Tag Archives: following God

Numbers 20; Psalms 58,59; Isaiah 9:8-10:4; James 3

He had posed a question to the room, “When (is one) most likely to sin? When things are going well? Or when they aren’t?”

***

A godly man, Moses, strikes the rock twice. (Numbers 20:11)

A land of pride and arrogance, the Lord’s anger is aroused. His fist is poised to strike. (Isaiah 9:8-14)

For after all this punishment, the people will still not repent.
    They will not seek the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Isaiah 9:13-14, NLT)

David speaks of his enemies’ lies. These enemies–snarling, sneering, prowling. Filth comes from their mouths; their words cut like swords. (Psalm 59:7,14)

David’s response is full of praise and hope–in God.

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
    Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
    a place of safety when I am in distress.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
    for you, O God, are my refuge,
    the God who shows me unfailing love. Psalm 59:16-17, NLT)

When things are going well, and when they are not, Lord, let me choose to praise you.

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. (James 3:2, NLT)

A day that started with a friend and nourishing talks over tea, ended with my husband at the table and rich conversations about history, hurts and hearts. He helps me gain perspective in a season that is unpredictable and demanding.

I press on. I cling to God’s word, grace and guidance. He meets me in the morning when I seek him. He fills me.

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18, NLT)

Father God, I am grateful for the relationship I have with you. You are unfailing love. You are a refuge. You are the source of all wisdom and of life itself. I pray I see your sweet mercies in the good times and the hard times. I don’t want to take my eyes off of you. Thank you for calling me daughter and that I can trust you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20; Psalms 51, 32; Acts 27

There are two seasons in the woods: the brown season (fall to winter) and the green season (spring to summer). This year, it seemed like the green season was holding back as winter wore on. Weeks in April and May brought more rain than sunshine. I found myself grateful for these cooler temperatures to work the gardens.

There is a little bench nestled in the pachysandra. Around it stands tall pines and flowering rhododendrons. I haven’t paid much attention to the area since the start of the school year, and with only final grades left to do, my attention focuses on an outside to-do … weeding, clearing, mulching, pruning, planting. I walked by the bench on the way to a shed and noticed a long, wayward vine weaving a way, reaching high and entangling itself on anything in its path. This vine was covered in barely perceptible thorny barbs, and me, without a glove, reached out carefully to pinch a place and pull it off. Its hold was firm and stubborn. I would need thick gloves and, likely, a pole saw.

DSC_0122

thick gloves and a rake

There’s a lot of work to do in the green season, a growing season.

Second Samuel and First Chronicles tell two versions of a same tale–a spring season for war, and a king who stays home. One rendition focuses on relationships–David, Bathsheba, Uriah, Nathan. The other story, more historical–of conquer and victory. One looks at the heart, the other at the landscape. I see how sin weaves its way into many lives at once, a coil and snare that trips a king. Much like a thorny vine that camoflouges itself among the greenery, with a tenacious hold on anything in its way.

I read of David mourning in the psalms, of sin that separates, and I read of his rejoicing, connection in repentance and forgiveness. Joy restored in right relationship with the Lord.

Our family is entering a new season of sorts. These words in Psalm 32 speak to me:

For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. 

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! Psalm 32:7-11, NLT

Recently, I sat across the table from my husband and reflected on the end of the school season. It was an emotional time as I step out in faith into a new way, and I’m not sure how it’s supposed to look. If I’m not careful to guard my heart, it’s easy to feel the grip of insecurity and failure before I’ve even begun.

Lord, you brought me this far. You are my hiding place and you protect me from trouble. Help me to keep my focus on you, Lord, and not on all the distractions that want to pull me down like a thorny vine. I want to stay close to you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 26-27; Mark 10

It’s a paraphrase, for sure.

The little children come running up to Jesus and want to hang out with him. Jesus blesses them.

***

The rich man sees Jesus and asks, “What can I do?” And Jesus says, “A, B, C, D.”

“Yeah,” the rich man says. “Did that.” He waits.

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21, NLT.

Maybe a moment passes.

Then rich man walks away sad, because he can’t do that.

***

The blind begging man calls out for mercy.

51 What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. Mark 10:51-52, NLT.

***

Jesus tells the disciples that everything is possible with God.

Lord, I don’t even think I’m aware of it: how often I try-try-try and do-do-do. Could I get eternal life in my own good behavior? Could I restore my own vision? How often do I sit in the muck of circumstance asking, “What can I do?” I’m learning more and more to run to you and hang out with you. Even when the circumstances seem unchanged, I can be changed (blessed!) just in the time I spend with you. How is it that I know and I forget at the same time that everything is possible with you?

The salvation of a soul.

The restoration of sight.

Everything.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Mark, New Testament

Psalm 119:1-48; 1 Corinthians 3

Joyful are people of integrity,

    who follow the instructions of the Lord.

Joyful are those who obey his laws

    and search for him with all their hearts.

They do not compromise with evil,

    and they walk only in his paths.

You have charged us

    to keep your commandments carefully.

Oh, that my actions would consistently

    reflect your decrees!

Then I will not be ashamed

    when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations,

    I will thank you by living as I should!

I will obey your decrees.

    Please don’t give up on me! Ps 119:1-8, NLT

God reminds me, when my thoughts run circles through my head in early morning hours (stress, conflict, resentment), follow him. It’s easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of emotion. Can I avoid slipping into this pit of resentment? He can spare me of shame and give me integrity and joy. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect his decrees.

for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 1 Corinthians 3:3, NLT.

Christ is doing a new thing in me, building me upon his solid foundation. My initial thoughts and subsequent emotions clearly credit my sinful nature. Can’t I choose a better way? I don’t want to live like people of the world. God shakes me awake. I was sleepwalking down old paths.

13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, NLT.

It is so easy to forget I have a choice. It’s easy to live like my God life is separate from my daily life. Every time I have chosen God’s way over another, he has given me integrity in place of shame. He has honored me. Sometimes I don’t see that immediately. He tells me, today, in this conflict, to follow him.

Lord, please don’t give up on me.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Deuteronomy 11-13; Mark 13:1-13

There is a thread of caution in Old Testament and New Testament: don’t be misled (deceived, enticed).

Be careful be careful … be careful.

 “But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods.” Deuteronomy 11:16 NLT.

False prophets. Visionaries. Scoundrels, even. They can lead astray. But also mentioned: a brother, a son or daughter, a beloved (spouse), or a best friend.

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

22 Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. Deuteronomy 11:18-22 NLT.

Be careful. These scriptures are a timely reminder. Oh Lord, guard this heart.

Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT.

Lord, I pray that I would hear your voice above all else–all day long!

Jesus warns:

“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:5-13 NLT.

Lord, your word reminds me to hold tightly, to cling to you. There are things and people that will try to distract me from you. Enticement and deception aren’t always loud and obvious–no, they pull up chairs around the table, with a head nod and smile. Help me, today (and daily!), to guard my heart from the things (and sin) that want to take first place.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ex. 18; Luke 21; Job 36; 2 Cor. 6

Job’s friend wants to paint a rosy picture for God followers–if you aren’t prosperous and your life isn’t pleasant, you must be doing it wrong. But today’s readings all point out that following God is no cake walk. Moses had a long, hard journey leading people out of slavery. Job, who was titled as God fearing and blameless, experienced heartache and loss magnified. Paul lists his hardships one after the other. And Jesus tells this,

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.” Luke 21:12-17 NLT, emphasis mine.

Job’s friend credits himself as knowledgeable. His observations reach for truth, but fall short. And this is something everyone is capable of. Well-meaning friends, however smart and sincere, can mix the truth into false concoctions. Who hasn’t thought their own advice sounded good and true?

I turn to the Bible.

I sit around the table with Moses’ father-in-law, Paul and Jesus. I write down what they say.

  • Lead by example: teach God’s decrees, give His instructions, show (them) how to conduct (their) lives.
  • We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 NLT, emphasis mine.
  • 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” … 34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, 35 like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. 36 Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:28, 34-36 NLT, emphasis mine.

Thank you, God, for words I can trust. I pray for grace and strength “to live in such a way”, “in everything (I) do”, to serve you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Job, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27, Acts 4

“‘So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’ Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.'”

Joshua 24:13 – 15

“‘I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind. This is your lot, the portion I have decreed for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you have forgotten me and trusted in false gods.'”

Jeremiah 13:24 & 25

“All the people answered, ‘Let His blood be on us and on our children!'”

Matthew 27:25

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.”

Acts 4:12 and Acts 4:32

__________

Living the Life

My kids and I have been listening recently to a CD by Group1Crew called Ordinary Dreamers. They are a Christian rap group. (I know…strange that a 38 year-old, homeschooling, mother of 5 likes rap.) One particular song “Livin the Life” really seemed to make a connection to today’s scriptures in my mind.

Joshua, nearing his death, recalls all the ways that God has led the Israelites starting all the way back with Abraham to their present situation in the Promised Land, living in houses they didn’t build, eating food they didn’t grow. God had led, God had provided. They were living the life.

Move forward around 800 years and the Israelites are given the message from the prophet Jeremiah that because they forgot the Lord and trusted in false gods, they were about to be scattered like chaff in the wind. Their supposed “security” about to be destroyed in the wrath of God’s judgement. They thought they were living the life, but it was not God’s life.

We move forward another 600 years and we read about the Crucifixion of Christ. Jesus is at the end of His 3 year ministry, in which He had attempted to reach the people of Israel, offering them Himself as their Savior, wanting to give them the good life in Him. The people are given the choice to have either Jesus or Barabbas released. They choose Barabbas.

Then in Acts, we read the story of Peter and John being thrown into jail by the Sanhedrin, following the healing of the crippled beggar, and then questioned about whose power accomplished this. Peter preaches his first sermon to the people, proclaiming the name of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Upon their release, they return to their fellow group of believers and pray for God’s guidance and protection. The believers are certainly living the life. A life of unity, faith and dependence on Jesus. They are following hard after Him.

__________

What I’m not saying is that living the life means no worries, no hardships, only smooth travels. But rather that living the life means that Jesus is continually there to help me through. Through Him I have salvation, through Him I have forgiveness, through Him I have eternal security…that is living the life.

__________

Lord,

Everything I am, everything I have, is all due to You. You are the provider of all. I praise You for giving me the chance to live the life with You. Thank you for covering me with Your blood of redemption. Help me on this journey through life, through its ups and downs to hold fast to You, to follow hard after You, to live the life You have chosen for me.

Amen

– Beckie (look2thehills)

*Scripture taken from the NIV

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