Tag Archives: character

2 Corinthians 13; Psalm 101

I’ve asked myself a lot of questions this year: What am I afraid of? Why do some circumstances elicit such a strong response from me? Who are the people influencing me, and what is their influence? What would success look like in this area of my life? What’s holding me back? Am I living with a kingdom focus?

A year ago, I started running, and when I say running, I mean I tried to run up to the top of my driveway and back. It took me three attempts to run to the top without stopping. I was thirty-five pounds overweight and hadn’t exercised in over ten years. I committed the first month of “running” to just running one round-trip lap of my driveway. The next month, I added another lap. The month after that, a third. A year later, laps turned to miles. I could have stayed where I was that first month, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Paul once referenced giving milk to new believers because they weren’t ready for meat. The Bible talks of God’s grace in preparing his people for difficulties they wouldn’t be ready to handle on a first day. And here, Paul challenges and encourages:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:5, 7-9, 11, NLT).

I think on kingdom and character. David’s psalm shows me he thinks of it too.

I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will search for faithful people
    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip (Psalm 101, NLT).

In recent years, my family has lost many relatives and friends to death. In reflection, their lives spoke in death of what mattered to them in life–and one day, mine will too. Who do I want to mature to be when I’m eighty? The answer tells me what I need to start doing now. Those choices speak for me when I’m gone.

Lord, David and Paul are like dear brothers to me. Thank you for giving me family in the pages of Your Word when I lost people from my life. Thank you for Your Spirit in me, guiding and correcting and challenging me. I’m even thankful for the heckler in my head, who tries to defeat me every day. Only in you, Lord, can an enemy’s taunt turn into fuel for victory.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 1-2; 1 Chronicles 11

I am reading a book called Integrity: the Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Henry Cloud. One of the think pieces that stuck with me early on is the deeper layer of integrity, the one below the first response of trustworthy, honest, and sincere. The deeper layer leaves a wake behind its passing by, and that wake is telling of the core of who that person is.

When David learns of Saul and Jonathan’s deaths, he is deeply grieved. He writes a song in honor of the men. Saul was an enemy toward David, and David mourns the good of who Saul was. He chooses to remember well.

I read further into the scriptures and take note of David’s mightiest warriors. I read of the Thirty and I read of the Three.

20 Abishai, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. 21 Abishai was the most famous of the Thirty and was their commander, though he was not one of the Three (1 Chronicles 11:20-21, NLT).

Remember Abishai? He was by David’s side when they went into enemy camp last week and retrieved the spear and water jug while Saul and his men slumbered. But here are the Three:

11 Here is the record of David’s mightiest warriors: The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three—the mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle.

12 Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. 13 He was with David when the Philistines gathered for battle at Pas-dammim and attacked the Israelites in a field full of barley. The Israelite army fled, 14 but Eleazar and David held their ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord saved them by giving them a great victory.

15 Once when David was at the rock near the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 16 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

17 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 18 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But David refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 19 “God forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three (1 Chronicles 11:11-19, NLT, emphasis mine).

The wake of their actions leaves a long impression upon me–their strength, ability, and bravery made them warriors, but something deeper within them set them apart from other warriors. Likewise, I wonder, did these elite see something in David that made them willing to stand apart for him? Or were they just being true to themselves and how God wired them?

There’s a lot to consider in these chapters: the example David sets in honoring Saul and Jonathan; the mighty acts of the Thirty and the Three; David seeking the Lord for direction; and the pouring out of a sacrifice to the Lord–these things all speak of integrity and wake.

I find I have more questions as I consider today’s culture’s transient environment of work/service and relationships. I keep seeking.

Courtney (66books365)


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Exodus 38-40; Acts 4; Psalms 15, 19

Integrity. Obedience. Trustworthiness. Excellence. Perseverance. At first, I was dazzled by the detail and skill of the craftsmen. Then I was humbled by the very ordinary (not-so-ordinary) routine setting up and taking down of a traveling tabernacle. God has me wrestle with obedience this week. (I just finished a read aloud with my youngest, a book by Geraldine McCaughrean called The Kite Rider. A theme throughout is obedience, and the cost of obedience.)

