Day 36: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

Have you ever woken up from a dream and known beyond a doubt that it had a spiritual meaning?

I’ve had a few. Other mornings I’m usually groggy for quite a while when I wake up, and I remember some wacky dreams that could be analyzed but seem random. But these few times I’ve awoken in a state of euphoria and total understanding of what my dream meant.

In one dream, there was a war in America, and a woman with glasses and short red hair told me that I wouldn’t be hurt in it, and then she led a group of us up a mountain where we sat in safety by a pristine lake.

In another, I and several other people were in a stable in a treehouse! Each of us had a horse, and we were preparing them to carry us into battle. Through the stable/treehouse door, we could see other battle horses flying (literally flying) by. But before we left, a horse and rider flew in and landed in our doorway. the rider and horse were colored in horizontal stripes as if they were one being—a red stripe, a white stripe, and a green stripe. The rider told us to keep our horses calm. We weren’t going to have to fight. He was going to take care of it.

These dreams both occurred before I turned 18—before I’d read the entire Bible—but I knew as soon as I woke up that the dreams were from God and that they were messages to me. I knew they meant something, much like King Nebuchadnezzar knew that his dream meant something. Unlike my elated feeling, though, he woke feeling troubled.

Nebuchadnezzar not only wanted his wise men to interpret his dream, he wanted them to first tell him what he had dreamed. He wasn’t going to tell them! And if they couldn’t do it, he was going to have all the wise men killed. So the captain of the king’s bodyguard, Arioch, came to kill Daniel.

But Daniel asked the king for time and then went to his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (you might know them by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as the Israelites were living as captives in Babylon at this time). Daniel and his friends requested compassion from God, and He revealed the mystery of the dream to Daniel in a night vision.

Daniel, making it very clear that the interpretation was from God, and in fact could only have been from God, told the king his dream about a statue, and how each part of the statue represented different kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar himself was the head of gold, other kingdoms were the breast and arms, the belly and thighs, the legs, and the feet. Then a “stone cut without hands” crushed the statue and “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34 and 35)

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

Daniel 2:44-45

The king was amazed by God and promoted Daniel. I highly recommend reading the book of Daniel. Chapter three has one of my favorite stories, and chapter four has another Nebuchadnezzar dream that Daniel interprets and sees come true. But for now, what are your thoughts about the kingdom based on the two verses above? What will be your kingdom statement today? Use it to replace your worry thoughts.

And I’d love to hear your wildest dreams!

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Starfleet Academy Saves America

January is always a long month for our bank account. The extra spent at Christmas plus car registration plus fewer private lessons in December plus January having 31 days often has us getting creative by my husband’s teacher payday, which is the last day of the month.

Tomorrow’s payday, and I raided my husband’s coin can for quarters to take to the grocery store. I could have taken them to coinstar, but they take a percentage, and I would have had to go to two stores—the one with the coinstar and then the one I like.

“Did you know you have thirty dollars in quarters?” I asked.

He didn’t.

I was thrilled that I had thirty dollars to spend on groceries. Since tomorrow’s payday and I had a gift card for dinner, I knew it would be more than enough to cover lunch for the three of us and dinner for our daughter. I put on my Not My Precedent shirt and hoped that the liberal employees and hopefully liberal people behind me in line would like it enough to forgive me for paying in quarters.

Placing my items on the conveyor belt, I told the cashier, “I chose you because I didn’t think you’d get mad about my paying in quarters. You’ve worked here long enough to have seen it all.” No one was behind me in line yet.

The cashier didn’t blink an eye. He rang me up for $23.67.

I handed him a plastic baggie. “This is twenty dollars.” I reached into my pocket and counted out $3.75. “You can trust me our count it.”

“I have to count it,” he said. “Sorry.”

As the checker stacked the quarters in towers of four, a guy got in line behind me. I was just glad he hadn’t gotten there until the cashier was almost done counting. My twenty dollars was accurate, and I handed over the other $3.75.

“You know what?” the guy behind me said.

Oh no.

