Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lord You are Holy! - June 30th, 2011

“No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2

History and Context:
This is the song of Hannah after her son Samuel was born. Hannah was barren and is first seen weeping before God, asking for a son. She promises God that if He gives her a son she will give him back to serve God all his life. Then God gives her Samuel, who becomes the last, and one of the greatest, judge of Israel. He is also the one who God used to anoint the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. This scripture comes out of Hannah's song of praise to God after He gave her Samuel.

The Text:
The text says simpy that God is holy, and that there is no one like Him. What is holy? Holy means to be set apart. It means you are set apart from something, and it implies that yo are set apart for something. God has set Himself apart from the world and from all false Gods. He is holy! He is holy because there is none like Him, because He has set Himself apart. But why has He set Himself apart? Partially, He did it for us! He set Himself apart for us. So that we could see Him, so that we could find Him, and so that we could see what it means to be Holy. Jesus told us that we should be holy just as our Father in heaven is holy!

The Challenge:
The challenge is to see His example and to follow it. Who are we supposed to be set apart from? We should be set apart from this world. Jesus said we are in this world but we are not of this world. So set yourself apart from the ways and the thought processes of this world and preserve yourself for God. Be holy even as your father in heaven is holy!

The Prayer:
Lord, you are holy! You are the holiest of holies! Help me to walk in that same holiness. Help me to set myself apart for you. Help me to find your thoughts and your actions, and to not follow the thoughts and actions of the world. You are holy Lord! In Jesus name, Amen!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trust in His Power! - June 29th, 2011

“For You are my lamp, O LORD;
The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
 For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
2 Samuel 22:29-31

History and Context:
This is a psalm written by King David of Israel. It is included in the book of 2 Samuel, in the account of David's life, directly after one of David's many victories. This particular victory was over the 'giants of the Philistines' (2 Samuel 21:15-22). As noted in a previous post, David wrote many of the psalms. He was a great psalmist, musician, and worshipper of the Almighty. This particular psalm comes towards the end of the account of David's life, showing that through all his victories he continued in humility and understanding that it was God who gave him victory.

The Text:
"For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall." This verse really stuck out to me as I read this passage. It shows the understanding that David had of God's power, and God's power working in him. Of course at this point David had many events to reference when looking back on his life, but this was an understanding he showed early on in life. Read this passage from early in David's life: 

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 
1 Samuel 17:45-47

This comes from the popular chapter in which David confronts Goliath. So we see this confidence in the Lord, and in His power, went all the way through David's life, from the beginning to the end. The interesting thing to note about the first passage in 2 Samuel 22 is that it came after David's horrible sins. David knew, and trusted in, God's forgiveness enough to know that God's power would be with him in the same way it was with him in his youth.

The Challenge:
Trust in God's power! Trust in His faithfulness! Learn from the life of David. David always knew that the Lord would come through. One thing to not is that David continually sought God for what step to take next. So if you are in a place where you don't know where to go, seek God. But when He answers trust Him to provide all that you need. With Him you can go against an entire army alone! With Hime you can leap over the tallest wall! Or as Jesus put it, with Him, and faith in Him, you can move mountains! Trust in Him, and in His power in you. He is living in you, so to say "I can't" is to say "He can't". Stop speaking doubt and start trusting in the one who lives in you!

The Prayer:
Lord, I trust in you! I trust in your power within me. Forgive me for any time that I have limited you in my own self-doubt. I trust in you and I know I can do all things with you! Lead me in which way I will go and I will not let doubt hold me back! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Faith Pleases God! - June 28th, 2011

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:5-6

History and Context:
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is still unknown. Many early scholars attributed it to Paul, but modern scholars are mostly in agreement that it was not him. There are many theories ranging from Barnabas, to Apollos, to Priscilla. The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Jews and Christians to persevere in the face of persecution, butit is also known for it's unique perspective on the person of Christ.

The Text:
Hebrews chapter eleven is known as the "Hall of Faith" because it goes through the old testament, naming all of the great men and women who lived and followed God by faith. This particular mentions how Enoch was taken by God because he had "pleased God". The author then notes that it is only through faith that we can please God. In order to please God we need to have faith in the fact that He exists and have faith in that He rewards us when we seek Him. The main point that hits me in this passage is that it is through living by faith that we please Him.

The Challenge:
The challenge is to live by faith! So often we come to God and continue on in our own comforts and pleasures. It seems rare to find a Christian who is truly living by faith. Most hate their jobs, have given up on their dreams, and live simply for their time off. Why? Because they are unwilling to take the step of faith. Take a step of faith today! It might be a little one, it might be a large one, but take a step that requires faith and trust in God. God will be pleased!

The Prayer:
Lord, I want to please you! I want to follow you. I want to live by faith. Help me to do that! Help me to step out in faith and trust that you will take care of me. Lead me as to which step to take. I love you! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where is Your Fire? - June 27th, 2011

O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded;
You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
I am in derision daily;
Everyone mocks me.
For when I spoke, I cried out;
I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”
Because the word of the LORD was made to me
A reproach and a derision daily.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.
Jeremiah 20:7-9

History and Context:
Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. His ministry was to the soutrhern kingdom of Judah, after the northern kingdom was already destroyed by Assyria. Though his ministry began before Babylon came on the scene, the majority of the prophecies which we have today, were given between the first and second attack on Jerusalem by Babylon. Jeremiah remained faithful to the truth though no one would listen to him. He was beaten, thrown in jail, mocked, and ridiculed but he continued preaching the words that God gave him to preach with no exception. Chapter 20 begins with Jeremiah being, once again, beaten and imprisoned, this time by Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because in the midst of these attacks and persecutions, he not only remained faithful to the Lord, but he continued to lament and weep for the salvation of the very people persecuting him. Starting in verse seven of chapter 20 we see Jeremiah begin to break down in his cries to the Lord, but this break down is only temporary as we see him in the rest of the book continuing to stay faithful to the calling God has placed on him.

The Text:
The chosen text shows a brutal honesty from Jeremiah to the Lord. He cries out against the injustices that are coming against him, and later he even cries out for judgement on the people. He tells the Lord that if it was up to him, he would've already quit, but he couldn't. He couldn't because the words of the Lord were "in [his] heart like a burning fire shut up in [his] bones". This has always been amazing for me to see, because today it seems that the slightest lack of popularity or rejection will discourage us from speaking the truth of God's Word. Jeremiah recieved ten times more than any of us Christians in the western world, yet he found that he could not stop even when he wanted to.

