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Daniel 7-9; Psalm 91; John 19

Daniel gets visions that terrify him, images and meanings he doesn’t understand.

26 “This vision about the 2,300 evenings and mornings is true. But none of these things will happen for a long time, so keep this vision a secret.”

27 Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it. (Daniel 8:26-27, NLT)

They are explained to him, and the end result, after all the struggle, is victory.

26 “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. (Daniel 9:26, NLT)

Psalm 91 proclaims the Lord’s presence and protection. Terrors, disease, deadly traps, the Lord says:

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16, NLT

They mocked Jesus, slapped him, crowned him with thorns. Pilate knew enough to fear.

Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:5-11, NLT)

The love of the Lord and his victory are woven throughout the scriptures–the thread that breathed existence holds the world together. Forces that punish, manipulate, deceive are put in proper light. Battles waged on earth are fought also in heavenly realms. An Anointed One is killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing … taken down from a cross, wrapped in a cloth, and put in a tomb. It may have looked like an end, but the victory was and is always his.

This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalm 91:2, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 40-42; John 14

While Jesus was making his ultimate journey to the cross, he continued teaching those around him. His words were often confusing to them because they didn’t have an understanding of the scope of what Jesus was doing.

The passages in Ezekiel were measurements and meaning to the temple. In John, Jesus speaks, and I listen. I have a sweet luxury of the written word, and I can return to it often and sit at my Savior’s feet.

15 If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going (John 14:15-31, NLT).

Jesus was fulfilling a requirement to show his love for the Father. And in these passages he takes time to explain to the disciples who he is, that he is making a way, that he is coming back–assurances and comfort. He tells them he’s not leaving them as orphans, but sending the Holy Spirit who will guide in truth. He leaves a gift, and it’s something only he can give, and we won’t find it in this world. This world won’t give the kind of peace that Jesus can. Jesus explains these things to the disciples while he is with them–and this is deeply meaningful to me: that he prepares them, comforts them, provides for them, assures them. There is so much love and care in this dialogue.

Lord Jesus, I’m grateful for the ability to read these words and read them often. You are the example I want to follow–your love, your wisdom, your obedience, your guidance, your provision. You show me how to be the kind of friend and parent who cares tenderly, lovingly, responsibly. This is relationship. This is treasure. Thank you, Lord. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 25-27; Psalm 85; John 9

Were the Pharisees upset because Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, or because they themselves were unable to perform miracles? Was it because they didn’t feel the blind man deserved healing? Was it because all the attention was diverted from their pious ways to this Jesus who was gaining a following? Was it anger? Offense? Disbelief? Jealousy? Hatred?

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:2-5, NLT, emphasis added)

A blind man (from birth) can now see. Where’s the party? (Instead, he’s interrogated. And even his parents kept a safe distance away from him.)

When I first became a Christian as a new adult, a sibling skeptically commented to another, “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
    for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
    But let them not return to their foolish ways.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    so our land will be filled with his glory. (Psalm 85:8-9, NLT)

 

When my husband, kids and I didn’t participate in the lie (consequently breaking the reach his legacy of lies), that relative wouldn’t speak to or see me/us for two years.

This year, a pursuit to establish healthy boundaries, to lose weight, to change–each was met with anger and/or silence from some extended family and some years-long friends.

Where’s the party? When God shows up in a life and starts His transforming change, isn’t it cause for celebration?

When I went in for my post-op visit after last week’s cataract surgery, the assistant removed the patch and bandage over my eye. At first I wouldn’t open my eyes.

“Open your eyes,” she encouraged. “You’ll like what you see.”

And I opened my eyes and saw with clarity through an eye that, for more than half my life, had worn prescription glasses, and was more recently clouded by cataracts. I started to cry.

“Is it OK to cry?” I asked, holding back the largest wave of emotion.

“Yes,” she said. “I remember, you’re the crier.”

Father God, I’m grateful for the gifting and talent and wisdom you have measured out to people all over the world. Because of a man’s interest in healing eye disease, I can see. Because of one believer’s response to a call in her life, a nurse prayed with me before the operation. Lord, when I look with holy vision, I see your work in the world and in the hearts of those around me. When your work in my life is met with anger and silence from another’s heart, I trust that you are at work there too (because you’ve used those same responses in me to look deeper). And I can be grateful and peaceful instead of hurt. Thank you, God, for restored vision and new vision.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 10-12; Psalm 83; John 4

I recently got results from a DNA ancestry/health test I took. I was unprepared for the depth of feelings I’d feel as I looked at the results and saw a profile of my ancestry–such a gasp of wonder and joy, a glimpse into a past. It was really exciting, and more than that, I felt a connection and belonging to a greater history. There were fun findings–that I’m likely to drink more caffeine than average (true) and that I am likely to be more afraid of heights than others (also true). And it fell short in a couple of places suggesting that I don’t have a widow’s peak (I do), and that I’m likely to dislike cilantro (I buy it weekly–love!).

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. They talk, and he tells her things about herself she already knew–things about her choices and past. It’s stuff the people in her life might know, that she might even be known for, but that a stranger wouldn’t know. Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment or apathy, she has a kind of wonder, and perhaps relief.

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:39, NLT, emphasis added)

She comes to the well every day to fill a very real need (and perhaps much of her life was spent trying to fill a need for acceptance, provision, love, belonging, purpose, fulfillment), and he promises her an everlasting satisfaction. Living water.

I think of my ancestors and I want to know more–their names, their stories, and what they were searching for. What were they leaving, and what were they pursuing that moved a lineage from place to place, and finally here to my doorstep in the woods?

Father God, you will stop at nothing. No distance. No desperation. You already know I love cilantro and coffee. You know the depth of my weaknesses. You know my struggles and my strengths. You know every thought I’ve ever had, every word I’ve ever spoken, and every feeling I’ve ever felt (even the ones I try to keep from myself)–and you don’t flinch. You don’t turn away. You meet me in the place of my need, and I feel like you’re telling me, ‘You can keep coming back to (this place) looking for (understanding, satisfaction, answers, fulfillment, love), but even if it meets your need today, you’ll be back here again tomorrow. I can meet that need once and for all time so that you don’t need to keep returning to (a place) that can’t (heal you).” Lord, I believe you because … you know everything about me, you keep your promises, you are able.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 47, 48, 49; Psalm 80; 2 Peter 2

I’m scheduled to have cataract surgery on my right eye soon. I’ve lost my ability to discern detail out of my eye; and rainy conditions, bright sun or headlights are  problematic. The doctor explained what he would do, and offered alternatives to me if I felt I couldn’t tolerate the intense light or remain still during the procedure.

When I run, I keep my eyes on the space in front of my feet, because looking up can make the journey seem too long, or the positioning of the sun on the horizon is uncomfortable for my gaze. Yesterday was a perfect fall day, and when I reached the top of the hill, I looked out over treetops, glimpsed wisps of clouds, watched a skein of geese flying south, the sun winking and twinkling through the treeline. It was so bright and hard for me to look long, but it was beautiful and I tried as long as I could–the whole sky lit up. I squinted at its brilliance.

While what I can see is a very real thing for me, I am reminded of the things I can’t see, and I pray to the Lord to keep my vision holy. I can look at the facts of a situation and they shape my initial impression, but there are unseen motivations at work as well, and I ask God to give me the ability to see spiritually. Oh, Lord, keep my vision holy.

He is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

37 I myself will go with Elam’s enemies to shatter it.
    In my fierce anger, I will bring great disaster
    upon the people of Elam,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:37, NLT)

I read about destruction and restoration in Jeremiah. Wrath poured out. And he will go with the armies, stand against enemies and shatter them. He is powerful.

