Tag Archives: hope

Joel 1-3; 1 Thess. 3

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV

In our reading today there is a huge contrast. In Joel we read about the hardship that the Lord’s people were experiencing. Joel called Judah to repent and cry out to God for salvation. The Lord responded with compassion and saved them and their land and cattle. Then the Lord called them to war.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul was so encouraged to hear about the faith of the Thessalonians and their consistent belief in Jesus. He encouraged them to continue and to increase their love for each other and everyone else. Paul asked the Lord to increase their love.

I have to be honest and say I have always struggled with the contrast between The Old Testament and The New Testament. I have taken classes and understand the cultural conditions that existed during each time. I have taken many classes and read many books about theology. However, I still cannot understand the contrast between the God that calls for war and the God that calls for peace and love.

So what do we do? I have learned from a mentor that I don’t force an answer where there is not a clear one. I wait. I wait for wise council, I wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading and and I wait for confirmation. Currently, in my life, I have been led by the Spirit to love and not turn the shovel in my garage into a sword. I don’t give answers I don’t have. I will answer, “I don’t know.”

So friends, as we wait for the Lord’s return… as week seek to follow the Lord’s leading… as we share the “good news” that has changed our lives, let us also be comfortable in the spaces of contrast and unknown.

Dear God, I pray as Paul did that you would strengthen our hearts so that they would be blameless and holy in your presence. Allow us to be confident in who You are even in the unknown. May we sense your nearness and love because You first loved us. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13&14; Matthew 22

“Abijam began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel.  he reigned in Jerusalem three years.  His mother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.  He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been.  But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem.  For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hitite.  Asa began his rule over Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel.  He reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years.  His grandmother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.  Asa did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done.  Although the pagan sinners were not removed, Asa’s heart remained completely faithful to the Lord throughout his life.” 1 Kings 15:9-14 NLT

This passage has me thinking about God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and family lines.   Abijam’s and Asa’s mother and grandmother are mentioned by name.  As well as who their grandmother was. What was the purpose of them being mentioned?  Was it to show their influence?  That they were not overlooked?  I wonder how many prayers they had prayed for their family?  Even when sin entered David’s life, God’s goodness prevailed.  He saw David’s heart and kept his covenant with him.  David must have been bursting with pride over Asa’s devotion to the Lord.  This is fresh in my thoughts after visiting my dad in the hospital a couple days ago.  Watching my oldest son pray for his grandfather.  A legacy of faith being passed down through generations.

Asa told the people of Judah, “Let us build towns and fortify them with walls, towers, gates, and bars.  The land is still ours because we sought the Lord our God, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they went ahead with these projects and brought them to completion.  So Asa deployed his armies for battle in the valley north of Mareshah.  Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord your God, for we trust in you alone.  It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde.  O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”  So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.”  2 Chronicles 14:7, 10-12 NLT

Asa was victorious because he sought the Lord.  He didn’t rely on his own strength. He remained faithful to the Lord, when I’m sure it would have been easier to give up.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment under the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT

Dear Father, thank you that you hear me.  That you see me.  Forgive me for when I want to follow my own way.  Help me to love others like you love me.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs 13-15; Matthew 9

In Matthew chapter 9, we see a series of people that came into contact with Jesus.

They had different issues, problems, and needs: a man who was paralyzed, a tax collector who had been known to take advantage of people, a woman who had suffered with bleeding for a dozen years, the heart-broken father of a girl who had died, two blind men, and a mute.

They all came to Jesus and were changed, according to their faith.

The paralyzed man walked home.

The tax collector became a Disciple.

The woman who bled was healed.

The girl was raised from the dead.

The blind saw.

The mute spoke.

And while Jesus was busy ministering to these needy people, the Pharisees looked on and despised him for it. They saw these people as broken, useless, and worthless. But Jesus saw something different.

