Today’s reading is Psalm 66.
Shout for joy to God, all the
sing the glory of His name;
give to Him glorious praise!
What great things has the Lord done for you throughout your life?
He’s given most of us the blessings of friends, family, spouse, children, providing for our physical needs and then some and most importantly…He’s given all of us his one and only Son on the cross (John 3:16).
Life is busy. Life is crazy. Life is tough. There are hard times. So, what do you do to remind yourself of all the blessings God has given you? We all need reminders. The disciples were with Jesus and saw him do miracles firsthand and yet within a day or two later were filled with worry and anxiety about not having enough to eat or a bad storm. If they had trouble remembering what Jesus had done when they saw miracles done in front of their very eyes, then I would say it’s natural and normal that we need reminders, too. So, what do you do? What helps remind you of what God’s done so that you give him the praise and worship He deserves?
For me, the two things that remind me are by beginning my prayers acknowledging who He is and what he’s done in adoration (remember A.C.T.S I’ve written on in the past for prayer…adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication) and worship music. Starting my morning prayer stating that He is and always has been in control gives me so much peace, and I may sometimes be moved to tears by a worship song in church or on a car ride by myself. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be back in church worshipping Him with others to live music again in church! Do some of you feel the same?
I’ve heard of other great ideas like writing down your prayers in a prayer book and then going back and looking at the ones which have been answered. It’s easy to forget within days or even hours like the disciples what He’s done in our lives.
I encourage you to take some time today to give God the adoration and worship He deserves..even if you’re going through tough times right now. He’s still given you all you ever really need in His only Son. We can all say and give Him praise for that. What can you do today that might help you also do this more consistently in the future? Think of the peace and hope this will give you as you go through the hard days and seasons of life.
Here’s a worship song which might help get you started today!
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
This Monday night many of us saw the bright star of Saturn and Jupiter aligning for the first time in over 800 years. How cool is it that this star, possibly similar to the star of Bethlehem that shown over Jesus’ birth, would be seen near Christmas in 2020 on what most would consider a year of darkness just like when Jesus was born?! I would assume some reading this may have grown up like me thinking the wise men were there the night of Jesus’ birth. They are in most nativity scenes, right? Today, on Christmas Eve, I can remember sitting through many candlelight church services imagining shortly after midnight about 2,000 years ago Jesus was born and all the angels, shepherds, and wise men were there in the stable under the Christmas star. However, it’s clear from these verses that it was “after” He was born when the wise men arrived, and in coming from the far east of Iraq/Bablyon (without a car or plane in those days), they would not have arrived until days and most think years later. Yet, they remembered and still came to worship Him some time in the future after seeing His star.
It may seem strange reading this on Christmas Eve to be thinking about what we do after Christmas, but that’s where my mind went in reading these verses. We worship and praise him in the days leading up to Christmas and especially today on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day….but do we continue to worship and praise Him the same after? The wise men remembered His star and came sometime later still to worship Him and bring Him gifts. What has occurred in your life that is your Christmas Star that should remind you He’s always with you and to worship Him on all the other days of the year? Perhaps something has happened where you were aware of His presence and hand on your life which is your reminder. However, we can often easily forget in the years, days, and sometimes even hours that follow..and especially during the tough times. However, this Christmas Star in your life should remind you He is with you always.
I also thank God for His Word in the Bible which serves like a Christmas Star to remind us of who He is and His promises made and kept. Since man first sinned, He gave us gave us promises of a Savior (Genesis 3:15), and He has kept that and each and every one of His promises. My prayer for all reading this is that each and every one of us recall our Christmas Star which is our personal reminder of His presence in our life, and we open and read the reminder He gave us in His Word more in 2021 than we did this past year. When we do so we will not only have more peace and comfort through growing closer to Him, but we will continue to give Him all the honor and glory and praise He deserves..just like the wise men did. As notes written from a past sermon or devotional near these verses in my Bible read, “Wise men and women still seek Him today.”
Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 4:24.
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
If you were to do a time log over the next month of what you do each moment of the day, what would it reveal? What would your bank or credit card statement reveal? How about your thoughts? What would this auditing say about you? It’s a little scary to think about, isn’t it? Even scarier to think about, what if all of this was made public? The good news is..it won’t be made public. However, one person knows the answers to what takes up our time, money, and thoughts…that person is God.
Chapter 4 of Deuteronomy is Moses reminding the Israelites that they should have no other gods. We can read some of the Old Testament and hear about the Israelites and other nations making man-made gods and think that is just silly. However, when we peel back the onion, we have our own other gods, too. Many of them are things God has blessed us with which are great until they overtake our time, thoughts, and lives, and as a result, God gets put on the back burner. Examples can be our career, hobbies, phone, money, and sadly even some things as great as our spouse or children can become gods we worship them more than Him.
We live in a society today which tells us to do whatever we feel like and whatever makes us happy. Some find it hard to believe a loving God is also a jealous, powerful God like a consuming fire and that He would allow us to go to Hell if we don’t believe His son Jesus died and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins. The Bible tells us this is the truth though. And when you think about it, He created us an has given us everything we have, including His greatest gift in His son Jesus, so He has every right to expect us to worship Him and be upset when we don’t.
