Monthly Archives: July 2014

Psalm 34-35; Acts 22

Come children! Listen to me!

I will teach you what it means to fear the Lord.

 

Do you want to really live?

Would you love to live a long, happy life?

 

Then make sure you don’t speak evil words

or use deceptive speech!

 

Turn away from evil and do what is right!

Strive for peace and promote it!

 

Psalm 34:11-14

 

 

One of the tensions we live with in the Christian faith is how to properly think about fear. I am far from figuring this out, but as I read through this Psalm and thought about fear, I feel like I gained a little ground in understanding.

 

One of the Pastors at my church was speaking today and talking about fear, shame, and guilt are not from God. This is primarily because God’s heart is for relationship with us, and fear, shame, and guilt drive away from relationship with God, not towards.

 

If we have put our faith in Jesus, there is no more fear, shame, or guilt necessary for us. We are in right relationship with God, and Jesus took all of our fears, shames, and guilts of the past present and future on himself at the cross.

 

But we now live in the space between that act, and being perfected on the other side of eternity. We are still trying to live up to the status we have already attained.

 

But there is still a place for a certain type of fear, the fear of the Lord. This is the sort of fear that is characterized by reverence or awe, and leads us to do right in the eyes of God.

 

David does a great job describing what fearing God in this proper way looks like:

 

1. Don’t speak evil words.

2. Don’t use deceptive speech.

3.Turn away from evil.

4. Do what is right.

5. Strive for peace and promote it.

 

I was having a conversation with God today and sort of complaining about how complicated it is to like the way of Jesus in this world. Sort of a “It’s so complicated, where do I even start?” sort of thing. I felt like God was reminding me it’s actually very simple. And these 5 things are a good reminder of that.

 

It’s very simple, but incredibly difficult because of how selfish I am.

 

Lord please chip away at my selfishness, center my heart on you instead of me, that I might fear you like David did.

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Psalm 31-33; Acts 21:15-40

So much of what Paul taught evidenced how God was saving the Gentiles.  These teachings were often misinterpreted by the Jewish community of believers who found it hard to accept that salvation could come without the strict adherence to the Jewish traditions and accompanying commandments that God had given the Israelites thousands of years before Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

In Acts 21, Paul endeavors to prove that he has not forsaken the Mosaic laws, not because he changed his mind about the free gift of salvation, but to indicate that he was still a Jew by birth and by culture, and that he was also a committed Christian.

This past week at work I have been in training, and one of the required courses teaches diversity in the workplace.  You might think that in this modern age, there would not be a need to discuss the differences in other people. Yet, what is common whether at work or at home, is a low tolerance for those differences.

In case you are prone to say, “Not me,” consider that we all tend to say about others such things like, “Why would anyone do that?” Or, “that’s really weird,” or “why can’t people just be normal?”  What we are saying in each instance is that we don’t understand each other.  Just being raised on the opposite side of the country, or donning traditional outfits, using colloquial sayings, and/or worshipping God with hands held up can be viewed as odd.  That is not to say that all of us judge others by our own standard, but that we are affected by how diversity often looks like strangeness.

Yet when we cry out for mercy, we who know God sound just like a king whose cries went up to heaven, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,” (Psalm 31:9)  And again, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble,” (Psalm 32:7). It does not matter that we were not born into a Jewish family.  Psalm 33:13 says, “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.  From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

Since we are individually fashioned, our family of earthly origin is secondary to the shared spiritual soul. The deepening love we have for sisters and brothers in Christ crosses all boundaries of ethnicity, time, age, and other characteristics that divide people. How easy is it to find common ground with other Christians?  Or are we looking in the wrong places to seek all those differences that serve only to divide us? I pray that I will see in the same way as the Lord who looks at us with pleasure.

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Psalm 28, 29, 30; Acts 21:1-14

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

you have loosed my sackcloth

and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12

People talk about ‘choice’ all the time. To put it simply a choice is an “act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities”. There are all sorts of things to choose on a daily basis and as an adult I make hundreds of choices each week.

Years ago, while struggling with depression I heard the story of the two wolves. I began to realize that I could choose which wolf I fed; I could determine how I perceived things. Before I was a believer, I worked very hard at choosing the positive, looking at the glass half full, and beating down the blues. I strived in myself, and though I did learn how to control the despair, it was still always lurking in the shadows.

