Monthly Archives: April 2012

1 Samuel 1, 2, 3; Luke 17:20-37

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I have also lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28 (NKJV)

I have been thinking a lot recently about what it means to give my children to the Lord, partially because of the testimony of a couple from my home church in Pennsylvania who lost three of their children in a car accident last year. And also because, for the past week and a half my newborn nephew has been fighting for his life in the hospital, and my sister- and brother-in law have been in the midst of facing the possibility of having to literally give their child back to the Lord.

Hannah gave up Samuel; she honored her oath to the Lord for remembering her and giving her a son. When he was weaned, Hannah returned her son to the Lord by giving the priest Eli charge of his life and his education.  In reality, according to God’s command in the Old Testament, all firstborn (sons) were to be consecrated to the Lord (Exodus 13:2, 13). Rather than requiring a human sacrifice as was required by the followers of Molech, the Lord, full of mercy, allowed for the children to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb. In our modern time, there are no temples to turn our children over to and blood sacrifices are no longer needed to be made to redeem our children because of the ultimate blood sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on the cross.

So, how do I set my children apart for the Lord?

First, I need to make the choice to actively give them back to God as He requires. In reality, they are already His. God just entrusted them to me and my husband to raise and care for them. And when I became a believer, everything that is mine, past, present, and future, belongs to God. It is my job to relinquish them into His hands every day.

“…I will give [them] to the Lord all the days of [their] life…” 1 Samuel 1:11c (NKJV)

Second, I need to teach them diligently to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all of your strength,” in the midst of daily life, when I am sitting, walking, resting, and playing with them (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).  So that as they go about normal life as children and as adults, they will recognize that the Kingdom of God is within them:

For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21b (NKJV)

Third, I need to demonstrate to them the truth of living in the non-legalistic, freedom of the Kingdom of God. As my children grow, they will learn what being connected to God looks like and feels like; they will learn the benefits and freedom of being God’s sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ. They will be able to choose to lose their lives in God’s agape love.

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33 (NKJV)

Fourth, I need to show them how to be in relationship with the Lord, how to worship, pray, immerse themselves in the Word of God. Not so they will grow up thinking that God is there solely to meet their own needs, wants, and desires, but so that they will be a part of the Samuel generation, a generation that seeks God’s face to minister to the desires of God’s heart (1 Samuel  2:11,13; 3:1). They will be among those children whose primary ambition is hear and obey God’s voice.

But Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child wearing a linen ephod.” 1 Samuel 2:13 (NKJV)

In Hannah’s life, because she obeyed the Word of the Lord and honored her oath, not only was she blessed, God giving her five more children, but the whole of Israel was blessed because Samuel was to become a prophet during a time in Israel’s history when it was rare to hear the Word of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:1). Samuel was also blessed by being among the few who knew the Lord directly.

And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.” 1 Samuel 2:26 (NKJV)

As I am obedient in setting apart my children for the Lord, I will be blessed like Hannah was blessed. But more importantly, my children will be blessed as Samuel was blessed.

Father, help me give my children back to you every day, regardless of what that means for their futures – the one that is born, the one in my womb, and the ones whose lives You’ve only planned. Help me care for them, nurture them, and teach them according to Your ways and in Your will. Help me Holy Ghost! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Ruth 1-4; Luke 17:1-19

Mustard Seed Faith

Sometimes it seems like God expects the impossible.  Jesus warns us of our fate should we lead others astray and exhorts us to offer superhuman forgiveness to those who have done us harm.  Like the disciples, I  know that following Jesus requires a supernatural infusion of faith and with them, I cry,  “Increase our faith!”  Jesus responds,

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…  Luke 17:6

The tiny,  unassuming, easily misplaced tiny mustard seed which given soil,  water and sunlight quickly grows into a tree which shelters birds,  insects and other creatures.  I have mustard seeds in my life.  The question is if they are seeds of faith or disbelief.  Both grow and take root in my life.

Lately,  the mustard seeds have taken the form of moments when I am asked to give up my time,  my rights,  my will and what I think should be  mine.  Choosing faith over disbelief  doesn’t always come easily and when I get it right,  I want to make sure it was duly noted.   It’s just like at the end of the season kid’s sports banquet;  I want to make sure that I get the trophy for showing up and being obedient to the coach.   Ha! Jesus knows that my heart defaults back to a sense of entitlement and he tells me to trust Him with the outcome and not to expect accolades and applause for simple obedience.  It is not about me!  What He does promise me is that whatever amount of faith I can muster,  He will use for His good purposes.  He will use even the tiniest grain of faith I offer Him to bring His beauty,  healing and love to a dying and broken world.  May self preoccupation decrease and my faith and love for Him grow with each day.  He is faithful.

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Filed under Bible in a year reading plan, Luke

Judges 19, 20, 21; Luke 16

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  Judges 21:25  Forgive me if I begin to sound like a femi-nazi, but this story in Judges illustrates the depravity and murderous spirit of Satan that make victims of women.  First the Levite (umm, from the tribe of priests, right?) gives his concubine to the crowd who wanted to sodomize him.  Now he had to know what her fate would be, rape and unmentionable acts that would lead to her death.  The Levite then uses this incident to arouse the nation of Israel to go to war against the Benjamites.  Though God eventually gives the victory to Israel, they come up with a plan to give the defeated tribe – you guessed it, women.  Imagine your daughter or granddaughter having fun dancing at a festival and some strange man forces her to leave with him to become his wife, and you cannot get the authorities to do anything about it. That is what happened in this story. Since they would not give their  own daughters for brides, Israel gave the Benjamites permission to abduct and force marriage on young virgins from another tribe during a festival where young women could be found (sounds something like the sex slave trade, to me).

Okay, I’ll be fair and say that women perpetrate many injustices, too.  It’s just that the weaker sex, or the disabled (as is illustrated in the story of Lazarus in Luke), are pawns in the games played by the powerful or wealthy, and seemingly without a prick to the conscious.  What is happening to humanity when we can turn our heads from injustice?  Or how is it that we will give a stamp of approval to brutality with only the barest of facts?  Why is it that we think God is on our side when our pain becomes unbearable, or our fears humble us, or our self-righteous anger emboldens us?

Without God we may, in fact, be like the impulsive, charge up the hill, throw the tramp to the wolves, kind of people who have not taken the time to seek the Lord’s will in matters of such magnitude.  A modern day example is the Trayvon/Zimmerman case.  “Hang ’em high and ask questions later.”  Isn’t that the American way?  In the end we may only be doing what is right in our own eyes.

By Janet

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Judges, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Judges 16, 17, 18; Luke 15:11-32

I have always liked the story of Samson. How God gave him such great strength that allowed him to do some amazing things. Equally astounding is how when his hair is cut, he loses his strength. I mean doesn’t strength come from muscles? But then again the fact that Delilah kept asking where his strength comes from makes me question those pictures they showed me in Sunday school of him. I mean he looked like a WWE wrestler and it would be pretty obvious where his strength was coming from. Really though his strength came from God and I think Samson lost site of this. He placed his trust in himself and he lost everything.

Micah does the same thing in the next few chapters. He puts his trust in religion and not God, even going so far as to have an idol, shrine and a personal priest.

“”I know the Lord will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.”” Judges 17:13 NLT

Of course we see this fail as well later in the next chapter when all of those things are taken from him. In Luke, the parable of the prodigal son, it is more of the same. A man trusting in his own wisdom and way of doing things. I remember wanting to get out on my own, wanting to break away from my parents, but I can’t imagine actually asking for my inheritance while they are still alive. I mean that is some serious gall and pride. Of course as we have heard pride goes before the fall. And fall he did.

“The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one game him anything.” Luke 15:16 NLT

The good news is that when Samson and the prodigal son finally come to their senses and in humility ask for forgiveness, God redeems them. Throughout the bible, old and new testament alike, we see a God who is ready and wanting to bless and redeem. I have witnessed this my own life as well. Not that life is always or ever easy, but when I am trusting in His strength and not in my own, the burden is a little lighter and I find that he blesses me. Those blessing come in many different ways, but they are there. So if I want to be blessed, I need to be searching out my heart making sure that my trust is in Him. Not in my job, money, family, relationship, ….. fill in the blank. Not that any of those are bad, but anything other than God is just a substitute and will in the end leave me wanting.

Allen (allen4myfamily)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Judges, Luke, Micah, New Testament, Old Testament

Judges 13,14,15; Luke 15:1-10

Again.

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. Judges 13:1 NLT

I was reading a chapter for a bible study about thorns in life. Next to the stick-figure face with pointy horns, it reads the devil is the one who gives us thorns. It felt really good to read that. I had someone to blame for pain in my life. I had a way to make sense of the yucky stuff I’ve experienced. My mind wandered to Job, and God’s offer to Satan, “Have you considered my servant?”

