Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

Micah 1-4; Psalm 10; Matthew 24

That very first sin, in the garden, they were faced with a choice. At first, it kinda looked like a choice between disobedience and obedience. Or maybe it was doubt over trust. Or maybe it was power over relationship. Maybe it was all of those things, but as I’ve thought on that this week, it was (insert the sin or desire) over relationship (in that case, with God).

I’ve watched that same thing play itself out in a variety of ways throughout my life. Popularity vs. relationship. Lust vs. relationship. Pride vs. relationship. Greed vs. relationship. Addiction vs. relationship.

Micah 1-4 is a list of accusation against a nation and their wickedness. Because they chose evil, unbelief, disobedience over relationship. Psalm 10 takes a look at a heart.

For they brag about their evil desires;
    they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

The wicked are too proud to seek God.
    They seem to think that God is dead.
Yet they succeed in everything they do.
    They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
    They sneer at all their enemies.
They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
    We will be free of trouble forever!”

Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues. (Psalm 10:3-7, NLT)

If you’ve ever been on the relationship side of being ditched, you know the sting of sin. But when it’s man vs. God, it’s man choosing an idol over God, and that idol goes by many names. It is temporary, powerless, empty.

Those choices can be defining, life altering, eternal.

 

Though the nations around us follow their idols,
    we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever. (Micah 4:5, NLT)

Every day, a choice.

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” (Matthew 24:1-2, NLT)

This life, this world, they are so very temporary.

Live kingdom focused.

45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:45-51, NLT).

Lord, the choices I make, the words I say, the actions I take, they tell a story, and whether intended or not, the story they tell will show my heart. But truly, importantly, I hope those choices show you–my strength in weakness, my hope in grief, my faith in what seems futile. You are just. You are sovereign.

Courtney (66books365)

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Hosea 11-13; Matthew 19

I think long on following Jesus. The verses today speak of following (and not following).

Precious God, a Father, and His tenderness. As a parent fondly remembering their youngest years and treasuring my own children, I read of His love:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
    the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
    and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel how to walk,
    leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
    that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
    with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
    and I myself stooped to feed him. (Hosea 11:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

In Matthew, the children come to Jesus, brought by their parents.

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. (Matthew 19:13-15, NLT)

A rich man searches for the kingdom’s entrance, and Jesus tells him:

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:21-24, NLT)

I read on. God makes the impossible possible. All of it. Everything. Everything is possible.

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. (Matthew 19:25-30, NLT)

Father God, you call me out of captivity, and from that freedom I have everything to gain–more than what I leave behind. When I read of your tender love, I am reminded of who I am in your sight because of Jesus. The things that hurt me hold me down like a heavy yoke–can’t I give it all up to follow you? I list it all like an inventory, and I give it to you, for your sake. Please help me to discern the things I should focus on, but first, You.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

9When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.

 10Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11The Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12Jesus heard the Pharisees ask this. So he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only the sick need a doctor. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13

In my reading today, I was intrigued Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, especially the words “faithful love”. Looking deeper, I learned that one of the definitions of the original Greek word eleos is “covenant loyalty”.

When Jesus said the phrase, “I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices…” He was referring to a passage in the prophecies of Hosea, that continues, “…I want people to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

From the beginning of the earth, God has always wanted relationship with His children. He demonstrated that with Adam, when He walked with him in the cool of the day. He demonstrated that all through the Old Testament, with His relationship with Abraham, Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and many more. And, through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, He reestablished the possibility of a face-to-face relationship with Heavenly Father through Holy Spirit.

 8I do not scold you for your sacrifices.

You always bring me your burnt offerings.

9But I do not need the bulls from your stalls

or the goats from your pens.

10Every animal of the forest is already mine.

The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.

11I know every bird on the mountains.

Every living thing in the fields is mine. Psalm 50:8-11

He didn’t need the animal sacrifices before Jesus came to the world, because those animals already belonged to Him. He accepted the sacrifices because the blood sacrifice was what temporarily allowed man to be close. Just like He didn’t need the temple to be repaired by King Joash and the priests and He didn’t need any of the new “stuff” bought by the received offerings.

What He wanted then and continues to yearn for today is for me, for all of His children, to seek His face, to desire to know Him, to walk in relationship with Him all the days of my life. It doesn’t matter that I have sinned, that I need(ed) a hospital. He has loved me in the midst of my sin and will forever invite me into His presence.

Yesappa, Thank You for wanting to be in relationship with me. Thank You for providing the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus that allows my sin to be forever washed in the blood. Thank you for loving me before I even knew Your name. Help me to know You better, to know Your heart, Your will, and Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

From the archives. Originally published July 27, 2016.

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2 Kings 2-3; Psalm 48; Matthew 4

The view outside of my front window is of one large shade garden. There are several gardens in our yard, and most of them now are dominated by weeds. Last year, losses and crises took my attention from home to urgent issues. And this year, I’ve had to examine areas of my life and focus small first to nurture things that have been neglected–the garden is certainly symbolic of that.

This morning, I head out to the big garden with gloves and clippers to try to take back what two growing seasons have taken over. I read in 2 Kings 3 of armies in the wilderness: “The king of Edom and his troops joined them, and all three armies traveled along a roundabout route through the wilderness for seven days. But there was no water for the men or their animals (2 Kings 3:9, NLT).

They called on Elisha who explained, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! 17 You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. 18 But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! 19 You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.”

20 The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere (2 Kings 3:16-20, NLT).

In Matthew, Jesus is tempted by Satan–to satisfy himself, to prove himself, to exalt himself. Jesus responds to each offer with scripture. I think on this now, because whether it’s temptation (to take things into my own hands, to prove myself, to be in charge) or accusation, an enemy’s motives always reveal an intention to kill, steal, or destroy. It could be the unseen things like peace or faith, or it could be very visible–relationships, possessions, jobs … even gardens.

Dawn breaks. I won’t get to all the garden spaces today, but I ready myself to tackle both the unseen and the visible. I think long on scriptures I know that tell of who God is, and remind me of who I am because of Him, in Him.

13 Take note of the fortified walls,
    and tour all the citadels,
that you may describe them
    to future generations.
14 For that is what God is like.
    He is our God forever and ever,
    and he will guide us until we die. (Psalm 48:13-14, NLT)

Lord, an enemy is bent on stealing and destroying–and already so much is wounded or broken by lies, grief, evil. When I look at the destruction, I linger in the loss and am weak. Lord, I look to you, to what you can do, to the valley you will fill with water.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 15-16; 1 Kings 16; Philemon

I didn’t see it coming. As Asa’s story unfolded, I felt bolstered by the prophet’s words: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him,” and “be strong and courageous” (2 Chronicles 15). Asa heard and took courage. He removed idols, repaired an altar, and called together the people. There were covenants made and sacrifices offered. Asa’s heart remained faithful throughout his life (2 Chronicles 15:17b, NLT. Note this.).

So I didn’t see it coming, when in 2 Chronicles 16, he would overlook consulting the Lord, a decision that carried crucial consequences. His first thirty-five years of reign were marked by an intentional abiding, but the last years of leadership are an unraveling of sorts–misplaced trust, anger and oppression.

What happened?

***

While disappointing to read, was it a surprise that Israel’s leaders were evil and angered the Lord time after time?

25 But Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 26 He followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat in all the sins he had committed and led Israel to commit. The people provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. (1 Kings 16:25-26, NLT)

I think long on examples. I consider influences in my lifetime (some influenced me not to follow them!). But how often do I take into consideration my own words and actions and the influence they have on those around me?

***

I’ve spent the past few days working on a baby’s knit hat, and I’ve started it over so many times I’ve lost count. I noticed that sometimes the row was a stitch or two longer than it should have been, or that I dropped a stitch accidentally and there was a big hole in it. These mistakes weren’t made on purpose. They were so very unintentional.

***

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Paul writes to Philemon, reminding him of his generosity and love–and to take it a step further (to extend grace, forgiveness, or welcome to someone who has wronged him).

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 17-21, NLT)

Paul’s letter to Philemon reads like encouragement and caution.

***

I’m not responsible for the decisions other people make–and lately I’ve been surprised at how someone’s choice can influence my response. I do pause and wonder: should it? Like Philemon, if someone has wronged me, should I be less loving or generous in my own behaviors, or like Paul suggests–to do as much or more than expected? Do I stay true to how God has wired me? If I’m not intentional, abiding in Christ, I could look back at the fabric of the story of my life and see holes and wonder, “What happened?”

Lord, I’m so imperfect, but I know that you are at work in my heart. Help me to be true to who you’ve created me to be, independent of how another behaves. Some days effort seems grossly out of proportion to return. I am humbled and saddened as I wonder over the question of what’s in it for me? I pray that I continue strong, even in seasons of drought, because it pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ecclesiastes 7-9; Psalm 46; 2 Timothy 3

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. My family and I had a quiet day at home. But I was acutely aware of past celebrations: swimming, cookouts, a bonfire. As I walked around the yard, I stopped and remembered–Alan stoking a fire (that was the summer he was diagnosed with cancer; he died almost two years later); Linda and her wide-brimmed hat (disease took her away from us last year); another family staying later, wrapped in blankets as the evening cooled dramatically; Denise holding up a flag and smiling for the camera. Some of these, years ago but the memories felt fresh yesterday.

***

I think of her as The One Who Loves Me. She has called me lately to share her heart, thoughts, and fears. She has a heart catheter procedure scheduled tomorrow. She tells me the things she needs to say, just in case. She will call me again today, and she will tell me those things again, and I will do my best not to cry at the implication.

The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-6, NLT)

While he was alive, and especially after his death, my father’s life caused me to think long on legacy. Paul’s printed words affect the future, but at the time, he was writing to Timothy. The words were to him.

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. (2 Timothy 3:10-11a, NLT)

While we are here, we are known by those around us. Influence, example, purpose–these things speak of us and for us. I know the things I value, but does my life reflect them?

Thank you, Lord, for your word in my hands and heart. I want to be true to the person you designed me to be, to live this life to glorify you. You put songs and delight in my heart. Help me to live this life well.

Courtney (66books365)

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne! … 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8, 10, NLT)

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2 Chronicles 5-7; Psalm 121; 1 Timothy 4

One thing I know about cultivating a new habit is that it takes intention. I didn’t become a runner by getting off the couch and lacing up my shoes. In fact, my first day out, I barely rounded the bend of my driveway. The second day out, I might have made it twenty-five feet farther. The third day out, I made it to the top of the driveway. I had to plan on it. I had to get out and do it. I had to push myself. I still have to push myself, but my distance, thankfully, is farther than the top of my driveway.

But what credit is it to run but be weak in areas of eternal matter?

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:8-10, NLT)

Paul encourages Timothy to be an example “in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:b, NLT)” Aren’t we all an example to someone? A coworker. A neighbor. A stranger. A friend. A family member. An enemy.

When I think of the end of my time, some of the goals I’ve set may not hold entirely great significance–the daily run in itself is conditioning for my body, works on discipline and self-control–good things, yes. But what if I did not live a life true to the person God made me to be? What if I neglected the gifts?

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16, NLT)

Father God, I am thankful to you that you hear my prayers. You are quick to forgive. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank you for watching over my life, Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you for loving me so well. I offer my life song to you in praise.

Courtney (66books365)

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