Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ezra 5-6; Psalm 95; 3 John

13So, Tattenai, the governor west of the Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and the others obeyed. They carried out King Darius’ order quickly and carefully. 14So the Jewish elders continued to build. And they were successful because of the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished building the Temple as the God of Israel had said. It was also done to obey the kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes of Persia. 15The Temple was finished on the third day of the month Adar. It was the sixth year that Darius was king. Ezra 6:13-15 (ICB)

Many years had gone by since King Cyrus had given a special order for the Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. At the urging of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua picked up the work again to complete the project so that God’s people could worship Him in the Temple once again.

But the governors of the land were not pleased. They approached the men demanding to know who had authorized their project; and sent a letter to King Darius to confirm that the men were telling the truth.

They were (of course) and King Darius not only enforced King Cyrus’ ruling, but raised the stakes, issuing a decree saying that anyone who hindered the progress of the temple construction would be severely punished. The temple was completed in record time with the help and finances of the king.

So many years before God set the rebuilding of the temple in motion, even before the Israelite returned to Jerusalem, and put protection in place so that no one would be persecuted for following God’s instructions.

This story makes me wonder about how many different ways God sets up and provides for my own journey and the successes I find well before I am even near those moments.

I am reminded of an instance a few short month after I was married. I found that I needed to leave India unexpectedly due to a change in visa laws. When looking at my pre-purchased plane ticket, I realized that the departure date was three days later than when I needed to be out of the country.

In a whirlwind, I was forced to cancel my ticket and book a flight on the only airline that had seat available in that short notice. I was frustrated because the flight would take me through the middle east and that made me nervous.

Throughout the trip God provided “angels” in the form of flight attendants and seat mates who made the journey much easier than it could have been.

The following day after I arrived stateside, I learned that all of the flights from my original airline had been grounded because of the volcanic ash plume in the atmosphere coming from Iceland. Because the middle eastern flight took a much lower flight pattern, my plane was not delayed at all, and therefore I was still able to honor the visa stipulations.

1Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
2Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
Let’s sing songs to him.
3The Lord is the great God.
He is the great King over all gods.
4The deepest places on earth are his.
And the highest mountains belong to him.
5The sea is his because he made it.
He created the land with his own hands.
6Come, let’s bow down and worship him.
Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us.
7He is our God.
And we are the people he takes care of
and the sheep that he tends. Psalm 95:1-7a (ICB)
Often times, this kind of provision and protection is recognized only in hindsight.In the remembering, I’m able to give God His due praise and my faith is strengthened in the difficult times, understanding that He is there for me and will never leave me nor forsake me.
Yesappa, Thank You for having a plan for my life. Thank You for looking toward the future with provision and protection in mind. Thank You for caring for me as your own sheep. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Blessings, Julie
(juliet2912)

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Zechariah 12-14; Psalm 94; 2 John

And the clans of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The people of Jerusalem have found strength in the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, their God.” Zechariah 12:5 NLT

I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.” Zechariah 13:9 NLT

Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those you teach your instructions. You give them relief from troubled times until a pit is dug to capture the wicked. The Lord will not reject his people; he will not abandon his special possession.” Psalm 94:12-14 NLT

Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, you comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:17-19 NLT

He delivers me

He refines me

He disciplines me

He comforts me

He loves me and commands me to love others….

How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded. I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. That is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. I say this because many deceivers have gone into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an Antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 1:7-9 NLT

How do I stay discerning while loving others who are far from him?

Because, sometimes I worry that I will be deceived.

Jesus says to remain in Him. According to Websters, the word Remain means…

‘To stay in the same place or with the same person or group; to stay behind.’

When I am not doing this my heart gets restless. I start to doubt that God’s plans for me are good. I become ungrateful, unforgiving and discontent. I am critical, instead of loving. I miss out on his peace. But, if I am abiding, my eyes are open to how he is working around me. I get to be a part of seeing prayers answered and hearts changed. When I ask for wisdom, he gives it. I can love others out of faith and not fear.

But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.” Psalm 94:22 NLT

Father, I pray that I would wait on you and seek you first. I pray that you would show me how to love others with the love you have shown me. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Zechariah 9-11, 1 John 5

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:13-14

“Mom, how can I know for sure that I will go to heaven when I die? How do I know I am really a Christian?” As my children grow older and begin putting the pieces of their faith and belief together, their understanding increases as well as the curiosity. They don’t automatically take everything at face value anymore and their questions are endless but come in spurts, mixed with times of thinking. Many of their questions are ones I remember asking, myself. And even today, there are many I still cannot answer.

But this passage in 1 John is brilliant. It’s an answer that brings life and hope. John writes specifically to believers who may be struggling with knowing deep down that they are saved. I have to admit, this is definitely an area that I have struggled with from time to time so I’m comforted by the fact that the early believers were asking the same questions. I recently read a story about John Wesley and how early on in his faith he struggled with the same feelings to the point where he admitted he must not be a Christian!

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:1-5

Our Savior, Jesus did not come as expected with royal kingship. He didn’t enter the city on a chariot and rule and reign the way our feeble minds would have expected.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River[c] to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:9-10

Like the early church, like children, we try to put the pieces of our faith together using our own logic and miss the point completely. Instead of relying on our own understanding, let us look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith. He gave us His Word and the Holy Spirit for understanding. Let us lean on the truth we find there instead of our own logic.

Thank you, Father for your true Word. Thank you for revealing the mysteries of our faith through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for sending your own Son to become our salvation! Help us build our faith by learning your Word and hiding it in our hearts. Amen.

 

Kate

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Zechariah 6-8; 1 John 4

Love. It’s a beautiful thing but I find it gets more difficult for me to give freely give it away the older I get. I find I have to be intentional about how, when and whom I love, sometimes almost talking myself into it. I hope I’m not alone here. What makes love so difficult as we age is that we typically love with all the hurts and shames of past experiences. We lose our childlike innocence and know a little too much in some cases.
In the world today, love is becoming increasingly more difficult. Difficult to give and to receive. It’s difficult to love people who act differently, think differently and think differently. I have built up defense mechanisms, biases, prejudices and believed lies that lead me to retreat and protect myself and my family. From the struggling neighbor down the street to the homeless in downtown Westminster to the Syrian refugee crises, love gets messy and uncomfortable….and risky.
The love of God is completely unconditional, unending and overflowing. Love is the mark of a true Christian and sets us apart from others. Love is what connects us with our Creator. Abiding love is the Lord inviting us to connect with him and remain in him. It’s an invitation to not only experience his love but also know him.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

He reminds us the great extent he was willing to go to show us his love. He knew it would be hard for us to get it and it would take something extreme.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

It’s a call to love others like he did so that our love can be perfected.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

And finally, a reassurance that this abiding love brings confidence that this love is eternal and our hope is secure.

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”

Thank you, God for your perfect plan and inviting us to love others. For sending your Son to be the propitiation for our sins and for gifting us with the Holy Spirit. Because of your great love we can have no fear.

Kate (kateredding)

From the archives. Originally published November 25, 2015.

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Zechariah 2-5; Psalm 93; 1 John 3

 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

When was the last time you felt God lavish His love on you? There is just something so special when you realize that you’ve been lavished upon.  Even the word, lavish, sounds opulent!   I have gone to a spa before where I was wrapped in a warm, fluffy robe, given something sparkly to drink, and had everything from my head to my feet massaged.  I felt lavished upon!  Having my grandchildren come running to give me big hugs when they see me makes me feel lavished upon. I looked it up to see what the dictionary had to say about the word.  Lavish means “bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.”

I have felt lavished upon when I stand in awe of a spectacular sunset or view a double rainbow in the sky. To me, God’s creative works in nature—from the gentle waves breaking on the beach to the wind rustling through the trees in the mountains–shows his love for us.  Hearing the birds sing first thing in the morning reminds me of God’s great love.  Just yesterday I had a bad day.  Do you ever have those days when you think you add no value to this planet whatsoever and you’re just taking up space?  I have them once in a while.  I was talking to God about this when I was driving home from work only to be interrupted by a very dear friend calling me on the phone just to talk (bluetooth of course).  When I got home and brought in the mail, there was a sweet note of encouragement from a leader thanking me for serving the ladies in my small group.  And, I got a precious card from my sister which meant the world to me.  I felt the great love of God lavished upon me!  He wanted me to know His great love!

We are His children and He loves us. In fact, He loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to earth so we would not be separated from Him.  16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  THAT is lavish love!  Jesus willingly became human and paid the ultimate price for our sins.  He died a criminal’s death on a cross so we could have everlasting life.  We know that Jesus will come again and that when He appears, we shall be like Him (v2) “for we shall see him as he is.” Anything else we are given in this life is a bonus!

Father, I thank you for loving us so very much. Thank you for calling us your children!  Some of us have children and would do anything for them.  You were willing to give us your Son!  You lavished us with His presence.  He brought light into this dark world.  He taught us how to love by example.  He died, taking all our sins upon himself, so that one day, when He returns, we will be like Him.  I can’t even imagine the depth of the love that took.  May we praise Your holy name forever as we are lavished by such great love!  In Jesus holy name I pray.  Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Haggai; Zechariah 1; Ps 138; 1 John 2

To those readers who are not part of the mid-Atlantic or the northeast, suffice it to say that temperatures have dropped outside… significantly, from just a few days ago. And as we approach the winter solstice, those cozy evenings spent indoors come earlier every day as we say good-bye to autumn and prepare to officially welcome winter.

The days are shorter, and growing shorter by the day, but before we know it, they’ll soon start to lengthen again, even if it’s at a rate of only a minute or two more sunshine every day. As cozy as winter can be, we love the energy, rejuvenation, and freedom of spring, when we see better and our hopes are revitalized again… life just appears more optimistic in the light.

However, as Christians, we get to celebrate a different kind of light as we await the coming of spring. Thanksgiving leads to Christmas… the season of lights… light because the holiday is about Jesus, the Light of the world. In a dark world, His love lights our hearts, lightens our burdens, and illuminates our way back to God. Through His life, we see more clearly the destructive effects of our sin and our need for His commandment to love as He loved.

Jesus shows us how to live in His light by loving one another… “Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, to love one another, and you also are living it… If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness” 1 John 2:8-9. When He lights our souls, we experience His eternal spring with love that shines day and night.

As we enter this holiday season, choose to escape the world’s darkness and view life from within Jesus’ light. By doing so, we’ll be amazed at the clarity that takes shape from eyes that see others as He does. So while it might be dark outside, the day is dawning in hearts that glow with the light of His love.

Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to light our lives in the midst of growing darkness. Please fill us to overflowing with the light of Your love for others. Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Ezra 3-4; Psalm 92; I John 1

I John 1:5 says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Wish I could say that about myself. Instead, I regularly confess shades of sin to God and to others whom I have wronged so that God, who “is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” will send His grace and mercy to this repentant heart. (John 1:9). Blatant sin such as thefts, murders, and adultery may not be on my conscious, but the Holy Spirit is quick to convict me of blaming others, acting self-righteous or lacking faith. But what about defenses buried in sin that are unrecognizable until after they bite?

I came home from work the other day, glad for another blessed Friday. My elevated mood sparked my interest in making a real meal, not just the casual, lazy, Friday night fare of pizza and hot wings. Hubby heard me singing along with the radio, and I knew he was smiling before he poked his head around the corner to tell me hello. He let our small dog out of the cozy room among the laundry appliances and linen soaps. Seeing that smash-nosed, bow-legged, 16 pounds of lion-hearted loyalty, added to the promise of peace and harmony for the weekend. Yet when I reached down to kiss his silky head, our family pet violently, and without warning, bit me on the face. The shock of teeth penetrating skin was nothing compared to the painful reality that my 11 year-old friend had turned on me. The rest of the evening was a shambles caring for my wounded cheek and rationalizing the unexpected attack. Was he in physical pain? Is his advancing age a factor? What is the risk of repeated dog biting behavior? My husband and I talked about our fear that the dog would do the same or worse to our grandchild or other visiting family and friends.

Upon awakening the next morning, and after a sickening dream of giving poison to a guinea pig (go figure), the emotional jet lag felt defeating, and I sought consolation through the Word of God. As I meditated, the smog of confusion cleared and I felt convicted of sin – the sin of neglect.

Vignettes of a dog’s life played in my head. Especially over the last three months, I had not spent quantity or quality time with my canine friend. I rarely walked him. He was not allowed to be in the living room with us in our new house. I had developed a low tolerance for frustration which caused me to shoo the little guy out of the kitchen regularly so that he wouldn’t be under my feet or be a nuisance at the table. The story of neglect continued to play. Where once my dog would find a corner to curl up wherever I was, he now chose to stay in his own room. Instead of lying beside me feet, he preferred to be near my husband. He stopped asking for the treats that rarely came from me. I believe that God showed me that the sin of neglect was a contributing factor of my dog, old and blind in one eye, perhaps not knowing me at the moment he literally snapped.

“O Lord, how great are your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this. When the wicked spring up like grass and when all the workers of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever,” (Psalm 92:5-7).  Lord, I can see how the sin of neglect sprang up and is a microcosm of relationships in my life that have long-since dissipated or relatives who no longer expect more than a hastily signed Christmas card once a year. I pray that the sin of neglect is destroyed once and for all by revelation, correction, and restoration. Through Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen!

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