Tag Archives: kingdom focus

Luke 17:1-19:27

I love this time of year–the home stretch. I have three more races planned this year, along with a training schedule to help me stay conditioned. And with a next year planner in hand, I am thinking of how I will steward the time, things I want to work on, and the way I want to show up in my communities and relationships. A word on passion reaches back to Latin roots (patior) and defines it this way: to suffer. A prompt asks: what are you willing to sacrifice/suffer (for your goal/life category)?

When it comes to my health–am I willing to sacrifice comfort and online scrolling for activity and engagement? Am I willing to give up my daily chocolate for a better protein choice? Or in my relationships–am I willing to say no to some activities in order to make time for the relationships I’ve said really matter?

When the rich young man approaches Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responds:

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 18:1825, NIV

I thought about sacrifice. For me to give up comfort to gain strength and endurance really isn’t a sacrifice because there is a better gain. To give up a sabotaging food choice or habit in place of a healthier one wasn’t the loss I was making it out to be, it was gain toward what I truly wanted. And when Jesus tells the man he lacks one thing, he’s pointing to a way this man can gain–to give up what he was holding onto and he would get a treasure in heaven. It had me think about what things, routines, and beliefs I hold onto that I’m not willing to sacrifice. But when I hold onto those things, am I actually giving up (sacrificing) what is better in the long run for a present (or temporal) satisfaction? And am I holding onto things that prevent me from following Jesus with a whole heart?

Lord, I need your word. Just time in these Scriptures today has been the refocus I needed. And not just about sacrifice (and gain) but about forgiveness and repentance, stewardship, persistence. I am so thankful for this time with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12

Jeremiah takes his complaint to the Lord.

You are always righteous, Lord,
    when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
    Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
    Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root;
    they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
    but far from their hearts.
Yet you know me, Lord;
    you see me and test my thoughts about you.
Drag them off like sheep to be butchered!
    Set them apart for the day of slaughter!
How long will the land lie parched
    and the grass in every field be withered?
Because those who live in it are wicked,
    the animals and birds have perished.
Moreover, the people are saying,
    “He will not see what happens to us.” (Jeremiah 12:1-4, NIV)

I love that Jeremiah talks to God and brings his complaint to him. What I love more is God’s response:

“If you have raced with men on foot
    and they have worn you out,
    how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
    how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NIV)

This response speaks to me of perspective and endurance. Jeremiah’s perspective focuses on the actions of others. But God’s response is of a much bigger picture–a race among peers vs a race against pros. A path along a street vs a quest through wilderness. The comparison pulls back to include a new level of competition … an untamed landscape.

Your relatives, members of your own family—
    even they have betrayed you;
    they have raised a loud cry against you.
Do not trust them,
    though they speak well of you. (Jeremiah 12:6, NIV)

God knows the things Jeremiah doesn’t.

But God made the earth by his power;
    he founded the world by his wisdom
    and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
    he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses. (Jeremiah 10:12-13, NIV)

I can look back and see evidence of his power and wisdom. But I wonder if complaining is a doubt of the present and future–a doubt that though he was able to do mighty things in the past, is he somehow ignorant of the present? Is he somehow unable to affect the future? Truly, he is wise. Truly, he is able. God knew things Jeremiah didn’t and couldn’t know. I hope I remember this swiftly before I ever set my mind to complaining, and remember his response as well.

Lord, help me to stay diligent in my work, keeping my eyes set on your kingdom and your sovereignty. I could become frustrated or discouraged if my focus is elsewhere, but that doesn’t serve me. I can trust you know the things I don’t know–let me take comfort in your warnings.

Courtney (66books365)

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Proverbs 31; Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:8

Tomorrow marks the eleven-year anniversary since we settled on the house we call home. (I celebrate every year here.) I spent yesterday putting a fresh coat of paint in the kitchen. It had been almost eleven years since I painted it last. I thought back to that first time painting over the former owner’s warm yellow with a coat of white. And for some reason, my thoughts went to our house before, and the time I put in painting a mural for our first child’s nursery. How at the time, I was anticipating my first child, not knowing that that room would be the perfect room for a next woman’s young child. I wondered about a future day that all the changes we’ve made to this home will someday be viewed by a next owner–more than just a coat of paint, truly.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19, NIV)

I read the scriptures for this post yesterday, and thought on them while I worked. Thought of what seemed like opposite perspectives: from the example of a diligent (Proverbs 31) woman, whose work not only shaped and showcased her character but was a blessing to her family and community to the neighboring scriptures of Ecclesiastes, fraught with melancholic undertones of meaningless toil and repetition.

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, NIV)

I notice the difference again between the things we can’t touch and the things we can. To the one who pleases God, wisdom, knowledge and happiness–intangible wealth! But to the sinner, the gathering and storing up of wealth that can’t be taken beyond the grave. The underlying character of the Proverbs 31 woman … and the undeniable truth in this:

16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die! (Ecclesiastes 2:16, NIV)

Lord, I have truly enjoyed the cyclical labor of the land of this home–although it’s definitely beaten me more than I’ve subdued it! Thank you for a home that’s been a fertile ground for treasured memories, joy, companionship, celebrations, and so much more. When I celebrate this home, Lord, I celebrate you and all that you’ve done in our lives–and in that, there is great meaning to me. Thank you for seeing me, Lord, and loving me.

Courtney (66books365)

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Proverbs 11:12-13:25 

Sometimes I get so caught up in what’s going on around me that I lose sight of a kingdom focus.

The grass needs to be cut. Laundry needs to be washed and folded. Supplies and planning for a next school year are on my mind. I need to get the oil changed in the car … plan a menu for the week … go by the store. Pay this bill … plan that outing … put out that fire …

When I read through Proverbs, I try to fit the teachings into what’s around me, but the lessons lift my gaze to a kingdom where the things that are valued can be possessed, but not touched.

A kindhearted woman gains honor,
    but ruthless men gain only wealth. (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)

Honor straddles two realms. It is gain. But it can’t be measured or held. Wealth is also a type of gain that can be hoarded and held, but not taken past the grave.

When I read through Proverbs, honesty, generosity, honor, diligence, prudence, righteousness, and more are the sweet and juicy fruits and gains of a heart’s focus, a person’s choices and actions. These traits show true prosperity.

One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
    another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24, NIV)

A dear woman at my daughter’s church turns 101 years old today. She’s a fixture of the church and community–even one of these old country roads bears her family name. She invests her love by serving others. She’s an amazing seamstress and wears lovely clothing that she made herself. A neighbor of mine down the road spoke of her and her sewing skills, and I was taken by surprise that he knew her and had had his clothes altered by her! She attended my daughter’s piano recital. She always took time to greet us after church service and offer a kind and encouraging word to my daughter when she was finished playing. She gives gifts freely and randomly. She is loved dearly by the community and celebrated–because of her kindness.

… a kindhearted woman gains honor … one person gives freely, yet gains even more …

Lord, help me to keep a kingdom focus. I need you and your word–a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalms 78:25-72

Psalm 78 opens with these words–

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. (Psalm 78:1-4, NIV)

The psalm lists great things the Lord has done. So we will know him and remember who he is. So that we will share it with a next generation.

But what I notice, too, is the psalm lists things man has done.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.

It’s a familiar pattern.

Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant. (Psalm 78:34-37, NIV)

How often …

How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power— (Psalm 78:40-42a, NIV)

This psalm is just a short glimpse of time, finishing up with David.

In literature, stories sometimes reflect that conditions and state of the world at that time: Take Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Angelou, Knowles, and so many others–their stories are a heart’s cry of a generation. And I wonder, if one were to write a psalm today, would it be so very different from this one? There is no doubt to me that God’s goodness and faithfulness will outshine man’s corruption and sin.

39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:39, NIV)

Lord, this life is temporary and brief. I read these words in grateful stillness. When a generation screams, Lord, let me remember you. Let me tell someone of your goodness and faithfulness, to pass it down and pass it on. Help me to keep my focus on you and your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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