Category Archives: Old Testament

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

Judges 2; Acts 6; Jeremiah 15; Mark 1

I read a book recently called, The Disciple of Joy.  A man obviously called by God to lead in ministry with almost 20,000 coming to Christ, being discipled and following the call of God through baptism.  Unfortunately he did not plan his leadership transition well and when he died, his family argued over the ministry and it fell completely apart.  Reminds me of what happened when Joshua died.

Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals;  and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger.  They abandoned the Lord, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. – Judges 2:11-13 NRSV

God seemed to have something in mind between the leadership of Peter and Paul.  He introduced Stephen for a very short time.  

What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit – Acts 6:5 NRSV

Stephen reminds me that leadership in the hands of God, even if it is brief, can catapult the gospel to the whole world – giving hope to those that hear – from a leader who is selfless and fearless.    

So why do bad things happen to good leaders – how could others follow God when Stephen was killed?  Amazing for me to see how many people in the Middle East have become Christians when they watch them die for their faith. That did not happen with Jeremiah and if there is one prophet I would not want to be – it would be Jeremiah.  At one point Jeremiah even doubted, just for a moment that God might be a liar because the pain of leadership would not go away.

Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?  Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. – Jeremiah 15:18  NRSV

So my leadership marks a particular question for me – how does God respond to me?  So I look to God to perform something in my life everyday.  I come like the leper…

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. – Mark 1:40-42 NRSV

Lord, may my life always be marked by repentance and a turning to You.  May I find my strength in Your joy, my hope in Your faithful promises and my forgiveness in Your grace.  You are the one that leads me and I pray that as I follow You, as close as I can, that others may see Your eyes in mine.

evanlaar

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Jeremiah, Judges, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized

Judges 1; Acts 5; Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28

So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.” Acts 5:38-42 NLT

Is my walk so close with Jesus that I can truly rejoice in my sufferings? Usually not when I am in the midst of it. My own humanness wants to complain. But, looking back I can see that those were the times that have strengthened my faith. And where God has shown himself most clearly.

Lord, we confess our wickedness and that of our ancestors, too. We all have sinned against you. For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us. Do not disgrace your own glorious throne. Please remember us, and do not break your covenant with us. Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain? Does it fall from the sky by itself? No, you are the one, O Lord our God! Only you can do such things. So we will wait for you to help us.” Jeremiah 14:20-22 NLT

Sometimes it seems that he has left me in the waiting. And there is a drought in my soul. But, he reminds me that he is right there when I call out to him. He promises to be with me.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NLT

I can still remember back to six  years ago when the Father spoke this verse into my clouded and fearful  mind. Never did I sense His presence more. If I hadn’t gone through that dark time, it wouldn’t have the meaning it has today. When worry strikes again, that day is a much needed reminder to my weary heart. He was with me than and is with me now.

Thank you Father for making a way to always be with me. Thank you for meeting me where I am. I praise you for who you are. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Jeremiah, Judges, Matthew

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27, Acts 4

In my Bible next to the passage in Joshua 24 is a handwritten note that says, “Christianity is just one generation away from extinction.” I have never understood that more than when I became a parent. The weight of carrying on a legacy of faith in our family is heavy on my heart. It requires thought, commitment, time, action. Joshua knew his life was coming to an end. He had lead God’s people for decades after Moses died. He followed the Lord’s commands and listened for His voice for direction. Now, he was questioning the people of God to see if they had caught on to his teaching and leading.

After reminding the Israelites of God’s mighty power and protection that they had received as a nation for hundreds of years, Joshua asks the people, not once, not twice, but THREE times whom they will serve.  Joshua said:

 

“Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.”  And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” Joshua 24:23-24.

Service requires commitment and action. We are called to put away (idols) and put on (Christ). We are to look different and act different than the world around us. Often, I find it difficult to hear the Lord because of all that goes on around me. Passing on the legacy of faith is not easy in any day and age but with the buzz of technology that distracts our hearts and minds, I find it increasingly difficult to teach my children to walk with the Lord. Idols are everywhere. They look shiny, they may even appear as service to the Lord.

