Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Micah 5-7; Matthew 25

Listen to what the Lord is saying … my daughter wanted a book on how to read people, and in my search, I came across a book called Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras. I started to read it, and this word repeats often: listen.

Micah 6 opens with these lines, “Listen to what the Lord is saying …”

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    What have I done to make you tired of me?
    Answer me!” Micah 6:3, NLT, emphasis added

Tired of the Lord?

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (Matthew 25:1-4, NLT, emphasis mine)

This parable of the bridesmaids has been on my mind the past year, and now entering hurricane season, I think about being prepared–how do you prepare for a literal destructive storm? Toilet paper? Non-perishables? Batteries? How do you prepare spiritually?

This oil, fuel for light, and the bridesmaids–all of them were bridesmaids–I search online: what does the oil represent? Biblestudy.org suggests that the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the bridesmaids are believers. I read on in the explanation: “The meaning of the parable of the ten virgins teaches us that, shortly before Christ’s return, there will be Christians who are so slack in their spiritual duties that they will not have enough of God’s Spirit (character) in order to endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). All true Christians should make sure they have the faith and are diligent enough in their spiritual lives not to be caught unprepared (Matthew 24:45 – 51). We must all strive to be wise, and not foolish, virgins.”

The next parable in Matthew 25 is the Parable of the Three Servants.

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.” Matthew 25:14-15, NLT, emphasis mine.

Upon the man’s return, each servant shows how he used the money entrusted to him, and of the three, all but one doubles the investment. Each one was left a portion according to his ability, so the playing field is fair. The last man has nothing to show but the original investment, which he thinks is good enough. The master calls this servant wicked and lazy, and banishes him.

In the first parable, the bridesmaids caught unprepared were locked out from the feast. This is what Jesus says,

11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. (Matthew 25:11-13, NLT)

The wicked and lazy servant who does nothing with his allotment receives a crushing fate:

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:28-30, NLT)

And at the end of the chapter, Jesus talks about the final judgment. The nations are gathered in his presence. And there is judgment based on action.

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (Matthew 25:45, NLT, emphasis added)

Impressions on this reading speak of preparation, prudence, purpose–but really all of it is action. An alert faith. A Kingdom focus. I think long about my walk–am I walking with the Lord? Or am I walking apart from him?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NLT)

Lord, in these parables, the bridesmaids, the servants, those gathered in your presence, all know who you are. And each responds in his own way. These stories were spoken and recorded for the benefit of your followers. You spoke this because you want us to know. You have told us. You have given to us according to ability. May we live without excuse.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 23; Matthew 22; Nehemiah; Acts 22

Last week, I watched a drama about the young Queen Victoria. She was being  courted by Prince Albert and had invited him to come visit her at Windsor Castle. When he arrived, a special suit prepared for him was delivered to his room, compliments of the Queen. The gift of the magnificent suit was a great honor; it was the dress of the House of Windsor and to be worn at the formal dinner and party. To wear the suit was to be welcomed into the Queen’s home and family.

That got me thinking about today’s parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’  But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’  And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.  Matthew 22:2-14

Thanks to BBC, I have a deeper understanding of what Jesus has offered me: new clothing for his kingdom’s party. Why haven’t I marveled more at the wonder of what he has presented me? He offers to clothe me with his perfect righteousness. Why haven’t I allowed myself to bask in the luxuriousness and grandeur of this gift I have done nothing to deserve and perhaps taken a spin or two to rejoice in the splendor of it all?  When have I declined his gift and stubbornly clung to my old rags before him and insisted that I was “good enough?”  Why don’t I let my heart swell up inside of me and burst out in song at the beauty of it all?

The remnant of Israel understood godly joy when God called them back to Jerusalem and they rebuilt the wall. Their joy seemed to know no bounds:

They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. Nehemiah 9:43

Lord, I know myself in this: I hold back both emotionally and physically in responding to the goodness of what you have done for me. You welcome me into your kingdom and dress me with your righteousness at the cost of your son, Jesus who died for me, and yet I hold back in thanking you and singing your praises. Help me respond to your love with great joy and singing today. Amen

Kathy

 

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Genesis 20; Matthew 19; Nehemiah 9; Acts 19

Abraham and Sarah devise a plan. They’ll call each other sibling instead of spouse. This led them to the unanticipated; the plan worked–sort of–until “sister Sarah” caught the eye of Abimelech.

Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace. Genesis 20:2, NLT

God intervened.

But that night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you have taken is already married!” Genesis 20:3, NLT

***

The disciples sit with Jesus and want to know the “what-ifs” of a situation. Because, what if there’s a sin committed, then what?

The rich man says he’s kept the laws, and whether this is a humble admission or a boast, he wants to know what else he can do to obtain eternal life.

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Matthew 19:21-24, NLT

***

In Nehemiah, the people remember all the things that God has done. His patience. His provision. His deliverance. His mercy. His love. His grace. He is great. He is mighty. He is a truth speaker, promise maker and covenant keeper.

And the people remember their sins. Their pride. Their disobedience. Their idols. Their praises of God are sung alongside their wails of repentance. Oh, they want to make a promise they can keep too.

