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2 Samuel 9-10; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Psalm 89; Acts 26

12One time the leading priests gave me permission and the power to go to Damascus. 13On the way there, at noon, I saw a light from heaven. The light was brighter than the sun. It flashed all around me and the men who were traveling with me. 14We all fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice speaking to me in the Jewish language. The voice said, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you doing things against me? You are only hurting yourself by fighting me.’ 15I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord said, ‘I am Jesus. I am the One you are trying to hurt. 16Stand up! I have chosen you to be my servant. You will be my witness—you will tell people the things that you have seen and the things that I will show you. This is why I have come to you today. 17I will not let your own people hurt you. And I will keep you safe from the non-Jewish people too. These are the people I am sending you to. 18I send you to open their eyes that they may turn away from darkness to the light. I send you that they may turn away from the power of Satan and turn to God. Then their sins can be forgiven and they can have a place with those people who have been made holy by believing in me.’

19“King Agrippa, after I had this vision from heaven, I obeyed it. 20I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God. I told them to do things to show that they really had changed. I told this first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and in every part of Judea, and also to the non-Jewish people. 21This is why the Jews took me and were trying to kill me in the Temple. 22But God helped me and is still helping me today. With God’s help I am standing here today and telling all people what I have seen. But I am saying nothing new. I am saying what Moses and the prophets said would happen. 23They said that the Christ would die and be the first to rise from death. They said that the Christ would bring light to the Jewish and non-Jewish people.” Acts 26: 12-23 (ICB)

Paul’s testimony is one of the most famous conversion stories in the Christian faith and literally a case laid out in his own defense to Agrippa.

This is who I was…this is what God did in my life…this is who I am today…

Sharing the testimonies of my life isn’t about attention seeking or getting in my fifteen minutes of fame. Testimonies are about giving glory to God for the ways He moves in my life. Testimonies are stories of encouragement; me sharing about the struggles I have faced and how God is bringing me through. They are stories of miracles. They are stories of awe and worship, a reminder of God’s goodness and why He is worth of praise.

From beginning to end, the Bible is chock-full of the testimonies of men and women who were chosen and raised up by God to accomplish great things in His Kingdom – Moses, Noah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, John, Peter, Paul, and of course Jesus, to name small handful.

1I will always sing about the Lord’s love.

I will tell of his loyalty from now on.

2I will say, “Your love continues forever.

Your loyalty goes on and on like the sky.” Psalm 89:1-2 (ICB)

And, David wrote song after song in praise of God, sharing testimonies of his journey from a young man slaying a giant to battle after battle won as a victory of the Lord.

The Bible reminds me that God will never leave me nor forsake me, but when I have moments of weakness, I sometimes forget that truth, and instead, listen to the lies of the enemy. Then I hear someone’s story of what God did for them, or I recognize through my own fog that He has done something surprising for me. A testimony is shared and I once more hold onto the truth that God is good and greatly to be praised, my countenance is lifted, and hope returns to my heart.

Yesappa, Thank You for making me a part of your story, for giving me testimonies to share as encouragement to myself and for others. May my life demonstrate Your goodness, Your love, Your provision, Your sacrifice to those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

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

1 Samuel 23-24; 1 Chronicles 6; Psalm 54; Acts 16

15David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph. He was afraid because Saul was coming to kill him. 16But Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh. He helped David have stronger faith in God. 17Jonathan told him, “Don’t be afraid. My father won’t touch you. You will become king of Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” 18The two of them made an agreement before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home. But David stayed at Horesh. 1 Samuel 23:15-18 (ICB)

Godly friendships help me have stronger faith in God.

Humans were created for relationship, companionship. We were created to interact, connect. We were designed to offer strength and encouragement in moments of others’ weaknesses and receive the same when weakened.

When David was struggling, pursued by a king who wanted him dead, his friend Jonathon stepped in to bolster David’s faith – faith that he’d been called, that he’d become the king as anointed, that he wouldn’t be slain by Saul. He encouraged him with the truth to continue on in the journey that had been set before him with courage and strength and without doubts to sway him.

When I am feeling beat down by life, doubting my worth, wondering if anyone, even God, cares about my struggles, I am blessed to have people in my life who pour into me, who find the gold buried deep within my self. I am blessed to have people who encourage me and lift me up when I can barely stand on my own two feet. I am blessed to have people who can see the truth when I am blinded by the lies. I am blessed with kind words, gentle hugs, meaningful gifts, servant hearts, a meal, a conversation over a cup of coffee, and so on.

I’m not sure how I could survive this journey without the amazing people who have been put in my life by the God who created me. I am not sure how I’d make it through motherhood without the Titus 2 women who are walking this journey alongside of me. I am grateful for the friends I’ve had for a few short days and the friends I’ve know for 30 years or more. I am grateful for the friends I have who are like Jonathon and strengthen my faith in God.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my friend forever and thank You for placing godly people in my life to walk alongside me in my journey whether fora  season or for a lifetime. Help me also be like Jonathon to the people around me. Help me be an encouragement to those who are struggling, that I may in turn help their faith in you to grow stronger. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

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

Hosea 12-14; Revelation 3

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.                  Revelation 3:11-12.

It’s a very thin space between life and death, the finite and the infinite. Although Scriptures were written thousands of years ago, when today is placed adjacent to eternity, they might as well have been written yesterday. Anyone who experiences the loss of a loved one knows the thin, yet severe space that separates this life from the next. We press our ears against that wall and long to hear the heartbeat of our creator God and have his presence calm our aching hearts. We long for the day when all that is broken will be restored. Minutes become hours become days become years. Heartfelt longings persist and continue to remind us that this world is not our home.

Last weekend, I got a sense of that in a way I had not expected. I returned to my former home of twenty-five plus years. I had no idea that a place could have such a hold on me. As I drove along familiar country roads, my body remembered every curve, dip and rise of the hills. Years of driving these roads had worked an anticipation of the next view deep within: distant mountains, fields of frozen cornstalks, herds of dairy cows, creeks and woods. A bittersweet ache took hold of my heart. I was home and yet I was not.

Jesus understands our weary hunger for restoration, for home. He asks that we seize hold of what he has promised and not let go. When the pain is great, he reminds us that he is not far away. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He came to rescue the broken and exiled and bring us to the place of belonging, the city of God. This new Jerusalem is as real and firmer than the world we know today. Our yearning for home and knowing its reality can give us strength for today. By his loving grace, may God make us his people of hope.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Numbers 31,32,33; Luke 1:39-56

The warriors, 1,00o from each tribe of Israel, took the territory of five kings. They were obedient to God and inherited the land He promised. They gave God a portion of all plunder. Even the military leaders gave beyond that, gave gold jewelry acquired, boasting testimony of the Lord, not a life lost of the 12,000 .

Obedience. On paper, a few paragraphs. But then: war. These men fought and killed–so there was adrenaline, testosterone, sweat and fury. We see obedience to God = receiving His promise. But they worked the equation weapon to weapon. Obedience in action is active, not passive.

Moses reminds the people where disobedience got them: a forty-year journey in the wilderness.

 6 “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben. 7 “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the LORD has given them? 8 Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land. 9 After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the LORD was giving them. 10 Then the LORD was very angry with them, and he vowed, 11 ‘Of all those I rescued from Egypt, no one who is twenty years old or older will ever see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they have not obeyed me wholeheartedly. 12 The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the LORD.’ Numbers 32:6-12 (NLT).

I read the stops they’d made after leaving Egypt. And I considered the stops in my life that made a journey longer because of disobedience, or passivity. God is patient. He holds time. He knows, too, when my heart is in it.

Another book, another chapter, Elizabeth says to Mary, “You are blessed because you you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:45 (NLT).

Mary replies, soul praising and spirit rejoicing.

Father, praying today that I would be obedient to your command, wholeheartedly, to love–even and especially in the trenches of trial. I hope that my life is always one of soul praising and spirit rejoicing at how faithful and good You are.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Luke, New Testament, Numbers, Old Testament