Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

Holidays interrupt the ordinary activities of my life and give me an opportunity to revitalize my commitment to God or holidays can draw my spirit into contemplating my recurrent need to depend on God. Such interruptions can lead to restoration and hope of blessings. Leviticus 23 lists the times of many God-ordained holidays, reminders of God’s deliverance, provision, forgiveness, and mercy. His presence is the gift in the midst of community, and the same is true during Christian holidays. I didn’t know how much I missed community until this past Easter. I have felt like a nomad these last 10 years, moving from state to state, changing jobs, changing churches, leaving the bones of loved ones in strange lands.

Ecclesiastes 6:2, written by my soulmate, Solomon, says, “A man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor, so that he lacks nothing for himself of all he desires; yet God does not give him power to eat of it…this is vanity, and it is an evil affliction.” Solomon contrasts this scenario with his earlier statement that every man to whom God prospers and gives the divine gift of enjoyment receives blessings, indeed. Holidays have a way of slowing down my soul’s race to acquire the object and turning my eyes toward the Giver of my soul’s redeemed desires.

Interruptions in my work week can illuminate the threads of discontent or the tears in the fabricated beliefs I’ve entertained. The simplicity of following Christ needs no interpretation – if I am faithless, Christ remains faithful; he cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). I am therefore unafraid of the future, and I am free to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.”

So Lord Jesus Christ, resurrected Savior and lover of my soul, I am pleased to be interrupted with holy days that urge me to focus on You. Like King David, I can praise (Psalm 30:11, 12).

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my        sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise            to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

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Leviticus 8; Psalm 9; Proverbs 23; I Thessalonians 2

Walk worthy of God (but not at the pace of a workaholic)! My husband is always telling me that I work too hard. He sees me putting in too much time at my job, trying to complete a task without the strength or the tools, only to see the fruits of my labor disappear as quickly as a flash of lightening…and believe me, I feel like I’ve been struck at those times.

So I was interested in Proverbs 23:4, which states, “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven, (NKJV). Overworking for money is definitely not recommended.

I do believe, however, that we are called to excellence in our work, and stories of the great men and women in the Bible have been my inspiration. For instance,                           I Thessalonians 2:10-12 exhorts us to be dedicated in our labors. Paul described his work as an apostle: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children; that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” Also, Leviticus 8:23 leads me raises goosebumps on my skin as I visualize the scene where Moses placed sacrificial blood on various body parts to inaugurate Aaron and his sons for holy service.  Blood upon the ear symbolized that they should always listen to and obey God’s commands. The hand grasps and holds things, so blood upon the thumb symbolized that they should actively carry out God’s will. Since the foot is the organ of movement, blood upon the big toe symbolized that they should always move with brisk and cheerful readiness (adapted from The Chumash). These examples of service make the command, ‘walk worthy of God,’ my mantra for performing good works for God.

Yet, this striving can, itself, become a hindrance to accomplishing the very work God has called me to. For in my human efforts, I can become driven, rigid, and hyper-focused to the point of ignoring that God is the One at work in me and through me – it is not I who elicits change. Psalm 9:1 lifts up this prayer, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your (my emphasis) marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” To walk worthy of God is to praise Him for all His works and to recognize that He is the one who works all things for our good.

I pray today, dear Lord God, that all Your work will be accomplished in me and through me as I lay my burden of work at Your feet. I can rise to the challenges ahead because You are working in me, still. I rejoice in knowing that my Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, is active and alive in me and all those who know the power of Your great Name. Hi, ho! It’s off to work, I go!

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

The Chamush. The ArtScroll Series/Stone Edition. 2000.

The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Genesis 12; Matt. 11; Nehemiah 1; Acts 11

Merry Christmas; Happy New Year; Glad Tidings; Joy to the world – songs and cards and greetings for a season. Many of us wistfully desire to keep holiday smiles, generosity, and sentimentality the whole year through. Life interrupts. We’re pulled up short. Then we wonder, “Where did my joy go?”

Commercialized industry urges us to pack up our Christmas joy, stuff it in the attic for next year, and wait obediently for the next brief holiday to hit the shelves. I have to admit that I keep my Christmas decorations up long after the New Year’s party is over, perhaps fearing I will box away joy leaving home and heart as void as my depleted checkbook. I was asked the other day if I am someone who sees the glass half empty or half full, and I could only stutter something unintelligible about relativity. So I prayed, “God, teach me where to find Your joy.” I think He took great pleasure in answering right away.

In Genesis 12:2, God promises Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” Joy can be found in God’s smile and in the warmth of His pleasure. Even before Abraham left his countrymen to follow God’s plan, God was happy with him. I, too, can enjoy the blessings of an intimate relationship with God.

But fear and anxiety can steal joy. Over the last six months, the grandson of a good friend has been undergoing cancer treatment at St. Jude’s. I marvel to read his testimony of courage and strength, penned by his Christian mother. She points to the blessings spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Joy can be found in that invitation, for fear and anxiety melt away when burdens are laid at the feet of Jesus.

