Author Archives: suegraff

Psalms 67,71; Philippians 2

1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out[c] the word of life” (Phillipians 2:1-4,12-16a)

As I read and read these popular passages, I know that these are the verses I need to focus on today. Very practical advice. I think we all stumble over phrases such as “consider others better than yourselves” and “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. I don’t think we have trouble understanding that we need to not put ourselves above others, but consider others better than us? All others?  And “do everything without complaining or arguing”? Did Paul really mean everything? I mean, I know that I should generally not be arguing or complaining, but do everything that way? Now that I think about what I tend to argue and complain about, I can see how I am not considering others better than myself.

Now, I really do like the result of all of this….  I do want to become blameless and pure. I love being called a child of God. I do want to shine like a star in the universe!

Maybe this is where I remember that I truly do need God’s strength to do all those things that are against my nature. While that is always true, one other thing stands out to me now…  “being one in spirit and purpose”. I do know that it is much easier to accomplish things if I understand the underlying purpose. At work I am always asking questions about assignments I am given. I need to understand the purpose of something before I can work on it with any sort of intensity or great effort. And I have experienced the power of a team all working toward a single purpose.

I remember Rick Warren saying that our primary purpose is to glorify God. (Well at least I think he said that…) I’m sure complaining and arguing don’t bring God much glory! It really is all about God, not us. If I remember that, it should be natural to consider others better than myself and to not complain or argue.

Lord, let my arguing and complaining be a red flag that something is not right. Help me understand your purpose in everything I do. Help me to remember that it is all about you and your purposes, and bringing you glory, first and foremost.

suegraff

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1 Kings 5,6,7; Acts 7:44-60

In the Old Testament, we return to the story of King Solomon and the building of the temple. Solomon started on this mammoth project, making deals with other kings for materials, and organizing a huge forded labor force. It amazes me what people could accomplish in ancient history, without the technology we have today. The temple was amazing.

Unlike the commands for the Tabernacle, or the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark for that matter, there are no specific requirements for this temple. Personally, it seemed like this temple was more important to the people than it was to God. When God speaks to Solomon about it, he dismisses it right off and instead emphasizes the importance of obedience to God’s decrees, regulations and commands. The promise for the throne to continue in David’s lineage was actually dependent on it. It was one of those promises of God that starts with “If…”.

11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” (1 Kings 6:11-13)

Solomon completes the construction in seven years, but then takes thirteen years building his palace, which was four times bigger that the Temple! (And in Ecclesiastes we read how all of this extravagance gave only fleeting pleasure…)

Fast forward to the New Testament, and we hear what Stephen has to say about this Temple as he addresses the crowd:

46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob.[j] 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,

49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth? (Acts 7:46-50)

This Temple became a stumbling block to the Jews.  By having something concrete to focus on they missed the whole point of having God present with them all the time. Stephen continues:

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen[l] at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels…

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:51-53,57-58)

Lord, temples can’t contain you. You are omnipresent. My relationship with you is more important than elaborate buildings, riches, or anything I can see, feel, or touch. I crave your presence. I want to hear the truth. I want to trust you. Come stay with me.

suegraff

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Psalms 24,25,26; John 10:22-42

David had an awesome relationship with God. I spent some time meditating on Psalm 25 today. It is a beautiful picture of childlike trust and admiration of a loving Father by a trusting child.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

Fast forward to Jesus’ day.  In John 9 we read about Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind. The Pharisees just did not want this to be true.  They tried desperately to spin this some other way than the miracle it plainly was. The healed man says that if Jesus was not from God then he couldn’t have done this miracle. To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. The Pharisees were not humble, for sure. No guidance for them, I’m afraid.

So Jesus moves along and he gets to Jerusalem. The Holy City. Teaming with learned Pharisees. In John 10 we read:

22 Then came the Feast of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple

area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,[c] tell us plainly.”25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

These Jews did not want to hear any of this.  Jesus was claiming to be God and they did not want to hear that. They try to stone him but Jesus escapes. It was not yet his time. The story continues:

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

One thing that stood out to me as I read this was the contrast between what happened in Jerusalem and what happened in the area where John was baptizing. John the Baptist’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus. He preached repentance. Repentance requires us to admit that we have gone astray, we are wrong, and we desire to be made right. Repentance requires humility. The people that were prepared by John and his ministry were able to hear Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The Jews in Jerusalem, the learned ones that thought they knew everything, the ones that were at the top of the heap and did not want to give that up, were spiritually blind and deaf. The blind man was able to see, but the Pharisees were blind to the Truth.

Lord, sometimes I know that my biggest sin is the sin of pride. I pray that I can humble myself and repent so that I can tune into your voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd. I know that this is an ongoing journey, from day to day, from pasture to pasture, until you lead me to my final home.

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1 Samuel 19; Psalms 23,59; Luke 21:1-19

Today we read Psalm 23, one of the most famous/popular of all time. I was just thinking today about how certain passages just cut through all the clutter in my brain and truly touch my heart and my soul. To me this is one personal evidence that Scripture is truly unique in its power. Yet sometimes popularity can take the beauty out of passages, so I take the time to truly soak this one in today.

Just in case you are like me and sometimes  don’t do the reading associated with the plan, I will copy/paste it here because it is so beautiful. (And it’s short… 🙂 )

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

One thing that I like about this reading plan is how the Psalms are read in context with the events that inspired them. (At least I think that is how it works!). I focus on verse 4. Sometimes things went swimmingly for David, other times not so much. But in every circumstance, he was comforted.

I did a little research into the rod and staff of a shepherd. I had always thought of the rod being more for discipline, but apparently the rod has many uses. The rod was used to mark, separate, guide, protect, and restrain as well as discipline. And we are all familiar with images of the shepherd using the staff to rescue his sheep. Then I take a moment to remember the times God rescued me, and I am grateful. Then I think about that “prodding”, which at times saved me from falling in the crevice to begin with, and again I am thankful.

Thank you, Lord, for being my  Good Shepherd.

suegraff

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Judges 7,8; Luke 13:23-35

Sobering words from Jesus today in Luke 35.

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

This story reminds me of those awkward moments when you start talking to someone you know but you can tell they have no idea who you are. You know them, and you think they know you, but they don’t. Will it be that way for me when I see Jesus face to face? I shudder to think….

I wish I could just explain this story away. Or cut it out of my Bible, like a few other stories. I mean, God is love, and compassion, and shows mercy. This just doesn’t seem to fit. Then sometimes I think of people I know or read about that profess to be Christians, but they say and/or do things that are so contradictory to Jesus’s teachings. I suppose many of these folks are examples of the people Jesus is talking about here.

Maybe I need to make sure, really make sure…  Do I truly know Jesus? More importantly, does He know me?

suegraff

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