One Hand Washes the Other

2 Kings 5-8

2 Kings 5 16 NIV sgl

Over the course of the past few months, it would not be presumptuous to say that many of us have amended our handwashing technique; however, we have most likely been using one hand to wash the other for quite some time (hopefully with warm water and soap, too).  It is a mutually beneficial relationship, which makes both hands equally clean, each part repaying the debt to the other. This has become a beautiful analogy for many who do favors in expectation of a return. No matter how you say it, “one hand washes the other” or “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” (which you will definitely need to wash your hands if you scratch someone’s back), going out of our way and doing the right thing can be advantageous to a relationship, a caching of IOUs, or marking our debt paid. Handwashing itself is definitely a biblical, Levitical principle, but is this tit-for-tat the way God works?  Should we expect a return when we have lived out the moral will of God? Should we be cleanly rewarded because we have taken a risk on someone else’s mess?

 

Today’s reading challenges us to think differently about the expectations of doing a good deed.  Naaman is healed of leprosy by the instructions ordained through Elisha.  Naaman was indeed searching for a cure, but as the many who came up to Jesus looking for healing, he had a curiosity about the God of Israel.  Overwhelmed by the healing, he asked Elisha if there is anything He can do in return? For a moment, think of your hospital bill if you were healed of a flesh-eating disease that could ultimately take your life, much less the deep appreciation you might have for your new quality of life.  Both would be truly astronomical.  Elisha could have asked for enormous amounts of wealth, power or favor in Syria, or even asked for a vow of protection from an enemy captain.  He wanted part of no such thing.  His whole purpose in helping is so that men, specifically Naaman, would know and confess “…Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel…” – 2 King 5:15.  If we needed any further confirmation of this truth, Elisha’s servant is struck with leprosy after turning back to essentially say Elisha had changed his mind and would be happy to take a few things in return (2 Kings 5:26,27).

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a message of hand washing hand.  It is a message of hands washing feet. We are to be servants of God, and in turn, servants of those He loves, people.  We do not do these things because we can earn our spot in the Kingdom of God, or buy our way into his favor (Rom 6:23).  Our debt is so enormous, we could never repay it.  We become the beneficiaries of this gift when we humbly accept the healing instructions God offers us; that we would be made clean by the waters of baptism and know and live that there is no other god in our life, except the living, one true God of Israel.  When we act as God, meaning, when we act as an agent of His attributes (love, kindness, patience, truth, faithfulness, forgiveness, grace) we are not offering something that is from us.  We are offering God.  God’s terms have already been agreed upon; we do not have any additional conditions to bring to the table.  We are not owed, nor should we expect a return on such an investment we make with our life or provisions. God is the rewarder. Every good and perfect thing flows down from the Father (James 1:17).  Ultimately, we should not ever extend our hands out to expect a reward from God or anyone else. As we serve the Lord in whatever capacity he has called us to, we should extend our hands upward to give Him the praise because He is rewarding us in a literally astronomical way that will reshape the structures of heaven and earth.  We may lose all we have or be thought of as fools as we try to serve like Jesus, but we can truly never settle the score, or wash the hand of God, and that is an awesome, powerful, wonderful thing.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 9-11 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Don’t Be a Hater

Proverbs 10-12

Proverbs 10 12 NIV sgl

I have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling in my head after the death of George Floyd and all the events surrounding it afterward.  There is a lot to dig into and talk about, but I am going to keep this devotion simple by sharing some very pertinent verses from our reading in Proverbs today.

Proverbs 10:12 starts out by saying that hatred stirs up conflict.  Well, that has certainly been proven true.  If you want to dig to the core of this whole problem, racism, you will find hatred there.  People have chosen to hate someone based on the color of their skin.  Some of this hate is intense, and unfortunately leads to death at times, but there are also many people that carry with them a milder form of hate that still makes the problem worse even though it may not be so blatant.

So how should we combat hatred?  The second part of verse 12 says that love covers over all wrongs.  Love is what is needed to make this situation better.  Considering everything that has happened, you might not be feeling that right now.  There is a lot of anger out there, and it is ok to get angry sometimes.  Some things are worth getting angry over. However, that anger can’t last.  It will ruin you and those around you if you hold on to anger for too long.  There have been many wrongs through the years that can’t be undone, but love can cover those wrongs, and forgiveness needs to be part of that love.  The wrongs can be forgotten with forgiveness and love.

