July 31 - Revelation 21:1-4

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The Revelation is probably one of my favorite books in Scripture and the last two chapters offer such great words of hope.

I look forward and anticipate a great many things in my life, but none quite as much as the moment when God and I inhabit His temple in heaven. When that day arrives, when God dwells among humanity once again and calls us his people, the transformation is complete.

We will no longer be aliens in a land that we have corrupted, but will be his people in a creation that is whole and uncorrupted.  He will walk with us and live with us.  We won’t fear his presence, but will embrace the joy and love that comes from him.

Not only will there be no more death or mourning, crying or pain; but all of the negative human emotions will be gone.  There will be no jealousy. There will be no anger. There will be no greed or selfishness. There will be no need for any of those things because of the completeness we will find in God’s presence.

The attributes of love found in 1 Corinthians 13, the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.  All of these desirable behaviors will fill our lives and relationships with each other as we live in the light of the presence of God.

We will finally be home, where our hearts and souls have always yearned to live.

July 30 - 1 Peter 2:4-6

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house  to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  

We are like living stones being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this spiritual house.

When I think look at a stone, I find myself fascinated by the pits and grooves in it which illuminate the life this stone has led up to the moment I have it in my hand.  I also think about the eons of wear that might have brought the stone to its current shape and location.

Stones are solid, but they can be worn away and transformed into different shapes.  A stonemason can also work with them to bring them together to form a home or a wall.

The cornerstone was always the first stone placed in a wall.  This stone would determine the position of the building and then act as the reference point for all other stones to be set into place.

All of this information is so important if we take the time to see ourselves as part of the bigger whole and not as terribly important individual stones.  With Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, we determine who we should be and where we should go, based on his position.  He is our reference point.  As we come together as a unit of believers in Jesus Christ, we are made into a holy priesthood.

But, if we insist on making Christianity look like something that we have created, that spiritual house is nothing more than a reflection of ourselves.  There is no foundation, there is no cornerstone. We don’t have the strength or power to determine the positioning of the church. Things fall apart.

The world needs us to be a holy priesthood, a spiritual house.  The world needs to know that our reference point is Jesus Christ … not ourselves.

July 29 - Hebrews 11:8-10

Monday, July 29, 2013

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Long ago, a friend challenged me regarding my belief in God.  He pushed and pushed as he asked me to define why it was I believed in God. There was nothing I could say to prove that God existed – as a scientist he was asking me for solid, concrete evidence … something I could point to and proclaim God’s existence.

Apologists and theologians have written reams of words and spent innumerable hours attempting to wrap words around something that has one word to describe it: faith.

This is the foundation of our relationship with God … our faith in Him as Creator and in his Son, Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is faith that allows us to understand what scripture tells us to be true and it is faith that helps us move beyond simple acceptance of what can be managed by our five senses to something much deeper.

It was faith that sent Abraham away from the home he had known into the world with his family and all his possessions. His faith in God led him to the Promised Land, even though he was a stranger in a strange land.

His faith was bigger than his reality.

When our faith is bigger than our reality and we are obedient to God, we move into the land he has promised us. The land will be filled with unknowns and we may be known as a stranger, but God promises to be with us … all we have to do is have faith.

July 28 - 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling … 

After a particularly stressful day, Mom and I were driving somewhere and we passed a cemetery. As most of them are, it was beautiful and well-kept. There were old trees whose leaves shimmered in the breeze and the sunlight danced off the gravestones.

I was exhausted. In the early days of Insty-Prints, we worked hideous hours.  Most weeks I stayed at work on Thursday nights, printing until about four in the morning, then I would drop to sleep on the floor in the back room until Carol and Mom showed up at eight o’clock to open the shop for the day. I’d never known such physical exhaustion and until we finally hired someone else to run the presses, utter exhaustion was going to be my life.

So, as we passed that beautiful and peaceful cemetery, I simply mused, “That place looks wonderful. I could use some of that.”

I don’t think I even realized that I had said it out loud, but Mom heard me and said, “What? You don’t mean that!”

No, that wasn't at all what I meant. I was simply reacting to the peaceful calm and serenity of the place.

But, I often thought of that afterwards. When things were stressful in my life, I knew that there was a place of perfect peace. That place would be very different than the insanity I faced each day.

I also realized that what God wanted us to know about heaven was that we would be comfortable there, like we are comfortable in our own homes.  He doesn't call it a wayside inn or a hotel. It’s not just his home … his temple … his palace.  It is our home. We will recognize everything within it just as we recognize the furniture and paintings and knick-knacks of our own home.

When this home isn't enough … we have the promise of a heavenly home that will always be a haven for us, a place of safety, a place of comfort and peace.

July 27 - Romans 16:1-5

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Paul generally closes his epistles with personal greetings to those in the church that receive the specific letter. In this closing, we meet Phoebe and then we meet Priscilla and Aquila.

These last two people show up in his first letter to the Corinthians (16:19) and second letter to Timothy (4:19).  In Acts 18:24-28 we learn that Paul sailed from Corinth to Syria with the couple, after having his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow.  When they arrived at Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila stayed there and then went to Antioch.

It was in Ephesus, that a Jew named Apollos began to preach about God.  He had never known anything other than the baptism of John, but his preaching was effective, so Priscilla and Aquila invited him to their home in order to further explain “to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26b).

One of the most notable things about this couple is that their home is the center of a great deal of activity.  They host a church there that is foundational for Paul’s ministry and they bring others to their home in order to give them more instruction in the way of God.

It wasn't until scores of years later that Christians met in any building other than a home. Meetings were intimate and people’s spiritual needs were met.

When John Wesley’s small groups began meeting, these meetings were often held in homes.  They would pray, sing songs, read scripture and there was such a sense of intimate knowledge about each other, they confessed their sins to each other and lifted the others up in prayer.

One of the questions they asked each other was “How is it with your soul?”

Whether you meet with a small group, in a large congregation or find yourself far from an institutional church body, the question remains “How is it with your soul?”

July 26 - John 14:23

Friday, July 26, 2013

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Obedience is not our best thing as humans.  We always think we have a better way of doing things or of thinking about things. For me, when someone tells me what to do, my first instinct is to think of a million different ways to accomplish it … all done in my own time so that it no longer becomes their process, but mine.

The law tells us to stop at a stop sign, but when you’re out in the country and there is no one around for miles, is it only a suggestion? (my answer might be yes.)  We know what the right thing to do is in most every situation, so why is the world not an easier place in which to live?  Why are out prisons full and why do relationships break down? Why isn’t everyone fit and healthy? Why do our students not study and why do we refuse to treat each other with respect and kindness?  Why do we use terrible manners at the table or recycle everything that we throw away?

Because obedience simply doesn't come naturally for everyone.   Some of us do some things better than others, but before any of us gets too ‘holier than thou,’ there is a niggling reminder in the back of our mind that tells us why we aren't all that perfect.

Jesus’ commandments aren't that difficult to obey.  Everything pretty much centers around two of them: Love God, Love Others.  We can’t even obey those commandments without an argument.  We want to qualify what it means for us to love God and love others. We want to make sure that we aren't going to leave our own best interests out there in the cold if we obey Jesus.

Would it make a difference if we knew that through our obedience, the Creator of the Universe and the Savior of all humanity would live with us?  Would it make a difference at all?

Put it to the test.  What would it take for you to give over an entire day to obedience … not just to anyone, but to Jesus Christ. It’s worth a try.

July 25 - John 14:2

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

One summer our family went on vacation without a firm plan regarding where we would spend each night.  Dad had a plan for the central part of the trip, but while we headed that way, he and mom decided they would just drive until they were too tired to go any further and look for a campsite.  Back in that day and age, we didn't stay at many hotels; those were far too expensive.  Dad had designed a beautiful tent for the family and we were going to use it.

I do not believe that trip turned out exactly as he had planned.  The spontaneity was more along the lines of an argument between him and my mother as they attempted to discern when and where that great campsite might exist.

That was the last of those trips.  From that point forward, Dad planned everything precisely. That ended up being one of the things he was best known for – his ability to plan and execute a trip.  When he took youth and adults on adventure trips and work camps, his planning was legendary. He distributed a well thought-out list of items each person should ensure they packed for the trip and if you followed it, you would have all that you needed – no more and no less.

Our family took a trip to Canada just after my brother graduated from high school. The plan was for us to drive as far north as the road would go and then stop. Dad had a good idea where that would be and knew there would be campsites available, so he told me what I needed to pack and they planned to pick me up on their way out of Iowa.

Mom had tried to tell me about all the work Dad had put into planning this trip, but I didn't believe it until I saw the van. He had pulled the bench seats out, lined up plastic crates along the floor of the van, leaving an aisle down the middle. On top of the crates, on either side of the aisle were two three by eight food foam mattresses.  While that was awesome, what was even crazier was the planning he had put into the contents of each crate.  We had everything that we needed and he had gone so far as to make a map of each crate and what it contained.

That week in Canada was truly a great experience because he had done so much work to prepare a fabulous vacation for us.

Jesus Christ has prepared a place for us in heaven. My father’s planning and execution of the plan to make a great vacation for his family was nothing in comparison to the plans Jesus has for each of us.

He told us that he was preparing a home for us in heaven. It will be perfect.

July 24 - Luke 10:28-42

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We know from other passages that Jesus was quite friendly with this little family. The two sisters and their brother Lazarus were close enough to Jesus that one could whine a little at him, another sister could avoid the housework and the Son of God wept when he discovered their brother had died.

They lived in Bethany – not too far from Jerusalem.  Jesus was comfortable in their home.

It’s interesting to see the interplay of the characters in this little vignette.  When Jesus spoke to his disciples and then to the larger crowds, he was very general in his preaching. He rarely spoke to individuals and chided them for their behavior.

But, he was so comfortable with these siblings, that when Martha wanted him to push her sister into helping with the household chores, he called her out, like any good friend or sibling might.  Martha knew he loved her, even if he scolded her.

It might seem odd, but this is the same type of relationship he wants to have with us – where he is welcome in our homes and in our hearts, where he can scold us and love us when we get out of line.

There’s an old song we used to sing at the beginning of Sunday School each week:

Into my heart. Into my heart, Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come in today, Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.


July 23 - Luke 19:1-9

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be a guest of a sinner.’”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Jesus showed up in Jericho and noticed a man hanging out in the branches of a sycamore tree.  He called the man by name and told him that he had to stay at that man’s house for the day.

Now, Zacchaeus was very wealthy.  He probably could have paid for a front row seat at any event and he could have bribed the people around him to make room so that he could see Jesus, but being a little more than resourceful, he figured out which path Jesus would take through town, ran on ahead and climbed a tree so he could have full view of the events.

When Jesus spoke to him, his heart opened wider than it had ever been before.  He welcomed Jesus to his home and into his life, something which many of those who were muttering refused to do.  Jesus had come to be the salvation of Israel and all around, he was rejected by those who were afraid of the change he could bring to them.

But not this man. Zacchaeus was open and welcoming to the Savior, but also to change.  He transformed his behavior instantly, choosing to donate to the poor and repay those whom he might have cheated.

It might seem to us that Zacchaeus sought Jesus out, but he did nothing more than to respond to the man who knew him by name. When Jesus offered to come to his home, Zacchaeus responded with a fervent welcome.

Salvation came through Jesus Christ.

July 22 - Matthew 7:24-27

Monday, July 22, 2013

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The other day my sister and I were talking about how to teach morals to kids without them having a foundation which can not be shaken.  This is one of those things that frustrates her completely as she attempts to instill some sense of right and wrong in her students.

If we don’t believe in God, on whose authority do we base our moral structure? Our own? That is as feeble as we are and can ebb and flow as we live out our daily lives.

We might rely on the policing authority in our country, but that is more a system of negative response to our actions than it is a positive desire on our parts to do good in obedience to God’s love.

I didn't have a good answer for my sister.  I can’t imagine attempting to teach morality without a foundation that is on the rock.  Anything else gives way.

As Christians, we can withstand the storms, because our house is built upon the rock of Jesus Christ.  Remember that you have that foundation with the rains come down and the winds beat on your life.  You won’t wash away, you will stay safe.

July 21 - Matthew 1:22-24

Sunday, July 21, 2013

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Can you imagine the chaos in the lives of these two young people?

Joseph and Mary were betrothed.  He had spent the time between that announcement and this point building a home in which they would live. It was probably attached to his father’s home.  He prepared it for his wife and family.

Remember when Jesus said, “My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

It was the responsibility of the bridegroom to prepare the home for his bride.  So, that’s what Joseph had been doing from the moment that his betrothal to young Mary had begun.  Maybe it had been something their families had been planning since the two were very young. In that case, Joseph would have spent a great deal of time thinking and planning and designing and building as he grew up.  This was a very important event in their lives.

And then … he discovered she was pregnant.  They’d not done anything to make that happen.  How could it be? The obvious answer was that she was not worthy of their marriage. He was prepared to be as quiet as possible about divorcing her, because that was what was required, even through a betrothal.  If there was another man in her life, Joseph would bow out quietly and allow her to have a life without him.

But, the Lord stepped in and told Joseph exactly who that other man was and that the child Mary was carrying was someone who would transform the world.

Joseph’s response was to take Mary home as his wife.

He took her home.  He took her to the place he had been preparing for their life together and together in that home, they raised a child who was the Savior of the world.

July 20 - Joel 3:18

Saturday, July 20, 2013

“In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. 

Joel is prophesying about the day when the Lord will reign on earth and everyone will live in peace.

For me, the best part of this verse is being able to fast-forward to Revelation 22.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).

The Ark of the Covenant was made from acacia wood (Deuteronomy 10:3).  This was the vessel which carried the tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments.

The wood frame for the Tabernacle was made from acacia wood. The poles for the ark were made from acacia wood. The table for the altar of incense and the one for the burnt offerings … all made from acacia wood.

The Law was LIFE for the Israelites.  The Tabernacle was their connection to God.  Joel prophesied that the river which flowed from the Lord’s house would water the valley of acacias, the wood that formed the frame for their lives.

In Revelation, at the finality of history, we see that the River flows from the throne of God watering the Tree of Life for all humanity.

The prophecy in Joel … the building of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus … the Revelation given by Jesus to John.  God has connected them all for us.  His word is full and complete. He draws everything together with a purpose.

