Tag Archives: 66 books in a year

Joel 1-3; 1 Thess. 3

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV

In our reading today there is a huge contrast. In Joel we read about the hardship that the Lord’s people were experiencing. Joel called Judah to repent and cry out to God for salvation. The Lord responded with compassion and saved them and their land and cattle. Then the Lord called them to war.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul was so encouraged to hear about the faith of the Thessalonians and their consistent belief in Jesus. He encouraged them to continue and to increase their love for each other and everyone else. Paul asked the Lord to increase their love.

I have to be honest and say I have always struggled with the contrast between The Old Testament and The New Testament. I have taken classes and understand the cultural conditions that existed during each time. I have taken many classes and read many books about theology. However, I still cannot understand the contrast between the God that calls for war and the God that calls for peace and love.

So what do we do? I have learned from a mentor that I don’t force an answer where there is not a clear one. I wait. I wait for wise council, I wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading and and I wait for confirmation. Currently, in my life, I have been led by the Spirit to love and not turn the shovel in my garage into a sword. I don’t give answers I don’t have. I will answer, “I don’t know.”

So friends, as we wait for the Lord’s return… as week seek to follow the Lord’s leading… as we share the “good news” that has changed our lives, let us also be comfortable in the spaces of contrast and unknown.

Dear God, I pray as Paul did that you would strengthen our hearts so that they would be blameless and holy in your presence. Allow us to be confident in who You are even in the unknown. May we sense your nearness and love because You first loved us. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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2 Kings 9-10; 2 Chronicles 21; 1 Thessalonians 1

A young prophet was given instructions for an important task–to deliver a message and run (for his life!).

So Jehu left the others and went into the house. Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the Lord’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the Lord’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her.” Then the young prophet opened the door and ran (2 Kings 9:6-10, NLT).

Jehu was tasked with an important role the Lord had appointed, and to fulfill the words the Lord commanded, an instrument in the Lord’s vengeance. The suspense builds as troops approach.

Then King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah rode out in their chariots to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of land that had belonged to Naboth of Jezreel. 22 King Joram demanded, “Do you come in peace, Jehu?”

Jehu replied, “How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us? (2 Kings 9:21-22, NLT, emphasis mine)”

Jehu was obedient to the Lord’s command as I read of the ensuing bloodbath and destruction. However:

28 In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin.

30 Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” 31 But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit (2 Kings 10:28-31, NLT).

Destroying the gold calves would have been the easiest of all the things he had to do. Why did he destroy every trace of Baal worship but not these? How did he justify salvaging the golden calves? Was it easier to see idolatry in someone else than it was to recognize it in himself? It seems possible that one can love and serve the Lord, but not with all his heart. Oh, how can there be peace as long as idolatry is around?

Jehu had a story of purpose and might, a story punctuated with a pivotal however. In 2 Chronicles 21, Jehoram is designated successor king because he’s the oldest, kills off his brothers and marries one of Ahab’s daughters. He’s also known for doing evil in the Lord’s sight. When Jehoram dies a miserable death, no one mourns him and he is not buried in the royal cemetery. Jehoram’s story speaks of his heart, focus and desire.

In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul writes of a people’s reputation:

And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9, NLT).

Not only did they turn away from idols to serve the living and true God, but they kept their focus on His kingdom and eagerly awaited his return.

Lord, show me places of my heart that I haven’t given you. Remind me when my focus strays.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 19-21; 2 Chronicles 17; Matthew 24

I listened to a podcast where the host remembered an interview with a businessman about priorities, and he said that taking care of health was the single most important thing one could do for his business. I wonder if business classes teach the importance of self care?

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:3-13, NLT)”

I looked up an image of a broom tree, and imagined Elijah there. I emphasized words in this reading that resonated with me–about feeling afraid and alone, weary and despaired. Stress and worry and hustle are killers, consuming from the inside out.

Rest, nutrition, finding quiet before the mountain amidst the storm and chaos, listening for the Lord–are these things so seemingly simple that they get neglected in the flurry and fury of flight/fight mode? These things have become the top of my tending list, not an afterthought behind a lengthy to-do, and not my last resort when I have exhausted myself. Not anymore.

Father God, I am so grateful for your tender care. Your Word often reminds me of your sovereignty and strength–especially when I feel so small and insignificant. Thank you for meeting me daily in my walks. You are my source of life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Song of Solomon 7-8; 1 Kings 12

I think on key themes: influence, leadership, power. But there’s more: fear, insecurity, desperation, intimidation. At the core of all, it’s heart.

Rehoboam seeks counsel over a situation and is offered two different pieces of advice. He is influenced by his peers, but on a deeper level, there’s more.

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions! (1 Kings 12:12, NLT, emphasis added)”

It speak of his heart. These scriptures also glimpse the spiritual realm.

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh (1 Kings 12:15, NLT, emphasis added).

And this:

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’” So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded (1 Kings 12:24, NLT, emphasis added).

Jeroboam battles fear and insecurity in his heart. He feels his safety and very life are on the line.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

In the meanwhile, his actions may temporarily protect his physical body, but his spirit has trespassed into unsafe territory.