Joy also comes from knowing that God looks and listens when we pray. Nehemiah 1:5 records the confidence in Nehemiah’s prayers. “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments; please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night…” Day or night, in triumph or tragedy, even in the midst of confession there is joy in that the God of the universe sees and hears me and, most of all, answers prayers!

So when I look for joy, I need not venture far. I can see the grace of God in me, in my friends, in the church, and in the salvation of each new Christian. I want to be like Barnabas, the New Testament missionary, when he responded to Gentiles receiving the gospel message. Acts 11:22-24 says, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Joy does not end with the passing of a season or the storage of the Baby in a manger. Nor is my cup half empty or half full. For my  cup is overflowing with joy from the daily blessings of a good Father, divine rest from heavy burdens, and unending grace in the presence of Christ Jesus. Wouldn’t you like to drink this cup of joy?

Cheers to us all!

Janet (jansuwilkinson) All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. (2002)

After writing, today, I listened to this sermon delivered by the son-in-law of my good friend. What a delight to hear a similar message (much better delivered, too!) about joy.

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Job 12-14; Psalm 100; Revelation 13

“No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” The ‘patience of Job’ seems to have run out as evidenced by Job’s caustic answer to his critics. I can relate to Job; after I stop listening to the opinions and perceptions of others, I go straight to God for answers. However, I do think it gutsy and a little frightening that Job utters these words, “I desire to reason with God.” I’ve heard it said that God is not ruffled by our questioning His allowance of evil in life or His silence in unanswered prayer, yet I am reticent to go to God’s throne to state my case. I cower at Job’s question, “Will it be well when He searches you out?” I fear that the three-legged stool of Righteousness, Faith, and Salvation, upon which I stand, will not hold up to the weight of my defense.

My first argument attacks the leg of righteousness. Can I say in my defense that I have been a good girl this year — that I have tried my best to follow God’s will – that I have borne suffering well? This defense is about as laughable as that of the innocent faced, little boy on Santa’s lap who threw his toy truck at the neighbor’s cat when no one was looking. I would like to believe that I have been good, but my conscience, pricked by the Holy Spirit, daily pulls me up short. Those natural urges to blurt out foolishness to cover lack of confidence or the oozing sarcasm and gossip used to minimize irresponsibility are just a few opposing arguments hurled against my righteousness.  Then my irrational thought that even good girls make mistakes, which is understandable and therefore forgivable, leads to a second questionable defense.

“I know that I will be vindicated,” (Job 13:18b). The leg of faith has been gnawed on by various theologians; and my own faith has several layers of meaning. One is tied to belief in God’s sovereignty and His character. I believe that He is concerned for the lives of men and that He will do as He has purposed. Faith also means to me that worldly circumstances do not dictate eternal outcomes. I believe that faith is a supranatural view that allows miracles and other divine interventions in this world to add special sweetness and foretaste of the heavenly life to come. What my faith lacks, however, is the certainty that I should be vindicated. Can I honestly say that God should be on my side in any given situation? What seems fair to me or in my favor may be subjugated to what God is doing in others. Should I count loss as lack of faith or just accept loss as the will of God?

With two legs missing on my stool, I teeter precariously, balancing with years of practice trying to save myself. This arms-out, eyes down approach to holding onto my salvation isolates me from looking up for help or gripping the Lord’s hand reaching down to save.  Fear of falling. Fear of failing. Fear of being forgotten.

And there it is – the thought that God has turned away from me knocks the stool right out from under me. My defenses gone, I plead mercy. Better to be judged and chastised than tossed aside. Yet, my fears dissolve in God’s overflowing grace. It is not my righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ Jesus that the Almighty God is looking for. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that … in him we might become the righteousness of God,” I Corinthians 5:21. It is not my understanding that increases faith, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8.  So why argue my case at all? Revelation 13:8 alludes to the names written in the Book of Life of the Lamb. Knowing He has written my name there from the foundation of the world is my assurance of salvation.  That is reason enough to “Serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing.”  Truth is that getting off of my man-made stool of spiritual understanding will allow God to come to my defense; for “The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5). That is how I am vindicated.

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Ezekiel 34-36; Psalm 86; John 12

My husband and I were having a discussion the other day about the state of our nation. Perhaps most aging generations reflect similarly in comparing what once was with what is now, and pondering what will come. Our ruminations based on opinions and media hype invariably give way to God’s word, for He alone has authority over nations. In Him are truths, promises, and enlightenment that supersede the norms, deceit, and smokescreens of man.

Because my husband and I believe in both God’s judgment and His mercy, we wondered what our nation may become in the near future. Of course, we are talking American politics and culture. Being unsure, we sought (and continue to seek) answers from God.

Ezekiel, who was an Old Testament prophet sent by God, had much to say about God’s involvement in building up and tearing down nations. In Ezekiel 34:25-31, God assured His exiled people, “I will make a covenant of peace…” with them. “…they shall know that I am the Lord.” The people were promised security from foreign aggressor, prosperity and productivity, and His lasting relationship with them. Does God consider America as His chosen or are Christians in America becoming the remnant of an exiled people?

On the other hand, Ezekiel said that God would “stretch out His hand” against those who had taken advantage of His people, all “who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with wholehearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country.” By their destruction, God said, they “will know that I am the Lord.” (35:3-4).

At this point in reading Scripture, my husband and I were nodding in agreement with God’s judgments, but before we could say, “Yes, Lord, go get’em!” we read further. For in Ezekiel 36, God provided an explanation for intervening on behalf of His people. God did not save them because of their piety or righteousness; in fact, He said, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.” Ouch! Like Israel, can it be that our complacency, complicity, and crumbling beneath pressure contributed to the problems we now see in our nation? Thankfully, in spite of disobedience by His people, and through God’s desire for all to know Him, He sanctified His great name. God said, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes…the nations shall know that I am the Lord…”

Hallowed in them – in us. What a privilege to be the undeserved object of His affection! Now because of Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross, God will cleanse us. He “will give [us] a new heart and put a new spirit within [us].” By His Holy Spirit we are helped to walk in His statutes, keep His judgments, and do them. In John 12:27-28, Jesus, talking about His agony over impending death said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” When our souls are troubled by what we see happening in our nation, can we become the instrument of change? Can we say, “Father, glorify Your name.”

We can start by praying Psalm 86: “For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…teach me Your ways,” (for Your ways are not like mine). “Unite my heart to fear Your name,” (so that I may not be double-minded).  Help us by Your Holy Spirit to stand up against “the proud and the mob of violent men who have not set You before them.” Then we can be confident that, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.”

Amen!

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Ezekiel 28-30; John 10

Kingdoms set up, taunting enemies around God’s treasured. One is puffed up pride. Another a greedy giant. A third, talons-out taunter. These were kingdoms with rulers and boundaries and armies, but a reduction to basic elements gets to roots–things that set themselves against God.

Boasting bullies of pride, greed, hate. Sins that steal and kill and destroy.

26 They will live safely in Israel and build homes and plant vineyards. And when I punish the neighboring nations that treated them with contempt, they will know that I am the Lord their God.” Ezekiel 28:26, NLT.

They will know the mighty and just hand of God.

They will know his voice.

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:6-16, NLT)

Mighty God, you fight for your treasured people when we are unable to fight these big battles ourselves. Lord, let me lean into you and listen closely to your voice. Oh, how you love us.

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:25-30, NLT)

Grateful for the safety in your hands.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 4-6; Psalm 82; John 2

“That’s not what I expected. I’ve been listening to others who have heard Him teach, and their stories of His divine wisdom and hints of rising power have excited me – even ignited hope to my weary soul…worn down with eking out a living under the heavy hand of Roman captors. Yes, I feel like a captive, even though I am not a slave, yet. What a miserable thought – that I might have to sell my body to have some means of caring for my family, paying tithes and purchasing sacrifices, and giving to those who are even more needy and poorer than I. Oh, God, when will You save us? Those were my thoughts that Passover when I brought the few coins that I had saved to purchase an offering and pay the temple tax in the house of God.

As I walked inside the temple, a commotion began at the east corner, a place to avoid when purchasing an offering, though the other vendors are not much better. Dishonest and unjust Ben-Hadad charges exorbitant prices for exchanging Roman denarii for shekels, and his cohorts squeeze every last coin for their pitiful excuses of a sacrificial animal, even selling doves with broken wings and blemished, scrawny sheep.

All of a sudden an explosion of wooden tables crashed all around me and a whirlwind spinning with coins and curses seemed to suck out all the air in the room. Men groped on the floor or pressed against the wall in confusion and desperation. Then His voice, clear and with authority commanded, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ This must be Jesus!” (Adapted from John’s account of the cleansing of the temple, John 2)

Today some see the temple cleansing story as instruction to churches not to sell pastors’ books, study guides, bible covers, CDs of the weekly sermons, etc. What came to my mind, however, was Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own…” This Scripture is instructing Christians not to use the body for immorality, wickedness, and various sexual sins. We are told we are without excuse because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to convict us (let alone plenty of fellow believers and non-believers to condemn us). Yet, I wonder if the age-old practice of self-flagellation is just a misguided response to this conviction.  I don’t doubt that many of us feel a sound whipping is in order to cleanse our conscience! How long, though, does it take to forgive oneself and more importantly, what does it take for God’s forgiveness to sink in? I know how wretched a sister or brother in Christ feels to be caught up in sin. Christ still is consumed by zeal for His Father’s house – consumed by His desire to see us cleansed by His blood. But wait! Didn’t Jesus Christ already accomplish that? Are we truly forgiven or do we need to perform some ritual, penance, or sacrifice to cover sin?

I don’t think that is what the Apostle Paul was saying. Rather, what we need is to receive the ongoing regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, working out our salvation day to day in the presence of Almighty God.

Thank You, Jesus, that You are still consumed with zeal for my body, mind, soul, and spirit. Keep me aware of the places within me that need Your cleansing. Cleanse me by Your Holy fire and the washing of Your word. Have Your way with me. Thank You, thank You. Thank You, God for Your mercy!

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