Monthly Archives: June 2017

Joshua 2; Psalm 123-125, Isaiah 62; Matthew 10

Joshua 2

1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

God directed the spies to Rahab’s house because he knew her heart was open to him and that she would be instrumental in the Israelite victory over Jericho. God often uses people with simple faith to accomplish his great purposes, no matter what kind of past they had or how significant they seem to be. Rahab didn’t allow her past to keep her from the new role God had for her. Just think what marvellous things he could do with us of little faith….

Psalm 123 – 125

124:7 We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken,

and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

 Do you ever feel trapped by overwhelming odds?  With God there is always a way out because he is the Creator of all things. We can turn to the Creator for help in our time of need , for he is on our side. God will provide a way out, we need only to trust him and look for it

Isaiah 62

1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your vindication,

and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;  for the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married. 5 As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, 7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

Isaiah prayed without resting, hoping that Israel would be saved. We should have Isaiah’s zeal to see God’s will be done. This is what we mean when we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  It is good to pray persistently.

Matthew 10

7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

The Jews were waiting for the Messiah to usher in his kingdom. They hoped for a political and military kingdom that would free them from Roman rule and bring back the days of glory under David and Solomon. But Jesus was talking about a spiritual kingdom. The gospel  today is still that the kingdom is near!

God Bless

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Joshua 1; Psalms 120-122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

We just finished up the last of extracurricular activities last Sunday, and Monday–what felt like the first official day of summer vacation–I got my first back-to-school sale ad by email. Tuesday, the curriculum I ordered recently for the next school year arrived.

My couch has three pens, a blanket, at least five books at any given time, a notebook or two, and a pair of reading glasses strewn up on it when I’m not expecting company. One book I’m reading is Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (no affiliate link or paid endorsement, but definitely a good, short, rich read before the school year, and an encouragement in the middle). She reminds the reader that “rest is not ease” and that “peace comes from recognizing that our real task is to wake up each day and get our marching orders from God. It comes from diligence to the work He hands us, but diligence infused with faith, with resting in God’s promises to guide us and bless us” (Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest, Classical Academic Press, 2015, page 4).

Reading in Joshua, the Lord tells him:

“I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5b-9, NLT)

Joshua tells the tribes:

13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’ 14 Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River. But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory. Stay with them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has given you rest, and until they, too, possess the land the Lord your God is giving them. (Joshua 1:13-15, NLT)

I’m not physically conquering lands, but I am getting marching orders each day. Some days it has felt like a hustle, and I think on the words that rest is not ease. I find comfort, strength and encouragement in God’s word–of his presence and faithfulness, his trustworthiness and power.

The psalms:

I took my troubles to the Lord;
    I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. (Psalm 120:1, NLT)

And,

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. (Psalm 121:1-8, NLT)

The Lord, who comforts, who brings good out of bad, who restores and provides (Isaiah 61). My overwhelm turns from task to joy in the Lord my God.

Matthew 9:2b, NLT, Jesus speaks to the paralyzed man: “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” The man gets up from his mat and walks.

He calls to Matthew in Matthew 9:9b, NLT, “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

The woman who suffered twelve years: 22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:22, NLT)

Lord, your word is full of examples of your presence and power. Even when the day is full, I can find rest in you–that you are with me, you are sovereign, and you love me as your child.

Courtney (66books365)

 

Listening to Elevation Worship’s Here as in Heaven

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Deuteronomy 33,34; Psalm 119:145-176; Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

To the Leper: Without discrimination or hesitation: “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed,’” (Matthew 8:3). What are my biases, my prejudices? How many times have I withheld my hands from reaching out to strangers, the homeless, those who are needy? Where did I rationalize caution when obedience would have best mirrored Christ?

To the Centurion:  Without hesitation or stipulation: “And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him,’” (Matthew 8:7). How have routine and self-imposed obligations built a wall of separation from the immediacy outside of my world? How often have I held back from offering a hand and depended on the prompt responses of others to do what I would not?

To King David: Without fear of rejection and with assurance of God’s covenantal love and His just nature, David calls out: “Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O Lord, revive me according to Your justice,” (Psalm 119:149). When was the last time that I praised God for His lovingkindness and supported His acts of justice? How often do I seek Him with confidence that He has loving thoughts toward me?

To Moses: Without complaint or argument: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there…by the mouth of Hashem,” (Deut 34:5, 6). The mouth of Hashem has been interpreted as the Divine Kiss. How is it that I continue to wrestle with the sting of death instead of the joy of my salvation? Do I long to see Christ face to face only to ask about earthly matters?

After a self-examination, I am tempted to sink to the ground in despair. I still know what it feels like to sin. I have heard it said God looks down at me and sees me dipped in the cleansing blood of Christ. However, in my human nature, I do not feel perfect or holy. Yet, I will be perfect in holiness one day – not because I finally get it right or because I have stored up enough good deeds to outweigh the sins that will burn before my eyes (and the Lord’s eyes!). Rather, I will be changed from this woman struggling to fight the good fight into the beloved bride of Christ by the same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead.

To Me/to all His beloved: “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you,” (Isaiah 60:1). Without doubt and with a contented sigh, take a deep breath: Deut 33:26, 27 says, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms…”

I confess that I need God to be the Divine Warrior who is always ready to be my protector, even though I may start the fight. I need Him to be a place where I can run when my poor decisions or unintentional mistakes cause chaos and distress to chase after me. I need the assurance of God’s strong arm that delivers me with love and with power when I am least able to defend myself. Nothing can compare to the way God shows Himself to His beloved.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Deut. 32; Ps.119:121-144; Isa. 59; Matt. 7

Is ignorance really bliss?

It’s amazing to me that in this play we call “life”, how quickly many assume the part of judge, often rendering judgement on others and formulating conclusions without a word being spoken! Yet, we despise the thought of being judged by others as they don’t know our story…

Several years ago, while in engineering school, I remembered seeing a girl in the Student Center, dressed as though she belonged in the year 2017, but in 1983. Without exchanging a single word with this young woman, I had labeled her a freak, convinced that she was a loser, someone who was into drugs. My friends and I speculated what she could possibly do once she graduated, that’s even if she would graduate! On graduation day, after receiving our diplomas and returning to our seats, one of my friends nudged me to tell me to look on stage at who was to received their diploma. It was the same young woman who we had labeled as a loser… only to find out that she was graduating summa cum laude, with a double major AND double minor, all focused on mathematics and physics, with a 4.0 GPA in each of her programs of study… and all completed in four years! Can I chalk this up to being young and foolish? Perhaps… but what was really going on here? Is judgement inate? Or is it just easier to judge others based on pre-conceived ideas of what we believe is ‘right’, as not judging requires work and offering grace?

Before looking at scripture, consider this… when Jesus returns, what will He look like? What will He be wearing? I’ve wondered lately if He’ll come back dressed as my classmate several years ago just to see how He’ll be treated… particularly by Christians who are called to a higher standard.

If there is one theme to take from Matthew 7:1-5, it is that judgement is best left to God, as judgement left to His children, can, and often does, get messy. In the first two verses of this chapter, we’re warned against passing judgement upon others, because when we do, we will be judged in a similar manner.

“For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

So, Jesus doesn’t forbid the judgement of others, but does warn us that our judgement be fair, and that judgment be imposed based on a standard that we would also desire to be judged by! Hopefully, wisdom has us, as Christians, taking the higher road, as there are times when we aren’t sure of what’s inside our own hearts… battling mixed emotions, half-hearted desires for goodness, and character flaws that fall short of God’s standards. Would we want others to see us and render judgement during these seasons of life?

We’re better off not trying to play God for others, and we certainly weren’t created to be anyone’s holy spirit and conscience. (Thank you Jesus!!) What a burden THAT would be to have to identify everything we thought was wrong about others. Not only would we face the pressure of having to be right in our judgement, but we would also need to make sure our own lives were faultless before we cast judgment on others!

In a very deeper sense, God gave us a gift by not granting us the ability to read other people’s hearts, and asks us not to judge others according to our own standards. And as a people, we should be grateful, that in this case, ignorance really is bliss! Instead, were called to offer those we encounter with, grace, and leave judgement to the One we can trust to be the one true, fair, and just judge.

Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping me ignorant of the deep places of other people’s hearts. Please help me to value Your Holy Spirit working in them, as well as in me, to mold each of us as You see fit, and please help me not to intrude where I don’t belong… Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Deuteronomy 31; Psalm 119; Isaiah 58; Matthew 6

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. ESV

Matthew 6

34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ESV

Anxiety has always plagued me. In and out of life and seasons, it waits for me. There have been periods of time when the torment has been worse, much worse than others. And these have coincided- with seasons of physical imbalance and illness. And O! the relief when the anxiety abates and the frantic thread running through my mind and body finally calms and is still.

The spiritual power and life available to me in Christ is a healing provision. The power of the Word brings healing and peace to a mind troubled and full of unrest; the power of a verse to be an anchor in the storm. I am grateful for all the means of grace in my life- from household filtration systems to the gentle healing of the Lord through time and nutrition. And always, the Word.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g]  Matthew 6 ESV

The Lord is so gentle in His assurance of His complete care and full knowledge. I often ponder this verse. Anxiety cannot add a single hour to life but it can reduce a life. The Lord speaks of value. The Lord speaks of what is important. Life is more than food and drink and clothing. This I know.

