God Revealed

psalm 100 5

Yesterday we were discussing keeping God at the top of our thankful list – above all the great gifts He has given.  And we said it was easy to let God slip from this spot if we didn’t work at knowing Him more and more.  After all, it’s impossible to be in a thankful relationship with someone I barely know – or rarely think about – or only sporadically spend time with.

And so, daily digging into His Word where He reveals Himself to those who are seeking Him is the best way to deepen our understanding and appreciation of who He is and what He has done for us.  And, as an extra bonus, we also can receive valuable instruction on how to live to please Him when we dive into the 66 love letters He has sent to us.

If someone isn’t used to opening God’s Word to get to know Him better, it might seem a bit daunting.  It is indeed a big book.  A big book written many generations ago.  But still written with YOU in mind.  And written to show you who your Heavenly Father is and how to have a relationship with Him.

Let’s pull up our Psalm for the week and see what we can find out about God in these verses.

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

So, what do we learn about God…
verse 3 – The Lord is God.   He wants to be known.  He created us.  We belong to Him.  He watches over us.
verse 4 – He has gates and courts – like royalty.
verse 5 – God is good.  He is loving and His love lasts.  He is faithful – forever.
That’s a lot to learn about God in just 5 short verses!  Whether we are reading a short psalm of 5 verses or the historical account of the Israelites escaping Egypt, God is revealing himself in His Word.  And He wants to meet you there.
-Marcia Railton

Same Old Flaws

Revelation 21 and Revelation 22:1-5

Revelation 21-2,3

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” Times and technology may advance but primal human tendencies remain. The flaws that you perceive in yourself are the same flaws that King David, Peter, Elijah and so many others had to deal with. Flaws are a fact of life because we live in a flawed world. One of the reasons we so eagerly await the coming Kingdom of God is because we will finally live in a flawless Kingdom with a flawless ruler! The flaws that we combat in ourselves and others should never become our focus. Instead focus on God’s amazing perfection and promise. Today I’ll keep it short and sweet but take some extra time to focus on the reading in Revelation. Take time to really imagine it as best you can and remember that flaws are only temporary because in God’s Kingdom we will be made new and flawless.

-Lacey Dunn

Entitled

David

man after my own heart

Acts 13:22, 2 Sam 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 12:7-14

If you grew up in church your Sunday school classes were probably full of the stories of David’s triumphs. He was the shepherd boy who killed lions, bears, Goliath and eventually became King. His triumphs were nothing short of amazing. David was even called a “Man after God’s own heart” in Acts 13:22. Yet just like the other characters we have discussed, David was flawed.

In arguably the most famous story of his flaws David ultimately caused catastrophe to befall his entire Kingdom. First off, in 2 Samuel 11:1 it says that David stayed home in his cozy palace instead of going off to war as he was supposed to. Next, since he wasn’t where he was supposed to be he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Even though she was married to a man who was serving in David’s army David decided to send messengers to bring her to him. We find out in verse 5 that she became pregnant.

In an attempt to cover up what he had done David asks for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home from battle but Uriah is honorable and refuses to sleep in the comfort of his home knowing the other men in his army are not able to do the same. Frustrated David sends a note with Uriah as he goes back to the battle front. The note carries Uriah’s death sentence as it commands the commander of the army to send Uriah to the front line of the fiercest battle. With Uriah out of the way David takes Bathsheba to be his wife and she gave birth to a son who later died because of David’s sin. Not only that but David was later driven out of his own Kingdom because of the sin he committed. Everyone suffered because of the flaw that David allowed himself to be entitled to do as he pleased.

David suffered for his actions and repented for it. Despite his flaws through grace God used David to establish the throne of Israel even making Jesus a decedent of David. No matter what you have done God sees your potential and can use you in amazing ways.

-Lacey Dunn

Bold

Peter

When being bold can be a flaw

Matt. 14:22-31, Matt. 16:21-23, Luke 22:31-34

I think we all know someone, it may even be the person in the mirror, who seems to have the Frank Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way” playing as their anthem. I believe one such person in the Bible is Peter. Peter seemed to try to be the exception to every rule and push boundaries that the other apostles didn’t dream of.

Remember when Peter walked out on the water to meet Jesus? It doesn’t mention anyone else volunteering but Peter in faith and boldness offered to meet Jesus on the water. This is just one of many stories of Peter stepping up and speaking out. While many times his boldness was a good thing there are times the contrary was true.

In Matt 16 Jesus explained that he would suffer and be killed but Peter rebuked him! Can you imagine taking Jesus to the side and telling him that he was wrong? Jesus set Peter straight on the matter but Peter still didn’t seem to understand.

In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus tells them again that he must suffer and that they cannot go where he is going. Peter boldly proclaims that he would follow Jesus even to death. Later in the chapter (vs54-62) Peter boldly denied Christ three times just as Christ told him he would. I can’t imagine the sorrow in Peter’s heart as he looked into his Savior’s eyes knowing that he had denied that he even knew him.

Peter’s boldness when not thought through was a flaw but Jesus knew there was potential in Peter and even prayed that his faith would be strengthened so he could also help strengthen his brothers (Matt. 16:32). After Jesus’ resurrection Peter boldly spoke about the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaimed the gospel message.