Today, I read of Bezalel, being who God created him to be, and cheering him on for his excellence.

Bezalel made the chestpiece with great skill and care. He made it to match the ephod, using finely woven linen embroidered with gold and with blue, purple, and scarlet thread (Exodus 39:8, NLT, emphasis added).

Do I cheer the ordinary (not-so-ordinary) as well?

16 Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him. 17 So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. 18 Moses erected the Tabernacle by setting down its bases, inserting the frames, attaching the crossbars, and setting up the posts. 19 Then he spread the coverings over the Tabernacle framework and put on the protective layers, just as the Lord had commanded him (Exodus 40:16-19, NLT, emphasis added) .

(For some reason, these preparations made me think of congregations gathering on Sundays in rented school spaces, setting up and tearing down. The routine of ordinary-not-so-ordinary.)

And something I notice too in obedience–anointing.

12 “Present Aaron and his sons at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and wash them with water. 13 Dress Aaron with the sacred garments and anoint him, consecrating him to serve me as a priest. 14 Then present his sons and dress them in their tunics. 15 Anoint them as you did their father, so they may also serve me as priests. With their anointing, Aaron’s descendants are set apart for the priesthood forever, from generation to generation” (Exodus 40:12-15, NLT, emphasis added).

And in the New Testament, Spirit-filled teaching and preaching. Who can stop it?

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, NLT, emphasis added).

Lord, you challenge my thoughts and you challenge my heart–to examine my response in the ordinary-not-so-ordinary. Forgive my dragging feet and reluctance. I remember the times I served and served wholeheartedly.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever. (Psalm 15, NLT, emphasis added)

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much to redirect my thoughts to you, and to what matters beyond what I can see.

Courtney (66books365)

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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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Leviticus 17; Psalms 20,21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

In this day, everything seems public. Social media and reality TV have made the private things famous. But as I read about the virtuous and capable wife in Proverbs 31, I know there was no TV crew following her around, spying on and magnifying her every move. The things that were done in this woman’s life were largely done in private, not in front of an audience. She’s always seemed larger than life to me when I’ve read about her in the past, but as I began to study her and her character, she is not a superstar. She is a servant at heart.

There are no adoring fans around her while she’s spinning her wool.

She’s not in it for public approval for stocking her pantry or getting up before dawn to plan out a day.

She’s savvy, crafty, generous–and true to how she’s wired, making the most of her time, talent and treasure.

And her fashion? Yeah, she’s got dresses of fine linen and purple; but she’s also clothed in strength and dignity.

A friend invited me into a 31-day character study of Proverbs 31, a book called Famous in Heaven and at Home by Michelle Myers (not compensated to mention this book). It took my attention off all the to-do’s and revealed the heart behind it–one of kindness and love.

My days can feel overwhelming if I look at all the items to check off on my list. But if I consider the why behind the what, the burden lifts and there is joy and contentment. Why am I doing the things I do? To love my family and friends. To honor God.

Lord, always help me to keep a right perspective when approaching my tasks. Then I will see the hidden treasure. Help me to be true to who you’ve made me to be–not seeking approval of man, but finding freedom and joy and abundance in living my life for you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Ezekiel 41-42; 2 Peter 1

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3-11

Since becoming a follower of Christ, I have often thought about what that means, what it ‘should’ look like. Christianity began with me completely believing in and putting my confidence in God my Father, in His Son who came to earth as a man, laid His life down to restore my relationship with Him, and rose again to life on the third day, and in Holy Spirit my helper. It began with faith; faith to trust even though I don’t always have tangible evidence, faith to step out and take a leap into the unknown.

Peter shares that while the foundation of the Christian walk is simple faith, it isn’t the only facet. He shares that, because I partake of the divine nature of God, I am able to develop my simple faith with additional character qualities that will keep me from being unfruitful in my life and help to prevent me from falling:

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. 2 Peter 1:5-7 MSG

Virtue – as I practice moral excellence, as I make good choices in the day-to-day of life, my life begins to better reflect Christ in me. Determination, integrity, and discretion help me walk a straight path; and even when I stumble, I have a plum line to help me get up and walk again.

Knowledge – as I continue to delve deeper in my relationship with God, His divine nature is reveled to me in greater and greater ways. Each day, as I spend more time with Him, my understanding of Him, my intimacy with Him is increased. Though I will ever be in awe of His goodness, my experiences of who God is gives me a new sense of familiarity. He is my Daddy and no longer a formidable, unapproachable being.

Self-Control – as I train myself in restraint, I become more level-headed and my willpower for self-discipline becomes stronger. I am better able to regulate my actions, my emotions, my fleshly desires and appetites. When I have control over myself, the truth about who I really am in Christ is able to shine above my weaknesses as a human being.

Steadfastness – as I exercise patience, my ability to continue fruitfully throughout my journey, through the ups and downs, despite the fatigue and stress, without complaint or loss of temper, increases. I am better able to bear the trials of life without being derailed from my purposes and goals. I am able to stay hopeful in the waiting.

Godliness – as I endeavor to be more like Jesus, I naturally begin to submit to His will, obeying the wishes of God as I understand them. As I hold tightly to God, as I become more reliant on Him, He enhances my wisdom, my gratitude, and teaches me how to be honoring to Him and to others.

Brotherly Affection – as I get into the habit of being kind to the people around me, I put into practice God’s call for me to love my enemies and to love my neighbors as myself. My compassion and generosity grow, and I am better able to empathize with others in the midst of their personal trials.

Love – as brotherly affection becomes more and more routine, my love increases. Agape love is enkindled by Holy Spirit; it is a love which embraces the truth and demonstrated the nature of God through me. It is a pure, unconditional love that flows with His grace and mercy.

Each one of these qualities adds to my faith, makes it well-rounded, and strengthens me as a believer. As I practice and build on each element, my character continues to grow as I rely on Christ within me.

Yesappa, Thank You for being my Daddy whom I can put my full confidence in. I know that you will never leave me nor forsake me, and that you are the source for all of the growth in my life. Help me always look to You as I walk my path; help me continue to fortify the qualities that demonstrate Your work in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Proverbs 19-20; 2 Corinthians 3

I started the new school year’s teaching gig yesterday: a class of 9th and 10th graders, medieval history and literature. One of the first things I did was administer a test on what they remembered from Chapter One’s reading assignment, but on the flip side of the paper was a get-to-know-you questionnaire. I’ve asked these questions in other classes too: using one word, how would you describe yourself, how would your friends describe you, how would your mom describe you, how would you like to be known?

I’m not sure that people really give this tremendous thought, but we’ll all be known for something.

Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3, NLT.

What kind of mark does my life leave upon another’s heart?

I don’t ask myself this question to number my shortcomings, but to number my days.

Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right. Proverbs 20:11, NLT.

Numbering my days to live intentionally, wholeheartedly.

Ears to hear and eyes to see, both are gifts from the Lord. Proverbs 20:12, NLT.

Today’s reading is filled with insight on mockers, chattering gossips, the lazy, the fools, a quarrelsome wife and her dripping nagging … as well as wisdom, self-control, and friendship.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? Proverbs 20:6, NLT.

Chapter One’s history reading was a gripping account of the battle at Milvian Bridge, and Constantine left an impression with readers, all of us using words to describe him–because we’ll all be remembered in some way … whether in a history book or in a heart.

16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, NLT.

Lord, may I always keep my eyes fixed on you.

Courtney (66books365)

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