Tag Archives: strength

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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Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Psalms

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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2 Chronicles 16; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1; John 4

The woman at the well, up to that day, her life spoke a different story. An encounter with Jesus, and she runs to tell others, leaving her water jar behind. Her former story is not her summary–it is the contrast of a life transformed.

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42, NLT)

A king who reigned years finds himself in a tight spot and in need of help. He gathers resources to entice aid, and gets it–in the process, getting more than he anticipated.

At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the Lord your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the Lord, and he handed them over to you. The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9, NLT)

His summary? So very different from what it could have been.

11 The rest of the events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13 So he died in the forty-first year of his reign. (2 Chronicles 16:11-13, NLT)

This year I have felt overwhelmed by tasks and pressures–and I’ve also felt the Lord’s steady presence. At times, it’s felt like a battle, where I would fix my gaze–on my worry, my questions, my wounds? Or on the unmovable might of the Lord? I’ve felt him telling me, “Seek.”

Lord, you are the living water I want. Thank you for speaking into my life, for drawing near to me when I approach you, for your sovereignty in all things. I want to speak of who you are, not of my limited capacity. Thank you for this very sobering reminder to seek you. Thank you for hearing my prayers.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 8,9; 2 Corinthians 2; Ezekiel 16; Psalms 58,59

My wife and I were watching a sermon on grace a few days ago and halfway through she said, “Isn’t this to simple?”  We dialogued afterwards and realized how glad we were that it was.

Can you imagine Mephibosheth’s reaction to grace?

David said to him, “Do not be afraid, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always.” 2 Samuel 9:7 NRSV

Do I want that kind of grace, that kind of kindness – for sure I do – for I clearly am a fallen sinner in need of this kind of God’s grace – one who does not deserve it, could never earn it and would never be able to repay it.

My wife and I were also challenged in how we communicate grace to others – and we named a few people in our lives where that needed to be our focus.

For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. 2 Corinthians 2:4 NRSV

We affirmed that there definitely is a grace that needs to be exhibited in our communication styles for at some point we too have come from a place of joy received from the recovery of grace.

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, in order that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:62-63 NRSV

Yes, my wife and I had the same trouble most of us have – cannot talk about grace without talking about judgement. We both concluded that the all-important work of atonement was not overlooking sin, but our sin being covered by God’s marvellous grace.

O my strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.  Psalm 59:17 NRSV

With a bit of study, I found the Aramaic Bible translates that last part of this verse as, “and the God of my grace!” Yes, there my wife and I have found our joy as followers of Christ.

When I think of grace, I think of Your presence.  Wherever we may be found today and in whatever activity we may be engaged in, may we gather there with Your favour.  Lord, by Your favour, we mean favour us with Your grace, and with the love of God the Father, and with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

evanlaar

 

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Ruth 3,4; Acts 28; Jeremiah 38; Psalms 11,12

I’m finishing up listening to an audio version of a book called 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz (not paid or otherwise compensated to mention this book). A friend recommended it at large, and I tucked it away for someday. While I’m not sure how the title came back into my sight line, I can say that several times this year, there have been things I wanted to quit (and things I didn’t want to quit but thought I might have to because this pace is wearing me too thin). I decided to give the book a listening to. In it, Koziarz discusses Ruth.

Today, in Ruth 3 and 4, I read the conclusion of (Ruth’s) story, where her kinsman redeemer marries her, joy is restored, and she is part of royal lineage–and all because she made the choice not to quit. She exhibits strength, loyalty, faith, perseverance, patience, and trust.

And what doesn’t Paul go through in Acts? In this chapter, he’s warming himself by a fire after a shipwreck. He’s bitten by a poisonous snake and survives. After months, he continues on his journey to Rome.

30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him. (Acts 28:30-31, NLT)

He persevered too, and not in a roll-with-the-punches sort of way: he boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord. He was resilient and focused.

Jeremiah’s unpopular message made him a traitor to be lowered into a cistern and left for dead. But that wasn’t where his story stopped. Though he couldn’t climb out in his own strength, he was raised out of the cistern because of the petitions of an important court official. Jeremiah’s message didn’t change–surrender or else. A tough job.

15 Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.” (Jeremiah 38:15, NLT)

He didn’t quit.

In the psalms, encouragement still (emphasis mine). Don’t quit.

I trust in the Lord for protection.
So why do you say to me,
    “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;
    the Lord still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
    examining every person on earth.
The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. (Psalm 11:1, 4-5, NLT)

And

The Lord’s promises are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace,
    purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
    preserving them forever from this lying generation,
even though the wicked strut about,
    and evil is praised throughout the land. (Psalm 12:6-8, NLT)

Maybe one day the things I’m going through won’t seem so big-hairy-scary-heavy. Maybe one day I’ll look back and laugh at what I thought was difficult. In real time, the things are big and heavy and difficult. And yesterday, I was looking to quit.

Thank you, Lord, for all that you are teaching me about who you are and what you can do. Thank you for showing me that character is developed through trials, and perseverance is built one day at a time. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Old Testament, Psalms, Ruth, Uncategorized

Deut. 29; Ps.119:49-72; Isa. 56; Matt. 4

Of course I know bad things happen. And being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt me from them. Yet, why am I still surprised by tragedy and heartache?

There were seasons of the sometimes-struggle: things in the Grand Scheme that shouldn’t have carried the weight they did. It didn’t surprise me when hate came from unbelievers. But it did when unkindness came from a believing friend. That one took me a surprisingly long time to get over. During that time, it was the closest I had ever felt to Jesus. Oh, Lord, who loves even the outcasts.

For the Sovereign Lord,
    who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
I will bring others, too,
    besides my people Israel.” (Isaiah 56:8, NLT)

Another difficult season presented itself, and perseverance seemed impossible. I almost quit. In a snowy winter, being back in the woods, I was delightfully home-bound to hibernate and process and pray.

2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the Lord did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country— all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear! For forty years I led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes and sandals did not wear out. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other alcoholic drink, but he provided for you so you would know that he is the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 29:2-6, NLT)

I prayed a lot that winter. Friends prayed for me and over me. I saw the battlefield. I learned that prayer is not a last defense. When God moved, I was stunned and speechless. I wondered why it surprised me so, when he is sovereign in everything.

This year I planned for balance and simplicity. My one word, restore. But winter brought loss after loss. A mother-in-law. A father. A sister’s (ongoing) health crisis. The loss of a friend. A niece. This heart, pummeled.

These months have felt like a persistent storm.

49 Remember your promise to me;
    it is my only hope.
50 Your promise revives me;
    it comforts me in all my troubles. (Psalm 119:49-50, NLT)

In this world, there will be trouble. There will be things that wound, that don’t seem right (because they aren’t!), that are brutal and senseless. There will be things that haunt and shame. The wounding doesn’t have to defeat me like it once did.

71 My suffering was good for me,
    for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
72 Your instructions are more valuable to me
    than millions in gold and silver. (Psalm 119:71-72)

When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted by Satan, Jesus responded to the enemy with clarity, “No, the scriptures say …”

I will still cry over losses. I will still wrestle with wounding. But God’s Spirit is inside of me. His Word strengthens and instructs me. Without him, the truth and trustworthiness of him, how would I hope?

Father God, because of who you are, your sovereignty and mighty power, I don’t need to rely on my own shaky hopes–I can stand confidently on your word. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

Courtney (66books365)

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