Monthly Archives: April 2016

1 Samuel 18-19; 1 Chronicles 3; Psalm 59; Acts 13

I have an enemy.  All who place their faith in Jesus have an enemy.

I see in today’s readings the work of the enemy of God:

  • He worked through Saul to try to kill David. (1 Samuel 18-19)
  • He worked through a sorcerer to try to keep a man (the proconsul) from faith in Jesus. (Acts 13:6-12)
  • He worked through unbelieving Jews to try to stop Paul and Barnabas from telling people about Jesus. (Acts 13:49-52)

More significantly, I see that God is victorious.  Each and every time God wins:

  • Because the Lord is with David, he eludes Saul’s attacks and is successful in battle. (And we know he eventually becomes king.)
  • Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul blinds the sorcerer. The proconsul believed.
  • Despite the persecution of Paul and Barnabas, many believed. “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)

The evil that is the enemy of God tries so hard to thwart me.  He is so sneaky I hardly even recognize his work.  I am reminded today to be vigilant.

As I recognize the efforts of my enemy, I am reminded to cry out to God as the psalmist does:

“Oh my Strength, I watch for you;

You, Oh God, are my fortress, my loving God.” (Psalm 59:9)

As I am filled with the knowledge that my God is always victorious, I am reminded to worship God as the psalmist does:

“Oh my Strength, I sing praise to you;

You, Oh God, are my fortress, my loving God.”  (Psalm 59:17)

Dear God, You are Conquerer.  Only through Your almighty power can the enemy be defeated.  Thank you for loving me.   

Diona

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1 Samuel 17; 1 Chronicles 2; Acts 12

Miracle or coincidence? Throughout history there has always been and will always be conflict between our human nature and God’s sovereignty. This passage in 1 Samuel is special to me. A year and half ago I was severely injured in a car accident that left me with a 11 spinal fractures and paralyzed from the neck down. When I arrived at the hospital, the MRI showed significant spinal cord damage at C3 which should have left me permanently paralyzed and requiring a ventilator to breathe. But just like the story of David and Goliath and Peter escaping imprisonment and death, the Lord had a plan.

You see, there is no way any of these stories are believable in the logical sense. Our human, finite knowledge always wants to take over and say, “you’re so lucky” or most often, “what a coincidence”. I know many believe in chance and luck and so sometimes reading the bible can seem far fetched. I have always believed what is written in the bible is 100% true and should be taken literally but I now understand it on an even deeper level.

The Lord reminded me of his sovereignty just days after our accident. This passage from 1 Samuel is underlined in my bible with a very wavy line. I can tell it was soon after the accident because my hand writing next to it is hard to read due to difficulty using my hands and arms. His sovereign hand that provides miracles and makes the impossible possible leaves behind  trail of stories and legacies and lessons to learn and live by…..

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.”

The shaky, almost illegible hand writing on the side of my bible reads this, “The Lord saved me before the doctors even touched me with their scalpel.” Just like with David, it was because of the hand of the Lord and his appointed angels that I am here today. He went before me and surrounded my family with many miracles that day and because of that, our family’s “story” was heard by thousands of people. God’s miracles are not just for us. Yes God wants good for us and to bless us abundantly but it’s not all about us it’s about His great, Kingdom plan.

Sometimes we can’t see God’s sovereign hand while we are actually walking through hard times. It’s  when we look back- and we must look back- that we can see his angel armies were surrounding us all along. With each experience, our faith is strengthened for the next time and the next time and the time after that. I am sure that David’s and Peter’s confidence and faith in the Lord grew with their experiences and allowed them to be bold as they ruled and preached the gospel. Let’s not take things for granted and chalk it up to coincidence or luck. The battle is the Lord’s and we must give him the glory

kateredding (originally published April 29, 2015, and an awesome reminder of God’s sovereignty)

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1 Samuel 15-16; 1 Chronicles 1; Psalm 39; Acts 11

Reading the bible is sometimes very challenging for me. “What are you trying to tell me Lord?” I ask Him when I read chapters like 1 Chronicles 1 which includes a very long list of genealogy.   Just so I understood what I was reading, I looked up the word “chronicle.”  According to dictionary.com, it is “a record or register of events in chronological order.”  So begins the names of people that God wanted recorded—from Noah, after the flood, through the descendants of Abraham.   Some of the names I recognized; most I did not.  It is interesting how there will be many names, then someone will have a detail about their life, then there will be many names again.

Then, I get to read chapters like 1 Samuel 15 and 16. This is exciting stuff!  We learn about Saul and his fall from power because of his disobedience to God.  He was told by God to totally destroy the Amalekites and all that belongs to them—everything!  So Saul goes to battle but spares the life of Agag, the king, and the best of the sheep and cattle, in defiance to the command of God to destroy everything.  The LORD is grieved that He ever made Saul king and rejects him as King over Israel.  12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”  Not only did he disobey God, he is setting up monuments to himself!! So God sends Samuel to anoint another king, to the home of Jesse.  There he chooses David, the youngest of the sons, who was out tending the sheep, and anoints him King of Israel.  This has happened unbeknownst to Saul.

