Category Archives: 66 Books

Isaiah 41-44; Phil 2

18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.  Isaiah 41 ESV

My heart yearns with the recognition that in my life there can be a work of the Lord solely His- that can enable others to see His witness and rejoice. My heart is parched and dry, and this beautiful picture of the restoring life and beauty in the Lord renews my soul. At varied times, I have experienced this beautiful work of God that is His hand alone… I crave this, Lord. Open my eyes, Lord, and help my heart walk in tune with You.

16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42 ESV

I have felt blinded in some circumstances in my life. My path is unfamiliar, uncharted, at times rocky and hard- this is promise for me. You, Lord,  are guiding me on all these unfamiliar paths; turning my darkness into light; making all the rough places smooth; darkness is as light with You.

Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.” 44 ESV

The taste of the world is ashes; delusion; and falsehood. The blindness and trickery of it all speaks to me. I picture myself shining in the sun, mist and cloud blown and burnt away- the promises in Christ are mine. Forgiveness, life, and restoration. Freedom. Redemption. But I think about how easy it is to be the one foolishly eating ashes with a deluded, misleading heart.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. Phil 2 ESV

I think about how often I struggle against work;  how the Lord calls me to live above the grumblings, mutterings, dramatic turnings of my flesh. My mind so easily proffering a narrative that doesn’t even exist. My heart so easily entangled in hurt that should be irrelevant to me. I ponder what it means to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. I ponder what it means that the Lord is at work in me both to will and to work for His good pleasure. I ponder what it means to hold fast to the word of life.

Lord, help me to treasure Scripture; help me to live a life that treasures You.

Let me know Your strong work in my heart and life. Let my life bear witness to Your goodness and mighty work. I pray for springs in my desert, straight paths in a dark and unknown way, a deep recognition that I am known and loved in You, the freedom and peace from the lightness of a forgiven heart. Be with me, Lord, and help me to be with You. Amen.

Rebecca (offeringsbecca)

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Filed under 66 Books, Isaiah, Philippians

1 Samuel 25-26; 1 Corinthians 9; Psalm 63

However Nabal acquired wealth, he died as a fool and is known as a fool. I once heard that money only magnifies who you already are–don’t be fooled into thinking that more money equates a generous heart. If one is selfish or self-centered, money will only make a person more so. And if one is generous and wise, money will magnify that as well. Abigail stands as an example of the latter. As Nabal’s wife, she benefits from the abundance, and she uses what he withheld to honor David and his troops–and to right the wrong her husband’s offense created.

Same situation, two responses: David and his men request hospitality. One man, from his abundance, rudely refuses (and then parties himself into a stupor). Another chooses to deliver the provisions herself, and humbly offers apology for her husband’s choice. She takes full responsibility.

She speaks these words to David, 2“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance (1 Samuel 25:29-31, NLT, emphasis mine).”

I have sometimes wondered if I had things to do over again, equipped with knowledge I have now, if I would have shown the same kindness. David also voices the sentiment: 2David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good (1 Samuel 25:21, NLT).” Abigail underscores a point worth remembering–it doesn’t affect my record what someone else does in response (to kindness, hospitality, honor, protection, generosity, service, etc.); only what I do will affect my record. Others can provoke responses that would blemish that record and burden a conscience, but ultimately, the choice is mine. I don’t have to give that kind of power over to someone. And when I don’t, I don’t have to carry an unnecessary weight. That Abigail is one smart woman. I like her.

Nabal’s selfishness certainly spoke of his heart and no amount of money or belongings had the power to turn him into a selfless person. Saul’s focused hunting of David speaks of Saul’s heart as well. David is not even sure of why he’s being so targeted.

And David replied, “Yes, my lord the king. 18 Why are you chasing me? What have I done? What is my crime? 19 But now let my lord the king listen to his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, then let him accept my offering. But if this is simply a human scheme, then may those involved be cursed by the Lord (1 Samuel 26:17b-19, NLT).”

This is a completely different scenario from that with Nabal. I’ve thought long on this chapter before, and today, new gleaning. David knows.

23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles (1 Samuel 26:23-24, NLT, emphasis mine).”

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he shares encouragement that I take to heart.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NLT).

Lord, I listen. You have been preparing me, coaching me, reminding me. You offer examples and offer a choice–you give me full permission to choose who I want to be and who I’ll follow. Every morning sunrise is a new day and a new choice. I lace up my shoes to run, and the parallel is not lost on me. I do it for an eternal prize. One that will never fade away. (Do our deeds and words echo endlessly in eternity?) Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely (Psalm 63:7-8, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Ephesians 5

We read in 2 Chronicles 31 that Hezekiah sought the Lord wholeheartedly in all that he did. Yet, the first sentence of 2 Chronicles 32 can make you question that.

After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. (2 Chron 32:1)

Wow—here is King Hezekiah tearing down statues and Asherah poles and leading the people away from false gods to follow the teachings of Moses and the one true God. These are all really good things he is doing out of love and devotion for God. Why would God allow this to happen?

Don’t I ask that same question? “Lord, I’ve been serving You doing all these good things for You! How could you let __________ (fill in the blank with any number of trials) happen?”

The truth is, I am not God and I have no clue what his plans for me entail. I know he is a good God, that he loves me, and anything that comes into my life he plans to use to draw me closer to him and make me more like Jesus. So, what am I to do when these trials come my way? I know my enemy is going to come after me—much like Hezekiah knew the Assyrians were on their way.

I think Hezekiah gave me some insight as how I can prepare. First, he looked at how the enemy might drain his resources or benefit from their resources. The battle might be a long one so he didn’t want to make it easy for the Assyrians to wait them out.

They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?”

Then, he fortified the city itself and found places of weakness where the enemy could easily enter. He also made sure he had weapons to protect the army.

Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces[a] in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.

Then he spoke truth into their minds–to fortify that as well. We know the enemy uses words to try to deceive us and intimidate us. Our minds and thoughts are right where those fiery darts are aimed! He will try to get me to be afraid and to doubt God. I need to have words of Truth to shield me and deflect the lies.

He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.

I need people encouraging me, reminding me that God will help me and fight my battles for me. I don’t have to go it alone. Of course, I need to prepare for battles to come my way because they will come. I need to take stock of my resources, my gifts, my talents. I need to make sure I haven’t left myself open to attack by unconfessed sin. The enemy can’t use what I’ve brought into the Light. I need to keep God’s Word handy. That is my weapon to protect myself from lies. And I need to have my close friends close by and praying for me. Isolation is one of the greatest ways the enemy chooses to devour me.

15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Mostly, I need to stay connected to God through prayer. His guidance and direction are there for the asking. Just as he directed Hezekiah and Isaiah, he will direct me. Just as he fought their battle, he will fight for me.

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword. (2 Chron 32:20-21)

Lord, I am so thankful for your love, your steadfast love. You are always there. I admit I do not always turn to you first when life comes at me. But I want to! I want to think of you first. I know I can trust you to be with me, to hear me when I cry out, and to direct my steps. You listen, you comfort, you correct, and you pick me up when I fall. You are my Abba who is my shelter in the storms of life. To you be the honor and glory forever. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ephesians

Isaiah 34-35; Ephesians 2

At some point, the crickets’ song took over summer, reminding that a new season approaches. During a morning walk, honking geese overhead shake me from a summer dream almost like an alarm–a new season approaches. I remember thinking, “It’s only July–you’re going the wrong way!”

My calendar said there was still plenty of time. But suddenly it’s two weeks later and two more to go will go in a blink. When I was young, the days seemed long. Now I find myself wishing for more hours in the day.

Lord, help me to keep a Kingdom focus. When I find myself small, discouraged, I want to remember, you are mighty.

16 Search the book of the Lord,
    and see what he will do.
Not one of these birds and animals will be missing,
    and none will lack a mate,
for the Lord has promised this.
    His Spirit will make it all come true (Isaiah 34:16, NLT).

A friend reminded me, the Lord is a redeemer.

Even 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.” (Isaiah 35:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

A changing of seasons seems almost imperceptible when I operate in the daily–laundry, schedules, appointments. One day the trees are budding. Another day, I am aware of the rich aroma of full flowers saturating the air. Now the mornings have a pleasant chill that make me want to run faster and farther. A kingdom here, a kingdom near, and I am reminded I am his.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT).

An accuser wants me weak and fearful–unwanted, worthless, abandoned. Faith tells me I belong. I am his.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 30-33; Ephesians 1

I love reading the perspective of Old Testament prophets when it comes to understanding God and what He is doing and making it relevant to the day. I pick up today that hope remains as I participate and stay with my community of believers. It is where God wants me to serve and not be tempted to go where I think there may be more…more of anything.

 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures,  and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. – Isaiah 30:23-24  ESV

The reason I have hope is because it is God who teaches and disciplines when it comes to judgments.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. – Isaiah 32:1,16  ESV

I am still learning that there is security when I am under a just and righteous God. As long as I understand that He is reconstructing me. With that comes some times of mourning for sure. Sorrow is not the ultimate purpose God is looking for in my life, but is only the breaking of ground in my heart to be receptive to the Holy Spirit.

Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
    and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
    and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. – Isaiah 32:15  ESV

 

At the same time, I need to understand that the period of mourning is followed by blessing.

Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
    who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free. – Isaiah 32:20  ESV

This is where I come in with thanksgiving and prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life making all of this happen.

Who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory.  For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints. Ephesians 1:14-15  ESV

How else can I love those who follow Jesus? My fruit needs to be real so that others can see that I am authentic and a genuine follower of Jesus myself. Then that love we have together is a powerful witness to the world. So while I strive on my own, it is so much better to be followers of Jesus together.

Thank You for walking with me in this journey!

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ephesians, Isaiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized

Isaiah 16-18; Romans 13

A woman I love lost both her parents and her sister within the same year. They were a close family, and this loss was understandably enormous. There were things she said that touched me so deeply. I have not forgotten her words.

In recent years, many events have caused me to examine myself and my beliefs. Where did I place my hope? Who did I trust? So many questions surfaced in a time of change, loss, wonder and grief. I’ve sought understanding in the wrestle. When life as I knew it and believed it to be was turned inside out, it became a time of challenging perspectives and making new connections. I focus forward. I cannot rewrite the story of the past.

11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires (Romans 13:11-14, NLT, emphasis added).

This dear woman lost her family, and many years later, I would come to know that type of void. God reminds me and underscores that I am His. There is a darkness that would delight in distracting me from walking in God’s light, in dressing me in rags of condemnation and wounding.

I meet the Lord at sunrise every day. I belong to the day. I belong to Him. He called me Daughter long before I ever called him Dad. There is shining armor with my name on it, and I am clothed in His presence. It is an embrace.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 12-15; Romans 12

Romans 12 is one of those portions of scripture that I often find myself in a love/hate relationship with. It contains such great encouragement! But it also contains such difficult instructions and directions.

In verse one, we’re reminded to live in light of what Jesus did for us on the cross. How do we do that? By living surrendered to God in body, mind, and spirit. This is how we find freedom, and this is how we can discover the will of God in our lives. Ultimately, when we live surrendered, we learn to see through God’s eyes:

First, we can see ourselves through God’s eyes, and that causes us to live in humility. It causes us to live our gifts without comparing our gifts. It causes us to serve others without worrying what they will do in return.

And then we can see how this humility causes us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ through God’s eyes. It allows us to recognize that there can be diversity in unity. It causes us to value our differences, our unique personalities, and various gifts that God created us with. It allows us to be generous and welcoming. It allows us to treasure others and treat them in such a way to make them feel treasured.  It allows us to love with an enduring and sacrificial love.

Finally, it allows us to see outsiders and enemies through God’s eyes. It moves us to forgive when we’ve been hurt. It gives us the ability to meet others halfway, to extend mercy, to seek harmony, and be generous even when people attempt to take advantage of us or mistreat us. It causes us to seek peace – to chase after it, and to make every effort to have it, even with the people who constantly provoke us. And it’s what allows us to overcome their evil with good – the goodness that can only come from God’s grace as we live surrendered to His will.

The “Romans 12 Christian” is one I long to be, but I must confess, I fail more often than I succeed.

Instead of seeing myself accurately, I often get puffed up in my skills and attribute them o myself instead of seeing them as gifts from God to be used for His glory. I can easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others to justify my own shortcomings. And I struggle greatly to serve others if I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it.

Instead of seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ accurately, I often find myself impatient with them, feeling frustrated with the differences in everything from gifts and talents, to personality and communication styles. I struggle to devote myself to others and to be generous and sacrificial, instead focusing on how I wish they’d be more like me.

And I especially struggle with those who are outsiders or enemies. I don’t like choosing forgiveness. I’d much rather nurse the hurt into a grudge that demands justice. I’d much rather focus on my rights. I’d much rather focus on their failures. And I’d much rather justify my sinful behavior as a result of their provocation. But God calls me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven – “In view of God’s mercy.”

And so, in view of God’s mercy, I will choose humility in how I see myself and others.

In view of God’s mercy, I will value the differences between believers.

In view of God’s mercy, I will extend forgiveness when it’s undeserved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will seek peace and pursue it.

In view of God’s mercy, I will make every effort to love as I’ve been loved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will live surrendered.

 

Father, in Jesus’ name, thank you for the mercy you showed me at the cross. Thank you for offering your one and only Son to take my place on the cross and to rise again, defeating death, so that I could live with You. Help me to live in the light of that mercy. Help me never to forget it or take it for granted. Rather, let it move me to surrender. Let it move me to love as I’ve been loved. And let me learn to overcome evil with good by letting Your love flow through me. Amen.

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