“Why don’t you,” he continued, “keep your quarters and let me pay for your groceries? I’ve had to pay for dinner in quarters before.”

It took me a couple seconds to answer. I took in his age (probably not quite as old as me) and his Starfleet Academy teeshirt*, and I wondered if he had noticed that I was buying not one, but two bags of totally unnecessary chips. I wondered if he would care that I went to see a movie last week with what could have been grocery money. I wondered if he would care that I only work a few hours a week so that I can have more time for writing and taking my kid to music lessons. I considered God, and the fact that I had hoped no one would be upset with me for paying in quarters. This answer seemed above and beyond.

My eyes welled up a bit. “Okay.”

It took a while for the cashier to get all my quarters back in the bag. I stood there awkwardly, saying only “Thank you,” and “I hope it all comes back to you,” since he said something about karma. I thought about Star Trek, and how anyone I’ve ever known who really loves it is open to other cultures and to exploration and to being generous. I wondered if he’d see me at the restaurant later and I’d have to say “It’s a gift card! Really!” I even wondered if the guy would have been in the state of mind to be so generous if we weren’t all reeling from Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.”

Day before yesterday, I wrote about getting a hug from a stranger named Margie. Today I’m writing about the Starfleet Academy and the kind of people who “graduate” from it. This might have to be what saves America for me. I don’t know if our protests and phone calls will save us from what the new administration has planned. But I do know that I am looking a little harder for people to bless these days, and it seems that others of you are, too. Thank you. Live long and prosper, friends.

*or some such sciency shirt – could have been something nonfictional, but you get the drift

Day 35: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

This passage brings back themes from day 34 (everlasting kingdom), day 33 (justice and righteousness), and day 31 (David’s kingdom) and mixes them all together in a very well-known prophecy about Jesus.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Since we’ve already talked about David and the Israelites, and about His kingdom being everlasting, and about justice and righteousness, I think I’ll contemplate zeal today. Other translations say “passionate commitment” and “intense devotion.”

Remember the verse from day two? Your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom? Well, we’ve not necessarily made it easy for him. It took some intense devotion to us to keep us in his kingdom! It took zeal for the Lord to accomplish all this.

Take a moment to thank God for all this and then write your kingdom statement. Don’t forget to replace every worry thought with your statement today!

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Day 34: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

When you finish this devotional, someone might ask you, “Well, what did you learn about His kingdom?” And if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put it into words even if you feel quite changed by God’s word. Well, this psalm of praise from David has a few suggestions for your answer.

The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. All Thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and Thy godly ones shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty acts, and the glory of the majesty of Thy kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 145:8-13

God has done great things. He is powerful, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, loving, kind, and good. How wonderful to be in God’s kingdom. It endures throughout all generations. Many “kingdom” verses talk about how the kingdom is everlasting, and that usually makes me think about the future. But it’s also impressive to think about how long God’s kingdom has already lasted. He was the king in 2000 B.C. and 2000 A.D. Very calming when you’re worried about the world today.

Think of a kingdom statement with which to replace your worries today. Will it be about speaking of the glory of His kingdom? About the kingdom being everlasting? Both?

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Day 33: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

Psalm 45 (not one of David’s psalms) is introduced as A Song of Love, and verse one says that it is addressed to the King. What do we find out about the kingdom in this love song?

Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.

Psalm 45:6

I’m thinking about all the secular love songs I know. Other translations of this verse, instead of “uprightness,” use “justice,” “equity,” and “righteousness.” Have you ever heard one of those words used in a love song? (Ooh baby I love your equity. No, that’s not it.) No, our God is worthy of some serious love song vocabulary!

A scepter is an emblem of authority. Many of us frankly don’t like to be under the authority of another human, and who can blame us? (Note: I’m feeling this much more now than when I wrote this devotional in its original book form :-/ ) But with God, it’s an honor, a relief, to be under His authority, because His authority is upright and just. It’s so wonderful and supernatural for God to use his authority for justice and righteousness that someone had to bust out in a love song!

You can use any of the translations of “uprightness” you want, but my sentence to remember today every time I worry will be THE SCEPTER OF YOUR KINGDOM IS A SCEPTER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Maybe I’ll sing it to the tune of a love song.

