Monthly Archives: September 2015

Jeremiah 8-10 & 2 Corinthians 11

I can’t help but think about how blessed we are living in America in the 21st century. Most of us have never gone very long without a meal, worried about how to feed our kids or where we will spend the night like 90% of the world does. Recently, I have been convicted on a daily basis of how independent I have become from the Lord. I live my day to day life so richly blessed that I forget that I am not the giver of all good things. I am literally only on the receiving end. It is because of His grace and His mercy that I blessed. All too often, I find myself slipping into the “Well, I have worked hard for this or that” train of thought. I found myself seeing this pattern beginning in my kids as well. We have had many recent conversations about where our comfort, blessings, provision and help come from. All is from the Lord above. Every good thing comes from him. He gives us the physical and mental ability to work for the money we have. He gives us the food on our table and the roof over our heads. He gives us the free gift of life that can’t be earned or purchased, thank you , Jesus! That is hard for adults to understand and truly believe, let alone children but it’s an important part of our faith.

“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches”. Oh Lord, help me to not take credit for the good works you created in advance for me to do and the good things you provide for me.

“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh.” Sweet Lord, we thank you and praise you for allowing us the honor and privilege of knowing you. You are a mighty God who wants to be known. You are the giver of life. May the words of my mouth, the mediations of my heart and the actions of my heads be pleasing to you. May these deeds not just be for outward appearance but for you alone, in service and gratitude for all that you are and all that you have done.

“There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. They are both stupid and foolish. The instruction of idols is but wood. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King.” Jeremiah 10:6-8

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Jer 5-7; Psalm 75; 2 Cor 10

Worshipping idols? ME? Never…

When I was younger, one thing I remember about the holidays was by far the food! I was convinced that there was no place on Earth better than our house for the amazing spread of food my Mom and Dad always prepared, especially at Easter! And part of the Easter ritual was watching The Ten Commandments with Yule Brynner. One of the parts I found I enjoyed waiting for was the scene of Brynner carrying his son over to one of the gods that was worshipped. As Brynner placed the body of his dead son in the hands of the god, he challenges the god to raise the boy to show power over our God in Heaven. Lately, more than ever before, I’ve wondered if we’re still seeking our strength and validation through outside means other than from God?

Fast forward to 2015… no, we don’t have gods in our home made of the finest gold that we bow down to, but have we really done away with idols in our life? Have we progressed beyond such things? I don’t believe so… in 2015, idols have taken on different form, and if we’re not careful, our worshipping of these idols may be the very thing that will keep us from receiving all of God’s blessings spoken in Jeremiah 7:5-6… I will be merciful only if… you stop harming yourself by worshiping idols.

God commands us to serve only Him for a couple of reasons… first, and most important, is that He deserves our highest praise and worship… that alone is enough. Second, I believe that keeping God first place helps to keep us safe. The only way that can happen is if we guard ourselves against harmful influences. No matter what happens in and around our lives, we can be perfectly safe when we live life within the guardrails of our Father’s will. Circumstances will get messy, even to the point of us being afraid, but our souls will not be in danger.

However… I believe that we cast off God’s protection by failing to recognize His lordship. If we are callous to our Father and toss aside His love, out of preference for unholy desires, then we remove ourselves from His spiritual safety net. A soul that God saves is still safe eternally, but we place our lives on Earth in grave jeopardy. We cannot expect to receive all the blessings of mercy that can come from God alone while we run on a path that leads us away from Him.

You would think that we would process all this logically and conclude that it is best to stick only with Him as our God. We might be smart enough to agree with that statement. But good logic does not automatically equate with good behavior, and we do not always do what is best for ourselves.

We think it’s best for us to receive more of God’s mercy, and we’re right about that. However, we must stay close to Him in order to accept that mercy. There are no good outcomes from putting anything before God… NONE! Moving outside of God’s will by disobeying Him will always mean additional pain.

Life with God offers enough adventure without adding guaranteed hurt to the journey. We should desire His best way, and then follow up by living His best way. Henry Ward Beecher, a pastor in the late 1800’s shared “The strength of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.”

Heavenly Father… you are amazingly gracious and merciful… I thank you for keeping my soul safe. Please help me to help myself by living in obedience to you… Amen!

