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Genesis 32-34; Luke 10

Genesis 32:27-29

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

“No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” 

“Why do you ask my name?” the man replied.

 Then he blessed Jacob there.

This text humbles me.

Because there’s something here that I’ve missed all along.

Every other time I’ve read the story, I’ve gone the same route:

Trying to ‘figure it out’

Asking questions like,

Who is the man Jacob wrestles with?

 Is it an angel?

 Is it Jesus?

 What’s the point?

 Is it about wrestling with God in prayer?

 Why doesn’t the author just explain it?

Missing what’s there right in front of me.

Jacob asks the question I keep asking.

And the man answers.

“Why do you ask my name?”

As an American I tend to miss things like this, we aren’t exactly the type of culture that chooses names with a purpose, let alone one that allows seeks the Lord’s counsel in naming our children. A friend of mine had a girl in his middle school Boys and Girls Club program named

‘La-a’

(pronounced ‘La-dash-uh’)

Yep.

But in the ancient cultures, a name wasn’t just an arbitrary word to keep track of different people, like a tracking number,

A name meant something.

 A name was who you are.

 Jacob’s name was important.

Heel-Grabber, one who contends with,

His name proved to be true,

Getting his brother’s birthright, as well as his blessing,

Gaining wealth from Laban’s flocks,

The debacle with Rachel and Leah,

Strife seemed to follow him wherever he went.

The man asks Jacob his name, not so he knows what to call him, but he’s asking him:

at the deepest level of your being Jacob,

Who are you?

 and when Jacob tries to turn it around and ask the same question?

It’s not about me right now, Israel

 It’s about you, and who you’re going to be,

 because of me

 And there’s the simple, but impossibly hard question I need to ask myself before every action,

before every word,

today.

What’s my name?

 Who does God say that I am?

Lord help me to become more and more, Who I am in you, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight.

 -Samuel,

son of Paul.

son of God.

From the archives. Originally published by (anglinsam) January 13, 2014.

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Job 8-11; Revelation 12

Human suffering is wrong. We are not made for it and yet it is a tangible reminder that things are not right with the world and points to something, someone beyond our understanding…God.  The unwelcome twins, Grief and Pain settle in with Job and refuse to leave. It’s a full body-mind assault 24/7 and brings him to the very edge of life. Even his wife begs him to put an end to his suffering, “Curse God and die,” but he can’t. His belief that God hears his pleas and is somehow good and just beyond his meager understanding serves as the thin thread that keeps him hanging on.

Job can not look to his righteousness and intellect to save him, “But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?” Job 9:2-4.

 The God who created the universe and continues to provide life and breath withholds healing. Job may feel a million miles away from God, but that doesn’t change the reality of His existence: “When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.” Job 9:11.

 But then Job asks, if not prays, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it is now stands with me, I cannot.” Job 9:33-35.

Job’s seemingly rhetorical questions prove to be prophetic. The great arbitrator, the Messiah comes and takes on the curse intended for all mankind. I don’t have to suffer the consequences of my sin. Jesus goes to the Cross and his Resurrection breaks the power of sin and death over us. Once a stranger,  I am invited into the very presence of God having been made clean by the righteousness of Jesus.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” Revelation 12:10.

 The evil spell is broken. In this world, I will know pain, grief and sorrow, but because I hold on to Jesus, I will never be separated from God. He endured that separation, so I would never have to. I am always invited, always welcomed into God’s presence. Short and sweet, God wins.

Dear Father,  thank you there is so much more to life than what I see and understand. Thank you, Jesus for taking up my sin and shame and making me whole so that I am learning what it means to enjoy the Father’s presence. Let suffering and pain remind me that I am made for your Kingdom. Today Holy Spirit, with my feet firmly planted in this world, show me how to live as a citizen of your country, under your authority and free from the accusations of the enemy. Your word is the last word and stands forever. Amen

 Kathy (klueh)

 From the archives. Originally published December 16, 2016.