The Challenge:
We need people who are willing to stand up like Jeremiah, against all criticism and persecution, and declare the truth in love. We need people who have the Word like "fire shut up in [their] bones". We need people who are weary of holding the truth in. We have been holding it in for too long, it's time to let it out. It's time to speak out. It's time to step out into the calling that God has for us. The challenge for today? Ask God to give you a fire like Jeremiah! This is probably one of the most difficult challenges I have given so far, so please don't take it lightly. Jesus promised that if we ask, it will be given to us. So only ask if you are willing to take on the burden that comes with. If you are willing, pray the following prayer with me.

The Prayer:
Lord, fill me with fire! Put your word in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones, so that, like Jeremiah, I can not hold it in. Fill my heart with passion. With passion for you and for your plan. With passion for your Word. Baptize, immerse me in the fire of the Holy Spirit! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love your Enemies - June 26th, 2011

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
Matthew 5:43-48

History and Context:
This is Jesus speaking in what has become known as the "Sermon on the Mount". Though this sermon is brought together in Matthew, in chapters 5-7, the other Gospels have the same teachings spread out. Scholars believe that Matthew used a stylistic approach, in which he brought together all the most powerful, and most popular teachings of Jesus into one section of his Gospel. This is towards the beginning of that section. Matthew was writing to the Jews who many of them may have heard the teachings in person.

The Text:
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus declares that He has "not come to destroy [the Law] but to fulfill." (v. 17)Then He proceeds to explain how He is fulfilling the Law. In this case the law simply said "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) But Jesus tells us that loving our neighbors is not enough, we must love our enemies as well. We must pray for those who persecute us and bless those who curse us. This is a hard saying to follow!

The Challenge:
The challenge is obvious. Do you know someone who just gets on your nerves? Or maybe someone who is going out of their way to hurt you? Well Jesus said to love them. If they are going out of their way to hurt you, then find a way to go out of your way to love them. Give them gifts, smile at them, open the door for them, but most of all pray for them. Ask God to bless them. It is difficult, but the scripture says that this is how we will be perfect like our Father in heaven.

The Prayer:
Lord, I do want to be like you. And in orderto be like you  I know that I must learn to love my enemies. Help me to find creative ways to reach out to and love those people who seem to be set against me. Help me to love them with your love and to see them with your eyes. In Jesus name, Amen!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dwell in the Lord's House! - June 25th, 2011

LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;

Psalm 15:1-2

History and Context:
This is another psalm of David, the greatest king in Israel's history. We see throughout the psalms how much of a personal relationship David had with the almighty God. He was by no means perfect, but he had a heart after God and God in turn names him a "man after my own heart". This psalm continues with qualities of a righteous man, a man who dwells with God.

The Text:
Who can dwell with God? Jesus said that if we 'abide in Him and He abides in us' then our "fruit shall remain" (John 15), so this is an important question for us as Christians. How do we abide in God? David answers this question with three requirements:
1) We must walk uprightly.
Our path, where we are going, needs to be in line with where God wants us to be. This is concerning the 'big picture' of our lives. Are we pursuing our calling that God has given us? Are we walking in the direction He wants us to? This is to walk uprightly.
2) We must work righteousness.
This is concerning our day to day actions. Our we taking the opportunities in our daily lives to 'work righteousness'. Our we showing God's love to those around us? Are we helping the poor, healing the sick, and giving hope to the hopeless? This is to work righteousness.
3) We must speak the truth.
What is our mouth saying? The Bible constantly talks about the power of our words. Are we speaking truth or lies? Are we gossiping? Are we dishonest for personal gain? Do we back away from truth and morality because of fear of man? To dwell with God we must learn to speak the truth!

The Challenge:
Again our study has left us with multiple challenges. Which one of these three areas do you need to work on? Start at the beginning, Do you know your calling? Do you know what God has specifically for you? If you don't know then how can you be sure to follow it? Seek God for the overall plan for your life. What are you supposed to be doing right now? Then after you have put your general direction on course with God's plan, start looking at your day to day life. When was the last time you went out of your way to work righteousness in the life of an individual? Do you find yourself gossiping or backing down from the truth? Focus on the area of greatest weakness and strengthen that area.

The Prayer:
Lord, I pray for your guidance in my life. Show me my purpose for being here. Show me how I can reach out to those around me in righteousness. Give me boldness to stand up for truth. I love you Lord and I want to dwell in your presence! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trust in the Lord! - June 24th, 2011

As for me, I will call upon God,
And the LORD shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me.
Psalm 55:16-18

History and Context:
Psalm 55 is a psalm of supplication from King David to God. We do not know the exact situation surrounding him at the time in which he wrote this, but it is clear that it was one of the many times in which David was facing enemies with seemingly insurmountable odds. What did David do? He sought God for help. Constantly David found himself in these situations, and he constantly sought God, and God constantly rescued him. Of course the first, and most famous, of these situations was when he fought and killed Goliath.

The Text:
In this particular passage David shows the confidence he had that God would help him. "And the LORD shall save me." He is certain of safety in the Lord. He is certain, partially, because God had came through in his life so often before. David knew that if God did it all of those times in the past, then God would do it again. He also says that he continues to call on the Lord at all times of the day. This shows that he doesn't only call on God when he is in trouble. There is a confidence there because he knows he has a relationship with God beyond his troubles.

The Challenge:
Be encouraged! Trust in the Lord! Learn from David's example. Sometimes it may seem that people are against you on all sides, but God is for you! If "God is for you then who can be against you"? If you are in trouble call on Him. You don't have to solve it on your own, just call on Him, ask for His help, and He will come through.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me! Help me with the troubles in my life. I don't want to do it on my own anymore, help me. I know that you will come through for me whenever I call on you. So I call on you Lord. Thank you for always being there for me! I love you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rich Towards Man or God? - June 23rd, 2011

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:16-21

History and Context:
Of the four Gospel writers, Luke is believed to be the only not to have personally been with Jesus. Matthew and John were of course members of the twelve, and Mark was believed to have been a young boy that spent time with Jesus, but Luke is nowhere to be seen in the ministry of Christ. Luke was also the only one of the four who wa not a Jew, He was a Greco-Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch. So what makes him qualified to write a book (actually two) in the New Testament? As seen in the book of Acts (also written by Luke) he travelled extensively with the Apostles. He was a physician and meticulously took down the details of the life of Christ and studied the works which were already written (probably including Mark and Matthew) then put it together for a very detailed account of the ministry of Christ. Many theologians regard Luke as a true historian.

The Text:
As noted in the first sentence, this was a parable spoken by Jesus. It was in response to someone in the crowd asking Jesus to, "... tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus responded by saying that our lives do not simply consist of what we own and told this parable as an example of what he was meaning. This parable shows the absurdity of trusting in earth's riches because when we die, they will not come with us. So many people spend their entire life building "bigger storehouses" then they leave this life and all they were known for was rich, or a savvy businessman, but what true difference did they make? What use was their riches? Jesus never shares with us what the man should have done, He simply goes on to share with us that we do not need to worry about our clothing and our food, because God will provide it. When we look at the whole message of Jesus, and of the Bible, the point seems to be that this man was trusting in the riches that he had, and was basking in the comfort of them, but God would have rather him use them for the good of others. Our decisions should not be based on comfort or safety, but on the good of all men. Our trust should not be in riches, but in God. We should not lay up treasure for ourselves, but make ourselves rich in God.

The Challenge:
What have you been desiring to do, but comfort has kept you from doing it? What has God been leading you to, but a worry about your future has held you back? Have you been trusting God or your job? Have you let worry about the economy, or the job market, keep you from God's will in your life? Some of you reading this have immediately thought of one thing that you have put off for one of these reasons. Your challenge is to stop putting it off, take that step of faith, walk out onto the water, even if you sink Jesus has promised to pull you up and continue to walk with you! Others of you may not immediately think of something, so just take this in prayer, ask God if there is anything you should be doing but are not. Keep this in mind next time God leads you to do something that involves risk. Remember, "(...) without faith it is impossible to please [God] (...)" (Hebrews 11:6)

The Prayer:
Lord, you are my provider, my sustenance. You are the one that I trust. Help me to follow you in everything, no matter the risk! I trust you to provide what I need and I will take that step of faith. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who Has Control? - June 22nd, 2011

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11

History and Context:
1 Peter 1:1 says, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia". From this we get the author of the letter, Peter, and the recipients of the letter, those dispersed among the five provinces of Asia minor. The author doesn't specifically say whether he is speaking to the jews in those areas or the Gentiles. Peter was a man known for his passion and not always for his control. He was one of the inner three of Jesus' disciples. One of three to experience the transfiguration (Matthew 17), and one of three to be brought further in the Garden of Gethsemene (Matthew 26:37).

The Text:
This passage is the conclusion of Peter's first letter included in the Bible. They are his final words and he begins by saying, 'be humble, cast all your worries on the Lord'. To be humble means to understand that we cannot control everything. When we are constantly worrying about things, we are trying to control everything on our own. Peter says to show our humility by recognizing that everything is under God's control, and letting go of everything we worry about. But, even though we are to let go of our cares, we must still be vigilant! Peter is showing us a balance that we need to have in our lives. On one side, we need to understand that God is ultimately in control and allow Him to take our cares and worries, but on the other hand we cannot go through life with the attitude of "God will take care of it, so I don't have to do anything." We need to be watchful, we need to keep an eye out for the temptation and trials which will come.

The Challenge:
There are two challenges in this verse, but I believe that, for us today, the first one is the one God is giving us. Be humble! But not just that, humble your self in HIS hand. As noted before, this means that we understand that we are not in control. Stop trying to be in control, and let Him take control. As I am writing this God is speaking to me. There are many areas in my life in which I have been trying to take control. Of course these very areas are the ones that are causing me worry, stress, and even confusion and I simply need to let them go. It is not about me and it is not about you. It is about Him! Let Him take control! Your life will be better for it.

The Prayer:
Lord, take complete control of my life!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

God's Plan for You in the World - June 21st, 2011

 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD,
      They shall call you the servants of our God.
      You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
      And in their glory you shall boast.
    Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
      And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
      Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
      Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
Isaiah 61:6-7

History and Context:
Isaiah is the prophet most quoted by Jesus and by the New Testament authors. There are many Messianic prophecies throughout Isaiah, but the real purpose of the book was to admonish the kings of Judah to rely on the protection of God. That being said, the first verse of this chapter happens to be one of the most well known verses which Jesus quoted from Isaiah. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor..." The book of Isaiah is split into two parts; the first 39 chapters are prophesying destruction as a result of the sins of Judah, whereas the final 27 chapters (including chapter 61) prophesy restoration to the nation. In this we see that God is always looking restore His people even as the results of their sin are on their way.

The Text:
These verses were written originally to the people of Judah when destruction was inevitable. Isaiah was saying, "The Lord has anointed me to preach good news so here it is; God will restore you!" Not only did God want to restore them, but He wanted to restore them with double honor! He said that even the riches of the Gentiles will provide you with food. This prophecy was fulfilled for the people of Israel and Judah by Cyrus of Persia, who sent the Jews back to rebuild Jerusalem (see Ezra and Nehemiah). Though this was fulfilled through Cyrus, the fact that Jesus quoted it shows it has meaning beyond what was originally thought by the prophet. Jesus steps in and says, "Now I am the one who is anointed to preach good news to the poor." Then He transfers that anointing on to us.

The Challenge:
Take your place as a priest of the Lord! What did a priest do? A priest was the person who contacted God for the people. A priest was the one who could actually approach the presence of God. That is supposed to be you! Over and over again, throughout the Bible, we see God attempting to demolish the caste system of ancient times, including the position of priests, but the people continually tried to return to it. Even now we have reestablished the position of priest (I am not talking about priests in Catholicism). We have decided that it is a certain group of people, specially called by God, who are allowed to go into the presence of God and contact Him for the people. We, as protestants, simply call these people pastors instead of priests. Yet God called each one of us to be priests, to be representatives of God to the people around us. So the challenge to you today is; Take your place as a priest of the Lord!

The Prayer:
Lord, show me how to represent you to the people around me. show me what it means to be your priest. Show me how to better come into your presence. I want to take my place, the place you have called me to be in. Help me Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Awe-inspiring God! - June 20th, 2011

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
   God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
   having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
   the roaring of their waves,
   and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
   where morning dawns, where evening fades,
   you call forth songs of joy. 
Psalm 65:5-8 (NIV)

History and Context:
This Psalm, as so many were, was a psalm of David. Though David was clearly by no means perfect, he was considered 'a man after God's own heart'. While the Bible does not give a direct explanation as to how he was 'after God's own heart'., the Bible does make clear that he had a heart for worship. He was constantly in awe at the Lord's creation, and the works of His hands. Though many psalms were entreaties for God to help in a time of need, this Psalm is simply a psalm of praise. It declares the awesomeness of God and His worthiness to be praised.

The Text:
The Psalmist is simply marveling at the greatness of God and His power. He formed the mountains and controls the mighty waves of the sea. God is powerful, strong, He is awesome. Not simply awesome in today's slang, but the true meaning of awesome. He inspires awe in us when we see Him at work and this psalm, this song, is simply an expression of that awe by a 'man after His own heart'.

The Challenge:
Yesterday we discussed one aspect of the character of God; He is our Father, our daddy. It was a look at the intimate side of God, a very important side of God. Today, the challenge for us is to look at and recognize another part of God's character; He is awesome! The challenge is for us to do exactly what David is doing in this psalm; let us marvel at His greatness, let us praise Him for His power and His strength. For me this challenge leads me to copy this psalm down and put it in my pocket. Then I will continually, throughout the day, pull it out and read it over again. For you maybe there is a modern praise song that really speaks to you about the awesomeness of God, or maybe there's another psalm that speaks to you even more. Maybe God will lead to take an extra long walk through nature to marvel at His creation. However God leads you to do it today, take in His awesomeness, His power, His strength!

The Prayer:
Lord, you are truly awesome! Help me to understand that to a fuller degree today. Show me, to another extent, how amazing your creation is. Show me your power, and your strength! In Jesus' name, Amen!

*Note: There is a great blog about some of God's amazing creatures (though I am not sure the author sees them as God's). Here it is: Real Monstrosities. Just in case you are looking for more inspiration.*

Sunday, June 19, 2011

You are God's Child - June 19th, 2011

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtorsnot to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."   Romans 8:12-17

History and Context:
We have already discussed the history of the Epistle to the Romans in the posts Spirit vs. Flesh and Finding the Mind of Christ. This passage of scripture comes directly after the discussion that we had in Spirit vs. Flesh. Paul describes the conflict which we all have between our spirit, which is redeemed, and our flesh which is not. Then he brings in the solution, that if we walk by the Spirit, there is no condemnation! That solution then leads him to Romans 8:12-17 above.

The Text:
There are a couple of things I want to point out in this text. First of all it is begun by the continuing the discussion on the battle between our spirit and flesh. He says that those who are led by the spirit of God are the ones called sons, or children, of God. Secondly, let's look at the words "Abba, Father". Abba is an Aramaic word which the translators could not find a nequivalent in English. It expresses more than the English word father. It is actually describes a very close relationship. This is conveys an intimacy that can only be had between a parent and a child. This is the kind of relationship God wants with us. Thirdly, the passage conveys the idea of adoption. This was a huge honor in the Roman culture, because adoption meant you were chosen, hand picked, to be that persons child. God has chosen you! He wants you as his child! Which this desire then brings us to be heirs of God.

The Challenge:
The challenge this father's day is simple. While you are taking time to honor your earthly father meditate on this fact: God chose you to be His child! How amazing is that! You are the child of God, you are His heir, and He chose you to be His! Simply meditate on that and what that means. Then find some way to honor him today, because He is also your father.

The Prayer:
Lord, on this father's day let me honr you as well as my earthly father. Teach me what it means to be your child and your heir. Thank you so much for choosing me, for picking me to be your child! I love you Father! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

God shall provide - June 18th, 2011

For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 4:16-20

History and Context:
As noted in my post Stand Fast in the Lord, the church in Phillipi was one of the first churches in Europe. This means these are some of the first believers in what we now know as the "Western World". He visited them around 49-50 AD and then at least two more times after that in 56 and 57 AD. One of the first Christians in Phillipi was the jailer who was assigned to guard Paul and Silas (and the other prisoners) when they were thrown in prison. God used an earthquake to set them free and to convince this jailer of His reality. (Acts 16:25-34) This letter was written in response to the church sending Epaphroditus to Paul to help him in his time of need. This is the end of the letter to the church in Philippi.

The Text:
Philippians 4:19 is a very popularly quoted verse, but to truly understand it, it is important to look at the surrounding verses. The church in Philippi helped Paul at least two different times. They sent him aid in Thessalonica and then again here they sent him help through Epaphroditus. They were a generous church! In response to their generosity, Paul says, the famous scripture, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Now this scripture is amazing because he does not only say that God will supply all their needs. He say God will do accordig to God's own riches in glory! How rich is God? that is beyond comprehension. Paul is not saying that God will provide just barely enough to survive; he is saying God is going to provided in abundance, in His riches. But then we see the next verse, "Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." This must be our attitude when we recieve something from God. To Him be the glory!

The Challenge:
As usual, the challenge depends on where you are at, but it is simple either way. If you are not already in a state of generosity, start being generous. Find a missionary to support (preferably one in which you can be confident he is working for the Lord), start giving to your local church, next time you're at dinner with someone pick up the check. There are so many ways to be generous. But first and foremost, be generous towards the Gospel and towards the poor and needy.

If you are already in a place of being generous then the challenge is even simpler. Relax! Stop stressing over your needs. God's promise is that He will provide. Of course always be listening  in case he wants you to do something differently, but overall put it in His hands and He will be faithful every time!. I have seen it over and over again in my life.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to identify the ways in which you want me to be generous. Free my hands from my money and help me to support the people who are continuing your work. Also help me to reach out to the poor and needy. Then let me relax and understand that you are taking care of all my needs and that you are always faithful. Thank you Lord! In Jesus name, Amen!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Finding the Mind of Christ - June 17th, 2011

 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2

History and Context:
As I wrote in yesterdays post, Spirit vs. Flesh, Romans was written to the church of Rome, which was made up of both Gentile and Jewish Christians. The Gentiles and the Jews fought a lot about what it was to be saved and who was better in he eyes of God. Romans 11 takes this argument head on and shows that Israel was rejected because of their disobedience, but they can return, and God wants them to return. Then in verse 33 he brings the discussion to a close with this statement: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" He then leads into our chosen scripture with a thought of "who can know the mind of Christ?"

The Text:
This scripture has been used in a lot of ways in various sermons. It is an important scripture because it shows us how to keep our minds and our bodies in check. As we discussed yesterday, the spirit you is good, but you do contain two other parts in your being, a soul and a body. This passage discusses those two parts. Specifically, when we look at context, it is discussing how we can have the mind of Christ.

