Open hearts, open doors

But, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the Law; if you brag about your relationship to God; if you know the will of God; if you are taught by the Law so that you can figure out the things that really matter; if you have persuaded yourself that you are: a guide for the blind; a light to those who are in darkness; an educator of the foolish; a teacher of infants (since you have the full content of knowledge and truth in the Law); then why don’t you who are teaching others teach yourself? If you preach, “No stealing,” do you steal? If you say, “No adultery,” do you commit adultery? If you hate idols, do you rob temples? If you brag about the Law, do you shame God by breaking the Law? As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you. Circumcision is an advantage if you do what the Law says. But if you are a person who breaks the Law, your status of being circumcised has changed into not being circumcised. So if the person who isn’t circumcised keeps the Law, won’t his status of not being circumcised be counted as if he were circumcised? The one who isn’t physically circumcised but keeps the Law will judge you. You became a lawbreaker after you had the written Law and circumcision.  It isn’t the Jew who maintains outward appearances who will receive praise from God, and it isn’t people who are outwardly circumcised on their bodies. Instead, it is the person who is a Jew inside, who is circumcised in spirit, not literally. That person’s praise doesn’t come from people but from God. ~Rom 2:17-29 (CEB)

Often when we read verses like these it is easy to skim over them feeling that they do not apply to me since it is written to the Jews in the 1st century Rome. But, if I imagine Paul here today would he say the same things to us Christians?

You may know little Christian/Jewish history so you may not know that the Jews pretty much felt that all Gentiles were only good to fuel the fires of Hell. Also you may not realize that the Gentiles had no respect for the Jews. During New Testament times observing the Sabbath was viewed as pure laziness. Also the Jews received extraordinary privileges from the Roman government because they were Jew. Jews were also accused of atheism because Jews believed that God alone was God. Not only did they not worship the gods of the Gentiles but reverence also was not paid to kings, or honor to the Caesars (Which was a national religion for Roman territories). What really moved the Gentiles to such dislike of the Jews was the fact that Jews had great contempt toward all other religions. Finally, the last straw, was that Jews were accused of hatred of their neighbors and complete unsociability. It was said that if a Jew were asked directions to a place, he would refuse to give any information except to another Jew and that, if anyone was looking for a well from which to drink, a Jew would not lead him to it unless he was circumcised.

It is simply true that the Jews did bring disgrace to God’s name by shutting themselves into a rigid community from which all others were shut out and because they showed such an attitude of contempt towards the Gentiles and a lack of charity for their needs. But what of Christianity? Are we ever accused of rigid views, strange practices, eliteness?

Real religion involves having an open heart and an open door.

Heavenly Father, may my heart be open to others who are different to me. May actions of love point them to You. Help me to remember this day that the only Jesus some people may see is through me. Help me to be Your hands and feet in the world. Amen.

A different point of view

Therefore if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. ~Col 3:1-4 (CEB)

“’Being in the world, without being of the world.” There words summarize well the way Jesus speaks of the spiritual life. It is a life in which we are totally transforms by the Spirit of love. Yet, it is a life in which everything seems to remain the same. To life a spiritual life does not mean that we must leave our families, give up our jobs, or change our ways of working; it does not mean that we have to withdraw from social or political activities, or lose interest in literature and art; it does not require severe forms of asceticism or long hours of prayer…. What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary things. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.” ~From Making All Things New by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me this day as I live in this world. May all I experience begin to be seen as opportunities to feel Your presence in my daily life. Amen.

A new day

The LORD your redeemer, the holy one of Israel, says, For your sake, I have sent an army to Babylon, and brought down all the bars, turning the Chaldeans’ singing into a lament. I am the LORD, your holy one, Israel’s creator, your king! The LORD says— who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and battalion; they will lie down together and will not rise; they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick. Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. The beasts of the field, the jackals and ostriches, will honor me, because I have put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness to give water to my people, my chosen ones, this people whom I formed for myself, who will recount my praise. ~Isaiah 43:14-21 (CEB)

Every day we are given the chance to start anew. New beginnings are available all the time. There also is always the opportunity for a new beginning in our relationship with God. God is infinite so there is the unlimited possibility for growth and starting anew. No matter how intimate our relationship with Jesus Christ is there is always room for growth and new beginnings. The changes He is calling us to might be slight or it might be radical.

