Tag Archives: advice

Song of Solomon 7-8; 1 Kings 12

I think on key themes: influence, leadership, power. But there’s more: fear, insecurity, desperation, intimidation. At the core of all, it’s heart.

Rehoboam seeks counsel over a situation and is offered two different pieces of advice. He is influenced by his peers, but on a deeper level, there’s more.

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions! (1 Kings 12:12, NLT, emphasis added)”

It speak of his heart. These scriptures also glimpse the spiritual realm.

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh (1 Kings 12:15, NLT, emphasis added).

And this:

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’” So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded (1 Kings 12:24, NLT, emphasis added).

Jeroboam battles fear and insecurity in his heart. He feels his safety and very life are on the line.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

In the meanwhile, his actions may temporarily protect his physical body, but his spirit has trespassed into unsafe territory.

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,“It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:26-28, NLT, emphasis added)”

When I feel afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed; when I need direction and wisdom; when I feel alone or targeted–I recognize these are moments when my heart is vulnerable. The advice I seek or follow can lead me closer to God or farther away. If I keep my eyes focused on what’s in front of me, I risk reacting from a worldly perspective of here and now–but if I lift my eyes, I see a kingdom and an eternity–and that, indeed, changes everything.

Lord, I pray that I would keep your kingdom my focus. I recognize the things that poke and stoke my heart can be distractions and stumbling blocks. I realize too that these distractions and stumbling blocks provoke a reaction that reveals my heart. Oh that these occasions would provide cleansing and healing, to draw me closer to you and not distance me from you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 9-10; Psalm 49; Matthew 7

 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matt 7:6) NIV

The thing about wisdom is you have to experience life, and a lot of making mistakes or getting things right, to gain it. Studying scripture over the years–the more you read it and the more you experience life following its teachings–can give you a deeper understanding of the meanings of Jesus’ words.  Sometimes it just speaks to you at a particular season of life when God is teaching you. Right now, my small group is studying the book of Genesis. It is a book with which I am fairly familiar. Yet chapter 3, the entrance of sin into the world, has spoken to me quite profoundly this time. The shame and blame that were the first fruits of sin are lessons God is using as we are working through some issues together. They have to do with people who have had influence over me throughout my life. Some of the verses in today’s readings spoke to me of warnings God has given us that there are people who don’t have our best interests at heart.

In a lot of ways, I have gone through life as a naive child. There are people who have come into my life that I have trusted, and entrusted, with pieces of me that are sacred. My hopes, my dreams, even the things I am most ashamed to admit are pieces of me that are sacred. There have been occasions when I experienced those parts of me that are sacred being trampled on and used to tear me to pieces. I did not have the wisdom to understand Jesus’ words.

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from his thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt 7:15-20) NIV

I did not always know how to recognize the “false prophets” I encounter. Their sheep’s clothing can be pretty convincing. Even in a church environment, it is sometimes difficult to tell what kind of “fruit” they bear. Some of the most beautiful plants have fruit that is poisonous to eat if we aren’t familiar with the plants. I have had to learn to trust God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s promptings when new people enter my sphere of influence. It is okay to be friends with them, but they are not people I should take advice from or share my heart (those places that can be wounded). Being a small group leader for women’s bible studies has given me occasion to come in contact with a lot of women. With some, I immediately experience a heart bond; others have elicited a “danger, danger” response. I’ve actually had to speak to church leadership as I found myself questioning their beliefs as they shared in group. I wanted to make sure I understood what I thought to be the Truth was actually the Truth.  Their words have reminded me that while something might be true, it is not necessarily the Truth (as we saw in Genesis). We always need to be in close connection with God when we are out in the world and very careful not to lead others in a way that doesn’t align with His Word.

Luckily, I have a God I can trust with every part of me. I don’t need to hold anything back from Him! He guides me down the path of righteousness, steers me away from anything that might harm me, and heals the places others have wounded. Experience has shown me I can trust His Spirit will prompt me when something is not quite right.

But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. (Ps 49:15) NIV

I am not always going to get it right. As a woman who has been greatly healed by God, I tend to share some of those stories of his redeeming work in my life that involve tender places. The thing is, someone can twist those words any which way they choose and it can’t hurt me. I know what He has done in me and for me. I also know I can go to Him when I have chosen poorly with whom to share. He will bind up those wounds and send me back out to keep fighting the good fight.

Heavenly Father, I know there are wolves out there ready to devour me and many others. I ask to be able to recognize them for my own safety and the safety of those you have placed under my care. Continue to guide us in your Truth so we will not be deceived. In Jesus name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

 

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2 Kings 2-3; Psalm 48; Matthew 4

The view outside of my front window is of one large shade garden. There are several gardens in our yard, and most of them now are dominated by weeds. Last year, losses and crises took my attention from home to urgent issues. And this year, I’ve had to examine areas of my life and focus small first to nurture things that have been neglected–the garden is certainly symbolic of that.

This morning, I head out to the big garden with gloves and clippers to try to take back what two growing seasons have taken over. I read in 2 Kings 3 of armies in the wilderness: “The king of Edom and his troops joined them, and all three armies traveled along a roundabout route through the wilderness for seven days. But there was no water for the men or their animals (2 Kings 3:9, NLT).

They called on Elisha who explained, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! 17 You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. 18 But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! 19 You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.”

20 The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere (2 Kings 3:16-20, NLT).

In Matthew, Jesus is tempted by Satan–to satisfy himself, to prove himself, to exalt himself. Jesus responds to each offer with scripture. I think on this now, because whether it’s temptation (to take things into my own hands, to prove myself, to be in charge) or accusation, an enemy’s motives always reveal an intention to kill, steal, or destroy. It could be the unseen things like peace or faith, or it could be very visible–relationships, possessions, jobs … even gardens.

Dawn breaks. I won’t get to all the garden spaces today, but I ready myself to tackle both the unseen and the visible. I think long on scriptures I know that tell of who God is, and remind me of who I am because of Him, in Him.

13 Take note of the fortified walls,
    and tour all the citadels,
that you may describe them
    to future generations.
14 For that is what God is like.
    He is our God forever and ever,
    and he will guide us until we die. (Psalm 48:13-14, NLT)

Lord, an enemy is bent on stealing and destroying–and already so much is wounded or broken by lies, grief, evil. When I look at the destruction, I linger in the loss and am weak. Lord, I look to you, to what you can do, to the valley you will fill with water.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 16; Romans 14; Lamentations 1; Psalm 32

Saul is rejected.

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.” (1 Samuel 16:1, NLT)

Paul admonishes believers.

10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10, NLT)

A nation mourns.

Jerusalem, once so full of people,
    is now deserted.
She who was once great among the nations
    now sits alone like a widow.
Once the queen of all the earth,
    she is now a slave.

She sobs through the night;
    tears stream down her cheeks.
Among all her lovers,
    there is no one left to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her
    and become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1-2, NLT)

 

I read through Psalm 32 and find joy in a Father God who removes the burden of sin and guilt and forgives freely–what love!

For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. (Interlude)

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! (Psalm 32:7-11 NLT)

Lord, you look to the heart. You desire repentance and a turning to you. I want to walk always in truth. Thank you that you will guide, advise, and watch over me (too!). My joy and gladness is in you!

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 13-15; Psalm 136; John 5

There were the false prophets, saying false things. People turned to them for advice or direction, but were not advised or directed in truth. The Lord called their words lies and whitewash. Women prophets too–he called them false; he said they ensnared. Telling stories for profit, making promises that were never theirs to make.

20 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against all your magic charms, which you use to ensnare my people like birds. I will tear them from your arms, setting my people free like birds set free from a cage. 21 I will tear off the magic veils and save my people from your grasp. They will no longer be your victims. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 22 You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins. (Ezekiel 13:20-22, NLT)

Even leaders–their hearts full of idols. Things embraced that will make them fall into sin.

Then some of the leaders of Israel visited me, and while they were sitting with me, this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests? Tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the Lord, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves. I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.’ (Ezekiel 14:1-5, NLT)

The more I read, the more I sit and think longer on these things. Ancient scriptures speak of God–he’s always after our hearts. He doesn’t want us chasing and trusting in lies. He doesn’t want our focus misplaced in selfish pursuits–idols that lead to sin. Not in ancient days. Not today.

