Thursday, April 29, 2010

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

Today's Reading: Psalm 64; Psalm 70; John 6:1-21

“Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. Yet I am poor and needy; You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay”
(Psalm 70:1;5 NIV).

Have you ever felt like the Psalmist David? Have you ever been burdened down by the enemies of this world, sapped of your strength and in need of a Savior to deliver you? I know I have. There are days when my earthly body yearns for it’s heavenly home. Because I really don’t belong here. I don’t fit in. I don’t follow the world’s standard of life. Instead, I live set apart, which makes me an “oddity” to those around me. I don’t drink to get drunk. I don’t live immorally. I don’t use the Lord’s name in vain. Instead, I strive to live for Jesus each and every moment of the day. This at times means loneliness. It means not being a part of the crowd, but instead sticking out. It means that I long for my deliverer to come and rescue me. But until then I look for ways to minister, to witness, and to serve those around me. I look for ways to share the love of God, even as my heart whispers, “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Love and Fruit

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 19-20; John 5:25-47

After reading today’s passages of scripture, I found myself asking, “do I have the love of God in my heart?” Jesus told the people in John 5:42 that they didn’t truly love God. They obeyed all of His commandments and regulations, but they didn’t truly love Him. They had their own interests at heart, and crucified the one sent to save them. On the other hand, King David has been referred to time and again as a man after God’s own heart. In today’s reading he nobly takes the criticism given by Joab and changes his actions because of it (2 Samuel 19:5-8). While he wasn’t always perfect, he was always willing to learn from his mistakes and change. What about me? Do I take criticism very well? The easy answer is “no,” my perfectionist nature dislikes when anyone points out, even in a loving way, that I’m in the wrong. I don’t like admitting that I need to change. Yet, that’s exactly the characteristic that our man after God’s own heart exhibited today. He was willing to change, as should I.
I believe a willingness to take criticism is only one way that we show the love of God in our heart. As my pastor likes to say, if we are truly Christians, the love of God should be evident in every part of our lives. We should be exhibiting the fruits of the spirit at each and every turn (see Galatians 5). Ouch. I have a long way to go. I’m imperfect, but I truly do love God and I want it to show. I guess I’ll just take it a day at a time, and let God mold me into a woman after His own heart.

What about you? What fruits of the Spirit are the toughest for you to exhibit?

Lord, please help my love for you to be evident in the way I live my daily life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

O Absalom

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 16-18; John 5:1-24

David is a curiosity to me. To be honest, he doesn’t seem to always be the best parent. He lets his children do whatever they want, without punishment. There have been many examples of this in 2 Samuel. The one that takes the cake is when Absalom decides that he wants to become king. Instead of putting him in his place and making him respect and obey his father, David runs away from him, allowing Absalom to take control of Israel. He has no control over Absalom or his actions. And so David fears that his own son with take his life. What a horrifying place to be in. And what a loving heart David still seems to have. In the midst of a horrific battle that plights Israelite against Israelite, David tells his men to "Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake"(2 Samuel 18:5). Even at this point, he doesn’t want his son to die. He still seems to want to love and protect him. After Absalom death, David mourns his death as if he was a perfect son: “"O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33).

David seems to wear rose colored glasses when it comes to Absalom. Although I don’t condone killing ones son, I do think that David could have used a harsher hand when it came to keeping Absalom under control. Yes, the love of a parent is a wonderful thing, but doesn’t love also involve discipline?
What do you think? Do you see David in the wrong? What other examples of weak parenting can you find in 2 Samuel? What does that teach us today, as we raise our own children?

