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I Chronicles 5, 6; Hebrews 10; Amos 4; Psalm 148-150

Sometimes I am conflicted about the will of God in my life. “Should I move or should I stay” is a line in a Third Day song that mimics my own questions. When nothing seems to be working out as I would like or had expected, I doubt my heart and look for sin or some other barrier deafening me to God’s will. I feel like the rejected firstborn or one of a whole lineage of people that God judged as unfaithful. When I search my heart I see the after effects of trauma, unresolved grief, periods of isolation from God’s community of believers, and the constant dripping of remorse. Still, I hold tenaciously to Jesus Christ, the One who knows me intimately – my Creator. Amos 4:13 says,

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind, who declares to man what his heart is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth…the Lord God of hosts is His name.”He is the One who declares what my heart is – no matter that I am unaware of this heart’s condition.

Even when convicted of sin, my Lord Jesus does not leave me. He could have. He could have saved only Israel through the Levitical practice of offering sacrifices and left me in the dust. I Chronicles 6:49 describes the importance of the high priest’s function:

“But Aaron and his sons offered sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense for all the work of the Most Holy Place, and to make atonement for Israel…” However, Jesus Christ, said to God,

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices of sin You had no pleasure. Then I [Christ] said, ‘Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God,’”(Hebrews 10:5-7).

That once and for all sacrifice, that unwavering willingness of Christ to die for me, that love and understanding of my human frailty, is my inspiration to hold fast to what I know: God is faithful even when I cannot readily see His will for me. He encourages me through Scripture, through friends, through study, and through prayer.

“And let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

For example, I was reminded yesterday by one of my ‘golden’ friends to praise God in all things – in my sorrow, in my joy, in my confusion, in the most difficult and dark times. And today, God punctuated His reminder to praise Him as I read the last three chapters in the Book of Psalms which exhort Creation from “the heavens to the human heart,” (commentary) to praise God for His mighty works, for the assembly (the church), to praise God for His salvation and judgments, and finally for all things to praise Him:

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” (Psalm 148-150).

So, my Lord God, with the breath You have graciously given me to know Your heart and to breathe in Your love for me, I praise You today – in word, in deed, in song, in quietness, and in loud “Halleluiahs!” You have a way of cutting through the fog and clearing the path to see that You are before me, always with me, and upholding me through all that has been and is to come. Most wonderful of all, I praise You for Your very Presence even now! Thank You Jesus, Lord and Savior!

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture and commentary quotes from: The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 66 Books, Amos, Bible in a year reading plan, Hebrews, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Jeremiah 37, 21, 34; Psalm 79; James 5

The space between spiritual blessing and divine conviction: what am I doing when there? Working five days per week yields structure, routine, and purpose for me. Yet, come Friday, I’m like a child brought to the playground, letting loose of his father’s hand, running off to play. Well, almost. In reality, on Friday afternoon I eat a meal that I didn’t make, take up residence on the couch, and basically waste time dozing off and on while a mesmerizing box pours nonsense into my depleted, vulnerable brain. I started this habit several years ago when I lived alone and was suffering from loneliness and sadness.  It was my way of forcing the noise in my head to die down and the tension in my limbs to relax. Somewhere in this space, I hoped to find peace. Not unlike the drugs of addiction, really. A chemical solution to a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual problem, drugs anesthetize the hurt and pain or ignite and explode the numbing depression.

This space is, of course, a false interlude before the crashing realities return. Take for instance, the promise of peace when King Zedekiah commanded people to free their Hebrew male and female slaves, brothers to their Hebrew masters. God commanded that Hebrew slaves were to be freed after six years of servanthood, and for a brief time the masters let them go. Yet, it wasn’t long before the people were rounded up and taken back as slaves.

What went on between that time? Where did these Jewish slaves go? What were they doing? Did they lie on the beach each day, just thankful for a day without stress? Did they spend their days visiting family and eating home-cooked meals, or did they start projects around the house?

You may think my wandering thoughts are mundane and of little consequence, but let me ask you, “Do you look for that personal space where you can just do nothing if you want?” Why?

Why do we feel the need to get away? Why do we become weary? What disturbances in our world destroy peace in our hearts and why? James 5 has an interesting take on that space between suffering and salvation. Verse 7 – 8 says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

This Scripture explains why on the morning after Friday’s down-time that I feel sick at my stomach (too much spicy food?), condemned in my spirit (seeking peace from a box on a stand?), confused in my mind (professing one thing, but doing the opposite?), and depressed and/or anxious in my emotions (wasting time, wasting energy?). I did not wait with the expectation that God may come right then. I did not establish my heart by seeking God’s instruction.

Well, one more Friday has vanished along with the regrets of a life that would have been better spent eating the Word which is sweeter than honey, looking for all that is lovely and uplifting, and waiting on God’s instruction for the night (might be sleep, could be holy visions…).

So I pray Psalm 79:

Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us… Help us, O God of our salvation…For Your name’s sake! So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations.

I ask, Lord Jesus, that I learn to wait with hopeful expectation of Your very presence, and to participate in the sweet joy of living in peace with You now, and definitely next Friday!

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, James, Jeremiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

2 Chronicles 10; Revelation 1; Zephaniah 2; Luke 24

Then starting with what Moses and all the prophets had said about him, Jesus began to explain everything that had been written about himself in the Scriptures…

He said to them, “Remember when I was with you before? I said that everything written about me must happen—everything in the law of Moses, the books of the prophets, and the Psalms.”

Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:27; 44-48 (NCV)

Since I truly gave my heart to the Lord and began following Him, I have sought out authentic understanding of the scriptures. As I read, I’ve had questions, often generated by conflicts in teachings I have heard over the years.

I’ve heard many versions of the gospel from many different teachers. I have heard some teachings which have resonated with the Spirit inside me and some that have made my toes curl. Some teachers sought to control, while others preached freedom in Christ. Some taught hell fire and brim stone doctrine, full of sin and suffering. Some taught circumcision of heart flesh, co-crucified/co-heir identity, and sin-saturated grave clothes left behind in the tomb.

In the beginning of my journey into the Bible, I didn’t fully understand the importance of the Old Testament, a telling of the history of Israel. And then slowly those passages were opened up to me. The pages became relevant and personal. The stories became real to me, not simply words on ‘papyrus’ anymore. I was shown the significance of each story, of each man and woman’s journey, the role they played in the big picture. The foretelling of Christ hidden within those pages, hidden in plain sight, was revealed to me. I was given eyes to see and ears to hear and I have come to love the Old Testament as much as the New.

Come to the Lord, all you who are not proud,

who obey his laws.

Do what is right. Learn to be humble.

Maybe you will escape

on the day the Lord shows his anger. Zephaniah 2:3 (NCV)

Two years ago, as the new mom of a 10 month old and living on the mission field, I was searching for a way to get deeper in the Word despite the busyness of life, of motherhood and ministry. I prayed for something, anything to help me stick to my plan. I needed encouragement; I needed accountability. Less than two days passed and God answered my prayer with an email from Courtney (66Books365), a friend of a friend who I had never met before, inviting me to become a part of the 66Books community. I was astonished by the timeliness and the answer to my prayer. And, I continue to be in awe of our ensuing friendship.

Blessed is the one who reads the words of God’s message, and blessed are the people who hear this message and do what is written in it. The time is near when all of this will happen. Revelation 1:3 (NCV)

As I read the Bible as a part of this book club, I am blessed beyond measure.

I have come across verses that I have read many times before that didn’t mean much to me in the past, but that resonate for such a time as this. These passages have become significant to my current situation and circumstances and offer new wisdom, re-enforcing my godly identity. Sometimes, what I read is God’s way of preparing me for what I am about to experience, His way of giving me new tools to use in the future, even as early as later in my day.