God answered Christ’s prayer and helped shape Peter into an evangelist. If Peter, Jesus and God chose not to focus on Peter’s flaws that tells us that we should also choose grace and not focus on our own flaws or the flaws of others.

-Lacey Dunn

Defeated

Elijah

1 Kings 19 14

1 Kings 18:20-24 and 36-40, 1 Kings 19:9-18

When I hear the name “Elijah” my mind fills with highlight moments from his life such as the chariot of fire whisking him away, him egging on the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, or him bringing a dead boy back to life. This highlight reel that plays in my mind however doesn’t give the full spectrum of Elijah.

In 1 Kings 18 we see one of these highlight moments. Elijah spent the day with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel as they tried to prove that Baal was god. Long story short is that the prophets of Baal failed but the one true God showed up. The prophets of Baal ran away but were chased and killed by Elijah and the people of Israel.

What I find fascinating is despite this moment of faith and triumph it says in 1 Kings 19:3 that Elijah was, “afraid and arose and ran for his life” after Jezebel (the wife of the wicked King Ahab) decided that she would have him hunted down and killed since he killed all her prophets of Baal.

Elijah finds himself in the wilderness and reaches a point to where he feels he can’t go on. God sends an angel to him to give him food to help sustain him and he then traveled for forty days and nights to the Mountain of God at Horeb.

In Kings 19:8-18 Elijah reaches Horeb and God tells him that He is about to pass by. A rock shattering wind blows through but God was not in it. An earthquake shakes the mountain but God was not in it. A fire tore through the mountain but God was not in it. After these powerful forces comes a gentle whisper and Elijah knows that it is God. God listens to Elijah’s fears and feelings of defeat and then explains to him that He has a plan for Elijah and comforts him.

Elijah is a bit different from the other Bible characters we have discussed so far because I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Elijah feeling defeat is a flaw. However, I think we often will see defeat in ourselves and because of it label ourselves as flawed. The beauty is that God had a plan for Elijah just as He does for you and I. He knows that we will have times that we feel completely drained and defeated but He is willing and able to replenish us.

-Lacey Dunn

Reprobate

Rahab

Hebrews 11-31

Read Joshua 2:1-21, Joshua 6:22-23

If you have made it through high school literature classes you have more than likely ran across the story of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Whether you sat down and read it while sipping on a cup of cocoa or madly skimmed through the cliff notes you probably know the basic story. Hester Prynne is marked with a scarlet letter because of her sin of adultery and is forced to be branded with the letter A making her and her illegitimate child reprobates in their town.

Early in the book of Joshua we find another woman who could have also been branded as a reprobate. Joshua 2 tells us about how Joshua sent out spies to get a glimpse of Jericho. While at Jericho the two men end up seeking refuge at Rahab’s home. Rahab was a harlot in Jericho. It seems that she was pretty well known for being a harlot as the King himself sent her a message to hand over the men that came to her home. (Joshua 2:3)

At this point we as readers can do one of two things. We can treat Rahab like the townspeople did Hester Prynne’s character and focus on that giant “A” embroidered into her clothes or we can focus instead on her heart and faith. Basically we can either focus on Rahab’s flaws or potential.

In Joshua 2 while the spies are still hiding in her home Rahab demonstrates great faith and courage. By hiding these spies she was committing treason which could have resulted in her death but she recognized the power of God and was willing to be courageous and hide the spies while sending her own countrymen on a wild goose chase. Although she had grown up with pagan gods she saw that Yahweh was powerful and was willing to put her faith in him so that she and her family would survive. Rahab also showed that she was intelligent and wise with how she very carefully orchestrated the spies’ getaway.

In Joshua Chapter 6 after the walls of Jericho tumbled down we find that Rahab did as the spies instructed and that God was faithful to her. She is also noted in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 as a woman who was faithful and righteous. We even find that Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5).

How can it be that a prostitute is so highly spoken of and even in the lineage of our Savior? It is because God didn’t see her as a harlot but rather as His creation. He saw her as a person who had value and potential and redeemed her as His own.

-Lacey Dunn

Flawed – Intro by Lacey Dunn

Ro3

Happy Monday everyone! Today, you are getting two awesome posts from Lacey Dunn!

Sometimes, we don’t know why God uses characters in the Bible. But, when we look at the people’s lives in the Bible, as well as our own, we can recognize how God can work in the flawed lives of everyone to make them into something beautiful and glorifying to him. Check out Lacey’s introduction in the video below:

 

The memory verse for this week is Romans 3:23-24.

For our email followers, click through this link to view the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxaNnsSsNlI&feature=youtu.be

 

Hearts of Flesh

Empathy

This week, we have explored the ways in which empathy informs and shapes our call as Christians to love one another.  We’ve learned how empathy is sitting with and understanding another’s perspective.  We’ve looked at how empathy allows us to love others in ways that uniquely speak to their circumstances.  We’ve even seen how we have a high priest in Christ who’s empathy has brought us salvation.

