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Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

I looked to the past for the key. But because of the estrangement and the years, I had no answer. How many generations did it go back? One. Two. Three? More?

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:6b-7, NLT

I wanted something different for my children. I told them of a better way. I told them of the woes to come if they continued on a path. They saw my struggle. How could I impress upon them the power of love when my own heart was guarded? The question haunted me.

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35, NLT

God breaks strongholds. He takes impossible situations and he brings good out of them. I sat at my sister’s hospital bedside days ago. I spoke encouragement to her, told her she is a fighter. In a moment of clarity, she said to me, “God is always fighting for us, and he lets us think we’re the warriors!”

Her words are treasure. I laughed and cried with joy at her insight. Oh, God, you are mighty. Dear God, you are good.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT.

The power of love, at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus, through all generations. Forever and ever. Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

He already knew what He was going to do.

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6, NLT

Philip looks around at what they have–a boy’s lunch of loaves and fish, and a crowd of thousands.

I glance at my calendar, empty grids awaiting my pencil to fill in the tasks–a lot of unknown, and it all feels too big. I know these days will move fast and powerful, and in my own strength, my limited sight and wisdom, I look around at what I have and at what needs to be done. I am thankful and clinging to peace: He already knows what He is going to do.

The people wanted proof and proof, even after their bellies were filled. Miracles are marvelous morsels, but they don’t sustain–only Jesus can.

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” John 6:26-31, NLT

I don’t need the miracles in order to follow Jesus. I know that by following Him, the miracles will come.

Spending time at His feet today, I find peace and rest. He calls me His child, and I am quieted. When urgency and unknown press against me, I fix my gaze upon Him. I listen and there is deep joy. These were the first words I read this morning, in Proverbs 3, Trusting the Lord.

My child, never forget the things I have taught you.
    Store my commands in your heart.
If you do this, you will live many years,
    and your life will be satisfying.
Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
    and you will earn a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
10 Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.

11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
12 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 She offers you long life in her right hand,
    and riches and honor in her left.
17 She will guide you down delightful paths;
    all her ways are satisfying.
18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    happy are those who hold her tightly.

19 By wisdom the Lord founded the earth;
    by understanding he created the heavens.
20 By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth,
    and the dew settles beneath the night sky.

21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.
    Hang on to them,
22 for they will refresh your soul.
    They are like jewels on a necklace.
23 They keep you safe on your way,
    and your feet will not stumble.
24 You can go to bed without fear;
    you will lie down and sleep soundly.
25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
    or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26 for the Lord is your security.
    He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:1-26, NLT

Thank you, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38; 2 Corinthians 8

Help me, Lord, to remember well.

Help me to remember your life-giving rain, your power over the waves, your beauty in the sunrises, your mystery in the stars. (Job 38)

Help me to remember your jealous love for me–your want of my love and your promises to love me back. (Exodus 20)

Help me to remember Christ’s humility on the cross–his submission to your will–to take on my sin and die in my place, and not just my sin, but everyone’s. That my offenses and offenses against me aren’t a burden for me to carry, and the cross is the place to lay them down. And in that is all the sadness; and in that is all the joy; and in that is all your glory. (Luke 23)

Help me to remember you know what I need. You know it before I even ask. Help me to live a generous life in time, talent or treasure–oh, but especially in eager love. (2 Corinthians 8)

Sometimes my focus is on what I have to do today, tomorrow, next week. Sometimes my focus in on past hurts that cut deeply, the memories cut fresh and I wonder if they can ever heal. Sometimes my focus is of loss or overwhelm or wondering why–answers beyond my reach and understanding.

Father God, thank you for loving me as you do. I am looking for you everywhere today. I want you to be my focus. I’m trusting you for healing and peace. I’m trusting you for strength and guidance. Thank you, God, for your word in my hands and in my heart.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 13; Luke 16; Job 31; 2 Corinthians 1

My trust is in God.

It seems like such a simple statement. But how easy is it to claim it?

The Israelites are rescued from slavery, and God, in his mercy, leads them. He took them in a roundabout way, through the wilderness, toward the Red Sea. (Last year, I read an insightful and helpful book called Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan. When I think of the Red Sea, I know there is a watery expanse in front of Israelites, and a pursuing army behind them. There’s really nothing to do at that point but trust God, because He’s the only one who can make a way.)

17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18, NLT.

Job gives a final protest and defense of his innocence. (I know from Job 1, he is a man of complete integrity. The Lord even refers to him as a man of complete integrity, calls him the finest man in all the earth, blameless.) So when he pleads his case of innocence and asks these questions, it seems right. (God has His own questions for Job in chapter 38!) But was his defense just his trust in himself?

“Have I lied to anyone
    or deceived anyone?

16 “Have I refused to help the poor,
    or crushed the hopes of widows?

24 “Have I put my trust in money
    or felt secure because of my gold?
25 Have I gloated about my wealth
    and all that I own? Job 31:5, 16, 24-35, NLT

Jesus has a story to tell, and I sit at his feet and listen closely.

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Luke 16:1-13, NLT

You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. Serve God, trust him, work for him. Or be enslaved to money, an earthly focus, greed, an idol. Is it possible this parable is about trusting God?

(The next story Jesus tells is about the rich man and Lazarus. A very thought-provoking, telling read.)

 Paul is crushed and overwhelmed. He and those he traveled with expected to die.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.2 Corinthians 1:8-10, NLT

There are times I could recount all the things I have done, in my own defense. It points to my (limited and short-sighted) strength. But in the times of overwhelm, of an army and an ocean, of the things I can’t see versus the things I can see–those things point to a great God who is really in charge. He deserves all the glory.

Lord, instead of focusing on my own ability, I want to focus on you. When I think of what I can do, it tricks and traps my mind and causes me to stumble in my walk. Suddenly, I’m trying to figure out all the answers instead of turning to you. Help me to keep my eyes fixed firmly on you. You have called me to certain tasks, and I want to face them in your wisdom and guidance.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; I Corinthians 3

We didn’t have those kinds of talks. He’d tell me about a new recipe, or teach me a crochet stitch, or recount a recent outing. Likely the last words I said to him were, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Only later never came. Goodbye was never said. So many questions never asked, never answered. All of this is hard. And in the grief, I find myself surprised by what surfaces. And this one question: what did my father think of me?

I wasn’t expecting my dad to die that night. He spoke to me as if he weren’t expecting it either. Perhaps our conversation might have gone differently if we had known.

Jacob speaks last words over his sons, and I cry.

Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come. Genesis 49:1, NLT

Some of his words sting and some of his words bless.

In Job, Eliphaz responds to Job, and a shaming storm pours from his mouth.

In Luke, Mary receives words from shepherds, prophecies from Simeon and Anna, and she stores these things in her heart.

When I think of things unsaid, unheard, all the unknown, I wonder if it matters now–because I can’t know. Why does that question and answer matter so much?

I turn my focus to the Lord.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, NLT

Lord Jesus, I bring my questions to you. I find my peace in you. Your word is the final say and the one that matters. You are truth, and you see truth, and you are judge of deed and heart. I think we all desperately crave to hear your “Well done.” I pray that I keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Please equip me for the tasks at hand, and instruct me in your wisdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 34; Mark 5; Job 1; Roman 5

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12, NLT

My dad died last weekend. It wasn’t expected. This week has been focused on completing tasks: contacting friends and family; notifying professional contacts; meeting with the funeral home and cemetery; picking out his clothes.

Each day has held unexpected challenges. Logistical. Financial. Emotional. I’m sure everyone walks a similar road that first week. We bury him tomorrow. Many other things will be buried with him tomorrow too: the untold stories of his history, the future occasions we would have gathered together, the possibilities of what could have been. It’s hard.

I’m thankful God has met me through every step of this way. He’s poured out grace, strength and provision. He’s cleared a way for me to walk, and has helped me step over the obstacles. I cling tightly to him. He meets me where I am, today too, in the reading.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:1-11, NLT

Father God, sometimes heaven seems far away–but it is very near. Thank you for your great love for us, that you would send your Son to die for our sins and ignorance–not only that we would be forgiven and restored, but that we could experience life in full with you here and after. Thank you that your gift is free on belief–and because of this, I know my dad is safe in your care. Help me, Lord, to guard my heart these coming weeks–to meet the new tasks, to process the deeper thoughts, to create my own legacy. Thank you for not abandoning me, but for meeting me in every step of this. I lift my head to hear your song, and I praise you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 27; Matthew 26; Esther 3; Acts 26

Jacob deceives and receives Esau’s blessing. Judas wants to know how much he’ll get to betray Jesus, and then looks for ways to do so. Peter and the others deny Jesus and scatter. Haman’s desire for power and recognition fuel his hatred at Mordecai’s resistance to bow down–a hatred whose end goal is an annihilation of a people. Paul recounts his days of opposition to Christ and his followers–and how his obedience to Christ now makes him the target.

Betrayal. Anger. Hatred. They all lead to deaths of sorts.

  • 41 From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.” Genesis 27:41, NLT
  • At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. Matthew 26:3, NLT
  • When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. Esther 3:5-6, NLT
  • 19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. 20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. 21 Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me.” Acts 26:19-21, NLT

A meal and a kiss in the Old Testament (from Genesis 27, parts of 17-27, NLT).

17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.

So Jacob took the food to his father, and Isaac ate it. He also drank the wine that Jacob served him. 26 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come a little closer and kiss me, my son.”

27 So Jacob went over and kissed him.

A meal and a kiss in the New Testament (from Matthew 26, parts of 20 through 49, NLT).

20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

And later, in the garden of Gethsemane … 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.

I sit with these words. The bread. The wine. The blessing. The sacrifice.

Lord, you have the mighty power of forgiving sin–your love the sacrifice, broken and poured out. I sit with you today in wounding and in want, handing over the broken pieces, Lord.

Courtney (66books365)

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