Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday - October 31 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Jeremiah 50, Hebrews 6  
Happy Monday Everyone!

Hebrews 6:9-12
 9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

We are being watched. Unbelievers and believers alike are directed to look to God's beloved and see faith, patience and evidence of the work we do in Christ.

As believers we are given some clear directives around the "work" we are expected to complete. No, we are not saved by our works, but evidence of our salvation is displayed in the work we do by loving God:
1. Helping his people
2. CONTINUING to help his people (this work is never done!)
3. Diligence - to the end of our life here on earth
4. Maintain and live faith and patience to claim the inheritance that was promised us.

These verses speak to the lasting requirement of discipline and steadfastness. Persevering in our faith through times in life where we can actually become lazy with our spiritual lives. This passages resonates the benefits of a life lived intentionally and continually striving to walk out our faith - even when it's hard to keep working at it. We have the eternal promise - let's claim it as ours each day as we fight our lazy human nature.

God, you made us to be the way we are. You created us to have to SEEK out a relationship with you. You want us to want you. I pray that you will keep your Holy Spirit near and keep our hearts so in tune with it that as soon as we start to get lazy in our spirits, we feel and follow your nudge to be diligent. Thank you for your eternal promise. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit to keep us always mindful of where we are at with you. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage:  Jeremiah 51, Jeremiah 30, Hebrews 7

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday, October 30th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 27-29 - Hebrews 5

Of course, some of the verses that jumped out at me from our OT reading are these very well known ones....

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

You will seek me and fine me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

I don't even want to comment so much on the content of the verses themselves (though they are fantastic), but rather the context of these verses.

We often hear these verses, especially the first verse, at baby dedications or on baby announcements or some other inspirational moment. And, don't get me wrong, they work well in those situations too.

But these verses were not written in the context of a "everyone lives happily ever after" scenario. Far from it.

These verses were spoken during captivity. During exile. This was a bad scenario indeed.

The point is that not only do our circumstances not change God, they don't change His promises and they should not change our trust in Him. He knows what's happening, and He knows the future. If we let Him, God will see us through any suffering or hardship we may endure.

These verses are easy to believe in times of prosperity, but because of that, possibly also less meaningful.

On the other hand, during times of hardship, clinging to verses such as these is what makes it possible to get through suffering - with hope.

If we truly believe God is good all the time, then He is good no matter our circumstances. Though His plan for our lives will not guarantee that we will be spared pain or suffering, it will be a good plan because He designed it, and He will be glorified through it.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 50, Hebrews 6

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday, October 29-guest post by Pamela

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 23-24; Hebrews 4

Two verses that jumped out for me today from the readings:
Jeremiah 23:24

24 Can anyone hide in secret places
so that I cannot see him?”
declares the LORD.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the LORD.


Hebrews 4:9-11

9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9

Observation: God is bigger than heaven and earth and yet He took the time to take a rest.

Application: I'll be the first to admit that I don't do "rest" well. I thrive on being busy and filling my time with activities and "busy"-ness. I find it so incredibly difficult to say no to stuff, (although I am getting better at it), and I often find that my plate is constantly full of obligations and expectations. Most often, I make my way through each day-checking off the items on my mental to-do list-and trying to balance everything to make it all happen. At the end of the day, I crawl into bed exhausted and yet I wake up again the next morning and do it all over again. It's not that I am complaining, I love this live that I have purposely chosen, but the first verse I highlighted reminded me that despite all of the busy that I pack into my life, that God still sees me. He will find me no matter how full my life is. Even if I have fallen off my daily bible reading routine, I cannot hide from him where He is unable to bring me back. What a wonderful encouragement that is.

The second verse that stood out for me was a reminder that even God, Creator of all things, took a rest. As I enter assessment and report card time at school, this message was especially timely. I sometimes feel like I can do it all and do it all well and that is not true. Making myself too busy means that something has to give and usually it is the things I take for granted that end up being casualties. I need to learn to rest. I need to teach my children to learn to rest. How can they learn to follow God's plan for rest if I don't model it?

Prayer: Oh Most Amazing God!
I shouldn't be surprised by this point in my life how You know just what I need to read right at this moment. You know the Saturdays that are my turn and You use that particular scripture to tug and pull at me to Your way. Lord, I need your reminders again and again and I am so thankful that you fill heaven and earth and that I cannot hide from You because You will always find me. Thank you. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 27-29 - Hebrews 5

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday, October 28 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 49, 13, 22; Hebrews 3.

So once again, we come to instances today where God promises destruction to nations that have caused problems for Israel, and yet He promises there will always be a remnant and that someday they will be restored.  In chapter 48 from yesterday's reading, He even weeps for Moab.  But we've talked about this interesting apparent contradiction before on this blog, so I won't discuss it again.  It just always catches my eye because I think it's something I never noticed before and it teaches us something about God that we don't often think about.

We tend to view "the God of the Old Testament" as being vengeful and judgmental, arbitrarily punishing people and nations more drastically than we think they deserve, and yet over and over again, when we really dig into the Scriptures, we see His heart behind the seemingly callous actions.  We get to see a beauty and an incredible sovereign grace that we just don't see when we give the Old Testament just a cursory glance.  It pays to study!!

Chapters 13 and 22 are specific threats against Jerusalem and some of her evil kings.  You can't help but notice the crude harshness of the language in 13 where once again, God calls His people prostitutes, because they have worshipped man-made gods and put their faith in idols.  He threatens to expose their shame and their guilt.

