Tag Archives: Faith

Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

I am part of an online goal setting group, and many of the members shared their vision boards for 2020. I’ve never made a vision board, but gave it a try. I laughed to myself when I finished, realizing I had experienced most of those things in 2019. Some things that happened last year were not even thoughts at the year’s start–but I had margin, not so tightly focused on my own goals exclusive to opportunity. And God did life-giving things in my life. Not everything felt easy, beautiful or lovely, but even then, he kept drawing my attention back to a Kingdom focus.

In Genesis, God gives Abraham a Kingdom focus.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NLT)

And this:

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:15-18, NLT)

I notice Abraham laughed in disbelief. He can’t imagine God will do what he says he’ll do. So Abraham interjects with what he knows, what he sees, what is real in front of him: Ishmael. Kingdom focus clashes with a limited view/belief. 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:19, NLT)

God requires Abraham’s obedience.

I see Kingdom focus and obedience throughout the reading: when Jesus predicts his death and warns of the yeast of the Pharisees; Peter acknowledges Jesus as Son and yet reprimands Jesus for a fate Peter doesn’t want to happen (Kingdom focus clashes with own desire); threats to hinder a wall’s completion and a Kingdom focus to persevere–They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT); Paul’s travels blocked and redirected by the Holy Spirit, and even though he is imprisoned, he is still fruitful in sharing the Gospel.

Opposition (Nehemiah), a death sentence (Matthew), imprisonment (Acts), fathering a child in old age (Genesis) were probably not items these men would have put on their vision boards, but God gives them a Kingdom vision and the means to accomplish their tasks, even in opposition, death, imprisonment, and old age.

13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:13-16, NLT)

Father God, help me to press on, to leave margin for your plans and purpose in my life. Thank you already for equipping me and encouraging to keep a Kingdom focus, even in difficulties, especially in difficulties. Oh that anyone would see your hand and blessing upon my life and realize (this work) had been done with the help of God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 15; Matthew 14; Nehemiah 4; Acts 14

“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can.  That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.  Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession” But Abram replied, O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River.”  Genesis 15:5-8;18 NLT

In the midst of his faith, Abram still doubted.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.  “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:26-31 NLT

Jesus reached out for Peter in the middle of his doubt.

“While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet.  He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked.  He was sitting and listening as Paul preached.  Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.  So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.” Acts 14:8-10 NLT

Oh, to have faith like this man had.  To believe when everything in me is telling me to doubt.  How do I rise above the distrust that threatens to steal my hope?  I choose to remember God’s goodness.  His past faithfulness.  His unchanging character.  I cry out to him, knowing that he hears me.  I stay in his word and listen for his voice.  My faith has been tested this past year.  But, when I change my perspective, there is a shift in how I see.

“Faith is a prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain.  Faith is the prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain. Faith allows us to see that it’s okay to have doubt, but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks his word.”(When it’s So Dark All You Can See is Faith,  Dr. Lee Warren, Jan 10, 2020, annvoskamp.com)

Dear Father, thank you that you are with me always.  Thank you that you are fighting for me and my family.(Nehemiah 4:20).  I praise you for who you are.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

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Genesis 9,10; Matthew 9; Ezra 9; Acts 9

Not everyone goes to a doctor when they’re sick. Sometimes, they wait for illness to pass on its own. Sometimes they mask symptoms with temporary remedies just so they can get through the day or night. Sometimes they become so accustomed to the pain and discomfort that it becomes the new normal, and they don’t realize how bad off they are.

Jesus performs a lot of miracles in Matthew 9. He first forgives a paralyzed man for his sins–for which the watching teachers scoff. So Jesus tells the man to stand, take his mat and go (he does). Another man asks Jesus to come to his house because his daughter just died. On the way, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years reaches out to be healed, and is healed. (The dead daughter is raised again.) Two blind men encounter Jesus and their sight is restored. Jesus heals the sick.

10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13, NLT)

Sick people go to a doctor to get well, not to stay sick. These examples are of sick people (paralyzed, bleeding, dead, blind) who are healed. An encounter with Jesus is life changing.

16 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.

17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17, NLT)

I sit at this table this morning with these words. They are rich and full. Readings from four different books covering sin, legacy, life change, faith, prayer, transformation.

If he wanted me to stay just as I was, he need not have come. I might have waited for my affliction to pass, or continued to treat it myself, or worst of all–lived life oblivious of my infirmity and just accepted it as part of me.

