Monthly Archives: May 2016

1 Kings 2; 1 Chronicles 29; Romans 7

Just take the next right step.  Do what needs to be done. Let go and let God. What if all I want to do is scream for what can never be, crawl back to bed and sleep for eternity, or sit and stare at the world as the hours circle the clock face?  The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:22, 23, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Shameful double mindedness.  On the other hand, an example of single mindedness is illustrated in I Kings 2. Solomon was instructed by his father David before the King’s death to exact punishment on several powerful men in the kingdom.  Young King Solomon recognized their conspiracies and dealt severely with these men, which brought peace to the kingdom through fulfillment of God’s judgment.  Are the instructions given to me any less important than those David left for Solomon? Has God given me a brain and the freedom to follow His instructions, or am I fated to watch what little I cling to drift away as dust gathering in the corners of an empty room?

The war within me to follow God’s will is no less violent and the outcome no less important to my sanity and legacy and soul’s security. As Paul cries out in Romans 7:24, 25, so do I. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

If I had to choose to walk daily in all that I believe God would have me do – without seeing God’s new mercies every morning, without reading the love of Christ assured through His words, and without the supernatural and inexplicable work of the Holy Spirit – I could not.  Yet, how amazing is David’s prayer for God’s people. Man is weak, but God will place even the motivation to do His will when we pray.   David writes, “Keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people and fix their heart toward You. And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things…” I Chronicles 29:18

May God place His instructions in the intentions of my heart so that it is not I who lives, but Christ who dwells within me.  May He fix my heart toward His perfect will because only the wisdom from God – given supernaturally and operating independently of my earthly knowledge – will bring peace and fulfillment to me. Who am I to receive this attention? No one of consequence yet loved nevertheless, by our great God. So I will rise up and greet this day knowing that all good things come from God and I can give to Him the honor and praise for a day lived in His presence. What He gives to me I will return through my praise, service, and time. “For all these come from You, and of Your own we have given [back to] You,” I Chronicles 29:14.

What a great God we serve!

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

From the archives. Originally published June 1, 2015.

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1 Kings 1, 1 Chronicles 26-28, Romans 6

Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it? Have you ever planned and planned and just knew in your heart the something you wished for was going to come true or eventually happen one day? Something good and right and treasured? I remember thinking something along those lines as a child. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a nurse. By middle school, my plans and desire had not changed at all except that even more than being a nurse, I wanted to be a nurse practitioner. There were several experiences in my life that had led me to that decision and I knew God had given me the desire and the ability. I studied hard, got good grades and was given many opportunities including attending a licensed nurse diploma program while still in high school. My desires were strong and the ability was there but something happened toward the end of my senior year that changed the trajectory of my path; an engagement to my (now) husband.

That engagement turned into marriage and the education and career I had dreamed of all my life became second priority. Because I had graduated high school as a licensed nurse I was blessed to find a great paying job very quickly and though the desire remained to further my education, the time and money to do so dwindled quickly. It’s something that I look back on and have frequently wondered, “What if?” I don’t regret the last 15 years of married life and raising three crazy kiddos and I know it’s certainly not too late to continue on but things have changed.

I was reminded of my experience when I read King David’s story towards the end of his life. Since childhood, David loved the Lord with all of his heart and one of his greatest desires was to not only see the Ark of the Covenant return to Jerusalem but for him to build a majestic home for it.

 

Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ 1 Chronicles 28: 2-3

 

Oh, what a disappointment that must have been for David. He dedicated his life to the Lord, courageously and faithfully leading the nation of Israel off to war when necessary but always pointing them back to the Yahweh. Although David does not get the chance to be the one to build the final resting place of the Ark, the Lord’s plans prevail and it’s his son that will carry on with the passion and love of his father. David’s charge and advice to his son, Solomon is beautiful and what an encouragement to all of us. Even in the midst of disappointment that his dream had ended, David could rejoice in trusting God’s ways are greater than his.

 

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. 10 Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.”

20 Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. 1 Chronicles 28:9-10, 20

 

As I look back at my own situation I can see how blessed I truly am by God’s sovereign hand of protection on my life. At the time, passing up opportunities to become “something greater” seemed foolish but it’s only by looking back that I can see God working. Had I gone further with my education, I may very easily have chosen my career instead of my family. If I had more degrees, I may have missed the opportunity to open my own business and would lack the freedom I have today because of it. The truth is, only the Lord knows but I will remember this lesson moving forward. What seems like unanswered prayers are really God’s blessings and mercies in disguise. I will keep working with strength and courage as the Lord calls me for he will not leave me until the work is complete!

