The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalms 91:14-16 #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan
I came across these verses today in my #DailyBibleReading.
How I want to claim these as promises as mine: God will rescue, protect, answer, be with me during times of trouble, honor me, etc. But these aren’t blanket promises. They are for people who love Him and trust Him.
As Christians, our #1 command is to “Love God”. But what does this mean? How do I know if I am loving God the way He wants? Am I loving Him with all my heart, soul and mind?
What does it mean to truly love God?
Obeying His commands
Holding tightly to God
Searching for Him
Storing up His words in my heart
Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3
Jesus replied,”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
You who love the LORD, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Psalms 97:10
Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. Deuteronomy 11:22
Loving God with All My Heart, Soul, and Mind:
Loving God with what is inside of me . . . and with what I do and say.
Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. Psalms 119:2
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Psalms 119:34
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalms 27:8
If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:4-6
And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:17
Recently I was talking with a guy whose child has stage 4 cancer. He made a comment that stuck with me: “Sometimes you don’t realize that you are living in the ‘good-old-days’ until your life takes a bad turn. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed life more and savored the moments, not realizing what the future held.”
I’ve thought about his comments many times over the last few weeks. I’m working to savor the little things.
Here are a few daily practices I’m trying to incorporate into my life to keep focused on what matters most.
- Sitting quietly for five minutes a day without distractions and reflecting on the blessing in my life. No TV. No phone. Just me and Jesus.
- Gratitude Journal: In my regular S.O.A.P. journal I’m including a daily gratitude sentence or paragraph. I have so much to be grateful for and I need to recognize it and give thanks.
- Pray for God to help me realize the brevity of life, so that I may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan
Have you found any practices that help you to enjoy, remember, or savor the little things in life?
I am more aware of the how quickly the times of hand are ticking. I see the almost overnight changes in my daughters as they start and go through puberty. The summer has flown by and another school year is right around the corner.
I have one life to live.
And this life is short.
I am so grateful for this time in my life when I am able to work less and enjoy my kids more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. #BecomingMary
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. Isaiah 8:13-14
The Kings of Israel and Judah fascinate me. These kings had every opportunity to follow God and do good. Some chose to follow God . . . some chose to go the opposite direction, with devastating results.
For example: Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. A great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and son who each reigned over Judah. All descendants of King David.
King Uzziah: Became king at age 16 and started off seeking God and God blessed him. He became very powerful and famous. But he also became very proud. His pride led to his downfall and God gave him leprosy as his punishment.
King Jotham: When his dad got leprosy, Jotham was put in charge and became king at age 25. He did what was pleasing to God, just like his father Uzziah, but Jotham didn’t let his pride go to his head. He also became very powerful, but he was careful to live in obedience to God. But even though he was obedient to God, the people under him continued in their corrupt ways.
King Ahaz: I’m not sure what killed Jotham, but if my math is correct, he died at age 41 and his son, Ahaz, became king at age 20. Ahaz went the complete opposite direction of his father and grandfather. He worshiped idols. He sacrificed his own son to Baal. He encouraged the people of Judah to sin. He destroyed items for the Lord’s Temple and shut the temple doors.
King Hezekiah: What would you expect of Hezekiah, having a dad like Ahaz who had even sacrificed his brother to an idol? But Hezekiah didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. He followed the Lord. He reopened the Temple. He commanded the people of Judah to turn back to God and God gave the people of Judah the heart to obey. He was successful and powerful, but with time he also became proud. But instead of having his pride become his downfall like it had his great-grandfather, he recognized the pride, humbled himself, and repented.
If you keep reading on in 2 Chronicles you’ll see the pattern continue to repeat itself. Unfortunately with all the good Hezekiah did, his son, Manasseh, was an evil king. And the pattern goes on and on.
Life Lessons from Judah’s History
- Godly Mentors Make an Impact: Uzziah had a mentor – the high priest Zechariah. We don’t know much about Zechariah, but he taught Uzziah to fear God.
Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the LORD, God gave him success.” 2 Chronicles 26:5
- Mothers Matter: We also don’t know much about these mothers, but one interesting note is that the evil king Ahaz had a wife name Abijah who was the mother of the godly king, Hezekiah. She was also the daughter of the high priest Zechariah. I wonder if this was a godly woman – married to an evil man – who was determined to do everything in her power to teach her son about God in spite of the evil around them.
- Destiny Isn’t Determined by Parents: While parents have influence on a child, the child’s relationship with God is his or her choice. Whether your parents love God or hate him . . . your relationship with God is all your own. Christian parents may have atheist children and atheist children may have Christian children.
- God Forgives and Leads: Whenever the king sought God or humbled himself before God, God led and God forgave. He also gave the kings who sought him victory in battle, wealth, and success.
When I read the list of kings and chronology in the Bible sometimes it is easy for me to skim through the names and forget these were real people. But they were. Humans with baggage and history and choices. Parents. Husbands and wives. Leaders and followers. Lovers of God and haters of God.
Regardless of the circumstances they were born into they had choices to make.
Just like me.
“But what do you think about this?
A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.
Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.” Matthew 21:28-32
I am a poster child for “fly over” America. I live in the middle of the United States in a nice, middle-class house. I have a husband, two kids, and a dog. I drive my kids to sports and school. I am a typical “soccer mom” (minus the soccer and the peppy smile and cute blonde pony-tail . . . I’m the mom hanging out in her car with no make-up and lots of gray hair, trying to finish an overdue library book while drinking lukewarm coffee).
I am rarely pushed out of my comfort zone. I’ve traveled internationally and seen poverty, but it doesn’t touch my day-to-day life. I go to church with a lot of other hard-working, suburban, mid-westerners.
Yes, there are hipsters and hippies and refugees in our midst, but the count is small.
Sure, there are probably a lot of us living paycheck to paycheck, but not too many who are skipping meals due to lack of money.
This is my little piece of the world.
Not to say there isn’t pain and drama and sin in my church – there is – plenty of it. Just like every church in the world, the seats are full of people silently suffering from depression and anxiety. Whether in their past or present life – there is the struggle of addiction to porn, drugs, alcohol and gambling. There is divorce. There are past childhood wounds. There is future baggage being created. There is gossip and anger. There is hurt. There are struggles.
There are also the same faces that are seen every Sunday – the church leaders, the greeters, the childcare volunteers.
And then there are the invisible Christians. There are those who walk in and walk out of church, unnoticed. There are those who never even walk in the doors, because they are ashamed of the baggage they carry. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who go to church in prison as they serve a life-sentence. There are those who never show up on Sunday morning because they are in a nursing home or hospital.
In my mind, I see the “Kingdom of Heaven” being my church on a bigger scale, just without the ongoing sin and pain.
And it some ways it will be. But in other ways it will be much different.
In heaven, the invisible Christians will finally be seen. And they won’t be last. They will be first. The death row inmate who gave his life to Christ in the final hours will be leading the choir. The former thief will be at a place of honor. The invisible Christians – the poor and the hurting – will be those with the best seats at the table.
There will be people from every nationality and ethnicity, worshiping together. The prostitute with the preacher. The murderer with the cop. The man who struggled with same-sex attraction and the man who struggled with judging others. The republican and the democrat. The liberal and the conservative. The socialist, the libertarian, and the communist. The rich and the poor. The elderly and the infant.
Maybe it is time that I open my eyes and see others the way Jesus sees them. Love them the way Jesus loves them. Show compassion like Jesus showed. For all I know the homeless man I pass on the way to church might have a seat reserved for him in heaven, at the right hand of Jesus. The woman who keeps her head down at the grocery store and looks like her life is a mess . . . might be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Then he said,“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:3
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Matthew 5:10
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
“I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to his disciples,“I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said,“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:23-26
Today’s #BibleReadingPlan had me read Matthew 20:1-19. Recently my pastor taught on this passage, which showed me this parable in a light I’d never seen before. You can listen to the sermon here on Journey Church’s website. Pastor Phil Human does a great job illustrating what this parable means . . . but I’ll take a shot at summarizing as well.
- God is the boss of heaven. He is a kind boss. He is merciful. He is generous. He is loving.
- Someone can turn to God in the twilight of their life – and God will welcome them into heaven just the same as someone who served Him their whole life.
- Our focus shouldn’t be on what others are doing, how much money they are making or rewards they are getting . . . our focus should be on the tasks God has given us and our relationship with Him.
- I need to humble myself and be grateful for the gifts God has given me.
6 a.m.: A landowner went into town to hire people to work in his vineyard. He found a group of laborers and agreed to pay them a set amount for working the full day. (For example, $80)
9 a.m.: Same landowner is back in town and sees some people standing around doing nothing. He offered them a job to work in the vineyard for the rest of the day. They didn’t negotiate a pay rate, but he said he’d pay them whatever was right at the end of the day.
Noon: Same as 9 a.m.
3 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.
5 p.m.: Same as 9 a.m.
7 p.m.: Everyone comes in from work and stands in line to get their pay. They line up from how long they worked. At the front of the line are the guys who only worked for a few hours. I imagine they aren’t even tired after only working a few hours. The landowner hands them each $80.
When the guys who had been working all day see this they start to do the math and get excited, thinking if the landowner paid these guys $80 for working 2 hours they are probably going to get $520 for working 13 hours!
But as they go down the line, the landowner hands everyone $80.
The guys at the end of the line were extremely upset with the landowner and didn’t think he was being fair.
But in reality, he was paying them exactly what he had agreed to pay them. They weren’t getting ripped off. They were being paid the going rate for the work they did. But, the landowner was being kind to the others and the 6 a.m. workers were jealous.
As Pastor Phil said in his sermon, most of us hear this parable and get a little indignant just like the 6 a.m. worker.
But now switch things around a bit . . . let’s get real. I’m not a 6 a.m. worker. I may have been a “Christian” from a young age, but I wasn’t actively running the race until a few years ago. And when it is hot, I take a lot of water breaks. I give into temptation. I get easily distracted from the tasks God has given me.
Am I really a 6 a.m. worker? Not by a long-shot. Not even a 9 a.m. or noon worker. I’d probably say I’m a 3 p.m. worker . . . but if I’m honest I’m actually a 5 p.m. worker. I spend the majority of my day hanging out in town. And I give God the left-overs of my energy and time.
God asks me to spend time with him. To love him with all my heart and soul. To love my enemies. To love my neighbors. To care for the widows and the orphans. To be patient, kind, merciful and humble. 99% of the time (or more) I am none of these and do none of them.
But God, in his kindness, is going to give me the same reward of admission into heaven as He gave our mentors from the Bible – Peter, Paul, Mary, Stephen. By God’s grace, I will enter heaven just like martyrs, missionaries, apostles and saints.
Instead of getting indignant about the 5 p.m. workers getting $80 . . . I need to look in the mirror and see myself for what I am: A 5 p.m. worker.
I should be on my knees thanking God for his kindness and mercy because I am being given a gift far more generous and wonderful than I could ever earn or will ever deserve.