Although He is a jealous and powerful God expecting our praise, worship, and attention like a consuming fire, Moses also describes Him further in Deuteronomy 4:31…
“For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers He swore to them.”
Thankfully, He further showed us this in the form of His Son Jesus. He established a new covenant making us all part of His family, not just Jews. Yes, He is a consuming fire who wants our time, hearts, and minds, but thankfully He does not punish us for our missteps and mistakes.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.”
What greater way can we worship Him and say thanks than by giving Him the first fruits of our time, treasures, and talents!
Three weeks after Christmas, on a day we were putting away some Christmas decorations, our family was studying Hebrews 8. As I was listening to the verses being read, I was overcome with joy of the Good News being described. At the conclusion of the chapter, I shouted HALLELUJAH!, leading to a surprised and puzzled six year old.
This chapter describes Jesus as the new, better, eternal covenant for God’s people! Hallelujah – to God be praised!! As best I could, I explained to my son why this is amazing news for us. God is so merciful!
When we look at Luke 2, our passage for today’s journal entry focuses on Jesus as a baby. He’s born in Bethlehem and the very next thing is the angel and heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds, share the news, and proclaim Glory to God! The shepherds went and found baby Jesus and then they shared this with others and praised God!
Christmas is a season that draws our hearts to the Lord and closer to one another, and is an opportunity to celebrate the Good News of who Jesus is, and how he came to save us. In general, babies represent hope for the future, newness and freshness, the miracle of life. And Jesus as a baby brings us so much more than that. Each year I’m challenged to keep Christmas in our hearts a bit longer, and not let the excitement of the good news be put away when the nativity is carefully packaged back up, when we take down the tree, and all the celebrations are over.
I love the example that the angels and shepherds gave us at the birth of Jesus – they wasted no time in telling others and praising the Lord! In a few months we will celebrate and remember this perfect and complete gift from God, as Jesus becomes our sacrifice and then defeats the grave. Between now and then, will you join me in keeping the excitement and gratitude of this gift alive? What are some practical ways we can continue to share and worship like the angels and shepherds did? I’d love some ideas from others!
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.”
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!
On Saturday, Holly-Rae wrote about Noah’s Ark from Genesis 7. She mentioned that many people believe it to be a metaphor and I was reminded that the reason someone built a replica in Kentucky is to help us understand that these stories are real. I will admit that when I read the story, I have the same thoughts. In fact, it’s easier to read Bible stories as metaphors, in order to pull every ounce of wisdom from them. For example, in today’s reading, I might review the powerful imagery of ravens, doves and olive branches (Genesis 8:6-11). I’ll reflect on them and consider how they relate to my life today. I might even work up a strategy or two so that will allow me to be more intentional with my life. Most of the time I stop right there. I take the wisdom and don’t even consider, let alone contemplate, the bigger picture. It’s easier that way. Truth is, stopping there debases God and the Bible. In fact, it reduces my relationship with God to a self-help guru or a life coach. Sure, I will walk away with big thoughts about Noah’s faith and maybe even his leadership capacity. Those are good things. But, those are not the purpose of the stories in the Bible. When I read it right, God reveals to me who he really is. To get there, I have to get messy.
Getting messy means that I have to ponder what kind of being, what kind of God, has the ability to do all those things. In fact, how can that actually be? I have to poke at my own understanding to determine why this God would do all those things. I have to wrestle with what is good or bad about it. Even what I like and don’t like. I have to discover that these are things that God wants to reveal to me about himself but I have to seek them out (Luke 11:9). In my seeking, I would discover that God is far bigger than a piddly little flood. This was nothing for him. I would discover that the answers I find create even bigger questions about who he is and what that means for who I am. He would reveal to me his righteousness and holiness along side his justice and his mercy. In fact, I would encounter the mystery of God and begin to realize that there is no way I can really experience him in this lifetime (1 Corinthians 2:7). In many ways, I would begin to feel like a foreigner here on this earth and understand that I was created for far more than this life. My heart would start to sing “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty” day and night, without ceasing (Revelation 4:8).
Or not. I could just go with the metaphor theory. Besides, I have a lot to do today.
Legacy. What do you think of when you hear the word legacy? Do you care about yours or not? Well, I believe you should because we all leave a legacy and your leadership example determines your legacy. We are all leaders, definitely as parents and spouses and often professionally, but even those that aren’t married, don’t have kids, or don’t have a defined professional leadership role are still leaders. Other friends and co-workers are always watching and following you whether you intend them to do so or not so that makes you a leader. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Your leadership example determines the impact you have on others which ultimately determines your legacy.
Our small group is currently reading The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women. This is my 3rd time through the men’s version, and I would highly recommend every man read it. It is like an instruction manual for being man, husband, and father by translating and breaking down what God instructs us to do in the Bible. It tells men how He created and empowers us to fulfil His leadership vision. Having children, when I think of legacy, I think of the legacy I want to leave for them first and foremost.
