Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 47: Genesis 49-50; Matthew 23:23-29

I found something interesting in today’s reading. As Jacob is laying on his bed, about to die, he says some very prophetic things to his sons. In particular, take note of what he says to his son Judah:

“Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down; like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor. He ties his foal to a grapevine, the colt of his donkey to a choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk” (Genesis 49: 9-12).

Now consider this verse: “But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals’”(Revelation 5:5).

I don’t think the connection between these two passages is an accident. The prophetic words Jacob speaks at the end of Genesis are a wonderful promise about what was to come. Already God had a plan of redemption in mind. These words in Genesis are a prophetic picture of the true Lion of Judah, who would one day come and ride a donkey through Jerusalem, being hailed as the Messiah. His robes would then be soaked with blood, much like wine, as he died on the cross for all of our sins.
What a beautiful, prophetic picture of a redeemer.

Are you in need of the Lion of Judah today? What part of your life do you need him to redeem? He is ready and waiting. Let him redeem you today. As the lyrics to the song “Hail, Hail, Lion of Judah” by Donnie McClurkin say,

"Hail, hail Lion of Judah!
How wonderful You are!
Hail, hail Lion of Judah!
How powerful You are!

The Lion of Judah shall break every chain
and give to us, oh my,
the victory again and again"

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being the Lion of Judah. Please help me to trust in you, and let you fight the battles in my life, for I am nothing on my own.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 46: Genesis 46-48; Matthew 23:1-22

"The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted" (Matthew 23:11-12).

In a self-centered world, what does a true servant look like? They seem to be few and far between. People seem more interested in improving their own looks, furthering their own careers, and buying the newest gadget on the market than in really helping others.
But Jesus calls for a different kind of living. In today’s reading, he seems to be saying that a servant isn’t someone looking for recognition and power. Instead, a servant is humble at heart. They are ready and willing to be used by God. Joseph, in the book of Genesis, seemed to have such a heart. He gave God the credit for interpreting dreams and for putting him in a position of power. He was always ready and willing to help whomever was in need, whether Potiphar, the Prison Guard, Pharaoh, or his own estranged brothers.
A servant is humble. A servant recognizes that there is someone much greater at work in the situation. A servant looks for needs and others and meets those needs. A servant thinks of others before themselves. A servant has the heart of God.

Are you a servant of God today? How does he want to use you? Listen for his voice.

Prayer: Lord, make me a servant. Open my heart and show me my purpose for today and always.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 45: Genesis 43-45; Matthew 22:23-46

The words of Matthew 22: 37-39 are famous ones in which Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbors. These, according to Jesus, are the greatest commandments of all, yet they’re not always easy to follow. Take the example of Joseph. Here’s a man who has been horribly mistreated by his brothers, thrown into slavery, misjudged and thrown into prison. Yet, instead of being bitter, Joseph chooses to love. His love for God, and for his neighbors, brings him out of the slums and into a position of great power and authority. At this point, he has the ultimate test. His own brothers come back into the picture, asking for help. Joseph had every right to be bitter and vindictive toward them, but instead, he holds out arms of love and forgiveness. What a beautiful example for all of us. Instead of holding onto the past, Joseph chooses to see the good that’s come from an awful situation. He tells his brothers,
“Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:5-8).
What a forgiving, loving heart! Instead of “getting even” with his brothers, Joseph chooses to save them from the famine.
Have you ever had a situation in which you looked back and saw God at work? How did you respond to your circumstances after that?
For me, one situation that comes to mind is losing my job. I have to admit that I’ve had times since them that I didn’t think to highly of my former bosses. I was hurt and angry that they would let me go.
This angry attitude really doesn’t get me anywhere; what does is looking for the good that’s come from that situation. For one, if I still had that job, I probably wouldn’t be writing to you now. I love writing; I look forward to my time with my coffee and laptop every day. What a blessing that God has given me the time and resources to do this.

