Tuesday, July 31, 2012
"Seek first His kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well." -- Matthew 6::33
I read a friend's blog posting yesterday where he spoke of how confusing the Bible can be. So many people interpret the Bible differently...looking at the exact same passage in the exact same translation, two people can say that God meant two completely different things. I admit that this troubles me sometimes as well. Some use the Bible as a weapon to judge others. Some use the Bible to promote their own agendas. And then some read the Bible to try to make sense out of a seemingly senseless world.
I read and study the Bible because I want to make sense out of a senseless world and I want to try to connect with the God I believe in. I do believe in an all-powerful God who is capable of sending his words through flawed human beings so we can sommunicate and better understand him. I still struggle to understand the words of the Bible, and my friend is right, it can be very confusing. But there is something in me that is drawn to those words...drawn to the hope that is written in them.
All these things...If you read the verses before the verse above, you will see that we are told not to worry...we don't need to worry about what we will eat, what we will drink or what we will wear. If we seek God FIRST in our lives, our needs will be taken care of.
All these things...we are more complicated than the birds and flowers...we have souls that have special needs of their own. God knows what our needs are, and he wants to meet those needs. But he wants us to search for him...he wants us to read his word and seek understanding...he wants us to put him FIRST. I have trouble with this, and I believe most of the world does too. It is too easy to forget the God we can't see.
Wouldn't it be easier for us if we could see God and REALLY talk with him? I mean, if he made his appearance known to us, and we could see him, hear him, touch him, we would KNOW he was there. We COULD have a relationship with him because he would be right there in front of us. But it would be TOO easy. If he was standing right in front of us, we wouldn't have to go searching for him. We wouldn't have to have faith. Sometimes it's the journey that is more important that the destination. God wants us to go on the journey of our life, seaching for him all the way.
Yes, the Bible can be confusing. But if we continue to seek God, and seek understanding, God WILL give us "all these things." Our needs will be met and we will find the hope and strength to go on in this senseless world. Use God's word as a tool to help you search for God and his purpose for this world. Don't use the Bible as a weapon against those who are different. When there is something within God's word that confuses you, pray for understanding. If your heart's in the right place, God will know and will give you the understanding you seek. You might not understand it all, but you will understand what you NEED to.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding." -- Matthew 6:1 (The Message Translation)
I love this verse, especially the Message translation of it! Jesus really gives it to us! He knows our human tendencies to be self-righteous and proud of our actions, and lets us know that is NOT what God is looking for from us.
Being good and doing good IS the right thing to do, obviously. But, it's when we make an effort to let others know of the good we do AND when we let others know when they are NOT being good...that is the problem.
When we look around us and see the bad behavior, poor choices and the consequences of others, it is easy for us to look at them and judge them. It is easy to stand back and tsk tsk them from afar, or worse yet to shame to their faces. This makes us feel better about ourselves. We all do this...and it happens all the time.
But Jesus is saying that this kind of behavior is not pleasing to God. God wants us to obey him and do as he directs, but he doesn't want us to point out when we are doing it and he most certainly does not want us to judge others when they are not behaving.
You know, I have a problem with this myself. I try very hard not to judge others. I want to act as Jesus did, and Jesus says NOT to judge others. But, I find myself judging other Christians for judging others! I am no better, am I?
I think the best thing we can do is take care of our own actions and not worry about what others are doing. When we do good and act the way God wants us to, others will see and take notice...we don't have to bring it to their attention. When we see others acting in a way that is not pleasing to God, we need to be reminded that God is very capable of dealing with them himself...he doesn't need us bringing it to his attention.
That good old golden rule is such good advice! Treat others the way you want to be treated. I don't want others to judge me, therefore, I won't judge others!
I am a very dramatic person and love attention, but God doesn't want my play-acting when comes to my obedience. I don't have to put on a good show for God or for the others around me. Just my obedience is enough.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." --2 Corinthians 3:17
Freedom...we value it so much. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free to say what we believe, worship in the way we believe and have all the many other freedoms that the United States gives us. But, unfortunately, even with all these freedoms, millions of people in our country are still in bondage...slaves to money...slaves to drugs...slaves to sexual practices...slaves to our selfish desires. Many of us are a long way from freedom.
The thing is, people are SEARCHING for that freedom and our culture grasps on to that search and instead of freeing us, enslaves us to something else. God placed a need for him in our hearts...most of us just don't recognize that feeling as being from God and we are constantly searching for something to fill the need.
