Tag Archives: enemies

Ezekiel 16-18; John 6

He came so that we could have life.

Old Testament reading of a nation’s beauty, nurtured and tended, turned prostitute. God says of sin:

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4, NLT.

The warnings whisper through time, woven in example after example. Sin kills.

30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32, NLT.

God speaks and HE is judge. It is not for me to sit back and tally offenses (help me, God, help me). He looks at it all, he is judge.

I was thinking on a New Testament story of a man who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And then wondered to myself, “Who is my enemy?” God says to bless our enemies, to pray for those who persecute–and I read these verses and think of his heart: Turn back and live. Whether I or another falls into sin, it grieves his heart and he wants something better–will not forsake me and speaks over me: turn back and live.

Sin kills. It breaks apart families and friendships. It snares a heart and squeezes tightly. Lord, you came so that we could have life, and not just eternal life, but life TODAY.

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” John 6:27b, NLT.

Where do I spend my energy? Is my time spent clinging to sin that strangles–ensnared in a trap? Lord, I seek and pursue you–you are my peace and my freedom.

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:32-40, NLT.

Lord, give me that bread every day. This is me: seeking, reaching, grasping, praying–and there you are: looking at me and not past me, never rejecting or losing me; life giving, heart changing, bread of life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 1-3; Acts 16:1-15

David writes this psalm while fleeing from his son Absalom. It’s hard to imagine the vulnerability of sleep when someone is out for your life. It’s hard to imagine your own family member out to destroy you.

Enemies don’t always come across as sinister villains. Sometimes they wear larger-than-life smiles. Sometimes they send you Christmas cards. Sometimes they are people you’d least expect (like David’s son!). Does this hatred lie dormant in each of us? What triggers the turn? Is it power? Is it jealousy? Is it resentment? What feeds this beast?

Oh, Lord, guard my heart!

There were days when I could not hold my head up. Days when there were enemies on every side. I stood in worship and sang the words, if our God is for us then who could ever stop us. I wondered, when so much seemed wrong, was God for me? That is the darkest place to be.

When an enemy’s hand holds down, it’s hard to feel uplifted by encouragement, “God’s got something better.” Because, what if–and you’d seem faithless to finish the question.

I read over Acts with some students last fall as we were getting to know about Paul. I read this part with fresh understanding:

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:6-8, NLT.

That first spring after we moved, I learned how to ride the tractor to cut the field. I’m sure I was a grinning fool, overwhelmed by beauty. The sky, the fragrance, the feel of the breeze, the sound of the birds, the temperature–like an embrace. He spoke to me there, a repeating refrain. I searched his words online and found them. He took my breath away with this: “It was I who sent that great destroying army against you.”

And you know what? I was thankful.

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” Interlude

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. Interlude Psalm 3:1-8, NLT

When hardships come, I can know: he is a shield; he hears me and holds me; he watches over me. I can read the words and know them as truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 27, Psalm 70-71, Isaiah 17-18, & I Peter 5

It is uncanny, seemingly coincidental, and a little unsettling that the readings this week in the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan and my 31 Days of Praise devotional appeared to be preparing me to handle a surprise attack at work.

In Numbers 27, I read that five sisters approached Moses and demanded that he give them the inheritance that traditionally would only be passed to the sons because there were no sons. (Okay, no big deal, and kudos for the rights of women.)

Then Psalm 70 bursts out with an urgency to have God’s deliverance from enemies; and Psalm 71 goes on to plead that God would keep the praying soul from being put to shame. (I’m still not thinking there is anything for me to ponder too deeply at this point; my life has been relatively calm for a while.)

Then comes Isaiah 17 with lots of descriptive judgments such as calling the nations chaff (a lack of value, stability, life) and being caught up in the whirlwind of God’s rebuke.  (Hmmm…am I about to feel the divine correction of God?)

Isaiah 18 isn’t much better.  The first word is “Woe.”  I’m wondering what the line, “And when the sour grape is ripening in the flower, He will both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks and take away and cut down the branches.”  (I’m starting to sweat as I worry what is about to be lopped off.)

Surely the New Testament will bring a hope of mercy, but no!  We are urged to “be sober and be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  (Now I’m looking over my shoulder to see what is about to pounce on me.)

