Thursday, December 30, 2010

Big Man

Psalms 52
1 Why do you brag of evil, "Big Man"?
God's mercy carries the day.
2 You scheme catastrophe;
your tongue cuts razor-sharp,
artisan in lies.
3 You love evil more than good,
you call black white.
4 You love malicious gossip,
you foul-mouth

6 Good people will watch and
worship. They'll laugh in relief:
7 "Big Man bet on the wrong horse,
trusted in big money,
made his living from catastrophe."

It seems like there's one in every crowd.  A "Big Man" or woman who's always right and knows about everything.  They sure are hard to be around.  My shoulders tense and I try and think if it's worthwhile to say something.  Usually it isn't.  It just leads to arguments.  One of my favorite professors in college used to tell us, "Be sure to study for your exam. Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall."  Prov 16:18 NKJV  Then he'd go on to say, "I don't want to frighten anyone with lightening bolts but you really shouldn't cheat on a Bible exam..."

Truly the "Big" man or woman is hurting themselves more than anyone.  God will turn it around in the end.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not good enough...

Back to the Psalms now for my daily quiet times.  Thanks to all who stopped by for the Christmas story!
Psalms 51
1 Generous in love — God, give grace!
Huge in mercy — wipe out my bad record.

2 Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
3 I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down

16 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
17 I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love

don't for a moment escape God's notice.

I remember these feelings and still struggle a bit.  You go to Church and everyone seems so perfect.  Their faces sparkle and they smile.  I have even been accused of being perfect... Nothing could be further from the truth.  We go to Church remembering some of the stuff we said or did last week.  We are happy to be there.  The message helps us find hope again.  We pray and find peace, forgiveness.  In other words, we all need a good scrubbing!  The truth is we sparkle because we just confessed our sins to God and were forgiven.  When I first went to Church I felt like I'd never be good enough.  If I sneezed, I thought everyone would turn around to look at me.  It's pretty scary at first.  In this Psalm you can see what God doesn't want: "going through the motions," "a flawless performance."  None of us are good enough on our own.  "When my pride was shattered..." that's what God wants.  Openness before Him, honesty, true feelings, and admitting we are the creation.  He is God.

1 John 1:9-10
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Eph 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

My favorite, have to remind myself sometimes.  It's not just me.
Rom 3:21
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

John 3:16-17
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jesus is born!

Jesus was born in a manger with animals.   If God had waited 2000 years He could've been born in a hospital that's sterile, with renowned doctors.  But the Son of God didn't need all of this.  And God's timing is perfect.  This was the time in all of history when man needed a Savior.  What a wonderful gift!  Jesus is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Many Jews, like Joseph, were in Bethlehem for the Census.  The inns were full.  Perhaps the travel between Nazareth and Bethlehem took a bit longer for Mary and Joseph.  There wasn't a mid-wife or Mary's family to help out, they were alone.  But they did just fine.  They may have felt a little sad that Jesus' birth turned out this way.  They may have expected something more. 
Luke 2:6-7
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There would've been this strange star lighting where Jesus lay.  A heavenly spotlight on the baby.  Little did they know...

The wise men came to see where the star shone in Bethlehem and they found the King of the Jews.  According to modern astronomers the star did move, the planets changed positions and they estimate it took a year for the grand finale to take place.  The star could've been something else.  Only God knows for sure.  
Matthew 2
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh
The gold was a gift for a King.  The frankincense was used as incense or perfume.  It was also used in temple sacrifices.  Jesus would be our sacrifice.  The myrrh was used to embalm bodies.  It took faith to follow a star from their own country to another.  They are rewarded- and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy!  All doubt is gone.  Perhaps Joseph burned a little frankincense for his wife.  Or maybe the gifts were too sacred to touch.  Joseph and Mary had money to take care of Jesus.

It was dark out, and while Mary rested with the baby, a strange bleeting and the excited voices of men started getting closer.  Suddenly, a crowd of shepherds and sheep came to them.  The experience they shared filled them with awe and wonder.
Luke 2
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
If I were a shepherd I'd run to Bethlehem too!  You notice the shepherd's weren't shy about spreading the word of the angel's visit.  God knows people, He created them.  All through scripture He has chosen people who will either spread the word or remain silent. Mary pondered this in her heart.  I could never do that.  I'd be talking about this for years.  All doubt about the baby was gone.  He's finally here!  For the first time in many years shepherds are treated as important people.  God spoke to them- He gave them a wonderful visit of angels.  They were important!  It didn't matter how people treated them.

