Tag Archives: understanding

Isaiah 20-22; 1 Corinthians 2

One of my kids is caring for animals at a nearby farm this week. She loves animals and has always had a dreamer’s impression of what farm life would be like–harmonious, lovely, routine. But this week with hot and humid summer temperatures, buzzing flies, and work that leaves her sweaty, tired and achy has shown her a different perspective. She comes to my car dirty, disheveled, smelly, exhausted. The next day, she awakens with aches as her body remembers. Anne of Green Gables meets The Hunger Games, and the arena doesn’t seem anything like you imagined when you’re finally in it.

When I read through Isaiah 20-22, instead of consuming words while I drink my coffee, I step into the horror. In my NLT, each section begins with a subtitle “A message about …” and a city is listed. In A message about Egypt and Ethiopia:

Then the Lord said, “My servant Isaiah has been walking around naked and barefoot for the last three years. This is a sign—a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia. For the king of Assyria will take away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as prisoners. He will make them walk naked and barefoot, both young and old, their buttocks bared, to the shame of Egypt. Then the Philistines will be thrown into panic, for they counted on the power of Ethiopia and boasted of their allies in Egypt! They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have? We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.’” (Isaiah 20:3-6, NLT)

Or in A message about Babylon:

My stomach aches and burns with pain. Sharp pangs of anguish are upon me, like those of a woman in labor. I grow faint when I hear what God is planning; I am too afraid to look. My mind reels and my heart races. I longed for evening to come, but now I am terrified of the dark.

Look! They are preparing a great feast. They are spreading rugs for people to sit on. Everyone is eating and drinking.
But quick! Grab your shields and prepare for battle. You are being attacked! (Isaiah 21:3-5, NLT)

In A Message about Jerusalem:

You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago
.

12 At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    called you to weep and mourn.
He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins
    and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse.
13 But instead, you dance and play;
    you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.
    You feast on meat and drink wine.
You say, “Let’s feast and drink,
    for tomorrow we die!” (Isaiah 22:9-13, NLT, emphasis added)

In the New Testament, Paul’s words begin with the subheading Paul’s Message of Wisdom. These readings, all messages to the reader.

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8, NLT, emphasis added)

I reflect on these readings and the underscoring of God’s sovereignty and plan. And like farm life, it’s more comfortable to read about war, choices, nations from the ease of my couch than it is to personalize a message. What if I stood before God’s judgment? What if I didn’t ask for help from the One who planned all this long ago? What if I didn’t understand?

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:13-16, NLT)

Lord, I don’t want to do life apart from you. I’m thankful for reminders that you are sovereign and you desire true relationship with me. Your word puts it out there for me–warning, wisdom, guidance, truth. You make known what you want. Help me to understand.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 26-27; Mark 10

I wonder, when the rich man approached Jesus to ask him how he could secure eternal life, if he thought Jesus would size him up, consult a list, pat him on the back and say, “You met all the requirements. You’ve got this!”

It’s evident from this man’s response to what Jesus said that he didn’t expect to fall short.

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:20-22, NLT)

Even when the disciples were with Jesus, they didn’t fully understand the things he told them as he walked with them and ate with them. When I read the Bible, most of these stories have already resolved, so when Jesus tells them exactly what’s going to happen, I know it to be true. But even to them, in his presence, they didn’t get it.

32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.” (Mark 10:32-34, NLT)

It’s not long after he reminds them of what is coming that James and John (the sons of Zebedee) ask him for places of honor in his kingdom.

A rich man. A reminder. A request.

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (Mark 10:26-31, NLT)

Lord, just like you told the disciples, you let me know what you want me to know. In hindsight, it’s very clear, but walking it out, it’s just as easy for me to jump to a better ending than to focus on the journey there. Help me to learn and to teach my children to seek you and your kingdom, to revere your word, and to put you above all else. Help me to face obstacles with grace and courage and confidence because you told me they’d be coming.

Courtney (66books365)


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1 Chronicles 13,14; James 1; Amos 8; Luke 3

One acted to protect. Another was stirred to anger and fear. And yet another was blessed. All were participants in a common circumstance.

The whole assembly agreed to this, for the people could see it was the right thing to do. So David summoned all Israel, from the Shihor Brook of Egypt in the south all the way to the town of Lebo-hamath in the north, to join in bringing the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. Then David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (also called Kiriath-jearim) to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord who is enthroned between the cherubim. They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart. David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:4-8, NLT, emphasis added)

David was bringing back the Ark of God. He consulted his advisors and acted under the Lord’s consenting will. It was a joyful procession with an unexpected end.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark. 10 Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.

11 David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today.

12 David was now afraid of God, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God back into my care?” 13 So David did not move the Ark into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. 14 The Ark of God remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed the household of Obed-edom and everything he owned. (1 Chronicles 13:9-14, NLT, emphasis added)

Some of my joyful starts have had unexpected ends. I have been powerless to protect things and people I treasure. I have been confused, wounded, disheartened by the unfolding of events–and some of these have taken years to recover from. I have been blessed beyond thought in seasons where I never expected it.

But I think on this–a common cause and three different perspectives, three different consequences–but one singular thing. Each man assigned his own narrative to it.

I don’t know what sparked Uzzah’s action: Certainly he was chosen to help carry the Ark because he was competent, responsible, and trustworthy. Were his actions instantaneous with no thought but to be helpful? Did he act because he thought David would be furious if the Ark fell? Was he protective of the impression of God, to save Him from a dishonor or embarrassment of a fallen Ark? All motivations seem reasonable. Whatever it was, Uzzah’s action was out of line, crossing a boundary of what the Lord required or expected of him, regardless of his intention or his credentials. It cost him a price. Lord, please be my guide. Give me wisdom and discernment. Keep me from butting into circumstances that are not my place to intervene. Your ways are higher than mine.

David was angry and afraid. The God he loved had acted in a way David didn’t expect, and he felt all the feelings. He didn’t understand. David was trying to do the right thing, and it went horribly wrong. This was not the happy ending of a joyful journey he had envisioned. His desire to honor God was marked by tragedy. Lord, when I struggle with expectation versus reality, help me to sort through all the feelings in a right way. Your ways are higher than mine.

An unexpected detour. When A to B takes a turn, the Ark is redirected to Obed-edom’s home for a time. In His presence, they are blessed. Lord, help me to be obedient when the unexpected happens. I pray to be aware of Your presence in all circumstances, confident in You and Your Will. You are my source of joy and peace, and I’m glad Your ways are higher than mine.

Courtney (66books365)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. (James 1:2-6a, NLT)

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Exodus 10; Luke 13; Job 28; I Corinthians 14

What is in front of me–a stubborn leader, a swarm of locusts, a thick darkness. What the Lord reveals:

“I have made him and his officials stubborn so I can display my miraculous signs among them. I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1b-2, NLT, emphasis added)

He has a reason for the resistance. (Display, display, know–He shows so I know. Father God, give me a Kingdom focus.)

A group of believers is murdered. A tower falls taking lives with it. A leafy tree looks healthy but is fruitless. A woman is afflicted 18 years, held in bondage by Satan.

“Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” (Luke 13:2-4, NLT)

Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:7-9, NLT)

24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. 25 When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’ (Luke 13:24-27, NLT)

He has a message, a warning. Tragedy strikes any time–prepare your heart. Perhaps success (or failure) isn’t so much what others see, but the fruit of what we leave behind. Evil separates.

Panning for gold, smelting metals, seekers looking to the ground sifting dust for treasure and missing real riches. Look up. Look around.

23 “God alone understands the way to wisdom;
    he knows where it can be found,
24 for he looks throughout the whole earth
    and sees everything under the heavens.
25 He decided how hard the winds should blow
    and how much rain should fall.
26 He made the laws for the rain
    and laid out a path for the lightning.
27 Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it.
    He set it in place and examined it thoroughly.
28 And this is what he says to all humanity:
The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
    to forsake evil is real understanding
.’” (Job 28:23-28, NLT)

Lord, I set aside the rush of the day to sit with your word. Help me to see your kingdom at hand and to honor you in my thoughts and actions.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12; 2 Timothy 2

New routines, new seasons, new challenges. A dear friend’s words to her child reach out from the years to encourage me now–to keep focused on the goal.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired,
    how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
    what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NLT)

Remember the why.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Focus. Obedience. (Diligence, reward.)

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus … 19 But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,”[b] and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”[c] (2 Timothy 2:15-17, 19, NLT)

I think long on purpose and Kingdom focus. Sideline skirmishes try to take my focus off the goal, words maim and discourage, and some obstacles seem like impenetrable blocks.

He reinforces, “Don’t give up.” Oh, if I stumble on the open ground, how will I ever traverse the thicket? He has spoken purpose in my heart and over my life.

21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT).

He points the way, in the distraction and in the storm.

Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2: 22b-26, NLT).

Lord, I lean on you for understanding. You are loving and wise and generous. You gently turn my focus and remind me: don’t forget the why.

Courtney (66books365)

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