Tag Archives: testing

2 Kings 2-3; Psalm 48; Matthew 4

The view outside of my front window is of one large shade garden. There are several gardens in our yard, and most of them now are dominated by weeds. Last year, losses and crises took my attention from home to urgent issues. And this year, I’ve had to examine areas of my life and focus small first to nurture things that have been neglected–the garden is certainly symbolic of that.

This morning, I head out to the big garden with gloves and clippers to try to take back what two growing seasons have taken over. I read in 2 Kings 3 of armies in the wilderness: “The king of Edom and his troops joined them, and all three armies traveled along a roundabout route through the wilderness for seven days. But there was no water for the men or their animals (2 Kings 3:9, NLT).

They called on Elisha who explained, “This is what the Lord says: This dry valley will be filled with pools of water! 17 You will see neither wind nor rain, says the Lord, but this valley will be filled with water. You will have plenty for yourselves and your cattle and other animals. 18 But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab! 19 You will conquer the best of their towns, even the fortified ones. You will cut down all their good trees, stop up all their springs, and ruin all their good land with stones.”

20 The next day at about the time when the morning sacrifice was offered, water suddenly appeared! It was flowing from the direction of Edom, and soon there was water everywhere (2 Kings 3:16-20, NLT).

In Matthew, Jesus is tempted by Satan–to satisfy himself, to prove himself, to exalt himself. Jesus responds to each offer with scripture. I think on this now, because whether it’s temptation (to take things into my own hands, to prove myself, to be in charge) or accusation, an enemy’s motives always reveal an intention to kill, steal, or destroy. It could be the unseen things like peace or faith, or it could be very visible–relationships, possessions, jobs … even gardens.

Dawn breaks. I won’t get to all the garden spaces today, but I ready myself to tackle both the unseen and the visible. I think long on scriptures I know that tell of who God is, and remind me of who I am because of Him, in Him.

13 Take note of the fortified walls,
    and tour all the citadels,
that you may describe them
    to future generations.
14 For that is what God is like.
    He is our God forever and ever,
    and he will guide us until we die. (Psalm 48:13-14, NLT)

Lord, an enemy is bent on stealing and destroying–and already so much is wounded or broken by lies, grief, evil. When I look at the destruction, I linger in the loss and am weak. Lord, I look to you, to what you can do, to the valley you will fill with water.

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 28-29; 1 Chronicles 9; Acts 19

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim or by the prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” 1 Samuel 28:4-7 NIV

Saul let fear grip him so much that he turned to something he had previously banned. How many times have I tried to come up with my own plan when it seems like the Lord is silent?Will I be like Saul and not trust that the Lord knows what he is doing? Or will I cry out to him and  hope when it seems like there is none?

“All those chosen gatekeepers were two hundred and twelve. They were recorded by their genealogy, in their villages. David and Samuel the Seer had appointed them to their trusted office. So they and their children were in charge of the gates of the house of the Lord, the house of the tabernacle, by assignment. The gatekeepers were assigned to the four directions: the east, west, north and south. And they lodged all around the house of God because they had the responsibility, and they were in charge of opening it every morning.” 1 Chronicles 9:22-27 NIV

Just as the gatekeepers guarded the house of God, what am I letting into my mind and spirit? I recently read a You-Version devotional called, “My Spirit, My Responsibility” by Brian Houston. He says, “Do you realize your spirit is your responsibility?”  Am I letting the Holy Spirit guard my mind?

“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ehpesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not as much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” Acts 19:1-6 NIV

Dear Lord, forgive me when I turn to things other than you.  Help me to be “compelled by the spirit” (Acts 19:21), like Paul was.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit to convict and guide me. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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1 Samuel 23-24; 1 Chronicles 6; Psalm 54; Acts 16

Another’s betrayal.

11 Will the leaders of Keilah betray me to him? And will Saul actually come as I have heard? O Lord, God of Israel, please tell me.”

And the Lord said, “He will come.”

12 Again David asked, “Will the leaders of Keilah betray me and my men to Saul?”

And the Lord replied, “Yes, they will betray you.” 1 Samuel 23:11-12, NLT

A king’s twisted thoughts and unbelief.

21 “The Lord bless you,” Saul said. “At last someone is concerned about me!” 1 Samuel 23:21, NLT

David’s integrity.

Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

12 “May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. 13 As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. 14 Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? 15 May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!” 1 Samuel 24:9-15, NLT

David didn’t kill Saul when the opportunity presented itself. He respected the Lord in his appointment of Saul, and he knew the Lord is just and would have the final say between them.

Paul and Silas were singing praises when the prison doors opened, but they didn’t run off when the opportunity presented itself. They stayed, and because they did, they were able to comfort and witness to the guard and others. They knew of a greater purpose than the one at hand.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. (Acts 16:25-32, NLT)

These scriptures speak of integrity, faith and purpose. It wasn’t that long ago David stood in front of a giant, and now he stands before a king and his army. He is able to keep God his focus. I don’t have to fight the way the world fights–and I don’t want to. I want a life of integrity, faith and purpose.

God is just. Do I trust him with the outcome? Do I believe he will do what’s right?

Lord, when an enemy lashes out, hunts and harms me, help me to do what’s right because of my trust in you. When troubles come, help me to know peace in your sovereignty. I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 47-48; Psalm 25; Galatians 3

Joseph has been heavy on my mind–not only because of the readings, I’ve heard his story preached online a lot recently. I consider him, his trials and testing and perseverance in light of a bigger plan.

This weekend marks a year since my father’s death, and a year since my whole world shifted. Joseph likely never imagined the turn of events that one day as he trotted down at his father’s request to check on his brothers at work; I look back in contemplation at a year I never could have imagined.

My focus with Joseph was a list of questions: Did you know your brothers hated you? What were you thinking as they sold you as a slave? What went through your mind when Pharaoh’s wife set you up? And those years in prison–how did you get through each day of wait?

But today, I focus on what God is doing. Certainly, I’ve seen his hand in my own life this past year–even recently, when our dog got loose. She’s been gone several days. I sat on the couch last night under a wave of gratitude for a God who loves me and loves my dog, who has taken a heart-aching situation and used it to open doors to prayers I’d been whispering to connect with others in my community. In the process, he’s sparked a new flame in my heart. He is molding me into someone new.

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1, NIV)

And this is how I can look back at a hard year, grateful, that his hand has never left mine–in fact, he holds me. He has not forsaken me.

Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:4-5, NIV)

Lord, how I’ve learned what little I can control, sometimes not even my own tears. You have taken my head knowledge and moved it into my heart to show me so very personally that you are sovereign and your ways are good. When trials cut deep, you are with me, catching every tear, and working every moment for my good and your glory. Thank you for holding me and my family, and I pray that you’ll bring our dog home to us soon.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Genesis 9-11; Mark 4

I’ve never been on a boat in a storm. I’ve seen movies and video footage of boats and ships maneuvering in treacherous waters. From the couch, I don’t feel the full effect of peril. Today I slowed a bit to read and imagine this moment on a boat.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. (Mark 4:35-37, NIV)

A furious squall. Waves breaking over the side. Nearly swamped.

I’ve stood in places where life felt furious and I felt small. I’ve looked out at circumstances that seemed to grow intensely, immensely before my eyes and tower over the side of boundaries I thought could protect me. Nearly swamped–that felt like most of 2017.

38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38, NIV)

Was there panic? Was there urgency?

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40, NIV)

Getting off the boat that day, I can only imagine these men: drenched, tousled, perhaps shoeless, and definitely shaken–that’s just outward appearances. Inside? Changed.

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41, NIV)

Lord, I see you in life’s glories–all of nature proclaims your name, from rainbows to furious squalls. You are there. In the storm and after, you show me you can be trusted. And though I walk sometimes tousled and shaken, oh, am I grateful I can call on you. You remind me in those moments (of feeling small, of panic/despair/doubt) that you are bigger than the things I see. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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1 Chronicles 22; 1 Peter 3; Micah 1; Luke 10

I am a 56 year old middle child and I still have an annoying tendency to whine that I don’t get enough attention. And my older sister continues to carry a mantel of authority as she was responsible for looking out for my younger sister and I while our parents were at work. Adult as we are, we still find ourselves slipping into certain roles unwittingly and then laugh about it, if not roll our eyes at one another.

Here’s the thing, God could have easily switched up the birth order, yet I know for a fact that God has used this to develop certain skills and traits. If this small scale pecking order is something that He has used, how does He use the authority structure of governments, marriages, employers, and the like to shape me for his purposes? The very structures put in place that I chafe against end up being tools in the redemptive hands of God.

Peter instructs, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution…” 1 Peter 2:13 and then fleshes out what this means in 1 Peter 3.  And yet these imperfect human institutions that may cause us suffering. Peter says that when we submit, we are actually submitting to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22) who is “at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.”  These are difficult words, yet the one who holds all things together is ultimately in control. Do I really believe this? And under what circumstances should I refuse to submit?

Jesus has given believers a different kind of authority that extends beyond human institutions to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus declared, “I watched Satan fall from heaven, like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless less, do not rejoice at this that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:18

And Peter encourages me to keep my eyes on the one who has everything under him, “Do not fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you and accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1Peter 3:13-15.

Do I live as one who believes these passages? Sometimes yes and sometimes, no, but I want to. It’s easy to get hung up on what I what is immediately before me and not see the big picture of God’s truth, but I know that this is where true freedom lies. Like the father of the epileptic, I pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,” Mark 9:24 and then trust God to use the imperfect to mold and make me in his image.

Kathy

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