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,“It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:26-28, NLT, emphasis added)”

When I feel afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed; when I need direction and wisdom; when I feel alone or targeted–I recognize these are moments when my heart is vulnerable. The advice I seek or follow can lead me closer to God or farther away. If I keep my eyes focused on what’s in front of me, I risk reacting from a worldly perspective of here and now–but if I lift my eyes, I see a kingdom and an eternity–and that, indeed, changes everything.

Lord, I pray that I would keep your kingdom my focus. I recognize the things that poke and stoke my heart can be distractions and stumbling blocks. I realize too that these distractions and stumbling blocks provoke a reaction that reveals my heart. Oh that these occasions would provide cleansing and healing, to draw me closer to you and not distance me from you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ecclesiastes 3-5; Psalm 45; Matthew 15

I think of the scraps that fell from the table: could meager remnants become a feast? I sat on a bench one year and considered the crumbs and thought of this woman in Matthew 15 and her perspective.

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table. (Matthew 15:24-27, NLT)”

She taught me something profound that day about my own heart. About contentment. About gratitude. About the Lord. About enough.

The Pharisees had their expectations of what life would look like, and how purity would be recognized, and a protocol for how things would be done. I think on how my own expectations, perceptions, and protocol have kept me sour, hurt, angry, or disappointed.

Ecclesiastes marks time like seasons for war and peace, tearing and mending, silence and speech. Couldn’t it show on the calendar? On (this day), you will cry. You will grieve. But in a few turns of the calendar pages, you will laugh. You will dance. Would the wait feel long?

Here, I linger:

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, NLT).

The injustices of life. The advantages of companionship. The futility of power and wealth. The importance of integrity. Read slowly. Everything, beautiful. Even in the becoming, beauty, in the wait. A scope of His work.

17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past (Ecclesiastes 5:17-20, NLT, emphasis added).

I did a quarterly evaluation in areas of my life from 1-10: work, health, friendships, etc. Goal books and podcasts preach a level-10 life. What would it look like, I wondered. And slowly I realized–I was already there. I have all I need. And maybe living out level 10 didn’t mean what I was making it (nebulous as it was). Maybe it didn’t look like anyone else’s vision of ten. Maybe, in some cases, it had to do with letting go of hurts and expectations, with looking forward and sowing into a future than looking back and carrying past burdens. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from exceptions and restrictions and expectations I placed upon things, a schedule I overbooked, a relationship I overestimated. For community that was never going to be what I hoped it could be. For the friend who never agreed to be who I needed her to be. What if I let go of my own restrictions, instead of wrestling with a past I couldn’t change, and people I wished who would? Seems like chasing the wind.

Lord, thank you for meeting me that day on the bench, bringing that woman’s story to mind. Thank you today for reminding me of the scope of your story. Thank you for gifts from you: good things from you, and the health to enjoy them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Proverbs 16-19; Matthew 10

He had the power to heal and restore and raise. Loving Jesus. When Satan tempted him in the wilderness, he resisted the challenge to prove or grasp at anything, but stood upon God’s Word. Wise Jesus. When he was accused and arrested and condemned to death, he didn’t raise a sword; he didn’t argue his defense; the image of him beaten and bloody, carrying his cross in front of an audience, being nailed upon it, left to die–the mockers crying out to him, “Can’t even save yourself!” He seemed broken, weak, defeated. But here, he fought a battle no one understood. Humble Jesus. Warrior Jesus. Savior.

34 Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT, emphasis added).

In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares the disciples to send them out–I sit at his feet and listen in: Do the work (Mt 10:8); Shake it off and move on (Mt 10:14); Beware (Mt 10:17).

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT, emphasis added).

Things are more than what they seem. Lord, I pray for kingdom focus, wisdom and guidance.

20 Get all the advice and instruction you can,
    so you will be wise the rest of your life.

21 You can make many plans,
    but the Lord’s purpose will prevail (Proverbs 19:20, 21, NLT).

Grateful your purpose will prevail, always.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9; Matthew 5

Solomon had it all–he was powerful, wealthy, intelligent. The Queen of Sheba pays him a visit, and she is wowed by all she sees–all that she’s heard about Solomon is true. But despite all that, he was living in a deficit, a weakness and drain he either didn’t seem to notice or didn’t take seriously.

The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.

The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command (1 Kings 11:2-4, 9-10, NLT, emphasis added).

Solomon was a very smart man, but how did he get this so wrong? His father was DAVID. Maybe he didn’t think some rules applied to him. Maybe he didn’t really consider the consequences of his actions–it was in the name of love after all.

Self, take warning. Guard your heart. What places in my life have I not taken seriously that the Lord wants me to guard and submit to him?

In the New Testament reading, Jesus has a lot to say about the law, anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. Actions are birthed from thought, and thought provokes a choice.

28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28, NLT).

He knows the power of the heart. He knows how small choices of disobedience can take one so far off course, leading away from God instead of closer to Him.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless (Matthew 5:13, NLT).”

God has always given people choice. And thankfully, with that choice, He has also given guidance and warning because He is a loving father. The warning He gave to Israel was for the nation and for the individual. Jesus speaks to the body of believers: A word not just for a time, but for all time; a word not just for a body but every body.

Lord, I’m thankful for how much you love me. You are a father who loves and leads. I don’t want to take your word as a broad guideline for mankind, but as a tender counsel for my very heart.

Courtney (66books365)

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