Lord, please give me the correct balance of unconditional love and discipline when it comes to raising my children so that they will grow up to serve and honor you with their lives.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

He will carry you

Today's Readings: 2 Samuel 15; Psalms 3; Psalm 69; John 4:27-54

Some days it’s hard for me to concentrate. Some days I read the verses, let them sink in, and still really have nothing to say. Some days I’m simply blessed by reading the devotionals of some of my favorite blog writers (Sarah Markley and Lysa Terkeurst). Some days I am who I am, weak and in need of a Savior to pick me up and help me make it through the day. This is one of those days.
Today I woke up with a headache. (Not a very uncommon thing for me). These headaches are a common thing for me, and have only increased with this pregnancy. In addition to my head, I have other aches and pains commonly associated with a woman whose 20 weeks along. At times I wonder how I’ll ever make it through the next 4 months. People tell me that it will be worth it in the end. That when I hold that sweet baby in my arms, all of the pain will become a distant memory. And I believe them. But I’m not there yet. For today, I am still 20 weeks pregnant, just starting to show the world that there’s a baby inside of me, and feeling the effects of a little being growing and pushing my insides around.
So where does that leave me? It leaves me exactly where I need to be: at the foot of the cross, on my knees, asking God to lift me up and carry me through today and every day. Asking the Lord to take me in my weak state and be strong through me. Asking the Lord to give me joy, even as my pregnancy hormones run rampant in my body. For don’t we all, pregnant or not, need God to give us joy in any and every circumstance? Don’t we all need God to lift us up and carry us through life?
Do you need joy in your life today?
Do you need to be carried through a circumstance?
Or do you just need to know that God is near, holding your hand, and helping you through each and every issue in your life?

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Battle Has Been Conquered

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 13-14; John 4:1-26

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Today I have a heavy heart. I have to make a call I’ve been dreading. I’ve been dreading this call because I’m not sure what the response will be. They could be helpful and gracious. Or they could attack me and tell me I owe all sorts of money. And so I’ve been living in fear. Fear over what might happen. Fear over not having the right words to say over the phone.
Yet I know this isn’t the way God wants me to live. As Christians we’ve been filled with living water, water that “well[s] up to eternal life” (John 4:14 NIV). We have the wonderful promise of life eternal in heaven with Jesus. Therefore, we really have nothing to fear here on this earth. Christ has already overcome the enemy. We are Jesus’ eternally. My only job is to worship Him in “spirit and in truth.” Today, for me, it means that I give every little fear and worry over to Him, and focus on what really matters, eternity. In the long run, I’ll be all right, no matter how this phone conversation goes. God will still be God, and I will still be living my life serving Him, and telling everyone of His beautiful gift of living water. All Jesus is asking of me is to have a heart always worshiping and serving Him, above all other things. And so, I’ll turn my worship music on low, say a prayer, and make that call I’ve been dreading. For I know that ultimately, Christ has already conquered the ultimate battle. My battle is small in comparison, and something Christ is more than able to handle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Joy in All Things

Today's Reading: Psalms 32-51; John 3:16-36

For God so loved the world… (John 3:16, NIV)

God’s gift to us was such an amazing one; I’ll never get over it. By sending His one and only Son, He was able to bridge the gap between the sinful world and Himself. Christ’s death and resurrection made it possible for us, as naturally sinful human beings, to spend eternity in heaven with Him, the Lord of Lords.
What a wonderful thing… and how easily I forget how great a gift it is. In Psalm 51, David asks God to “restore the joy of His salvation” (vs. 12, NIV). In other words, to forgive David of his transgressions with Bathsheba and renew the connection between Him and God. David wanted that connection with God so bad. He asked fervently for a “clean heart” and a “steadfast spirit,” one that wouldn’t waver the next time a temptation was in His path (vs. 10, NIV). What struck me about David’s requests was his longing for the “joy” of his salvation. I realize I may be taking this slightly different then the original text, but I found myself wondering how often I am truly “joyful” about my salvation. Yes, I realize what a wonderful thing it is, but do I live my daily life with an indescribable joy? I know I should. The gift God has given each of us is that great. Just the same, I think I often get caught up in the busyness of life, more interested in worrying and fretting that things will happen in my timing, then in truly finding joy and peace in Christ. This is something I’ve probably addressed before, and something I’ll probably keep on pondering. Am I truly joyful for the great gift God gave me in sending His son into this world? Am I truly joyful in my home, at my church, with my friends and family, and even with the stranger I meet on the street? Does the joy of Christ resonate in me?
Questions: What are your thoughts about joy? Is the joy of your salvation evident in every aspect of your life?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Day of Worrying

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 10-12; John 3:1-15

God is asking me to trust today. I know he is. Why you may ask? Because I began this day by worrying about my baby. I am just now 4 ½ months pregnant, and I woke up today feeling oh so sick. I was worried that I was somehow losing the baby. I’ve since then talked to a nurse, and been told that I just have some sort of flu-bug. But just the same, I was worrying, until I gave the matter over to God. As I sat on the couch, sipping on some peppermint tea, I was reminded that each breathe this little one breathes inside of me has never belonged to me, but to Him. He has already ordained the number of days in this little one’s life (Psalm 139:16), so who am I to worry? (Matthew 6:27). Isn’t that true of each one of us? We can spend our lives worrying about our loved ones, or we can put them in the hands of God, each and every day.
In today’s scripture readings birth is talked about in too different ways. In 2 Samuel, we see the birth and then death of a tiny baby boy. This baby boy dies because of King David’s adulterous affair (2 Samuel 12:22-23). After a morning of worrying it should have been tough for me to read about the death of a little baby, but it wasn’t. I found myself strangely calm, for God was in control of that situation, and mine as well.
Even today’s reading from John 3 had a bit of a birth theme. These verses were talking more about heavenly re-birth, but just the same, they reminded me about how amazing God’s plan is for each of our lives. He makes no mistake. God created away for each of us, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, to have access to Him, and to spend eternity in heaven with Him. And that is just amazing.
I can’t say that I’ll never worry again, it’s a part of my human nature. But it is comforting to know that God meets me where I am, and reminds me in all sorts of ways that He is in control.
What might you be worrying about today? What is your biggest area of anxiety? How could you give this over to the Lord today?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Righteous Anger

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 8-9; Psalms 60; John 2

You know it, I know it—in this world anger usually isn’t righteous. Instead it’s a sinful response. It’s a way we act when we’re consumed with our selves and get impatient with a situation. It’s often a wrong response, one the Holy Spirit has been encouraging us to not make. Yet we all do it. We all say and do things in anger that we later regret. But did you know that there is a type of anger that is justified? This anger is not bred out of sin, but out of righteousness. I don’t think it’s really an anger that we experience very often as Christians, but just the same, Jesus, the perfect Son of God, displayed this anger in John 2:12-25. In this portion of scripture, Jesus goes to the Temple and sees the buying and selling of goods in the very place that the Gentiles could have been worshiping. This misuse of His Father’s Temple leads Jesus to an act of Righteous Anger. He storms through the court yard, turning over tables and telling all the merchants to get out. He was not sinning in this angry act, for as the Son of God He had every right to feel this way. These people were misusing His Father’s house.
I’ve talked to some Christians who have issues with this passage. They can’t view gentle, loving, perfect Jesus as getting angry. To them, the passion of anger can only be viewed in a sinful sense. But I argue that Jesus is God. I could pull out all kinds of scriptures exemplifying the righteous anger of God. But instead I’ll leave you to contemplate this different side of our Savior. Did you view Jesus as angry in today’s reading? Do you believe it was a righteous anger? Do you believe we as Christians can ever display a righteous anger? How? In what type of circumstances?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Undignified Worship

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 6-7; Psalm 30; John 1:29-51

King David had much to be thankful for. In 2 Samuel 6, he shows his adoration for the Lord by dancing in the streets which next to nothing in the way of clothes on his form (2 Samuel 6:14). Why was he so thankful? Because the Lord saw him, weaknesses and all, and chose to love him just the same. While he may have looked crazy to other people, the Lord much have seen David’s heart of adoration on that day. For in the very next chapter, David is given a special promise from God.
He is told that his kingdom will be “established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV). What an honor and blessing to be told such a thing! We see the fulfillment of this blessing in today’s reading from John, in which we see Jesus, the Lamb of God, for the first time. In the book of Matthew we’re told that Jesus is in the house and line of David. With the birth of Jesus, God’s promise to David is truly fulfilled. Jesus will reign eternally, thus the line of David will be “established forever” just as God promised.
But back to David dancing in the streets. His act was one of pure worship at adoration, yet his wife Michal criticized him for it. His response was this: "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." (2 Samuel 6:21-22). David understood that serving God requires us to appear “undignified” in the eyes of the world. It requires a state of heart and mind in which we love and serve God more than anything. As David writes in Psalm 30:11, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” David understood how greatly the Lord had blessed him, so he couldn’t help but dance in the streets in celebration. His words to Michal about being “undignified” struck me, as I wondered If I have ever truly been undignified before the Lord. So often in worship I stop short, afraid of what others may think. Today’s verses reminded me what true worship looks like. It has no boundaries, no limits. True worship only needs an open, willing heart.
Have you ever become undignified before the Lord?

Monday, April 12, 2010

God in the Balsam Trees

Friday & Today's Readings: 2 Samuel 1-5; Luke 24:36-53; John 1:1-28

In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, David finally becomes king over all of Israel. He’s not a perfect man, which we see by the mentioning of all his wives and concubines. Yet he still follows after God, asking Him before he fights any battles. I loved the picture at the end of today’s reading in particular. David is about to fight the Philistines once again. Instead of just battling them head on, because he’s gotten permission to do so from God in the past, David once again turns to the Lord for advice. What God tells him is interesting. He tells David to circle around behind the Philistine camp and wait at the balsam trees: “As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." (2 Samuel 5:24 NIV). God was asking David to wait for His timing, not his own. While David probably would have done things differently, God wanted obedience from him here. And David listened.
I love this example because it’s one in which David waited for an audible signal, the sound of marching in the leaves of the trees. It made me wonder how often I truly stop and listen for a signal from the Lord. Do I keep too busy to here His direction? The answer, to often then naught, is yes. Business in this life is something I’m always trying to combat. Even today, I had every intention of doing my devotions when I first woke up, but here it is, already nearing the end of the workday. Sigh. I’m imperfect, I admit it. Just the same, I want so much to hear the voice of the Lord in my life, whether in the wind, a lovely worship song, in the touch of an encouraging friend, or within my heart, the Lord’s voice can be found so many ways.
Have you ever heard or seen God in your life? How? When? What did He want to teach you?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

He Has Risen!

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 24:1-35

In 1 Samuel 30-31 we see the life of Saul finally at an end, and David preparing to be the new king of Israel. David acts wisely in his dealings with his men, demanding that everyone have his fair share, no matter their task (1 Samuel 30:24). He was also wise in the way he inquired of the Lord, before heading into battle in the first place (1 Samuel 30:8). We can already tell that this man will make a good king. He is already becoming a Man after God’s own heart. It’s exciting to see what will happen next in David’s life.
While the life of Saul ended in our reading today, the life of another is only beginning. In Luke 24 we’ve finally come to the Resurrection. And what a spectacular day that was! As I look out my window at the blue skies, I can’t help but be filled with joy over the great gift God has given me. He’s given me a good life with my husband, in a beautiful part of the country, but more than anything, He’s given me eternal life! And for that, I’m thankful each and everyday.

What struck you the most from today’s readings? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Strength When I Am Weak

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 28-29; Luke 23:26-56

Some days like today I’m weak. This world and its ailments overtake me and I feel sorry for myself and the things that I deal with from day to day. It’s on days like today when I can other give myself a pity party, or I can turn to the cross, to my Savior who died for each and everyone of us. In these last few readings in Luke we’ve read about some of the torture and pain Jesus faced in this world. He was abused and tortured in ways I never have been. But the greatest pain of all was when he was crucified on the cross, and took the sins of the whole world on his shoulders. I can’t imagine such pain. It makes my earthly ailments and pain seem minuscule in comparison. As I read the story of the crucifixion today, I was reminded that Jesus truly understands, and meets me where I am, each and everyday. As Isaiah 40:29 so beautifully reminds us, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (NIV).

