Tag Archives: challenge

Exodus 2-4; Luke 17; Psalm 88

Exodus 2-4. Pharaoh’s daughter knew that Moses was a Hebrew child. She allowed her maidens to seek out the Hebrew mother to nurse the child. Pharaoh’s daughter even paid the mother of Moses to care for him. Moses was then educated to be an Egyptian prince and lived a life of luxury among royalty before the moment when his eyes were open to the shameful treatment of his Hebrew brethren. Moses fled Egypt, not because God sent him away, but because he murdered an Egyptian and Pharaoh sought to kill him. Moses seemed content afterward, relieved to live among the Midianites, herding sheep and raising a family. But then the burning bush appeared.

Just when you think your life is moving along smoothly, God may call you to experience the unimaginable. Maybe even call you back to your Egypt. When you are called, do you answer, “Here am I, Lord?” Or after learning what may be required, do you plead as Moses did, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send”? (My emphasis in italics.) I, too, am faced with ‘going around the mountain’ again, re-experiencing challenges that I thought were past. I am not sure that I want to go there again.

That thought causes me to ask myself, how well am I listening to God? Will I argue as Moses did and merit God’s anger? For like a parent instructing an unruly child or like a boss chastising an uninspired employee, God had to command Moses – “Now you shall speak; I will teach you what you shall do; And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.” (My emphasis in italics.) Whew! God could not be clearer than that. And like Moses, I would have shut my mouth at that point and did what I was told. But do I believe that God is with me now, and am I ready to do His bidding?

Luke 17. Jesus loves me. Many Scriptures describe that unfathomable love. However, Jesus also instructed His disciples through parables and analysis of events in their journeys, often employing negatives or consequences of wrong thinking. For example, Jesus warned that judgment awaited false teachers and those who harbor unforgiveness. He debunked discrimination by healing other people hated by the Jews. He tied faith and duty to humility, refuting any expectation for reward and honor. Jesus also warned that the coming of the Son of Man will be a stark reality of judgment.

If I take on these tasks that God has called me to complete, am I ready to have my biases and opinions challenged? Christ will have no other way than to follow Him precisely as He commands. Can I do so wholeheartedly? Thankfully, I am assured that I am not alone in this. I have the words of Christ, His compassion and understanding, and His Holy Spirit guiding me into all truth. He will keep me focused and clear out the old man thoughts and behaviors. Christ will create a clean heart in me.

Psalm 88. If the Old and New Testament Scriptures in today’s reading end with Heman’s song in Psalm 88, I might faulter in my hope that all will be well with my soul. Let’s say that I genuinely want to follow God’s plan even if the plan takes me back to my Egypt. I am not so foolish to think that the road will be smooth or that I will not be brought through challenging experiences. ‘This isn’t my first rodeo,’ as my Texas buddies would say. Yet, Heman’s laments point out that the darkness can grow so deep as to nearly snuff out the light. He even asks God, “Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?”

What I know about this depth of despair is the same as Heman proclaims. But my hope is not shattered by the circumstances of past, present, or future tragedy. Rather, I confess my faith in God’s saving goodness. I cry out with Heman, “O Lord, God of my salvation…”

I recently watched a movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ. Most of the movie was dark and disparaging. The Christians were being fed to the lions in Nero’s “circus.” Paul was in prison, often beaten or whipped. Some Christians were led into taking revenge, killing Roamn soldiers. Even the muted lighting during most of the movie indicated despair, hiding, and fearfulness. Yet, the Apostle Paul interjects truths into that darkness, such as, “If Christ had not risen from the dead, then our preaching is useless, and so is our faith.” My favorite line from the movie spoken by Paul is this: “It is Christ himself that looks upon you and shatters your defenses and, in that moment, you will understand that you are completely known by God…and you are completely loved. I will pray that moment comes to you.”

Prayer. Whatever works created beforehand that I shall walk through, I pray to be completely known by You, my God. Your love, Your presence, and Your promises are all that matters. That is my declaration of trust and faith in knowing Your goodness. Calm my soul, give me the courage to continue this journey with You here on earth. I wait for You, my Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

jansuwilkinson

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

Genesis 41; Mark 11; Job 7; Romans 11

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, right? What happens when we see mountains impossible to climb or when broken legs won’t carry us over the mountain? Our lives crescendo and crash through the years that God has given us to live. Have we met these ups and downs with stoicism and personal effort or have we sunk to our knees in humble, steadfast trust in God? Joseph, Job, and Christ instruct us when we are challenged by difficult circumstances in life.

Joseph’s life story records how circumstances take him from being the favored son with his multi-colored robe to nearly being murdered in a pit, from being the over-seer in Pharaoh’s house to being thrown in a dungeon for a crime he did not commit, and finally from being elevated to the second most powerful man in the king’s court to falling on the neck of his brothers, forgiving and washing them with his tears . In Genesis 41:16, we get a clue on how Joseph could rise time and time again. He told Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Joseph lived what he preached.

Still we question that God should be interested in the lives of ordinary men. Job 7:17-18, asked, “What is man, that You should exalt him, That You should set Your heart on him, That You should visit him every morning, And test him every moment?” Sometimes, if we are honest, we may wish that we were not the focus of God’s attention. We may join in Job’s query (7:21), “Why then do You not pardon my transgression, And take away my iniquity?” This intimate picture of Job communing with God alludes to God walking and talking with Adam in the Garden of Eden.  The changed relationship between God and man after the fall has man instinctively fearing God’s gaze. Desperate cries of, “How long?” explode from bodies wrecked with chronic pain, disabling disease, ongoing trauma, or depression, anxiety, and a host of other disorders that interfere with daily functioning. Do we plead as did Job that God would take His eyes off us, forgive us, and end the suffering? Job acknowledged that man can do nothing to save himself and that we depend on God to save us. Can we trust that God understands our physical, spiritual, and emotional vulnerability on this earth?

Unequivocally, the answer is YES! Christ’s saving work on the cross punctuated the truth of His words…words that affirm, comfort, and empower us: Mark 11:22, 24, “Have faith in God. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” The cursed, fruitless fig tree that withered from the roots up overnight was meant to be a teachable moment on faith, prayer, and belief. Jesus could just as easily have said to the fig tree, “Feed my followers,” similar to His miracle with feeding the five thousand. How amazing and satisfying it would have been to see the fig tree branches heavy laden with large, ripe, and delicious figs practically popping into the hands and pockets of His apostles.  Yet seeking to more than quiet the noise of their empty bellies, Christ adjured His followers to have faith in God the Father, who will answer when we pray with belief that God is for us. Christ tells us that this is so. What now should we believe?

Faith does move mountains; prayer is a powerful change agent; and belief in the salvation of Christ is how the tough will stay committed to seeing this earthly walk with God all the way through. Romans 11:33 declares, “Oh, the depth of the riches of both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” So when the going gets tough, the tough should really get down on their knees. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever,” (Romans 11:36).

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Job, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Mark, Old Testament, Romans, Uncategorized

2 Chronicles 34-35; 2 Corinthians 6

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times…

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! 2 Corinthians 6:1-13


Josiah celebrated the Passover to God in Jerusalem. They killed the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month. He gave the priests detailed instructions and encouraged them in the work of leading worship in The Temple of God. He also told the Levites who were in charge of teaching and guiding Israel in all matters of worship (they were especially consecrated for this), “Place the sacred Chest in The Temple that Solomon son of David, the king of Israel, built. You don’t have to carry it around on your shoulders any longer! Serve God and God’s people Israel. Organize yourselves by families for your respective responsibilities, following the instructions left by David king of Israel and Solomon his son. 2 Chronicles 35:1-4

Both of these passages speak “encouragement” to me. The dictionary explains “encouragement” to mean to inspire and motivate the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain…and even change.

Sometimes encouragement is a boosting of the spirits, simply offering hope and reassuring that everything will be okay. Sometimes encouragement is supporting a friend in their journey, emboldening them for the tasks that they must endure to prove successful in the midst of a difficult circumstance. And, sometimes encouragement comes in the form of a challenge, a call to do better and to make better choices.