You have a choice to make.  Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?  Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  You can speak harshly and blame people for their wrongdoings.  You might even be accurate about what you are saying, but if your tone is cruel and insensitive, it is like piercing them with a sword.  A wise person’s words are softer, gentler, loving, and empathetic, which brings healing.

I think it is safe to say that most people have been feeling anxiety over what has been happening.  The first part of Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety weighs down the heart.  I’m sure many of you have experienced that during these trying times lately.  The good news is that there is a cure for your heart.  The second part of verse 25 says a kind word cheers it up.  Again, you can choose to speak harshly to others about what they have done wrong and make the wounds worse, or you can say something kind to help make their heart glad.

Proverbs 12:20 goes one step further by saying those who promote peace have joy.  Peace feels so good and it is what most of us strive for.  If you can promote peace, even in very small ways, it will bring joy to your heart.  The only thing that will completely end racism is the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up until then.  I encourage you to make this world a better place one person at a time.  You can’t solve this whole problem by yourself, but you can make it better by being a light to the individuals you come into contact with in your daily life.

I am not saying we all need to pretend nothing happened and try to live happily ever after.  There are many conversations that need to take place and changes need to occur.  I am saying that we need to embrace the wise words from scripture and go into those conversations with love, not with hate boiling on the inside.  You also need to search your own heart to see if there is any hatred there, no matter how strong or mild it may be, and rid your heart of that hatred.  Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.

Rick McClain

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 13-15 as we find more of God’s wisdom on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Ooh La La

Song of Songs 1 to 8

Song of Songs 7 10 NIV sgl

Song of Songs…it’s in the Bible, and since we are going through the whole Bible, someone needs to write about it.  I know Marcia was probably a bit apprehensive when she saw that I was the one that signed up for this book, but I am very experienced with this topic, so I think it is a good fit.  When I was much younger, I wrote a poem about my girlfriend and gave it to her, and she is now my wife.

You may know this book of the Bible as Song of Solomon, but in the original Hebrew it was called Song of Songs.  It is saying that this is not just a song, it is the song of all songs, like King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I must admit, it is a very unforgettable song and I was a bit surprised to learn such a book was in the Bible when I first read it long ago.  For some reason my Sunday School teacher did not cover this part of the Bible with us when I was a child.

The visuals painted in these chapters about a bride and groom are very sexual in nature, but is that what this book is about?  Some say it is an allegory of Jesus and his bride, the church.  I doubt this is true because Jesus wasn’t even around in the Old Testament when this was written.  I don’t think the concept of the church being the bride of Jesus was known back then so why would someone write an allegory about that?  It is also believed by some that it could be an allegory about God and the people of Israel.  There are no doubt similarities between the relationship of a bride and groom and the relationship between God and His people, but why would someone use such erotic sexual material to describe how God thinks about Israel and vice versa?

I believe it is love poetry and I am thrilled that the Bible has affirmed that the sexual desire I have for my wife is a good thing.  I know that will make some of you squirm a bit because we don’t usually talk about this stuff, especially in church.  However, I think one of the main points of this book is to show that the physical attraction between a bride and groom is a beautiful thing that God has created for them to enjoy.

I could be very wrong about this, but how much does that matter in this case?  What if it turns out it is about Jesus and the church?  It is perfectly ok for people to have different opinions about topics such as this because it will not affect your salvation if you are wrong.  I really look forward to the day when we will be able to sit and talk with the authors of the Bible and ask them to explain what they were writing about.  I can’t wait to be in the same room as God and Jesus and listen to them talk about so many things we weren’t totally sure about.  That does not mean we should twist meanings and be wrong about things that are plain to see, but you must admit that you don’t completely understand everything.  It is sometimes ok to say “I think” something is true without being 100% positive it is true.

But back to the song of all songs.  I am not going to go in great detail here about this book because you should read it for yourself.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how much in love these two seemed to be.  It reminded me of when you see two young people in love, and their love is just oozing all over each other so much so that they don’t even notice anyone else is around.  They can’t stop smiling at each other and they are on cloud nine.  We usually roll our eyes at them and think they are being ridiculous, but this is exactly the kind of love that was on display in these eight chapters.  Solomon gushed about her eyes, hair, neck, lips, and body parts that reminded him of fawns, but it didn’t stop there.  I knew this was a story about real, intense, true love when he mentioned her teeth.  He didn’t just say she had beautiful teeth, he said her teeth were like a flock of newly shorn ewes.  Don’t picture dirty ewes that have been rolling around in the dirt, Solomon said the ewes had just come up from their washing.  Moreover, all these ewes bore twins, and not one of them had lost their young.  He said all of that about her teeth!?!?  That dude was crazy in love!  And she was just as ridiculous as him, which can be seen when she says her beloved is like a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of Engedi.

We might shake our head if we saw a bride and groom going on and on about each other like that, especially since they focused so much on the physical aspects of love, but this is not a trashy book from the local bookstore, this is a poem about love in the Bible.  The Bible teaches us that true love is on the inside, but this book teaches us that true love can be on the outside as well.  Our world has made a complete mess of love on the outside; not all love between any two people on the outside is good.  However, when a bride and groom love each other on the inside, God created another way for them to show that love.  Song of Songs is not a ridiculous poem to shake your head at; it is a beautiful expression of how much two people can love each other.

Rick McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Song+of+Solomon+1-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Proverbs – chapters 1-3 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Extreme Grace

2 Samuel 8-9 and 1 Chronicles 18

2 Samuel 9 3 NIV

I somewhat recently took a job as a Residential Counselor at Residential Treatment Facility for youth in the teenage age range. These kids have had severe traumas in their lives and have had terrible things done to them and happen in their lives. Most of them have terribly dysfunctional families that have hurt them in extreme ways. In order to cope and also survive through learned behavior they verbally and sometimes physically abuse staff for reasons as simple as being told “No.” There are times they will use all the ammo on you to try to hurt you or get a rise out of you. This isn’t normal teenage behavior like saying I hate you or You are dumb. Think the worst things that people have ever said to you. Now I want to be super clear that these behaviors are not entirely these kids’ faults. They’ve simply been dealt an unfair hand and do not entirely have the capacity to behave in ways other than this.

One night, I was handling a situation with a kid where other kids had lied to a girl, I will call Ivery, and told her the lie and how I reacted to the situation. In an attempt to advocate for the youth on the unit she proceeded to call me every name under the sun. She called me a pervert. She made fun of me in every way she could think of and then because she knew I had a girlfriend started to say anything to get a rise out of me in that area of my life. Finally, when she was running out of ammunition to get me off kilter, she threatened to kill me, my family and my girlfriend. Now, I knew she couldn’t actually pull that off but it was quite an experience to be threatened like that. I responded as best I could and didn’t try to discuss anything when she was just looking for an argument. After the fact I was definitely hurt that anyone would say those things about me.

I would love to say my next shift I just showed up and loved her and it all went away but those feelings stuck with me longer than I would have liked them to.

2 Samuel 9 is a great example of a man who despite what was done to him didn’t let the actions of other people affect how he treated overs. In this chapter David is looking for someone from the house of Saul to bless on account of Jonathan, Saul’s son. If you remember, this is the same Saul who had chased David through the desert and caves all over Israel seeking to kill him. This wasn’t just a brief period of time. Some scholars imagine this time period to be 7 years!! I can’t imagine what I would feel toward my oppressor after being chased under threat of death for even 3 years. All the same, I feel David’s desire to try to find someone from Saul’s house to bless is an amazing story of forgiveness. I could probably write a whole devotion about that but I want to focus on one particular verse of this awesome story.

In verse 3 David is talking to Saul’s former servant and asks him, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?”. This whole line is crazy to me. David is asking and even seeking out someone to bless from the house of Saul. I’ll be honest, most my kindness doesn’t go past the people I interact with. It stays in my world. I am not seeking out people that I can bless.

Let alone am I seeking out people from the family of the man who had just tried to kill me for 7 years and literally only by his death could I return to my home country. But that is David, the man after God’s own heart. This is extreme grace, thoughtfulness and care that he would go out of his way to search out a man from Saul’s house to bless.

The phrase “that I may show the kindness of God to him?” says once again so much about David and how he viewed everything. David releases in this simple phrase any form of ownership to how he was going to bless Saul’s relative. He points it directly back to God. He didn’t try to take the credit and say look at my kindness to my enemy. He identifies back to God.

This line continues to show just how much David acknowledged the fact that what he had wasn’t his. He lived in continual recognition that what he had been given to him was by God. He acknowledges his forgiveness isn’t from himself. His kindness isn’t his. His life isn’t his. His kingdom isn’t his. It is God’s.

He viewed the world not “how can I be kind to people” but rather “how can I show God’s kindness to others.” While the difference is oh so subtle, one is making our good deeds about us and the other is pointing the kindness back to God. David recognized as a servant to God it was no longer him doing it. It wasn’t his resources that he was using to bless this descendent of his enemy it was God’s that he was temporarily in possession of.

Now, in the same way I had the opportunity to show God’s kindness to Ivery the next day by overwhelming her with love or by showing her kindness. Don’t let opportunities slip by in your own life to give away something that isn’t ours. Rather, give away what God has given you to give away.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+8-9%2C+1+Chronicles+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow we return to the Psalms (50,53,60,75) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

For Others not For Yourself

2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Samuel 5 12a NIV

 

Have you ever been in class, at home or with your friends and you start to get the impression that the people around you don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind? In fact, I think one of the most heartbreaking things in life is that moment that you start to realize that you have to look out for your interests. You start to realize that people will talk behind your back, they will say nasty things about you, they may try to take advantage of you. It’s truly heartbreaking for me to see someone have their trust betrayed.

The reason why this is heartbreaking for me is it leads people to have a cynical view of the world. This view can be seen all over the world. People looking out for themselves instead of caring for those around them. In some ways, this is a natural behavior for humans. Inside all of us there is this innate desire toward self-preservation. This isn’t entirely a learned behavior. I can see this in my 2 and half year-old nephew as he interacts with his 10-month-old sister. He doesn’t want to share his toys with her. When she is holding one of his toys his desire is to take the toy away from her. Even if he isn’t playing with that toy or even wanted it before she started to play with it. As a parent or adult, one of the things you are supposed to teach your child is how to share or how to look out for the interests of others. Putting others wants and needs above your own is unnatural but that is the way that love works.

One of our passages for the day is 2 Samuel 5.11-6.23 but as I began to read this passage it was the second verse that struck a chord with me. I encourage you to read the whole passage; it really is a great passage. That being said I really want to just hone in on this verse today and get all we can from it.

5:12 “And David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”

To give you a little backstory David at this point had overcome Saul and was no longer a “criminal” on the run. God had established him as king of Israel through all the trials that he had to overcome and endure through. This was a long time coming for David but God finally gave him the victory.

The first statement gives us an indication of David’s heart when becoming king. David knew and gave the credit to God for when he assumed the throne. He didn’t try to say it was because of all he endured that he was now the king of Israel. He gave the credit back to the one who actually put him there. Even then as the king of Israel David was humble before God.

The next line though is really what I want to hone in on. David knew that God had exalted his kingdom for the sake of the people of Israel. God put David on the throne because God and David loved God’s chosen people, Israel. David was given the responsibility of the kingdom, not for his sake, or for his own self-interest, David was climbing the ladder from shepherd to harpist to giant slayer to mighty warrior to king but for God’s and his people. He was seeking the people’s best interest and this is where God put him. God put him there because he knew he cared for his people and that he would seek God and seek the people’s interest above his own.

David had unlearned that natural tendency towards self-interest and preservation and learned to put other’s interest, safety and good above his own. He put on the heart of a servant. The world and our own minds have taught something that may be the way that this world works but it isn’t the way that God works. He works through people who have laid themselves aside and serve and put others ahead of themselves.

The fascinating thing about David in this is he didn’t have Jesus telling him to love others as he had loved them. David just had a heart for people and I don’t think this was something special because of who David was. I think David had this because of his relationship with his heavenly father.

