Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

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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1 Samuel 6-8; Galatians 5; Psalm 72

I’ve heard a saying that what you focus on, you get more of it.

Dear God, give me a kingdom focus.

The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord (1 Samuel 7:2-4, NLT).

Last year I wrote down some goals in hopes to bring order and direction to my life. I had been going in too many directions, saying yes to too many people, that I didn’t really make progress in anything, in fact my efforts to make others happy took me away from the people and things God gave me to steward. When I narrowed my focus, it gave me the filter I needed to make my steps intentional. When I took my eyes off that focus, there was no shortage of requests and demands eager to distract me from the tasks that most needed my attention.

The Israelites went some time maintaining their focus on God and enjoying peace and protection. But when the backdrop began to change, they started to lose their focus and placed it elsewhere. Again.

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9, NLT. Emphasis added.).

Samuel warns them about what life will be like under a king’s rule. And their response?

“18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle” (1 Samuel 8:18-20, NLT).

Even so. We want to be like the nations around us.

Even so. Would I trade God’s peace and protection so that I could resemble the world around me? So that I could make others happy and throw myself off course of what matters and what God has called me to do?

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things (Galatians 5:16-23, NLT)!

Lord, help me to keep my eyes focused on you and your kingdom. I want to be directed by the Spirit and bear good fruit. Sometimes life’s backdrop changes, but you remain sovereign through all time.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Galatians

Deuteronomy 23-26; Mark 1

I’m reading through Deuteronomy and seeing what the Lord values, his warnings, and his reasons why. Twice, I’m caught by the word “remember.”

17 “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. 18 Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command.

19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do. 20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. 21 When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. 22 Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command (Deuteronomy 24:17-22, NLT, emphasis added).

Here, calls to justice, mercy, compassion. These are things the Lord values. He reminds the people to remember where they came from–for they were all once slaves who received justice, mercy, and compassion from the Lord. And more: they received what they needed, perhaps in abundance, so that there was leftover to spare. They didn’t need to hold tightly. The Lord provides.

New Testament readings, and my heart swells at this:

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News! (Mark 1:10-15, emphasis added)”

In Mark, Jesus, Son of God, who brings the Father great joy–even the angels take care of him. This is the God I love and who loves me too (Father, provider, protector, teacher–and so much more). I read of the healing that takes place as Jesus moves from place to place. Demons released, health restored, lives changed. He teaches with authority and shows the way.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came (Mark 1:35-38, NLT, emphasis added).”

Self: do not live deceived by comfort. I was saved by grace. I know where I came from, and I know who I should have become in a lineage void of Jesus. I can trust him to show mercy, justice, compassion, generosity. He calls me to do the same–to remember where I came from and how he saved me. Lord Jesus, everyone is looking for you, to fill a void and soothe a cry, to show the way to freedom. I am so grateful I know you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Deuteronomy, Mark

Numbers 19-21; Acts 19; Psalms 28-29

God gets the credit. He gets the honor. He gets the glory. It’s all his.

I think of times in my life where I exhausted myself in my own efforts to no great accomplishment or success. And then surrendered to the Lord, “I’ve done what I could do. It’s all yours.” He has shown up, time and again, and handled things he always had under control to begin with. He is patient and faithful to me. He is trustworthy in the waiting. He is transforming me and developing my faith. That is the faithful love of a father.

The people were thirsty and God would provide.

Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord said to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock (Numbers 20:6-8, NLT).”

I’m familiar with the story of God bringing water from a rock, and sometimes I read over things too quickly. But when I slow down, things stand out and things sink in.

So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them (Numbers 20:9-13, NLT, emphasis added).

The majesty of Psalm 29 speaks of God’s power in thundering, splitting bolts of language. But he is in the quiet and unexpected of the everyday too. I praise you, God, for truth. You are my strength and shield. You fill my heart with joy. Oh, I trust you!

Praise the Lord!
    For he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:6-7, NLT)

I delight in the Lord and his goodness and glory. I praise him for the great things, for the small things, and for the details that almost escape notice. Lord, you are the way, the truth, the life. Thank you for giving me new vision. I am so grateful.

Courtney (66books365)


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Exodus 5-8; Luke 18

My friend for more than twenty-five years died the other week. I listened as his wife spoke in eulogy of his lifetime–told about this man I loved, and shared many things about him I never knew. He had delightful interests, so much talent, and his life story was full and generous and loving and adventurous. How I wished I’d had more time with him–he was truly like a father to me. His life, even in death, continues to inspire me: to live in purpose, on purpose.