Prayer: Lord, help me to love and forgive those who have hurt me. Please help me to look for the good in every situation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 34: Genesis 41, 42; Matthew 22:1-22

Hello everyone. Today our reading in Genesis continues with Joseph’s sudden rise in power. Where he was once a slave, he now becomes second command over all of Egypt. Only Pharaoh is greater than him. And why does he rise so suddenly? Because he gives all the glory to God. Joseph could have claimed the power of interpreting dreams for himself, but he humbly admitted that God alone could interpret (Genesis 41:16). Pharaoh is amazed by this Hebrew man, and decides to place him in charge. He asks his advisers, ““Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38). What a compliment. Joseph faithfully stood of for his God, and people recognized his faithfulness for what it was.

I wonder what I would do in a similar circumstance. In our reading from Matthew, Jesus says to give to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22: 21). Jesus is talking about money here, but I think we could use Pharaoh the respect this as meaning praise and honor as well. We could say, give to due to him, and to God the respect due to him. Joseph did this in Genesis, and I would hope that I would do this as well. I hope that I always respect my leaders, but honor my God most of all.

What about you? Would you stand up for your faith, even if your life was on the line? Would you honor your leaders, but honor your God most of all?

Prayer: Lord, give me the strength to always keep you first and foremost in my life. Help me to always give you the glory due to you, for I can do nothing on my own.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 33: Genesis 39-40; Matthew 21:23-46

Joseph’s story in Genesis is a great one of God’s faithfulness and provision. Joseph was sold into slavery, forced to work as servant, and then thrown into prison. Throughout this time he stayed true to God and fled from temptation.

Temptation can be such a rough thing. Satan knows exactly where and when our weaknesses are the greatest. For me, sometimes it really is just turning around, walking away, and saying a prayer that makes the difference. It’s wonderful to know that God is right there, ready and willing to provide a way out of whatever is tempting me (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When Joseph fled from the temptation Potiphar’s wife offered, he was thrown into prison. Even then, God was there and “showed him his faithful love” (Genesis 39:21). What a wonderful way of putting it! Even when Joseph was as lowly as it could get, God was still there, loving him and providing for him.

Oh how I need some reminders of God’s faithful love today. It’s wonderful to know that he is there in the good times and in the bad. He will never fail me or abandon me.

And he’ll never abandon you either. He will help you through whatever temptations you’re dealing with today. He loves you with an unfailing love.

As Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your unfailing love. Please help me to be courageous today, and to cling to you like never before.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 32: Genesis 36-38; Matthew 21:1-22

There have been things I’ve been praying about for years: ailments, relationships, salvations. Sometimes it’s hard to keep on praying. It’s hard to keep on believing that God will one day answer my prayers. Today’s readings talk about just that.

In Matthew 21, tells his disciples: “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it” (vs. 22). This is a great verse. But what does it mean?

Matthew Henry, writes, “Faith, if it be right, will excite prayer; and prayer is not right, if it do not spring from faith. This is the condition of our receiving—we must ask in prayer, believing. The requests of prayer shall not be denied; the expectations of faith shall not be frustrated.”*

If we ask for something that is selfish and not for the heart, God is able to discern this. He can tell the difference between a “material” need and a true, heartfelt concern. He promises that he will answer the prayers that come from the heart. His answers may not always be in our timing, or even the answers we want to hear, but he does answer them. All we have to do is believe.

Do you believe that God can do the impossible? Or have you given up on a request that has been there for years?

Prayer: Lord, give me the faith to believe that you will provide today and every day.

*Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on Matthew 21." . Blue Letter Bible. 1 Mar 1996. 2009. 19 Aug 2009.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 31: Genesis 33-35; Matthew 20:17-34

There are so many sad things in this world. The reading from Genesis reminds is of this, with the rape of Dinah. Yes, Dinah’s brothers were wrong in the way they handled the situation, but they weren’t wrong in feeling upset about the matter. What was done to Dinah was a horrible thing.

As I read Dinah’s story, and then the story of the blind men and Jesus, I started to wonder if my eyes had been blinded in any way.

What had become so commonplace to me that I no longer even recognize it for the awful thing that it was?

I’ll admit, it’s often easier to sit in my cozy, safe home and immerse myself in a book, then to think about the people who aren’t in such a safe place and don’t have the novelty of reading the newest bestseller.

Perhaps they’re being abused, or lonely, or on the streets.

No matter the case, it’s easier to look right by them. If I look right by them, then they’re not my issue. I don’t feel connected. I don’t feel they’re pain.

I remember this homeless man who sold roses by the side of the road, rain or shine. I used to see him every Sunday morning as my husband and I drove to church. I always wanted to buy a rose from him, but we were always in too much of a hurry. The service was about to begin. We didn’t want to look bad by being late. Who knows what he would use the money for. Excuses. Excuses. They were all excuses so that we could get out of helping the man. We closed our eyes so that we didn’t have to help.

My question for you today is, what have you closed your eyes to? What are you missing in the world around you?

May our prayer be the same as the blind men in Matthew 20:33 who cried, “Lord… we want to see!”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 30: Genesis 31-32; Matthew 20:1-16

I love the portion of scripture in Genesis. Today we read about how fearful Jacob was of meeting up with his brother Esau. The last time they had been together Esau was ready to kill him. Now Jacob is on the verge of experiencing the amazing power of forgiveness. I can hardly wait for the next chapter!

Jacob and Esau are about to come time an understanding on what it means to forgive and love. In this place, there is no room for jealousy.

For jealousy is such an evil thing. In Matthew, we see how there is no place for jealousy in the in the Kingdom of Heaven. God knows best when it comes to the gifts he gives us in this world and the next. As the landowner (God) says in Matthew 20:15, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

It’s really not our place to compare our lot in life with others. This can be so tricky sometimes. I long for a comfortable life with all the latest electronic gadgets. I want to be successful in the home, in my career, in my relationships. I want all these things. But through this parable God is showing us that he really knows best. He knows what each of us needs to get through each day.

It’s about being thankful.

It’s about trusting.

It’s about believing that he knows best.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the things you have given me in this life. Please help me to not compare myself with others, but to instead be thankful for all that you have given me, each and every day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 29: Genesis 29, 30; Matthew 19

Scheming and deceitfulness run rampant in today’s reading. Joseph, who once was the deceiver, meets Laban, who gives him a run for his money. Laban tricks Joseph by giving him the wrong daughter in marriage, and then forces him to work twice as long to marry the woman he loves (Rachel). Laban continually tricks, lies and cheats Jacob out of what is rightfully his. It’s not a pretty sight. But it’s a picture of what we, as humans, are all like when left to our own devices. None of us are perfect. We are self-centered human beings always looking out for ourselves.
And that’s where a Savior comes in.

On our own there is nothing we can do to obtain salvation. We are too evil and too self-centered to ever enter the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus says in Matthew 19: 26, God is the one that does the impossible thing. He bridges the gap between our sinful natures and his perfect on. Through Christ’s death on the cross, he has made a way for us to inherit eternal life. If we accept salvation through Jesus Christ, we leave our sinful, deceitful natures behind, and take on a new life.

I’m so thankful that God did the impossible and gave me the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with him.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for taking this sinful creature and making something beautiful out of it! Thank you for doing the impossible and giving me eternal life.

Day 28: Genesis 27-28; Matthew 18:21-35

As I read today’s reading, one theme kept coming to the forefront, forgiveness. In Genesis we read of the rivalry between the twins Jacob and Esau. Esau is so mad at Jacob that he is conspiring to kill his own brother. Yes, Jacob did some stupid things, and deserves the anger, but even so, it’s never right to plan the murder of your own brother.

Right after this, we turn to Matthew 18, where Jesus tells his disciples to forgive indefinitely (“ seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22). This is definitely not the kind of attitude Esau had in Genesis. He wanted to kill, but Jesus wants us to forgive.

Why? Because Jesus has already paid the ultimate price for our sins. He forgave us, so we need to forgive others (as the parable of the Unforgiving Debtor demonstrates).

Forgiving is easier said then done. I know there have been times in my life when I responded to a situation like Esau. No, I didn’t want to kill anyone, but I became bitter over certain injustices and held a grudge against that person. I felt that by “withholding” my forgiveness I was somehow “punishing” that person more. But that’s not my place. God calls me to forgive no matter how hard it may be.

By forgiving and loving that person, I am furthering the kingdom of God, instead of hindering it.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to forgive today, however hard it may be. Help me to love that person with a love that can only come from you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 27: Genesis 25-26; Matthew 18:1-20

Isn’t it interesting how we fall into the same habits as our parents? This was true for Isaac, and I have to say it’s true for me as well. In today’s reading, we see something that looks hauntingly similar to some earlier events.

Consider this following passage:

"So Isaac stayed in Gerar. When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, ‘She is my sister.’ He was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.’ But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah. Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, ‘She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ ‘Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,’ Isaac replied. ‘How could you do this to us?’ Abimelech exclaimed. ‘One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.’ Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: ‘Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!’" (Genesis 26: 6-11).

Sound familiar? Isaac fell into the same fear that consumed his father Abraham. He became worried about his own safety, and so he lied about his wife being his sister.

Well, I haven’t lied about my husband being my brother, but I have dealt with "worrying” my entire life. This is a trait I come by quite naturally. My mother was a worrier and her mother was a worrier.

I’ve found something about worrying. It’s never a good thing. When I start worrying too much, I stop letting God work in my life. I take a situation into my hands, and it never works out well in the end. This is true for Isaac and for Abraham as well. They really had no reason to lie about their wives, but they were worrying, and so they took things into their own hands.

What traits have your parents passed on to you? Are these good or bad things? Do you ever need to give these things back to God?

Prayer: Lord, please take away my worrying. As you say in Matthew 6:25-27, worrying does not add a single moment to our lives. You are in control of everything, so I give control back to you today.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 26: Genesis 23-24; Matthew 17

Rebekah has always been an intriguing person to me. Her story begins when a servant comes from a far away land and tells her that she has been chosen to marry his master’s son, Isaac. Without any delay, she picks up her life, says goodbye to her family whom she’ll never see again in this life, and goes on a long journey to marry a man she’s never even meant. What commitment. What fearlessness. What trust in God. When she arrives in this Promised Land, she marries Isaac, comforts him over the loss of his mother, and is “loved deeply” by him. What a wonderful story, and what a person to aspire to be. I, too, have traveled far away from home with my husband. (Although I did know him before I agreed to marry him). I can understand some of the loneliness Rebekah must have felt in the new land she came to. She was completely surrounded by strangers. The only thing that was the same was her God. He was God in her old home, and in her new.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be an encourager and comfort to my husband. And give me the strength needed to follow him wherever he leads in this life. Thank you for being my Lord and Savior yesterday, today and forever more.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 25: Job 41, 42; Matthew 16

“Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine” (Job 41:11).

God’s ways are not our ways. These last two chapters of Job remind us of just that. The Lord knows what we should and shouldn’t have. He doesn’t have to “repay” us for anything we do for him, as the above verse says. He doesn’t have to “give” us anything for the good deeds we do on this earth. He deserves our praise and adoration. He gives and takes away without our opinion or say.

In the book of Job, we read about a man who was blessed abundantly. Then, one day God allowed all of that to be taken away. Why? Because he wanted to see how Job would react to the situation. Although Job grieved, he did stay true to the Lord, praising him even in the hard times. And so, God blessed him in the end even more abundantly than before.

God desires our worship and adoration in good times and bad. I’m reminded of the song by Tree63 called “Blessed Be Your Name.” In this song, there’s a refrain that goes, “You give and take away/You give and take away/ My heart will choose to say/ Lord, Blessed be your name.”

May this always be my attitude, in the good times and the bad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 24: Job 38-40; Matthew 15:21-39

In today’s reading we come across a woman who doesn’t fit into the current ministry of Jesus. At the time, he was ministering primarily to the Jews. When she first speaks to Jesus he doesn’t even answer her. He stays quiet, presumably ignoring her cries. It is only after she continually begs him that he heals her daughter. What a beautiful story of persistence. What a beautiful story of faith.

There have been things in my life that didn’t get cured all at once. I still struggle with certain physical ailments to this day, namely chronic migraines. These migraines follow me on a daily basis. I have to admit that I’ve become half-hearted in my prayers concerning them. A part of me has given up on being healed, which isn’t right.

Of course I should learn to accept this “thorn” God has given me (2 Corinthians 12:7), but at the same time, I should never forget that he is a God of miracles.

I want a faith like this Gentile woman, who kept on asking until God answered her. I want to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV) believing that Jesus will ultimately heal me, if not in this world, than in the next.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for this reminder that you are a God of miracles. Please help me to never cease in praying for healing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 23: Job 36-37; Matthew 15:1-20

Words are powerful things. Words are how Job’s friends are getting themselves more and more in trouble, as each chapter of the book progresses. They believe Job is a hypocrite because he is grieving over all that is lost, but really, they are in the wrong. They have judged him wrong, and are using their words to abuse his character.

Reading this reminded me of times I had unintentionally hurt people with my words. I can still see the crushed faces of my friends, as my jesting words struck a chord deep down. It hurt them. And there was no turning back.

James 3:6 refers to the tongue as a “flame of fire.” It is a small thing that can do a lot of damage. With one word, a spark ignites, catches fire, and may cause tons of pain in the end. This pain may spread, build up, and carry on for years. It may build a wall, ruin a friendship, or brutally tear down a person’s self esteem. The power of the tongue should not be taken lightly.

As Jesus says in Matthew 15:17-20, it’s not what goes into our mouths, but what comes out that defiles us. I believe Jesus’ words serve as a caution to you and me. We really need search our hearts and ask if our outward words and actions are really showing what we believe deep down. And then we need to take the correct steps to remedy the problem.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to start any fires.

Prayer: Lord, please tame my tongue. Help me to think before I speak, so that every word I say brings glory to you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 22: Job 34-35; Matthew 14:22-36

Hello everyone. Here's the portion of scripture I want to focus on today:

“Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’

But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. 'Take courage. I am here!'

Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’

‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped” (Matthew 14:24-32).

My life was so happy this past year. I was a newlywed, in love, starting a home with my best friend. I felt as if my feet hadn’t touched the ground in months. I was walking on water with Jesus, so happy, and so in love with the gift God had given me.

But then I heard some news, some news that would drastically change the next year of my life. In that moment I was grieved. I cried, I moped, I was no longer thankful for the life God had given me. I was afraid for what the next year would hold. I began to sink. Into depression. Into doubt. Into grief. I was feeling sorry for myself.

And then God asked me to look up. He asked me to make a decision. Would I wallow in self-pity over this new, harder, season of life, or would I be joyful, even now? Would I continue to sink in this water, or would I let him pull me out, and hold me on top of the water?

Yes Lord, I cried, Save me. Pull me out of this depression. Give me joy again.

And he did. No, this harder season isn’t gone. But Jesus is there, holding my hand, and helping me take one step each day. He’s helping me walk on the water. There’s no place I’d rather be.

Prayer: Lord, please help me walk on the water today, for I can’t do it on my own. Take my worries and cast them far from me. Be my Lord and Savior today and every day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 21: Job 32-33; Matthew 14:1-21

I’ve heard the story of Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand many times. It was one of those stories that was ingrained into me in Sunday School as a child. Just the same, I still find it a thrilling story to read.

A few things stick out to me.

• Jesus left the crowds to be alone. He wanted quiet time, away from the masses. But the people followed him. Instead of yelling at them, the Bible says that he had “compassion on them and healed their sick” (vs. 14).

o There have been times in my life when I desperately wanted some quiet time. I have to admit that I didn’t act as graciously as Jesus when that time was interrupted.

• When the people became hungry Jesus told the disciples to feed the people.

o Isn’t it true that we often lack the faith to move forward? We look at a seemingly bleak situation, and forget to trust God to provide. I think that’s what the disciples were doing here, and I think it’s a great lesson in faith for all of us as well.

• Jesus provides the food.

o Jesus saw a need, and he provided for it. I’m so glad that I serve a God that cares about the little things. He is willing to provide for things be and small, all I have to do is ask for help. Whether it be food, a job, or the attributes of patience and kindness, all I have to do is ask.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the lessons we can glean from your word each and every day. Help me to be more patient, and to trust you with the details of life, big and small. Thank you for providing for me each and every day.