Here is my exhortation for us today—go serve people. Go out there and lay aside your own self-interest and seek someone else’s good. Seek the good of those around you. In the same way that David wasn’t given the kingdom for his own good, the things that we are given whether it’s our money, time, attention, or work—what has been given to us is meant to serve those around us. Whether we acknowledge it all the time, or not, ALL that we have, including this very day, has been given to us by God. So, let’s lay ourselves down to serve those around us.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+5%3A11-6%3A23%3B+1+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 1-2,15, 22-24, 47,68 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Remember His Goodness

Psalm 106 – 107

Psalm 107 8 NIV

Our God is great!  We just don’t deserve Him.  Praise Him and thank Him for His goodness and mercy.

This is the psalmist’s cry in Psalm 106 & 107.  Beautiful chapters of truth for today

Let’s start by looking at just some of the phrases describing the actions of man as recorded in these psalms.

 

MANKIND’s ACTIONS

Done wrong & acted wickedly (106:6)

Gave no thought to God’s miracles (106:7)

Did not remember your many kindnesses (106:7)

Rebelled by the sea (106:7)

Soon forgot what he had done (106:13)

Did not wait for His counsel (106:13)

Gave in to their cravings (106:14)

Put God to the test (106:14)

Grew envious (106:16)

Exchanged God’s glory for an image (106:20

Forgot the God who saved them (106:21)

Did not believe His promise (106:24)

Grumbled (106:25)

Did not obey the Lord (106:25)

Yoked themselves to the Baal (false god) (106:28)

Provoked the Lord to anger by their wicked deeds (106:29)

Angered the Lord (106:32)

Rebelled against the Spirit of God (106:33)

Mingled with the nations & adopted their customs (106:35)

Sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons (106:37)

Shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters (106:38)

Bent on rebellion (106:43)

Wasted away in their sin (106:43)

THEN THEY CALLED OUT TO THE LORD IN THEIR TROUBLE (107:6, 13, 19, 28)

Became fools through their rebellious ways (107:17)

Suffered affliction because of their iniquities (107:17)

 

It is easy for us to see and remember the foolish actions and attitudes of these generations long gone.  How easily they forgot the good deeds and commands of their God.  How quickly they rushed to selfish sins.  And we shake our heads in disbelief.  But, are we brave enough to look in the mirror to consider our own imperfections, mistakes, ignorance, selfishness and flat out sins?  Do we truthfully see when we have rebelled and turned from God’s perfect law?  Do we excuse the sins of society as modern and politically correct?  How would God’s psalmist describe us, our priorities, our actions, our waywardness, our selfishness?  Where do we turn when we are stuck?

What about God?  How are His actions recorded in these psalms?

 

GOD’s ACTIONS

Yet He saved them for his name’s sake (106:8)

He led them through the depths (106:9)

He saved them from the hand of the foe (106:10)

He gave them what they asked for (106:15)

But sent a wasting disease upon them (106:15)

He was angry with his people (106:40)

He handed them over to the nations and their foes ruled over them (106:41)

Many times He delivered them (106:43)

He took note of their distress (106:44)

He heard their cry (106:44)

He remembered his covenant (106:45)

He relented, out of His great love (106:45)

HE DELIVERED THEM FROM THEIR DISTRESS (107:6, 13, 19, 28)

He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom (107:14)

He sent forth His word and healed them (107:20)

He stilled the storm to a whisper (107:29)

He guided them to their desired haven (107:30)

 

What a contrast.  What a good God.

Yes, He does get angry with his wayward children.  And He does send punishment to turn them around.  That is what a good dad does.  He knows that through loving discipline His children must be taught that rebellion reaps no reward.  There are real consequences for forgetting God and going in your own direction.  And when that lesson is learned and His children return to Him, He hears their cry and picks them up.  That is also what a good dad does.  And sometimes, for stubborn children, it takes more than once or twice to learn this lesson.

Psalm 107 repeats four times the call of God’s people returning to Him – and God’s response:

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.”

(Psalm 107: 6, 13, 19, 28).

It also repeats four times how the people ought to reply to God’s goodness:

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”  (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31).

I urge you today, call out to Him.  Don’t forget God.  Learn from His lessons.  Remember His law.  Cry to Him and He will pick you up.  See His goodness.  And give thanks to the Lord.  He loves you and He has done great things.

 

No better way to close than with the psalmist’s final verse:

“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things

And consider the great love of the LORD.”  Psalm 107: 43

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+106-107&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2nd Samuel 5:11-6:23 and 1st Chronicles 13-16 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Live Together in Unity

Psalm 133

Psalm 133 1 NIV

Live together in unity.  It’s sweet.

