Tag Archives: witness

2 Chronicles 5-7; Psalm 121; 1 Timothy 4

One thing I know about cultivating a new habit is that it takes intention. I didn’t become a runner by getting off the couch and lacing up my shoes. In fact, my first day out, I barely rounded the bend of my driveway. The second day out, I might have made it twenty-five feet farther. The third day out, I made it to the top of the driveway. I had to plan on it. I had to get out and do it. I had to push myself. I still have to push myself, but my distance, thankfully, is farther than the top of my driveway.

But what credit is it to run but be weak in areas of eternal matter?

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:8-10, NLT)

Paul encourages Timothy to be an example “in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:b, NLT)” Aren’t we all an example to someone? A coworker. A neighbor. A stranger. A friend. A family member. An enemy.

When I think of the end of my time, some of the goals I’ve set may not hold entirely great significance–the daily run in itself is conditioning for my body, works on discipline and self-control–good things, yes. But what if I did not live a life true to the person God made me to be? What if I neglected the gifts?

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16, NLT)

Father God, I am thankful to you that you hear my prayers. You are quick to forgive. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank you for watching over my life, Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you for loving me so well. I offer my life song to you in praise.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 26-27; 1 Chronicles 8; Acts 18

Am I the only one who stood in awe with David and Abishai in the circle of Saul’s army? Saul and Abner asleep at the feet, surrounded by soldiers in a protective circle, and David, Abishai (and us!) with an bull’s eye view.

I find it hard to think I could live so boldly. David, who first cuts the hem of Saul’s robe (just last week’s reading), now removes the spear near him and takes Saul’s jug of water.

12 So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep. (1 Samuel 26:12, NLT)

David had a history of listening for the Lord and a repeated reliance on His protection and provision. From field to front line, his faith and trust in the Lord grew.

Paul met his share of opposition.

Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:4-6, NLT)

Insults and opposition would only be the start of his mission in ministry, but he is obedient.

Many others in Corinth also heard Paul, became believers, and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. (Acts 18:8b-11, NLT)

David used his strength and battle knowledge in his obedience to the Lord–he was a front line witness of God’s faithfulness to the men who served alongside him (and even to a watching enemy army!); Paul used his education and words to serve wherever he was (land, sea, imprisoned or free).

Lord, thank you for these examples of obedience, reverence and another’s eager listening for your voice. Help me to steward the gifts you’ve given me to serve you. Help me to always seek you first for direction, guidance and wisdom. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve used to strengthen my faith and show your faithfulness.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 17-18; Psalm 21; Acts 1

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Act 1:6-11, NLT)

Last year, the focus word I’d chosen was restore. I pondered several words before that (then) new year, and restore came to mind. I tried to put it aside. Later, at church, the sermon was on restoration. I knew it was my word, and with it came a knowing: my father would die, and my sister and I would be restored. But I didn’t want to think on that. I wanted a restoration with my dad, after years of hurt and tension. It didn’t happen. He died before the end of January, and through a surprising sequence of events, my sister and I became closer than ever. God’s plan of restoration, and perhaps his plans on a lot of things, look way different than one might imagine.

So when the disciples ask, “Has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Jesus tells them, loosely, “The When is not your business. But here is what IS your business … be my witness.”

Oh, men of Galilee, why are you standing here and staring up into heaven?

While I wait for Jesus, I remind myself daily–he has a plan. And I am part of it. To show his love wherever I may be. To be a steward of the tasks he approved for me. To walk in his spirit in every situation, and some are so hard, but I am grateful for his power, his love, his truth, his guidance. To serve in ways that glorify him. To tell others about him and have him present in my life. This is how I can be a witness.

Someday he will return.

Lord Jesus, I keep my eyes fixed on you. If I take them off of you, it is easy to become discouraged and overwhelmed. But with you, I see you everywhere, in everything. Because of you, I can rejoice.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 19-21; Colossians 4

She was a mom of three. She devoted herself to home tasks, which later left her feeling helpless after his trespass and abandonment. The home, a prison. Her children, shackles. Outside her window, a perceived freedom of women climbing corporate ladders–she faced having the electricity shut off; broke and broken. It was too much. She felt hopeless.

***

Another woman was recovering during a time that felt like a life sentence. The nurses were wardens and the rules were constricting, restricting punishments. She felt all freedoms had been stripped away. Every day was punctuated by offense, oppression, complaint. The days ticked past. She praised the Lord for what he’d done in the past, but she was unable to praise him in the present for the meal, the care, the provision. She felt trapped, like she was in prison.

***

I was tasked with duties without warning. A lifelong obligation. A tethering, and sometimes too heavy–the bombardment of negativity, of opposition, of uncertainty. I fought against my own complaint, but sometimes, and sometimes often, I still complained. I fought against bitterness, and when I felt its squeeze, I cried out–oh, not this heart, Lord.  I remembered Paul. I thought of his chains.

Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18b, NLT)

If he could find understanding and purpose in the worst of circumstances, could I find them in mine?

If I let him, could God use my circumstance to speak the Gospel? Could he use this circumstance to demonstrate his glory and goodness and sovereignty? What the enemy uses to break and beat down, could my God use to build upon and make new? Where an enemy declares an end, could God pronounce a beginning?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6, NLT)

Nothing is a surprise to my God, however it may surprise me. These things he knew before time. Tasks prepared in advance. Yes. Don’t let me miss it–that sometimes ministry is in the middle of mess and misery. For Paul, he was literally a prisoner in a prison, but for others, it’s circumstance that feels hopeless, punitive, imprisoning, endless.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” (Colossians 4:17, NLT)

Archippus, did you? Did you carry out the ministry the Lord gave you?

Lord Jesus, you have been with me every step of this journey, and you know how hard it’s been. You know how desperately I begged to quit from the pressure. And whether the job was heaped upon, handed over, appointed–you knew. And you intend(ed) it for my good and your glory. May it be so. Fixing my eyes on you, author and perfecter of faith. You can bring beauty from ashes.

May God’s grace be with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 9-10; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Psalm 89; Acts 26

12One time the leading priests gave me permission and the power to go to Damascus. 13On the way there, at noon, I saw a light from heaven. The light was brighter than the sun. It flashed all around me and the men who were traveling with me. 14We all fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice speaking to me in the Jewish language. The voice said, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you doing things against me? You are only hurting yourself by fighting me.’ 15I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord said, ‘I am Jesus. I am the One you are trying to hurt. 16Stand up! I have chosen you to be my servant. You will be my witness—you will tell people the things that you have seen and the things that I will show you. This is why I have come to you today. 17I will not let your own people hurt you. And I will keep you safe from the non-Jewish people too. These are the people I am sending you to. 18I send you to open their eyes that they may turn away from darkness to the light. I send you that they may turn away from the power of Satan and turn to God. Then their sins can be forgiven and they can have a place with those people who have been made holy by believing in me.’

19“King Agrippa, after I had this vision from heaven, I obeyed it. 20I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God. I told them to do things to show that they really had changed. I told this first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and in every part of Judea, and also to the non-Jewish people. 21This is why the Jews took me and were trying to kill me in the Temple. 22But God helped me and is still helping me today. With God’s help I am standing here today and telling all people what I have seen. But I am saying nothing new. I am saying what Moses and the prophets said would happen. 23They said that the Christ would die and be the first to rise from death. They said that the Christ would bring light to the Jewish and non-Jewish people.” Acts 26: 12-23 (ICB)

Paul’s testimony is one of the most famous conversion stories in the Christian faith and literally a case laid out in his own defense to Agrippa.

This is who I was…this is what God did in my life…this is who I am today…

Sharing the testimonies of my life isn’t about attention seeking or getting in my fifteen minutes of fame. Testimonies are about giving glory to God for the ways He moves in my life. Testimonies are stories of encouragement; me sharing about the struggles I have faced and how God is bringing me through. They are stories of miracles. They are stories of awe and worship, a reminder of God’s goodness and why He is worth of praise.

From beginning to end, the Bible is chock-full of the testimonies of men and women who were chosen and raised up by God to accomplish great things in His Kingdom – Moses, Noah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, John, Peter, Paul, and of course Jesus, to name small handful.

1I will always sing about the Lord’s love.

I will tell of his loyalty from now on.

2I will say, “Your love continues forever.

Your loyalty goes on and on like the sky.” Psalm 89:1-2 (ICB)

And, David wrote song after song in praise of God, sharing testimonies of his journey from a young man slaying a giant to battle after battle won as a victory of the Lord.

The Bible reminds me that God will never leave me nor forsake me, but when I have moments of weakness, I sometimes forget that truth, and instead, listen to the lies of the enemy. Then I hear someone’s story of what God did for them, or I recognize through my own fog that He has done something surprising for me. A testimony is shared and I once more hold onto the truth that God is good and greatly to be praised, my countenance is lifted, and hope returns to my heart.

Yesappa, Thank You for making me a part of your story, for giving me testimonies to share as encouragement to myself and for others. May my life demonstrate Your goodness, Your love, Your provision, Your sacrifice to those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie

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Filed under 1 Chronicles, 2 Samuel, 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

Job 26-28; Acts 11

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Acts 11:1-3, NLT.

I spent a few years living in a Christian bubble: Christian friends, Christian music, Christian books. These things aren’t bad … in fact, they a still a huge part of my life. One day, God pushed me out of the bubble. Suddenly I was hostess around a table to many who weren’t believers. So, I served them. I showed hospitality and inclusion to them (and their kids). I welcomed them. This was all God’s doing. He planned that party, so to speak.

When I read these verses in Acts today, I wonder what the world would have been like if these men had limited their influence.

17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts 11:17-18, NLT.

And:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21, NLT.

I read a heated thread of fury on a social media feed this week. One person said (of Christians) that the basis of (our) religion is to cram it down other people’s throats (then he referenced a scripture about spreading the gospel). I felt horrified and grieved. I didn’t comment for several reasons, one being that it was obviously a battle ground for attack, and not a forum for understanding. But I did wonder: how is it that they perceived Christians in this light? What experiences (or lack of) have others had with Christians to describe them in such a way? How does one go from being good/full of the Spirit/strong in the faith to throat crammer? In my daily interactions, what do people notice first: his love or an agenda? (I can think of times when all someone was interested in was sticking a tract in my hands rather than asking my name or about my story. At the time, it made me mad.)

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) Acts 11:24-26, NLT.

I take some cues from these scriptures today, about sitting across from someone (perhaps over a meal like Peter), and spending time with them (investing in their lives like Barnabas and Saul/Paul).

In what ways has God given you opportunities to invest in the life of another?

Lord, you’ve wired us all in unique ways. Show us opportunities to glorify your name. Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 29-30; Mark 16

So that (you) would know he is the Lord your God.

“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 gave you food so you would know that he is the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 29:2-6, NLT.

Moses tells the people. He reminds them of what God has done for them.

Provider.

They stand as a witness to family and foreigners.

10 All of you—tribal leaders, elders, officers, all the men of Israel—are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God. 11 Your little ones and your wives are with you, as well as the foreigners living among you who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here today to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God. The Lord is making this covenant, including the curses. 13 By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 29:10-13, NLT.

Even those far from the Lord, who return to him, will experience his mercy. A witness of his goodness.

11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.” Deuteronomy 30:11-14, NLT.

A risen savior. The women were witnesses of an empty tomb. Filled with fear and bewilderment, they went to tell the disciples what they encountered. Jesus shows up too.

15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mark 16:16-16a, NLT.

Even those far from the Lord, who return to him, will experience his mercy. A witness of his goodness.

19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs. Mark 16:19-20, NLT.

So that (you) would know that he is the Lord your God.

Courtney (66books365)

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