WE CONNECT WITH GOD throughout the day in many ways as we enjoy the beauty of His creation in nature – His landscapes, sunsets, wildlife and foliage. We see Him through our fellowship with those who exhibit God’s love in their lives. Unplanned and unintentional on our part, God reveals Himself to us everyday! Coupled with this glorious revelation, the time we spend in DAILY DEVOTIONS with Him is our intentional connect with God where we receive our daily spiritual nutrition.  Regardless of  life’s many demands, make the commitment to read the Bible each day and spend some time in prayer. Join with me for 15 minutes, reading a few chapters and an encouragement for the day. Subscribe at the right to have devotionals sent to your email or phone. Please freely share them with others who may need encouragement from His Word today.  Cover to cover, the Bible is a great life-changing read!

Psalm 122-124 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He signals us with His hand of mercy as we fix our eyes on Him

I remember a movie from several years ago about a bride who left several grooms at the altar over a period of time because she got cold feet and ran away, hence the title, Runaway Bride.  The final groom devised a plan to keep her feet from running through eye contact as she walked down the aisle.  It was a great plan and all was going well until a camera flashed, she lost eye contact with the groom, and yes, she headed for the hills.  As with most romantic comedies, they eventually got married and lived happily ever after, but the movie provided a great example of what can happen when we get distracted and lose our focus. 

@ Psalm 123
“I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.  We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (1-2)  Servants stand ready to move, like runners at the block, anticipating the signal to run, to fetch, to do for the master.  Shifting their eyes away could cause them to miss the awaited signal, the chance to serve or even to be served by the master’s generous hand.

Whenever I faced a difficult situation in my youth, my mom always said, “Phyllis, you can’t look at circumstances. You have to keep your eyes on Jesus.”  And how right she was!  Every time I put my focus on the problem, I lost sight of my Master and His hand of mercy for my problem.  When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, just like the servant fixed on his master, we won’t miss anything God has for us and the opportunity to serve Him.

As we read in Acts 7 last week, Stephen knew where to turn his focus as the stones were flying, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (55)  Stephen’s darkest moments was turned into a glorious light as he looked to God for His mercy. And as we recently read in Hebrews 12, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  He’s our Master who signals, who initiates and perfects our faith as well as how we move in that faith.

I don’t want to miss even the slightest signal from the Lord, where through His mercy He directs my life.  Mom was right – keeping my focus on the circumstances of life will cause me to get cold feet and run.  I have to stay focused on the Lord no matter how many flashes attempt to disrupt my gaze.  I’m no Runaway Bride!  My eyes are fixed on my Groom. 

Moving Forward: I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus today, ready to serve.  I won’t look at circumstances but only to His hand of mercy for even the slightest signal. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 1-2

2 Chronicles 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He looks for a humble response to His blessings

Many years ago I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference.  I had put a lot of time into the preparation and spent a great deal of time in prayer about it.  My message was well received and our time together was especially blessed by the Lord.  After the meeting, a woman came up to me and asked me to share this same message with the ladies group at her church, and we secured a date.

When the day arrived, I only briefly went over my notes because I knew the material well, and because it was a busy week for me, my prayer time for the meeting was very limited.  I proceeded with all the confidence in the world when I got up to share, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t going well.  Possibly the term lead balloon best describes my reception that night.  No anointing, no response – I could hardly stand to listen to the message myself!  Needless to say, I have taken very seriously my ministry preparation ever since that night and vowed that I would never again rest on any laurels or attempt to speak His truths in my own strength.  In response to my repentance, God has been gracious and merciful to me, but unfortunately, Israel’s King Uzziah just didn’t get it. 

@ 2 Chronicles 26
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God.  And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” (3-5)  Uzziah’s accomplishments were many.  He reinforced the city walls with fortified towers that archeologists have now uncovered that were built to protect his many herds of cattle.

