Thursday, March 25, 2010

Agape Love

Today’s Reading: Psalm 52; Psalm 57; Psalm 142; Luke 22:24-46

Sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom how great God’s love for us truly is. In Psalm 57:10, David writes “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (NIV). The heavens above are so immense and far-reaching. Every year we learn more about just how huge the universe is out there. And God’s love stretches as far as that, and even further. God’s love is so great that He sent His son to this earth to pay the ultimate price for all of us: “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). God’s love for all of us was that great.
His love is greater than any human relationship we’ll ever experience. I think my love for my family will be the closest thing I have ever to experiencing what the love of God is like. I love my husband more than any other person in this world. When my baby is born in the Fall, I’m sure I’ll love him or her more than anyone else as well. I strive to love my family with an agape love, a love that has no restrictions or boundaries but loves unconditionally. This is the type of love God has for each of us. How amazing.
What amazes you most about God’s love for you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Deliverer

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 22; Psalms 56; Luke 22:1-23

As we get closer and closer to Easter, my thoughts can’t help but dwell on the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for all of us when He died on the cross. We’re in as much of a need of a Savior today as David was back in the book of 1 Samuel.
In today’s reading we once again see David hiding from Saul, afraid for his life. Saul does an ugly thing today, when he kills all the priests of God. What a horrible act, and how far he had come from the young man anointed to be king over Israel. The spirit of God, which once dwelt within him, has now left, and Saul is only filled with black jealousy and rage. God’s face has turned from Saul, to a young man named David. A man who is slowly becoming a man after God’s own heart. We see some of his dependence on God in his Psalms, how he pours out his heart, admits his doubts and insecurities, and depends on God to take care of his enemies. David realizes that he can’t fight the great battle against evil on his own. We need a Savior to fight that battle for us.
In Luke, we’re getting so close to seeing how the ultimate fight against evil will be won. We’re getting close to that moment when God, in human form, takes on all the sins of the world. In today’s reading from Luke, we get a small glimpse into The Last Supper. This Last Supper would be the final time that Jesus eats with his disciples, and gives them the image of the wine and bread, representing the great sacrifice Jesus would pay.
He became our ultimate redeemer, something I’m oh so thankful for. Psalm 56:13 says, “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” For David this might have meant literal deliverance from Saul, for me, this means eternal death. Instead of going to hell, I have the security in know that I will walk with God in heaven. And for that, I’m eternally thankful!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh Lord, Make Me Radiant

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 20-21; Psalm 34; Luke 21:20-38

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5 NIV).

Sometimes I wonder what I look like. Does the love of Christ shine through me, or do I look like an ordinary person going about her day? Is it obvious from what I say and do that God is number one in my life? Or does my list of errands, and the people in my life take priority over Him?

Radiant (or “lightened” in the KJV), comes from the Hebrew word nâhar. Strong’s Concordance defines nâhar as a prim root; as the ability to sparkle, be cheerful, flow together or to be lightened.

What does being radiant look like in someone’s life? For me, it means that I’m daily in the word of God. I’m praying throughout my day and giving everything, big and small, to the Lord. It means that I’m so in-tune with what God wants, that it can’t help but spill over into the rest of my life. Being radiant means that my eyes seriously have a glow. It means that God’s love can’t help but spill over on the grumpy lady at the supermarket, or on a friend that needs some love. Being radiant is something I never want to have to hide, like Moses did in the wilderness (Exodus 34:29-34). He did it because his shining face seemed to alarm the Israelites (if I remember right). I want my face to always have that glow.
I’d like to note that I’m not talking about happiness here. Life isn’t always a piece of cake, I know this. Instead, I’m talking about an inner radiance that comes from being in the presence of God. I’m talking about a glow that can’t be taken away, no matter what I face in this life.
Oh Lord make me radiant today and everyday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Shall Not Be In Want

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 19; Psalm 23 & 59; Luke 21:1-19

