66 in 52 Challenge

2 Chronicles – Week 13 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I plan to focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 13 - 2 Chronicles

The Big Picture of 2 Chronicles:

Last week I mentioned that 2 Chronicles can sometimes feel like a repeat of stories we’ve already heard.  Originally 1 and 2 Chronicles would have been one book, so obviously this second book picks up where the first leaves off around the time of the death of King David. Solomon is now King and this book recaps history all the way up to the time of Jerusalem being captured. It literally means “the events of the years.”

The Message and Purpose of Chronicles:

I shared the following last week from the “She Reads Truth” Bible about 1 and 2 Chronicles. I was originally planning to change this section, but as I glanced back through it I found it interested to read here right in the middle of the book. Perhaps take some time to think about where you have seen these things already and then watch for them again as we read this week.

“Having resettled in Jerusalem after the exile, the Israelites needed to reconnect with their identity as the people of God. Chronicles met this purpose by reminding them of their heritage and by directing them back to God’s presence in their midst as symbolized by the temple. The important ideas emphasized in 1 and 2 Chronicles are:

  1. A direct connection to God’s people in the past
  2. The continuity of the line of David on the throne of Judah
  3. The centrality of the temple and its rituals in focusing on God
  4. The importance of music in worshiping God
  5. The invincibility of God’s people when they obey Him
  6. The inevitability of punishment when God’s people disobey Him.”

(She Reads Truth Bible, pg 595)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse (two this week since we’re in two books!). This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
    REFLECTION: What would it look like for you to humble yourself and pray and seek God’s face this week? 
  • “Solomon went up there before the LORD to the bronze altar which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.” 2 Chronicles 1:6
    REFLECTION: Wow. A thousand burnt offerings. That’s a lot. What kind of extravagant worship and sacrifice can you offer God this week as a way to praise and honor Him?
  • “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12
    REFLECTION: Where in life right now do you feel like, “God, I just don’t know what to do!!!” What can you do today to get your eyes back on God even in the middle of that uncertainty?

God’s Grace in 2 Chronicles:

God’s grace in some books like 2 Chronicles might be described a little like “tough love”. At first a lot of what we read seems so harsh and rigid. Yet, when we take a step back, we see that God sometimes allows His children to experience the consequences of their sin because it’s in their best interest. My pastor often talks about how God first tries to woo his children and win them over with His love and kindness. However, if that doesn’t work, He is willing to let hard things happen to them in order to draw them back to Himself. It’s not out of wrath or meanness that He allows punishment, it’s out of His strong desire to have relationships restored. I guess, like an earthly parent does for their kids, it’s true that sometimes we do need a little tough love in order to get us back on the right track, the place that’s best for us. We see this a lot in 2 Chronicles and, at least for me, it causes me to long for the day our Savior King, Jesus, will come and reign in all His glory with no more pain, tears, sin, or hurt.

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

66 in 52 Challenge, Bekah's Heart

Reflections on 1 Chronicles

At the beginning of this week in the intro blog I mentioned that as we go through 1 and 2 Chronicles, we’re going to be hearing a lot of the same stories. Just as I told you, I challenged myself to do my best to read these books with fresh eyes and expect God to speak through His word. What I found interesting is that the story that stood out most to me this week was actually the same section of David’sstory I blogged about from 2 Samuel, except when I first started reflecting on it, I didn’t even realize it!

This story in 1 Chronicles 14 is almost identical to that in 2 Samuel 5 where God gives David and his army a clear picture of their battle plan against the Philistines. In the battle just before it, we read about this:

David asked God, “Should I attack the Philistines? Will you help me win?” The Lord told David, “Yes, attack them! I will give you victory.”  David and his army marched to Baal-Perazim, where they attacked and defeated the Philistines. He said, “I defeated my enemies because God broke through them like a mighty flood.” So he named the place “The Lord Broke Through.” (1 Chronicles 14:10-11)

Again it stood out to me that David took time to stop and ask God for wisdom about whether or not to attack, but even more so, the name of the place.

