Renewed Focus

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I learned a MASSIVE lesson about myself at the grocery store last night: If I were an Israelite and the first time God sent down manna, I would have received Moses’s ire for hoarding (Ex 16:16-20). This is humbling and heartbreaking to me. Looking at the rows and rows of empty shelves last night created a panic in me that I never knew could exist.

I also learned that whenever God decides is the right time for the events in Revelation to occur, it is going to happen QUICKLY! Even quicker than what is happening now. I do believe what we are currently witnessing and experiencing is a foreshadow of what is to come. We need to be prepared; however, we need not panic!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1-4 NIV).

Colossians 3 was my Bible reading for today and I am SO thankful that it was. Set in verses 1 and 2 are imperatives. In Greek heart (v 1) is inserted by the NIV translators and it rightly deserves to be there. Our basic desires stem from the heart. Paul commands us to set our hearts and desires on the things above. To me this means “Desire Christ!”

Paul references Psalm 110:1 when he says, “Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” In both the OT and NT times being seated at the right hand of the king meant power, honor, privilege and the right to act on the king’s behalf. God’s right hand is portrayed as a place of power, victory and favor.  Jesus’s being seated expresses His completion of His assigned task. Jesus is the only One who could be referenced in Psalm 110 and is the only One who could ever fill that seat.

This is why Paul also commands that we set our minds on things above. Minds is more than our thinking, it is our values. What we value and love is to be centered on the rule of Christ. We are to call people to Christ and life and away from earthly things that will perish. Christ does not just provide for us in this life, He IS our life.

As Christ is hidden from the world, so too is the believer hidden in Christ. When Christ is revealed to the world, so will we as believers. While we need to be prepared in our current situation, we need not panic. We need not roam around as a people without hope. We are called and purposed to bring God glory both in this life and in eternity. May we glorify God in how we respond to all that is happening in our world today.

It is SO easy for me to focus on the here and now. These verses remind that life begins and ends in Christ. We need to partner with Christ in being prepared; however, at some point we have to come to a place where we declare with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Ps 23:1).

I have always wondered how strong my desire would be to survive if I were ever put in that situation. Now I know. Jesus’s response to Satan applies to me as well, “‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matt 4:4). For the believer and the unbeliever, please, seek Jesus while there is still time!

Father God, thank You that for resetting my heart and mind on You! Lord God, may we desire You and live for You while there is still time. Lord God, thank You that no quarantine will EVER stop Your Word! Lord God, I ask that You prepare us for all that You have for us. May we reflect on Your past workings in our lives so that we may face the present in confidence and trust. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, I ask that You will keep this reader’s gaze and focus on You. Lord God, may we be agents of peace, faith, hope and love in this time. Lord God, may we NEVER forget that Christ IS our life. Without Christ we are nothing and have nothing. Thank You Jesus! Amen.

 

Psalm 110

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110 A PSALM OF DAVID.

1 The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head (ESV).

This is the greatest Messianic Psalm! There is no king in ancient Israel whom this Psalm could reference. “The linkage of king and priest would have been impossible to reconcile in ancient Israel because these offices were taken from different tribes” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019).

Kings came from the tribe/line of Judah and Priests were from the line of Aaron, the Levites. I have to agree with Boice, the Messiah being a king and priest would have been “a novel and probably shocking idea to the Jews…because kingly and priestly functions were never united in a single person in Israel” (Psalms 107-150: An Expositional Commentary, 2005).

Again, in Israel, no king could be a priest. No priest could be a king. “The reason for having a balance of governmental power is obvious: Human beings cannot be trusted with excessive or uncheckable power” (Boice). God took the distinction between king and priest so seriously that He punished Uzziah, the king of Judah, with leprosy when he tried to offer the Lord incense in the part of the temple where only priests were permitted to enter  (2 Chron 26:16-23).

Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18 is called “King of Salem,” which means “king of peace” and “priest of God Most High.” Melchizedek is of a different order, where king and priest are united, with no beginning and no end. Melchizedek is a type of Christ but he is not the Christ. Only in Jesus Christ are the offices of King and Priest forever, eternally united.

This humbles me beyond measure. Psalm 110  is the most frequently cited Old Testament passage in the New Testament. Psalm 110:1 is the most quoted verse. Jesus uses verse 1 to question the religious leaders in regards to whose Son is the Messiah (Matt 22:44-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:42-43). Hebrews 6:20-8:13 expounds on Melchizedek and Jesus, the High Priest of the new and better covenant.

“As the people of God appropriate Psalm 110 as their own song, their hearts are prompted to cry out, ‘Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev 22:20). This blessed hope sustains them when so much in the world today is so wrong” (Estes). I am so thankful that Psalm 110 helps us to not lose sight of who Jesus is and what He does even in the midst of geopolitics, the coronavirus pandemic, locust invasions, etc.

Triune God, thank You for preserving Your Word. Lord God, may we cling to You and Your Word in the midst of all that is happening in the world right now. Lord God, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You. Help us to live wisely. Prepare us for what we will face. Thank You, Jesus, that You are fully God and fully Man. Thank You, Jesus, that You are our King. May Your peace rule in our hearts like an umpire, calling balls and strikes. Jesus, may we never forget that You are our Priest and that You want us to partner with You in reconciling people to God. Lord, may we never take our salvation for granted. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Redemption

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“God cannot redeem what we do not give to Him” is a line I received from the Holy Spirit a few years ago in my quiet time. This past sermon reminded me of this as Pastor David preached on choices how our choices affect outcomes. For whatever reason, I NEVER considered the implications of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) as happening AFTER God made His covenant with David (2 Sam 7; c.f. 1 Chron 17:11-14; 2 Chron 6:16).

The Davidic Covenant is one of the most significant theological statements in the Bible. It is “the promise made by Yahweh that He would establish for King David a ‘house’ or a dynasty of kings who would perpetually reign over God’s people” (Lanier, G. R. Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016). This eternal dynasty is fulfilled in Jesus.

What amazes me about all of this is that God knows what His people are going to do. God knows the choices that we are going to make. It does not mean that He likes what we are doing or that He approves of our behavior; however, He allows it.

When the prophet Nathan confronts David about his sin, David’s response is one of confession and repentance. I love that David does not run from his sin and guilt; rather, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he writes Psalm 51.

David was an adulterer, murderer and an absolutely terrible father. Yet, David is given the honor of being called, “a man after God’s own heart.” God forgave and redeemed David. David was never immune to the consequences of his choices and actions; however, God never revoked the Davidic Covenant. God gave David and Bathsheba four sons, two have significant roles in the Bible. Solomon built the Temple and was the wisest man who ever lived and Nathan is mentioned in Jesus’s genealogy (Luke 3:31).

Far too often we hold onto our past choices, relationships, failures, rather than giving them to God and allowing Him to redeem and restore us. I know there are areas in my own life that I have struggled to give to God because wanted to hold onto the anger and hurt to use as a weapon. Other times I thought that my choices and mistakes were too unredeemable or unforgivable.

I have no idea what it is that you are keeping from God today. Please know that God in Christ stands willing to forgive and redeem you. Whether you are holding on to your past choices, decisions, hurts, heartaches, longings, relationships please surrender them to the Lord. Please allow the Lord to heal and redeem your hurt and broken places. I do not know much, but when I allow the Lord to redeem me and set me free from my past choices, situations, experiences, I receive a peace that passes all understanding.

Father God, thank You for Your gift of redemption. Help us to live free in Christ. Lord God, thank You for all the men and women whose stories in the Bible record confession, repentance, faith and redemption. Thank You that for the repentant person no past action is too great for Your redemption and restoration. Lord God, speak with this precious reader today. Remind this reader how valuable he/she is to You! Lord God, thank You that love covers and forgives a multitude of sins. Lord God, may we never stop looking for ways to cover and encourage each other. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Redirection

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The other day I informed my PhD director and my cohort that I was going to halt my pursuit of a PhD in Biblical Studies. I know this is the right decision for me and my family. I am thankful that God has made this decision clear!

In this time I am excited to learn what it means to be married. Nathan has been incredibly supportive and encouraging when it comes to me in Academia; however, now it is time to put what I have learned to practice. I am really excited to continue learning on my own and encouraging y’all with this blog. Thank you all SO much for your love, care, support, encouragment and prayers, I am truly humbled.

I am in prayer about applying to another Seminary in which I can take classes in person. One of the biggest reasons why I am not continuing with this PhD program is that I am tired of online courses. I need people. I love people and I feel like I am too isolated. I honestly have no idea what is next; however, I am open to His leading! In all things I will remain open, honest, vulnerable and authentic as your “Blue Collar Theologian.”

Father God, thank You for the love and support that I have received from family, friends and this Word Press community. Thank You Lord that when Your people earnestly and honestly seek You, You will answer making Your will and way clear. May we be a people who are willing to obey and do what You reveal to us. Lord God, I humbly ask that You will teach married and single people how to live well. Lord God, may Your Body come together in these chaotic times to be a beacon of hope, strength and unity in the midst of diversity rather than sowing discord, fear and dissent. Lord God, redirect our thinking and actions where we are faulty. Lord God, give my brothers and sisters courage to live boldly for You, bringing You glory. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

March On!

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Father God, thank You Lord for the gift of this new month! Help us to keep marching on for You as this world seems to be spiraling out of control. Lord God, may we not panic or fear sickness, hurt, trials nor death. Lord God, may we show the love of Christ to those whom You have placed in our sphere of influence.

Lord God, for those of us in the North, thank You that Spring literally follows Winter. Lord God, prepare us for longer and warmer days. Lord God, for my brothers and sisters in the South, prepare them for the shortening and cooling of days. Lord God, Your Creation amazes me. How You care for Creation is beyond what I can fathom. Thank You Lord, that where our intelligence peaks and ends, You are still greater, still wiser and still all knowing. Praise You Father for being in, over and Ruler of all things.

Lord God, thank You for this precious reader. Guide them this month. Lord, I ask that for Nathan, Patricia and anyone else who is having a birthday this month, may this be their best year in You yet. Lord God, teach us how to number our days so that we may live wisely for You. Help us to steward and redeem the time You have given us well. Lord God, may we never forget that we have NOTHING, are NOTHING and will be NOTHING without You. May we come to a place like Moses to declare, “If You are not in it, we will not go, we do not want it!” Thank You Lord that Your peace, goodness, and kindness are never far nor absent from us. Teach us today Lord how to rest in You. Teach us how to live free knowing that You are God and we are not.

Thank You Lord for the gift of community. For those of us who are more introverted, may we have a spiritual goal this month to connect more with others. For those of us who are more extroverted may we have a spiritual goal to listen more. Lord God, thank You for never leaving nor forsaking us. Lord God, thank You that You have designed our personalities. May we NOT get caught up in worldly and fleshly personality tests that pigeonhole us into some idea of who we are or who we should be. Lord, may we live in freedom as the new creation whom You gave Your Son to die and redeem. Thank You Lord God for all that You have done, are doing and will do. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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At some point in time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Lord impressed on my heart to stop hating Valentine’s Day and to see it as a day to love Jesus and love others. I was working in Skilled Nursing at the time and I felt like God wanted me to tell my patients and residents, especially those who were not regularly visited by family, relatives or friends that Jesus loves them, knows them and cares for them.

Precious Reader, whether you are single, dating, married, having relational issues please receive this: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

Whatever anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, burden that is plaguing you, remember that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Precious reader, if you are in Christ, there is no need to fear punishment, death or eternal separation from God. God loves with a love that we cannot even begin to comprehend this side of heaven. The fact that Jesus loved us so much, that He was willing to suffer and die for our sins, to reconcile us to the Father is truly life-changing.

Love is not floaty words and feelings. Love is a verb, it is an action and it is messy, painful and very hard work. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Precious Reader, I do not know the circumstances, trials, mountain top experiences you are having right now, but what I do know is that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  Please, take some time today to thank our Triune God for His love for you. Thank Him that even when the people whom we love the most let us down, that He loves us still. Today, I challenge you (and myself as well) to find someone and tell them they are loved.

I love you and thank you for the gift of your time.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Father God, thank You Lord for Your amazing love, mercy and grace. May we grow in our practice of loving and serving You and others not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.  Lord, for the person who is having a hard time accepting Your love for them, I ask that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to the Truth while softening and convicting their heart. Father God, thank You for Your perfect love. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

You Were…But God

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“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” (Eph 2:1 ESV) “But God being in rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” (Eph 2:4-5).

Yesterday’s sermon centered around the words “you were” and “but God.” The only thing I heard Pastor David say after those four words were “you were broken but God intervened…” This has rocked me to my core! For the past 24 hours I have been pondering how I turn the “you were/I was” past tense statements and situations in my life into present tense “I am” statements. For example:

“I am broken.”

“I am lost/homeless/vagabond.”

“I am unqualified.”

There are so many more I could add. “I am broken” is the toughest one because there are seasons where God breaks and bends to stretch us and mold our character more in His Image. Through brokenness we become more of who He wants us to be. In all honesty, my “I am broken” statement fuels the other two on this list. My problem is there is no “But God” Job like response, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). I become depressed and defeated. This is not God honoring. I need to remind myself that in the past “I was broken and defeated, but God intervened and pulled me from the muck and mire, restoring me.” This gets my thoughts off of me and onto God. I need to preach to myself that while I am momentarily broken, joy does come in the morning (Ps 30:5).

The devil enjoys throwing at me, “You were in a home but now you are a vagabond.”  Again, there is no “But God.” I need to rebuke myself saying, “yes, I was in a nice home, but God saw fit for it to be sold.” Either I can be bitter and angry about selling my house or I can trust God. I know that God is working on my character through this. If there is one thing that I know about God from personal experience is that when we rush God’s character development in us life only gets messier and more difficult.

I do not think/feel/believe my Master’s program in any way, shape or form prepared me for this PhD program. As such, I constantly berate myself saying, “I am absolutely unqualified to pursue a PhD,” but God has called me to Academia for His reason and purpose. I know this because I do not have God’s peace  to leave/quit the program. I am intimidated in many ways by my cohort’s knowledge, background and experience. I am afraid I will hold these great men of God back from learning all that God has for them. While it is hard and I struggle with anxiety and time management, it is like God is saying to me, “Mandy, you are focusing on the wrong things: work, learn, grow. Trust Me!”

All of this boils down to trust and control. I was not, am not, nor will I ever be in total control, but God is and He is worthy of my trust. I was/am broken, but God is in control and I can trust Him to develop my character as He wills, wants and desires. I was/am a vagabond, but God is in control of my housing situation, I need to trust Him. I was/am unqualified, but God is merciful and gracious to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16).

What are the “You Were…But God” situations in your life?

Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord, dispel the enemy’s lies with Your Truth. Lord God, for those of us who are hurting and broken whether it be through health struggles, family struggles and/or work struggles may we preach to ourselves that You are in our midst. Lord God, helps us to relinquish control and trust You. May we not rush nor despise the pruning that You are doing in our lives. Thank You God that we are no longer dead in our sins because of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, February 2020!

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Father God, thank You for the start of this new month! Lord, for those of us in the North, help us to endure winter. Thank You that the sun is rise earlier and staying light later. Thank You Lord that Spring always follows every winter season, literally and figuratively.

Thank You Lord for this reader. Lord God, I do not know what all has happened in the past month for this reader; however, I ask for Your grace and mercy. For those who made New Year’s Resolutions or spiritual goals, help us to embrace the monotony of consistency. Help us to be diligent in reaching the goals that we have set.

Lord God, I ask that You remind us that You call us to love our fellow man, not just people who we agree with politically. Lord God, help us to rise above political parties and to live in and for Your Kingdom, bringing You glory. Help us Lord to listen, help us to have compassion. Lord God, Your Word says that we should be known for our love, we want and desire to live this command. May we desire and manifest the fruit of Your Spirit; rather than desiring and craving the lies of comfort, ease and excess that this world hurls at us.

Lord God, this life is not easy. Thank You Jesus for knowing, understanding and overcoming our weaknesses. Thank You Triune God for our salvation. As this world gets ever darker, help us to live more and more connected to You and Your Truth.

Thank You Father for never abandoning us. May we grow more in our devotion and application to You and Your Word in this new month. In  Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Malachi or Chronicles?!

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I love the Bible that Jesus read (aka the Old Testament). I do not want to ruffle any feathers; however, the Bible that Jesus read, taught, lived and loved is not ordered the same way as our English translations.