I couldn't help but feel somewhat convicted as I read those awful verses.  What if my friends and family could see MY inner failings, my sinful thoughts?  What if God exposed MY heart?  Would it be a thing of beauty, or might it be a source of shame and guilt as well?  Undoubtedly, this is a call for us as well to make sure our only hope and confidence is in the One True God.  We can't be sinless, of course, but we can have changed hearts and renewed minds as we pursue the holiness He calls us to.  And we have the atoning blood of Christ, that WILL ensure our sinless presentation before God someday, despite our humanness and failings in this life.

Hebrews 3 actually sort of continues along this same vein as the author quotes OT passages, reminding his audience not to rebel against God.  He's proven Christ is superior to the angels and to Moses, and so he says, in effect, "THEREFORE, he is worthy of our trust and loving devotion."  Then he continues and comes to his warning against unbelief, reminding the Hebrew believers of how dearly they paid for their lack of faith after God so miraculously brought them out of Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness.  He reminds them that it was their disbelief in God's power, providence, and continued provision that caused that generation to miss out on entering the Promised Land.  Over and over, the Israelites complained and grumbled against God, often just days after He'd proven Himself and provided for them in undeniably miraculous ways!

And with that, we see just how dangerous discontentment really is.  Because whether we like it or not, it's tantamount to unbelief.  Which makes it a very serious sin, and brings us right back to the promises of punishment we see in Jeremiah.

I don't know about you, but I really need to work at pursuing a contented heart; a heart at peace with life, regardless of the surroundings or circumstances, because I know the God who knows all and is in control of it all, from start to finish!

Tomorrow's readings: Jeremiah 23-24; Hebrews 4

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 47-48; Hebrews 2.

Our Hebrews passage today talks about something really important - God coming to Earth in the form of a man, Jesus, and why that was necessary.  We started reading Francis Chan's book Crazy Love in our Bible study last night.  The question came up about how we would feel if it was one of our children dying on the cross, because that's what each of us deserves without Jesus having done it for us.  Of course, the idea of one of our children being crucified is horrible, dreadful, terrible, awful... I need a stronger word that I'm not finding at the moment. Someone wondered aloud why God couldn't have found a way other than His Son having to suffer and die on the cross to save us from our sin.  The truth is, God could have chosen any way He wanted.  He could have chosen to create human beings differently than He did and thereby change His plan, or not to create us at all, (which I would think would have been tempting, considering how much pain and anguish we cause Him - He must really love us, or I don't think He would've bothered to even create us, much less send His Son to die for us).

The following excerpt from The Necessity of Incarnation - Part 1 by Bob Deffinbaugh gives a much better explanation than I could have done.  The only emphasis I added was to enlarge the first paragraph.

Why was the incarnation necessary, so far as our text is concerned? First of all, it was necessary in order for God to cleanse men from sin, and restore them their broken relationship with Him. Only a man – a perfect, sinless, divine, man – could die in the sinner’s place. It was therefore necessary for the Second Person of the Trinity to add sinless humanity to His undiminished deity, thereby qualifying him to die in man’s place, bearing the guilt and punishment of his sin. As such, He became the “last Adam,” who provided a reversal for Adam’s sin and its consequences.

In addition to this, the incarnation was necessary in order for God to restore fallen man to his former, original dignity and glorious destiny. It is through the work of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, that men can anticipate reigning over all creation. His victory is ours, as His reign will be shared with us as well. And so the incarnation and death of the Son not only saves sinners from the guilt and punishment of their sins, it produces the glorious hope of reigning with Him in His kingdom.

One can hardly overestimate the importance of the hope that this gives the Christian, especially in the dark days when we, like all of creation, suffer and groan because of the ravages of sin:

23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance (Romans 8:23-25).

25 I became a servant of the church according to the stewardship from God – given to me for you – in order to complete the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints. 27 God wanted to make known to them the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:25-27).

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good (Titus 2:11-14).

5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation [hope] of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

There were a few more verses here... I removed them to shorten this post.  You can go to the link above to read the rest.

Our hope should not be diminished by our difficulties, but rather should be strengthened as we see how God sustains us in trials, so that our strength and perseverance increase:

3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation (Romans 5:3-11).

Those who are currently undergoing testing and trials can be assured by the certainty of their hope that in the future they will reign with Christ.

An incredible thing for us to look forward to, for sure!

Tomorrow's passage:  Jeremiah 49, 13 & 22; Hebrews 3.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday October 26 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 25, 45-46, Hebrews 1

Sometimes I don't understand how God works.  Or why He does what He does.

I've been saying for weeks our nation is the nation talked about in the prophets and that we are going to come to ruin if we don't shape up.

Now I read today that God said He would use Babylon to exact judgement upon Judah.  Could God do the same thing today?  Could God use another nation to bring judgement upon our nation?  Has He already?

Then I read that God will punish the nation of Babylon for obliterating Judah.  Excuse me?  Didn't He use them for His purpose?  And now He is going to punish them for the very thing He called them to do.  That hardly seems fair.

My 6 year old daughter has a favorite saying, "That's not fair!"  She'll say it at times that lends me to believe she doesn't know what she's saying.  I got tired of hearing it, so we looked up the meaning of 'fair'.  Aside from the other obvious definitions, the one we were looking for, the one that made sense in the phrase goes as such "conforming with the established rules ". So now when she says that I ask her if what happened was against the rules.  That causes pause and thought.

How can we look to God and ask Him what's fair?  We as parents often know of cases where our children fight against our decisions simply because they do not understand, nor can they understand.  I know there has to be times where God does things and we cry out 'That's not fair God!'  And in our finite human minds, it's not fair.  But we do not have the wisdom of God.  We do not see things as He does.  There are things we simply cannot understand.

