Tag Archives: Choice

1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9; Matthew 5

Solomon had it all–he was powerful, wealthy, intelligent. The Queen of Sheba pays him a visit, and she is wowed by all she sees–all that she’s heard about Solomon is true. But despite all that, he was living in a deficit, a weakness and drain he either didn’t seem to notice or didn’t take seriously.

The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.

The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command (1 Kings 11:2-4, 9-10, NLT, emphasis added).

Solomon was a very smart man, but how did he get this so wrong? His father was DAVID. Maybe he didn’t think some rules applied to him. Maybe he didn’t really consider the consequences of his actions–it was in the name of love after all.

Self, take warning. Guard your heart. What places in my life have I not taken seriously that the Lord wants me to guard and submit to him?

In the New Testament reading, Jesus has a lot to say about the law, anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. Actions are birthed from thought, and thought provokes a choice.

28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28, NLT).

He knows the power of the heart. He knows how small choices of disobedience can take one so far off course, leading away from God instead of closer to Him.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless (Matthew 5:13, NLT).”

God has always given people choice. And thankfully, with that choice, He has also given guidance and warning because He is a loving father. The warning He gave to Israel was for the nation and for the individual. Jesus speaks to the body of believers: A word not just for a time, but for all time; a word not just for a body but every body.

Lord, I’m thankful for how much you love me. You are a father who loves and leads. I don’t want to take your word as a broad guideline for mankind, but as a tender counsel for my very heart.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 5-7; Psalm 75; 2 Corinthians 10

22 Have you no respect for me?
    Why don’t you tremble in my presence? (Jeremiah 5:22, NLT)

These verses in Jeremiah (5-7) are to God’s people who have once again turned away from him, in their pride they follow their own way. They reject him, and live like he doesn’t exist. He calls them foolish, senseless people with eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear. It’s a warning.

23 But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
    They have turned away and abandoned me.
24 They do not say from the heart,
    ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God,
for he gives us rain each spring and fall,
    assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’
25 Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings.
    Your sin has robbed you of all these good things. (Jeremiah 5:23-25, NLT)

It has been a wet season in Maryland, so much so that I have a hard time trusting when the sun peeks out that it could ever stay. I read that verse about rain each spring and fall, and I pause here: assuring us of a harvest when the time is right. And I think I sometimes wonder if I can trust in the harvest. Forgive me, Father.

In seasons of hardship, loss and grief, I have found closeness and comfort in the Lord. When I draw near to him, he is there, and I learn that this is where I want to be. Abiding in him. He is the wonderful blessing.

16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
    Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT)

I seek him and his kingdom. I stand on a path and look around–is this where you want me, Lord? Is this where you are calling me to go? When I feel weary and uncertain, I find myself wondering if I believe in the harvest, if I trust it will ever come. Sometimes the road doesn’t look the way I imagined, and I find myself unsure if I heard right. I bring him my fears and my doubts. I am learning to cast my cares upon him. To pray boldly.

Lord, I know that you are sovereign. Forgive me when I hesitate. Forgive me when I’m afraid. Forgive me when I’m downright resistant. I find myself in a new season and it’s not familiar. Help me to get my bearings, to discern the godly way, and to walk in it and not look back.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 22-23; Psalm 73; 2 Corinthians 5

A friend from high school shared a photo with me of the two of us at her seventeenth birthday party. We were so young. We looked so happy. I have zero memory of the occasion. Nothing was familiar. Not even the shirt on my back.

“I wonder what those seventeen-year-olds would think of us now!” she mused. But I was less concerned with how that version of me would view my life today, as I was at (desperately) wishing I could have somehow prepared that young heart for what was ahead. Queue the song, Dear Younger Me.

Josiah was eight when he became king, and every time I read “He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right. (2 Kings 22:2, NLT),” I smile.

He tore down and burned all the shrines, temples and buildings that stood for wickedness. The Bible reads, “25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since. (2 Kings 23:25, NLT)” After Josiah dies, his sons rise up.

31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 32 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. 2 Kings 23:31-32, NLT

36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother was Zebidah, the daughter of Pedaiah from Rumah. 37 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. 2 Kings 23:36-37, NLT

I looked at that face of a younger self and grieved for her. For the generational sin around her. At the sin-laden legacy offered by example. I want to tell her, “Help is on the way.” Thank you, God, for your work in my life.

Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, NLT)

Thank you, God, for new life. Thank you, God, that I can know you and live for you. Thank you for reaching into strongholds and generations to rescue and resurrect.

17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
    and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
    you will laugh at their silly ideas
    as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. Psalm 73:17-28, NLT

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 15-16; 1 Kings 16; Philemon

I didn’t see it coming. As Asa’s story unfolded, I felt bolstered by the prophet’s words: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him,” and “be strong and courageous” (2 Chronicles 15). Asa heard and took courage. He removed idols, repaired an altar, and called together the people. There were covenants made and sacrifices offered. Asa’s heart remained faithful throughout his life (2 Chronicles 15:17b, NLT. Note this.).

So I didn’t see it coming, when in 2 Chronicles 16, he would overlook consulting the Lord, a decision that carried crucial consequences. His first thirty-five years of reign were marked by an intentional abiding, but the last years of leadership are an unraveling of sorts–misplaced trust, anger and oppression.

What happened?

***

While disappointing to read, was it a surprise that Israel’s leaders were evil and angered the Lord time after time?