The weight of grief, worry, strife and stress has felt oppressive in recent years–these things can take me off course, derail me from life and its purposes. I live in the woods, and find myself wishing I was deeper in the forest, averting my eyes and sometimes my heart from making contact—it feels an awful lot like despair.

I’m not sure if it’s circumstance or the things one tells himself or hears from others, but I hear it in Pharaoh’s voice as he tells Moses, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work (Exodus 5:4-5, NLT).”

I can get caught up in the task (of work or routine or stress or grief) at hand, that my focus is redirected into a worldly (small) view instead of a deeper calling and purpose. And whether one places it upon himself, or it’s the voices of those in his life, Kingdom work and purpose can become muddled and muted. Moses and Aaron weren’t distracting the people from their tasks–they were pointing them to it. The world gets it so very backwards, and I fall for it too. Too many hoops, too many tasks, too much people pleasing and accommodating that I neglect the very One who gives me strength, neglect the passions He’s put in my heart and compromise my focus and time until I am weary and worn out. It feels an awful lot like despair.

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery (Exodus 6:6-9 NLT).

Lord, repeatedly I train myself to order my tasks but to keep my eyes on you. Again. Again. When my focus slips to what’s in front of me, I forget what’s inside of me and what’s ahead of me. The shrill of the ringtone, the chipping away at peace, when I lose sight of you, I become too discouraged too.

I set my thoughts on a Kingdom purpose, a Kingdom focus.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come (Luke 18:29-30, NLT).”

That rich man was disheartened because, perhaps, his (wealth/success/pride/ability) was his real focus, not the inheritance of eternal life he believed he wanted.

Lord, help me to do what I need to do, and let go of what needs to go. I want to walk in truth, and keep my eyes focused on you. Thank you for a friend like David, whose life spoke of intention and inclusion, generosity and love. Thank you for challenging me to see things in a new way, for revealing truths I didn’t see, and for reminding me to seek your Kingdom first.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

Ezra 1-2; John 21

The scene is set. Peter and Jesus are sitting around an early morning charcoal fire… Just like the charcoal fire the night Peter denied Jesus three times…

Jesus then asks Peter if he loves Him and asks Him three times.. Read below:

15 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17 Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17 [ESV])

Jesus always looks past our sin to what we can do for Him in His kingdom. Peter had done the unthinkable. He had denied Jesus three times. Even when Jesus takes Peter aside and tells him He was praying for him Jesus looks past the denial. We read the following:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31&32 [ESV])

One of the greatest sins ever committed and Jesus doesn’t demand an apology. He let’s Peter know He knows in the passage of this morning, but His call to ministry was the focus of Jesus here.

If Peter hadn’t turned back, or had blown off the sin Jesus wouldn’t have had the early morning breakfast meeting with him. Jesus knows our hearts probably more than our words.

Some of us have struggled with sin and we have asked and asked and asked for forgiveness. The first time would have been enough, but even still Jesus knows your heart. He knows you are sorry and when He does He gives you a new mission to accomplish in His Kingdom work.

We have all had to ask for forgiveness but has dwelt there. Jesus wants us to look forward to the new assignment He has for us. Satan is the one that keeps us at the sorry point putting the lie into our heads that we are no longer any good to God. God is waiting to give you your next assignment in His Kingdom. What will it be for you?

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ezra, John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Jonah; Matthew 11

Matthew 11 is one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture.

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 [NASB]

John the Baptist was sitting in prison for doing what was morally right. He called out sin and was placed in jail for it and soon would be executed. In his mind it wasn’t turning out the way he expected. He didn’t see himself rotting away in some jail, but serving God. What a huge difference between the crowds that came to see him preach and now sitting in jail his life wasting away.

So he sends his men to Jesus to see if he is the real Messiah or whether they should wait for another. Jesus replies to their questions by reporting what he is doing. And then he shares with the crowd what an awesome person John the Baptist was. He didn’t scold him or deride him. Jesus praises his cousin John.

Later in the chapter he talks about the the Kingdom of God and he puts it this way (paraphrased), The Kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing and forceful men and woman take hold of it. In other words the Kingdom of God is not for sissies. It is moving forward to strong people take hold of it and help move it forward. People like John the Baptist.

Soon John would lose his head. Although the church had not been born yet, John epitomizes this watchword of the church. The Church advances on the blood of Her martyrs.

I guess the question this morning to you is, Are you ready for the challenge. Will you join the men and women through the ages who have been forceful enough and even brave enough to give their lives in seeing the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

 

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