Category Archives: 66 Books

Job 6-8; 1 John 1

Perhaps in today’s terms, he’d be authentic, vulnerable, transparent.

If my misery could be weighed
    and my troubles be put on the scales,
they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.
    That is why I spoke impulsively. (Job 6:2-3, NLT, in response to Eliphaz)

But his unlovely grappling with the tragedies in his life brought him criticism and condemnation instead of comfort or understanding–from his very own friends.

One should be kind to a fainting friend,
    but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.
15 My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook
    that overflows its banks in the spring
16     when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.
17 But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.
    The brook vanishes in the heat. (Job 6:14-17, NLT)

Job wades through turmoil. His successful, stable life and faith are scrambled by unimaginable tragedy. Whether his friends’ words were intended to help or harm, they certainly provided no comfort (think memes). He is in a pit, and whether they knew it or not, their words sparked a new burden.

I can replay his experience by rereading a passage, but in real time, real life, one often does not have the luxury to hit pause to contemplate life’s facets. In real time, replay takes place in memory and dreams, either bringing resolution or torment.

I, too, have been assigned months of futility,
    long and weary nights of misery.
Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ (Job 7:3-4, NLT)

I think on loss, disappointment, grief, anger, hurt. I think of relationships where I’ve shared things in vulnerability and authenticity (really heartache), places I thought were ones of safety, but ultimately were not. And in that pit, the weight of loss, disappointment, grief, anger and hurt are the kindling that embitters sins of resentment, unforgiveness, grudge.

It was a recurring message in books I’d read last year: No one is coming to save you.

I realized I expected friends I considered near to rally around and help me out of the pit. But the truth is, they never said they would or could. No wonder I felt alone when I was grasping the vapor belief/hope that they should.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (1 John 1:5-10, NLT)

God is light, and I’m grateful for the intimacy I have with him through prayer and His Word. He is my safe place. He meets me in the ugly, scrambled spaces and speaks with clarity and gentleness–oh that I can hide his word in my heart so that I would not sin against him. Feelings let me know something is wrong–but left untended, they can become agitated and enflamed to sin. Do not be deceived. Offense and expectation have no cap on captives. Freeing others from unexpressed expectations freed me from sins of bitterness, resentment and anger. It also gave me newly found freedom to delight and invest my heart and time in more fruitful pursuits.

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Job 3-5; John 21; Psalm 108

 

There are times in my life when I either act like Jesus is not around or actually do not feel His presence. When I act like He is not around, I am usually doing something that I want to do and do not wish to discuss with Him His thoughts on the matter. When I sense His presence not near me, I look for Him. It is a weird feeling sometimes when He does not engage.

I wonder how the disciples felt when Jesus rose from the dead and they had a bit of a distant relationship with Him. There was this real thing about Him having to ascend first before He engaged with them too much – He shared this thought with Mary. He did not see them that often or that regularly.

 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. – John 21:14 ESV

In this space of some awkwardness, the promise of the Holy Spirit who would always be with them, mattered most. Of course, we have that same promise.

In my imagination I cannot but help feel how alone Job must have felt. This is what he says —

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. – Job 3:1 ESV

I do not talk about suicide a lot because I do not know the pain, but it sounds awful when you look at your life and decide that you no longer matter. That is why I like the Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.” We see both sides of the coin and I am glad that we have the Holy Spirit as part of our life these days.

David found the cure for His loneliness with God – worship. I sense many of us do, including myself.

My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being. – Psalm 108:1 ESV

In fact, after a time of meditation, repentance and worship, I find that whatever I was going through, having placed that into God’s hand, I sense my relationship with Him back on track.

Father, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to reside in me and  who calls me to walk with You. I am pretty sure that in my moments when I think I am alone, those times could make me express my life like Job. However, because of You, I can express my life more like David – I am so thankful for that. Jesus, I know that I spend too much time away from You. May may heart be more sensitive to Your calling and may I let my heart seek You always.  Thank you for caring and loving me so much. Amen

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, John, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

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

Esther 4-7; John 12

When I go through the gospel message in my mind and review the journey that Jesus took to lay down His life, my life seems so small. I cannot say that this is my mantra for how I live.

Reading the story of Esther helps me. In fact, it is the story that we gave to our daughter on her sixteenth birthday with the promise that her life was to live the fullest for she was a young lady, needed by God, for such a time as this.

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said.  Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,  “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”[c]  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. – Esther 4:12-17  ESV

It passed me by in my readings until today that Jesus used similar words too.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. – John 12:25-27  ESV

I am challenged as a disciple of Jesus to follow Him. I need to be able to come to a place in that walk to lay down my own life and work. Even as I write these words, inside of me I hear other words that expect me to shrink from sacrifice and death. I love that the Holy Spirit is coming alongside me and encouraging me to understand that the true principle of life is of the Spirit, and only in the sacrifice of my desires regarding my physical and emotional life is my spiritual life realised.

Father, thank you for the power of Your Word to guide me to what real life is all about. I am called to lay down my life for You. I see it in the disciples, I see it in the Old Testament, I see it in Hebrews chapter eleven. I see it in Jesus. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may walk each day doing just that. Amen

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Esther, John, New Testament, Old Testament, Uncategorized

Zechariah 8-11; John 8; Psalm 147

I may have pondered it from a sermon or a commentary, and certainly if I linger over the words I would wonder too: what did Jesus write in the dust that day? Whatever it was was not meant for future knowledge. But his words were recorded–the words he spoke. The doctor sent to heal. The One who came to seek and save the lost. He who can take a heart of stone and turn it into flesh. What did he say?

In Zechariah, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “16 But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. 17 Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:16, NLT)

To the people gathered around, he said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

To the unbelieving people he warned, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. 24 That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24, NLT)

To those who believed in him, he said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:31b-36, NLT–and don’t stop reading there.)

His words light a fire in me. I fix my eyes on Jesus.

For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has arrived
    to look after Judah, his flock.
He will make them strong and glorious,
    like a proud warhorse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
    the tent peg,
the bow for battle,
    and all the rulers.
They will be like mighty warriors in battle,
    trampling their enemies in the mud under their feet.
Since the Lord is with them as they fight,
    they will overthrow even the enemy’s horsemen.

I will strengthen Judah and save Israel;
    I will restore them because of my compassion.
It will be as though I had never rejected them
,
    for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries.
The people of Israel will become like mighty warriors,
    and their hearts will be made happy as if by wine.
Their children, too, will see it and be glad;
    their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
When I whistle to them, they will come running,
    for I have redeemed them. (Zechariah 10:3-8, NLT)

What did he say that day to the adulterous woman caught in (enslaved by) her sin?

And Jesus said, “… Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11b, NLT)

Had the father of lies spoken instead, he would have told her to go back to the man in her bed. He would have condemned her as weak or championed her personal freedom (a personal “freedom” to stay in sin). He would have told her there are worse things. He would have said everyone is doing it–it’s normal. But he would not have empowered her freedom to walk in light and truth, to turn away from sin.

Father God, thank you that you give me your Spirit to speak truth to me and lead me in the light. You call me daughter, empowered by your compassion to fight the good fight. You do not condone sin. You came to set people free from its grip. You came to set me free. Why would I ever want to return to slavery when I can have freedom in you?

Courtney (66books365)

1 Comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

Daniel 10-12; John 3; Psalm 123

This is for times of mourning or when the Lord feels far.

When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed. (Daniel 10:2-3, NLT)

This is for when I am waiting for His help and direction.

11 And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.

12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. 14 Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.” (Daniel 10:11-14, NLT)

This is for when I can’t breathe, can’t move. Remember, you are very precious.

“I am filled with anguish because of the vision I have seen, my lord, and I am very weak. 17 How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. 19 “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” (Daniel 10:16b-19, NLT)

He later says, “Meanwhile, I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.” And there is war, deception, tragedy, loss, suffering and hardship. There are big political movements like crashing waves.

But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him.

33 “Wise leaders will give instruction to many, but these teachers will die by fire and sword, or they will be jailed and robbed. 34 During these persecutions, little help will arrive, and many who join them will not be sincere. 35 And some of the wise will fall victim to persecution. In this way, they will be refined and cleansed and made pure until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come. (Daniel 11:32b-35, NLT)

Be strong. The Lord has heard your prayers. He moves in ways that may seem silent. There are losses and lies and insincerity and corruption and persecution. But the people who know their God will be strong. (A whole history of people who’ve known their God, my God, have stood and fallen–and were refined and cleansed and made pure.)

I heard what he said, but I did not understand what he meant. So I asked, “How will all this finally end, my lord?”

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means … 13 “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.” (Daniel 12:8-10, 13, NLT)

The wicked will continue in their wickedness. But as for you, go your own way until the end.

Lord, I move in closer to you, thankful for your Word and the history of people who knew you and followed you, whose lives and sacrifices made your Word available to my hands and heart, whose testimony proclaims your sovereignty and glory. Thank you for hearing prayers and answering them. Thank you for seeing me as loved and precious.

Courtney (66books365)

1 Comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Daniel, John