Do you need strength from God today?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Hunt for the Anointed Kings

“So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:24-25).

In 1 Samuel we read more about David’s struggle to stay alive. Time and again King Saul is right at his doorstep, and yet, time and again, God places Saul in David’s hands. It’s as if He’s asking David how he’ll respond, if he will return evil for evil and kill this King who so wants to kill David. But David doesn’t give in. Even now he respects the anointed one of God, the king of Israel, and doesn’t harm a hair on his head. Instead, he confronts Saul, time and a again, and asks him why he’s so bent on killing David. Back and forth the two of them go, in a seemingly never-ending hunt. I know that Saul doesn’t succeed in killing David. But later in history, the Jewish people do succeed in killing Jesus. They, like Saul, were jealous of this man after God’s own heart. They despised and rejected this man who claimed to be the King of Kings. And so, very shortly, they’ll put him death. Today, in Luke 23, we read the rest of the trial of Jesus. In this trial Pilate and Herod find Jesus innocent of any need to be crucified, but the Jewish people are out for blood. They will stop at nothing less than crucifixion. And so, Pilate finally relents and hands Jesus back to the people to be killed.
I’ve always wondered if Pilate felt any guilt in doing this. He had the political power to keep Jesus from death, but in the end he seemed most concerned with keeping the popular opinion in his favor, then in doing what was right. Did he regret his decision in the end? Did he ever come to see Jesus as the Messiah? Only God knows the answer to this. Perhaps I’ll be able to ask him someday.
Until then, I’m preparing for our reading of the crucifixion. It’s never pretty, but just the same, I’m always in wonder over the ultimate price Jesus paid for all of our sins.
What about you? What stuck out to you in today’s readings?

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Lord Sustains Me

Hello all. I hope you had a wonderful Easter break. My husband and I found ourselves moving into a new place this past week, so things have been quite crazy around here. Just the same, I’m so happy to get back to my Bible study. Today I read from 1 Samuel 23; Psalm 54 &63; and Luke 22:47-71.
The theme I’d like to pick up on from today’s reading is friendship. In 1 Samuel 23 we see two instances where David listens to guidance from his trusted friends. In the first instance David is trying to decide if he should fight against the Philistines. His first recourse is to turn to the Lord and pray. After praying, David turns to his friends to get their advice as well. The problem is that the answers differ. The Lord tells him to fight the Philistines, while his friends, in their fear, tell him to stay far away from any outside battles. There’s nothing wrong with asking those we trust for advise, but as David found, people are only human, and emotions such as fear, will trump the right answer at times. I believe David handled this situation correctly. Instead of making the final decision on his own, he turned back to the Lord for a second time and asked for help once again. When he heard verification from the Lord, he went and fought the Philistines victoriously, in spite of the advice of his trusted friends.

David inquired of the Lord before he made a dangerous move. He heard the Lord’s response, and then told his men.
His men, whom he must have trusted pretty readily, did not want to go. Taking their advice, he went back to the Lord to inquire once again, heard the Lord’s response, and fought victoriously against the Philistines.

Sometimes even the advice of those we trust is wrong. We have to truly listen for the guidance of the Lord in our life.

We all need the encouragement of friends. Jonathan came to David in the dessert and encouraged him to find strength in the Lord, even in these scary times when Saul was out to kill him.

This first example was one in which the advice of friends didn’t line up with the advise of God. The second, found later in the chapter, is one in which a friend encourages and upholds a friend in need. Consider these verses: “While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (vs. 15-16). Jonathan must have known how confused and afraid his friend David would be by this point. And so, 1 Samuel tells us that Jonathan came to him and encouraged him to look toward the Lord for strength. What a good friend. I hope that I, too, can look around me and see ways to encourage and direct my friends toward the Lord. For he really is the only thing that matters in this world. As David writes in Psalm 54:4 “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” How true this is of me, each and every day. God and God alone is the one who helps me with both big things and small. He is my rock and my salvation. How thankful I am for him today and everyday