Author Archives: klueh

1 Kings 18; 1 Thessalonians 1; Ezekiel 48; Psalm 104

The people of Israel were getting desperate. Drought was ravishing their land and relief was not in sight, so they built an altar to Baal and sacrificed their limited resources. Elijah asked, “How long will you go limping about with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21

I hear God ask me the same question. Like most people, I have a longstanding family issue that won’t go away (warning: the holidays are coming). Everything that I have done in the past has been powerless to bring about change or seemed to make things worse. Venting to anyone who would listen to my tale of woe didn’t help, except to reinforce my sense of self righteousness and gather tiny stones of bitterness for my altar. Like the people of Israel, I have limped around this petty altar for too many years and wasted precious time and effort.

This time around, I hear God’s call to step out of my negative do loop and come to his altar of prayer. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s time to confess anger, a desire to hold onto hurt and an unwillingness to forgive. It’s time to stop complaining and walk into the freedom of trusting God to be enough, even if I don’t get the outcome I want.

“…because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5…6.

Lord, I long to live with the steady, unbreakable conviction that you are Lord in all situations. I want the kind of joy that comes only from trusting you. Holy Spirit, do your work in me. Holy Spirit, let your word take root and complete your will and work in my life. Jesus, you are the author and perfecter of my faith; it’s by your overflowing grace through that I ask this. Amen

Kathy

 

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1 Kings 3; Ephesians 1; Ezekiel 34; Psalms 83-84

Today’s readings bring an invitaion to rest in God. Paul speaks of God’s love for us through Christ Jesus and uses words like lavish, extravagant, freely, fullness… the list goes on. The line that shocks me most is this:

[He] has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.  Ephesians 1:3-4.

I know a little of who I am, and often it’s not pretty, but God knows everything and regards me as holy and without guilt before him. When he sees me, he sees the righteousness of Christ. Do I REALLY believe that? Do I enjoy and rest in this truth or do I squirm out of his embrace to check off things on my to-do list to justify my existence, or grab my cell phone to make sure that I haven’t missed something, someone, anyone but God?

Sometimes, I make life so complicated, so hard when all I need is to believe and rest in his presence. I am one of his, a sheep of his pasture:

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements. I will tend them in a good pasture and the mountain heights of Israel will be their good grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:11-16

I was created for God’s good pleasure. My life was not my idea and the breath in my lungs and the very beat of my heart are by the design of the Holy One of Israel. He sustains and watches over me. He who has numbered and created the stars in the sky has numbered the hairs on my head. His perfect Son gave his life for mine.

So in this moment, I marvel at God’s goodness to me. I put away distractions, receive his goodness and love and enter into his Sabbath rest.

Amen.

Kathy

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2 Samuel 13; 2 Corinthians 6; Ezekiel 20; Psalms 66-67

A friend of mine said this past weekend something that stuck: “One of Satan’s tricks is to take what is abnormal and make it appear normal.” That’s sin! That’s the stunt that the he played on Eve, and then Eve on Adam: enter in the death spiral of sin.

Amnon takes what isn’t his at the expense of another. To sin, or trespass means that I cross into a place that wasn’t intended for me. Isn’t that the deadly game I try to play with God, when I sin? I end up where I don’t belong; without God’s grace calling me home, the path leads farther and farther from Him.

I am confronted with God’s question to the house of Israel, “Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your ancestors and go astray after their detestable things?” Ezekiel 20:32Am I going to turn away from God and seek those things which will never satisfy? Will I turn away from God’s view of normal to chase the abnormal and dysfunctional? Will I seek material comfort and temporary illusions of security at the expense of the one who made me to know and enjoy Him?

It’s from the Word of God that I learn what is real, true, “normal.” The Psalmist understands this. He has experienced pain and suffering but has known restoration. He has felt trapped and been without vision but learned that God is faithful:  “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.” Psalm 66:10-12.

Paul and his fellow believers have been there as well; “but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way; through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beating, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…”2 Corinthians 6:4-5.  How did they respond? “by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:6Only in God’s world, his Kingdom is such a response normal, much less possible, but that is the Kingdom where my citizenship lies.

Holy Spirit, help me to keep sight of what is “normal,” and to be obedient. When I go through difficult times, by your power, work your purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness, and genuine love deep into my being. Let me speak only that which is sincere and true. Provide the faith needed to keep my eyes on you. It’s by your grace and mercy that I ask these things.  Amen.

Kathy

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Filed under 1 John, 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Psalms

1 Samuel 7; 1 Corinthians 8; Ezekiel 6; Psalm 44

Narrative is a powerful force. We each walk around with our individual stories being crafted in our heads. My husband has this clever way of telling me that my narrative is not in sync with his. When he puts it that way, we’re much less likely to get in an argument.

Psalm 44‘s author’s narrative is that God “has made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us.” Yet when he remembers the truth of who God is, accusations become pleas: “Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.” Psalm 44:26    The Psalms demonstrate that God understands the depth and complexities of emotion and thought and that He is not content to leave us in “stuck.” When I pray, when I call out to him, my story changes. I am changed by his narrative—not the other way around.

God tells Ezekiel and the people of Israel that desolation is heading their way. They will know the war, disease and suffering, but it doesn’t end there. In the end, “They shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 6:14.  Once again, God and his story rise above the course of human history and people change.

When I read and pray God’s Word, my narrative submits to God’s. I need to be mindful of the Gospel every day (and sometimes multiple times a day) to get a grasp of reality. A joy takes over when I pray with Jesus and the saints, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as is is in heaven.” Whether I am in a place of suffering or joy, my story becomes grounded in who God is:

“Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth- as in fact there are many gods and many lords–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  1 Corinthians 8:5-6.

Lord, I get absorbed in my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I only see what’s going on around me.  Too easily,  I forget that you are Lord. By your Holy Spirit, may your Word take root in my heart and thrive. May your truth and grace rule. Hold me close to you so that when others see me, they can see your grace at work in my life. Amen.

Klueh

 

 

 

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1 Samuel 12; Romans 10; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 26-27

I have read Romans so many times that I have become somewhat numb to the impact it had on Jews and Gentiles alike.  Romans 4:11 shocked me for the first time; “He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them.”

Why did God choose circumcision of all things to represent a condition of the heart? It’s a graphic symbol about a part of the body we don’t discuss in mixed company. Isn’t it just like God to keep me from becoming too spiritual when it comes to faith? Abraham’s faith in God, calls him to place his son on the altar as well as undergoing circumcision. And what did Sarah think about all of this?

Abraham challenges me; I take faith far too lightly. God’s grace is serous business; it holds the knife over the most tender places…places I do my best not to expose.

But the good news of this grace finds me every time I cry out to God, every time I consider His word:

“But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart…” Romans 10:8  and “so faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Romans 8:15.

I have to speak the good news of Jesus Christ to my heart multiple times a day to keep myself off the hamster wheel of works and self righteousness. It’s his grace that saves me, not what I do. What I do is a response to his grace. When it’s not, He is waiting to restore what I broke. He loves me that much, not because I merit it, but because, quite simply, that is who He is. He sees the most vulnerable parts of me— the places hidden from others and even myself, and He never turns away.

Holy Spirit, may your grace and peace settle deep into my soul so that I live in the freedom and joy of your grace. Jesus, thank you for taking my rags and giving me your righteousness to wear. I thank you for the wonder of who you are and the healing and restoration you bring to me. Your love, your sacrifice is my joy.

Kathy

 

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Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 5-6

“You yourselves recently repented and did what was right in my sight by proclaiming liberty to one another, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name; but then you turned around and profaned my name when each you took back you male and female slaves whom you had set free according to their desire and brought them again into subjection to be slaves.” Jeremiah 34:15-16.

Like the people of Israel, I am known by God’s name and with that comes boundless grace and incredible responsibility. The words that come out of my mouth and the actions that follow have the opportunity to glorify or profane the name of God. These are strong words.

In contrast to the people of Israel, Paul’s life of obedience reflects the character of God: steadfast and true. He didn’t back down and compromise the truth when he spoke to Drusilla and Felix about “faith in Christ Jesus” Acts 24:24-25. Paul clung to the inconvenient truth and it cost him two more years of sitting in a Caesarean jail.

Lord, grant me Paul’s  lack of duplicity, his doggedness and faith. May I represent your name well no matter whether it is convenient or not. I don’t want to be known as a “good”  or religious person, but as one who lives in your grace and truth. Lord, bring me to repentance so that I turn from  petty self interest to worship You in your beauty and righteousness. Amen.

Kathy

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Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5

Sometimes I forget. Like Gideon, I keep my faith hidden and thresh my wheat in the wine press. Like Gideon, I tend to keep expectations low,  dreams limited and focus on getting by. Immediate disappointment is deferred that way, but in His Grace, God’s vision for life is higher than mine. My stale faith and prayers do not limit what God can do. To the contrary, time and time again, He delights in interrupting the normal.

Those interruptions are a gift to the person with the smallest of hopes. Consider the synagogue leader whose daughter is healed, the woman who dares to reach out in the crowd to discretely touch Jesus’s clothing, and the demoniac delivered from the Legion. But for those unable to cope with the fact that they are not in control and life as they know it has been irrevocably altered, the interruptions of God are unwelcome, if not terrifying. I am thinking of the  Gideon’s Midianite and Amalekite neighbors and later the  Gerasene swineherds.

God doesn’t allow me to stay stuck in the past. His ways break through conventions and rules to call me to the unexpected. I prayer that when He calls me to take the next risk, I will be quick to listen and obey as in the case of Cornelius and Peter. His grace enables me to let go of prejudices and old habits that may have served in the past, but will not work today.

Lord, do not allow me to cling to my ability to get it right. Let me hold tightly to the grace to which you have called me by name. Thank you for being my anchor and my hope. Your relentless pursuit of my soul never fails. It’s by the glorious, beautiful name of Jesus that I offer this prayer. Your sufficiency continues to amaze in ways never expected. Amen.

“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf has entered…” Hebrews 6:19-20.

Kathy

 

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Hebrews, Judges, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Mark