Tag Archives: kingdom

Isaiah 34-35; Ephesians 2

At some point, the crickets’ song took over summer, reminding that a new season approaches. During a morning walk, honking geese overhead shake me from a summer dream almost like an alarm–a new season approaches. I remember thinking, “It’s only July–you’re going the wrong way!”

My calendar said there was still plenty of time. But suddenly it’s two weeks later and two more to go will go in a blink. When I was young, the days seemed long. Now I find myself wishing for more hours in the day.

Lord, help me to keep a Kingdom focus. When I find myself small, discouraged, I want to remember, you are mighty.

16 Search the book of the Lord,
    and see what he will do.
Not one of these birds and animals will be missing,
    and none will lack a mate,
for the Lord has promised this.
    His Spirit will make it all come true (Isaiah 34:16, NLT).

A friend reminded me, the Lord is a redeemer.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

A changing of seasons seems almost imperceptible when I operate in the daily–laundry, schedules, appointments. One day the trees are budding. Another day, I am aware of the rich aroma of full flowers saturating the air. Now the mornings have a pleasant chill that make me want to run faster and farther. A kingdom here, a kingdom near, and I am reminded I am his.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT).

An accuser wants me weak and fearful–unwanted, worthless, abandoned. Faith tells me I belong. I am his.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Isaiah 16-18; Romans 13

A woman I love lost both her parents and her sister within the same year. They were a close family, and this loss was understandably enormous. There were things she said that touched me so deeply. I have not forgotten her words.

In recent years, many events have caused me to examine myself and my beliefs. Where did I place my hope? Who did I trust? So many questions surfaced in a time of change, loss, wonder and grief. I’ve sought understanding in the wrestle. When life as I knew it and believed it to be was turned inside out, it became a time of challenging perspectives and making new connections. I focus forward. I cannot rewrite the story of the past.

11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires (Romans 13:11-14, NLT, emphasis added).

This dear woman lost her family, and many years later, I would come to know that type of void. God reminds me and underscores that I am His. There is a darkness that would delight in distracting me from walking in God’s light, in dressing me in rags of condemnation and wounding.

I meet the Lord at sunrise every day. I belong to the day. I belong to Him. He called me Daughter long before I ever called him Dad. There is shining armor with my name on it, and I am clothed in His presence. It is an embrace.

Courtney (66books365)

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Amos 1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1; Psalm 80

Father God, you are just. You notice wickedness and wrong-doing, and You promise that it will not go unpunished. You defend what is good. Behind Your mighty words, there were people broken by injustice: those sold off in slavery, those holding broken promises, those chased down and slashed relentlessly in anger by relatives–merciless. Oh, you will send down fire (Amos 1-3).

Paul, Silas and Timothy write encouragement. What follows is a big block of copy–and my heart craves brothers like them who would stand and pray on my behalf in my walk with the Lord, to remind me and encourage me to persevere well, to speak of Kingdom and focus and purpose. I take these words and hold them close.

We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. 10 When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.

11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:4-12, NLT, emphasis added).

An enemy would tear down and destroy, to pronounce worthlessness and abandonment upon the persecuted. But the Lord takes what was meant for harm to call one worthy for His kingdom.

Lord, You are defender, provider, protector. You are sovereign and mighty. You are just. Help me to keep my eyes on You and not to be deceived by an enemy’s words of worthlessness. Thank You that You give me power to do what is right–help me to always keep a Kingdom focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Chronicles 22-25; 2 Corinthians 9

David knew he wasn’t going to be the one to build the temple for the Lord. He knew his son Solomon would be the one, as the Lord had told him. But that didn’t prevent David from contributing to something he wouldn’t live to see.

This father speaks to his son, guiding him and offering generous provision to get the job done.

David said, “My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the Lord must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.” So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death.

Then David sent for his son Solomon and instructed him to build a Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

11 Now, my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the Lord your God. 12 And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel. 13 For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!

14 I have worked hard to provide materials for building the Temple of the Lord—nearly 4,000 tons of gold, 40,000 tons of silver, and so much iron and bronze that it cannot be weighed. I have also gathered timber and stone for the walls, though you may need to add more. 15 You have a large number of skilled stonemasons and carpenters and craftsmen of every kind. 16 You have expert goldsmiths and silversmiths and workers of bronze and iron. Now begin the work, and may the Lord be with you! (1 Chronicles 22:5-16, NLT, emphasis added)”

This is what sowing generously can look like: knowing you won’t live to see the fruit or harvest, but endowing another with guidance, example, encouragement, funds, instructions, whatever the need is to reach whatever the goal is.

