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!

Hebrews 5-7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we mature in our knowledge of Him

I have a computer photo program that I would really like to learn how to use.  Every couple of months I determine that I am going to learn this program, and I set out to do just that.  However, each time I get a few steps into the program, something happens to distract me, and I never move past that point.  A few months later I start up again at the beginning, etc.  The Hebrew Christians were having a similar problem, but it had nothing to do with computer programs.

“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.” (5:11-12)  Spiritually dull. Ouch! It’s easy to hear the frustration in the writer’s words, but if we’ve ever worked with a dull knife, we know the aggravation.

With the dialogue now started, the writer moved from the spiritually dull statement to some specifics, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.” (6:1-3)

While pastors rarely are so blatant in their sermons to call us spiritually dull, I’m fairly certain they think it at times.  Their goal is to challenge us to grow into an intimate relationship with God our creator, but we seem to stay at the “Hello, so nice to meet you” stage with Him when we actually should be introducing others to the Lord.  The reason is similar to my computer issue.  I keep starting at the beginning of the tutorial because too much time has elapsed between learning sessions.   I start over each time, making very little progress.

No offense to my pastor friends, but hearing a Sunday morning sermon is not enough to keep us steadily maturing in the Lord.  Pastors provide food that we can chew on all week long until it’s digested and becomes a part of us, but if we want to continue growing, we won’t stop there.  As we read God’s Word each day, we become more and more familiar with Him and our daily personal conversations with Him during prayer move us past the hello stage.  By the time the next Sunday or midweek Bible Study comes around, we not only remember what we learned the week before, but we have built on it!  No more starting with the basics again.  We certainly won’t be considered spiritually dull.  We’ll be sharp!  And sharp is good. 

Moving Forward: I’m going to chew on some meat today, get past those basics and be spiritually sharp for Him to use.

Tomorrow @ Numbers 29-32

Acts 1-2 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He has promised us a gift, and He keeps His promises! 

The check is in the mail, the package is on its way or any similar promise will send us running to the mailbox each day until it arrives.  I was working on a project one time and needed additional resources so I contacted an individual with the information and heard the promise, “It’s in the mail.”  After several days, I realized that it wasn’t.  Quite upset by this, random thoughts flooded my mind about the possible hazards in starting one’s car or 1000 camels, but then who hasn’t failed at one time or another to keep a promise?  Well, the answer to that would be God – He always keeps His promises!

@Acts 1 – It’s in the mail!
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.  John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (4)  Jesus reminded the disciples before He left for Heaven that the promised gift would soon arrive.  I think Luke, the writer of Acts, was the perfect believer to give to us the historical account of Pentecost and the early church.  As a doctor, his writing may not have been very legible to those who had to transcribe his words, but he sure did manage to present a methodical and descriptive accounting of the early church. He let readers know from the start that this baptism in the Holy Spirit was not some fluke.  It was promised by God, and it was expected!

Jesus went on to explain what this Holy Spirit baptism was all about, “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.”(8) Power!  The disciples would be receiving power, taken from the Greek word dunamis where we get our word dynamite.  I, for one, am hesitant to receive a gift of dynamite, but if it’s coming from the Holy Ghost, bring it on!  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an explosive power, empowering us to be an unstoppable force, obliterating darkness around the world and spreading the light of the Gospel.  Have we used our dynamite power today? 

@Acts 2 – Promise Delivered!
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (1-4)  God’s promised gift was delivered!  The power of the Holy Spirit was the gift and the other tongues were the evidence that the gift had been delivered, the Delivery Confirmation if you will.

The Holy Spirit plays so many roles in our life – convicter, comforter, counselor and teacher – just to name a few.  But in Acts 2, He is our baptizer.  Has your Gift been delivered…with your Delivery Confirmation?

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful to have received God’s promised gift long ago, but I’m reminded that it’s not a gift to be placed on a shelf.  It’s a powerful gift to be used every day in sharing His Gospel. 

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 5-7

Obadiah (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He watches over His children and brings justice to their enemies

Everyone remembers the schoolyard bully, the individual who was always mocking, pulling hair, pushing down and taking lunch money.  The bullies seemed to be six foot tall, weighing 200 lbs., and sometimes they were; but usually they were just meaner than anyone else.  Somehow they were able to do their evil deeds when the teacher wasn’t looking.  For the bully in the book of Obadiah, the day of reckoning had come.  The teacher was watching and punishment was on the way.

Israel had been bullied by Edom for a very long time.  When the brothers, Jacob and Esau, parted company many years back, everything appeared to be amicable.  Jacob went on to inhabit the land of Canaan and Esau lived in Edom, but apparently the stolen birthright from so long ago did not settle well with the Edomites.  They showed repeated hostility throughout the centuries and would not let the Israelites who were escaping out of Egypt make passage through their land.  Now the final blow had been dealt when they cheered the invading Babylonians who destroyed their brother and then they proceeded to plunder the land themselves.  However, God was watching.