I have been searching my whole life and I feel like I have finally found the pathway to freedom...the "THING" that needs to be filled in my heart IS filled when I reach out for God. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I have gone searching for love and acceptance in many places that ended up being the wrong places. I have been left feeling alone, empty and beaten. But I always seem to come back to God. His pull on my heart is strong and lifted me up out of that pit that my empty search left me in. I can be who I am. I am the soft-hearted, want to save the world, serious one minute, fun-loving goof ball the next person that I was created to be. God gives me that freedom.
I still have times when my heart goes searching again...searching for something that fills that NEED in my heart for MORE. There HAS to be MORE to this life! When my search takes me in a direction that God didn't want me to go (even if I thought it WAS the direction God wanted me to go) and I get lost...I feel those empty, alone, beaten-up feelings again. It is a lonely place to be. BUT...when I open my heart to God again...let go of my vain search and admit that I see God working in ways I didn't see before...I understand that God is pulling on my heart again...Pulling me back to him once again. It is then I get another taste of that freedom. It has happened to me again and again and has proved to me that God IS there and wants me near him!
If I, as a believer and child of God, have these lost feelings, how must it feel to have these feelings and NOT believe in a God who pulls me back to him? So many people think that believing in God puts you in chains because you can't to this and you can't do that...those 10 commandments and all those religious rules are too constricting! My heart breaks for those who don't know the love and the feelings of freedom that comes from knowing God. The me that wants to save the world wants to shout from the rooftops that GOD CAN MAKE YOU FREE!
But, since my husband would probably call the loony bin to come get me if I climbed up on top of my house and started shouting...I think I'll just keep writing my blog and telling people about my experiences with this freedom feeling inside me. Maybe someone will read this and want to feel that feeling too and will reach out to God themselves! I hope you feel God's love and freedom today!
Monday, July 23, 2012
"The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad." -- Psalm 118:24
Today I do rejoice and am glad I believe in a God who saves and strengthens me.
A few verses before this one, it says, "Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous. The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!" The word "righteous" has always bothered me...it sounds almost negative. I know some "self-righteous" people who claim to be better than they are and better than every one else. It seems with righteousness, there is always judgement, judgement that none but God can really give. The dictionary defines it as: "acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin; morally right or justifiable; arising from an outraged sense of morality or justice. So...can only those who are free from guilt or sin shout praises to God? If that is the case, the world will be quiet, because there is not one without sin.
I know that even though I try, I will never be truly righteous, not by the dictionary definition and not in God's eyes. But, I feel free to shout praises to my God because what he has done on this very day is save me from my self and my daily sin! I believe that through Jesus, I am made righteous!
What I also know is that God does this very thing for everyone who accepts that gift. Every person I see on this day has the opportunity to be righteous, even if they are not righteous in their actions. For this reason, I have no right to judge anyone for their actions. Only God has that right. All I am to do for others is to love them and treat them lovingly. I don't have to like what they do...I don't even have to like them...I am just to treat them with love. Even if they do not accept the gift God gives them, I am not to judge, but to love. This is what Jesus taught. He taught us how God wants us to live...to live as we are righteous...not SELF-righeous, but GOD-righeous!
Why am I writing about this today? I have a friend who reads my blog who will tell me that this is a very serious and "religious" message today. Well, that may be so, but it is what is on my heart. I am glad I don't have to live up to the divine moral law to be saved, because I have proved to myself over and over that I cannot live up to it, no matter how I try.
Today, I am asking that God rests his hand on everything I do...that he guides my path today...that he helps me make wise choices...that he helps me choose the right words before I speak...that I treat others with love...That I do not judge others...that he helps me think before I act...that he helps me pray without ceasing...not so I can claim to be righteous, but so that I feel his power today. There is too much pain, suffering and unhappiness in the world...I just want to FEEL God's power and KNOW that he is in control, even when it seems there is no control in this crazy world.
Today I DO rejoice and I AM glad! I believe in a God who strengthens and saves!
Friday, July 20, 2012
"He made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." -- 2 Corinthians 3:6
Ok, yesterday's verse was one I knew, loved and understood completely. Today's verse I was not familiar with and didn't understand. So, when I don't understand something, I read further and go looking for more to help me understand better. The internet is a blessing sometimes, since it gives us access to SO MUCH information! I found a site that had this verse in every possible translation and included many commentaries by many different Biblical scholars. After reading all this, I think I have a better idea of what Paul was saying.
He made us competent ministers -- Paul and the other disciples were preaching and spreading the word about Jesus. He is saying here that God gave them the talents, wisdom and authority to be his teachers. On their own, they could not adequately do this. God made them competent. I totally understand this, as that is the way I feel about what I write in this blog. My brother said that the words on this blog don't sound like me...I think he's right. I don't have the knowledge or authority to speak as an expert on the Bible. But, I believe God led me to start writing, and guides me as I type, giving me the words. There are days I wonder why I keep doing this...Why should anyone read and be interested in anything I say? I am no better than anyone else! But, I continue writing because I feel I am supposed to and feel God may be using my words to touch someone's heart. HE made me competent.
Not of the letter, but of the Spirit -- I have been talking this week about the 10 commandments and how we are to follow them because God gave them to us to protect us from ourselves. Solomon advises us to "fear God and keep his commands." I beleive that is true, but when we solely rely on God's commands to get to heaven, we are in big trouble. Have you ever checked out ALL the rules, regulations and laws that are written in the Old Testament? Everything from what we should eat to what we should wear to how we treat our animals...no one could live up to and keep ALL of those! Under the law, we are guilty...we are condemned when we break a law. BUT, God's plan of salvation through Jesus gives us the SPIRIT and gives us life.
Jesus took the punishment for us, so all those laws we can't keep will not result in our condemnation, but in forgiveness and salvation and life with him forever. This doesn't mean we throw out all the commands...we are still to follow God's commands as a guide to a safer and happier life, but when we grab on to the hand of Jesus, our salvation does not rely on our own actions anymore.
Even though today's verse was harder to understand, it is really like yesterday's...God renews us and saves us through the love of Jesus. When you look for meaning behind God's words, he will reveal it to you. When you seek you will find! Isn't it comforting in this chaotic life that God really is looking out for us and promises us LIFE? It might be hard to understand everything, but it feels good to believe in a God who saves!
Thursday, July 19, 2012
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast(right) spirit within me." -- Psalm 51:10
I love it when the Bible verse of the day is one of my favorites and brings a smile to my lips the moment I read it!
I flipped to the Message Translation this morning and loved what I saw there too...
"God, make a fresh start in me. Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life."
The word Genesis means origin, creation, beginning, and was of course taken from the first book of the Bible. Only God can create a new beginning out of the choas of our lives. There are so many things to do...so many things to remember...so many mistakes to try to fix...so many people to try to please...so many things to take care of...it all adds up to chaos. But, asking God to create a new beginning...realizing, accepting,and acknowlging that God can create something beautiful out of your chaos is the first step to tuly having a new beginning.
"...renew a right spirit within me." The word renew means to make new, so a right spirit was already IN me...I'm just asking God to make it new again! The great thing is, we can say this verse and pray this prayer EVERY DAY! We were created with a pure heart...God gives us a chance every day to start fresh, no matter how much we messed up the day before.
I'm glad I believe in a God who is in the business of renewal! Knowing that I can rely on God to help me clean up the choas in my heart each day makes it easier to get out of bed and walk out the door! Today is a NEW day and I am looking forward to the blessings I will find in it! Thank you God for this message today!
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
"And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess." Deuteronomy 30:16 The Message Translation
This verse is perfect for yesterday's blog post. Moses is telling his people that God wants them to obey him, and follow his commands and regulations. If they do, they will live happy peaceful lives in the land that they had been promised and were about to enter. It sounds so good...do what you're told and you will be happy...
Why does this bother me so much? Even if I try to be good and do good, I mess up. Is that why I'm not as happy as I could be in this life? Even if I can't be good, I know people who ARE good...do good things, help people, love people, follow the rules...why do bad things still happen to THOSE people?
I guess I have to go "beyond the sun" for that answer. God, who created us and knows us so well, knows that even though it IS just that simple...follow my commands and you will be happy...he knows that we are weak and we mess up. It's impossible for us to be perfect and always do the right thing. We have a choice in what we do, and unfortunately, we choose wrong...a lot...and have to live with thie results. And, many times, it's the choices of others in our lives that also affect us as well. No wonder we are all so unhappy all the time!
But, God loves us enough to give us a way out...he gave us Jesus. Jesus took the punishment for our mess-ups. That doesn't seem to make sense...God came to earth in the form of a man thousands of years ago and died a horrible death to cover the sins that I commit today???? Yes...even though it doesn't seem to make sense to us...that is what God's word says his plan is.
Ok...but I still don't understand today's Bible verse. I believe in God, I love him, I TRY to follow his commands to the best of my ability and I believe in Jesus and accept him as my savior...believe that he DID come to earth and died for my sins. Why can't I seem to live the exuberant life that the verse says I will? Where is my happiness and peace? Why do I struggle every day? That's where "the beyond the sun" part comes in. All we can see is what's in front of us. There's nothing new under the sun, as Solomon said. But we remember that God's promises of eternity don't happen in THIS life, but with him...forever. HIS world for us is not here. There is a popular contemporary Christian song out right now that repeats the phrase, "All I know is I'm not home yet. This is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus. This is not where I belong."
