Tag Archives: submission

Nehemiah 2-5

How do I resolve difficulties in my life? The American spirit I grew to believe in is one of rugged independence, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, charge over the ground where angels fear to tread and so on. I read way too many “Superman” comic books! So, it has taken me 30 years working for various supervisors whose leadership style ranged from uninvolved, permissive to micromanaging everyone into helplessness, before godly fear taught me to trust in submission. Nehemiah’s approach to his dilemmas is foundational to my understanding of godly submission and leadership, as illustrated with these words, “After fasting, confessing, and praying for mercy, Nehemiah was prepared to speak to the king who had authority to grant him an enormous favor.”

Likewise, whether I am approaching bosses, family, or friends for help, preparation begins on my knees. Next choosing when and how to approach is crucial. Nehemiah took advantage of his customary meeting with his king who then noticed Nehemiah’s sad face. Have you felt that society has become overly sensitive to emotional appeals for change? Frustration and even angry words may be tolerated, but sadness? Tears are viewed as manipulative, and you are likely to be told to take a leave of absence and seek therapy. (I am a counselor, so my working environment is especially sensitive to mood!) Nehemiah, too, was “dreadfully afraid’ that his king noticed his sadness but was undaunted by the enormity of his request to bring aid to his fellow Jews. Fortunately, Nehemiah’s trust in God and trustworthy reputation brought him favor. The king granted him all that he asked concerning supplies, safe passage, and authority, “according to the good hand of my God upon me,” said Nehemiah. (Nehemiah 2:8) Lesson to be learned: Show yourself as trustworthy.

Yet, am I as good a steward of what others have entrusted to me? How often have I set out to accomplish a goal without determining the time, energy, resources, and support I would expend? Benjamin Franklin is credited for saying, “The person who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I see that Nehemiah, the wise planner, also knew the value of preparation. Without telling anyone, he went out at night and surveyed the burnt walls and gates, planning and calculating the cost of rebuilding Jerusalem. After gathering his facts, Nehemiah was then ready to present his plan to the Jewish people, the stakeholders who had the most to gain from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

But one of the hardest lessons I am still learning is that any plan will be put through a “crucible” before completion. Why is it so hard to accept that my idea might not be the best [tongue in cheek!] or even desired by the very ones I want on board? Plans often experience opposition within and without. Nehemiah also had to address opposition from his enemies and uncertainty from his people. To them he declared this defense: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore, we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

And the enemy just melted away…NOT! When the opposition saw that mocking and devaluing the workers did not stop the Jews from building, these same enemies conspired with others to physically attack. I have witnessed similar responses from family and friends of my clients. Unfortunately, the very ones who could be supportive sometimes become jealous or fearful of losing control when their loved one shows progress in recovery from addiction. The client’s motivation wanes and the fight against giving up becomes the focus. So, how can we get victory over physical, mental, and moral testing? How can we stay motivated to be on guard and prepared for defense? A good leader keeps reaching up in prayer, reaching out for support, and digging in to stay the course. Nehemiah’s people learned to remain vigil. “Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. (Nehemiah 4:17,18)

So many times, we let our guard down and allow the enemy to come in and steal our dreams and challenge our goals, or disrupt progress, thereby shutting down our resolve. Having a righteous leader like Nehemiah who never gives up and never gives in is a blessing. Yet, God who dwells within us through His Holy Spirit has made available to all His people a storehouse of encouragement, wisdom, supplies, and support for rebuilding our lives. I love God’s answer to my wobbly resolve: ‘put on the whole armor of God, child.’

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance…” (Ephesians 6:14-18).

I do not need to stand alone like some DC Comics superhero; I am beloved and have the awesome Holy Spirit of my God each day, a host of saints, and a multitude of angels surrounding me. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” And Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Jesus our Lord, let us plan and work together, and rejoice in Your victory over the challenges and dilemmas that we and those You love face. For if You are with us, who can stand against us?! There is no one like our God!

Janet

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Leviticus 21-23; Hebrews 8

Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.

And since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. If he were here on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law. They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:1-5, NLT)

Leviticus goes into description about offerings, cleanliness, worthiness. It lists the festivals and holy days, the reasons why and the ways they should be celebrated.

Growing up, holidays were commercial, and the traditions were meaningless, self-serving pleasures. When I read about the how and why of these holy days, they are rich with meaning in a way I was unaware of for at least half my life.

As an adult, I remember one year our friends David and Anita invited us to be guests at their Passover dinner. Anita lined up tables and covered them with beautiful tablecloths, giving an impression of one long table to seat over twenty people. It was spring. The sun set later in the evening and lit the room with a golden glow. I looked around at the faces of their family and friends and felt grateful to be counted among them. They explained the reasons for everything to us, and there were opportunities for each one of us to contribute to the evening’s celebration and remembrance.

When my kids were in their elementary school years, we read a book called All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Other holidays and traditions came to light in this story–costumes, games, merry making–that, today, in the reading of Leviticus strike a chord of memory and curiosity. Of value and tradition.

