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Exodus 3; Luke 6; Job 20; I Corinthians 7

Moses is out tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He sees something out of the ordinary: a burning bush. He approaches it, curious. His whole life is about to change. (God gives vision and mission.)

Jesus is healing people. Some people come to him because they need his help. Some people stand back waiting to find fault and accuse. Jesus chooses his disciples, and gives them practical advice on how to live well, how to live with a Kingdom focus. (He gives direction/purpose.)

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49, NLT)

Job’s friend Zophar goes deep into discussion about the brevity of life–a wicked man’s short-lived pleasures and a just God’s eternal reward. (God is sovereign.)

Paul speaks to marrieds and singles. He speaks to everyone about their current station and serving God where they are, as they are, doing work and influencing in the place they are. Paul encourages to remember the point:

29 But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. 30 Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. 31 Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life … 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. (1 Corinthians 7:29-32a, 35, NLT)

God speaks to Moses with a vision and a mission. Jesus chooses his disciples and equips them with truth that lasts–he doesn’t leave them to flounder and wonder; he’s specific and practical and challenges worldly thinking. While I have a hard time overall with Job’s friends’ conclusions on how life works, God is sovereign and He is just–I can put the trust of consequences fully in His hands with peace that His will will be done.

Lord, don’t let me complicate life. Help me to keep a Kingdom focus. I trust you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 46; Mark 16; Job 12; Romans 16

I was sick for a week in January. The next week, I tried to resume my regular running schedule with a new brand of shoes, and I developed shin splints within days. Benched from my run, I used that time to heal and to track down a pair of my discontinued favorite shoes. Then last week, I had two wisdom teeth extracted, and I’ve been waiting for the pain to subside to go back to my run. It’s been a month since I logged any consistent miles.

My daughter and I talked about intentions and discernment. I used the example of running–that I can want to be a runner, but I’m not a runner if I don’t run. Maybe that example lends itself to other areas–to be hospitable, generous, helpful one must offer hospitality, generosity, help–otherwise can he claim to be those things? Isn’t a man what he repeatedly does?

Paul lists the names of people he has remembered for their actions:

Phoebe, she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.

Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. (He mentions dear friends and coworkers for Christ.)

Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. (Romans 16:1-13, NLT, excerpts for space)

In Genesis, Jacob journeys to Egypt with his entire family. The scriptures list his sons and their children, and I am impressed with the multi-generational potential and impact of actions and attitudes. Jacob is moving his family line for a time to Egypt (where he will die).

Oh, Lord, the power of example is not lost on me, and I’m thankful to know men and women who love you and work hard for you–they inspire me and encourage me. Help me to get honest with my heart about my own thoughts and actions, and where they lead.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 39; Mark 9; Job 5; Romans 9

Joseph, whose immaturity and lack of tact got him into further trouble with his older brothers, is sold to Ishmaelite traders, and finds himself serving Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. Joseph has lost his freedom, but yet because God is with him, he still succeeds (even when it seems like he continues under trial). God goes with him through this all, and it is evident to those who stand witness.

20 So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. 22 Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23 The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. (Genesis 39:20-23, NLT)

A man’s son suffers from violent seizures. He brings the child to Jesus for healing when the disciples were unable to do it.

21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:21-24, NLT)

The disciples argue about which of them is greatest among them, and Jesus shuts it down.

35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37, NLT)

Joseph’s immaturity and lack of tact got him into deeper trouble with jealous brothers. But still, God used Joseph, grew Joseph, and equipped Joseph for a greater purpose than just a kid brother getting sold out by his family. A child is victim to convulsions and seizures, powerless himself to something bigger than him and those around him. But Jesus, in his strength, authority and power is able–oh, he is able, to do great things.

When Jesus calls another little child into the group as an object lesson, I think on this child. Children are immature. Inexperienced in life. Naive, perhaps. Impulsive. Not all children operate from a moral high ground–not even adults have mastered this. Kids are kinda cute, and it’s likely easier to welcome a child in Sunday school into the fold–but what if it’s the kid in the neighborhood no one likes, or the kid in the classroom that causes constant trouble, or the kid acting like a bully? An adult can be equally unlovely, immature, inexperienced, impulsive, unkind.