Was God just allowing a natural progression of sin and evil in the Babylonians, but just directing it towards Judah?  Would God have punished the Babylonians anyway for their sin even if they had not attacked Judah? I believe He would've.  We are all judged for our actions.  Perhaps God let them over to their sinful ways  and just used it for His purposes.

I don't know for sure why God does some of the things He does.  But this passage has taught me that while I can't know, I have to, I must trust Him.  He ultimately has a purpose and I must believe He is not capricious.

And if you want to talk about fair, then we should all be obliterated and sent to eternal damnation.  He was under no obligation to provide a way out for us.  But He did.  He sacrificed His son and His son sacrificed His life.  Now that's not fair.  Not at all.  Rather, that's love and grace and mercy.  Praise be to God!

 Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 47-48, Hebrews 2

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday, October 25th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 20, Jeremiah 35-36, Colossians 4

More thoughts on prayer today!

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should....Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:2-4, 12

From my Life Application Bible...
Have you ever grown tired of praying for something or someone? Paul says we should "devote" ourselves to prayer and be "watchful" in prayer. Our persistence is an expression of our faith that God answers our prayers. Faith shouldn't die if the answers come slowly, for the delay may be God's way of working his will in our lives. When you feel tired of praying, know that God is present, always listening, always answering - maybe not in ways you had hoped, but in ways that he knows are best....

Paul asked for prayer that he could proclaim the Good News about Christ clearly, and we can request prayer to do the same. No matter what approach to evangelism we use, whether emphasizing lifestyle and example or whether building relationships, we should never obscure the message of the gospel.

More things to add to our list of how to pray for people!
Pray for...
a watchful spirit.
a thankful heart.
God to bring people across their paths with souls receptive to the Good News
the ability to proclaim the Truth clearly
wisdom in relationships
knowledge and insight to help us share the gospel accurately

Combined with the points from the other day, this is getting to be quite the list!

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 25, 45-46, Hebrews 1

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: Jeremiah 18-19, Colossians 3
Happy Monday Everyone!!

I must confess along the same lines as Tammy regarding my reading and following on the blog. I have been taking a course at church over the last month that has daily homework and I end up spending almost 1 hour a day working through the homework (which is listening prayer and "Hearing God"). It's been super interesting and very exciting, but I just have not been able to keep up with the commitment of this blog. I am so sorry to all of you who read and post everyday that I have not been on top of commenting and appreciating the wisdom you have been sharing.

On that note, please also forgive this late post!!

Colossians 3 is so awesome. Seriously - our life as Christians are just neatly tied up in this chapter. Specifically 3:1-17:

1. Look to God first and always
2. By doing that you will not give life and worth to the useless things of this world
3. Because we are loved and made holy through this love from God, we will walk out this love to those around us through every action we take
4. And all of this - every piece of it must be done in the name of Jesus Christ.

I love how the instructions for Holy Living are sandwiched between the 2 most important commands:

3:1"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."
3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him"

If we set our hearts on God and filter every action, word or deed through the name of Jesus with a thankful heart - we will achieve the closest thing to holy living that we can on this earth. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with my inadequacies and shortcomings as a child of God. So frustrated that I constantly fail. Then, I read a chapter like this and I realize - all that is required is setting my heart on HIM and HE will do the work in me.

Praying a great week for all of you!

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 20, Jeremiah 35-36, Colossians 4

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 23rd

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 15-17, Colossians 2

My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. Jeremiah 16:17

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

I think these verses are really important ones to keep in mind when parenting our children. It's so easy to reduce Christianity to a list of do's and don'ts. Christianity is not about rules, it's about relationship. But it's confusing, because we are also expected to live holy lives as a result of our love for God. It's a very fine line, which adults find confusing, nevermind kids. So how do we teach it to them?

Well, I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do think we can take some hints from these two verses.

First of all, everything originates from the heart. We need to capture our children's hearts. We need to instill in them a desire for God. If we can do that, everything else follows naturally, because when we desire God, we desire to please Him and will make the changes necessary in our lives in order to do so. And I think one of the biggest ways to do that is to model it for them. Let them catch us praying, reading the Bible, singing, talking about Him and what He has done for us. Be intentional!

In the very early years of parenting we do have to take a more rules oriented do/don't approach. It's very difficult for toddlers to understand heart issues. We first need to make sure they understand about authority and obedience and make sure that they understand the difference between right and wrong, and then as they are able, move into the "why" behind it all.

I think this is one reason it's important to "catch" them doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing - especially when they think we're not looking. I think this helps to teach them that even though we will not always see them (doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing), God does.

As they get older, we need to teach them to think through their actions and discover why they did them. What was the underlying heart issue and why is it wrong and how can we change it?

I think it's also important to teach our children (every time if we can) that when they mistreat others, they are also mistreating God. When they lie to their sister, that offends God. All sin is an offense to our holy God and they(we!) need to ask forgiveness of both the injured parties. And take every one of those opportunities to remind them of the gospel message. That we are all guilty of sin. How even if that was the only sin they ever committed, it would be enough to separate us from God forever. That there is no way we can ever be good enough to go to heaven. But that God loved us so much that He was willing to send His Son Jesus to die for us, to take the punishment we deserved, so that we could be forgiven and that we can be with Him forever.

I've been trying to do this more often, but I admit I often fail, because that's a pretty long process and it's so much easier to just punish. However, discipline and training is so much more effective!

Who knew you could get parenting tips from Jeremiah? ;)

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 18-19, Colossians 3

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 22nd

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 9-10,14; Colossians 1

So sorry for the super late posting today (and it's actually technically tomorrow already, but I'm posting as though it's today!).

Actually, while I'm in confession mode, I may as well keep at it. It's time to bare my soul a little.

