Tag Archives: excellence

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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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus

Exodus 22-24; Luke 23; Psalm 12, 14

14 “Each year you must celebrate three festivals in my honor. 15 First, celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, just as I commanded you. Celebrate this festival annually at the appointed time in early spring, in the month of Abib, for that is the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. No one may appear before me without an offering.16 “Second, celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest.

“Finally, celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest[i at the end of the harvest season, when you have harvested all the crops from your fields. 17 At these three times each year, every man in Israel must appear before the Sovereign, the Lord. (Exodus 23:14-17, NLT)

A deliverance. A planting. A harvest. These are the three festivals for the Lord’s honor.

When I first started reading the scriptures today, I hoped that I could gain insight to a specific circumstance in my life. While the reading didn’t necessarily address it, I was reminded: God is just. And I trust in that. As I read about the festivals in His honor, I think of it symbolically today.

God delivered me from the captivity of sin and oppression. He has planted me in this place to sow what I will. And at the end of a life or a time, there will be a harvest.

19 “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19a, NLT)

These festivals were held yearly in the Old Testament–and I wonder if I looked closely at how I spend my time, what would I notice of sowing and harvest in a year? Would it honor God? Did I take what He has given me and use it wisely, intentionally? Have I given Him the honor and best of the harvest?

Lord, I’m so grateful for all that you have done for me. In this time of healing and discovering, I trust in you. I want to take my eyes of my broken heart and focus on purpose–a kingdom purpose. Help me to steward well what you have entrusted me. Help me to honor you and keep you as the focus of my heart, my words and my actions. Thank you for your Word that speaks to me of your presence and promises. Thank you for being trustworthy and just. Thank you for loving me just as much on the days I’m a shortsighted mess as you do on the days I’m bringing my best.

Courtney (66books365)


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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Old Testament

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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Filed under 1 Timothy, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Uncategorized

2 Kings 17; Titus 3; Hosea 10; Psalm 129-131

For some reason, especially this year, I’ve been trying hard to be perfect. I know that trying my best and working hard aren’t bad. But more and more recently, whether it’s messing up on the piano or not getting something at dance class, I’ve found that I keep getting angry at myself when I make mistakes. And I’ve also been anxious before lessons, because I worry that the teacher isn’t going to think I’m good at the thing if I don’t get it right away.

It’s kind of the same thing with sin. I either try too hard (or don’t) to be good, and when I fail I’m annoyed with the results.

Samaria Falls to Assyria

Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. (2 Kings 17:5-7 NLT)

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ (Hosea 10:12 NLT)

The people of Israel’s continuous sins against God caused Samaria to fall. God had warned them to stop, but they didn’t. Their actions led to their downfall.

This makes me think of all the times my actions have led to my downfall. For the people of Israel it was worshiping other gods; for me it’s what I say to others.

LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O LORD, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. (Psalm 130:3-4 NLT)

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5 NLT)

I know I don’t have to do good things to get into heaven. But while I’m here, I really want to grow closer to God and try to do what’s right!

Dear God,

Thank you for today’s reading. It really helped me to realize how much you don’t like it when I sin. And because of Jesus I can be forgiven for all that I’ve done. For now and in the future I hope to be at least a little bit better at watching what I say, since it’s my biggest downfall. I know I don’t have to be perfect at everything. So even though I will still work hard, please help me to at least watch what’s going on in my heart so I won’t think I’m better than others. Amen

Lanie (llilly2017)

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Exodus 39-40; Matthew 24:1-22

A few years ago, there was something going around about what would you say to your seventeen-year-old-self if you could go back. I had a lot of things I’d want to tell myself. But one thing is this: Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly. I’d say it in all seriousness, despite sounding cliche.

Today I’m standing on the sidelines and watching Bezalel weave worship into garments. His care and attention are poetic, like a song, and I feel joy. He is beautiful, even if I don’t know what he looks like.

A repeating refrain reminds at least eight times in Exodus 39: just as the Lord commanded. (Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly.)

A tabernacle is built, and this is a holy dwelling place, where fire lights the night for all to see.

***

I listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley on comparison this past week–and it sticks with me, even as I read today’s passages. I read of excellence in preparing a place for the Lord in Exodus–doing a God-wired job. And in Matthew’s pages, I read of persecution and hatred for being Jesus followers. That we would be hated for following Jesus, and perhaps for following his command on our lives–being whoever it is he has wired us to be. This is where jealousy and comparison come in and kill relationships. Is this such a stretch: the placement of excellence in the Old Testament, jealousy/comparison, and the reality of hatred in the New Testament? Maybe it is, but it’s what I’m trying to work out.

“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14 NLT.

Jesus is talking about end times and physical death. Hatred is a precursor to death. I have witnessed among believers and unbelievers, the relational ruin of comparison and jealousy. One either hates another, or hates himself.

I can’t go back in time to that girl of seventeen, but I remind myself still and today, “Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly.” Hatred and dislike are stumbling blocks thrown on a path–why would we do this to each other? This is not love.

Endure. The Spirit of God is a light that lives inside the heart of believers. Shine in the darkest places, so that the Good News of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world. Whatever the gift, may it be used to glorify God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Jeremiah 12; Joshua 23; Matthew 26; Acts 3

Note to self:

  • God’s promises never fail.

Joshua is not far from death and spends his time telling his fellow Israelites of what God has done. He encourages them–be strong, be careful to obey; he warns them–don’t turn away, be careful of the snares and traps of falling away; he reminds them–God’s promises never fail.

  • He uses difficulties to build endurance, not to break.

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5

  • Nothing is impossible with God.

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” Acts 3:12

Thank you, Lord, for promises kept, for strength in trials, for giving me opportunities to bless you, and for the many, many miracles accomplished daily in your name. Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under Acts, Jeremiah, Joshua, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament