Monthly Archives: March 2016

Joshua 9-13; Luke 16

The little things.

10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” Luke 16:10-12, NLT.

Joshua defeated king after king in the book bearing his name. He trusted the Lord and was obedient to him.

When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, “You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered. This is the territory that remainsI myself will drive these people out of the land ahead of the Israelites. So be sure to give this land to Israel as a special possession, just as I have commanded you.” Joshua 13:1-2, 6b, NLT.

Joshua was faithful with what the Lord gave him, and the Lord added to it–kingdoms!

Sometimes I add so many things onto my to-do that I’m a mess keeping up and not giving anything my best–not even the things I’d hoped to do for Jesus. Over the years, I’ve had to pare down my commitments, and even this year I’ve had to make cuts as I make time for the things the Lord has called me to–and to do them faithfully and well. Perhaps slowing down is even more productive than being busy.

Lord, I want to be a faithful steward of the time, talent and treasure you have given me. I want to be obedient to you. I know I can trust you. I want to pursue your eternal kingdom, not a short-sighted agenda.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 5-8; Psalm 14; Luke 15

22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

I love the story of Rahab. It is a story of God’s redemptive power. Depending on the version you read she is described as a harlot or a prostitute, as well as an innkeeper.   We know from Chapter 2 that Rahab put her life on the line when she hid the two spies that Joshua had sent to scope out Jericho under the flax on her roof.  She knew that Jericho was going to be destroyed.  She had heard of God and all He had done for His people.  She believed He was God and she knew Who to trust!  Before the spies left, they promised her that everyone she brought into her house, her mother and father, brothers and sisters, and all who belonged to her, would be saved from destruction because of her actions.

Isn’t it interesting that everyone around her referred to her as a prostitute but that is not how God saw her. She was in THAT place at THAT time for a purpose.  We do not know the circumstances of how she got to be in her profession, but God did.  We do not know if she may have called out to “someone” in the dark of night to save her from the life she was living, but God did.  What we do know is that out of a town of people He planned to destroy, He saved her and those she loved!  The rest of the town was demolished, yet her house was spared.  The two men she had saved were the ones sent in to save her.  God had a plan for her life!

God saw something special in her—so much so that she is listed in the lineage of David. She was later married to Salmon, father of Boaz (Ruth’s husband the kinsman redeemer), Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David–a man after God’s own heart.  And we know Jesus comes from the lineage of David. What a family tree!!  If God can take a woman with the past Rahab had and restore her as He did, He can take our past and redeem us as well.  God has a plan for our lives; “a plan to prosper us, not to harm us.  A plan for hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11).  All we have to do is look at the life of Rahab as an example and trust Him to do the same for us.

Heavenly Father, there is nothing in our past that you cannot redeem. You take all our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful.  You see into our innermost being, the part we hide from the rest of the world.  Your compassion on us is overwhelming.  Thank you for your love, your grace, your mercy.  Thank you that you never give up on us.  You have given us examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary works in Your name.  We can look at these people and gather hope that their story can be ours—a story of your redemptive work in our lives.  In Jesus name I pray.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Joshua 1-4; Psalm 143; Luke 14

Christian? Are you sure??

I have a high school friend who started his own business offering wilderness tours in Alaska. As part of his commitment to excellent customer service, he surveys each client for their level of satisfaction. As you can imagine, he’s gathered a myriad of comments on how to improve each tour moving forward. In a recent e-mail, he shared some of those comments with me… “too many bugs, leeches, and spiders… please spray the trails to get rid of these pests!”… “the coyotes are so noisy, they kept us awake… can’t something be done?”… and “trails need to be redone so there aren’t so many uphill sections!”

Clearly, these comments indicate individuals who didn’t fully understand what it means to stay in a wilderness area! I wonder what more my friend could have included on his already descriptive website about his tours… “when we say wilderness, we mean it!”??? Do we now exist in a world where words really aren’t taken as seriously as they need to be? Or is this a problem that has been an issue dating back to Jesus’ time? To the clients who offered the creative comments listed above, they read wilderness, however, this word was interpreted as convenient and comfortable, not truly wilderness in the truest sense of the word as intended.

In a similar way, I fear that this is the essence of the discussion of Biblical discipleship. In Luke 14, Jesus uses clear language to describe what it means to be one of His disciples. Jesus’ words are strong, speaking of turning away from everyone and everything known, even one’s own life in order to be a true disciple. And while most of us have not chosen this life, many of us have chosen to live the life of a ‘Christian’… or have we? I say this respectfully that while many have proclaimed to be followers of Jesus, these same individuals choose to do so on their own terms and not according to His way. Living life according to God’s plan is certainly not for the faint-at-heart; it is hard as it goes against the flesh and it is not easy or popular as it goes against our contemporary disposable lifestyle. But Jesus promises that He will provide for all our needs and that alone should be enough for us. But that requires a deeper faith. Going to church, reading the Bible, attending Bible studies, expressing a profession of faith, or even providing offerings do not make a Christian. It is in our actions, as a result of our faith, that speak more of the Christian that Jesus spoke about throughout His ministry.