Isa 11:10
10 "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious."
"And His resting place shall be glorious," there were wise men in fine robes, expensive gifts and camels.  Shepherds and sheep gathered near.  A brilliant star lit the manger.  And a radiant Mary and Joseph ponder all they are experiencing.  They are a part of a much bigger plan.  Usually referring to a resting place means a grave.  But Jesus didn't rest... He rose from the grave!  He conquered sin and death.  Now it is 2010 and we wait for more prophecies to be fulfilled, the second coming.  I believe it will happen as naturally and supernaturally as His first.  There will be no more doubt. We must not fall asleep.  Hallelujah!  Merry Christmas to you all!  God bless you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The shepherds and the angels

The first time the full impact of this part of the Christmas story really dawned on me, was when I was watching a movie about Jesus.  I'm not one to get real emotional, but I cried.  The shepherds were the lowest of the low socially.  They were humble people who lived in the fields outside of major cities tending sheep.  They told each other stories about the constellations in the night sky; they played instruments.  They didn't have fine robes and big houses. If God had waited 2000 years He could've made an announcement on TV.  But that wasn't His plan.   I'm so grateful.  It's important to note also that King David was called by God as a shepherd boy.  These were simple, humble, and honorable people.
Luke 2:8-14
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

I think I would be afraid too if I saw an angel.  Just imagine, it's the dead of night.  The shepherds are listening for any disturbance in the bush, a wolf? A lion?  There may have been a soothing song playing in the background to calm the sheep.  They would have been on alert listening, protecting the sheep, their income.  When suddenly a great light appears before them!  An angel speaks.  Sheep?  What sheep?  What is this?  The angel tells them not to be afraid and tells them to go see Jesus in Bethlehem.  He's wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger.  Then the whole sky lights up!  And the angels rejoice right in front of the shepherds!  We will see this in Heaven too.  How awesome is that?  In verse 10 you see "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." The message is expanding it's no longer just for Jews it's for all people now.  Even those of us who are Gentiles.  There are many prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah about the Gentiles.  Here's one:
Isa 11:10
10 "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious."
The Jews will always be God's chosen ones, always the first-fruits.  God chose to include the Gentiles as well.  For that I am very grateful.  Jesse is David's father.  This prophecy sounds like it's referring to the manger in Bethlehem.  The wise men were Gentiles.

I'm not sure why God mentions the shepherd many times in Scripture.  He is God, I'm a sheep...  I've never been a shepherd.  But from what I've read a shepherd's job is very taxing.  They need to watch everything their sheep do.  They're not the brightest of animals and will eat poisonous food, fall off of cliffs.  It does sound familiar with my life...  They are also considered a tasty treat by meat eating animals so they constantly need to be guarded and protected.  It would take a great deal of patience and love to handle a job like this.  I believe sheep are also sensitive to emotion as well and frighten easily.
Micah 5:2
6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

My favorite Psalm, I memorized this and repeated it before I went to sleep every night during a difficult time.  What an awesome God we have!
Psalms 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
A great Christian book on God as our shepherd is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The wise men and the star

The wise men are considered to be astronomers and priests.   They studied the skies and the planets long before we had the technology of today.  During this time period they found something very interesting in the sky.  A huge star indicating the King of the Jews was to be born.  The likely place to find out where this would happen was the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  It is important to note that the wise men were not Jewish. God loves and can use anyone for His will.
Matt 2:1-8
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" (Micah 5:2)
From these verses we can see that people believed the prophecies before the birth of Christ.  And even knew them by heart.  Sadly Herod did not know, and he was the current King of the Jews.  All of Jerusalem was troubled.  You would think the coming of the Christ would be a good thing in the temple- that it wouldn't be a huge surprise.  It took wise men from the east to point this out, they were the ones who worshiped Jesus.  This shows the deterioration taking place in the Jewish leaders since the time of King David.  David did everything for the glory of God.  When he sinned, he was forgiven, and went on to bring God glory again.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."
Herod was a wicked King.  His desire was to destroy the competition, it was all about his glory.  So he lied telling the wise men he wanted to worship Jesus. 

Here's how God worked it out with the wise men:
Matt 2:12
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

One of my hobbies is astronomy.  You can imagine how excited I got when astronomers wrote they had figured out the star over Bethlehem in my "Astronomy Magazine".  It is documented that a very rare and unusual incident happened during this time period where Venus and Jupiter were in the constellation Leo.  Here is a quote from 
"Perhaps the signal for their star was to be a sign in the constellation of Leo, the Lion.
To the early Israelites, Leo was a constellation of great astrological significance and considered a sacred part of the sky. A very close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter would have been visible in the eastern dawn sky of the Middle East from about 3:45 to 5:20 a.m. on Aug. 12, 3 BC.
When they first emerged above the eastern horizon, the two planets were separated by only about two-fifths of the Moons apparent diameter or 12 minutes of arc. As a comparison, the separation of the stars Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper is also 12 minutes. Planets this close are very striking, if they don't differ too much in brightness.
Incidentally, St. Matthew wrote that the Magi stated in their meeting with King Herod: "We have seen his Star in the East and have come to worship him." It has never been clear if they saw the star in the eastern sky, or if they saw it from the East. The fact that the Aug. 12, 3 BC conjunction of Venus and Jupiter occurred in the eastern sky and may have also started the Magi on the journey (from the East) to Bethlehem means that both bases are covered with their statement -- reported by St. Matthew -- to King Herod.
Venus ultimately vanished into the glare of the Sun, but Jupiter and Leo remained in the night sky during the next ten months. During this time a number of additional planetary conjunctions took place, all of which would have been of great importance to the priest-astrologers of the time."  Full Article

Here is another exciting archeological find.  If Jupiter truly did reverse itself, this could only be the hand of God.  It's important to note that these sources aren't from Christian publications.  I wanted to see what the scientists have found, unbiased.
Ancient Roman Coin

I read in my research that this phenomenon has never occurred again in over 2000 years.  One of the proofs that God exists is the orderliness of the universe.  There have been many theories, over the years, as to how the universe will end.  However no one can truly explain how it has lasted this long.  The constellations we see in the sky today, are the same as when Jesus walked the earth.  The earth has changed through war, storms, earthquakes etc.  But the constellations have not.  What a grand entry for the Son of God!  When we are in Heaven we'll know the truth.  For now, we know nothing is impossible for God.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

But Jesus was born in Bethlehem?

Many many years prior, an Old Testament prophecy was written that the Ruler of Israel comes from Bethlehem:
Micah 5:2
2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting."

However, Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, about 60 miles from Bethlehem.
Luke 1:26-27
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

Here's how God worked it out:
Luke 2:1-6
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
Census and taxes!  God used the government to bring about His plan.  This proves that nothing is impossible for God and He can use anything to bring about His will.  By this time it may have been a relief for Mary and Joseph to leave Nazareth.  I'm sure Joseph and Mary both received a lot of advice and who knows what happened in the local gossip mill.  Getting away was a good thing in many ways.  However the trip was very difficult.  Mary was almost ready to deliver Jesus.  Joseph must've been anxious about his wife the whole time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Joseph's reaction

Over a thousand years before the birth of Christ, David wrote this Psalm.  The Psalms are considered hymns, songs of worship and prayers of desperation  to God- this one seems to fit what Joseph and Mary had to deal with.  It would be amazing to be visited by an angel. 
Ps 19:7
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

Matt 1:18-25
18 After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Joseph seemed to have the same reaction to this as Mary, "What!!?  Wait a minute..."   Joseph, like a lot of men, came up with a plan in his mind and knew how he was going to fix things.  I don't know how much of this he actually told Mary.  If she knew, it would have been an incredibly difficult time for her.  She trusted God, believed Gabriel, and now she would've felt incredibly alone. 

