Tag Archives: following Jesus

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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Deuteronomy 4-5; Luke 6

For my relationship with him; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with others–his commands are meant for good.

29 Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. (Deuteronomy 5:29, NLT)

When Jesus walked this world, some observed with suspicion, outrage, hate. Others saw hope.

18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. (Luke 6:18-19, NLT)

In Luke 6, I read the beatitudes, the sorrows foretold, love for enemies, judgment, fruitfulness, building on a solid foundation. These words are meant for good–for my relationship with others; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with him.

Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him. Wouldn’t my arms reach for him too? And I have these words he said, here in front of me. As I read them, he is telling me so plainly how to live. How to love. How to serve.

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49, NLT)

When opinions, attitudes, pressures, and personalities clash, Lord, help me to see past the immediate to the eternal. You give me counsel for my good and your glory. Help me to keep perspective. Help me to remember. Help me to obey. I am so grateful for this time with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 12; Romans 10; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 26,27

Unless I’m researching a specific topic, my favorite stop at the library is its new inventory section. This is the spot that piques my interest to reach for books I’d probably never consider (or even know of their existence). A recent loaner on gluten-free pizza was a delightful meal changer for us this summer. And a title in tobacco- and white-colored letters peeking off a black spine changed my heart for good: Not Forsaken by Louie Giglio. I checked it out without even perusing the description.

22 “The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.” (1 Samuel 12:22, NLT)

Turns out, Not Forsaken is about God and why he’s the perfect father. And in only the way God can, he puts this book in my hands at the right time to tell me how much he loves me, and how valued I am as a daughter–his daughter. Chosen. Dearly loved. Not forsaken.

“The six hours in the span of history when Jesus hung on the cross say more about you than all the rest of the hours in history put together. And without a doubt, the cross says God so loves you.” (Giglio, 131)

Not abandoned.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (Psalm 27:8-14, NLT)

For every lie an enemy speaks over my life, the Lord slays it with his truththe truth.

For I am always aware of your unfailing love,
    and I have lived according to your truth.
I do not spend time with liars
    or go along with hypocrites.
I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,
    and I refuse to join in with the wicked.
I wash my hands to declare my innocence.
    I come to your altar, O Lord,
singing a song of thanksgiving
    and telling of all your wonders.
I love your sanctuary, Lord,
    the place where your glorious presence dwells. (Psalm 26:3-8, NLT)

You loved me first, Lord, and I love you back.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12; 2 Timothy 2

New routines, new seasons, new challenges. A dear friend’s words to her child reach out from the years to encourage me now–to keep focused on the goal.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired,
    how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
    what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NLT)

Remember the why.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Focus. Obedience. (Diligence, reward.)

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus … 19 But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,”[b] and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”[c] (2 Timothy 2:15-17, 19, NLT)

I think long on purpose and Kingdom focus. Sideline skirmishes try to take my focus off the goal, words maim and discourage, and some obstacles seem like impenetrable blocks.

He reinforces, “Don’t give up.” Oh, if I stumble on the open ground, how will I ever traverse the thicket? He has spoken purpose in my heart and over my life.

21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT).

He points the way, in the distraction and in the storm.

Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2: 22b-26, NLT).

Lord, I lean on you for understanding. You are loving and wise and generous. You gently turn my focus and remind me: don’t forget the why.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezra 5-6; Psalm 95; 3 John

My first impression reading of the prophets speaking over the people was of God’s sovereignty.

At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them (Ezra 5:1-2, NLT, emphasis added).

I thought about God’s sovereignty in the wait. When rebuilding was questioned and archives were searched to verify permission, I thought about what their life might have felt like in the wait. (I thought of what my life has felt like in times of wait.)

Then I saw his abundant provision. The prophets of God were with them and helped them. King Darius responds to the query, confirming permission and payment in full from the taxes collected so that their work wouldn’t be interrupted, and he adds:

Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. 10 Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons. (Ezra 6:9-10, NLT, emphasis added)

Father God, you remind me: You are sovereign. You are my provider. You are my portion. I keep my eyes fixed on you, seeking your kingdom, listening for your voice.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! (Psalm 95:1-7, NLT)

God affects life in his big-picture way, and allows us to be agents on his behalf in the details, rolling up sleeves like the prophets did in Ezra, supporting others in ministry, using gifts and talents for God’s kingdom.

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. (3 John 5-6, NLT)

And, in response to Diotrephes’s pride and motivation:

11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God. (3 John 11, NLT)

Lord, thank you for meeting me every morning for a sunrise walk, for speaking into and over my life, for changing my heart and changing my vision. Thank you for letting me show your love when I serve others. This is a sweet privilege.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ezra, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized