Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

All Night Long

Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 & Luke 6

There were so many good topics from today’s reading, it was hard for me to pick just one for today’s devotion.  But I finally settled on discussing what Jesus did immediately before calling the 12 apostles.

Jesus had many disciples following him.  A disciple is a follower, an apprentice, someone who is learning.  From among these followers, Jesus was going to choose his apostles – his chosen messengers with a special commission. We’re told in Luke 6:12, that before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.  Did you catch that?  Jesus spent the whole night praying.

Why would Jesus need to spend the whole night praying? First, opposition to him was growing – immediately before this story, we’re told the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus.  He knew this would eventually end in his crucifixion.  I’m guessing he was praying for strength for the task that lay before him.  Second, this was a turning point in his ministry.  Until how, he had just been a one man show – a traveling preacher and healer.  Now he was picking the men who would be the foundation of the church after he was gone.  I’m guessing he was praying for discernment.  Finally, according to John 6:64, Jesus knew from the beginning who was going to betray him, and He was going to pick him as one of His apostles.  I’m guessing Jesus was struggling with emotions at that prospect; it was through prayer that He made this difficult choice.

We find many instances of Jesus devoting lots of time to prayer.  Whether it was getting up before dawn to pray, or sending the apostles away in a boat so he could pray, or … You get the idea.  But wait, Jesus was the Son of GOD!  In John 3:34, we’re told that Jesus was given the Holy Spirit without measure.  And He still spent a tremendous amount of time in prayer!

What should this mean for me?  

For starters, I suspect I need God’s help far more than Jesus did.  For one thing, I’m a wretched sinner, and Jesus was perfectly sinless.  Also, Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, me – not so much.  

From Jesus’ example, I see that I need to spend far more time in prayer, whether asking for strength, or for discernment, or struggling with emotions, or… for dealing with everything life throws at me.  And that’s just the requests for my needs.  Then, there are prayers for confessing and asking forgiveness.  Then, all the prayer requests for people I care about.  Then, there is honoring, praising, and magnifying God in prayer.  And the list goes on.  Bottom line – I need to spend more time in prayer.

What about you?  Will you join me in committing to spending more time in prayer?

This will not only benefit me and you, it may benefit the whole nation.  I’m reminded of one of my many favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And God knows our nation needs healing.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 and Luke 6

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue on our Bible reading plan.

Response to a Broken World

Nehemiah 1-5

I love the man Nehemiah! I love his passion, his prayers and his “get ‘er done” action. At the start of our story he holds the position of royal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, so we can assume he is no slacker but is quite driven, reliable and trustworthy. He has spent his whole life in Babylon/Persia, and done very well in this “foreign” environment. But kudos to those who raised and influenced him, for his Jewish heart was still steadfast in serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his ancestors.

It had been 90 years since the first group of Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem. And just 13 years ago Artaxerxes had allowed Ezra to return to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah learns some have just come from Judah and he asks them how his “homeland” is doing. And what he hears breaks his heart. It is natural to be heartbroken at bad news. But for a lot of people the heartbreak is soon replaced with other feelings – perhaps relief that it didn’t happen to you, perhaps just busy-ness with other daily activities. But Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed (with confession) for several days when he heard that the people of Judah were still in distress and the walls of Jerusalem were still torn down. Just as this was breaking God’s heart, Nehemiah allowed his heart to be broken, too. And as he prays and fasts he listens for God’s answer, and just like Esther he too uses the position God has placed him in to be a part of the solution. If you find yourself mourning what God mourns, and you don’t know what to do…follow Nehemiah’s example with prayer and fasting and watch for God’s plan to develop – and then do it!

I won’t retell the rest of the story that Nehemiah tells so well – but make sure you catch some of the neat details that we would do well to remember when we seek to do God’s work.

Nehemiah was scared to death going before the king – this was not an easy thing to do, and it could even cost him his life – but doing God’s work is always worth it.

Even as the king was asking Nehemiah what he wanted, Nehemiah was praying away! He knew he wasn’t doing this on his own – and he would continue to give God the credit for the king’s generosity and for the work that would be done.

Nehemiah didn’t try to build the wall on his own. There was something for everyone to do – and Nehemiah got them going. The city officials, the temple servants, the families, the daughters, even the goldsmiths and the perfumers were out there working. Certainly most of them would never have said their spiritual gift was rebuilding walls – but Nehemiah provided the leadership, the need was presented to them and, most of them, were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. What job is God calling you to do with your brothers and sisters?

I would have loved to see Baruch the son of Zabbai complete his section of the wall – Nehemiah reports he “zealously” did his work. This wasn’t a half-hearted effort for him. Will you be known as one who zealously does the work of the Lord?