Jesus Himself describes a disciple as a true follower. I believe that the term Christian means disciple, and as such, if we are a Christian, we are disciples of Jesus Christ. However, the contrary is also true… if we are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, we lose the right to call ourselves Christians. Therefore, I would suggest that these two terms, disciple and Christian, mean the same thing in much the same way as the terms spouse and wife mean the same. The terms disciple occurs 269 times in the Bible, while the term Christian three times! The Book of Acts  references “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26)”, thus providing Biblical support for the terms being interchangeable. As such, it clarifies the seriousness of what Jesus was saying when He spoke in verse 27 stating “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Or, said another way, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be a Christian.” This particular phraseology to me demands more attention and clarifies the seriousness of the issue or subject Jesus was teaching about.

The new ‘light’ version of Christianity might be easier and more convenient to follow, but Jesus is not in the compromise business. Our Lord is a jealous God and wants all of us, fully in! In this Easter season, we, as Christians, just celebrated the complete and total sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. In order to honor our Lord and Savior, we need to understand what a Christian is according to how Jesus defined it. The question should not be “Am I able to follow Jesus completely?”, but rather “Am I willing to follow Jesus completely?” As humans, we will fail in our commitment to our Lord. But what Jesus, I believe, is confronting here is not our abilities, but our willingness to follow Him with our whole heart.  For Christians and non-Christians alike, it is important to understand what following Jesus really means before making the commitment to do so. Not to erodes at the foundational principles of Christianity and into the realm of hypocrisy; one of the five sins that Jesus despised.

Lord Jesus, I can see that You are seeking to bring us farther along the journey by stirring in our souls the very essence of our faith. The fall had us moving towards a dependency on ourselves rather than on You. Yet, You continue to love us and lead us. Lord, I call upon You to help me follow You faithfully. Forgive my sins of willfulness and selfishness. Forgive my grasping at the things of the world and my excuses. Restore to heart to be one more aligned with Yours. Help us to remember that we can come to the well that never runs dry, You, source of living water to be restored and refreshed, to strengthen our faith and revitalize our commitment to be called Christians… Your disciples… Amen!

gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)

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Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 13; Luke 13

Song of Moses – trust

Lamentation of David – mercy

Declaration of Christ Jesus – salvation

I was literally surprised when I realized that the ‘Song of Moses’ and the blessings he declared to the 12 tribes of Israel (Deuteronomy 32-33) were actually spoken by Moses. These words formed from the man who told God from the start, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Aaron had died and was buried at Mount Horeb. Joshua was not yet ordained as the next leader of the Israelites. So, these parting words by Moses tell us that he, in fact, is the orator testifying to the faithfulness of God.

The revelation that God opened the mouth of Moses to speak His truth to His chosen people is a refreshing reminder to trust God – trust that He will accomplish all that He has promised to each of us who lean on His everlasting arms. No matter that I doubt my abilities or even my purpose on life, God is still in the heavens and intimately mindful of me. I am, you are, the apple of His eye. How can we not trust the God of the past, the God of our future, and the ever-present, lovely Christ to finish what he started is us!

Sing praises to God!

As in David’s lamentation, however, there are dangerous trials to our trust such as living among the enemies of our Christian faith – worldwide, in the workplace, in difficult relationships. Even more troublesome is wrestling with the eruptions in my own soul to rebel against God or throw in the towel of defeat in my weakness. Yet, we can look to King David who exercised His trust in God, a trust built on years of praying and receiving answers from His God. His testimony is a reminder to ask for mercy, God’s loyal love. David’s heart rejoices in the mercy that brings salvation. David’s song makes me think of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “Life and Love” stanza IV:” So, when Life looked upward, being Warmed and breathed on from above, What sight could she have for seeing, Evermore . . . but only Love?”  This love exchange is what I crave, live for, and bask in. What is more healing than God’s mercy?

Sing praises to God!

I enjoy this meandering through the mysterious woods, hills, and valleys of the Old Testament stories and Psalms, yet they always lead me to Mercy’s gift of New Testament truths and assurances illuminating the clarity of Christ’s divine walk on earth and His holy Presence in the believer’s life today. During His walk on earth, even Jesus laments over the unwillingness of His creation to trust in His mercy. Still, what was His death sentence – His determined push into the very city of His sorrow – was, in fact, His promise to us of salvation. Christ told all who feared for His earthly life, “Behold, I cast our demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected,” (Luke 13:32). What a headline for the eternal story that followed Him and our eternal stories that continue to be written because of His glorious resurrection promise.

Trust in God. Pray for His mercy. Accept His salvation. Then Lift your voice —

Sing praises to God!

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Deuteronomy 27-31; Luke 12

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.  For the Lord is your life…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

God understands how easily my heart is distracted and led astray by that which seeks to destroy and kill. “For the Lord is your life…”

People crowd in and trample one another to hear Jesus speak words of life. They are not a meaningless mass of human beings. They are individuals who matter to God, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are numbered.” Luke 12:5

I don’t need to scrape and fight to be noticed by God or man. I don’t have to try to prove my significance. God sees me in the crowd. He delights in the details of my life; He provides for me in ways seen and unseen. I am His.

But the heart can easily forget to trust. Other things vie for attention.  Jesus warns, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions…Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.”  Luke 12:15…22…30,32.

The words of Jesus push aside the clutter and distraction to call me home, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” Luke 12:34.

The instructions of Moses become my prayer. Lord, help me to choose life this day so that those who look to me for direction and I may truly live. Help me to love you, to listen to your voice and to hold fast to you, for you are and will always be life. Amen.

Klueh

 

 

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Deuteronomy 23-26; Luke 11

I read through (Luke 11) from top to bottom and then go from bottom to top.

Jesus criticizes the religious leader: appearance perfect, but inside, wicked. Who do what’s required but ignore more important things (because a tithe can be measured, but not justice?). Those honor seekers–hidden graves. The burdens and shame they heap upon others–rules and expectations too heavy to carry.

Jesus speaks of a lamp on a stand whose light shines out.

34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” Luke 11:34-36, NLT.

He speaks of the sign of Jonah, and a message of repentance.

He talks about a house divided.

There is a dark difference in a path–one side overshadowed by death, and one side that radiates light.

23 “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” Luke 11:23, NLT.

He talks of the shameless persistence of pursuing prayer–petitioning the Lord.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10, NLT

I need you, Lord. Every day. Every hour.

I 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, NLT.

Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 19-22; Luke 10

38While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house. 39Martha had a sister named Mary. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach. 40Martha became angry because she had so much work to do. She went in and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”
41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are getting worried and upset about too many things. 42Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 (ICB)

The Martha and Mary conundrum…something I’ve struggled with throughout my Christian walk; not because I don’t want to sit at Jesus’ feet, but because I struggle with the balance of what I desire to do and everything else that “should” get done everyday.

When I was in ministry school, it was the students’ duty to help clean up after conferences and events. I was taught to work hard; so I jumped into the expected duties, despite wishing that the worship set wasn’t over, pressing through fatigue and the desire to crawl into bed after a long weekend of conference responsibilities.

But my attitude became sour when I would see some of my peers staying in the sanctuary well after the meetings were over. It felt like duties were being shirked and it was frustrating to me that I felt like I was pulling double duty.

There is no way for me to know what was going on in the others’ hearts; and I learned that it wasn’t my place to judge anothing but my own responses. In that season, I came to realize that my bad attitude was making me a “Martha”, when I wanted to be a “Mary” sitting at Jesus’ feet, not worrying about what needed to get done. When I shifted my focus off of the others and what they were or were not doing and put my focus back on Jesus, I got to complete my duties in the presence of God.

Many years have gone by since then and I find that I am once again struggling with the Martha/Mary paradigm. I want to spend time with Jesus like I was able to in the past, to spend hours in prayer and study, hear His voice clearly. But the demands of life with kids has made that nearly impossible.

There is no such thing as time to myself (I can’t even go to the bathroom without something being destroyed) and there is more work in and around the house than one woman can manage by herself. I have a hard time even thinking let alone praying (other than desperate pleas for “HELP!”) or deep meditation on the Word. Even on Sunday’s, I struggle to worship as I reign my kids in from disrupting everyone else’s chance to meet with God.

How can I live as Mary, while still having responsibilities to tend to? How do I stay on top of the endless to-do list and continue to grow my relationship with God? How do I maintain a right attitude and not succumb to Martha’s viewpoint?

I suppose this is part of the journey, part of the season I’m in; a chance to cling to God even when the struggle is there…

Yesappa, thank You for being there regardless of my struggle, for never leaving me and always meeting me where I am. Thank you for accepting me as I am in this jour eyes and for teaching me as I go. Help me learn how to balance my heart to be like Mary with my tendencies to be more like Martha. Help me keep my attitude in the right place and show me how to carve time throughout my day to focus on you in the midst of the craziness of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings, Julie

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