Monthly Archives: December 2014

Thank you!

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Thank you for reading along with us in 2014!

If you didn’t read the Bible in a year, it’s ok. I doubt that God is so concerned if this line item gets checked off. I think more than that, he wants to tell you about himself and about how much he loves you. His book is full of wisdom, encouragement, and life-changing words. And when you start to see it from that point of view, it’s a book you’ll never want to put down.

Next year (that’s tomorrow!), we’ll be starting over with a reading plan that has a chronological influence and runs Monday through Friday–both the plan and approach are new to the blog. We’re excited to see how this plan shows us God’s word in a new way.

Join us?

(Say yes!)

Happy New Year from all of us at 66 Books in a Year,

Courtney (66books365)

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Malachi 1-4, Revelation 22

He’s coming! He’s coming soon!

Is it any wonder that the end of the Old and New Testament are connected with an announcement of the coming of Christ?

Malachi 4:5-6 – “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

Revelation 22:12 – “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

It may seem odd that Malachi references the coming of Elijah, an esteemed prophet by the Hebrew people, for future days. A commentary in my bible clarifies this contradiction—Jesus refers to John as the second coming of Elijah in Matthew 17:10 in at the Transfiguration. The beginning, middle, and end of the Word of God point to the person of Jesus Christ.

Henri Nouwen was once asked by a dear friend to summarize all of his findings in the spiritual life for the secular world. A word for the skeptical, the religiously disenchanted. But for the searching. Nouwen, in a word:

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.” Being the beloved expresses the core truth of our existence…

I am putting this so directly and so simply because, though the experience of being the Beloved has never been completely absent from my life, I never claimed it as my core truth. I kept running from it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness. It was as if I kept refusing to hear the voice that speaks from the very depth of my being and says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rest.’”

What did the coming of Christ foretell? That He loves us and came us to save us from our sin. What does the second coming of Christ imply? That He loves us and wants to be with us eternally. He loves us.

The Bible, from beginning to end, is a love story. What have I gained this year, looking back? Some new friendships. A new look at old passages, a deeper understanding of some Greek words perhaps. But the most profound truth, that has permeated every word of every verse of every chapter:

Jesus loves me.

This I know.

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Zechariah 13-14; Revelation 21

I can’t believe that this is my last post for 2014. God has really worked in my life this year through His word. If I am honest, their were times when I didn’t want to read my chapters, because I could feel the refining through His word. And even though it did not always feel good, I am grateful. As Courtney(66 Books 365) said in a note to us writers, “In the hardest times, He reminded me how I am his and He will not leave me. He is father and friend, to all of us.”

I will bring one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people; And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ Zechariah 13:9 NKJV

God has also spoken to me through other  writers this year. And through encouraging authors/speakers like Christine Caine. She says, ”In many ways for me, this year has been the most challenging one yet and the most fruitful one ever. I want to remind you all that you’re too close to quit, your God is faithful, the enemy has been defeated, your latter days shall be greater than your former, your mistakes are not fatal, failure is not final, the devil on his best day did not take you out on your worst day, you are still here, there’s still hope, keep running, don’t give up, don’t let what someone has done to you be greater than what JESUS has done for you, don’t allow betrayal to take you out, don’t confuse disappointment with people with disappointment with God, only be strong and very courageous, no weapon forged against you will prosper, everything that the enemy meant for evil God will work together for good, God never wastes a hurt. If He said it, He shall do it. Greater things are still to come. God’s job is to do the impossible in 2015, our job is to simply BELIEVE!! Let’s do this!”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts, He who overcomes shall inherit all things.” Revelation 21:5-7 NKJV

Thank you Father for Your word and the promises in it. Thank you that You are the same, yesterday, today & forever. Thank you for your faithfulness in my life in 2014. I am excited to see what You are going to do in 2015. I desire to have a heart that yearns after You. Thank You for making all things new! I love You. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Zechariah 10-12; Revelation 20

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds.

Revelation 20:11-12

Without a doubt, one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture is Revelation 21. The vision of a restored heavens and earth, creation put back to shalom is something I look forward to constantly.

But alas, chapter 20 fell to me, and I’m glad it did, it was a good challenge for me.

I was talking to a friend today about a situation we are both trying to navigate and I realized that I have a pretty big fixation on justice. I think that all people do, but for some reason I’ve always felt especially passionate about issues of injustice. I appreciate that now, but I didn’t appreciate it as much the time I started crying during a speech against abortion in 7th grade.

Anyhow, I can tend to get kind of fired up about injustice, but oftentimes I gauge injustice by my own standards, not necessarily God’s standards. Honestly there are just times that I don’t understand God’s standards, most of the time I do, but there are times when it’s a little tougher.

In chapter 20 there is a clear separation, it seems in the end the thing that matters is whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and whose isn’t. Which is where I have trouble.

I often want chapter 21 without chapter 20, but it isn’t possible.

The brokenness and evil in the world has to be dealt with. In order for shalom, justice, and peace to be restored to God’s original and final hope for creation, the evil must be removed. In order for healing, the pain must be dealt with. It’s not something that people like to talk about, it makes me uncomfortable even now. My hope is that not a single human soul would be left out of the book of life. A hope that I echo from 1 Timothy 2:3-4

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Ultimately I trust God as he pursues all people with his endless grace and love, but the hope that all people might eventually declare Jesus as Lord requires that I live in a way that Jesus is actually real, is actually Good news, and is desperate to reconcile relationships with all people.

Even the ones that I have the hardest time loving.

My prayer for this next year is that the walls I’ve built up against people would be broken down, that Jesus love might be shared through my love for them. Tangible love backed up with action is what drew me to Jesus, now it’s time to share that with others.