Encouragement is such an important part of relationship. I greatly value the people in my life who stand with me through the thick and thin, who offer reassurance when I am feeling defeated by life, reinforcement when I am feeling alone, and inspiration to face the things that need to change in my heart.

God is the ultimate encourager. When I am tuned to His voice, His heart, I can hear His words which lift my spirit up, I can see how He moves in my life to provide and care for me, and I can experience His love, grace, and mercy. I also can hear His call to discipline, confronting my sin and motivating me to rely on Him to make the changes He reveals.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my encourager, for always standing with me and behind me no matter the situation. Thank You for lifting my spirits, for reassuring me and giving me hope in the present and for the future. Thank You for daring me to be a better version of myself, the “me” that you already see. Thank You for putting people in my life who are an encouragement. Help me be an encouragement to others as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie

 

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 2 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament

Jeremiah 1, 2; II Thessalonians 2

I’m not a superstitious person, but I grew up with a mother who will grab your arm and in alarm warn, “It’s bad luck to leave a house through a different door than the one you used to come into it,” and refuse to do so herself. I’ve heard many such sayings, and of course, most people have heard of the superstition – break a mirror and you’ll have seven years bad luck.

So I had to smile the other day when the director at work came to me and said the mirror she had kept in her office for years fell off of the wall and broke. However, it did seem uncanny the next morning at work when I reached for my lipstick and found that the miniature mirror I had transferred from purse to purse over the years had cracked from the middle out to each corner of the frame.  Well, I can tell you that the director and I who have both been hired within the last two months thought it a hoot that we should both be cursed with seven years of bad luck (which by the way is about the number of years left before I retire)!

The thought occurred to me that in reality this new job will be a challenge to me as a first time supervisor. Providentially (not coincidentally), in my 66 Books in a Year devotional reading this week, I recognized Jeremiah’s timidity at God’s call to be His prophet. God has to encourage Jeremiah several times by saying, “Do not be afraid of their faces,” and again, “Do not be dismayed before their faces … for I am with you…” (Jeremiah 1)

With any call from God comes my responsibility to answer, “Yes, Lord,” and my expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ will “comfort [my] heart and establish [me] in every good word and work,” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). If I truly believe that God has a purpose in placing me in this environment, then it would be foolish to look to any other source for wisdom, courage, strength, and mercy.  Not just so that my day to day is a path of roses, but so that every moment spent with God will reveal a deeper level of trust and faith in Him. It’s a win-win situation, really. The more I am challenged, the deeper I dive into God’s word. The closer I walk with God, the more His Spirit is able to do for and with me. I believe this not because of an old wives tale, but because it is written in Scripture that “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and our God and Father has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,” (2 Thessalonians 2:16).  Given these beliefs, how then am I to view the job ahead that God has given me? What if the changes needed bring difficulties like those experienced by Jeremiah who endured decades of abuse, threats, apathy, and humiliation? Will I be faithful and obedient, and will I persevere in doing what is right not just expedient? Will the next seven years be someone else’s bad luck or golden opportunities for others to see Christ through me? I’m not about to look to any mirror for those answers!

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1 Kings 18; 1 Thessalonians 1; Ezekiel 48; Psalms 104

Elijah approached the people and said, “How long will you not decide between two choices? If the Lord is the true God, follow him, but if Baal is the true God, follow him!” But the people said nothing.

Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord here, but there are four hundred fifty prophets of Baal. Bring two bulls. Let the prophets of Baal choose one bull and kill it and cut it into pieces. Then let them put the meat on the wood, but they are not to set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull, putting the meat on the wood but not setting fire to it. You prophets of Baal, pray to your god, and I will pray to the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to his wood is the true God.”

All the people agreed that this was a good idea.

Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “There are many of you, so you go first. Choose a bull and prepare it. Pray to your god, but don’t start the fire.”

So they took the bull that was given to them and prepared it. They prayed to Baal from morning until noon, shouting “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound, and no one answered. They danced around the altar they had built.

