Monthly Archives: March 2015

Joshua 5-8; Psalm 14; Luke 15

Forgiven?

I just spent an amazing weekend on top of a mountain with a group of brothers, growing in faith, and speaking, in part, about the Prodigal Son. AMAZING story of love and discernment. So, how is it that when I looked at the blog’s writing calendar, I have Luke 15 as part of my reading? Coincidence? Actually, I prefer to call it a God-incidence! I suspect God wants me in this reading for a very specific reason… no, I know why… it’s because I see myself in this reading… with the exception of having my name in print, this passage is so me. So what is it that has me coming back to this passage again after just 24 hours after returning from an intensive spiritual weekend with 19 other amazing men?

For those who know me, I love my girls… very much. I know that if I ever had open-heart surgery, the surgeon would see the names of my daughters branded into each side of my heart. I suspect I’m not the only one reading this post who doesn’t feel the same way… “my children are my heart.” And, of course, because we do so much for them, we’ll never get disappointed by them because they recognize all we do for them and would never turn against us, right? End of post… well… maybe not. Sounds like a neat idea, but it’s hardly accurate. My girls have disappointed me more than I choose to count, but I still love them unconditionally… always. Every time I see their number come up on my cell phone, I answer it… no matter what! How could I not… I love them… unconditionally. And when they share another problem that they need help working out, I listen to them and offer advice as my opinion. How could I not… I love them… unconditionally. You see, I never turn them away… that isn’t what unconditional love does… it should always be there, ready to be extended when, not if, the time comes when my girls return to me as their father. However… I must confess… my response time seems, at times, to be related to their offense. While my underlying love is always there, my ‘forgiveness response time’ seemed to lag longer than it should. And, what’s worse, is that my ‘forgiveness response time’ lags even more when the offense is rendered by someone outside of my family. This is exposing a side of myself that I don’t like… if we’re called to live our lives as Jesus did, I’ve got some work to do… I suspect this is why I’m back to reading, and now writing, about this passage of scripture!

What our Heavenly Father offers us is very different… listen to what Jesus states in His parable expressed in Luke 15:17… “When he came to his senses” referring to the younger son finally realizing what he had done wrong, he returned to the father to seek forgiveness. The love that the father quickly extended to the younger son was that of royalty, immediately, with no record of the wrong-doing, just complete and unconditional. In a similar way, our Heavenly Father extends that same grace and unconditional love whenever His earthly children fall away, come to their senses, and return to Him. Our God offers us such underserved grace that should serve as a model for us to aspire to. Life is not perfect… mistakes will and are made, and when they do, it’s important to take accountability for those mistakes, just as the younger son did in the parable. Forgiveness, should be offered freely and quickly so the offended and offender can move forward, in peace.

Heavenly Father… I pray that we find the ‘blinders’ that help us to remain focused on You always… that we seek You in ALL things, especially in the area of grace and forgiveness. During this Holy time of year, help us to reduce the ‘forgiveness response time’ to zero by focusing on the ultimate sacrifice Your Son made to save us all. Amen.

gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)

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Joshua 1-4; Psalm 143; Luke 14

Motives.

We often judge them, we often mis-judge them, even our own. Only God truly knows what hides within our heart.

The Israelites motives as they entered the promised land (sincerity, fear, material gain — only God knows)

Rahab’s motives in hiding the spies

And, David’s prayer for deliverance in Psalm 143, “Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart is appalled within me. . . Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;

Jesus probes the motives of the masses listening to Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled”

they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

“if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless”

 

How pure are my motives? I walk the walk, but is my heart in it?

Examining myself once again as we head into the week prior to Easter. It is easy to go through the motions, multiple service options, great worship, but this week I’m seeking to intentionally prepare my heart for the celebration on Sunday morning (or Saturday night if we happen to go to church then – we usually do, but on Easter weekend it just seems wrong).

This week I will dig deeper, intentionally into God’s Word. Reading the gospels more carefully, more fully. Good Friday will give me opportunity to mourn the grief He bore, but I need to walk with Him this week to even be ready to fathom the depths of that remembrance.

God knows the purity of my motives, the focus of my heart, the content of my thoughts. This week, more than many others, I need to drive, daily, constantly, into His teaching. Laying bare the sin that still resists change, mercilessly opening the doors I have clenched shut. Letting the awesome Creator of the universe do the work that only He is capable of doing in making me His masterpiece.

Lord, work in me, whether my desire meets the standard or not, have Your way in my life, my choices, my thoughts. Thank you for setting the example in pure motives, and challenging my own. Keep doing Your work. Privileged to serve as a vessel ~Amen

 

Erin (6intow)

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Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 13; Luke 13

I want clarity, control and power over the direction of my life.

I dislike being wrong; being right feels oh so good.

I want to live by formulas that I know work.

Jesus provides clarity; to live for him is to surrender any illusion of control and power. He asks me to adopt a whole new kind of math, a new form of life economics; “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:10He asks me to put my questions aside: “Who is good enough? Who gets it right?” In God’s kingdom the insignificant things of life take on a glorious life of their own. The tiny mustard seed takes root and becomes the sheltering tree.

When I cling to the old order and snub his grace, I hear his sorrow expressed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” Luke 13:34-35

Present day Jerusalem, the beleaguered city known for centuries of conflict and sorrow still waits for peace. When Jesus cried out in sorrow for Jerusalem did he know then that the city would remain broken and hurting today? Does God grow weary of being rejected? I believe God longs for Jerusalem’s restoration as well as my own.

Lord, this Holy Week show me how I reject you and your kingdom. Peel back and expose those the layers of my life that resist you. Forgive me for my hardness of heart and restore me to the life you have called me to. Thank you for your patient pursuing love and grace. Amen

Klueh

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Deuteronomy 27-31; Luke 12

Warnings. Lengthy lists of cursing and blessing over matters of disobedience and obedience. Wouldn’t the choice be clear?

19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NLT.

Shouldn’t the choice be clear? A choice between life and death–yet actions and attitudes steer on course or off, slight variances that don’t always seem so clear until viewed in hindsight.

I can’t help but squirm a little with a reading that’s all about warnings.

The Lord predicts Israel’s disobedience.

16 The Lord said to Moses, “You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will blaze forth against them. I will abandon them, hiding my face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ 18 At that time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.” Deuteronomy 21:16-18, NLT.

A class discussion on Dante’s circles of hell, The Inferno, a note stands out: “The damned must deliberately harden their hearts to God in order to become damned.” Choice.

Warnings in the New Testament: against hypocrisy, earthly wealth at the cost of a relationship with God, money and possessions.

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Luke 12: 29-34, NLT.

Warnings.

35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” Luke 12: 35-38, NLT.

My lengthy lists look more like to-do’s, grocery lists, homework lists, book lists and wish lists. There are other lists too: complaints, wounds, annoyances, regrets.

Lord, help me to put you first at the top of my heart, seeking you and your kingdom. A hardening of the heart is a plaque that builds over time, thoughts and choices that take me off course–the repetition of these things (complaining, disobedience, poor attitude, etc.) makes me adept at them. I want to practice better things. Help me to wait well, dressed for service, ready.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 23-26; Luke 11

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.

May your Kingdom come soon.

Give us each day the food we need,

and forgive us our sins,

as we forgive those who sin against us.

And don’t let us yield to temptation.” Luke 11:2-4

I frequently joke around that right now my standard, catch-all prayer is “Help me, Jesus!” It’s short, sweet, and to the point, which is what I need as the mom of three children 4 years old and under, single parenting while my husband is overseas. Sometimes, in the midst of dealing with the shenanigans of my two very high spirited daughters, I also tack on prayers for more patience and self-control.

Today, I needed a quadruple dose of prayer, after coming into my girls room this morning to find a broken window (shattered from the blow of a thrown Princess Tiana dress-up shoe), poop smeared all over the floor, the wall, the area rug, the bed, the girls…, drops of blood in random places in the room from a cut finger, glass in the mouth of my 2 year old (fortunately she didn’t swallow any and didn’t shred her tongue). We continued the day with an over-turned table, a tipped over chair, food flung all over the floor (because my daughters were mad at me for only giving them water to drink at lunch), a broken ceramic bowl, a nearly smothered baby, a ripped library book, and tons and tons of crying (I’m not sure who cried the most today – me or my kids – come on Moms {and Dads}, we’ve all been there right).

In spite of my frustration throughout the day, for the most part, I kept my wits about me, and handled things with strength and mercy. But, it was in no way by my own power. As I walked through the day, pressing down the urges of violence I kept mulling over how Jesus told me to pray.