In this spring season of literal planting (and weeding), I have thought long on sowing and harvest. Sow is the word the Lord has impressed upon me since April, and here I read this very focused example by David of what generous sowing can do.

David’s generosity spoke of his love for God and for his son.

These scriptures today were so very rich in generosity, stewardship, obedience, and kingdom focus. This is only a sample of the takeaway.

Thank you, God, for your Word. It is a generous feast for my heart. I sit and savor your message, hold it close as the wonderful gift it is. Help me to steward the things you have given me with a kingdom focus–you have given me all I need. You are my Good Father who equips me. Help me to prepare and influence my children to honor you. There are harvests I will not live to see, but thank you that I can contribute now towards them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Old Testament

Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4, Acts 4

I love the word ‘blessing’ – I go around blessing everyone – even a database company I hired set my password up as ‘blessings’ because I blessed them so much – too funny. So you know I love the new year and all the possibilities I have too bless.

It is possible that I am consumed by blessings because I am very much aware of curses.  God was clear when promising Abraham that there were curses as well.  So when Cain was cursed with a mark, and some think it was wild and ferocious in nature that it rendered him an object of universal horror and avoidance, I believe that I can be an object that people can see the face of God.  Amy Grant came out with a song when I was a teenager, My Father’s Eyes, and it was a prayer of mine that others could see that I had my Father’s eyes.

So when Jesus arrived, it had to be His plan to further His kingdom – I believe that He came and aspired to world domination and to deliver His blessing.  The temptations in the wilderness all took aim at that aspiration, trying to make Him take a shortcut, adopt the methods of the curse. I love this quote from Marcus Dods that reflects why the road to blessing/redemption was through the path of suffering —

Satan whispered, “You have come to bind men in a universal brotherhood, but it is hopeless to effect this by acting on men individually and spiritually. Men do not care to be delivered from sin; they do not wish to be led back to God, and you will never make the world what you wish it. But make an earthly kingdom for yourself; that is possible; no mere shadowy imagination. The people are now waiting for a leader who will throw off for them the Roman yoke, and lead them to dominion.” We know it when we wish Christ had provided for his people earthly good as well as spiritual. Nothing but a preference for what is spiritual will secure us against the temptation to wish, either for ourselves or others, what constitutes the glory of this world. 

What does that look like for me?  I think that I keep forgetting about the universality of Christ and at the same time His uniqueness.  The Lausanne Covenant would probably be my version of the Nicene Creed when it comes to my missional statement. It is my book of Acts in covenant form.  In particular, my interest would be in Covenant #3 for today.

If Ezra could see the ‘kingdom’  that describes a king’s rule – and if Jesus is my example on how to lead – then my blessing is to decrease that He might be an increase and in truth, a blessing to a world entering 2017 with quite some uncertainty.  

Lord, may You  lead me and teach me  to be that blessing and to bring about your kingdom in 2017.

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

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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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Deuteronomy 3; Psalm 85; Isaiah 31; Revelation 1

Do not be afraid. God fights for you. This was in Deuteronomy 3, along with testimony of God’s protection and provision. Lately I’ve come up against situations where I remind myself to trust God. In a place of hindsight from ugly battles, I can see how he has fought for me and protected me. I can trust him going forward too.

He speaks peace to his faithful people, but let them not return to their foolish ways. Psalm 85:8 NLT.

Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Psalm 85:12 NLT.

Depending on strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord. Isaiah 31:1. I’ve looked to my own strength too often, instead of God’s. I’m learning more and more to rely on him, and to take my thoughts to him in prayer.

I know the glorious day will come when each of you will throw away the gold idols and silver images your sinful hands have made. Isaiah 31:7. Thank you, God, for showing me what I placed before you–so I could walk away from it and worship you.

Freed us from sin by his blood. He has made us a kingdom of priests for God his Father. Revelation 1:5b, 6. Made us a kingdom, here, of priests. For God. That certainly reframes the morning.

John, a brother and partner in suffering, in God’s kingdom, in the patient endurance that Jesus calls us. Revelation 1:9.

Lord, thank you for these words today, to sit with you over coffee. Thank you for speaking into my life with words of trust, protection, freedom. Thank you for showing me a bigger picture (of suffering and battles and your strength). Love you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Revelation