Job 4-7; Psalm 99; Revelation 11

Job has always been an inexplicable book to me; one in which I tread carefully, reverently, lightly.

The three friends and their wrong counsel can spin me round in such a web of confusion. It can sound so right. Was Job spun round? The shattering rebuke from the Lord at the end of the book instills fear in me.

In Chapter 4, it is Eliphaz who speaks:

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
Yet who can keep from speaking?
Behold, you have instructed many,
and you have strengthened the weak hands.
Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,
and you have made firm the feeble knees.
But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
it touches you, and you are dismayed.
Is not your fear of God[a] your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope? ESV

I will say, I walk carefully with my words- because I often think of Job’s friends.

Job teaches me the unsearchableness of God; the darkness that can and maybe will surround each one of us; the truth of a faith that is greater than self; greater than understanding in moments of pain, torment, suffering, and sorrow.

5 “Oh that I might have my request,
and that God would fulfill my hope,
that it would please God to crush me,
that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!
10 This would be my comfort;
I would even exult[k] in pain unsparing,
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 What is my strength, that I should wait?
And what is my end, that I should be patient?
12 Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?
13 Have I any help in me,
when resource is driven from me? ESV

Job teaches me the value in a heart that cries out to God from a place of pain; from a place of integrity. Integrity doesn’t always mean perfect uprightness- it can also mean authenticity; realness; realization; rightness.  In other words, when I see myself for who I am before God and declare it so- I am operating with integrity.

Job’s suffering is painful to witness; it is painful to watch. In this way, it is a shining reflection of grief as a whole. I have precious friends who have suffered greatly. They are no stranger to great grief; again and again. And the Lord has provided them such profound, heart-felt wisdom through their sufferings. I often feel that I am on holy ground. I was with them this past weekend- and had opportunity to discuss grief. My friend has shared how hard the first year is; how every season- grief is fresh and new; unexpected and uncontrollable. Scents, light, color, traditions- it all brings it forward. And we talked about how people struggle with those who are grieving; people just want those grieving “to move on” or “to be over it.” I shared that I think people find it hard to see someone in pain. It is hard to witness their suffering. People grow impatient with their suffering. It is especially hard when it is inexplicable, uncontrollable, and maybe- inconvenient. People suffer, and I walk with God when I walk gently into that space and don’t turn away.

711 “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
that you set a guard over me?
13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
my couch will ease my complaint,’
14 then you scare me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I would choose strangling
and death rather than my bones.
16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
17 What is man, that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
18 visit him every morning
and test him every moment?
19 How long will you not look away from me,
nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me your mark?
Why have I become a burden to you?
21 Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.” ESV

I handle Job delicately. It is a reminder to handle those who suffer and grieve with tender care; with the utmost humility; with the full realization that God alone is at work in the depths of a human heart- and that heart is holy ground; holy! ground. Tread carefully.

Psalm 99:9

Exalt the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy! ESV

Lord, help me to be tender and true. I lift up my precious, dear friends who have just navigated yet another “first year after loss.” I pray for them, Lord. Richly bless them.  I am grateful for You, Lord. Help me walk tenderly with those who grieve and help me, Lord. Be merciful to me. 

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Malachi 1-4; Psalms 2; Revelation 9

I grew up in the church, giving money to God.  But I was never taught that my money for God needed to be first and that it needed to be a tithe.  I didn’t fully understand how all that I had came from God and therefore I needed to place Him first, even in my finances.But when I was thirty and my husband and I started attending a new church, we heard a sermon about finances loud and clear.  It reflected what Malachi states in chapter 3:

“Will man rob God?  Yet you are robbing Me.  But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you.” (Malachi 3:8-9 ESV)

Robbing God?  Yes, I was robbing Him by not putting Him first in ALL things and holding on too tightly to my money.  I thought that if I gave him too much that I would lose out on things for me.  But that accusation was followed by a promise.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10 ESV)

Boy does He make good on that promise!  Once we started putting God first in our finances, things started happening that confirmed we had made the right move.  From time to time we’re hesitant to give a full tithe because things are tight, but we do it anyway, God always makes it balance out.  Someone messes up an insurance claim, for example, then suddenly a check will come in the mail from somewhere else for the exact same amount.  That’s not coincidence, that’s God.

Lord, thank you for teaching me to trust You in all things, including our finances.  May we use all examples of Your grace as our testimony to our children and the world.

Kellie

 

 

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Nehemiah 10-13; Revelation 8

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall. (Neh. 12:27-30 NIV)

Nehemiah is known for being a great leader and orchestrating one of the most amazing building project fetes of all time—rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days. He did this by having everyone focus on the area right in front of them–not worrying about any other part.  He defied the opposition that came at him from all sides and was laser focused on the task set before him. Without the wall for protection, Nehemiah knew the temple could be destroyed again, the people would be afraid to live in the city, and Jerusalem would not be the Holy City of God. It was 12 years later, but finally Nehemiah gathered all the people living in and around the city to celebrate. There was a great procession filled with ceremony and fanfare, music and singing—all praising God for His goodness, His blessings upon them, and that He had not given up on them.

This is such a picture of my own life. There was a time when I was an exile from God living far outside His place of protection. I had no boundaries—no walls. The world had free access to me, and I didn’t know a different way to live. Yet, somewhere deep inside I knew there had to be a better way to live. I cried out to the Lord and He answered my cry.

One of the first things I learned was how important it is to build that wall, that boundary, to keep bad things out and good things in. Without that fortified structure in place anything you acquire (peace, emotional distance, emotional growth), any progress you make, can be torn down or stolen. Despite what I always thought, a boundary is a good thing. As we saw in earlier chapters of Nehemiah, people don’t like when walls are built. He encountered anger, intimidation, and threats. Did the enemy try to tear my wall down? You bet. Did things happen to try to distract me from my goal? Without a doubt.  Did I encounter intimidation and scoffing?  Yes–and from unexpected sources.  However, the wall withstood all of that!

From there, God started rebuilding inside of me. We sifted through the rubble of my soul. Piece by piece God lovingly reconstructed a shattered life. I was blessed to have an amazing therapist, a sister in Christ, as my guide. One of the first things we did after establishing boundaries was to purify me. We did this through confession, repentance, and renouncing anything in my life that was not of God. Slowly but surely God put the pieces of my broken heart back together. It was a long, painful process—much like rebuilding the City of David. But I, too, can celebrate with songs of thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.  He is faithful!

Heavenly Father I can do nothing but lift my hands in the air, sing songs of praises to you, and fall on my knees with gratitude for mending my heart, sealing the cracks, and filling it with your love. Where once it leaked out, it now overflows. May I be like Nehemiah and lead the procession joyfully proclaiming Your great name for all to hear. And may my voice join with the heavenly host singing praises of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as this season of Christmas is celebrated. In His name I pray, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Nehemiah 7-9; Psalm 140; Revelation 7

Lately I’ve been quoting Revelation 7:9 a lot to individuals when talking about two things:

  • When will the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19&20) be completed?
  • What does God say about culture?

Here’s the verse:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… (Revelation 7:9 [ESV]).

The first question may be answered by stating it could happen in our lifetime. There are approximately 7,000 unreached people groups in the world. The Apostle John states that he sees people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. We have a long way to go. And if this is going to be a reality in the future — which I believe it will be — then even the return of Christ depends on these peoples being reached. The question for you this morning is, “What are you doing in your life to see these peoples reached with the gospel?” There’s a lot to yet be done before the Lord returns. In a sense we are on a war footing. How are you helping to win this war?

The second question is a really cool one. I believe God thinks very highly of ethnicity and culture. Did you catch the wording here? The Apostle John saw people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. He saw! I believe we take our ethnicity into heaven with us. If you are white now — you’ll be white in heaven. If you are black now — you will be black in heaven… For what purpose I don’t know, but let’s celebrate our cultural diversity as Christians around the world and look forward to a great time together in heaven.

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Nehemiah 4-6; Psalm 98; Revelation 6

Nehemiah 3-4 chronicle the ardent opposition from outside forces, forces that did not want Israel to finish the wall or repair the temple. However, in chapter 5, Nehemiah reveals that not only were they facing an outside threat, but also trouble inside their own city. Many of the people were upset with their brethren due to high interest rates that forced them to live in poverty and sell their children as slaves. Nehemiah was very angry when he heard of this and demanded a meeting.

So I [Nehemiah] said, “The thing you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest” Nehemiah 5:9-10 ESV

Nehemiah closely follows God’s command to care for your brother or neighbor as yourself, telling the loaners that they were not treating their brothers fairly. There are many injustices in this world, and while it may seem futile to even attempt to fix a problem, I can always help by love those around me and doing my best to assist them.

His [God’s] right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. And the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:2-3 ESV

Not only has did God send Jesus to die for my sins, but also for the sins of all those around me. Every human being has worth in the eyes of God and He wants the news of Christ’s death and resurrection spread to the ends of the earth.

Dear God, Please help me care for others and have compassion on them. Help me spread Your Good News to others and live my life as an example of servanthood. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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Nehemiah 1-3; Revelation 5

And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelation 5:8, NLT).

When I went back to see my doctor after cataract surgery, I knew that I was going to thank him for restoring my sight. What I said to him came from my heart, and gratitude brings me to tears.

During sunrise walks, I think on things that God has done in my life. I challenge myself to discern what a walk with God should look like. I meditate on messages I get through podcasts, and sometimes am brought to tears (like yesterday when one podcast played music from Rocky, an inside story that God would know, and I’m moved mightily by his attention to detail).

In 2017, I chose a focus word RESTORE. I thought specifically that it would mean restoration in a broken relationship, but it didn’t. With some distance in hindsight, I see that year was the beginning of God restoring me. Fixing the brokenness, strengthening weak spots, releasing me from shackles (mindsets and practices) generations long. And today, in 2018, I am lighter in every respect. Life isn’t easier, but I see it in a different way, literally.

That gold bowl of incense holds my prayers. It holds my hurts and deepest hopes. It holds my crying and struggling expressions. It holds Nehemiah’s prayers too. Fragrant offerings.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” (Nehemiah 1:5-11, NLT)

God made a way for Nehemiah and many others to begin repairing (restoring) the wall in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah, he lists by name the families who came out and where they repaired the broken and weak spots. Perfumers, goldsmiths, merchants, daughters–all had positions to work.

(20 “Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” Nehemiah 3:20, NLT. I love this notation, emphasis added.)

Imagine a focus and purpose to act on what is in front of us: broken relationships; generational sins; ownership of what is in our ability; a ruthless assessment of our condition, neglect or weakness–couldn’t those things, wouldn’t those things be lifted up to our great God, a fragrant offering in a gold bowl; oh, couldn’t he, wouldn’t he make a way for his people?

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate. 30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived (Nehemiah 3:28-30, NLT).

Lord Jesus, when I think of how you have transformed my life these past two years, I am brought to tears (and more so with a Rocky soundtrack, thank you!) at your care, your provision, your direction, your protection in my life. Lord, help me to discern where I should focus this next year, places of neglect and disrepair, and may I work zealously for you like Baruch. Help me to keep the focus. Help me to persevere. I am so deeply grateful for your love.

Courtney (66books365)

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