Turn us again to yourself, O God.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.
O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
    how long will you be angry with our prayers?
You have fed us with sorrow
    and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations.
    Our enemies treat us as a joke.

Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved. (Psalm 80:3-7, NLT)

He is merciful.

It’s easy to focus on the things I can see, but that is only part of the picture. A warning in 2 Peter:

19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. (2 Peter 2:19-21, NLT)

Lord, I fix my focus on you–the way, the truth, the life. I cling to you, True Vine. I don’t want to be deceived by lies and manipulation (alternatives that dim the light and freeze my focus). I choose truth. I want to walk in the path you have chosen for me, knowing that you go with me. Oh, Lord, keep my vision holy. Let my words and actions show that you are master of my heart, my Lord and Savior.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 38, 39, 52; 1 Peter 2

A contrast of despair and hope.

King Zedekiah’s kingdom is surrounded and starved, and he is pursued and forced to witness the heartbreaking murder of his children and fellow nobles before his own eyes are gouged out, and he is led away–captive. (Jeremiah 39) I read through this passage and Jeremiah 52, and the despair and loss is thick. Names in a book, figures of history–once living, breathing men. We all have a story–about where we come from and where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going. About loss and love and despair and hope.

In Jeremiah, a city is dismantled and destroyed–the temple pillars Solomon had raised, gone. (I catch the briefest glimpse, of pomegranates, a detail recorded.)

These things had been made for the Lord’s Temple in the days of King Solomon. 21 Each of the pillars was 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference. They were hollow, with walls 3 inches thick. 22 The bronze capital on top of each pillar was 7 1⁄2 feet high and was decorated with a network of bronze pomegranates all the way around. 23 There were 96 pomegranates on the sides, and a total of 100 pomegranates on the network around the top. (Jeremiah 52:20b-23, NLT)

In 1 Peter 2, a new temple.

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
    chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
    will never be disgraced.”

Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.”

And,

“He is the stone that makes people stumble,
    the rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.”

 

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:5-12, NLT)

Father God, I am so grateful for your word in my hands and heart, for your love and direction, for your mercy and provision. I read these words in 1 Peter 2 and I am filled with hope and joy, to be part of something you are creating, to be valued and loved, chosen. You chose me. I want my life to be a song of praise to you. Keeping my eyes on you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Jeremiah 22, 23, 26; Psalm 77; James 2

Your road led through the sea,
    your pathway through the mighty waters—
    a pathway no one knew was there! (Psalm 77:19, NLT)

The psalmist (Asaph) is troubled and feels alone, and his opening words in Psalm 77 seem to ring reaching, empty and unheard. He gets his bearings together, and starts to tell himself of all the good things God has done, and this verse stood out to me in relief (both raised from the other words and from encouragement too).

Your road led through the sea. It led through the mighty waters. It was a pathway no one knew of; they didn’t know it was there. Faced with a pursuing army/enemy behind them and an expansive sea ahead of them, why did they choose the water? Why didn’t they turn back and fight? That moment before the path was revealed must have been thick with pressure. It must have seemed lose-lose. Someone must have felt torn in wonder. I stand in the words of the moment and marvel at the road that leads through the sea, through mighty waters, the road that no one knew was yet there.

This verse is the verse foundation around the rest of the reading for me–of Jeremiah’s retelling of the Lord’s repetition: do the right thing.

This is what the Lord says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! (Jeremiah 22:3a, NLT)

15 But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
    Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
But he was just and right in all his dealings.
    That is why God blessed him.
16 He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
    and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
    says the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:15-16, NLT)

And in James, the underscore of faith, and that without works, it is useless, dead.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:18-20, NLT.

Lord, I don’t need to continue to fight a past that wants me back into captivity when you have already secured my freedom and my future. Some situations seem lose-lose. Stressful. Threatening. Sometimes I’m not sure which way to turn. But I turn to you and I take to heart your words to do the next right thing. Help me to discern what is right, just, and wise. Help me to see your path before me, and to walk in it.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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