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2 Samuel 1-2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 96, 106; Acts 21

26 Abner shouted down to Joab, “Must we always be killing each other? Don’t you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?” (2 Samuel 2:26, NLT)

I’ve drastically cut back visits to Facebook this year. When my own concerns are enough to manage, it felt undermining to go online and hear the seemingly unfiltered and raw (sometimes harsh and hateful) thoughts of people I know. I imagine the bloodshed of words hitting heart marks.

I guard my heart. I spend more time with my face in books about puppies, purpose, and boundaries. I read devotionals and encouragement and listen to podcasts to renew my mind and fill my heart with God’s Word. I need him.

David is king, a high point in his life, I’m sure. I read the names of his mightiest warriors. There’s one name that stands out in the long list:

41 Uriah the Hittite; (1 Chronicles 11:41, NLT)

Right now (or rather, then), Uriah lives and fights. But I know what happens later–a king will sin and there will be casualties and consequences. I read his name with knowing and a heavy heart. Must we always be killing each other?

A mob of voices. An angry crowd. A great riot. Accusations and threats.

30 The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul.

33 Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 34 Some shouted one thing and some another. Since he couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, he ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress. 35 As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. 36 And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!” (Acts 21:30-36, NLT)

Must we always be killing each other? Oh, if the mob could hear themselves, if they could see their hearts. Some didn’t know the reason for their attack–shouting one thing, then another–but their hateful intention was clear, “Kill him!”

Lord, I want to keep close to you. Help me to guard my heart and keep my eyes on you. Words and actions are such a window into the condition of a heart. Renew my mind, Lord. Soften my heart. Let no bitterness grow here.

Courtney (66books365)

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

1 Samuel 26-27; 1 Chronicles 8; Acts 18

Am I the only one who stood in awe with David and Abishai in the circle of Saul’s army? Saul and Abner asleep at the feet, surrounded by soldiers in a protective circle, and David, Abishai (and us!) with an bull’s eye view.

I find it hard to think I could live so boldly. David, who first cuts the hem of Saul’s robe (just last week’s reading), now removes the spear near him and takes Saul’s jug of water.

12 So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep. (1 Samuel 26:12, NLT)

David had a history of listening for the Lord and a repeated reliance on His protection and provision. From field to front line, his faith and trust in the Lord grew.

Paul met his share of opposition.

Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:4-6, NLT)

Insults and opposition would only be the start of his mission in ministry, but he is obedient.

Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. (Acts 18:8b-11, NLT)

David used his strength and battle knowledge in his obedience to the Lord–he was a front line witness of God’s faithfulness to the men who served alongside him (and even to a watching enemy army!); Paul used his education and words to serve wherever he was (land, sea, imprisoned or free).

Lord, thank you for these examples of obedience, reverence and another’s eager listening for your voice. Help me to steward the gifts you’ve given me to serve you. Help me to always seek you first for direction, guidance and wisdom. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve used to strengthen my faith and show your faithfulness.

Courtney (66books365)

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

Another’s betrayal.

11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”

And the Lord said, “He will come.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.” 1 Samuel 23:11-12, NLT

A king’s twisted thoughts and unbelief.

21 “The Lord bless you,” Saul said. “At last someone is concerned about me!” 1 Samuel 23:21, NLT

David’s integrity.

Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. 14 Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? 15 May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” 1 Samuel 24:9-15, NLT

David didn’t kill Saul when the opportunity presented itself. He respected the Lord in his appointment of Saul, and he knew the Lord is just and would have the final say between them.

Paul and Silas were singing praises when the prison doors opened, but they didn’t run off when the opportunity presented itself. They stayed, and because they did, they were able to comfort and witness to the guard and others. They knew of a greater purpose than the one at hand.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. (Acts 16:25-32, NLT)

These scriptures speak of integrity, faith and purpose. It wasn’t that long ago David stood in front of a giant, and now he stands before a king and his army. He is able to keep God his focus. I don’t have to fight the way the world fights–and I don’t want to. I want a life of integrity, faith and purpose.

God is just. Do I trust him with the outcome? Do I believe he will do what’s right?

Lord, when an enemy lashes out, hunts and harms me, help me to do what’s right because of my trust in you. When troubles come, help me to know peace in your sovereignty. I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.

Courtney (66books365)

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

1 Samuel 15-16; 1 Chronicles 1; Psalm 39; Acts 11

Samuel gave a message to Saul from the Lord. Saul didn’t completely obey the command. Perhaps he thought he did enough, but he really did what pleased himself.

35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel. (Samuel 15:35, NLT)

Those words cause me to mourn too. Tasks unfinished, or work half-hearted, one doesn’t have to be a king to do a poor job, to be selfish. The Lord, he sees it all.

Lately, I’ve been working on goals, and as big things get checked off and I consider the little things, I lose heart. These dailies, they seem quite small and insignificant (and to be honest, some things I just don’t want to do). But a friend kindly pointed out the deep importance of my diligence. And when I shifted my gaze to what God has before me, the diligence is not only shaping character, it has a potential to affect generations. These daily little things–a choice to do them or not has very real (and bigger) consequences.

David was out in the fields watching sheep and goats. His place in the family–shepherd and youngest–seeming, perhaps, quite small and insignificant. He wasn’t given a thought to be called to meet Samuel.

11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” (Samuel 16:11-12, NLT)

David goes from the field to serving in Saul’s court as harpist and armor bearer. And that was just the start. He was chosen by God. Would David choose God back? (Perhaps Saul wanted to follow God, but he wanted what he wanted more, and his lack of focus would cost him.)

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” 

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:4-7, NLT)

These readings are full of wisdom and encouragement. Lineages chronicled of people, all part of God’s story. And in Acts, believers, unnamed, are scattered with the power of the Lord, influencing many lives. Life, wholehearted.

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24, NLT)

Lord, thank you for this gentle correction. I praise you for the big ways you’ve moved in my life this year. And I want to be passionately diligent with the (seemingly) little things. You’re looking at my heart. I put my hope in you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Judges 17-18; Psalm 21; Acts 1

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Act 1:6-11, NLT)

Last year, the focus word I’d chosen was restore. I pondered several words before that (then) new year, and restore came to mind. I tried to put it aside. Later, at church, the sermon was on restoration. I knew it was my word, and with it came a knowing: my father would die, and my sister and I would be restored. But I didn’t want to think on that. I wanted a restoration with my dad, after years of hurt and tension. It didn’t happen. He died before the end of January, and through a surprising sequence of events, my sister and I became closer than ever. God’s plan of restoration, and perhaps his plans on a lot of things, look way different than one might imagine.

So when the disciples ask, “Has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Jesus tells them, loosely, “The When is not your business. But here is what IS your business … be my witness.”

Oh, men of Galilee, why are you standing here and staring up into heaven?

While I wait for Jesus, I remind myself daily–he has a plan. And I am part of it. To show his love wherever I may be. To be a steward of the tasks he approved for me. To walk in his spirit in every situation, and some are so hard, but I am grateful for his power, his love, his truth, his guidance. To serve in ways that glorify him. To tell others about him and have him present in my life. This is how I can be a witness.

Someday he will return.

Lord Jesus, I keep my eyes fixed on you. If I take them off of you, it is easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed. But with you, I see you everywhere, in everything. Because of you, I can rejoice.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 1-3; Psalm 36; Luke 5

I bet after forty years of circling that mountain, it was pretty familiar territory. The Lord was telling them to move on.

“When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on (Deuteronomy 1:6, NLT).

I consider these verses in light of change and challenge.

29 “But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:29-31, NLT)

He looked for the best places to camp and guided with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.

If you need food to eat or water to drink, pay them for it. For the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”’ (Deuteronomy 2:6-7, NLT)

David’s psalm touches on good and evil. And I know from Deuteronomy (and my own life), God goes before me. He fights for me. He is just. I find peace in his goodness.

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
    How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see. (Psalm 36:5-9, NLT)

I can trust him. Oh, if he is willing, will I not be healed?

 12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. (Luke 5:12-13, NLT)

Or:

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[d] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” (Luke 5:22-26, NLT)

If he says to go out deeper, will I not see his miracles?

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:5-11, NLT)

Lord, I live in wonder and delight of you. Thank you for your faithfulness, love, provision and protection. Thank you for fighting for me and loving me tenderly and deeply.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Numbers 19-21; Colossians 4

She was a mom of three. She devoted herself to home tasks, which later left her feeling helpless after his trespass and abandonment. The home, a prison. Her children, shackles. Outside her window, a perceived freedom of women climbing corporate ladders–she faced having the electricity shut off; broke and broken. It was too much. She felt hopeless.

***

Another woman was recovering during a time that felt like a life sentence. The nurses were wardens and the rules were constricting, restricting punishments. She felt all freedoms had been stripped away. Every day was punctuated by offense, oppression, complaint. The days ticked past. She praised the Lord for what he’d done in the past, but she was unable to praise him in the present for the meal, the care, the provision. She felt trapped, like she was in prison.

***

I was tasked with duties without warning. A lifelong obligation. A tethering, and sometimes too heavy–the bombardment of negativity, of opposition, of uncertainty. I fought against my own complaint, but sometimes, and sometimes often, I still complained. I fought against bitterness, and when I felt its squeeze, I cried out–oh, not this heart, Lord.  I remembered Paul. I thought of his chains.

Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18b, NLT)

If he could find understanding and purpose in the worst of circumstances, could I find them in mine?

If I let him, could God use my circumstance to speak the Gospel? Could he use this circumstance to demonstrate his glory and goodness and sovereignty? What the enemy uses to break and beat down, could my God use to build upon and make new? Where an enemy declares an end, could God pronounce a beginning?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6, NLT)

Nothing is a surprise to my God, however it may surprise me. These things he knew before time. Tasks prepared in advance. Yes. Don’t let me miss it–that sometimes ministry is in the middle of mess and misery. For Paul, he was literally a prisoner in a prison, but for others, it’s circumstance that feels hopeless, punitive, imprisoning, endless.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” (Colossians 4:17, NLT)

Archippus, did you? Did you carry out the ministry the Lord gave you?

Lord Jesus, you have been with me every step of this journey, and you know how hard it’s been. You know how desperately I begged to quit from the pressure. And whether the job was heaped upon, handed over, appointed–you knew. And you intend(ed) it for my good and your glory. May it be so. Fixing my eyes on you, author and perfecter of faith. You can bring beauty from ashes.

May God’s grace be with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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