Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

Jeremiah 47, 48, 49; Psalm 80; 2 Peter 2

I’m scheduled to have cataract surgery on my right eye soon. I’ve lost my ability to discern detail out of my eye; and rainy conditions, bright sun or headlights are  problematic. The doctor explained what he would do, and offered alternatives to me if I felt I couldn’t tolerate the intense light or remain still during the procedure.

When I run, I keep my eyes on the space in front of my feet, because looking up can make the journey seem too long, or the positioning of the sun on the horizon is uncomfortable for my gaze. Yesterday was a perfect fall day, and when I reached the top of the hill, I looked out over treetops, glimpsed wisps of clouds, watched a skein of geese flying south, the sun winking and twinkling through the treeline. It was so bright and hard for me to look long, but it was beautiful and I tried as long as I could–the whole sky lit up. I squinted at its brilliance.

While what I can see is a very real thing for me, I am reminded of the things I can’t see, and I pray to the Lord to keep my vision holy. I can look at the facts of a situation and they shape my initial impression, but there are unseen motivations at work as well, and I ask God to give me the ability to see spiritually. Oh, Lord, keep my vision holy.

He is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

37 I myself will go with Elam’s enemies to shatter it.
    In my fierce anger, I will bring great disaster
    upon the people of Elam,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 49:37, NLT)

I read about destruction and restoration in Jeremiah. Wrath poured out. And he will go with the armies, stand against enemies and shatter them. He is powerful.

Turn us again to yourself, O God.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved.
O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
    how long will you be angry with our prayers?
You have fed us with sorrow
    and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations.
    Our enemies treat us as a joke.

Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.
    Make your face shine down upon us.
    Only then will we be saved. (Psalm 80:3-7, NLT)

He is merciful.

It’s easy to focus on the things I can see, but that is only part of the picture. A warning in 2 Peter:

19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. 20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. (2 Peter 2:19-21, NLT)

Lord, I fix my focus on you–the way, the truth, the life. I cling to you, True Vine. I don’t want to be deceived by lies and manipulation (alternatives that dim the light and freeze my focus). I choose truth. I want to walk in the path you have chosen for me, knowing that you go with me. Oh, Lord, keep my vision holy. Let my words and actions show that you are master of my heart, my Lord and Savior.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 38, 39, 52; 1 Peter 2

A contrast of despair and hope.

King Zedekiah’s kingdom is surrounded and starved, and he is pursued and forced to witness the heartbreaking murder of his children and fellow nobles before his own eyes are gouged out, and he is led away–captive. (Jeremiah 39) I read through this passage and Jeremiah 52, and the despair and loss is thick. Names in a book, figures of history–once living, breathing men. We all have a story–about where we come from and where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going. About loss and love and despair and hope.

In Jeremiah, a city is dismantled and destroyed–the temple pillars Solomon had raised, gone. (I catch the briefest glimpse, of pomegranates, a detail recorded.)

These things had been made for the Lord’s Temple in the days of King Solomon. 21 Each of the pillars was 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference. They were hollow, with walls 3 inches thick. 22 The bronze capital on top of each pillar was 7 1⁄2 feet high and was decorated with a network of bronze pomegranates all the way around. 23 There were 96 pomegranates on the sides, and a total of 100 pomegranates on the network around the top. (Jeremiah 52:20b-23, NLT)

In 1 Peter 2, a new temple.

And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
    chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
    will never be disgraced.”

Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.”

And,

“He is the stone that makes people stumble,
    the rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.”

 

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:5-12, NLT)

Father God, I am so grateful for your word in my hands and heart, for your love and direction, for your mercy and provision. I read these words in 1 Peter 2 and I am filled with hope and joy, to be part of something you are creating, to be valued and loved, chosen. You chose me. I want my life to be a song of praise to you. Keeping my eyes on you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Jeremiah 22, 23, 26; Psalm 77; James 2

Your road led through the sea,
    your pathway through the mighty waters—
    a pathway no one knew was there! (Psalm 77:19, NLT)

The psalmist (Asaph) is troubled and feels alone, and his opening words in Psalm 77 seem to ring reaching, empty and unheard. He gets his bearings together, and starts to tell himself of all the good things God has done, and this verse stood out to me in relief (both raised from the other words and from encouragement too).

