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Proverbs 26-28; 1 Thessalonians 3

My oldest daughter graduated high school this year. She’ll be in college full time this fall, and while she’ll still be living at home, I won’t see her as often. I think of what I’ve learned about people and life, but mostly what I’ve learned at Jesus’ feet, and I want to cover her with warning and discernment as she heads out the door, to make sure she’s equipped for the journey. How could I ever say it all?

Proverbs feels like the fervent warnings of a parent condensed on pages, and as I read them, it’s a flood. This is good. I don’t want to forget this. Oh, this is so true, I think to myself. Choices, resentments, trust, character, leadership, reputation, integrity, bravery, strength–I don’t know about you, but as I read through these proverbs, I see how many have played out in my life or the life of someone I know.

This was like a bright red flag when someone recently looked for support and validation in a turbulent situation, one I did not want to be witness to or advisor in: 17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. (Proverbs 26:17, ESV)

This, a further reinforcement to steward my own affairs:

23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
    and give attention to your herds,
24 for riches do not last forever;
    and does a crown endure to all generations?
25 When the grass is gone and the new growth appears
    and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered,
26 the lambs will provide your clothing,
    and the goats the price of a field.
27 There will be enough goats’ milk for your food,
    for the food of your household
    and maintenance for your girls. (Proverbs 27:23-27, ESV)

I’m currently reading Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church by Philip Yancey. I think of it as I read this chapter 1 Thessalonians 3:2-6, NLT, emphasis noted:

and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you.

Troubles will come. Troubles in circumstances, relationships, choices. Just like I see the life of history past and present at play in these proverbs in 26-28, my daughter will too. I hope she will find encouragement like Yancey did through the testimony of others and through the pages of God’s Word. I hope she walks in wisdom. (I hope this for myself too.)

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

A great responsibility comes with choice. And I wonder how many people consider the cumulative or immediate consequences of a choice–from decisions over meals, activity, deadlines, to the influence of entertainment, relationships, culture.

Today, I read of Samuel plainly speaking, warning of the results of a choice:

10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. (1 Samuel 8:10-22, NLT, emphasis added)

Even though Samuel warned what it meant to have a king rule over them, the people wanted to be like everyone else; and they wanted one man to judge them and lead them. Those were the defining arguing points they made, over everything else they’d perhaps forfeit. And God said to let them have it.

I think long on freedom and choice, grateful and reverent of it.

As I read through Stephen’s recounting of history, two things stand out: man’s choice and God’s presence. Stephen reminds of God’s leading and man’s response, sometimes obedient and sometimes not.

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:51-54, 57-58, NLT, emphasis added)

I wonder, Lord, does choice always come down to choosing or rejecting you? From what I eat for lunch, what I listen to, how I handle conflict, what I say between friends–where do I put you in all of this, even these seeming inconsequential things? And what of mercy, compassion, forgiveness?

Father God, thank you for choice and freedom. These are perhaps the most powerful permissions you have given mankind. Help me to be aware of my heart in the choices I make. I want to choose you. I want to follow you. Stephen’s last words were for mercy for his attackers. Lord, help me to keep your kingdom as my focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 4-5; Luke 6

For my relationship with him; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with others–his commands are meant for good.

29 Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. (Deuteronomy 5:29, NLT)

When Jesus walked this world, some observed with suspicion, outrage, hate. Others saw hope.

18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. (Luke 6:18-19, NLT)

In Luke 6, I read the beatitudes, the sorrows foretold, love for enemies, judgment, fruitfulness, building on a solid foundation. These words are meant for good–for my relationship with others; for the stewardship of my own body and heart; for my relationship with him.

Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him. Wouldn’t my arms reach for him too? And I have these words he said, here in front of me. As I read them, he is telling me so plainly how to live. How to love. How to serve.

46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:46-49, NLT)

When opinions, attitudes, pressures, and personalities clash, Lord, help me to see past the immediate to the eternal. You give me counsel for my good and your glory. Help me to keep perspective. Help me to remember. Help me to obey. I am so grateful for this time with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Leviticus 4-7; Hebrews 3

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. This is how you are to deal with those who sin unintentionally by doing anything that violates one of the Lord’s commands.” (Leviticus 4:1, NLT)

I read through the Lord’s instructions to Moses in Leviticus 4-7. They are thorough. They are lengthy. So when I get to Hebrews 3 and the mention of Moses in comparison to Jesus, the connection is fresh.

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house.

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. (Hebrews 3:106, NLT)

The scriptures go further to warn against a hardening of the heart against God.

That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
    when they tested me in the wilderness.
There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
10 So I was angry with them, and I said,
‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
    They refuse to do what I tell them.’
11 So in my anger I took an oath:
    ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (Hebrews 3:7-13, NLT)

It caused me to think on things that would harden my heart in any event–and can I keep a hardening heart in one area of my life from hardening against God?

I’m so thankful for Jesus, who took my sins, washed me clean with his sacrifice. I can lay them down before him, the intentional and unintentional and tangled mess, and he still calls me loved. He still calls me daughter. He still calls me forgiven. He is my high priest and my hope.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 13-15; Psalm 114; Ephesians 3

It’s easy to want to chalk a hardship up to an enemy’s plans (and perhaps less easy to one’s own poor choices or inaction). But what if it’s God’s divine hand? Maybe it’s happening just so you know.

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told. (Exodus 14:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

The things that are out of my control, and the things within my control that are hard to control, can I submit them to the Lord? I think of Erin’s post on Monday, how Moses gave excuses to get out of God’s task–and God, whose plan would further demonstrate who He is. Lord, can I accept what is and seek you in the midst of it?

In Exodus I read as the Israelites complained that they were better off slaves, that they were thirsty–this after they had just witnessed the waters parting and were singing of God’s power. Father God, help me. Help me to remember Your goodness and sovereignty. Fear, dread, even basic needs like thirst can knock the feet from under one. Maybe when I’m undone, I’m relying on my own power rather than remembering and relying on yours.

Paul writes several books of the Bible from prison, and I’d post all of Ephesians 3 here because it is so rich. But I land briefly here:

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. (Ephesians 3:8-13, NLT, emphasis added)

Paul sees God’s plan even in prison, and accepts that imprisonment is part of the plan. Paul operates from this perspective and truth. He does what God has appointed him to do. That’s some serious kingdom focus.

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, emphasis added)

Courtney (66books365)

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