Believe!

Today I am reminded that every day we must choose to believe.

“My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after Sabbath.  For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.  But God raised him from the dead,  and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  These are [now] his witnesses before the people.  We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors  he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’  And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, ‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’  That is why he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’  Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption.  But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption.  You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, [and] in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.  Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about:

‘Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear.  For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you.’”

Acts 13:26-41

Our problems arise when we fail to recognize Him.  We don’t want to just look on.  He is doing a work in our days.  A work that is not believable to scoffers.  God has given us the word of salvation — as believers, we can be saved, even though we do not deserve it, even though we fall short on following His law.

I believe!

Dear God, Help me to live my life every day, showing that I am a believer.  I don’t want to just look on.  Help me to be a witness to others.

Giving Thanks

It’s a glorious day!  One in which we give thanks to the service members who lost their lives defending our country.  We are proud to live in this country — a country worth defending, and a country that many have thought was worth dying for to protect our freedom — the ultimate sacrifice.   I am so thankful and grateful for all of their sacrifices — and those of their families that they left behind.

But I am even more thankful to God for every day that we enjoy:

Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy sanctuary; give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.  Give praise for his mighty deeds, praise him for his great majesty.

Give praise with blasts upon the horn, praise him with harp and lyre.  Give praise with tambourines and dance, praise him with strings and pipes.  Give praise with crashing cymbals, praise him with sounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath give praise to the LORD!

Hallelujah!

Psalm 150:1-6

Thank you God for this beautiful day and every day you have provided for me.  Please grant your grace and mercy to those who have died.  I pray that they know you and may enter your kingdom.

 

Don’t Tempt Me!

It seems like I first heard the story of the devil tempting Jesus at a very young age.  And have heard it many times since:

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. ”Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.  The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.  All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and:  ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”  When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Luke 4:3-13

Jesus gives us three pieces of advice when faced with temptation:

  1. “One does not live by bread alone.”  There is nothing on earth that can truly satisfy us.  Even if we are starving — the temporary satisfaction on earth is not what we need or truly want.  Remember the temptation, the good that we think will come from it or the harm that we think will otherwise befall, is temporary. Indeed everything that we eat here on earth eventually ends in the toilet.
  2. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”  Focus on God.  We struggle when we take away that focus,  when we try to serve human wants and desires.  When we feel ourselves struggling, when we feel temptation, it is a reminder that it is time to turn back to God.  Worship Him.  Call out His name.
  3. “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” God is there.  He doesn’t have to prove it.  Faith is our greatest defense against temptation.  God has a plan — it may not always match up with ours — but I am certain it is better than mine (and better than satan’s plan).

Lord,

Help me to separate myself from worldly desires.  Help me to focus on you and stay strong in faith.  I wish not to be tempted,  But help me to be strong when I am.  Jesus, help me to follow your example.

 

O Lord, you are my God!

Tonight I am taking in this passage from Isaiah:

O LORD, you are my God,

I extol you, I praise your name;  For you have carried out your wonderful plans of old, faithful and true.

For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin, The castle of the insolent, a city no more, not ever to be rebuilt.  Therefore a strong people will honor you, ruthless nations will fear you.

For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress; Shelter from the rain, shade from the heat.  When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rain, the roar of strangers like heat in the desert, You subdued the heat with the shade of a cloud, the rain of the tyrants was vanquished.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples  A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples,  The web that is woven over all nations.  He will destroy death forever.  The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.  On that day it will be said: “Indeed, this is our God; we looked to him, and he saved us!  This is the LORD to whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

Isaiah 25: 1-9

As it was foretold, God has provided for all of us.  He gave us the richest bread and wine.  He destroyed the veil and destroyed death’s power over us.  He will wipe away the tears from all faces.  His plans for us are indeed wonderful and beyond our human comprehension.

O Lord, you are my God!

I praise your name!  I want to be among the strong people who honor you! I rejoice in your plans!  Thank you for saving us!

For there is no distinction

I love tonight’s passage from Romans:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.  They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God—to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.

What occasion is there then for boasting?  It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith.  For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not!  On the contrary, we are supporting the law.

Romans 3:21-31

“For there is no distinction.”  We are all sinners.  And we are all justified freely by God’s grace.  We have no grounds for boasting.  Our works on earth are not worthy of boasting.  We can not “achieve” our place with God.  It is only by his grace that we are worthy.  It is only through our faith that we realize this grace.

Thank you God for your grace and your love!  You are almighty.  Your grace is amazing and undistinguishing among us sinners.  Help me to not make distinctions among your children.  I know your way is the right way.  Help me to be strong in faith.

Two worlds

I sometimes feel like my life is split into different segments.  There is my church segment, where I feel like I am mostly doing the right thing or focused in the right direction, and then there is the rest of my world, which I sometimes think of as the real world.  I am not quite sure how to connect the two or how to spread the focus on God into the “real world.”  It is easy when I am in church or involved in church activities.   It is not as easy when I am in the daily grind of work, and family life and soccer practices and school events.

