Monthly Archives: February 2010

Exodus 11-12:21; Job 29; Luke 14; 1 Corinthians 15

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”   1 Corinthians 15:56–58  (NIV)

My life could end before I finish writing this blog posting today.  I could die as somebody else reads these words.  At any moment, at any time, my life could be over.

It’s so easy to think about each day as if it were just any other routine day.  Each day I have a list of things to do.  I focus on work, my family, responsibilities, thinking about my own desires and the things that I need.  But I must confess that I rarely think about my life as a vapor.  I am a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

I know that God wants me (and commands me) to spend my days rejoicing in Him and to not be anxious about anything.  But truthfully, I spend way too much time being overly consumed by problems and stress.  I worry about my job, my family, my health, my friends, my life in general.  When my thoughts are focused on things that distract me from rejoicing in Him, I am actually conveying that I believe my anxieties are more important to me than the command that He gives to rejoice and trust in Him.  I am almost giving myself a “right” to disobey Him because of everything in the world that seems so big to me.  I begin living as if God is not big enough, strong enough, or loving enough to take care of me.

Even though I live every day with a routine, there really is nothing “routine” about it.  God is allowing my lungs to breathe and my heart to beat, yet I rarely think about this miracle He is working in me every single day.  He is constantly orchestrating and working together all things for my good and for His glory, yet I frequently get so caught up in the chaos of life that I fail to see it.  And even more so, it is not even so much what He is doing in my brief life today, it is what He has done even before I was alive.  God loved me and was thinking of me before I was even born!

But perhaps the most amazing miracle that God has done is what Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 15.  These are words that are so comforting, so amazing, so unbelievably rich and full of life!  They jump off the page and grab hold of my heart and make me want to run into the streets jumping for joy!

Jesus Christ has given the victory over death.  He has provided the comfort to all the stress of my life.  He has called me into fellowship with Him and has given me every reason to rejoice in Him, no matter what life throws at me.

Paul’s words remind me that life and death,  things present and things to come, all belong to Him and as a result of what He has done, they also belong to me!  Life is mine and I get to enjoy life.  Even death is mine, for the One who got the victory over death, has defeated it!  He has made me a conqueror through Him because of His great and awesome and infinite, merciful grace and power.  Because of what He has done, I have the ability and the freedom to come before His throne of grace and merciful love, and I could give myself fully to His work.

Lord, you hold all the days of my life in your hand.  Even though my physical life on this earth may end today, I am safe in your love because Your love is everlasting.  You are not only leading me though this life, but you will also lead me through death and I take such tremendous comfort in knowing that the day I am no longer physically in this world, I will be with you for eternity.

Lord, I confess to you that I am human and my heart is wayward and often distracted and I am often afraid of the things of this world.   But that same heart that fears is the same heart that thanks you and praises you for the change you will accomplish in me all in the twinkling of an eye.  I will put my hand in your nail-pierced hand that was given for me and I ask you to lead me and guide me to the other side.

Where O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  It is defeated and I am in love with a Savior that bears the mark of His love for me.

O God how I love you so!

John (johnd7264)

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Exodus 10, Job 28, Luke 13, 1 Corinthians 14

Scripture

“Where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.

God understands the way to it and He alone knows where it dwells, for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.

Then He looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it. And He said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'”

Job 28:12 & 13, 23 & 24 and 27 & 28 NIV

“Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”

1 Corinthians 14:20 NIV

Application

I’ve found myself, lately, in an internal struggle.  Knowing the right thing to do, but doing the opposite. Being ruled by childish emotions & decisions and not mature adult behaviors. Feeling very much like Paul’s description in Romans 7.

Knowing that strength comes from the Lord, but leaning on my weakened self. Knowing that wisdom and understanding come only from Him as well, but trusting my own human “knowledge”.

Thankfully though, God uses my own sinful choices and resulting guilt, timely conversations with my husband and friends, “coincidental” sermons that seem just for me, and thought-provoking scriptures to help guide me back towards Him and making wise, God-honoring decisions.

Prayer

Thank you Father that You never give up on me. Even when I try to go it on my own, make stupid choices, and fall flat on my face, You are waiting right there. You willingly help me back up and point me once again to the true and only path that leads to wisdom and understanding.

– Beckie (look2thehills)

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Ex. 9; Luke 12; Job 27; I Cor. 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

Ability, knowledge, drive, sacrifice. Things valued today, I suspect whether love accompanies them or not. But here, I am reminded that having any of these without love, just an empty shell. Nothing.

In my day to day, Lord, I want to love in its purest sense. Without all the creepy sin that wants to reduce me to nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Thank you that you love so deeply, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ex. 8, Luke 11, Job 25 & 26, I Cor. 12

There is something about the Olympics that I love. There seems to be purity in the pursuit of gold. Monetarily speaking, a majority of the medalists will never earn anything close to what they spent getting on the podium, and yet they pursue their dreams with “shameless persistence.”

Jesus had something to say about that kind of persistence in prayer….

Luke 11:8 “…if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.”

… and in seeking Him

Luke 11:9-10 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

In other words, don’t give up!

Why is Jesus calling us to pray and seek Him so stubbornly? Certainly it’s not because He is slow to respond or slow to hear. Maybe the reason He calls us to shamelessly persist in our asking and seeking has something to do with the connection between our deepening dependence on Him and our spiritual health.

When I first became a Christian, my focus was not on pursuing God. I was saved, but I was preoccupied with my “junk.” I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to “clean up my act” instead of being focused on the pursuit of knowing Christ.

As I train for road cycling season I try to diet, and I’m notoriously bad at it. I spend most of my energy trying to resist my craving for sweets instead of pursuing healthy alternatives. Olympic athletes work from a completely different reference point. They vigorously pursue what is good and by nature of that pursuit, they succeed in avoiding appetites and behaviors that don’t lead to increased performance.

I find the same principle in spiritual growth. If my focus is primarily on avoiding things that are displeasing to God, i.e. “cleaning up my act”, and not on the proactive pursuit of Him – seeking, asking & knocking with “shameless persistence”, I find spiritual growth to be incredibly difficult. I think this is the principle Jesus is unfolding through these passages.

Luke 11:24-26 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.”

Christianity is not about getting myself all cleaned-up and looking good. It is about being transformed by being filled with more truth, more love, more compassion and more peace, through the shameless persistent pursuit of God. I’ve found that “sweeping my house” clean without filling myself with Christ leaves me more vulnerable than I was to begin with.

paul

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Exodus 7, Luke 10, Job 24, I Cor. 11

Scripture

Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?  Men move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen.  They drive away the orphan’s donkey and take the widow’s ox in pledge.  They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding.  (Job 24:1-4)

But God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life.  He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways.  For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like heads of grain. (Job 24:22-24)

Observation/Application

I see a bit too much of myself in Job’s comments.  He laments that the rich and powerful seem to get away with taking advantage of the poor and the weak (Job 24:1-4).   I, too, want swifter  judgment when I witness such injustice.  But Job ultimately recognizes that justice is served and the pleasure of their deeds is only temporary (Job 24:22-24) . 

“God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life.”   

What a perfect parallel to Luke 10!  Job tells us that those who take advantage of the poor and needy have no assurance of life.  In Luke 10, Jesus answers the question of what we must do to inherit eternal life using the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We learn that we are expected to care for the needs of the weak and downtrodden.  Okay – maybe I am not stealing from the poor like those  with whom Job took issue.  But, am I someone who “crosses to the other side of the street” instead of facing the reality of the needs in this world?

Prayer

Lord, open my eyes and soften my heart to the deep needs all around me in this broken world.  You have richly blessed me.  Use me to show your love for those who are less fortunate.  Amen.

gmd40187 (Greg)

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Exodus 6, Job 23, Luke 9, 1 Corinthians 10

It had been a long day. The Twelve had been out on what I can only imagine to be an exhausting excursion–following Jesus’ explicit commands to take a journey unprovisioned and preach the gospel, healing people everywhere. That’s a tall order. If preaching and healing ill-equipped wasn’t enough, Jesus also prompted them to expect rejection: “If people do not welcome you…”

By placing his disciples in a position of dependence and vulnerability, Jesus is leading them to a place of faith and conviction. But he’s not finished yet.

(Side note: His disciples weren’t the only ones in a place of vulnerability and weakness. In Matthew’s account [14:13], which is verified by Matthew 9:9, Jesus feeding the five thousand is preceded by someone telling him John has been beheaded. He withdraws before meeting the crowd. The death of his beloved cousin would have been no small blow.)

The disciples return to Jesus in the afternoon and I’m certain had so many stories for him. He wants to take them aside and process the day– they must have so many questions. But sometimes in ministry, going in headlong doesn’t always provide an opportunity to resurface. The crowds tag along. Even though Jesus could have turned them away, much to the relief of his disciples, and embraced this “teachable moment” with his intimate 12, he has compassion on the sick and hungry and loves on them.

And then comes the challenge: You feed them.

My response to this, even after the most fruitful day of emotional, spiritual, and physical expenditure, would be to say, “No thanks. Isn’t what I’ve already done good enough? Haven’t I filled my quota of ministry today?”

Aside from perhaps experiencing this sentiment, the disciples point to the obvious: perceiving a great need, they see only a lack of resources. But where they see short supply, Jesus sees abundance. Consistently, in all four accounts of the gospels, Jesus does the same thing: he gives thanks. He acknowledges where the small yet meaningful meal has come from in a genuine spirit of gratitude.

And if watching Jesus pass out endless loaf upon load wasn’t even, the disciples each collect a basket of scraps to take home. The proof is undeniable.

While the motives of a miracle are always to consider–Jesus usually had a purpose behind performing a sign–I take home a few scraps for myself:

  • Don’t fear going out to spread the word without defense or provision. At the end of the day, I should be able to say that my reliance on God, and nothing else, completed the mission.
  • If anything, reliance sprouts faith.
  • Ministry doesn’t end when I feel tired. I should always seek the heart of Jesus who feels compassion for people despite the circumstance.
  • Give thanks. Even if it’s just a Happy Meal.

Jesus,

Despite what I see around me, allow me to trust you. I know you have something to show me, whether it’s a miraculous provision or a lesson to deepen my faith or something that I can’t even imagine, I know that you love me. Let the things that I do show my love for you too.

-Christian

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Exodus 5; Luke 8; Job 22; 1 Corinthians 9

Scripture:

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15, NIV)

Observation:

I don’t do well with plants. My two black thumbs can’t keep much alive. But I do understand that good soil is crucial to the life of a plant. Rich, fertile, well-watered and weed-free soil produces the best crop.

Application:

I’ve observed this parable in a few of my friends. One loves God, but doesn’t nourish her relationship with Him by the water of His Word. She is withering. Another friend keeps God’s truth on the surface–enough to occasionally comfort or excite her, but not enough to take root, grow, and bear fruit.

Prayer:

Oh, God, to be the good soil! To have the noble and good heart that hears Your word, retains it, and produces a crop by perseverance. Many play around at faith, but how many live by it? Weed my heart, Father, and clear out the rocks. Make me good soil. Let Your truth take root in me, and change me, and grow out of me. I love You, and I love Your Word! Amen.

amystorms

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