Monday, May 20, 2019

Bible blog post Monday May 20th

What Do We Want From The Waits?  (1 Samuel 26:1-25  & John 11:1-45)

Waiting for the Lord is sometimes a difficult thing to do.  His time table and mine don't often line up.  Sometimes I find myself waiting till I am at a point where there no longer seems like a positive outcome will result.  The wait can feel frustrating and difficult.  In today's reading, both in the Old and New Testament, I see stories of waiting.  They each have different circumstances, different attitudes, different hopes, different waiting but the same God who works his same glory and goodness for the benefit of others is at work.

In the Old Testament we have David.  He has done nothing wrong except to be chosen by God to be the next King after Saul.  Because of this, King Saul is paranoid and obsessed with David and is constantly pursuing him trying to kill him.  In today's reading things are no different.  King Saul is after David with 3,000 of his best chosen men.  David could have cried out to the Lord and asked why this was happening.  Why such a long and difficult wait to become what God told him he would be, King?  But we don't read that.  We see an opportunity for David to take things into his own hands and to speed up the process.  An opportunity for David to end the waiting.  David finds his enemy, King Saul and all his men, in a deep sleep.  David could have killed Saul and then rightfully taken the throne as God had anointed him to replace Saul.  But despite the weariness he had to have felt in being wrongfully pursued, David tells his companion that it is not for him to decided the timing of God's plan.  It is not for him to choose when the wait will end.  It is not for him to end Saul's reign as King but it is up to God to work and decide the right and best time.  In doing so David's actions of restraint lead Saul to back off at that time.  David's kingship didn't arrive the next day and he wasn't free from the paranoid threat of Saul but he was free to live in the strength that is found in the hope, and trust of God's perfectly timed plan. 

In the New Testament we have Mary and Martha, sisters.  Their brother is sick and time is running out for him.  They call on the only one they know to help, Jesus.  He isn't far away and could arrive in plenty of time to reach his sick friend, Lazarus, and heal him.  But Jesus timing is not the same as that of Mary, Martha, or Lazarus.  Jesus waits.  He waits for 4 days until he knows that his friend has died and been buried, until it seems pointless, and then he say's, "Now it is time."  When Jesus arrives both sisters greet him in the same way, "If you had been here ( if your timing was faster) our brother would not have died."  They reprimanded the Lord for not having the same timing, the same urgency, as them.  What they failed to know was that Jesus had something much bigger planned than just healing their brother.  By letting Lazarus die Christ opened up a door of opportunity for others to see his glory at work, to see his power over death, and many of the Jews who had come to comfort the sisters put their faith in Christ because of his waiting.  Had Jesus rushed to heal Lazarus many people might not have put their faith in Him.  His timing was perfect for so many reason beyond just what the sisters had wanted.

So who am I most often like during the wait?  Am I like David who trusts the Lord's timing?  Like David during the wait, do I trust the Lord to be my strength and guide? Am I putting my trust and hope in the Lord's plan, to do what He sees and knows to be best?  Or am I more like Mary and Martha who want the Lord to work quicker?  Like the sisters during their wait, do I want the Lord to resolve things the way I think they should be and then feel defeated when things don't go my way and God then wants to show up?  Is my focus more on me, on my life, on my wants and desires than it is on God's glory, God's power, God's grace, God's mercy, God's love, I could keep going for hours here on what can be seen of God's goodness and character after the wait.  The truth is I often fail to live more like David.  I am not good at waiting while God works.  I am like the sisters and can forget that life isn't always about me and what I want and what is going to make my life easier or more pleasant.  Life, or my life, should be about living for God's glory, and all the other things I listed above, to be revealed.  It is often times about letting God's goodness and character be seen in and through my life and sometimes that happens after the wait. 

It comes down to trust in the Lord and a willingness to let my life and the waits be used by Him not just for my benefit but for the benefit of others, for others to possibly have a chance to come to faith.  It is a chance to put aside my wants in hopes that others might have a chance to see the goodness and character of God in ways they might not have seen otherwise.  I want the waits to have a greater purpose than just meeting my needs and wants.

Life is full of waits.  How will you choose to live in them?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 18: How Big is Our God?

1 Samuel 22:1-23:29

John 10:1-21

Psalm 115:1-18

Proverbs 15:18-19

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a Christian sister who was vehemently opposed to the current administration, and was convinced the president was an evil person.  She was afraid for the country.  I told her I was afraid for the country as well (both this, my adopted home, and my first home), but for very different reasons.  This led me to ask myself an old question: how big is my God?  

If I indulged a feeling of despair at everything happening today, it would be like saying God didn't exist, or He couldn't do anything.  That God would not be pretty small.  

So instead I used to pray that God change things to how I thought they should be.  Then I realized that if I had a better version of the world than God did, then that God would be pretty small too. 

What I find difficult is living the conclusion I am led to: that God has dominion over all situations.  That everything that happens, good or bad, He will have permitted.  The death of the 85 priests in today's OT reading, at the hands of a sinner-king God had already decided to remove?  The collapse of the fortunes of David, who went so very quickly from the insignificance of tending sheep to being the Lord's anointed and killing Goliath, only to fall right back down again, fleeing for his life and a rag-tag band of comrades?  Yes, even the suffering of His Son at the hands of Pilate?  As difficult as it is to accept, yes - all of this. God will have permitted.

What then is a big God?  The God who can take David's fall from grace, the murder of the priests, even the suffering and death of His only Son, and turn what we see as inexplicable tragedies into unimaginable victories.  

We don't know how He might do that.  And our understanding is no prerequisite, even less so our approval.  What's left to us is to choose: do we trust Him or not?  Do we trust Him when we  do not understand, when we cannot possibly imagine, how something might be good?  How big is our God?

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17

May 17, 2019

1 Samuel 20


Oprah Winfrey dedicated one of her TV shows to the struggles of widowers. She had 5 widowers talk about the loss of their wives and the importance of support groups for grieving people. Then as a show biz gimmick, they asked women to write in if they would want to go on a date with any of the men. What they didn't anticipate was that in one week they would receive 40,000 letters from interested women, children sending in photos of their moms, and whole classrooms championing their teachers.


My observation is first, that these men were popular because they were highly committed in their relationships and second, we live in an incredibly lonely world. The extent of loneliness in our society is epidemic today. Even though we are more connected than ever, we are lonelier than ever.


One of the reasons we are so lonely is because we don't know how to build friendships. There is no better example of friendship than Jonathan and David. It was an unlikely friendship because Jonathan was the heir to the throne. What made their friendship work was the ultimate friendship both men had with the living God. Without a first-hand knowledge of God, we won't have the strength to build friendships. Jesus said in John 7 that we have a thirst in our soul that only he can quench. From this satisfied heart, both men shared in common interests, made sacrifices for each other, encouraged one another, and did life together, opening up their hearts to the struggles they faced. As a result of their hard work in relationship building, they enjoyed one of life's greatest gifts- friendship.


"Multiplying leaders to change the world"

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday, May 16

THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2019

In concert with yesterday's reading, we discover today in John 8 several crucial truths about the nature of discipleship, the nature of the Son and the Father, and the conflicting kingdoms of God and the evil one.

This discourse begins with the Jewish leaders' question of "Who are you?"  Jesus explains that we may know Him in relation to His Father.  His obedience to the Father shone through His conduct, including His love and miraculous power, and His words, which were intentional and full of grace and truth.  The Jewish leaders, skeptical initially of Jesus, became enraged when He claimed this vital connection with His Father. In fact, Jesus draws out the point that:

"If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from god.  I have not come on my own; God sent me.  Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires.  He was a murdered from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for their is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!"

Jesus presents the striking distinction that there are conflicting truth claims coming from the evil one and from God Himself.  Jesus's submittedness to the Father's will guaranteed His truthful testimony, but those who chose to align against Him would not understand His teaching because of being caught up in the confusion of the devil's lies.  For this reason, as we seek to share spiritual truth with our family, friends, and neighbors, we seek God's wisdom and that God would open hearts out of His love and by the Spirit's power.  We can't expect spiritual breakthroughs in someone's life if the truth can't pierce through the veil of lies.

To close out Chapter 8, Jesus throws the Jewish leaders into a tizzy by suggesting that He had pre-existed Abraham!  While Jesus's statement rings true to us, the listeners that day must have been apoplectic.  How could this unsanctioned teacher make such a claim?  They doubled-down on their initial question of "Who are you?"—"Who do you think you are?"

From this dialogue and others, we understand that Jesus makes far-reaching claims of Who He is and the implications of these claims.  He promises freedom for those who follow His commands and embrace the truth.  And He underscores the conflicting world systems, led by God the Father and the father of lies.

We must ask ourselves each day:  Where will we stand?  Whom will we embrace as our Father?  Which way are you aligning today?

Lord God, thank You for the great revelation You share through this dialogue of Your Son with the Jewish leaders.  Help us to see where we fall short of embracing You as Father and where our minds are twisted by the lies of the evil one.  Make us into faithful disciples who are hungry to follow You.  Set us free by Your truth so that we may honor and glorify You.  In Jesus's mighty Name, amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 15

John 8:21-30

The relationship between Jesus on earth and his Father is a mysterious wonder.   We read about Jesus going off alone to pray but there was a communication between the Father and the Son that was totally invisible. The mysterious life of Jesus on earth is humbly gripping.  Jesus was totally in tune with his Father. The harmony between them is total and divine. In our reading today Jesus is trying to tell people that He is in fact one with the Father and was sent by Him to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with the world. He also refers to his crucifixion and resurrection when he tells them "when you have lifted up the Son of Man then you will know that I am He." What a vivid reminder that our salvation cost Jesus everything and this should open our hearts to realize the extend of His love for us. It is when we see Jesus lifted up on the cross that we realize who He is and why He lived. God, incarnate, came to rescue us and Jesus is trying to make his followers aware that only when he is lifted up on the Cross will they understand. The cross reveals God to us. Not to over simplify this but Jesus hanging on the cross is the ultimate answer to the question asked of Him, "Who are you?"  So what is our take away?  If we want to see how closely our daily life is aligned with Jesus's priorities, look at the cross and ask one question: "How do I spend my time?" If our hearts and our lives are tied to this world, can we really be seeking Christ? Prayer time is very precious to me. I have learned that our time in prayer is where we allow ourselves to soak in the mystery of the loving companionship of God.  Much like when Jesus went off to be alone with Abba, we too have been designed by God to be alone and soak in His presence, listen for His voice realize that we have been called to be a part of the mysterious wonder.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

2 Doughnuts

May 14, 2019

I Samuel 15-16, John 8:1-20, Psalms 110, Proverbs 16:8-10

Growing up my family didn't have a lot. We never needed for anything, but we also didn't have many luxuries. My mom stayed at home with my brother and I, and I remember there being right and frugal times (that I'm very thankful for.) I remember being in elementary school and on the way home we begged my mom for a doughnut (a luxury and treat) from Dunkin Doughnuts. She gave Lucas and I $2-$3 to buy ONE doughnut each. We were inside (as she waited in the car) and when we were getting ready to pay, the cashier informed me that we had enough to get 2 doughnuts each! Woo! Score! With out a second thought or doubt, I said YES! We returned to the car and I was very proud of the great deal we just got and we showed my mom our "victory" of the four treats. Her reaction was NOT what I expected. She was mad/frustrated/displeased with my decision. I didn't get it. She repeated to us that she told us just to get 1 doughnut each. I disobeyed... I took things into my own hands and did what I thought was best, and then showed it off to my mom. 

Granted this is a somewhat innocent thing for a 8/9 year old to do. We weren't punished or anything like that, but whenever I pass that Dunkin Doughnuts, I still remember that scene from my childhood. I never understood the problem until much later, and it may not even be why my mom reacted that way. Maybe she didn't want us to have all that sugar, or it was before dinner, or maybe all the above. 

Reading I Samuel 15 brought these memories back to me. Of course the scales are totally different, but what Samuel said to King Saul rang true to my doughnut-loving self. "What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams."  1 Samuel 15:22 

God calls on us to be obedient. That is all he wants. Saul took matters into his own hands and he totally justified all he did. He was making his kingdom richer, was going to bring great sacrifices to God, and spared a great ruler (much like himself). He thought he was doing well, but was in total disobedience to what God commanded. Samuel's words are like a hot on the head: Obedience is better than sacrifice, or things, acts, the extra stuff we may do. We just need to listen and obey. Saul's actions came with grave consequences- he was rejected as king by God. I don't know what could be worse. Because of Sauls decision to disobey (even if intentions were good,) the course of Israel's history was altered and a new King would soon replace him...David. 

The course of a nation was altered by a couple extra doughnuts being bought, but I will always remember that lesson- my decision, disobedience, and consequences, just knowing I didn't do the right thing. God calls us to obey his commands and trust in His sovereign plan. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bible blog post Monday May 13th

Wielding Our Weapon  (1 Samuel 14:1-23)

"Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few."  1 Samuel 14:6

Not only do I love this verse but I am thankful for it and the reminder it gives.  It was spoken by a man of faith in the face of adversity, in the face of a battle against an enemy who's goal was to capture and rule over him and his people.  That man was Jonathan son of the newly appointed King, Saul.  Jonathan and his fellow soldiers were outnumbered and out-armed.  Only he and his father had swords to wield against their enemy (1 Sam 13:19-22).  But what I love is that this young man didn't see a vast army who's soldiers were as numerous as the grains of sand (1 Sam 13:5).  He didn't see himself or those he loved, his people, as the underdog.  He didn't cower.  He didn't look at the odds and go home.  He didn't see his life or the life of those he cared about as hopeless.  No!  You know what he saw?  An opportunity.  It wasn't an opportunity for him to shine or to make a name for himself but an opportunity to see God work.  An opportunity for others to see God work.  An opportunity to wield his weapon.  An opportunity to have hope.  He knew his God was very, very big and that this enemy, although bigger than he, was no match for his God.  Jonathan knew that he was one of two who possessed a weapon to fight against the enemy.  He had a responsibility to use what he had in conjunction with his faith and he move forward into battle trusting that the Lord would fight and use him and his weapon however it was needed to bring the freedom and victory the people of Israel desperately needed.  Guess what?  God was not hindered.  God chose to save by using a few, two to be exact.  God defeated the enemy and when He did the Israelites who had fled in fear, who were living under the oppression of the enemy found freedom and victory.  Because of one man's initial courage, faith, and action God's might, grace, and love for his people were seen, were felt, were experienced and were able to save.

We could apply this story to our own lives.  To the struggles, the battles we find ourselves in.  We could be reminded that no issue we face can hinder the LORD, that nothing is too big for Him. If you need to look at it that way then do so.  But, today I would rather look at it by putting ourselves in the position of Jonathan.  We all have family, friends, people we love and care about who are not living for the Lord.  People who are living oppressed and in bondage to the enemy of God.  People who don't know, who have not experienced, the saving grace of God in their lives.  For those of us who do know, who have experienced God's grace and forgiveness we possess a weapon that we can use to help fight against an enemy who isn't keen on loosing anyone to the Lord.  We have the word of God, we have prayer, we have faith, we have hope.  We know that it is the LORD who saves and in faith we need to bring our weapons of the word and prayer to the fight and ask the Lord to save.  We need to ask the LORD how we can have an impact, a deep eternal spiritual impact in the lives of others.  We need to read the word, build our faith, have a hope and pray continually for those who aren't yet living in the freedom of Christ.  We need to be sure that we are living out, putting into action the faith and hope that came with our salvation.  It does no good to have a weapon that you don't put into action like Saul.  The battle may look impossible but with God nothing is impossible, nothing can hinder Him.  Let your light, your weapon, your faith be seen and pray, pray, pray.

Jonathan didn't go into battle alone.  Yes, he had the LORD but he also took a trusted companion.  He took his armor-bearer.  We too should be entering into the battle with others.  I encourage us all to find a friend, or two, and together faithfully lift up your weapons, your voice in prayer on behalf of those whom God has put on your heart.  Name them and pray for them continually.  Don't stop till either the enemy is defeated or you no longer have a breath within you.  Live out your faith together.  Put it into action as a team and let your hope in the unhindered God who saved you be a constant source of encouragement as you use your lives, your prayers, to fight against a seemingly impossible enemy that isn't even comparable to our big, big God.  Wield your weapons today, live out your faith, have hope and keep praying for those are yet to join you in the fight.