Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

2 Samuel 13-14; 2 Corinthians 4; Psalm 51

This week, I tapped into a podcast of interviews with adults who shared an event in their lives that had a lasting effect upon them. They painted vivid pictures with their words, and the interviewer followed up with questions to the now adult speakers. They were only two people in this whole world, each marked by a memory from childhood. I wondered perhaps all of us have stories that have had such an effect upon our lives.

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her (2 Samuel 13:14-15, NLT).

***

So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister (2 Samuel 13:20b-22, NLT).

Sin separates. It separates us from God and it separates us from each other. In motion, it destroys. Amnon’s sin and violence led to his sister’s desolation, a brother’s thirst for revenge/justice and murder, and an estrangement in a lineage. Sin’s reach is vast–don’t ever be fooled.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him (2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT).”

Psalm 51 was written after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you (Psalm 51:1-15, NLT).

Oh, that Amnon would have repented.

I look long on the image of spilled water in 2 Samuel 14:14. Thank you, God: Redeemer, Father, Healer. You devise a way to bring us back to you. Sin’s reach is vast, but You are greater. God, I hand you my memory, knowing You to be the Good Father, full of mercy, unfailing love, compassion. Bring healing to all the broken places.

Courtney (66books365)

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

1 Corinthians 15; Psalm 68

This quote comes from a Christian-focus book on perseverance and starting over.

“No one is coming to save you.”

I’ve thought on these words since last September. They scare me. There were likely other messages from the book about accountability and movement, but this is the sentence that stuck hard with me. And the heckler in my head speaks it over me in my lowest times.

I read this next in a book about redeeming lost years from childhood neglect:

“The fact is, you can’t totally trust me or anyone else. When push comes to shove, I’ll probably save [myself] first.”

It stole the breath from my lungs as I considered humanity and sin and that even important-to-you people will put impossible burdens upon shoulders, or flee in the crisis. Can one trust his life to anyone? Ever?

It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place (1 Corinthians 15:2, NLT).

I took the riding mower out to cut the grass. There are many mature trees in our yard, and two oaks in the front yard have large, long, dead limbs. It makes me nervous to ride beneath them for fear they’ll fall on me. That day, I wondered to the Lord, oh, that He would show me a sign of His protection over me: let a tree limb fall after I pass by so I won’t worry about it (and “it” is symbolic of more than a tree limb). I moved on to the field and made several laps around the perimeter, moving a tractor deck’s width inward each lap. Coming down the straightaway, a limb I never noticed lie fallen, dead, long and large, right in the area I had passed by just earlier.

He didn’t drop the limbs I was thinking about. I knew I could count on Him for my soul’s salvation, but could I count on Him to protect me? Especially in times of feeling very targeted, emotionally, physically, would He protect me? He told me then that He’s protecting me from threats I’m not even aware of; I can trust him.

In recent readings, David and Eleazar stood together on the battlefield because all the other men deserted them to an enemy army. They were outnumbered. They should have died. But it was God who gave them the victory.

I tell my kids that truth can handle scrutiny. It doesn’t run from questions or doubts. Truth is not afraid. It doesn’t change itself or hide the evidence to make itself look like something it’s not. Truth doesn’t back down or bully back or threaten. It stands.

34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all (1 Corinthians 15:34, NLT).

I am thankful for His Word in my hands, so that I can know Him in these pages (so that I can know Him also in my life). I can look at an impossible story in the Bible, and read of His victory in what should be defeat, see His miracles in the unimaginable.

58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT).

He fashions me into His image–with encouragement to be strong! Be engaged! It matters!

19 Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
   For each day he carries us in his arms.
20 Our God is a God who saves!
   The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death (Psalm 68:19-20, NLT).

I matter.

You matter.

Praise be to God!

I get up and begin again.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 1-2; 1 Chronicles 11

I am reading a book called Integrity: the Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud. One of the think pieces that stuck with me early on is the deeper layer of integrity, the one below the first response of trustworthy, honest, and sincere. The deeper layer leaves a wake behind its passing by, and that wake is telling of the core of who that person is.

When David learns of Saul and Jonathan’s deaths, he is deeply grieved. He writes a song in honor of the men. Saul was an enemy toward David, and David mourns the good of who Saul was. He chooses to remember well.

I read further into the scriptures and take note of David’s mightiest warriors. I read of the Thirty and I read of the Three.

20 Abishai, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. 21 Abishai was the most famous of the Thirty and was their commander, though he was not one of the Three (1 Chronicles 11:20-21, NLT).

Remember Abishai? He was by David’s side when they went into enemy camp last week and retrieved the spear and water jug while Saul and his men slumbered. But here are the Three:

11 Here is the record of David’s mightiest warriors: The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three—the mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle.

12 Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. 13 He was with David when the Philistines gathered for battle at Pas-dammim and attacked the Israelites in a field full of barley. The Israelite army fled, 14 but Eleazar and David held their ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord saved them by giving them a great victory.

15 Once when David was at the rock near the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 16 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

17 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 18 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But David refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 19 “God forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three (1 Chronicles 11:11-19, NLT, emphasis mine).

The wake of their actions leaves a long impression upon me–their strength, ability, and bravery made them warriors, but something deeper within them set them apart from other warriors. Likewise, I wonder, did these elite see something in David that made them willing to stand apart for him? Or were they just being true to themselves and how God wired them?

There’s a lot to consider in these chapters: the example David sets in honoring Saul and Jonathan; the mighty acts of the Thirty and the Three; David seeking the Lord for direction; and the pouring out of a sacrifice to the Lord–these things all speak of integrity and wake.

I find I have more questions as I consider today’s culture’s transient environment of work/service and relationships. I keep seeking.

Courtney (66books365)


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

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

Last week, I read of Saul’s fondness for David turn to jealousy for his gifting. David was great at many things, and his talents and strengths were an affront and offense to Saul’s insecurities and pride. The first time I read the verse, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life”(1 Samuel 18:29, NLT), I read it wrong. I first saw it as David became Saul’s enemy, but it was the opposite: Saul’s thoughts for David made him DAVID’S enemy.

Last week, Saul threw spears at David during a harp performance. This week, David takes Saul’s spear while he sleeps. I imagine this Saul army of enemies–3,000 troops assembled to battle, and this scene, this David daring–I’m at the edge of my seat, breath held.

David slipped over to Saul’s camp one night to look around. Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army, were sleeping inside a ring formed by the slumbering warriors. “Who will volunteer to go in there with me?” David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother.

“I’ll go with you,” Abishai replied. So David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep, with his spear stuck in the ground beside his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying asleep around him.

“God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”

“No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? 10 Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. 11 The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!”

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 26:5-12, NLT).

Saul’s jealousy turned him into David’s enemy. And Saul was every bit an enemy–hating, hunting, intending harm. David was being himself, using his God-given and God-appointed strengths and position to serve the Lord and the king. When David has the chance to put a stop to the threat, he doesn’t. David’s trust in God’s sovereignty stays his hand–whatever God chooses: 10 Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. (Remember how the Lord handled Nabal?)

It doesn’t matter to David how or when or where. He trusts God is in control. David humbles himself to God’s will and timing. God impresses upon me to do the same. God asks me to look at myself, to guard my thoughts and heart, to do the tasks he’s entrusted me with, and to trust him with the rest.

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).

Note to self: run with purpose.

Courtney (66books365)

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

1 Samuel 18; 1 Chronicles 6; 1 Corinthians 4; Psalm 11

The wicked are stringing their bows
    and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings.
They shoot from the shadows
   at those whose hearts are right. (Psalm 11:2, NLT)

The making of an enemy. The battleground of spiritual warfare. Warring spirits cloaked in human armor of tender flesh. It starts in the heart.

In 1 Samuel 18, I read of David and Saul. It started well. Saul really liked David. Saul’s son loved David. The people liked David.

From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home.

Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike (1 Samuel 18:2,5, NLT).

Songs are sung about David’s greater victories. Perspective takes new light.

So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David (1 Samuel 18:9, NLT).

David plays the harp, and Saul tries to impale him. Twice. And twice, David eludes the spear.

12 Saul was then afraid of David, for the Lord was with David and had turned away from Saul (1 Samuel 18:12, NLT).

Saul offers a daughter in marriage to David, who declines from a place of humility. Saul offers another daughter with a price David could afford–but this manipulation was meant for David’s death.

24 When Saul’s men reported this back to the king, 25 he told them, “Tell David that all I want for the bride price is 100 Philistine foreskins! Vengeance on my enemies is all I really want.” But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight (1 Samuel 18:24-25, NLT).

Vengeance on his enemies … perhaps both the Philistines and David.

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 18:28-29, NLT).

Enemy for the rest of his life. Hatred enduring to the end. The grip of sin embedded in a human heart. It threatens with jealousy and hatred and fear. When sin roots, nothing good will come from it.

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;
    the Lord still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
    examining every person on earth.
The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.
    He hates those who love violence.
He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked,
    punishing them with scorching winds.
For the righteous Lord loves justice.
   The virtuous will see his face (Psalm 11:4-7, NLT).

The Lord watches. He examines. He reveals. He judges. I read Paul’s words and check my thoughts against them.

Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due (1 Corinthians 4:2-5, NLT).

Lord, your word highlights the cunning craftiness and deceit of sin. It takes deadly aim. I want to work with a clear conscience and pure motives. Help me to guard my heart. You care for me. Help me to purge every obstacle and sin that keeps me from following you well. Help me to steward what you have given me for your glory.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 14-15; 1 Chronicles 4-5; 1 Corinthians 2

I really love to read books–this week’s book samplings from the library include how not to kill houseplants, a Nordic mystery, women warriors in history, how to help those dealing with cancer, and a couple of motivational books on pushing past obstacles.

I like a good motivational book. Sometimes my mind tries to get me to give up on pursuits. Just this past weekend, before my feet even touched the floor, my mind was automatically trying to set me up for failure. I was thankful to get my hands on a book that covered the internal fight against resistance. There were some great phrases that helped shape perspective, however, overall, it lacked the guidance I needed.

Paul writes on wisdom, and it reminds me of how much God loves me and wants to be in relationship with me. I can know the wonderful things God has freely given. God’s foundation is the only one I want to build upon.

10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.14 But people who aren’t spiritual[g can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”[h

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10-16, NLT).

I’ve read King Saul’s story enough to feel sad as soon as it begins. He was impulsive, undisciplined, proud. His is a story of putting God second to his own agenda.

36 Then Saul said, “Let’s chase the Philistines all night and plunder them until sunrise. Let’s destroy every last one of them.”

His men replied, “We’ll do whatever you think is best.”

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Should we go after the Philistines? Will you help us defeat them?” But God made no reply that day. (1 Samuel 14:36-37, NLT).

Lord, I don’t want to go anywhere without you. Your Word reminds me often to keep my eyes on you, to wait on you, to trust you. Thank you that you make wisdom available, including the very real truth about the battle against resistance. I’m so very thankful that you won’t abandon me, and that you will help me when I call. You are a loving father, and I am a grateful daughter.

Courtney (66books365)


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

1 Samuel 6-8; Galatians 5; Psalm 72

I’ve heard a saying that what you focus on, you get more of it.

Dear God, give me a kingdom focus.

The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord (1 Samuel 7:2-4, NLT).

Last year I wrote down some goals in hopes to bring order and direction to my life. I had been going in too many directions, saying yes to too many people, that I didn’t really make progress in anything, in fact my efforts to make others happy took me away from the people and things God gave me to steward. When I narrowed my focus, it gave me the filter I needed to make my steps intentional. When I took my eyes off that focus, there was no shortage of requests and demands eager to distract me from the tasks that most needed my attention.

The Israelites went some time maintaining their focus on God and enjoying peace and protection. But when the backdrop began to change, they started to lose their focus and placed it elsewhere. Again.

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9, NLT. Emphasis added.).

Samuel warns them about what life will be like under a king’s rule. And their response?

“18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle” (1 Samuel 8:18-20, NLT).

Even so. We want to be like the nations around us.

Even so. Would I trade God’s peace and protection so that I could resemble the world around me? So that I could make others happy and throw myself off course of what matters and what God has called me to do?

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things (Galatians 5:16-23, NLT)!

Lord, help me to keep my eyes focused on you and your kingdom. I want to be directed by the Spirit and bear good fruit. Sometimes life’s backdrop changes, but you remain sovereign through all time.

Courtney (66books365)

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