Nabal enjoyed the protection and integrity of David’s troops, but when the opportunity arose to reciprocate, he refused. He enjoyed the bounty in a celebratory time to the exclusion of an army. Nabal was a consumer–driven by greed and selfishness.
36 When Abigail arrived home, she found that Nabal was throwing a big party and was celebrating like a king. He was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything about her meeting with David until dawn the next day. (1 Samuel 25:36, NLT)
First Chronicles lists the lineages, and many were considered to be warriors, but two were killed by their own thievery:
The descendants of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered, Tahath, Eleadah, Tahath, 21 Zabad, Shuthelah, Ezer, and Elead. These two were killed trying to steal livestock from the local farmers near Gath. 22 Their father, Ephraim, mourned for them a long time, and his relatives came to comfort him. (1 Chronicles 7:20-22, NLT)
Paul and Silas travel to different areas to spread the word, and time after time they are met with troublemakers. Descriptive words and phrases I noted, “jealous; attacking; stirring up trouble; laughed in contempt.”
Nabal is singly named. Ezer and Elead act in unison. And the troublemakers are referred to as a mob or group–a general force at work.
Abigail is also singly named–Nabal’s wife who rushes to undo the damage her husband caused by his attitude. And in a lineage, many are grouped as warriors. Even in Acts, there are those who are considered open minded, seeking, and eager to listen. Some are singled out:
32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34, NLT)
Attitudes and actions.
My own attitudes and actions tell the story of my life. Lord, whether alone or in a group, help me to choose what is right. Only you know the whole of my deepest thoughts.
I chose the word “value” as my word for the year. I think of how my thoughts, perceptions, and actions were influenced by it. I noticed that even though I may value the same things as other people, our approaches to (and even definitions of) things/concepts valued were sometimes very different.
Last week, I read about a coming battle (2 Chronicles 20:13-17), and while the Lord fully intended to fight that battle, the warriors were still called to show up and hold their ground. I remember that today as I read Hezekiah admonishing the people:
11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.” (2 Chronicles 29:11, NLT)
Then Hezekiah proceeds to call out the men by name. They all set to work with a common goal, and there was rejoicing because the work was completed so quickly.
Jesus tells the disciples,
15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:15-21, NLT)
Lord, thank you for helping me to get clear on what I value. I sit with you now to get clear on my heart. Help me to push past the obstacles that hinder me from obedience and focus. Help me to live and love in action and in truth.
Faithful work … loving deeds … enduring hope. When I read the encouragement poured out in 1 Thessalonians, I imagine a group of believers in life’s sweet spot where it’s easy to be faithful and loving. Understand: they weren’t in a sweet spot, yet a sweetness poured out from them–their faith. They were known by it, and God was known by it.
2 We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. 3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. 5 For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. 6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. 7 As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.
8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, 9 for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, NLT, emphasis added)
In a three year drought, faith ignited a fire. Unwavering, confident, expectant faith from knowing God.
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.
Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” (1 Kings 18:30-39, NLT)
(And rains came, ending the drought. Imagine the elation!)
Land is set aside for the tribes of Israel, and I read this piece:
11 This area is set aside for the ordained priests, the descendants of Zadok who served me faithfully and did not go astray with the people of Israel and the rest of the Levites. 12 It will be their special portion when the land is distributed, the most sacred land of all. (Ezekiel 48:11-12, NLT, emphasis added)
These are stories of man’s faith in a faithful God, not in life’s sweet spot, but in drought, in severe suffering, in focused and enduring service. It’s not just a believing faith, but a persistent, confident, expectant, actionable, demonstrable faith.
Lord Jesus, when I am burdened and bear a weight that’s heavy, what pours out of me? A three year drought … I am humbled, when I know a poor night’s sleep and a taunting stress are enough to make me snap. These scriptures remind me to keep a sure and eternal focus.
5 You placed the world on its foundation so it would never be moved. (Psalm 104:5, NLT)
Where is my focus? Sometimes I am preoccupied with issues past or present that I lose sight that there’s a bigger kingdom and a much bigger purpose. When I read of Samuel hearing from the Lord, I think long on God’s faithfulness, and today, I notice something new.
19 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable.20 And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel there at the Tabernacle. (1 Samuel 3:19-21, NLT)
Samuel’s obedience is a testimony.
Words and actions speak of whose we are, speak of focus, speak of priority. Whether intentionally or not, my life will speak a testimony of what really mattered to me and where I put my faith.
19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. (Romans 3:19-20, 30-31, NLT)
When my faith rests on God, his sovereignty, his faithfulness, his justice, his plan–it changes me. It helps me to see my own brokenness and to have grace for the brokenness in others, to see how very much we need Jesus. It helps me to approach him with bold prayers and honesty, gives me a safe place to be seen and heard, to trust him with my whole life.
6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. 7 Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies. 8 Guard me as you would guard your own eyes.[a] Hide me in the shadow of your wings. 9 Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me. 10 They are without pity. Listen to their boasting! 11 They track me down and surround me, watching for the chance to throw me to the ground. 12 They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart— like young lions hiding in ambush.
13 Arise, O Lord! Stand against them, and bring them to their knees! Rescue me from the wicked with your sword! 14 By the power of your hand, O Lord, destroy those who look to this world for their reward. But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones. May their children have plenty, leaving an inheritance for their descendants. 15 Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied. (Psalm 17:6-15, NLT)
Lord, I am so grateful for your word and the frequent reminders of your character and strength. This time with you is a gift and nourishment to my soul. Even just these words soothe me and reshape my focus: When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied. Thank you, God.
A forward focus of a new school year. Somewhere in the planning, a prompt to list goals as a teacher and as an individual. Words scratched out of note paper: organized/prepared; faithful/diligent; attitude/atmosphere; as well as discipline/self-control; surrender–prayer, interruptions, pace and expectations. These key words may only make sense to me, preliminary thoughts to be fully developed.
In Matthew 25, I read of preparation of the bridesmaids with their lamps and oil. All had lamps. All were waiting. All had oil. But some brought more oil to sustain themselves during the wait, and these women were called wise.
The parable of the three servants, each entrusted with a measure of treasure while the master was away. Each one received. And each one reacted–some by profitable action, and one by doing nothing. I think on plans and goals, action versus inaction. Not all plans are fruitful.
Jesus speaks about the final judgment.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36, NLT)
All are made in God’s image. As I go forward in my planning and preparation, Lord help me to remember there’s a bigger scope and sequence. May I be ever mindful of the hearts being shaped alongside the minds.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NLT)
Lord, as a new beginning unfolds, I want to walk closer with you. Please guide and guard my heart and thoughts.
Join us again in 2021 as we read the Bible in a year using a 5-day weekly reading plan. Take the weekends off, or use them to catch up at your own pace.
We hope you’ll journey with us!
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