The world didn’t stop to applaud God’s construction team – in fact, God’s people faced much opposition, ridicule, anger, threats and violence from many sides. It would have been easy to give in to their fears and give up. But instead, they responded FIRST with prayer and then they kept at it – with one hand to do the work and one hand to carry the weapon to defend themselves if needed. They meant business. They looked after one another and once again commited themselves to finishing the job God gave them.

Nehemiah also stood up for those who had been taken advantage of and he corrected those who had performed acts of injustice for their own selfish gain.

The world could sure use more leaders like Nehemiah. How will you step up? There is much broken in our world today. What is breaking your heart and God’s? Begin with prayer and fasting. And then continue with prayer as you attack God’s work with wisdom and action even in the face of opposition. His work is always worth it.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 1-5

Tomorrow we will read the next two chapters in Nehemiah’s story as we continue on our journey through the

Can you believe next week we start the New Testament!

Love and Marriage

Ezra 7-10

Ezra, who was from the lineage of Aaron the high priest came up from Babylon. He was skilled in the Mosaic Law. King Artaxerxes gave the children of Israel the right to return to Jerusalem if they chose. In 7:10 it says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel”. A letter was given to the ones returning from the king. Interestingly enough, this would have been the stepson of Queen Esther. Maybe he had heard about God through her. He starts out “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven:” He allowed the Israelites who wanted to return to go back, they were given gold and silver from the royal treasury, and then they were urged that if they needed anymore, that they were to pay for it from the king’s treasury. Ezra said in 7:27 “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” It sounds like Queen Esther must have talked about God to her family, and the king acknowledged that he was the God of heaven, and he did not want to have the wrath of God on him or his sons.

In chapter 8 they list those who returned, I love 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.” They fasted and prayed to God before making any decisions, just like we read in Esther as well. It is important that we follow these guidelines in our lives before we make decisions, pray about it and ask God to lead us in the direction that He would have us take.

In Chapter 9, we see the beginning of some problems, the children of Israel had taken pagan wives for some of their sons and daughters, even the religious leaders were included in this sin. Ezra was very upset at this and he prayed and wept before God because of their sin. They had been forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:3, to take foreign wives. Now, this was not a matter of being racist, because the foreign people could convert to Judaism, but the ones they married were pagans, which meant that they continued to worship idols. In 1 Kings 11:2b “the Lord said to the children of Israel “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your heart after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love.” V.4 “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” This was when their idolatry began which eventually led to the kingdom being conquered by the Babylonians. It is a fact that if we marry outside our faith it makes it more difficult to love God with our heart, soul, and might. That’s why we are told in 1 Corinthians not to be “unequally yoked with an unbeliever.” I believe who we choose to marry is one of the most important decisions we can make in our lives. I have a friend who said that of her four children, only one remained in the faith. She said it was who they married that made the difference. One married someone who was an active participant in church, two would go on occasion, and one married an atheist. When we marry, we are to be one, and it works best to be in accord with one another, and to both be pulling in the same direction. You will not get very far if the two oxen are trying to go in opposite directions.

The assembly decided that they would put away the pagan wives and children that they had with them. They confessed their sin and repented of it. Ezra 10:2b “We have trespassed against our God and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.” 10: 10b-11 “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and to do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” There was hope when the people repented because God will always accept us back when we return to him.

That is what is so encouraging to us as we read the history of the Old Testament. None of our patriarchs were perfect but God is able to use imperfect people to accomplish His will. We all need to be willing to let God use us in our imperfections. When we sin and make mistakes, that isn’t the end, if we return to God, he will return to us as we read earlier this week.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 7-10

Tomorrow we will begin the book of Nehemiah (chapters 1-5) as we continue on our

At the Crossroads

Jeremiah 4-6

Jeremiah 6 16 NIV sgl

Imagine that you are on vacation. You are searching for a special restaurant that you wanted to visit while in the area. However, you get lost and come to a crossroads. You don’t know which way to go.  There are two clear options that you have. You can either look for guidance from your GPS or you could ask a local. The other option is relying on yourself to figure out the way even though you are at a loss.

There are many lessons that are taken out of Jeremiah 4-6, but perhaps the one that stands out the most is found in chapter 6. In verse 16 it talks of standing at the crossroads. It says that we should seek the ancient paths when at the crossroads of life. We need to seek the guidance offered to us.