The next part couldn’t have been written better by the best playwright! Because the Lord has taken the Spirit of the LORD from Saul, an evil spirit started tormenting him (sent by God).  His servant suggests that listening to a lyre, someone playing music, will make him feel better.  Does he know of anyone, asks the King?  Lo and behold, it is the son of Jesse, someone people know as having the Lord with him.  So David, future king, comes to live in the palace with Saul, present king.  23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.  God planned this in order to get David into the palace.  He divinely orchestrated this malady to put the right person in the right place at the right time.

There is an occasion when I saw God do just that in the life of a friend. The details of what had to occur to get the right people in the right place at the right time were a majestic work of God!  I got to watch it unfold as He moved the players around until He had them in just the right places.  Through this came restoration of a family that had been torn apart for years.  Father and daughter reunited; Grandfather meeting grandchildren for the first time; sisters and half-sisters joyfully reappearing in each other’s lives after almost an entire lifetime of separation.  I am still moved to tears when I think of how He worked this all out.  There is nothing too big for God or too small of a detail for Him.  He is Lord of everything!  He can cause a royal headache if He is so inclined to use it for His glory!

Heavenly Father: Your Word has meaning for us from names in a genealogical list to exciting stories of the heroes in the bible. It all shows that nothing can stop your plans for us.  You will move heaven and earth to accomplish Your will.  Oh how mighty You are; oh how amazing are your works.  You created the details, so why should we worry? Lord, the goodness you show towards us overwhelms me at times.  Thank you for loving us so much!

Cindy (gardnlady)

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1 Samuel 14, Psalm 124, Acts 10

No prejudice here… NONE!

God shows no favoritism… In every nation, He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. Acts 10:34-35.

We’ve all either asked the question or have been asked… “What’s your favorite…?” Whether a book, song, movie, color, food, etc. When you think about it, the question is rather draining when it puts either the receiver on the spot or when we really can’t pick one thing over another.

The question related to favoritism can be convicting when it reveals an unfair or hurting preference. Imagine the pain a child feels from a parent who favors a sibling over themselves. Or consider the atrocities many of God’s people have suffered worldwide all in the name of favoritism, otherwise known as prejudice. Playing favorites can be innocent enough when it comes to the mundane things like one ice cream flavor over another, however there is no way to undo the damage done to someone’s heart because of prejudice.

Thankfully for all of us, the only favoritism in God’s heart is the kind that speaks that we’re all His favorite. Biblically, we find that He picked the Israelites as His chosen people, but when Jesus came and died, He did for all of us, regardless of race, gender, age, sin history, education level, or any other reason, for that matter. No favoritism means just that… no favoritism! God loves equally each person who has ever lived, and His love will continue to be available in measures just as great to everyone yet to be born!

The most amazing news is that we cannot do anything to lose His love, but we also can’t do anything to earn more of it. Consider the refreshment of that truth. God’s unprejudiced love not only frees us from eternal death, but it also frees us from striving to earn His acceptance in this life and for the one to come.

We have God’s heart! WHAT an amazing feeling!!

Now… one question remains… Does God have ours?

Dear gracious and most amazing Father… thank you for making me Your favorite and for all You have sacrificed for me! Father, please help me to be grateful for that status with You, to never forget the ultimate sacrifice Your son made for me, and to treat others as Your favorite, as well. Amen…

gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)

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I Samuel 11-13; Psalm 38; Acts 9

A common theme in the work of substance abuse disorders is that people change in stages. In fact, we all might apply this same process in the course of changing careers, making difficult decisions, letting go of sinful habits, or even choosing to love or be loved. On the one hand, change seems natural and even simple. To the one fighting addiction we say, “Just say ‘no.’” To those who mourn, we say, “It’s time to move on.” To an adolescent, we say, “Grow up,” as if in a brief moment all the wisdom of the ages and the calm of the sages can miraculously pop into our brains.

Christians have even more reason to believe that change can be that straightforward. Take Saul of Tarsus who later becomes our beloved Paul, the Apostle. He started out “breathing threats and murder” (Acts 9:1) against Christians. He actually thought that he was the righteous one doing God’s work. I’ve been there before, thinking I am right and everyone else is the problem. Yet, behind this way of thinking is arrogance, pride, ambition, and even selfish independence, and thoughts become words and behaviors that land like a tornado spitting out shards and blasting sand while flattening all in its path. At this stage, it is impossible for man to affect change.

Fortunately, God does not leave us as He found us. As life unfolds, (and more importantly, as God prods), we are prompted by events or relationships to look into the pros and cons of our beliefs, our feelings, and our actions. Saul gets an eye opener at the point of blindness.  When the husband decides to leave the accusing wife or when the parents put out their grown son in an act of tough love or when coworkers stop inviting the braggart to lunch – a similar crack forms, letting in just enough light to create ambivalence. Change talk begins in uncertainty. “Who are you, Lord?” asks Saul (Acts9:5). The next stage of change begins with listening.

Some days I get tired of hearing myself talk. I wonder why my family or friends get so quiet, and I begin listening to my own voice. This may sound weird, but when this happens I am reminded that listening is much more enjoyable than feeling the pressure to fill gaps of silence with superfluous words or reach for something profound to say. When listening, I am more open to differences, not only of opinion but of culture, of spiritual maturity, of complex or more importantly of simple thoughts that challenge my tunnel vision. How quickly Saul does a 180 when he listens to the voice of Jesus. Saul answers, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” If only we could change so dramatically, so immediately. And maybe for some, this is so. I remember the day that I accepted Christ – I knew there was no turning back. Many of the sins that were a part of my daily life ended that day. Yet other sins over the years have been revealed and some of these habits have been harder to break.

What I’ve learned to accept is that the most important stage of change is the action stage; that is, to walk the changed life. And sometimes, like those who struggle with addiction, I stumble and fall and get up again to put heart, mind, body, and soul into the belief that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).

Lord, God, be with me in the here and now and in the daily changes that I need to make in my thinking, doing, feeling, and being. Though I may need to ask You this again tomorrow, I know that nothing is impossible for You and I can rest in Your promise to change me now and forever. Just wish it could always be in the twinkling of an eye.  : )

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1Samuel 9-10; Acts 8

How I view myself can obscure how I see God. It’s not much different from holding up my hand to block the sun. My puny little hand is powerless to change the immensity and force of the sun, but attempting to block it out keeps my vision on that which is closest to me. When I focus on myself, and my abilities, I fool myself into thinking that the God who made me and continues to provide my next breath is unaware who He is dealing with or my circumstances.

And there hides Saul in the baggage, God’s chosen king over Israel, quaking with fear and trying to hide from his calling. It’s as if he is back in the Garden with Adam thinking that he can hide from God. But haven’t I done the same when I have thought that God was incapable of using the likes of me to help establish his kingdom here on earth?

Another dangerous paradigm can take place; it happens if I adopt Simon the Sorcerer’s thinking that personal influence and resources might allow access and control of the mysterious and untamed work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a heart full of “bitterness and captive to sin” ( Acts 8:23) that gives birth to this falsehood. It gives rise to a prosperity theology that robs so many of true joy and wonder.

I may take Saul’s view and think that personal fear and weakness are greater than God’s power or I may join Simon and think that I can somehow control the very Spirit of God. Both lies shrivel and die in the light of God’s grace. When  I stop thinking about ME and dwell on the wonder of God and who He is, I see beautiful things happen in some of the most unexpected places. Our God, is the one who delights in surprising and amazing us with who He is and what He can do.  True freedom and the abundant life are found in the unobscured light of God’s love.

Lord, give me the grace to get out of my own way when it comes to following you, who loves me ever so fiercely. I love you in all your mercy, grace and beauty. Thank you for all that you are.

Klueh

 

 

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1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

I’ve enjoyed studying history with my kids. We take a cyclical world view approach and repeat it every four years, going into greater detail each time. Ancient one year, medieval the next, early modern after that, and wrap up with modern. Repeat. Because my education wasn’t as fluid, I only knew specific parts of history, and mostly just about a specific area. This broader approach has been fascinating to me, and I enjoy learning as much as my kids do.

One of the things I focus on and hope to draw to their attention is who the leaders are; how they are motivated; what their character is like; and how they are influenced. This is not a political post. Governments aside, leadership opportunities are everywhere. People lead corporations. They lead churches. They lead communities. They can even lead in friendships.

In the car yesterday, one of my kids remarked about a friend following another’s poor example, and it frustrated her to see them behaving the way they did. It was a good moment to talk about the influence friends have on us and how their influence can bring out the best, the worst, or the immature in us. In the moments that followed, I thought of some of my closest friends and how my friendships have changed over the years. I thank God for removing some of the influences that (had and) could have shaped me in a negative way. I thank him for others who, whether they walked the same streets I have, or come to life in history pages, lead a path that points to him.

Samuel 8, the people want a leader. The Lord tells Samuel to warn them of what that means.

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. Samuel 8:19-22, NLT.

Leadership seeps through Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7.

37 “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.’ 38 Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.

39 “But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. 42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! Acts 7:37-42, NLT.

Lord, I just want to listen to your voice.

Courtney (66books365)

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