Monthly Archives: July 2014

Psalm 62-64; Romans 1

You are not worth fighting for.

That is the message the enemy sends to me. In a Bible study by Angela Thomas, in the unexpected chapter of the undermining messages we hear, this is the one that shouted at me in all-caps fury. Suddenly things past and present were punctuated with the thought: you are not worth fighting for.

It emerged with new voice from the years of (his) silence.

It smiled from (her) face the day she let the door shut in mine.

It was made plain over coffee when (one) said as much, “I won’t fight your battle.”

It whispered at me through every dangling text, canceled plan, empty promise.

That first winter, I walked trash cans down the driveway. It was night, and it was windy and cold. Our driveway is longer under those conditions. I looked up at the stars and spoke to God about all the things that were going wrong. That year, I was introduced to Psalm 62 in a study on David. It was waiting for me today.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

An enemy’s message still surfaces from the most unlikely sources. It is met this morning with an eternal truth, interestingly enough, over coffee.

When one is silent, He speaks. When one door is closed, He holds open the other. When one won’t stand with me, He is a refuge where no enemy can reach. When one tells me I’m not worth the effort, time–God is there. He says He’s got time for me.

He tells me I’m worth it.

God fights for me. My victory and honor come from him.

What does the enemy tell you?

More importantly, what does God have to say about it?

Lord, thank you for never leaving my side. Thank you for fighting for me. Help me to be aware of the messages I send to others. I don’t ever want my voice to be that of an enemy.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalms 59-61, Acts 28:16-31

The book I’m reading references a biblical reading strategy called lectio divino, an ancient practice of reading scripture into our current circumstance. The idea is that scripture has relevance and application to my life now, in this very moment.

The author gives direction for using this method, “In the daily discipline of prayer our focus is on God and the words of God. You can read a Psalm or a very short section of scripture. Simply take a passage and read it two or three times, and keep your mind focused on that passage. Do not think about it in terms of analyzing it, but simply become aware of what that passage presents to you…Focus on a certain word or passage or phrase that stands out in the passage. When you are distracted, just return to the image or the word that you focused on out of the text…. Slowly this truth becomes flesh in us. Repeating the phrase several times quiets us down and allows our mind to descend into our heart. The words quietly spoken become a hedge around a garden in which God’s shepherding can be sensed. There we are with the Lord who becomes our loving shepherd who leads us to silent pastures where it is safe to dwell.”

I haven’t practiced this exercise with much frequency, but when I have it has given me great peace and insight into the text. Often, I approach scripture as a task or mountain to be scaled. When I reach the top of the passage, I look over the breadth of words I have conquered with little understanding of their depth or personal meaning.

But when I read text to find life in the words for me today, I can slow myself down. I allow myself to stop when I have found the phrase that I can repeat to myself in the car on the way to work. Or in the moment when I’m mad at that student. Or when my mind wanders to where it shouldn’t.

Psalms 61 is one of those passages for me. Whenever I read it, my eyes get stuck on

“Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I.”

I love the idea that God has a higher place for me. A place of safety, a place or righteousness. A rock on which I can stand. I know that rock is Jesus and on Him, my feet cannot be shaken.

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Psalm 56-58; Acts 28:1-15

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3&4 NKJV

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory!” Psalm  57:5 NKJV

Being a Christian since the age of seven, I find myself skimming over the Psalms at times. Some of the verses are so familiar. Yet, it is where I go when I am calling out to the Lord. When, like David I am in a desperate place. As I read through this time, the words, “I will” stand out to me. David sang praises even when his heart was weary and he didn’t feel like it. He knew that his faith would increase.

I wish I could say that was always my first reaction. But, I have learned that sometimes praise in the midst of pain is a choice. That the very act of praising is a surrender, giving control back over to Jesus. A giving up of trying to figure things out on my own and acknowledging that He will take care of me.

Now when they had escaped, they found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand…but he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery, Paul went into him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.” Acts 28:1-3&5;8&9 NKJV

God was taking care of Paul.  After everything that had happened, God still used him in miraculous ways, “he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15 NKJV. It seemed to be just what his soul needed to keep going. Sometimes I forget God’s faithfulness, but than he does something to remind me. Or I look back at all he has done and it gives me just what I need to move forward.

Dear,“God, you did everything You promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life.” (Psalm 56:12-13 Message) Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Psalm 53-55; Acts 27:26-31

I wish the deliverance of Israel would come from Zion!

When God restores the well-being of his people,

may Jacob rejoice,

may Israel be happy!

-Psalm 53:6

– – – – – – –

There’s a few ways to approach this Psalm. I thought about the national/international implications for the Nation of Israel, who really has never been at peace in its land, especially not now. It’s the sort of turmoil that, because I consider them brothers and sisters, is painful to watch. Speaking of another Psalm asking for deliverance, one Rabbi had this to say:

“Let us pray that God responds to our prayers and gives us security in our land in the same way King David reigned over Israel and Jerusalem in peace and prosperity.”

Then I thought about the sort of ‘spiritual’ implications, most commentaries say that ‘the deliverance’ is a sort of a metonym for the messiah, who would be the ultimate rescue from Zion for God’s people. So we have David yearning, not only for national deliverance, but spiritual deliverance.

Then there is the personal, circumstantial deliverance that he needed. That’s the immediate context we get this Psalm out of. David asks for deliverance from the evil that surrounds and threatens him.

In this context, I would expect a more personal cry for deliverance, or peace.

However David prays on behalf of his people.

How often do I pray on behalf of my community?

The answer is pretty much never.

This is definitely a point of conviction for me, my prayers and conversations with God are often very self focused. Last week I ran into a lady at the church and after introducing myself she said, “Oh it’s so great to meet you, I have you on my prayer list!” I was sort of caught off guard and distracted but I thanked her, and was encouraged by it.

But really what I should have done was added her to my prayer list (I’d need a prayer list first!)

I’m going to make it a point to pray for the people of my church this week, to pray for the people in the ministries I work with, and to pray a little less for myself.

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Psalm 50-52; Acts 27:1-25

Psalm 52:8 …I trust in the mercy of God forever and forever.

Mercy – the answer to the mess I get myself in or allow others to put me in, which I guess is the same thing.

Trust – the action I take to reach the One who is bigger than my troubles; who watches over me; who is waiting to deliver me at the right time, not with arbitrary decision.

Mercy is the goodness (loyal love) of God that endures continuously; unmistaken is His work and never an isolated event.

Mercy is connected to God withholding judgment. I am well aware of my sins most days. God is well aware of my sins moment to moment from conception to the end of my life. So I have learned from King David to pray his words captured in Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.”

The Hebrew word used for mercy in these Psalms is chanan, which means to bow, to stoop in kindness to an inferior. When God shows us mercy, He does so with full intention of attending to our prayer, forgiving and saving us completely.  I like what Paul said to the men on a doomed ship, “Therefore, take heart men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me…,” Acts 27:25.  The Apostle had no doubt that God would save him, and he was adamant that if the others followed, they would reap the same benefits. We are at the mercy of God, even if we are weak in faith.

All we need do is call on Him. He said so.  In Psalm 50:15, God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

Then we will experience His mercy.  Then we can teach transgressors His ways, so that sinners will turn back to Him, Psalm 51:13. I know I can teach the mercy of God. I am well acquainted with His mercy.

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Psalm 47, 48, 49; Acts 26

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

For God is the King of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm!

God reigns over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted! Psalm 47

 

I have been to many churches in my journey as a missionary, to share the gospel and also to share testimonies of the things that God has done and is currently doing in the churches in our area of South India.

One of the things that always strikes me when I visit a church is the many different styles of worship. Some worship in different languages, praise in the native tongue of the worshippers. Some worship in a very traditional way, singing hymns written centuries ago. Some sing the various Maranatha-type choruses that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s. And, some worship with modern songs with the style of prophetic worship. Some churches stand, some clap and lift their hands to the heavens, some play tambourines or shofars, some dance, some wave flags, and some paint pictures.

Despite the style of worship, one thing remains the same…each person, each church is lifting their voices to praise the One True God, offering a part of themselves to the body of Christ, just like David did. Together we are all joined together in gratitude for all He has done – from creating us, to choosing us, to sending His Son to be a sacrifice on our behalf, to each specific thing He does every day for every one of His children.

I truly love corporate worship; it’s a chance to come together with other brothers and sisters in Christ and remember together God’s goodness and His faithfulness. There is something amazing that happens in my spirit when I hear many voices lifted in songs of praise and see figures worshipping through creative movement. It can usher me into His presence in such a way that it almost feels like I took an escalator into heaven. It has the potential to ready my heart for His healing touch, speaking into the places that feel dry and reminding me that He is always there.

I think that the hardest part of being a mom is that it has become a very rare occurrence for me to be able to fully participate in times of worship, either by myself or corporately. It seems as if when a song begins, that is precisely the moment when one of my little ones needs a drink, a snack, a diaper change, a referee… At this point in my motherhood journey, I haven’t yet figured out how to balance kids versus entering into worship. I haven’t yet figured out how to draw my children into the ‘adult’ worship effectively.

As a start, I am teaching them children’s songs, the ones I grew up on, like “Jesus Loves Me”, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, and “This is the Day”. They also both really enjoy waving flags and making a joyful noise on toy instruments, but right now I realize that it is more about the fun than the praise. I hope as they grow their heart for worship grows too as they begin to feel God’s presence in the worship.

I know that this is a season, a time of learning for all of us, a chance to practice gratitude for God in many different ways. I know that each of us, over time, will move into new seasons of worship, and I look forward to the time when we can come together as a family to exult His name and honor our King.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Psalms 44-46; Acts 25

I want to make Paul into some kind of super hero and believe that outside our faith in Jesus Christ, we share very little in common.  If I follow that logic, then I am not responsible to live as Paul did. He was a radical who according to the worldly powers, didn’t know his place. If he would have just kept quiet, they would have left him alone. But he didn’t and he wouldn’t go away.

It was a simple little note on Acts 23:5  that changed my mind about Paul and I. Paul failed to recognize that it was the High Priest addressing him; the commentary indicated that it was widely believed that Paul had poor vision. I understand how it feels to be terribly nearsighted; I have been most of my life. It’s been a significant limitation at times.  So Paul was a frail human being with strengths and weaknesses like me.  So how did he get up everyday and face such physical, emotional and spiritual opposition?

As I meditated on the story of Paul’s beatings, imprisonment and trials in Jerusalem, I had this mental picture of Jesus standing by Paul…Jesus behind Paul as he stood before the violent crowd, Jesus shoulder to shoulder with Paul as he faced the Sanhedrin, Jesus right by Paul as he stood trial. No matter who or what Paul faced, he would not deny the one who would never leave him, Jesus. The same is true for me. Paul’s strength wasn’t found in the force of his personality (although that probably helped); it was found in Jesus- the one who would never leave or turn away from him. Suddenly, Saint Patrick’s prayer makes sense and becomes mine:

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me,  Christ be behind me, King of my heart;                                                        Christ be within me, Christ be below me, Christ be above me, never to part.   

Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand, Christ all around me, shield in the strife.                                                    Christ in my sleeping Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising, light of my life.

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me, Christ be behind me, King of my heart;                                                        Christ be within me, Christ be below me, Christ be above me, never to part.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

                                                                                                                                                    

klueh

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