Tag Archives: Faith

2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I wonder which would be more difficult: to fill many empty jars with oil from one flask or to offer my other cheek to be slapped again by an enemy? In the one situation, a widow is about to have her two sons taken away from her to fulfill a debt. In another situation, one is advised to stand before an enemy and not only take the blow, but ready oneself for the next without striking back or defending oneself. Really: which would be more difficult?

Elisha speaks miracles–many of them just by telling people what to do. He doesn’t do it for his own glory. He doesn’t even accept payment. He does it out of relationship with God and obedience to him. It is an act of trust and faith. God is the source of power, holiness, and ability, and Elisha knows it. And when others witness these things, they know it too.

Lord, do my words and actions support my belief that you are the source of power, holiness, and ability?

Elisha gives the word to a soldier to dunk himself in the water to heal his leprosy–he doesn’t need to be there. He eats in a famine. He sees the Lord’s vast army through the window when others can’t.

Imagine holding a flask of oil that continues to flow beyond its measure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches his disciples about blessing, effectiveness (saltiness), the law, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. This isn’t teaching for other people; it’s guidance for all people. So, what is more difficult: to be mocked, persecuted and lied about for being a Christ follower or to shine like a light from a hilltop for even your enemies to see, unhidden? To actively reconcile with someone where there is deep tension or to love (in deed) people who are not friends?

It’s easy to think metaphorically, easy to comply when one isn’t in the heat of a conflict, “Offer your other cheek. Give your coat too. Go the extra mile.” But what if an enemy literally struck my cheek, would I stand in God’s strength and offer the other cheek? And what if I was fined payment of something I used daily (the shirt), could I also offer something I used in emergency (the coat)? And if, in oppression, I was told to carry something, would I go above and beyond?

Am I like the “tax collectors and pagans” loving only those who love me, showing kindness to only my friends? Do I shine my light in the safe places, only to those who already know God, or do I hold him up in the company of unbelievers?

Or am I a flask that continues to flow beyond its measure? Could I do what Christ suggests without fear, without complaint, without resentment because I know there’s more (in me) where that came from (because of God)?

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10, NLT)

Father God, you are the source of all. If you call, you will equip. And in the impossible, you make it possible. Oh, this is freedom, to live a life poured out for you, flowing from your abundance. You give sunlight and rain to both the evil and the good because there is no shortage of grace and goodness in you.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45a, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 17-18; Psalm 119; Jude

No dew or rain for the next few years. Elijah is fed by the ravens and drinks by a brook until it dries up. The Lord tells him to move on.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:8-9, NLT, emphasis added)

The ravens obey the Lord and feed Elijah. The Lord tells Elijah where to go and what to expect. Some of the things he says are revealed to us (the reader), and some of the things are not revealed, perhaps not even to those it involves. When Elijah asks the widow for a drink and some bread, her response:

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” (1 Kings 17:12, NLT)

Her response doesn’t sound like someone who was instructed by the Lord, but I can’t know the dialogue because it isn’t given. Instead, I read her doubts and reasons. However the Lord may have instructed her, her response doesn’t acknowledge it. It speaks of her own ability, her own resources, her own fears.

Would I know the Lord’s voice over the sound of my own thoughts and fears? Would I obey him like the ravens did, or would I cling to what I could hold despite his prompting to let go?

The drought lasted three years. When the wait for relief is prolonged, would I still hear his voice?

Psalm 119 tells of the psalmist’s delight in the laws of the Lord.

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord … 24 Your laws please me; they give me wise advice … 37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word … 74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word … 92 If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery … 116 Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed.

150 Lawless people are coming to attack me;
    they live far from your instructions.
151 But you are near, O Lord,
    and all your commands are true.
152 I have known from my earliest days
    that your laws will last forever. (Psalm 119:1, 24, 37, 74, 92, 116, 150-152, NLT)

Would that be my song in trouble and waiting?

10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. 11 What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion …

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. (Jude verses 10-11, 17-21, NLT, emphasis added)

Lord, the psalm proclaims that your word is a lamp to my feet. Keep me in the light of your path. Keep your word hidden deeply in my heart. I don’t want anyone’s voice to drown out the truth and promise of your word.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Thessalonians 3

Solomon had a job to do, and he knew how to go about getting it done. He contacted people who would help him reach that goal–to build a temple. And those people knew other people who were highly skilled in their field.

I may not personally know people who can help me get the job done, but technology has made it so that I can learn from them. I can learn from people who’ve done the things I want to do or they can inspire me to do something altogether new. I can get a book. I can follow a social media page. I can watch a video. I can listen to a podcast. I can join groups online and connect with others.

Sometimes it has taken me out of a routine or a comfort zone–volunteering at an event to help make it a success, or putting my hands to work in a project with people I’d just met to meet the needs of a community. I walked into these situations by myself, without the comfort of someone I knew to help ease the newness of the unknown.

Most of my treasured mentors are people I’ve never met, but whose stories I return to again and again. I’ve learned that reaching a goal isn’t nearly as satisfying in itself as who I become in the process.

In 2 Thessalonians 3, under the subhead “An Exhortation to Proper Living,” Paul has this to say:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. 15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, NLT)

Lord, I praise you. I’m so thankful for the doors you’ve closed in my life, even though I didn’t understand at the time, and for the doors you’ve opened. This is an amazing time to be alive, to be able to learn from complete strangers, to reach across continents or into the past and know people who inspire me to persevere, to never get tired of doing good. I know that if there weren’t these examples, if I didn’t have your word or these others spurring me on, I would have tired by now. Thank you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

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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 Kings 4; Proverbs 1-2; Psalm 43; Romans 9

It sounds like depression. It sounds like grief. It sounds like despair.

Declare me innocent, O God!
    Defend me against these ungodly people.
    Rescue me from these unjust liars.
For you are God, my only safe haven.
    Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies? (Psalm 43:1-2, NLT)

It sounds like hope.

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
    to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
    O God, my God!

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God! (Psalm 43:3-5, NLT)

It reminds me that when times are dark and pressing in and on, when it feels like God has turned his back, that there is light and truth. There is joy. There is hope.

Circumstances and feelings don’t tell the full story. I turn to God’s unchanging word for truth and guidance. I am reminded of who he is and who I am.

30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. 33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble,
    a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who trusts in him
    will never be disgraced.” (Romans 9:30-33, NLT)

Lord, I am so thankful for your words in my hands. You are timeless and true. Your word is living and active. I sit in this space today, glad for quiet and time to drink in truth. Thank you for wisdom. Thank you for mercy and grace.

Courtney (66books365)

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