Author Archives: gardnlady

2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Ephesians 5

We read in 2 Chronicles 31 that Hezekiah sought the Lord wholeheartedly in all that he did. Yet, the first sentence of 2 Chronicles 32 can make you question that.

After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. (2 Chron 32:1)

Wow—here is King Hezekiah tearing down statues and Asherah poles and leading the people away from false gods to follow the teachings of Moses and the one true God. These are all really good things he is doing out of love and devotion for God. Why would God allow this to happen?

Don’t I ask that same question? “Lord, I’ve been serving You doing all these good things for You! How could you let __________ (fill in the blank with any number of trials) happen?”

The truth is, I am not God and I have no clue what his plans for me entail. I know he is a good God, that he loves me, and anything that comes into my life he plans to use to draw me closer to him and make me more like Jesus. So, what am I to do when these trials come my way? I know my enemy is going to come after me—much like Hezekiah knew the Assyrians were on their way.

I think Hezekiah gave me some insight as how I can prepare. First, he looked at how the enemy might drain his resources or benefit from their resources. The battle might be a long one so he didn’t want to make it easy for the Assyrians to wait them out.

They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?”

Then, he fortified the city itself and found places of weakness where the enemy could easily enter. He also made sure he had weapons to protect the army.

Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces[a] in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.

Then he spoke truth into their minds–to fortify that as well. We know the enemy uses words to try to deceive us and intimidate us. Our minds and thoughts are right where those fiery darts are aimed! He will try to get me to be afraid and to doubt God. I need to have words of Truth to shield me and deflect the lies.

He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.

I need people encouraging me, reminding me that God will help me and fight my battles for me. I don’t have to go it alone. Of course, I need to prepare for battles to come my way because they will come. I need to take stock of my resources, my gifts, my talents. I need to make sure I haven’t left myself open to attack by unconfessed sin. The enemy can’t use what I’ve brought into the Light. I need to keep God’s Word handy. That is my weapon to protect myself from lies. And I need to have my close friends close by and praying for me. Isolation is one of the greatest ways the enemy chooses to devour me.

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Mostly, I need to stay connected to God through prayer. His guidance and direction are there for the asking. Just as he directed Hezekiah and Isaiah, he will direct me. Just as he fought their battle, he will fight for me.

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. (2 Chron 32:20-21)

Lord, I am so thankful for your love, your steadfast love. You are always there. I admit I do not always turn to you first when life comes at me. But I want to! I want to think of you first. I know I can trust you to be with me, to hear me when I cry out, and to direct my steps. You listen, you comfort, you correct, and you pick me up when I fall. You are my Abba who is my shelter in the storms of life. To you be the honor and glory forever. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Isaiah 8-11; Romans 11

Driving to work this morning I was thinking of the thread between the verses in Isaiah and the one in Romans. Isaiah writes of the prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Paul writes after the fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ. We live in the age waiting on the fulfillment of the new testament prophecy—His second coming.  God’s only son, Jesus, has always been and always will be our saving grace.  Like Paul, we have every reason to praise!

God is telling the Jews through the prophet Isaiah that there are some bad things coming their way because of their penchant for seeking to find fulfillment in things, not God. They have turned their attention away from him and are worshiping the idols made by man, believing the false prophets of the world, and not obeying or seeking him first.

13 For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent.
They will not seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
14 Therefore, in a single day the Lord will destroy both the head and the tail,
the noble palm branch and the lowly reed.
15 The leaders of Israel are the head,
and the lying prophets are the tail.
16 For the leaders of the people have misled them.
They have led them down the path of destruction. (Isaiah 9:13-16) NLT

Yet even in his anger, he gives them the hope that he would again pull the remnant of believers back to him.

20 In that day the remnant left in Israel,
the survivors in the house of Jacob,
will no longer depend on allies
who seek to destroy them.
But they will faithfully trust the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return;
yes, the remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.
22 But though the people of Israel are as numerous
as the sand of the seashore,
only a remnant of them will return.
The Lord has rightly decided to destroy his people.
23 Yes, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
has already decided to destroy the entire land. (Isaiah 10:20-23) NLT

There is One who is coming to make all things right.

In that day the heir to David’s throne[b]
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.[c]
11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,[d] and Elam;
in Babylonia,[e] Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
12 He will raise a flag among the nations
and assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
from the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 11:10-12) NLT

All this was prophesized hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.

Then, we have Paul who has come to understand these scriptures and how they pointed to Jesus. Having encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul now has been given the mission of persuading both Jews and Gentiles that this was always part of God’s plan to save us. He uses the scriptures that the Jews are well acquainted with to prove his point. However, we know not all the Jews accepted his words and so Paul turned to the Gentiles. Paul ends this chapter with praise to God for His great plan for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?[l]
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?[m]

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Lord, thank you for the plan of salvation that has been prophesied since the beginning. I am so blessed to be on the other side to see your glorious plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I pray to be as bold as Paul and spread this good news to others by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Your word is as alive and applicable today as it was when Paul taught the early believers. All glory to You forever. In Jesus name. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Isaiah 1-3; Romans 1

18 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.
19 If you will only obey me,
you will have plenty to eat.
20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 1:18-20) NLT

There are times the Lord has warned me—“that is not a good choice you are making.” He’s spoken to me through his word. But I, like the Israelites, tend to be “stiff-necked” and wanting my own way. Surely, I know better. What can be the harm of doing things my way? So, the proverbial “sword of your enemies” enters the picture. I tend to learn some lessons the hard way! Thankfully, there is repentance. Through Jesus, my sins are white as snow.

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.[g] 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Rom 1:16-17) NLT

I believe the Good News about Christ. I believe Jesus forgives my sins. Oh, how I wish he didn’t have to forgive as many as he does. I am thankful he makes me aware. The longer I walk with him, the more it grieves me when I haven’t acted as I know he would want me to act. I lose my temper, I say unkind words, I miss opportunities to be his hands and feet out of fear or because I’m just “too busy”. I complain way too much instead of trusting. If I look through my lens, I certainly don’t see a person becoming more like Jesus. But that is what is so good about the Good News. He does see the changes; he does not give up on me. With every pound of that hammer on the nails that held him to the cross, he showed how much he loves me and wants me to be with him. I am righteous because of him.

Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart[d] by spreading the Good News about his Son.

10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (Romans 1:8-12)

My small group has recently completed studying the book of Acts which is the account of how the church began and grew. As we read through the book, I could not help but notice how often Paul spoke of his prayers. In particular, he prayed to go to Rome. God answered that prayer after many years but certainly not in the way he expected. He went through so much hardship getting there: shipwrecks, flogging, imprisonment to mention a few. Yet he “counted it all joy” to suffer for Christ. How often do I pray for an opportunity to serve but I am unwilling (or complain) about the path God has chosen to answer that prayer? He was willing to endure whatever God asked in order to spread the Good News.

I love the basic principle he brought out— “I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” I have noticed how much it encourages me to hear someone else’s testimony of faith. As thankful as I am to have my own testimony to share, it excites me to hear about God working in someone else’s life. Just that act of listening to someone else can be a gift to both of us.

Lord, I pray for the opportunity to encourage others by sharing my story and to be encouraged by listening to theirs. The Good News of Jesus and his love for us is too good to keep to ourselves. I pray to be as focused as Paul to tell as many people as possible of eternal life through belief in Jesus. In his mighty name I pray. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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2 Kings 4-5; Psalm 83; Matthew 27

God is such a personal God and his timing never ceases to amaze me. Being single and reaching retirement age (too quickly I might add) has begun to concern me. What if I get sick? What if I don’t have enough retirement saved up? What if, what if, what if. Fear can be overwhelming if I let it. I have prayed about this A LOT. It is difficult for me to let go and trust God in this area—I feel I need to control everything.

