Monthly Archives: June 2010

Josh. 2; Ps.123-125; Isa. 62; Matt.10

I am send you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  – Matthew 10:16

Much to my embarrassment, I can recall a number of “inelegant” conversations I have had with nonbelievers in futile attempts to help them see the truth.  You see, I am an engineer at my core.  One of my favorite quotations is: “Arguing with an engineer is a lot like wrestling with a pig in the mud.  After a while, you realize the pig enjoys it.”   For me, a good debate is sporting.  Unfortunately, winning an argument rarely changes a heart. 

In Matthew 10, Jesus is instructing his disciples on how to act when going out to preach the Gospel.  One of the things He tells them is to “be as shrewd as snakes”.  The engineer in me reads this and automatically assumes Jesus is authorizing the twelve to be cunning and crafty for the purpose of self-preservation.  After all, they are going out as sheep among wolves.  It takes a mighty shrewd sheep to survive among wolves.  I have no doubt that self-preservation is part of what Jesus is communicating here.  In fact, in the very next verse He tells the disciples to “Be on your guard against men.”  (Matt. 10:17a)  But I think Jesus is preaching more than just self-preservation.  He is sending them out with the purpose to save a lost world.  If self-preservation were the highest value, then they might as well stay home.  

What is translated in NIV as “shrewd as snakes” is translated as “wise as serpents” or “wary as snakes” in other Bible versions.  Perhaps, Jesus is conveying how we should approach nonbelievers for THEIR benefit, not merely for OUR self-preservation.  When a wise and wary messenger approaches a nonbeliever they would:

  1. explain the Gospel in a context that starts with the nonbeliever’s current assumptions
  2. take care not to say and do things that alienate
  3. communicate with tact and sensitivity

In short, they would speak to the heart, as well as the mind. 

I am happy to report that despite my “engineer’s mentality”, I can celebrate some successes when communicating with nonbelievers.  Sometimes success has meant shutting up until the right opportunity arises to gently impart a contrary viewpoint.  Sometimes success has meant finding common ground with someone who has a far different worldview.  In fact, not too long ago I had an interesting conversation with an agnostic where we shared very similar criticisms of an atheistic worldview.  It’s a start.

Lord God,

You made me with the ability and desire to reason.  Impart your wisdom, so that I may use my mind to help save those who are lost.  Amen.

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Josh. 1, Ps. 120-122, Isaiah 61, Matt. 9

“I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10

Delight.


I’m not sure that I knew the meaning of the word delight until I saw Zach Jones (left) shooting down the water slide with his counselor Paul at the pool. Zach was one of my favorite campers last year and I had the pleasure of having him in my cabin again this year. He is thirteen, has Down Syndrome, and says everything with an irresistible little grin. Unlike a few of our other campers, I can’t recall a time this week that Zach threw a fit or complained even once. He was very content to participate in every activity, eat what was put before him, wake up and go to bed when ever asked.

But what does it mean to “delight greatly in the Lord”? I think it has something to with delighting in nothing else, taking no greater pleasure in anything than the joy of knowing Him.

When faced with disappointment in life, I’d like to ask the question more often, “What was my hope placed in?” Was it in a person? Was it in an event? Or was it placed in the Lord? I find that if my hope is placed solely in Him, on knowing Him, on delighting greatly in Him, on simply being in is company, life’s momentary hiccups are put sharply into perspective.

He is my hope. To know Him and be known by Him, to be transformed into His likeness, is my greatest delight. And all other things I count as loss.

-Christian from Camp

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Deuteronomy 33-34; Psalm 119:145-176; Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Psalm 119:147-148)

There are two kinds of people in the world: early risers and night owls. And there are two kinds of people in my marriage, too. My husband, Andy, is the early riser, and I’m the night owl.

Actually, once we had kids, we both became early risers and night owls. But, when left to listen to our own body clocks, Andy gets up early and I stay up late. We pass one another happily somewhere around noon.

The psalmist, though, does both. He wakes up early and stays up late. The reason for his insomnia? God’s Word. He hungers for it. He longs to hear from God, to converse with Him in scripture, to think on God’s truth and character at all times.

Over and over again in Psalm 119, the psalmist points to God’s Word as his source of strength, hope, and delight. He knows that obeying God’s Word leads to freedom. He longs for God’s Word, because it is his very life.

A prayer: God, let me love Your Word more. Let me come to know You through it. Use Your Word to transform me as I hide it in my heart and dwell on it with my mind. Give me a hunger for Your Word, God. Make me a spiritual insomniac–an early riser and a night owl for Your truth. Amen.

amystorms

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Deuteronomy 32; Psalm 119:121-144; Isaiah 59; Matthew 7

I’m struck with the difference between “knowing” and “believing”.  There are so many things I “know”, that never actually get fully lived out in my life.  Why is that?  I know it, I understand it, I may have even ”seen” or “felt” it…yet it never becomes an actual part of my life.  I wonder…maybe it has more to do with “believing” than just “knowing” it to be true?

The list of descriptors found in scripture about who God is and how who He is encounters our existence is a fantastical journey into everything we need to live by.   

He is Rock, His work is perfect;

For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;

Righteousness and upright is He.   (Deut. 32:4)

He found him in the desert land

And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness;

He encircled him, He instructed him,

He kept him as the apple of His eye.

 

As an eagle stirs up its nest,

Hovers over its young,.

