Thursday, July 31, 2014

Isaiah 36-40

In Isaiah 36-40, God's power and absolute sovereignty is obvious as He uses faithful hearts to fulfill His great promises in the world.

Even though the situation doesn't look or sound so good for Judah after Assyria has attacked and captured many cities, King Hezekiah's faithful prayer connects an entire nation to God's power and presence in the middle of an impossible situation.  And in the end, what seems impossible becomes possible as God defends Judah. That is an inspirational story for me.

Prayer makes a real difference in our lives.

As the book of Isaiah continues, we read more and more about God's everlasting love and compassion for His people.  Life in Christ is full of awesome promises for you and for me and all who believe and rely on our Savior.   

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
  the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
  and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
  will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
  they will run and not grow weary,
  they will walk and not grow faint.

No matter what happens, God is not going to get tired of loving us and helping us.  

God will not give up on us.

And the more we let God help us, the more hope we have and the more strength we find.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for being our everlasting Savior and Lord.  Thank You for sharing Your strength and energy for life with me when I draw close to You.

Forgive me for all the ways I stumble and fall in this life You have given me.

Renew my strength Lord.

I pray for _____________________. Help ___________________ be renewed in Christ.  Help ____________________ soar on wings like eagles.  Help ____________________ run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.  Fill _____________________ with Your Holy Spirit, Your strength, and Your peace.

Pour out Your blessings upon __________________ both now and forever more. 

You, our Sovereign Lord, bring good news to all who love You. 

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Peace of Christ,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Isaiah 31-35

We hear more about the Kingdom of Righteousness with our Savior in charge in Isaiah 31-35.

The LORD is our king, our everything.  That's right where God wants to be in our lives.

You know yesterday as we read Isaiah 26-30, I mentioned this fear that kept creeping in, my own insecurities, as God reveals His judgement on all people.  I even wondered what that says about my own faith.

I didn't have an answer yesterday, and I left it at that.

And then today, I read this assurance...

Strengthen the feeble hands,
  steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
  "Be strong, do not fear;
   your God will come,
   he will come with vengeance;
   with divine retribution
   he will come to save you."

Our gracious and compassionate God who is overflowing with love for us hears us. He knows us, and He comes to us with the words we need to hear and know.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for knowing me from the inside out and for blessing me the words I need to hear.  

I give my fears and insecurities to You, Lord.

You are my Lord and Savior, my everything.  Your grace is more than enough for life.

______________________ is on my heart today.  Be with ______________________ in the days to come.  

I also pray for my family, my community, my state, this nation, and all of the countries in the world because we need You more than anything else.  

Lord, be gracious to us.  We long for you.  Be our strength every morning, and our salvation (Isaiah 33:2).

You are our eternal Rock and our Redeemer.  

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Just One of God's Masterpieces

Isaiah 26-30

There's bad news and there's good news in Isaiah.  Isaiah is sharing God's plan for His day of judgement.  It's full of certainty and promise because God is always true to His word.

But as I often do in this blog, I am just going to be honest.  

The bad news really scares me, all the talk of God's wrath, death, and destruction.  I've struggled with fear the whole time I've been reading Isaiah so far.  

I want to be at that great feast with my Lord and Savior.  I believe in Him.  I love Him.  And yet, the fear, insecurity even, still creeps into my life as I become more and more aware of my imperfections and tendency to wander. 

What is all that about?  What does that say about my faith and faithfulness?  I wonder.  I know I don't completely understand everything I am reading at this point.

I keep reading because I know I need reminding.  I know I need the transformation that comes from Christ and God's living word.  

Isaiah's words about the potter and his clay spoke to me today...

You turn things upside down,
  as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
  "You did not make me"?
Can the pot say to the potter,
  "You know nothing"?

That's me.  I get things upside down.  I forget that I am not in charge, that I don't really want to be in charge because God knows so much better than I do.

As God's people, we are the clay and God is the potter.

EVERYTHING about us is tied to God's handiwork, even our imperfections are a perfect part of HIS larger creation and plan in Christ.

I have to trust that God's grace is more than enough for all I don't know and understand, all that scares me about myself and my life.  Jesus is our living, breathing, life-giving example of God's grace and how it works in the world.

We don't have to be perfect to be with our Lord and Savior.  We just have to let God shape us and use us for His glory, even our perfect imperfections... 

LORD, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

Really, life isn't about us and what we do and don't do.  It's about what our gracious and compassionate God is doing for us, in us, and through us.  

A huge part of being faithful, I think, means being humble and thankfully realizing we are God's creation, always in His Almighty hands.  