July 19 - Isaiah 56:6-7; Matthew 21:13

Friday, July 19, 2013

And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant — these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Even though the Lord had chosen the people of Israel to be his children and to be part of the covenant, he did not exclude anyone else who chose to be part of His kingdom. I believe that we miss this when we look at the Old Testament. We see that enemies of Israel are decimated, showing the overwhelming power of God and what is available to his people should they invite him to be part of their lives.

But, we don’t see much about the even larger number of peoples who were friends to Israel and believed in their God.  It wasn't only the descendants of the twelve tribes of Jacob.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham encounters a priest of Salem (peace) named Melchizedek and offered him a tenth of his wealth as an offering to God.  This was long before God named the tribe of Levi as his priests.

The temple in Jerusalem, though generally used by Israelites was to be a house of prayer for all nations. Anyone who would come before God and love him and keep his commandments and accept their role under his covenant was welcome.

But, as humanity is wont to do, the Jews became more interested in saving their own heritage than embracing the world and it took Jesus’ death on the cross to rip the temple curtain and allow the entire world to recognize that they had access to the God of creation.

We must remember today that everyone, no matter who they are, has access to the God of creation. It is not our job to decide who that might be, it is our job to show his love. The Israelites were commanded to tell the world about God. They chose to stay safe within their tightly knit community.

We are commanded to tell the world about God.  Go. And tell.  Bring the nations to God’s house of prayer.

July 18 - Isaiah 32:14-20

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted;  citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,  the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,  till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. 

The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. 

Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

Isaiah was prophesying to the Israelites, warning them of the impending abandonment of Jerusalem.  The city would be destroyed, the people would be gone.  Everything would become a wasteland.  The people had sinned and moved far from God and until they figured it out, they would not be allowed to live in the home God had given to them.

We know the next part of this story.  Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, taking nearly everyone away into exile.  He ransacked the temple, ensuring that nothing that was left could be considered holy.  He destroyed buildings and ruined the city.  The Israelites lost their home and became a wandering people once again.

They hadn't listened to the prophets who clearly warned them of their impending doom, they kept living as if nothing would change.  They had lived through quite a bit and God had never done anything quite as drastic as what the prophets were announcing.

But, one thing we have to realize about prophecies of doom and destruction in the Old Testament. There is always hope.  Always.

It might not come in the immediate, but these people had very long views of the world.  They knew that the community’s relationship with God existed long beyond their lifetimes.  They could track back through their ancestors and see how God had worked within the community.  Their sense of individuality existed only as part of the larger community and that community spanned many generations.

Hope existed for them, not necessarily in a single lifetime, but in the long view of creation.  Even if peace, joy, justice and righteousness came to the Israelites after thousands of years, they held out hope and waited for it to come.

With the arrival of Jesus Christ, God answered their prayers and responded to their hopes and dreams.  Peace was theirs, if only they would grasp it.

Peace is ours … peace is yours.

July 17 - Proverbs 3:33

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.

There are a lot of different avenues I could take with this passage, but I’m going to leave the obvious paths to you and take my own.  I might wander away from the original intent, though.

Do you notice in this verse who is doing the cursing and the blessing?

It certainly isn't you or me or anyone else for that matter.

The Bible is filled with verses like this … it is filled with commands to be obedient to God. It is filled with warnings against sin and words of blessing to those who follow God’s will.

And each word of scripture is written for us … not for someone else.  Does that make sense to you?

The moment we begin believing that scripture was written for others to read, listen to and obey we lose its impact.  God doesn't ask us to read scripture so that we can be the moral guide for others.  If it is to be used as a moral guide, that should first begin with us.

Let the Lord do the cursing and blessing … all we have to do is love and encourage. We point to Him … let us be a beacon of light.

July 16 - Psalm 127:1-2

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. 
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. 

In ancient Israel, wisdom said that ignoring God’s will came at humanity’s peril.  It was futile to do anything with God’s blessing.

We've become so much more intelligent than that.  We are certain that we can do whatever we like and our lives will continue along the same path with no additional blessing or curse.  Only the very superstitious or needy person believes that God’s blessing is necessary today.  Rational thinking assures us that we are in control of every step in our lives.

It has taken me forty-some years of life, many years of Bible study and more than three years of seminary to realize that I no longer need to argue that point with those who believe that God is unimportant.  Their minds are made up, my words won’t change them.

I've argued with my fair share of skeptics and it never ends well. I've learned to stop and allow them to have their own thoughts.

What I know is that my Creator gave me breath and set within me the power to know Him well.  Whether it is building a house, writing a book, speaking with a friend, loving an animal … my life is in his hands.  I don’t want my life to be in vain.

July 15 - Psalm 122:1-9

Monday, July 15, 2013

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” 
Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. 

Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. 
That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the LORD— 
   to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel. 
There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:  “May those who love you be secure. 
May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” 
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” 
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.

I have loved every single church that I've attended.  When I would see the building, I felt something peaceful within me.  Worshiping the Lord within a congregation awakens something in me; both peaceful and energetic at the same time.

