Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Prodigal Son

Today’s Reading: Judges 16-18; Luke 15:11-32

Whenever I read the parable of the Prodigal Son, I’m reminded of a book I read in college. The book, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, takes a look at the famous painting by Rembrandt that depicts this well known parable. In this painting the father is welcoming home his son, while the older son and two servants looked on. The book asks you which person in the parable you identify yourself with the most. At times in my life I have been the prodigal son, the background observer, and the hardworking older brother.
I have been a Christian since I was a little girl. I’ve worked hard, made good decisions, and have never walked away from my Savior. I can understand a little bit what the older brother might have been feeling on that day when his father lavished so much upon his prodigal son. The last two verses of this section are the words that are truly meant for me today, “'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found' " (Luke 15:31-32).
God is calling me to not judge, but instead rejoice when a lost soul comes to Him. Just as we read about the lost sheep and lost coin, God is searching earnestly for every lost soul in this world. Not one of us has sinned anymore than another. Instead, we are all desperately in need of a savior.
Today I rejoice for every person that finally decides that they are sick of this world, and runs into the arms of Jesus. I, too, rejoice on their homecoming.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost Sheep and Coins

Yesterday and Today's Reading: Judges 11-15; Luke 14:25-35, 15:1-10

From yesterday’s and today’s readings, I chose to focus on Luke 15:1-10. Here we read the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. These parables are such beautiful examples of the way God welcomes each of us home. I, myself, have been a Christian for about as long as I can remember. I know the Bible in and out, and can spout all kinds of philosophy. At times in the past, I’ve forgotten just how awesome my salvation really is. Jesus died on the cross so that all of us could spend eternity with Him. What an awesome gift! And how unworthy am I to of that gift each and every day.
As I read these parables today, I started thinking about the new ministry my church has started up. The ministry revolves around the question, “Are You Sick of It Yet?” Are you sick of the partying lifestyle you’ve lived for so many years? Are you sick of the emptiness you feel in side? Are you sick of feeling like no one loves you, and that you’ll never measure up? If you are, we’ve got the answer: it’s God. The answer isn’t a specific church, or a specific group of people. It’s not about money or numbers. It’s about recognizing that we’re all in need of a Savior. It’s about recognizing that we all fall short, in so many ways. It’s about recognizing that we can’t do it on our own.
This ministry is about finding all those lost sheep and lost coins in the world. It’s about showing people that they are significant, they are important, and they are all created in the image of God. It’s about showing people that there’s something greater out there then their selves. Their life has a greater purpose.
I’m so excited about this ministry. For so long I’ve wondered how to share my faith with those around me. For so long, I’ve been afraid of what people may think. I’m still wondering how God will use me when it comes to this new ministry. It may be through actually being there at some of the meetings, or it may just be through prayer. What I do know is that God cares about every lost sheep and coin, and He’ll do anything to draw them to Himself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Love Salt

Today's Reading: Judges 11-12; Luke 14:25-35

Favorite Verse: 34"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

I like salt, sometimes too much. There's something about salty snacks that just hits the spot sometimes. One day I was trying to be health conscious, so I bought a bag of unsalted pretzel. Some people might like them, but I thought they were awful. I realized as I was eating them that a part of what makes pretzels good is the saltiness. Without it you're just eating brown twisted things. To me, the pretzels stopped being pretzels without the salt.

As Christians we have a "saltiness" that comes from Christ. This saltiness seasons every part of our lives. It influences how we act, where we go, and what we say. As Paul writes in Colossians 4,"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." We are seasoned with the influence of the Holy Spirit. In Luke 14, Jesus is warning us about what will happen if we chose to turn around and leave the saltiness behind. if we deny the influence of the Holy Spirit and turn our back on everything we've ever believed, our life will be like it was never salted at all. It's called free will. We're given the choice to accept Jesus, and we're given the choice to deny Him. I know some people will differ theologically on this subject than me. I realize that there is more than one viewpoint out there. For me, this is where I'm coming from when I read this verse. For me, I'm reminded about how important my salvation is, and how Jesus seasons every part of my life day in and day out. I'm so thankful for that, and strive daily to lead a life even more seasoned by the Holy Spirit. This is one area where there's no such thing as too much salt.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Humility is What I Long For

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
In Judges 9-10 we read about Abimelech, a man who was certainly not humble of heart. He had his own self-interests in mind, and reeked havoc on the Israelite people. It’s a sad story, full of gory details. But it once again shows a period of Israelite history in which God’s chosen people were rebelling and putting themselves before their God.
Humility is a hard thing to come by. It’s not always the easy road, not always the prettiest thing, but it’s what God calls us to as Christians. In Luke 14:1-24 Jesus tells a parable of humility. It’s a mindset, a matter of heart, an outlook on life. In this world we might not always be rewarded for our gracious acts, but God knows the heart.
That truth is something I have to grab a hold of on the hard days. On the days when I chose humility, without getting any recognition. On the days when I take the harder road with little results. Those are the days when I have to remind myself that my true treasure is in heaven, not here on earth. Humility is a tough thing to exhibit. Sometimes it means putting my loved ones first, doing the dirty jobs, or simply stepping out of the way so that others get the recognition. However it looks, I truly want to be more humble in my life.
What about you? What does humility look like in your life?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gideon and the Ultimate Choice

Today's Reading: Judges 7-8; Luke 13:23-35

I admire Gideon.
No, he wasn't perfect, but as we read in yesterday and today's readings, he did fight some courageous battles for the Lord. The thing that I liked most of all was, that in the end, Gideon wouldn't take the position of king, but instead acknowledge God as their king. When he easily could have taken all the glory, he pointed the people back to God. And they looked toward God for 40 years, until Gideon was gone.
And then, once again, the Israelites fell back into sin and idolatry. How sad. But how true of even today. We all have a choice to make. Each day, as we look around us, we can choose to serve God, or the material world. The choice is ours, but as Luke 13 reminds us, the outcome is an eternal one. We can serve to worship the idols of this world, and spend eternity in hell, or we can choose the “narrow door,” the door in which we enter if we worship the one, true Savior of the world (Luke 13:24). This door isn’t an easy one to enter, but life as a Christian isn’t all that easy. Being a Christian means that we’ll face all kinds of persecutions in this life, but I’m willing to walk that narrow way, if it means spending eternity with my Savoir. What about you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh Isreal

Today’s readings were from Judges 4-6 and Luke 13:1-22. The verses from Judges were rather sobering. Time and again the Israelites turned from their God and worshiped foreign idols. Time and again they fell into sin, and stayed that way for decades. Once again I was led to ask, why? Why did the people turn from God so fast?
At times, I too have questioned the Lord much like Gideon: “‘But sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian’” (Judged 6:13).
At times I, too, have wondered where the Lord was in the midst of a very dark time. But I never stopped believing. I never stopped trusting that he would provide in the end. Perhaps I’m na├»ve. Perhaps I really haven’t faced that much in this life. Or maybe I’m not. I truly do believe that God is there, even in the moments when we can’t sense his presence. The Israelites lost out on this point. They didn’t see God at work, and so they decided that he wasn’t worth worshiping. I choose to see God at work each and every day. It may be in a hug from my husband when I need it most, the sun shining on the mountains outside my window, or the smiles of a little child. Even in the midst of hardships, I see God in big ways and small. And I pledge my life to serving Him, through good times and bad. The Israelites’ plight reminds me of how important it is to always keep God number one in my life, even when I’m struggling to see the outcome.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Treasure's In Heaven

