Tag Archives: testing

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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2 Samuel 17; 2 Corinthians 10; Ezekiel 24; Psalm 72

For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom! (2 Samuel 17:14b, NLT)

A message to deliver, men taking cover in a well. (2 Samuel 17)

Symbols and signs–a scorched pot, a wife’s death, a silent example. (Ezekiel 24)

A war waged with mighty weapons that break down strongholds. Thoughts captured. (2 Corinthians 10)

A psalm of hope and peace. Abundance. His glory. (Psalm 72)

18 Praise the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does such wonderful things.
19 Praise his glorious name forever!
    Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and amen! (Psalm 72:18-19, NLT)

He is in control.

11 All kings will bow before him,
    and all nations will serve him.

12 He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
    he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
    and he will rescue them.
14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
    for their lives are precious to him. (Psalm 72:11-14, NLT)

I remind myself today, that his ways don’t often come packaged the way I imagine or expect, but he is always at work, always in control.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 13; 2 Corinthians 6; Ezekiel 20; Psalms 66-67

A friend of mine said this past weekend something that stuck: “One of Satan’s tricks is to take what is abnormal and make it appear normal.” That’s sin! That’s the stunt that the he played on Eve, and then Eve on Adam: enter in the death spiral of sin.

Amnon takes what isn’t his at the expense of another. To sin, or trespass means that I cross into a place that wasn’t intended for me. Isn’t that the deadly game I try to play with God, when I sin? I end up where I don’t belong; without God’s grace calling me home, the path leads farther and farther from Him.

I am confronted with God’s question to the house of Israel, “Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your ancestors and go astray after their detestable things?” Ezekiel 20:32Am I going to turn away from God and seek those things which will never satisfy? Will I turn away from God’s view of normal to chase the abnormal and dysfunctional? Will I seek material comfort and temporary illusions of security at the expense of the one who made me to know and enjoy Him?

It’s from the Word of God that I learn what is real, true, “normal.” The Psalmist understands this. He has experienced pain and suffering but has known restoration. He has felt trapped and been without vision but learned that God is faithful:  “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.” Psalm 66:10-12.

Paul and his fellow believers have been there as well; “but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way; through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beating, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…”2 Corinthians 6:4-5.  How did they respond? “by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:6Only in God’s world, his Kingdom is such a response normal, much less possible, but that is the Kingdom where my citizenship lies.

Holy Spirit, help me to keep sight of what is “normal,” and to be obedient. When I go through difficult times, by your power, work your purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness, and genuine love deep into my being. Let me speak only that which is sincere and true. Provide the faith needed to keep my eyes on you. It’s by your grace and mercy that I ask these things.  Amen.

Kathy

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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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Leviticus 9; Psalm 10; Proverbs 24; 1 Thessalonians 3

Last year I read a book that really influenced my perspective. There were many parts that spoke to me, and this one verse was gentle encouragement for a raw heart. Reading it today is calming still.

A house is built by wisdom
    and becomes strong through good sense.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. Proverbs 24:3-4, NLT

Lord, build this house.

Not very much farther down the screen (I read online), these words stand alone:

If you fail under pressure,
    your strength is too small. Proverbs 24:10, NLT

I think on times and things I’ve quit, and times and things I’ve wanted to quit. Even last night, elusive sleep and restless from this time of What It Is, I wondered where is the exit for these tasks I feel grossly unqualified for. I feel that pressure. I feel like I’m faltering. Yes, my strength is too small.

Lord, be my strength.

My child, eat honey, for it is good,
    and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste.
14 In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
    If you find it, you will have a bright future,
    and your hopes will not be cut short. Proverbs 24:13-14, NLT

These afternoons, I prepare a warm mug of tea, sweetened with a heaping spoon of honey. I sit and savor the break, the sweet drink. I find sweetness in His Word, and scriptures from memory remind me–oh, taste and see, the Lord is good.

We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:2b-8, NLT

Lord, on the days I take my eyes off you and look too long at the impossible or at the what-if road ahead, I weaken. Learning daily, to be–daily, and to know my limitations are not your limitations. I cling to your promises, grateful for your strength and wisdom. When I feel weak, help me to stand firm in you, keeping my eyes on you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

He already knew what He was going to do.

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6, NLT

Philip looks around at what they have–a boy’s lunch of loaves and fish, and a crowd of thousands.

I glance at my calendar, empty grids awaiting my pencil to fill in the tasks–a lot of unknown, and it all feels too big. I know these days will move fast and powerful, and in my own strength, my limited sight and wisdom, I look around at what I have and at what needs to be done. I am thankful and clinging to peace: He already knows what He is going to do.

The people wanted proof and proof, even after their bellies were filled. Miracles are marvelous morsels, but they don’t sustain–only Jesus can.

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” John 6:26-31, NLT

I don’t need the miracles in order to follow Jesus. I know that by following Him, the miracles will come.

Spending time at His feet today, I find peace and rest. He calls me His child, and I am quieted. When urgency and unknown press against me, I fix my gaze upon Him. I listen and there is deep joy. These were the first words I read this morning, in Proverbs 3, Trusting the Lord.

My child, never forget the things I have taught you.
    Store my commands in your heart.
If you do this, you will live many years,
    and your life will be satisfying.
Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
    and you will earn a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
    Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
    and strength for your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
10 Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine.

11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
12 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 She offers you long life in her right hand,
    and riches and honor in her left.
17 She will guide you down delightful paths;
    all her ways are satisfying.
18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    happy are those who hold her tightly.

19 By wisdom the Lord founded the earth;
    by understanding he created the heavens.
20 By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth,
    and the dew settles beneath the night sky.

21 My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.
    Hang on to them,
22 for they will refresh your soul.
    They are like jewels on a necklace.
23 They keep you safe on your way,
    and your feet will not stumble.
24 You can go to bed without fear;
    you will lie down and sleep soundly.
25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
    or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26 for the Lord is your security.
    He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:1-26, NLT

Thank you, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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