All that tragedy, God approved. I struggled with it. But I still had Satan to blame. Here in Judges, the word “again.” Again, they did evil, and this time, the Lord handed them over to the Philistines. Again, they returned to sin–and God let them go into the consequence.

Samson wants a wife, and the impression I get is that his parents weren’t too thrilled with his choice. But he insists on that one.

His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time. Judges 14:4 NLT.

He gets that girl. She betrays him by telling the answer to his riddle. He goes and kills thirty men. Later sets crops on fire. Goes into hiding, only to kill 1,000 more men. All the while, there’s a lot of blaming. “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer”; “Because you did this, I won’t rest until I take revenge upon you”; “I only did to them what they did to me.”

Sometimes tragedy comes upon us–hand selected and delivered by Satan. And sometimes we bring it upon ourselves. Either way, God will use it for good–because He is good. Samson seems a bit self-entitled and vengeful. But God let Samson continue in his way to eventually reveal His strength.

In the New Testament, Jesus is talking about the one lost sheep–and wouldn’t the shepherd leave the flock to search for the missing one? Jesus, the one the Pharisees complained about because he kept company with sinners, (this man who came to heal the sick, because the healthy don’t need a doctor) the one who will go after the one lost sheep. (I love him for that!)

Joy repeats in Luke. And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:5-7, NLT).

Lord, that I could be more aware of my sin so that I can turn from it to bring you joy. I want to walk with you–not away from you! You love me, still, to find this lost sheep–with joy, claiming me as yours. I am grateful that you have power over evil, to bring good from it. Your power made perfect in my weakness. Help me to see. Help me to turn from it and return to you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Judges, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Judges 11-12; Luke 14:25-35

Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me–will I really be your head?” ~ Judges 11:9

Many people are frustrated today because they didn’t count the cost.  In Luke 14, Jesus talks about “counting the cost,” both the good and the bad, remembering to ask the important question, “Is it in line with God’s plan for me?”

I remember at the end of last year, after finding out we were pregnant, we began to wonder if our home would be big enough or if we should try to move.  And if so, should we rent or buy and could we afford it?  But then we got to the most important question: “It is in God’s plan and His timing for us to buy right now…or is it just what we want?”  We had laid out the cost and only the down payment was really getting in our way.  We knew we could believe God for the thousands of dollars we needed, but was it truly His timing for us?

Jesus said if you’re going to build, it’s wise to first count the cost so you will know if you can finish the project and not have to stop in the middle and endure ridicule, (see Luke 14:28-29).  The Bible describes Jephthah as a mighty warrior, but even he sat down and considered the cost of going into battle for his people before he consented to it.

After lots of prayer and seeking God, we discovered that it wasn’t God’s timing for us to move…and today I’m glad, because God has richly blessed us for our obedience to Him.  What decisions are you facing today for which you need to count the cost?  Have you asked the question “Is this God’s plan and timing or mine?”

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Filed under 66 Books, Judges, Luke

Judges 9,10; Luke 14:1-24

Luke 14

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

It’s not about me.  When I make it about me and take the most prominent seat at the table, someone more important will come along and need my place and I will end up at the bottom.  When I make it about me, I end up humiliated and defeated.  When I make it about me, I will be repaid for my good deeds by receiving recognition and reciprocation.  When I make it about me, I can’t find God’s Kingdom.

It’s all about my relationship with Jesus.  When I am involved with a relationship with Jesus, I am free of ME!  Humility is built into relationship with Jesus.  Good deeds are done with no expectation of payback or recognition.  When I have relationship with Jesus, I have life.

We are called to have a relationship with Jesus.  Relationships are hard.  Going to church – easy.  Giving money – easy.  Doing good works and being helpful to those less fortunate – easy.  Establishing a meaningful relationship with the one who died, so that I may have eternal life – Difficult.   Why is this one task that Jesus called me to do personally, so hard to achieve.  Where is the 10 step list of how to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus?  I would even take the watered down 5 step list.  What works yesterday never seems to get me to the same place today. There is no coasting for me.  I have to deliberately set out each day to include efforts to grow my relationship with Jesus.  I guess it is no different than my relationships with my wife or kids.  It only grows stronger when I focus on them and what they want instead of on myself and what I want.  It’s not about me!

Father, please help me place my relationship with your Son over all other things in my life.  Shift my focus from me to Him and make His relationship with me the foundation for all other relationships in my life.  In your Son’s precious name, Amen

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Filed under Judges, Luke, Uncategorized