Certainly there are circumstances the disciples wanted to shun people, where Jesus stopped and took time.

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50, NLT)

Oh, Lord. Don’t let me lose my salt. Thank you for giving me a Kingdom focus. Thank you for your reminder that we are all tested with fire. Thank you for showing me that you go with me in difficult places, and that you show mercy on those you choose. Thank you for showing me that even while the disciples followed you and loved you, they still messed things up and turned people away. Oh, Lord. Don’t let me lose my salt.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 31; Mark 2; Esther 7; Romans 2

For I have seen how Laban has treated you. (Genesis 31:12b, NLT)

This is the God who holds me. He is loving. He is just. He is generous. He is good.

He sees past an outward infirmity and goes straight for the heart.

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Mark 2:8-11, NLT)

He enters places others deem themselves too good for, and he ministers to the sick–but by outward appearance he dines with sinners.

17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17, NLT)

Pharisees distance themselves. Their self-righteousness puffs them up as better than others. They miss the point.

In God’s goodness, he gives me guidance and provision. He gives me rest.

27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Mark 2:27-28, NLT)

In Esther, Haman’s wickedness is revealed; and in Romans, Paul addresses sin and hypocrisy.

All of these chapters today are rich and full–a feast for my heart. I grab words for a first course, and then return for more. But there is no rush at this table. He invites me to dine, sits with me too. Calls me daughter.

He hands me a rock and asks what I will do.

Some people throw rocks in judgment or punishment. Some people use rocks to build a boundary. Some people raise rocks as a monument. And others proclaim a covenant over them.

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a monument. 46 Then he told his family members, “Gather some stones.” So they gathered stones and piled them in a heap. Then Jacob and Laban sat down beside the pile of stones to eat a covenant meal. 47 To commemorate the event, Laban called the place Jegar-sahadutha (which means “witness pile” in Aramaic), and Jacob called it Galeed (which means “witness pile” in Hebrew).

48 Then Laban declared, “This pile of stones will stand as a witness to remind us of the covenant we have made today.” This explains why it was called Galeed—“Witness Pile.” 49 But it was also called Mizpah (which means “watchtower”), for Laban said, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does. He is a witness to this covenant between us.

51 “See this pile of stones,” Laban continued, “and see this monument I have set between us. 52 They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me. 53 I call on the God of our ancestors—the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor—to serve as a judge between us.” (Genesis 31:45-53, NLT)

Father God, you give me choice. You hand me this rock as a gift. How I love you for your guidance, your grace and your great mercy.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 24; Matthew. 23; Nehemiah 13; Acts 23

Genesis prayer. A servant is tasked with a quest–to find a wife for Isaac. I am amused at his prayer for guidance, only because I see my own appeals to God to have things look the way I want them to so that I know I’m headed in the right direction. I love that his prayer was answered before he even finished praying. Lord, help me to see you in the solution and direction, even if it doesn’t look familiar or the way I imagined. (God hears me.)

12 “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. 13 See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. (Genesis 24:12-15, NLT, emphasis added)

Matthew conviction. Jesus confronts the Pharisees–who hold more to their rules for appearance than to obedience of heart. Dear God, help me to examine myself to be free of ways that offend you and to delight in that which you delight. (God shows me my errors to set me straight, because of his great love and mercy.)

Nehemiah purge and restore. Systems gone wrong. Identifying problems and setting things right again. My own focus on simplifying physically, and setting right emotionally–aligning my heart and abiding in Christ, clearing out physically and spiritually. Purge. Restore. (God gives me eyes to see and strength to change–to redirect or purge those things and actions that distract and lead astray. He gives me vision and strength.)

30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.