I wonder if we sometimes forget the why of tradition in the focus of the what and how. I didn’t have a personal religious context for the Old Testament readings today. But I sat with the outline of what, how and why, and it reached my heart–it spoke of community, worship, honor and gratitude. It spoke of remembrance, celebration, humility and submission. So when Hebrews 8 mentions this is only a copy, a shadow of the real one, I am deeply moved.

Majestic God in heaven, thank you for holy days, tradition, community and worship. Thank you for reminding me that it’s about you, your sovereignty, love and power. Thank you for a challenging read today, to draw me closer to you. Thank you for glimpses of goodness in the copy of now.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nahum 1-3; 1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may life peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Timothy has an interesting challenge for us when it comes to godly living: rather than doing what the pagans do (and if we’re honest, what comes naturally), he urges us to offer thanksgiving and prayers for those in our lives – particularly the authorities in our lives.

The result, he says, pleases God.

How does it please God?

Because when we pray for and give thanks for our authorities, it causes us to live at peace with those people in our lives, and to set an example of holiness and godliness. An example that points to Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

This example stands in stark contrast to what we see in the culture around us, where people frequently and openly disrespect and disparage those in authority, whether it’s their boss, a cop, or even the president.

God doesn’t want me to blend in with the culture around me. He doesn’t want me to join in with negativity. He wants to me offer thanks for the authority, whether good or bad. He wants me to pray for my authority, whether easy or hard. He wants me to choose peace with my authority, to choose love with my authority, and to choose holiness in my interactions with my authority.

When I put God in control of my relationships, it pleases Him because it allows Him to work behind the scenes in a person’s life, for the purpose of the gospel.

God wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of the truth. Shouldn’t I want the same? And if I do want the same, how do my interactions with others reflect this? How do my prayers reflect it? How does my attitude reflect it?

Our primary purpose in life is to know God and make Him known. When I seek peace and pursue it by praying for and being thankful for the people God has placed in my life, I’m able to make God known in the most vibrant and significant way possible.

But when I gossip, when I complain, when I become negative and resentful about the people in my life who annoy me, frustrate me, or inconvenience me,  I make myself known. And that’s not a good thing. That means God has to deal with me before He can deal with them.

When I choose a humble and godly attitude, I show my trust in God to provide for, encourage, protect, and lead me, even as He uses the people in my life to do so.

Father, thank you for your patience with me. Forgive me for choosing negativity and selfishness over gratitude and humility. Help me to see people as you see them, and help me to make my priority making Your name great and making You known. By Your grace, I will choose gratitude. By Your grace, I will pray for those you’ve placed in my life. By Your grace, I will choose peace. Help me to be set apart in my behavior towards others. Help me to point to You in all that I say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

 

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1 Samuel 1-3; Galatians 3; Psalms 66

 “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask.  “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me-isn’t that better than having ten sons?”  “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.  And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you.  He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.  When Elekanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, and in due time she gave birth to a son.  She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.  I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord.  I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.  Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Samuel 1-2 NLT

It is refreshing to see Hannah’s vulnerability.  In her faithfulness, she was still human.  She struggled and shed tears.  She cried out to the Lord and he answered her prayer.  He rewarded her faithfulness.  He gave back to her in abundance.

“Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord.” And the Lord blessed Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters.  Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:20&21 NLT

What am I holding onto that God is asking me to give to him? What is my Samuel?  Sometimes it is a daily surrendering to him.  He knows I can’t do it alone, so he gave me his Spirit.

“You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.  How foolish can you be? After starting new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?” In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.” Galatians 3:6&7 NLT

Dear Father, Thank you for Father for your presence.  That you promise to always be with me.  Forgive me when I doubt.  Thank you for your faithfulness in my life.  Thank you for your patience and unfailing love towards me.  Help me to live in a posture of surrender to you.

“If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.  But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” Psalms 66:18-20 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

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Judges 19-21; Mark 16

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT).

These are the opening words to a tragedy. A story that ends with this:

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).


The tragic story in Judges 19-21 didn’t begin when the troublemakers of Gibeah beat on an old man’s door.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him” (Judges 19:22, NLT).

It began here:

There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem (Judges 19:1b-2, NLT).

Whatever happened between them, I don’t know. But something happened, and she reacted. Likely, he didn’t count the cost of his actions. Surely, she didn’t count the cost of her actions. Catastrophe starts small, with an unchecked thought, word or action.

I sit with words, watching a scene unfold, grimacing at the abandonment (a host abandoning his daughter; a husband abandoning his wife; troublemakers abandoning all decency and mercy), eyes widening in shock as deaths mount by the thousands in a warfare of tribe against tribe.

I can look all over these scriptures and point out places where there’s fault. And maybe there’s something to their opening and end:

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT) … 25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).

Father God, you are Lord over all. Be Lord over my life. Be Lord over my heart. Be Lord over my words. Be Lord over my actions. I don’t want to be right in my own eyes. I want to live right by your standards. I only want your approval.

Courtney (66books365)

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