Tag Archives: kingdom focus

Nehemiah 8:9-11:21

When they were frustrated with their circumstances, the Israelites turned away from God.

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. (Nehemiah 9:16-18, NIV, emphasis added)

When they were frustrated with their circumstances, the Israelites turned to God.

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

36 But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress. (Nehemiah 9:32-37, NIV, emphasis added)

I sit with these scenarios. Sin. Choice. Slavery. In the first, wanting to return to it. In the second, slaves again. I read these words, just now, and know that I will sit with them throughout the day.

Lord, help me to keep a kingdom focus. Help me to guard my heart–to remember your goodness and all that you’ve done; to not become hardened or unwilling to serve you. While (kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors) made decisions that affected me, I am still and only responsible for my obedience to you. Help me to live in the free indeed found in you.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Chronicles 6:31-8:28

A name. A legacy. A portion. A purpose. Chronicles tells me who, what, where and how.

Musicians used their talent to worship the Lord.

31 These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them. (1 Chronicles 6:31-32, NIV)

Others served the Lord with their hearts.

48 Their fellow Levites were assigned to all the other duties of the tabernacle, the house of God. 49 But Aaron and his descendants were the ones who presented offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense in connection with all that was done in the Most Holy Place, making atonement for Israel, in accordance with all that Moses the servant of God had commanded. (1 Chronicles 6:48-49, NIV)

And still others served Him with their strength.

40 All these were descendants of Asher—heads of families, choice men, brave warriors and outstanding leaders. The number of men ready for battle, as listed in their genealogy, was 26,000. (1 Chronicles 7:40, NIV)

In these lineages of people, I find it interesting the few phrases that highlight their actions–the whole of a life condensed into a sentence or two. What stands out as well: the service and the willingness to work for the Lord.

This past weekend, I ran a race. I stayed around for the awards ceremony. I watched people receive an award for firsts in their age group. I felt a sadness that certain things had not been valued in my family lineage, and I admit I envied the youngest athletes for their opportunity–that their families valued endurance and fitness. But it was pointless to let my thoughts land there. I give thanks to God for His intervention in my life–I may not have been raised to pursue (certain things, qualities, or even the Lord). But because of God, I can live out a portion of my life pursuing Him, loving Him, serving Him. Whenever I run (or write, or learn something new, or work towards something), I keep my eyes on the Lord. He is my Good Father who sings over me, guides me, teaches me, encourages me, loves me. He is my portion.

Father God, I may not have had the best start, but because of you, I can finish well. Thank you that you loved me enough to have a relationship with me, invest in me, and watch over me. Thank you for showing me what matters, for giving me opportunities to bring you glory, and for showing me you keep your promises. You have grown my faith, my trust, my hope, my love, and you have given me endurance. Please help me to keep a kingdom focus and to honor you with my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 11:26-13:34

Some friends of mine are doing a challenge and asked me to be part of it. For 75 days, there’s a list of things they need to accomplish (exercise, food choices, reading, etc), or they have to restart. Seventy-five days is roughly two and a half months. I looked at the list of things. It was the mental (and physical) boost I was looking for because my current efforts felt stagnant. The tasks seemed reasonable. I joined them. Of the 25 of us in the group, several have not shared their progress, and in a smaller segment of seven people, a few of us have had to start over. That “us” includes me. Drinking a gallon of water a day was not as easy as I thought.

28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph. (1 Kings 11:28, NIV)

Solomon puts Jeroboam in charge of the whole labor force. A prophet encounters Jeroboam with a word from the Lord. I focus in on this part, mostly because I’ve seen it so many times in scripture.

37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. (1 Kings 11:37-38, NIV)

The Lord is always clear about the terms. “If you do (this), I will do (this).” How many rulers were known for their obedience and heart for the Lord? A good amount. This tells me that what God requires is not only reasonable, it’s attainable.

When I read the scriptures from a distance of a couple thousand years, I can shake my head at what sometimes seems inevitable: a leader’s fall, an evil lineage, a poor choice. When God’s requirements resulted in a relationship with him that bore fruit, why would people choose over and over again to do the wrong thing?

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other. (1 Kings 12:26-30, NIV, emphasis added)

I also thought of the 75-day challenge. I thought of the people who failed and quit. I thought of myself for the restarts. It seemed easy enough: just do (this) and experience/develop/achieve (this). There is a parallel between this story of a king and the story of a challenge.

So what do I glean from the reading? Big feelings can redirect a focus: doubt, fear, power, greed, anger, jealousy–even sneakier feelings like laziness and apathy can cause a downfall. Jeroboam’s fear for his life and his status caused to him to doubt or forget God’s promise to him. Not only did he seek out poor counsel, but he did not uphold his part in the relationship (obedience to God).

I think about my choices … the sometimes defeating thoughts in my mind … feelings of futility … plateaus in progress. Who and what are the advisors in my life? A friend reminded me that news sources, groups and other social media can influence as much as a close friend. Not only do I need to be careful about what I think, but I need to be careful about what I feed my thoughts with. If these outside influences have such a powerful effect on me, who is really to blame? If a leader can choose obedience to God, and a person can successfully adhere to the guidelines of a program, then in the end, it comes down to personal accountability.

Lord, help me to hear you and see you first. Whether it’s the latest chaos in the world or the doubting and defeating thoughts in my head, help me to cut through the distraction and maintain a focus on you. It is possible to be obedient and self-controlled. Surround me with those who are for you. Help me to guard my heart.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 20:1-22:34

I have a goal planner that breaks goals down into “monthly” (big picture), “weekly,” and “daily” (habit building) activities. Sometimes I can get so focused on the daily habits that I lose sight of the big picture purpose. It takes effort for me to keep a big picture focus. And not just with goals, sometimes I can get caught up in a detail or distraction of circumstance, and then find myself off course of a kingdom focus.

Joab is in pursuit of Sheba, a man who turned against David.

19 “We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”

20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.” (2 Samuel 20:19-21, NIV)

Joab keeps his focus: he was after Sheba, not intent on destroying an entire community. That type of focus is a sign of discipline, self-control, and maturity. Joab kept his word and left once he obtained his goal. (Also very impressed with the “wise woman” who cut through all the distraction of an army to get to the point, avoiding mass casualties and destruction.)

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” (2 Samuel 21:1, NIV)

In the detail of the immediate (a famine), a bigger picture is revealed (the consequences of Saul’s actions as catalyst). Not only am I impressed by David seeking the Lord’s face, but I also notice that God uses immediate issues (like a famine) to bring about (bigger picture) justice. It would take a man after God’s heart to go deeper, to seek understanding, and then have the ability to take action.

But I linger longest in these verses, slowing to take in the meaning. David’s song of praise, of all that the Lord has done for him, and how David lives his life in response.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
    but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:26-33, NIV)

Lord, how often do I lose you in the details? How often do I forget to see with a kingdom focus? I pray that it would be my habit to praise you daily, to seek your face, to give you glory, and to live with discipline, self-control and maturity. May I not be moved by emotions and distractions, but instead live like the “wise woman” who keeps an end goal in mind, despite the circumstances.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 11:10-14:15

When God told the Israelites he was giving them a land, I wonder if they imagined exactly what that would look like and how it would go down. The journey alone tested their patience, endurance and faith, individually. And here, though victory is all but guaranteed, they have to fight for it. Literally.

In reading these chapters, I am reminded that God has a plan; there is a purpose in the journey (a lesson, a strengthening); and he keeps his promises. I see his sovereignty and power.

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:16-20, NIV, emphasis added)

And

“As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6-7, NIV, emphasis added)

14 But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them. (Joshua 13:14, NIV, emphasis added)

32 This is the inheritance Moses had given when he was in the plains of Moab across the Jordan east of Jericho. 33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them. (Joshua 13:32-33, NIV, emphasis added)

I read this last bit today–a testimony of faith and obedience, and it strengthens me.

“You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:6-12, NIV, emphasis added)

Lord, how can I know what the future looks like? I cannot fully envision what it will be like and how things will go down. But I do know this, because you have told it to me all these years in your word, you have shown it to me in my own lifetime: You are sovereign and powerful. You have a plan; there is a purpose; and you keep your promises. I pray that my testimony is not one that causes others’ hearts to melt in fear, but would speak of trust, faith, and obedience–that I followed you wholeheartedly.

Courtney (66books365)

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