Monthly Archives: May 2015

1 Kings 1: 1 Chronicles 26-28; Romans 6

Waiting and watching as death drew closer, I sat beside and watched each breath. The chest rose, then fell; I waited to see, “Was that the last breath?” The final breath came and a haunting, stillness followed. A soul who seemed larger than life, someone whom I thought would always be, was gone. Spiritual truth became physical reality. There was no punching through some unknown wall to draw that life back into existence. It’s from that context that I read Paul’s words:

Count yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. Romans 6:11.

If we know Jesus Christ as Lord, then the power of sin is dead within us. If we try to grab hold of sin in hopes that it brings us life, we grasp in vain. Sin is without breath; once we are found in Christ, sin has absolutely nothing to offer us. It takes us down dead end roads and spent….so why do I forget that? Thank God for his grace!

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:22,23.

Lord, thank you that you have called me to live in a richness and beauty that can only be found in you. Forgive me when my appetite for you is weak and small. Forgive me when I choose death over life, sin over righteousness. Thank you Lord, that when you see me, you see the righteousness of Christ.  Lord, be my master and teach me what it means to pursue your  holiness in all its wonder. Amen.

Klueh

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1 Chronicles 22-25; Psalm 78; Romans 5

It seemed like a selection. David’s hands wouldn’t be the ones to build the temple, too much blood. His son would succeed him.

Then David sent for his son Solomon and instructed him to build a Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name.'” 1 Chronicles 22:6-10a, NLT.

God called Solomon son. (I love that part.)

“‘He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’” 1 Chronicles 22:10b, NLT.

These scriptures talk about appointment, leadership, service, obedience (and disobedience). Through generations, families prepared and trained in their trade or talent–maybe at times they didn’t imagine a bigger purpose aside from their now, but generations later that work would build the house of the Lord.

Adam’s story was part of a bigger story.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19, NLT.

Through Christ’s work, death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit can now live in me. And I can also be called a child of God. (I love that part!)

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5b, NLT.

I think about what it is God has prepared for me to do. A lot of it just looks like my now, but God knows how any of that will endure.

Lord, you are my heart’s delight. I know there are times when I’m forgetful of what you’ve done or said, and I’m thankful for people in my life who speak truth to me. Thank you for calling me daughter and loving me dearly. I love you too.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21, Romans 4

Dictionary.com defines the word faith as “belief in something not based on proof”.  The writer of Hebrews defines it as “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” Because I don’t remember ever not believing in Jesus I sometimes have a hard time with people who are lacking in the faith department. How could they not see? How could they doubt? How could they not understand there is something, no someone, in control of every step we make?

Recently, I have struggled a little more with my own faith. Not that I have changed my mind, suddenly becoming unconvinced of what I was previously sure of, that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. No, just struggling with my pride and self reliance. I am quick to trust in my own capabilities or my spouse’s strength and less on the Lord. But if I am justified by works I have has something to boast about and if I have something to boast about than faith is null and void. There’s no need to believe in something unseen if you are busy believing in yourself or someone else.

I have also struggled with the simplicity of faith and justification. Could it really be that simple? But what about faith without works is dead? Romans 4 has challenged my thinking. It’s a passage I have read dozens of times but each time brings a deeper understanding of a special and amazing gift. Salvation is just that, a gift. A gift that is not given and then taken away. It’s a gift that is given out of love and sacrifice and blood, sweat and tears.

“But he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.”

I am reminded that faith is a moment in time and a journey; a process. It may be messy and full of twists and turns and doubts but it’s a growing process as I continually choose to trust in Jesus. It’s a available to all and was planned thousands of years before Jesus was even born. God’s great plan of redemption through faith began long before the birth of his Son. It was always about faith and trust and never about works.

“But the words “counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Father God, thank you for your amazing plan and gift of your Son, Jesus. Through him we are seen and declared as righteous if only we believe by faith. Thank you that you don’t keep a score card of our rights and wrongs. Work in our hearts as we move along in our faith journey and strengthen our hearts to trust you more and more each day.

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2 Sam 21-23; Psalm 18; Romans 3

What do you believe?

The question alone appears almost insultingly simple… doesn’t it? But it is one that demands a reflection of both heart and soul as it describes our core existence and beliefs, and how we can stand up for so vehemently for what and who we trust, as trust relates to confidence and belief requires faith that something or someone is true.

Relating this description of belief to the Christian faith, people appear to believe either one of two possibilities when it comes to being accepted by God… faith or good works. The belief that faith in Jesus or good works will make them acceptable by God. The Bible offers numerous passages in the New Testament that works are good, but faith is better and necessary, that good works will not save an individual, that good works will not make us righteous before God, that good works will not make God love us any more or less. An amazing testimony of the impact of faith to our God can be seen in what Jesus said to the one criminal who declared who He was while on the cross with Him in Luke 23:43… with no chance to begin any good work for his Savior, the criminal’s faith caused Jesus to speak out “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Romans 3:20 declares that “…no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” and Titus 3:5 affirms that “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…”

Logically, it would appear to make more sense that the more “righteous things” we do, the happier God will be, and therefore, the more God will love us and the more justified we will be in His sight. But, as Christians, we know that that is not how our God works. While *all* the other world’s great religions are based on performing good works in order to gain favor with God, the Christian faith says something very different. Romans 3:28 states that “…a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Or, very simply put into just one word… belief!

To illustrate this idea further between faith and good works, imagine for a moment that I prepared the most succulent dinner made up of the leanest and most flavorful steak, along with tender vegetables. Then, before presenting this delectable meal to you to eat, I placed the carefully-prepared meal on a food plate that was used by a previous customer who had the flu and was never washed. How many of you would eat the meal? Why?

In this parable, the meal signified a good work. The problem was not the meal… the meal was pure and perfect… the problem lies in how the food was plated and presented. Unless the plate is first cleansed and sterilized, the beautifully-prepared meal will make us sick. In a similar way, this is how God sees our good works… on the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with our good works. As a matter of fact, God’s people should do good works as an outward expression of our faith! However, unless our hearts are made pure by the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus, Christ, all our good works will, in essence, sicken God, as we will be placing those good works (good food) onto/into an unclean vessel. Allowing Jesus to come into our hearts to change/clean us from the inside out first, pleases our God, thus allowing any good work that we do, to please Him further.

So… how can we clean ourselves up? We can’t… not alone, at least… we need Jesus in our lives to get that process started. If it weren’t for the grace of our Lord and Savior, none of us would ever have been forgiven for our sins, therefore, it all starts will allowing Jesus into our hearts and proclaiming Him Lord and Savior over our lives. And we can respond to God’s free gift of forgiveness through faith in believing that Jesus sacrificed His life so we could live.

Simply put… believe!

Heavenly Father, while we don’t fully understand your ways, or really need to, thank you for loving us in ways that defy logic. That simply believing in who Your Son is and what He did for us at Calvary, and why He did what He did, is all You ask for the amazing grace You offer us. Father, I ask that You continue to work on our hearts, from the inside out, to keep them soft and repentant, so that we can experience the love that surpasses all explanation and description. And, finally, that the natural expression of our gratitude for our faith and belief in who You are, is service in all we do to honor You.

Amen!

gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)

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2 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 34; Romans 2

Fair doesn’t mean equal.

I remember my student teaching experience and these words specifically. The teacher I worked with emphasized that with her students each year, and reminded them of it if complaints of fairness arose. She would seek to be as fair as possible with her students, but that did not mean it would be or look equal. Unfortunately, most people want equal, unless they can get “more” equal. Hmm, some pigs are coming to mind here, that thought themselves “more equal than others.”

For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:11)

Yet, right before that it says, “the Jew first and also the Greek.” Seems like partiality to me. However, that’s the problem, the “to me” part. Our human way of thinking is often twisted by sin, and we miss God’s best for a situation. Look at Absalom, and maybe David’s permissive parenting that fostered some of his behavior. He violently sought what he thought he deserved. But, did he really deserve it?

When will I fully set aside my fleshly judgments of others, and myself, to fully embrace God’s best? God’s discernment, God’s precepts, God’s purposes.

