Genesis 25; Esther 1; Matthew 24; Acts 24

Ten year old boys get together to play.  One instigates playing aggressively then when things get out of hand, accuses the other boys of hurting him.  In reality he started it and he lied about it to save face.  He didn’t really care about his “friends.”

“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’  (Therefore his name was called Edom.)  Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now..”  Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’  Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’  So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.  Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25: 29-34)

How foolish was Esau?  He was going to die because he was hungry?  Obviously his birthright meant nothing to him.

If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.  So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” (Esther 1: 19-20 ESV)

The queen made a mistake.  It was used as an example to all of what not to do.

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 ESV)

Don’t spend your time hanging out with those who make bad choices.  Focus on doing the right thing and the Heaven that’s yet to come.

Knowing that for many years you have been judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.  You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city.  Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me.  But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.  So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.  Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.  While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult.  But some Jews from Asia- they ought to be here before you and to make accusation, should they have anything against me.  Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.” (Acts 24: 10-21 ESV)

Paul was on trial, defending himself for being accused of something he did not do.  The ten year old boys who were accused had to defend themselves too.  Life is hard sometimes.  The lesson is to keep walking like God would want you to walk.  And when all evidence is given its proper light, justice will prevail.

Lord,

Help us be examples to both young and old of how to handle conflict.  Help us to always handle situations with integrity so that when we have to give an account for what really happened, the truth will shine through.

Amen

 

 

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Genesis 24; Matthew. 23; Nehemiah 13; Acts 23

Genesis prayer. A servant is tasked with a quest–to find a wife for Isaac. I am amused at his prayer for guidance, only because I see my own appeals to God to have things look the way I want them to so that I know I’m headed in the right direction. I love that his prayer was answered before he even finished praying. Lord, help me to see you in the solution and direction, even if it doesn’t look familiar or the way I imagined. (God hears me.)

12 “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. 13 See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. (Genesis 24:12-15, NLT, emphasis added)

Matthew conviction. Jesus confronts the Pharisees–who hold more to their rules for appearance than to obedience of heart. Dear God, help me to examine myself to be free of ways that offend you and to delight in that which you delight. (God shows me my errors to set me straight, because of his great love and mercy.)

Nehemiah purge and restore. Systems gone wrong. Identifying problems and setting things right again. My own focus on simplifying physically, and setting right emotionally–aligning my heart and abiding in Christ, clearing out physically and spiritually. Purge. Restore. (God gives me eyes to see and strength to change–to redirect or purge those things and actions that distract and lead astray. He gives me vision and strength.)

30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.

Remember this in my favor, O my God. (Nehemiah 13:30-31, NLT)

Acts protection and purpose. Paul finds himself in the middle of a fight whose focus changes on a whim. His life is in danger. The Lord appears, encourages, protects him for a purpose. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. (I can find myself in a battle and in his will, and he will not abandon me. He sees me. He encourages me. He protects me. He provides.)

11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (Acts 23:11, NLT)

Thank you, God, that you hear my prayers and your answer paves a way ahead of me. You love me so much to warn me from traveling harmful paths and taking others with me (I set you as a seal upon my heart). You show me the corruption and error of old ways and that they can be purged and focus restored. You remind me that no matter the battle around me, I am kept by you, protected, valued, for a purpose and for your glory.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 23; Matthew 22; Nehemiah 12; Acts 22

When I was in seminary a rather famous religious figure turned his life over to Jesus in a new and fresh way. Then he felt as if he needed to learn the Bible and theology from a whole new perspective so he came to seminary. Well all at once they wanted this person to be speaking in chapel and representing the seminary in many venues. He had been a true follower of Christ for only eighteen months where I had been one for some eighteen years. I felt belittled and not appreciated for what I brought to the table in that seminary.

In today’s reading we have another dramatic conversion in the person of the Apostle Paul. We read it below:

6 An intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light,
10“I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
11“Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:6-16 [CSB])

Now Ananias could have been like me and sulked because he was a devout follower of Jesus and here’s Saul, one who had persecuted and killed Christians, yet, no he went and even called Saul his brother.

We all have stories. Some are dramatic while others are quiet and deep. What is your story? How has God brought you to himself? Knowing where we were before Jesus — even if we were five or six years old when it happened — it’s a dramatic and awesome story to tell. Tell your story to someone today. I’m sure it will be an encouragement and may even draw someone into the kingdom.

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Genesis 22; Matthew 21; Nehemiah 11; Acts 21

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. (Gen. 22:2-4) NLT

Obedience. Trust. Reverential fear of the LORD. All these are evident of Abraham’s relationship with God in these few verses. He didn’t question, he didn’t argue, and he didn’t barter. Abraham obeyed without hesitation when God asked him to do the hardest thing He could ask any parent to do—especially when this son had been so long awaited! Sacrifice your son.

These are familiar verses, ones I’ve read many times and heard sermons teaching me their meaning. Yet, this time, I saw for myself the impact of these verses. I felt them as a parent might feel them as God spoke them. Now the title at the top of my NIV bible says, “Abraham Tested”, however, Abraham did not have that information. All he knew was God asked him to sacrifice what he loved most dearly. And God was specific which son he meant.

The length of time for this journey caused me to pause: “On the third day”. The significance and symbolism shouted “JESUS” to me. God was not asking Abraham to do anything He wasn’t prepared to do Himself—sacrifice his son. In the end, God provided the ram as a substitute and Isaac was spared. While I KNEW that was a foreshadowing, something in my soul responded to those words as I read them this time. Jesus was the lamb, there was no substitute in a thicket for his life. He willingly laid himself on the altar—for me, for all of us! That is the cost of love, true love. I felt God remind me in such a loving manner, “Whenever you doubt my love for you, remember!”

We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:4)

13 But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13)

Obedience. Trust. Reverential fear of the LORD. Paul also displayed these characteristics. He knew God’s purpose was for him to spread the name of Jesus. Many people had prophesied that something bad was going to happed to him in Jerusalem, yet Paul never faltered. He was willing to die, to sacrifice himself, so others could be saved. Again, the cost of love!

Father, you touched my heart with the words I read today. I know you are encouraging me to stay the course, to trust the outcome to you, and remember how much you love me—to the point of sacrificing Your Son for me. Thank you for showing up exactly when I need you! I love you! Help me overcome any fears I may have that would hinder me from obedience, trust, and the reverence you so deserve! In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Genesis 21; Matthew 20; Nehemiah 10; Acts 20

Do we put worship in a box?

Or, define worship as the music we sing on Sunday mornings at church?

I love the creative ways that we see people worship (ascribing worth to God, bringing Him glory) throughout Scripture.

Abraham even planted a tree.

33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21:33 ESV)

Paul broke bread and fellowshipped. He also preached until midnight. Serving. Humility. Tears. Pouring out of self.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.  . . 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:7, 19-21 ESV)

Jesus served and those he healed followed him.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 26-28 ESV)

  . . . immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:34)

And, the people in Nehemiah gave money and offerings, followed rules, and vowed not to neglect the house of God.

Worship can look different and is woven through each day of our life. It recognizes the position that God has in our life and over our will, our personality, our schedule, and our possessions.

Dear Father God, may my whole life be an act of worship toward you. Every step in faith, each gift given, choices made, creative expressions, commitments sealed, songs sung, and even trees planted. Every bit of it, for Your Glory, my everlasting God. ~Amen

Erin (6intow)

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Genesis 18; Matthew 17; Nehemiah 7; Acts 17

The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:13-14 ESV

Genesis is the beginning of a lot of promises in the Bible. One of the first and biggest is God’s promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through his offspring. Even though Abraham and Sarah showed incredible amounts of faith in God and obeyed His commands, they still struggled with doubt despite His promises. In their doubt, however, God reminds them of His power. Even if things seem impossible, God’s answer to Sarah’s doubt holds true for me as well. If God has a plan, it will work out, no matter the opposition or how far-fetched it seems.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25 ESV

Paul’s address towards the men of Athens emphasizes God’s power. God is completely non-dependent on mankind and would continue to be the Eternal God even if man did not exist. Since God gives life everything it needs, He also has complete control over it and directs it how He pleases. God’s control is reflected in both His statements to Abraham and in Paul’s statements about Him. Oftentimes when I feel doubt, I am simply looking at the sizes of the obstacles rather than the power of God. Though it can be hard to reminder, God is clear that He is with me through trials and struggles and that He has a plan and a purpose for my life.

Dear God, Thank You for providing for me throughout my life. Please give me greater faith and help me to trust in You throughout the hard times and trials of my life. Thank You for sending Your Son to take away the weight of my sin and allow me to be considered righteous. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

 

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

I am part of an online goal setting group, and many of the members shared their vision boards for 2020. I’ve never made a vision board, but gave it a try. I laughed to myself when I finished, realizing I had experienced most of those things in 2019. Some things that happened last year were not even thoughts at the year’s start–but I had margin, not so tightly focused on my own goals exclusive to opportunity. And God did life-giving things in my life. Not everything felt easy, beautiful or lovely, but even then, he kept drawing my attention back to a Kingdom focus.

In Genesis, God gives Abraham a Kingdom focus.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NLT)

And this:

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:15-18, NLT)

I notice Abraham laughed in disbelief. He can’t imagine God will do what he says he’ll do. So Abraham interjects with what he knows, what he sees, what is real in front of him: Ishmael. Kingdom focus clashes with a limited view/belief. 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:19, NLT)

God requires Abraham’s obedience.

I see Kingdom focus and obedience throughout the reading: when Jesus predicts his death and warns of the yeast of the Pharisees; Peter acknowledges Jesus as Son and yet reprimands Jesus for a fate Peter doesn’t want to happen (Kingdom focus clashes with own desire); threats to hinder a wall’s completion and a Kingdom focus to persevere–They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT); Paul’s travels blocked and redirected by the Holy Spirit, and even though he is imprisoned, he is still fruitful in sharing the Gospel.

Opposition (Nehemiah), a death sentence (Matthew), imprisonment (Acts), fathering a child in old age (Genesis) were probably not items these men would have put on their vision boards, but God gives them a Kingdom vision and the means to accomplish their tasks, even in opposition, death, imprisonment, and old age.

13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:13-16, NLT)

Father God, help me to press on, to leave margin for your plans and purpose in my life. Thank you already for equipping me and encouraging to keep a Kingdom focus, even in difficulties, especially in difficulties. Oh that anyone would see your hand and blessing upon my life and realize (this work) had been done with the help of God.

Courtney (66books365)

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