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Jeremiah 1-4; Psalm 130; 2 Cor 9

From Jeremiah 2:

  • I remember the devotion of your youth,
        your love as a bride,
  • they went far from me,
    and went after worthlessness
  • went after things that do not profit.

Love Psalm 130 (all the Psalms of Ascent, really), want to quote the whole thing, but here from the closing verse:

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.

15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15

I sin, He saves.

I stray, He calls.

I stumble, He forgives.

I doubt, He remains.

I cower, He shields.

I wander, He calls.

I squander, He loves.

No matter how far I walk down the wrong path or how confused my thinking becomes, God’s constantness holds steady. His standard remains the same, my salvation secure, His forgiveness plentiful, my hope eternal.

Israel witnessed God’s redemption and power fighting on their behalf. Yet, when He didn’t meet their immediate needs, they began to look elsewhere and left their first love. With a passion they pursued God until things got either challenging or too comfortable. Either extreme drove them to look elsewhere. Instead of honoring God they sought after worthless things, unprofitable things.

I do the same. He paid a horrific price for my salvation. Yet, when He doesn’t resolve what I rationalize would be so easy for Him to fix, I question. Couldn’t He so easily heal this relationship, this illness, this situation? If God is as powerful as He has proven throughout history (both my own personal history and the history of the world), why doesn’t He change this now? The age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” with a little twist. Similar to the question, “How does a good God allow suffering?”

The questions show our man-centric theology. Our salvation is not about us. Our worship and living is not about our personal gratification. All is an expression of an eternal, infinite God’s grace, mercy, love, and glory. In His graciousness He continues to teach, to grow us, to open our eyes to His infinitude. This world is not my home, I’m just passing through. One day we’ll see face to face and it will all fall into place.

Father God, You have been so patient this week as I’ve struggled, wrestled through Scriptures and prayers toward a deeper understanding of You. Thank you for gently teaching, quietly listening, and then responding profoundly through a myriad of encounters. Salvation and grace are truly an indescribably gift, and I humbly thank you all over again for doing that initial work nearly 40 years ago and continuing to sanctify me by Your truth, the only truth. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Erin (6intow)

 

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Zephaniah; Psalm 74; 2 Corinthians 8

The best things happen when I come to the end of myself. When I choose to look up instead of feeding the growing knot of bitterness and self pity that will eventually turn to stone. The wound may continue to throb, dark thoughts may rob me of sleep, but when I cry out to Him, He always, ALWAYS hears me.

The disillusioned Psalmist understood this. Evil was dancing on all that was good in the land; he understood that God could put an end to it at any moment, but was holding back. He responded in pain: “How long will the enemy mock you, O God?…Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?” Psalm 74:10-11 NIV

God left a remnant, a scrap of people in his promised land now swallowed up in darkness. “Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.” Zephaniah 3:12 NLT. The people left behind in the land were not abandoned:

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT.

What was true for the remnant is true for me. To be human is to be acquainted with darkness and pain; to know Christ is to know the one who took all my pain and disillusionment to the cross. No matter how dark the night is, how messed up my thoughts and emotions are, even if the pain feels like it is going to take me out, the truth is, I am never alone; joy is mine. Joy is not a mood or an emotion; it is a reality.

God knows that at times, I may feel abandoned; His Word couldn’t be clearer; I am not. He is right here, closer than my next heart beat, my next breath.

The Macedonian Church understood the reality of God’s love for them through the grace of Jesus Christ; even Paul was surprised at their grace and generosity:

 “They are being tested by many troubles and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not what they could afford, but far more. And they did it out of their own free will.” 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 NLT. 

This kind of joy, the joy found in knowing Jesus, turns the world upside down. It is a joy that I can not will myself into, earn or fabricate. It is the joy that can only be found in Him. It is a light and hope in the darkest of places. It is a gift I long for and God longs to give it. It can be found in the footsteps of His Son:

“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT.

May I understand how truly rich I am.

klueh

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Habakkuk, 2 Corinthians 7

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT.

What defiles the body?

What defiles the spirit?

I’m nearing the thirty-day mark of an eating plan that was designed to reset my body and not only reveal to me the situations that sparked cravings, but the foods themselves that had a tighter grip on my will than I ever imagined. So, what defiles the body? Have I thought very often about how I treat and use my body? What does my lifestyle suggest of my faith?