I feel like I'm in a spiritual rut right now. I'd say this is likely the first major one I've been in since starting this Bible blog almost two years ago now. I've stopped using my prayer journal. I've stopped doing the extra Bible reading I was doing (a revamped version of Prof Horner's plan). And honestly, the only Bible reading I did this week was for my Tuesday post, which means I have some serious catching up to do.

And the part that seems to make the least sense is that it seems to have started right after my nephew Baret's miraculous healing. What kind of sense does that make? None! After witnessing the amazing power of God firsthand, my spiritual life should be on fire! And it isn't.
Now that I'm acknowledging this, confronting this and confessing this, I'm realizing that this is probably the valley that usually follows a mountaintop experience. We had our mountaintop experience in Baret's miracle, and this is the valley. I'd humbly request your prayers as I slug my way out of this valley - because I know it's a choice, and apparently I've been choosing badly.

Believe it or not, this does tie in with our Colossians passage today. My prayer life has not been what it should be and this passage gives a little help in that area for me.

I don't know about you, but I am sometimes at a complete loss of exactly how to pray for people. There are many people in my life I want to pray for - friends, family, neighbours - but how exactly do I do that, if I don't know of a specific situation they need prayer for? Just repeating "Please be with so-and-so and please be with so-and-so" ad nauseum isn't what I envision a good prayer life to look like. Guess what? There's an app scripture for that.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

My Life Application gives this excellent commentary/summary....
Sometimes we wonder how to pray for missionaries and other leaders we have never met. Paul had never met the Colossians, but he faithfully prayed for them. His prayers teach us how to pray for others, whether we know them or not. We can request that they
1) understand God's will
2) gain spiritual wisdom
3) please and honour God
4) bear good fruit
5) grow in the knowledge of God
7) have great endurance and patience
8) stay full of Christ's joy and
9) give thanks always.
All believers have these same basic needs. When you don't know how to pray for someone, use Paul's prayer pattern for the Colossians.

So, the Bible has the answer to my prayer dilemma. Imagine that. When you don't know what to pray, pray scripture. You can't go wrong.

Now I need to start taking my own advice.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 15-17, Colossians 2

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday, October 21 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 7-8, 26; Acts 28.

I find Jeremiah such a painful book to read.  Not that the other prophetic books are fun, or anything like that, but somehow in Jeremiah's writings I feel like we get not only the message from God and HIS disappointment and anger at Israel's disbelief and spiritual rebellion, but Jeremiah's personal grief over the condition of his people.  Moving through the book, his tone becomes more and more frantic as he recognizes the imminent destruction of the last bastion of hope for God's people in the Promised Land, the Holy City of Jerusalem.  And then, of course, his Lamentations, written after the fall of Jerusalem, are just heart-wrenching.

But focusing on today, Chapter 7 finds him reminding the people that God destroyed Shiloh, the resting place of the tabernacle that the Israelites had carried with them ever since the second year of their desert wanderings, and that He will just as easily destroy Solomon's temple in Jerusalem if they don't return to Him.  Jeremiah tries to get them to understand their relationship with God has nothing to do with their place of worship, but with their heart of worship.  He tries to help them see that obeying the letter of the law was never God's intent; God wanted them to see His heart behind all the rules for living and worshipping that He prescribed them so that they would know Him and understand Him and love Him, and desire to live for Him.

I find it interesting exactly how many times we see in the Old Testament that yes, there were all kinds of rules and customs God gave His people and expected them to live by, but it was never His intent that adherence to those rules would take the place of loving Him.  They were merely to be the RESULT of loving Him.  Which, of course, they still are.  But sadly, the Israelites as a people just never really caught on.

The tail end of Chapter 7 has Jeremiah describing some horrific details of the devastation to come, and Chapter 8 basically continues in that vein.  And then, just in case there was a chance we were under the impression Jeremiah had an easy life despite his incredibly unpopular message, we see another attempt on his life in chapter 26.  Clearly, he isn't the only guy who believes the way he does and he's got a few friends, but they seem very few and far between.

Then we move over to the very last chapter of the book of Acts and there were a few things that stood out for me.  First of all, like we saw yesterday, Paul, Luke, and 274 other people have been through a GRUELING two weeks, and they find themselves FINALLY on dry ground again.  Only it's raining and cold still; the serious winter storm isn't quite over yet.  The people of Malta are incredibly hospitable and build a massive bonfire (it must have been if it was suitable for warming that large a crowd!), and what's Paul doing?  This starving, cold, dripping wet prisoner is gathering kindling and firewood.  He's been giving advice to the ship's captain and the military overseer ~ he's clearly a leader ~ and yet he's not above doing the gruntwork with everyone else.  He willingly gets his hands dirty (and, as a result, snake-bitten) to help.  Paul is an excellent example of the kind of godly leadership that people willingly submit to.

Finally, after a few months with the friendly people of Malta, Paul's dream of reaching Rome is realized.  He probably didn't dream of arriving in chains or having to spend two years under house arrest, but hey, he's in Rome and he's preaching his heart out.  Starting on day THREE!  Man, how many YEARS do we waste practicing passive "friendship evangelism"??  How many years are we friends with people, never actually talking about our relationship with Jesus Christ and how it's central to our lives, expecting that somehow our lifestyle will inspire them to approach us?  Can you imagine how much SLOWER the early Church would have grown if Paul had adopted that method?!

It's easy to make excuses and say Paul had something we don't, but that's just an excuse.  Other than his extraordinary calling, we have exactly the same power at our own disposal right this very moment.  In fact, we have even more resources at our disposal than he did because we now have the entire written Word of God that we can easily carry around in our pockets and purses.  He didn't.