The Lord Broke Through

Just as names of people have great meaning in scripture, so do the names of places.

  • Eden, the name of God’s perfect garden before sin entered the world, means “place of pleasure”.
  • Achor is the name of a valley near Jericho and it means trouble, named such for all the trouble the sins of a man named Achan caused for Israel back in Joshua.
  • Kibroth HaTaavah was where the Israelites were at when they started complaining to God about the manna and asking for meat.  It was here that God gave them an excessive amount of quail in response to their complaints. This place means “graves of gluttony”.

Here, in this battle, David praises the Lord for the way they were able to go right through their enemy and named it Baal-Perazim which means, “The Lord Broke Through.”

This has become a prayer for some tough situations in the lives of people around me.  I’m begging him to break through on behalf young adults trapped in the chains of anxiety and depression and addiction. Break through is needed among a ministry area that feels stagnant and maybe even dying. I long for a Baal-Perazim place or moment for some I know who have been battling the same illnesses and situations day after day, year after year. Where is their Baal-Perazim?

Yet, I find comfort in realizing that God is breaking through into this time and space each and every day.

The Lord breaks through in late night texts to encourage a friend, or late night texts from a friend to encourage me.

God’s power breaks into the dull every day of ministry when a student suddenly starts asking questions that lead to a chance to share about who Jesus is.

Baal-Perazim in Tim Hortons coffee shops and in the middle of a mall and cozy with friends in my living room.

The Lord Breaks Through the constant noise of social media and brings contentment.

The Lord Breaks Through the comparison and reminds that I am wonderfully unique.

The Lord Breaks Through the overwhelming to do list and calls me to the one thing necessary, time at His feet.

The Lord Breaks Through anxiety, if only for a moment, to let a friend see His amazing grace.

The Lord Breaks Through here.

now.

always.

Baal-Perazim.

Keep breaking through, Jesus.

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Blessing, Crossroads, Devotional, First Trinity, Youth Ministry

Count the Days…Make them Count

It feels like everywhere I turn lately the same message has been repeated over and over: number the days… get focused… make it all count!

I first realized the theme in a meeting a while back with two of my teammates. One was sharing some new resources she had gotten for families in our congregation through Orange and the Parent Cue app. A tool they suggest for parents is to use a jar filled with marbles to represent the number of weeks left for a child until they finish high school. By taking one marble out at the end of each week and watching the jar empty slowly over time it is a reminder to make the time they have count.

While I am not a parent, I figured out the stats: at that time I had less than 15 weeks left with the seniors in our high school ministry before our Senior Blessing Event around graduation time. Three weeks have already passed since then. Three more marbles gone. We’re down to 12.

A few days after that meeting I found myself listening to a podcast that was titled A Trip Around the Sun. In it Louie Giglio shares the number of days left in this year’s journey as we circle the giant star that lights our days. He challenged those listening to seek God’s wisdom in how to use each moment this year to make it count. As I think about the things I’m already planning for this year I know … it will fly!

This message was echoed in an book by Chip and Joanna Gaines I finished recently and before all of that countless circumstances, conversations, and situations all seem to be echoing the same prayer Moses has in Psalm 90:12…

“Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

There are only 24 hours in each day. 365 days in a year. I’m guessing your life is something like mine in that there always seems to be more on the to-do list than can fit in the time.

Some may think counting the days only adds stress to that scenario, that numbering the moments is scary. In my own life, though, I have found it to actually reduce anxiety and provide focus. When I really see how much time is left, I become more intentional with how I use it. (Case in point: my college students at UB miraculously become more focused as the deadline for a paper approaches.)

As I realized that the weeks I had left with the seniors in our youth group were so few, I prioritized time with them. With each marble I take out of the jar, I thank God for one more week with them. But my intentionality didn’t stop there; I also prioritized time with my juniors, and sophomores, and freshmen. I found renewed passion to focus on the things that really matter and cut out the fluff. Soon there will only be a handful of marbles in their jars as well. I want to spend the weeks well.

It’s true: numbering the days leads to wisdom. It brings clarity showing what is important and what needs to let go of in order to focus on the important. It gets rid of the clutter and frees me to do the exact things God has created and called me to do.

Lord, forgive me for the days I do not invest well. Help me spend each moment with more focus, more purpose, more passion, and more grace. I still have a lot to learn, and that is why my prayer remains: teach me, Jesus, to number my days. Give me a heart of wisdom! Make my days count. Amen!

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Crossroads, School of the Week, Youth Ministry

Tonawanda High {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Tonawanda High School!
Fast Facts:

  • Founded: 1895
  • Grades 9-12
  • Mascot: Warriors
  • Colors: Maroon and White

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Tonawanda High, but especially our First Trinity high school student: Lizzie. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Mr. Michael Brown
    Assistant Principal: Mrs. Sarah Infante
  • Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are on sports teams, in music programs, or participate in other extracurricular activities that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

2018-03-18 15.38.39

 

66 in 52 Challenge

1 Chronicles – Week 12 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I plan to focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Week 12 - 1 Chronicles

The Big Picture of 1Chronicles:

As we venture into Chronicles, we start to get a summary of sorts of everything that’s happened so far. Originally these books (1 and 2 Chronicles) would have actually been one book. Also, in the Jewish ordering of Scripture this book would have been at the end, recapping all that had happened. This first book centers around King David’s lifetime, though the first chapter’s genealogy takes us all the way back to Adam. Combined with Ezra and Nehemiah in our ordering we truly get a glimpse of Adam all the way through the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles takes us through the death of King David and Solomon becoming king.

While reading through 1 and 2 Chronicles sometimes it can feel a bit like a repeat since we have heard many of the stories before, but stick with it; I believe God has each book hear for a reason and we can continue to grow and learn!

The Message and Purpose of Chronicles:

I think the “She Reads Truth” Bible describes well why this book is so important:

“Having resettled in Jerusalem after the exile, the Israelites needed to reconnect with their identity as the people of God. Chronicles met this purpose by reminding them of their heritage and by directing them back to God’s presence in their midst as symbolized by the temple. The important ideas emphasized in 1 and 2 Chronicles are:

  1. A direct connection to God’s people in the past
  2. The continuity of the line of David on the throne of Judah
  3. The centrality of the temple and its rituals in focusing on God
  4. The importance of music in worshiping God
  5. The invincibility of God’s people when they obey Him
  6. The inevitability of punishment when God’s people disobey Him.”

(She Reads Truth Bible, pg 595)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse (two this week since we’re in two books!). This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verse, pick any section of the book you want! These are just some ideas.

  • “David assigned the following men to lead the music at the house of the Lord after the Ark was placed there. They ministered with music at the Tabernacle until Solomon build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.” 1 Chronicles 6:31-32
    REFLECTION: What impact has music had in your life and worship?
  • “O Lord, there is no one like you. we have never even heard of another God like you!” 1 Chronicles 17:20
    REFLECTION: This verse comes in the middle of a prayer of thanks and praise by David. What can you thank and praise God for today? 
  • “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11
    REFLECTION: Make a list of where you have seen each of the following recently in your life or the lives of those around you: God’s greatness, God’s power, God’s glory, God’s victory, God’s majesty. 

God’s Grace in 1 Chronicles:

If we were in the group of original hearers/readers of Chronicles, I think it would be hard to read. I know hearing the things humans have done throughout history is even hard for me today. To see all the murder, rape, hatred, and destruction in the last few books we read was hard enough, we don’t need it recapped in this one. But maybe we do. Maybe we need to remember the good and the bad. Maybe there is where we see again our desperate need for a Savior. Looking at our past explains, to some extent, who we’ve become. Seeing our scars helps us navigate the future, hopefully better. It reminds me of a new song out by I Am They called ‘Scars’. The chorus says:

So, I’m thankful for the scars
Cause’ without them I wouldn’t know Your heart
And I know they’ll always tell of who You are
So forever I am thankful for the scars

As we reflect on collective history as humankind and on our own pasts, may we see God’s presence every step of the way. May we know that in the times of the deepest wounds and the biggest scars, there we knew God’s heart.