Your road led through the sea. It led through the mighty waters. It was a pathway no one knew of; they didn’t know it was there. Faced with a pursuing army/enemy behind them and an expansive sea ahead of them, why did they choose the water? Why didn’t they turn back and fight? That moment before the path was revealed must have been thick with pressure. It must have seemed lose-lose. Someone must have felt torn in wonder. I stand in the words of the moment and marvel at the road that leads through the sea, through mighty waters, the road that no one knew was yet there.

This verse is the verse foundation around the rest of the reading for me–of Jeremiah’s retelling of the Lord’s repetition: do the right thing.

This is what the Lord says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! (Jeremiah 22:3a, NLT)

15 But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
    Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
But he was just and right in all his dealings.
    That is why God blessed him.
16 He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
    and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
    says the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:15-16, NLT)

And in James, the underscore of faith, and that without works, it is useless, dead.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:18-20, NLT.

Lord, I don’t need to continue to fight a past that wants me back into captivity when you have already secured my freedom and my future. Some situations seem lose-lose. Stressful. Threatening. Sometimes I’m not sure which way to turn. But I turn to you and I take to heart your words to do the next right thing. Help me to discern what is right, just, and wise. Help me to see your path before me, and to walk in it.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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2 Kings 22-23; Psalm 73; 2 Corinthians 5

A friend from high school shared a photo with me of the two of us at her seventeenth birthday party. We were so young. We looked so happy. I have zero memory of the occasion. Nothing was familiar. Not even the shirt on my back.

“I wonder what those seventeen-year-olds would think of us now!” she mused. But I was less concerned with how that version of me would view my life today, as I was at (desperately) wishing I could have somehow prepared that young heart for what was ahead. Queue the song, Dear Younger Me.

Josiah was eight when he became king, and every time I read “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 Kings 22:2, NLT),” I smile.

He tore down and burned all the shrines, temples and buildings that stood for wickedness. The Bible reads, “25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since. (2 Kings 23:25, NLT)” After Josiah dies, his sons rise up.

31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 32 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. 2 Kings 23:31-32, NLT

36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother was Zebidah, the daughter of Pedaiah from Rumah. 37 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. 2 Kings 23:36-37, NLT

I looked at that face of a younger self and grieved for her. For the generational sin around her. At the sin-laden legacy offered by example. I want to tell her, “Help is on the way.” Thank you, God, for your work in my life.

Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, NLT)

Thank you, God, for new life. Thank you, God, that I can know you and live for you. Thank you for reaching into strongholds and generations to rescue and resurrect.

17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
    and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
    you will laugh at their silly ideas
    as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. Psalm 73:17-28, NLT

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 56-59; Psalm 70; 1 Corinthians 16

I’d never been in the presence of such a warrior. We were talking about life and hard issues, and I shared something that had hurt me deeply that I was still trying to resolve in my mind and heart. She offered to pray for me, and when she did, I felt small and humbled by the things she took to the throne on my behalf–boldly, powerfully. In fact, I almost felt afraid at her great, impassioned petition for vengeance.

Please, God, rescue me!
    Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
May those who try to kill me
    be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
    be turned back in disgrace.
Let them be horrified by their shame,
    for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
But may all who search for you
    be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
    repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    please hurry to my aid, O God.
You are my helper and my savior;
    O Lord, do not delay. (Psalm 70, NLT)

 

God is so mighty. And her mighty prayer showed me who I’m dealing with. This was many years ago, and I don’t remember the exact words she said (mostly because I was drop-jawed stunned as she said them), but I will never forget that evening. Weeks later I got word of some things that immediately brought this warrior to mind as her prayer was answered. I was awestruck. I couldn’t get my head around it. But that incident became grounds for great trust in God, his might and sovereignty. (As well as the very real power of prayer!) I learned over the years to trust him with the outcome of things that were so much bigger than I was. And I still do.