I don't know about you, but this kinda makes one a little ashamed of our personal evangelistic efforts thus far, doesn't it?  But hopefully, it does more than shame us, and inspires us, too.  Enough to start being at least a LITTLE more vocal about our faith.  Maybe even stand up and shout it!

The books of Acts ends rather abruptly, like it never got finished, and some believe there are missing chapters.  But since the book is about the beginnings and then the growth and expansion of the Body of Christ on earth, technically, the story IS unfinished. Until the end of human history, you and I, together with believers from around the globe, from every generation, write more chapters every day! Isn't that an incredible thought?!

What an incredible privilege!!

Tomorrow's reading: Jeremiah 9-10,14; Colossians 1

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 20 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 6, 11-12; Acts 27:27-44.

The Jeremiah reading today brought Kathryn's post from yesterday to mind, so I'm not going to repeat what she talked about.

The passage in Acts really made me think about trust.  When we left off yesterday, Paul and 275 other people were in the middle of a hurricane at sea in a wooden ship that was breaking apart.  They had already thrown a bunch of the cargo and the ship's tackle overboard.  Paul had told them that the ship would be destroyed, but all the lives on board would be spared because he had to stand trial before Caesar.  Can you imagine how ludicrous that must have seemed to the soldiers and crew aboard the ship?  As we begun today's reading, they had been at the mercy of the storm for TWO WEEKS!  Can you imagine?  No wonder they'd given up hope of being saved.  And yet, as we've talked about before, God always keeps his promises.

After two weeks of fear, turmoil, being tossed about at the mercy of the wind and waves, not knowing for sure what was going to happen to them (because even though Paul told them they'd be saved, it must have seemed impossible), Paul is telling them to eat!  "Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head."  I would've been doubtful internally, I'm sure, if not outwardly saying "Yeah, right."  Seriously!  The ship is being held together with rope, the cargo is gone, the tackle is gone, I'm sure everyone must've thrown up at some point with that kind of weather going on - I don't know if I can imagine a situation as miserable as that.  Although, I suppose, it may have been more miserable for Paul as a prisoner on his way to trial!  Except for his faith.  Except for his faith.

Acts 27:25 - "So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me."

Act 27:34  - "Now I urge you to take some food.  You need it to survive.  Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head."

And sure enough, verse 44b - "In this way everyone reached land in safety."

Here it was their very lives that were in peril.  How is our faith?  Do we trust God with our lives?  With our children's lives?  What about trusting Him to provide for our needs?  Theoretically, I'd say yes.  But when push comes to shove, how much faith do I have, really?

Our pastor this Sunday was talking about trust.  He said kids, when they give, give everything they have.  They believe, without doubt, that more will come somehow, sometime, so they don't save or hold back - they just give without reservation.  I've seen my kids do this - I don't know about you.  "But," we say, "they have to be taught to save.  They have to be taught to put away for unforeseen circumstances.  They have to learn that unexpected things come up and they need to be prepared."  Yes, it is good to teach them those things.  And yet, we need to beware of creating little misers.  We need to teach them to save something for those unexpected things, but not to hoard.  We need to teach them to consider consequences of their actions, but not stifle their generosity.  We need to teach them to be good stewards of what they're given, but that good stewardship doesn't mean always making sure their own needs are met first.  We need to allow them to trust in His provision.  That doesn't mean they can fritter their money or resources away on inconsequential things and expect their needs to be met anyway; however, if they are faithful and give generously and not grudgingly, they will not be lacking in anything important.  What a lesson - that I still need to work on myself!

Happy Thursday!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Jeremiah 7-8, 26; Acts 28.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 19 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 3-5, Acts 27:1-26

I bet I could look back on the past 10 posts of mine and they would all have the same theme: the immorality in our nation today.  But I can't help it, I see it in scripture, especially the prophets.  It's like they are talking exactly about our world today.  I thought I'd apologize about it, but I won't, because Jeremiah doesn't and neither does any of the other prophets and neither should we.

I see us in our reading in Jeremiah.  It's all there, we have become immoral, we have farmed ourselves out to other gods and we are shameless about it.  God knows about our prostitution and has sent disaster and calamity upon us, and while it is for our punishment, it's not out of spite.  God punishes so that we turn back to Him.  All throughout this reading there is the promise of healing, redemption, mercy and grace.  He wants us to be broken and realize our need for Him.  He wants us to want Him.  And He does whatever He has to to turn us back.  But we must turn back to Him.  He cannot make us change.

I echo the prophet:
Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
   I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
   My heart pounds within me,
   I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
   I have heard the battle cry.
Disaster follows disaster;
   the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
   my shelter in a moment.
How long must I see the battle standard
   and hear the sound of the trumpet?
How many times do we hear others speak of the deplorable state our government and our nation is in?  Even the unsaved/unrighteous/unchurched can see it.  It is no longer questionable, we cannot ignore it anymore.  This is not just a happenstance, I believe the Lord has brought this upon us to specifically bring us back to Him.

But there is hope:
This is what the LORD says:
   “The whole land will be ruined,
   though I will not destroy it completely. 
There is always a remnant.  God does not maim so badly that He cannot heal.  And we must understand God judges and is angry, but He does not lash out IN anger.  He judges because He is desperate for us.  He wants us to be in sweet fellowship with Him.  But He cannot be in fellowship with our sin.  Our sin disgusts Him.  He will not share us with another.  He wants all of us.

The very end of the Jeremiah reading was so appropriate to end with.
“A horrible and shocking thing
   has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy lies,
   the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
   But what will you do in the end?
My people love it this way.  It's true, or things would change.  We love our independence, don't we?  And in the end we have a choice.  Literally, it's God's way or our way.

 Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 6, Jeremiah 11-12, Acts 27:27-44

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday, October 18th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Jeremiah 1-2, Acts 26

There were a few things that jumped out at me today.

The first was, of course, one of the most well-known verses in the Bible....
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." Jeremiah 1:5a
One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible (and one of my personal favourites) that speaks to the astonishingly intimate way that God knows us. He knows us from our very beginning, when we were created in secret, before even our parents knew of our existence, God knew. Not only did He know, but He formed us. Specially. Specifically. Perfectly. In His image. It is incredible to me, how the same God that threw stars into space knows each one of us so intimately, and that He has a plan for each of us in order to glorify Him. Amazing.

And shortly after - as Jeremiah is questioning God's call, we read this...
But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:7-8
Too young. Too old. Too inexperienced. Too poor. Too rich. Too uneducated.

All excuses.

God will use us despite our inadequacies or weaknesses. In fact, through those inadequacies and weakness, He will be glorified. He will always be with us. He will rescue us.

Now, that doesn't mean things will be easy. In fact, rescue implies that we're in trouble of some sort, or we wouldn't need rescuing. No, He doesn't promise it will be easy. But He promises to be with us and to walk with us through those storms and trials and rescue us.

Further on....
"Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the Lord. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

This really struck me. Even pagan worshipers were loyal to their gods - despite being totally wrong, despite the fact that their gods were totally worthless and powerless and never actually did a thing to help them.

And we have access to the spring of living water. Perfect water. And we have thrown it away. In exchange for a cistern - a pit that collects rainwater. And not only a cistern, but a broken and empty cistern.

Who in their right mind would do that?!

And yet we do.

We do so whenever we cling to false gods like money, power, legalistic rules, sex, anything that we think will fulfill us, that we put in the place that only God can fill. We exchange the real deal for a counterfeit that can be spotted a mile away.

Oh God, help us to see Satan's lies for what they are. Help us to crave You and You alone, and not to be satisfied with any counterfeit that might try to sway us. Help us to desire the Spring of Living Water who alone can satisfy our souls and may that desire increase more and more every day. Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 3-5, Acts 27:1-26

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, October 17 - Jody

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is: 2 Chronicles 35, Habakkuk 1-3, Acts 25

Happy Monday Everyone!

Habukkuk's prayer stood out for me in today's reading. I love the progression of proclaiming God's goodness and strength. Starting in a personal way, extending to God's power throughout His creation, then ending in a personal way again. John MacArthur says:

This chapter is a great prayer. It is a classic example of prayer. Habakkuk's attitude in his prayer is simply this: God I don't understand everything, I don't understand why You let Israel go, I don't understand why You're bringing the Chaldeans to judge them, I don't understand why You're going to wait to judge the Chaldeans after that, I don't understand any of the things, but I know one thing God, You're the God that is righteous, You're the God that's eternal, You're the God that never makes a mistake, You're the God that hates sin, You're the God that never does anything wrong and I'll stand on that and praise You anyhow.

Oh how hard that must have been! And how hard is this for us still today! God I don't understand this hurt in my life, or God - I don't understand why you allow this to happen in my life... it could be countless things we don't understand about God, but Habakkuk shows us here that we can praise God anyhow!

John MacArthur tells us in the same sermon that: His prayer embodies four parts that really are the parts of every prayer. They are petition, remembrance, and natural consequence to remembrance, which is praise, confession and adoration. Petition, remembrance, confession and adoration: the four parts of his prayer that are really the four parts of any prayer that is a prayer. 

Later on in the same sermon MacArthur continues on:

Now we see the key how to praise the Lord anyhow. It's just simple. We just look back and we just start remembering God's continued constant never ending, never hesitating, never stopping faithfulness. And we take it from there. And we can stand face to face with the problem and we can back off of that problem and say now wait a minute, not only is my God good and right and never does anything wrong, and not only does He love me and care for me, and not only is He the kind of a God who is absolutely eternally righteous, but something else about Him, He's also absolutely and eternally faithful. And He has promised to keep that which I have, what, committed unto to Him. That's a New Testament promise for us. And Jesus said, "I will never, what, leave you or forsake you."
And God has proven Himself faithful throughout all the years. God has never proven Himself unfaithful at any time at any place in history at any juncture in human life. God is always faithful and we can stand today and step back from the most gross problem from the most unbelievable perplexity, from the most confusing dilemma and we can say, "I don't understand the problem, but I understand God and God is faithful."

How very true. God really IS absolutely and eternally faithful. Even when we don't understand, He is faithful.

Tomorrow's passage: Jeremiah 1-2, Acts 26

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 16th

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Zephaniah 1-3 - Acts 24

Zephaniah is definitely a book of judgment. But it is also a book of hope.

It is a book of warning, doom and gloom to those who persist in living for their own self-interest and going their own way.

But it is a book of hope for those who follow Christ and long for redemption.

The passages of hope must be particularly meaningful for those Christians who are suffering persecution, or those who have been deeply wronged.

There will come a day when mercy will no longer be offered and justice will be demanded. There will come a day when those who have done evil will be dealt with by our just God. And for those people it will be a day of wrath and destruction that they could never have imagined.

There will come a day when all wrongs will be made right. There will come a day when all Christians will be able to openly worship God without fear of persecution, ridicule or death. There will come a day of rescue, of redemption, of homecoming, of peace. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

And that will all happen on the same day. Whether we fall on the side of wrath and destruction or the side of redemption and peace will be determined by the choices we make today, the choices we make every day, as we choose to live for God or against Him.