Psalm 136 speaks of all God has done and of his faithful love.

Jesus speaks to the leaders of his day, leaders who were offended at Jesus’ work on the Sabbath. Jesus, the perceived rule breaker–who was truly following the rules. He speaks truth.

19 So Jesus explained, I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

24 I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. (John 5:19-30, NLT)

From pulpit or podium, from congregation or culture, I weigh words against God’s word.

Lord, I pray that you would give me wisdom, that you would direct my path and give me clarity in decisions. I pray that your voice is the one I’d hear and follow, not my own, not someone else’s. Thank you, that you speak truth, for your great love, and for your faithfulness.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 22, 23; Revelation 10; Zechariah 6; John 9

What others say …

Ahaziah also followed the evil example of King Ahab’s family, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Ahab’s family had done. They even became his advisers after the death of his father, and they led him to ruin. 2 Chronicles 22:3-4 NLT.

What God says …

a priest brings people back under God through obedience; prophecy; rebuilding for the Lord; a blind man sees.

Sometimes the differences between the two can cause a great division of opinion.

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them. John 9:16 NLT.

People might call “treason” when the boat of familiarity and habit gets rocked. Friendships can sever when one follows the Lord and the other follows the crowd. I’ve seen this from various angles in my own life.

A few years ago I read a book by Andy Stanley called The Principle of the Path. In it, he explains how we reach a destination, not by accident, but by a series of steps taken on purpose. The end result may be far from where we planned to be when we started out, but it should come as no surprise when we examine the choices we’ve made that lead us there.

It’s always good to examine myself: who are my influences; where am I weak; what are the choices I’m making and where are they taking me (in health, in my family, in my walk with the Lord)?

Lord, help me to see, and to change. I want to be attuned to your voice.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 13; Acts 17; Jeremiah 26; Mark 12

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, I beg you to let the man of God come to us again. Let him teach us what we should do for the boy who will be born to us.” Judges 13:8 (NCV)

I think that this is the prayer of every believing parent. I know it is my prayer, daily and in every moment, especially the difficult ones.

I have not been given an instruction manual on how to raise my children, to raise them to be well-adjusted and valuable to society, to raise them to be God-fearing adults, not one of us has. Though, there are thousands of self-help style books to either help in the process of child-rearing or help me feel guilty for not being able to do everything or be everything.  And, there are a plethora of advice givers– some who offer sound advice and some who offer nothing more than old wives tales that hold little usefulness.

When it comes to choosing the best guide for parenting, the Bible surely is the right choice to raise children in the right way, the way befitting of these (sons and) daughters of the King, the true Royal Heirs.

The Angel of the Lord gave specific directions to Manoah and his wife in how to bring up Samson for the calling that God had placed on his life even before his conception.

“Be careful not to drink wine or beer or eat anything that is unclean, because you will become pregnant and have a son. You must never cut his hair, because he will be a Nazirite, given to God from birth. He will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5 (NCV)

The Bible gives clear instructions to me; that I should keep God’s Words always on my heart and teach them to my children diligently, all day, each day, in every situation, no matter where we are or what we are doing (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). This means that every day as I move through life with my daughters, I must look for the moments during our day that are opportunities to share Jesus’ love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice…and to share His most important commands.

Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There are no commands more important than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NCV)

As a mother, I often only have the hope of fruit to come. Recently, though I have seen glimpses into the rewards of that fruit:

Daughter: “What happened? You hurt self?” (with great compassion etched in her face)

Mother: “Yes, Baby, Mommy’s finger has a booboo. I cut myself.”

Daughter: “I pray you?”

Mother: “Yes, please. That would be very kind.”

My toddler leans over my hand, folds her hands over my finger, closes her eyes, and says in a small voice, “Jesus loves me. Amen.” Then, expectantly, asks if I feel better.

Now, that is what it is ALL about.

Yesappa, come teach me what I should do for these children born to me. Help me love them as You love them; and help me be patient with them as You are patient with me. Help me give grace and mercy as You give to me. Help me train my children in the way they should go, so as they grow they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Help me love my kids on purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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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