38 The people responded, “In view of all this, we are making a solemn promise and putting it in writing. On this sealed document are the names of our leaders and Levites and priests.” Nehemiah 9:38, NLT

Planning man who has it all figured out. Rich man holding onto his possessions and dreams. Slave man who returns to habits and history that kept him bound after he was set free. In these scriptures, God is right there with man, but man still wants to do things his way.

Oh, God, how we need you.

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:25-26, NLT

Father God, help me to be mindful, always: I need you. Always.

Courtney (66books365)

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Job 37-39; Psalm 103; Revelation 21

“My heart pounds as I think of this …” Job 37:1a, NLT

Today’s scriptures point to a magnificent God. An organized, creative, intentional designer.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job 38:4a, NLT

A look back on a full year. I could tell about the losses and heartaches. But I’d rather remember my God and all that He did. There were a lot of things beyond my control, but not out of my God’s hands–and where I saw dead ends and loss, he brought out goodness, newness, hope.

When God speaks in Job, I remember my smallness. It humbles me. And all the things that seemed so big, they become small too in light of the Lord. He is able.

“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
    and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Job 38:12, NLT

A definite perk to an early start is an expectant seat to a morning sunrise. He does that. Not me. Some mornings the first rays are so majestic; they are a visual orchestra proclaiming the glory of God. Or, like today, a soft whisper of rain, a gentle patter against the slate.

34 “Can you shout to the clouds
    and make it rain? Job 38:34, NLT

I rest in his ability.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me. Psalm 103:1-2, NLT

With my whole heart, Lord, I praise you. May I never forget the good things you do for me.

He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies. Psalm 103:3-4, NLT

And if the heavens’ song didn’t show his might, a universe and eternity held in his hands–would this? That he cared enough for me–this body, this heart, this soul–to forgive all my sins. To redeem me from death. To crown me.

With love.

With tender mercies.

This humbles me. When even life’s challenges seem bigger than me, he sees me. He knows my name.

Father God, greater riches await, and not because of who I am, but because of who you are. I am grateful for all that you do and all that you are. Thank you for meeting me where I am with love and tenderness, to set me straight and draw me close.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 1-3; Acts 2:1-13

 All were astounded and greatly confused, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others jeered at the speakers, saying, “They are drunk on new wine!”

Acts 2:13

I work at a church, so my wife and I often have front row seats to some interesting spiritual ‘stuff’ – for lack of a better word. 

The Holy Spirit, what he* does, when he does it, etc. is a tricky subject, and it’s easy to step on toes. Everyone’s particular opinions tend to be a mix of what they grew up with, what they’ve been taught, and what they’ve personally experienced. I tend to be much more operative out of what I’ve been taught, and to be honest what I’ve experienced (in terms of the miraculous) have been somewhat limited. I’m also a skeptic by nature, I don’t believe things right away, and it can be a fault. I probably have missed out on countless miracles as I searched for a rational explanation. Ultimately I came back to God because there were things happening around me that I couldn’t explain anymore without Him.

In any event, there was something that happened at church last week that sort of challenged some of the ‘boxes’ I had put the Holy Spirit into. And in the process of praying and thinking through the experience afterwards I came to a conclusion: I don’t really know how you’re supposed to determine whether or not something is from the Holy Spirit or not.

Do I just go on how it feels? Seems dangerous.

The exec. Pastor that oversees me and has been mentoring me a bit shares this quote often, not sure if it’s his or not, “One of the most dangerous thing about being human is you can always choose to interpret data a different way”. 

Seems to apply to ‘spiritual’ events as well.

So I started thinking I needed to establish some criteria on how I sort of filter these sorts of things in the odd circumstances, but also in the everyday. Like when someone tells me the church should be doing a certain program, is that from the Spirit? or just someone’s opinion?

I came up with these three things, you might have a few more, and these might change for me over time, but it’s a starting point for me: 

Where’s the fruit? (Matt 7:16, Luke 6:44, Matt. 7:20 etc.)

Does it bring Glory and Honor to Jesus? (1 Cor. 10:31)

Is it done out of love? (John 13:35)

Again, not an exhaustive list, and certainly room for interpretation, but these are my three quick checks. If it doesn’t pass these three, chances are it’s not a work of the Spirit.

Is the message, prophecy, tongues, etc. done out of love for another? Is there other fruit in this person’s life or ministry to back up this message? Does it bring glory to Jesus? That’s where I start. 

And if applied to the following passages in Acts, we see Peter preach boldly, thousands get saved, glory given to God, and ongoing fruit in the lives of the disciples. I never want to miss out on what the Spirit of God is doing in the midst of his people today, but I want to remain sound in what I affirm and live by. There were many people in Acts who missed out on God’s goodness because they couldn’t believe what was happening through God’s Spirit poured out on men (Gentiles nonetheless!)

Lord would you allow my walk with you to become so close, that I would constantly bring you glory, love others, and bear fruit as I obey your statutes? Lord allow me the gift of repentance for the times I’ve missed out on your Spirit’s work in the world, open my eyes to see your glory in the midst of your people.

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