There are many crossroads in life such as the one in the vacation example. However, the crossroads are sometimes not as material as the one in the example. The crossroads we face are not necessarily physical. Many times, they are mental and spiritual ones. Sometimes we feel lost and we do not know where to go next. We don’t know what decision to make, where we should go, or even if we should take that job, or go to that college. Life is full of decisions.

In these times of uncertainty, though, we do not have to find the right way on our own. God is there and if we seek him, he will lead us. He will direct our steps. If we go it on our own, more than likely we will take a wrong turn. We will end up feeling more lost and confused than we did in the beginning. If we rely on ourselves and our sense of direction in an area that is foreign to us, we could get in trouble. We could follow a road that would take us into the bad part of town or to a place where the bridge is out.

However, if we ask for guidance; if we seek the ancient ways, as Jeremiah calls it, we will be set in the right direction. The locals and the GPS have wisdom and perspective that we do not.

How do we seek these ancient ways? Reading the Bible, digging into that Word, and prayer is a great way to seek this guidance. I have come across many so-called crossroads. Some of them more confusing than others. These crossroads included times when I didn’t know where I should work, if I should serve in a certain mission field or not, what I should study in college, and figuring out how I should react in certain situations. I would always feel confused in these situations, but when I remembered to pray, it seemed to come into perspective. That guidance and comparing the aspects of the situation to the stories in the Bible helps me to make these decisions. By seeking the counsel of the LORD, I was able to know which way to go when brought to the crossroads. Prayer is a powerful tool that we have graciously been given access. So let us use what has been made available to us.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 4-6 , can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+4-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 7-9 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Heal Our Land

2 Chronicles 6-7 & Psalm 136

2 Chronicles 7 14 NIV sgl

Solomon addresses the people of Israel, reminding them of how they got to where they are in regards to the building of God’s temple.  Then he offers a prayer of dedication of the temple.

In his prayer, Solomon knows that as great as the temple is, it isn’t great enough for God.  Yet he asks God to hear what is brought before Him in this house.

40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

41 “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.
42 Lord God, do not reject your anointed one.
Remember the great love promised to David your servant.”

 

God doesn’t have to hear us.  He doesn’t have to love us.  Yet he established a covenant with David that continued through the generations, that when it came to Jesus, was opened to everyone.  We should be so thankful to God for that!

God responded to Solomon’s prayer with fire and His glory filling the house.  And later, He appeared to Solomon.  One of my favorite verses is in this next section –

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I know this was directed to the people of Israel, but I’d like to think it can apply to us too.  Our land is so broken today.  I live in Minnesota.  These past few weeks we have been dealing with a huge mess of brokenness.  A police officer killed a man during an arrest.  Peaceful protests gave opportunists the chance to start violent riots with buildings being burned down, stores looted, people being sexually assaulted, kids going without food because the services that normally provide them with food are unable to operate amidst this, and much more.  And all I can think is how much our land needs to be healed.  And that is just in my little state.  I know there are problems all across our country, and our world.  If all of God’s people turned to Him and prayed, could our land be healed?

My comfort in this time is knowing that our land will be ultimately healed.  Jesus will return and the earth will be made new.  But until then, I do believe it is the job of God’s people to pray and to turn to Him and away from wickedness.

We’ll end today and this week with Psalm 136.

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His love endures forever.

If I counted correctly, that phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times in this psalm.

Thanks Marcia for putting this reading plan together.  What a timely reminder.  Whatever is happening in the world today, God’s love endures forever.

Come lord Jesus come.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s beautiful and timely Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+6-7%2C+Psalm+136&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 134 and 146-150 as we continue seeking God, and growing our Christian faith while learning to love Him and others better and better on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.   Now is a great time to start following along. Print your own plan (red link above) and subscribe to the daily devotion emails at https://seekgrowlove.com/

 

The Power of Prayer

A reminder to trust in and rely upon our communication line with God 

Psalm 26, 40, 59, 61-62, 64

Psalm 62_8 NIV sgl (1)

How many times have you faced a situation in your life that caused trouble, evoked anger, or instilled fear? All of us have had these moments, sometimes more days than others, but These Psalms show us that prayer is the most powerful tool that we have as followers of Christ in all sorts of situations and for all purposes.  The things that we are looking for in times of trouble are all things that God can give us if we choose to come before him. In Psalm 26, 40, 59, 60-62, 64, David is a perfect example of how we should be praying to our father persistently, fervently, and earnestly.  David prays for protection, deliverance, justice, and simple intervention in his life, but he also prays to praise his Father and pledge his dedication to him.  Prayer is not just a last-ditch effort for us when things get rough.  Rather, we should model our prayer lives after the example set by this great person of faith who has gone before us.  

Prayer is an open line of communication with God, which allows us to have a beautiful relationship with our father, who is always there to listen to us and hear what we have to tell him. Sometimes, the best time to come to our father in prayer is when we don’t feel like we have a specific reason to pray.  We don’t have to save our prayers for supplication in a time of need.  Prayer can be a wonderful, calming, and empowering thing when it doesn’t come from a place of necessity.  Even when we think we have everything under control, we still need God to intervene in our lives, and even when we are at our lowest point, we still have countless reasons to praise God.  If you feel like you don’t have as strong of a connection with God as you wish you would have, use what you know from the man who God led to conquer a giant.  He is always there for you.  In your prosperity and your weeping, he is always on the other side of the line.  Praise him in the good and in the bad.  Ask for his help in the good and in the bad.  There will always be a reason for both of those things.

I am looking forward to continuing to dive into the Word with you all this week. Consider this an introduction to the remaining devotions we will be walking through together. I leave you with this call to action: 

I wash my hands in innocence,

    and go around your altar, O Lord,

singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,

    and telling all your wondrous deeds.

                               Psalm 26:6-7 NRSV

Let’s strive to have an insatiable faith for God like David. Let us learn to depend upon him, trust in him, and sit at his feet in prayer. And, when he does intercede for you, praise his name. For he is worthy of our thanksgiving. 

-Leslie Jones

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+26%2C+40%2C+59%2C+61-62%2C+64&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 19-21 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In God’s Big Hands

2 Samuel 10, 1Chronicles 19 & Psalm 20

2 Samuel 10 12 NRSV sgl

Have you ever felt a little weird asking God to heal someone who is sick? I know I totally have. Inside my brain I feel this want to pray that God would heal the person but I also feel this tension between wanting God’s will to be done and wanting my own specific will to happen. For the record I absolutely think that we should be praying for the sick. I think that in some ways the tension exists because we want what we want and we all want this world to be as pleasurable as possible for everyone. While I think it is a little short sighted, it makes perfect sense. We don’t want to see our loved ones in pain, so we pray that God would bless them.

On the other hand, I do believe that the will of God will be accomplished eventually in this world. I also believe that the will of God is absolutely the best solution for each situation. Babies still die and sometimes younger people die too early. They don’t get to grow old and experience life through a number of years. This leads me to believe that there may be a creature out there in this world who is in opposition to God. So the question sort of remains do we pray that people will be healed or do we just pray that God’s will would be done in this situation. I believe that our prayers can be effective through God’s actions if they are God’s will. I think above all else in the realm of prayer my goal is to praise the Lord for all he has done and to try to pray according to his will.

In the reading today in 2 Samuel 10 we have this super weird story with half shaven beards and half naked men. Kind of crazy. The retaliation of this is where I want to focus though. So here the Ammonites had hired the Syrians and the king of Macaah and his men and the king of Tob and his men. This is looking to be a pretty intense battle. It’s sort of looking like everyone versus Israel in this scene. Now the Ammonites hired 33,000 soldiers and in addition you can throw in there all the men that the Ammonites had together. I can almost guarantee you that this was a formidable force against the army that Joab had.

Now this situation is kind of tricky because not only are they facing an army  that is larger than them but that army is also facing them on both sides. This is what is known as a flank and it’s a well used military strategy. Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, knows this and he knows that the odds are not in his favor at the current moment. He is well aware that he is already in trouble and the battle hasn’t even begun yet. Joab does the best with what he’s got and makes a plan to fight the battle. He divides his two forces and tells them we will help each other where we need it and after that Joab gives an awesome pep talk.

We don’t hear a lot about Joab’s life. We mostly hear about his military conquests but here we get a little glimpse into his spiritual life. In verse 12 he says, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” Love this motivational speech. He says be of good courage, which in my head and maybe some of Joab’s men immediately kicks me back to Joshua where Israel was winning every battle set before them. Then he says do for the fam, or for the family, and for the cities of our God. He acknowledges that they are God’s cities, Amen, right?!

The next subphrase though I want to hone in on a little bit. He asks that the Lord may do what seems good to him. That is nuts. He has all these men under him, he is literally responsible for all their lives. That is how leadership works. No begging and pleading for mercy and asking for blessings on his men and his nation. All he is asking is the Lord to do what seems good to him. He must have really believed that he deserved good to be done with him or he must have decided that God deserves to have what is good done in his eyes. He believed in putting it in God’s hands. He may have even believed and had confidence that God would want to do good to him. Not because of his actions surely, but because of God’s nature.

I think this phrase was spoken in humility and he was allowing his life and the lives of his men to be put in God’s hands. Of course all our lives are in God’s and the things that go on in our lives are still in God’s hands but Joab was crazy enough to voluntarily submit and acknowledge it. That’s the best type of crazy. I think this was the same attitude Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane.

I think what is actually going on is these people are volunteering their sense of control over their lives. They are submitting to God and telling him you do what you think is good to you. This is the point of surrender in our lives that I believe God is continuously working us towards – an emptiness of our own and fullness of things of God. It is ushering us towards the freedom that we yield control over our lives to God.

So let’s give to God what is his and pray that he would do what is good to Him in our lives.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+10%2C+1Chronicles+19%2C+Psalm+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalms 65-67 & 69-70 as we continue 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

I found it all oppressive, UNTIL…

Psalm 73, & 77-78

Psalm 73 17 NIV

Yesterday we read the short short story (2 verses) of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10).  He prayed.  God granted his request.  Remember, we don’t know the timeline for the life of Jabez.  Since he had requested from God the expansion of his territory (amongst other things) I feel it is most likely that this answer didn’t come with a snap of the fingers  -though God can certainly work that way when He wants to. I wonder if this answer was achieved over a period of time, with some persistence and wisdom and work required from Jabez.  But still – it sounds so simple and sweet. A fairy-tale ending in just two verses. Jabez prayed.  God granted his request.

But, what about the times when the answer isn’t coming.  We may be praying hard – with a good measure of persistence, wisdom and work, too.  But, it’s just not coming together like we thought a good God would do.

I think of Job and the 41 long, difficult, trying chapters of his story – before the final 42nd chapter when we see God finally shower Job once again with double the blessings.  It would be great to read the book of Job today to remember Job’s anguish – and God’s answer.  Or, you can read Psalm 73 – it is like a mini book of Job boiled down into one powerful psalm.

The author of this psalm begins by acknowledging that he knows God is good.  And, yet, he personally had nearly lost his way and his faith because of his own serious struggles while simultaneously watching the wicked prosper.  He saw boastful, callous, violent, evil men succeeding and growing in popularity and wealth, all while denying and even mocking God.  Are we sure this wasn’t written in 2020, perhaps during a Covid-19 epidemic?  Haven’t we seen and heard the same thing this week and shook our heads and asked, “Where is God?  This isn’t right or just or fair?  The world is too messed up!”  And we sink down deeper in our despair.   As the psalmist said, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me…” (Psalm 73:16)

UNTIL…

Yes – keep reading!  The good stuff is coming – just like it came for Jabez and Job and the psalmist,  it is coming for you and for me.  Though it does require a little bit of action on our part.  The psalmist reveals the secret.  He wrote, he was oppressed UNTIL he, “entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” (Psalm 73:17).  Look to God.  Put yourself smack dab in His presence.  Intentionally seek Him out.  Change your focus.  Consider the whole timeline, the big picture.  Look into the future.  Consider the consequences and coming judgement.  Rest in knowing God has got this.  And He has got me.  And if you let Him, He has got you.

The rest of this psalm has beautiful passages of God’s strength, guidance, comfort, plan, wisdom, & protection in any and every situation.  Don’t miss the chance to read it for yourself and soak it in.  Which verse is your favorite in Psalm 73?

 

Also, don’t miss out on the powerful truths in Psalm 77 & 78.  Psalm 77 begins much the same way Psalm 73 did – in agony and despair.  And maybe you have been there yourself sometime?  Perhaps you have asked yourself, “Has his unfailing love vanished forever?..Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:8, 9).

And yet – here again we will see a great turn-around.  In a few short verses he will be writing, “Your ways, O God, are holy, What god is so great as our God?” (Psalm 77:13).  What makes the difference?  What happened in-between verse 9 and 13?  Did he win the lottery?  Did he get all his wishes granted in the sudden snap of his fingers?  It had looked so hopeless.  What changed?

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

His situation did NOT change.  His thinking did.

What he was focusing on changed.  He rewired his brain, his thought processes, his attitude, his words, his outlook.  He remembered the good God had done.  He meditated on God’s work.

The anguish and oppressive depression doesn’t have to win, even in a situation that appears so bleak.  You may find yourself in the dark, questioning God.  You are not alone.  But, don’t allow yourself to remain in the dark.  Keep stepping towards the light.  You don’t have to wait until your circumstances change.  Instead, change your view.  Enter His Sanctuary.  Search for the good things He has done – in the past and today.  Seek Him.  Read His Word. Remind yourself of His power, faithfulness and love.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73%2C+77-78&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will jump back to 1 Chronicles – for just one chapter (6) as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan