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Proverbs 24-25; Psalm 41; 1 Thessalonians 2

I’ve been reading a lot of books on purpose, goals, time management, and boundaries. Cramming, almost, like there’s a big test coming up. A book on purpose suggested one craft a mission statement–pick your purpose. A memory spoke up from my mind, and I googled: What is man’s purpose? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Words standing out to me in today’s reading: approved, entrusted, purpose, motives.

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NLT. Emphasis added.)

I lay all the challenges at the feet of the Lord, and I wonder and pray. What is the next right thing? What is the next loving thing? The answers could vary greatly depending on whom I’m trying to please.

Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12, NLT)

Father God, you’ve entrusted me with time, talent, and treasure. As your child I know that I am loved by you, faults and all. And in my love for you, I want to live my life in a way that pleases and glorifies you. I pray for wisdom, understanding, direction, and strength in difficult circumstances. I trust in you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Uncategorized

Proverbs 11-13; Psalm 8; Romans 13

The prompts were simple: What are you saying no to next month? What are you saying yes to?

Depending on the end goal, an answer could be no to donuts, busyness, or, as I chose, fear. One might say yes to exercise, moderation, or, as I chose, presence. It was a simple prompt. I looked over months of these prompts and I found I was saying no to a lot of things, including: fear, negativity, excuses. And yes to more, including presence, preparation, and discipline.

It seemed important to define the things I was rejecting and the things I was accepting. I think we can accept things we should reject without even realizing it. With three chapters of Proverbs in my reading today, a contrast is clear.

19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed.

20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
    joy fills hearts that are planning peace!

25 Worry weighs a person down;
    an encouraging word cheers a person up.

26 The godly give good advice to their friends;
    the wicked lead them astray. Proverbs 12:19, 20, 25, 26, NLT)

 

Here, wisdom and folly stand on opposite sides of the line. The choice is for the taking: truth or lies, deceit and evil or joy and peace, worry or encouragement, godly friends or wicked ones.

There’s a saying “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”

20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
    associate with fools and get in trouble. (Proverbs 13:20, NLT)

This year I’ve had frequent reminders to guard my heart. Guard it against what I allow to grow inside it. Guard it diligently regarding the external influences and circumstances around me.

Lord, sometimes circumstance muddles simple questions–what am I accepting, what am I rejecting? I spend time there, knowing those answers affect my heart and the issues of life. Thank you for your word for instruction and encouragement. Thank you for never leaving me (and the many treasured ways you show your love to me). Thank you for the sweet gift of good friends.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 42; Romans 8

Heading into a new month, I consider the goals I’m setting, but first, I lay down the things that are heavy on my heart. Fear. I list the things that I’m afraid of, and new questions emerge–what if? I shift my gaze and ask new questions–what is the next right thing, the next loving thing; what is God’s will for me in this situation? How can I honor God?

Solomon asked for wisdom to lead, and how blessed I am too to have a Father who doesn’t hold back love or wisdom, in fact, gives me his Spirit to intercede when words fail me!

I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God! (Psalm 42:2,5-6, NLT)

I praise him, my Savior, my God.

I can walk in the Spirit. (Singing freedom!)

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:5-17, NLT)

 

I’m not a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

Deeply, completely, eternally grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Kings, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Romans, Uncategorized

2 Samuel 21-23; Psalm 18; Romans 3

I’m reading The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare with my youngest child. There is a scripture quoted in it repeatedly:

35 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. (2 Samuel 22:35, NLT)

I paused in my 66 Books reading today, because that scripture appeared in 2 Samuel and Psalm 18. I took a longer look at David’s men, described in 2 Samuel. Of his elite three, I noticed qualities of strength, loyalty, perseverance, and courage.

Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10 He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11 Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12 but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:9-12, NLT, emphasis added)

I consider the army I thought would have been with me in my greatest battles. I remember the names of the elite who stayed.

He trains my hands for battle. He readies me for difficult tasks.

The Lord does bring about great victories. He’s looking for someone to stay (when they’re tired, to hold the ground when the army flees). Oh, times of testing reveal so much (I cast my cares upon him.).