Matthew 9:35-36 NIV

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus’ compassion never ceases to amaze me. Jesus was passionate and strong about the things that mattered most. He didn’t shy away from conflict or from telling people the truth, and there are many times we read of him rebuking the Pharisees or those who were trying to destroy the work of God. But Jesus was also kind, compassionate, and gentle with those who were broken both physically and spiritually. He saw them far differently than everyone else – to Him, they had worth; they had potential. Instead of leaving them to their own devices, he introduced them to the power of God to change their lives and give them meaning and purpose. He knew the missing ingredient, and He was determined to share with them the hope that He had to offer.

There are so many broken people in our world, in our states, in our cities, and in our neighborhoods. How many of them are simply sheep without a shepherd, waiting for someone to share the hope of Jesus with them? Will we see them like Jesus, or like the Pharisees?

Matthew 9:37-38 NIV

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I want to have the eyes of Jesus when I look at the world around me. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees, who saw people as obstacles; I want to see people as the gifts God has given me, the people He has entrusted to me, for the purposes of His kingdom. I want to offer healing, help, and hope in the name of Jesus. I want to be a worker in God’s kingdom to bring in the harvest of souls to heaven!

Father, forgive me for getting so caught up in my own comfort that I’ve missed those around me who are suffering and need You. Help me to be a vessel of your love and grace to those who are suffering, both physically and spiritually. I want to be a faithful worker in Your Kingdom, and to be a faithful representation of your compassion and kindness to those the world has written off as worthless, useless, and unnecessary. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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2 Chronicles 6-7; Matthew 3; Psalms 98-99

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.  My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.  For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy-a place where my name will be honored forever.  I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 NLT

I am seeing this verse in a new way.  The extravagant temple that Solomon built is a parallel to my body, His temple.  Am I surrendering it to Him?

He has set me apart.

He has made me holy.

He is watching over me.

He hears my prayers.

I am dear to his heart.

They cried to the Lord for help, and he answered them.  He spoke to Israel from the pillar of cloud, and they followed the laws and decrees he gave them.  O Lord our God, you answered them.  You were a forgiving God to them, but you punished them when they went wrong.  Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem, for the Lord our God is holy!” Psalms 99:6-9 NLT

God spoke to Israel in the pillar of a cloud.  There have been times when I have wondered why he isn’t  speaking to me in ways that he is to someone else.  I was recently asked to paint during the worship service at my church.  This was a huge step of faith for me and a fear I had to overcome.  One of my biggest stumbling blocks was that I didn’t know what to paint.  I prayed for God to reveal an image to me.  When he seemed to be silent, the doubt would creep in.  I was frustrated when I would hear other artists tell of images that God gave them. But, he did answer me, it was just in a different way that I was expecting. He showed me that it wasn’t as much about what I was painting, as it was surrendering to him and breaking the bondage of old ways of thinking. He spoke through my pastor and his word.  He provided in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.  I could feel his peace and presence like never before.

“Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power! The Lord has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation!  He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel.  The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” Psalms 98:1-3 NLT

Thank you Father that in you I have the victory.   That you hear me.  And you answer me.  I praise you for who you are. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

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2 Samuel 18-20; 2 Cor. 6; Psalm 56

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
     In God, whose word I praise
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4, NIV

I’ve read this passage of scripture so many times. When I was younger I struggled in understanding how I could not be afraid … especially of tornadoes. I would sit in the back hallway of the house with the rest of my family and shake and cry in fear of what would happen when the tornado hit…which it never did. I would love to say I outgrew this fear and although I don’t sit and shake and cry when the tornado sirens go off, I’m still very much afraid.