I read an article recently that left a long impression on me about forgiveness, “Forgiveness means we don’t ignore. We don’t excuse. But we do release the right of vengeance to God without pretending vengeance isn’t right” (True Woman, Haley Mullins, 9/4/18). God is just. He is judge. I take the wounds and hurts and offer them to him, to free my heart–because it is the wellspring of my life.

The Lord looked and was displeased
    to find there was no justice.
16 He was amazed to see that no one intervened
    to help the oppressed.
So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm,
    and his justice sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his body armor
    and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.
He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance
    and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.
18 He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds.
    His fury will fall on his foes.
    He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth.
19 In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord;
    in the east, they will glorify him.
For he will come like a raging flood tide
    driven by the breath of the Lord.

20 “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem
    to buy back those in Israel
who have turned from their sins,”
    says the Lord.

21 “And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Isaiah 59:15-21, NLT)

When I’m taking a walk, I notice the size of the trees, trees that seem so big when I stand beside them, but look so small compared to the backdrop of the heavens–and I am so much smaller, a young child is smaller still.

Oh, Lord, how is it you notice me? I am so grateful. That of everything under your watch, you see me and you care for my heart. You value truth and what is right, and it is worth fighting for. You give me hope. What a precious gift.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38-40; Psalm 68; 1 Corinthians 11

I remember watching an actress being interviewed, and she told a story of how her dad said that when life felt like it was too much, to go stand on the beach and look up and around, and she would see how small she and all the issues of her life really are. I imagined this woman, who had had success and fortune and a measure of pull, feeling overwhelmed, and that she needed to know somewhere in her soul that she was small. That she was held.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:26-31, NLT)

 

The issues in life sometimes feel consuming, pressing in from all sides, stealing peace, stealing rest, and I am reminded that the enemy prowls crouched to pounce–a thief to steal, kill and destroy. But my God is sovereign. When I feel defeated, he reminds me of his victory. When I feel weak and powerless, he will be my power and strength. When I trust in him, I will find new strength to soar, to run, to walk and not faint.

Lord, I feel your loving hand upon my face, turning my gaze to focus again and again on you. When I look too long at my problems, they get bigger. But when I remember who you are, things fall back into perspective. You created everything I see. You hold all time. You know my troubles. You know my heart. It is so good to know you and to be known by you. Grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 33-35; 1 Corinthians 6

He puts a song in my head, and the words crowd out the worry and hurt. I don’t always know all the lyrics, but when my heart starts to sing, my entire body follows–I walk taller; I look forward; my face softens; I smile.

I read first of Assyria and the betrayal and destruction. And later within the reading–hope.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
    It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
    It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;
    fools will never walk there.
Lions will not lurk along its course,
    nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers.
    Only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
    They will enter Jerusalem singing,
    crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
    and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:8-10, NLT)

The song catches my attention–after passages of betrayal, destruction, mourning, this song sings out, “Honor!”

In New Testament reading, Paul corrects his audience sternly:

If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers!

Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. (1 Corinthians 6:4-9, NLT)

Honor God. Honor others. Honor unity of the body of Christ.

Paul speaks against sexual sin, to honor God with the body.

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT)

I think long on honor.

Father God, would my thoughts show I belong to you? Would my actions declare I am yours? Stresses, conflict, loss, betrayal, they all (viciously) distract me along the journey, trying to consume my focus, but you bring me back to you with song and joy. Lord, help me to honor you with my whole being, my whole heart, my whole life.

Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven,
    he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
In that day he will be your sure foundation,
    providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
    The fear of the Lord will be your treasure. (Isaiah 33:5-6, NLT)

 

Courtney (66books365)

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