In today’s reading we finally return to the book of Psalms. I love seeing the connections between what was happening in 1 Samuel and what David was writing about his experiences in the Psalms. In 1 Samuel we see David on the run. Saul has gone back on his word once again, and now, in a rage of jealousy, vows to kill David. This must have been such a fearful time for David. He must have wondered who he could trust and who he couldn’t. Yet even in his fear, he still turned to God.
As the men watched David’s house, ready to kill him, David wrote the words of Psalm 59. It’s a beautiful Psalm of deliverance. David wasn’t sure if he would even live to see morning come, yet he writes, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (v. 16, NIV). He had faith that God would see him through this dark, scary night. He was depending on God to be his refuge and strength.
And remarkably, God did provide for David. This would be one of many times God gave him a way to escape his enemies.
The words of Psalm 23 are well known by many. Just the same, I couldn’t help but read them in a new light today. David knew what it was like to have enemies. He knew what it was like to be on the brink of death, time and again, Yet he says that he “shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1 NIV). He knew that God would provide for his needs, each and every day. Though I’ve never faced a situation quite like David’s, sometimes I need the reminder that God truly will provide for me in all things, big and small.
What about you? Do you need God’s protection and provision today?
Lord, thank you that you always provide for me, and that I’m never truly in want of anything.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 17-18; Luke 20:27-47

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV).

How often do we forget that the true battle belongs to the Lord? David knew that a man’s strength and power are nothing compared to that of God. He trusted that God would provide for him as he fought against Goliath. God works in seemingly impossible situations and provides for His children time and again.
There have been times when I’ve forgotten this truth. Times when I’ve tried to fight my own battles, and failed miserably. As I read the verses in today’s reading, I was reminded once again about how powerful and awesome our God truly is. I’m more than ready to give Him all my battles today, big and small. From conflicts with landlords, to this pounding headache, to how I’ll talk to my husband this evening, I pray that God will be seen in my every thought and action. Because for me, the greatest battles start in my mind, before I even speak a word. The battles start when I begin to decide how I’m going to respond to a situation.
I’m so thankful that all my battles belong to the Lord.

(Check out the lyrics to this song. I’m already singing the tune in my head. It’s just as true for David as he faced Goliath, as it is for each of us today).

Monday, March 15, 2010

After God's Own Heart

Today's Reading: 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 20:1-26

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b NIV).
Today we come to a familiar portion of scripture, when Saul is rejected and David is anointed king of Israel. I’ve always loved the stories of King David. This man after God’s own heart had his weaknesses to be sure, but he was also such a great man of faith. The words he writes in the book of Psalms are some of my favorite in the Bible. They’re so honest and blunt at times, admitting sin, shame, doubt, and ultimately hope in God alone. As the prophet Samuel looked for God’s anointed one in today’s reading, he was reminded that God looks at the inward heart of a person. Outward appearance means little to Him, compared to how a person truly is on the inside. In David He found someone with a sincere heart. I wonder what He sees when He looks at me? Does He see someone distracted and downhearted, or does He see earnestness, love, and a desire to do good in this world? Does He see someone who desires to love and follow Him more than anything?
For I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. I strive for this each and every day. What about you?

Palm Branches, Cloaks, and the King of Kings

(Note: this is the devo I wrote on Friday. I didn't have internet when I wrote it, so it didn't get posted until today. Sorry for the delay).

Friday's Reading: 1 Samuel 13-14; Luke 19:28-48

It’s hard to believe that Easter is already upon us. In a couple of weeks churches everywhere will celebrate a day called “Palm Sunday” a day in which Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the people shouted out and praised Him as Lord and Savior. The telling of this event in Luke is quite brief. The aspect of the story that I love, here, was how unafraid Jesus’ disciples were to yell at the top of their lungs that here rides the “king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38). For once they gave him the praise that was due.

The other gospels give similar accounts of this day. Matthew 21:8-9 tells us that a large crowd of people laid their cloaks and palm branches on the road crying “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.”

What a beautiful expression of adoration for their king. But sadly, many would soon lose hope. They expected their king of kings to react quite differently. They didn’t expect him to die on the cross. What they didn’t realize was that they would soon be given something quite greater. While Jesus didn’t immediately come with a sword and vanquish their enemies, he bridged the gap between sinful man and heaven. He took the sins of the world upon his own soldiers.

On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. And we start to think about what the coming week would have had in store for him. I, myself, am thankful that the story doesn’t end with Palm Sunday, with the Last Supper or with the Crucifixion. Instead, it ends with Easter. That is the most beautiful day of all!

This year I’m pregnant with our first child. My heart is filled with the daunting task of teaching a young one all about great gift God has given us. I want to truly appreciate this gift for myself, so that I can pass it on to our child. I pray that one day soon, in the coming years, this young one will find a personal relationship with Christ. Easter is that important to me. I can’t help but be filled with excitement when I think about sharing this great gift with my little one.

Easter means birth, life and renewal to me. I think of the cross, of spring flowers, of chickadees being born. And I think of the beautiful life growing inside of me. Today I’m so thankful for my King of Kings that, one day, long ago, rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hiding Behind the Baggage

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 19:1-27

“So they inquired further of the LORD, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ And the LORD said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’" (1 Samuel 10:22).

I long ago realized that living for the Lord isn’t always easy. God likes to stretch me, and encourage me to do things that don’t always come easily. Teaching was like this for me, and writing certainly can me. God always seems to be pushing me out of my comfort zone, and asking if I really trust in Him to provide for me each step of the way. At times I have been like Saul in today’s reading. I’ve been given a great honor, felt the presence of God, but then run and hid from the future like a little child. While the people were waiting to anoint Saul the first king of Israel, Saul was hiding among the baggage. They say Saul stood head and shoulders above the other men. Can you imagine him folding up his long arms and legs and crouching like a child of five among barrels and boxes, carts and bags? What an image! Just the same, I understand what Saul must have been feeling in that moment. Inadequate, Unworthy, Unsure if he can truly fulfill the task. I’m sure all of us have felt that way at one time or another. But this is exactly the moment when God asks us to let go of our fears of inadequacy and let Him move within us. As Jesus says in Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” He is ready to do the seemingly impossible in each of our lives. If only we get up from behind the baggage and let Him move.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jesus, Have Mercy on Me

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 7-9; Luke 18:24-43

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Luke 18:38

Just as the blind man cried out for mercy, I, too, am in need of mercy. I’ve walked around today feeling sorry for myself, and letting the worries and stresses of this world take over. Instead of delving into God’s word and immersing myself in His truths, I’ve focused on the temporal. I’ve grumbled about how early I had to wake up this morning, about the “rude” phone call and email I received. I worried about all the things that have to be accomplished in the coming weeks. I blamed my woe-is-me attitude on a “woman’s hormones” instead of taking my diminished self to the cross. I knew I was wrong. I knew I needed to spend time with my Lord, but I resisted. I kept busy. I continued to grumble about my day. I focused on the material and temporal, instead of the eternal. Right now I need a reminder. I need a renewal. Some verses just came to mind about this earthly battle we live, day by day. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-19, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (NIV).
My eyes needed to be re-focused today. They needed to be directed back up, toward the eternal. So for now, I give my attitude, my less than perfect day, and my throbbing headache to God, and ask Him to light a renewed fire inside of me. Yes, most of today is gone, but there’s still this evening and tomorrow and the day after that to live.
What about you, do your eyes ever need to shift upward? Do you ever have to simply cry out to God for mercy?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Humbleness is What I Long For

Today's Readings: 1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 18:1-23

I’ve often heard the word “humbleness” and wondered what it really looked like. In a world that exalts the outgoing, forthright, takers and getters, humbleness seemed like the entire opposite. It’s been hard for me to understand how humbleness could be a good think, yet time and again Jesus calls to us to have just such an attitude. I love the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14, because it is a perfect example of what humbleness does and doesn’t look like. This parable displays humbleness as the simple admittance that we are born sinners in need of a Savior. It’s the image of us giving God the glory he is due. It’s the imagery of living a life of a servant. No, this life of humbleness won’t always be what the world wants, but if it’s what God wants, I’m all for it.
How would humbleness look for me today? Well, first of all, humbleness of the heart means that I need God each and every step of the way.
Humbleness with others means that, while I don’t let people run me over, I do seek to love and serve those around me. I think about my husband’s day, and what I could do to make it better. I go out of my way to help a friend in need. I let someone who looks rushed get before me in line at the grocery store. Humbleness is a state of heart, something I’d like to work on today.
What about you? What would humbleness look like in your life?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Faithful Hannah