Fear can be all encompassing. It can fill all our thoughts and cause us to singularly focus on the thing that is terrorizing our minds. We can freeze and loose hope for the future. All we know about the life of David demonstrates that he had every right to be afraid. Protecting his sheep from wild animals as a young kid, going up against Goliath as a young man, running from King Saul, running from his own son and as we see in this passage, being captured by the philistines have all been times of potential fear for David.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

And yet…He says “I trust and am not afraid.” (Psalm 56:4,11) Right before each of these statements of trust, however, is the phrase “In God”. Unlike David, I have not learned to trust so completely that my fear is gone. I’m still afraid of many things. I can’t in my own power compel my fear to subside. But… “In God”. In God, I can learn. In God, I can slow down. In God, I can rest. In God, I can see God working. In God, I feel love. In God, I can love. In God, I receive mercy. In God, I am merciful. In God, I find grace. In God, I can be gracious. In God

In God. Am I in God? Am I pursuing God? Is my fear and anger keeping me from being in God? Is yours? In God is everything because it sets the stage for where God wants to lead us and what He wants to do in and through us. Are we In God?

Dear God, I pray my heart will be In You. I pray that when fear overwhelms, I will find my strength and identity In You. I pray that when I’m consumed with myself and my desires and wants I would turn and place myself In You. When I can’t do any more, I pray you take my life and place it In You. Please Father, do a work that I cannot. Do a work that brings me even more into you. I pray for those reading that they would be drawn into you. May our lives point others to you. And may the fear that clouds our vision, be diminished by being IN YOU. Amen.

Mandy Baldwin (mkaybaldwin)

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Joshua 22-24; Mark 9; Psalms 44;47

“Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.  “For the Lord has driven out great and powerful nations for you, and no one has yet been able to defeat you.  Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as he has promised.” Joshua 23:9-10 NLT

I am reading a book by Max Lucado called, Glory Days.  It is about Joshua.  This is his response to Joshua 23:9&10…”Don’t you love that image? One man of you shall chase a thousand.  I envision a single Hebrew soldier with drawn sword racing after am entire battalion of enemies.  He is outnumbered a thousand to one, but since God fights for him, they scatter like scared pigeons.  I picture the same for you.  The Amorites of your life-fears, dread, hatred, and hurt-come at you like a legion of hoodlums.  Yet rather than run away, you turn and face them. You unsheathe the promise of God’s word and defy the enemies of God’s cause.”  And than he says this, “Did you know that God is fighting for you?”  Wow, how different would I live if I truly remembered that.  And prayed like that.  Jesus fights for me. Just like he fought for the little boy with the evil spirit inside him…

Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought the boy.  But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.  “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.  He replied, “Since he was a little boy.  The spirit often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him.  Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”   “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” ” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:19-24 NLT

What areas do I still need healing in that I am not believing God for?  What lies from Satan am I still listening to?

“You drove out the pagan nations by your power and gave all the land to our ancestors.  You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free.  They did not conquer the land with swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory.  It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them.”  Psalms 44:2&3 NLT

Dear Father, thank you for how much you love me.  Thank you that you give me the power to defeat my enemies.  Sometimes it is my own self-doubt and insecurity that defeats me before I even start.  I claim your promises over my life.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

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Deuteronomy 15-18; Acts 27; Psalms 88

“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need. When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.” Deuteronomy 15:10-15 NLT

Remember. But, oh, how many times I forget. I think on God’s faithfulness. His provision. His constant care in my life. How can I not be generous? And share what he has given me. Sometimes it seems easier to hold on to it. Not only money, but my time, talents…all the ways he has been good to me. Sharing is to trust that God will fill the need. Many times, above and beyond what I could ask or imagine.

                                                *

Paul was sailing to Rome. He was a prisoner, under the custody of a Roman officer. He didn’t have a choice, but to rely on friends to take care of him. How humbling that must have been. I am thankful for the times that God has used other people to provide for me and my family. My prayer is that I would do the same for others who have a need.

“The next day we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul to let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs.  The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten in a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” Acts 27 NLT

Paul never gave up hope.  He kept encouraging the people, even after they didn’t listen to him.  His faith and courage had to be contagious.  When I feel alone, I want to be like Paul. Remembering that God is with me.  And reach out to those around me, while proclaiming my belief.  Knowing that the God who got me through the trial before, will be faithful again. 

Dear Father, thank you for your goodness. Help me to remember that everything I have comes from you. Help me to live with open hands. Thank you that you rescue me. Amen.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.” Psalms 88 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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