Tag Archives: blessing

2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I wonder which would be more difficult: to fill many empty jars with oil from one flask or to offer my other cheek to be slapped again by an enemy? In the one situation, a widow is about to have her two sons taken away from her to fulfill a debt. In another situation, one is advised to stand before an enemy and not only take the blow, but ready oneself for the next without striking back or defending oneself. Really: which would be more difficult?

Elisha speaks miracles–many of them just by telling people what to do. He doesn’t do it for his own glory. He doesn’t even accept payment. He does it out of relationship with God and obedience to him. It is an act of trust and faith. God is the source of power, holiness, and ability, and Elisha knows it. And when others witness these things, they know it too.

Lord, do my words and actions support my belief that you are the source of power, holiness, and ability?

Elisha gives the word to a soldier to dunk himself in the water to heal his leprosy–he doesn’t need to be there. He eats in a famine. He sees the Lord’s vast army through the window when others can’t.

Imagine holding a flask of oil that continues to flow beyond its measure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches his disciples about blessing, effectiveness (saltiness), the law, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. This isn’t teaching for other people; it’s guidance for all people. So, what is more difficult: to be mocked, persecuted and lied about for being a Christ follower or to shine like a light from a hilltop for even your enemies to see, unhidden? To actively reconcile with someone where there is deep tension or to love (in deed) people who are not friends?

It’s easy to think metaphorically, easy to comply when one isn’t in the heat of a conflict, “Offer your other cheek. Give your coat too. Go the extra mile.” But what if an enemy literally struck my cheek, would I stand in God’s strength and offer the other cheek? And what if I was fined payment of something I used daily (the shirt), could I also offer something I used in emergency (the coat)? And if, in oppression, I was told to carry something, would I go above and beyond?

Am I like the “tax collectors and pagans” loving only those who love me, showing kindness to only my friends? Do I shine my light in the safe places, only to those who already know God, or do I hold him up in the company of unbelievers?

Or am I a flask that continues to flow beyond its measure? Could I do what Christ suggests without fear, without complaint, without resentment because I know there’s more (in me) where that came from (because of God)?

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10, NLT)

Father God, you are the source of all. If you call, you will equip. And in the impossible, you make it possible. Oh, this is freedom, to live a life poured out for you, flowing from your abundance. You give sunlight and rain to both the evil and the good because there is no shortage of grace and goodness in you.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45a, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 49-50; Galatians 4

Dear God,

Thank you for freedom. Thank you for knowing me, loving me, calling me your own–a daughter, your child. Thank you for fighting for me, dying for me, delighting in me, singing over me. You give me what no one can ever take away. Today, I celebrate.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. (Galatians 4:4-7, NLT)

Today, I celebrate freedom.

Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? 10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws. (Galatians 4:8-12, NLT)

Freedom.

28 These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said as he told his sons good-bye. He blessed each one with an appropriate message. (Genesis 49:28, NLT, Jacob’s last words to his sons)

I filled in the blank of the goal planner when asked my definition of success: being true to who God made me to be, living (it out) unapologetically and free.

Father God, you know my heart and you bless me deeply. Thank you for giving me the only blessing that matters–yours.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Chronicles 13,14; James 1; Amos 8; Luke 3

One acted to protect. Another was stirred to anger and fear. And yet another was blessed. All were participants in a common circumstance.

The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:4-8, NLT, emphasis added)

David was bringing back the Ark of God. He consulted his advisors and acted under the Lord’s consenting will. It was a joyful procession with an unexpected end.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned. (1 Chronicles 13:9-14, NLT, emphasis added)

Some of my joyful starts have had unexpected ends. I have been powerless to protect things and people I treasure. I have been confused, wounded, disheartened by the unfolding of events–and some of these have taken years to recover from. I have been blessed beyond thought in seasons where I never expected it.

But I think on this–a common cause and three different perspectives, three different consequences–but one singular thing. Each man assigned his own narrative to it.

I don’t know what sparked Uzzah’s action: Certainly he was chosen to help carry the Ark because he was competent, responsible, and trustworthy. Were his actions instantaneous with no thought but to be helpful? Did he act because he thought David would be furious if the Ark fell? Was he protective of the impression of God, to save Him from a dishonor or embarrassment of a fallen Ark? All motivations seem reasonable. Whatever it was, Uzzah’s action was out of line, crossing a boundary of what the Lord required or expected of him, regardless of his intention or his credentials. It cost him a price. Lord, please be my guide. Give me wisdom and discernment. Keep me from butting into circumstances that are not my place to intervene. Your ways are higher than mine.