This is how God worked it out: 
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."  (Isaiah 7:14)
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Joseph strikes me as a simple man, a carpenter.  He's honorable and keeps his word.  Obviously he has great strength and faith that God would choose him to take care of Mary and Jesus.  It's important to realize that during this time period women were stoned to death for adultery.  Joseph and Mary were asked to believe and do the unacceptable, the impossible.  But the purpose behind what God had in mind is beyond comprehension. Both Mary and Joseph were from the lineage of David fulfilling this prophecy about Jesus:
Isa 9:7
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Thanks Summer!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary and the angel

I wanted to take a break from reading through the Psalms and read the Christmas story this week. Hope you enjoy it too.  Forgive me, God made me an artist so His Word really comes to life in images.  The story begins in the Old Testament with prophecies.  It is such an incredible story, I'm sure people debated how they could possibly be fulfilled for many years.  I wonder if they debated whether scripture is literal or figurative...  Here's one prophecy:
Isa 7:14-15
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 

After many many years, the angel Gabriel visits Mary.
Luke 1:26-38
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was
This is a common reaction to an angel's appearance in the Bible.  Most people are afraid.  I understand her concern about this greeting.  People often say things that sound very good, only to learn it was manipulative.  Mary must've been a wise woman.

30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
Her response is so sincere.  What!!?  Wait a minute...

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."
38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Her faith must've been very strong.  She happily and willingly submits, acknowledging she is a maidservant.  Perhaps this is why God chose her to bear His Son.  Her faith is simple trust, she is humble, and wise.  When people ask me why God would use a virgin to come to earth.  I answer, "Why not?  He's God He can do anything."  But in order for Jesus to be the Son of God, the immaculate conception was a very logical choice...  err according to my limited understanding.  You would think God would choose a wealthy family, people with educations, and a big safe house.  But not our God.  He chose Mary and Joseph, two hardworking young people, with a simple faith that helped change the world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moments go by fast

Psalms 49
13 This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
who only look out for themselves:
14 Death herds them like sheep straight to hell;
they disappear down the gullet of the grave;
They waste away to nothing —
nothing left but a marker in a cemetery.
15 But me? God snatches me from the clutch of death,
he reaches down and grabs me
16 So don't be impressed with those who get rich
and pile up fame and fortune.
17 They can't take it with them;
fame and fortune all get left behind.
18 Just when they think they've arrived
and folks praise them because they've made good
19 They enter the family burial plot
where they'll never see sunshine again.
20 We aren't immortal. We don't last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die

As I read this Psalm, I felt this would be very hard to write about.  Some things in the Psalms are hard to read, but here's my thoughts.  I am reminded of some of the movie stars who bask in the spotlight of fame, money and false praise to manipulate them into shining on the screen.  Really they are just people, like us.  So many tragedies show up in the newspaper.  It's so sad they never knew how to really live.  To me, when it says, "live for the moment" it means selfishly doing what pleases ourselves with no regard for others.  Or allowing other people to control us.  The opposite is to be compassionate to others; helping when we can.  To know Jesus as Lord and Savior is really the only way to know what love is and stay out of hell.  Before I became a Christian I was angry and empty.  I swore like a truck driver with a high-pitched, squeaky, voice.  Becoming a Christian is mysterious.  After I accepted Christ, at the age of 16, I laughed for the first time in years.  When I read the Bible for the first time it stung.  All I saw was what was wrong with me.  But I continued to read it. Soon I began to see the other side- God's unending love and mercy.  When I visited a stranger in a Nursing Home, I felt like a princess sharing a wonderful gift.  So opposite of trying to dull my senses and the deadness inside.  There's so much more to life than money and fame.  Even sunsets are more beautiful when you understand who painted the sky.

My Grandma, who was a Christian, died at age 99.  Before she died she said, "I don't think we are supposed to live this long"- death was merciful.  Grandma Long used to crochet, listen to baseball on the radio, and watch basketball on TV.  At 80, she drove the old ladies to Church.  At 90, her hands shook so bad she could no longer hold a crochet hook.  It was hard to see.  She left behind afghans and all sorts of crocheted items.  Best of all, a message of love I will always treasure.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A storm to bring us to safety

Psalms 48
7 You smashed the ships of Tarshish
with a storm out of the East.
8 We heard about it, then we saw it
with our eyes —
In God's city of angel armies,
in the city our God
Set on firm foundations,
firm forever.

9 We pondered your love-in-action, God,
waiting in your temple:
10 Your name, God, evokes a train
of Hallelujahs
It is spoken, near and far;
your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action.

13 Then you can tell the next generation
detail by detail the story of God,
14 Our God forever,
who guides us till the end of time.

This year a hurricane came up the eastern coast of the United States.  The Weather Services projected the path of this mighty storm would hit the New Jersey shore.  I live about 15 miles from the shore.  We all sat in fear watching the weather reports.  I kept wondering if our little townhouse could stand up to the hurricane force winds.  And, of course, prayed.  There's nothing like a major storm to teach what "pray without ceasing" means...  Then the weather reports changed.  A wind from the west blew the hurricane out to sea.  The storm lost most of it's velocity.  It completely skipped the Jersey shore.  Hallelujahs and sighs of relief filled us all along the northeastern coast.  These verses gave me a big smile as I recalled the goodness and mercy of God.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  Our lives are often filled with storms and troubles- it's such a comfort to know God can use them to bring us to safety.  We can even praise Him for our storms, they come for a purpose in His plan and we get to see His glory in the end.  I have always loved this verse.  I can imagine two giant feet running through the clouds in the sky, directing the path of storms:

Nahum 1:3
3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
The Lord has His way
In the whirlwind and in the storm,

And the clouds are the dust of His feet.

Verses 13 to 14 of this Psalm also stand out to me.   It's amazing that the Bible has survived so many generations.  The story of God has prevailed through wars, times of wealth and prosperity.   That God's Word could still apply to us today, is in itself a miracle revealing the hand of God.  I am so grateful that my generation has a copy and can read the Bible without fear. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

At the top of your lungs!

Ps 47
1 Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo!
Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!
2 God Most High is stunning,
astride land and ocean.

God is amazing!  He even likes us to sing at the top our lungs.  I think it's the song He loves and not so much how good we sing.  Of course, He's God, He can also help our voices sound good.  I love the reference of His being astride land and ocean.  He is stunning.  No one has seen God and lived- people have only seen Him as Jesus in the form of a man.  That's something to look forward too.  Of course to see Jesus face to face is pretty exciting as well.  When I first started going to Church we sang the old hymns and I remember thinking this is so boring...  Then something inside asked, "Who are you singing to?"  It clicked.  I started singing to God and everything changed the songs taught me about God and how to worship Him.  I enjoyed the thought of actually doing something the Creator of the universe likes.  I love to sing now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Look up!

Psalms 46
8 Attention, all! See the marvels of God!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
9 Bans war from pole to pole,
breaks all the weapons across his knee.
10 "Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything

This world has gone crazy.  It seems like every time I open a news website another disaster occurs.  War, famine, people trying to escape their countries for freedom only to die on the way.  The politics have gone way beyond what I've ever seen in my life.  Traffic is always heavy in New Jersey, people are annoyed, impatient, bosses demand schedules pushing drivers to do what they can to get through the traffic.  It's a treadmill that doesn't seem to end.  But above all is God.  He is still in control of the universe.  He created the flowers and trees.  He created us to live a simple life- it's us that made it all so complicated.  I am constantly challenged to find ways to simplify my days and find the priorities.  But the question always remains, how long God?  How long must we wait for peace on earth?  Here's what Jesus said,

John 3
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

That none should perish.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hiding place

Psalms 46
1 God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
2 We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
3 Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.

Being in the presence of God gives me a safe place to hide.  When all seems out of control and lost, I can find peace in Him.  I have experienced this fearlessness when I give up and simply surrender my situation to God.  It seems like things are the very worst when I focus on the problems and not the solutions.  In one of my jobs there was a lot of gossip and I was one of the lucky targets.  Lies were spread and it was very hurtful.  I had to ask myself if I really care what other people think or what God thinks about me.  I turned it into a joke and asked people if there was any new gossip about me today.  It put people at ease and I learned not to take this job too seriously.  It was hard I admit.  But the lesson was well worth it.  Jobs come and go.  Storms hit and move on.  But God is my hiding place in any trouble.  Jesus said it this way,
John 16:33
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." NKJV
I love this verse.  I can imagine Jesus talking seriously to the disciples.  Then He gets a big smile on His face and says, " of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In His presence

Psalms 43
3 Give me your lantern and compass,
give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
to the place of your presence,
4 To enter the place of worship,
meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp,
magnificent God, my God.

Sometimes it's hard to see where we're supposed to go with our lives.  "Ok, I believe in You God, so now what do I do?"  In verse 3 David is asking for a lantern, compass and map.  Sometimes I ask for a neon sign that reads "Do this!"  But the way to find direction is in the place of His presence.  It's in Bible study and prayer.  I love to sing to the Lord in worship- it's like being before His throne, as much as is possible in this world.  Heaven must be awesome.  But today I need to work out my career.  I have a lot of ideas but will need God's lantern, compass and map to actually get there.  Jesus is all these things and more:
John 14:6-7
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
We just need to come into His presence.  Guide me Father in the work You have for me today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What if?

