Tag Archives: freedom

Ecclesiastes 3-5; Psalm 45; Matthew 15

I think of the scraps that fell from the table: could meager remnants become a feast? I sat on a bench one year and considered the crumbs and thought of this woman in Matthew 15 and her perspective.

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table. (Matthew 15:24-27, NLT)”

She taught me something profound that day about my own heart. About contentment. About gratitude. About the Lord. About enough.

The Pharisees had their expectations of what life would look like, and how purity would be recognized, and a protocol for how things would be done. I think on how my own expectations, perceptions, and protocol have kept me sour, hurt, angry, or disappointed.

Ecclesiastes marks time like seasons for war and peace, tearing and mending, silence and speech. Couldn’t it show on the calendar? On (this day), you will cry. You will grieve. But in a few turns of the calendar pages, you will laugh. You will dance. Would the wait feel long?

Here, I linger:

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, NLT).

The injustices of life. The advantages of companionship. The futility of power and wealth. The importance of integrity. Read slowly. Everything, beautiful. Even in the becoming, beauty, in the wait. A scope of His work.

17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past (Ecclesiastes 5:17-20, NLT, emphasis added).

I did a quarterly evaluation in areas of my life from 1-10: work, health, friendships, etc. Goal books and podcasts preach a level-10 life. What would it look like, I wondered. And slowly I realized–I was already there. I have all I need. And maybe living out level 10 didn’t mean what I was making it (nebulous as it was). Maybe it didn’t look like anyone else’s vision of ten. Maybe, in some cases, it had to do with letting go of hurts and expectations, with looking forward and sowing into a future than looking back and carrying past burdens. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from exceptions and restrictions and expectations I placed upon things, a schedule I overbooked, a relationship I overestimated. For community that was never going to be what I hoped it could be. For the friend who never agreed to be who I needed her to be. What if I let go of my own restrictions, instead of wrestling with a past I couldn’t change, and people I wished who would? Seems like chasing the wind.

Lord, thank you for meeting me that day on the bench, bringing that woman’s story to mind. Thank you today for reminding me of the scope of your story. Thank you for gifts from you: good things from you, and the health to enjoy them.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, Matthew

1 Samuel 6-8; Galatians 5; Psalm 72

I’ve heard a saying that what you focus on, you get more of it.

Dear God, give me a kingdom focus.

The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord (1 Samuel 7:2-4, NLT).

Last year I wrote down some goals in hopes to bring order and direction to my life. I had been going in too many directions, saying yes to too many people, that I didn’t really make progress in anything, in fact my efforts to make others happy took me away from the people and things God gave me to steward. When I narrowed my focus, it gave me the filter I needed to make my steps intentional. When I took my eyes off that focus, there was no shortage of requests and demands eager to distract me from the tasks that most needed my attention.

The Israelites went some time maintaining their focus on God and enjoying peace and protection. But when the backdrop began to change, they started to lose their focus and placed it elsewhere. Again.

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9, NLT. Emphasis added.).

Samuel warns them about what life will be like under a king’s rule. And their response?

“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” (1 Samuel 8:18-20, NLT).

Even so. We want to be like the nations around us.

Even so. Would I trade God’s peace and protection so that I could resemble the world around me? So that I could make others happy and throw myself off course of what matters and what God has called me to do?

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things (Galatians 5:16-23, NLT)!

Lord, help me to keep my eyes focused on you and your kingdom. I want to be directed by the Spirit and bear good fruit. Sometimes life’s backdrop changes, but you remain sovereign through all time.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Galatians

Leviticus 24-25; Acts 12; Psalms 25-26

“‘Count off seven groups of seven years, or forty-nine years. During that time there will be seven years of rest for the land. On the Day of Cleansing, you must blow the horn of a male sheep; this will be on the tenth day of the seventh month. You must blow the horn through the whole country. 10 Make the fiftieth year a special year, and announce freedom for all the people living in your country. This time will be called Jubilee (Hebrew word for a horn of a male sheep.) (Lev. 25:8-10) NCV

54 “‘Even if no one buys him back, at the year of Jubilee, he and his children will become free. 55 This is because the people of Israel are servants to me. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 25:54-55) NCV

The readings for today had me thinking of the word “freedom” and how important it is to God. It was He who declared the fiftieth year as a year of celebration for the Israelites. On the Day of Atonement, after seven years of seven, the rams horn would be blown, and it would be the beginning of a year of freedom—freedom from slavery, freedom from debts, freedom from bondages, and atonement for sin. Of course, as you read the verses there were still transactions that needed to be followed through. But in the end was redemption!

It is such a picture of Jesus! Through no work of our own, He paid our debt! He forgave our sins! He released us from bondage—all because we are the children of God. There are no transactions, nothing more needs to be done. He paid the price once, for all who choose to believe.

And then there’s Peter:

So Peter was kept in jail, but the church prayed earnestly to God for him. (Acts 12:5)

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. Other soldiers were guarding the door of the jail. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood there, and a light shined in the cell. The angel struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Hurry! Get up!” the angel said. And the chains fell off Peter’s hands. (Acts 12:6-7) NCV

Freedom! Peter was physically set free from prison. I am not sure this was the outcome he expected. I thought of all the emotional chains God has broken from me. Chains of shame, chains of guilt, chains of sin, and chains of rejection . . . I could go on. They were chains that held me in prison as well. Prison. It was never a place God intended to keep Peter. It was never a place God intended to keep me.

Acts 12:5 confirms the importance of corporate prayer. God heard their cries and in answer to their prayers He supernaturally released Peter—to their utter amazement. I loved Rhoda’s response—at first she didn’t believe it was him but then she was so excited she forgot to open the door and let him in. I think I would have been overwhelmed at how God answered that prayer myself! There have been times when the realization hit me that God had answered my prayers—big prayers. It’s happened to me twice. My reaction both times was to start laughing in delight with tears streaming down my face at the same time, a mixture of joy and gratitude. I don’t know if I can even adequately describe the emotion I felt, but I think Rhoda running to tell the others out of excitement is a pretty good picture of it.

15 My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help.
He will keep me from any traps.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
because I am lonely and hurting.
17 My troubles have grown larger;
free me from my problems.
18 Look at my suffering and troubles,
and take away all my sins. (Ps 25:15-18) NCV

Heavenly Father, I surrender myself to you alone for in you is great freedom. Jesus paid much too high a price for me to have that freedom. Help me to always keep looking to you when anything that might ensnare me comes my way. I am so thankful I can come to you immediately to be forgiven of my sins; it isn’t only once a year, or every 50 years. I can be set free because Jesus already paid my debt. Thank you for the chains that you have supernaturally removed from my soul. I am eternally grateful for all you have done in my life. In Jesus name, Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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2 Kings 7; 1 Timothy 4; Daniel 11; Psalm 119:25-48

Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “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 4:7-10, NLT.

I wonder what people think when they hear the word godly. I heard a perspective somewhere before, and it changed my whole perception on the word–that godliness is a pursuit of God. It isn’t perfection. It is a heart that seeks God.

If this year has taught me anything, it is to make space for God. At times I’ve felt pulled in too many directions, and I’ve had to enforce new boundaries. It has brought a lot of peace. But moreover, it has given me footing to be intentional in my walk with the Lord. Every day, His Word refreshes me, strengthens me, gives me hope.

25 I lie in the dust;
    revive me by your word.
26 I told you my plans, and you answered.
    Now teach me your decrees.
27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
    and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 I weep with sorrow;
    encourage me by your word. Psalm 119:25-28, NLT (emphasis added)

It’s easy (for me) to feel guilty for not meeting someone’s expectations–for saying no to a friend for getting together; delaying a request to perform a task; declining an invitation; even to stepping down for a season from serving at church. Surprisingly, the cost of trying to do it all took me away from my time with the Lord. And not so surprising in hindsight, the Lord said no for me with car troubles, other mishaps, and illness.

Lord, I want to be true to the calling and gifting you’ve placed in my life. But I know that apart from you, I wither. Thank you for grace in all things I’ve declined so that I can say yes to you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Leviticus 17; Psalms 20,21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

In this day, everything seems public. Social media and reality TV have made the private things famous. But as I read about the virtuous and capable wife in Proverbs 31, I know there was no TV crew following her around, spying on and magnifying her every move. The things that were done in this woman’s life were largely done in private, not in front of an audience. She’s always seemed larger than life to me when I’ve read about her in the past, but as I began to study her and her character, she is not a superstar. She is a servant at heart.

There are no adoring fans around her while she’s spinning her wool.

She’s not in it for public approval for stocking her pantry or getting up before dawn to plan out a day.

She’s savvy, crafty, generous–and true to how she’s wired, making the most of her time, talent and treasure.

And her fashion? Yeah, she’s got dresses of fine linen and purple; but she’s also clothed in strength and dignity.

