Tag Archives: Choice

Ezekiel 13-15; Psalm 136; John 5

What did he say?

Then this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, prophesy against the false prophets of Israel who are inventing their own prophecies. Say to them, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: What sorrow awaits the false prophets who are following their own imaginations and have seen nothing at all!’ (Ezekiel 13:1-3, NLT)

What did the Lord say?

“Therefore, tell the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. I, the Lord, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for my advice. I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 14:6-8, NLT)

What did the Lord say?

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

11 But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

13 The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” 15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:5-15, NLT, emphasis added)

When there’s so much to take in in the story, it’s easy to miss the message by considering the setting, interpreting a message, looking at the Pharisees. What did the Lord say? If I look past the descriptive sentences and focus on the dialogue, what did the Lord say? What if he said those words to me? Just these words: “Would you like to get well? Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk! Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”

Something even worse than being hindered and ineffective for 38 years. Something even worse than watching everyone else take action and rise victorious. Something even worse than blaming others, feeling abandoned, being stuck, or feeling self pity.

Lord, you’ve not been silent. You speak your word to people who may not want to hear or listen. This reading today (beyond what I’ve selected) tells me so much that you’ve said–about truth, accountability, error, sin, forgiveness, judgment, and more. You didn’t tell that man at Bethesda, “Ah, you’re a sinner so you’re just going to keep on sinning. It’s ok. Stay where you are.” You offered him a choice, told him to take action, and reminded him about who he is: NOW YOU ARE WELL. SO STOP SINNING. Oh, if I would just keep your words high above all the other distractions–a setting, a message, a body of people and their judgment. If I just kept your word as my focus–to choose you, to take action, to remember who I am in you. Could it be that simple? To lay down my excuses and my feelings, and just follow you to freedom and victory?

Courtney (66books365)

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Micah 5-7; Matthew 25

Listen to what the Lord is saying … my daughter wanted a book on how to read people, and in my search, I came across a book called Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras. I started to read it, and this word repeats often: listen.

Micah 6 opens with these lines, “Listen to what the Lord is saying …”

“O my people, what have I done to you?
    What have I done to make you tired of me?
    Answer me!” Micah 6:3, NLT, emphasis added

Tired of the Lord?

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (Matthew 25:1-4, NLT, emphasis mine)

This parable of the bridesmaids has been on my mind the past year, and now entering hurricane season, I think about being prepared–how do you prepare for a literal destructive storm? Toilet paper? Non-perishables? Batteries? How do you prepare spiritually?

This oil, fuel for light, and the bridesmaids–all of them were bridesmaids–I search online: what does the oil represent? Biblestudy.org suggests that the oil represents the Holy Spirit and the bridesmaids are believers. I read on in the explanation: “The meaning of the parable of the ten virgins teaches us that, shortly before Christ’s return, there will be Christians who are so slack in their spiritual duties that they will not have enough of God’s Spirit (character) in order to endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). All true Christians should make sure they have the faith and are diligent enough in their spiritual lives not to be caught unprepared (Matthew 24:45 – 51). We must all strive to be wise, and not foolish, virgins.”

The next parable in Matthew 25 is the Parable of the Three Servants.

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.” Matthew 25:14-15, NLT, emphasis mine.

Upon the man’s return, each servant shows how he used the money entrusted to him, and of the three, all but one doubles the investment. Each one was left a portion according to his ability, so the playing field is fair. The last man has nothing to show but the original investment, which he thinks is good enough. The master calls this servant wicked and lazy, and banishes him.

In the first parable, the bridesmaids caught unprepared were locked out from the feast. This is what Jesus says,

11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. (Matthew 25:11-13, NLT)

The wicked and lazy servant who does nothing with his allotment receives a crushing fate:

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:28-30, NLT)

And at the end of the chapter, Jesus talks about the final judgment. The nations are gathered in his presence. And there is judgment based on action.

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (Matthew 25:45, NLT, emphasis added)

Impressions on this reading speak of preparation, prudence, purpose–but really all of it is action. An alert faith. A Kingdom focus. I think long about my walk–am I walking with the Lord? Or am I walking apart from him?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NLT)

Lord, in these parables, the bridesmaids, the servants, those gathered in your presence, all know who you are. And each responds in his own way. These stories were spoken and recorded for the benefit of your followers. You spoke this because you want us to know. You have told us. You have given to us according to ability. May we live without excuse.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8; 1 Timothy 5

It starts with me. It’s easy to want to credit someone else’s behavior for the stoking of my poor response, but truly, I am responsible for the things I say and do. As I read through 1 Timothy 5, I make sure to think long on this guidance.

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NLT, emphasis mine)

This link to family: as you would to your father; as you would to your brothers; as you would to your mother; as you would to your own sisters. Kindness begins at home. When this tenderness is modeled at home, it has the potential to affect a community, a world. The opposite is also possible–strife, banter, unkindness, coarseness, sarcasm … these things can also grow in momentum and branch out to the world.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. (1 Timothy 5:3-4, NLT, emphasis mine)

Many of the verses I read reference home and family, placing importance on interaction, relationship and personal responsibility.

22 Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22, NLT)

These sentences in verse 22 are blocked together, but I read them as two separate thoughts: one about appointment and the other about not sharing in another’s sin and a reminder onstaying pure. I would have to look further into them to see a connection, but I do think on the importance of sound leadership and the effect leadership has on a group. I do see a focus on individual accountability and warning to not participate in sins others commit–to keep oneself pure.

It starts with me.

24 Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. 25 In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light. (1 Timothy 5:24-25, NLT)

Some things are obvious. Some things won’t come to light until later. I think long on my own choices, my relationships and influences, and where my focus ultimately rests.

Lord, you give me your word as guidance and wisdom to withstand the ages. May I always turn to you first.

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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1 Samuel 25-26; 1 Corinthians 9; Psalm 63

However Nabal acquired wealth, he died as a fool and is known as a fool. I once heard that money only magnifies who you already are–don’t be fooled into thinking that more money equates a generous heart. If one is selfish or self-centered, money will only make a person more so. And if one is generous and wise, money will magnify that as well. Abigail stands as an example of the latter. As Nabal’s wife, she benefits from the abundance, and she uses what he withheld to honor David and his troops–and to right the wrong her husband’s offense created.

Same situation, two responses: David and his men request hospitality. One man, from his abundance, rudely refuses (and then parties himself into a stupor). Another chooses to deliver the provisions herself, and humbly offers apology for her husband’s choice. She takes full responsibility.

She speaks these words to David, 2“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 30 When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, 31 don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance (1 Samuel 25:29-31, NLT, emphasis mine).”

I have sometimes wondered if I had things to do over again, equipped with knowledge I have now, if I would have shown the same kindness. David also voices the sentiment: 2David had just been saying, “A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good (1 Samuel 25:21, NLT).” Abigail underscores a point worth remembering–it doesn’t affect my record what someone else does in response (to kindness, hospitality, honor, protection, generosity, service, etc.); only what I do will affect my record. Others can provoke responses that would blemish that record and burden a conscience, but ultimately, the choice is mine. I don’t have to give that kind of power over to someone. And when I don’t, I don’t have to carry an unnecessary weight. That Abigail is one smart woman. I like her.

Nabal’s selfishness certainly spoke of his heart and no amount of money or belongings had the power to turn him into a selfless person. Saul’s focused hunting of David speaks of Saul’s heart as well. David is not even sure of why he’s being so targeted.

And David replied, “Yes, my lord the king. 18 Why are you chasing me? What have I done? What is my crime? 19 But now let my lord the king listen to his servant. If the Lord has stirred you up against me, then let him accept my offering. But if this is simply a human scheme, then may those involved be cursed by the Lord (1 Samuel 26:17b-19, NLT).”

This is a completely different scenario from that with Nabal. I’ve thought long on this chapter before, and today, new gleaning. David knows.

23 The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. 24 Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles (1 Samuel 26:23-24, NLT, emphasis mine).”

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he shares encouragement that I take to heart.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NLT).

Lord, I listen. You have been preparing me, coaching me, reminding me. You offer examples and offer a choice–you give me full permission to choose who I want to be and who I’ll follow. Every morning sunrise is a new day and a new choice. I lace up my shoes to run, and the parallel is not lost on me. I do it for an eternal prize. One that will never fade away. (Do our deeds and words echo endlessly in eternity?) Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely (Psalm 63:7-8, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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