And when that day of judgment and glory comes, it will never be more obvious which side has won the victory.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. "At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes, before your very eyes", says the Lord. Zephaniah 3:17, 19, 20

What beautiful words of hope and comfort as we wait for Christ to return and for all those promises to be fulfilled.

Come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday, October 15

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is 2 Chronicles 33-34; Acts 23:16-35

A few things that stuck out for me from today's passage:

Manasseh was 12 when he became king. Twelve. That's a year and a half older than my son right now. I can hardly get my son to clean his room right now, never mind run a country! I wonder how much his "evilness" had to do with the people surrounding him and his advisors rather than his malicious attempt to be evil. I'm not trying to lessen Manasseh's responsibility but I am trying to understand how much power a kid would have in such a prominant position. What is clear, is that regardless of whether Manasseh was following the directions of his advisors or whether he was acting alone, he was punished for his actions and his lack of obedience. Manasseh's punishment was severe and yet it caused him to repent and turn back to God. How many times is it in our own lives when we at our lowest of lows that we finally realize that we cannot do it without God. Sometimes it takes the hardships to bring us to that full understanding, just as it did for Manessah. Manessah was restored as king and he restored the things he had destroyed. What I found interesting is that it doesn't appear that Manessah taught his son, Amon, about the lessons he learned by trying to do his own thing. You'd think that because Manessah once sacrificed his own sons and changed to be a God-honouring king that it might have iniated a conversation with his son to not make the same mistakes. In fact, if Manessah would have continued with his previous ways, Amon may have been one of the sons sacrificed! I think that is a lesson to us as parents that we need to consciously remind our kids about the grace of God and His role in our whole life. We can't just show it in our actions in our work but we also need to say it, tell it, and demonstrate our committment to God in all things so that our children will know it is an important part of our lives and that they too might be drawn to God when we are no longer around.

Amon only reigned for 2 years and then his 8 year old son (now that is 2 years younger than my son!) and again I wonder if his ability to reign as God planned was of his own initiatve or that of his advisors and guardians. Regardless of what prompted the godly reign, God blessed and had mercy on His people for the sins of thos who came before Josiah. Josiah was a strong leader and verse 33 of chapter 35 says, "Josiah removed all the detestable idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers." May we strive to be spiritual leaders like Josiah.

The passage in Acts reminds me, again, that God is in control. God allowed Paul's nephew to overhear a murder plot, He allowed the Centurion to have the desire to intervene on Paul's behalf, and He allowed the captain to believe Paul's nephew and to take action (involving nearly 500 men!) to make sure the murder plot was unsuccessful. It also reminds me that I could be a player in God's plan if I am receptive to His leading. We don't often see how our little role is a part of God's divine leading. Maybe we have a big role, like the nephew who notifies the Centurion of trouble that is coming. Are we listening? Are we willing to act? Are we brave enough to step out to act? Maybe we have a tougher task of notifiying a higher power, like the centurion who alerts his captain. Are we willing to get other people involved who can help? Are we strong enough to realize we cannot do it alone and that others with more expertise can help? Maybe we are the one that can help in a huge way, like the captain who motivated hundreds of people to keep Paul safe as he left town. Are we ready to make such a bold move for God? Are we willing to suffer the wrath from others who oppose us? (Forty people who are starving themselves may not be happy with a decision to move their intended target and may seek revenge.) Are we willing to make the effort to do something big? Or maybe our role is that of the 470 people that moved Paul. A seemingly insignificant role if you look at each person as an individual but taken as a crowd, it would allow Paul to arrive to his destination safely. How willing are we to submit to our role in God's plan for ourselves and for others?

Lord, Your word is amazing. Its deep knowledge and wisdom is timeless. We can sometimes forget the truths of Your word and by studying it, we are reminded again and again of how applicable Your word still is. Thank you for the reminders of how important it is to model Your grace and forgiveness and how to pass it on to the next generation. Help us to be the model You desire us to be for our children, our families, and those around us. Thank you for the reminder to be bold and assertive when we can help others to further Your kingdom. Help us to be confident for You.

Tomorrow's passage: Zephaniah 1-3 - Acts 24

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday, October 14 ~ tammi

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Nahum, Acts 23:1-15.

The short little book of Nahum is a prophecy against the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. In the century since the Ninevites had turned to God after hearing Jonah's message, they had fallen back into their disregard for God and their ruthlessness towards Israel ~ and every other nation they invaded, for that matter. But God's concern is for His people and now God sends Nahum to tell them their time is up. They will be annihilated. My Bible notes that Nineveh was so completely obliterated by the Medes and Babylonians that the ruins of that once-great city ~ one of the world's first "superpowers" ~ lay unidentified for roughly 2500 years.

But among these dire promises, we learn something valuable about the character of God in this book, specifically in 1:2-8. So much time these days seems to be devoted to the teachings of Jesus or about the Holy Spirit, but almost with the feeling that they are somehow separate or more important and relevant than the character of God.  We acknowlege the triune God and yet tend to shy away from getting to know Him for Himself.  But here in the opening of Nahum, we see three principles of God's character: His irresistible power, His inflexible justice, and His infinite mercy.

The images of power in these few verses are vivid. Nahum talks about whirlwinds or tornadoes, storms, great levelling earthquakes. Also mentioned are things we wouldn't maybe often see as an illustration of God's power, like the ability to dry up rivers and lakes or turning lush crops into a barren wasteland. Yet these are no less a demonstration of His dominion over creation than a hurricane. They might take longer (under normal circumstances), but they still follow His command. A friend once pointed out that we have a really pathetic understanding of "acts of God" if we think they only include natural disasters, because He's the cause of all the beautiful, calm, sunny days, too!!