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Obadiah; Jeremiah 40-42; Psalm 147; 1 Peter 5

I have been thinking a lot this week about the flow pattern of my quiet time with the Lord. I am constantly seeking him for wisdom and guidance. I want to see the Lord and hear from him in new ways. I ask for him to speak to me and I tell him I will be obedient to his call on my life. Have you ever thought about the words you pray to the Lord? I mean really thought of them? We go to church and sing songs of worship to him like “wherever you lead, I will follow” and “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…wherever you would call me.” Have you really thought of the meaning of those words?

The prophet Jeremiah was a young but brave soul who served the Lord through thick and thin. Here we see the people coming to him again for advice and asking Jeremiah to go to the Lord on their behalf for what their next steps should be. They promised they would be obedient to whatever the Lord told Jeremiah to tell them:

“Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:2-6

When I do hear from him, though, I am often unwilling to move. I find excuses to stay inside my comfort zone instead of stepping out in faith and following him where he leads. So often, it is fear that holds me back because I can’t see what’s up ahead. It’s easy to serve the Lord where I know I will be safe but when I must move beyond the walls of comfort, I feel unbalanced and shaky. But I must remember that protection comes from His loving hand and not the walls I have so carefully built.

Moving beyond my convenient, happy, and contented life may require some discomfort and ultimately sacrifice. I may be in situations that are not “safe” but this life is only temporary as are the sufferings. Peter’s words encourage my heart that no matter what lies ahead, focusing my eyes on Christ and His calling and purpose will result in the ultimate reward that will never be taken away.

 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11

Dear Lord, my we humble ourselves and cast all our worries on you when you call us to go. Thank you for your promise that you will restore, confirm and strengthen us when we rely on you. To you be the praise and glory forever! Amen.

Kateredding

From the archives. Originally published on October 17, 2016.

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Isaiah 45-48; 1 Corinthians 13

“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily.  “If it is a good morning,” he said.  “Which I doubt,” said he.  AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Eeyore moments are no laughing matter. When our vision is confined to what we see, despair, anger and depression follow. Isaiah and his people have every earthly reason to throw up their hands and give in to the darkness around them. Morally bankrupt leaders and nations are on the attack; the world as they know it is collapsing around them. It is only natural that the people of Israel take an Eeyore posture, but God speaks and commands his people to listen.

“I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”                     Isaiah 45:19

“…And there is not God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other…Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.’  All  who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”   Isaiah 45:22

God appeals to Israel’s imagination; He gives them a vision of what is to come:

“Before me every knee will bow; by every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength. All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord and all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”                                                                                                                                                                                      Isaiah 45:23-25

I hear God asking me about my hopes and dreams. To whom and in what am I entrusting my future? Politicians, pastors, 401K’s? My own ability to figure things out? My force of will and determination? When I hit snags in personal relationships, do I trust in my sense of personal righteousness and insist on my way, or do I submit to God’s definition of love (1 Corinthians 13)?  Do I allow Him to win the day  even when if things appear to be a total loss?

O dear Father,  thank you for calling me by name and telling me to listen. Your Word sits before me;  you speak. I am listening. Have your way in my life. Strengthen my humble faith so that I trust you in all things—the major and the minor, no matter how things appear. Teach me to sing of your beauty and goodness in all things and in all times.

Klueh

From the archives. Originally published September 9, 2016.

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2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

9When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.

 10Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11The Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12Jesus heard the Pharisees ask this. So he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only the sick need a doctor. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13

In my reading today, I was intrigued Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, especially the words “faithful love”. Looking deeper, I learned that one of the definitions of the original Greek word eleos is “covenant loyalty”.

When Jesus said the phrase, “I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices…” He was referring to a passage in the prophecies of Hosea, that continues, “…I want people to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

From the beginning of the earth, God has always wanted relationship with His children. He demonstrated that with Adam, when He walked with him in the cool of the day. He demonstrated that all through the Old Testament, with His relationship with Abraham, Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and many more. And, through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, He reestablished the possibility of a face-to-face relationship with Heavenly Father through Holy Spirit.

 8I do not scold you for your sacrifices.

You always bring me your burnt offerings.

9But I do not need the bulls from your stalls

or the goats from your pens.

10Every animal of the forest is already mine.

The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.

11I know every bird on the mountains.

Every living thing in the fields is mine. Psalm 50:8-11

He didn’t need the animal sacrifices before Jesus came to the world, because those animals already belonged to Him. He accepted the sacrifices because the blood sacrifice was what temporarily allowed man to be close. Just like He didn’t need the temple to be repaired by King Joash and the priests and He didn’t need any of the new “stuff” bought by the received offerings.

What He wanted then and continues to yearn for today is for me, for all of His children, to seek His face, to desire to know Him, to walk in relationship with Him all the days of my life. It doesn’t matter that I have sinned, that I need(ed) a hospital. He has loved me in the midst of my sin and will forever invite me into His presence.

Yesappa, Thank You for wanting to be in relationship with me. Thank You for providing the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus that allows my sin to be forever washed in the blood. Thank you for loving me before I even knew Your name. Help me to know You better, to know Your heart, Your will, and Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

From the archives. Originally published July 27, 2016.

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Proverbs 29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”  1 Thessalonians 2:13

Sometimes I treat the Bible like a coffee table decoration. I may read through the words as if they were nice theories or a self improvement project or gloss through the difficult passages and patronize them by passing them off as antiquated and therefore, irrelevant. God’s word is far too powerful to remain in the box that I attempt to keep it in. In reading the Word, God invites me to sit with him, wrestle with my questions and doubts and dance with hopes and dreams. All these things I lay before God in the light of his Word.

God’s Word asks me if I truly believe that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness? Do I really, REALLY believe that Christ died on the cross and physically rose from the dead so that I might live? When the truth of Jesus Christ sets in, I awaken from my stupor and the world changes; I change. His resurrection brings light and joy into unexpected places.

Following Christ is not a quest to be a better person or to find fulfillment; those things might happen, but they are not the end. God wants something much greater, wilder, and more beautiful for me; He wants holiness.

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God who gives the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8.

Holiness is the odd combination of laying aside my idea of righteousness to accept that of Jesus and leaning forward in gratitude to live the life He has called me to. It means being transformed by his love into the his likeness. It’s being willing to let go of my ego long enough to be able to take risks and believe that God’s power will win the day. A holy life focuses on God and not man’s ability to get things right or wrong.

The people that I know who live holy lives are “clothed in strength and dignity” that comes from God and isn’t stuffy and judgmental. Quite the opposite. They are people who can laugh and have grace for themselves and others. Think of the woman in Proverbs 31. Knowing and living the truth of the Gospel opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do that kind of work in ordinary lives.

Lord, I believe you are who you say you are. Help me when unbelief slips in. Keep me focused on you today. Holy Spirit, please be at work in and through me today. Amen.

Kathy (Klueh)

From the archives. Originally published June 17, 2016.

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Proverbs 16-18, Romans 15

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  (Romans 5:4, NIV)

Everything in the Scriptures was written to teach us.  Everything.  Every story, every historical detail, every psalm, every proverb, every word.

It was written to teach us.  To teach me and every single person who has opened the Bible and will open the Bible.  It is personal.

So that we might have hope.  So that we may know Jesus.

It’s no wonder so many proverbs are written about learning.  We are advised to gain wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and discernment.  A few from today’s reading:

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! (Proverbs 16:16)

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. (Proverbs 18:15)

Every time I open my Bible, I learn something new about the God of hope.  I interact with Him as I study and ask Him to reveal Himself to me.  The more I learn about Him, the more I want to learn.  The more I understand His character, the deeper I grow in my love for Him.

I know, however, that Scripture alone is not the source my hope.  God is the source of my hope.  And this hope is provided by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I open myself and allow God to teach me through the Scriptures, I pray Romans 15:13:

Heavenly Father, You are the God of hope.  Fill me with all joy and peace as I learn to trust in You, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen    

Diona (dionak1)

From the archives. Originally published June 10, 2016.

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