Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

Jeremiah 23, 25, 26; Titus 3

I have lived in this home for eight years. While I couldn’t tell you the exact reason or date that I forgot to get the trash cans to the curb, I can say that a neighbor noticed the break in my routine one week and called to check on me.

My kids and I have delivered goodies and cards on Christmas and Valentine’s Day to our nearest neighbors for many years. The year my dad died, his funeral was in early February, and I couldn’t get my head around baking cookies for our neighbors for Valentine’s Day–so much in my world was changing. I went to the mailbox one day to find a (gluten-free!) baking mix from a neighbor and a card that spoke love to me. She acknowledged how I cared for others and wanted to care for me. (She didn’t even know my dad had died. I guess she had just noticed my absence that season.)

These are just two gestures from my community that have gently comforted me and reminded me that the things (we) say and do really matter. People notice. They notice our habits. They notice our hearts. Every one of us has influence–in a neighborhood, in a family, in a friendship, in a work place, on a sports team, in a classroom, online, or even randomly out and about in the world.

As I read in Jeremiah, I reflect on stewardship.

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:1, NLT).

And:

“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
    filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
    They do not speak for the Lord!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
    ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
    they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ (Jeremiah 23:16b-17, NLT)

Jeremiah’s stance on obedience and truth made him a target in his community. An angry mob demanded his life.

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to the officials and the people in his own defense. “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The Lord gave me every word that I have spoken. 13 But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands—do with me as you think best. 15 But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard (Jeremiah 26:12-15, NLT).”

(Uriah also prophesied the same things as Jeremiah, and he was hunted down, captured and killed.)

Jeremiah (and Uriah) served the Lord. Jeremiah’s task intimidates me–the non-confrontational me. What will I do and who will I be when it comes to speaking truth and upholding values? I think long on the things that I value–when I am under pressure, do I trust God with the outcome? Even if I stand alone? (Below, Ahikam stands up for Jeremiah, and I am encouraged. And I remember the most unexpected times that the Lord has sent someone to stand with me in difficulties.)

24 Nevertheless, Ahikam son of Shaphan stood up for Jeremiah and persuaded the court not to turn him over to the mob to be killed (Jeremiah 26:24, NLT).

Lord, you have given me areas of influence and I want to honor you with my life, my words and my actions. Dear Lord, strengthen me in my weakness. Help me to speak truth over my fears.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12; 2 Timothy 2

New routines, new seasons, new challenges. A dear friend’s words to her child reach out from the years to encourage me now–to keep focused on the goal.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired,
    how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
    what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NLT)

Remember the why.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Focus. Obedience. (Diligence, reward.)

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus … 19 But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,”[b] and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”[c] (2 Timothy 2:15-17, 19, NLT)

I think long on purpose and Kingdom focus. Sideline skirmishes try to take my focus off the goal, words maim and discourage, and some obstacles seem like impenetrable blocks.

He reinforces, “Don’t give up.” Oh, if I stumble on the open ground, how will I ever traverse the thicket? He has spoken purpose in my heart and over my life.

21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT).

He points the way, in the distraction and in the storm.

Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2: 22b-26, NLT).

Lord, I lean on you for understanding. You are loving and wise and generous. You gently turn my focus and remind me: don’t forget the why.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35; 1 Timothy 3

In August, my family and I took a trip to Massachusetts to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. While we were there, we took a tour through Boston and spent a morning walking around Walden Pond. Just off the main trail was the location where writer Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin for two years. The cabin had been removed and pillars served as an outline where the cabin had once been. Off to a side there was an area of small rocks stacked one on another. I read earlier that visitors place a rock on the stack and it made me think of memorial monuments in the Old Testament.

On our ride back home, I listened to a movie (Wonder) the kids watched in the back seat. A quote struck me and I wrote it down: “Our deeds are our monuments.” I looked it up later to confirm it, and discovered this wasn’t a modern quote. It’s thousands of years old.

Both 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34 similarly remark of Josiah:

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right (2 Chronicles 34:1-2, NLT).

In fact, during Josiah’s reign, he spent his time (effort and focus) tearing down false monuments to restore honor (in the land and in the people) to the Lord. He is remembered in scripture as being pleasing to the Lord and not turning away from doing what is right. (A successor son was remembered for doing evil.)

First Timothy 3 spells out characteristics, if not expectations, of a church leader: to be above reproach, faithful, self-controlled, wise, hospitable, gentle and not quarrelsome, and to manage his home; deacons are to be well respected, have integrity, honest, faithful, committed and with clear conscience ( 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. 1 Timothy 3:10a, NLT); a deacon’s wife “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do (1 Timothy 3:11, NLT).

Our deeds are our monuments, whether the physical act of destroying or building, or the spiritual side of integrity eternal. Do our deeds and words echo endlessly into eternity?

Lord, even recently you remind me to keep a Kingdom focus. It is so easy to become distracted by quarrels or catastrophe that take me off course or leave me stunned to stillness. I keep my eyes on the goal and the purpose. It is when I look too long in weakness or wounding that I lose time and ground. Forgetting what is behind and straining for what is ahead, help me to press on, to live a life that pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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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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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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Hosea 13-14; Romans 8; Psalms 100-102

When I read today’s scriptures, I am comforted by who God is. Faithful. Unfailing and everlasting love. Victorious. Generous. Merciful. Unchanging. Forgiving. I read through Romans 8 and the psalms–words expressing the very rich gift of life and love from God–and in its light, I am so very humbled by His love and grace.

I once read that August is the Sunday of summer. I slow now, preparing to enter a new season, a new school year, and to face new challenges. I cling to God. I step back and still. I set my focus. I listen.

“O Israel, stay away from idols!
    I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
    all your fruit comes from me.”

Let those who are wise understand these things.
    Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
    and righteous people live by walking in them.
    But in those paths sinners stumble and fall (Hosea 14:8-9, NLT).

He gives me a Kingdom focus. His paths are true and right. And there is no place I’d rather go (I know He goes with me. He will not abandon me in the difficulties.).

Father God, thank You for Your constant reminders of Your love, Your character, Your strength and sovereignty. Thank You for Your Word in my hands and heart. I lean in and listen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 6-7; 2 Chronicles 26-27; Romans 3

My phone sounded an alarm as the storm moved in. I figured it was a warning about the coming storm or a flash-flood. Our friends were pulling in the driveway and I stepped outside as the rain just began to fall gently. The winds were a little gusty, and I was surprised at the cracking sounds of tree and limb I heard from the woods. We got inside as the downpour began. My oldest watched from the window and saw the trees shaking in the storm. I chatted my friend until the rain let up and she could drive safely on.

The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm (Isaiah 6:2, NLT).

It turns out the alarm was about taking shelter because we were under a tornado watch. I didn’t see the full of the message until 30 minutes later, after the watch period was over. I truly thank God for all the ways He shelters me and protects me and provides for me.

Unless your faith is firm,
    I cannot make you stand firm (Isaiah 7:9b, NLT).

I think on storms and faith and fear. I think on times my heart trembles, shaking, and times I’ve felt my spirit steady and cling to Him in the storm. He tells me He watches over me and shows me how He protects me from threats I’m not even aware of.

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law (Romans 3:27-31, NLT).

Only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. Faith is so powerful and yet so simple. I hold it like a jewel and turn it over in my hands, like a beautiful gift. Oh, love.

Lord, I treasure you. You surprise me. You amaze me. I’m so very grateful you love me. So very grateful to be called yours.

Courtney (66books365)

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