Recently when I’ve taken this to him, he gave me the word “manna”. Manna? What does that mean Lord? You gave the Israelites manna every day, they weren’t to take more than a day’s worth except on Sabbath, it was your provision for them for 40 years. Hmmm! Enter today’s readings in 2 Kings 4.

 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

God provided for her to pay her debts and have money to live.

11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’”

She replied, “I have a home among my own people.”

14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked.

Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

God provided a son to take care of his parents in their old age. He became sick and died, but Elisha brought him back to life.

43 “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” 44 Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

I am well acquainted with the verses quoted which are all examples of God’s provision. Yet today when I read them they became personal. God was using them to teach me, to assure me, to remind me of his great love for me. Has he not taken care of me thus far in my life? Yes! Did he not provide for me the year I was unemployed? Yes!! Emphatically yes! Why do I doubt him now? The idea of “the rest of my life” has a big question mark as to the length of time. Manna is God assuring me that he took care of his chosen people for 40 years, but they had to live trusting him day by day. And every day the manna showed up. God never changes. He will provide for me as he did for the widow, the Shunamite woman, and the hundreds. Everyone had enough.

Lord, learning to live in that place of trusting you daily is an on-going process for me. I thank you that you speak to me, assure me, give me examples right from your word that you hear me. I can rest as long as I stay in today. The future is in your hands—not mine. I surrender it to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Song of Solomon 1-3; Psalm 94; Matthew 18

I’ve spent the last few weekends going through boxes in my basement. I have run across pictures I had forgotten, relived memories of special occasions, and gotten to see the faces of loved ones who have passed away—my mom, dad, brother, grandparents. In one corner of the basement are all the boxes I brought from my mother’s house after she died. They have been untouched for five years. One box, in particular, contained an old brown picture album with the black pages where the pictures were neatly held in place at the corners. As I went through the pictures, I wish so much my mother was there. She would have remembered who everyone was. She would have reminded me of the details of stories I thought I’d never forget—yet I have. I wanted to ask her so many questions. I wish I had written names on the back of pictures or written down the stories of our relatives and their lives. There was so much wisdom that was shared by generations but forgotten over time.

Reading through the parables in Matthew 18, I thought of Jesus and how important it was for him to share the words his father gave him for us. How blessed we are to have them written down so we won’t forget! I can imagine a sense of urgency each day that he was here knowing it was only a short amount of time before he would be gone from the disciples. As he taught them, they listened to the stories, and, unlike me with all the stories my mom shared, they remembered them. I’ve read these stories many times over the years but they have changed. They have become personal. It’s almost as if, in my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus looking past the people he’s with and looking directly at me as he speaks. I feel like he really wants me to get it!

In this chapter, there were some harsh words of warning against causing another to sin:

6“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

His teaching on the lost sheep reminded me of my own story and how I was once that lost sheep he came and rescued. 14“In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Thank you, Jesus, for coming after me!

He gives us a story on forgiveness and how important it is—especially considering how much we’ve been forgiven!  22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Psalm 94 reminds me that I am blessed to have the Lord’s teaching, even if it comes in the form of discipline. His words are meant to protect me.

12 Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
the one you teach from your law;
13 you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.

I am so thankful that God has not left me here without any kind of direction. I have his Word and his Spirit to guide me. I love to imagine myself sitting on the ground, legs crisscrossed, at the feet of Jesus listening intently as he teaches about the goodness of his Father. He tells me of his great love for me—ME—that lost sheep who had almost given up. Who is such a sinner. Yet he tells me I’m forgiven, and because of that, I’m to forgive others.

Heavenly Father, your love continually amazes me. The depth of love you have for us is shown through Jesus. I pray I will always sit at his feet and listen to his stories—stories of you. In His name I pray.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Proverbs 9-12; Matthew 8

As I read through today’s passages, the theme of “storms” stood out for me—maybe because they really are such a part of life. They come in all intensities. Some are threatening but never materialize. Some hit but then blow over quickly leaving minimal damage. Then there are the ones that hover for days and leave great destruction in their wake. That’s the kind of storm that changes the landscape of everything familiar. By the grace of God, I am thankful I’ve survived them all! But, I certainly did not do it in my own strength. However, those storms are when I’ve learned some of the most profound lessons from God about God.

I must admit, some of the storms have been of my own doing.

29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

Instead of following “the way of the LORD”, I chose my own way and I can assure it was a storm I could have avoided. All the signs were there: the dark clouds, the wind, and the change in barometer. Instead of heading to my refuge to wait it out, I headed straight into the storm. That storm was probably the beginning of wisdom for me. (Job 28:8–And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”)

Then, there was the storm that was not of my doing. Choices were made by others that changed the course of my life and took me in a completely different direction. That storm is where I learned to stand on the truth of God. Sometimes the weather was so bad I couldn’t see in front of me but God was my lighthouse that led the way. That storm changed the landscape of everything familiar. At the end of that storm, there were people no longer in my life and I realized the great pain of letting go was God’s way of showing me how to let him in. Through that I found a life I didn’t know was possible.

25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.

Then there was the one that I thought was a storm, but turned out to be a blessing. Oh yes, while I was going through it, it looked like a storm and I thought I would drown. But truthfully, when it was over, all I could do was marvel at God’s faithfulness. There was a purpose to that storm unlike any of the others. I went into it gripped with fear but THAT one, above all the others, was where I witnessed Jesus rebuke the winds and the waves. I witnessed a miracle!

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

As long as I have breath in my body, the opportunity for storms in my life exists. But God has shown me how to weather them. He’s taught me where to go (under his wings), what to do (trust him), and to ride out the storm with him as my captain. I know that he alone is my safe haven.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for your faithfulness in my life. I would not be where I am today without your guidance as we passed through some choppy waters. I thought for sure I was going to go under but you always kept my head above water. Forgive me for the times I doubted. In Jesus name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; 2 Corinthians 12; Psalm 78

Today’s readings reminded me of how present God is in our lives and how he hears our prayers. We can cry out to him when we need direction and we need healing. We may not get the answer we want but we can trust in his goodness. It starts with Solomon:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:5-9) NIV

Solomon offers sacrifices to the Lord, and cries out to him for direction on how to be king and lead the people of Israel. God answers his prayer and gives him the gift of wisdom to rule wisely.

Paul cries out when he has been afflicted:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7b-10) NIV

Paul’s prayer was not answered as he had prayed. God did not remove the “thorn”. God’s answer made Paul realize that he would be a better representative of Christ for any suffering he might endure. Paul endured much hardship, persecution and difficulty that can only be accounted to the very presence of God with him.

That same God is with me every day. Psalm 78 reminds me how quickly I can forget his presence and all he has done in my life. It is a reminder of the story of the Israelites and how God was with them from the beginning. I have my own story of parting seas, manna in the wilderness, and Promised Land victories over my enemies. When I feel weak, I pull out my journals and reread the story of God working in my life. He’s held me when I cried and reprimanded me when I needed correction. There are prayers he didn’t answer that now, looking back, were a blessing. Then, there are the prayers that were answered in ways I didn’t expect that far surpassed my imagination. Through it all I know I am dearly loved and never alone.

Lord, your presence is everything and I am so thankful that you call me your child. Sometimes I get caught up in my circumstances and take my eyes off Jesus. That is when I start to sink. But you quickly reach out and catch me. I am so grateful you are ever-present, as close as a whispered prayer, and always have my best interest at heart. I know I’ve not always followed through and had to go around the same mountain a time or two, but you’ve patiently allowed me to see your way is far better. You are the solid rock beneath my feet. I love you more each day. Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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