When my brother died, I was thrust into a position where I had to make a lot of choices very quickly, choices that changed my life forever. I had only been actively walking with the Lord for about a year but I could still feel the tug of depression even despite hearing the loving words of the Father.

It always amazes me when I hear people blaming God for the bad things that have happened, turning their back on Him in the moments they need Him, His strength the most. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not have survived if it wasn’t for God giving me everything I needed every step of the way.

And, it started with a choice…

The night when I learned what had happened, I immediately laid my heart out in a new way to God, I made the choice to fully trust Him in the surreal journey I was headed into. I made the choice to press into His outstretched arms. I made the choice to obey His voice, His leading. I made the choice to praise Him!

I felt so strongly a calling to worship the Lord in the space where my brother died. I felt it was an opportunity to spiritually cleanse the space and invite God’s presence back in. I knew it was the chance to bless His name in the bad times, and not just in the good.

The next evening, I invited a small group of friends to come with me. We stood in a circle and began to sing worship songs. After a few moments I moved to the center, and I began to dance as David danced before the Ark of the Covenant. I poured myself out to the Lord. I gave him every bit of my being, every ounce of praise in my body. I felt the atmosphere of the room change; I felt the shift happen as God entered this tabernacle of worship.

I made the choice to lift up the name of the Lord. I chose to give thanks and sing praise in the midst of my grief. I chose to taste and see His goodness. As I honored Him, He honored me. He turned my mourning into dancing and clothed me with gladness. He gave me hope.

I still experienced the grieving process, but I had God’s arms around me. Through the difficulties of adjusting to life without my brother, He walked next to me and sometimes carried me. Even in the moments now, when sadness creeps in, He reinforces the hope I have that I will see him again in heaven.

And my heart chooses to praise the Lord!

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Psalms 25-27; Acts 20:17-38

Last weekend, my husband and I were jet skiing out on the open ocean when the wind picked up and the waves grew large and menacing. A large wave came from behind us and plunged us in its trough. It felt as if we were on a submarine in dive mode.  Once we popped back up to the surface, we were able to get back on the ski and continue on. Terrified and shaken, I wanted to head back to safety as soon as possible. I had no problem communicating my fear to my husband.

God has never asked me to ignore or “stuff my fear.” Not long ago, I felt tied up with low level anxiety and went to pray. The thought rose to the surface of my prayers,  “What are you so afraid of? Tell me.” I named each fear as it popped up: fear of isolation, deprivation, and loneliness. They seemed like roaring lions at a circus and God was the lion tamer who subdued the beasts into submission. When placed before God, the fears looked silly, toothless and impotent.

Perhaps this is what David understood when he wrote:

The Lord is my light and my salvation–

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life–

of whom should I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Paul must have asked himself the same questions when he left the warmth and safety of the Ephesian community. He knew he would never see them again and that trouble was heading his way. I know better than to trust in myself to slay the monsters in my life; I fall back to the one who knows and loves me.To be human is to be acquainted with fear; to know God is to know the One conquers fear.

Klueh

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Psalm 22-24; Acts 20:1-16

David’s psalms have a flow, especially the ones where he’s hurting or scared–he goes from helpless to hopeful before the last note sounds. Sometimes the rhythm changes, but they have a variation of these elements (more or less):

  • This is my now.
  • This is how I feel.
  • This is who You are, God.
  • And I will praise You.

In anyone’s life, the now and the feeling will change. But God does not.

Reading through Psalm 23, I grab these words (a noun, and many verbs): shepherd, gives rest, leads, renews, guides, protects, comforts, prepares, honors, pursues. He is an active God, even when it seems he is far off. I watched David wrestle with that in Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. Psalm 22:1-2, NLT

I deeply appreciate his honesty and vulnerability. How many real-life examples offer up this intimate glimpse into their hearts?

Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
    and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
    give glory, you sons of Jacob;
    adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
    never looked the other way
    when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
    he has been right there, listening. Psalm 22:22-24, The Message

In my walk with the Lord, even the daily stuff, I can keep it simple. I can say, “God this is my now, and this is how I feel.” I can clutch his word and hold it up to him and declare, “This is who you are, and I will praise you.” It is how to hold hope in the midst of helplessness.

Thank you, Lord, that you are right here, listening.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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