Tag Archives: goals

Genesis 17; Matthew 16; Nehemiah 6; Acts 16

I am part of an online goal setting group, and many of the members shared their vision boards for 2020. I’ve never made a vision board, but gave it a try. I laughed to myself when I finished, realizing I had experienced most of those things in 2019. Some things that happened last year were not even thoughts at the year’s start–but I had margin, not so tightly focused on my own goals exclusive to opportunity. And God did life-giving things in my life. Not everything felt easy, beautiful or lovely, but even then, he kept drawing my attention back to a Kingdom focus.

In Genesis, God gives Abraham a Kingdom focus.

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NLT)

And this:

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:15-18, NLT)

I notice Abraham laughed in disbelief. He can’t imagine God will do what he says he’ll do. So Abraham interjects with what he knows, what he sees, what is real in front of him: Ishmael. Kingdom focus clashes with a limited view/belief. 19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:19, NLT)

God requires Abraham’s obedience.

I see Kingdom focus and obedience throughout the reading: when Jesus predicts his death and warns of the yeast of the Pharisees; Peter acknowledges Jesus as Son and yet reprimands Jesus for a fate Peter doesn’t want to happen (Kingdom focus clashes with own desire); threats to hinder a wall’s completion and a Kingdom focus to persevere–They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT); Paul’s travels blocked and redirected by the Holy Spirit, and even though he is imprisoned, he is still fruitful in sharing the Gospel.

Opposition (Nehemiah), a death sentence (Matthew), imprisonment (Acts), fathering a child in old age (Genesis) were probably not items these men would have put on their vision boards, but God gives them a Kingdom vision and the means to accomplish their tasks, even in opposition, death, imprisonment, and old age.

13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:13-16, NLT)

Father God, help me to press on, to leave margin for your plans and purpose in my life. Thank you already for equipping me and encouraging to keep a Kingdom focus, even in difficulties, especially in difficulties. Oh that anyone would see your hand and blessing upon my life and realize (this work) had been done with the help of God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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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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Ezekiel 25-27; Psalm 85; John 9

Were the Pharisees upset because Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, or because they themselves were unable to perform miracles? Was it because they didn’t feel the blind man deserved healing? Was it because all the attention was diverted from their pious ways to this Jesus who was gaining a following? Was it anger? Offense? Disbelief? Jealousy? Hatred?

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:2-5, NLT, emphasis added)

A blind man (from birth) can now see. Where’s the party? (Instead, he’s interrogated. And even his parents kept a safe distance away from him.)

When I first became a Christian as a new adult, a sibling skeptically commented to another, “We’ll see how long that lasts.”

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
    for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
    But let them not return to their foolish ways.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    so our land will be filled with his glory. (Psalm 85:8-9, NLT)

 

When my husband, kids and I didn’t participate in the lie (consequently breaking the reach his legacy of lies), that relative wouldn’t speak to or see me/us for two years.

This year, a pursuit to establish healthy boundaries, to lose weight, to change–each was met with anger and/or silence from some extended family and some years-long friends.

Where’s the party? When God shows up in a life and starts His transforming change, isn’t it cause for celebration?

When I went in for my post-op visit after last week’s cataract surgery, the assistant removed the patch and bandage over my eye. At first I wouldn’t open my eyes.

“Open your eyes,” she encouraged. “You’ll like what you see.”

And I opened my eyes and saw with clarity through an eye that, for more than half my life, had worn prescription glasses, and was more recently clouded by cataracts. I started to cry.

“Is it OK to cry?” I asked, holding back the largest wave of emotion.

“Yes,” she said. “I remember, you’re the crier.”

Father God, I’m grateful for the gifting and talent and wisdom you have measured out to people all over the world. Because of a man’s interest in healing eye disease, I can see. Because of one believer’s response to a call in her life, a nurse prayed with me before the operation. Lord, when I look with holy vision, I see your work in the world and in the hearts of those around me. When your work in my life is met with anger and silence from another’s heart, I trust that you are at work there too (because you’ve used those same responses in me to look deeper). And I can be grateful and peaceful instead of hurt. Thank you, God, for restored vision and new vision.

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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Song of Solomon 7-8; Psalm 127; 2 Thessalonians 2

I wonder if I asked ten people, “What is the greatest thing you could give? What is the greatest thing you could receive?” What would the answer be?

For love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy as enduring as the grave.
Love flashes like fire,
    the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
    nor can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love
    with all his wealth,
    his offer would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:6b-7, NLT)

When imagining an end goal, designing a path to take, getting swept into sweet daydreams, what are the things that shape the journey and define the destination? I heard it recently on an audiobook about focus: one can spend his whole life building something to later realize his ladder was propped against the wrong wall.

A whole life.

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones. (Psalm 127:1-2, NLT)

Time, talent, treasure–where is it spent? How is it used? What does it speak about you? These are things we are each given in different measures. And whether intended or not, how each is used will speak of our heart, either during our lifetime, or in the memories we leave behind.

2 Thessalonians 2 tells of the man of lawlessness, a great deceiver, who will exalt himself and “use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12, NLT)

I don’t want to live deceived. Lord, I keep my eyes on you. Help me to align my time, talent and treasure with a kingdom focus.

11 Solomon has a vineyard at Baal-hamon,
    which he leases out to tenant farmers.
Each of them pays a thousand pieces of silver
    for harvesting its fruit.
12 But my vineyard is mine to give,
    and Solomon need not pay a thousand pieces of silver.
But I will give two hundred pieces
    to those who care for its vines. (Song of Solomon 8:11-12, NLT)

Grateful for your word, your love, your guidance, Lord.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 42; Romans 8

Heading into a new month, I consider the goals I’m setting, but first, I lay down the things that are heavy on my heart. Fear. I list the things that I’m afraid of, and new questions emerge–what if? I shift my gaze and ask new questions–what is the next right thing, the next loving thing; what is God’s will for me in this situation? How can I honor God?

Solomon asked for wisdom to lead, and how blessed I am too to have a Father who doesn’t hold back love or wisdom, in fact, gives me his Spirit to intercede when words fail me!

I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?

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 42:2,5-6, NLT)

I praise him, my Savior, my God.

I can walk in the Spirit. (Singing freedom!)

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:5-17, NLT)

 

I’m not a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

Deeply, completely, eternally grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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