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Job 6-8; 1 John 1

Perhaps in today’s terms, he’d be authentic, vulnerable, transparent.

If my misery could be weighed
    and my troubles be put on the scales,
they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.
    That is why I spoke impulsively. (Job 6:2-3, NLT, in response to Eliphaz)

But his unlovely grappling with the tragedies in his life brought him criticism and condemnation instead of comfort or understanding–from his very own friends.

One should be kind to a fainting friend,
    but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.
15 My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook
    that overflows its banks in the spring
16     when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.
17 But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.
    The brook vanishes in the heat. (Job 6:14-17, NLT)

Job wades through turmoil. His successful, stable life and faith are scrambled by unimaginable tragedy. Whether his friends’ words were intended to help or harm, they certainly provided no comfort (think memes). He is in a pit, and whether they knew it or not, their words sparked a new burden.

I can replay his experience by rereading a passage, but in real time, real life, one often does not have the luxury to hit pause to contemplate life’s facets. In real time, replay takes place in memory and dreams, either bringing resolution or torment.

I, too, have been assigned months of futility,
    long and weary nights of misery.
Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ (Job 7:3-4, NLT)

I think on loss, disappointment, grief, anger, hurt. I think of relationships where I’ve shared things in vulnerability and authenticity (really heartache), places I thought were ones of safety, but ultimately were not. And in that pit, the weight of loss, disappointment, grief, anger and hurt are the kindling that embitters sins of resentment, unforgiveness, grudge.

It was a recurring message in books I’d read last year: No one is coming to save you.

I realized I expected friends I considered near to rally around and help me out of the pit. But the truth is, they never said they would or could. No wonder I felt alone when I was grasping the vapor belief/hope that they should.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (1 John 1:5-10, NLT)

God is light, and I’m grateful for the intimacy I have with him through prayer and His Word. He is my safe place. He meets me in the ugly, scrambled spaces and speaks with clarity and gentleness–oh that I can hide his word in my heart so that I would not sin against him. Feelings let me know something is wrong–but left untended, they can become agitated and enflamed to sin. Do not be deceived. Offense and expectation have no cap on captives. Freeing others from unexpressed expectations freed me from sins of bitterness, resentment and anger. It also gave me newly found freedom to delight and invest my heart and time in more fruitful pursuits.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

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Daniel 10-12; John 3; Psalm 123

This is for times of mourning or when the Lord feels far.

When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed. (Daniel 10:2-3, NLT)

This is for when I am waiting for His help and direction.

11 And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.

12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. 14 Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.” (Daniel 10:11-14, NLT)

This is for when I can’t breathe, can’t move. Remember, you are very precious.

“I am filled with anguish because of the vision I have seen, my lord, and I am very weak. 17 How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. 19 “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” (Daniel 10:16b-19, NLT)

He later says, “Meanwhile, I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.” And there is war, deception, tragedy, loss, suffering and hardship. There are big political movements like crashing waves.

But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him.

33 “Wise leaders will give instruction to many, but these teachers will die by fire and sword, or they will be jailed and robbed. 34 During these persecutions, little help will arrive, and many who join them will not be sincere. 35 And some of the wise will fall victim to persecution. In this way, they will be refined and cleansed and made pure until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come. (Daniel 11:32b-35, NLT)

Be strong. The Lord has heard your prayers. He moves in ways that may seem silent. There are losses and lies and insincerity and corruption and persecution. But the people who know their God will be strong. (A whole history of people who’ve known their God, my God, have stood and fallen–and were refined and cleansed and made pure.)

I heard what he said, but I did not understand what he meant. So I asked, “How will all this finally end, my lord?”

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means … 13 “As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.” (Daniel 12:8-10, 13, NLT)

The wicked will continue in their wickedness. But as for you, go your own way until the end.

Lord, I move in closer to you, thankful for your Word and the history of people who knew you and followed you, whose lives and sacrifices made your Word available to my hands and heart, whose testimony proclaims your sovereignty and glory. Thank you for hearing prayers and answering them. Thank you for seeing me as loved and precious.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Peter 1; Psalm 145, 128

How do you measure progress toward a task you can’t see or touch? How do you arrange touch points throughout a day or week or month for developing character and championing values? When my goals consisted of exercise, nutrition, managing my home–the tasks were clear and defined and results could be measured. But how do you measure the heart?

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3, NLT)

I scratch my head. I sit with this.

By his divine power.

God has given me everything I need.

For living a godly life.

I have received all of this.

By coming to know him.

The one who called me to himself.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1:4, NLT)

Because of his glory and excellence.

He has given me great and precious promises.

His promises enable me.

Father God, you are so good to me. You are generous, glorious, excellent. You invite me to draw near to you. When I look outward and try to plan and prepare, you whisper to me, “I already gave you that. Just remain in me.” You love me so much that you supply me with all I need. I write these words down and keep them close because you are the way, the truth and the life. You make me contemplate this paradox, that I have not yet, and yet I have.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Daniel 1-2; 1 Peter 2; Psalm 87

I am reminded of God’s sovereignty.

  • King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. (Daniel 1:1b-2, NLT, emphasis added)
  • 17 God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. (Daniel 1:17, NLT)
  • 27 Daniel replied, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed. 29 “While Your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamed about coming events. He who reveals secrets has shown you what is going to happen. 30 And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. (Daniel 2:27-29, NLT)
  • 44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. (Daniel 2:44, NLT)

I am reminded of God’s sovereignty when … it seems an enemy is victorious … one finds himself in impossible situations … God might be the last thing on one’s mind, and (He) will shake one from his sleep to reach and reveal his heart …

There is nothing God can’t do and no one He can’t use. He equips the ones He calls, even and especially in impossible situations.

I read on and take special note–I get to choose. From what I will eat …

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. (Daniel 1:8, NLT)

… to what I will think or do …

So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. (1 Peter 2:1, NLT)

May I never forget Whose I am.

… you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. (1 Peter 2:5, NLT)

… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9b, NLT)

15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. (1 Peter 2:15-17, NLT)

May I never forget Who I follow.

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36

A siege that lasts two years. A famine. A city succumbs. Its king (Zedekiah) tries to escape at night past enemy (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon’s) troops. Zedekiah is caught. The last he sees before his sight is taken is the slaughter of his sons. A city is dismantled as an enemy carries off bronze, silver and gold that had been used by Solomon to adorn and uphold the temple of the Lord. That is one side of the story in Second Kings.

Second Chronicles tells another perspective–of a lineage that repeatedly did evil in the sight of the Lord. It tells of prophets who came to warn and a leadership that mocked, scoffed and refused to listen.

11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.

14 Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. (2 Chronicles 36:11-17a, NLT)

While this may not be the birth of the saying, “Pride comes before the fall,” it certainly is another example of deceitful pride’s consequences. I wonder if one examines hardship or catastrophe, what would be the root? Even here, a list of heart attitudes that set a man, his entourage and an entire population against the Lord: refusal to humble; deceit; hard and stubborn; unfaithful; mocking and scoffing; disdain and contempt for/of truth. These thoughts are the birth of catastrophe–strong enough to not only bring down a man but an entire city, leaving behind ruin.

Lord, may I always be mindful of my heart attitudes, open to your direction and truth, and discerning of influences in my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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