Monthly Archives: November 2015

Daniel 10-12; John 20

Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. 

Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.”

While he was speaking to me, I looked down at the ground, unable to say a word. Then the one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing in front of me, “I am filled with anguish because of the vision I have seen, my lord, and I am very weak. How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.”

Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”

As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:12-19

I have been holding on to God, holding tight to what I believe He’s told me; and yet there is a battle going on for the break through. I believe that it’s a battle, not against flesh and blood, but in the spirit…the enemy desiring the breakdown of family, bitterness, and a turning from faith. Most of the time the enemy isn’t succeeding, but here and there my resolve to be strong in the circumstance weakens for a time and I am left frustrated and bewildered.

My husband and I got married in India in February 2010. I was born and raised in the US and he is an Indian citizen, and through a series of events – a long story for another time – we were brought together, a marriage arranged by God.

For the past year and a half we’ve been following procedure to acquire the visa that will allow our family to be reunited in this country – a process that can typically take up to 8 months. Through all this time apart, my husband has continued ministering to the orphans, widows, lepers, and poverty stricken. Meanwhile, I am stateside nurturing our family, educating our children, and praying for a miracle.

There have been minor roadblocks throughout the process – illness, a baby born, waiting on finances, etc. But a few months ago we hit a major obstacle that requires a miraculous breakthrough. Because I have been on and off the mission field since 2008, I have not held a paying job for any length of time. Needless to say, the income of a non-paid volunteer* is well below poverty level, and I do not financially qualify to be considered the sole-sponsor for my husband, a requirement for the next step in the process. In order for my husband’s visa to be granted, we need a co-sponsor who is able to team up with our family, and so far the search for that person is proving to be difficult.

This recounting in the book of Daniel, strengthens my hope and encourages me. It helps me remember that just because I pray hard with expectancy, I may not hear the answer right away. But that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t heard my prayer; it doesn’t mean that He hasn’t already put the answer in motion. God loves me and calls me precious to Him.

Even when I am most frustrated, I believe God already knows who will join with our family in this crazy adventure. I believe that person’s heart is being prepared even as I write this. I believe that God didn’t bring us together from worlds apart to allow the barricades the enemy sets up to tear us down and steal our family’s hope. I hold onto the peace He gives that surpasses understanding. I hold onto the encouragement He sends my way through His Word, through music that honors Him, through family and friends. I hold on to His strength. I hold on to the truth that God knew we’d experience this trial and that He already knows the solution; and I trust that He will give me the wisdom to know where to walk and through this journey, He will transform me more into His image.

Yesappa, Thank You in advance for the answer. Thank You in advance for making it possible for our family to be reunited. Thank You in advance for leading me to the person who will partner with us in this adventure. Thank You for Your peace and Your strength in my weakness. Help me walk out each day in this journey in a way that displays Your glory, and help me glean from the lessons this trial is teaching me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

 

 

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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Daniel 7-9; Psalm 91; John 19

You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right-he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you-under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm.” Psalm 91:1-3 MSG

I tend to think of a refuge being a place, like a soft blanket on a rainy day. The shelter of my home. I feel exposed when I am vulnerable. But, God goes before me even on the days where I feel the weakest. Or when I face a tough situation that I would rather avoid and be fearful about. A writer from a blog called  Loop, put into words what God is teaching me about refuge.  “When you know you are home, and you belong, there is no other home. When you know you are loved, and you know who you call family, and you know your name is Daughter, Beloved, Chosen One, you can rest, and you can live, and you can be free…Maybe there isn’t a better place than where I am.”

Yes, because God’s your refuge, the High God your very own home, Evil can’t get close to you, harm can’t get through the door.” Psalm 91:12 MSG

My family and I were fascinated by the Eagle Cam at Codorus State Park near our house. There was a live feed of the eagle’s nest, before and after they had their babies. We would stand around the computer screen and watch the babies wobble around the nest and hide under their mother’s wings. Their stoic father would puff out his chest to protect them, until they were ready to fly. Is this how God cares for me? He takes me under His wings. But, He is always there with me, even when He sometimes has to push me out of my comfort zone. He tells me to take refuge, but not hide. That I can be seen and take courage, knowing that He is still there.

Dear Father, I am thankful that You are always with me. That my home is where You are. I pray that I would trust You more and follow where You lead. Amen.

Amy(amycatnner)

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Daniel 4-6; John 18

“Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?” Jesus asked this rhetorical question of Peter who had just swung his sword to defend himself and Christ. Peter reacted in fear to the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus, but the King of kings responded in submission.  In this same garden, Jesus – his hair and garments soaked in bloody sweat – had just spent intense hours on his knees in prayer and had settled His mind about that bitter cup. The Gospels detail the results of that decision – Christ’s willingness to finish every gulp of physical agony and spiritual suffering ultimately led to His glorious resurrection.

Cup is an interesting word in the Hebrew language from my point of view (and I claim no experience or expertise on the language, only time spent pondering the definition). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines the word cup as “meach – fat, i.e. marrow from the root word machah – erase; grease or make fat; abolish, blot out, destroy, full of marrow, put out, reach unto, x utterly, wipe away, wipe out.” How unexpected this definition is. I would have thought the word cup would have been defined as ‘a small vessel for drinking,’ not potent with the negative connotation – to destroy, utterly put out. Or perhaps I’m just looking at the proverbial cup half empty. For the same drought that ended Christ’s earthly walk was the same holy elixir that blotted out my sins.

It is natural then to wonder what cup my Father has given me. When I first came to Christ, I drank a cup overflowing with forgiveness, joy, and companionship. Each day spent with Christ through His word, His church, and His creation deepened this love of living in His presence. Of course, life has its ups and downs, and we have to learn to accept how to take the good with the bad, the disappointments with the unexpected delights. Yet, I had not prayed so intensely for anything that blood ran down my face. I’m not sure why not. There have been many occasions when prayer and fasting were called for to intervene in the lives of those I love and in the world at large during tremendous upheaval in our need for peace.

Yet a time has come when this cup that I have been handed seems too sorrowful to drink, for the liquid pain of loss must be downed each day. I’ve asked the wrong questions such as ‘why’ and ‘how can this be’ and ‘what is the purpose in all this?’ The question that Christ asked, however, settles my mind, for the unstated answer is this: I will drink this cup for I know and trust the Father who has given it to me. In my ‘agony in the garden’ Christ is still with me. And I have a solid hope that resonates from Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  In these truths and with the comfort of Christ’s Holy Spirit I can willingly accept this cup as I look with expectancy toward the glorious resurrection when all things will be made new.

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Daniel 1-3; Psalm 88; John 17

An elderly woman bought a small painting of a Russian bride in Moscow 60 years ago. The painting hung in her small home for years. It brought back warm memories of years gone by and was pleasant to gaze at, but familiarity limited appreciation. It wasn’t until an art expert became aware of it’s existence that its full value became known. He identified the painting as the only known existing study done by the artist in preparation for completing a grand painting of a Russian wedding celebration. The small painting of the bride, while lovely to look at on its own, derived its true value from the master painting.

How can it be that God’s glory is in me?  Knowing the story of this small Russian painting helps me understand the words of Jesus:

“All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” John 17:10

We are the study, but ultimately we are part of the masterpiece which reveals the artist’s vision and personality.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23

When I first sensed Jesus’s loving gaze and appreciation, I ceased being ordinary. My true value is not revealed in my solitary existence, but is derived from my role in His Masterpiece. Apart from the Masterpiece, the story I tell is limited. How blessed am I to know that I am the work of His hand!

Klueh

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Ezekiel 46-48; John 16

Offerings. Boundaries. Understanding.

Reading of a prince’s offering, the best of grain and animal. I think about offerings and the “best of” what I have. Who and what get my best? Where does God fit in all this? Some days, I feel really spent and have little to offer. God has been teaching me a lot about offerings and boundaries this year. And in this, I’m learning how I can offer my best and not feel exhausted or unbalanced. (This has nothing to do with over-achieving, showy super-stardom. My 8-yr-old gave me a simple example of the best of yesterday–leaving co-op, I passed through the lunchroom and wanted to say goodbye to her. She gave me the best of her in a squeezer of a hug and telling me, wide-eyed, of the important things that happened to her that morning. She gave me kisses and spoke love to me.)

Boundaries. It was no wonder that I had little to offer when I felt overbooked and overwhelmed. Old Testament reading of actual land boundaries–but that word is key to my lesson this year. Boundaries in what’s asked of me. Boundaries to protect my family time. Boundaries in relationships, especially those unhealthy ones that want to sabotage other areas of my life.

Understanding. Jesus tells the disciples that (in a little while) he’s going to leave, but that the Advocate will come.

12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ John 16:12-15, NLT.

Lord, my mind will make up all kinds of scenarios as I try to sort things out and fill in the blanks. I want to focus on what is true. I want to be mindful of the land you’ve given me–a home, family, tasks, relationships. I want to offer what you think is the best of me, and not someone else’s definition of best. Lord, please guide my steps.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 43-45, Psalm 135, John 15

I have to admit, I am not an avid gardener. As much as I love the fruits of my labor at the end of the summer, I just don’t have the green thumb I wish I did. I am not patient nor willing to put a lot of time in it!
The pages of John 15 in my bible are worn from reading and re reading over the years. What has been difficult to understand is the part that even the good, well producing branches are still sometimes pruned and cut by the gardener in order to produce more fruit. Just like with my vegetable garden, the only way to control growth and promote new fruit flowers is to prune. But pruning is a painful process. It can be painful to the gardener and the branches. As a beginner gardener myself, I always have a hard time knowing exactly what to prune, how far back to cut and how frequently. I worry over it and am often way to conservative with my pruning to the point that my fruit growth is stunted. But God is never afraid to do the pruning and he always knows just when to prune and how much.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
How and when this pruning- changing, molding, cleansing is done is completely up to the gardener.  Apart from his pruning and nurturing, growth is stunted, slowed and even stopped. Because I am still learning this process in the garden, often my vegetables are not as fruitful as they could be or even die three quarters of the way through the summer. I recently learned that where I go wrong with the pruning in my vegetable garden is that I am not careful with where I make my cuts. Instead of making small cuts to the branches I make large cuts to the branches and stop the growth altogether. But the Lord always knows exactly where and when to cut.
For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
The process is simple. Not easy but simple. Staying close to the vine is the only way receive life. Jesus is that vine.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
And what happens to those who don’t stay close?
Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”
Our fruit production is simply to bring glory to the Lord. The mark of a true disciple is by the fruit that they produce but this is not simply a matter of the wills. It requires daily dependence on the Lord and reliance on Christ for strength and life, day in and day out. It requires daily obedience in order to abide and remain in Christ and produce fruit that brings glory to the Father.
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
I am comforted when I read this passage. I can’t produce fruit on my own and I’m not responsible for the pruning process but only to remain in Christ and obey. Neither are an easy or painless process but remaining attached to the vine assures me complete security and life.

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Ezek 40-42; John 14

“The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give…” JOHN 14:27

To say that we live in a peace-less world would be an understatement. But, after reading all the bumper stickers, seeing all the peace symbols, and hearing all the New Age promises, you’d think that we’ve finally learned something very powerful about the source of peace. But, the reality is that this world has less a clue of what real peace is or feels like because a world that rejects God also rejects any chance at achieving lasting peace!

Peace is a gift that comes from Jesus alone… no exceptions. People can fabricate peace… fake it, even fantasize about peace… but no one can experience a sense of real peace as we lost true peace when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. We cannot get it back without accepting the give of peace from Jesus, who made peace possible through His death and resurrection.

Peace is the security that comes from an unhindered connection with God, which explains why we lost peace when Adam and Eve’s sin broke our intimacy with our Father. It also explains why we can experience it again through His Son, Jesus, since He is our bridge back to our Heavenly Father. By focusing off the problem and constantly on Christ, perfect peace can be realized. Isaiah 26:3 states, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” In the midst of an environment plagued with a myriad of worldly pressures designed to draw us away from God and onto our needs and problems, requires effort and a conscious decision to study the Word of God, being taught by the Holy Spirit, and permitting Him to fix our hearts on the person of Jesus Christ.

Just as God lifted Jesus to Heaven after the resurrection, His peace lifts us above our earthly troubles. We’re still on this earth for our human lifetime, and we still endure all the mess and heartache that go along with that. But God’s Holy Spirit in us has the power to hold us above the stresses we encounter here. It is truly miraculous that we can be in this world but enjoy the security of knowing that our souls are sealed with God, and our spirits kept healthy and whole by His peace is a sure by-product of intimacy with our Heavenly Father. If we are not experiencing peace, then the problem is ours.

The peace described in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” comes from a personal decision and the discipline to stop in the midst of the frenzy of life and take time to seek Him. And when we do, and commit our mind and heart on Him, He offers us the gift of peace… Thank you, Jesus!!

Heavenly Father… Let those times when peace feels lacking, draw us back to You… use those empty phrases as catalysts for our spiritual growth and for seeing You glorified by refilling us with the peace You promised many years ago.

gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)

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