Tag Archives: Bible reading plan

Ecclesiastes 3-5; Psalm 45; Matthew 15

I think of the scraps that fell from the table: could meager remnants become a feast? I sat on a bench one year and considered the crumbs and thought of this woman in Matthew 15 and her perspective.

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table. (Matthew 15:24-27, NLT)”

She taught me something profound that day about my own heart. About contentment. About gratitude. About the Lord. About enough.

The Pharisees had their expectations of what life would look like, and how purity would be recognized, and a protocol for how things would be done. I think on how my own expectations, perceptions, and protocol have kept me sour, hurt, angry, or disappointed.

Ecclesiastes marks time like seasons for war and peace, tearing and mending, silence and speech. Couldn’t it show on the calendar? On (this day), you will cry. You will grieve. But in a few turns of the calendar pages, you will laugh. You will dance. Would the wait feel long?

Here, I linger:

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, NLT).

The injustices of life. The advantages of companionship. The futility of power and wealth. The importance of integrity. Read slowly. Everything, beautiful. Even in the becoming, beauty, in the wait. A scope of His work.

17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past (Ecclesiastes 5:17-20, NLT, emphasis added).

I did a quarterly evaluation in areas of my life from 1-10: work, health, friendships, etc. Goal books and podcasts preach a level-10 life. What would it look like, I wondered. And slowly I realized–I was already there. I have all I need. And maybe living out level 10 didn’t mean what I was making it (nebulous as it was). Maybe it didn’t look like anyone else’s vision of ten. Maybe, in some cases, it had to do with letting go of hurts and expectations, with looking forward and sowing into a future than looking back and carrying past burdens. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from exceptions and restrictions and expectations I placed upon things, a schedule I overbooked, a relationship I overestimated. For community that was never going to be what I hoped it could be. For the friend who never agreed to be who I needed her to be. What if I let go of my own restrictions, instead of wrestling with a past I couldn’t change, and people I wished who would? Seems like chasing the wind.

Lord, thank you for meeting me that day on the bench, bringing that woman’s story to mind. Thank you today for reminding me of the scope of your story. Thank you for gifts from you: good things from you, and the health to enjoy them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, Matthew

Proverbs 16-19; Matthew 10

He had the power to heal and restore and raise. Loving Jesus. When Satan tempted him in the wilderness, he resisted the challenge to prove or grasp at anything, but stood upon God’s Word. Wise Jesus. When he was accused and arrested and condemned to death, he didn’t raise a sword; he didn’t argue his defense; the image of him beaten and bloody, carrying his cross in front of an audience, being nailed upon it, left to die–the mockers crying out to him, “Can’t even save yourself!” He seemed broken, weak, defeated. But here, he fought a battle no one understood. Humble Jesus. Warrior Jesus. Savior.

34 Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT, emphasis added).

In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares the disciples to send them out–I sit at his feet and listen in: Do the work (Mt 10:8); Shake it off and move on (Mt 10:14); Beware (Mt 10:17).

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT, emphasis added).

Things are more than what they seem. Lord, I pray for kingdom focus, wisdom and guidance.

20 Get all the advice and instruction you can,
    so you will be wise the rest of your life.

21 You can make many plans,
    but the Lord’s purpose will prevail (Proverbs 19:20, 21, NLT).

Grateful your purpose will prevail, always.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 7-8; 2 Chr. 4-5; Matt. 2

“But will God really dwell on Earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built.”

1 Kings 8:27 NIV

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

I love sanctuaries! I love visiting different churches (especially when they are empty) so I can capture the beauty of their sanctuary. The stained glass, the candles, the chandeliers, the pulpit, the pews… the beauty. When I sit in a sanctuary and think of the hard work and dedication that went into building it I am overcome with gratitude. How King Solomon must have felt when they brought the Arc of the Covenant into its new home and they were overwhelmed by the cloud…the Presence of the Lord.

And yet…

Even the most beautiful sanctuary…the most expensive sanctuary…cannot contain the presence of God. It will always be too small. Solomon felt that dichotomy. He knew he was following God’s command by building to exact specifications AND he knew it would never be enough. God is too big. God is too amazing. God is so much more than a temple or sanctuary can hold.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Even out in the open, in the vastness of earth and sky, God can’t be contained. So why do we build? Why do we spend so much on spaces that will never capture the wonder and beauty that is God? Why do we even try?

“He is good; His love endures forever.”

2 Chron. 5:13 NIV

We build…because it’s what we have.

Anything we do FOR God will pale in comparison TO God. That’s a reality. But our souls stir within us to attempt to demonstrate to God how much we love Him…how our lives are so drastically changed because of Him…how much we desire to be with Him.

In return God shows up. Even in our small attempts, He rejoices with is.

“But you Bethlehem, in the Land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for our of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Matthew 2:6, NIV

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

God shows up. God brings Himself to our world to our lives. He is not hindered by how big the sanctuary is not by how small our offering. That’s the God we serve. That’s the God we love. That’s the God we need.

Thanks Be To God!

Father…in our striving may we never loose sight of you. May we always be drawn back to you and your presence. May we delight in you as you delight in us. Thank you for being THAT kind of God. Amen.

Mandy Baldwin (mkaybaldwin)

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2 Corinthians 13; Psalm 101

I’ve asked myself a lot of questions this year: What am I afraid of? Why do some circumstances elicit such a strong response from me? Who are the people influencing me, and what is their influence? What would success look like in this area of my life? What’s holding me back? Am I living with a kingdom focus?

A year ago, I started running, and when I say running, I mean I tried to run up to the top of my driveway and back. It took me three attempts to run to the top without stopping. I was thirty-five pounds overweight and hadn’t exercised in over ten years. I committed the first month of “running” to just running one round-trip lap of my driveway. The next month, I added another lap. The month after that, a third. A year later, laps turned to miles. I could have stayed where I was that first month, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Paul once referenced giving milk to new believers because they weren’t ready for meat. The Bible talks of God’s grace in preparing his people for difficulties they wouldn’t be ready to handle on a first day. And here, Paul challenges and encourages:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:5, 7-9, 11, NLT).

I think on kingdom and character. David’s psalm shows me he thinks of it too.

I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will search for faithful people
    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip (Psalm 101, NLT).

In recent years, my family has lost many relatives and friends to death. In reflection, their lives spoke in death of what mattered to them in life–and one day, mine will too. Who do I want to mature to be when I’m eighty? The answer tells me what I need to start doing now. Those choices speak for me when I’m gone.

Lord, David and Paul are like dear brothers to me. Thank you for giving me family in the pages of Your Word when I lost people from my life. Thank you for Your Spirit in me, guiding and correcting and challenging me. I’m even thankful for the heckler in my head, who tries to defeat me every day. Only in you, Lord, can an enemy’s taunt turn into fuel for victory.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Chronicles 22-25; 2 Corinthians 9

David knew he wasn’t going to be the one to build the temple for the Lord. He knew his son Solomon would be the one, as the Lord had told him. But that didn’t prevent David from contributing to something he wouldn’t live to see.

This father speaks to his son, guiding him and offering generous provision to get the job done.

David said, “My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the Lord must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.” So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death.

Then David sent for his son Solomon and instructed him to build a Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

11 Now, my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the Lord your God. 12 And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel. 13 For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!

14 I have worked hard to provide materials for building the Temple of the Lord—nearly 4,000 tons of gold, 40,000 tons of silver, and so much iron and bronze that it cannot be weighed. I have also gathered timber and stone for the walls, though you may need to add more. 15 You have a large number of skilled stonemasons and carpenters and craftsmen of every kind. 16 You have expert goldsmiths and silversmiths and workers of bronze and iron. Now begin the work, and may the Lord be with you! (1 Chronicles 22:5-16, NLT, emphasis added)”

This is what sowing generously can look like: knowing you won’t live to see the fruit or harvest, but endowing another with guidance, example, encouragement, funds, instructions, whatever the need is to reach whatever the goal is.

In this spring season of literal planting (and weeding), I have thought long on sowing and harvest. Sow is the word the Lord has impressed upon me since April, and here I read this very focused example by David of what generous sowing can do.

David’s generosity spoke of his love for God and for his son.

These scriptures today were so very rich in generosity, stewardship, obedience, and kingdom focus. This is only a sample of the takeaway.

Thank you, God, for your Word. It is a generous feast for my heart. I sit and savor your message, hold it close as the wonderful gift it is. Help me to steward the things you have given me with a kingdom focus–you have given me all I need. You are my Good Father who equips me. Help me to prepare and influence my children to honor you. There are harvests I will not live to see, but thank you that I can contribute now towards them.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 13-14; 2 Corinthians 4; Psalm 51

This week, I tapped into a podcast of interviews with adults who shared an event in their lives that had a lasting effect upon them. They painted vivid pictures with their words, and the interviewer followed up with questions to the now adult speakers. They were only two people in this whole world, each marked by a memory from childhood. I wondered perhaps all of us have stories that have had such an effect upon our lives.

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her (2 Samuel 13:14-15, NLT).

***

So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister (2 Samuel 13:20b-22, NLT).

Sin separates. It separates us from God and it separates us from each other. In motion, it destroys. Amnon’s sin and violence led to his sister’s desolation, a brother’s thirst for revenge/justice and murder, and an estrangement in a lineage. Sin’s reach is vast–don’t ever be fooled.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him (2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT).”

Psalm 51 was written after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you (Psalm 51:1-15, NLT).

Oh, that Amnon would have repented.

I look long on the image of spilled water in 2 Samuel 14:14. Thank you, God: Redeemer, Father, Healer. You devise a way to bring us back to you. Sin’s reach is vast, but You are greater. God, I hand you my memory, knowing You to be the Good Father, full of mercy, unfailing love, compassion. Bring healing to all the broken places.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Corinthians 15; Psalm 68

This quote comes from a Christian-focus book on perseverance and starting over.

“No one is coming to save you.”

I’ve thought on these words since last September. They scare me. There were likely other messages from the book about accountability and movement, but this is the sentence that stuck hard with me. And the heckler in my head speaks it over me in my lowest times.

I read this next in a book about redeeming lost years from childhood neglect:

“The fact is, you can’t totally trust me or anyone else. When push comes to shove, I’ll probably save [myself] first.”

It stole the breath from my lungs as I considered humanity and sin and that even important-to-you people will put impossible burdens upon shoulders, or flee in the crisis. Can one trust his life to anyone? Ever?

It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place (1 Corinthians 15:2, NLT).

I took the riding mower out to cut the grass. There are many mature trees in our yard, and two oaks in the front yard have large, long, dead limbs. It makes me nervous to ride beneath them for fear they’ll fall on me. That day, I wondered to the Lord, oh, that He would show me a sign of His protection over me: let a tree limb fall after I pass by so I won’t worry about it (and “it” is symbolic of more than a tree limb). I moved on to the field and made several laps around the perimeter, moving a tractor deck’s width inward each lap. Coming down the straightaway, a limb I never noticed lie fallen, dead, long and large, right in the area I had passed by just earlier.

He didn’t drop the limbs I was thinking about. I knew I could count on Him for my soul’s salvation, but could I count on Him to protect me? Especially in times of feeling very targeted, emotionally, physically, would He protect me? He told me then that He’s protecting me from threats I’m not even aware of; I can trust him.

In recent readings, David and Eleazar stood together on the battlefield because all the other men deserted them to an enemy army. They were outnumbered. They should have died. But it was God who gave them the victory.

I tell my kids that truth can handle scrutiny. It doesn’t run from questions or doubts. Truth is not afraid. It doesn’t change itself or hide the evidence to make itself look like something it’s not. Truth doesn’t back down or bully back or threaten. It stands.

34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all (1 Corinthians 15:34, NLT).

I am thankful for His Word in my hands, so that I can know Him in these pages (so that I can know Him also in my life). I can look at an impossible story in the Bible, and read of His victory in what should be defeat, see His miracles in the unimaginable.

58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT).

He fashions me into His image–with encouragement to be strong! Be engaged! It matters!

19 Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
   For each day he carries us in his arms.
20 Our God is a God who saves!
   The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death (Psalm 68:19-20, NLT).

I matter.

You matter.

Praise be to God!

I get up and begin again.

Courtney (66books365)

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