“The Lord says to Edom, ‘I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised.  You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,’ says the Lord…Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever.” (2-4,10)  Bullies are filled with pride and arrogance, but when they harm God’s people, they put themselves in a position to be brought crashing down.

“As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you.  All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads.” (15) In the fourth century, Edom was swallowed up by the invading Arabs and no longer exists as a nation.  Israel, however, is a nation today.  God was watching, and He is watching all the bullies in our lives, those governments and individuals alike who mock us, push us down and try to steal our faith. God will take care of it.

Paul told the Romans, “Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.” (12:19) Even when it looks as though our bully has the upper hand, God is watching and taking note.  He knows how to handle bullies. 

Moving Forward:  I’m so thankful that God is watching over me today, taking note and tending to the bullies that come my way! 

Tomorrow @ Acts 1-2

Proverbs 26-27 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He tests our hearts to keep us pure

I once heard a great preacher say after a grand and glorious introduction and thunderous applause that his greatest troubles would begin if he started to believe the  introductions he received.  Let’s hear it for humility!

Through the years, many books have been written about humility, many of them with an edge of humor, books like, “Humility and How I Achieved it,” (C.Neale) and “How to Stay Humble When You’re Smarter Than Everybody Else.” (B.Goode)  Interesting concepts, to say the least!  The definition of humility is “humbleness, modesty, unassuming nature, meekness – a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people.”  I guess most of us could take a dose of that.

@Proverbs 27
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (21)  The original process of testing the purity of gold involved lead, silver and gold heated together in a 2000° F oven until the gold and silver melt and their impurities cling to the lead.  After cooling, the silver and gold are separated and the final gold product is pure 24 karat gold.  Needless to say, we won’t be trying this at home.  While the testing process of a person’s humility seems very benign in comparison, how we respond in our hearts under the heat of praise and adulation reveals how pure we really are.

Some may feel they are still waiting for the opportunity to be tested by great praise, but most of us have felt the heat. We’ve felt that glow of warm fuzzies reaching all the way to our toes resulting from words of honor, admiration or praise from others at one time or another.  If we survive without arrogance and pride rearing their ugly heads, we are the real deal, pure as gold.

True humility is not exhibited by a self-effacing attitude or by feelings of worthlessness.  True humility is accepting our positions in life as God-given and doing our best with them through His divine help.  With this attitude, should praise from others come our way, we know Who deserves all the glory and how preposterous it would be to assume it for ourselves.  Another great reality check for us from the Proverbs! 

Moving Forward: Once again, it’s all about you, Lord, it’s all about you!  And that fact removes any pressure of determining who gets the glory. 

Tomorrow @ Obadiah

Psalms 114-116 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He alone deserves our praise and worship

I have never been a big American Idol fan. There I’ve said it! I realize I’ve opened myself up to much ridicule and rejection; but that’s alright, I can take it.  From the limited Idol I’ve watched, I’ve mostly heard very bad singing and mindless pontificating from semi-qualified judges at best.  Due to its vast popularity, I’m assuming very few share my viewpoint.

Moving past entertainment, I don’t really understand the whole idol thing in general.  The worship of icons, statues or any tangible thing seems so limiting.  Would something I could hold in my hand or control in any way really deserve my worship?  I don’t think so.  The writer of Psalm 115 didn’t get it either. 

@Psalm 115
“Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.  They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (4-8)

The one thing these idols can do, and do very well I might add, is collect dust.  But idols come in many different shapes, from long sought-after objects to individuals who require much of our attention.  Why we are drawn to the tangible to give our respect and devotion is due to our humanity, our desire to touch and to hold.  But any person, place or thing that we can hold or manipulate in any way disqualifies itself of our worship and devotion.

Although these counterfeits scream for our attention and affection, the One who deserves our worship cannot fit in a box, on a shelf, in a room or…anywhere.  “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!  All who delight in Him should ponder themEverything He does reveals His glory and majesty.  His righteousness never fails.” (111:2-3)  “He hears my voice…He bends down to listen…The Lord protects…He has saved me from death…The Lord cares deeply…” (116:1-5) “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?” (113:5)  He hears, He protects, He saves, He cares – just to mention a few of the limitless attributes of our living God.

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!  He is to be feared above all gods.  The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens!…Give to the Lord the glory He deserves!…Worship the Lord in all His Holy splendor.” (Psalm 96:4-9) Worship the Lord, worship the Lord alone! 

Moving Forward: Let idols and counterfeits entice all they want, I will give my devotion today to the only One who is worthy, the true and living God. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 26-27

2 Chronicles 6-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He looks for repentant and obedient hearts

I was one of those nerds in high school and college who actually read the history textbooks.  I love history. I especially enjoy exploring the ruling families and dynasties from the past. God allowed me the privilege of living in Austria for a few weeks, home of the Habsburgs.  This family controlled much of Europe from the 12th century through to the early 20th century, and its history is fascinating.