I grew up hearing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’; I memorized it in the Christian School I attended as a young girl. I’ve said it many times over my lifetime. But, today it took on some new meaning, especially as I read it in The Message:

“Father,

Reveal who you are.

Set the world right.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”

A friend of mine once shared with me that this simple prayer can be prayed just as it is written and be very effective and it can also be made into the back bone of a more personal prayer…

Oh Lord, I need You more than anything today! I need Your strength, because I’m feeling pretty weak and ineffective. I need Your kindness, because I am not feeling very nice right now. I need Your love, because I am having a hard time liking my kids today. Show me who You are. Remind me what You did for me, for my children. Remind me of Your goodness. Remind me of Your grace. Help me get our ‘world’ put back together; give me peace and reconnection after such a hard day. Keep me alive with what You’ve provided, the food I eat with my mouth, and everything else that I need to survive the day – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Keep forgiving me for the bad choices that I’ve made today in the midst of my trials; and help me forgive my children for theirs. Keep me safe from myself – the self-judgement, the self-doubt. And, help me have more self-control, especially when my children are testing my patience. Keep me safe from the assignments of the enemy against me, my peace, and my family’s harmony. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie, Sholavandan, India (written in the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Deuteronomy 19-22; Luke 10

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed her into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

I have always thought of myself as Mary in this story. I can picture myself sitting with Jesus for hours. Just as I would be having coffee with a good friend. But, as I read it again, the word ” listen” stands out to me. I think about how I can get so distracted with life. I don’t take time to sit in the silence and listen for God’s voice, instead of all the voices around me. This is when my “problems turn into hills.” My pastor used this phrase at church today and is has stuck with me. He also said something so simple, but profound,  “Hills are big to us, but small to God.” I thought about how this is true in my life. And how I have adopted my hills as part of my life.  Just like Israel had just seen God do the unimaginable, yet they turned to fear.

When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the Land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.”Deuteronomy 20:1-4ESV

Dear Jesus, Thank you that You go before me. That I have no reason to be afraid because You are with me. Thank you for what You have freed me from. I pray for victory in my life over those things that still hold be in bondage. To You be the glory. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Deuteronomy 15-18; Psalm 115; Luke 9

Worshiping God as a celebration. What a novel idea.  It’s hard to wrap my head around how the Israelites found pleasure in worshiping God with rules, regulations, and ritual that seem excessive and burdensome.  It’s like Christmas or Easter. So many days leading up to the ‘celebrations’ and all the fuss we make of these holidays.  Yet, I wonder how much of my rituals and traditions are even focused on worshiping God.  Much of what I do is buy, wrap, cook, spend, decorate, and stay up too late at night catching up on my regular chores. However, the God-given feasts, such as the Passover that celebrated God’s deliverance of the Israelites, were less about man to man and all about man to God. Something for me is missing, I think, today. Instead of a Holy Day celebrating the blessing of God in our lives, we chase the illusion of happiness on a holiday from work or to relieve the boredom of just another day.

Another contrast of our worship with the Israelites of the Old Testament is that they feared their God where we tend to take Him for granted. In Deuteronomy 18:16-17, the Lord’s chosen people said, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.  And the Lord said… ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet.’” If we could know this level of trust in the absolute holiness of our God, we might begin to understand the High Priest and King who was sent to deliver us.

Oh, we usually start out with reverence and awe when we embrace the Messiah’s passion and resurrection. We mumble humble thanks year after year when remembering His sacrifice and merciful forgiveness.  Over time, though, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the routine of church services and the complacency as a spectator – letting someone else do the talking, the praying, the serving. I guess most of us need led which was even more reason for God to send us Jesus Christ. I’m not so worried about our desire to listen more than preach. Some of us need longer than others to believe we are accepted. But when we forget that “The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord From this time forth and forevermore,” (Psalm 115:17, 18) – when we forget this, we lose our opportunity to worship while we live on this earth.

So worship Jesus Christ for setting His face toward the road of suffering. Worship His exodus from earth to heaven through His death and resurrection. Worship His “coming into his own glory, and in His Father’s and of the holy angels,” as Christ said would happen, (Luke 9:26). And worship only Him.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,

But to Your name give glory

Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. (Psalm 115:1)

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