From Psalm 34:

Affliction will slay the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

22  The Lord redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Sometimes I want to do more to condemn the sinful reality that we live in these days, the harsh accusations of hate from the world as they speak about our faith which they cannot understand in their sin-darkened minds. God’s justice will come. There is a time to speak and a time to be still. Great judgment is coming, and I don’t need to take God’s role as my own. I do need to be discerning and speak out for those that can’t speak or speak loudly enough, but always resting in the peaceful truth that God is still on the throne, His justice will triumph and His kindness will lead them to repentance.

Lord, You are sovereign and wise, and incredibly patient. Thank you for your forgiveness that I could not have earned, but only claim because of Christ’s work on the cross. Help me to see your truth ever more clearly and to remember to act more after the example of your love, than in harsh response to the sinfulness I see and chafe at. Continue to transform my mind to Your way of thinking and the eternal perspective that needs to guide my daily choices. ~Amen

 

Erin (6intow)

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2 Samuel 15-17; Psalms 3 and 63; Romans 1

Aside from the Lord’s Prayer, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and the Doxology, I grew up understanding prayer as something being spontaneous and free flowing. Prayer emerged from need (in my mind’s eye, Mom is taking notes while on the phone as part of the church prayer chain).  So often, my own words fail to articulate the thoughts and deep longings swirling around inside of me. It’s been later in life that ancient, written prayers have brought me into God’s company.

Jews prayed and sang psalms across the millennia. I imagine Jesus praying  Psalm 63 out loud in the temple with his Jewish brothers. Reading the Psalm through this lens magnifies its force and meaning. I find myself calling out to God repeatedly, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my should thirsts for you, my body longs for you…” as I crave his nearness, his presence.  “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” Just like David, God invites me to enjoy his mysterious and divine company. How in the world can this be true? “Because your love (hesed/lovingkindness/mercy) is better than life…”

When I receive and accept God’s invitation to draw near him and be in his presence, “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.” The Hebrew words for the “richest of foods” mean “fat” and “abundance” not “malnourished” and  “inadequate.”  The satisfied soul can’t help but respond with gratitude and joy.

When I enter into God’s company, this place where I quiet myself to hear his words of love and acceptance, I know his protection and care. When I open myself up to his Word, when scriptures and songs about God come into my thoughts, the invitation to receive his love resounds. It can happen throughout the day or even in the wee hours of the morning, On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”  When I set aside distractions and set my focus on Christ, I know his peace and protection. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” So why do I choose business and distraction over the invitation to lean into God?

Hearing and accepting God’s call to draw near doesn’t guarantee a constant spiritual and emotional high. David wrote plenty of other psalms which described feelings of abandonment and loneliness, but he consistently, faithfully acknowledges God’s faithfulness, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”  This  prayer anchors me to God no matter what the circumstance or the state of my emotional wellbeing. The truth is that when I call out to God, I call on the One who hears me… loves me… and holds me close to his heart.

klueh

 

 

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2 Samuel 13-14; Acts 28

David knew family dysfunction. One son’s sinful desires leads to rape, leads to murder, leads to estrangement–a lot of broken pieces, shattered and scattered and can’t be put back together the same way again. When the woman from Tekoa speaks to David about a situation, these beautiful words stand out to me.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” 2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT.

The imagery and depth are beautiful to me, but my God is so much more–the one who devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

Am I like Absalom, Lord, who stews in anger at being held at arm’s length? When David agrees to his return but refuses to reconcile (acknowledge him or even look upon Absalom), I know this rejection–to live a life near someone and feel totally invisible. Unworthy. Unaccepted.

Am I like David, Lord, with limitations and restrictions? Is it possible David agreed to Absalom’s return only because the woman had him pegged? Was his heart not in it? Certainly one can do the right thing for the sake of doing right, but lack love (sometimes known as civility). I’ve done that too.

Jesus, I see you at the table, serving bread and wine to Judas. I see you on the shore, eye to eye with Peter asking, “Do you love me?” You were the plan for bringing us back–God who devises ways to bring those back who’ve been separated from him by sin. You didn’t forgive us for your sake, but for ours. Thank you for loving me and showing me how to love, for forgiving me and showing me how to forgive. Thank you for valuing my life so much that you would not sweep it away, but look for ways to bring me back to you. Your love–unconditional and eternal–the true example of a father’s love for a child. I’m grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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