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Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

There are days the tasks I face are things like cutting the grass, doing the laundry, preparing school lessons. There are days the tasks I face are way harder–standing up under scrutiny and judgment, making decisions I never imagined I’d have to, pushing through circumstances that could truly change my heart.

These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had no experience in battle. These are the nations: the Philistines (those living under the five Philistine rulers), all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the mountains of Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to Lebo-hamath. These people were left to test the Israelites—to see whether they would obey the commands the Lord had given to their ancestors through Moses. (Judges 3:1-4, NLT)

In the midst of a battle for my heart, my faith, my words, my actions (in sum, my life), I’m thankful that Jesus is my Savior, my light, my teacher. I look to these words about battles and testing, and I want to cling tightly to my God.

Lord, you are my strength and fortress,
    my refuge in the day of trouble!
Nations from around the world
    will come to you and say,
“Our ancestors left us a foolish heritage,
    for they worshiped worthless idols.
20 Can people make their own gods?
    These are not real gods at all!”

21 The Lord says,
“Now I will show them my power;
    now I will show them my might.
At last they will know and understand
    that I am the Lord. (Jeremiah 16:19-21, NLT)

Stephen recounts a history of God’s faithfulness and direction. Lord, don’t let me be so distracted by an enemy or a battle or a faulty perception that I forget all that you are and all that you have done.

You forgive.

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5, NLT)

You heal.

10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Mark 2:10, NLT)

You lead.

14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2:14, NLT)

You provide.

 27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Mark 2:27, NLT)

You make all things new.

22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 18,19; Psalms 149,150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

A land promised and parceled. Psalms of praise! Praise! Clanging words like cymbals. Praise.

Eyes, a fountain of tears. Uncircumcised hearts.

“They do not know me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:3b, NLT.

I reach for the hands of a sister. I crave the embrace of a mother.

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12, NLT)

Lord, teach me. Guide me. My Father, my God, my Hope.

 23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Lord, you hear the cries of my heart. You delight in love and justice and righteousness. Be at work in our hearts.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Joshua 1; Psalms 120-122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

We just finished up the last of extracurricular activities last Sunday, and Monday–what felt like the first official day of summer vacation–I got my first back-to-school sale ad by email. Tuesday, the curriculum I ordered recently for the next school year arrived.

My couch has three pens, a blanket, at least five books at any given time, a notebook or two, and a pair of reading glasses strewn up on it when I’m not expecting company. One book I’m reading is Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (no affiliate link or paid endorsement, but definitely a good, short, rich read before the school year, and an encouragement in the middle). She reminds the reader that “rest is not ease” and that “peace comes from recognizing that our real task is to wake up each day and get our marching orders from God. It comes from diligence to the work He hands us, but diligence infused with faith, with resting in God’s promises to guide us and bless us” (Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching From Rest, Classical Academic Press, 2015, page 4).

Reading in Joshua, the Lord tells him:

“I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5b-9, NLT)

Joshua tells the tribes:

13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’ 14 Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River. But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory. Stay with them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has given you rest, and until they, too, possess the land the Lord your God is giving them. (Joshua 1:13-15, NLT)

I’m not physically conquering lands, but I am getting marching orders each day. Some days it has felt like a hustle, and I think on the words that rest is not ease. I find comfort, strength and encouragement in God’s word–of his presence and faithfulness, his trustworthiness and power.

The psalms:

I took my troubles to the Lord;
    I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. (Psalm 120:1, NLT)

And,

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. (Psalm 121:1-8, NLT)

The Lord, who comforts, who brings good out of bad, who restores and provides (Isaiah 61). My overwhelm turns from task to joy in the Lord my God.

Matthew 9:2b, NLT, Jesus speaks to the paralyzed man: “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” The man gets up from his mat and walks.

He calls to Matthew in Matthew 9:9b, NLT, “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

The woman who suffered twelve years: 22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:22, NLT)

Lord, your word is full of examples of your presence and power. Even when the day is full, I can find rest in you–that you are with me, you are sovereign, and you love me as your child.

Courtney (66books365)

 

Listening to Elevation Worship’s Here as in Heaven

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Deut. 29; Ps.119:49-72; Isa. 56; Matt. 4

Of course I know bad things happen. And being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt me from them. Yet, why am I still surprised by tragedy and heartache?

There were seasons of the sometimes-struggle: things in the Grand Scheme that shouldn’t have carried the weight they did. It didn’t surprise me when hate came from unbelievers. But it did when unkindness came from a believing friend. That one took me a surprisingly long time to get over. During that time, it was the closest I had ever felt to Jesus. Oh, Lord, who loves even the outcasts.

For the Sovereign Lord,
    who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
    besides my people Israel.” (Isaiah 56:8, NLT)

Another difficult season presented itself, and perseverance seemed impossible. I almost quit. In a snowy winter, being back in the woods, I was delightfully home-bound to hibernate and process and pray.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country— all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other alcoholic drink, but he provided for you so you would know that he is the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 29:2-6, NLT)

I prayed a lot that winter. Friends prayed for me and over me. I saw the battlefield. I learned that prayer is not a last defense. When God moved, I was stunned and speechless. I wondered why it surprised me so, when he is sovereign in everything.

This year I planned for balance and simplicity. My one word, restore. But winter brought loss after loss. A mother-in-law. A father. A sister’s (ongoing) health crisis. The loss of a friend. A niece. This heart, pummeled.

These months have felt like a persistent storm.

49 Remember your promise to me;
    it is my only hope.
50 Your promise revives me;
    it comforts me in all my troubles. (Psalm 119:49-50, NLT)

In this world, there will be trouble. There will be things that wound, that don’t seem right (because they aren’t!), that are brutal and senseless. There will be things that haunt and shame. The wounding doesn’t have to defeat me like it once did.

71 My suffering was good for me,
    for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
72 Your instructions are more valuable to me
    than millions in gold and silver. (Psalm 119:71-72)

When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted by Satan, Jesus responded to the enemy with clarity, “No, the scriptures say …”

I will still cry over losses. I will still wrestle with wounding. But God’s Spirit is inside of me. His Word strengthens and instructs me. Without him, the truth and trustworthiness of him, how would I hope?

Father God, because of who you are, your sovereignty and mighty power, I don’t need to rely on my own shaky hopes–I can stand confidently on your word. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 27-28:19; Psalm 119:1-24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

I read about his promises, his provision, his protection.

When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you—a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (Deuteronomy 27:2-3, NLT)

He shows the way. It is a path made by love, loving guidance and instruction.

Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
    when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me! (Psalm 119:1-8, NLT)

 

His word is truth.

14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”

23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:14-15, 17-18, 23, NLT)

Lord, you are the Father who delights in me. You comfort me in my distress. You strengthen me in my weakness. You make a path straight for me, so I can walk in joy. You protect me. You provide for me. Your promises are trustworthy. You are trustworthy. Your love never fails. By your love, you show me how to love. By your love, you show me how to live. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 22; Psalm 110 & 111; Isaiah 49; Revelation 19

Last week was one of those weeks where anything irritating that could happen, happened.  Looking back on them some are funny and most not that bad, but boy at the time I had had about enough.  Wonder how many of those “uggh I can’t believe it” moments were simply life playing out or tests of how patient I could be in the situations. Honestly I didn’t get a very good grade but with any luck through them I’m learning to be more wise.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111: 10 NASB).

This week we are using patience to help our oldest in a new situation.  She is going through a medical experience due to a genetic condition that God allowed her to have.  I begged God to spare our children but he said “no.”  He knows better than we do.  We firmly believe that dealing with this trial in her life will mature her and make her faith stronger, but it still hurts as parents.  Makes me daydream about the day Jesus returns to make all things new and takes all types of pain away.

And I saw Heaven opened and behold a white horse, and He who sat on it Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.  His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.  His is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty.  And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (rev. 19:11-16)

Lord, You are there through the trivial annoyances in life and also that difficult trials. May we become wiser as we learn to fear/know/love You more.  May we also look forward to the day when You’ll return to wipe every tear away and defeat all the darkness of this world.

Amen,

Kellie (gueston66books)

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Deuteronomy 20; Psalm 107; Isaiah 47; Revelation 17

Over the years, the enemy has looked different. Whether it has been wounding by many people or by one, a wandering or a circumstance–hardships come. I don’t say any of this lightly. Dreams are shattered. Hearts broken. Lives fractured. Lives lost. In all of it, I’ve learned to look for God as my savior, my hope, my strength. He has taken me from wounded to warrior.

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! When you prepare for battle, the priest must come forward to speak to the troops. He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’ Deuteronomy 20:1-4, NLT

Sometimes the warrior in me throws off the things that entangle with a fury force and roar. Sometimes the warrior in me just shows up and takes the next staggering step forward in faith. Sometimes the warrior in me calls out, “Lord, help!”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
    Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. Psalm 107:1-2, NLT

Desert wanderers, dry and parched. Prisoners of darkness and gloom. Fools in rebellion, starving when a feast is spread out before them. When life tosses and plunges to wit’s end–the Lord is near. Cry out.

He satisfies the thirsty. He breaks down prison gates. He sends out his word to heal. He calms the storm with a whisper and stills the waves.

33 He changes rivers into deserts,
    and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
    because of the wickedness of those who live there.
35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
    the dry land into springs of water.
36 He brings the hungry to settle there
    and to build their cities.
37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
    and harvest their bumper crops.
38 How he blesses them! Psalm 107:33-38a, NLT

His faithful love endures forever.

42 The godly will see these things and be glad,
    while the wicked are struck silent.
43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord. Psalm 107:42-43, NLT

Thank you, God, that you love this broken world so much that you sent your son to die for our sins, that we would not perish, but have everlasting life. Thank you for your faithfulness and nearness, for your unending love and power. Thank you for thinking of even me, to not leave me wounded or forsaken, but to hold me up in your righteousness. You call me daughter, and I can call you Father. In deep gratitude, I praise your name.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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