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Zechariah 7-9; Revelation 19

Zechariah 9:16 For they shall be like the jewels of a crown, Lifted like a banner over His land—

Revelation 19: 9 Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb…these are the true sayings of God.

Sometimes being faithful to God does not come easy.  Perhaps it is when the crowd you hang with jokes about heaven or hell.  Perhaps it is when your career outweighs the family you believe you are providing for. Or maybe it is when a loved one dies. I guess if faithfulness to God was dependent solely on one’s motives or emotions or willpower, then there is a multitude of reasons to lose faith. Thankfully, however, faith is paired with being “called to the marriage supper.”  That sounds to me like we are given the faith that will take us to the end of this life and into the next.  There is comfort in that thought. Though we can stray from faithfulness to the point where our desire to please God is challenged by the pressures without and within, the faith of our salvation remains.  Zechariah 9:12 says, “Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare to you that I will restore double to you.”  Prisoners of hope.  That is what we are who believe in Christ Jesus.  Even our choice whether to continue in loving God or to contemplate leaving God is heavily chained to saving faith. The pull to believe is more than our decision, and the push to strain out the dregs of our own faithless speech is linked by the Holy Spirit of God who forges our confession of faith with power to overcome this world’s sting of death.  How can that be when our inner self becomes confused about or angry with God or when we have allowed dust to settle over our mind’s eye clouding the freshness of that confession of Christ so long ago?  It would be good to remember that sometimes being faithful to God does not come easy. Just couple that fact with the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the faithful, the true, the righteous One, stands in the gap of our weakness, pride, and disappointment, lifting us as a banner over His land (Zehariah 19:9). He lifts us. He calls us. He prepares us. From the treasure of His sacrificial heart’s work Jesus Christ saved us eternally and strengthens us daily.  Perhaps this life will ebb and flow with pain, but Christ’s faithfulness will bring us back to Him.  Come Lord Jesus, come!

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Zechariah 4, 6; Revelation 18

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts…Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Zechariah 4:6, 8-10

I just finished reading a book called “Return to Me” by Lynn Austin. It is a historical novel based on the life of Zechariah during the years that God called His people back to Jerusalem, after having been exiled for 70 years in Babylon, and commanded them to rebuild His temple. After many years of disobedience, rooted in the fear of man, the people opened their eyes to God’s glory and were reminded once more that when God puts something in motion, nothing will stop it from happening.

I love reading the Bible, and yet sometimes, especially when I am reading from the Old Testament, I have a difficult time connecting to the story. Today seems so distant from the happenings that are shared about in the Word, and when I have so much going on in my present life, the past doesn’t always seem relevant to what I need right now. But the truth is that the past can teach me so much; the lessons that the men and women of the Bible learned are the same things that I need to understand for my own life.

Books that are Biblically and historically based, though of course mostly fictional (because no one alive today truly has a firsthand account of the actual moment by moment events), help me put a face on the impersonal stories that I have read over and over. They help me connect to the ‘person’ of the story and help me understand even better that they weren’t people who should be placed on a proverbial pedestal, people who never had problems, never had struggles or crises of faith. They were just like me.

One of my favorite parts of ‘Return to Me’ is when Zechariah is coming into his gifting as a prophet to the people of Jerusalem. God gives him the Word “Not by might, nor by power – but by My Spirit.” This is something that I have often needed to remember, especially in the midst of trials, when I start believing that I am all alone in my battles.

Everything that I do, everything that I accomplish, is because of God’s Spirit within me. When I do anything in my own strength and by my own power, it amounts to nothing. But when I fully rely on God to help me achieve what I know He has called me to do, trusting Him to complete a good work in me, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are I will always be successful. I don’t need to fear anything, I just need to depend on God and believe in His Truth.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your Spirit within me, always giving me strength and always giving me power. Thank You for never leaving me alone. And, thank You for bringing Your Word in my life to pass. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Return to me book image

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Zechariah 1-3; Revelation 17

‘See the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. Zechariah 3:9

The holidays are infamous for bringing us together with the one or two family members we dread seeing: the person who inevitably drinks too much and becomes volatile, the bitter soul who can’t seem to withhold cruel, cutting words. I have no problem identifying the difficult person(s) in my life. It takes more effort for me to understand to whom I am that “difficult” person.

So that is the curse and the blessing of the holidays. Take frail, sinful human beings, throw in the pressure of the rush, unrealistic expectations, old wounds and bring us all to the table and we find ourselves in a vulnerable state. The holidays provide rich material for the making of memories both good and bad, that seem to define us.

As the years go by, I am learning that the holidays are not about me and my memories. They are HOLY-days, sacred to God and dear to me. They are about God incarnate humbly coming into this mean world to bring light and healing. Thirty three years after the birth of Jesus, his death on the cross would remove the power of sin over us in a single day. All my efforts at self improvement and being good enough are futile compared to what Jesus did for me. Because I am forgiven, his grace is reflected humbly through me. That’s a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in itself; that doesn’t come naturally from me.

All Zechariah’s hopes and dreams were found in the person of Christ. I enjoy the privilege of knowing how beautifully Zechariah’s prophetic words were fulfilled. That is a game changer, especially at the holidays; I can let go of having to have everyone behave. I can let go of old wounds. I can focus on the goodness of God and the beauty of his love and receive the wonder of what he has done for me. My heart sings the words of the Christmas carol, “long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘til He appeared the soul felt its worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world exalted for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” 

Lord, I fall on my knees and take hold of what you have done for me. Keep gratitude in my heart always. Amen

Klueh

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