I don’t know exactly how it is that we have such a short Bible reading today – but how timely.  It won’t take you long to read the 3 verses.  And I won’t take too much of your time telling you how important it is or how to do it or how not to do it.  Instead, I challenge you – take the time today to DO it!  Live together in unity with God’s people.

So many of our homes are finding they are doing a lot more “living together” than normal with the consequences of Covid-19 policiesRemember those in your home are God’s people and we are called to live together in unity.  How will you strive today to do your living together in unity?    Seek God together.  Compliment.  Communicate.  Celebrate together.  Listen.  Apologize.  Work together.  Ask good questions.  Extend grace.  Exercise together.  Accept differences.  Share burdens.  Laugh.  Sing together.  Plan together.  Serve together.  Create together.  Pray together.  Love.

Make sure you do much more than watch the screen together.  Or complain together.  Or criticize together.

You are not STUCK at home!  You have this beautiful opportunity to work more and more at living together in unity with the people of God you get to call family.

Also, remember the rest of God’s people that we can’t physically be with at this time.  How will we live together in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ when we can’t be together?  Check in with your church family.  Find creative ways to worship and fellowship and serve together from a distance or virtually.

How will you show the world the beauty of the unity of God’s people? Pray to see the needs and act together in God’s love for the lonely, the stressed, the over-worked, the unemployed, the nursing homes, the children, the starving, the lost.

Live together in unity with God’s people.  No one said it would be easy.   It takes desire, time, commitment, patience and sacrifice to overcome the many challenges to unity.  But keep at it, remembering, the rewards are great.  “For there the Lord rewards his blessing, even life forevermore.”  (Psalm 133:3)

Marcia Railton

Today’s short Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+133&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 106-107 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Feeling Weak

Psalm 102-104

Psalm 102 1 NIV

I didn’t have to read for long in today’s passage to find something that might apply to me.  He had me at the intro to Psalm 102: “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.”  I have been there more than once, recently, what about you?  Verse 2 also got my attention as it sounded eerily familiar to my week: “Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.  Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.”  Yup!  Come on God – we are working on a time schedule.  We need an answer and we need it now.

At our house we are making college decisions.  Well, it is my son’s decision, but it has been weighing heavily on us all as it seems unclear to any of us what the wisest answer is, and we need an answer very soon.  With so many different implications for the future and not able to visit any of the top contenders this spring, and with new information and opinions emerging daily, it is truly tiring.  And I am weak.

It doesn’t feel good to be weak – especially for those who relish being in control or regarded as strong.  The psalmist writes of how this anguished state is affecting his appetite, health, sleep, and relationships.  We have seen some of that.  He has been reminded once again of his frailty, limits, shortcomings, weakness – and it hurts.

But, in his weakness he still knows where to go.  To the One who sits on the throne.  “But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.” (Psalm 102:12).  The tone of the psalm changes from personal despair and questioning in the first 11 verses – to hopefulness – because he knew where to go when he was weak. Humbled, and at the feet of the all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and compassionate Creator, he gains a new perspective.  When we can put ourselves in His presence we know we can rely on Him no matter how weak we are on our own.  We know, “He will arise and have compassion…He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” (Psalm 102:13,17).

It reminds me of the poor kid who has been ruffed up by the bully on the playground, again and again.  He knows he is weak – and it hurts.  But this battered kid puts his broken glasses back on his tear-stained face and says to the bully – “Yeah, but my Daddy is stronger than your daddy.”  And, sure enough, Dad just arrived and is waiting at the gate.  It’s okay to be weak, when you have the strongest Daddy in the world!

I know you may be facing issues, decisions, and heartaches much larger than making a college decision.  And you may be struggling with feeling weak.  If you aren’t now – you will be later.  Weakness has a way of finding us all.

I want you to know what I want my son to know, and what I need to remind myself of over and over again.  God has good things in store for you.  He is a good God to His children.  Be His child.  Keep seeking Him.  I pray for you what I pray for my son and family.  “Dear God, we thank you for your greatness, power, wisdom and love.  Thank you for being what we are not.  Thank you for the gift of Your Son and your perfect plan.  Help us to sit at your feet, in Your presence, humbled, and drawing our strength and hope from You.  Help us to see You at work.  Even when life seems muddled, difficult and painful and we feel like we are being beaten up, give us your eyes to see how You ordered and provided and blessed.  We want to seek You first.  Please show us how to do that.  Help us to see your greatness – and share that with others, boasting of our Daddy’s goodness and strength.  Thank you for hearing our prayers and responding, quickly.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring – well, we don’t even know what today will bring.  But we are thankful we are not alone when we put ourselves in His presence.  In our weakness, He is strong.

 

A Weak Momma at the Feet of a Great Big God on His Throne,

Marcia Railton

 

PS – One great way to put yourself in His presence is through reading His Word.  Dig in.  He is there.

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+102-104&version=NIV

Tomorrow we jump back into the events of David’s life as we read 2 Samuel 5:1-10 and 1 Chronicles 11-12 in our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Holding Nothing Back

Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 12b NIV

One of the sayings that I sort of cling to in my life is, “You get out of life what you put into it.” I find this can be helpful in those moments where Netflix or a nap can be much more appealing than doing homework, reading a book, folding laundry or any of the other responsibilities we have in this life. Even though some of those things listed like folding laundry or reading a book I can really enjoy and get a sense of accomplishment from doing those things. In a way doing things like taking naps or watching Netflix are just easier and don’t require any brain activity from me. For instance there can be a temptation to just read devotions and not actually read the Bible on your own. This is because reading a devotion, which is an already processed thought is easier than having to read and process the Bible on your own.

Now, is reading devotions great?  Absolutely.  Devotions are great because you can see what God worked on in another person’s heart and that is pretty cool to be a part of. I love writing these devotions and hope they add to your spiritual growth and help you understand God better.

You may be wondering why I wrote two paragraphs about putting an effort into life and what I really think is the principle at work here is sacrifice, and that is what Genesis 22 is really about.

In Genesis 22.1-14 is a story about sacrifice and commitment to God and I don’t think it is necessarily in the way that we think. Right now, you should go read Genesis 22.1-14. My next paragraph will wait for as long as they maintain the rights to the domain name. Haha

I’m glad you are back. What Abraham was about to do here is crazy. He was willing to offer his son, that he had waited 25 years for and had at 99 years, because God told him to. Abraham could have so easily rationalized disobedience away by saying “There is no way that I am going to harm a child.” But Abraham decided to obey God despite all reservations that he had. One of my favorite verses as a teenager and even now is Matthew 6.21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Abraham didn’t treasure his child more than he treasured God and IT SHOWED in a big way. He held nothing back from God.

You may be getting a mixed message at this point. I’m not telling you to give all your stuff away or to sacrifice your brother or sister as a burnt offering. That would not bless God. What I am telling you is that if you live your life holding nothing back from God, you will reap the reward from that. The same principle applies to how much work and effort you put into your spiritual growth.

If you want God to really change your life cut Netflix out of your life for a month and instead spend that time with your head in a Bible and see what God does in your heart and how he changes you.

If you really want to serve others and see God do something through you then commit yourself to that and go do it. Make it your center point! Go help others in whatever way you can. Look for ways to serve others and give your life away to them.

The reason that Abraham is the father of our faith is because he held nothing back. After this story Abraham received a promise from God that his offspring would be as the stars in heaven and sands on the seashore and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Abraham got out of life what he put in. Abraham was used by God through this promise because Abraham was completely devoted to God.

I know there is a better life. When our lives are completely focused on God, something changes. I want to say this to you and hope you take it to heart. I know what being sold out to God is like and it is uncomfortable and can be really hard but the reward is life altering, it’s God glorifying and it’s kingdom strengthening. Our sacrifices don’t go unnoticed by God and they will come to fruition and it isn’t always how we expect it.

Do not take this as me telling you that you can make God do things but rather God honors the sacrifices that we make in our lives for him. He in turn wants to bless us and help us. Do not do any of things that I mentioned unless you really want to do them. God doesn’t want just sacrifices. He wants our hearts behind the sacrifices that we make and, honestly, that is the key to love. When your heart and actions combine into one that is true love.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+22-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Genesis 25 & 26 on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Gifts

wise men

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon