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Ecclesiastes 8-12; Matthew 17

The righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Eccl 9:1

Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. Eccl 9:18

Life is unpredictable, and at times irrational, inconsistent. We try to find logical reason for the evil that exists and the bad that happens.

Why do “bad” things happen to “good” people? (Seriously, try making sense of the crucifixion to the disciples in the midst of it)

Why do “good” things happen to “bad” people? (And, the prosperity of Rome?)

I’ve been wrestling with the fallout of evil in our church in recent months. A pastor unchecked, money spent without accountability, leadership defending unbiblical decisions.

So hard. So much hurt. In the headlines, and not just local. So, not only do we wrestle with how to move forward personally and as a church, we wrestle with explaining this mess to our unbelieving friends and co-workers.

A stark reminder that sin still haunts us as long as we walk this earth.

The writer of Ecclesiastes also tried to make sense of these types of illogical happenings. In the end, it all comes back to obedience and trusting God for the outcome.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Eccl 12:13, 14

I can rest in Him. He knows it all. Unsurprised by it all. Already paid the ultimate price, and now patiently waiting for the right time and still actively at work in the waiting.

Lord, it doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t need to. Help me trust unconditionally and keep obeying and following You regardless of outcome or what happens around me. You are good, and I will praise You. In Jesus Name, Amen

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Ecclesiates 6-7; Psalms 18; Matthew 16

June used to be my favorite month. But in recent years, June is when all the bad things seem to happen in our family. So now it kind of keeps me on edge.  Five years ago my husband had mayor surgery. It was a physical strain on him and an emotional strain on me and our children.  Then, four years ago my parents were in a head on collision. My dads truck was totaled and my mom broke a few fingers.  Finally, three years ago my grandfather passed away and my husband lost his job the very next day. We spent the rest of the summer daily trusting that another job was on its way.
I can look back at all of these June’s with bitterness or I can choose to realize that God was faithful through them all. I can look back and be grateful for the trials as they made me grow and lean on Him more. Today’s readings provide passages that reflect my sentiments.
  • “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3 ESV)
  • “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.  From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.” (Psalms 18;6 ESV)
  • This God- His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalms 18:30 ESV)
  • Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)

Lord, we cry to You in our distress.  You are always right there.  Trials give us the closeness that we would never have if everything was perfect.  We give up our lives to follow You because its then that we truly DO have life.  Help us to always remember your faithfulness.

Amen,

Kellie

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Proverbs 31; Ecclesiastes 1-2; Matthew 14

What a great reading today – sets the tone for the day. The ideal woman is described through her activity as a wife. I was reading that the traditional hymn sung praising the mighty deeds of a warrior was transposed to extol a heroic wife – the focus on her exploits. As beautiful as all of this is, nothing really matches the words from her children and her husband as they praise her. What a portrait of a household ruled by Woman Wisdom and if you will, the home of those she has discipled. I love calling my wife a woman of wisdom.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:  – Proverbs 31:28  ESV

The man of wisdom himself, Solomon, takes the idea of being transparent seriously. I have so much to learn from him in this area.  I notice whenever he uses the word “you” in advice or warning, he actually sounds like he is speaking to himself. While he is talking to himself about things he should be doing, he finds himself not doing it. Have to remind myself not to do that when I am preaching.

The words of the Preacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem. – Ecclesasties 1:1  ESV

No matter what my need is, Jesus comes to me in my hour of need. He is watching over me even when I cannot see Him. The storm and the miracle of walking on water is a great picture of what Jesus still does in my life when I am sailing through my own storms which happen in the dark so often.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14:27  ESV

I am meant to recognize the metaphor. If I allow myself to face my storms alone, that is on me.

Father, I look at this amazing woman of wisdom and I see this wise man filled with wisdom, and I cannot help but realise how You sent Jesus, Your wisdom personified, to walk with me in life. Thank You.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

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Proverbs 29-30; Psalms 60 & 33; Matthew 13

“His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to people?” He replied , “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, but others are not.  To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have abundance of knowledge.  But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.  That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see.  They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” Matthew 13:10-13 NLT

I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me insight and wisdom when reading God’s word.  I find that especially in this, He meets me where I am.  He prods me to dig deeper.  I have learned that the more I read of it, the more hungry I am for it.  The more understanding I have.  But, it is not for knowledge alone.  Am I being changed? Is my heart in the right place?  Am I fearful or discouraged? Those are usually red flags for me that I haven’t picked up my bible in too long.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.  I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it.”  Matthew 13:16 NLT

Once I get into his word, my eyes are opened. And I wonder what took me so long.  Why was I scrolling through Instagram or filling my mind with other things? Distraction after distraction. And I wonder why I am weary and tired.  He is always ready and waiting for me to turn to Him.  “But if the source of our satisfaction is anything other than God’s word, a relationship with Jesus, and the power and friendship of the Holy Spirit, our souls will suffer.  What we are truly thirsting for is God.  He is our source of living water.  Nothing else will be able to weep into every part of us. Nothing else will be able to refresh, restore and transform us.  Nothing else will ever truly satisfy our soul.” Lysa Terkeurst

“For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.  But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.  We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalms 33:4, 18-22 NLT

Dear Father, thank you for your word.  Thank you that it is truth. I pray for a deeper love for your word. Amen.

