God’s Majority

Today’s readings: Genesis 18-19; Psalm 3; Luke 7

Scripture: I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. (Psalm 3:5-6)

Observation: This reminds me of the message my pastor gave last Sunday. My church is doing a series on the book God of the Underdogs and last week we discussed the story of Gideon, who defeated an entire army of Midianites with only 300 soldiers (Judges 7-8). The pastor said something that really resonated with me: You + God = A Majority. That’s the message sent by this psalm. When God is on your side, all things are possible.

Application: The first step in this is giving everything over to God. It is something that I need to work on in my life. I am a control freak, and the idea of giving significant life choices up to anyone, including God. The closest I have come to that is when my husband and I went into the summer with no plan. We graduated from college, moved back to campus for summer work, and let the cards fall where they may. My husband had three job interviews in three weeks- Wyoming, Texas, and New York. I couldn’t start job searching until we got an offer somewhere. By mid-June, we had packed up our lives and were moving to a town in New York that we had only seen twice and a house we had only been to once. It ended up working out fantastically so far, but we did not give credit where credit was due. We had “left it to chance.” There are some aspects that I am not ready to give up yet (like the fact that I can’t afford to give any children the type of life they deserve, and therefore will not be bringing any into the world at this time), but I am ready to take steps in giving God control.

Prayer: Dear God, I give you my life. I want You to do with me what You will, for Your will is perfect. I will not question Your path for me. I only ask that You use me as a positive force who shows people Your love. Please shine through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Golden Rule and Being A Good Friend

Today’s reading: Genesis 12-17; Luke 6

Scripture: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

Observation: This is Jesus’ big moment of calling out the Pharisees. They were the type of people who only associated with each other and avoided the “sinners” of the world. There was a lot of self-congratulation coming from their camp and not a lot of service for others. Jesus takes the opportunity from Luke 6:20-49 to basically go all Doctor Who on them. He calls them out on every one of their hypocrisies and tries to show them the right way to live. The Pharisees are so full of themselves that they do not listen to Him.

Application: I try to follow the Golden Rule in my life. As a teacher, I have to show children how to avoid conflicts and be good friends. My fuse is long, but sometimes I get frustrated with my kids. I don’t always show them the love that they deserve, especially after a long and tiring day. These kids do not always get much love from home. It’s my job and calling to show them this love and I need to find ways to show them how important they are, even if it has been a bad day. I will be making more of an effort to remain loving even when I am not feeling that way. I need to do unto them as I want them to do unto me.

Prayer: Dear God, shine Your light onto my group of children. Help me to be a better caregiver and to give them the love they need. Help me also show them that You love them even when times are tough. My children and their families need Your light in their lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Doctor Who and Jesus

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Today’s reading: Genesis 12-14; Luke 5

Scripture: But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)

Observation: I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek. I love many TV shows and movies that twist reality, but my absolute favorite is Doctor Who. The Doctor is meant to be a bit of a Messianic character- he comes in and helps those who cannot help themselves while mildly rebuking those in power. He tends not to use weapons if he can help it, but prefers to use logic and imagination to put the wrongdoers in their place. He has also sacrificed himself in order to save humanity from destruction (numerous times). In short, the Doctor is the savior that humanity needs, not the one we deserve.
Here comes my point.
Jesus is basically telling the Pharisees who He is. He has been trying to keep His identity fairly quiet, even asking a leper He healed not to tell anyone who did it. He knows that humanity is not ready to accept who He is, yet He is still helping people. He is telling the Pharisees, “Here I am! I’m here to help the people who need it!” But of course the Pharisees, being rather snobby, proceed to continue being self-righteous even though they are being told, literally to their faces, that they are not going to be saved until they can admit that they are sinners. Jesus did not come for those who wanted Him- just because the Pharisees wanted the prophecy to be fulfilled, doesn’t mean He was doing it for them. He came for those who needed (and still need!) Him, even the people who did not know it yet. The self-righteous cannot be true Christians, because they don’t need Jesus. They have themselves, and they think that they are enough. It is the rest of us, who know that we are not enough, that truly need Jesus.

Application: I need to humble myself more. I currently go through phases where I am either Awesome! and The Best At Everything! or I become depressed and feel that I am not good enough, so why even bother. By accepting that I am not enough alone, and accepting that I need Jesus to help give me that push to be better than I am, I can reach a more balanced mental state and be able to serve God better.

Prayer: Dear God, I humble myself before you today. I am a sinner. Although I am a sinner, You have blessed me so much. I see Your grace working in my life. Please work Your will through me so I may a light for others and give the glory to You. For so many in this world need Your light. Please let it shine through me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Image from: http://showandtellforyou.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/snack-time-doctor-who-jeremiah-2911-2/

Why am I doing a Bible study? And daily reading- Accepting the Prophet

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about Bible studies. It started before I found my church and before I started my job. I decided one night that I was going to read the Bible, but I didn’t really know where to start. How does one go about reading the Bible? From the beginning straight through, with no jumping ahead? How do I keep track of what I’m feeling and learning through this process? How do I measure my growth?

It started with a plan and a journal. I was reading from three books per day according to my original plan- Genesis, Psalms, and the second half of Luke. I tried keeping track of what I was reading and how I was understanding it in a regular notebook. After the first two days, reading became a chore instead of something that I was looking forward to. So I stopped. I got too far behind to want to catch up. I felt like I had failed.

