Tag Archives: Cross

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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Filed under 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, Ezra, John, New Testament, Old Testament

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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Filed under 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, New Testament, Uncategorized

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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Filed under 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, Genesis, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament

2 Chronicles 2; 1 John 2; Nahum 1; Luke 17

“The temple I build will be great, because our God is greater than all gods. But no one can really build a house for our God. Not even the highest of heavens can hold him.” 2 Chronicles 2:5-6a (NCV)

This past week, my husband has been away traveling to participate in graduation ceremonies to receive his Masters of Divinity (Congratulations Richard!) and to be a part of his best friend’s betrothal ceremony (Congratulations Anbu!).

This past week, I’ve had food poisoning…

Between acting referee to my children, listening to booboo bawls and squeals of delight, witnessing loving moments filled with hugs and kisses, trying to keep everyone busy, singing, laughing, playing, scolding for biting, for hitting, for drawing a mural on the wall with black crayon, handling one daughter’s teething pain and another’s fever and cough…I’ve been running to and from the bathroom praying that the hum of Pocoyo and Peppa Pig in the background will keep the girls occupied long enough to do my business in peace.

Throughout this week, I tried to stay on top of things. I tried to get things ready to pack for our visa-clearing trip to Sri Lanka next week. I tried to get the better of the never-ending mound of laundry, clarifying which items are clean and which are dirty after the girls mixed the two together. I tried to keep the living spaces in reasonable order, picking up toys and books, sweeping the floor at least once a day to prevent an army of red ants from coming to snack on the remnants of breakfast, lunch, and dinner that the girls pushed to the floor uneaten. I tried to manage the kitchen, doing the dishes once in five days, half of the contents of our kitchen piled up waiting to be scrubbed. I tried to make the bed…I tried to change out of my pajamas…I tried to take a ‘shower’…I tried to brush the rat’s nest out of my hair…Needless to say, best laid plans.

The Lord is good,

giving protection in times of trouble.

He knows who trusts in him. Nahum 1:7 (NCV)

In the midst, I pressed into God for His strength. I praised, scraping the bottom of my reserves offering my ‘widows mite’ of gratitude. I laid open my heart to Him, honest in my frustrations at feeling like a failure, like I can never accomplish the things I set out to do. I prayed for help getting through.

And, of course, the Lord is good. And, of course, He met me right there, in the middle of it all.

Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?”

Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is within you.” Luke 17:20-21 (NCV)

Once more, He reminded me that it isn’t about what I can accomplish in a day. It is about what He accomplished on the Cross. It isn’t about how clean my house is or how well behaved my kids are in any given moment or how put together I am (He doesn’t even mind my stinky breath or my BO). It is about His Kingdom, the Kingdom of the True Living God inside of me, flowing out of me.

But if someone obeys God’s teaching, then in that person God’s love has truly reached its goal. This is how we can be sure we are living in God: Whoever says that he lives in God must live as Jesus lived. 1 John 2:5-6 (NCV)

He reminded me that living like Jesus lived, means putting my complete trust in Him – trusting Him to give me the strength I need, trusting Him to support my perseverance, trusting Him to comfort, to heal, to protect, to provide, trusting Him to help make a way so I am able to finish tasks, trusting Him to help me love others, and even trusting Him to help me love Him.

He reminded me that in spite of it all, I prayed with my kids over and over again, reinforcing the importance of going to God for all of our needs. He pointed out that I shared stories from the Bible – The Beginning, Noah’s Ark, Moses, David and Goliath, Jesus’ Birth, Jesus’ Sacrifice – and found moments to teach the girls about how much Jesus loves them. He told me that coaching my daughters how to stand in His power against ‘monsters’ in the dark is preparing them for future ‘battles;’ it’s showing them that they can always trust in Him.

He showed me when trusting Him is the focus of my life, my children will benefit as I talk with them, walk with them, lie down and get up with them. His Kingdom will be established in their hearts and in our home, regardless of the chaotic and cluttered outward appearance.

And, that is when the messiness of life is beautiful.

Yesappa, Thank You for always meeting me right where I am every day. Thank You for being there for me, for giving me strength. Thank You for blessing me with children who help me remember that life is messy, but that life is beautiful in You. 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 1 John, 2 Chronicles, 66 Books, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament

2 Kings 25; Hebrews 7; Amos 1; Psalms 144

Lord, why are people important to you?

Why do you even think about human beings?

People are like a breath;

their lives are like passing shadows. Psalm 144:3-4 (NCV)

There are times in my life when I suffer from hopelessness. In those moments, my world as I know it comes crashing down around me, dreams shatter and desires smash. And, like most people, I begin questioning “why”.

When I feel hopeless, I experience a sense of depression. I wonder if I am valuable to anyone, loved by anyone. I start thinking about what could have been, fantasizing about greener grasses. It is easy to listen to the lies of the enemy when I am vulnerable, the whispers of worthlessness, insinuations of rejection.

…Now a better hope has been given to us, and with this hope we can come near to God. Hebrews 7:19b (NCV)

Before I knew Jesus, my hope was based on my aspirations and on my relationships with people who surrounded me. Then, when the Lord revealed Himself, arms wide open, waiting expectantly for me to walk into His embrace, I began to see that my hope needed to be grounded in Christ. I realized the importance of centering my expectations on the Everlasting, Always-Loving God.

…Because Jesus lives forever, he will never stop serving as priest. So he is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.

Jesus is the kind of high priest we need. He is holy, sinless, pure, not influenced by sinners, and he is raised above the heavens. He is not like the other priests who had to offer sacrifices every day, first for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Christ offered his sacrifice only once and for all time when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:24-27 (NCV)

When I put my hope in the fallible things around me, in mutable thoughts of the future I will inevitably be disappointed. When I put my hope in other people – family, friends, and those I don’t even really know – I am often hurt, my heart disillusioned and feeling more lonely than ever.

Happy are those who are like this;

happy are the people whose God is the Lord. Psalm 144:15 (NCV)

But, when I draw near to God, placing my hope in Him, I am able to give thanks in all things. And, when I choose to bless His name, especially when circumstances are challenging, happiness arises from His gift of sufficient grace. I remember my heavenly identity and the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. I find joy in my salvation. I discover that I’ve become strong despite my weakness and my faith has been fortified.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my hope, my salvation. Thank You for thinking of me and counting me as important, valuable, and worthy of Your Love. Thank you for Your steadfastness and Your grace. Thank you for drawing near to me as I draw near to You. Thank You for Your many blessings over my life. 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 2 Kings, 66 Books, Amos, Hebrews, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

2 Kings 18; Philemon; Hosea 11; Psalms 132, 133, 134

The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah this:

“The great king, the king of Assyria, says: What can you trust in now? You say you have battle plans and power for war, but your words mean nothing. Whom are you trusting for help so that you turn against me?

“Don’t listen to Hezekiah. He is fooling you when he says, ‘The Lord will save us.’ Has a god of any other nation saved his people from the power of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? They did not save Samaria from my power. Not one of all the gods of these countries has saved his people from me. Neither can the Lord save Jerusalem from my power.” 2 Kings 18:19-20; 32b-35 (NCV)

When I am in the midst of a struggle in life, I can hear two voices at war in my head.

The voice of the enemy screams at me, shouting half-truths about the struggle and solutions to the problem, taunting me with intimidation, threatening my life, and questioning the faithfulness of my God. The enemy tries to scare me into believing that I am all alone, that maybe the Lord really isn’t all-knowing, all-powerful, that He isn’t a loving God but an angry God. The enemy attempts to turn my heart, my mind, my soul against the only True and Living God, tries to weaken my trust in Him.

“Israel, how can I give you up?

How can I give you away, Israel?

I don’t want to make you like Admah

or treat you like Zeboiim.

My heart beats for you,

and my love for you stirs up my pity.

I won’t punish you in my anger,

and I won’t destroy Israel again.

I am God and not a human;

I am the Holy One, and I am among you.

I will not come against you in anger.

Hosea 11:8-9 (NCV)

The voice of God whispers, still and small, yet clear. He speaks kindness, love. He shares His heart for me, His child; He reminds me that He will never leave me nor forsake me, even when, according to the world’s standards, I may have done something to deserve punishment. He retells His Good News – He gave His Son, the final blood sacrifice, offered me the priceless gift of grace and mercy, and provided redemption and reconciliation. He shares His strength with me, shares His truth with me, shares His wisdom with me. He gives me the answer – Trust. In. Me.

It is up to me to decide who to trust, what voice to listen to. Sometimes it is hard to hear anything but the loud, clamoring noise from the enemy camp. It is hard to stand up to the heckling and there are moments in my human weakness when I succumb to the jeers and give in. I start to believe the lies of the enemy.

Maybe Onesimus was separated from you for a short time so you could have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a loved brother. I love him very much, but you will love him even more, both as a person and as a believer in the Lord. Philemon 1:15-16 (NCV)

Then, in my feebleness, in those moments of separation from my Heavenly Father, I feel a strength that is not my own lifting me up, strengthening me. His truth rings in my ear, reverberates into my heart. His low tones rumble encouragement to my spirit and I remember the choice I made years ago to trust in Him and lean not on my own understanding. I remember that He chose me first, before the beginning of time, before I ever cared for Him. The battle of the voices ends and God’s voice resounds clear.

The Lord has chosen Jerusalem;

he wants it for his home.

He says, “This is my resting place forever.

Here is where I want to stay.

Psalm 132:13-14 (NCV)

I am in Him and He is in me forever and ever. 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 2 Kings, 66 Books, Hosea, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Philemon, Psalms