*New American Standard Bible verse used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Margie

I was on the verge of tears all day today. Donald Trump combined with having that stupid, heartwrenching audition song from La La Land stuck in my head, I guess. I actually did shed a few tears at random times. I kept thinking about all the art and beauty that would disappear if the article I read about Gorbachev is right. He thinks the world is preparing for war.

I thought I was going to cry watching my daughter’s honor band rehearsal, where she was playing under the direction of my college band professor, but I didn’t. I watched them rehearse at the incomparable Weill Hall, brought my daughter home for her dinner break and dropped her back off for the evening rehearsal. I’d planned to stay and watch some more, but the car was on empty, so I left to get gas and for some reason didn’t feel like hurrying back. I hadn’t had much dinner, so I ran to the store.

I’ve been shopping at the same locally owned market for well over a decade. It’s one of my favorite places. The cashiers feel like friends. As I checked out I found myself wishing they were good enough friends to ask for a hug. They aren’t. I thought about it on my way out, but they aren’t. Several of them probably wanted a hug too, but it’s just too weird. What a strange world.

At home, I pulled into my parking spot, got out, and said hello to a woman I see out walking a lot. Long ago I chatted with her about her dog, but the dog wasn’t with her this time.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “I fell recently and it’s been tough getting out in this cold weather. Luckily I didn’t hurt the fusion.”

I guessed from her gesture that she was referring to back surgery, but it was cute the way she said it as if I knew all about her surgery. I figure she’s told a lot of people in our complex and she assumed she’d told me before. We had never said much more than “hello” before. Now I told her that I was upset about the state of the world, and we just kept chatting. She told me her name was Margie (with a hard “g.”)

We talked for a long time before she said something that began with “The Lord blessed me with…”

“I thought you might be a Christian,” I said. “I am too.”

She asked me if I knew any other Christians in our complex and asked where I went to church. When she was healthier, she’d attended a church that she liked except for its Calvinism. I had to have her explain that. I told her that I thought my church got Biblical principles right and explained the time that I did have one beef with them, whereupon she quoted Jude 3 (…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.)

What a hoot! How many people do you run into who can pull an appropriate Bible verse out of their mind? It was cold and dark, so finally I told her goodnight and walk carefully, and she gave me a hug! Suddenly I realized how strange it was for me to have wished for a hug at the grocery store. I’d never thought such a thing before, and here was Margie, out after dark which she said she doesn’t usually do.

I have often regretted not saying things like this, so I immediately told her, “When I was at the grocery store I wished I could ask someone for a hug! You’re an answer to prayer!”

She said, “Then you need another one,” and she hugged me again.

Thank you, neighbor. Thank you, God. Every day I need to be reminded that the beauty will NEVER be gone from this world. I seem to need to be reminded more than most, and God doesn’t seem to judge me for it. He simply reminds me one more time.

Day 32: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

One of the best places for “kingdom” verses in the Old Testament is in the psalms, or songs. Psalm 22, a psalm of David, is the one Jesus was quoting when He said, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” on the cross. Jesus knew very well what the rest of the psalm said (doesn’t this make you want to read the whole thing?) and it does not end with forsakenness. Not only does it include predictions about the cross—pierced hands, clothing divided among his crucifiers—but it has this kingdom statement:

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.”

Psalm 22:27-28

Jesus was not only crying out to God, but He was reminding His followers, who knew their scripture and so would have known the rest of this psalm, that the kingdom is God’s.

I’m ashamed of how many of life’s situations have left me worried, or sad, or angry, and so filled with these thoughts that I completely forgot that the kingdom is the Lord’s. Some people forget about God when their life is going great, and come running back to Him when they need help, but I’m the type who praises Him when my life is great and then loses perspective when things get tough. Do you fit into one of those categories?

I hope that if I remember the phrase THE KINGDOM IS THE LORD’S today, it will come back to me when I need perspective or I’m tempted to worry. Will this be your kingdom statement today, too?

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.