Tag Archives: Bible in a year

Ezekiel 27-30; James 1

James 1:9 tells us to “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation,…”

Some may interpret this Scripture as a political sentiment leaning to the left – saying something like this: the poor will be given the wealth that the rich will have to give up.  However, James does not indicate in this passage that this is so. In fact, the profit of the lowly (poor) brother is one of perseverance through experiencing difficult circumstances which has the effect of perfecting his character and faith (thus, exaltation). The same effect is wrought for the rich brother who can glory (count it all joy) when he learns through experience that his pursuits for money and his wealth will fade away, thus teaching him he should always trust in the Lord, not himself or his money.

To be sure, if you are poor you are looking for a way to get what you need and want. Then again, if you are rich you are looking for ways to get more of what you need and want. What is different for each of them, then? The difference is not between the desires of the rich and the poor but between the man who trusts in the Lord and the one who does not. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

There are many other such passages of Scripture that assure us that God cares for us and is with us in our time of need or plenty (Matthew 6:33, for example). There are just as many that speak about learning contentment in all circumstances (I Timothy 6:6-10 outlines godliness with contentment). So how does a Christian gain contentment at all times? The first rule of thumb is to remember in whose hands we are held. Jeremiah was given the task to remind God’s chosen people of this truth. In Jeremiah 18:1-6, [The Lord told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house.]  “The potter was making something at the wheel, and the vessel that he made was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the Lord said, “

‘…can I not do with you as this potter?’”

Now, I’ve never made pottery, but I am fascinated watching the potter work with clay and water, using his hands to build a base and shape an object, making adjustments or even starting over when the product collapses or tilts to the wrong side.  As long as the clay is wet and pliable, the potter continues to form and smooth the vessel until satisfied with the finished design. What an illustration of how God with expertise, patience, and purpose fashions us from the elements of this world into His chosen vessels capable of holding His Spirit to pour out His blessings.

Yes, it is hard to declare that there is purpose in going through trials when one is poor, and it even harder to say that a rich man should lose everything in order to learn godly contentment. (Hey, I’m just the messenger!) As Jeremiah lamented, “O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed,” Jeremiah 20:7 Yet, I, too am persuaded by this message that we all, rich or poor, should not trust in man but must trust only in the Lord our God.

Janet

From the archives. Originally published October 5, 2015.

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Ezekiel 1-2; Hebrews 6; Psalms 143, 144

The imagery in these scriptures stirs something in me. A call. A confirmation. An encouragement. A reminder. A focus.

Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you […] 6 Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don’t be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious! Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:1-3a, 6-8, NLT, emphasis added)

An enemy knows how to distract me, to take my focus off the Kingdom and busy it with fruitless concerns. God’s Word resets my focus (He stands me on my feet, a Father who is always willing and ready to provide guidance.).

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding … We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. 10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. 11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. (Hebrews 6:1a, 9b-12, NLT, emphasis added)

I think on His promises, and gasp at this image–hope guides:

18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:18-19, NLT, emphasis added)

Lord, this time in Your Word is precious to me.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
    for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
    for I give myself to you.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
    I run to you to hide me.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing
. (Psalm 143:8-10, NLT, emphasis added)

You go before me. You prepare tables for me. You prepare works in advance for me to do. Certainly You will equip me.

Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. (Psalm 144:1-2, NLT, emphasis added)

Rock, loving ally, fortress, safety, rescuer, shield, Father. I praise you!

Courtney (66books365)

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Hebrews 1; Psalms 67, 118

In Hebrews, I read of the Father’s love for the Son.

I read of His delight, generosity, pride and affirmation.

I read in Psalms of His love, and it is faithful and enduring.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 118:1, NLT).

I thank you, Lord, for your goodness, your faithfulness, your trustworthiness. When I read about your attributes, my heart finds safety and security.

I got a package in the mail yesterday from a friend who has a special way of showering joy like confetti upon her friends. Inside were gifts that she knew would delight–soft things, lovely things, cozy things, tied in bright pink ribbons. Even the mailing label sported her colorful, festive, telling way of celebrating people in her life.

When I opened God’s Word this week and looked over the scriptures for today, I saw love. I saw love on every page. And I saw the writers’ response of gratitude and praise in return. He is so very worth celebrating.

Father, you show me how to love and live. You model delight and joy and generosity. You model faithfulness and perseverance and unchanging, stable grace. I open your word and my heart finds your embrace. I am so grateful. Thank you for loving me.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 23, 25, 26; Titus 3

I have lived in this home for eight years. While I couldn’t tell you the exact reason or date that I forgot to get the trash cans to the curb, I can say that a neighbor noticed the break in my routine one week and called to check on me.

My kids and I have delivered goodies and cards on Christmas and Valentine’s Day to our nearest neighbors for many years. The year my dad died, his funeral was in early February, and I couldn’t get my head around baking cookies for our neighbors for Valentine’s Day–so much in my world was changing. I went to the mailbox one day to find a (gluten-free!) baking mix from a neighbor and a card that spoke love to me. She acknowledged how I cared for others and wanted to care for me. (She didn’t even know my dad had died. I guess she had just noticed my absence that season.)

These are just two gestures from my community that have gently comforted me and reminded me that the things (we) say and do really matter. People notice. They notice our habits. They notice our hearts. Every one of us has influence–in a neighborhood, in a family, in a friendship, in a work place, on a sports team, in a classroom, online, or even randomly out and about in the world.

As I read in Jeremiah, I reflect on stewardship.

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:1, NLT).

And:

“Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
    filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
    They do not speak for the Lord!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
    ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
    they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’ (Jeremiah 23:16b-17, NLT)

Jeremiah’s stance on obedience and truth made him a target in his community. An angry mob demanded his life.

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to the officials and the people in his own defense. “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The Lord gave me every word that I have spoken. 13 But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands—do with me as you think best. 15 But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard (Jeremiah 26:12-15, NLT).”

(Uriah also prophesied the same things as Jeremiah, and he was hunted down, captured and killed.)

Jeremiah (and Uriah) served the Lord. Jeremiah’s task intimidates me–the non-confrontational me. What will I do and who will I be when it comes to speaking truth and upholding values? I think long on the things that I value–when I am under pressure, do I trust God with the outcome? Even if I stand alone? (Below, Ahikam stands up for Jeremiah, and I am encouraged. And I remember the most unexpected times that the Lord has sent someone to stand with me in difficulties.)

24 Nevertheless, Ahikam son of Shaphan stood up for Jeremiah and persuaded the court not to turn him over to the mob to be killed (Jeremiah 26:24, NLT).

Lord, you have given me areas of influence and I want to honor you with my life, my words and my actions. Dear Lord, strengthen me in my weakness. Help me to speak truth over my fears.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12; 2 Timothy 2

New routines, new seasons, new challenges. A dear friend’s words to her child reach out from the years to encourage me now–to keep focused on the goal.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired,
    how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
    what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NLT)

Remember the why.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Focus. Obedience. (Diligence, reward.)

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus … 19 But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,”[b] and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”[c] (2 Timothy 2:15-17, 19, NLT)

I think long on purpose and Kingdom focus. Sideline skirmishes try to take my focus off the goal, words maim and discourage, and some obstacles seem like impenetrable blocks.

He reinforces, “Don’t give up.” Oh, if I stumble on the open ground, how will I ever traverse the thicket? He has spoken purpose in my heart and over my life.

21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT).

He points the way, in the distraction and in the storm.

Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2: 22b-26, NLT).

Lord, I lean on you for understanding. You are loving and wise and generous. You gently turn my focus and remind me: don’t forget the why.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35; 1 Timothy 3

In August, my family and I took a trip to Massachusetts to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. While we were there, we took a tour through Boston and spent a morning walking around Walden Pond. Just off the main trail was the location where writer Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin for two years. The cabin had been removed and pillars served as an outline where the cabin had once been. Off to a side there was an area of small rocks stacked one on another. I read earlier that visitors place a rock on the stack and it made me think of memorial monuments in the Old Testament.

On our ride back home, I listened to a movie (Wonder) the kids watched in the back seat. A quote struck me and I wrote it down: “Our deeds are our monuments.” I looked it up later to confirm it, and discovered this wasn’t a modern quote. It’s thousands of years old.

Both 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34 similarly remark of Josiah:

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 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 Chronicles 34:1-2, NLT).

In fact, during Josiah’s reign, he spent his time (effort and focus) tearing down false monuments to restore honor (in the land and in the people) to the Lord. He is remembered in scripture as being pleasing to the Lord and not turning away from doing what is right. (A successor son was remembered for doing evil.)

First Timothy 3 spells out characteristics, if not expectations, of a church leader: to be above reproach, faithful, self-controlled, wise, hospitable, gentle and not quarrelsome, and to manage his home; deacons are to be well respected, have integrity, honest, faithful, committed and with clear conscience ( 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. 1 Timothy 3:10a, NLT); a deacon’s wife “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do (1 Timothy 3:11, NLT).

Our deeds are our monuments, whether the physical act of destroying or building, or the spiritual side of integrity eternal. Do our deeds and words echo endlessly into eternity?

Lord, even recently you remind me to keep a Kingdom focus. It is so easy to become distracted by quarrels or catastrophe that take me off course or leave me stunned to stillness. I keep my eyes on the goal and the purpose. It is when I look too long in weakness or wounding that I lose time and ground. Forgetting what is behind and straining for what is ahead, help me to press on, to live a life that pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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

However Nabal acquired wealth, he died as a fool and is known as a fool. I once heard that money only magnifies who you already are–don’t be fooled into thinking that more money equates a generous heart. If one is selfish or self-centered, money will only make a person more so. And if one is generous and wise, money will magnify that as well. Abigail stands as an example of the latter. As Nabal’s wife, she benefits from the abundance, and she uses what he withheld to honor David and his troops–and to right the wrong her husband’s offense created.

Same situation, two responses: David and his men request hospitality. One man, from his abundance, rudely refuses (and then parties himself into a stupor). Another chooses to deliver the provisions herself, and humbly offers apology for her husband’s choice. She takes full responsibility.

She speaks these words to David, 2“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance (1 Samuel 25:29-31, NLT, emphasis mine).”

I have sometimes wondered if I had things to do over again, equipped with knowledge I have now, if I would have shown the same kindness. David also voices the sentiment: 2David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good (1 Samuel 25:21, NLT).” Abigail underscores a point worth remembering–it doesn’t affect my record what someone else does in response (to kindness, hospitality, honor, protection, generosity, service, etc.); only what I do will affect my record. Others can provoke responses that would blemish that record and burden a conscience, but ultimately, the choice is mine. I don’t have to give that kind of power over to someone. And when I don’t, I don’t have to carry an unnecessary weight. That Abigail is one smart woman. I like her.

Nabal’s selfishness certainly spoke of his heart and no amount of money or belongings had the power to turn him into a selfless person. Saul’s focused hunting of David speaks of Saul’s heart as well. David is not even sure of why he’s being so targeted.

And David replied, “Yes, my lord the king. 18 Why are you chasing me? What have I done? What is my crime? 19 But now let my lord the king listen to his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, then let him accept my offering. But if this is simply a human scheme, then may those involved be cursed by the Lord (1 Samuel 26:17b-19, NLT).”

This is a completely different scenario from that with Nabal. I’ve thought long on this chapter before, and today, new gleaning. David knows.

23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles (1 Samuel 26:23-24, NLT, emphasis mine).”

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he shares encouragement that I take to heart.

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).

Lord, I listen. You have been preparing me, coaching me, reminding me. You offer examples and offer a choice–you give me full permission to choose who I want to be and who I’ll follow. Every morning sunrise is a new day and a new choice. I lace up my shoes to run, and the parallel is not lost on me. I do it for an eternal prize. One that will never fade away. (Do our deeds and words echo endlessly in eternity?) Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely (Psalm 63:7-8, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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