At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “If Baal really is a god, maybe he is thinking, or busy, or traveling! Maybe he is sleeping so you will have to wake him!” The prophets prayed louder, cutting themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed, which was the way they worshiped. The afternoon passed, and the prophets continued to act like this until it was time for the evening sacrifice. But no voice was heard; Baal did not answer, and no one paid attention.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Now come to me.” So they gathered around him, and Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one stone for each of the twelve tribes, the number of Jacob’s sons. (The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel.) Elijah used these stones to rebuild the altar in honor of the Lord. Then he dug a ditch around the altar that was big enough to hold about thirteen quarts of seed. Elijah put the wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the meat and on the wood.” Then Elijah said, “Do it again,” and they did it again. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it the third time. So the water ran off the altar and filled the ditch.

At the time for the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah went near the altar. “Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” he prayed. “Prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people that you commanded me to do all these things. Lord, answer my prayer so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you will change their minds.”

Then fire from the Lord came down and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the ground around the altar. It also dried up the water in the ditch. When all the people saw this, they fell down to the ground, crying, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” 1 Kings 18:21-39 (NCV)

Elijah played a vital role in God’s strategy to reveal to the people of the time His glory and His power. God used Elijah to send a message to the men and women of Israel. God placed Elijah in the center of a miraculous event designed to challenge the status quo of those who had chosen to worship false idols, to definitively prove that He was, is, and will always be the ONLY Living God.

Elijah’s faith in the reality of God’s power gave him the ability to step out in boldness to proclaim the truth and confront the priests of Baal and the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. He gave them an experiential demonstration of the uselessness of putting their trust in counterfeit gods, the hopelessness of rituals intended to convince a statue to relieve suffering and provide for needs.

Daring the believers of Baal to authenticate their god, Elijah goaded them with taunts of a deity too busy to listen, too preoccupied with thinking or traveling or sleeping. It didn’t matter how loud the priests prayed, how hard they danced, or how much blood they let flow from their bodies, an imitation with no eyes to see or ears to hear would never be able to ease their desperation. Elijah allowed the priest to expend themselves in the futility of calling on a fake.

When it was Elijah’s turn to take part in the competition, he upped the ante, asking the on-lookers to pour twelve buckets of water over the altar he had rebuilt, soaking the sacrificed bull and drenching the firewood. A simple, yet fervent prayer – “show us who You are Lord” – called on God to take the impossible, and make it possible.

I have seen first-hand the fruitlessness of rituals, the worthlessness of worshipping a stone or a tree or an animal or money. I have heard the stories of men and women and children who have no hope and no peace. I have looked in desolate eyes that are seeking a savior, but were never told of Jesus. And, I have encountered the desperation of hearts seeking the joy of salvation without even knowing what they were searching for.

My whole being, praise the Lord.

Lord my God, you are very great.

You are clothed with glory and majesty…

I will sing to the Lord all my life;

I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.

May my thoughts please him;

I am happy in the Lord. Psalm 104:1, 33-34 (NCV)

I have also experienced the faithfulness of God. I have felt His Father arms wrapped around me, offering hope, giving a second chance. I have surveyed the wondrous cross, His sacrifice, partaking in Christ’s Blood and in His Body, my sins cleansed. I have been comforted by the assurance of Holy Spirit, convicted in the certainty of my Savior. I have witnessed His power to make the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the blind see. I offer testimony to His miraculous works.

It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (MSG)

Like Elijah, like you, I am an integral part of His story, of God’s plan to establish His Kingdom on the Earth. I was created to exhibit Truth, to reveal His goodness. I was born to carry mustard seed faith, hope in the One, True God, the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing. I was called to walk in boldness, receiving courage from Holy Spirit to exhort the undecided, the complacent to make a choice between false idols and the Genuine Article. I was sent to carry His love, His grace, and His mercy to my family, to my neighborhood, to my city, and to the outreaches of the world.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

P.S. Thank you for your patience with the delay in this post…we had a full day shut down, no electricity for 8 hours, no internet access for 8 hours. Helps me remember the blessings of living in America. 🙂

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

Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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Filed under 1 Kings, 1 Thessalonians, 66 Books, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms