Monthly Archives: January 2012

Gen. 33,34,35; Mt 20:17-34

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants.  He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear.  He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Gen. 33: 1-3

There is a fine line between courage and fear.  Jacob splits up his family because he is fearful that Esau, in anger, may destroy them all if they are together.  In the same moment, however, Jacob shows incredible courage by stepping forward and humbling himself before his brother.

The fine line I speak of is evident in the fact that while God assured Jacob many times that his descendents would be numerous, he was still fearful that his family would be killed – apparently not trusting in God to keep his word.  Yet, he did have enough faith to bow down before his brother.

In Matthew, we see another fine line when what some might think is a courageous mother asks for her sons to be given places of honor in Christ’s kingdom (Mt 10:21b).  I think, however, she (along with James and John – for the three of them had surely discussed the matter) was acting out of fear – fear that if she didn’t ask, her sons would not be prominent in His kingdom. Of course we know, prominence meant the opposite fate.

I struggle with this fine line every day.  In fact, “Courage” is my word for the year.  I just can’t seem to figure out why it is so hard to put my complete trust in God.  It’s a funny thing (or maybe not), but I have no problem trusting him when it comes to big things, like healing sick relatives or friends, or keeping me safe in dangerous situations. But, when it comes to simple stuff I find myself “handling” them on my own.  Perhaps that’s because I know I can’t handle the big stuff without him.  I just need to remember that I can’t handle the small stuff without him either.

Oh Great God, I pray for you to remind me every day that you can handle anything – and that, through YOU, so can I.  Grant me the courage to fear you and you alone! Amen!

Jim (jmitch1)

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Genesis 31, 32; Matthew 20:1-16

I have been learning more and more each day that God will always be there for me: strong, compassionate, loving, merciful, and true no matter what the circumstances, whether I am pursuing Him whole heartedly or not. He seeks to bless me. He seeks to care for me. He seeks to provide for me. He will always deal with me in a right, fair and just way.

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner made an agreement with the workers he hired in the early morning that he would pay them a denarius for their work. All the other workers that he hired throughout the day were told that they would also receive a fair wage for their labor. When everyone received the same wage regardless of the amount of hours that each worked, the laborers who worked from the early morning complained, believing they should receive more because they worked more.

But [the landowner] answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.’ Matthew 20: 13-14 (NKJV)

I can completely trust my Heavenly Father to deal with me in a right and fair way. When He paid the price for me by sending His Son to become a curse so that I am redeemed, I agreed to that payment when I asked Him into my heart. Whether others have worked for 40 years, 10 years, 6 months, or 1 day, I can only expect to receive the same priceless wage at the end of the day.

Now I could complain about it, thinking I deserve more, like the workers, but in reality, no matter how much ‘work’ I do each day for God, it doesn’t come close to being enough for the price He paid for me. I may wish for more, but what more can I truly ask for when ALL has been given. He gives me exactly what He agreed to give me – His life, when I was still his enemy. I can fully trust in His dealings.

But there is another type of landowner, a landowner like Laban; one who looks out only for himself, one who cheats, one who is dishonest and untrustworthy. If I deal with him I can only expect to be dealt with poorly. Like Laban, he will change my wages to suit him, he will become discontent with my work, and he will eventually seek to destroy me when I try to escape his clutches.

Jacob worked for this type of landowner for 20 years, but he learned to put his trust in God and in the midst of the circumstances, God protected him from Laban’s mistreatment and provided for Jacob’s household and blessed him abundantly.

Sometimes when I am being dealt with dishonestly I believe that I am alone. I think no one sees. But this story helps me remember that God sees all and rectifies all wrong dealings. As my landowner, He provides for my blessings when I am trusting Him and doing right before Him.

[And God said to him…], “For I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.” Genesis 31:12b (NKJV)

Each of us can choose which type of landowner to work for – one who will cheat and seek to destroy I one who will deal in a just and true way. I have chosen to work for the one who was willing to pay the ultimate price for me.

Lord, thank You for dealing with me in an honest way, for sending Your Son and through His death and resurrection, giving me new life. Thank You for redeeming me and paying me a wage that I don’t deserve no matter how much work I do in Your Kingdom. Thank You for protecting me from the landowners who seek to cheat me. Thank You for providing for me and blessing me every day. Amen

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament

Genesis 29, 30; Matthew 19

In Matthew 19  the Pharisees ask Jesus under what circumstances a man might divorce his wife and he tells them for reasons of marital unfaithfulness only.  The disciples unloving attitudes towards women is exposed when they respond to Jesus saying, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”  I wonder what their wives thought.  The disciples get it wrong again when they try to keep little children from Jesus.  They appear hardhearted towards women and children.  My husband pointed out to me that in that culture, as in many Third World countries, barren and ill women and young children may place a strain and jeopardize on a household economy.   If I am honest with myself, often I am no different than the disciples at that point in time.  I am guilty at viewing people in terms of their value to me,  what they do for me,  if they help me feel good about myself or if they deplete my energy and create more work for me to do.  Too often, I am angered and irritated by those who might slow me down, complicate and interrupt my life.

It’s amazing to see the transformation in the disciples as they continued to live with Jesus;  their attitudes and lives changed so dramatically.  They became the people known for embracing society’s cast offs. They tended to the needs of the sick, widowed and orphaned at great personal cost. My own personal bias is that they hopefully became more loving towards their wives.  My prayer is that Jesus transforms the areas of my life where I am callous and impatient, judgmental and unkind to those whom it might be costly  to love,  be they strangers or friends and family.

Thank you, gentle Savior that you never passed me by.  Just as with the disciples,  you have come and stayed and continue to change this hungry heart.

Kathy

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Filed under Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Matthew, Uncategorized

Genesis 27, 28; Matthew 18: 21-35; Romans 7:15-25

Just the other day, I heard a conversation at work about siblings.  One woman said that she and her sister had spent the weekend insulating a “d— dog house” for her aging parents, and described the hilarity of the situation and how well they got along.  Another woman described her sister as “crazy” for calling and trying to establish a relationship after 20 years of silence.  Their mother had recently passed away and this sister sought solace in the family ties that bind.  Then both of my coworkers turned to me and asked if I got along with my sister.  A quick rundown of each family name (I have three sisters and two brothers) left me tripping over a few hurdles.   I can immediately think of incidents that caused friction and even long periods of silence between us.  Even worse, I remember my vicious attempts to get my mother involved in my self-righteous, indignant logic – hoping to manipulate her into making my sibling see the light, or more likely, hoping to convince her that I am the ‘good daughter.’

 How dark is my own eye.

        Esau saw red when he learned of Jacob’s treachery.  He even wanted to kill his brother.  Fury and calculated revenge replaced the great disappointing loss he felt.  How does one begin to forgive in the midst of such thoughts? Time and lack of opportunity may save his brother from his wrath, but what of Esau’s soul sickness?  That’s what I feel in my unforgiving.

 A sickness of soul without hope of rescue.

      I wish I could say that I’ve learned to forgive, keep short accounts, and humble myself for the sake of others, but even remembering these past incidents with siblings feels like poking around in the fire, looking for a reason to stoke it back to life.  So even though I know to forgive, there is strong evidence of what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells, for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”

 Confession: “Deliver me from this body of death.”

      That dark Hulk inside me who threatens, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” must learn to surrender these hurts and injustices to God in order to cease from maiming and disabling the ones that I love. I know my family will be grateful to be spared my emotional whirlwind, and may even agree with me in saying,

 “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Matthew, Romans

Gen 25, 26 – Mt 18:1-20

As I was reading these passages I noticed a difference in focus from the old testament to the new testament. In Genesis we find the history of a family and there is a lot of talk about descendents and who settled where and what land was owned by who. Wells and livestock, riches and birthrights. There is the fear of death or bodily harm by Issac when he is in a strange land. So much so that he lies.

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”Gen 26:7 NIV

But in Matthew, we see a heavenly focus. Men who are more worried about their place in heaven than their place in society.

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Mt 18:1 NIV

They have left everything behind to follow this man Jesus. They want to know how to please God in a way that will have eternal effects. And Jesus tells them.

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 18:3-4 NIV

He also talks about sin and the lengths we should go to to avoid it, even bodily harm. Wow!! I don’t know about you, but for me I have enough trouble just turning off he TV sometimes or staying away from the refrigerator to avoid temptation.

After reading these things I am left questioning myself. Where is my focus? What or who do I love more? Do I care more about heavenly or earthly things?

God, Help me to remember what really matters. Help me to do things that will matter for eternity. In Jesus name, Amen

Allen Tanner (allen4myfamily)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament

Genesis 23,24; Matthew 17

I think I’ve done it too. Like Abraham’s servant on a mission to find a wife for Isaac–he stood there before a well, talking to God, telling Him how it ought to go down … if this, and that, then this is how I will know “… I found huge delight at what followed:

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

Looking back in time, God’s hand becomes easier to see. But in the moment, I imagine the task Abraham’s servant faced. I sensed his uncertainty building, and his prayer touched me, because I’ve done similar: God, if this is what You want, make it clear to me! And to think that before my prayer is finished leaving my mouth, He’s already worked it out. Sometimes so I can recognize it, other times in ways that take me by surprise.

I wonder what Peter thought when Jesus told him to reach into the mouth of a fish and retrieve coins to pay the taxes! It should not have been any less astonishing were Peter told to ask a specific person for the coins, or to even find them on the ground … but Jesus takes it to the extraordinary. Jesus stretches Peter’s thinking (and mine).

Lord, I’m so grateful for all the ways you make yourself known–that I find you in ways I can recognize, and in ways I’d never imagine. I delight in seeing your hand active in history (and my life), how you stretch my imagination. Thank you for always being there.

Courtney (66books365)

Listening to: You Were There by Avalon.

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Matthew, Old Testament

Job 41, 42 Matthew 16

You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. ~ Matthew 16:23

A “stumbling block” is anything that tries to keep you from following the will of God.  No matter what God’s will is for our lives people will always try to impose their vision and their dreams on us.  In preparing for our first child, the best advice my best friend gave me was to use great discernment when it came to the advice of others, as even well-meaning people could give advice that could be a hindrance to God’s will.  If ever I’m feeling shaky, I always turn back to the vision and promises God made to me about our child and I am able to stand firm.

When Job spoke of things that were “above” his understanding, God asked him, “Who is it that obscures my counsel without knowledge?”  And to Peter’s declaration about the Cross not coming to pass, Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me,” (Job 42:3; Matthew 16:23).

Points to Ponder:

1)     Has God given you a vision for a specific area of your life?  If so, write it down so that it will be ever before you.  If not, ask Him to reveal it to you plainly.

2)     What things have become stumbling blocks—hindrances to God’s will—to you?  If you aren’t sure, ask God to reveal them to you and ask His guidance for “side-stepping” them.

Father, thank you for this word today.  Lord, I pray that You would give us eyes to see and ears to hear, that we may discern Your will for our lives and help us to choose the things that align our lives with Your will.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

HeatherPotts5

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Filed under Matthew, Old Testament