Tag Archives: Choice

1 Samuel 5:1-9:10

The words seem to hold a physical weight. The ark of God is held by the Philistines.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. (1 Samuel 5:6, NIV)

and

But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. (1 Samuel 5:9, NIV)

The Philistines send the ark of God away, back to the Israelites.

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. (1 Samuel 7:2b-4, NIV)

They gather at Mizpah to fast and confess. Samuel is there to intercede for them. And this is the moment an enemy attacks–when the Israelites commit themselves and show devotion to the Lord.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:10-12, NIV)

Samuel serves as a leader to the Israelites, and when he is old, he appoints his sons to take his place. This is a familiar theme in the Bible: Good leaders who follow the Lord, followed by leaders who don’t.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:4-9, NIV, emphasis mine)

I sit and think about these verses. I do not want the Lord’s hand against me. An enemy wants me as far from the Lord as possible and will send chaos and conflict my way to distract me from worshiping and keeping a focus.

The search for a lost donkey will lead Saul to Samuel. Saul will be appointed king in a future reading. But it’s in this moment that I see the start of a bigger journey, and Saul–just Saul. Saul before it all. His is one of the saddest stories to me. He makes good choices and bad choices. He struggles with uncertainty, insecurity, pride, jealousy, and anger. But that isn’t what makes his story sad–it’s that he could have done life with God, and he didn’t.

Just verses earlier, a group returns to God. And in the passing of time, they convince themselves there is a better way. God sees it as a rejection of him. It can be done by a people (all individuals acting in a group) and by an individual (Saul, who is to be appointed by God for a task–a very big one).

Father God, let me view each moment as an appointment by you. Let me journey each day with you. When I draw close to you, let me not be distracted by an enemy’s ploys, but help me always keep a kingdom focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 3:33-5:22 

“But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.” Numbers 4:20 (NIV)

Numbers 3-4 is a census counting of males from one month old and up. Then there’s also a counting of men ages 30-50, who were considered of age to serve in the tabernacle. These chapters include detail of their responsibilities and how things should be done. The Lord is serious, and so are his consequences for those who disobey.

I say it a lot, occasionally out loud: I feel like I am often the example of “what not to do.” I can think of examples of  the ridiculous things I’ve done–things that only had mild unwanted consequences as a result of not following directions–like a traffic fine or the three-day headache I got from looking at a biliblanket light immediately after the technician said to me, “Do not look directly at the light.” However, my offenses against the Lord are not light. And they are so deserving of death.

As I get closer to the Lord, my sin feels heavier when I realize the cost paid for me–and Jesus’ death on the cross for my salvation becomes all the more precious.

Thank you, Jesus! Thank you for salvation and making a way for me. When it comes to living my life for you, I really want to be a better example–from a heart of motivated by love and thankfulness. Amen.

Courtney

From the archives. Originally published February 13, 2009.

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Ezekiel 13-15; Psalm 136; John 5

What did he say?

Then this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, prophesy against the false prophets of Israel who are inventing their own prophecies. Say to them, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: What sorrow awaits the false prophets who are following their own imaginations and have seen nothing at all!’ (Ezekiel 13:1-3, NLT)

What did the Lord say?

“Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. I, the Lord, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 14:6-8, NLT)

What did the Lord say?

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

11 But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

13 The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” 15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:5-15, NLT, emphasis added)

When there’s so much to take in in the story, it’s easy to miss the message by considering the setting, interpreting a message, looking at the Pharisees. What did the Lord say? If I look past the descriptive sentences and focus on the dialogue, what did the Lord say? What if he said those words to me? Just these words: “Would you like to get well? Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk! Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”

Something even worse than being hindered and ineffective for 38 years. Something even worse than watching everyone else take action and rise victorious. Something even worse than blaming others, feeling abandoned, being stuck, or feeling self pity.

Lord, you’ve not been silent. You speak your word to people who may not want to hear or listen. This reading today (beyond what I’ve selected) tells me so much that you’ve said–about truth, accountability, error, sin, forgiveness, judgment, and more. You didn’t tell that man at Bethesda, “Ah, you’re a sinner so you’re just going to keep on sinning. It’s ok. Stay where you are.” You offered him a choice, told him to take action, and reminded him about who he is: NOW YOU ARE WELL. SO STOP SINNING. Oh, if I would just keep your words high above all the other distractions–a setting, a message, a body of people and their judgment. If I just kept your word as my focus–to choose you, to take action, to remember who I am in you. Could it be that simple? To lay down my excuses and my feelings, and just follow you to freedom and victory?

Courtney (66books365)

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Micah 5-7; Matthew 25

Listen to what the Lord is saying … my daughter wanted a book on how to read people, and in my search, I came across a book called Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras. I started to read it, and this word repeats often: listen.

Micah 6 opens with these lines, “Listen to what the Lord is saying …”

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    What have I done to make you tired of me?
    Answer me!” Micah 6:3, NLT, emphasis added

Tired of the Lord?

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (Matthew 25:1-4, NLT, emphasis mine)

This parable of the bridesmaids has been on my mind the past year, and now entering hurricane season, I think about being prepared–how do you prepare for a literal destructive storm? Toilet paper? Non-perishables? Batteries? How do you prepare spiritually?

This oil, fuel for light, and the bridesmaids–all of them were bridesmaids–I search online: what does the oil represent? Biblestudy.org suggests that the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the bridesmaids are believers. I read on in the explanation: “The meaning of the parable of the ten virgins teaches us that, shortly before Christ’s return, there will be Christians who are so slack in their spiritual duties that they will not have enough of God’s Spirit (character) in order to endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). All true Christians should make sure they have the faith and are diligent enough in their spiritual lives not to be caught unprepared (Matthew 24:45 – 51). We must all strive to be wise, and not foolish, virgins.”

The next parable in Matthew 25 is the Parable of the Three Servants.

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.” Matthew 25:14-15, NLT, emphasis mine.

Upon the man’s return, each servant shows how he used the money entrusted to him, and of the three, all but one doubles the investment. Each one was left a portion according to his ability, so the playing field is fair. The last man has nothing to show but the original investment, which he thinks is good enough. The master calls this servant wicked and lazy, and banishes him.

In the first parable, the bridesmaids caught unprepared were locked out from the feast. This is what Jesus says,

11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. (Matthew 25:11-13, NLT)

The wicked and lazy servant who does nothing with his allotment receives a crushing fate:

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:28-30, NLT)

And at the end of the chapter, Jesus talks about the final judgment. The nations are gathered in his presence. And there is judgment based on action.

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (Matthew 25:45, NLT, emphasis added)

Impressions on this reading speak of preparation, prudence, purpose–but really all of it is action. An alert faith. A Kingdom focus. I think long about my walk–am I walking with the Lord? Or am I walking apart from him?

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, in these parables, the bridesmaids, the servants, those gathered in your presence, all know who you are. And each responds in his own way. These stories were spoken and recorded for the benefit of your followers. You spoke this because you want us to know. You have told us. You have given to us according to ability. May we live without excuse.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8; 1 Timothy 5

It starts with me. It’s easy to want to credit someone else’s behavior for the stoking of my poor response, but truly, I am responsible for the things I say and do. As I read through 1 Timothy 5, I make sure to think long on this guidance.

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NLT, emphasis mine)

This link to family: as you would to your father; as you would to your brothers; as you would to your mother; as you would to your own sisters. Kindness begins at home. When this tenderness is modeled at home, it has the potential to affect a community, a world. The opposite is also possible–strife, banter, unkindness, coarseness, sarcasm … these things can also grow in momentum and branch out to the world.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. (1 Timothy 5:3-4, NLT, emphasis mine)

Many of the verses I read reference home and family, placing importance on interaction, relationship and personal responsibility.

22 Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22, NLT)

These sentences in verse 22 are blocked together, but I read them as two separate thoughts: one about appointment and the other about not sharing in another’s sin and a reminder onstaying pure. I would have to look further into them to see a connection, but I do think on the importance of sound leadership and the effect leadership has on a group. I do see a focus on individual accountability and warning to not participate in sins others commit–to keep oneself pure.

It starts with me.

24 Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. 25 In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light. (1 Timothy 5:24-25, NLT)

Some things are obvious. Some things won’t come to light until later. I think long on my own choices, my relationships and influences, and where my focus ultimately rests.

Lord, you give me your word as guidance and wisdom to withstand the ages. May I always turn to you first.

Courtney (66books365)

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