Tag Archives: Bible in a year

1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

A great responsibility comes with choice. And I wonder how many people consider the cumulative or immediate consequences of a choice–from decisions over meals, activity, deadlines, to the influence of entertainment, relationships, culture.

Today, I read of Samuel plainly speaking, warning of the results of a choice:

10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. (1 Samuel 8:10-22, NLT, emphasis added)

Even though Samuel warned what it meant to have a king rule over them, the people wanted to be like everyone else; and they wanted one man to judge them and lead them. Those were the defining arguing points they made, over everything else they’d perhaps forfeit. And God said to let them have it.

I think long on freedom and choice, grateful and reverent of it.

As I read through Stephen’s recounting of history, two things stand out: man’s choice and God’s presence. Stephen reminds of God’s leading and man’s response, sometimes obedient and sometimes not.

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:51-54, 57-58, NLT, emphasis added)

I wonder, Lord, does choice always come down to choosing or rejecting you? From what I eat for lunch, what I listen to, how I handle conflict, what I say between friends–where do I put you in all of this, even these seeming inconsequential things? And what of mercy, compassion, forgiveness?

Father God, thank you for choice and freedom. These are perhaps the most powerful permissions you have given mankind. Help me to be aware of my heart in the choices I make. I want to choose you. I want to follow you. Stephen’s last words were for mercy for his attackers. Lord, help me to keep your kingdom as my focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 19-21; Acts 2

Recently a friend and I sat in somber reflection at the power of influence. Influence can be an unintentional bump, a gentle nudge, or a fierce force sending one in a direction or on a path, for better or worse. And when influence gathers a following, it is its own entity.

There’s a sense of foreboding when a couple rests at the town square.

18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”

20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” (Judges 19:18-20, NLT)

While they were dining as guests in the old man’s house …

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.” (Judges 19:22, NLT)

I pause at this crowd. Would one man have acted this way on his own? To be so bold as to make demands and intimidate? Would two men have done this? But one’s idea catches fire to a crowd, and they arrive at this place and collectively terrorize a victim–the concubine.

27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.

29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.

30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” (Judges 19:27-30, NLT)

Not succumbing to poor influences is a starting point, and it may keep one out of the mix. But this seizes me: everyone who saw it (admitted it was a horrible crime, recognized it for the abuse it was, was aware of the oppressive force) … who’s going to speak up?

I can take those words and apply them today to any number of things: from bullying, domestic issues, and social ostracizing to violence, injustice, or oppression.

I contrast this with the fire of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the group in Acts 2. A group is witness to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and still, they write it off to something they can understand instead of seeing it for divine truth in action.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” (Acts 2:13, NLT)

Another crowd. Ridicule. But there are some who see the truth, and their hearts are pierced.

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:37-40, NLT)

Father God, the Holy Spirit is a gift, a promise. Help me to heed your counsel. Whether one-to-one or in a group, please give me wisdom and courage to do what is right and honor you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 9-13; Luke 16

I imagine the energy, the confidence, the awe of Old Testament days–from walking with God in the garden, to experiencing God’s might through the plagues, to walking through parted waters. I imagine the rush of knowing that if God said he’d deliver, he would do it–a soaring hope, a battle cry. How could one doubt God’s majesty in the midst of all that?

I think of the disciples and wonder how it must have felt to walk with Jesus. The miracles they saw. The lessons they learned. The healing they witnessed. Wouldn’t that have been so convincing–and for many it was.

Jesus speaks:

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31, NLT)

I’m reading through a roundabout recommendation Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey that has completely flipped my perspective, just halfway through.

Today, I mentally stand on a battlefield watching Joshua and the Israelites in Joshua 9-13, and great emotion wells within me. God was with them.

I read through Luke 16 and Jesus’s story of the rich man and Lazarus–Jesus, God with them.

It’s easy to think that faith would be firm and resolute if one had witnessed Old Testament presence or New Testament flesh. But I have at my disposal the very word of God. I read those words of a long-ago time. I am comforted by the Lord. I am surprised by the Lord. I am reminded of his very real presence. I hold tightly to truth.

14 So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. (Joshua 9:14, NLT)

Lord, when the world displays its evidence before me, may I consult you first and always.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 4-5; Luke 6

For my relationship with him; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with others–his commands are meant for good.

29 Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. (Deuteronomy 5:29, NLT)

When Jesus walked this world, some observed with suspicion, outrage, hate. Others saw hope.

18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. (Luke 6:18-19, NLT)

In Luke 6, I read the beatitudes, the sorrows foretold, love for enemies, judgment, fruitfulness, building on a solid foundation. These words are meant for good–for my relationship with others; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with him.

Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him. Wouldn’t my arms reach for him too? And I have these words he said, here in front of me. As I read them, he is telling me so plainly how to live. How to love. How to serve.

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49, NLT)

When opinions, attitudes, pressures, and personalities clash, Lord, help me to see past the immediate to the eternal. You give me counsel for my good and your glory. Help me to keep perspective. Help me to remember. Help me to obey. I am so grateful for this time with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 22-25; Luke 1

“Here I am, Lord.” I’ve read this response throughout the Bible and have felt strengthened and hopeful. I have wondered if I found myself in a circumstance that the Lord would call my name, would I too reply, “Here I am, Lord”? The reading today makes me think on that.

An angel of the Lord appears to people in these chapters, and their responses cause me to pause.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.

32 “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.”

34 Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.”

35 But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials. (Numbers 22:31-35, NLT)

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (Luke 1:11-20, NLT)

And this:

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38, NLT)

Oh, Lord, when your spirit instructs me, help me to hear and be obedient. It’s one thing to read a story of how God moves in someone’s life and to want to be part of something like that, wondering how I’d respond in that moment. But how do I respond when God asks of me today? Am I looking for him throughout my day? Have I become desensitized to his voice because of my own thoughts and concerns? Lord, help me to hear. Help me to see.

Courtney (66books365)

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