True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say,
    and you will win your case in court.” (Romans 3:3-4, NLT)

Lord, I fix my eyes on you. You are the source of my strength. You are my hope. You are true.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Psalms, Romans, Uncategorized

1 Chronicles 14-16; Acts 24

There are so many examples in the Bible of David’s reliance on God. David’s got big decisions to make, and in simple, direct ways, he asks, “Should I? Will you?” He doesn’t use flourishing formality.

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he marched out to meet them. The Philistines arrived and made a raid in the valley of Rephaim. 10 So David asked God, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?”

The Lord replied, “Yes, go ahead. I will hand them over to you.” (1 Chronicles 14:8-10, NLT)

And he gives God the glory.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
10 Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
11 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
12 Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
13 you children of his servant Israel,
    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

23 Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
24 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
25 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

28 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,
    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
    Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. (1 Chronicles 15:8-13, 23-25, 28-29, NLT)

Certainly one result of cutting back on social media is that I am freed to more quiet thoughts and contemplation. I spend more time laughing with my family, taking walks, and enjoying simple play with a puppy. And even more than those joys, I am up at dawn to see the breaking light of a new day, to listen as the world wakens with bursting birdsong–the whole earth truly does sing. It’s all praise. And when I’m not filling my mind with other people’s thought feeds, I have time to quiet and know that God walks with me. He listens. To think I can ask him, “Should I? Will you?”!

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your faithful presence, how you bend low to hear my simple whispers. And I thank you for your many answers to prayer, your patient guidance, and the sweet gifts of time you have given me.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 1-2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 96, 106; Acts 21

26 Abner shouted down to Joab, “Must we always be killing each other? Don’t you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?” (2 Samuel 2:26, NLT)

I’ve drastically cut back visits to Facebook this year. When my own concerns are enough to manage, it felt undermining to go online and hear the seemingly unfiltered and raw (sometimes harsh and hateful) thoughts of people I know. I imagine the bloodshed of words hitting heart marks.

I guard my heart. I spend more time with my face in books about puppies, purpose, and boundaries. I read devotionals and encouragement and listen to podcasts to renew my mind and fill my heart with God’s Word. I need him.

David is king, a high point in his life, I’m sure. I read the names of his mightiest warriors. There’s one name that stands out in the long list:

41 Uriah the Hittite; (1 Chronicles 11:41, NLT)

Right now (or rather, then), Uriah lives and fights. But I know what happens later–a king will sin and there will be casualties and consequences. I read his name with knowing and a heavy heart. Must we always be killing each other?

A mob of voices. An angry crowd. A great riot. Accusations and threats.

30 The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul.

33 Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 34 Some shouted one thing and some another. Since he couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, he ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress. 35 As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. 36 And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!” (Acts 21:30-36, NLT)

Must we always be killing each other? Oh, if the mob could hear themselves, if they could see their hearts. Some didn’t know the reason for their attack–shouting one thing, then another–but their hateful intention was clear, “Kill him!”

Lord, I want to keep close to you. Help me to guard my heart and keep my eyes on you. Words and actions are such a window into the condition of a heart. Renew my mind, Lord. Soften my heart. Let no bitterness grow here.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Old Testament, Uncategorized

1 Samuel 26-27; 1 Chronicles 8; Acts 18

Am I the only one who stood in awe with David and Abishai in the circle of Saul’s army? Saul and Abner asleep at the feet, surrounded by soldiers in a protective circle, and David, Abishai (and us!) with an bull’s eye view.

I find it hard to think I could live so boldly. David, who first cuts the hem of Saul’s robe (just last week’s reading), now removes the spear near him and takes Saul’s jug of water.

12 So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep. (1 Samuel 26:12, NLT)

David had a history of listening for the Lord and a repeated reliance on His protection and provision. From field to front line, his faith and trust in the Lord grew.

Paul met his share of opposition.

Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:4-6, NLT)

Insults and opposition would only be the start of his mission in ministry, but he is obedient.

Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. (Acts 18:8b-11, NLT)

David used his strength and battle knowledge in his obedience to the Lord–he was a front line witness of God’s faithfulness to the men who served alongside him (and even to a watching enemy army!); Paul used his education and words to serve wherever he was (land, sea, imprisoned or free).

Lord, thank you for these examples of obedience, reverence and another’s eager listening for your voice. Help me to steward the gifts you’ve given me to serve you. Help me to always seek you first for direction, guidance and wisdom. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve used to strengthen my faith and show your faithfulness.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Uncategorized