A friend invited me into a 31-day character study of Proverbs 31, a book called Famous in Heaven and at Home by Michelle Myers (not compensated to mention this book). It took my attention off all the to-do’s and revealed the heart behind it–one of kindness and love.

My days can feel overwhelming if I look at all the items to check off on my list. But if I consider the why behind the what, the burden lifts and there is joy and contentment. Why am I doing the things I do? To love my family and friends. To honor God.

Lord, always help me to keep a right perspective when approaching my tasks. Then I will see the hidden treasure. Help me to be true to who you’ve made me to be–not seeking approval of man, but finding freedom and joy and abundance in living my life for you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Proverbs, Uncategorized

Ecclesiastes 1-3; Psalm 43; 2 Timothy 1

 

Celebrate life! That is what the wisest man in history, King Solomon, determined was the best a man could hope for during his sojourn in this world. The simple things of life, as my elders used to say, are what make us happy. Yet divorced from the love of Christ, the fellowship of the saints, and the worship of the Creator of life, even the simple things fail to give pleasure.

Have you wondered how it is that what we yearn for and cannot wait to experience comes slowly, yet passes into memory so quickly? Even our thoughts and feelings, musings, and worries, ebb and flow daily, yearly. I’m a once in a while journal writer, and when I stumble across an old journal and read what at that time was important to me, I have noticed a pattern or theme. My concerns for family, for instance. My prayers for each and my personal desires. Not so different today, really.

What is most evident in all that I’ve written is this tension between the world and me. How I experience living this life. In fact, the weakness written between the lines to God in my journals and prayers illustrate fears and disappointments, usually followed by thanksgiving for spiritual answers. Miraculous answers, tender comforts, gentle corrections.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. To know God, to be reminded that I am a child of the Almighty, and to see my purpose on earth is bound with the life of Christ frees me to celebrate life with gratitude.

On this 4th of July we celebrate our freedom as a nation. God, thank you that I was born in America.

On this day we celebrate our differences from state to state in a United States. Lord, thank you for Your unending, amazing creation of soul after soul, different yet tied together by a common thread of humanity.

On this July 4th we celebrate the simple things of life – church, family, friendships, national pride. Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for Your mighty work of salvation that offers eternal life where the real celebration begins.

I celebrate life today and can’t wait for the day when the party never ends!

Happy 4th of July!

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Filed under 2 Timothy, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ecclesiastes, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Isaiah 14-16; Matthew 28

Ezra 1:1-8 The captives of Babylon were taken by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple.

Captives will be taken captive.  Sounds like a tongue twister or tongue in cheek kind of phrase, if you think about it.  Without God in our lives; we are merely captive souls owned by others through unequally yoked relationships, competitive materialism, and emotionally hijacked situations that prevent us from making rational decisions that net eternal benefits. We often speak of freedom as if the concept is simply a reward for longsuffering. Instead of holding out our hands to be led to freedom in Christ, we struggle to break free of only what we can see. We are captive still.

What will open those clenched fists? Isaiah said freedom begins when the Lord has mercy (Isaiah 14:1, 2 For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob…they will take them captive whose captives they were…”). Why do we need mercy to enter into God’s kingdom? The emphasis here seems to be on the total helplessness man feels when he/she has no other way but to follow Christ. Try as we might, we are unable to earn our freedom or even know how to pursue the idea.

If freedom is my goal; why would I want to be taken captive again? The obvious answer is to be among those chosen in the Lord’s kingdom, and with that calling have the no-holds barred attitude about serving Him here on earth and eternally.  Is there a choice?  I tend to believe there is. We can choose to sacrifice on earth for earthly things or we can pursue the ordained works from the will of God as His captive.

What is in this captivity for me? There are times when I tell myself, I should walk away. I sometimes say what makes the difference?  Captivity indicates that I have little choice but to do what God says. Yet, captivity has not prevented me from falling short of doing what I know to do. For instance, Matthew 28:19  says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I confess that I have not played a major role in evangelism as this great commission by Christ.

Whether or not I can follow Christ depends mostly on what Christ has done for me. Ephesians 4:8 When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave good gifts to men.” Not only does He call me to be His captive, but He gives me whatever good gifts He knows I need. With these gifts I can choose to seek healthy relationships, befriend the strangers in this world, and witness supernatural results from simple obedience. Being a captive of Christ is to receive mercy, to be given gifts to perform His will, and to enjoy the privilege of freedom.

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Filed under Ephesians, Ezra, Isaiah, Matthew