The Hebrew Bible is arranged in three major parts, known by the acronym TaNaK.

The T stands for Torah (Pentateuch in Greek) which means either Law or Instruction. These are the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The stands for Nevi’im which means Prophets.  This section is divided into the “Former Prophets” which consists of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings (in English we call these “Historical Books”) and the “Latter Prophets” Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (which in English we call the “Minor Prophets”).

The K stands for Ketuvim which means Writings. This large section includes Psalms, Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes) and Post-Exilic Writings (Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles).

(Please note in the Hebrew Bible: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles are all one book, they are not separate books as presented in our English translations.)

Every year at Christmas we hear how Malachi ends with God’s promise to send a forerunner for the Messiah (Mal 4:6 ESV). We also hear how Malachi ends the OT and that for 400 years God did not speak until Matthew 1. However, when we look at the Hebrew order, it is not Malachi that closes the Hebrew Bible but, 1-2 Chronicles.

Why does this matter? 1-2 Chronicles begins with a long genealogy (nine chapters). The book (OT) ends with Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple. While the literal physical exile was coming to a close, Israel was still in “spiritual” exile. In Matthew, the New Testament opens, with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the long awaited Davidic king. The genealogy of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 1 is the culmination of the genealogies of 1-2 Chronicles. When we read the Bible in this order, rather than in the order of our English translations, we will see the beauty, hope, anticipation and longing for Messiah. Ultimately, when we read the Hebrew Bible in this order, we read in the same order as Jesus Himself. God willing our English translations will follow the Hebrew order sooner rather than later!

Father God, thank You for Your Word! Thank You, Jesus, for all that You have done to end our captivity and exile both in this life and the next. Thank You for the gift of salvation. Lord regardless of what theological camp we may belong, may we be mindful that people do not roam around with big “E’s” on their forehead. May we be mindful to share and show Jesus to this dark and hurting world in a way that is authentic and bold; yet, brings glory and honor to Your Name. Lord God, help us to read Your Word as You originally intended. Lord God, thank You for the gift of communication, far too often we take this for granted. Lord God, thank You for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Vagabond

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Since getting married two years ago, I have been in a constant state of wandering. Nathan and I thought that God was moving us to Florida, listed the house for sale and off we went (the house sold the end of July 2019). Since moving back to PA (September 2019) we have been renting a place (which is nice do not get me wrong); however, it is not home. We have visited countless houses that are for sale. Multiple times a day I check the web to see if there are new listings in the area. I have also spoken with a contractor about building. So far, nothing has panned out.

I have to be honest, I really loved my house that I sold. I knew when Nathan and I got married that I would have to sell my house because, well, it was “my” house. I was critical of everything he did. I prided myself on having a clean and empty garage, that changed quickly! What I hold onto the most from my former house is the view. I was able to watch the sunrise every morning and there was a stream behind my house with weeping willow trees. I absolutely love willow trees. Try as I might to accept that this is a different time in life and that I needed to let go of that house and view, the loss still creeps in from time to time.

What makes this even more acute is that yesterday (January 14, 2020) I put an offer on a house, only to be told that another buyer offered more money. I refused to get in a bidding war and so my offer was not accepted. While to most people that may be a disappointment; however, I feel anger and discontentment rising in my being. Instead of lying or hiding this anger and discontentment, I will heed Tony Evan’s counsel, “tell the truth, shame the devil!”

I realize this post may sound really, really trivial. I know that God is growing and stretching my character. I have an ever greater appreciation for the Israelites 40 years of wandering. I am growing in my sensitivity that my desire and longing for home, will only be satisfied in Christ. I am so thankful that for those of us who know Christ we are never homeless (John 14:1-3). Peace is not a physical location, it is not a life free from conflict and struggle, peace is a Person and His Name is Jesus. I need that to be enough!

Father God, for anyone who is struggling and longing for home, may they come home to You. Thank You Father that You do not leave us on our own. Lord God, thank You that You give us community so that we do not have to do life alone, even if we feel alone. Lord God, draw us closer to Yourself. May we submit our longings, desires and weaknesses to You. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You for their care and encouragment. Lord God, fill us with the peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.