Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

2 Kings 4:29-8:15

One of my challenges to understanding the Old Testament is reading about war, yet there are many stories of interest in God’s narrative other than just who wins or loses the battles. The first several short stories in this Scripture focus describe God confirming His prophet, Elisha through signs and miracles. I especially was struck by an incident when Elisha prayed that God would feed a hundred men where there were only 20 loaves of barley bread in one man’s knapsack. His servant broke bread until all were fed and some food was left over (reminds me of the miracles through the Lord Jesus yet to come). Elisha also instructed an enemy captain, Naaman, what to do to receive healing from leprosy (doing good to his enemy, again is messianic). We also learn that Elisha, who spoke not of his own will, but what he heard from God, was completely confident in what he was to say. Even when he knew the outcome would not be favorable, he did not hold back speaking the word of God. It is one such story that drew me in for a closer look.

When Elisha met with the king of Aram’s messenger regarding Aram’s failing health, Elisha said this to the man, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” But Elisha could not stop staring at the messenger, Hazael, who became embarrassed under Elisha’s gaze. In this eerie moment, Elisha was given a horrifying vision of what was to come at the hand of Hazael. He wept as he prophesied to Hazael what he would do to the Israelites, saying, “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” Elisha knew he was helpless to do anything about this but weep; yet he was tasked with knowing and prophesying the tragedy.

I do not seek that kind of relationship with God, our Father. Still, there have been times when I feared for a person’s future without really knowing why. And when some disaster shortly befell that person, I went to my knees in fear and in prayer for mercy. On another occasion, when this foreboding overtook me concerning what a person said, I prayed for God to forgive her. I still pray that His mercy was shown to her in her last moments of life. I am no prophet, and frankly I do not want to be the harbinger of destruction. It weighs down my soul.

Yet, there are many even today who are called prophets, and who are sounding the alarm about the times we are living in. How can I discern when God is speaking through them? When I hear of destruction, is my fear of what is to come causing me to tremble? Or am I fearful for the words of those who pray for this destruction, not just to destroy the enemy armies but to cut off their descendants? Are we to pray for our enemies and ask God to destroy them at the same time? This, too, weighs down my soul.

My writer friends and I have been discussing the ‘divided heart.’ Loving two things at the same time. I thought about Jesus’ commandment, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:43-48). If we are to obey Christ, therefore, we must love our enemies even knowing their intent to do us or others harm. How do we do that?

Look up to heaven. Look into the face of Jesus Christ. Let His words, His Spirit, and His will be alive in our prayers. For the only way a soul is lifted up is to give God glory. He alone knows the end of all life; I am not the one who has understanding. And that is okay. My prayer is that God be with us all, protecting our hearts from becoming embittered, unforgiving, or vindictive. What we may see in a vision or otherwise, we must submit to a good God who is Lord over all the earth. Let us start by dropping to our knees in prayer for mercy. Then pray that God will increase our faith in the sovereignty of His will.

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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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Leviticus 4-7; Hebrews 3

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. This is how you are to deal with those who sin unintentionally by doing anything that violates one of the Lord’s commands.” (Leviticus 4:1, NLT)

I read through the Lord’s instructions to Moses in Leviticus 4-7. They are thorough. They are lengthy. So when I get to Hebrews 3 and the mention of Moses in comparison to Jesus, the connection is fresh.

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house.

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. (Hebrews 3:106, NLT)

The scriptures go further to warn against a hardening of the heart against God.

That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
    when they tested me in the wilderness.
There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
10 So I was angry with them, and I said,
‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
    They refuse to do what I tell them.’
11 So in my anger I took an oath:
    ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (Hebrews 3:7-13, NLT)

It caused me to think on things that would harden my heart in any event–and can I keep a hardening heart in one area of my life from hardening against God?

I’m so thankful for Jesus, who took my sins, washed me clean with his sacrifice. I can lay them down before him, the intentional and unintentional and tangled mess, and he still calls me loved. He still calls me daughter. He still calls me forgiven. He is my high priest and my hope.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 3; Ephesians 1; Ezekiel 34; Psalm 83, 84

My husband will ask for a list of gift ideas near a gift-giving occasion. Some families go big on birthdays, but we’ve chosen to go small: one gift (which actually became two when the kids wanted in on giving, so really, two gifts). Ideas can range from really practical (like cookware) to pleasurable (like perfume). When the Lord asks Solomon what he wants, I lean in.

That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” (1 Kings 3:5, NLT)

I paused. I wondered: what would I ask?

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:7-14, NLT, emphasis added)

Solomon chose practical over pleasurable. He knew he needed discernment to govern well and that he was faced with an important responsibility. I value that he chose with a kingdom focus (not only an immediate kingdom, but one that would outlive him). And I love God’s response: that and more.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:3-14, NLT, emphasis added)

I realized I don’t really let my mind go free in the possibilities, that I don’t go big or small with God. Sometimes, I don’t even ask. And now I wonder: why?

Lord, I want to praise and glorify you with my life. Help me to come to you and ask. I know I trust you, so why don’t I ask? I know you love me, so why don’t I ask? I know you’re generous, so why don’t I ask? I know when I draw near to you, you meet me. Thank you for your word to remind me I am chosen and dearly loved. You call me yours, and that truly is a gift.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 34-35; Ephesians 2

At some point, the crickets’ song took over summer, reminding that a new season approaches. During a morning walk, honking geese overhead shake me from a summer dream almost like an alarm–a new season approaches. I remember thinking, “It’s only July–you’re going the wrong way!”

My calendar said there was still plenty of time. But suddenly it’s two weeks later and two more to go will go in a blink. When I was young, the days seemed long. Now I find myself wishing for more hours in the day.

Lord, help me to keep a Kingdom focus. When I find myself small, discouraged, I want to remember, you are mighty.

16 Search the book of the Lord,
    and see what he will do.
Not one of these birds and animals will be missing,
    and none will lack a mate,
for the Lord has promised this.
    His Spirit will make it all come true (Isaiah 34:16, NLT).

A friend reminded me, the Lord is a redeemer.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

A changing of seasons seems almost imperceptible when I operate in the daily–laundry, schedules, appointments. One day the trees are budding. Another day, I am aware of the rich aroma of full flowers saturating the air. Now the mornings have a pleasant chill that make me want to run faster and farther. A kingdom here, a kingdom near, and I am reminded I am his.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT).

An accuser wants me weak and fearful–unwanted, worthless, abandoned. Faith tells me I belong. I am his.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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