In Judges 1-3 we see the foolish Israelites once again turning to foreign gods. They were negligent in clearing the Promise Land of their enemies, and paid the price as they fell into temptation and worship gods of stone. It’s hard to believe that they could so easily forget everything God had done for them.
In Luke 12:32-59 we see a warning to forever be on guard, for we do not know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return. We’re encouraged to stay strong and focus on what’s important, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). The Israelites showed that their hearts where with the enticements and rituals of foreign gods. Perhaps they liked the tangible nature of it, perhaps they liked the feeling of sin that washed over them as they participated in despicable acts, I really don’t know. Whatever it was, they showed that they really had no real devotion for God. This saddens me so much. Yet I see the same thing over and over again today. People, today, find other gods in their life to worship. Theirs god may be food, exercise, the Internet, or IPods. Their gods may be celebrities or romance novels or American Idols. Whatever they may be, these people put things and/or people above Jesus, the Lord of All. I’m not saying I’m completely innocent in this department. I, too, have had to prioritize from time to time. I, too, have realized that things and people have become more important to me than God. I, too, have realized that I spent far too much time on the Internet or watching movies, instead of focusing on what was the most truly important to me, God. This Valentine’s Day I’d like to say once and for all that my greatest love has always and will always be Jesus Christ. Yes, I love my husband oh so much, but I love God most of all. My ultimate treasure is in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

As For Me and My House

Today I’d like to highlight two verses from the reading. The first comes from Joshua 22-24. In these chapters Joshua wraps up his leadership over the Israelites. He warns them to always keep God first and foremost. He tells them that the decision about who they would serve was ultimately up to them, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15b). I love this verse, it’s such a testament to standing strong for your faith. Joshua was not afraid to admit who he followed. My husband and I want this same mantra in our own household as well. We want our very lives to exhibit our love and devotion for the Lord. We want our future children to grow up in a house where God’s love is shown day in and day out. So what do we do now? For now we continue to work on our relationship. We spend time daily talking, praying, and reading the Bible together. And most of all, we keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
In Luke 12:1-31, the apostle finally gets to one of my favorite portions of scripture, the section on worry. I’ll admit it, I’m a world class worrier. And I come by it naturally. My mother is a worrier and her mother was a worrier. Just the same, I always feel that God is calling me, daily, to lay my worries at his feet. Why? Jesus says it best of all, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (vs. 23). Instead of worrying about the little day-to-day things, Jesus calls me, and you, to instead “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (vs.31). In these verses, Jesus says to not worry, but to instead focus our attention on heavenly things. For that, truly, is all that matters. As Joshua reminded the Israelites, God faithfully fulfills every promise he makes (Joshua 23:14). He never fails us. If we keep our eyes focused on Him, he will never fail to provide for us in the end. All he requires from us is trust. Trust that he will provide. Trust the He is God and Lord over all.
And so I’ll continue to trust Him. I’ll continue to devote my house, and my life to the only one that can truly sustain me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine

Hello everyone. I have to admit that I skimmed through today’s reading in Joshua (ch. 9-21). It was once again a list of the land allotted to each of the tribes of Israel. I did take the time, though, to find a map, so that I could see what the divisions of land actually looked like. Here’s a link to one of the maps I found. It’s rather interesting to look at. After spending some time with the map, I moved on to Luke 11:29-54. There’s something interesting stuff here! Jesus was definitely getting after people who had all of the right words to say, but didn’t truly live their lives for the Lord. In Luke 11: 33-346 he gives the illustration of a lamp, and how the eyes are a window to the soul. If the eyes are evil, then no light is shining through them, only darkness. But if the eyes are good, all of you is good. In particular, I was struck by verses 33-34 which say, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.”
There are times when I ashamedly try to hide my light. A part of me is afraid of what the world might say if they found out I was a Christian. Isn’t that awful? I’m quite sad to admit that I’ve acted such a way. Sometimes there’s a human part of me that just wants to fit into a group and have friends. I laugh at the wrong kinds of jokes, tell the wrong kind of stories, and feel horribly convicted in the end. For that person, who was hiding her light, truly isn’t me. I truly do want my light to shine for all the world to see. I never want to be ashamed of the wonderful freedom I’ve found in Christ. And I want my eyes to always be clean and full of light. If these means avoiding certain books, movies, or people, then that’s what I’ll have to do, to make sure that I’m truly living for my savior the next time the situation arises.
Have you ever struggled with letting your light shine?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Remedy for Laziness: Prayer

I’ve been asking myself lately if I pray the way I should.
My pastor likes to refer to the Christian walk as a four-legged stool. On leg is worship, one is fellowship, one God’s word, and the last is prayer. At different times in my life I’ve definitely struggled with one more than the other. Lately it’s been a toss up between time in God’s word and prayer. I’m great about looking up a quick verse, saying a one-word prayer, and then running about my day. But do I really pause long enough to hear God’s voice? Am I getting everything out of my quiet time that I should? Today’s reading was from Joshua 16-18 and Luke 11:1-28. In Joshua we saw the continued division of the land among the Israelites. The tribe of Manasseh was grumbling because they didn’t have enough land, yet, as Joshua pointed out to them, if they got up the energy they could clear the forests and chase out the Canaanites (Joshua 17:14-18). It honestly looks like this tribe was a little lazy. They didn’t want to do the hard work of clearing the land, so they lived, squished in by their enemies.
I, too, can be lazy at times. I get stuck in a rut and don’t want to clear out the junk in my life, just like the tribe of Manasseh. Perhaps I’m afraid of the change involved. Perhaps I’m concerned that the task would be too hard for me to handle. In these moments I’m most definitely looking at myself, instead of looking to God for help. In those moments, I’m not really trusting God to survive.
I know that those are the times I need to turn to the word of God and pray. Those are the times I need to be immersed in his word. In Luke 11: 2-4, Jesus gives us a prayer we should say at all times:
“‘He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

This prayer reminds us of so many important things. First, that the name of God is holy. It is He we should always be looking towards.
Second, to pray continually for His kingdom to come. We live in an imperfect world, so it’s wonderful to think about eternity in heaven with Him.
Third, to pray for food on our table, each and every day. We should never forget that He provides for us each and everyday.
Forth, to pray for forgiveness for our sins. We may be Christians, but we still mess up each and everyday. It’s important to remember that it’s not by our own strength, but by the strength of God that we are saved. Also, this scripture is a good reminder that we are supposed to forgive others, which is not always easy, but necessary.
Fifth, to pray that we not be tempted. We are in a world filled with temptations, day in and day out. Being Christians doesn’t make us immune to this, thus it’s important that we pray for help to keep our focus on Him.
I know that if I focus on praying these things each and every day, my attitude would improve a lot and I would feel a lot more focused. What about you? What do you struggle with in your daily walk?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Taking A Moment to Be Still

Wholeheartedly. This word has cropped up more than once in our Old Testament reading. I believe I’ve even written about it’s significant before. As Christians, we are called to follow God in such a way. Not half-headedly, not reluctantly, but wholeheartedly, with our whole being. In Joshua 13-15 we see the land beginning to be divided among the Israelites. Their inheritance was finally being realized. In these chapters of lists, once verse stood out in particular, the verse in which Caleb is honored for his devotion to God. Caleb had just asked Joshua for the land of Hebron, and it had been given to him. The next verse says, “So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:14b). What an admirable thing to say about a man late in his life. This portion of scripture tells us that Caleb was 85 years old (vs.10). He’d liven most of his life waiting for the promise land to come to fruition. At the age of 40 he scoped the land out, and then lived all those years since battling the local peoples of the lands. Finally, before his death, he’s given the land of Hebron for his family, and it’s noted that he was a man who loved the Lord with all of his heart.