In conjunction with this thirty-day plan, I’ve come off a summer of stress and big change to enter a school year of big change and stress. Nearly daily there’s some situation or another that’s like a shoulder bump off course. (I’m not kidding how many times I’ve felt a prompting to “eat the cookie” to temporarily soothe my frazzled emotions.) These situations that can either bring out my best or my worst. What of my thoughts? What of my attitude? Can these defile the spirit?

These past few weeks have been a time of reflection about habits and attitudes, about past and future, about where I put my faith. When Paul speaks of cleansing, he gets my attention. His statement flows from parts in 2 Corinthians 6, so I look there too for perspective. He tells of his hardships, and a few I can relate to. He speaks of unions (between believers and unbelievers/God’s temple and idols). He calls our bodies temples of the living God, and these are His promises:

“I will live in them
    and walk among them.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
    and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
    and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be your Father,
    and you will be my sons and daughters,
    says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 16-18, NLT

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Father, I’m so thankful to be aware of things that were clouding my mind and clouding my heart. I’m so grateful for the bumps and stresses too, because after each one, I feel as though I could hear Paul saying, “What are you going to do? Are you going to take the cookie or take His Word?” Thank you for loving me so much you didn’t want to leave me where I was, but instead welcome me to you, calling me daughter.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 34-35; 2 Corinthians 6

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times…

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! 2 Corinthians 6:1-13


Josiah celebrated the Passover to God in Jerusalem. They killed the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month. He gave the priests detailed instructions and encouraged them in the work of leading worship in The Temple of God. He also told the Levites who were in charge of teaching and guiding Israel in all matters of worship (they were especially consecrated for this), “Place the sacred Chest in The Temple that Solomon son of David, the king of Israel, built. You don’t have to carry it around on your shoulders any longer! Serve God and God’s people Israel. Organize yourselves by families for your respective responsibilities, following the instructions left by David king of Israel and Solomon his son. 2 Chronicles 35:1-4

Both of these passages speak “encouragement” to me. The dictionary explains “encouragement” to mean to inspire and motivate the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain…and even change.

Sometimes encouragement is a boosting of the spirits, simply offering hope and reassuring that everything will be okay. Sometimes encouragement is supporting a friend in their journey, emboldening them for the tasks that they must endure to prove successful in the midst of a difficult circumstance. And, sometimes encouragement comes in the form of a challenge, a call to do better and to make better choices.

Encouragement is such an important part of relationship. I greatly value the people in my life who stand with me through the thick and thin, who offer reassurance when I am feeling defeated by life, reinforcement when I am feeling alone, and inspiration to face the things that need to change in my heart.

God is the ultimate encourager. When I am tuned to His voice, His heart, I can hear His words which lift my spirit up, I can see how He moves in my life to provide and care for me, and I can experience His love, grace, and mercy. I also can hear His call to discipline, confronting my sin and motivating me to rely on Him to make the changes He reveals.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my encourager, for always standing with me and behind me no matter the situation. Thank You for lifting my spirits, for reassuring me and giving me hope in the present and for the future. Thank You for daring me to be a better version of myself, the “me” that you already see. Thank You for putting people in my life who are an encouragement. Help me be an encouragement to others as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie

 

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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2 Kings 22-23; Psalm 73; 2 Corinthians 5

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven-God-made; not handmade – and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move- and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” 2 Corinthians 5: 1-5 MSG

At the risk of sounding morbid, I heard a bible study teacher say how it is common to hear talk of how natural the deceased person looks at a viewing. When in reality, they look the most unnatural, because their body is a shell and empty of their soul. I think this is what Paul is talking about when he describes our bodies as earthly tents. Tents can easily be picked up and moved. They are a temporary dwelling. Because our soul doesn’t belong here.

That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us?…The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 &17 MSG

Sometimes I don’t feel like a new creation. I find myself stuck in my old ways and old habits. That’s usually when I am looking everywhere else but Jesus. I want to be found in Him. He is my safe place. But, my human nature tells me to run to other things, or the other way. This is when I can forget His goodness and allow doubt to creep in.

No doubt about it! God is good.  But, I nearly missed it, missed seeing His goodness. I was looking the other way.

You’re all I want in heaven!

You’re all I want on earth!

When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,

God is rock-firm and faithful.

I’ve made Lord God my home.” Psalm 73:1&2,25-28 MSG

Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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