Tag Archives: perseverance

1 Corinthians 15; Psalm 68

This quote comes from a Christian-focus book on perseverance and starting over.

“No one is coming to save you.”

I’ve thought on these words since last September. They scare me. There were likely other messages from the book about accountability and movement, but this is the sentence that stuck hard with me. And the heckler in my head speaks it over me in my lowest times.

I read this next in a book about redeeming lost years from childhood neglect:

“The fact is, you can’t totally trust me or anyone else. When push comes to shove, I’ll probably save [myself] first.”

It stole the breath from my lungs as I considered humanity and sin and that even important-to-you people will put impossible burdens upon shoulders, or flee in the crisis. Can one trust his life to anyone? Ever?

It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place (1 Corinthians 15:2, NLT).

I took the riding mower out to cut the grass. There are many mature trees in our yard, and two oaks in the front yard have large, long, dead limbs. It makes me nervous to ride beneath them for fear they’ll fall on me. That day, I wondered to the Lord, oh, that He would show me a sign of His protection over me: let a tree limb fall after I pass by so I won’t worry about it (and “it” is symbolic of more than a tree limb). I moved on to the field and made several laps around the perimeter, moving a tractor deck’s width inward each lap. Coming down the straightaway, a limb I never noticed lie fallen, dead, long and large, right in the area I had passed by just earlier.

He didn’t drop the limbs I was thinking about. I knew I could count on Him for my soul’s salvation, but could I count on Him to protect me? Especially in times of feeling very targeted, emotionally, physically, would He protect me? He told me then that He’s protecting me from threats I’m not even aware of; I can trust him.

In recent readings, David and Eleazar stood together on the battlefield because all the other men deserted them to an enemy army. They were outnumbered. They should have died. But it was God who gave them the victory.

I tell my kids that truth can handle scrutiny. It doesn’t run from questions or doubts. Truth is not afraid. It doesn’t change itself or hide the evidence to make itself look like something it’s not. Truth doesn’t back down or bully back or threaten. It stands.

34 Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all (1 Corinthians 15:34, NLT).

I am thankful for His Word in my hands, so that I can know Him in these pages (so that I can know Him also in my life). I can look at an impossible story in the Bible, and read of His victory in what should be defeat, see His miracles in the unimaginable.

58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT).

He fashions me into His image–with encouragement to be strong! Be engaged! It matters!

19 Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
   For each day he carries us in his arms.
20 Our God is a God who saves!
   The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death (Psalm 68:19-20, NLT).

I matter.

You matter.

Praise be to God!

I get up and begin again.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Psalms

Exodus 38-40; Acts 4; Psalms 15, 19

Integrity. Obedience. Trustworthiness. Excellence. Perseverance. At first, I was dazzled by the detail and skill of the craftsmen. Then I was humbled by the very ordinary (not-so-ordinary) routine setting up and taking down of a traveling tabernacle. God has me wrestle with obedience this week. (I just finished a read aloud with my youngest, a book by Geraldine McCaughrean called The Kite Rider. A theme throughout is obedience, and the cost of obedience.)

Today, I read of Bezalel, being who God created him to be, and cheering him on for his excellence.

Bezalel made the chestpiece with great skill and care. He made it to match the ephod, using finely woven linen embroidered with gold and with blue, purple, and scarlet thread (Exodus 39:8, NLT, emphasis added).

Do I cheer the ordinary (not-so-ordinary) as well?

16 Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him. 17 So the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. 18 Moses erected the Tabernacle by setting down its bases, inserting the frames, attaching the crossbars, and setting up the posts. 19 Then he spread the coverings over the Tabernacle framework and put on the protective layers, just as the Lord had commanded him (Exodus 40:16-19, NLT, emphasis added) .

(For some reason, these preparations made me think of congregations gathering on Sundays in rented school spaces, setting up and tearing down. The routine of ordinary-not-so-ordinary.)

And something I notice too in obedience–anointing.

12 “Present Aaron and his sons at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and wash them with water. 13 Dress Aaron with the sacred garments and anoint him, consecrating him to serve me as a priest. 14 Then present his sons and dress them in their tunics. 15 Anoint them as you did their father, so they may also serve me as priests. With their anointing, Aaron’s descendants are set apart for the priesthood forever, from generation to generation” (Exodus 40:12-15, NLT, emphasis added).

And in the New Testament, Spirit-filled teaching and preaching. Who can stop it?

19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, NLT, emphasis added).

Lord, you challenge my thoughts and you challenge my heart–to examine my response in the ordinary-not-so-ordinary. Forgive my dragging feet and reluctance. I remember the times I served and served wholeheartedly.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever. (Psalm 15, NLT, emphasis added)

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much to redirect my thoughts to you, and to what matters beyond what I can see.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus

Exodus 5-8; Luke 18

My friend for more than twenty-five years died the other week. I listened as his wife spoke in eulogy of his lifetime–told about this man I loved, and shared many things about him I never knew. He had delightful interests, so much talent, and his life story was full and generous and loving and adventurous. How I wished I’d had more time with him–he was truly like a father to me. His life, even in death, continues to inspire me: to live in purpose, on purpose.

The weight of grief, worry, strife and stress has felt oppressive in recent years–these things can take me off course, derail me from life and its purposes. I live in the woods, and find myself wishing I was deeper in the forest, averting my eyes and sometimes my heart from making contact—it feels an awful lot like despair.

I’m not sure if it’s circumstance or the things one tells himself or hears from others, but I hear it in Pharaoh’s voice as he tells Moses, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work (Exodus 5:4-5, NLT).”

I can get caught up in the task (of work or routine or stress or grief) at hand, that my focus is redirected into a worldly (small) view instead of a deeper calling and purpose. And whether one places it upon himself, or it’s the voices of those in his life, Kingdom work and purpose can become muddled and muted. Moses and Aaron weren’t distracting the people from their tasks–they were pointing them to it. The world gets it so very backwards, and I fall for it too. Too many hoops, too many tasks, too much people pleasing and accommodating that I neglect the very One who gives me strength, neglect the passions He’s put in my heart and compromise my focus and time until I am weary and worn out. It feels an awful lot like despair.

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery (Exodus 6:6-9 NLT).

Lord, repeatedly I train myself to order my tasks but to keep my eyes on you. Again. Again. When my focus slips to what’s in front of me, I forget what’s inside of me and what’s ahead of me. The shrill of the ringtone, the chipping away at peace, when I lose sight of you, I become too discouraged too.

I set my thoughts on a Kingdom purpose, a Kingdom focus.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come (Luke 18:29-30, NLT).”

That rich man was disheartened because, perhaps, his (wealth/success/pride/ability) was his real focus, not the inheritance of eternal life he believed he wanted.

Lord, help me to do what I need to do, and let go of what needs to go. I want to walk in truth, and keep my eyes focused on you. Thank you for a friend like David, whose life spoke of intention and inclusion, generosity and love. Thank you for challenging me to see things in a new way, for revealing truths I didn’t see, and for reminding me to seek your Kingdom first.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Luke, New Testament, Old Testament

2 Chronicles 5-7; Psalm 121; 1 Timothy 4

One thing I know about cultivating a new habit is that it takes intention. I didn’t become a runner by getting off the couch and lacing up my shoes. In fact, my first day out, I barely rounded the bend of my driveway. The second day out, I might have made it twenty-five feet farther. The third day out, I made it to the top of the driveway. I had to plan on it. I had to get out and do it. I had to push myself. I still have to push myself, but my distance, thankfully, is farther than the top of my driveway.

But what credit is it to run but be weak in areas of eternal matter?

“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 4:8-10, NLT)

Paul encourages Timothy to be an example “in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:b, NLT)” Aren’t we all an example to someone? A coworker. A neighbor. A stranger. A friend. A family member. An enemy.