Thank you, Lord, for all your miracles, not only to heal physically, but to transform spiritually. You love us so much. This wine in new wineskins so that both are preserved. You are so good.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalms 117; Psalms 125

“Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.  Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.  The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.  O Lord, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you.  But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O Lord.  Take them away with those who do evil.  May Israel have peace!” Psalms 125 NLT

Where is my trust? Trust has been hard for me this year. It seems like God is building into it, in situations I can’t control. It has made me question if I am operating out of fear or faith.  There have been times when I have been battle weary and tempted to lose hope. But, in simple obedience I have seen the Holy Spirit move in miraculous ways.  He has given me strength that I didn’t know I had. And has used me in spite of my weakness.  When I look for how He  is working, it takes the focus off of me and puts it back on Him.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations.  Praise him, all you people of the earth.  For his unfailing love for us is powerful; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.  Praise the Lord!” Psalms 117 NLT

When I reflect on His goodness, I see beyond the struggle to the things that matter…Bravery. Vulnerability. Old patterns being torn down. Child like faith. Purpose. Persistence. Hope restored.

Dear Father, I praise you for who you are.  I want my heart to be in tune with you.  I want to live expectant in the new year.  Amen.

Amy(amyctannner)

 

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Job 19-22; 1 John 5

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This chapter challenges me in so many ways. As I read through it, so many questions fill my heart and my mind.

Am I loving God’s children? It’s so easy to become frustrated and irritated with fellow believers due to various wrong expectations and selfish motives. Here I must ask myself, am I showing my brothers and sisters in Christ love through patience, kindness, and prayer? Am I showing that I love them in the way that I speak of them and with them?

Am I loving God? The evidence of my love for God is in my obedience. Am I choosing to do the right thing at the right time regardless of how I feel? Am I making my relationship with God a priority through prayer and study? Am I interacting with others in a way that glorifies God? Am I sharing His good news with those around me? Am I walking in integrity, honesty, and proving myself to be His child in what I say and do?

Are God’s commands burdensome to me? Or do I recognize the benefit of obedience and find joy in serving Him even when I find it challenging? Do I complain when I must love others? Do I get angry and resentful when God asks me to serve? Am I hiding from sharing Him with others because I’m afraid of what they will think of me?

 Am I overcoming the world, or is the world overcoming me? Have I let myself become fixated on myself and the world around me? Or has my relationship with God empowered me to walk in victory over my own sinful desires and the temptations of the world around me? Am I walking by faith or by sight?

Far too often I catch myself walking by sight, burdened by the things God asks of me, fearful of the cost of obedience, and as a result, failing in love towards others and, ultimately, God.

I especially find myself struggling during the holiday season. There’s so much going on, so much to do, so many obligations and demands on my time and attention, that I often catch myself trying to live on “cruise control” when it comes to my relationship with God. But when I fail to make my relationship with God a daily priority, everything else in my life begins to breakdown. His commands become burdensome, people become obstacles, and I find myself overcome by fear, insecurity, and the circumstances of the moment.

I know that if I want to walk in victory, I must be deliberate in my love toward God. As I make spending time with Him a priority, everything else begins to fall into place. People become opportunities. Things that were cause for fear are now material for hope. Irritating circumstances become a launching pad for prayer and dependence on God’s grace. And my life becomes much more victorious, not just in the big moments, but in the everyday moments that fill my day.

Father, forgive me for letting the world around me overcome me and overshadow my relationship with You. Forgive me for walking by sight instead of faith, fear instead of love, and obligation instead of relationship. I choose to make You my priority. Renew my love and passion for You, and let it overflow into my relationships and into my perspective of the world around me and the circumstances you place in front me. Help me to honor you by walking by faith in every moment, choosing love over annoyance, peace over fear, and joy over anxiety. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Esther 1-3; John 11; Psalms 150

A man named Lazarus was sick.  He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.  Her brother, Lazarus, was sick.  So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”  But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.  No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed were he was for the next two days.  Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”  John 11:1-7 NLT

I sat across from my once joyful daughter who looked like something had died inside her.  I was overtaken with the grief of the moment.  How come you haven’t healed her yet Lord?

“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.  “Where have you put him?” he asked them.  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entranceRoll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.  But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days.  The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” John 11:33-40 NLT

God has been speaking to me through Lazarus.  It’s such a familiar story to me, that I’ve overlooked important things about it.  I never realized the reason that God waited to raise Lazarus was so that he would get the glory.  I also never realized that He got angry over their lack of faith.

This is one of those readings that has been showing up everywhere else.   In a sermon, a blog, a counselor, this post.  I find myself processing and praying about how God wants to use this in my life. I know he wants to spur my faith. A friend reminds me that maybe what God wants to do is much more incredible than my mind can comprehend. That he wants me to see things from a different perspective. When I can’t see what he is doing now, to have the faith to trust him.  It will be no mistake who did it and He will get the glory.

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” Psalms 150 NLT

Dear Father, thank you that you resurrect old dreams, broken people.  You give me new life again.  You breath hope into the circumstances that seem dead to me. I am grateful for the cross.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

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