Monthly Archives: July 2013

Judg.14; Acts 18; Jer. 27; Mark 13

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert and pray! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone; ‘Watch!’”

Mark 13:32-37 NIV

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When I was a pre-teen and early teenager, I would often babysit for families in our community. As I read these verses this week, I recalled those times when I was babysitting and the parents were out very late. I remembered being so tired and wanting to sleep on the couch after the kids were in bed, but knowing that if the parents returned and I was dead asleep, how embarrassed I would feel by them catching me like that. I doubt I would have lost any future babysitting “jobs” with those  families, but it certainly was  more responsible of me to stay awake and keep watch over the children.

That’s how I view these verses. Jesus is coming back again. We know He is, because He told us so and can truly be counted on to keep His promises. I don’t know the day or hour. My “job” while I wait is to be alert and pray, helping to further His kingdom on this earth and spread the good news that I have experienced through Him.

These verses do not say that I would lose my salvation if I’m asleep…not alert and praying…but what shame and embarrassment I’m sure I would experience if I was spiritually asleep when He returned.

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Lord,

I so look forward to that day when You will return and we will dwell with You face to face!  My desire is to honor You with my life and share the good news with those around me until that day comes. Please help me to not become complacent with my spiritual walk, but instead stay alert and to daily commune with You.

Amen.

Beckie (look2thehills)

from the archives, July 31, 2010

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Judges 13; Acts 17; Jeremiah 26; Mark 12

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, I beg you to let the man of God come to us again. Let him teach us what we should do for the boy who will be born to us.” Judges 13:8 (NCV)

I think that this is the prayer of every believing parent. I know it is my prayer, daily and in every moment, especially the difficult ones.

I have not been given an instruction manual on how to raise my children, to raise them to be well-adjusted and valuable to society, to raise them to be God-fearing adults, not one of us has. Though, there are thousands of self-help style books to either help in the process of child-rearing or help me feel guilty for not being able to do everything or be everything.  And, there are a plethora of advice givers– some who offer sound advice and some who offer nothing more than old wives tales that hold little usefulness.

When it comes to choosing the best guide for parenting, the Bible surely is the right choice to raise children in the right way, the way befitting of these (sons and) daughters of the King, the true Royal Heirs.

The Angel of the Lord gave specific directions to Manoah and his wife in how to bring up Samson for the calling that God had placed on his life even before his conception.

“Be careful not to drink wine or beer or eat anything that is unclean, because you will become pregnant and have a son. You must never cut his hair, because he will be a Nazirite, given to God from birth. He will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5 (NCV)

The Bible gives clear instructions to me; that I should keep God’s Words always on my heart and teach them to my children diligently, all day, each day, in every situation, no matter where we are or what we are doing (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). This means that every day as I move through life with my daughters, I must look for the moments during our day that are opportunities to share Jesus’ love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice…and to share His most important commands.

Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There are no commands more important than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NCV)

As a mother, I often only have the hope of fruit to come. Recently, though I have seen glimpses into the rewards of that fruit:

Daughter: “What happened? You hurt self?” (with great compassion etched in her face)

Mother: “Yes, Baby, Mommy’s finger has a booboo. I cut myself.”

Daughter: “I pray you?”

Mother: “Yes, please. That would be very kind.”

My toddler leans over my hand, folds her hands over my finger, closes her eyes, and says in a small voice, “Jesus loves me. Amen.” Then, expectantly, asks if I feel better.

Now, that is what it is ALL about.

Yesappa, come teach me what I should do for these children born to me. Help me love them as You love them; and help me be patient with them as You are patient with me. Help me give grace and mercy as You give to me. Help me train my children in the way they should go, so as they grow they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Help me love my kids on purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Judges12; Acts 16; Jeremiah 25; Mark 11

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.  During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10

Paul was a doer. He was full throttle ahead, intentional, deliberate, and just downright zealous. And thank God He was. 

I love this story because Paul was headed somewhere, but the Holy Spirit would not allow it. He called him west to Macedonia instead, a place that Paul perhaps had no intention of going.

Paul was in tune to the Spirit, and willing to have his direction and plans entirely changed. It must have seemed right and practical to him to go to Bithynia, but He understood that his life was not his own, and ultimately it was not his choice to decide where or how he should serve.

A doer under the control of the Holy Spirit is a powerful thing, as Paul’s life is testimony. A doer trying to serve God apart from this vital relationship, this listening and obeying,  is impotent at best.

I have nowhere near the zeal of Paul, but I do have a natural desire to do and to go. But sometimes God tells me, “No.”

Sometimes he gives me discernment spiritually that it is a “no,” and other times he alters my circumstances to hinder or make me unable to do it.

I’ve also noticed that often when He leads me not to do something, He usually leads me in a clear way to do something else instead or either confirms something he has already given me to do. It is very often not something that I would have thought of doing on my own.

It is so encouraging to see an example of this very experience in scripture.

It is also sobering, because had Paul not obeyed…had he not been listening,  and had he not accepted the “no” to Bythinia or recognized the call to Macedonia, the gospel may not have gone west!

I choose to remember today, and believe, that God has a very specific plan for my life, and when I feel discouraged because He is telling me “no” to something that I (or other people) think I should do, He has a very good reason.

My job is to be listening and obeying.

He will take care of the rest!

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Judg.11:12-40; Acts 15; Jer. 24; Mark 10

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a disagreement that they parted company.   Acts 15:36-39a

Why would Luke record this uncomfortable, and perhaps unflattering, episode?  Undoubtedly, part of the reason is that Luke is a historian who takes seriously his responsibility to accurately report facts.  But on a different level, I suspect that the purpose of this passage is to teach me something.   Here are a couple of insights I have picked up as I have pondered the meaning of these verses:

1) There is room for honest disagreement within the body of Christ.
No evidence suggests that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was between “right” and “wrong”.  In fact, Paul later comments about the value of Mark in his ministry and requests that Mark be brought to him (2 Tim 4:11).   We know Paul’s path bore fruit from the continuing account of Acts after this episode.  It certainly sounds like the path chosen by Barnabas and Mark also bore fruit.  Honest disagreement between two mature believers resulted in both still effectively serving God.

2) God accomplishes his purposes through different types of people.
The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas appears to be rooted in differing priorities.  Paul valued his mission too greatly to risk it by including someone (Mark) who had let him down previously.  We learn throughout Acts that Paul was always task-oriented, sticking to the plan, whether the plan was to round-up and imprison believers (as he did before his conversion) or preach the Gospel to Gentiles.   Barnabas valued Mark and his continuing development too greatly to abandon him at this time.   As a matter of fact, when we first are introduced to Barnabas we learn that his name means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).  The kingdom of God has room for both task-oriented and people-oriented personalities.

A recent disagreement I had with another believer that resulted in “parting company” highlights my struggle in learning these lessons.  I am ashamed to say that part of me screamed out for vindication.  I wanted the world to see that my position was right and the position of the other party was wrong.  Paul’s example, by reconciling with Mark and affirming his value in spite of their earlier disagreement, is an example for me.

Lord, may I be more like Paul in his humility.  Strip me of the pride that requires me to be “right” all the time.  And may I be more like Barnabas.   Help me to be a “son of encouragement”, especially given my tendency to place the value of the mission above the value of your children.  Amen.

Greg (gmd40187)

from the archives, July 28, 2010

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Judges 10, Acts 14, Jeremiah 23, Mark 9

Judges 10:6 “Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord…”

Acts14:15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God…”

Jeremiah 23:22 “But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people.”

Mark 9:19 “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?”

 We all can get off track; chasing after idols, playing around with the forbidden, participating in gossip or slander with a neighbor or against a co-worker.  We are also prone to following after charismatic spiritual leaders, becoming comfortable in relying on the weekly inserts in church bulletins to inform our lazy minds what God is saying (at least to the televangelist or pastor).  Why is it so easy and dangerous to run with the crowd? I think it is complacency.  Complacency is a lack of effort, a slipping away from spiritual vigilance over our soul.  We let day after day go by without so much as a glance at the Word of God or a heartfelt, intercessory prayer for others.  It may be difficult to identify how our morals, beliefs, and intentions have been compromised.  We cannot see it happening.  Yet, our testimony, (not the one that brought us to Christ, but the one that we speak every day with our words and actions) points to this falling away.  Over time, we will have to admit we have been compromised when our omniscient God pulls us up abruptly with the words, “…cut it off; it is better for you to enter [eternal] life…than to be cast into hell.”  Strong words, I know.  Yet I have seen the devastation when a believer falls into the death grip of denial and immorality.  Years of wasting away a life once devoted to the things of God, now self-serving.  The collateral damage will require the faith of saints and the mercy of God to repair.

I once heard that most Americans are but a paycheck away from homelessness.  In the same way, our spiritual bank can become low in reserves of truth, belief, faith, utter dependence on, and gratitude to God.  We will find ourselves homeless, holding onto the transitory thoughts and mores of our world and our own darker imaginings.  Our good deeds will not save us; avoiding the reckoning will not delay the inevitable; minimizing the consequences will not justify us.  We can tough it out and hope the saints are wrong, or we can repent and return to diligently seeking the Master’s face, asking for His mercy, putting away the things that interfere with discipleship, then serving Him with our whole heart. My own conscious tells me this is so – have mercy on me, oh Lord.

Janet

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Judges 9; Acts 13; Jeremiah 22; Mark 8

After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 13:22, NIV)

I just returned home from a family reunion where I helped to honor my husband’s 92-year-old grandfather. For nearly a century, Grandpa Storms has remained faithfully obedient to Jesus. He and his bride of 65 years raised three children…all of whom serve in full-time Christian ministry. Four of their six grandchildren work as pastors, and everyone in the family loves the Lord. Who knows how many people have come to know Jesus because of Grandpa Storms. His legacy testifies to his faithfulness to God.

At 92, it won’t be long before Jesus testifies on Grandpa’s behalf, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In the same way, Paul said that God himself looked on David’s heart and testified concerning him, “He’s a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

Were God to testify concerning me, I wonder what He’d say. Maybe, “She’s a woman after her own ambition; she does everything to honor herself.” Or perhaps, “Amy chases after the approval of others; she’ll do anything for acceptance.”

But oh, to have a testimony like David’s! To be a woman who seeks God in all things. To be known, like Grandpa Storms, for my faithful obedience.

Lord, I want this to be my testimony. Show me where my heart fails to follow You. Correct every area of rebellion and disobedience, until You can testify concerning me, “Amy will do everything I ask her to do.” Make me more like David, more like Grandpa Storms, and more like You, Lord. Amen.

amystorms

from the archives, originally published July 26, 2010

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Judges 8; Acts 12; Jeremiah 21; Mark 7

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Mark 7:14-15 NLT.

This summer, I’ve given a lot of thought to words. I listen to kids pick at each other … to a friend as she vents (and rightfully so) … the words out of my mouth tell a deeper story beyond what I say … and even silence speaks its own language, makes a statement.

17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:17-23 NLT.

Words become highlighted in colors of jealousy, betrayal, envy, evil thoughts. And even silence can speak hatred.

This language takes me to my knees, changes my prayer life, gives me new focus. When I look past the words and into the heart behind them, I see the need for Jesus in all of us, and I am filled with compassion where the wounding once occupied.

Courtney (66books365)

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