Today the Bible opened in Luke:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?  I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.  That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.  But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”

Luke 6:46-49

I have read over this several times.  On one hand, I read it as a bit of a chastise — you listen to what I tell you in church, but why do you not act on it in the real world?  And, of course, I then feel guilty and shameful.  And on the other hand, I read it as encouragement.  I am building a foundation.  And perhaps I just need to keep building it — keep expanding the one world so it expands and takes over the other — so it becomes my real world.

Lord,

Thank you for providing us with so much guidance, for knowing what we need to hear.  Help me set my foundation on you.  Help me expand that foundation so all of my life all of my world is set on you.

 

 

More Wisdom

I think God is trying to tell me something.  The Bible opened to Wisdom again.

Because God is the witness of the inmost self and the sure observer of the heart and the listener to the tongue.  For the spirit of the LORD fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows whatever is said.

Wisdom 1:6-7

Dear Lord,

You know me better than I know myself.  You know my inner being, my inner heart, my inner soul.  The part of me that I hide, even from myself.  I cannot hide from you.  Help me to be true to the being that you created.  You know what I need, and what I don’t.    You know exactly what I am trying to say and where my doubts and fears lie.  Help me, Lord.

God’s Child

Yesterday God reminded us that He calls us by name.  Today he reminds us that we are His — even when we go wrong.

But you, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, and governing all with mercy.  For even if we sin, we are yours, and know your might; but we will not sin, knowing that we belong to you.  For to know you well is complete righteousness, and to know your might is the root of immortality.

Wisdom 15:1-3

I am God’s child.  He calls me by my name and I am His, I am His child, God’s child.  If He had a last name we would all share it.  We are His children, even when we sin, even when we go in the wrong direction.

When we finally truly know this, and accept this, when we finally truly know God, we will sin no more.

That goal of truly knowing Him seems so far off.  I want the crash course!  But like a child, I must take baby steps.  One step at a time.  Like Dory said in the Finding Nemo movie: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”  I just need to try to keep swimming in the right direction.

God,

I want to know you.  I want to know and accept without a doubt or worry that I am yours.  That I am safe.  My fear and inability to fully trust leads me to sin.  Help me to stop being weak.  I know that you can do all things.  I know that you are showing me the steps to take.  Open my eyes and my mind and my heart to accept and know what you are showing me.

Called by name

There is so much in today’s short verse:

I will go before you and level the mountains; Bronze doors I will shatter, iron bars I will snap.  I will give you treasures of darkness, riches hidden away, That you may know I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.

Isaiah 45:2-3

God goes before us.  He leads us, makes sure the path is clear, and clears obstacles in our way.  No mountain, door or  bar is a match for Him.   His words are a promise.  “I will go before you.”  God leads us and he will snap anything that keeps us from following.

He promises us treasures of darkness.  We sometimes blame God for dark times.  But even our darkest day can lead to treasures and riches.  When I look back at dark times, I can see now the growth that results from those dark times, and the good things that eventually result.  Indeed without dark times, I would not recognize the good times or experience them in quite the same way.  God changes darkness to light time and time again — Indeed every 24 hours He reminds us of this as His beautiful sunrise pierces the dark sky.  There really are treasures hidden away in the darkness.

But my favorite part of this verse is the very end “I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.”  God is all powerful.  God can level the mountains, shatter bronze doors, snap iron bars and turn darkness into light.  God can do anything.  He does not need me or you.  And yet He tells us over and over how special and important we are to Him.  The Lord, the God of Israel calls us by name.

Thank you God!

A day for rejoicing!

Today is a day for rejoicing!  Why?  Because a friend received good news from the doctor!  Because I found something I had lost!  Because God is here!

Is there ever a day that is not worthy of rejoicing — even on our darkest days there is reason to rejoice — to find joy in God!

I think the psalms always provide good words for rejoicing — today, the Bible opened to Psalm 40:

Surely, I wait for the LORD; who bends down to me and hears my cry,  Draws me up from the pit of destruction, out of the muddy clay,  Sets my feet upon rock, steadies my steps, And puts a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God.

Many shall look on in fear and they shall trust in the LORD. Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.

You, yes you, O LORD, my God, have done many wondrous deeds!  And in your plans for us there is none to equal you.  Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount.  Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, “See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!”

When I sing of your righteousness in a great assembly, See, I do not restrain my lips; as you, LORD, know.  I do not conceal your righteousness within my heart; I speak of your loyalty and your salvation. I do not hide your mercy or faithfulness from a great assembly.

LORD, may you not withhold your compassion from me; May your mercy and your faithfulness continually protect me.

Psalm 40:2-12

My God you have done wondrous things!  And in your plans for us there is none equal to you!  I wish everyone could know and see the comfort you offer, the plans you have, the goodness that comes from knowing you.  The joy that only you can provide.

Unfortunately, today, I also learned of a man who jumped to his death, apparently a suicide, off a downtown building.  It aches my heart to know that you were so close and he could not see.  Help those who are hurting to find security in you.  Help me to help those who are hurting to find security in you.

Thank you God for drawing me from the pit of destruction.  Thank you for setting me on your firm rock.  Help me to share your comfort with others, to rejoice in your goodness.  Grant me your compassion and grant me compassion for others.  Protect me O Lord.  Help me to always know, even on my darkest day, that my security is in you.