Uzziah developed great gardens and vineyards because of his love for the soil.  He built a strong, well-equipped army as well as new weapons for defense that would be copied and used for many centuries.  “His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.” (16)  Enter that old deceiver – pride.

“But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” (16)  Uzziah had every possibility of finishing strong, but once again a king in Jerusalem ended in defeat.  His pride brought leprosy and isolation to him after a tremendous start as king.  While I had hoped to find a message of encouragement from 2 Chronicles, today is not the day; but through King Uzziah’s life we find a lesson to be learned about our response to God’s blessings in our lives.  It’s easy to become strangely enamored with ourselves through our promotions and successes.

If God’s blessings do not bring us to our knees in humility, they just may bring us to our knees in destruction because of our prideful response to them.  When blessings and promotions come our way, we shouldn’t think that it’s all because of our goodness, because we spoke so well or because we governed so well.  Our blessings are all about Him and His mercy and grace to us.  Our best response to His blessings is a bow of the head, a prayer of thanksgiving and a heart of humility.  And with that, we will finish strong. 

Moving Forward: My response to His blessings today will be that of thanksgiving and humility, not taking Him for granted. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 122-124

 

Deuteronomy 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His commandments guide our steps as we keep our focus on them

Having already confessed the fact that I’m a compulsive list maker, I might as well come completely clean.  Some have labeled me the Queen of Sticky Notes, and there is an element of truth to this lofty title.  Surely everyone finds them helpful, just as I do in organizing my day, my stuff and my life – I have sticky notes for my sticky notes. I’m happy to report, for those who are not as savvy on the subject of sticky notes, these notes come in many sizes, colors, degrees of stickiness and some even have lines!  Imagine my relief to find that Moses was also a little over the top on posting notes everywhere in order to remember important things. 

@ Deuteronomy 6
Ready to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites were once again instructed by their leader, Moses, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (4-9)  They would have loved our sticky notes.

Moses began his exhortation with a call to love the Lord and follow His commands with their whole hearts because it’s impossible to remember something we don’t already know.  Once they were acquainted with God’s commands, they were to repeat them over and over to their children while at home and while on the road, when they went to bed and when they got up in the morning.

It’s been my experience that many parents expect the church to do all the teaching about God to their children, and that’s a big mistake.  The greatest chance of a child remembering a scripture and its concept outside of the church walls while at school or with friends is when they have been taught and reinforced outside of the church walls by the parent as well.  God’s Word is not just a Sunday thing – it’s a seven-days-a-week guidebook for everyone.

Growing up in my mother’s home, a day never passed without her quoting at the very least one scripture to me, and we always started the day by pulling out a scripture from the Scripture Box on the kitchen table.  Her examples followed me in raising my children where lengthy rides to church were filled with Bible stories disguised as great adventures.  The books of the Bible and scriptures were taught by my husband with the Jerry Lucas picture/memory system, and we still laugh today about the inventive pictures that were used.  Each night they fell asleep listening to Bible stories on tape by the delightful “Dan and Louie.”  God’s Word was not just for Sundays.

Still today, Orthodox Jews tie small boxes around their foreheads with scriptures inside in observance of this command.  I must confess I have not posted scriptures on my forehead with my sticky note fetish, but I have posted them on mirrors, computer screens, kitchen cupboards, calendars and just about everywhere else, even a doorpost or two.

I can’t seem to get enough of God’s words of encouragement as well as His disciplines.  The commands that Moses was speaking of are what guide our steps to do what blesses Him, and when God is blessed, we are blessed.  “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Oh, that’s good one.  Where are my sticky notes… 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for His commands that give guidance to my day as I follow them, assured of success. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 25-28

James 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals Himself through our salvation and our good works

Most of us have encountered the wheeler dealer, the pitchman, who makes promises but doesn’t deliver.  Our dealings with them often result in difficult learning experiences.  Years ago we planned a mission’s trip to Paraguay with 200 youth and leaders.  A travel agent approached us with the best price on tickets we could find, and more importantly, he was the only agent who found seats on the days we needed to travel.  We sent him the money with the understanding he would meet us at the airport with the tickets – lesson #1.  And indeed, he met us at the airport on our day of departure, but could not produce the tickets because…well, at that point it really didn’t matter.

There we sat with 200 eager students on a mission and no tickets. Through a series of miracles, and I mean miracles, we reached our five cities of ministry in Paraguay and those churches we helped to plant are still reaching the lost today.  God is faithful when others are not.  That travel agent could say he was a travel agent all day long, but until he produced the tickets, it really didn’t matter what he said – lesson #2.  We have to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak.  James, one of the Jerusalem church leaders, was all over this one. 

@ James 2
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (14-19) Show me the tickets!

To prove a contradiction in scripture to James 2, Bible skeptics love to point to Romans 1 where Paul teaches, “‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’…people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” (3,5)  Good works do not save us, only the blood of Jesus can do that, but good works are an indicator that we have received salvation.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (2:8-10)  Show me the tickets!

God sees our faith, our belief in Him, because He sees our hearts.  Man sees our faith through our love and good deeds.  Many of us have begun the Christmas shopping tradition and what a great opportunity to show our faith to those without food or clothing.  I know a family that first buys Christmas with all its trimmings for a needy family, and then with the money that is left, they buy gifts for each other.  I see Jesus all over them.  However, our good deeds should reveal our faith to others all year long.  We don’t want to be like the useless travel agent who never proved to us that he was a travel agent.  Show them our good works! 

Moving Forward: I plan to do some good works today because of the great work He did for me when He saved me. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 4-6

Acts 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He gives us the grace we need to reach the most hateful of men

Rising high in the center of beautiful Vienna is the extraordinary St. Stephen’s Cathedral, built in 1160.  It honors the deacon from the early church in Jerusalem, Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr and stoned by the Temple leaders because he believed that Jesus was the Messiah.  The Church is magnificent in its architecture and Gothic style, but its beauty could never be compared to the radiant face of Stephen as he saw the Lord and prayed as they stoned him, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.” (7:59-60) 

@ Acts 8
Stephen preached a great sermon the day he was killed and gave a historical account of the rejection of God and His Son by Israel’s religious leaders.  Little did he know that the message of Jesus would one day greatly impact one of the bystanders, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.” (1)  Saul was one of the haters.

When we step out in obedience to share the love of God in the marketplace, we may be surprised at who is listening to our message and at how it is impacting them.  I think of the story of Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson.  In the late 1950’s, bold street evangelist David Wilkerson witnessed to the hardened gang members of New York City, and there in the gang was the hardest of them all, Nicky Cruz. Even though Nicky beat him and threatened his life, David expressed God’s great love for Nicky with the heart of one like Stephen, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”

Nicky had a radical conversion, not unlike the Apostle Paul who had approved of Stephen’s stoning.  Nicky went on to preach the Good News around the world drawing many gang members and lost souls to the Lord, and he still is preaching today about the transformation in his life.  As we know, Paul shook the world with his conversion and the Church of the Lord Jesus has never been the same.

We just can’t imagine the impact our witness will have in the lives of complete strangers when we are simply obedient to the Great Commission to present the Good News. No one is too bad, too lost or too hateful to be touched by God’s love through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Never shortchange Him!  It was Paul who said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (l Timothy 1:15-16) 

Moving Forward: I won’t let the hateful words or deeds of sinful men stop me from presenting the Good News to them. I just may be reaching the next Nicky or Paul. 

Tomorrow @ James 1-3

Nahum 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He delivers the good news through His messengers 

@ Nahum 1
I recently had the opportunity to trek up a mountain path to the top of a hill overlooking a multicolored tree-studded valley in the Austrian Alps and the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  And yes, it’s good for all to remember that only God is credentialed to be jealous (verse 2).  During this time away, I was privileged to fellowship with missionaries and pastors who minister in the International Churches of Europe.  No one deserves this amazing retreat setting more than they do.  These messengers, with their beautiful feet, know something about delivering a message of good news, just as the messengers prophesied about in Nahum.

The prophet Nahum delivered a message of judgment to the powerful Assyrians in his prophecy.  Assyria’s torment of Israel was coming to an end and their terrible fate would soon be heralded throughout Israel.  “Look!  A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news!  He is bringing a message of peace.  Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again.” (15)  God was jealous for His people, just as a husband is jealous over his wife and wants no rivals, and the Assyrians would meet their end because they sought to steal God’s people from Him.  The destruction was so complete that the ruins of Assyria’s great cities were not discovered until the 1800’s.  God doesn’t mess around.

As I stood at the top of the hill and looked out across the mountains, I imagined messengers reaching the mountain crest from the other side, shouting their message of good news and peace as they came into view.  God is jealous for His creation and has sent his messengers to the nations, over the mountains, through the valleys and across the oceans to declare the good news, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation.” (Isaiah 52:7)  They come with a message of deliverance from the enemy’s snare, the enemy who will one day be utterly destroyed.  They come with a message of peace and hope.

The path I walked that day was filled with tree roots and rocks, making climbing difficult at times, and I thought of the challenges along the path that our missionaries face as they bring the good news to the nations. I am reminded to pray for a clear path for their beautiful feet, safety along the way and for their resounding message to touch more lives than they have ever imagined. 

Moving Forward:  So thankful today for His messengers who take His message of peace and hope around the world and thankful for those who brought it to me. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 7-8

Proverbs 31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His love shines through women who reverence Him

Well, I knew the day would come when I would have to address Proverbs 31 and the perfect woman, I mean virtuous woman.  Reading her amazing attributes reminds me of the old perfume commercial with the gorgeous woman singing, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let him forget he’s…” and so on. In defense of all women, everywhere, let’s remember that this woman in Proverbs 31 had help!  She “planned the day’s work for her servant girls.” (15)  I dream of what I could accomplish in a day with help!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.” (10)  And that really is the question, isn’t it?  Who can find a woman like this?  Most scholars believe that Proverbs 31 is a composite of the ideal characteristics that a Godly woman may possess.  I’ve known many women in my lifetime who exhibit a great many of these attributes – industrious business women, great homemakers, crafty and generous, but nobody does it all by herself and lives to tell about it.  “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (29)  She is our model to examine, to study and to emulate.  Bottom Line – Because of her great respect for the Lord, all that she does is selflessly done to bless and help others

We have no idea if the Proverbs 31 woman is always faultless and perfect in all that she does because, after all, everyone has to rip out a seam or throw out the burnt toast on occasion.  But we understand that in her very busy life, she manages to plan well, give generously and treat others with kindness.  If we will try, we all can accomplish that!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” (30)  With surgery and cosmetics, beauty seems to be lasting longer than it did in the past, but physical beauty isn’t really how we want to be remembered.  Beautiful women entertain us today and greatly influence the world with their style, but when their beauty fades, we hardly remember them.  One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known worked in my church when I was very young and she had a birthmark that covered a third of her face.  But when she smiled and taught me about Jesus, she lit up my world and I will never forget her.

“Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.” (28)  I’ve carried in my Bible a Mother’s Day note I received from my husband several years ago.  On the days when I’m a little discouraged, when my day isn’t so faultless and perfect, I pull it out and read his kind words of admiration, respect and encouragement.  Let me tell you, it is like a shot of adrenaline to my spirit.  I also cherish the kind notes and words from my children that I’ve received through the years that let me know every effort I made was well worth it. Their words challenge me to live a life worthy of their praise.

May verse 28 encourage us to give our praises and blessings to the wonderful women who have enriched our lives through their respect for the Lord, their careful planning, generous hearts and kindness.   We should speak our accolades and write our notes of praise today because I would imagine that now is when they are most needed. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for my precious mom and all the women through the years who have shown to me the wonderful graces of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

Tomorrow @ Nahum

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