Tag Archives: word of the year

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 3-5; Hebrews 12

It is March. I am entering a third month of six where I purposed to make changes in my life after a (last) year that took a physical and emotional toll. While some big things were accomplished (yay!) in February, I noticed the smaller, daily goals weren’t always met. Why was that? I was too tired. I was too busy. I just didn’t care. I thought for a long time about perseverance and endurance and following through.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

I knew I needed to be mindful of the things and thoughts that were tripping me up. I looked up scriptures for direction and encouragement, keyword: training. I found a verse that surprised me. In my pursuit of the practical, visible things, I had nearly neglected to consider the spiritual, eternal ones.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:2a, NLT)

Oh, if I look to the wrong reward, how far off will I be from the true mark? Lord, I seek your kingdom.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:14-15, NLT)

It is March, and I press on, my grip renewed.

11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. (Hebrews 12:11-13, NLT)

Thank you, Father.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:28-19, NLT)

I praise your name.

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 24-25; Psalm 4; Mark 9

I want God guiding my steps. I want to hear what he says. Abraham heard God’s promises. He knew that God would provide.

“The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. (Genesis 24:7, NIV, emphasis added)

His servant looked expectantly for God’s presence and provision. I open my eyes too.

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. (Genesis 24:12-15, NIV, emphasis added)

In January’s quiet, I look back on a past year in thoughtful reflection and consider the days ahead.

Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord. …

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:4-6, 8 NIV)

I think long on inheritance and stewardship and faith walking and trust.

43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43, NIV)

I consider the lessons of last year, fertile ground my tomorrows are built upon, and I look for your guidance. Search this heart, Lord, and help me. I want to hear your voice. Help me to hear well.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 33; Revelation 19; Malachi 1; John 18

Manasseh built altars across the land to worship false gods. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. His reigning years peak at likely his lowest point: 10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. 11 So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:10-11, NLT).

A ring through his nose. Bound in chains. A prisoner.

12 But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God (2 Chronicles 33:12-13, NLT)!

Offerings. Honor. Obedience. These are the words that repeat through the four readings. I take note and quiet myself before the Lord. At a year’s end, I look back and reflect on losses, responses and responsibilities. This heart of mine still sorts through thoughts of legacy and life.

Offerings. Honor. Obedience. A look back framed by those words. A look ahead to a new year, and I pray (oh, I pray Lord!) that my offerings to You would be generous and cheerfully given of time, talent, treasure. That my thoughts and actions would honor You. And that even in the difficulties, I would choose obedience.

Lord, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Thank you, Jesus, for bending low to hear me, for answering prayers, for guiding my steps and leading me through this year’s very rough waters. I quiet myself at your feet to listen and learn. Help me to live a life that honors you.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

I thought a week off from routine would restore me. Now, a second week closing, I feel myself slipping into hermit mode. I pulled up Psalm 139 to read, and I cried. This is a Father’s loving hand upon a daughter’s head. He is right here with me. He knows me best. Even when I slip into hermitting, He comforts me in this new territory of angry grief. He does not abandon me.

(All of Psalm 139, NLT, because it is so good. Emphasis mine.)

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

A friend shared some hurtful things going on in her life, and by all accounts, her anger is justified. But I saw what it was doing to her and those around her. I said, “I get it. I’d be mad too. But how long is enough? How long (of being angry) will make you feel better? I hate to see you work yourself into a pit that’s hard to get out of.”

The words spoke into my life as well. At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to say it, because it can seem so unfair–but maybe the antidote for anger is forgiveness. Because the thing about anger, can it ever be satisfied–especially in circumstances where there is no justice? Some things can’t be taken back or fixed. Anger is like a hot coal being tossed into hands. How do (we) let go when memory sears?

Oh, Lord, point out the offenses. Lead me.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?] Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

Lord, I would be so utterly lost without your word, your love, your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me so much, that even in the angry grief, you don’t leave me. You tell me to get back on my feet and follow you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 27; Psalms 70,71; Isaiah 17,18; 1 Peter 5

Inheritance. Restoration. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies. A prowler and an exhortation.

At times, I thought it was a sprint–times of intensity and the perception of an end … in a week … in a couple of weeks … I’m beginning to understand I can’t look that far ahead. It’s a whole new level of one-day-at-a-time. Sprint turns marathon, and did I exhaust energy early on? I stumble here or there, weary. There are unfamiliar hurdles, and they are harder to clear. Defeat comes from inside.

A post on identity in my inbox encourages me after a fall, and I get back up. I read today of inheritance–and I remember I am a child of God.

An enemy taunts from a new vantage point; it’s too close and I’m caught off guard. The psalms sing:

19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
    You have done such wonderful things.
    Who can compare with you, O God?
20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
    but you will restore me to life again
    and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
21 You will restore me to even greater honor
    and comfort me once again. Psalm 71:19-21, NLT (emphasis mine)

I run through mines that are buried in the course–a battlefield. I will not forget the God who can save me. I will not forget the Rock who can hide me. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to him forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11, NLT (emphasis mine)

I am reminded God cares for me and I can give all my worries to him. I am reminded to stand firm against an enemy, and to be strong in my faith. I am reminded that God will restore, support and strengthen me. He will place me on a firm foundation.

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 1 Peter 5:12b, NLT

Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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