As a parent, I look to God’s word to help guide me in teaching my children. Joshua was intentional. Not only in his personal walk with the Lord but in teaching it to the people he was leading. He did not take the job lightly. He lead by example and at the end of his life he challenged the people one last time and the people “caught” it:

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” Joshua 24:31

My greatest desire as a mom, is for my children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to follow him all the days of their life. That to me is success! Reading further on in God’s word, the nation’s faith declines because they stopped following God’s commands and instead followed the idols of their time. It reminds us as parents and believers that we have must be intentional in passing on God’s word. Jeremiah reminds the people that we must walk closely with the Lord:

For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.” Jeremiah 13:11

Dear Lord, my greatest desire in life is that I do not keep my faith as my own but pass it on to others so that your name would be lifted high. Drown out the distractions of this world and help me to be intentional in my daily walk, clinging only to you. Amen.

Kate

 

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Josh. 14, 15; Psalm 146, 147; Jer. 7; Matt. 21

What’s in your jar? Are we putting our greatest energy into relationship with Him?

Let all that I am praise the Lord. Psalm 146:1

In his message on putting first things first, author, educator, and speaker Dr. Stephen Covey spoke of a story shared with students on the importance of prioritizing the things of life, using a demonstration of placing items of varying size into a jar as part of the lesson. The instructor started by placing as many fist-sized rocks in the large jar, then asking the class if the jar was full. Answering yes, the instructor proceeded to fill the jar with smaller-sized gravel until the jar could accept no more, and asked the class again if the jar was full. Again answering yes, the instructor repeated the same process with sand, and then water, and concluded with asking the class what the point of the exercise was. One student boldly answered that “no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit more things into it!” The instructor replied “Not really… the point of the illustration was that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all!” So, too, should our attitude be towards placing God first in our lives, and always, regardless of circumstances!

Yes… we all have areas of life that need tending; home, school, work, friends, church, our spiritual life… All of us have to wrestle with prioritizing an increasing number of tasks and responsibilities, often tending to one responsibility at the expense of others, then play the ‘catch-up’ game. Each of us deals with having only so much energy through a limited number of hours to accomplish whatever tasks that need tending. Unfortunately, there’s never an equal sign between what we need to get done and the energy we have… there’s never enough time or energy.

Did you pick up on it? Take a look at the last paragraph… did you get the sense that each area had the same level of importance? That each demanded the same level of attention? And if we’re not careful, this is what ‘busy’ does… it prevents the “fist-sized rocks”, in the case of Psalm 146, God, from getting placed first, if at all, because there are too many other things to tend to! Due, in part, to our own doing of trying to be all things to all people, and partly a work of the enemy, who does all he can to distract us from the proper order of things… God first!

But, we have it backwards when we let our relationship with God fall to any position other than first. In addition to the simple fact that He deserves the best and first fruits from each of us, He has a way of extending our resources for all the other areas of our lives when we put Him into the #1 position. When we spend time praising Him, we end up with extended patience and joy that transcends high levels of stress. Additionally, honoring Him first offers a dimension of peace that sustains us during the challenging times brought about in the other areas of life.

So, what are the big rocks in your life? Whatever they might be for you, is the first rock you’re putting into your “jar” our Lord and Savior? Making Him our first priority is what we, as Christians, ought to be doing naturally. And when we do, we benefit greatly by being able to handle all of what life throws at us with renewed energy and ability.

Jesus… thank You for the reminder that You deserve to be not only our Rock, but that You deserve to be first. Please help us to offer You our best and to remember that You have earned being first. Help us to trust that when we honor You in that way, You help the rest of life to be more tolerable. Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Old Testament, Psalms

Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19

God instructs Joshua to decimate his enemies: hamstring the horses and strike down every breathing enemy–man, woman and child. It’s a blood bath…  the stuff of nightmares. These pages of the Bible leave me with far more questions about God than answers. Where is the God of grace and mercy that I cling to? But who is God if I disregard these pages? I am made in God’s image, not He in mine.

And what would Joshua think of the sanitized bubble that I live in? Perhaps he would be envious; war and violence are realities on television and far from me. Perhaps he would be appalled at my comfortable, complacent living.

David, also a man of war saw the horrors of war first hand and sings this: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the people under me… I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, the one who gives victory to kings, who rescues his servant David.” Psalm 144:1,2…9,10.

It’s no wonder that the Jews didn’t understand Jesus. They were looking for a warrior king whose hands were dripping with blood and taking revenge. Instead, comes a king who says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Matthew 19:14  They wanted a kingdom that they could see, a kingdom where they would be in power.

Who is this God we serve? He can wipe nations from the face of the earth and yet calls the youngest and weakest to draw near to him. Are we are in a spiritual war that is just as deadly and God spares us the horrors of seeing all that is going on around us? Paul says as much and repeats the message God spoke to Joshua and the people of Israel: “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12.

Dear Lord, keep me from being complacent and naive in thinking that what I see is all that is going on. May I be ready and not deceived by the evil one. Heal me from distraction and chasing from false idols so that I may be your woman and follow hard after you. 

Kathy

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Ephesians, Jeremiah, Joshua, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, Psalms, Uncategorized

Joshua 9; Psalm 140, 141; Jeremiah 3; Matthew 17

Josh 9:14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.

 

Matt 17:19-21  Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

What is missing in both of these passages? I believe it is prayer.

In the first passage, the Israelites were deceived by the Gibeonites.   In fear of God and what he had done in Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites did not want to be destroyed so they pretended to have come a long distance and that they were not a neighbor in the land of Canaan—the land God had promised to the Israelites.  I think because of their previous victories in these countries, there was a little pride in them.  They knew God was with them.  They looked at the evidence presented and believed what they saw and what the Gibeonites said.  So, they made a treaty with them not to harm them.  They swore by the name of God.  It tells us no one ever stopped to pray to God to see what He had to say about all of this.

In the second passage, the disciples had been healing people and driving out demons in Jesus name. Yet they faced one demon in particular that they were unable to rebuke.  The father was desperate and came to Jesus with his son when the disciples were unable to help him.  Jesus healed the boy immediately.  Later they asked Jesus why this one was difficult for them.  His reply was “Because you have so little faith.”

Paul tells us in 2 Cor 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (ESV)  I found this definition of what it means to walk by faith that really gave me a better understanding of this: To walk by faith is to walk in a spirit of prayerful dependence on the Lord and His guidance. (Commentary on Joshua 9, Bible.org)  It is how Jesus daily lived his life.  He was in constant contact with God and he tells us many times he does only what he’s instructed to do by the Father.  Prayerful dependence.

The Israelites believed what they saw and they were deceived. That can easily happen to us.  We have an enemy who wants nothing more than to deceive us and keep us from living the life God has planned for us.  We need the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives and that only comes from prayer.  Each day we need to be on alert.  We need to get our marching orders from God and never trust things to be as they appear.

The disciples started doubting their ability to do what Jesus had told them to do. What they had done for others was not working this time.  They were walking by sight (I can’t do this). Their faith was weak in the power Jesus had given them. Isn’t that just like something I would do?  I have been blessed by God to do something and soon I am trying to do it in my own power instead of including Him, by praying first?  And then I wonder why I am not succeeding?  I don’t believe Jesus was talking about a literal mountain in this verse (although he could have been) but I think he was referring to the trials we face–the ones that seem insurmountable, like mountains, looming before us.  When we are walking by faith, in prayerful dependence of God, we can handle anything that comes our way.  As Jesus said, “Nothing will be impossible for you.”  I fall short of believing in the power I have been given as well.  Without prayer, I have no faith.

Lord, sometimes I forget how very much I need you and try to live life on my own. It never works.  Instead of moving mountains, I keep walking around the same ones and get stuck.  Only through prayerful dependence on you can I accomplish anything.  Only by constant contact with you can I avoid deception.  Lord Jesus, be ever near.  Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

 

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Filed under Joshua, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, Uncategorized