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1 Chronicles 22-25; Psalm 78; Romans 5

I really enjoy receiving a good gift.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the person who gave me the gift.  I feel loved when someone takes the time to choose something especially for me.  Recently, my husband gave me a wonderful gift to celebrate Mother’s Day.  He gave me a new purse – it is the perfect shape and size, in a gorgeous color, with zippers in all the right places. I use it all day, every day.

But I don’t use every gift that I receive in the same way.  Like the pretty dishes that are packed away in the basement.  I pull them out a few times a year and then back in the basement they go.

I accepted both gifts, but what I do with them is totally different.

Today’s reading got me thinking … What do I do with God’s gift to me?

“For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 (NIV)

I have accepted God’s gift of righteousness and received God’s abundant provision of grace. But, do I cherish this gift all day, every day?  Is God’s grace on display so that others can see it?  How do I respond to God’s gift of forgiveness?

God chose this gift especially for me.  That is how much He loves me.  In fact, He chose this perfect gift for every person who will receive it.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Dear God, Thank you for your gift of salvation.  Help me to always cherish this gift.  I want others to see what it is like to live in right relationship with you.  Show me how to reflect your loving grace.  Amen

Diona

 

 

 

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2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21; Romans 4

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. Romans 4:20-25, NLT.

Summer five yearsIMG_0893 ago, we were preparing to move. We were preparing to move to a house that God told us about. A year of waiting and wondering, it was about to become our “home sweet home.” That summer, my kids attended a local VBS. A craft that one of my girls made there is on my refrigerator, still, as a  reminder of God’s faithfulness, trustworthiness and sovereignty–delivered to me by the sweet hands of my child. But I don’t need a magnet to tell me of these things. His Word is full of promises kept, and our lives are full of them too.

I remember a summer cookout with friends. I was in the pool, and my youngest slid down the slide into my arms, where I caught her. Over and over again.

“Each time she slides down and you catch her, you are building up her trust in you,” a friend observed. I never thought of it that way.

When difficulties come, and they do, it helps to remember the times that God caught me. Or to remember the times God did what he said he’d do in his word–times recorded for our benefit and his glory.

Thank you, Lord. You are faithful, you are trustworthy, you are sovereign–and it means everything.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 21-23; Psalm 18; Romans 3

If I were to tell my testimony, I believe these words from Psalm 18 (this Psalm is also included in 2 Samuel 22 interestingly enough) would be part of what I would say. I knew God existed; I believed everything I had ever learned about Him. He was out there somewhere, although certainly not part of my life.  Oh, I called on Him when there was something bad going on; other than that I was living my life just fine.  Or so I thought until it all came crashing down around me!  All of a sudden, my life was a mess—too many bad choices caught up with me.  I was in a pit deeper than I could ever get out on my own.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (NIV)

There were times along the way I believe God was warning me of the trouble ahead, but I didn’t want to hear what He had to say. I wanted to do things my way, I wanted what I wanted.  So He allowed me to go my way.  I laugh sometimes because I imagine Him saying, “You go ahead baby girl!  I’ll be at the other end to pick you up when you get there!”  And He was!

16He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. 19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

Those “foes” were mighty and had a powerful grip. Letting go was not easy “but the LORD was my support.”  Getting to that place where I finally understood and believed “he rescued me because he delighted in me” made all the difference in breaking free.  God has been so faithful to me through the years since he pulled me from that place of darkness.  He has taught me so much through His word, through people, and through His presence.  Having Jesus as Lord of my life has changed it.  All I needed to do was surrender to Him!  My life is so much better with Him in charge.

20 God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. (The Message)

I had to give Him everything—after all, He gave everything for me!

49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

Heavenly Father, there are times I shudder to think where I would be today without your saving grace. We, like David, have reason to worship you, to sing and dance before you in great joy.  Your fierce love for us is unfathomable, undeserved, yet unending.  One day we will join with all the saints in a heavenly chorus praising your holy name and the name above all names, Jesus. Oh what a glorious day that will be!  It is in His name I pray. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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2 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 34; Romans 2

Do our actions only affect us or do they have an effect on those around us, as well?

Interesting question… one that I’ve wrestled with for some time. If you’re a parent, I would suspect that it’s easier to recognize the ‘good fruit’ that might be passed on to our children as a result of our labor. But, is the contrary also true… that as a result of our sin and disobedience, that our children might be affected negatively, as well? When I was growing up, my father was adamant about teaching me to respect and honor those older than me. Today, as a parent and a teacher, I witness blatant disrespect towards others from young people on a regular basis. Not from all, mind you, but with enough regularity that it has me very concerned. However, after reading 2 Samuel 18-20, I believe that we have tremendous potential… that respecting and honoring our descendants through our actions not only has the potential to address the short term issues we’re all more concerned about, but can also have a positive ripple effect that can potentially influence countless generations to come. With God’s grace and a committed and willing heart, we can be the change we want to see in the world!

King David’s words in 2 Samuel 18:5 are loaded with melancholy. It tears up a parent’s heart when their child rebels, but knowing as David did that Absalom’s hatred toward him stemmed from David’s own disobedience must have twisted the emotional dagger in David’s heart.

Back when David sinned with Bathsheba and manipulated her husband’s death, Nathan the prophet delivered news that David’s son would rebel as punishment for their father’s sins. Nathan’s words seem to help explain Absalom.

David may have been a brilliant leader in many ways, but his nation and his family endured his mistakes, as well. The son he had with Bathsheba died, and Absalom took another brunt of David’s punishment. David still loved his son desperately, and however wrong they were, Absalom’s actions resulted from consequences that David brought on him.

Thousands of years have passed, but even over the passage of time and half a world’s distance, this father’s regret is palpable here and now. David’s most important success stories did not occur within his family. For all his investment in his people’s future, the hearts most precious to him suffered.

Absalom wasn’t known for honor, and he certainly didn’t die honorably. David had to live with the fact that, had he not committed adultery and murder, Absalom likely wouldn’t have carried the weight of this father’s wrongs. Yes, Absalom was responsible for his own actions, however, his life was needlessly tainted by his father’s sin. Who knows what honor Absalom could have brought to his family had David protected the honor of his descendants by avoiding sin?

We have the choice to invest every day in the honor of those who come after us, whether in the lives of our own children or others we influence. Based on these moments, will we be able to look back without regrets? We haven’t lived our final moment yet, so there’s still time to invest well.

Father, You are amazing!! You’ve invested so much in me so that I can invest in others. Please help remind me to care for the character of those who come after me by living a life according to Your plan today and the rest of my life. And always, Thy will be done… Amen!

Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)

 

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II Samuel 15-17; Psalm 3, 63; Romans 1

“You get what you deserve!” Oh, they might not say that to your face, but you can tell that sentiment is behind the blaming questions and impatient sighs. So goes my thoughts. Or you might experience an overt attack such as King David as he ascended to the Mount of Olives, “head covered, bare feet, weeping” (II Samuel 15:30). Instead of joining in sorrow with his king who had to flee from his own son, a certain man Shimei from the house of Saul, went along the hillside opposite him [David] and cursed as he went, threw stones at David, and kicked up dust (16:13). My first thought is why did God allow this to happen to David? Perhaps this was a case when “God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1).

Thinking this way leads to anger, and like Abishai, David’s loyal nephew, we might start shouting, “Off with his head!” My next thought is why should those who are prideful and godless be allowed to rub into the dirt the weary, tear-stained face of the grieving? If allowed to stay on this destructive path of thinking, feeling, and reacting, David’s wise answer challenges Abishai. First David acknowledges that adversity may be part of God’s discipline for sin (think Bathsheba, II Sam. 11:4). Accepting the cursing, not reacting with vengeance.  Secondly, David proclaims that God’s mercy may follow; “It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his [Shimei’s] cursing this day,” (16:12). This is a direct challenge to the notion that God has abandoned David.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) is a gold standard in the counseling profession for treating clinical anxiety, depression, bipolar, and other disorders. The focus of CBT work is to help the client to challenge negative self-talk and beliefs with positive, constructive statements that are believable, create higher expectations, and elevate mood. Changing the way we think changes the way we feel and increases the potential for behaviors that lead to a more peaceful life. In the brief discourse between King David and Abishai, we have an example of how CBT works. Instead of dwelling on the humiliating situation as proof that God no longer loves him and is intent on destroying him because of his sin, David’s bare feet continued up the Mount of Olives to worship his God. David’s thoughts about God refreshed his spirit and encouraged making the right next step.

What was the result of his choice? It is believed that at the time of David’s flight out of Jerusalem, he wrote Psalm 3. The Psalm illustrates the powerful effect that right thinking and right behaviors have on the psyche. Instead of worry, anxiety, or depression, David describes enjoying a night of peace. “I lay down and slept; I awoke for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.”

When I hear the nagging inner voice condemn, or the misguided comments from strangers that threaten my peace, I will recall the faithful and hopeful words of King David,

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land…Because Your lovingkindness is better than life…” (Psalm 63:1-3). CBT is a great method for change, but God’s word is the most powerful agent of change that I know.

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