Clearly, the most uncomfortable verses in the Bible are the ones that talk about God's wrath.  No one likes to think about God being angry or jealous, or doling out punishment.  But if He is the Creator, that means He also creates the rules.  This is why so many fight tooth and nail against the notion of a Creator; they don't want to live by His rules. But God absolutely has the right to rule with authority over His creation because He is, well... GOD! He created everything for His own pleasure and glory. He didn't have to, and that's why He has the right to set the principles by which His creation must function. God has the right to do whatever He wants. And if a creature rebels against God's divine government and violates it, that creature then falls subject to the judgment of God. Plain and simple.

The text says "The LORD... maintains his wrath against his enemies." It's not something that goes away with time. Just because it seems like evil people are getting away with everything they do now doesn't mean God's forgotten about punishing them. No, but He may be giving them time to repent and beg His forgiveness.

For which there will be mercy.

Verse 6 asks the rhetorical questions: "Who can withstand [God's] indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger?" The obvious answer is NO ONE. But then just a phrase later, verse 7 starts off with a stark contrast to all this talk of death and destruction, and Nahum reminds us that God is GOOD. That He's a refuge in time of trouble and that He cares for those who trust in Him.

Immediately, Nahum returns to the promises of destruction for Nineveh, but in that brief interlude, we see the infinte mercy of God, kind of like a desert oasis; a breath of fresh air. I think these verses are here for a couple of reasons. Further down, we see some reassurances for Judah and so I think v.7 is intended for them as well, as a reminder that God cares about them and wants to provide for and protect them. But I think v. 7 also serves as an appeal to individual Assyrians ~ and modern-day unbelievers ~ to know they can repent and take refuge in God as well to be spared the promised devastation of future and/or eternal punishment.

And this is OUR God we're talking about here!! Isn't that amazing?? The One who lives IN us! The One who jealously guards the relationship we have with Him because He lovingly created us for His glory! We don't need to fear His wrath because we're in Christ Jesus and His blood wipes out all condemnation, all judgement, no matter how the earth and all her inhabitants will shake someday. And He is our refuge. No matter how many times we mess up, His mercy is there to wash us clean and spare us from the storm of God's just fury all over again.

Isn't it incredible how much about the character of God can be packed into just 7 obscure Old Testament verses??!

Whiter Than Snow by Heidi Farner; click for more info

Tomorrow's passages: 2 Chronicles 33-34; Acts 23:16-35

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday, Oct. 13 ~ Miriam

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Micah 6-7; Acts 22.

Well, I have a confession to make.  I haven't done a reading since my last post.  I don't really have any good excuse.  The weekend was busy and I've had a lot going on the last couple of weeks all over, however going on the principle that Bible reading is a priority and I need to make time for it rather than just do it when I have time -- which seems to be never -- that is not a good enough reason.  I'm feeling mentally and emotionally drained the last couple of days, and I'm not sure if that's why I haven't been reading or if that's because I haven't been reading.

Anyway, a verse in Micah 6 stood out to me today, mainly because it's recognizable as a worship song.  Micah 6:8 -
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Sometimes it seems like the list of things we have to do and not do seems so long and intimidating that I feel like I just don't even want to try anymore.  I know that is the wrong attitude, and it doesn't last long, but sometimes it just feels like it's all futile.  We try and try and try again, and try some more, and no matter what we do we just can't get it right.  So why bother with any of it?  And then I read verses like the one above, or Matthew 22:37-40, which says 
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Two or three things.  Yes, those two or three things cover a whole lot of individual things, but it makes me feel less overwhelmed.  If you consider these verses that condense all the dos and don'ts into an all-encompassing spirit, or attitude, or whatever term you choose to express it, it seems much more possible to live a good Christian life.  Not a perfect, sinless life.  Not self-made salvation.  Just a good, loving, Christian example.

That's all I've got today.  I'm sorry if I didn't express myself well... I'm feeling incoherent.  Happy Thursday!

 Tomorrow's passage:  Nahum 1-3; Acts 23:1-15.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 12 - Kathryn

Today's reading from the Chronological OT/NT Reading Plan is Micah 4-5, Acts 21:18-40

Increasingly I am convinced we are living in the end.  Now I know when Jesus left he called it the end, but I do mean the end of the end.  At least, I hope so, cuz this ol world, she's been a-moaning and a-groaning way too long.  We could all use a vacation from this torment.

Anyhoo, the thing that struck me about the Roman's passage today was the sheer violence and uproar Paul started.  The man was beaten and thrown into jail!  The passage states that the whole city was aroused.  This is quite a riot.

When I am the cause of a disruption, no matter how small, and even if I am totally in the right, I feel guilty.  I want to back down and just 'keep the peace'.  I am terrified of getting in trouble and starting it.  I don't get the feeling these things bothered Paul.  Granted, I don't think he wanted to start a riot, but he wasn't into backing down.

I guess my point is, there is a day soon coming when we will be accused of being wrong.  Where what we say will incense people.  And not just a little 'agree to disagree' people will be ticked.  When I make people mad by something I've done I begin to question whether I am truly right.  How did Paul, and us when the time comes, not begin to second guess himself?  I mean when someone is beating you do you begin to doubt?  I've never been in that sort of situation before and to worry about future things is pointless, because often the Lord steps in and strengthens us.  I can only assume this was true for Paul.  I pray, I pray we are preparing as best we can now, through the word, through prayer and through just spending time in the presence of God.  Practicing the presence, so that we can know it when it comes on us.

Lord God Almighty, teach us Your truth.  Teach us how to stand and be strong for You.  Strengthen us in Your spirit and in Your word.  Help us to practice your presence.  Amen.

Tomorrow's passage: Micah 6-7, Acts 22