Fast forward two months. I have been going to church for about a month and have decided to accept God’s love and open a place in my life for Him. Now I look forward to reading every day for a couple of reasons. I’m not trying to read too much at once, which was a huge challenge. I am holding myself accountable by posting to a blog instead of keeping a private notebook. And now I feel like I have a community to share with. Even if no one ever comments on here, I feel like I am sharing my journey with anyone who wants to find it. I’m looking forward to sharing how God works in my life as I grow and develop my faith!

And now, a reading!

Today’s reading: Genesis 9-11; Luke 4

Scripture: “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)

Observation: Jesus reads at the temple of his youth from the scrolls of Isaiah that prophesy His coming. He tells the people assembled that He is the person who was promised them. When He tells them that He will not “heal” them, they grow angry and attempt to throw Him off a cliff. This resonated with me because I have never really believed in God before, even with testimony from my own in-laws. It took moving 300 miles away for me to see His glory and how he works in my life. Obviously I’m not trying to say that my in-laws are prophets, but I think the point still stands. Sometimes it takes distance to see the truth.

Application: I need to open my heart and mind to hearing the Word of God from anybody, even if they are close to me. Especially if they’re close to me. People who are close to me know better than almost anyone what I need. I need to be willing to let them guide me.

Prayer: Dear God, please help me hear Your Word from all sides. I want to be closer to You, and I need to remember to listen to the words of people from close to me. Thank You for all the blessings You have put in my life, even as I did not deserve them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Following Jesus- The Baptism Step

Today’s reading: Genesis 6-8; Luke 3

Scripture: When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

Observation: This is the first time that people learn who Jesus really is. Prior to this moment, Jesus was an average 30 year old man. He was likely a carpenter as His earthly father was, literally an average Joe in the world. The moment that the Holy Spirit comes to Jesus, however, He is set apart from everyone else. The Spirit marks Him, and only Him, as God’s son. It makes me think of 2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” When Jesus makes the decision to be baptized, He becomes new. He is now the Messiah. What if Jesus had not been baptized? What if He had chosen instead to go drinking with his friends that day? Jesus chose to fulfill His destiny- and we must too.

Application: The choices that we make impact how we are viewed by the world. In order to be the best Christian that I can, I need to get baptized and receive His mark upon me. Although I was christened as an infant, I need to make the choice to receive the Holy Spirit as an adult. Like Jesus, I need to publicly accept God’s love.

Prayer: Dear God, please guide me as I go through the baptism process. Help me see Your timing. You alone know when it is right and good for me to take this step. Lead me through the darkness, God, so that I may come out the other side and see Your light. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Being Like Mary- Unafraid of the Future

Today’s readings- Genesis 3-4; Luke 2

Scripture: Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

Observation: Again I find myself drawn to Mary. She is the quintessential new mother- trying to get everything done for her child to give him the best start in God. So, when she and Joseph go to the temple on the eighth day after his birth, she isn’t expecting anything unusual. But Simeon, who cannot die until he sees the Messiah, changes her day and her life again. She receives more confirmation (as if the circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth were not enough!) that her son will change the world forever. What we wouldn’t give to get even this small glimpse into our own destinies! I think it is important to note that the prophesy about Mary’s own life, that “a sword will pierce [her] own soul too” does not seem to sway her. She takes it in stride, knowing that heartache happens to everyone, and relishes her life.

Application: All of us have a sword that will pierce our souls at one point or another. It is just a part of being human; we don’t need our own Simeon to tell us that this will happen. The idea that I am taking away from this Scripture today is that I need to stop worrying about when it will happen. Simeon came and flat-out told Mary that she was going to suffer one day! What did Mary do? Did she stop and cry in the temple? Did she worry constantly, to the point where she couldn’t raise her son? No! She trusted in God and kept on living. Mary is proof that worrying about the next crisis is pointless. Trust in God and rejoice in your life, and He will guide you through the crises as they come.

Prayer: Father, please help me to trust in You in all things. Worrying about myself is pointless, God, but I do it anyway. Help me to have faith in Your plan, even the painful parts. I have doubted You in times of past trouble and beg Your forgiveness and strength now. Use me as You will, even when that path involves pain like a sword in my soul. In your Son’s name I pray. Amen.

Being Like Mary- Accepting God’s Plan For My Life

Today’s readings- Genesis 1-2; Luke 1

Scripture: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38, NIV)

Observation: Luke was a great book to start with for this reading cycle. It was my favorite of all of the Gospels as a child and I enjoy coming back to it. I believe that by throwing this verse to me on my first reading day, God is telling me that I really do need to let go and follow Him. Although Mary was afraid to meet Gabriel, she trusted God’s plan for her life and did not question it much. God is telling me that I need to be like Mary: trust in Him and His plan for me without question.

Application: I will trust where God has put me in life. I have tried to start doing this already with regards to my work. You see, I trained to be a preschool teacher through college. I NEVER wanted to work with elementary school age kids. What did God do with that knowledge about me and my goals? He placed me in a career where I work exclusively with children in kindergarten and above- NOT what I wanted to do. But you know what? THAT is where I was meant to be. It has only been a month, but these children and their families have challenged me and touched my life in ways that I could never have dreamed of. I know that I was given the job that I have for a reason. God showed me that His plans are so much bigger than my own plans for myself were, and for that I am grateful. I will work hard to trust God’s future plans for me and to know that He only does what fits best into his plans for my life.

Prayer: Oh God, help me to find peace in your plans for me. Your plans for me are bigger and greater than anything I could dream for myself, but they look strange and unexpected to my eyes. Help me see the path that is laid before me so that I can better love You and serve in the way that You want me to.