No wonder I don't find true happiness and am always longing for something else! I am not home yet! I bet the exuberant life that Moses is promising in the verse above is pointing me to heaven! SO, all I know to do is to continue to follow God, read his word because it does help me to stay on the right track, and know that one day I WILL be home and I will be ready to live exuberantly! Because I know I have that to look forward to, my days as a visitor on this planet will be a little easier!
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
"Sacrafice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me." -- Psalm 50:14-15
There is a lot of meaning packed in those few words. God is telling us what he wants us to do, what he will do for us and what will result from it all.
All God wants from us is for us to keep our promises to him and to thank him for what we have. I say all he wants from us, like that is all easy to do, but we all know it is not easy.
No, it's not easy, but going back to good old wise Solomon...in the end, that's all there is.
"Now all has been heard here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." -- Ecclesiastes 12:13
Solomon wanted to understand what the meaning of this life was and experimented with everything, and I do mean everything. He used all his wealth and endless resources to put before himself everything that is supposed to make a person happy...food, clothing, things, pleasure, people around him enjoying these things with him...but in the end, he found they all left him empty and wanting more. That's when he said that THIS life is utterly meaningless.
The only meaning he found was that we are to fear God and keep his commands. I said yesterday that we are not to be afraid of God, but respect his power and authority. I go further and say we are to be afraid of the consequences of our actions and respect that God knows what he is talking about. Those consequences may not be be what God will do to us, but what our actions to do us, and God, being all knowing, knows this and tries to warn us.
When you look at Gods commandments, they are warnings...a wise, all-knowing father giving us guidance on how to live THIS life.
* No other Gods and no idols - God is telling us to pay attention to HIM because HE has the answers. If we go looking somewhere else, we will be lost.
* When you use the name of the Lord in vain, you begin losing respect for the Lord and you will go out on your own, again, you will be lost.
* Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. God rested and knows you need rest too. If you don't, you will get tired and won't be able to keep up the pace, and you'll go looking for ways to keep up, and you will get lost.
*Honor your father and mother. God gave you parents on this earth to care for us and teach us. If we disrespect them, we disrespect God, which will lead to us going out on our own...we will get lost.
* If you murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, or become jealous of what your neighbor has, you will suffer...maybe not right now, but all of those actions come with their own consequences, whether you get caught or not. If you have to deal with the consequences on your own...you will be lost.
So you see, God's commands are given to us so we stick close to him so we DON'T GET LOST!
The even better thing is...God promises to deliver us when we are struggling...even if we are on the verge of getting lost because of our own actions. When we call out, cry out, yell out or scream for help, God will deliver us. Why? Why should he when most likely we have gotten ourselves into the mess in the first place??? The answer lies in the last 5 words of Psalm 50:15..."and you will honor me."
It all goes back to God wanting us back beside him. He will save us so we will respect and honor and follow him again! WHY??? So he can keep us safe! Don't you see it's a big cycle! God claims to be a jealous God who wants our praise and our honor and wants to be glorified. But it's not because he NEEDS our praise...it's because WE need to praise him! When we stick close to him, honor and praise him, we are following his commands that he gave us to protect us from ourselves. God made us...he knows us and knows what we need.
When we keep our promises to him, he keeps his promises to us. A promise is a promise. When you look at it that way, his commands aren't so demanding, but comforting. I thank God for his promises and promise to stick by his side!
Monday, July 16, 2012
"You are my refuge and my shield. I have put my hope in your word." -- Psalm 119:114
Randomness...doesn't it seem like sometimes the things that happen in our lives seem to have no rhyme or reason? Just take the "Ohio storm of the century" or the "big blow" (I heard the someone call it that on the radio) that happened a few weeks ago that had so many without power for so long. That strong wind knocked over huge trees in one yard and skipped the next house completely. Some people on one side of the street were without power for a few hours while some on the other side of the same street went for days without power. It was so random and seemed at the time to make no sense!
So many things seem to make no sense to me. And while we all WANT things in life to be fair, we all know that life is NOT fair at all. We usually don't get what we want, or when we get it, we find it really doesn't make us happy like we thought...we get confused. Then, when bad people prosper and good people suffer we get angry and just plain frustrated with the world.
Our pastor's sermon yesterday spoke about just this topic and I have been thinking a lot about it. Solomon, who was the wisest man to ever live, teaches us about the randomness of this life...he says it is all utterly MEANINGLESS! Ok, if life is so meaningless, why even go on? (Ecclesiastes 1)
Solomon repeats the phrase "under the sun" several times. We can SEE what is under the sun...what is here on earth. God made the earth and placed us on it, and gave us what we can see. But, God is BEYOND the sun...his world, that he promises to those who believe in him, is eternal, infinite and NOT random at all. Believing in heaven and a peacful eternity with God is what gives me hope...it's what gets me through the day.
But, I have to admit, I sometimes think, hey wait a minute...why would a loving, caring father place his children in such a random and hateful world and make them struggle and hurt and LONG for a peaceful world they can't have? Why am I always disatisfied with my situations? Why do I get so frustrated with the way things are, with how hateful people are, with how pointless it all seems sometimes?
I don't have all the answers...as a matter of fact, I have very few answers. But, I think God wants us to learn how powerful he is...he wants us to believe in him...he wants us to know that even though things seem pointless and meaningless, he IS in control. He wants us to fear him, and that doesn't mean he wants us to be AFRAID of him, but to respect his power and authority over our meager little lives on this earth. When we learn to fear him and follow his commands, we give up...we give up thinking that we can control what happens to us. When we look past what we can see, look "beyond the sun" to what is to come, we find that it doesn't matter how random things seem. God WILL take care of us...we just can't even imagine what that really means.
That's why today's Bible verse is so perfect for what has been going on in my mind lately. God's word is my refuge and my shield...it is my hope. So, when the next "big blow" happens...and it will...I can get over the fact that it seems so random. I can rest in God's promises. I will follow his commands and know that he will take care of me. I will look BEYOND the sun and have confidence in what I can't see. When my heart is hurting over something I can't have, I will press on because I know that God will give me my heart's desires one day for eternity. I will take comfort in the randomness of this world and thank God for giving me just a bit of Solomon's wisdom that will get me through his hard time and the next and the next. And one day all will be revealed to me and I will be rewarded for my faithfulness. Some don't believe in living this life while hoping for the next...I don't see any other way of living. What's the point of this life if I am not putting my trust and hope in the next? God knows the point, and it is NOT random.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing our the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to be open with God, this generous Father in heaven." -- Matthew 5:14-16 (Message Translation)
My friends, it's been a while since I last wrote on my blog. Power outages and LIFE gets in the way and messes up my routines and then it hard to get back into the habit. But, I know that I NEED this "God time"! One of my goals right now is to get back into the habit of waking up, reading the Bible and writing about what I read. In the past I have seen this routine help me throughout the day. The Bible verse sticks with me as I do my daily "stuff" and it is easier for me to be "like Jesus" at work and at home. I have missed this quiet, contemplative time!
Today's verse speaks about this just perfectly! I want to be LIGHT in the world I live in! I want to SHINE with God's love to people I meet! I don't want to hide that light under a bucket and let the events and challenges that come my way dictate my mood and attitude toward life. NO! I want to meet those challenges with the light of Christ shining through ever fiber of my being!
Wow! that last sentence sounded a little trite, didn't it? But, that's the way I want to be! Yesterday there were several things that happened in my life that instantly put me in a complaining, grumpy mood. I got mad at the circumstances, frustrated by the fact that it felt like taking 10 steps back from where we need to be. I talked with a friend about these circumstances last night and just griped and grumbled and complained...I became part of the problem instead part of the solution and I most definitely did NOT let God's light shine. That bucket was sitting right on top of me, hiding that light that lives inside of me. I let the situation have the power instead of letting God have the power. I can't control the situation, but I CAN control the way I handle the situation!
Look at that verse from Matthew 5 again. God MADE me a light! He put me on a lamp stand to be seen! I am to bring out the God-colors in the world. I LOVE that line - bring out the God-colors of the world. God made the colors, and HE can make the colors seen HIMSELF...but he CHOSE to put those who believe in him on stands so his light could shine through us and make the colors of the world more brilliant and beautiful. Even though he CHOSE to put us on a stand, it is up to us how bright we shine!
So, what does that mean for me today? Today is all I can control...so TODAY I will stop my griping and complaining. I may still have those grumpy thoughts in my head, and that is fine, but letting them spill out of my mouth is NOT helpful. Do I have to agree with the situation that made me grumpy and jump on the bandwagon of those causing the situation? No! But, just the simple act of closing my mouth will help. That will be very hard for me, so I pray that God gives me the strength and wisdom to do that so his light can shine through me today!