My memories of our childhood churches have had a tendency to blur together, but one thing those buildings had was a basement where we had many meals together, whether they were potluck celebrations or funeral dinners; youth group meetings or Bible School snack times.  Those rooms all carry strong memories for me.

I remember the sidewalks which led to those buildings.  I took some of them right to the front door of the church, while others led me around the back way to my dad’s office.

I remember the campaign to replace all of the clear glass windows with gorgeous stained glass pieces in a church.  I remember losing our back yard so the church could grow and add more classrooms.  I remember singing in choirs from childhood through adulthood … in every single church.  One of those wonderful children’s choirs was called “Merry Notes.”  I took piano lessons from the church musicians and sat at the feet of amazing Sunday School teachers, listening as they told stories I would later come to recognize as being in my Bible.

I met great men and women who came to preach and to teach throughout the years. I made fast friends, fell in and out of love with boys from grade school on up.  I saw my father stand up every Sunday morning and pour his heart and soul out from the pulpit, encouraging his congregation to find ways to know Jesus Christ better.

There were certainly many Sunday mornings I made my mother’s life miserable as she tried to prod us out of the house in order to be on time for church, but for the most part, whenever there was something going on at the church, I was there and I gladly said, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

July 14 - Psalm 69:9

Sunday, July 14, 2013

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

The house of God in this verse is more than the physical structure … it is the idea of the household … the people of God.

It seems, though, that sometimes, as Christians, we tend to really confuse the two of these things and become more interested in the structure of our church building than we do the people who are members or even those who are not yet members.

We worry about kids scuffing floors or marking on walls. We spend hours and hours discussing the proper color of carpet for the foyer and then invest time and effort deciding which pattern of dishes should fill the kitchen.  If a candlestick is out of place on Sunday morning, the worship service becomes distracting to us; a burned out light is cause for multitudes of phone calls to the secretary on Monday morning and the placement of musical instruments in the worship center can cause nerves to fray across the spectrum.

We are easily confused by that about which we should be zealous.  I am still struck by the passage from 2 Samuel we read several days ago. God was not nearly as concerned about a structure for his residence as David was.  I’m fairly certain God isn’t nearly as concerned with our church buildings as he is with our behavior toward each other. It is in those relationships that we should be zealous.

July 13 - Psalm 23:6

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

When I take this verse out of context of the Psalm which is so familiar to me, all of a sudden I am completely taken aback. The visual image of this is almost more than I can stand.

For decades we have read the poem call “Footprints in the Sand,” about the set of two footprints which are there until the rough spots, when one set seems to have left the other to handle it.  It is then that God carries us.

But, what if there was a scripture verse that tells us something even better?

Every single day of our lives, God’s goodness and love is following us.

When we make an immense mistake, his love is still there.  All we have to do is slow down and turn back (that’s the definition of repentance by the way … turning away / turning back from sin).

When we are terrified because of something that faces us in the future; his goodness and love are with us.

When we feel alone because it seems as if everyone has moved on without us; we aren't. God’s love and goodness are within a hairsbreadth of us.  All we have to do is breathe.

When we are at our wits end and our patience is gone; God’s love adds strength to our soul. He is right there.

Through thick and thin, good and bad, our ups and down; we are never alone. It isn't just that God is with us, it is that his love is with us.  The one thing we can depend on is that love. It is more than just a presence, it is everything we need to move into the next moment.  We are never alone.  We are loved through it all.

And at the end, that love takes us into eternity to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

July 12 - Psalm 84:1-4

Friday, July 12, 2013

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Do you ever wish things were just … different?

Kids would be polite and nice to their elders.
   Elders would treat kids with respect.
Everyone would be loving and kind.
   Poverty wouldn't exist because those who had gave to those in need.
Relationships took precedence over the need to be right.
   Gossip didn't exist.
No one intruded on another’s life.
   People didn't think they were better than others.
Love was a state of being, rather than something we worked to achieve.
   There was no envy, we were confident in ourselves.
People cared about the environment.
   We took care of all of God’s creation.
Mean people couldn't exist because they were all loved.
   We wouldn't judge others based on standards no one could live up to.
Beauty was defined by God, not by humanity.
   We lived in safety.
Encouraging words were spoken every time.
   People’s differences were applauded rather than feared.

I think about that place near God’s altar, where the sparrow and the swallow have found a home.  A place where it is God who reigns and not humanity.

My soul yearns for that place of safety; my heart and flesh cry out for His presence to overwhelm me.

Today, on earth, we can make one change in our behavior to make this real.

Yes. We can.

July 11 - 2 Samuel 7:1-16

Thursday, July 11, 2013

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” 

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.” 

But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:  “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ 

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. 

“‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”

This passage is a little long, but there is so much in it that fills the imagination.  First of all, we find David, who has become highly successful and as King of Israel has settled into a glorious palace in Jerusalem.  One day it occurs to him that that battered, ragged Tabernacle (in comparison to his wonderful house made of cedar) was not worthy of being God’s home.  It didn't seem fair.

At first, Nathan, the prophet who counseled him, told David that he should do what he wanted, but then God came to Nathan and said, “Wait, when did I ever say I needed a house in which to live?  Oh and by the way, are you sure you are the one to do this job?”

The beautiful thing about this passage, though, is not what happens regarding the house David wants to build for God, but the kingdom God wants to build for David and his children … Israel.  God sets a physical temple aside.  That’s not what is important or what he wants David to hear from Nathan.

God begins to tell David (through Nathan) that there is a bigger purpose for him than simply building a place to house the Lord’s presence.  That will be saved for someone else.  No, as King of Israel, God sets forth a covenant with David that while David is alive, Israel will see rest from battle.  They will not face any more enemies, but will live in peace.

It is better than that, though. After David dies, God will establish the throne of his kingdom through the line of David.  It will be God’s son who will sit on the throne and it will be David’s throne. David’s house and his kingdom shall always be before God.

What began as a request to build a place for the Lord to dwell was transformed into a covenant that God established with David; to make his throne eternal and to set God’s own son on it to rule forever.

Only God could make that transformation.

July 10 - Nehemiah 10:39

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.

This is one of those topics that pastors dread … asking their church members to give to the work of the church.  They will avoid it as long as possible, until the finance committee of the church insists that there be a fund drive to build the budget for the next year.  Then, they either end up apologizing because they need to ask for more money, or they get all arrogant and inform the congregation that it is their responsibility to open their pockets and give.  It is seldom a good-natured sermon series and often can be quite contentious, especially if there are needs greater than people are used to giving to.

Growing up as the daughter of a pastor, and then working with a variety of pastors, I’ve seen it all and it is never an easy task.

God called the Israelites to bring their first fruits … in verses 36-37, Nehemiah writes that they are to bring the first of their sons and their cattle, the firstborn of their herds and flocks, the first of their dough, their contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil.

The Israelites were called to bring the first of everything. Before they could sell it or give it away, before they could turn it into a meal or store it away; before anything else, they were to bring their offering to the Lord’s house.

Why?  Because there was no way they could neglect the house of God.

As much as these items paid for upkeep for the actual building, the Temple was home to so many more things. In verse 39, we read that the contributions should come to the building where the vessels of the sanctuary were, but that is also where they would find the priests who ministered to the people … and the gatekeepers and the singers.

There was ministry happening in that temple and the gifts of the people were meant to support that ministry.

Can you imagine how our society would be transformed if our pastors and churches had enough funds to truly minister to those in need?  What would it look like if the churches, rather than our government cared so well for the poor that there was no longer any need?  What would it look like if our pastors didn't have to preach sermons each year in order to raise funds because the money was simply there.  They could do the type of ministry they dream of doing, caring for people, expanding the church’s reach into the world, sending people out to be missionaries … changing lives.

We will not neglect the house of God.  Nehemiah declared that the Israelites would not do so.  We must believe the same.

July 9 - Ruth 1:16-18

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.”

This is one of those beautiful passages that means different things to different people.  While it’s been used over and over in wedding ceremonies to affirm a couple’s commitment; the original story revolves around a young woman who chose to stay with her mother-in-law, a foreigner, rather than return to her homeland.

Ruth returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and after she became the wife of Boaz, she gave birth to a son named Obed.  Obed was the grandfather of King David and Ruth’s name went down in history as part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.  A woman in a patriarchal world; a foreigner among the Jewish nation and this young woman’s understanding that home is more than a place, but the people with whom she lived, was part of God’s great plan.

Home isn't about where we live, but with whom we live.

I remember the first dog I ever had who was my own.  She wasn't a family pet; little Isolde came into my life as my first dog.  I had the strangest sensation when I held her in my arms that evening.  I recognized that no matter where I lived, she would be with me through the transitions of my life. I’m certain that many parents feel the same way at the birth of their children.  Couples feel this way when the meet their spouses and friends recognize a relationship that will last forever when they meet.

Ruth’s words remind us that while we live in places, our home is much more than that while we are on earth. Our home is found within the people in our lives.

July 8 - Deuteronomy 34:4-6

Monday, July 8, 2013

Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 

And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

This is one of those passages that just breaks my heart.  After all Moses had gone through, he was only allowed to see the Promised Land, not enter it.

Then, I thought about it a little more and realized that Moses had known for years he wasn't going to be allowed into the Promised Land. Yet, he never stopped. He pressed his people forward and listened to God year after year.

He compiled the Law and ensured that the Israelites were aware of their role in history and their relationship with the Creator. He walked and walked, establishing the twelve tribes of Israel into a great nation as they crossed the desert.  Everything he did, even knowing that he wouldn't set foot in Israel’s new home, he did because of the relationship he personally had with God.

We expect to be lauded for our efforts, to see completion of the things we begin.  We want there to be a final moment when we know that we have done a job and done it well.  It would seem that Moses came up just short of that.

And yet, the Lord is the one who buried Moses.  He had spent time in the glorious presence of the Lord and at the end, Jewish legend tells us that the Lord kissed him and he died.

God might bring us right up to the edge of what we believe to be our greatest achievement and then move us past that.  His desire for our lives may be very different from that which we desire for ourselves.

But, God will always be with us … even to and beyond … the end of our lives on earth.

July 7 - Deuteronomy 6:10-15

Sunday, July 7, 2013

When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 

Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

How many of us have received much and somehow decided that we did it all on our own?  Before God brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, he knew that they would soon get comfortable and forget all that he had done for them.

In America, we take great pride in the fact that we can ‘pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,’ that no one can keep us down for too long, that we are self-made men (women, whatever), that we can have the American dream.  We climb the ladder to success, we believe in the no pain / no gain attitude toward nearly anything.  If you simply work hard enough you can achieve anything you dream of.  We can do it.

But, we forget that we did very little of that which brings us success. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, if nothing else and they on the foundations that came before them.  And … all of our talents, our minds, our passions and our very being … come from God, who brought us to this place.

We live in a land with large, flourishing cities we did not build.  We live in homes filled with things. We drink water from wells we did not dig.  We eat and are satisfied and we forget that all of this doesn’t come because we work eight (or more) hours a day. We are given a gift of life, talent, minds which comprehend tasks set before us.

We must never forget. We must learn to be more grateful.

July 6 - Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

A long time ago, I spoke with a mother about her boys’ attendance in Sunday School.  I wasn't harassing her, we were just having a conversation because she mentioned that one of them had missed out on something we were doing in class.  But, what struck me was that she had chosen to allow them to decide whether or not they wanted to go to church and Sunday School.  She was afraid of pushing them so hard that they would rebel. She was quite proud of her decision.

Well, spit fire.

I didn't say much to her at the time, I was so taken aback by this very bright woman’s (and an educator, for heaven’s sake) take on the whole thing. She had no problem getting her boys out of the door for school or their after school activities, but in the one area of life which had a lifetime of application, she took a laissez-faire attitude.  She didn't instill in them a desire to attend, she didn't create a habit for her family.  Somehow, they were supposed to come up with all of that on their own – and if they didn't, she wasn't taking responsibility.

One of the most important things that God asked of his people was that they live their lives with him as Sovereign. His commandments were to be on their hearts, they were to be talked about at home and when they were out in the world. They were to be talked about the last thing before going to sleep and the first thing when the family woke up.

Anything that would help the Israelites remember that simple commandment – to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength – was to be done.

Christmas mornings at our house took a little longer than the three of us kids would have liked.  Mom averted some of our anticipation by putting a stuffed stocking at the foot of our bed so we could have fun prior to being allowed out of our rooms.  But, it took a while then to open our gifts.  Dad had several rituals.  We always read the Christmas story aloud before anything else happened and then, because he was Dad, we also had to sing a few Christmas carols.

It drove us crazy – all we could focus on was the gifts under the tree. But we took those moments and we heard the story and those words became deeply ingrained in all of us.

These words should be on your hearts … impress them on your children. Talk about them at home and when you are out. Talk about them before you go to sleep and when you wake up.  Make them your life.

July 5 - Exodus 25:8

Friday, July 5, 2013

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

Have you ever wondered about how it got from this point … where God was intentionally dwelling in the midst of His people … to the point in time where He was so separated from the Israelites that only one priest, only one day of the year, could go into the Temple and be in His presence?  And if that priest wasn't pure enough … if he hadn't gone through enough ritual cleansing, the threat hung over him that he might die when he was in the Holy of Holies. So, they tied a rope to him just in case they needed to pull his body out.

The thing that separates us from God is sin. And really … not just sin, but unrepentant, unforgiven sin.  God is always ready to forgive us and cleanse us, as long as we truly repent.  God is so holy (of course he is) that sin is destroyed in his presence.  Well, as long as we are sinful, that means we would be destroyed in his presence. Only by Jesus’ sacrifice are we made holy.  In essence, his blood covers our sin and protects us from the destructive power of God’s pure righteousness.

God’s original intention was to live among us, to live with His creation.  Just as he walked with Adam and Eve in Paradise, His greatest hope for His creation was that He could have a relationship with each person.  We come close to that when we live in a relationship with Jesus, but nothing will compare to the day when we are in eternity and God has restored Creation to health and wholeness and can once again dwell with his people.

July 4 - Exodus 12:1-12

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 

Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover. 

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.

Every time I read this story, I am struck by the incredible love God has for his people. Thousands and thousands of years ago, he rescued them from slavery. He asked them to do something very simple, kill a lamb or a kid, take some of the blood and put it on their doorframes, then roast the meat and eat it.  This was the sign of their belonging to the Lord. It was their protection from death.

That night, the Lord would pass over the homes of the Israelites and spare them the destruction that the Egyptians had brought upon themselves due to their trickery and lies. This ancient celebration of God’s grace continues to be celebrated today.

For the Israelites, it was to be the beginning of freedom and God told them to be prepared.  As soon as Pharaoh released them from the land, they were to be ready to run.

In the New Testament we read words of Jesus and Paul and even Peter that we are to be prepared for the Lord’s return.  While many have turned this moment into something to be feared and other Christians have turned it into a mockery of truth, what we need to remember is that when Christ does return, in whatever manner and time he chooses, we must be ready.

We won’t need blood on the doorframes of our homes, Christ’s sacrifice ensures that our hearts carry the sign that we belong to the Lord.  It is our protection from the finality of death and a promise the freedom begins.

Be prepared.

July 3 - Exodus 3:7-10

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Ammorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

If you remember the passage from yesterday, God sent Abraham to Canaan, promising him that it would be there his descendants would become a great nation.  The Israelites had come down to Egypt during the time of Joseph (Abraham – Isaac – Jacob – Joseph) because of a famine in the land.  Rather than return to their home, they got comfortable and decided to stay.  Then, just as God had promised Abraham, the Israelites (Jacob was named Israel and his twelve sons were to be the foundational tribes of the nation) began to grow in number, to the point that the Egyptian Pharaohs feared them.  Any small amount of organization on their part and they could have taken over the country.  For many years, they lived in relative peace and obscurity, but their growing numbers forced the issue and they were enslaved.

For many, it was easier to live as a slave than to leave the home they were used to.  They’d lived in Egypt for four hundred years before Moses came along.  If this was what they were supposed to live with – then it was what they did.  They’d long since forgotten Canaan, the home God had promised to Abraham, and the home of their forefathers – Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

In other words, they were used to the pain of slavery. They simply accepted it as part of their lot in life.

Moses saw the other side of life.  God had him placed in the Pharaoh’s home.  He realized that there was more to life than making bricks for the Pharaoh’s building projects.  God prepared him to become a leader.  The time had come for the Israelites to return to their home, but they were going to need a strong man to lead them.  He would have to be strong enough to not only go up against the Pharaoh, but when the people began to panic, he would have to lead them through their own fears.

God had come to remove the Israelites from the slavery.  The time had come. The Exodus from Egypt was about to begin.

God calls us out of our slavery.  We don’t have Moses to lead us or to stand between us and the one who has enslaved us, we have Jesus Christ.  The time has come.

July 2 - Genesis 12:1-5

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’

“So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”

One thing about living in preacher’s family, when God calls … you go.  In the United Methodist Church, the voice of God often comes in the form of a District Superintendent, but you still go.

We became experts at learning to adapt to a new house and a new environment in a hurry.  I suspect it has something to do with the reason I’m not as afraid of change as I could be.  I learned that change always brought an opportunity for excitement and new friends.

Abram didn't know what to expect on the other side of God’s call on his life, he just knew that he needed to respond.  He took an entire lifetime of possessions with him.  Seventy-five years he had lived in one place and now it was time to move on.

But, Abram went with a great promise from God.  He wasn't just going out to evangelize a new community, he was going out to be the beginning of something that would change the face of the world.  His descendants would become a great nation and he would be a blessing.

Even as late as the words by the author of Hebrews in the New Testament, we find that Abraham’s faith impacted the world.

God called, Abram went. God called, Abram’s family trusted that call as well and packed up their things and followed.  God called and the world was changed completely.

God calls.

July 1 - Genesis 2:8-15

Monday, July 1, 2013

Our minds reach out to the stars and wonder about what it would be like to live on another planet, yet at the moment of Creation, God put together things in such a manner that we could make our home here, on planet Earth.

Not only did He set this world in motion, but in the beginning, he set His best creation … humanity, in a home that was termed Paradise.

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8-9a)

“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it divided” (Genesis 2:10a).

The garden in Eden was filled with lush vegetation and in Genesis 2:19-20, we read that God brought the animal kingdom in to the garden so that man could name each living creature.  Not only that, but God created a woman to be a companion and co-worker with the man.  Paradise was in place … God had given man a home.

We each try to return to this notion, don’t we?  We create our own version of paradise in our homes and it looks different to every person.  For some, the idea of a spare, empty living space is perfect while for others, they fill every inch of space with memories.  People choose to live in the mountains, by the ocean, on a river or lake, in a city or in rural places and each person finds ways to make these locations their own version of paradise.

As a pastor’s family, we had very little choice as to what our house would look like, sometimes even as to what community we would live in, but Mom and Dad had made a choice to live in Iowa.  However, every time we moved into a new home, Mom’s first tasks were to find ways we could make the home ours, to create a haven … a paradise of sorts within those walls.

God gave us an image of paradise which we've tried to emulate in all the centuries since then. We won’t truly know what it looks like until we arrive in the new heaven and new earth, but he also gave us imaginative minds by which we could explore His creation and find our own version of paradise.