Ps 43:5
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

Sometimes I get down.  Everyone does.  Sometimes it seems like nothing will ever go right again- like I'll be where I'm at today with my career and dreams forever.  But change is always happening.  When I feel this way it's usually because my focus is on my worries and all the things that can go wrong.  The "what if" monster takes over and I imagine the very worst.  It always helps to finish the what if-  with "then I'll do this..."  But the point of these verses is to put my hope back in God, money runs out, work is sometimes fruitless, people get sick and die.  But God, He is forever.  He is the solid One we can always rely on.  "Hope in God."  My countenance is the outer expression of my soul.  My eyes sparkle when I'm trusting God, more beautiful than make-up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dignity for those in need

Psalms 41
1 Dignify those who are down on their luck;
you'll feel good — that's what God does.
2 God looks after us all,
makes us robust with life
Lucky to be in the land,
we're free from enemy worries.
3 Whenever we're sick and in bed,
God becomes our nurse,
nurses us back to health.

Verse 1 stands out to me because it says to give dignity to those who are down on their luck.  I hate to see people blame others when they're already down.  It says that we'll feel good if we help people in a manner of dignity and compassion.  One time my husband and I were saving up to buy some Christian books to be a part of a Bible Study group.  We were newly weds and didn't have much money.  I reached under my seat for my Bible and there was $40 in the cover... Someone snuck it in.  I was delighted.  The person who gave it to us didn't need applause just wanted to help.  I still think highly of them though I don't know who they are.  There are ways to help others without telling them what you're doing.  Leaving groceries on the door step.  Asking to work on a car.  So many fun ways to surprise people.  In this Psalm is another description of God.  He's our nurse and brings us back to health.  It's impressive that the Almighty God, Creator of the universe cares about our dignity.  Jesus often helped the blind, sick and burdened.  Here's how Jesus handled the "who's to blame" issue:
John 9:1-5
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

It's important to note that there are two types of blindness in the Bible: physical, and spiritual.  Spiritual blindness is a life without God.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nothing gets lost in God's largeness

Psalms 36
5 God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
6 His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;

Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks
7 How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
8 To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
9 You're a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.

"Meteoric," "astronomic," "titanic," "oceanic," these are huge words to describe God.  Yet no one, animal, or place is forgotten by Him.  Amazing.  I can barely remember what I did when I walk away from my keyboard.  God is omnipresent (everywhere), omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful).  Yet David says His love is exquisite and we eagerly run under His wings.  I have to agree.  I don't deserve to know God based on my past or family history.  But He opens the invitation to everyone, as they are, anytime.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Picked on...

Psalms 35
23 Please get up — wake up! Tend to my case.
My God, my Lord — my life is on the line.

24 Do what you think is right, God, my God,
but don't make me pay for their good time.
25 Don't let them say to themselves,
"Ha-ha, we got what we wanted."
Don't let them say,
"We've chewed him up and spit him out."
26 Let those who are being hilarious
at my expense

Be made to look ridiculous.
Make them wear donkey's ears;
Pin them with the donkey's tail,
who made themselves so high and mighty!
27 But those who want
the best for me,
Let them have the last word — a glad shout!

and say, over and over and over,
God is great — everything works
together for good for his servant.
28 I'll tell the world how great and good you are,
I'll shout Hallelujah all day, every day.

Sometimes it seems like God is asleep.  There's so much bad in the world.  But... He's not!  He does wait until the right time.  What I loved about these verses was how David summed up what people face in a beautiful way.  We want to see those who make fun of us be put in their place.  We want to say, "Who's laughing now?"  The Psalms are so honest.  But God wants us to be steady, humble and not proud.  Jesus had every right and reason to do this.  But He didn't.  He prayed, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do,"  from the cross.  God always offers a second chance and a relationship with Himself.  I don't want to get in the way of that.  Does this make us passive? Some interpret it that way.  But I don't.  I believe we need to protect those who are being hurt and sometimes that means stepping in to fight for the innocent.  However...

Proverbs 24
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.

Besides... God has His own ways of making things right... ; )