Monthly Archives: June 2017

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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Deuteronomy 28:20-68; Psalm 119:25-48; Isaiah 55; Matthew 3

Lately I’ve been contemplating the reason for the lack of contentment I feel in my life at times. I have to admit there are times I am not satisfied with my life.  Now in some instances, this can be a good thing.  If I am not growing in my walk with God, I should be dissatisfied.  If I am living outside of God’s will and know it, I should be dissatisfied.  If I see injustice in the world or in the lives of those I love, I should be dissatisfied.  This dissatisfaction is God’s righteousness at work in me and should push me to action.  That is not the kind of dissatisfaction that is plaguing me.

27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. 28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. 29 Keep me from deceitful ways;  be gracious to me and teach me your law.

As this has marinated in my mind, I realized this dissatisfaction comes from a place of pride—utter self-centeredness and entitlement. In other words–SIN. In my own eyes, I don’t “see” God working in my life.  In all honesty, what I mean by that is He isn’t doing what I want Him to do.  There is nothing big going on in my life, and I’m not doing great things for the kingdom.   I am becoming impatient with waiting for God to answer some prayers.  I am comparing what I perceive Him to be doing in someone else’s life against what I perceive Him to be doing in mine.  In slips dissatisfaction for what I don’t have instead of gratitude for what I do (forbidden fruit ring a bell???).  There is no doubt I make a pretty lousy God yet that is what I have done—elevated my own self above God.  Oh Lord, forgive me!

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.[b]  34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands,  for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.

I am not very proud to admit this and have had to repent before the Lord. But we have a loving God who corrects and never shames.  He reminded me of a few things.  This very morning the sun rose as it always does.  I woke up in a nice, comfy bed in a nice cool house that He provided.  My heart is working, my brain is working, my lungs are working, and my muscles are working.  As I sip my tea, I look out at my yard that is filled with summer flowers in radiant colors and listen to birds filling the air with their songs.  Then I go to my job, a job He provided.  During the course of the day I had abundant food, I laughed with friends, and I got hugs from healthy grandchildren. God created the universe and He created my body.  Everything in this world is an example of His work.  He is constantly at work despite what my self-centered self thinks.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Keeping my eyes fixed on Him, His creation, and His provision gives me clear sight into the work He is doing in my life. The world has programmed us for bigger, better, more spectacular in everything to show off.  God chooses to work through the tiny, miniscule details.  He works through the Holy Spirit inside of us to change us.  It is not something we can see. Filling my thoughts with gratitude for who He is and what Jesus did for us leaves no room for dissatisfaction.  It causes nothing but praise to come to mind.

41 May your unfailing love come to me, Lord, your salvation, according to your promise;

Lord, spending time with you gives me great satisfaction. When I submit to the truth that You are God and I am not, I have set my life back in its proper order.  Every day you are busily at work.  When I am still and allow my eyes to focus on You, I can see this clearly.  How blessed I am that You love me despite my sin.  Thank you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Deuteronomy 27-28:19; Psalm 119:1-24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

I read about his promises, his provision, his protection.

When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you—a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (Deuteronomy 27:2-3, NLT)

He shows the way. It is a path made by love, loving guidance and instruction.

Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
    when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me! (Psalm 119:1-8, NLT)

 

His word is truth.

14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”

23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:14-15, 17-18, 23, NLT)

Lord, you are the Father who delights in me. You comfort me in my distress. You strengthen me in my weakness. You make a path straight for me, so I can walk in joy. You protect me. You provide for me. Your promises are trustworthy. You are trustworthy. Your love never fails. By your love, you show me how to love. By your love, you show me how to live. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deut. 26, Ps. 117, 118, Isa. 53, Matt. 1

What’s in a name?

I remember just before my two daughters were born, the arduous process of selecting just the right name for our unseen treasures. First, a list of names was created and thought was given to which sounded right. But, I recall one night having a dream… perhaps I was overthinking the name selection process. In the dream, I was asked what the baby’s name was, I couldn’t speak… and I remember having a handful of index cards intended to hold the names being considered, and when I offered the cards as possible options, each card was blank. It was then that I realized that this name selection process had a much deeper meaning… that perhaps we needed to consider something more than how the name sounded. After researching a number of names for their meaning, it became clear that there was a definite connection between the name given to a child and the destiny of that child. God’s Word speaks of the tremendous power of the tongue. As such, the choice of names for our children has the power to impact their journey in life more than we can imagine!

Names were especially important to the Israelites. Often times throughout the Bible, babies were named to symbolize events surrounding their birth or for prophetic reasons affecting a circle of influence wider than one family, even as great as an entire nation. While reviewing the passages for today’s posting, I found it interesting that Matthew began his Gospel with a long list of names leading up to Jesus’ birth. Going through the genealogy had me wanting to get past the long, unpronounceable names in order to get to what I thought was the real reason of Matthew 1. I learned that genealogy should not be scanned too casually as, in this case, it led to the crescendo in the announcement of our Savior’s birth and naming.

The genealogy in Matthew 1 reveals a very unique and important slice of history… many generations who waited for their Messiah to come. Finally, in one unassuming night in Bethlehem, our Savior was born. Of all the names God could have chosen, He selected one with exceptional meaning for His precious Son… Immanuel… God is with us! (Matthew 1:23) With the simple act of naming His Son, God sent a message to His people that he would be with them forever. Immanuel wasn’t just a name, but a promise, a hope, a fulfillment of prophecy, and the beginning of a legacy… the turning point of eternity.

Even in the midst of terrible tragedy revealed in Isaiah 53, the name of Jesus evoked great hope over death. The spikes that pierced His wrist left holes that He filled with the souls of those who accept His salvation. And in a beautiful twist of irony, those holes made it possible for Him to fill up our emptiness with His wholeness. We are all living in Immanuel’s legacy… today, many generations after Jesus received His name, God is still with us. Even the psalmist attests to this and praises God, calling upon us to give thanks to God for the grace and blessings bestowed on all of us… that there is a Redeemer that is with us always (Ps. 117, 118)!

So… what’s in a name? When it comes to Jesus’ name… everything!

Sweet Jesus… with the simple speaking of your name… thank you for being the hope of the world. May my life point others to its meaning for them… Amen!

P.S. What’s in a name in my world? My daughter Brianna’s name means strong… a name characterized with a deep inner desire to inspire others in a higher cause. If any of you know my daughter, you know how true this is of her… incredibly strong willed; recently graduated and certified as a teacher, wanting to devote her life to teaching and inspiring elementary age children… what better calling than to positively influence the mind of a child. Julia, has a name characterized as youthful with a desire for order and physical creativity. Not sure I agree with the order characteristic, but her creative outlook on life helps to balance an otherwise overly analytical family!

Greg (gstefanelli)

From the archives. Originally posted June 21, 2013

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