Tag Archives: Bible reading plan

2 Chronicles 15-16; 1 Kings 16; Philemon

I didn’t see it coming. As Asa’s story unfolded, I felt bolstered by the prophet’s words: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him,” and “be strong and courageous” (2 Chronicles 15). Asa heard and took courage. He removed idols, repaired an altar, and called together the people. There were covenants made and sacrifices offered. Asa’s heart remained faithful throughout his life (2 Chronicles 15:17b, NLT. Note this.).

So I didn’t see it coming, when in 2 Chronicles 16, he would overlook consulting the Lord, a decision that carried crucial consequences. His first thirty-five years of reign were marked by an intentional abiding, but the last years of leadership are an unraveling of sorts–misplaced trust, anger and oppression.

What happened?

***

While disappointing to read, was it a surprise that Israel’s leaders were evil and angered the Lord time after time?

25 But Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 26 He followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat in all the sins he had committed and led Israel to commit. The people provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. (1 Kings 16:25-26, NLT)

I think long on examples. I consider influences in my lifetime (some influenced me not to follow them!). But how often do I take into consideration my own words and actions and the influence they have on those around me?

***

I’ve spent the past few days working on a baby’s knit hat, and I’ve started it over so many times I’ve lost count. I noticed that sometimes the row was a stitch or two longer than it should have been, or that I dropped a stitch accidentally and there was a big hole in it. These mistakes weren’t made on purpose. They were so very unintentional.

***

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Paul writes to Philemon, reminding him of his generosity and love–and to take it a step further (to extend grace, forgiveness, or welcome to someone who has wronged him).

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 17-21, NLT)

Paul’s letter to Philemon reads like encouragement and caution.

***

I’m not responsible for the decisions other people make–and lately I’ve been surprised at how someone’s choice can influence my response. I do pause and wonder: should it? Like Philemon, if someone has wronged me, should I be less loving or generous in my own behaviors, or like Paul suggests–to do as much or more than expected? Do I stay true to how God has wired me? If I’m not intentional, abiding in Christ, I could look back at the fabric of the story of my life and see holes and wonder, “What happened?”

Lord, I’m so imperfect, but I know that you are at work in my heart. Help me to be true to who you’ve created me to be, independent of how another behaves. Some days effort seems grossly out of proportion to return. I am humbled and saddened as I wonder over the question of what’s in it for me? I pray that I continue strong, even in seasons of drought, because it pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ecclesiastes 7-9; Psalm 46; 2 Timothy 3

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. My family and I had a quiet day at home. But I was acutely aware of past celebrations: swimming, cookouts, a bonfire. As I walked around the yard, I stopped and remembered–Alan stoking a fire (that was the summer he was diagnosed with cancer; he died almost two years later); Linda and her wide-brimmed hat (disease took her away from us last year); another family staying later, wrapped in blankets as the evening cooled dramatically; Denise holding up a flag and smiling for the camera. Some of these, years ago but the memories felt fresh yesterday.

***

I think of her as The One Who Loves Me. She has called me lately to share her heart, thoughts, and fears. She has a heart catheter procedure scheduled tomorrow. She tells me the things she needs to say, just in case. She will call me again today, and she will tell me those things again, and I will do my best not to cry at the implication.

The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-6, NLT)

While he was alive, and especially after his death, my father’s life caused me to think long on legacy. Paul’s printed words affect the future, but at the time, he was writing to Timothy. The words were to him.

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. (2 Timothy 3:10-11a, NLT)

While we are here, we are known by those around us. Influence, example, purpose–these things speak of us and for us. I know the things I value, but does my life reflect them?

Thank you, Lord, for your word in my hands and heart. I want to be true to the person you designed me to be, to live this life to glorify you. You put songs and delight in my heart. Help me to live this life well.

Courtney (66books365)

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne! … 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8, 10, NLT)

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2 Chronicles 5-7; Psalm 121; 1 Timothy 4

One thing I know about cultivating a new habit is that it takes intention. I didn’t become a runner by getting off the couch and lacing up my shoes. In fact, my first day out, I barely rounded the bend of my driveway. The second day out, I might have made it twenty-five feet farther. The third day out, I made it to the top of the driveway. I had to plan on it. I had to get out and do it. I had to push myself. I still have to push myself, but my distance, thankfully, is farther than the top of my driveway.

But what credit is it to run but be weak in areas of eternal matter?

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:8-10, NLT)

Paul encourages Timothy to be an example “in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:b, NLT)” Aren’t we all an example to someone? A coworker. A neighbor. A stranger. A friend. A family member. An enemy.

When I think of the end of my time, some of the goals I’ve set may not hold entirely great significance–the daily run in itself is conditioning for my body, works on discipline and self-control–good things, yes. But what if I did not live a life true to the person God made me to be? What if I neglected the gifts?

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16, NLT)

Father God, I am thankful to you that you hear my prayers. You are quick to forgive. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank you for watching over my life, Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you for loving me so well. I offer my life song to you in praise.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 8; Psalms 30; 1 Timothy 3

All of today’s passages reflect on people’s behavior and how it affects their standing in the temple/church.

First, a Psalm of Thanksgiving from David for forgiveness of his past sins.

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.  for his anger is but for a moment, his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:4-5 ESV)

Later his son, Solomon, dedicates the temple.

“Oh Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in Heaven above or earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart, who have kept with Your servant, my father David, that which you have promised him; indeed, You have spoken with Your mouth and have fulfilled it with Your hand as it is this day.” (1 Kings 8:23-24 ESV)

Finally, Timothy gives instruction concerning leaders in the church and how they are to live.

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

Lord, we’re thankful for all of the examples of people in the bible who “mess up” but are forgiven.  Thank you for forgiving and saving us.

Kellie (mmattix)

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1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Thessalonians 3

King Hiram sent a master craftsman to help build the temple. Solomon had a sizeable workforce. When people come together with a common purpose, great things can be done.

Second Thessalonians 3, Paul warns:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. 15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14, NLT.

A message in the day’s reading on work, focus, purpose.

Paul writes of an example worth imitating–whose example do I imitate? Who is imitating my example? Just as when people come together with a common purpose, great things can be done, so too can great damage be done when idle hands let things fall into disrepair. Whether tearing apart what should be built, or neglecting the tasks at hand–idle living is linked to disobedience and shame.

How does that happen? Does it stem from a loss of focus or purpose? Or is it a shift in focus–towards self rather than towards the Lord? (Oh Lord, let me keep my eyes on you in the work you’d have me do at home, at church, within a greater community context.)

Lord, help me to keep your call on my life in perspective so that I don’t grow tired of doing good. I want my days filled with praise for you, and not complaint. You have given me wonderful work, and I am grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

From the archives. Originally published June 23, 2016.

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Song of Solomon 7-8; Psalm 127; 2 Thessalonians 2

I wonder if I asked ten people, “What is the greatest thing you could give? What is the greatest thing you could receive?” What would the answer be?

For love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
Love flashes like fire,
    the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
    nor can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love
    with all his wealth,
    his offer would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:6b-7, NLT)

When imagining an end goal, designing a path to take, getting swept into sweet daydreams, what are the things that shape the journey and define the destination? I heard it recently on an audiobook about focus: one can spend his whole life building something to later realize his ladder was propped against the wrong wall.

A whole life.

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones. (Psalm 127:1-2, NLT)

Time, talent, treasure–where is it spent? How is it used? What does it speak about you? These are things we are each given in different measures. And whether intended or not, how each is used will speak of our heart, either during our lifetime, or in the memories we leave behind.

2 Thessalonians 2 tells of the man of lawlessness, a great deceiver, who will exalt himself and “use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12, NLT)

I don’t want to live deceived. Lord, I keep my eyes on you. Help me to align my time, talent and treasure with a kingdom focus.

11 Solomon has a vineyard at Baal-hamon,
    which he leases out to tenant farmers.
Each of them pays a thousand pieces of silver
    for harvesting its fruit.
12 But my vineyard is mine to give,
    and Solomon need not pay a thousand pieces of silver.
But I will give two hundred pieces
    to those who care for its vines. (Song of Solomon 8:11-12, NLT)

Grateful for your word, your love, your guidance, Lord.

Courtney (66books365)

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Proverbs 29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”  1 Thessalonians 2:13

Sometimes I treat the Bible like a coffee table decoration. I may read through the words as if they were nice theories or a self improvement project or gloss through the difficult passages and patronize them by passing them off as antiquated and therefore, irrelevant. God’s word is far too powerful to remain in the box that I attempt to keep it in. In reading the Word, God invites me to sit with him, wrestle with my questions and doubts and dance with hopes and dreams. All these things I lay before God in the light of his Word.

God’s Word asks me if I truly believe that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness? Do I really, REALLY believe that Christ died on the cross and physically rose from the dead so that I might live? When the truth of Jesus Christ sets in, I awaken from my stupor and the world changes; I change. His resurrection brings light and joy into unexpected places.

Following Christ is not a quest to be a better person or to find fulfillment; those things might happen, but they are not the end. God wants something much greater, wilder, and more beautiful for me; He wants holiness.

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God who gives the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8.

Holiness is the odd combination of laying aside my idea of righteousness to accept that of Jesus and leaning forward in gratitude to live the life He has called me to. It means being transformed by his love into the his likeness. It’s being willing to let go of my ego long enough to be able to take risks and believe that God’s power will win the day. A holy life focuses on God and not man’s ability to get things right or wrong.

The people that I know who live holy lives are “clothed in strength and dignity” that comes from God and isn’t stuffy and judgmental. Quite the opposite. They are people who can laugh and have grace for themselves and others. Think of the woman in Proverbs 31. Knowing and living the truth of the Gospel opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do that kind of work in ordinary lives.

Lord, I believe you are who you say you are. Help me when unbelief slips in. Keep me focused on you today. Holy Spirit, please be at work in and through me today. Amen.

Kathy (Klueh)

From the archives. Originally published June 17, 2016.

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