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Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

There are days the tasks I face are things like cutting the grass, doing the laundry, preparing school lessons. There are days the tasks I face are way harder–standing up under scrutiny and judgment, making decisions I never imagined I’d have to, pushing through circumstances that could truly change my heart.

These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle. These are the nations: the Philistines (those living under the five Philistine rulers), all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the mountains of Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to Lebo-hamath. These people were left to test the Israelites—to see whether they would obey the commands the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses. (Judges 3:1-4, NLT)

In the midst of a battle for my heart, my faith, my words, my actions (in sum, my life), I’m thankful that Jesus is my Savior, my light, my teacher. I look to these words about battles and testing, and I want to cling tightly to my God.

Lord, you are my strength and fortress,
    my refuge in the day of trouble!
Nations from around the world
    will come to you and say,
“Our ancestors left us a foolish heritage,
    for they worshiped worthless idols.
20 Can people make their own gods?
    These are not real gods at all!”

21 The Lord says,
“Now I will show them my power;
    now I will show them my might.
At last they will know and understand
    that I am the Lord. (Jeremiah 16:19-21, NLT)

Stephen recounts a history of God’s faithfulness and direction. Lord, don’t let me be so distracted by an enemy or a battle or a faulty perception that I forget all that you are and all that you have done.

You forgive.

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5, NLT)

You heal.

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 2:10, NLT)

You lead.

14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2:14, NLT)

You provide.

 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, NLT)

You make all things new.

22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 18,19; Psalms 149,150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

A land promised and parceled. Psalms of praise! Praise! Clanging words like cymbals. Praise.

Eyes, a fountain of tears. Uncircumcised hearts.

“They do not know me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:3b, NLT.

I reach for the hands of a sister. I crave the embrace of a mother.

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12, NLT)

Lord, teach me. Guide me. My Father, my God, my Hope.

 23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Lord, you hear the cries of my heart. You delight in love and justice and righteousness. Be at work in our hearts.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Josh. 10; Ps.142,143; Jer. 4; Matt. 18

She handed me a pink notebook with the photocopies on healing past wounds. I looked forward to reading it. I thought surely with time and hindsight, these exercises would be easy. They weren’t. It was easy to write down the offenses committed against me. But then I was to record my sinful response. I didn’t understand. Was being hurt sinful? Was getting mad sinful? It didn’t make any sense. I closed the notebook and put it away for years.

What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Matthew 18:7a (NLT)

Thinking today on forgiveness. What does it look like? Is it the forced Sunday smile and cool tolerance in the presence of an offender? What does it feel like? Is it a heaviness of knowing and the sense of (self-)righteousness to intentionally not hold a fault against someone? Yes, I see you and I know you did this-and-that, but I’m bigger than that and I am going to forgive you because it’s godly.

Ugh.

This was not forgiveness, no matter how I tried to spin it.

In the shuffling and reshuffling of things over the past few months, I found the pink notebook. I didn’t open it. But I pulled out a piece of paper and began to write. I studied the hurts for clues and found the insecurity behind them. And when I was able to identify the bulls-eye target, I saw my sinful responses. It was the recognition of my vulnerability and the acknowledgment of my response that brought me to a place of humility, not blame. So many years, this eluded me.

I think of the parable of the unforgiving debtor. I think of the millions he was forgiven, and the thousands he couldn’t forgive and I wonder over why he couldn’t show the same mercy. Did he want to but didn’t know how?

Lord, thank you for your great mercy. I desperately want to forgive. Thank you for showing me my sinful responses, for isolating a lie I believed and replacing it with your word. Thank you for softening this heart, replacing the rock that it was, to see the brokenness in myself and recognize my only hope is you.

Courtney (66books365)

From the archives. Originally published July 8, 2011.

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Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

I thought a week off from routine would restore me. Now, a second week closing, I feel myself slipping into hermit mode. I pulled up Psalm 139 to read, and I cried. This is a Father’s loving hand upon a daughter’s head. He is right here with me. He knows me best. Even when I slip into hermitting, He comforts me in this new territory of angry grief. He does not abandon me.

(All of Psalm 139, NLT, because it is so good. Emphasis mine.)

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

A friend shared some hurtful things going on in her life, and by all accounts, her anger is justified. But I saw what it was doing to her and those around her. I said, “I get it. I’d be mad too. But how long is enough? How long (of being angry) will make you feel better? I hate to see you work yourself into a pit that’s hard to get out of.”

The words spoke into my life as well. At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to say it, because it can seem so unfair–but maybe the antidote for anger is forgiveness. Because the thing about anger, can it ever be satisfied–especially in circumstances where there is no justice? Some things can’t be taken back or fixed. Anger is like a hot coal being tossed into hands. How do (we) let go when memory sears?

Oh, Lord, point out the offenses. Lead me.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?] Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

Lord, I would be so utterly lost without your word, your love, your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me so much, that even in the angry grief, you don’t leave me. You tell me to get back on my feet and follow you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 1; Psalms 120-122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

We just finished up the last of extracurricular activities last Sunday, and Monday–what felt like the first official day of summer vacation–I got my first back-to-school sale ad by email. Tuesday, the curriculum I ordered recently for the next school year arrived.

My couch has three pens, a blanket, at least five books at any given time, a notebook or two, and a pair of reading glasses strewn up on it when I’m not expecting company. One book I’m reading is Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (no affiliate link or paid endorsement, but definitely a good, short, rich read before the school year, and an encouragement in the middle). She reminds the reader that “rest is not ease” and that “peace comes from recognizing that our real task is to wake up each day and get our marching orders from God. It comes from diligence to the work He hands us, but diligence infused with faith, with resting in God’s promises to guide us and bless us” (Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest, Classical Academic Press, 2015, page 4).

Reading in Joshua, the Lord tells him:

“I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5b-9, NLT)

Joshua tells the tribes:

13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’ 14 Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River. But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory. Stay with them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has given you rest, and until they, too, possess the land the Lord your God is giving them. (Joshua 1:13-15, NLT)

I’m not physically conquering lands, but I am getting marching orders each day. Some days it has felt like a hustle, and I think on the words that rest is not ease. I find comfort, strength and encouragement in God’s word–of his presence and faithfulness, his trustworthiness and power.

The psalms:

I took my troubles to the Lord;
    I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. (Psalm 120:1, NLT)

And,

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. (Psalm 121:1-8, NLT)

The Lord, who comforts, who brings good out of bad, who restores and provides (Isaiah 61). My overwhelm turns from task to joy in the Lord my God.

Matthew 9:2b, NLT, Jesus speaks to the paralyzed man: “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” The man gets up from his mat and walks.

He calls to Matthew in Matthew 9:9b, NLT, “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

The woman who suffered twelve years: 22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:22, NLT)

Lord, your word is full of examples of your presence and power. Even when the day is full, I can find rest in you–that you are with me, you are sovereign, and you love me as your child.

Courtney (66books365)

 

Listening to Elevation Worship’s Here as in Heaven

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Deut. 29; Ps.119:49-72; Isa. 56; Matt. 4

Of course I know bad things happen. And being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt me from them. Yet, why am I still surprised by tragedy and heartache?

There were seasons of the sometimes-struggle: things in the Grand Scheme that shouldn’t have carried the weight they did. It didn’t surprise me when hate came from unbelievers. But it did when unkindness came from a believing friend. That one took me a surprisingly long time to get over. During that time, it was the closest I had ever felt to Jesus. Oh, Lord, who loves even the outcasts.

For the Sovereign Lord,
    who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
    besides my people Israel.” (Isaiah 56:8, NLT)

Another difficult season presented itself, and perseverance seemed impossible. I almost quit. In a snowy winter, being back in the woods, I was delightfully home-bound to hibernate and process and pray.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country— all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other alcoholic drink, but he provided for you so you would know that he is the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 29:2-6, NLT)

I prayed a lot that winter. Friends prayed for me and over me. I saw the battlefield. I learned that prayer is not a last defense. When God moved, I was stunned and speechless. I wondered why it surprised me so, when he is sovereign in everything.

This year I planned for balance and simplicity. My one word, restore. But winter brought loss after loss. A mother-in-law. A father. A sister’s (ongoing) health crisis. The loss of a friend. A niece. This heart, pummeled.

These months have felt like a persistent storm.

49 Remember your promise to me;
    it is my only hope.
50 Your promise revives me;
    it comforts me in all my troubles. (Psalm 119:49-50, NLT)

In this world, there will be trouble. There will be things that wound, that don’t seem right (because they aren’t!), that are brutal and senseless. There will be things that haunt and shame. The wounding doesn’t have to defeat me like it once did.

71 My suffering was good for me,
    for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
72 Your instructions are more valuable to me
    than millions in gold and silver. (Psalm 119:71-72)

When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted by Satan, Jesus responded to the enemy with clarity, “No, the scriptures say …”

I will still cry over losses. I will still wrestle with wounding. But God’s Spirit is inside of me. His Word strengthens and instructs me. Without him, the truth and trustworthiness of him, how would I hope?

Father God, because of who you are, your sovereignty and mighty power, I don’t need to rely on my own shaky hopes–I can stand confidently on your word. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 27-28:19; Psalm 119:1-24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

I read about his promises, his provision, his protection.

When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you—a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (Deuteronomy 27:2-3, NLT)

He shows the way. It is a path made by love, loving guidance and instruction.

Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
    when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me! (Psalm 119:1-8, NLT)

 

His word is truth.

14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”

23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:14-15, 17-18, 23, NLT)

Lord, you are the Father who delights in me. You comfort me in my distress. You strengthen me in my weakness. You make a path straight for me, so I can walk in joy. You protect me. You provide for me. Your promises are trustworthy. You are trustworthy. Your love never fails. By your love, you show me how to love. By your love, you show me how to live. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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