Tag Archives: reconciliation

2 Samuel 13-14; Acts 28

David knew family dysfunction. One son’s sinful desires leads to rape, leads to murder, leads to estrangement–a lot of broken pieces, shattered and scattered and can’t be put back together the same way again. When the woman from Tekoa speaks to David about a situation, these beautiful words stand out to me.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” 2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT.

The imagery and depth are beautiful to me, but my God is so much more–the one who devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

Am I like Absalom, Lord, who stews in anger at being held at arm’s length? When David agrees to his return but refuses to reconcile (acknowledge him or even look upon Absalom), I know this rejection–to live a life near someone and feel totally invisible. Unworthy. Unaccepted.

Am I like David, Lord, with limitations and restrictions? Is it possible David agreed to Absalom’s return only because the woman had him pegged? Was his heart not in it? Certainly one can do the right thing for the sake of doing right, but lack love (sometimes known as civility). I’ve done that too.

Jesus, I see you at the table, serving bread and wine to Judas. I see you on the shore, eye to eye with Peter asking, “Do you love me?” You were the plan for bringing us back–God who devises ways to bring those back who’ve been separated from him by sin. You didn’t forgive us for your sake, but for ours. Thank you for loving me and showing me how to love, for forgiving me and showing me how to forgive. Thank you for valuing my life so much that you would not sweep it away, but look for ways to bring me back to you. Your love–unconditional and eternal–the true example of a father’s love for a child. I’m grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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Jonah 1-4; Revelation 9

The Old Testament reading tells of mass repentance.

When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:

“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”

10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:6-10, NLT.

The New Testament tells of torment of those who refuse to repent.

20 But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20, NLT.

I think God will go to great lengths to bring us back to him. He’ll send people to speak into our lives (oh, who is brave enough to speak in love?) or he will let us reap consequences–though I doubt that’s his first choice. Will I be obedient to him? Or will I run like Jonah? Will I feel God’s great compassion for a broken world?

10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah 4:10-11, NLT.

My youngest came downstairs this morning because she had some bad dreams. She is eight. She curled up in my arms and I held her close and felt her fall asleep against me. I don’t know what her future looks like, but God does. And I know that he will go to great lengths to have a relationship with her.

The Bible is a multifaceted testimony of love–of a God who loves us and who sends a son to redeem and restore. I’m thankful for his word for guidance, his spirit for conviction and comfort, his son for salvation.

Courtney (66books365)

We are looking into 2015 with a new Bible-in-a-year reading plan that will cover Monday through Friday. If you are interested in exploring the Bible in a new way and would like to guest write or join our group of contributors in 2015, contact Courtney at 66booksinayear @ gmail.com.

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Isaiah 4-6; Galatians 3

I caught up with an old friend this past week. I haven’t talked to her in years. She filled me in on what those years looked like–disillusionment, rejection, bitterness, generations-long broken relationships, heartache, wandering.  She was working through the trials when a guest speaker came to her church. She said that God impressed upon her that this speaker had a word for her. She approached him afterwards and introduced herself, telling him what she felt the Lord was prompting. This man didn’t know her story, and he said he didn’t have to–that if God had a word for her through him, that he trusted God for it. Then he began to speak to her about restoration. She told me she stood there and cried.

I read of desolation and destruction in Isaiah.

  • Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it. Isaiah 5:6-6, NLT.
  • What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. 12 They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties—lyre and harp, tambourine and flute—but they never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing. Isaiah 5:11-12, NLT.
  • So my people will go into exile far away because they do not know me. Those who are great and honored will starve, and the common people will die of thirst. 14 The grave is licking its lips in anticipation, opening its mouth wide. The great and the lowly and all the drunken mob will be swallowed up. 15 Humanity will be destroyed, and people brought down; even the arrogant will lower their eyes in humiliation. Isaiah 5:14-15, NLT.
  • What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! Isaiah 5:18, NLT.
  • 20 What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. 21 What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. 22 What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about all the alcohol they can hold. 23 They take bribes to let the wicked go free, and they punish the innocent. Isaiah 5:20-23, NLT.

 

I’m reading St. Augustine’s Confessions with a group of high schoolers. While many themes emerge in the reading, one is of waste and regret turned redemption and praise.

Sometimes we’re quite aware of the desolation, and other times we live blinded and confused in places where dark is light and bitter is sweet–deceived. Certainly, when God reveals truth to us, we will see the waste and shame in sweet light of grace and restoration.

They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
    The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Isaiah 6:3, NLT

And it is. Glory birthed even in desolate places. He does a mighty work.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 9-11; Acts 4:1-22

I’ve been thinking of my mom lately. She’s been dead half my life, and I barely knew her outside of her being a mother. I couldn’t tell you what her favorite ice cream was, her favorite book, or what the perfect day would be for her. I didn’t know what things she struggled with, what were her hopes or fears. Half a life later, I have moved on, becoming a wife and mother myself. I don’t even remember the sound of her voice. She is a mystery and a stranger aside from childhood memories.

The book had been on my shelf at least half a year. I’d had lots of intentions to read it, and recently my schedule opened up to a now-or-never opportunity. It changed everything. It happened in chapter two: daring to confess. Because of a few well-worded questions, I began to see a remarkable parallel between my mother and me. I began to see so many components of sin and wounding passed down through generations. I had inherited more than her hearty laugh.

In Nehemiah 9, the subhead reads: the people confess their sins. In their praise and worship of God, they go back through the generations and account for sins and God’s merciful response to them as a people.

16 “But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to your commands. 17 They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt! But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them …” Nehemiah 9:16-17, NLT.

This reminder seemed so timely, and full of hope. How much closer I become to the Lord when I lay it all before him, ugly and honest. He already knows anyway.

No matter how long I’ve carried it, nothing is impossible for God.

For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years. Acts 4:21b-22, NLT.

Father God, I’m thankful for your gentle revealing of the hidden places of my heart. Thank you for bringing to light issues and attitudes I wasn’t aware I kept alive. Thank you that you are gracious and merciful, slow to become angry and rich in unfailing love. You won’t abandon me either. You continue your work in me, to fashion me into the image of your son. For me to accomplish this on my own? Likely impossible. But nothing is impossible for you.

Courtney (66books365)

(I purchased Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie Leyland Fields and Dr. Jill Hubbard. This blurb acts to satisfy some FTC rules about book reviews/mentions. I wasn’t compensated to read or recommend this book. The link provided is not an affiliate link and I will not receive credit of any sort through it.)

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Ezra 1, 2; John 19:23-42

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in change. Hard to believe that a circumstance would ever improve, could ever improve. When years tick by and nothing changes, it’s easy to feel forgotten, invisible. While I’ve never known exile on a mass scale, I’ve known what it’s like to live removed, even in a crowd (or across a holiday table), held at arm’s length and denied admission, inclusion. When years tick by and nothing improves, it’s easy to succumb to resignation.

This book in my hands tells me God sees me. This book tells me that nothing is impossible for him. He is still at work. This is what I hold onto, even after hope rejected, even after life upended. He is still at work. After disappointment, tears, wounds, I tell myself and want to believe: he is still at work.

Looking into God’s word shows me his faithfulness and power.

  •  In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom. Ezra 1:1, NLT.
  • Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. Ezra 1:5, NLT.
  • Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. Ezra 2:1, NLT.

He shows me how he can stir hearts, unexpectedly, after waiting … after resignation.

He shows me how he restores.

He shows me his faithfulness again and again, fulfillment of prophecy–promises kept.

  • 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did. John 19:24, NLT.
  • 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. John 19:28-30, NLT.
  • 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.” John 19:32-37, NLT.

I read it in his word and know that he is powerful, and he is faithful. Sometimes I’m surprised, though, at what little opportunity I allow him in my life. Things so broken they seem impossible to fix. And when he stirs a heart, he shows me again and still, nothing is impossible.

Lord, thank you for so many changes you’ve brought about. I had been resigned for years that this was just what it was going to be, and you show me you’re not done yet. I’m so grateful. Thank you for seeing me, for catching tears, for desiring reconciliation so deeply that even the grave wouldn’t stop you from obtaining it.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Exodus 9-13; Matthew 18:1-20

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” Exodus 10:1-2

In the Exodus story, Moses repeatedly shares that God purposely hardened the heart of Pharaoh and his servants. Pharaoh would not listen to the decree of God to ‘Let My people go’. God didn’t want the liberation of the Israelites to become an event that was quickly forgotten. He wanted to demonstrate His glory and His power in a memorable way so that all would ‘know that I am Lord’. God dealt with the Egyptians harshly and without mercy; forgiveness did not enter into the picture.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

In Matthew, Jesus describes how to maneuver in situations of offense and sin. If I go to the offender and he listens, than I have gained a brother. But if his heart is hardened, Jesus said to let the wrongdoer be to me as a gentile and a tax collector.

What does that really mean in the context of New Covenant?

I have observed that a very common Christian assessment of that verse is that when someone doesn’t listen to the church, that they should be excommunicated, cut off and shunned by that group.

I’ve been in the situation where I was treated this way by a community that I had grown very close to. The situation was complicated, and though I know that my heart was right before God, I was still cast aside. I felt rejected by trusted friends, abandoned by people I had shown my vulnerabilities. Being discarded hurt then, and the wounds it left still hurt now at times; it began my search to better understand what Jesus intended.

…If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. Matthew 18:17 (MSG)

I love the way The Message describes the way I should treat someone who isn’t ready to own up to their failings. The version doesn’t say reject, cast-off, snub. It says to start over, to confront and offer God’s forgiving love. The Bible exhorts me to forgive, nearly 500 times if necessary, and in the same way I would hope to be forgiven. God’s Word encourages me to love my enemies, to bless and pray for my persecutors. His Word reminds me of the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for me while I was still a sinner and His constant mercy when I inevitably make mistakes as a believer.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. Matthew 18:11 (NKJV)

Though many versions omit this verse, it still holds true that Christ’s goal is to save the lost. He yearns for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. He wants to rebuild honor, reestablish relationship, and reinstate original positioning, with Him and with others. He does that daily by offering His body and His blood. He seeks out the lost, whether they have never seen the Good Shepherd or have simply strayed away from the flock and offers forgiveness, ushering them into the fold.

While walking the earth, Jesus treated gentiles (unclean, polytheistic ‘heathens’), tax collectors, prostitutes and every other kind of sinner with mercy and grace. Though He didn’t condone their behaviors, He spent time with them. He demonstrated love and acceptance; and that witness was what opened eyes to sin and lead to change of heart, to repentance.

I can only believe that God asks me to do the same – to offer love, compassion, mercy, and forbearance – as He extends to me.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your forgiveness, Your grace, and Your mercy. Thank You for seeking me out when I am lost. Thank You for accepting me no matter what. Keep my heart soft, repentant before You at all times. Help me be a pipeline for Your love forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (written in Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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2 Samuel 14; 2 Corinthians 7; Ezekiel 21; Psalm 68

God places the lonely in families … Psalm 68:6a NLT.

This verse stumps me.

It makes me think that families are a haven of one big welcome.

Some of the loneliest times in my life were in the midst of family. I bet Absalom could relate.

Joab sends a woman to appeal to King David, her story a fictional parallel she reveals later to convict.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” 2 Samuel 14:13-14 NLT.

God is one of reconciliation. I tell myself this over and over–even when relationships are strained, and ways are parted.

God is for reconciliation.

David allows Absalom to return, with conditions. For two years, Absalom never got to see his dad.

33 So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him. 2 Samuel 14:33 NLT.

The chapter stops here, and I have hope to keep reading. (So I sneak ahead to the next chapter, and see that dysfunction and division are alive and well. It was not the happily-ever-after I hoped would wrap up neatly.)

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NLT.

In the time Absalom was away from David, I think whatever sorrow he may have felt turned bitter with resentment and grew. Paul writes above to the Corinthians, and his words churn in my thoughts as I sip at coffee. The kind of sorrow that God wants us to experience, that leads us away from sin and results in salvation. And then there’s worldly sorrow, lacking repentance, resulting in spiritual death. Absalom’s sorrow will lack repentance (turning away from the sin) and lead to death–as it is today: relationships break apart in friendships and families; sorrow without change whittles away at everyone.

I examine the fractures in my life.

Lord, help me to reconcile without conditions so I don’t place stumbling blocks in front of a friend/family member. I want to be mindful of the condition of my own heart, turning from sin (please help me to see it!) and trusting in you. Where hearts are hardened, Lord, I pray that you will work on them. You are the God of reconciliation and restoration. I want to want that as much as you do. Thank you, that you don’t leave me where I am, but want to change me from the inside.

Courtney (66books365)

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