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!

I Thessalonians 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to nurture and care for His young ones

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2-3)  Paul loved his children. Well, at least we know he loved his spiritual children.  Almost two years earlier Paul had started a church in Thessalonica but had to leave the city abruptly because of hostility from the Jewish leaders (Acts 17).  He sent Timothy back to the city to check up on this new congregation because he was anxious to hear how they were standing up under the Jewish opposition. After receiving Timothy’s report, Paul immediately responded with a letter of encouragement and counsel to his dear ones in the church in Thessalonica.

@ I Thessalonians 2
Paul’s demonstration of his love and commitment to this new church reminds me of my feelings after the birth of my newborn baby girl.  I found myself constantly checking up on her, feeling for the rise and fall of her little chest, inspecting those diapers, just wanting to be sure she was okay.  You see, I just loved her so much and I needed to know that all was well with her.  With similar feelings, Paul wrote, “we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” (7-8)  He loved these new ones in the faith and wanted to encourage them and help them grow in the Lord

This causes me to think about the new Christians I encounter in my walk each day whether at church, in the neighborhood or on the job, and I think about how much God loves them and wants to see that all is well with them.  Many are filled with questions about their new faith and some even face persecution for their decision just as the Thessalonians did. They really need our encouragement and help.

Of course, just as Satan hindered Paul’s attempt to visit this church (18), the enemy will discourage us from helping new Christians. He would love for us to feel inadequate or too time-pressed to be of any help to them.  Just as my baby daughter did not need constant professional tending, these young ones in the Lord do not need a theologian.  They just need someone to check up on them and guide them along as they grow in Him.

Well, my newborn baby girl is now grown and a mother herself.  The joy she brings me as I watch her faithfully serve the Lord and raise her own family is indescribable.  I am blessed beyond measure.  And Paul, too, understood this blessing, “After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown, as we stand before our Lord Jesus when He returns?  It is you!  Yes, you are our pride and joy.” (19-20) Indescribable joy! 

Moving Forward:  I’ll keep my eyes and heart open today for the young, the newbies in the Lord, encouraging them, helping them and making sure that all is well with them. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 19-21

Luke 21-22 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He prays that we will remain faithful in the face of temptation

I told my children when they were young that if they were accused of something by someone, they needed to understand one thing: I knew that it was possible for them to be guilty of anything they were accused of.  I would hope in my heart that it wasn’t true, but I would seek out the truth.  I imagine this mindset came from serving for decades in youth ministry and encountering the moms or dads who refused to believe that their son or daughter could be guilty of anything.  Be assured, this attitude did not serve their children well.  In this same way, I believe that it is possible for me to fail in any sin, but I hope in my heart that I will not.  Peter, however, was in denial…on two counts. 

@Luke 22
In the timeline before His death, Jesus was approaching Calvary and had just shared a time of fellowship and instruction at the Last Supper.  From the Gospels we know that Jesus declared to His disciples that they would all desert Him during this time of trial.  This news was met by opposition by Peter, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 14:33-34)  “No!’ Peter declared emphatically. ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!’” (Mark 14:31)

I would have thought that Peter was mature enough by this time to know that never and always are fighting words in any setting.  When we say in a dialogue, “I always…I never…you always…you never,” we should get ready to rumble.  Satan was right there to take Peter on. In fact Jesus had just predicted it. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (31-32) But when the moment came to accept the Lord’s warning and proceed with caution, Peter felt he was too committed to the Lord, too strong to fail.  He thought he would never deny the Lord.

Of course, we know that he did deny Him; then, after the third denial, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (61-62)

When the enemy throws a temptation my way to deny the Lord or to fail Him, I hope I will remember the failure that followed Peter’s arrogance.  Paul expressed it this way in I Corinthians 10:12-13, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  We will never see the way out that the Lord provides if we think we would never need it. It just won’t be on our radar.  And may I add, the thought of the Lord looking at me in the midst of my failure as He did with Peter is one I can hardly bear.

The good news in this story for Peter as well as for us is that Jesus is praying for us when we face temptation (32), and if we will accept His help with humility, we will be victorious.  Peter repented and went on to be a powerful leader in the emerging church, proving that there is hope for all of us! 

Moving Forward: What an assurance I have that in the face of any temptation Jesus is praying for me to remain faithful.  I move forward today accepting His prayer and His cautions with the knowledge that He’s looking at me. 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 1-3

Ezekiel 31-36(NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Shepherd who never fails us, never leaves us

@ Ezekiel 34
Shepherds and sheep – right up my alley!  While writing the devotional book, Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, I had the joy of visiting sheep farms where I met dozens of shepherds and hundreds of sheep.  I’m sure the shepherds enjoyed watching this city girl navigate the pastures and sheepfolds while learning about the nature of sheep.  My advice for anyone pursuing an adventure like this is to wear sturdy boots, enough said.