The first step is to sacrifice our physical desire. If we are continually giving in to our physical desires like hunger, thirst, sleep, sex, etc. we will bcome numb to the things of the spirit. This does not mean that we have to become a monk, cutting off all physical pleasure, but there is such things as gluttony, slothfulness, and lust. These are all sins in which we overindulge in one of our earthly desires and we need to instead sacrifice them. This means we don't let them control us and we don't find emotional fulfillment in these things.

The second step towards having a mind of Christ deals directly with our mind. Paul writes that we need to renew our mind. Rather than being conformed to the world we should be transformed and this is how. Renewing our mind, beginning to think like Him rather than thinking like the world and society around us. This comes through feeding our thoughts constantly with the Word and things that line up with the Word. We must be careful about the music we listen to, movies we watch, people we are constantly around, etc. What are you feeding your mind?

The Challenge:
First of all, you must assess yourself as to which step you are on. Renewing your mind will not work if you are still overindulging yourself in your physical desires. For the first step the challenge is for you to sacrifice whichever desire is most difficult for you. If you find yourself constantly eating, take a day to fast, if you find yourself always sleeping, make it a point to get up early in order to pray, etc. For the second step, again you have to assess where you are at. Maybe you need to cut out secular music for a while, maybe you need to be more strict about the movies you watch, or maybe you should just focus on being more conscious about when you read the Word. There are so many ways to apply this scripture and it is up to you to decide where you need the challenge.

The Prayer:
Lord, show me where I am overindulging myself and where I need to sacrifice a desire. Help me to have a mind like you do. Help me to understand what you think. Help me to think like you and not like the world. I love you Lord! In Jesus Name, Amen!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spirit vs. Flesh - June 16th, 2011

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 7:21-25

History and Context: 
The book of Romans was of course written by Paul to the church in Rome, probably around 55 - 57 AD. The history and beginnings of the church in Rome is not fully known. Most scholars believe that they established themselves without the help of any Apostle and without seeing any signs or miracles. There was a strong mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome at this time and they seem to have gotten in many arguments. The Jewish Christians wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and to follow the law to the letter, whereas the Gentile Christians attempted to say that they were better and that the Jews were rejected as God's people. Paul addresses both of these issues in his letter.

The Text:
Because Paul is addressing two opposite opinions, parts of Romans can be a bit confusing at times. Here Paul is addressing the fight within us to either do good or evil. He talks about two laws, the law of God and the law of sin and one part of him wants to serve the law of God, but another part of him wants to serve the law of sin. The first sentence provides us with an important revelation towards these two parts: "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good." What Paul is saying here is that he is not evil. He is the one that "wills to do good", but that evil is with him trying to take him away from that good. This is an important revelation for those of us who find ourselves in this same struggle. No matter how much I feel an urge to do evil, I am not evil, I am good, even though that evil is with me. The we see the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord and we see the division between the mind and the flesh. This good news is continued in Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." If we learn to walk according to the Spirit, we are not condemned for the evil that is with us!
The Challenge:
The challenge for today is two fold. First, I challenge you to start thinking better about yourself. You are good! True, there is a nature in you that desires to do evil, but you are good! Now once you have established that in your mind and in your heart begin to identify what you, your spirit, wants to do and follow that. Here's a hint: Your spirit wants to line up with the Word of God. Each time you choose to follow the Word and not to follow your flesh, your spirit's voice will become stronger and easier to follow next time. So begin following that Spirit voice!

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to see myself the way you see me. The way the blood of Christ has made me. Help me to understand that I am good. I am a good person! Because you have made me good. Thank you for making me good. Help me to hear the voice of my spirit which is trying to follow after you. Help me to make decisions throughout my day to follow that voice and not to follow the other voice of evil. Thank you Lord for being with me and for making me good. In Jesus' name Amen!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reader Feedback

Hello readers! Thank you all for reading and following my blog. It is encouraging to come on here and see that people are actually clicking and reading. So it's been just over a week since I began the daily devotional format, so I thought it was about time to ask you guys for feedback. So just a few questions:

Do you like the format?

Is there any additional information you would like to have on each passage?

Is there any section that I write too much about? (ie. History and Context...)

Have you been encouraged daily by this blog?

Do you have any questions for me? (I can either answer in comments or in blog form)

Feel free to take all, some or none of these questions in your feedback. But whether you use these questions or not I would love to hear from you. What do you think about what you have read? Thanks!

The Hebrew Shema: The Word of God - June 15th, 2011

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9

“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’
Deuteronomy 6:2

History and Context:
Today I found a verse that comes just a few verses earlier in the same chapter. This means there is not a lot of history that I haven't already shared with you. Like I shared in my first post, Deuteronomy is the final words of Moses to the Israelites and his focus was on the retelling of the law. He admonished them to continue to obey and keep the commandments which they had been given. He reminds them that if they do not keep the commandment bad things will happen, but on the other hand if they do keep the commandments then God's love will be passed on for multiple generations.

The Text:
Verses 6-9 - The thing that stood out to me in this text was how often we are to be talking about the Word. It doesn't say read the Word for fifteen minutes every morning. It says they need to be in your heart, then even more than that, talk about them, teach them, basically we should post the word everywhere so that it is always in fornt of our eyes. Moses is admonishing the people of God, 'Don't ever forget the law of God! Do whatever you need to do to keep it in your mind and heart at all times, and make sure your kids do the same.'
Verse 2 - This has a similar message. There is a lot of scripture about the Word of God and a lot of commands to keep it, but one thing I like about this one is that it specifically talks about passing it on to our sons and our grandsons. Not only our own children but we should take it on ourselves to make sure our children are passing it on to their children. How many preachers have you seen with rebellious children? How many pastors have you seen in which their children are the worst in the church? PK has become synonomous with unruly and rebellious. We need to remember this command, it's not enough to just follow the Word ourselves, we need to teach the Word to our children and talk about wherever we go. Another thing I want to look at is the word keep. In English today keep simply mean to follow, but in old english (and more importantly the word in Hebrew) it means to protect, guard. So this takes it a step forward. Not only do we need to follow the Word of God but we need to protect it and guard it.

The Challenge:
There is a lot of things that I talked about but it all starts with one thing. We need to keep the Word of God in front of our eyes better. So here's the challenge: Take a notecard, or a piece of paper, or whatever works for you and write a verse of scripture on it and stick it in your pocket. If you can't decide on a verse go ahead and take one of the ones that I have used today. Then as you go throughout the day, whenever you have a moment break, pull that verse out and read it, meditate on it, ask God what He wants to tell you through that verse. Then put it back in your pocket and continue your day until your next few moments when you do it again. Thsi will help keep the Word of God before your eyes throughout the day.

The Prayer:
Lord, teach me how to keep your Word. Help me to keep your word before my eyes and to teach your word to those around me. Help me to bring up my children (when I have them) in your Word. Lord, I want to follow your Word and I want to walk in your path. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Hebrew Shema: Love God / Love People - June 14th, 2011

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."   Deuteronomy 6:5

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[d] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37-40
History and Context:
If you are new to reading this blog please refer to the History and Context sections of my last two posts, The Hebrew Shema and The Hebrew Shema: Unity, for more information on the passage in Deuteronomy. For all of you who have read those explanations, I simply want to point out that we again see the Lord (Yahweh) and God (El) references combined. This is reinforcing the message of unity that we discussed yesterday. After that comes a passage which Jesus quoted as the greatest commandment in Matthew chapter 22 (also in Luke 10:27 and Mark 12:29-31). As noted before Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was a very popular passage for the jews. It was the first passage that all Jews memorized and they constantly recited it. This is why, when you look at the passage in Mark, you see that the questioner immediately agreed with Jesus. This is the greatest commandment! But Jesus added on a scripture in Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus often used the concept of neighbor in his teachings. In fact in the popular story of the Good Samaritan, he is answering the question "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29).

The Text:
Jesus combines to commandments, found in two different books of the Law, together almost as one. Often people will seperate these two and make a list:

Important Commandments
1) Love God
2) Love people

But I believe that Jesus was saying something slightly different. This entire passage was an answer to the question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36) He was only asked for one commandment, not two. So why did Jesus give him two commandments as an answer? I believe Jesus was showing him, and now us, that these two commandments are inseperable. Loving our neighbor is a part of loving God. John said:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)
We cannot love God if we do not love our brother, our neighbor. Jesus said the second is like the first, it is the same commandment. Love God, love people, without one we cannot truly have the other. If you say you love God but you hate your brother, you are a liar!

The Challenge:
The challenge is simple; Love people! Find a way to show love towards people today. Above and beyond what you would nomrally do. This is how you can show your love to God. Do it as worship towards God and don't expect anything, not even a thank you, in return. Also remember that the more of a sacrifice it is for you, the more it shows your love for that person.

The Prayer:
Lord, show me how I can love people today. Show me what I can do, above and beyond my normal actions, to love those around me. I love you Lord, and through that love I know that I also must love people, because you love people. Help me to love people in everything I do today. Help me to find opportunities that I may normally miss. Help me to control my actions when I am tempted to act outside the realms of love. I want to be an example of your love for people, so help me to love people. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Hebrew Shema: Unity - June 13th, 2011

"Hear O' Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!"
Deuteronomy 6:5

"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit."
1 Corinthians 12:11-13

History and Context:
Deuteronomy 6:5 - For some information on the entire Shema see yesterdays post, The Hebrew Shema. There is a lot more in this sentence then we, as western Christians, of the 21st century, see. Yes, it is saying that there is only one God and one Lord, but it is also speaking of unity among God's people. Much of the old testament was originally passed from generation to generation through oral tradition, then all of the oral stories and teachings were gathered and put into writings during the time in which Israel was a kingdom. When Israel split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, the scribes also became split. The northern scribes would always refer to the Holy One as God or, in Hebrew, El but the southern kingdom would always refer to him as Lord or, in Hebrew, Yahweh. Deuteronomy was then put into writing later, by a different set of scribe, in the time of the Babylonian exile. So when the writer says: "the Lord (Yahweh) our God (El), the Lord is One." They are sending a message to the people of Israel that they are one people, serving one God.

1 Corinthians 12:11-13 - In this passage, Paul is sending the same message to the Corinthians, "one and the same Spirit" does everything. Paul is speaking to a group of Christians, in Corinth, which valued the spiritual gifts highly, but they were also highly carnal. They would often fight over which gift was better and who operated more often in the gifts, trying to make themselves higher and more important to the others. Paul says (paraphrased) 'Stop fighting! All gifts are from the same Spirit, we all serve the same God, and therefore we are all one body working together for the same purpose.'

The Text:
The message of the text is simple. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach strongly the importance of unity among God's people. WE are all serving the same God and are striving after the same purpose, and therefore we must stop fighting and work together. Today this same message applies. We must stop fighting amongst ourselves. There are so many denominations and factions of Christianity that it is greatly hindering our progress for the Gospel. People look at the church and decide they don't want to be a part because we are fighting each other. Our God is one and we as a people need to work together as one. We are the body of Christ and each part is just as important as the other.

The Challenge:
The challenge is for you to ask yourself: "Where have I caused division in the Body of Christ?" and "What can I do to fix it?" Find a way to work with a church or a individual from a different denomination. Remember that your church is not the only church and is definitely not a perfect church. Rejoice when someone comes into the Body of Christ, even if they start going to the church down the street instead of your church! To make this challenge specific, each one of us needs to look at our own life and our own surroundings to see what we can do to help the unity of the body of Christ.

The Prayer:
Lord,help me to see how I can build unity in your church. If I have ever done anything to cause division, please forgive me, and show me how I can fix it. I pray that you would bring us together across the nation, and across the world, to bring forth your will on this earth. To bring forth your Gospel on this earth. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Hebrew Shema - June 12th, 2011

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9

History and Context:
Deuteronomy is Moses' final words to the Israelites. In it he recounts the law and challenges them to stay with Yahweh and not stray to the gods of the surrounding nations. In parts of the book it implies that God already knows they will stray to foreign gods and admonishes them, ahead of time, to return to Him when that happens. This particular verse is extremely popular in Jewish communities to this day. It is know as the Shema and it is one of the first passages that every jew must commit to memory. It was also quite popular in the time of Jesus and he chose this as the first half of greatest commandment of all. There is also a hidden (again to us not to the original readers) message of unity between the people of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. For more on that feel free to email me.

The Text:
There are three main themes conveyed in this short text:

1) The oneness of God
The first thing that the people of God need to know is that there is only one God. In studying the history of Israel one can see that this is also a powerful message towards unity among the people of God. We serve the same God so we must come together as one people in unity.

2) We need to love God with all that we are
Follow Yahweh and only Yahweh! Do not have split devotions with other gods or other idols. Follow Him and serve Him with all your heart, soul, and strength.

3) The importance of truth
More specifically the importance of the Words and commandments spoken by God. They are so important that the people of Israel are commanded to follow them, teach them to their children, talk about them continually wherever they are, and even bind them to themselves and write them down all over their homes. The people of Israel must constantly have the word of God before their eyes so that they do not forget it like their ancestors did.

The Challenge:
Just like the message of the text can be broken down into three parts, so can the challenge that is given to us:

1) The first challenge is unity. Just like the Jews in the time of the split kingdom, we as Christians have become split. The difference is we are split into many more parts than the Jews ever were. Paul says that we are 'one body'. In other words we should be working together towards one purpose! Yet we constantly fight over which denomination is better. Find a way to work together with someone that doesn't believe exactly the same way you do. Pray for unity among our churches!

2) The second challenge is again to love God with complete and utter devotion. Do not split your devotion to Him with the other things in life but include Him in all of it! There are so many things which try to take our devotion and today they are more subtle than in the days of the Israelites. It could be the search for money, entertainment, comfort etc.Watch yourself today. What is it that is trying to take your devotion away from God?

3) Thirdly there is a challenge to never forget the Word of God. Keep it before your eyes, talk about it with the people around you. When was the last time you talked about the Word outside of church activities? When was the last time you taught your children the Word of God? Or do you simply rely on the children's pastor to do this?

The Prayer:
Lord, these are three major challenges which can be difficult at times for us to follow. Help us to pay attention to our lives and see what is taking away our devotion to you, where are we creating division in your body, and how can we incorporate your word into our lives? Go with us today as we continue to meditate on this verse and see how we need to change our daily life. Thank you Lord! In the name of your Son we pray, Amen.

*Note: There is a lot to focus on this time so I will be taking the next three days to go more in depth in each of these topics*

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Speak evil or do good - June 11th, 2011

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (...) Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James 4:11-12,17

History and Context:
There were many James' in the Bible. The two most prominent were James, the brother of Jesus (also known as the leader of the church) and James, the apostle, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. the book of James is commonly attributed to the former. James writes that he is writing to the "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (James 1:1). The Jews began to be scattered across the Middle East in 722 BC when the Assyrians conquered Israel. The scattering (known as the diaspora) continued through Babylonian captivity when three distinct groups became known, one in Egypt, one in Babylon, and one that returned to Judea later under Persian rule. These Jews which were scattered about (in Acts we see that they also extended into Europe) are the ones to whom James writes in this letter.

The Text:
The book of James is famous for it's talk on the tongue in chapter 3. "...the tongue is a little member and boasts great things..." (3:5) "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." (3:10). In this passage he again begins by mentioning how we use our tongue. He the nrelates speaking evil of your brother with judging him. When we judge we attempt to be the 'lawgiver' but as we know the law comes only from one source. In other words when we begin judging we attempt to put ourselves into God's place; you may even go as far to say, we attempt to be God. Then he ends the discussion of judging and speaking evil of our brother with: "to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." Our judgements can keep us from doing good.

The Challenge:
How often have we stopped ourselves from doing good due to our judgements of another person? "I can't give him money because he's just going to buy booze." "Don't help him because he will just take advantage of you." "Look at how she's dressed! Don't go near her." I could probably go on and on. The challenge is obvious. Stop judging and simply do good. How they respond to the good you do is not your responsibility. You are responsible for what you do with what God gives you. Of course we need to use wisdom in everything, and we shouldn't let people walk over us, but we cannot let these statements be an excuse to not do good for one another. The challenge today, and every day, is to ignore those first thoughts that you may have and to look for an opportunity to do good. As always, it would be great to hear from you how God gave you that opportunity.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to see people with your eyes. Help me to see people with love. Let me see their hurts and pains, and let me see what I can do to help them. Give me wisdom on how to reach out to those around me. Help me to touch their lives without judgement but instead with love. Thank you Lord.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Sunshine Award

Healing Leaf, a fellow blogger and a fellow follower of the Word, has nominated my blog as one that brings sunshine through inspiring words. This is especially honoring to see just after I wrote about the importance of remembering that the light has come and walking in that light (see the post here). Healing Leaf's blog has also been encouraging and inspiring to me and I would encourage you all to check it out.

Sunshine award rules:
  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
  2. Tell us something about yourself.
  3. Nominate 5-10 other bloggers.
  4. And let them know you awarded them!
So something about me: I am an American, married to an Ethiopian and we met in Germany. Together we are passionate about following God's plans for our lives. One thing that I am particularly passionate about is equipping young people to be leaders of men and followers of Christ. Check out the TnT Youth Ministry page for more about that.

Ok so now to choose 5-10 bloggers to nominate:

1. Matt's Meditations
2. Living Fearless
3. Dan Black On Leadership
4. One Voice ~ Write Right

Okay I know that is only four, but with the link to Healing Tree above that makes five. I am still fairly new to the blog world, but these blogs are ones that I have been following for some time and would recommend them to anyone. All of these blogs, along with Healing Tree who nominated me, are blogs which inspire me and help me in my relationship with God and continuing His calling on my life. I would encourage you guys to check out all of them.

Seeking God Himself - June 10th, 2011

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:32-34

How easy it is for a man to desire all manner of things from the Lord and yet not desire the Lord Himself! As though the gift could be sweeter than the Giver!
St. Augustine

History and Context:
The verse from Matthew is from the end of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount. It is right after He talks about how God feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, how much more will he feed and clothe you! Then He sums it all up with this. "Seek first the kingdom of heaven..."

The quote from St. Augustine is actually from On Prayer and the Contemplative Life by St Thomas Aquinas. He quoted St. Augustine who was talking about how Christians will constantly seek God to save them from poverty, temporal happiness, or bodily health but they rarely seem to seek God for God Himself.

The Text:
Both the verse and the quote say the same thing. Instead of constantly seeking for help, we should seek God. We could also say, instead of seeking always for a Savior, we should seek a Father and a Lord. God made a promise, that He will personally make sure we are provided for. But he desires us to seek Him and to seek His kingdom. What is His kingdom? It's His will, His plan for this earth. "Seek first the kingdom of heaven..." seek first the plan and will of God for this earth.

The Challenge:
What are you seeking after? Are you one that finds yourself always asking God for something? When was the last time you volunteered to do something for God? When was the last time you sought God to find out what He wants? The challenge is for you to do that today. Take some time today and ask God, "Lord what do you want me to do today?" Then do what He says!

The Prayer:
Lord, I do want to know what you want for me to do today. I'm sorry for all the times I have been selfish in my relationship with you. I'm sorry for all the times that I have sought only after my own wants and desires. And I thank you for all that you have provided for me and done for me. But today I want to help you fulfill your desire and your will on this earth. Direct me on how I can help establish your kingdom everywhere that I go today. I love you Lord! Amen!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Light has Shined - June 9th, 2011

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; They rejoice before you according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil."
Isaiah 9:2-3

History and Context:
For a short history on the book of Isaiah you can refer to my post from yesterday Fear of Man. As mentioned in that post, Isaiah is known as the Old Testament prophet with the most Messianic prophecies. This passage comes out of one of those prophecies. In fact in Isaiah 9:6 we have one of the most commonly quoted during Christmas - "For unto us a child is born ..." This means that when taken in context this light is the same light that John talked about in John 1:7-9. "The true light which gives light to every man coming into the world."

The Text:
 This text is of course speaking about the people of Israel. How they have walked in darkness but the light (the Messiah) is coming. The word Messiah, in ancient Hebrew, simply meant Deliverer. So when the prophets prophesied a Messiah coming they were prophesying someone that would come and deliver them from their oppressors. We see throughout the Gospels that there was some misunderstanding of what these prophecies meant exactly. They were expecting a physical deliverer, but God sent them a, much more needed, spiritual Deliverer in Himself. He "multiplied the nation [Israel = God's people] and increased it's joy" without directly delivering them from their physical oppressors, the Romans.

The Challenge:
Do you feel like you're in the shadow of death? Do you feel like you are walking in darkness? King David said "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me..." (Psalm 23) If you feel you are in the 'shadow of death' then it means you need to recognize Christ. If you feel you are surrounded by darkness then you must recognize the light. Sometimes it seems that preachers continually preach about how dark our nation is. But has the Light come? Yes! The Light has come and He is still here, in each one of us! We just need to recognize Him, and begin to follow Him. We Christians have seen a great light! We have seen the Savior! We have seen our Lord! It's time to stop walking in darkness and walk in the light. Feel free to share how you saw the light of Christ in your day today.

The Prayer:
Lord, I thank you that you have sent us this 'great light'. This light that has allowed to no longer walk in darkness. Help us to recognize you in our day today. Help us to see your light in our lives and to follow that light. Help us to also share that light with those around us. Thank you Lord for going with us and for hearing our prayers. Amen!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fear of Man - June 8th, 2011

 “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, that he should not die in the pit, and that his bread should not fail. But I am the LORD your God, who divided the sea whose waves roared— The LORD of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouthI have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
Isaiah 51:12-16

History and Context:
Isaiah is the prophet most quoted by Jesus and by the New Testament authors. There are many Messianic prophecies throughout Isaiah, but the real purpose of the book was to admonish the kings of Judah to rely on the potection of God. Isaiah's ministry focused on the reign of two different kings, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Ahaz did not listen to Isaiah and relied on the protection of Assyria rather than God's protection. Hezekiah also didn't listen at first but as things went bad he turned to God for protection and God rescued the kingdom of Judah. Isaiah continually refers to God as "The Holy One of Israel". This phrase is repeated 26 times in the book of Isaiah and only 6 times in the rest of the Old Testament.

The Text:
God is challenging the people to trust Him. He says, "Why are you afraid of a man who will die?" This passage beautifully puts into words the absurdity of fearing mankind when God is on our side. God reminds us of who He is. He is the one that created the universe, who "stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth" and He has covered you, and you are afraid of a man? Of course this was spoken to Israel at the time, but we are now the ones that God wants to call "His people". We are now the ones that He wants to cover.

The Challenge:
Simply remember today that God has "covered you with the shadow of His hand". He is there with you! He is on your side! What can man do to you? Be encouraged, be courageous, follow what He has put in your heart, and don't be held back by the fear of man. Is God leading you to speak to someon about Him? Is there a problem that needs addressed at your workplace and no one seems to be addressing it? Is there something that has been on your heart to do for years but you're afraid of what people will think? Then do it! And again, if you want to share a testimony of stepping out against your fear of man, I would love to hear it! I'm sure my readers would love to as well. It's always encouraging to hear of someone else's success.

The Prayer:
Lord, you are the creator of the universe! You are the Holy One of Israel! You are the Amighty One! I pray that I will trust in you, in all that I do today. Help me to not let the fear of man hold me back from your will for my life. Help me to remember constantly that you are on my side. I love you Lord! Thank you! Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stand Fast in the Lord! - June 7th, 2011

 1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:1-6 (emphasis added)

History and Context:
These scriptures are how Paul begins to finish his letter to the church in Phillipi. The church in Phillipi was one of the first churches in Europe. This means these are some of the first believers in what we now know as the "Western World". He visited them around 49-50 AD and then at least two more times after that in 56 and 57 AD. One of the first Christians in Phillipi was the jailer who was assigned to guard Paul and Silas (and the other prisoners) when they were thrown in prison. God used an earthquake to set them free and to convince this jailer of His reality. (Acts 16:25-34) This letter was written in response to the church sending Epaphroditus to Paul to help him in his time of need.

The Text:
Here, in these verses, we see one of the most complete, yet condensed, descriptions of how to live as Christians. He begins with a general statement to Stand fast in the Lord but then describes what that looks like:
    1) Help those who labor in the Gospel
    2) Rejoice in the Lord always
    3) Be gentle to the point that you are known for it
    4) Don't be anxious 
    5) Pray and Intercede
    6) Give thanks
    7) Make your requests known to God
    8) Let the peace of God guard your heart and mind
How many of us are doing these things? If each individual in the church would follow these eight simple points, how different do you think the church, and in response the world, would be? But instead we see the church fillled with people who fight each other, grieve continually, are fierce in gossip, continually worry, don't pray, always complain, and then they wonder why they don't feel the peace of God in their lives.

The Challenge:
When you look at this list you probably see a few of them that you can honestly say you are good at, but you probably also see at least one or two which you are weak in. My challenge to you is not to take the whole list right away, but pick one or two. Look at the list and prayerfully consider which point you need the most work on and focus on that point today. For example, if you realize that you are always complaining, make it a point today to find things that you are thankful for. I can guarantee you that they are all around you. But maybe it's not that one. Maybe God is challenging to find someone that is laboring who you can support and help. Only you can say which one you need to work on. Then if you want to share a testimony of how today was different because of focusing on that area.

The Prayer:
Lord, we want to learn how to stand fast in you. We want to learn what it really means to live for you. Help us note those areas in our lives in which we are not truly living for you and help us to make them right. Help us to glorify you today in our words, our actions, and even in our thoughts.