While many rulers have overthrown countries through wars and bloodshed, the Habsburgs had a different strategy – just marry them!  Their children were farmed out to all of Europe ruling families over centuries, alliances were made and the Habsburg footprint remains today in much of Europe’s ruling families.  However, they were not the originators of this strategy.  Solomon used this approach in keeping peaceful alliances with his neighbors, but unfortunately, it did not serve him well.(June 13 @ I Kings 10-13)  Anytime we sacrifice Godly principles to achieve earthly gain, disappointment is in our future. 

@ 2 Chronicles 7
Things had been going extremely well for Solomon early in his reign.  He had just completed the building of the Temple and called together the entire community as he offered a beautiful prayer to the Lord.  God’s response was a flash of fire to burn up the sacrifices and then His glorious presence filled the Temple.  A lavish festival followed over the next seven days with much animal sacrificing, singing and dancing unto the Lord. There was joy in the land.

Later when Solomon was alone, God visited him with an amazing promise, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (12-14)

God had accepted Solomon’s prayer, yet His response included a caution.  God may allow difficult times to come when His people turn away from Him, but if they repent and turn back to Him, He forgives and brings restoration.  God is merciful.

Sadly, Solomon’s response over the next few years to God’s offer was to disobey Him by marrying pagan women from other countries in order to protect Israel through these alliances.  God really didn’t need Solomon’s help to protect Israel through godless marriages.  Instead of protection, Solomon ushered in the very thing that would one day destroy Israel – idol worship!  Although some of the kings had momentary periods of repentance, Israel never completely turned its heart back to God.

We won’t save ourselves or our country by engaging in alliances, no matter how good they may seem or how well-intentioned we may be, when those alliances take the place of obedience to His laws and trust in His ability to protect us.  Should we falter in this, then humble repentance and seeking His face is what He is looking for. “If my people…”

The help God does want from us is the advice He gave to Solomon, “If you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty.” (17-18) In response to our humble obedience to Him, God’s hand is free to provide personal security for our homes and families and national security for our country.  And we need Him more today than ever before.

Moving Forward:  Today I reject any godless solutions to problems that may seem right, and submit in obedience to Him and His divine guidance and protection. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 114-116

Numbers 25-28 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides the best leadership to guide His sheep

I started a new job several years ago where I was the first to hold the position.  There were no precedents to follow, no one to train me and a lot of what I did at the beginning was hit or miss.  Through the years I developed a job description and worked out most of the kinks and challenges.  In situations like this it’s easy to take ownership, view it as my baby and become protective of it.

The time had come for me to move on and train someone else to fill the position.  Now I had to trust the leadership that they would choose someone who would not harm the job that I had developed and had worked so hard to make perfect.  As I trained the new employee, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a highly qualified person who would use the equipment and resources to an even greater degree of efficiency than I had done.  And that made my heart sing!  The work would not suffer and would only move forward.  Today in our reading, Moses found himself at this very point, released from a position that he had been the first to hold.

@ Numbers 27
God met with Moses on the mountaintop to show him Canaan, the land he would not enter because of his sin at Meribah.  The 120 year old leader showed his true heart in his response to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (16-17)

Even though Moses had not met Jesus yet, although one day he would do so on the Mount of Transfiguration, he had the compassion of Jesus who said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  Jesus had just been called a devil because He delivered a man from the demons that possessed him, but both leaders looked past their own situations and were concerned about the needs of others.

A wise Moses wanted God to choose his successor.  Two men, Joshua and Caleb had both proven to be led by the Lord and worthy of leadership roles, and no doubt there were others who thought themselves worthy of the position.  Sometimes we desire to choose our replacements on the job or in the church; and as parents, we would even like to choose the spouses who will become central in the lives of our grown children. But how much better to leave it to our superiors or the leadership of the Holy Spirit, removing ourselves from the possibility of error.

Of course, God had chosen the perfect replacement for Moses, “The Lord replied, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.  Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people.’” (18-20)  Our public acceptance of those who follow us in any position provides continuity and the work will not suffer.  This requires a generous heart, without envy or selfishness, regardless of how much of ourselves we have given to it in the past.  This was the heart of Moses, “So Moses did as the Lord commanded.  He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people.” (22-23)

When we find ourselves in a situation similar to Moses where we will pass on the baton to someone else to fulfill a role we have served, may we do so with a generous heart toward their success and with a compassionate heart for those being served that nothing will suffer in the process.  And that should make our hearts sing! 

Moving Forward:  I can serve Him with confidence today knowing that when He provides my next step, He also will provide my successor.  He’s very faithful that way. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 6-10

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