“With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes.” Psalms 60:12 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs 24-28; Matthew 12

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I heard a wonderful sermon last week on the importance of the sabbath. The point the pastor made that stuck out to me the most was when he said that in refusing to take a sabbath we imply that we are better than God. God rested on the 7th day not because he needed to rest, but because he chose to rest to appreciate all that He had created.

When I ignore the sabbath I am saying that my life and the lives of others are more dependent on me than God. I am more important than God. That hit me between the eyes. But then Jesus comes along.

Jesus was challenging the religious leaders of His day because He was making changes to their teaching. He ate meals with sinners, talked with outcasts, and broke Sabbath. I do not claim to understand all that Jesus was doing. I never will because He is God and I am not. However, what I see is his desire to bring life and love and relationship to the people in a way that had been absent in their system of religion before.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

It’s not about the Sabbath…it’s not about picking grain on a day they weren’t allowed to do work…it’s not about healing a man. It’s about Jesus. It’s about knowing Him and being known by Him. It’s about His compassion and love. It’s about the FACT that He is greater than I…knows more than me…is worthy of my love and respect and adoration. It’s about acknowledging I am not God, but I know God and desire to follow Him. It’s about my life not being my own, but God’s.

Dear God, help us see you. Help us to not stumble over the rules or the laws that are made in order to understand you, but truly see you. Help us to follow your lead. Help us to recognize the work you are doing and trust the goodness of it. You, GOD, are greater than any sanctuary. Amen.

Mandy Baldwin (mkaybaldwin)

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Proverbs 20-23; Matthew 11

The first part of Matthew 11 tells of how John the Baptist’s disciples came to inquire if Jesus really was the Christ. Jesus had been going through towns teaching, preaching, and healing, while John had been imprisoned for criticizing Herod Antipas, the king of the area. John may have been experiencing some worry and doubt. His prison cell kept him from going and seeing for himself if Jesus was the one he had prophesied about. John’s disciples went to question Jesus, hoping to bring back news to John.

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind received their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11: 4-6 ESV

Jesus points to His signs and wonders as evidence that He is the Christ. He doesn’t rebuke John for asking the question, He simply tells John’s servants to report what they have seen: healing brought to the sick and the poor. Jesus’ power to heal not only displayed His compassion on the weak and broken, but also His divinity.

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the might words done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Matthew 11:20-21 ESV

After making this statement to the crowds, Jesus speaks against the cities who turned a blind eye to Him and His message, stating that if he had done those same works in pagan, Gentile cities, he would have been greeted with great repentance. Instead, He was greeted with hardness of heart from people who refused to believe Him despite the wonders and healing he displayed. It can be dangerous for me to become to “accustom” to hearing about Christ and His power and no longer think deeply about it. Jesus’ power and grace should drive me to repentance and humbleness, not unrepentant complacency. He has offered comfort through the hardships of life to whoever takes up His offer. Even though, like John, I can go through periods of darkness and doubt, Jesus stays the same, offering comfort and peace throughout hardship.

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Dear God, Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for Your compassion and mercy. Please help me never take Christ’s sacrifice for granted and to trust in You through hard times. I know you will protect and guide me. Thank You for giving me rest. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

 

Nathanael (nborger2017)

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Proverbs 5-8; Matthew 7

rejoice in the wife of your youth (Proverbs 5:18 ESV)

He dies for lack of discipline, (Proverbs 5:23)

if you are snared in the words of your mouth, (6:2) – plead urgently with your neighbor

 

While so much of what happens to us in life is out of our control, how it impacts our life is largely in our control.

We choose how to respond.

We choose our words.

We choose how long we linger on an offense.

We choose joy, or not.

We choose a disciplined life.

We choose to forgive.

We choose contentment.

We choose wisdom, or foolishness.

We choose surrender to God’s way, or spiraling into temptation and sin.

Proverbs does not paint a simple, easy picture of life, but it does make clear that we will be responsible for our choices. Throughout the verses we are warned against adultery, foolishness, temptation, and rebellion.

For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,  (Proverbs 8:35 ESV)

Proverbs also shows the protection that God builds into obedience – marital faithfulness, contentment, blessing (in various forms).

Matthew 7 adds a fresh filter to these chapters in Proverbs. In all these areas, we should focus on and start with self-examination.

Establish your life on Jesus Christ, grow in Him so you bear good fruit, seek after Him, and then, you can come back to verse 5 and help your brother with his speck. First, you need to acknowledge that it is just a speck compared to the log you had to wrestle through, too.

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5 ESV)

I realized recently that it doesn’t say not to take out the speck as I had always kind of concluded – don’t judge, worry about yourself, stop finger-pointing, etc. It doesn’t really say that, but instead it gives a condition: remove your log first! Not only, just first.

Lord, I come to you again seeking wisdom. Show me those logs that obscure my vision, my judgment. Help me to mercilessly wrench them out of my life and thinking. Purify my heart and mind that I may be a catalyst for the body of Christ around me. ~Amen

Erin (6intow)

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