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!

Deuteronomy 7-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very special treasure.

There’s nothing like being a part of a family.  Even with all of its ups and downs, black sheep and sibling rivalries, there are certain privileges afforded a family member that others are not given.  As long as we are a part of the family, we are provided with food, clothing and shelter, and we are included in all the family gatherings such as family reunions, holidays and Will readings.

We don’t earn the right to be a part of the family by our good deeds or because we are perfect, but it is because our parents chose to bring life into the world.  Some have decided to leave the protection of the family out of disobedience and rebellion and end up living an empty troubled life, alone.  With the holidays just around the corner, I’m especially grateful for my family, and I want to protect it and all the privileges that come with it.  Oh, Israel, how could you desert the family!

Moses continued his instructions as the Israelites sat poised to enter the Promised Land and reminded God’s children of who their Father was, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.”(7:6-8)  And the Lord did not provide for His children because they were so good, “You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (9:6)  Ouch!

Moses also reminded the people of the responsibilities that came with being the children of God.  “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord…Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.  So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” (8:2-6)  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not accept every word that came from the mouth of the Lord and in their stubbornness and rebellion, most eventually deserted the family and left all the privileges that came with it.

Just like many childless fathers, God adopted or grafted in a new family, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”(Romans 11:17)  I’m so thankful to be a part of the family!  However, because of His great love, God is like the prodigal’s father in Luke 15, who waits and waits for His lost children of Israel to come home and rejoin the family by accepting His Son.

We, too, need to remember the privileges we have received as members of the family of God.  Because of Jesus, we have become “joint heirs” in all that God has to offer His children.  We are God’s special treasure as well.  We did not receive His blessing because we are so good, but simply because He loves us.  With His love and all the privileges I receive as His child, I can’t imagine why I would ever desert my family. 

Moving Forward: I’m encouraged today to walk in the privileges provided for me as His child, to protect the family name through my behavior and never leave the safety of His love and care. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

James 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He has provided help for us to resist the devil

Dieting – the great American pastime, or is that baseball?  This is a subject I could write about all day – dieting that is, well, maybe baseball as well.  The Weight Loss industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and I’ve certainly added to its coffers.  My favorite weight loss program is the “eat all you want and still lose weight” approach.  It doesn’t work, but it’s still my favorite.  My husband thinks diet programs are a waste of time because he says that losing weight it is simply of matter of burning more calories than you eat. This is what he does, and it works.  I must admit, I really resent him for it.

Over the years, I’ve tried just about every angle to weight loss, and there is one thing that I know for certain.  We can resist that chocolate cake all day long, but if we’re not submitted and committed to a program, a prayer or a strait jacket, we’re eventually going to eat that chocolate cake. Forgive this trite analogy, but we need to know that there is more to resisting the devil than meets the eye.

@ James 4
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (7) Of course the Word is true, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” but the success of our resisting is far greater when we first submit ourselves to God. Sometimes we forget about the first part of the verse, but He is the one with the strategy to overcome. And sometimes we forget exactly who we’re resisting, “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.” (I Peter 5:8-9)  Just like the chocolate cake, on our own we may waver in our resistance, but surrendered and humbled before the Lord, the enemy is no match for us.

When a soldier reports for active duty, he has surrendered his personal goals and way of life all the way down to the uniform he wears.  God has provided a uniform of sorts for all who are submitted to him.  We will resist our enemy best when we are in our military dress, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil…Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians 6:11-13)

If we truly want to resist the devil, it’s time to suit up, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)  Submitted to our leader and dressed in our armor, we won’t waver, we won’t give, and we’ll be all that we can be and then some.  Not only will we resist the devil, we’ll send him fleeing!

Moving Forward: I may have trouble with that chocolate cake, but I will submit to the Lord today, suit up, resist the enemy and see him take flight!

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 7-9

Acts 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God uses our difficult experiences to touch the hearts of others

When we receive salvation and follow the Lord, we make a decisive break from the old way of life, the old way of doing things.  We become new creatures yet we bring along with us memories from our experiences in life to date.  God is faithful to help us move past the difficult moments we’ve experienced so that we can look forward to better days ahead, but He doesn’t always remove all painful memories and feelings.  He has a purpose in this.  Paul is a great example of how our past experiences can serve God’s greater purpose for our lives. 

@ Acts 9
“Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.  So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.” (1-2)  When we think about hateful leaders and individuals throughout history who murdered Christians for their faith, we might as well throw Saul into the mix because he was one of them.  Talk about painful memories and feelings.

Better than just about anyone, Paul understood the hearts of those who were blinded to the truth about Jesus.  Highly educated and qualified, Paul made his appeal for Christ to the Jewish leaders, to government leaders and to Jews and Gentiles alike.  He understood their hatred, their confusion and their doubt because he had lived it.

Just as the scales fell off of Paul’s blinded eyes after his glorious conversion, we read throughout Acts how he was so very capable to open the blind eyes of others to see their need for salvation. “Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” (22)

Paul remembered enough of his painful past to make this statement to Timothy, “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.”(I Timothy 1:15-16) God used Paul’s hateful past to serve a greater purpose of which we, too, are the recipients today through his written words.

Remembering our difficult experiences in the past makes us more sensitive to others who are walking through similar trials.  We understand their fears, their broken hearts and sometimes even their anger at God and everyone.  Like Paul in his day, we are able to help them and convince them to believe in God.  “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

We can fulfill His greater purpose to touch others who walk where we have walked only through opening our hearts and eyes to see their need of Him.  Our understanding of this walk and our victory through Christ challenge us to share with them that “they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

Moving Forward: My prayer today is that God will open my eyes to see those whose pain I, too, have felt so that I may lead them to Him. 

Tomorrow @ James 4-5

Habakkuk (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses whatever means He chooses to change the hearts of men

I’ve had several friends throughout the years that are just plain bold.  They’re not intimidated by anyone and seem to have the intestinal fortitude to ask the hard questions of others without batting an eye.  Some of them have come from difficult situations that have made them strong and fearless, and I think a few of them just don’t know any better.  Regardless, they are the ones I like on my team, whatever the task, because they get the answers we need.  After reading Habakkuk, I get the impression that he was one of them.  I mean, with a name like Habakkuk, it’s either going to make you or break you, and in the way he addressed the Lord, I think we can assume he made it just fine.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!  Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?” (1:2-3)  See what I mean?  Habakkuk was bold, he asked the hard questions of the Lord and he certainly lived up to the reputation of a prophet.  God answered Habakkuk’s questions because He understood his heart.  Over the years, the prophet pleaded with the Israelites to repent and sought God’s help, but sin and disobedience increased.  In these verses, He was calling on God to act.  Many of us find ourselves in similar situations, calling for our nation, our family or our friends to repent and praying for God to act, but as Habakkuk learned, we must be prepared to accept how He chooses to respond.

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people.  They will march across the world and conquer other lands.” (1:5-6)  God would one day allow the Babylonians to humble Israel, but this wasn’t what Habakkuk had in mind when he prayed.  Not willing to hold back, he responded to the Lord, “O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins…Will you wink at their treachery?” (12-13)

God will use whatever means He desires to bring about change in the hearts of men, and He went on to inform Habakkuk that Babylon would one day receive its punishment for its willingness to destroy Israel.  Whatever change we are praying about in the lives of individuals or nations, we must surrender to God’s omnipotent plan for the answer he chooses and not attempt to confine Him to our limited understanding.

When I surrender to His divine plan for the one I am praying about, I often say a similar prayer as this offered by Habakkuk, “I have heard all about you, Lord.  I am filled with awe by your amazing works.  In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by.  And in your anger, remember your mercy.” (3:2) Remember your mercy.  We surrender to your plan, but our hearts cry for mercy. Don’t give us what we deserve, but be merciful in how you perfect and change us.  And we know He hears our prayer because we, just like Habakkuk, have heard all about Him. (3:2) 

Moving Forward: I may not be a bold prophet like Habakkuk, but I know how to pray a bold prayer for my nation.  I will trust His plan to bring about change, but with it, I pray for His mercy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 9-10

Ecclesiastes 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: All that is meaningful in life comes from Him

Many individuals feel a need as they begin to age to make a record or a memoir of their years on earth.  Some memoirs are filled with funny escapades and joyous moments, some are tell-alls written simply to embarrass others, and some memoirs are just plain sad with stories of disappointments and tragedy.

Most memoirs are filled with both the hills and the valleys of life, like the memoir of my husband’s Aunt Ottie.  She was in her 80’s when she decided to write it all down – how she came to know the Lord, fulfilling God’s calling on her life as a Kentucky mountain missionary, raising a family, losing a husband and God’s faithfulness through it all.  I loved reading it because it’s a memoir that lifts the spirit.  Ecclesiastes is a memoir of sorts that doesn’t have quite that same affect due to the negative outlook of the author, most believing it to be Solomon.  However, mixed in with all his pessimism are some wonderful truths that make it well worth the read.

“Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!…Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,8,14)  This sounds like someone having a really bad…life.  We struggle through life trying to achieve and accumulate a fraction of all that Solomon had, and then he has the nerve to say that it is all meaningless, but I guess he would know.

In his pursuit of a meaningful life, Solomon tried pleasures of all kinds, including drinking, material possessions, philosophy and even hard work, but it all was meaningless to him, “like chasing the wind,” a pointless pursuit to say the least.  The real problem was that at some point, Solomon left God out of his life.  God blessings without humility can become a very destructive thing in a life, and Solomon, the wisest man on earth, had done a very foolish thing when he became distracted by all his blessings and deserted the God of his father.

Solomon painted a dismal picture of life and its meaning without God, but thankfully, a moment of clarity came to him as he neared the end of his life. “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him?   God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him.” (2:24-26)

Forgive me if I sound a little Solomonesque, but I often think of each day that God gives to us as a flower.  We can enjoy our flower, smell its fragrance, enjoy its beauty and make the very most of it or we can ignore it, cast it aside or even step on it.  The choice is ours.  Our flower will fade by day’s end, but tomorrow is another flower from God’s hand, and it just seems we would want to enjoy what He has handed to us. I question how we can glory in any achievement or gain we have enjoyed and disregard the One who gave it to us.  I guess it would be, as the man said, meaningless. 

Moving Forward:  “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.   But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (I John 2:17) Looking forward to that day, the flower that never fades!

Tomorrow @ Habakkuk

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

 

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