For me, my fear reminds me just how much I need my Savior.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for making me in Your image, shaping and saving me with Your grace and compassion.

Forgive me for turning things upside down with my mind.  You know that about me.  

I am clay in Your hands.  Shape me and form me to be the faithful person You need me to be.  

Fill me with Your peace as I give my insecurities and fears to You.  Use my perfect imperfections for great purposes in Your kingdom for all eternity.

I pray for all of the people Lord, those I know and those I don't, who are fearful and living in insecurity instead of in the peace and strength of Your love, mercy, and grace. 

Help us to remember that all we accomplish is done by the works of Your almighty and gracious hands.

In Jesus' holy name I pray,

Grace and peace,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Everyday Reading Project: July 27-August 2

I would love for you to jump in and join me in reading!  For more on this Everyday Reading Project click here.

Isaiah 21-25

I was really shaking in my socks (I don't have on shoes at the moment) as I read Isaiah 21-25.

God keeps revealing warnings and devastating news through Isaiah about nation after nation.  It builds until we realize this prophecy involves the entire world and much of it is yet to come.  Isaiah's words apply to you and me.  That's scary. 

We are sinful, easily distracted, messy people.  We can't help ourselves, and when we try to take that route of helping ourselves, we hurt ourselves and others.  

Sin is a problem.

God is our help.  

And even though these overwhelming plans of destruction for the future don't sound good, God's plans are purely gracious and full of love (Psalm 103:8).  

Remember who God is; He is our Savior.

We have to hold on to God's promises for us and trust Him .

I don't know about you, but I loved hearing about the Lord preparing a feast of rich food for all peoples, a feast that's so much more than food...

he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
  from all faces;
he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth

                                                                               The LORD has spoken.

God is forever true to His word.

I want to be at that healing feast with our Savior.  How about you?

He's here with us now, in our midst.  And, our Savior will be with us on the day of His great banquet too.  And the faithful will forever say,   

Surely this is our God;
  we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted him;
  let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

Until then, let's face it.  We have to be aware and know that sin is a problem, but we are not hopelessly bound by it.  God is our freeing help and our redeemer.  

Thanks be to God!  

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for being our gracious Savior, abounding in love.  Thank You for filling me and all of Your people with Your promises.

I humble myself before You, Lord.  Forgive my sins, and show me Your way for my life.  When I get distracted, pull me closer to You.

I rejoice in Your salvation, both now and forever.  

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

In Christ's love,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Isaiah 16-20

Isaiah 16-20 is a harsh heads up for the destruction and suffering that is to come, not only for God's people, but for the nations surrounding them.  

Today's reading is heavy with lots of bad news.  It's hard to read.  And I just keep searching for glimpses of the everlasting hope that I know frees us (as believers) from our mess-ups and mistakes.  I keep reading to find God's grace and unconditional love somewhere in these difficult words.

It comes to us today in a stern rebuke believe it or not.  Sure, that's not always how we want to receive grace from our Savior, who we know is slow to anger and abounding in love.  Yet, sometimes, let's face it, we stray so far from God's will for our lives, that's exactly what we need.

Here's the biggest problem and God's grace wrapped up together in a few powerful words-

You have forgotten God your Savior;
  you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.

It's easy for us to get wrapped up in what we are doing and forget what God is doing.  God is our Savior each day, and it takes intention on our part to remember that HE is our Rock and strength.

What do we do and what can we do to remember God each day?

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for the Savior and friend I have in Your Son, Jesus.  Thank You that every time I faithfully turn to You, I am greeted by Your strong and loving arms and filled with grace and new life in Christ.

Forgive me for being so easily distracted each day.

Pour the help of Your Holy Spirit into every part of my day.  I know I need You, Lord.  You are my Rock and my Redeemer.

I pray you will help _________________ today also.  Give _________________ strength, courage, determination, a strong faith, and hope.  Fill ___________________ with Your peace that passes understanding and Your love that heals all wounds.

And in Your bigger picture, Lord, I pray for nations everywhere to know and remember You.  May we be united in sharing the love of Christ and transforming the world by our faith in You.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Grace of Christ,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Isaiah 11-15

Isaiah's prophecy is quoted at least 50 times in the New Testament (-from the NIV Life Application Study Bible).

So even though much of what Isaiah is saying about God's judgement on His people is difficult to read (at least for me), it's a big deal (Isaiah 11-15).  There's so much to learn from Isaiah's words of warning.

God wants us to know Him and His love.  He wants us to rely on Him through the ups and downs of life.  