Remember this in my favor, O my God. (Nehemiah 13:30-31, NLT)

Acts protection and purpose. Paul finds himself in the middle of a fight whose focus changes on a whim. His life is in danger. The Lord appears, encourages, protects him for a purpose. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. (I can find myself in a battle and in his will, and he will not abandon me. He sees me. He encourages me. He protects me. He provides.)

11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” (Acts 23:11, NLT)

Thank you, God, that you hear my prayers and your answer paves a way ahead of me. You love me so much to warn me from traveling harmful paths and taking others with me (I set you as a seal upon my heart). You show me the corruption and error of old ways and that they can be purged and focus restored. You remind me that no matter the battle around me, I am kept by you, protected, valued, for a purpose and for your glory.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

I am part of an online goal setting group, and many of the members shared their vision boards for 2020. I’ve never made a vision board, but gave it a try. I laughed to myself when I finished, realizing I had experienced most of those things in 2019. Some things that happened last year were not even thoughts at the year’s start–but I had margin, not so tightly focused on my own goals exclusive to opportunity. And God did life-giving things in my life. Not everything felt easy, beautiful or lovely, but even then, he kept drawing my attention back to a Kingdom focus.

In Genesis, God gives Abraham a Kingdom focus.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NLT)

And this:

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:15-18, NLT)

I notice Abraham laughed in disbelief. He can’t imagine God will do what he says he’ll do. So Abraham interjects with what he knows, what he sees, what is real in front of him: Ishmael. Kingdom focus clashes with a limited view/belief. 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:19, NLT)

God requires Abraham’s obedience.

I see Kingdom focus and obedience throughout the reading: when Jesus predicts his death and warns of the yeast of the Pharisees; Peter acknowledges Jesus as Son and yet reprimands Jesus for a fate Peter doesn’t want to happen (Kingdom focus clashes with own desire); threats to hinder a wall’s completion and a Kingdom focus to persevere–They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT); Paul’s travels blocked and redirected by the Holy Spirit, and even though he is imprisoned, he is still fruitful in sharing the Gospel.

Opposition (Nehemiah), a death sentence (Matthew), imprisonment (Acts), fathering a child in old age (Genesis) were probably not items these men would have put on their vision boards, but God gives them a Kingdom vision and the means to accomplish their tasks, even in opposition, death, imprisonment, and old age.

13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:13-16, NLT)

Father God, help me to press on, to leave margin for your plans and purpose in my life. Thank you already for equipping me and encouraging to keep a Kingdom focus, even in difficulties, especially in difficulties. Oh that anyone would see your hand and blessing upon my life and realize (this work) had been done with the help of God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 9,10; Matthew 9; Ezra 9; Acts 9

Not everyone goes to a doctor when they’re sick. Sometimes, they wait for illness to pass on its own. Sometimes they mask symptoms with temporary remedies just so they can get through the day or night. Sometimes they become so accustomed to the pain and discomfort that it becomes the new normal, and they don’t realize how bad off they are.

Jesus performs a lot of miracles in Matthew 9. He first forgives a paralyzed man for his sins–for which the watching teachers scoff. So Jesus tells the man to stand, take his mat and go (he does). Another man asks Jesus to come to his house because his daughter just died. On the way, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years reaches out to be healed, and is healed. (The dead daughter is raised again.) Two blind men encounter Jesus and their sight is restored. Jesus heals the sick.

10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13, NLT)

Sick people go to a doctor to get well, not to stay sick. These examples are of sick people (paralyzed, bleeding, dead, blind) who are healed. An encounter with Jesus is life changing.

16 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.

17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17, NLT)

I sit at this table this morning with these words. They are rich and full. Readings from four different books covering sin, legacy, life change, faith, prayer, transformation.

If he wanted me to stay just as I was, he need not have come. I might have waited for my affliction to pass, or continued to treat it myself, or worst of all–lived life oblivious of my infirmity and just accepted it as part of me.

Thank you, Lord, for all your miracles, not only to heal physically, but to transform spiritually. You love us so much. This wine in new wineskins so that both are preserved. You are so good.

Courtney (66books365)

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