I calm myself with the assurance that my devotional is focused on praise, so I expect to find comforting words.  You can imagine how I felt when I read, “Thank You again that You meant for good the terrible things that happened to Joseph…,” (remember he was sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into a pit a couple of times) “…I’m glad Lord, that You are the same today – well able to work things out for us, to turn evil into good.” (I’m not kidding, I’m quoting!)

So I’m certain at this point that all these readings must have something to do with my life or else I am not listening to my God who speaks through Scripture.

And then the bomb fell.  I learned from a coworker that the person who works closest to me had gone to our supervisor to say that she was working harder than me and that it wasn’t fair.  The coworker’s words were, “She’s gunning for you.”

Now had I not read Scripture, prayed over the Word, sought the Lord for wisdom, and accepted whatever He has prepared for me, I think I would have returned to my flesh-like ways of defending myself to my supervisor.  Instead, I repeated the comforting words of thanksgiving from my devotional, “Thank You that I can safely commit my location and situation to You. I can ‘be willing for You to shift me anywhere on life’s checkerboard, or bury me anywhere in life’s garden, gladly yielding myself for You.” I think my submitted attitude to God helped me to submit to my supervisor and find favor in her eyes. What a relief we have in the promise of Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

A thousand times better than taking Xanax!

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Psalms 74, 75, 76; Revelation 5

The reflection in the rear view mirror shows fractures and splinters–those defining moments when life is altered and things (or self) will never be the same. Looking back, I still remember the beauty of the winter sky, the sound of south-bound flying geese, how littlest birds perched on electrical wires. The years of the sometime-struggle all feel like a winter’s day, cold and gray.

I remember, then, writing out a list of thanks, even while sinking in sorrow, for God’s presence in my life. And when thoughts of (that) reality choked me, I sang out praise to drown the words of an internal dialogue.

The psalmist writes of a world gone wrong, of God the target of insults, of an enemy with an upper hand. And I realize, from age to age, there is nothing new under the sun. I still wait for God, like all those souls did long ago. I cry out to him, as they did too.

Psalms seem like a conflicted pot of emotion–injustice, mourning, and praise. And it is praise that catches my eye.

12 You, O God, are my king from ages past,
    bringing salvation to the earth.
13 You split the sea by your strength
    and smashed the heads of the sea monsters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan
    and let the desert animals eat him.
15 You caused the springs and streams to gush forth,
    and you dried up rivers that never run dry.
16 Both day and night belong to you;
    you made the starlight and the sun.
17 You set the boundaries of the earth,
    and you made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:12-17 NLT

We thank you, O God!
    We give thanks because you are near.
    People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

God says, “At the time I have planned,
    I will bring justice against the wicked.
When the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil,
    I am the one who keeps its foundations firm. Psalm 75:1-3

You are glorious and more majestic
    than the everlasting mountains. Psalm 76:4

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—
    to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and blessing.”

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.” Revelation 5:11-13

My take-away from this time today, an underscoring of something I always knew: God is in control.

Is my testimony of God one of grief and sorrow? Or is my song in the face of loss that God reached out to me? God uses circumstances to draw people closer to him.

God, I know going into a trial, I might not have chosen it if you had given me the description. But looking back, though life seems fractured, I see you and your work in and around me. And I praise you. May I be mindful of your presence in all the circumstances I face. You are in control.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 26,27; Ephesians 6

From the archives, March 26, 2010.

I have really struggled with some relationships. I am taken off guard when someone inflicts emotional pain. I scratch my head over cold hearts. Tend to wounds over hurt feelings. Imagine the worst of someone as if they are the embodiment of evil:  plotting, unkind, cruel.

I have asked aloud and of others, “Who is my neighbor? Who is my enemy?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell when an attack comes from a coworker, a stranger, or an old “friend” on Facebook. When callous conflict comes from a relative, a confidant, even a sister in Christ, I wonder are you friend or foe?

Until today.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

Today when I wondered about neighbors and enemies, I thought of the faces on each “team” and realized, as I have before, that God loves every one of them. Today, when I considered my list of grievances, I also thought of the list someone may be holding against me. Today, what was different about this inner dialog was that I discovered my enemy is not flesh and blood.

Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” not because his disciple had morphed into the devil. The next time I try to put a face on my opponent, I need to stop and put on the armor of God. The enemy will use anyone to further his cause. Even a Christ follower.

Courtney (66books365)

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