And no matter how many miracles God has performed for Judah and the rest of Israel up to this point in our reading, His people have forgotten him in their day to day lives.  God's people mistakenly think THEY have things under control by the clever works of THEIR own hands, and they stray further and further from God's will for their lives. 

No matter what year it is, be it 700 B.C. or a year in the 21st century, God's people struggle to be faithful. 

I keep reading and reading for the hope in today's scripture.  Because I know God loves us so much, there is always hope with Him.

We find hope in these words..

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
  from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--
  the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
  the Spirit of counsel and of might,
  the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD--

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
  or decide by what he hears with his ears...

Righteousness will be his belt
  and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Our hope for all time is in Christ, our Savior, who is with you and me working His wisdom, His understanding, His counsel, and His might in our hearts and lives as we speak.

We believe and see what a difference Christ makes.

Surely God is my salvation;
  I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
  he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water
  from the wells of salvation

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You that by Your grace, through faith, we have Christ, our Savior, working in our lives.

Forgive me for all the ways I fail to rely on You, Lord, and become lost in this life.

I praise You, Lord.  You are my salvation.  I will trust and not be afraid.  You are my strength and my defense.  You fill me with joy.

By Your Spirit, Lord, guide me each day with Your wisdom and understanding, Your counsel and might.  Fill me with Your grace and direct my steps so that I am a vessel of Your grace and life-giving love for others.

I pray to You about ____________________ today.  __________________ especially needs You to hold him/her/them in Your arms.

In Jesus' holy name I pray,

Peace of Christ,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Isaiah 6-10

In today's reading, Isaiah 6-10, we get to visualize how God comes to Isaiah, and calls him to something "more" than what he has been doing up to that point in his life.

Isaiah's encounter with God immediately stirs something deep inside him, and I love his very personal realization of God's majesty...

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
  the whole earth is full of his glory.

God's voice calls Isaiah to be a prophet and share His holy Word with His people in Judah and Israel (and with us today), and Isaiah faithfully and joyfully responds,

Here am I.  Send me!

There's so much more to the details of this story, but God's power and presence in Isaiah's life, His very personal way of calling Isaiah to do something very specific for Him, and Isaiah's certain willingness to say "yes" to God offers all of us so much hope and inspiration for our own lives. 

And as we continue reading, we realize that Isaiah has absolutely no idea what lies ahead, what he is getting himself into by following God's will for his life.  Yet, God knows every detail of what He is doing.  God has this amazingly big plan and Isaiah is in the middle of it, relying and trusting God each step of the way.  

Although following God means Isaiah's life on Earth is not easy at times, we are reminded that it's truly full of God's awesome promises and everlasting purpose.  God takes care of His people.

Talk about a meaningful life!  

Isaiah turns out to be one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.  God shares His future very complicated plans for us with Isaiah (so many, many centuries ago).  The most amazing of which is the promise that though we fall short in our sinful ways, by His love, God has given us a Savior for all time.

For to us a child is born,
  to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Although we may not be called to be a prophet, God calls us to very specific, hope-filled purposes for Him too.  And when we say, "Send me!," we are able to get a glimpse of God's power and presence in our lives, right now, just like Isaiah, as well as glimpses of our future hope.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for giving me and all of Your believers Jesus to be our Savior, our wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.

By your love and grace, I am saved and free from sin, full of Your hope and Your awesome promises.

I pray you will help me to keep standing and growing in my faith.  And as I learn to rely and trust You more and more, empower me to hear Your voice and serve You in all that I do.  

I also pray for _______________ who need(s) to know and experience the reality of You and Your love in this life.

Lord, here I am.  Make me new in Christ and send me.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Grace and peace of Christ,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Isaiah 1-5

I can't imagine being a prophet from the Bible.  Can you?  

That's honestly the first thing that ran through my mind as I read Isaiah 1-5.

Isaiah is the first book of the prophets as we follow the printed order of the Bible.  Isaiah speaks God's word as it relates to the future of His people.  Even though we always have hope with our loving God, being a prophet must have been a really hard job.  Out of his own devotion and faithfulness to God, Isaiah has to tell people things they don't want to hear at times. 

The reality of the situation is hard and harsh for the many people who were struggling to be faithful during Isaiah's day.  And, I am so thankful that I have the advantage of knowing Jesus.

I would imagine many of Isaiah's messages made him an unpopular guy.  Yet, he turns out to be one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.

God tells Isaiah what to do and and say.  His prophecy is full of warning.

Stop bringing meaningless offerings...

Wash and make yourselves clean.
  Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
  stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
  Defend the oppressed.
  Take up the cause of the fatherless;
  plead the case of the widow...

If you are willing and obedient,
  you will eat the good things of the land.

In Christ, all of our inequities are wiped away, and we find our graceful purpose in this life.  We are made new.  Our lives in Christ are meant to be full of meaning.

Isaiah's words remind us today what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

A prayer for today-

Dear God, 

Thank You for the new, hope-filled, and gracious life we have in Christ. Thank You for freeing me from my sins through the blood of Your son.  Thank You for all those who inspire us with Your word for our lives.

I pray for Your Kingdom to come and Your will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give me, Lord, my daily bread.  And as I come to You asking forgiveness for my mistakes and misguided ways, I pray You will grab me by the hand and empower me with Your Holy Spirit to  change for the better and do what You need me to do for Your glory.

I pray for all those who need to find Your saving grace today.  May they find the love and peace of Christ all of us so desperately need.

In Jesus' name I pray,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Song of Songs 5-8

We finish reading through the poetic and juicy love dialogue between King Solomon and his bride as their relationship grows from courtship to marriage (Song of Songs 5-8).

It's still a little awkward, at least for me, to read through their private moments and interesting word choices.

And yet, I know there's a point in all of this loving adoration.

Okay, so maybe we don't talk like this couple did back then (you know, in Bible times).  But the ways God calls spouses to love each other is the same.  Husbands and wives are supposed to adore each other (even though there are days they make us crazy).  It's part of being faithful to each other.

And as I think about that, I know how easy it is to put the adoration for my husband on the back burner, especially as we are in over our heads at times raising our three young children.  It's not easy; but then again, I don't think marriage was meant to be easy.  It's just meant to give us a tiny glimpse of God's love and faithfulness for us.

This is my beloved, this is my friend...

My husband is most certainly my beloved and my friend.  And, as much as I need to tell him how much I love him, I need to show him too.  And....that's about as juicy as I am going to get... :)

God wants and needs us to love on each other for Him.  

A love prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for showering my life with Your perfect love.  Thank You for all the people in my life that share Your love with me.

Forgive for the ways I take the love of others for granted.  Forgive me for walking around with a guarded heart.  

I pray that You will open my mind, my heart, and my eyes to both the love that is around me each day, and the love I need to freely give to others. 

Grab me by the hand, Lord, and show me how to live in Your true love, with my words and deeds, each day, no matter what! 

You are my Lord, and my Savior,

Love and peace of Christ,

For more on everyday faith and marriage, check out the post, Marriage Isn't For You? Me Either.

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Song of Songs 1-4

Today we read Song of Songs 1-4.  This book of the Bible, written by Solomon, is saturated with sensual imagery and very intimate conversation.  It's full of  love dialogue between a simple Shulammite woman and her lover, King Solomon as their relationship develops and becomes a marriage.  Let's just be real and honest.  God's Word, in this case, is full of sexual content.

Yep.  I said it.  You read it right.  Sex and the Bible.

It's a bit awkward, you know?  

Though beautiful, these moments between this man and this woman are very private and intimate moments.  I feel like I am a bystander who is in the middle of TMI (too much information).  

And yet, here it is in black in white for all to read, part of God's Living and Holy Word.

God must think intimacy and sex are important.

I want to focus on two verses today...

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
  there is no flaw in you.

You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
  you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.

God doesn't make mistakes.  He doesn't make flawed creations.  He creates each of us in His image and pours His purpose into our inner most being.  He brings us together as part of His perfect love and bigger plan for our lives.

As Solomon talks about his bride, I am reminded of the sanctity of marriage.

It's a breath of fresh air in our current culture.

Marriage and the intimacy that comes with it is a gift.  

I think it's something God wants us to appreciate and celebrate.  

And the truth is, in the busyness of life, it's way too easy to take it all for granted.

We all need a gentle reminder to reignite the spark in our relationship, to keep the flame burning every now and then.  

So even though the reading was a bit awkward today, I am thankful for Solomon's words.

Love dialogue is important to a marriage.

A prayer for today-  

Dear God,

Thank You for the gift of marriage.  Thank You for bringing ____________________ into my life.

I pray for our relationship.  Forgive us for all the ways we take each other for granted in the busyness of our days.  

Lord, guide us as we try to keep our relationship strong, close, intimate, exciting, overflowing with love, and open to You.

Help us celebrate each other in new ways, with thanksgiving.  Fill us with Your Spirit and the fullness of Your love. 

I pray that our marriage will be a reflection of the power of Your love for our children.  

In Jesus' name I pray,

In Christ's love,
For more on everyday faith and marriage, check out the post, Marriage Isn't For You? Me Either.

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.