Tag Archives: Bible Reading

Proverbs 11-13; Psalm 8; Romans 13

The prompts were simple: What are you saying no to next month? What are you saying yes to?

Depending on the end goal, an answer could be no to donuts, busyness, or, as I chose, fear. One might say yes to exercise, moderation, or, as I chose, presence. It was a simple prompt. I looked over months of these prompts and I found I was saying no to a lot of things, including: fear, negativity, excuses. And yes to more, including presence, preparation, and discipline.

It seemed important to define the things I was rejecting and the things I was accepting. I think we can accept things we should reject without even realizing it. With three chapters of Proverbs in my reading today, a contrast is clear.

19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed.

20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
    joy fills hearts that are planning peace!

25 Worry weighs a person down;
    an encouraging word cheers a person up.

26 The godly give good advice to their friends;
    the wicked lead them astray. Proverbs 12:19, 20, 25, 26, NLT)

 

Here, wisdom and folly stand on opposite sides of the line. The choice is for the taking: truth or lies, deceit and evil or joy and peace, worry or encouragement, godly friends or wicked ones.

There’s a saying “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”

20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
    associate with fools and get in trouble. (Proverbs 13:20, NLT)

This year I’ve had frequent reminders to guard my heart. Guard it against what I allow to grow inside it. Guard it diligently regarding the external influences and circumstances around me.

Lord, sometimes circumstance muddles simple questions–what am I accepting, what am I rejecting? I spend time there, knowing those answers affect my heart and the issues of life. Thank you for your word for instruction and encouragement. Thank you for never leaving me (and the many treasured ways you show your love to me). Thank you for the sweet gift of good friends.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 12,13; Psalms 145; Jeremiah 6; Matthew 20

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’    Matthew 20:9;12

I tend to place myself within parables as I read them (always identifying with the most godly of the story’s characters, of course!).  After I read the parable of the workers in the vineyard, I instead imagined a scene from my future:

I walk into Heaven after serving God for most of my long life and find myself face to face with a couple of Nazis.

Huh?  This is Heaven right?  What’s going on here?

I suddenly recall reading the testimony of the U.S. Army chaplain assigned to minister to the surviving leaders of the Third Reich during their year-long trial at Nuremburg.  He claimed several were saved, including the chief of the German armed forces and the head of their massive slave labor force.  As I stand in Heaven staring them straight in the eye, I see that he was right.  I’m not sure how I feel about sharing the same eternal fate as men who were personally responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and caused great misery for hundreds of millions more.  They dedicated themselves to God only in the eleventh hour as they approached their executions.  Something doesn’t seem right.  Something doesn’t seem fair.

I look around the golden city and marvel at this, my eternal reward, and then start to wonder anew if I’m really being given nothing more than the reward these reformed killers have received.  Suddenly my eyes fall upon Jesus.  He’s looking at me with an expression that suggests He’s waiting for something to click within my mind.  Finally it does.  I realize that this eternal reward I feel slighted in having to share with the Nazis is a reward that Jesus alone actually earned.  Fairness to Jesus would require that I  take up residence in hell.  I’m only here because of God’s grace.  How then can I be wishing, even for a moment, that He apply a little justice to someone else?

I see Jesus is still waiting, and my thoughts break through yet another wall.  I might be sharing the same eternal fate as men who rebelled against God to a degree that few others in history ever have, but it’s SO wrong to think that God has blessed us equally.  We might be neighbors in Heaven, but I was given something they never were.  They served God only toward the end of lives filled with evil.  On the other hand, God prevented me from committing such levels of evil, and blessed me by drawing me to Him early in life.  These men lived most of their lives in service to themselves.  I was invited to live most of my life in service to the Great and Holy King.  What an unparalleled privilege!

Dear Lord, thank you for mercy rather than justice.  Destroy my lingering love of fairness.  Replace it with an ever greater love of goodness and grace.  Amen.

Michael   (mmattix)

From the archives. Originally published July 10, 2011.

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Isaiah 26-29; Psalm 65; 1Corinthians 4

After 32 years of married life, too often I assume what Jim is going to say before he is even finished speaking. Israel had the same attitude toward God and Prophet Isaiah. When Isaiah spoke, they heard blah, blah, blah or as he put it, “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.” Isaiah 28:10

Sometimes I have the same attitude towards God. When I read God’s word and get rolling through the day, I can be dulled by routines and distracted by the immediate. I am rolling my eyes before the conversation has even started. The wonderful thing about my husband is that when I listen…really listen, he says something new.  After 32 years with the man, I am still discovering new reasons why I love him. What is true about Jim is even truer with God. God wants to say new things to me; he longs to breathe new life into a weary, expectant soul:

“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say…All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.” Isaiah 23…29

“Therefor once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:14

This is why I try to get to the Word every day. It’s not because I am self disciplined or trying to be a better person; it’s because I am fairly desperate for God to speak to me. God consistently uses his Word to start the day’s conversation. CS Lewis describes my condition in A Severe Mercy, “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice.”

When God speaks, I fall more in love with him. My world changes, healing comes, beauty fills the dark and empty corners of my soul.  Like marriage, some days I wake up and feel the love and some days, not so much, but I stay married and learn to love. That love transforms.

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas.” Psalm 65:4-5

So if you read this today, do yourself a favor and find your Bible. Read it with hope and expectation, even if just briefly, because God longs to bring us closer to him.

klueh

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Joshua 22-24, Psalm 116, Luke 19

Keep your chin up…hang in there…stay tough…are phrases that people use to encourage you to either stop focusing on your problem or to not give up.  Hollow words to those of us whose hope for the best ended with “A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside,” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed). What is healing to this wounded and confounded soul is to do as Joshua encouraged, “… hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day,” Joshua 23:8. Yet, the days can be complicated and the nights restless once our head droops and eyes are cast downward.  It’s as if we cannot remember our pledge of loyalty to God.  Human nature has not changed all that much, for Joshua had to remind the Israelites long ago, “But take careful heed… to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,” Joshua 22:5.

“But,” you might say, “That is all well and good when everything is going right – when we are ‘on the other side. Besides, only Christ Himself could rise above despondency from losses such death of a loved one, a barren womb, or the destruction of addiction.” Yet even Jesus Christ wept with despondency. Luke 19:41-44 says, “Now as Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this day, the things that make for your peace!” What is it that Jesus knew so intimately and with such certainty? He knew to sing Psalm 116:1 even at the last Passover supper he shared with the disciples. He would have lifted the ‘cup of salvation’ and sung, “I love the Lord, because He has heard my cry…because He bends down from His place in glory to meet my needs.”  Jesus Christ knew even then that the disciples would speak words of no comfort, and that even their attempts to console Him would be of no use. It is not comforting to hear words from those who have not suffered greatly. Nor is it company to swap misery. What brings perspective to all this suffering is when we know, really know, that we can call to the Lord and Savior of the world to take action on behalf of just one. Notice the personal pronouns in Psalm 116:3-9 “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Hell laid hold of me; then I called upon the Lord, ‘Deliver me!’”

Therefore, hold fast to the resurrected Christ who knows suffering.

Hold fast to the trustworthy God who hears your cry.

Hold fast as you know to do, as your experience in this fallen world has taught you to do. Hold fast because the God of the universe delivers those who cling to Him.

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Leviticus 15-18; Psalm 31; Hebrews 6

I am not fond of reading Hebrews 6.  You see, I know what it says about those who once tasted the goods set out on our Lord’s table, only to spurn them and walk away.  Frightening thoughts of severe punishment, of permanent estrangement, and of final judgment fill me with anxiety and dread if ever I or those whom I love should choose to turn from God. Rather, I cling to Scriptures such as Psalm 31:1-2, which says, “In You, O Lord, I put my trust, Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness.  Bow down Your ear to me, speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me.”  For in these verses, I find constancy and comfort in God’s Presence so close beside me.

Yet, we cannot deny that God is concerned about those who come near His grace and goodness, but who reject His righteousness. What if our faith is small or our works of service to others do not demonstrate that we are ‘good enough’ to be saved?  There are times when most of us question our faith and waver in our faithfulness. We may entertain, even if briefly, that our belief in the resurrection is in vain. Or we may look around us at the evil that man is capable of and wonder who is in charge in this earth and what benefit is all this striving to do good.  At these times, are we in peril of losing our salvation?  What if we are hurt by the very ones that profess to be children of God or His priests?  If that pain drives us from Him, will this cause damnation to our souls? And what of those whose mind has been broken, like the wing of a great bird, grounding that person from soaring free and beautiful with heavenly song?

If in these questions you hear me falling away, think again. What really happens when I go down this thorny path of uncertainty is that I search the heart of God for the truth that heals. Truth such as Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” My fears and questioned are always answered by this one Truth – sacrificially, Christ became that flesh and blood that once and for all atones for whatever mistakes, bad choices, fears, misunderstandings, and deep hurts we experience here on earth.

Why would Christ do this for us, for me? Hebrews 6 goes on to tell us that God’s faithfulness to His promises is so that “we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”  So in the end, it is because of Truth’s sacrifice, not because of anything we have done or not done, or said or left out, or hoped to be but were not, that we will one day be able to say, “Into your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

I do not know the final call that the dead hear, but I’m sure that there is one.

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Ezekiel 24-26; James 3

“…But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

Ouch. I know this to be true. One minute positive words come out of this mouth, the next minute a complaint, criticism or a curse. My very words condemn me. I commiserate with Isaiah when he cries, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5.  Between God and me, I am the only one surprised by the inclinations of my heart. Thanks to Jesus, my guilt is erased and I am  restored. I think of the line of the song, “fall down six times, get up seven.”

Friends of mine just went to a marketing seminar where they were advised to tap into the human desire to think of oneself as superior. That couldn’t be farther from James’s advice to embrace humility and provide no safe harbor for “bitter envy and selfish ambition” within my heart. These are words to dwell on before I take my seat at the Thanksgiving table with parents, siblings, in-laws and outlaws. It’s amazing how quickly adults can revert to old childish ways when back in the family fold.

So along with preparing the traditional dishes, this upcoming week, I’ll focus on cultivating a heart of gratitude as well as commit these words of James to memory:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18.

When I fall short, I’ll quickly breathe that prayer of repentance:

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen

Klueh

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Isaiah 48-49; Colossians 4

Have you ever been asked the question, “How do you know God speaks to you?” If not, you probably have never answered anyone with “God told me to do this,” or “God brought me here for a purpose.” In fact, it may be looking back that you even realize God’s hand in the events of your life. This is especially true in my reflections.  What I thought were decisions made based on few, if any options were later found to be divinely ordained, life-producing surprises (to me, at least) where God’s Spirit protected, provided, opened doors, or blessed more than a few through my bumbling efforts to obey Him.

For example, a recent move and a new job appeared to be the result of family upheaval, illness, and financial strain. The decision to make this move seemed impulsive to some, yet my thoughts about the move could better be described as compulsive. When the opportunity arose, my husband and I felt compelled to bounce out of that frying pan, even if into…well, you know the old adage.  So it seemed.

I wonder if this is how Jesus felt speaking in Isaiah (49:1-3), describing how God, the Father, hid Him until the right time to spring redemption on Israel and on to the Gentiles. He said, “The Lord has called me from the womb… In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me… In His quiver He has hidden Me…” And so that we would know this was God’s plan, in Isaiah 48:5-7, God says, “…Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you; Lest you should say, “My idol has done them…” and “I have made you hear new things from this time, Even hidden things, and you did not know them…Lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them…”

As God unfolded His plan of redemption, He created events that no one could have heard about before, and He operated this way so that we would learn that the Lord knows and controls the future. Likewise, what seemed like a misguided choice based upon catastrophizing life, stability, and sanity is now ringing with certainty God’s plan that is unfolding in our family’s life; an answer to prayers I have made time and again over the last 30 years.

Over and above answering prayers for home, health, and work (why do I even need to concern myself with these), I pray that my Lord, God continues to commune with my spirit. My heart’s desire is to follow His words of life and to be a part of His plan of redemption as He tells me to “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one,” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Lord Jesus, help us live virtuous and impeccable lives – we have been hidden until the right time; we are a shaft in the quiver of the Lord; prepare us to spread the gospel through Your words, our obedience, our weakness, and Your power.

Janet

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