Spreading out its wings, taking them up,

Carrying them on its wings,

So the LORD alone led him,   (Deut. 32:10-12)

 How would my life be different if I not only knew these simple descriptions about God and His care for me, but instead believed them to a point of life transformation?  Doesn’t the essence of even these small bits of scripture demand change my life?  But then, what’s so ironic about a question like this, is that I have so many times personally asked for the wisdom to change…as if I’ve never received it.

I am Your servant;

Give me understanding,

That I may know Your testimonies.   (Psalm 119:125)

My proclivity to plead to God in this way is even more proof that the belief in what I already know about God has not intensified enough to draw out change from my life.  I have the “know”…just not the “belief”.  How many times in my life will I choose the sand over the rock?

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.”   (Matt. 7:26)

 In my life the rain does often fall…and the floods sometimes come…and the winds almost always blow, but I never want it to be said of my life…”And great was its fall.”  I need to live a life of “belief”…true heartfelt, life-changing belief that’s founded on the rock.

~chefdave11

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Deuteronomy 31; Psalm 119:73-96; Isaiah 58; Matthew 6

There certainly is no fooling God. He knows our hearts, and He wants our hearts to be focused on Him. He knows when our hearts are not in our actions. And He knows when our actions are external and are not the true expression of our hearts. There is a difference between “seeming” to love and follow God and actually loving God and following Him from the heart. God seems so frustrated at times at people when they seem to go through the motions and miss the point entirely.

 2 For day after day they seek me out;
       they seem eager to know my ways,
       as if they were a nation that does what is right
       and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
       They ask me for just decisions
       and seem eager for God to come near them.

 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
       ‘and you have not seen it?
       Why have we humbled ourselves,
       and you have not noticed?’
       “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
       and exploit all your workers.

 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
       and in striking each other with wicked fists.
       You cannot fast as you do today
       and expect your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 59:2-5 NIV)

Then God (through Isaiah) says to the people that fasting is not just not eating food and lying in sackcloth and ashes.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
       only a day for a man to humble himself?
       Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
       and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
       Is that what you call a fast,
       a day acceptable to the LORD ?

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
       “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
       with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
       then your light will rise in the darkness,
       and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:5-10 NIV)

In the New Testament Jesus always had the harshest words for the hypocrites (usually the Pharisees). Like the people described in Isaiah these people seem to want to seek and follow God but really they do not. If you really want to be close to God and be His child He wants you to give but give in secret; fast but do it so that others are unaware; pray but pray in private using simple and heartfelt words, acknowledging his holiness, asking for forgiveness, promising forgiveness to others, asking for our daily bread one day at a time.

 1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 NIV)

Then at the end of Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to trust Him.

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, … 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:19-34, condensed, NIV)

Lord, help me to focus on you, on what’s important; to seek first your kingdom and your righteousnes; to store up my treasures in heaven. Help me to truly love and follow you.

Sue

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Deuteronomy 30; Psalm 119:73-96; Isaiah 57; Matthew 5

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

I wasn’t looking for a theme. Quite honestly, I was looking for a snippet of encouragement to get me through rough days–those days when things seem to go wrong and my reactions, thoughts, and words are not righteous at all. I was looking for a verse that I could say to myself, to bolster my faith through difficulties–even those that are self-inflicted. Fortunately for me, the Lord is more interested in the circumcision of my heart than quick fixes.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14. (Emphasis mine.)

Righteous meditations, the running theme through Psalm 119(:73-96); he seeks it too.

Give me understanding to learn your commands … for I have put my hope in your word … your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me … let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight … I will meditate on your precepts … my soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word … preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth … your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

Obstacles will come. Hardships exist. Like the psalmist writes in antiquity, it’s still true today: if your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Lord, you say, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 50:15

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

The Lord is with me in all circumstances. When I seek him, he’s there to guide me and give me peace. He heals and restores.

In today’s reading, I found encouragement in nearly every line of scripture–and I am filled.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deut. 29, Ps.119:49-72, Isa. 56, Matt. 4

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him…” Matt 4:1-3

This was Jesus’ preparation for public ministry. In order to prepare himself for the temptation to come, Jesus fasted. That is, He willingly and purposefully placed himself in a weakened state. Sounds like a bad idea, but it was brilliant, it was counter-intuitive.

If I knew temptation was coming, I’d make sure I was well rested and well-fed. I would prepare myself for battle by strengthening myself… in myself.

Jesus prepared for ‘battle’ – temptation in preparation for his public ministry – not by strengthening himself in himself, but by strengthening himself in God the Father. For Jesus, fasting signified surrender to the Father’s will. It was the ultimate act of humility and the only way to prepare for the ministry God had for Him.

Surrender through fasting actually strengthened Him and gave Him the ability to resist the temptation. He was in a sense in His strongest place – fully surrendered to the Father.

I’ve never fasted, at least not that I can remember. And yet as I read this story of tempting and testing, of preparation and perseverance, of victory over Satan, of God’s strength in human weakness – I know I’ve had plenty of reason and opportunity to fast.

The next time I come to the end of myself, when all human wisdom is exhausted, when my knowledge of God and scripture fails to provide what I think I need, or when I am asked to do something I know I cannot do in my own strength… I pray I remember to take my cue’s from Jesus and consider the path of hunger. Maybe in some way fasting will make me acutely aware of my weakness and more aware of God’s strength and His ability to sustain me when I rely on Him.

Paul

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