I wonder if God would say the same thing about me at the end of my life. Will He say that I loved Him whole-heartedly, or any when I slowed down enough to think about Him? I’ll admit it, I’m much more a Martha then a Mary. In today’s reading in Luke 10: 25-42, I was once again reminded about how similar I am to the busy sister. I don’t really know how not to be busy. I think it’s ingrained in me. But just the same, if I’m to live my life whole-heartedly for Christ, I know that I need to slow down so that I can actually hear his voice. Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 10:41-42, “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” What was that one thing? I think it was taking the time to sit at the feet of Jesus. It was taking the time to worship and adore the Savior that I’m so thankful for. It was stopping and being still, even for just a few minutes, in order to hear his voice. A verse I’ve clung onto for years is Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Being still is so tremendously hard for me, but it’s something I strive for just the same. For I do love Him wholeheartedly and want that to be evident in my life.

What about you? In the craziness of life, do you ever take the time to be still and truly worship the Lord? Do you love Him wholeheartedly?

Lord, thank you for your great love for me. Help me to dwell in your presence today and everyday. I love you Lord with everything that I am.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Day the Sun Stood Still

“On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:
‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on [b] its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!” (Joshua 10: 12-14 NIV)

Hello everyone. I’ve been loving this journey through the Bible. Yes, I haven’t been perfect in doing it everyday of the week, but I’ve decided that it’s okay to be less than perfect. Instead, I’m enjoying each day of reading as I get to it. Today’s scripture selections were from Joshua 10-12 and Luke 10:1-24. In the book of Joshua we read of the spectacular day when the sun stood still. What a sight that would have been! Joshua 10:14 tells us that the sun stopped in the sky for an entire day. An entire day! Why? Because Joshua asked God for the favor. He truly believed that God would provide for the Israelites in this way. Because the sun stood still, they were able to defeat their enemies all the quicker.
The sun standing still goes beyond all scientific reason. No one here on this earth has the power to do such a thing. It’s far beyond any scientific tool or reasoning. Yet it happened. To me, it’s just one more way to see the true power and majesty of our God. I’m reminded of that song that goes “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” He truly does. He can tell the sun to stand still if he wants it too. He can tell the clouds to rain, the sun to shine, or a rainbow to appear. He’s creator of all, nothing is out of his power. He can bring both good and bad into each of our lives, it’s his prerogative. I know, that’s an awful hard thing to understand. But it’s true just the same. God is God. We serve the same God today who made the sun stand still for Joshua several thousand years ago. All he asks is that we trust and believe. Trust that He is God and that he does know best. And believe that He will provide, whatever it takes. If it means moving a mountain or making the sun stand still, then he will. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 18: 27).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

God Uses Our Weaknesses

In today’s reading the Israelites were once again caught up in their human nature. They coveted and doubted, once again failing to trust in God. The disciples in Luke 9 weren’t much different. They doubted their ability to cast a demon out of a boy, and argued about who would be the greatest among them in the kingdom of heaven. In both Joshua 7-9 and Luke 9:37-62, we once again see human nature at it’s worst, and most real. Because haven’t we, too, had moments of doubts? Haven’t we, too, had moments in which we failed to trust God, and instead turned and high-tailed-it out of a scary situation? What I love is that God uses us, even in our moments of weakness.
In Joshua 8 we read about the taking of the city of Ai. Here’s the verse in particular that stuck out to me:
“The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers” (Joshua 8:20 NIV).
While their fellow soldiers were burning the city, some of the Israelites had run for the desert. Their fear had overtaken any faith that God would provide. But then, God used them. As they turned around and realized that the battle had turned, they were able to capture the fleeing men of Ai. Their fear ended up being a strategic battle move. God used them, even in their moment of doubt, to be all the more victorious in the end.
Isn’t it amazing how God uses us, weaknesses and all? There have certainly been times when God has used my timidity and shyness to reach out to others with similar fears. He’s used me disappointments in writing and teaching to empathize with friends who were going through something similar. He’s used my very weaknesses to point most assuredly back to Him.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV).

Has God ever used you at your weakest? What did it feel like? What did you learn from the experience?
Lord, please use my weaknesses today to make your name shine all the brighter.