Tag Archives: Cross

Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

Over the years as I’ve read through the Bible, I saw hints of Jesus in the Old Testament. Today’s pairing of Joel and Matthew 10 remind me of Revelation, whether that was intended or not. In Joel, there is scarcity, darkness, mourning, and fire.

Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the Lord is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.

Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes. They look like horses; they charge forward like warhorses. Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle. (Joel 1:1b-5, NLT)

An army moves in like a flood over the land, consuming. Earth quaking, heavens trembling, the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars no longer shine. It reads like the trailer to End Times.

The Lord is at the head of the column. He leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders. The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive? 12 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:11-13, NLT)

In Matthew, Jesus prepares The Twelve. He doesn’t speak of a simple task. In fact, this mission comes with risk, and he is clear about it.

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT)

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28, NLT)

These passages from both readings show me a mighty Lord. Focused. Authoritative. Clear.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT)

In the preparing, in the warning, there is an underlying message of turning to the Lord. Of following him. In the hindsight of history, I can wonder why Adam and Eve would ever question God in the garden–why they would make such a grave error of choice, and yet, every day that choice is offered to me: am I going to follow Jesus or not?

Lord, you told the disciples to go out and tell your people that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Help me to keep that focus as I live my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Hosea 14, 2 Chronicles 26-27; Psalm 61; Matthew 20

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” Matthew 20:1-16

I am so intrigued by parables – the unique way of teaching through storytelling and the multifaceted truths that can be found depending on one’s perspective. Whenever I read a parable I want to better understand the layers of meaning. I can stay on the surface, looking at the outside layer that tends to pop out; I can go deeper, looking into the context within society during the time of Christ. And, I can go deeper still, to the heart of the parable, delving into the spiritual layer, asking God for insight into His heart.

As I was praying over the reading selection today, asking God to highlight what He wanted to teach me, I kept hearing the word “Grace”. When I look at myself honestly, I know I am not deserving of everything that God gives me apart from Him. In my humanness, I don’t even come close to meeting the requirements for perfection, and if I was earning a wage, my pay would be docked for all of my failings.

But fortunately, God’s grace changes everything; a gift, undeserved, makes all believers equal in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter what the past looked like – someone on death row for murder, truly repentant before God is as righteous as someone who has gone to church her whole life, believing in Christ as a child. It doesn’t matter what the present looks like – being a missionary in a foreign country sharing Jesus with people who have never heard His name is as valuable as someone who serves the people in his church and community. It doesn’t matter if I am first in line or last in line or somewhere in the middle of the line, I will still receive the same “wage”.

Living in the Kingdom of Heaven is an equalizer not because of who I am, or what I do, or how hard or long I work; the Kingdom of Heaven is an equalizer because of the “wage”:

The“wage” IS Christ. There is no partial payment, there isn’t overtime, there is only a “full day’s wage” – His life laid down, His blood spilled, dead and buried, then risen in Glory to bring freedom and restoration – a gift of grace for everyone who accepts it, love, mercy, favor, honor, the same gift for all.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your gift of grace, the greatest, most undeserved wage I could receive. Thank You for loving me, for offering me mercy, for bestowing me with favor, and for honoring me as Your daughter. Thank You for giving me worth and making me a valuable part of Your Kingdom. Help me walk in this knowledge daily. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie, Sholavandan, India (written in the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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

Ezra 6, 7, 8; John 21

And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury. And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. Ezra 7:20-23

So many people ask me how I do what I do. How do I live in a different country without the comforts of home? How do I travel long distances with my kids and no one to help me? …

My answer is typically something to the effect of: “You do what you have to do.”

The reality is that God gives me His strength and gives me His favor. I can’t do anything in my own power; I can accomplish everything in Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were in a similar position – exiled for years, not much more than slaves, the temple destroyed, their customs laid aside. There was little natural hope for their future. And, yet because of God’s approval, because the God above All gods turn the king’s hearts toward the people, their prospects rose out of the dust and they were filled with joy.

And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. Ezra 6:22

…Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Ezra 7:6

The favor that this generation of Israelites experienced was supernatural. The Assyrian king completely funded the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem from his treasury; it was an act of kindness beyond what was usual in this time or in any time for that matter. The king’s deed was one of the many demonstrations in the Old Testament of how God loved His people and a yet another foreshadowing of the unmerited gift of grace believers would be able to receive as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the ultimate treasury emptied for His beloved.

…I [take] courage, for the hand of the Lord my God [is] on me… Ezra 7:28

Because of His sacrifice, I can accomplish everything in Jesus Christ…and, I can be encouraged that His hand is upon me and His favor goes before me in my journey. I’ve been chosen and I can be certain that He will always be with me.

Yesappa, Thank You for strengthening me, keeping Your hand on me, and giving me Your favor. Thank You for encouraging me and never leaving nor forsaking me, no matter how difficult the trials in my life are. Thank You for giving me hope and for raising me up out of the ashes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Leviticus 18-19; Matthew 27:32-66

The description of the world’s inhumanity towards Jesus is dark and horrific. There’s pure meanness directed towards this sinless man who had been beaten, tortured and now has his body hanging from nail pierced hands and feet. First it comes from the Roman soldiers, then the passersby, the chief priests, rabbis and elders. Lastly, the insults come from the two thieves dying next to him on their crosses. What was to be gained from such cruelty? The extent of Jesus’s suffering is too much to comprehend. I can’t even begin to understand the pain of those who loved him and followed him to his death on the Cross. When I read and meditate on these passages, I am overcome with personal sorrow.  This is the God I love tortured and  hung to die on a cross.

Our earthly lives are precious, measured and finite. Two years ago, I sat beside my father-in-law as he fought for every breath before dying. He treasured his life on earth and did not want to die. His death left me realizing the enormity of what Christ has done for me. It would be unthinkable to ask an ordinary man to give his life for mine, yet the very the Son of God did that for me. Jesus chose the path of suffering and death so that those who put him on the Cross could choose eternal life and enjoy the blessings of knowing God. His death and resurrection broke the power of all the cruelty man could heap upon him. Everyday, His love for me breaks the power of the sin that once claimed my life.

Matthews words send my heart back to an old hymn I remember sung during Good Friday services, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Isaac Watts says so well what my heart knows to be true.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast save in the cross of Christ my God;

All the vain things that charm me most- I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small:

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.

klueh

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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Genesis 42-43; Matthew 13:33-58

…He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you…” Genesis 43:23

When I go into the villages to share the gospel, I often tell a story of hidden treasure:

Every day a farmer goes to the landowner’s fields with his ox and plow to work the land. Every day he guides his ox up one row and down another. It is a boring job that he can do almost without paying attention.

He plows each row, daydreaming about the things he’d love to be doing if he had the chance. Up and down. Up and down.

THUMP!

Shocked out of his fantasies, he wondered what the plow had hit. He left the ox and plow where they stood and walked a few steps back to the spot.

He knelt down in the dirt, and with his hand slowly began moving away the soil. Piece by piece…lump by lump…until his fingers touched a hard object at the bottom of the hole he had dug. He pulled an iron pot out of the earth. It was small, black and dirty. He lifted the lid and looked into the vessel.

He was amazed at what he saw.

He looked around to see if anyone was watching. When he saw that he was alone, he reached into the pot and pulled out gold and silver. He pulled out diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires and pearls and other gems he didn’t even have names for. There was more treasure in the small pot then he could ever imagine.

He quickly put the treasure back into the pot, closing the lid tightly. He put the pot back into the earth. Then he covered the pot with the soil and put a stone above the place to mark it. He walked to the ox and plow and started to work again.

The whole rest of the day he couldn’t stop thinking about what he had found. The treasure amounted to a fortune that he could never earn. He couldn’t just take it; that would be stealing. By evening, he knew what he had to do.

The next day he sold his family cow, and the goats, and the chickens. His sons were irritated when they saw their inheritance was gone. Then he sold all of the things inside his hut – the sleeping mats, the blankets and pillows, even the cooking pots. His daughters were annoyed that they no longer had a dowry. And last, he sold his hut. His wife was outraged that their family was now homeless. Everyone in the village thought he’d gone crazy. But he didn’t care. He knew something that they didn’t.

He took the small amount of money he’d been able to collect to the man who hired him to plow the land each day.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it is everything I have to give. Will you sell this land to me?” He asked.

The piece of land the farmer asked to buy was small compared to some of the landowner’s other plots. Though there was a trickling stream running through the corner of the land, the earth there wasn’t strong or healthy and it had never given a profitable harvest. The landowner thought the farmer was a little peculiar but agreed to the price and sold him the land.

The farmer immediately walked to the field he now owned. He went to the spot he’d marked with the stone and swiftly uncovered the treasure that now belonged to him. He was full of joy at the great gift that he had found. And he couldn’t wait to share the good news with his family.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

The greatest treasure I have ever found is the gift of Christ’s sacrifice for me on the cross, His death and resurrection…salvation. It is what allows me to truly experience joy, and I have given everything I have to have access to that treasure.

And at the same time, I believe that Jesus looked at me as the treasure, covered in muck and miry clay, hidden in sin. He wanted me to be His for eternity, so He gave up everything, sold it all joyfully, so that He could buy the field I was buried in and claim me as His own.

Yesappa, Thank You…

Blessings – Julie (written in Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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