Saturday, April 29, 2017

Honest and Pliable

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 4-5; Psalm 139; Matthew 16

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Honesty

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 139:21-24

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Ps 139:21-24 NIV)


All of the preceding verses of Psalm 139 speak of God’s “omni” attributes—

His omniscience:
He knows our thoughts and our words before they are even uttered (vv. 2-4).
His omnipresence:
There is no place that He is not present; the heavens, the depths, the womb, even darkness will not hide one from His presence (vv. 7-16).

David seeks to know the thoughts of God; they are “precious” to him (v. 17). Then we come to verses 21-22. David voices his hatred toward those who are wicked. To those who hate God, David returns hatred. This interjection of hatred amidst the extolling of God’s wonderful attributes seems out of place. David is expressing hatred for his enemies and the enemies of God, yet we know God is a God of love who commands us to love our enemies.

It seems that verses 21-22 offer a stark example of what this whole psalm is saying— God knew David’s thoughts and words before they were penned: “I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” Yet the key point for David and for us comes in verses 23-24: Our hearts must first be honest (vv. 19-22 show David’s honest feelings); but most importantly, our hearts must be willing to be changed—uncover any offensive way in me and lead me in Your everlasting way (v. 24).


God knows my heart and my thoughts. I must be willing to let Him reveal my anxious thoughts and offensive ways. I must allow my heart to be softened, molded and changed. May I be such that I may be led by my Lord “in the way everlasting.” –This is what the attitude of my heart should be: honest and pliable.


Search me, O God, and know my heart. I declare my willingness to be led by You even in ways beyond my understanding. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Friday, April 28, 2017

Exposing Our Attitudes

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 3; 1 Chronicles 12; Matthew 15

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Bigotry

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 15:21-28

22 A Canaanite woman… came to him (Jesus), crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.

26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

27 "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

28 Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matt 15:22-28 NIV)


There are many lessons to be gained from this unusual passage. What is the main point? Is it about the woman’s “great faith”? Is it about persistence? Is it about the disciples wanting to “send her away”? Are some people really to be considered “dogs”? Did Jesus really come only for the people of Israel? Yes, many questions to be explored, answered and the lessons to be taken to heart, but I want to consider one reason why Jesus treated this woman in such a condescending manner.

Knowing the character and nature of Jesus—His love for all people in the world—His commands to love and go into all the world—it is clear that Jesus was and is in no way bigoted. However, He certainly recognizes that bigotry does exist between different people groups. By echoing attitudes He knew existed in His own disciples, He exposed them and corrected them. “You think I was only sent for you—only for Israel—not true! You think that you are higher than other people; that they are as dogs—not true!” And to accentuate the point He praised the woman for her faith and healed her daughter.


The truth stated by our American founding fathers that, “All men are created equal” is validated by the Scriptures. Yet to act as if prejudice and bigotry do not exist by merely policing our speech is only to mask the need within people’s hearts for genuine transformation that can only fully be realized by receiving Christ within.


Lord, help me demonstrate Your love and acceptance for all people by my actions and not just by acting “politically correct.” Through Christ Jesus. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where to Take a Stand

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 142; Matthew 14

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Spiritual Warfare

SCRIPTURE:  1 Chronicles 11:13-14

13…At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines. 14 But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory. (1 Chron 11:13-14 NIV)


A barley field seems an unlikely place to defend so valiantly. At first these Israelite troops, led by Eleazar (one of David’s top three mighty men), retreated from the Philistines. But for some reason, right in the middle of a lowly barley field, Eleazer is led to take a stand. Why the barley field? It probably wasn’t because this field was particularly valuable. A wheat field or a vineyard or an olive grove would have been considered more valuable, but it was in a barley field that “the Lord brought about a great victory.” 


It is important to note that it was the Lord that gave the victory. So the question becomes, where in one’s life does the Lord say to take a stand? What is your barley field? Where is the place the Lord can bring you victory over the enemy that pursues you? When the Lord reveals that place—the place where he commands you to draw a line and say to the enemy, “Here! And no further!” take courage, be resolute, and realize your triumph in His name.


Lord, show me the battlefield of Your choosing. I submit to Your leading and trust You for victory. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Feed the Crop, Not the Thorns

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 1; Psalm 140; Matthew 13

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Fruitfulness

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 12:43-45

From Jesus’ parable of the sower:

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."
(Matt 13:3-9 NIV)

From Jesus’ explanation of the parable:

18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matt 13:18-23 NIV)


In this parable Jesus gives four scenarios of sewn seeds:
1.                  Some fell on the path
2.                  Some fell on rocky places
3.                  Some fell among thorns
4.                  Some fell on good soil

For this journal entry I want to specifically consider the third scenario. In this scenario the issue is not that the seed did not even sprout (scenario 1), or that it sprouted but soon died (scenario 2), but that it provided little or no fruit because of stunted growth due to “worries of this life” and falling prey to “the deceitfulness of wealth” (v. 22). This scenario is not representative of an unsaved person, but of an ineffective Christian. 


To allow oneself to be occupied with fret, or to be overly concerned with money or the things money provides, is to rob oneself of the fullness of life available on this side of heaven. It feeds the thorns rather than the crop.


Lord, keep me from the thorns. May my trust in You overshadow the concerns of life that serve only to feed the thorns instead of the fruit. Create in me a heart of joy and fulfillment that results in bountiful produce from my life.

For my best and for Your glory through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Void Will Be Filled

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 30-31; 1 Chronicles 10; Matthew 12

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Spiritual Health

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 12:43-45

Jesus said…

43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first… (Matt 12:43-45 NIV)


The human house cannot remain unoccupied. Evil spirits may be cast out, and the inner man delivered of them; but if one does not accept and receive Christ within, the empty human heart is a vulnerable abode for evil spirits to return to. It is not the absence of evil that brings spiritual health, it is the presence of Jesus.


Whenever I pray for deliverance of any kind over someone, I must remember to also pray for the presence of Jesus to fill the void.


Lord, help me lead people not only to Your deliverance, but also to Your fullness. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Wisdom of a Child

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 28-29; Psalm 109; Matthew 11

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Human Development

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. (Matt 11:25 NLT)


God created in mankind the ability to reason. We are meant to think and learn. We are supposed to grow intellectually. Like everything God has created, our minds will be best developed when our natural curiosity to know and discover is aided by Him. However, knowing Him—having relationship with Him—is not achieved by intellectual pursuit, but comes from spiritual rather than cognitive knowledge. When we allow our reasoning to supersede our childlike faith, wisdom is hidden from us.


I have been created as a being in the image of my Creator—a triune being of body, intellect and spirit. I must never develop any one of these to the detriment of all.


Lord, forgive me when I have neglected the health and well being of any part of my created self. May I grow, and grow old in the fullness of Your will. In Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Good Slap in the Face

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 27; Psalm 141; 1 Chronicles 9; Matthew 10

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Accountability

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 141:5

Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. (Ps 141:5 NIV)


When is being slapped a good thing? When is being chastised like being anointed? –When it is being administered to me by a righteous person for my own good, that’s when! If we are ever to grow as disciples of Jesus, we must be able to accept correction from the Lord through others. That means we must be willing to make ourselves accountable to good mentors, coaches, counselors, teachers, friends whom we trust and who will be unafraid to rebuke us when necessary.


Whenever I receive criticism or a figurative slap in the face, I must be willing to reflectively consider the rebuke before reacting. Additionally, I must have those in my life to whom I have given permission to administer those slaps.


Lord, I desire Your anointing, even when it may come in an uncomfortable way. Help me to recognize it when it comes and grow in my discipleship. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP