 so I’m reflecting on the past year along with Psalm 141, a Psalm of King David.

Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
 Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
 and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalm 141:1-2)

Note the exclamation points and the direct manner by which David starts out speaking to God. This is from the heart, passionate, and urgent. We should all pray like we mean it… we are speaking to the creator of the universe! He doesn’t need our empty words or empty promises, he wants our hearts! Lift up your hands and cry out to him right now. I triple dog dare you. Yes, ’tis the season to go straight to the triple dog dare.

Consider the urgency of Jesus as he prayed on the Mount of Olives, praying so hard that his sweat was like blood.

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

I’ve seen God move in mighty ways this year, no doubt as a result of crying out and the faithful prayers of friends and family. When I say that I’ve seen God move, I don’t mean that he’s answered every prayer in the way that I wanted him to answer it. He also moves through saying no, not yet, or revealing a completely different plan. While it is easy to say right now that I’m thankful, there have certainly been times of frustration, sorrow, fear, and doubt.

Sitting at my favorite place to write inside, I am thinking about the people, habits, or events that had the biggest influence on my life this year.

  • Absolutely the greatest influence on my life in 2017 (same with 2016) has been writing for Bible Journal. This habit and responsibility causes me to look for the Holy Spirit in all events and to constantly be thinking about God’s ways over my ways. It teaches me to see others as who they are: first and foremost, children of God, loved by God, and therefore I must love others. After completing one post, it is time to start praying about the next one, asking for wisdom and for God’s will to be done. There are so many stories going on in all of our lives, and this journaling habit brings the stories closer to my heart. I am so thankful, humbled and honored to be part of this community.
  • Words of encouragement. Do not underestimate the power that our words have on other people, positive or negative. I’m thankful for those who have lifted me up and challenged me in a way that is pleasing to God.
  • Grace. I spent a few minutes thinking about all that I’ve been given this year that I didn’t deserve. Sit quietly and ask God to show you a glimpse of what you’ve been given this year. I believe he wants all of us to see this so that we may give him, the ultimate giver, the thanks he deserves.
  • Surprises. Meeting new people, especially those who are humble and joyful.
  • Seeing my sin as what it is: unacceptable in the eyes of God. This one stings but let’s not sugar coat it. I’m thankful to have a savior who gave his perfect life in exchange for my all too often wretched life. I’m a sinner in need of a savior. Thank you Jesus.

God With Us

Mark 2, Psalm 136

Sometimes I wonder what God was thinking.  Why did he create us? You see every day, we do things that are contrary to his nature.  Contrary to his purpose for us.  We even attempt to replace him with something different, yet God persists.  As I wonder why, I am drawn to Psalm 136.    Its author has taken the time to identify why  and how God works.

To start, we must think about who God is.  The Psalmist reminds us that He is good.  He is the God of God and Lord of Lords.  He does great wonders and created the heavens.  He made the earth, the lights, the sun and the moon.  He ordered them perfectly.  He struck Israel’s enemy and delivered them into freedom.  He is mighty and caring at the same time, able to part an entire sea.  He uses  this miraculous work to protect those he loves and to destroy to their enemies.  He led his people through the wilderness, striking down and killing great and mighty kings.  He takes their territory and gives it to those who love him.  He doesn’t care about his servants position, high or low.  He cares and provides for us in every situation. 

These are powerful words about our great God and his abilities.  If you are like me, you ask why.  Why would this God do such things for us?  More directly, why would he do them for me?  He knows that I am unruly and rebellious. The Psalmist gets it right with one simple word.  Love.  In my attempt to define what love is, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  It says,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

Yes this describes God’s love for us.  In fact, God is so patient, so kind, so caring that he sent his own son, to live among us.  You see, real love doesn’t sit on the throne looking down.  Real love comes along side us.  Real love is personal.  Real love is messy.  This is why Jesus was born.  This is why he is called Emmanuel.  It means “God with us.”  

His love endures forever!

Emmanuel – God With US , Mercy Me

 

Do as I say, not as I do

Good Morning Bible Journal Family!

Keep reading daily and living out God’s word.   Developing yourself and others requires time in His word.  Ephesians 4:11-12 says So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Today’s Reading Matthew 23 and Psalm 96

Matthew 23:4-5 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

I  heard growing up the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do” many times at different occasions.  So in most cases what did I do? I didn’t listen and did it anyway, often learning the hard way. So in fast forwarding time, now there are times when I have say to my own children, students, family, friends, and others,  “Do as I say, not as I did.”  Mostly because I learned the hard way and trying to spare some pain.

Some of us learn by listening, while others learn by doing and failing or succeeding. God has provided us His perfect living word and provided us a perfect model of these words in His son, Jesus.  There are other places in the bible where we find those who didn’t follow, or made up their own version of the law. As we continue to read through Matthew we get to Matthew 23 where Jesus warns us about the hypocrisy in the Pharisees.  It’s hard to believe that those who were so familiar with the word and could probably reference and quote whole books of the bible would lose sight of God. Not even  realizing they were in the presence of His son Jesus. To the point of trying to disprove Him or get Him to say something wrong(which He never did). The Pharisees had such wonderful knowledge of the law but lacked the true relationship needed. There are so many times where I wish I could just remember that “just right” verse for that moment to share with someone.   But I realize that wasn’t the only thing that was holding back these teachers of the law. Often they could put made laws above Gods.  They told the rules to everyone but when it came down to them it wasn’t happening. Rules that were followed were to make them look better and not about the focus being on God.

When I think about the Pharisees I wonder why they couldn’t take off blinders and realize they were in the presence of our Lord. Honestly, I wonder why at times my blinders can be on too.  Do I practice what I preach? Is there times I don’t even say anything? In my humble reflection, I think about sharing of God’s living word. Am I focusing and Him or myself.  God has already promised you a place in heaven with Him and it won’t be based on what we do or don’t do. Am I  acting out of convenience for myself or my present circumstance. am I dropping the ball just like a Pharisee.  Do I put things on others and not willing to help out of selfishness? As we read through these living stories I’m given a daily reminder of making sure it’s not about me, it’s about God.  It’s not about me, it’s about others.  It our earthly lives it can be easy to get caught up in the

In our earthly life we have to be careful to what people ask us to do.  Is it what they want? Is it what we want? Ultimately,  is it what God wants? As I reflect on these words I try to remind myself of the true meaning of why we do things.  Is it for myself or for others. If we go back to the acronym JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself) are we talking in our homes and workplaces about Jesus=1st, Others = 2nd, Yourself= 3rd  Oh how I can mess up this order sometimes.  Are we acting these characteristics of Jesus out in lives? You may be the only Christian that person runs into today.  One additional reminder question to reflect on says Matthew 23:28 “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside…

Psalm 96:3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.

 

Dear God,

Thank you for your truth.  Thank you for washing us clean. Your word continues to shape and form our lives. Our prayer is to not make anything about us, but about You and your word.  That as we go about our days with the true meaning of what we do, how we do it, and who we do it for, leading us all back to you and your love.  Keep our communion in you close so we know who we live our life for.  I pray our words match our actions and always represent you, in which we give you all the glory.

Amen

The only example we should follow is His.  John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.