David was angry and afraid. The God he loved had acted in a way David didn’t expect, and he felt all the feelings. He didn’t understand. David was trying to do the right thing, and it went horribly wrong. This was not the happy ending of a joyful journey he had envisioned. His desire to honor God was marked by tragedy. Lord, when I struggle with expectation versus reality, help me to sort through all the feelings in a right way. Your ways are higher than mine.

An unexpected detour. When A to B takes a turn, the Ark is redirected to Obed-edom’s home for a time. In His presence, they are blessed. Lord, help me to be obedient when the unexpected happens. I pray to be aware of Your presence in all circumstances, confident in You and Your Will. You are my source of joy and peace, and I’m glad Your ways are higher than mine.

Courtney (66books365)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. (James 1:2-6a, NLT)

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1 Chronicles 18; James 5; Jonah 2; Luke 7

David fought battles, amassed wealth, and dedicated it to the Lord. Victory.

James warns the rich, whose bounty rots and testifies against them. Luxury or waste?

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (James 5:1-6, NLT)

I think long on legacy, on the generous hand versus the hand that withholds. The things stored up that moth and rust destroy. The excess that rots and corrodes. I’ve thought long on what remains.

A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens fast became a favorite story of mine last year when I read it with my kids. We later saw a live performance of it, where I nearly cried throughout the entire production, starting with the first words they spoke. And even last night, my youngest asked if I wanted to join her and watching it on television with her–and I did. Old Ebenezer was fortunate to be able to change the end of his story, but many aren’t.

Lord, I don’t want to waste my life by holding on too tightly to things. You are Provider.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 17-18, NLT)

I pray that I don’t fear or hoard, but that I understand and act upon a wealth of time, talent, treasure, and dedicate it to you. That is victory. Not in what is saved and left behind to rot, but what is given and lives on.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” Jonah 2:8-9, (NLT)

I’ve had time to ponder and understand a bit better what it means to live life poured out, after a year of emotional and physical exhaustion.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:41-50, NLT)

To know the Savior and know his love, to know he provides and cares for me, I can live open handed and not worry for lack–he holds my days, he directs my path. There is freedom in this.

Father God, no matter the day, let my praise always rise to you in thanks–in every circumstance. Thank you that you’re near to hear my prayers. Thank you for your love and forgiveness, your guidance and provision. You call me daughter, and I am held.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 15; Psalm 102; Isaiah 42; Revelation 12

Busyness. Full calendars. Early mornings. Late nights.  That’s the season I’m in right now.  It’s full and it’s good and it’s beautiful, but it’s still full.  Full can be tricky.  It is fulfilling and overflowing and magnificent but is also overwhelming and not empty and stressful sometimes.

In the midst of full, I often lose sight of God and his plan and purpose and his presence.  I just start going and doing and staying afloat and then all of the sudden, I forget the last time I had an encounter with God.  Sometimes in the full, quickly enter into darkness and dread when lose sight of God.  I see that played out here:

“Lord, hear my prayer!
Listen to my plea!
Don’t turn away from me
in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen,
and answer me quickly when I call to you.
For my days disappear like smoke,
and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
and I have lost my appetite.”

Psalm 102: 1-4 (NLT)

My heart becomes sick and my prayers become frantic, grasping for a glimpse of God when I finally slow down enough to realize that I haven’t seen him lately.

This feeling is legitimate and it’s my reality in this moment, but God’s truth is greater.  When I feel sick and lost and wandering and life gets hard, God reminds me that he is good and he is constant and that he blesses me when I obey his commands.

“But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
Your fame will endure to every generation.”

Psalm 102: 12 (NLT)

God constantly reminds me that he is constant and he will never change and he will never leave me.

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is he who says,
“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
    You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to anyone else,
nor share my praise with carved idols.
Everything I prophesied has come true,
and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”

Isaiah 42: 5-9 (NLT)

God reminds me that he is good and he is all-powerful and his promises are true.

“There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession.You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

Deuteronomy 15: 4-6 (NLT)

God promises to bless me if I follow his commands.

That is such a beautiful truth: to know that the Lord will bless me if I only obey.  Obeying God leads to blessing and blessings often lead me to full.  The full can be overwhelming but it is good.  I find myself in cycles of full and blessing that lead me to busy that then leads me to too fast and then I eventually pause and find God and he reminds me of who he is and leads me into obedience which brings me back to blessing and to full.

The most difficult thing for me is finding the balance and learning to find God in the full so I don’t get to the part of the cycle that is busy and overwhelming.  For now, I am rejoicing in the cycle, for every part teaches me more about God and grows my relationship with him.

Emma

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