The book challenges us to think about how we define success for our children. It is human nature for us to define the success of our children by whether they achieve big things academically, athletically, and even socially with friends or being on homecoming court or in school leadership roles for example. However, this book challenges us that success for our children is only defined by them loving God and knowing Him as their Lord and Savior. Period. End of story. Thus, the legacy we leave in this way through our leadership by example is all that matters.
David tells us in his last words in 2 Samuel 23:3-5..
“The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the
like sun shining forth on a
like rain that makes grass to
sprout from the earth.”
How do we lead our children in this way by our example so they know and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
- First, we must be in the Word daily. This keeps us centered and focused on God so we can know and understand Him and His will better making better decisions daily. This must be visible to them so they know you are in the Word. We should also look to be in the Word together as a family. Try a weekly family devotional on a certain day each week.
- They must see you in prayer. They must know you go to God throughout your day in prayer to draw closer to Him as a source of wisdom. Talk about how you go to Him for your challenges and to praise him, and pray together as a family.
- They must see you praising and worshipping God in adoration. This can most commonly be done in song as we read about in many Psalms, throughout the Bible, and just yesterday with David in 2 Samuel 22. If your kids go to their own church service, consider bringing them into church with you occasionally so they can see you praising and worshipping Him. Recently, we had a night of worship music only at our church where we brought our kids, and it was awesome singing along with them praising God. It doesn’t have to be planned though. Singing along to Christian music in the car or while cooking out or eating dinner at home spontaneously can be just as impactful for them to see God is more than worthy of your praise all the time..any time.
- Speaking about God and his creations of beauty all around us in the world and about how God worked in your life today and asking them how God worked in theirs today is tremendously impactful. Simply put..talk about God. Daily. Not just on Sundays on the drive home from church.
Lastly, if you want to lead someone, most notably your kids as we are speaking of, you must have their heart. If you have their heart and they know you care about and love them, they will follow you. The Resolution for Men discusses if you don’t have your child’s heart, you must do WHATEVER it takes to get it back..even if it takes the rest of your life. 2 Samuel 23 tells about David’s mighty men and all the things they did in battle. While it might be neat to be known for personal or professional successes in life, we should strive for our kids to say when we are no longer on this Earth our legacy was this…”My Mom/Dad loved Jesus with all their heart, and I’m forever grateful they helped me do the same.” Our children must make their own decision to follow Jesus, but nothing is more important than the eternal legacy we strive to instill in and leave them.
Two recent Bible Journal posts have mentioned verses or themes from Matthew 5-7 (also known as the Sermon on the Mount). Stephanie’s post on 3/10 and Lyndon’s post on 3/12 mentioned loving our enemies.
2 Samuel 6 also reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if Jesus had these stories of David on his mind as he gave this sermon. Jesus would have heard these stories and understood the text from being a young boy, so it seems quite possible.
David had been celebrating and worshipping God, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14a). We witness David not holding back whatsoever, giving his all solely for the glory of God.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
As David returns to bless his household, he is greeted rudely and angrily by his wife Michal. Why did Michal respond the way she did? 2 Samuel 6:16 says she “despised him in her heart”. Ouch, his own wife!
This chapter doesn’t tell us her reasoning for being upset. I’ve got some thoughts on this, and all relate to what I believe is the root for most of our sin: Selfishness.
- Was Michal jealous that David put God first in his life?
- Was Michal full of pride and embarrassed that David lowered himself before the people, dancing like a maniac? As though the king should behave more “kingly”.
- Was Michal bitter that David held greater esteem than her father (Saul)? Did she think the throne should be in her own family?
Whatever the reasoning, I see this as persecution directly related to David’s love for God and his desire to serve him first. This brings me again to the Sermon on the Mount.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
David’s response to Michal was more than fair, and he chose to keep it above board without snarling back insults at her. I loved this statement “It was before the Lord” because it reflects his priorities and that he really didn’t care what anyone thought about what he was doing – he cared about being right with God.
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)
All of this once again leads me to the cross. I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be despised but Jesus does. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life yet he was despised, betrayed, beaten, spit upon and unjustly killed. He didn’t have to do any of this, but he did it anyway in direct obedience to The Father’s plan, for our sins. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. I choose you today. Amen.
Extra credit reading: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
What a fitting way to close out the year. Psalms 150
Let Everything Praise the LORD
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
So much of our year-end focuses on either what happened last year or what we want to happen next year. Psalm 150 is about right now, this very moment. Don’t miss it! Set aside, for a minute, who he was last year and who he is going to be next year. Let’s praise him for who He is. He is, after-all, I AM. He is present. Right here, right now! Praise him with whatever instrument you have available to you. Clap your hands, shout with your voice, stomp your feet. When we recognize his mighty deeds and his excellent greatness, it happens.
“He may have given us the power to be, but he is I am. Worship is our response to all that god is” – Matt Ludwig, Eastview Christian Church