As I read, I gain new insight and understanding of areas of my walk with Christ that were a mystery to me before. I am given revelation about my struggles and the solutions to those issues. I am given real life examples to follow, mentors to help me through, and a Comforter to walk alongside me. And, in turn, God is using me to teach and impart what I am learning to others, both on and off the foreign mission field.

The Bible is encouraging and inspiring. It is transforming and life-changing. It has increased my faith and my reliance on Christ. It has become the sword I use to deflect the darts of the enemy. God’s Word has become my life-giving, daily bread.

Yesappa, Thank You for blessing me with Your Word. Thank You for making Your Word rhema for my life, my daily bread. Thank You for revealing Your love, Your grace, Your wisdom to me. Continue to open my eyes and ears to receive and to understand Your scriptures; continue to explain to me all that has been written about You. Help me humble myself so that I may truly hear and obey Your message. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 66 Books, John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation

2 Samuel 20; 2 Corinthians 13; Ezekiel 27; Psalms 75, 76

Look closely at yourselves. Test yourselves to see if you are living in the faith. You know that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test. (NCV)

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (NKJV)

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (NLT)

Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected? (AMP)

Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it. (MSG)

2 Corinthians 13:5

When Christ shed his blood on the cross, He created the path for redemption. And when I heard and believed the Good News, He renewed me, heart, mind, and soul, and took up residence in me.

I know this. I believe this. And yet some most days, when I am struggling with loneliness, or anger, or bitterness and resentment, or exhaustion, or a lack of patience, or a bad attitude, or whatever else I am getting ‘poked’ with on any given day, I question myself. I question my faith. I wonder if there is any good fruit in me.

I used to burn with passion for God, attending every prayer meeting and worship time that was available to me, even the all-nighters. I was on fire. I wanted to experience His love and give it away to everyone I met. I basked in His glory and worshipped and danced with all my might like David. I never questioned my faith; I never doubted my fruit.

Fast forward a few years, and now I just feel burned out by life. Five years as a missionary (in the field and on furlough), almost four years as a wife, and just about three years as a mother has taken its toll on me. I give and give and give, and yet I realize I am giving from the dregs of a nearly empty tank.

When I look within, I see Him there and the desire to walk with Him, and talk with Him rises up in my heart. I intend to spend time with Him, to strengthen our relationship, to worship, to pray, to read His Words…to reconnect…to refuel. Just as soon as I have a second to myself, a moment when a little someone isn’t screaming, or crying, or tugging on my leg to hurry up and get an I.want.Right.NOW.

And then I get a piece of time, a few precious moments to myself, and often, instead of relaxing in my Savior’s presence, enjoying, savoring His goodness, His splendor…I plug into a computer game or YouTube videos of “some country’s” Got Talent. I get caught up in the wasteland of needless information.

Today, once more, I examined myself, my faith, and I recognize that though I am in a different season, I have not failed, even when sometimes I stumble. In the midst of my struggles, I look to my Heavenly Father. I choose to rely on Holy Spirit for help and for comfort. And, though I may zone out in front of the computer at times to ‘escape’, I still spend time with Jesus each day.

My time with Him is no longer stretches of ‘alone’ time reading the Word and praying. My time with Him is much sweeter in a way, because it is time I share with my children too. And the fruit that comes from this time spent together is fruit that in the future will be multiplied 100 fold.

Yesappa, thank You for Your grace upon me, upon my life. Thank You for meeting me right where I am. Keep walking with me; be unrelenting in Your pursuit of me. Keep drawing me closer to You especially in the midst of life, of motherhood. Help me teach my children about You as we spend time together with You. Help me be solid in the faith regardless of the different seasons I go through. Help me to always remember that You are with me and that You will never leave me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The earth with all its people may shake,

but I am the one who holds it steady. Selah

Psalm 75:3 (NCV)

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms