Monthly Archives: July 2016

Jonah; Matthew 11

“But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:3

“…and Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17

Jonah finds himself at the lower end of the food chain and in the belly of a whale. I may laugh at the ridiculousness of Jonah attempting to flee God, but I have done the same. I have fled His presence and found myself consumed by personal drama and busyness. God offered to let me bask in the truth of the resurrection and I have told Him that He is not enough. I have gotten caught up in trying to make the world turn as I would have it.

Later, Jonah finds himself pouting and complaining to God that He is a just and merciful. Does’t he want God to be just that? God isn’t his puppet. Jesus accuses the crowd of similar behavior, “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.’ ” Matthew 11:16-17

How often do I tell God He isn’t who I want Him to be? And where does all that get me? Exhausted, angry, spent, far from my true home…his Presence.

God allows me to reject Him in ways both large and small. He allows me to choose, but as soon as I repent of my foolish notions and stubborn ways, He welcomes me home.

Resting in God’s love and grabbing onto the wonderful truth of the Resurrection is the path home. Why He has called me to follow Him is beyond my comprehension, but I will claim Him as my own and hold onto His Word;

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, an learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Klueh

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Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

I was holding my mother’s hand the moment she died. I’ve mourned the loss of children I never named or held. I’ve felt the sting of losing a job. I’ve known the ache of betrayal. But there was one loss that lingered for years, one I couldn’t name at first, a sense of imbalance I couldn’t right, a futile pursuit that exhausted. It greeted me each morning with every sunrise, and gripped me with a pressure that bruised and suffocated–oh, how ridiculous it seemed when I named it: the loss of expectation.

It shamed and embarrassed me–how it tormented me–how could something so shallow (compared to death or destruction) sink me into a depressing heaviness of heart whose tablemates were rejection and mockery? I wanted to shake it off. Every day I determined to be bigger than it, toggling between pretending none of it mattered, and raging at how it dared to touch the tender places I couldn’t protect. It created such a fracture in my heart, that my life is marked by that time as before and after.

It was a spring in the after that God stuck a verse in my thoughts, a steady repetition of the words “I will give you back the years.” I was working in the yard that day, and stopped to get to a computer and search the scriptures for those words. They led me straight to Joel  (In more than one way–we purchased this land from a man named Joel.).

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
    to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. (Joel 2:25a, NLT)

The next sentence was totally unexpected. I stopped short.

It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. (Joel 2:25b, NLT)

And suddenly those years before made sense. The loss made sense. I was humbled and awed, truly, but above all, I was grateful.

Thank you, God, for showing me what life can be like when I lay down my own pursuits and seek your will. Thank you for bringing us here. Thank you for healing and hope restored. Thank you for changing my heart. Thank you for these five full years. Thank you for saving me from an even greater grief.

In life before, I never imagined that I would ever find myself grateful for heartache, dashed dreams, or loss of expectation. But in life after, I’m thankful for God’s intervention and the very hard heart work that changed my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

9When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.

 10Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11The Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12Jesus heard the Pharisees ask this. So he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only the sick need a doctor. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13

In my reading today, I was intrigued Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, especially the words “faithful love”. Looking deeper, I learned that one of the definitions of the original Greek word eleos is “covenant loyalty”.

When Jesus said the phrase, “I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices…” He was referring to a passage in the prophecies of Hosea, that continues, “…I want people to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

From the beginning of the earth, God has always wanted relationship with His children. He demonstrated that with Adam, when He walked with him in the cool of the day. He demonstrated that all through the Old Testament, with His relationship with Abraham, Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and many more. And, through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, He reestablished the possibility of a face-to-face relationship with Heavenly Father through Holy Spirit.

 8I do not scold you for your sacrifices.

You always bring me your burnt offerings.

9But I do not need the bulls from your stalls

or the goats from your pens.

10Every animal of the forest is already mine.

The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.

11I know every bird on the mountains.

Every living thing in the fields is mine. Psalm 50:8-11

He didn’t need the animal sacrifices before Jesus came to the world, because those animals already belonged to Him. He accepted the sacrifices because the blood sacrifice was what temporarily allowed man to be close. Just like He didn’t need the temple to be repaired by King Joash and the priests and He didn’t need any of the new “stuff” bought by the received offerings.

What He wanted then and continues to yearn for today is for me, for all of His children, to seek His face, to desire to know Him, to walk in relationship with Him all the days of my life. It doesn’t matter that I have sinned, that I need(ed) a hospital. He has loved me in the midst of my sin and will forever invite me into His presence.

 

Yesappa, Thank You for wanting to be in relationship with me. Thank You for providing the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus that allows my sin to be forever washed in the blood. Thank you for loving me before I even knew Your name. Help me to know You better, to know Your heart, Your will, and Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie

 

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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2 Chronicles 22-23; 2 Kings 11; Psalm 131; Matthew 8

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid?You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:25&26 NLT

My pastor was speaking about rest this past Sunday. How timely, after reading these verses about Jesus sleeping during the storm. The disciples went to Jesus out of fear and not faith. They were in panic mode, instead of believing. How many times is this me? More often than I’d like to admit. In Matthew and in my everyday life, Jesus is teaching me to find rest in the storm. So that I can move forward from a refreshed soul who has been in His presence. And not let worry and fear dim my perspective. This is something that I have to give to Him daily. One place that I can get bogged down is seeking the approval of others. Sometimes my judgment can get clouded when I am not pursing him. I wonder if this is how Ahaziah’s mother fell into the trap of wrongly influencing her son.

Ahaziah also followed the evil example of King Ahab’s family, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Ahab’s family had done. They even became his advisers after the death of his father, and they led him to ruin.” 2 Chronicles 22:3&4 NLT

As a mother I pray for Godly influences in my children’s life. I desire for them to seek after Jesus with all their heart. I can imagine that Jehosphat was saddened by his grandson’s sin. I can picture him on his knees praying for his family. Burdened by their hardened hearts. It gives me hope of how one person’s faith can change a legacy and turn it around. Even though it didn’t happen to Jehosphat’s family, Ahaziah was still given a proper burial. He was respected because of who his grandfather was. It had nothing to do of his own ability. He had messed up and made poor chooses. But, grace was given.

Then Jehu’s men searched for Ahaziah, and they found him hiding in the city of Samaria, They brought him to Jehu, who killed him. Ahaziah was given a decent burial because the people said, “He was the grandson of Jehosphat-a man who sought after the Lord with all his heart.” But none of the surviving members of Ahaziah’s family was capable of ruling the kingdom.” 2 Chronicles 22:9 NLT

Dear Father, I pray that I would find true peace in your presence. That I would take time to be still before you and listen to your voice about all others. Amen.

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord-now and always.” Psalm 131:1-3 NLT

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2 Kings 9-10, Psalm 49, Matthew 7

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

“Please? Pretty please? Can I get_______?” You fill in the blank. If you have children you know walking through the grocery store, dollar store or anything that ends with store can be a daunting task full of questions, begging and pleading. Their petitioning is not something that is music to my ears and often does not end well for them as the incessant chatter leads to my frustration. I have to admit, though, from time to time I do give in just for some peace and quiet.

Occasionally though, a child will surprise me and remain quiet throughout our trip. Once in a while, one will save their question till the end and present their case respectfully and kindly. The difference in these trips are like black and white. But with both scenarios my heart wants to give my child the things that they want, things that they perceive as good. Even though their begging becomes annoying the fact remains that when my child requests something of me, I often want to fulfill their wish when it is reasonable and appropriate. Even when they are trying my last nerve I want to give them good things, not evil things!

Do you ever feel like the things you ask of the Lord are small and trivial like they are too little to bother the Lord with? What about on the other end, too big? This scripture is much more than a passage about seeking salvation but can be applied in many different ways.

I am reminded that the Lord wants me to seek him at all times, in all circumstances and for all things. There is nothing too big or too small. Like children playing a game of hide and seek, we are to approach Him with the same passion and persistence as we seek his will and plan for our lives. I think of how much and how often I want to shower my children with good things; when they ask and when they don’t. When they deserve it and when they don’t. Simply because I love them. How much more does our Heavenly Father love us? How much more does he want to give us good things if we seek him with all of our heart!

 

Dear Lord, I have to admit that I often avoid asking you for help. I often avoid seeking your wisdom and will for my life because I feel like my requests are unimportant or too small. You are a loving and All Mighty Father God. Thank you for the reminder that every good gift comes straight from your Father’s heart. You care about the little and the big. Help me to seek you with all of my heart. Amen.

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2 Kings 7-8, 2 Chronicles 21; Matthew 6

“…For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:8

I am just coming out of a short season of temptation.  The temptation to spend my thoughts and time on storing up treasure for today.  The temptation to serve masters who are not the one true God.  My heart is so easily swayed by the influences of this world.

This season is predictable and comes around every year.  I’ve learned to prepare in advance for this … to pray a lot and to ask for support from my community.  Even with this preparation, I stumble.

Now I sense God pulling me back to him.  He is prompting me to ask myself, “Where am I storing my treasure? Who am I serving?”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthey 6:24

Cannot.  I cannot serve both God and money.  I cannot serve both God and any other master.  I hear other masters calling to tempt me… perception, prestige, beauty, lifestyle, things.  Jesus did not say that I should not serve both God and other masters.  He said that I cannot.

God reminds me why I want to serve Him and only Him.  He reminds me of his love and grace.  He reminds me that his kingdom is far better than anything in this world.  I don’t need things surrounding me to prove my value – He alone proves my value.  I don’t need other people’s approval – I need his approval.  I want other people to think well of me only so that I may bring glory to Jesus.

Dear Father, You know what I need before I know.  I ask you to search my heart and root out any temptations that would lead me away from you.  Thank you for your constant, unfailing love.

Diona

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2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I want my eyes to be open.

The physical army was easy to see outside. It was the spiritual army that was not as apparent–at least not to Elisha’s servant.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:15-17, NLT)

This story has been on my mind recently–and I’m thankful to encounter it again today.

***

The last words I read last night were the first ones to confront me this morning:

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)

Why was this gnawing at me? I thought of times when it was easier to show love to an enemy. Ah, but this one thing, still sore and nagging–to the point that I had to start my reading repeatedly and work through it in small bites.

I stopped and prayed, “Oh, God, you know. You know.” And I put my troubled thoughts into his hands.

That’s when I read Elisha’s story. The physical army that was easy to see, and the spiritual army that stood behind it. The Lord showed me, sometimes I can be focused too much on what I can see, and I forget there’s a bigger story accompanied by a big army, led by a big, sovereign, mighty God. And because of this, I can do hard things–through Christ’s strength–and have peace.

Oh Lord, I want my eyes to be open.

Courtney (66books365)

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