Tag Archives: salvation

Isaiah 34-35; Ephesians 2

At some point, the crickets’ song took over summer, reminding that a new season approaches. During a morning walk, honking geese overhead shake me from a summer dream almost like an alarm–a new season approaches. I remember thinking, “It’s only July–you’re going the wrong way!”

My calendar said there was still plenty of time. But suddenly it’s two weeks later and two more to go will go in a blink. When I was young, the days seemed long. Now I find myself wishing for more hours in the day.

Lord, help me to keep a Kingdom focus. When I find myself small, discouraged, I want to remember, you are mighty.

16 Search the book of the Lord,
    and see what he will do.
Not one of these birds and animals will be missing,
    and none will lack a mate,
for the Lord has promised this.
    His Spirit will make it all come true (Isaiah 34:16, NLT).

A friend reminded me, the Lord is a redeemer.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:1-4, NLT, emphasis added)

A changing of seasons seems almost imperceptible when I operate in the daily–laundry, schedules, appointments. One day the trees are budding. Another day, I am aware of the rich aroma of full flowers saturating the air. Now the mornings have a pleasant chill that make me want to run faster and farther. A kingdom here, a kingdom near, and I am reminded I am his.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT).

An accuser wants me weak and fearful–unwanted, worthless, abandoned. Faith tells me I belong. I am his.

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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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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2 Samuel 13-14; 2 Corinthians 4; Psalm 51

This week, I tapped into a podcast of interviews with adults who shared an event in their lives that had a lasting effect upon them. They painted vivid pictures with their words, and the interviewer followed up with questions to the now adult speakers. They were only two people in this whole world, each marked by a memory from childhood. I wondered perhaps all of us have stories that have had such an effect upon our lives.

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her (2 Samuel 13:14-15, NLT).

***

So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister (2 Samuel 13:20b-22, NLT).

Sin separates. It separates us from God and it separates us from each other. In motion, it destroys. Amnon’s sin and violence led to his sister’s desolation, a brother’s thirst for revenge/justice and murder, and an estrangement in a lineage. Sin’s reach is vast–don’t ever be fooled.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him (2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT).”

Psalm 51 was written after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you (Psalm 51:1-15, NLT).

Oh, that Amnon would have repented.

I look long on the image of spilled water in 2 Samuel 14:14. Thank you, God: Redeemer, Father, Healer. You devise a way to bring us back to you. Sin’s reach is vast, but You are greater. God, I hand you my memory, knowing You to be the Good Father, full of mercy, unfailing love, compassion. Bring healing to all the broken places.

Courtney (66books365)

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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

Deuteronomy 23-26; Mark 1

I’m reading through Deuteronomy and seeing what the Lord values, his warnings, and his reasons why. Twice, I’m caught by the word “remember.”

17 “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. 18 Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command.

19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do. 20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. 21 When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. 22 Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command (Deuteronomy 24:17-22, NLT, emphasis added).

Here, calls to justice, mercy, compassion. These are things the Lord values. He reminds the people to remember where they came from–for they were all once slaves who received justice, mercy, and compassion from the Lord. And more: they received what they needed, perhaps in abundance, so that there was leftover to spare. They didn’t need to hold tightly. The Lord provides.

New Testament readings, and my heart swells at this:

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News! (Mark 1:10-15, emphasis added)”

In Mark, Jesus, Son of God, who brings the Father great joy–even the angels take care of him. This is the God I love and who loves me too (Father, provider, protector, teacher–and so much more). I read of the healing that takes place as Jesus moves from place to place. Demons released, health restored, lives changed. He teaches with authority and shows the way.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came (Mark 1:35-38, NLT, emphasis added).”

Self: do not live deceived by comfort. I was saved by grace. I know where I came from, and I know who I should have become in a lineage void of Jesus. I can trust him to show mercy, justice, compassion, generosity. He calls me to do the same–to remember where I came from and how he saved me. Lord Jesus, everyone is looking for you, to fill a void and soothe a cry, to show the way to freedom. I am so grateful I know you.

Courtney (66books365)

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

Job 34-36; Revelation 20

I had lunch with a friend recently who shared she’d read a book in one day. I was intrigued. I’m not usually a fast reader. And I’ve been known to fall asleep during read-alouds if we venture past three chapters at a time–and I’m the one reading out loud. I looked up the average reading speed and decided to test it out, if I could read 50 pages in an hour. I began to calculate how long it would take me to get through a stack of books I really and truly want to read. Maybe 2019 will be the year I read all the books, at least, all the books I have that I want to read but haven’t yet.

The first time I ever stepped foot into my dad’s house was the day after he died. I took in the details of his life, one I had not been invited into; I noticed a lot of things, but maybe what surprised me most were the books he had about Christianity and Jesus, and not one book spine creased. They were brand new, unopened. My impression of him was he was seeking and hoping. I felt a sadness, and not because he didn’t read those books (those books are not his salvation)–but for so many other things that run profound and deep. Grace reaches here too.

It’s almost two years since he died. I’ve thought long on legacy, family, faith, the marrow of what matters, and eternity. I’ve wondered about success and purpose and how others define it–or is there a universal definition? Mostly, I’ve focused on my own walk, and to this point I thought I had been intentional, but now even more so. My words and actions will either reveal or betray my heart–they will show what really mattered to me.

11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15, NLT).

My 2018 word was seek, and God showed me many things. But seek first his kingdom was the underscore of so much. Next year, a focus on purpose (and reading all the books). (Did you pick a word? Also, what’s on your reading list?)

Lord, it is everything to know you and to be known by you. To love you, and to be loved by you. It is joy, confidence, safety, peace, hope, strength to be in relationship with you. You called to me to seek your face, and it has changed everything.

Courtney (66books365)

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