Monthly Archives: January 2017

Genesis 32; Mark 3; Esther 8; Romans 3

After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans 3:29-31 NLT

Faith makes all the difference.

Then Esther went again before the king, falling down at his feet and begging him with tears to stop the evil plot devised by Haman the Agagite against the Jews. Again the king held out the gold scepter to Esther. So she rose and stood before him. Esther said, “If it please the king, and if I found favor with him, and if he thinks its right, and if I am pleasing him, let there be a decree that reverses the orders of Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, who ordered that Jews throughout all the king’s provinces should be destroyed. For how can I endure to see my people and my family slaughtered and destroyed?” Esther 8:3-6 NLT

Esther had great faith.

Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said , “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”…Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:26& 28 NLT

I have a friend who told me that she was struggling with her faith. She was surprised when I told her that there have been times in my life when I have lost faith too. And I have wrestled with God. My friend thanked me for sharing so honestly and said it was helping her. I think that Satan likes it when I hold it all in and don’t tell anyone my doubts. When I share my fears it brings them to light and takes away the stronghold it has on me.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!” Mark 3:3-5 NLT

My faith is restored… He remains faithful.

Dear Jesus. Help my faith to be greater than my fear. Forgive me for putting my faith in the wrong things. You are my healer and restorer. I put my hope in you. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Genesis 31, Esther 7, Mark 2, Romans 2

favor

  1. Something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or for remuneration; a kind act
  2. The state of being approved or held in regard:
  3. Excessive kindness or unfair partiality; preferential treatment

 

When I read these stories of Jacob’s release from Laban, Queen Esther’s victory over the Jew’s death sentence and the Jesus’ healing of a paralytic and the calling of Levi, only one word comes to mind; favor.

Favor, grace, mercy, love, I knew of these terms much less before I had children. Not to say you could never understand these if you do not have children of your own but there’s something that changed in my life the minute my first child was born. As they grow, I understand these terms to a much greater degree, seeing the Lord through the eyes of a parent. I have always had a difficult time understanding how a perfect God who created everything could find joy in me. How could he know my sin and my failings and still love me. Then came my three….

Just yesterday was a very trying day in our household. Tantrum after tantrum (I thought we were out of the terrible two’s!). Disobedience, disrespect and outright defiance was tossed around our home like it was acceptable. It was the end of a long week with Dad gone for work and a day off school. Tired children and a tired mom did not make for a good combination. With each and every episode, my own anger would increase. What started with a time out, ended up with alone time in their bedrooms and removal of privileges.

As I sat down to read, pray and write, I was convicted of my own sin in the handling of the situation. My natural tendency is to fly off the handle when I am disrespected and move to judgement and punishment. In parenting, it is still important to quickly address and correct bad behavior, teaching and guiding your children in the truth of the Word, but the balance between truth and grace can be difficult to find in the moment. As their mom, my goal in correction should always be heart change.

My conviction came from Romans, a timely assignment!

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you the Judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself-that you will escape the judgment of God?

My sinful reaction in anger does not get to the heart of my children and it’s not how God reacts to my sin. Like Romans 2:4 says, “It’s the riches of God’s kindness and patience that leads us to repentance”.

By evening, after all the conversations, scriptures and apologies, my heart found favor in my children. Even after a long day, my heart STILL wanted to give my children good things and bestow on them grace and mercy. That is simply a reminder, a tiny glimpse of the incredible love the Lord has for his children and his desire for heart change over better behavior. His favor is not because of our good works and behavior but in spite of them, praise the Lord!

 Dear Heavenly Father, there are not enough words to thank you for your undeserved love and favor for me and my children. You are a good, good Father. Thank you for gently and lovingly pointing out my sin and leading me to repentance and back to you. Amen.

kateredding

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Genesis 30, Matthew 1; Esther 6; Romans 1

What is God up to?  Where is God in this?  I find myself often asking these questions.  In my small little world, my vision is limited to a narrow tunnel.  I know that I cannot see what God sees.  I only see my small little piece and even that is foggy.

But I have faith that God is always at work.  He is timeless and all-knowing.  He works in eternity and in the details.

God is at work throughout all of history.  God has the long view.  The genealogy of Jesus, laid out in Matthew 1:1-17, shows that God was there all along, working it out for us.  It reveals names that may be surprising.  Although we know how well God uses imperfect people.

God is at work when it seems like a coincidence.  Just when things looked really bad for Mordecai, God orchestrated him being honored as a hero.

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.  It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bogthana and Tersh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.”  (Esther 6:1-2)

God is at work regardless of our human attempts to manage.  In Jacob’s story, clearly only God could make Jacob’s flocks have offspring of different coloring.  Jacob’s attempt was futile.

“Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches…When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches.  And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.”  (Genesis 30:37-39)

Dear Lord, I am comforted to read about the ways that you work in our lives.  Clear the fog of my vision so that I can more clearly recognize the evidence of your work.  Let me see you in the midst of my days.  I have faith that you are at work always.

Diona

 

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Genesis 29; Matthew 28; Esther 5; Acts 28

God loves us even though “we know not what we do.”  His will is always done in spite of the deceptive behaviors of His people.

Laban deceived Jacob.

23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 But Laban said, “It is not [g]the practice in our place to [h]marry off the younger before the firstborn.27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” (Genesis 29: 23-27 NASB)

Elders deceived soldiers about Jesus’ resurrected body.

12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and [d]keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (Matthew 28:12-15 NASB)

Esther deceived Haman to catch him in his schemes.

So Esther replied, “My petition and my request is:if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do [e]what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do [f]as the king says.” (Esther 5:7-8 NASB)

The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul to change the people’s deceptive hearts.

    “Go to the people and say, you will keep on hearing, but will not

Understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;

For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears

They scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise

They might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and

Understand with their hearts and return, and I would heal them.”

(Acts 28:27 NASB)

Lord, search our hearts for any sign of deception that might keep us from You.  Give us the discernment to do Your will always.

-Kellie

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Genesis 28; Matthew 27; Esther 4; Acts 27

In Romans 8 we read: 28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

I was pleasantly reminded this week that there are so many different ways in which God reveals messages to us in His word and how council with others helps you to just stop, take a step back and really look at things differently compared to how you always look at things. This was such a wonderful example this week when I asked my dad to look into today’s readings and let me know what he thought about it and he sent me Romans 8:28. No matter what the plans of man may be. God is working for the good.

Genesis 28

We read in Genesis 27 that Jacobs mother Rebekah was a manipulator and together with Jacob had stolen his brother Esau’s blessings. Jacob had learned well from his mother and tried his own manipulation on God. A great example of how God uses the plans and even manipulations of man for good!

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 

Matthew 27

An amazing example of how God can take the worst plans, deeds and wickedness of people and use them to accomplish his purposes, which are always good. The ultimate price paid by Jesus who was sacrificed for us so that we may be saved……shows the incredible lengths that God would and will go to for us who love Him, in order to get it done.

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.

62The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

When we remember that all this is motivated by God’s love for us, it is mind boggling.

Esther 4

Evil plans are hatched to kill off all Gods people Israel

6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.

God already had people and things in place to protect the Jews

Acts 27

Paul endured really harsh circumstances, for not only is he imprisoned after being falsely accused but has to endure a violent storm at sea while being transported to Italy

14Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 

God allowed His servants (Jesus, Mordechai, Esther & Paul) to experience the harshest of circumstances and often the hatred of others in their service of Him. Despite devious plans, persecution, storms and the harshest of circumstances, God uses all these things for the good of those who love Him, because He loves us!

God Bless

Neil

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Genesis 27; Matthew 26; Esther 3; Acts 26

Jacob deceives and receives Esau’s blessing. Judas wants to know how much he’ll get to betray Jesus, and then looks for ways to do so. Peter and the others deny Jesus and scatter. Haman’s desire for power and recognition fuel his hatred at Mordecai’s resistance to bow down–a hatred whose end goal is an annihilation of a people. Paul recounts his days of opposition to Christ and his followers–and how his obedience to Christ now makes him the target.

Betrayal. Anger. Hatred. They all lead to deaths of sorts.

  • 41 From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.” Genesis 27:41, NLT
  • At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. Matthew 26:3, NLT
  • When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. Esther 3:5-6, NLT
  • 19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. 20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. 21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me.” Acts 26:19-21, NLT

A meal and a kiss in the Old Testament (from Genesis 27, parts of 17-27, NLT).

17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.

So Jacob took the food to his father, and Isaac ate it. He also drank the wine that Jacob served him. 26 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come a little closer and kiss me, my son.”

27 So Jacob went over and kissed him.

A meal and a kiss in the New Testament (from Matthew 26, parts of 20 through 49, NLT).

20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

And later, in the garden of Gethsemane … 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

I sit with these words. The bread. The wine. The blessing. The sacrifice.

Lord, you have the mighty power of forgiving sin–your love the sacrifice, broken and poured out. I sit with you today in wounding and in want, handing over the broken pieces, Lord.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 26; Matthew 25; Esther 2, Acts 25

Strengths, talents, and abilities. These are the internal resources that are essential to identify in those who struggle with addiction, low self-esteem, depression, and many other problems that cause impairment in day-to-day functioning.

Our Lord places in each of us gifts – talents, if you will. I remember taking one of those Christian surveys to determine my gifts so as to find my niche for serving the church. Organizational skills, faith, people skills were some of these identified gifts and abilities.  Even choosing a career was easy because I was drawn to a field where my strengths were needed.

For some people, however, knowing one’s talents or having the confidence to use those talents may be difficult. Many times life events have interrupted the development of these gifts from God – childhood trauma, extreme loss, disabling conditions, mental health disorders, etc. And some of us are simply unaware that what we have been given is something to use for God. Take Esther, for instance. She was “lovely and beautiful.” Those two words combined means she was in today’s world, ‘a perfect 10; model quality.’ Yet, growing up with her uncle Mordecai, both of her parents deceased; I can imagine that her beauty was not always appreciated. Girls can be jealous and vicious to the prettiest girl in the room. Who would have thought, however, that Esther would win the first beauty pageant in the Old Testament and become queen of a kingdom? Yet, at some point, Esther realized that she needed to hone her talent, gift of beauty and prepare for the big event. Until then, did she know her beauty would be used by God to position her to save the Jewish nation?

Sometimes I struggle with motivation or desire to use the abilities gifted by God. What happens when we tire of the ongoing work it takes to stay sharp, to keep producing excellent work, or to give so much of our time and energy to what God has called us to do? The parable of the talents in Matthew describes how God views our disregard for His giftings. Those who have much and use what they have been given for God’s glory are given more; those who have little but hide their ‘talent’ (the money to invest in this case) will lose even the little they were given. This isn’t about rich versus poor. This parable is to remind us that we are charged by God to be about doing His business. He will be pleased with our attempts to use the talents and abilities He has placed in us.

In the end, we all want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” Whether we dig ditches (think of Isaac’s talent for finding water and digging wells!), are persuasive orators (think of Paul’s eloquence in talking with kings and leaders), are skilled laborers, artists, counselors, stay at home moms/dads, and every other purposeful place of service, do all in the great name of our God. Let Jesus Christ be our model of sacrificial service, perfect obedience, and joyful giving to others what He enjoyed with His Father, and we, too, will find joy in honing and using our gifts for His glory!

 

Janet

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