Heavenly Father, show me how You want me to grow this day, what new levels in our relationship are you stretching me to. Give me the strength and courage to rise up to the changes You are calling me to make today. Amen

The good and the bad

 

Now children, listen to me: Happy are those who keep to my ways! Listen to instruction, and be wise; don’t avoid it. Happy are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorposts. Those who find me find life; they gain favor from the LORD. Those who offend me injure themselves; all those who hate me love death. ~ Prov 8:32-36(CEB)

“Faith is not belief in an afterlife based on today’s moral litmus test. To the contemplative ‘bad’ and ‘good’ make no matter. Each has capacity to become the other. Out of bad much good has come. It is often sin that unmasks us to ourselves and opens the way for growth. Mature virtue is tried virtue, not virtue unassailed. Great good, on the other hand, whatever its effects, has so often deteriorated into arrogance, into a righteousness that vitiates its own rightness. But both of them, both bad and good, lived in the light of God, blanch, are reduced to size in the face of the Life that transcends them.” ~From Illuminated Life by Joan Chittister

Heavenly Father, shine Your Light on me. May I be found with Your Life in me. May the good I have done be for Your glory. May the bad that I have done be turned around to serve Your ultimate Plan. Amen.

Seeds

Jesus began to teach beside the lake again. Such a large crowd gathered that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the whole crowd was nearby on the shore. He said many things to them in parables. While teaching them, he said, “Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” He said, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!” ~Mark 4:1-9 (CEB)

“The words of the Lord are the seed sown by the sower. Into our hearts they must fall that they may grow. Meditation and prayer must water them, and obedience keep them in the sunlight. Thus will they bear fruit for the Lord’s gathering.“ ~From Life Essential New by George McDonald

“I have always marveled at how plants unconsciously seek the light and warmth of the sun and how persons unconsciously seek the light and warmth of God’s Love. As persons, we do this at the level both of our roots and of our fruits- at a level of both of our being and our doing. When we become aware that our roots have been reaching for God all along and that God’s Love has been sustaining us throughout, we begin consciously and willingly turning inward toward God in prayer. This moment of prayerful turning marks a major conversation in our life and growth as persons.” ~From The Art of Passingover by Francis Dorff

Heavenly Father, may I be fertile soil for the seeds You plant in me. Water my soul with Your Word. Breathe fresh Life into me. May I keep my Face this day turned to the Light so that my feet may find good footing along this journey. Amen.

In the silence of the day

But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you. ~Matt 6:6(CEB)

“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and a place for God, and him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists but also that he is actively present in our lives- healing, teaching, and guiding- we need to set aside a time and space to give him our undivided attention. Jesus says, ‘Go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is that secret place’ “~From Making All Things New by Henri J. M. Nouwen

What a difference I find in my day when I take the time to be with God. All things seem to line up better, even the bad moments. Keeping my times with God reminds me that I am not alone as I go through the life. Though others may seem to forsake me, quiet time with God helps to ease the rough edges this life seems to bring.

Heavenly Father, may I remember to not run from the silences filling them with noise and activity. Help me to center myself in the quiet so that in the silences of the day, I can feel Your Presence in me. Amen.

A new heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. Ezk 36:26-27(CEB)

After reading yesterday in the Bible how deceitful we all are in our hearts, here is a ray of hope from Ezekiel 36. It tells me that God will give me a new heart! With this new heart I will be able to live the right life that I have tried so hard to do. The verses around these scriptures tell me though that I shall expect a lot of work. God will have to cleanse me of my old ways before I can enter His promises. What is my reward for all the hard work that lies ahead? Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God…The LORD God proclaims: On the day that I cleanse you of all your guilt, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be farmed, and it won’t be like it was when it seemed a wasteland to all who passed by. They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited. ( 36:28, 33-35)

When I have tried to live life right on my own, it crumbles around me. But God will take the ruins I have created and help me build again. He will plant and water my new life and soon a garden will grow.

Take this heart of mine Lord, shape it and breathe new life into it. Remove all the shards of my self-living, create in me a new heart that beats for You. Amen.

Testing

The most cunning heart— it’s beyond help. Who can figure it out?  I, the LORD, probe the heart and discern hidden motives, to give everyone what they deserve, the consequences of their deeds. ~Jer. 17:9-10 (CEB)

The commentary in my Bible says that these verses are the strongest statement made anywhere in the Bible about the deception and sinfulness of the human heart made be the Lord.

It is hard for us to really know or understand this, but God does. He searches and tests what is in our hearts, and God knows them to be full of selfishness and injustice. It saddens me to think of myself in this way especially when I think how hard I try every day to live right. The good news is that God knows what is in my heart. And He loves me anyway! He also is willing to get down in the trenches and work with me to be more than I am. I don’t want to be deceptive and sinful. May I embrace the Psalmists words in 139:22-23, Examine me, God! Look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me, then lead me on the eternal path!

Test my heart oh, Lord! Put me to the test! If there be any deception or sinfulness please bring them to my attention so that I may line my will with Yours. Amen.

Being flexible

So I went down to the potter’s house; he was working on the potter’s wheel. But the piece he was making was flawed while still in his hands, so the potter started on another, as seemed best to him. ~Jer. 18:3-4 (CEB)

I just now read these verses in Jeremiah. I have read and heard them before. It is a good reminder to me to always stay pliable so that God can mold me and shape me into who I need to be for Him. If I become too rigid in my ways and in my thinking then I can break under the pressures of change. So today I am going to remember to be flexible to God’s poking and prodding in my life. The changes that lie before me are for my good. Not meant to break me but shape me into a better person.

I also like the visual the above picture gives me. Having had some personal experience with working in clay I know that it is hard work… the preparation… It is messy. But do you see how involved the potter is with the object he is molding? How closely He holds the clay? That is What God does when He molds us. It is messy work but He is a “hands on God”.  What better place to be but in His hands?

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the reminders You send our way that You have our best interests in mind. I thank You for taking the time and care to shape me into who I need to be so that I may better serve You and Your Kingdom. Amen.

Treasures

Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Make for yourselves wallets that don’t wear out—a treasure in heaven that never runs out. No thief comes near there, and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too. ~Luke 12:32-34 (CEB)

“We would be very upset with millionaires who lived in life-robbing poverty because of ignorance or personal choice. We would be very disappointed in someone who had enormous wealth but refused to spend any of it for even the simple resources to sustain life. Why then are we not outraged about Christians by the millions who life as though God were dead and God’s grace were exhausted? Could it be because we live that way so often ourselves?

The good news we share with one another is the gospel’s declaration that no matter where we are in life, we are the recipients of God’s limitless grace. We can have peace, joy, assurance, comfort, hope, tranquility, confidence, and companionship without Creator and beyond that, life eternal. With a life bank full of such gifts we are indeed rich. And yet, so often I permit myself to slip into poverty thinking and poverty living. I feel anxious, alone, fearful, faithless, without joy, and sometimes without hope. I feel this way because I have forgotten and lost grip on the inheritance that God gives me a new every morning.” ~ Rueben P. Job

So often I find myself living in spiritual poverty because I have forgotten who I am and Whose I am. I am a child of God the Creator. Today I remind myself to claim my inheritance and I plan to act as if I am a beloved child of God.

Today Heavenly Father, I find myself needing to claim once again your grace for my life. I claim this day the peace, joy, assurance, comfort, hope, tranquility, confidence, and companionship You have promised me. I Choose to live this day as if I have an eternal inheritance. Amen.

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