Monthly Archives: August 2016

Isaiah 33-35; 1 Corinthians 6

Hope for Restoration (NLT)

35  1Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it.  It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;     fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers.  Only the redeemed will walk on it.

10Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem[a] singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

With all that is going on in our world today, I need verses like those in Isaiah 35. They fill me with hope to get me through the dark days.  Many of us who have heard the teachings of Jesus, wonder if we are in the last days as He described them.  Some scholars say yes because . . . and they give their reasons.  Others say no because . . . has not happened yet.  Prophesy is not easy for us to see while we are living through it.  In fact, Jesus walked along the road with two men and explained to them all the prophecy in the bible about Himself for it was missed by the scholars of that day.

I may not know the answer to whether or not we are in the final days. What I do know is that this life can be hard. A loved one dies; we lose a job we’ve had for 25 years; we are told we have a fatal illness. We grow tired and discouraged when we hear of senseless acts of violence and natural disasters killing thousands of people.  We look for signs that God has not forsaken us as the rug is pulled out from under us.  Isaiah assures me that one day the LORD will display His glory.  There will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!  In the meantime, we need to strengthen those who have tired hands, encourage those who have weak knees, say to those with fearful hearts, “be strong and do not fear for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.  He is coming to save you”. And we need people to do the same for us!  We just have a little farther to go.  Hold on saints!  No matter what this life brings to each of us, we have the assurance that one day God will redeem it all.

“Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.  Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”

Heavenly Father:  We need You and we need each other to get through each day.  We are not meant to live life isolated from either!  Your Holy Spirit fills us so we can then, in turn, fill others.  Lord, we need to reach out to those who are hurting, weak, and discouraged.  Work in our hearts even today to see the needs.  Let us fill them with hope–the hope that You will give us enough strength to get through each day until we are finally with you forever.  In Jesus name, Amen.




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Isaiah 30-32; 1 Corinthians 5

Don’t be surprised when those who don’t know Me don’t follow My ways…

I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 1 Corinthians 5:10

Christians often earn a reputation for being judgmental toward people who don’t share our faith. And while a life apart from God usually isn’t lived according to His standards, Christians make a mistake by acting surprised by a world that acts like it doesn’t love Him. Instead of forcing our opinions on people who aren’t interested, it might be better to spend our energy rethinking our approach.

As His children, we should focus on growing in wisdom and love. The wisdom of 1 Corinthians 5 reveals us as His loving followers when we need it. Our job as reflections of Jesus on earth is not to turn off those who don’t know Him. But that’s essentially what we do when we make our faith about expecting a lost world to conform to standards He calls His children to obey.

Not living by His truth is wrong for Christians and unbelievers alike. But our role as His followers is to love others, not to condemn them. We can and should show love to people who don’t know the Lord, regardless of whether their lifestyle lines up with the Bible. We can know someone’s behavior is wrong, but still draw that person closer to Christ through the quality of our love for them.

The world sorely lacks love, and many people’s sin  patterns result as coping mechanisms for past hurts. We have no business stomping someone’s heart with condemnation, particularly when that heart has grown accustomed to mistreatment. God calls us to a higher love that cares first about the person.

When God’s own, who are dearly love by Him, thumb our noses at those who desperately need to know what real love feels like, we do His reputation more harm than good. Instead of being surprised by the world’s sin, perhaps we might surprise the world with a different approach… with real love… the love of Jesus!

Lord, please help me to be a messenger of Your love and don’t let me forget that a person living in sin is a person living in pain. Amen!

Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)

Where did we get the idea that responding to wrong behavior with hateful behavior could improve someone?


What Love Really Means – Love Me (JJ Heller)


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Isaiah 26-29; Psalm 65; I Corinthians 4

Do you have problems with trust? I often say that I trust others to do what they say they will do, only to think silently that I doubt they will adequately fulfill the promise made or complete the requested task. Just yesterday, I spoke on the phone with someone who asked if I wanted to cancel my services since I moved. This is the third time I have “cancelled” the services by phone, and I just knew there would be some extra charge. After droning on about the inefficiency of the company, my unwillingness to accept further charges, etc., the agent repeated, “Would you like to cancel the service today?” Polite but frozen calmness and the use of fragmented sentences and monotone voice relayed my irritation. Ever the diplomat, the agent cancelled the service and assured me there were no further charges on my account. This is just one example of how I step in to gain control, become overwhelmed, and realize too late that I have failed at doing what someone else was really capable and more qualified to do. This pattern of thinking and behavior has infected personal and working relationships, but mostly my relationship with God. It all boils down to trust.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” If I am stressed, worried, or anxious, then do I really trust in God? And does my cynicism about the state of this world interfere with the belief that “With my soul I have desired You in the night; yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9)? Do I really trust that the judgments of God will one day right the world? Also, do I trust in my abilities and knowledge to affect change in others, open those proverbial doors and set me in high places? Or do I seek the source of all good counsel? Isaiah 28:29 says, “This [wisdom] also comes from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”

Psalm 65:9 reminds us that God visits the earth and waters it, and that God greatly enriches it, so that “The pastures are clothed with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain,” (v13), yet I toy with thoughts that the good we receive in life is circumstantial and coincidental. I say that God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance, yet do I boast about what I have received and judge others (and even myself) for what we lack?

I could go on with evidence of lacking trust…but beating me up for a lack of trust serves no other purpose than confessing my weakness. I Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” Come, let us learn to hand over the need for control to the One who with absolute perfection will accomplish His will in our lives.

God, I will trust You today to teach me how to be a faithful servant in the field You have provided me to tend. Though, as the Apostle Paul said, I might have a thousand teachers, only You, Lord Jesus, are rightfully called the Wonderful Counselor. I will not judge others by my standards nor interfere when Your righteousness is being poured out. I will trust that You know my needs (and those of all Your creation), and that You will increase the fruit of our labor and drop, as from an overflowing cart, abundance. Thank You Almighty God and Lord Jesus Christ for providing me opportunities to trust You today as I dwell in Your presence.  Amen.


Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Isaiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

Isaiah 23-25; 1 Corinthians 3

Isaiah’s world is being torn apart by ruthless men. The surrounding nations are about to implode. Torture, suffering and terror  swirl around him. How does he respond?

“O Lord,  you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1

Is this wishful thinking? Oblivion to the circumstances around him? No, it is rock solid reality. Isaiah has a clear understanding of the truth.

What about me? When life seemingly spins out of control and sorrow and fear threaten to take over, what do I hold onto?

“But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” I Corinthians 3:12-15

Lord, by your grace,  may who I am, what I do and what I say be grounded in the truth of your sovereignty and goodness. Forgive me when I have stubbornly held onto some stubborn, false narrative.  I trust you to be a kind surgeon and remove the malignant lies that have kept me from living in the reality of who You are. I rest in your faithfulness and look to You with hope for the future.  Amen


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Isaiah 20-22; 1 Corinthians 2

You run to the armory for your weapons.
You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago. Isaiah 22:8b-11, NLT

I know there have been times I’ve exhausted myself emotionally and physically–my mind a steady stream of thoughts that churn a situation, looking for solution at every angle. Or my efforts the “one foot in front of the other” work, the next step, the next right thing–marching on and pushing through. In all of it, I realize how very small I am. To carry the weight of a burden alone can crush a spirit.

God wants me to take my burdens to him and lay them at his feet. I offer up petitions and prayer, and the Spirit groans on my behalf.

For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:10b-16, NLT

A Matthew Henry Commentary tells me: “Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.”

Father God, thank you that your spirit lives in me. Thank you that you make yourself accessible to me, leaning low to listen even when I don’t have words, or know what words to speak. I do not have to carry a burden alone–my Lord, my Shepherd, you are with me.

Courtney (66books365)



Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Isaiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized