Tag Archives: grace

Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Micah 1-4; Romans 9

So this morning we find ourselves in the middle of chapters that theologians have argued over for millennia. And 66Books A Year is a devotional not a theological treatise. So where do we find the devotional point in these chapters.

In Romans 9 and Micah 1-3 God is seen as punishing and setting aside His chose people. They have left God and gone their own way and depending on the way one may read the Romans chapter it may be of God’s own doing. But then we see in Micah 4 the hope for not only Israel and Judah, but for us all. Two verses give us this hope:

6 In that day, declares the Lord,
I will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away
and those whom I have afflicted;

7 and the lame I will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
from this time forth and forevermore. (Micah 4:6&7 [ESV])

God has always been for the marginalized. Here we see Him caring for the remnant and the lame and the disenfranchised. There is coming a day when things will be set right and we will enjoy the presence of the Lord forever. In the meantime He meets out His judgement and carries out His will and it can be hard to understand all that. But the promise is sure. We who have put our faith and trust in Him alone for our salvation will be forever with Him. Praise be to God!

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Isaiah 4-5; Romans 2; Psalm 115-116

Psalm 116 NIV

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;

11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.

16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD– in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

 

Oh, the love of Jehovah.

He heard me. He paid attention to me. He was moved by my plea.

He stretched himself to reach me.

How can I do anything else with my life but tell of His love, His power, His deliverance – for His glory?

I was dying. I was dead.

I was overcome by sin, and powerless to free myself.

I was physically and emotionally broken.

But then I called out to God. I begged Him to rescue me, to save my life, and to save my soul.

And He did.

Because He is full of mercy and love. He is compassionate and gracious.

He is good, even though I am not.

He rescued me, and He keeps on rescuing me.

He teaches me and grows my understanding of Him, of me, and of the world around me.

Now I can rest in Him.

Now I need not work and labor and be overcome by life.

Now I need not give in to worry and anxiety about the future or the past.

Because He has been good to me. And He continues to be good to me.

He was good when He delivered my soul from death.

He is good when He delivers me from my fears and sorrows.

He is good when He keeps my feet secure and holds me up when I begin to fall.

And so I can walk freely and confidently as a testimony of His goodness and grace.

I trust in Him, so I can speak with confidence before Him.

I can express myself to Him when I’m fearful, overwhelmed, and discouraged.

I can express myself when it feels like the world is against me.

And He will rescue me again like He has done before.

How can I ever repay such love and kindness?

I will tell of His love and share His mercy with those around me.

I will live to reflect His grace and power.

I will worship Him both in word and deed.

I will show my love by my life surrendered to His glory and will.

May I never grow tired of sharing how God has delivered me from death.

May I never grow tired of sharing with others how they, too, can find life.

May I rest in the confidence that I have been a faithful servant.

May gratitude never leave my heart or my mouth.

May I glorify the Lord as long as I live.

 

Father, thank you for rescuing me. Let me never forget it or take it for granted. Help me to find confidence to share your rescuing love with those around me. Help me to live for your honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

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Jonah 1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4

“But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.  But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.” Jonah 1:3&4 NLT

Even though I find it a little funny that Jonah tried to get away from the Lord.  I think about times in my own life when I have done the same.  I am thankful for a Father who presses in and doesn’t leave me in my wondering.  He gently brings me back to him.  He hears my cries for help. And answers me.

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.  He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me.  I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!  You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea.  The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild stormy waves.  Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.  Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me.  Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.  I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.  I was imprisoned by the earth, whose gates lock shot forever.  But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord.  And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple…For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” Jonah 2:1-9 NLT

I can relate to Jonah more than I’d like to admit.  He not only let fear get the best of him and he fled.  But, he was letting his feelings of anger and bitterness cause him to disobey.  He had to give up his control of the situation. And let God handle it.  What situations am I trying to control?

“The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” Then Jonah went to the east of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen in the city.”  Jonah 4:4 NLT

God let Jonah wrestle through his feelings.  He was patient and merciful. He asked him a question, instead of trying to tell him how to feel.

Thank you Father for your patience towards me.  For working through the process even when it is hard.  For understanding my pain, but not wanting me to stay there.  Give me a love for others that only comes from you. Amen.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11&12 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13&14; Matthew 22

“Abijam began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel.  he reigned in Jerusalem three years.  His mother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.  He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been.  But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem.  For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hitite.  Asa began his rule over Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel.  He reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years.  His grandmother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.  Asa did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done.  Although the pagan sinners were not removed, Asa’s heart remained completely faithful to the Lord throughout his life.” 1 Kings 15:9-14 NLT

This passage has me thinking about God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and family lines.   Abijam’s and Asa’s mother and grandmother are mentioned by name.  As well as who their grandmother was. What was the purpose of them being mentioned?  Was it to show their influence?  That they were not overlooked?  I wonder how many prayers they had prayed for their family?  Even when sin entered David’s life, God’s goodness prevailed.  He saw David’s heart and kept his covenant with him.  David must have been bursting with pride over Asa’s devotion to the Lord.  This is fresh in my thoughts after visiting my dad in the hospital a couple days ago.  Watching my oldest son pray for his grandfather.  A legacy of faith being passed down through generations.

Asa told the people of Judah, “Let us build towns and fortify them with walls, towers, gates, and bars.  The land is still ours because we sought the Lord our God, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they went ahead with these projects and brought them to completion.  So Asa deployed his armies for battle in the valley north of Mareshah.  Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord your God, for we trust in you alone.  It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde.  O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”  So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.”  2 Chronicles 14:7, 10-12 NLT

Asa was victorious because he sought the Lord.  He didn’t rely on his own strength. He remained faithful to the Lord, when I’m sure it would have been easier to give up.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment under the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NLT

Dear Father, thank you that you hear me.  That you see me.  Forgive me for when I want to follow my own way.  Help me to love others like you love me.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

 

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2 Corinthians 13; Psalm 101

I’ve asked myself a lot of questions this year: What am I afraid of? Why do some circumstances elicit such a strong response from me? Who are the people influencing me, and what is their influence? What would success look like in this area of my life? What’s holding me back? Am I living with a kingdom focus?

A year ago, I started running, and when I say running, I mean I tried to run up to the top of my driveway and back. It took me three attempts to run to the top without stopping. I was thirty-five pounds overweight and hadn’t exercised in over ten years. I committed the first month of “running” to just running one round-trip lap of my driveway. The next month, I added another lap. The month after that, a third. A year later, laps turned to miles. I could have stayed where I was that first month, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Paul once referenced giving milk to new believers because they weren’t ready for meat. The Bible talks of God’s grace in preparing his people for difficulties they wouldn’t be ready to handle on a first day. And here, Paul challenges and encourages:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:5, 7-9, 11, NLT).

I think on kingdom and character. David’s psalm shows me he thinks of it too.

I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will search for faithful people
    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip (Psalm 101, NLT).

In recent years, my family has lost many relatives and friends to death. In reflection, their lives spoke in death of what mattered to them in life–and one day, mine will too. Who do I want to mature to be when I’m eighty? The answer tells me what I need to start doing now. Those choices speak for me when I’m gone.

Lord, David and Paul are like dear brothers to me. Thank you for giving me family in the pages of Your Word when I lost people from my life. Thank you for Your Spirit in me, guiding and correcting and challenging me. I’m even thankful for the heckler in my head, who tries to defeat me every day. Only in you, Lord, can an enemy’s taunt turn into fuel for victory.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20; 2 Corinthians 3; Psalm 20

2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

Ah, David. How far you fell and how fast you slipped.

How easily I stand in contempt of you – and yet, are we not more alike than I’d want to admit?

You made one small decision, and that one small decision changed the course of your life and many other lives. You took that one step, and that one step led to another, which led to another, which led to yet another. And before you knew it, you’d reached unspeakable places – places of adultery, betrayal, and murder.

And while I have not reached those unspeakable places, I’ve often found myself unexpectedly in places I’d never set out to reach – places like bitterness, anger, resentment, and discouragement. Where did it start? How did it happen?

One small step.

Your first small step was staying home instead of leading your army to war. I’m sure you felt justified. You wanted a break; you deserved the rest. You trusted your leaders. So you stayed behind.

My first step is often the same. I need a break. I deserve a reward. I have to rest. And so I withdraw.

By withdrawing, you found yourself in a place you weren’t supposed to be, you saw things you weren’t supposed to see, and you acted on the desires and impulses of the moment.

And when I withdraw, I find myself alone, vulnerable to temptation, and acting on the desires and impulses of the moment.

Because one indulgence makes the next easier. Until you’re out of control. Until I’m out of control.

But God was faithful to you, even after your shocking failure. In His mercy, he sent you Nathan. Nathan, who so eloquently pierced your heart with the truth. Nathan, who warned you of the dire consequences of your actions. Nathan, who came back when you repented and showed you the love of God.

And God is faithful to me, even when I fail Him. Over, and over again. In His mercy, He sends me people. He sends me His word. He sends me the truth to pierce my heart. And He opens my eyes to the course my feet have chosen and the consequences that await me.

And like you, I cry out for repentance. And like you, the Lord loves me. He restores me. He refreshes me. He affirms His love for me. And He helps me to move past my mistakes and find my identity in Him instead of my failures.

 

Oh, Lord. I could never thank you enough for caring enough about me to chase me when I wander. Father, open my eyes to the weight of my choices and help me to recognize that there are no harmless steps when it comes to my relationship with you. I can either chose to move closer to you or father away; and Lord, I want to be closer! Help me to seek you more than me, and help me to desire your rewards more than my personal comfort. Thank you for your mercy and love, even when I fail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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