Tag Archives: truth

Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

Over the years as I’ve read through the Bible, I saw hints of Jesus in the Old Testament. Today’s pairing of Joel and Matthew 10 remind me of Revelation, whether that was intended or not. In Joel, there is scarcity, darkness, mourning, and fire.

Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the Lord is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.

Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes. They look like horses; they charge forward like warhorses. Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle. (Joel 1:1b-5, NLT)

An army moves in like a flood over the land, consuming. Earth quaking, heavens trembling, the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars no longer shine. It reads like the trailer to End Times.

The Lord is at the head of the column. He leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders. The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive? 12 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:11-13, NLT)

In Matthew, Jesus prepares The Twelve. He doesn’t speak of a simple task. In fact, this mission comes with risk, and he is clear about it.

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT)

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28, NLT)

These passages from both readings show me a mighty Lord. Focused. Authoritative. Clear.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT)

In the preparing, in the warning, there is an underlying message of turning to the Lord. Of following him. In the hindsight of history, I can wonder why Adam and Eve would ever question God in the garden–why they would make such a grave error of choice, and yet, every day that choice is offered to me: am I going to follow Jesus or not?

Lord, you told the disciples to go out and tell your people that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Help me to keep that focus as I live my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I wonder which would be more difficult: to fill many empty jars with oil from one flask or to offer my other cheek to be slapped again by an enemy? In the one situation, a widow is about to have her two sons taken away from her to fulfill a debt. In another situation, one is advised to stand before an enemy and not only take the blow, but ready oneself for the next without striking back or defending oneself. Really: which would be more difficult?

Elisha speaks miracles–many of them just by telling people what to do. He doesn’t do it for his own glory. He doesn’t even accept payment. He does it out of relationship with God and obedience to him. It is an act of trust and faith. God is the source of power, holiness, and ability, and Elisha knows it. And when others witness these things, they know it too.

Lord, do my words and actions support my belief that you are the source of power, holiness, and ability?

Elisha gives the word to a soldier to dunk himself in the water to heal his leprosy–he doesn’t need to be there. He eats in a famine. He sees the Lord’s vast army through the window when others can’t.

Imagine holding a flask of oil that continues to flow beyond its measure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches his disciples about blessing, effectiveness (saltiness), the law, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. This isn’t teaching for other people; it’s guidance for all people. So, what is more difficult: to be mocked, persecuted and lied about for being a Christ follower or to shine like a light from a hilltop for even your enemies to see, unhidden? To actively reconcile with someone where there is deep tension or to love (in deed) people who are not friends?

It’s easy to think metaphorically, easy to comply when one isn’t in the heat of a conflict, “Offer your other cheek. Give your coat too. Go the extra mile.” But what if an enemy literally struck my cheek, would I stand in God’s strength and offer the other cheek? And what if I was fined payment of something I used daily (the shirt), could I also offer something I used in emergency (the coat)? And if, in oppression, I was told to carry something, would I go above and beyond?

Am I like the “tax collectors and pagans” loving only those who love me, showing kindness to only my friends? Do I shine my light in the safe places, only to those who already know God, or do I hold him up in the company of unbelievers?

Or am I a flask that continues to flow beyond its measure? Could I do what Christ suggests without fear, without complaint, without resentment because I know there’s more (in me) where that came from (because of God)?

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10, NLT)

Father God, you are the source of all. If you call, you will equip. And in the impossible, you make it possible. Oh, this is freedom, to live a life poured out for you, flowing from your abundance. You give sunlight and rain to both the evil and the good because there is no shortage of grace and goodness in you.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45a, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 17-18; Psalm 119; Jude

No dew or rain for the next few years. Elijah is fed by the ravens and drinks by a brook until it dries up. The Lord tells him to move on.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:8-9, NLT, emphasis added)

The ravens obey the Lord and feed Elijah. The Lord tells Elijah where to go and what to expect. Some of the things he says are revealed to us (the reader), and some of the things are not revealed, perhaps not even to those it involves. When Elijah asks the widow for a drink and some bread, her response:

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” (1 Kings 17:12, NLT)

Her response doesn’t sound like someone who was instructed by the Lord, but I can’t know the dialogue because it isn’t given. Instead, I read her doubts and reasons. However the Lord may have instructed her, her response doesn’t acknowledge it. It speaks of her own ability, her own resources, her own fears.

Would I know the Lord’s voice over the sound of my own thoughts and fears? Would I obey him like the ravens did, or would I cling to what I could hold despite his prompting to let go?

The drought lasted three years. When the wait for relief is prolonged, would I still hear his voice?

Psalm 119 tells of the psalmist’s delight in the laws of the Lord.

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord … 24 Your laws please me; they give me wise advice … 37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word … 74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word … 92 If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery … 116 Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed.

150 Lawless people are coming to attack me;
    they live far from your instructions.
151 But you are near, O Lord,
    and all your commands are true.
152 I have known from my earliest days
    that your laws will last forever. (Psalm 119:1, 24, 37, 74, 92, 116, 150-152, NLT)

Would that be my song in trouble and waiting?

10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. 11 What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion …

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. (Jude verses 10-11, 17-21, NLT, emphasis added)

Lord, the psalm proclaims that your word is a lamp to my feet. Keep me in the light of your path. Keep your word hidden deeply in my heart. I don’t want anyone’s voice to drown out the truth and promise of your word.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 4; Proverbs 1-2; Psalm 43; Romans 9

It sounds like depression. It sounds like grief. It sounds like despair.

Declare me innocent, O God!
    Defend me against these ungodly people.
    Rescue me from these unjust liars.
For you are God, my only safe haven.
    Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies? (Psalm 43:1-2, NLT)

It sounds like hope.

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
    to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
    O God, my God!

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God! (Psalm 43:3-5, NLT)

It reminds me that when times are dark and pressing in and on, when it feels like God has turned his back, that there is light and truth. There is joy. There is hope.

Circumstances and feelings don’t tell the full story. I turn to God’s unchanging word for truth and guidance. I am reminded of who he is and who I am.

30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. 33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble,
    a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who trusts in him
    will never be disgraced.” (Romans 9:30-33, NLT)

Lord, I am so thankful for your words in my hands. You are timeless and true. Your word is living and active. I sit in this space today, glad for quiet and time to drink in truth. Thank you for wisdom. Thank you for mercy and grace.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21; Romans 4

I have a purple buff/gaiter that I sometimes use as a head covering when I work in the yard. It’s different from the others I have because if I try to stretch the fabric from top to bottom, it doesn’t budge. But when I take hold from the sides and pull, it stretches. It seems odd that a fabric can be pulled one direction, but not the other. And it’s probably odd that I think of that when I read the scriptures today.

In 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, David takes a census.

Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him (2 Samuel 24:1, NLT); and Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1, NLT).

I note how sin has a far-reaching effect–this act carries a consequence touching thousands. Of three possible outcomes, a plague strikes the land taking lives of 70,000 people.

I think of a fabric being pulled and stretched, yielding and groaning to a force. But when I read Romans 4, I see a fabric that doesn’t budge. That doesn’t stretch. That holds by its integrity. And I am reminded again of the great power of faith, the great gift of God, immovable, that maintains its posture.

13 Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. (Romans 4:13-17, NLT)

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:20-25, NLT)

When I feel stretched and pulled by battling emotions, I want to remember this truth that should weaken every struggling thought and urge to silence. What if I spoke aloud: Courtney never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, her faith grew stronger, and in this, she brought glory to God. She was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.

Lord, thank you for lessons in fabric that hold their shape and integrity. Thank you for this word today, recorded for my benefit too, assuring me that you will count me as righteous if I believe in you. Greatest gift ever, a faith that glorifies you.

Courtney (66books365)

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