Tag Archives: kingdom focus

Genesis 24; Matthew. 23; Nehemiah 13; Acts 23

Genesis prayer. A servant is tasked with a quest–to find a wife for Isaac. I am amused at his prayer for guidance, only because I see my own appeals to God to have things look the way I want them to so that I know I’m headed in the right direction. I love that his prayer was answered before he even finished praying. Lord, help me to see you in the solution and direction, even if it doesn’t look familiar or the way I imagined. (God hears me.)

12 “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. 13 See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. (Genesis 24:12-15, NLT, emphasis added)

Matthew conviction. Jesus confronts the Pharisees–who hold more to their rules for appearance than to obedience of heart. Dear God, help me to examine myself to be free of ways that offend you and to delight in that which you delight. (God shows me my errors to set me straight, because of his great love and mercy.)

Nehemiah purge and restore. Systems gone wrong. Identifying problems and setting things right again. My own focus on simplifying physically, and setting right emotionally–aligning my heart and abiding in Christ, clearing out physically and spiritually. Purge. Restore. (God gives me eyes to see and strength to change–to redirect or purge those things and actions that distract and lead astray. He gives me vision and strength.)

30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.

Remember this in my favor, O my God. (Nehemiah 13:30-31, NLT)

Acts protection and purpose. Paul finds himself in the middle of a fight whose focus changes on a whim. His life is in danger. The Lord appears, encourages, protects him for a purpose. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. (I can find myself in a battle and in his will, and he will not abandon me. He sees me. He encourages me. He protects me. He provides.)

11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (Acts 23:11, NLT)

Thank you, God, that you hear my prayers and your answer paves a way ahead of me. You love me so much to warn me from traveling harmful paths and taking others with me (I set you as a seal upon my heart). You show me the corruption and error of old ways and that they can be purged and focus restored. You remind me that no matter the battle around me, I am kept by you, protected, valued, for a purpose and for your glory.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

I am part of an online goal setting group, and many of the members shared their vision boards for 2020. I’ve never made a vision board, but gave it a try. I laughed to myself when I finished, realizing I had experienced most of those things in 2019. Some things that happened last year were not even thoughts at the year’s start–but I had margin, not so tightly focused on my own goals exclusive to opportunity. And God did life-giving things in my life. Not everything felt easy, beautiful or lovely, but even then, he kept drawing my attention back to a Kingdom focus.

In Genesis, God gives Abraham a Kingdom focus.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NLT)

And this:

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:15-18, NLT)

I notice Abraham laughed in disbelief. He can’t imagine God will do what he says he’ll do. So Abraham interjects with what he knows, what he sees, what is real in front of him: Ishmael. Kingdom focus clashes with a limited view/belief. 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:19, NLT)

God requires Abraham’s obedience.

I see Kingdom focus and obedience throughout the reading: when Jesus predicts his death and warns of the yeast of the Pharisees; Peter acknowledges Jesus as Son and yet reprimands Jesus for a fate Peter doesn’t want to happen (Kingdom focus clashes with own desire); threats to hinder a wall’s completion and a Kingdom focus to persevere–They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT); Paul’s travels blocked and redirected by the Holy Spirit, and even though he is imprisoned, he is still fruitful in sharing the Gospel.

Opposition (Nehemiah), a death sentence (Matthew), imprisonment (Acts), fathering a child in old age (Genesis) were probably not items these men would have put on their vision boards, but God gives them a Kingdom vision and the means to accomplish their tasks, even in opposition, death, imprisonment, and old age.

13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:13-16, NLT)

Father God, help me to press on, to leave margin for your plans and purpose in my life. Thank you already for equipping me and encouraging to keep a Kingdom focus, even in difficulties, especially in difficulties. Oh that anyone would see your hand and blessing upon my life and realize (this work) had been done with the help of God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 2; Matthew 2; Ezra 2; Acts 2

He created heavens and earth, breathed life into man, provided food. (He cares for man, creating animals and a helper just right for him.) The Lord warned man:

15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:15-17, NLT, emphasis added.)

Wise men traveled to worship Jesus and met with Herod on the way. They are warned in dreams to take a different route home. Joseph is warned too.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:12-13, NLT, emphasis added.)

A sound from heaven like the roar of a mighty windstorm filled a space and equipped the believers with new ability. It is the Holy Spirit.

And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:4, NLT, emphasis added.)

God reaches to communicate with us–and this is relationship: the reaching back.

63 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots. (Ezra 2:63, NLT, emphasis added.)

Lord, your word shows me glimpses of your heart and what you value. You care for your creation and dazzle with variety and beauty, you provide great provision. You equip those you call. You desire relationship, inviting me in your word to engage with you and seek you. You promise you are near to those who call on you. You give me hints of a kingdom I can’t see, reaching supernaturally into dreams, by signs and wonders here in places I can see. Help me to hear. Help me to see. Help me to know you better.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Peter 1; Psalm 145, 128

How do you measure progress toward a task you can’t see or touch? How do you arrange touch points throughout a day or week or month for developing character and championing values? When my goals consisted of exercise, nutrition, managing my home–the tasks were clear and defined and results could be measured. But how do you measure the heart?

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3, NLT)

I scratch my head. I sit with this.

By his divine power.

God has given me everything I need.

For living a godly life.

I have received all of this.

By coming to know him.

The one who called me to himself.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1:4, NLT)

Because of his glory and excellence.

He has given me great and precious promises.

His promises enable me.

Father God, you are so good to me. You are generous, glorious, excellent. You invite me to draw near to you. When I look outward and try to plan and prepare, you whisper to me, “I already gave you that. Just remain in me.” You love me so much that you supply me with all I need. I write these words down and keep them close because you are the way, the truth and the life. You make me contemplate this paradox, that I have not yet, and yet I have.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Daniel 1-2; 1 Peter 2; Psalm 87

I am reminded of God’s sovereignty.

  • King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. (Daniel 1:1b-2, NLT, emphasis added)
  • 17 God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. (Daniel 1:17, NLT)
  • 27 Daniel replied, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed. 29 “While Your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamed about coming events. He who reveals secrets has shown you what is going to happen. 30 And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. (Daniel 2:27-29, NLT)
  • 44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. (Daniel 2:44, NLT)

I am reminded of God’s sovereignty when … it seems an enemy is victorious … one finds himself in impossible situations … God might be the last thing on one’s mind, and (He) will shake one from his sleep to reach and reveal his heart …

There is nothing God can’t do and no one He can’t use. He equips the ones He calls, even and especially in impossible situations.

I read on and take special note–I get to choose. From what I will eat …

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. (Daniel 1:8, NLT)

… to what I will think or do …

So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. (1 Peter 2:1, NLT)

May I never forget Whose I am.

… you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. (1 Peter 2:5, NLT)

… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9b, NLT)

15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. (1 Peter 2:15-17, NLT)

May I never forget Who I follow.

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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