25 But Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 26 He followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat in all the sins he had committed and led Israel to commit. The people provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. (1 Kings 16:25-26, NLT)

I think long on examples. I consider influences in my lifetime (some influenced me not to follow them!). But how often do I take into consideration my own words and actions and the influence they have on those around me?

***

I’ve spent the past few days working on a baby’s knit hat, and I’ve started it over so many times I’ve lost count. I noticed that sometimes the row was a stitch or two longer than it should have been, or that I dropped a stitch accidentally and there was a big hole in it. These mistakes weren’t made on purpose. They were so very unintentional.

***

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Paul writes to Philemon, reminding him of his generosity and love–and to take it a step further (to extend grace, forgiveness, or welcome to someone who has wronged him).

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 17-21, NLT)

Paul’s letter to Philemon reads like encouragement and caution.

***

I’m not responsible for the decisions other people make–and lately I’ve been surprised at how someone’s choice can influence my response. I do pause and wonder: should it? Like Philemon, if someone has wronged me, should I be less loving or generous in my own behaviors, or like Paul suggests–to do as much or more than expected? Do I stay true to how God has wired me? If I’m not intentional, abiding in Christ, I could look back at the fabric of the story of my life and see holes and wonder, “What happened?”

Lord, I’m so imperfect, but I know that you are at work in my heart. Help me to be true to who you’ve created me to be, independent of how another behaves. Some days effort seems grossly out of proportion to return. I am humbled and saddened as I wonder over the question of what’s in it for me? I pray that I continue strong, even in seasons of drought, because it pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 22; Hebrews 4; Joel 1; Psalms 140, 141

Grief. Repentance. Punishment. Oppression. Justice. Persecution. Calamity. Destruction.

15 The day of the Lord is near,
    the day when destruction comes from the Almighty.
    How terrible that day will be! Joel 1:15, NLT

Where enemies are plotting, evil, wicked, vipers.

O Lord, rescue me from evil people.
    Protect me from those who are violent,
those who plot evil in their hearts
    and stir up trouble all day long.
Their tongues sting like a snake;
    the venom of a viper drips from their lips. Psalm 140:1-3, NLT

And choices are made to obey or not.

He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right. 2 Kings 22:2, NLT.

It’s all there in the scriptures.

13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Hebrews 4:13, NLT

And in it too, refining fire.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12, NLT.

Let the godly strike me!
    It will be a kindness!
If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.
    Don’t let me refuse it. Psalm 141:5, NLT

 

Rest.

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. Hebrews 4:6-11, NLT.

We just returned from a weekend wedding in Massachusetts. For a sweet, short time, I played with my kids, ventured down water slides, walked through the woods, celebrated life and love, feasted. When I returned home, all the things I have still to do were waiting. But something in me was changed, when I needed it most.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT.

Lord, didn’t I meet you on the mountains? Every flaming autumn leaf, the carpet of pine needles, the way the wind rippled the waters and lifted my hair in playful dance. Didn’t you touch my heart in the aisle, as I sat by my husband and witnessed marriage vows, you spoke to me of your covenant love. You are my rest and my peace. You restore me. You comfort me. You encourage me. You soothe me. You are provider, protector. You are gracious and merciful. Thank you for respite and a reminder that I can access your peace any day, anywhere–not just in the Massachusetts wilderness, but here at home: by the computer, in the tasks, fixing meals, drinking coffee–I fix my focus. I am yours. You walk with me, and I am not alone.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 15; Titus 1; Hosea 8; Psalms 123-125

The comparison of Old Testament kings: those who did evil in the sight of the Lord as their ancestors had done–refusing to turn from the sins that had led to the sins of others;

27 Pekah son of Remaliah began to rule over Israel in the fifty-second year of King Uzziah’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty years. 28 But Pekah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:27-28, NLT)

and those who had done what pleased the Lord, BUT.

34 Jotham did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. He did everything his father, Uzziah, had done. 35 But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. (2 Kings 15:34-35, NLT)

(She) called me the other night, still processing pieces of childhood. It’s been a long year of reflection, for sure–certainly for me. I listened to what she said, of trying to connect dots to make the picture clearer. How a word today triggers the memory of a word from yesteryear, and all the feelings of shame or disgust that accompanied it.

I think on things handed down by generation. Whether, like in 2 Kings, it was a legacy of evil or one that did mostly what was pleasing, but

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him. (Titus 1:1-3, NLT, emphasis added)

Lord, I need you, your spirit, your word, your instruction always. Your ways are trustworthy, life-giving, truth.

15 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good. (Titus 1:15-16, NLT)

Lord, wherever there is a place in my life that doesn’t please you, show me, change me. Thank you for your word in my hands and in my heart. Help me to always listen for you and follow you.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 15; Colossians 2; Ezekiel 45; Psalms 99-101

From a lineage, a choice.

He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been. But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite. (1 Kings 15:3-5, NLT)

One does evil in the sight of the Lord, just like his father before him. Another does what pleases the Lord.

When Abijam died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Asa became the next king. (1 Kings 15:8, NLT)

11 Asa did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done. (1 Kings 15:11, NLT)

And so it goes. A choice.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7, NLT)

I feel the stretching pull of growing down and building up. Faith that grows strong in truth, a life overflowing in thankfulness.

Lord, I give you praise because I can trust in you. You are good and your faithfulness continues to each generation–great grace. I don’t know what the days hold, but I know who holds them, and I give you thanks now for your sovereignty. In you are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge–help me, oh Lord, to grow down deeper into you and my life to be built on you–my rock and foundation.

Courtney (66books365)

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