 

Today, I would like to end our time together by encouraging each one of us to live our lives more empathetically in light of our readings.  In a society that often seems more and more connected, we can increasingly find ourselves alone.  At its very root, empathy stands against such isolation by opening our own hearts to those around us.

 

This is hard.  This is dangerous.  It’s a path that has even led to the cross.  But when we refuse or close our eyes to the full humanity of those around us, we begin to break the very ties that make us human.  Because out of everything that God has made, only loneliness was not good.

 

To be human – the way that humanity is meant to be – is to be in community, relationship, and connection with all those around us.  Who is our neighbor? Everyone.  Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.  Who should I love? Even my enemies.

 

The work of God, from the emancipation of the Israelites to the salvation of the resurrection, is a story of an ever widening circle of people that are called to love and care for one another in the glory of God.  That cause has not changed even today.

 

We are called to love and care and expand the boundaries of our own comfort so that the unlovable will be cared for and the lonely will no longer be alone.

 

Empathy is the tool that protects our hearts from becoming stone.

 

As we part ways today, my prayer for each of us is that we are transformed and empowered to carry hearts of flesh that can love beyond human comprehension.

-Graysen Pack

Pasta! And Empathy

Friday

Luke 6-31

When talking about empathy in Bible, this one verse probably comes to mind before all others.

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If empathy is about being able to see and understand the world from another’s perspective, then a deep understanding and practice of empathy should be a prerequisite for enacting this command.

 

There are two ways that we can approach this Christian calling.  The first and easier of the two requires only that we understand what we want and then providing that for others.  For instance, I love pasta.  All kinds of pasta.  So, I will pasta unto others as I would want others to pasta unto me.  But there’s a catch.  My wife can’t have gluten.  So, if I just pasta unto her all the pastas I love, then she will quickly not love them or me at all.

 

This kind of action only requires us to reflect upon ourselves.  What is it that we want?  How do I understand what is good and pleasurable and worth sharing?  At its heart, this is still a self-centered approach to loving others because my interests are the center of my actions.

 

The second kind of approach requires us to reflect on both what we appreciate and the context in which we find ourselves (an awareness of those around us).  In this situation, I know that I love pasta when I’m hungry.  I see that my wife is hungry and I want to provide her with the same satisfaction I get when someone gives me pasta.  But since she can’t have gluten, I know that I need to give her something that will be as delicious and comforting as pasta would be for me.

 

In this version of the story, I have taken my own desires out of my focus and instead placed her at the center.  Now I want to create the same type of joy in her that I experience, but in a way that is specific to her life and preferences.

 

OK – pasta may be a silly example, so let’s take it up a notch.  What about when someone approaches you and asks for some spare change.  What do you do?  If I simply place myself into their shoes and imagine what it would be like to be in such a dire situation that I would ask strangers for money, then I may reach into my pocket.  But what have I done in that moment?  I haven’t actually engaged in an act of empathy, but rather in an act of pity.

 

Empathy requires that we first acknowledge and open ourselves up to another.  We have to take the time to learn what it means for another to live in their shoes.  It means engaging with them as an equal and full person.  Pity minimizes another’s humanity.  Empathy embraces and supports it.

 

Doing unto them as I would want done unto me may mean that they still get my change in the end.  But it would only be after I had engaged with them as a full person.  That may mean I find out who they are, where they’ve been, what their life is like, and how I can be an encouragement/help to them today.  It may mean sitting down for a meal on the curb or even being honest about giving money.  In any situation, it means engaging with them on a personal level – like you would with a friend in the hall who you haven’t seen in a while.

 

This is the tricky part of empathy.   It always requires a unique action for each unique situation.  But it always demands that we interact and engage with others in the fullness of their humanity.

Today, may your fullness be recognized and may you encourage the fullness of life in others.

-Graysen Pack

Ultimate Act of Empathy

Thursday

Hebrews 4-15

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If empathy can be summed up as “feeling with people,” as Brene Brown put it on Monday, then Christ and his life represent the ultimate act of empathy.

In each of our lives, we have all fallen short.  It’s an unfortunate fact of existence.  We are all going to mess it up and be messed up.  And it’s not just us – all of life and creation feels the effects of the broken world we live in.

Yet the world and life is still good and we give God praise for each day.  Why?

It is because we have an intercessor who knows – not just intellectually – deep down in his bones what it means to suffer under the weight of human tragedy.  We have a high priest who has walked through the deepest shadows of despair and born the burden of bodily pain in his own flesh.  And because of him, there is hope.

Hope that there can be life on the other side of horror.  There is joy beyond the pain.  There is calm beyond the storm.

And it isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky kind of hope either.  It isn’t a hope that only awaits us on some future ethereal plane.  It is a hope that is born out and brought into the midst of this life through the continued work of Christ in the community of faith.  It is hope that is birthed in the acts of empathy that we continue to pursue each and every day.

We can approach not just the throne of grace with confidence, but the altars of pain and brokenness with healing because we can extend the grace that has already been extended to us.

Today, may you receive the grace you need and may you pass along the love that overflows from the heart of Christ.

-Graysen Pack
Hebrews 4 16
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