When I think of the end of my time, some of the goals I’ve set may not hold entirely great significance–the daily run in itself is conditioning for my body, works on discipline and self-control–good things, yes. But what if I did not live a life true to the person God made me to be? What if I neglected the gifts?

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16, NLT)

Father God, I am thankful to you that you hear my prayers. You are quick to forgive. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank you for watching over my life, Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you for loving me so well. I offer my life song to you in praise.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 21-23; Psalm 18; Romans 3

I’m reading The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare with my youngest child. There is a scripture quoted in it repeatedly:

35 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. (2 Samuel 22:35, NLT)

I paused in my 66 Books reading today, because that scripture appeared in 2 Samuel and Psalm 18. I took a longer look at David’s men, described in 2 Samuel. Of his elite three, I noticed qualities of strength, loyalty, perseverance, and courage.

Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10 He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11 Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12 but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:9-12, NLT, emphasis added)

I consider the army I thought would have been with me in my greatest battles. I remember the names of the elite who stayed.

He trains my hands for battle. He readies me for difficult tasks.

The Lord does bring about great victories. He’s looking for someone to stay (when they’re tired, to hold the ground when the army flees). Oh, times of testing reveal so much (I cast my cares upon him.).

True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say,
    and you will win your case in court.” (Romans 3:3-4, NLT)

Lord, I fix my eyes on you. You are the source of my strength. You are my hope. You are true.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 15-16; 1 Chronicles 1; Psalm 39; Acts 11

Samuel gave a message to Saul from the Lord. Saul didn’t completely obey the command. Perhaps he thought he did enough, but he really did what pleased himself.

35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel. (Samuel 15:35, NLT)

Those words cause me to mourn too. Tasks unfinished, or work half-hearted, one doesn’t have to be a king to do a poor job, to be selfish. The Lord, he sees it all.

Lately, I’ve been working on goals, and as big things get checked off and I consider the little things, I lose heart. These dailies, they seem quite small and insignificant (and to be honest, some things I just don’t want to do). But a friend kindly pointed out the deep importance of my diligence. And when I shifted my gaze to what God has before me, the diligence is not only shaping character, it has a potential to affect generations. These daily little things–a choice to do them or not has very real (and bigger) consequences.

David was out in the fields watching sheep and goats. His place in the family–shepherd and youngest–seeming, perhaps, quite small and insignificant. He wasn’t given a thought to be called to meet Samuel.

11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” (Samuel 16:11-12, NLT)

David goes from the field to serving in Saul’s court as harpist and armor bearer. And that was just the start. He was chosen by God. Would David choose God back? (Perhaps Saul wanted to follow God, but he wanted what he wanted more, and his lack of focus would cost him.)

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” 

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:4-7, NLT)

These readings are full of wisdom and encouragement. Lineages chronicled of people, all part of God’s story. And in Acts, believers, unnamed, are scattered with the power of the Lord, influencing many lives. Life, wholehearted.

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24, NLT)

Lord, thank you for this gentle correction. I praise you for the big ways you’ve moved in my life this year. And I want to be passionately diligent with the (seemingly) little things. You’re looking at my heart. I put my hope in you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Numbers 3-5; Hebrews 12

It is March. I am entering a third month of six where I purposed to make changes in my life after a (last) year that took a physical and emotional toll. While some big things were accomplished (yay!) in February, I noticed the smaller, daily goals weren’t always met. Why was that? I was too tired. I was too busy. I just didn’t care. I thought for a long time about perseverance and endurance and following through.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

I knew I needed to be mindful of the things and thoughts that were tripping me up. I looked up scriptures for direction and encouragement, keyword: training. I found a verse that surprised me. In my pursuit of the practical, visible things, I had nearly neglected to consider the spiritual, eternal ones.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:2a, NLT)

Oh, if I look to the wrong reward, how far off will I be from the true mark? Lord, I seek your kingdom.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:14-15, NLT)

It is March, and I press on, my grip renewed.

11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. (Hebrews 12:11-13, NLT)

Thank you, Father.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:28-19, NLT)

I praise your name.

Courtney (66books365)

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