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 1-3; Luke 17:20-37

Yesterday we read the wonderful story of Ruth. Today we turn to another faithful woman, Hannah. Hannah was childless, and yearned more than anything to have a child. She wanted a child so desperately that she promised to give him completely to the Lord, if she was so blessed. God granted her wish, and Hannah faithfully gave Samuel to the Lord’s work. She tells Eli the Priest, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 NIV). What would this mean for Hannah? This would mean that young Samuel would live his life in the temple. Hannah would miss seeing him grow and develop, because he, instead, would be under the care of the Priest Eli. What a sacrifice Hannah made! I’m sure it would have been so easy to take back her promise when she found out she was actually pregnant. But she stayed true to her promise and gave up Samuel for the Lord’s work. And what a gift she gave! Samuel grew up to be a great prophet who mentored King Saul and King David. For Hannah’s faithfulness, the Bible tells us that she was given three more sons and two more daughters (1 Samuel 2:21). This was her blessing for remaining faithful.
I wonder if I could be so faithful in my own life. Do I always live up to the promises and vows I make? Am I someone to be counted on during the hard times? I’d like to say that I am, but I’m sure I’ve broken a promise here and there, making the excuse that it seemed too difficult to follow through. But I’m sure Hannah’s promise was difficult. I’m sure her arms longed to hold Samuel for the rest of her life. She was faithful, so I, too, should be faithful when it comes to the promises I make, big and small.
Lord, help me to be more like Hannah, who was faithful to you most of all. Help me to be someone who can be trusted, both by you and by the world around me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brave Ruth

I was so excited to get to this part of the Bible. I’ve always loved the story of Ruth. It’s such a beautiful story of faith and redemption.The thing that stands out the most to me is Ruth’s faithfulness. After the death of the men in their family, Ruth’s mother-in-law Naiomi tells Ruth that she can go back to her own people and worship her own gods. This is Ruth’s memorable response:

But Ruth replied, ‘Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’" (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth is willing to leave everything she knows behind, in order to follow her mother-in-law into a foreign land. What a display of agape love she showed here! She obviously view Naomi as someone who deserved her love and respect. And she was willing to do anything to prove that.

As I read these verses above, I wondered if I have ever displayed such faithfulness and love in my own life. The first person that came to mind was my husband. When I married Him, I promised to follow Him wherever his career would take us. I promised to stand next to him in the easy and rough times. I promised to put God first and foremost in my life. I made a life-long-vow of devotion, much as Ruth is doing in these verses above. I promised to always love and cherish my husband, even when it’s not so easy.

What do you think of Ruth’s promise? Would you be able to make such a promise?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rules... for them or for us?

Today's readings: Judges 19-21; Luke 16

It’s interesting to read the Old Testament and New Testament laws, and to differentiate between what was for the Israelite people in that time, versus what still holds valid for us as Christians to this day. In Luke 16 Jesus “protests against any design to invalidate the law.”* In other words, he protests against any one who would try to make the law any less than valid and applicable. In particular, he is very clear about his feelings on divorce. He doesn’t like it, and says that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery (vs. 18). Yet, I have seen a vast amount of divorcing and remarrying in the church. How do I come to terms with something like this, when the Bible seems to be so clear on this stance?

Matthew Henry, one of my favorite Bible commentators, had this to say about Jesus’ stance on divorce: “Christ will not allow divorces, for his gospel is intended to strike at the bitter root of men’s corrupt appetites and passions, to kill them, and pluck them up; and therefore they must not be so far indulged as that permission did indulge them, for the more they are indulged the more impetuous and headstrong they grow.”*

Henry believes that Jesus was very against divorce. Yet, why, then doesn't the church heed this law?

And divorce is only one issue. There are other rules, both Old Testament and New Testament that seem so clear and forthright, yet the church as a whole ignores them today. Perhaps they see the rules as “outdated” or “invalid,” but Jesus clearly had something to say. He clearly saw some of these laws as important enough to mention.

So what do we do? How do we find the true answers in this present world of compromise?

* Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on Luke 16." Blue Letter Bible. 1 Mar 1996. 2010. 1 Mar 2010.
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