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  Matthew 6 ESV

The Lord knows my need. And He cares not only for the need…but He adorns in beauty, too. And He beautifies that which lasts a moment. What does this mean for me? The extravagant beauty of my Lord.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6 ESV

Lord, what have I learned through a lifetime battle with anxiety but to trust You more and lean on You like a little child. I have learned of Your compassion and Your mercy; Your goodness and Your grace. Your generous giving ministers to my heart. You are bigger than my anxiety. I try to trust when the storm rages and praise when all is calm. I have learned gratitude for the good, peaceful times and strength to cling when it is hard. I have tasted the power of Your Word.

Help me recognize all the ways anxiety ravages my soul, and in those moments- seek You. Help me to meditate on Your Word. Help me to treasure it, cling to it, live by it, and memorize it. Your Word is life.

Psalm 119:114

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word. ESV

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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Deuteronomy 30; Psalm 119:73-96; Isaiah 57; Matthew 5

After an intense Spring of work, celebrations, weddings, graduations, baby showers and the like, summer came to a slow halt. It started with a road trip to Maine. My sister and I loaded up my  elderly parent’s car with their gear and drove north to get them settled for the summer. They flew in a couple of days later, we had a family reunion and then I had a quiet couple of rainy days with them. And God started to slow me down and start speak to my heart.

It began with a book  about how phones are changing us. I was expecting it to tell me to toss it out, but it didn’t, but I did fall under the conviction that I am distracted because I want to be distracted.  I am not fully convinced that God can satisfy me. Isaiah nails me:

When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away. But whoever takes refuge in me shall posses the land and inherit my holy mountain. Isaiah 57:13

God continues his relentless pursuit of me. The very first night of a weekly outreach to international students which I help lead I became ill. Ten days and a doctor’s visit later, I am still worn out from coughing, but God has been faithful. He’s been pulling me close to him. He’s given me no choice but to rest and pray.

Prayer isn’t my forte. It’s something that I know that I am supposed to do and it’s supposed to work, but I get much more of a sense of power when I DO. There’s a sense of self importance, a buzz from being busy.  But God’s been working without my physical presence (news flash: the world can go on without me) while allowing me to be part of his work through prayer. I am seeing the world through a different set of eyes and it’s beautiful.

The lessons are about emptying out of self, but not in a Buddhist sense. The Holy Spirit is continually clearing this house of idols and self so that it can be filled with something much better: his presence. It’s a process of replacing old, broken pieces with exquisite furniture.

Left to my own efforts, the process is hopeless. I hear the words of Jesus, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. and am intimidated, but not for long. It’s not my goodness nor my power that gets me into the presence of God, it’s the goodness and mercy of Christ. It’s his righteousness that he invites me to assume, that I may enjoy the presence and favor of God.

Lord, Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to the promise to your servant Psalm 119:76. I am yours, save me (v94). Thank you for your goodness, patience, mercy and joy. Amen.

Kathy

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Deut. 29; Ps.119:49-72; Isa. 56; Matt. 4

Of course I know bad things happen. And being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt me from them. Yet, why am I still surprised by tragedy and heartache?

There were seasons of the sometimes-struggle: things in the Grand Scheme that shouldn’t have carried the weight they did. It didn’t surprise me when hate came from unbelievers. But it did when unkindness came from a believing friend. That one took me a surprisingly long time to get over. During that time, it was the closest I had ever felt to Jesus. Oh, Lord, who loves even the outcasts.

For the Sovereign Lord,
    who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
    besides my people Israel.” (Isaiah 56:8, NLT)

Another difficult season presented itself, and perseverance seemed impossible. I almost quit. In a snowy winter, being back in the woods, I was delightfully home-bound to hibernate and process and pray.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country— all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other alcoholic drink, but he provided for you so you would know that he is the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 29:2-6, NLT)

I prayed a lot that winter. Friends prayed for me and over me. I saw the battlefield. I learned that prayer is not a last defense. When God moved, I was stunned and speechless. I wondered why it surprised me so, when he is sovereign in everything.

This year I planned for balance and simplicity. My one word, restore. But winter brought loss after loss. A mother-in-law. A father. A sister’s (ongoing) health crisis. The loss of a friend. A niece. This heart, pummeled.

These months have felt like a persistent storm.

49 Remember your promise to me;
    it is my only hope.
50 Your promise revives me;
    it comforts me in all my troubles. (Psalm 119:49-50, NLT)

In this world, there will be trouble. There will be things that wound, that don’t seem right (because they aren’t!), that are brutal and senseless. There will be things that haunt and shame. The wounding doesn’t have to defeat me like it once did.

71 My suffering was good for me,
    for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
72 Your instructions are more valuable to me
    than millions in gold and silver. (Psalm 119:71-72)

When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted by Satan, Jesus responded to the enemy with clarity, “No, the scriptures say …”

I will still cry over losses. I will still wrestle with wounding. But God’s Spirit is inside of me. His Word strengthens and instructs me. Without him, the truth and trustworthiness of him, how would I hope?

Father God, because of who you are, your sovereignty and mighty power, I don’t need to rely on my own shaky hopes–I can stand confidently on your word. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

Courtney (66books365)

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