 

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Random

Your Future Self Will Thank You

Last night was a night that ended up being filled with things I think I’ll thank myself for later. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s what happened.

First, I went to the gym. I could have gone straight home from work. I could have made excuses (I was pretty tired) or not taken time to pack a change of clothes that morning. But I didn’t. I showed up. I did my thing. By the time I finished I was glad I came; I think my future self will be thankful too.

Once home I made myself dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy but it was yummy, semi-healthy, and did the trick. Thinking ahead to the rest of my week I realized that I’ll be away from home for 13 hours today and about 12 on Thursday. Before sitting down to enjoy last night’s dinner, I took an extra 5 minutes to threw a pork tenderloin and some veggies in the oven to roast while I ate. Between that and leftovers from tonight’s dinner, I now have meals for the next 2 and a half days ready to pull out when needed. My mornings will be easier when it comes to packing a lunch and I will enjoy the homemade meal way more than grabbing something on the go when there’s no opportunity to go home for dinner.

I’m also kept a commitment I made to myself this morning to do some cleaning this evening as well as some writing. I will thank myself when I’m not racing the clock for upcoming deadlines or when I come home tonight after a long day to a clean home and empty sink.

I went to bed at a reasonable time. I’m still trying to adjust to the time change. My body isn’t sure what to do with it. I could have easily stayed up late to do whatever random things I end up doing way to late at night. Instead, I tucked myself in and found myself thankful and unstressed this morning when I had to get up and out the door early to enjoy breakfast with a friend before work.

I don’t share all that in pride. I am far from awesome when it comes to many of these things that I happened to actually do well last night. (I may or may not have also hadsome chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. So there’s that.) Believe me: this kind of stuff isn’t an every day occurrence in the Freed home.  But last night it was. And it felt good to not just care for me “now” but for me “then”.

It made me stop and consider two things:

1. Healthy choices lead to other healthy choices. Going to the gym after work made me crave a healthier dinner. Once I got going, it was easier to find motivation for other good things in my life. By exercising and eating well I slept better too. By having a clean house I am more likely to put in the little effort it takes to keep it clean the rest of the week and be less stressed out every time I walk in the door.

2. I may not be able to do all of this every day or even every week, but what things can I do that will benefit me in the future? Whether “future” is simply the next morning or years from now, I can do things now that will help me then.

I’m all for living in the present, when we get too far ahead of ourselves it just creates anxiety and gets overwhelming. At the same time though, when as I look around at our world, I see how easy it is to “live for now” and completely ignore the fact that these bodies, homes, cars, relationships, etc. will be around for a while. When I live focused only on now and for temporary satisfaction it rarely turns out well. I matter. And because I matter I want to remember what it looks like to care for myself in ways that will help the future me too. It’s easy to lose focus on this, but we can regain the momentum pretty easily as well. It starts with this simple question:

What is one little thing I can do today that my future self will thank me for?

Now go do it!

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Crossroads, School of the Week, Youth Ministry

Sweet Home Senior High {School of the Week 17-18}

This week we thank God for and pray for Sweet Home High School!
Fast Facts:

  • Founded: 1956
  • Grades 9-12
  • Mascot: Panthers
  • Colors: Blue and Gold

Prayers:

  • Pray for all the students of Sweet Home Senior High, but especially our First Trinity high school students: Matthew, Ian, Katie, Paige, Mike, and Nikki. Ask God to walk with them each day and give them opportunities to live out their faith at school, in extracurricular activities, and in their homes.
  • Pray for their administrators, faculty, and staff.
    Principal: Mr. Scott Martin
    Assistant Principals: Dr. Keli-Koran Luchey and Mr. Joseph Zwack
  • Ask God to give all who lead the students wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for the students who are on sports teams, in music programs, or participate in other extracurricular activities that they would perform to God’s glory, stay safe, and have fun.

2018-03-13 10.14.21