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Isaiah 56-59; Psalm 70; 1 Corinthians 16

I’d never been in the presence of such a warrior. We were talking about life and hard issues, and I shared something that had hurt me deeply that I was still trying to resolve in my mind and heart. She offered to pray for me, and when she did, I felt small and humbled by the things she took to the throne on my behalf–boldly, powerfully. In fact, I almost felt afraid at her great, impassioned petition for vengeance.

Please, God, rescue me!
    Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
May those who try to kill me
    be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
    be turned back in disgrace.
Let them be horrified by their shame,
    for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
But may all who search for you
    be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
    repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    please hurry to my aid, O God.
You are my helper and my savior;
    O Lord, do not delay. (Psalm 70, NLT)

 

God is so mighty. And her mighty prayer showed me who I’m dealing with. This was many years ago, and I don’t remember the exact words she said (mostly because I was drop-jawed stunned as she said them), but I will never forget that evening. Weeks later I got word of some things that immediately brought this warrior to mind as her prayer was answered. I was awestruck. I couldn’t get my head around it. But that incident became grounds for great trust in God, his might and sovereignty. (As well as the very real power of prayer!) I learned over the years to trust him with the outcome of things that were so much bigger than I was. And I still do.

I read an article recently that left a long impression on me about forgiveness, “Forgiveness means we don’t ignore. We don’t excuse. But we do release the right of vengeance to God without pretending vengeance isn’t right” (True Woman, Haley Mullins, 9/4/18). God is just. He is judge. I take the wounds and hurts and offer them to him, to free my heart–because it is the wellspring of my life.

The Lord looked and was displeased
    to find there was no justice.
16 He was amazed to see that no one intervened
    to help the oppressed.
So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm,
    and his justice sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his body armor
    and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.
He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance
    and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.
18 He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds.
    His fury will fall on his foes.
    He will pay them back even to the ends of the earth.
19 In the west, people will respect the name of the Lord;
    in the east, they will glorify him.
For he will come like a raging flood tide
    driven by the breath of the Lord.

20 “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem
    to buy back those in Israel
who have turned from their sins,”
    says the Lord.

21 “And this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Isaiah 59:15-21, NLT)

When I’m taking a walk, I notice the size of the trees, trees that seem so big when I stand beside them, but look so small compared to the backdrop of the heavens–and I am so much smaller, a young child is smaller still.

Oh, Lord, how is it you notice me? I am so grateful. That of everything under your watch, you see me and you care for my heart. You value truth and what is right, and it is worth fighting for. You give me hope. What a precious gift.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38-40; Psalm 68; 1 Corinthians 11

I remember watching an actress being interviewed, and she told a story of how her dad said that when life felt like it was too much, to go stand on the beach and look up and around, and she would see how small she and all the issues of her life really are. I imagined this woman, who had had success and fortune and a measure of pull, feeling overwhelmed, and that she needed to know somewhere in her soul that she was small. That she was held.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:26-31, NLT)

 

The issues in life sometimes feel consuming, pressing in from all sides, stealing peace, stealing rest, and I am reminded that the enemy prowls crouched to pounce–a thief to steal, kill and destroy. But my God is sovereign. When I feel defeated, he reminds me of his victory. When I feel weak and powerless, he will be my power and strength. When I trust in him, I will find new strength to soar, to run, to walk and not faint.

Lord, I feel your loving hand upon my face, turning my gaze to focus again and again on you. When I look too long at my problems, they get bigger. But when I remember who you are, things fall back into perspective. You created everything I see. You hold all time. You know my troubles. You know my heart. It is so good to know you and to be known by you. Grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 33-35; 1 Corinthians 6

He puts a song in my head, and the words crowd out the worry and hurt. I don’t always know all the lyrics, but when my heart starts to sing, my entire body follows–I walk taller; I look forward; my face softens; I smile.

I read first of Assyria and the betrayal and destruction. And later within the reading–hope.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
    It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
    It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;
    fools will never walk there.
Lions will not lurk along its course,
    nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers.
    Only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
    They will enter Jerusalem singing,
    crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
    and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:8-10, NLT)

The song catches my attention–after passages of betrayal, destruction, mourning, this song sings out, “Honor!”

In New Testament reading, Paul corrects his audience sternly:

If you have legal disputes about such matters, why go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these issues? But instead, one believer sues another—right in front of unbelievers!

Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers.

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. (1 Corinthians 6:4-9, NLT)

Honor God. Honor others. Honor unity of the body of Christ.

Paul speaks against sexual sin, to honor God with the body.

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NLT)

I think long on honor.

Father God, would my thoughts show I belong to you? Would my actions declare I am yours? Stresses, conflict, loss, betrayal, they all (viciously) distract me along the journey, trying to consume my focus, but you bring me back to you with song and joy. Lord, help me to honor you with my whole being, my whole heart, my whole life.

Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven,
    he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
In that day he will be your sure foundation,
    providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
    The fear of the Lord will be your treasure. (Isaiah 33:5-6, NLT)

 

Courtney (66books365)

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Micah 1-4; Psalm 10; Matthew 24

That very first sin, in the garden, they were faced with a choice. At first, it kinda looked like a choice between disobedience and obedience. Or maybe it was doubt over trust. Or maybe it was power over relationship. Maybe it was all of those things, but as I’ve thought on that this week, it was (insert the sin or desire) over relationship (in that case, with God).

I’ve watched that same thing play itself out in a variety of ways throughout my life. Popularity vs. relationship. Lust vs. relationship. Pride vs. relationship. Greed vs. relationship. Addiction vs. relationship.

Micah 1-4 is a list of accusation against a nation and their wickedness. Because they chose evil, unbelief, disobedience over relationship. Psalm 10 takes a look at a heart.

For they brag about their evil desires;
    they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.

The wicked are too proud to seek God.
    They seem to think that God is dead.
Yet they succeed in everything they do.
    They do not see your punishment awaiting them.
    They sneer at all their enemies.
They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us!
    We will be free of trouble forever!”

Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues. (Psalm 10:3-7, NLT)

If you’ve ever been on the relationship side of being ditched, you know the sting of sin. But when it’s man vs. God, it’s man choosing an idol over God, and that idol goes by many names. It is temporary, powerless, empty.

Those choices can be defining, life altering, eternal.

 

Though the nations around us follow their idols,
    we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever. (Micah 4:5, NLT)

Every day, a choice.

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” (Matthew 24:1-2, NLT)

This life, this world, they are so very temporary.

Live kingdom focused.

45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:45-51, NLT).

Lord, the choices I make, the words I say, the actions I take, they tell a story, and whether intended or not, the story they tell will show my heart. But truly, importantly, I hope those choices show you–my strength in weakness, my hope in grief, my faith in what seems futile. You are just. You are sovereign.

Courtney (66books365)

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Hosea 11-13; Matthew 19

I think long on following Jesus. The verses today speak of following (and not following).

Precious God, a Father, and His tenderness. As a parent fondly remembering their youngest years and treasuring my own children, I read of His love:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
    the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
    and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel how to walk,
    leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
    that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
    with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
    and I myself stooped to feed him. (Hosea 11:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

In Matthew, the children come to Jesus, brought by their parents.

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. (Matthew 19:13-15, NLT)

A rich man searches for the kingdom’s entrance, and Jesus tells him:

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:21-24, NLT)

I read on. God makes the impossible possible. All of it. Everything. Everything is possible.

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. (Matthew 19:25-30, NLT)

Father God, you call me out of captivity, and from that freedom I have everything to gain–more than what I leave behind. When I read of your tender love, I am reminded of who I am in your sight because of Jesus. The things that hurt me hold me down like a heavy yoke–can’t I give it all up to follow you? I list it all like an inventory, and I give it to you, for your sake. Please help me to discern the things I should focus on, but first, You.

Courtney (66books365)

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Amos 4-6; Psalm 55; Matthew 14

It was probably ten or eleven years ago, and my dad wasn’t speaking to me, and my heart ached. One day I was out at the grocery store with my kids and a dear friend. I kept seeing an older man with the brightest blue eyes in the store. We had made eye contact several times, and it seems so crazy now (and maybe even a little crazy then), but I had such an urge to approach him. I parked the shopping cart off to the side in an aisle while my friend stayed by my kids. I walked over to the stranger.

“My dad has blue eyes like yours,” I said to him, awkwardly, and he smiled at me. We talked a little, and at the end he opened his arms to me and hugged me (God, bless that man), and I choked back my tears. I looked at my friend and she was crying.

***

Last year within days after my dad died, I was at the UPS Store, my mind scrambled by a to-do list of so much that had to get done that week, and planning a funeral. I walked into the store directly behind a man, who, when he turned, I recognized as a friend.

“Hey!” he said, “How are you?”

I tried to find a way to speak, to respond, and finally I reached out to him and said, “My dad died on Saturday.” And he mercifully hugged me and let me cry. (Thank you, God, for the loving timeliness of friends running errands too.)

***

35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed (Matthew 14:35-36, NLT).

There are times when the need is so strong to cry out to God, the desire great to hear His voice, or if I could … at least touch the fringe of His robe–but really to have Him sit across from me and hold my hand and hear my heart. Hard days when I cling to His Word that He has a plan, that He loves me, that He sees me, that He’s for me, that He will be with me, that He sings over me, that He will bring good and beauty from heartache and ashes.

I read these verses in Matthew and imagined the scene, to reach out and touch the Lord. To be that close. To be healed.

“If you could meet with any person from the past,” I asked my daughter on a car ride recently, “who would you pick?”

Thankfully, one day, I truly will get to sit across from Jesus, and He will wipe away my tears.

Father God, thank you that you hear me from heaven. Thank you for your sovereignty and great plan. Thank you for blue-eyed strangers and friends on this earth who comfort and love and help and encourage in all of life’s seasons.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

9When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.

 10Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11The Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

12Jesus heard the Pharisees ask this. So he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only the sick need a doctor. 13Go and learn what this means: ‘I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13

In my reading today, I was intrigued Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, especially the words “faithful love”. Looking deeper, I learned that one of the definitions of the original Greek word eleos is “covenant loyalty”.

When Jesus said the phrase, “I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices…” He was referring to a passage in the prophecies of Hosea, that continues, “…I want people to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

From the beginning of the earth, God has always wanted relationship with His children. He demonstrated that with Adam, when He walked with him in the cool of the day. He demonstrated that all through the Old Testament, with His relationship with Abraham, Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and many more. And, through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, He reestablished the possibility of a face-to-face relationship with Heavenly Father through Holy Spirit.

 8I do not scold you for your sacrifices.

You always bring me your burnt offerings.

9But I do not need the bulls from your stalls

or the goats from your pens.

10Every animal of the forest is already mine.

The cattle on a thousand hills are mine.

11I know every bird on the mountains.

Every living thing in the fields is mine. Psalm 50:8-11

He didn’t need the animal sacrifices before Jesus came to the world, because those animals already belonged to Him. He accepted the sacrifices because the blood sacrifice was what temporarily allowed man to be close. Just like He didn’t need the temple to be repaired by King Joash and the priests and He didn’t need any of the new “stuff” bought by the received offerings.

What He wanted then and continues to yearn for today is for me, for all of His children, to seek His face, to desire to know Him, to walk in relationship with Him all the days of my life. It doesn’t matter that I have sinned, that I need(ed) a hospital. He has loved me in the midst of my sin and will forever invite me into His presence.

Yesappa, Thank You for wanting to be in relationship with me. Thank You for providing the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus that allows my sin to be forever washed in the blood. Thank you for loving me before I even knew Your name. Help me to know You better, to know Your heart, Your will, and Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

International Children’s Bible, Copyright © 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

From the archives. Originally published July 27, 2016.

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