“What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?…You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.” (1-5)  Ezekiel revealed this prophecy to the kings, prophets and priests of Israel, the shepherds of Israel, who with their selfish cruel behavior had neglected and abandoned the children of Israel.

We have followed the sinful acts of Israel’s leadership over the past several weeks as we’ve read about them in Ezekiel, Leviticus and 1 and 2 Kings.  The common thread throughout the accounts of each evil leader was disobedience to God while following their own selfish desires to be powerful, prosperous and popular.  Whether in the church world or the secular world today, pursuit of these same three selfish desires will cause a leader to neglect and abandon those being led.  The sheep become weak, lost and scattered, no longer the strong flock they once were and because of this, sorrow awaited the shepherds.

Thankfully, the shepherds I met on my journeys were not at all like those described in Chapter 34.  Their eyes sparkled as they talked about their pride and joy and shared the heritage of each sheep, their parents, siblings and offspring.  The shepherds knew them so well that many of the sheep were named according to their personalities.  They knew what grasses and grains each sheep enjoyed the most and recalled the injuries and diseases certain sheep had experienced.  They would never call their sheep dumb but agreed that they certainly were willful at times…hmmm.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock… I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again… I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak… And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David [Jesus]. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.” (11-16,23)   And He did just that!  He sent His Son, Jesus, the Shepherd of Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd of John 10, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” (14-15)  He is the selfless Shepherd who sacrificed His life, the faithful Shepherd who will never leave us or forsake us and the intimate Shepherd who knows us by name. 

Moving Forward: Standing firm today on the care and guidance of the Good Shepherd.  I know Him and He knows me! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 21-22

Proverbs 11-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He delights in our honesty and humility, and He rewards them with wisdom

A day at the Minnesota State Fair was always one of the highlights of my year when I was young.  Where else can you get fried cheese curds, sugary Tom Thumb donuts and food on a stick?  Yum!  My dad would always walk us through the Midway where the rides whirled over our heads and hucksters barked and called to him to take a chance at winning the big prize.  I wanted that big prize, the big cuddly stuffed something, but he always just kept walking, eyes focused straight ahead.

When I asked him one time why he wouldn’t stop and try to win a prize for me, he said that the games were crooked, the balls were weighted and the chances were slim – they couldn’t be trusted.  I never viewed the Midway and its hucksters the same way again. Since then I’ve walked through many midways in life, and I’ve tried to keep my focus straight ahead with added determination for my own life to never be described as a person who could not be trusted.  Thanks, dad! 

@ Proverbs 11
“The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but He delights in accurate weights.  Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Honesty guides good people.” (1-3) Solomon addressed the problem of dishonest scales several times in Proverbs, where the weighing and measuring of foods and goods was common business practice and where heavy thumbs and hidden weights were tools used to cheat buyers.  Dishonest business practices still prevail today, but of course the methods are much more sophisticated and elaborate.  Why do people cheat each other?

It’s interesting that Solomon slips this little statement about pride in between two verses on honesty, “Pride leads to disgrace.”  When we feel that our gain and our advancement are more vital than that of someone else to the point of dishonesty, it is because we regard ourselves as better and more important. The definition of pride: a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes that he or she is better than others. Ouch!

Clearly, pride throws the Golden Rule right out the window.  But, “…with humility comes wisdom.”  Humility: the quality of being modest, respectful and meek.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)  Now that’s quite an inheritance! A prideful heart seeks to bless itself while a heart of humility is blessed by the Lord.

Whenever my motivation in any transaction or exchange, whether financial, relational or really anything, is to bless me at an expense or loss to someone else, it’s time for me to evaluate that motivation.  The incredible One-day Sale at Macy’s where sale prices almost seem like stealing?  Acceptable!  Cheating the sales clerk, the tax collector, my spouse or a customer? Not good.  I don’t ever want to be described as being like the dishonest huckster who cannot be trusted.

Honesty guides good people.” Honesty is a valuable guide through the midways of life.  It is humble, reliable, timeless, easy to remember…and it’s trustworthy!  So in light of these scriptures, the right way to gain or advance in life is to treat others in the way we like to be treated, with humility and respect, and we can be certain that honesty will come right alongside and help us do it. Our efforts will be blessed with wisdom and a rich inheritance! 

Moving Forward: Honest guidance today from the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)  I can’t go wrong. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 31-36

Psalms 84-86 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His Presence provides a restful place for the whole being 

@ Psalm 84
Tired of the hustle and bustle of life? Looking for the ultimate travel destination for total serenity of body, soul and spirit?  Well, just visit Psalm 84. It’s all there and then some!  “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord…I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole being, body and soul…Even the sparrow finds a home…What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.”(1-4)  A lovely place for the whole being, complete with birds, joy, singing and praises…that’s for me!  Where is it and how do I get there?

The other day I was sitting in a very crowded, noisy restaurant.  With babies screaming, waitresses flying back and forth and dishes clattering, it was difficult to think much less carry on a conversation.  Amidst all this chaos sat a woman at the table next to me reading a book.  I couldn’t help but wonder how she could turn down the volume in the room to concentrate and found myself occasionally glancing back at this phenomenon.  She sat with a slight smile as she read something that obviously delighted her, oblivious to all those around her.  I don’t know where she was, but I know it was a good place.

It was in a good place where the writer of Psalm 84 desired to be, God’s dwelling place of peace and joy, so much so that he was faint with longing for it, a longing I have known as well. But, like the woman in the restaurant, when life has gotten chaotic and crowded with hardly a moment to think, I have found Him amidst all the commotion. When I tune out the noise, turn off my racing mind and call on Him, I realize that the place where I am is His sanctuary, and He has been there all along. There I sit, oblivious to the chaos and obviously delighted with Him. “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.”  (Psalm 139:7-8)

When we need a respite for the body, soul and spirit, there’s a good place we can go.  When we need communion with the One who knows us better than any other, there’s a good place we can go.  When we find ourselves so full of thanksgiving and praise that we think we may burst, there’s a good place we can go.  And He’s as close as the mention of His name.

Moving Forward: When the hustle and bustle of life crowds my space, I’ll find His presence and receive His rest. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 11-12

2 Kings 11-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He sees our good deeds, but rewards our strong and faithful finish

As somewhat of an overachiever in school, my dismay at discovering an Incomplete on my college grades one semester was huge.  How did it happen?  This was unacceptable!  After investigation, I found that someone, a professor who will remain nameless, had lost my final term paper, leaving my classroom work unfinished, incomplete, undone.   Of course as dramatic as this was for me, it pales in comparison to, say, Schubert’s The Unfinished Symphony, or Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.  However, my term paper was eventually recovered, and I received the A grade I desired.  And these two gentlemen? Well let’s just say that they have some work left to do.

Today we read about a number of other men who failed to complete the task they had started, and the repercussions were much more impacting than incomplete grades, symphonies and novels.  The kings of Judah, namely Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah and Jotham, started their reigns on the right track but didn’t finish strong, “Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight…Yet even so, he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there.” (12:2-3)  This was said about each of these kings.  Many of them accomplished good things for Israel, but did not complete the work that needed to be done as their forefather David had done in removing the occult places of worship and sacrifice.  Why didn’t they finish the job, complete the task, do the deed?

As for Joash, he became king at the ripe age of 7.  The priest, Jehoiada, influenced much of Joash’s early years, including the repairing of the temple.  Perhaps they felt that with the temple once again a beautiful house of worship, the Israelites would soon forget about the pagan shrines, but it didn’t happen.  It would have been safer to destroy the sin rather than try to ignore it with hope that it would just go away.  When we don’t deal with sin, it somehow manages to rear its ugly head somewhere down the line.  Eventually Joash worshipped at the shrines himself.  Ugh.

Popularity may have been an issue for the kings.  The Israelites loved their pagan shrines and the immoral festivities that took place around them, and certainly any king who destroyed them would suffer drastically in the polls.  However, I would think these kings would have preferred unpopularity over the murder and disease that finally took them. The story could have ended differently for these leaders had they completed their tasks and finished strong.

Rather than accomplishing just a few good things in my life and then falling off the wagon because of sin or seeking popularity instead of godliness, I’m challenged to finish strong for Him.  I want to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7)  No more incompletes for me! 

Moving Forward: May I remain faithful to Him, not only finishing the job, but finishing strong! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 84-86

Leviticus 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has reconciled us to Him through the sacrifice of His Son

One of the most valuable commodities in the world today is a pint of AB negative blood, at least it is for those who have this rare blood type.  These individuals often have blood taken and stored for their own use should they need it as a result of injury or sickness because less than 1% of the population carries this blood type.  Scary thought.  No one can live without blood.  God said to Moses, “the life of the body is in its blood,” (11) and He would know. 

@ Leviticus 17
Leviticus is filled with instructions regarding animal sacrifices and the use of their blood in attaining reconciliation with God, sharing more detail than I think I would need to know.  But what may seem like a preoccupation on the subject was more accurately God’s desire to preserve the honor and integrity of the blood because He was looking forward to Calvary.

Animals could be used for food, clothing and even medicine, but their blood was to be used for only one thing – the atonement for sin.  “I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood.’” (11-12)

My first thought is why would the Israelites need such instruction?  However, this was a practice in their culture because of their idolatrous worship of other gods, such as the sacrificing to goat idols or demons mentioned earlier in the chapter.  By drinking the blood of animals in their rituals, they thought they would capture the life force or energy of the creatures.  With the greatest force of life, the Source of all energy in the Universe and the Creator of all things guiding them by day and night with a pillar of cloud and fire, it’s impossible for me to understand the attraction to drinking blood, diluting the symbol of His atonement for their sins.  Only the enemy of their souls could entice them in this way.

These scriptures should give us pause to consider our culture’s present fascination with vampires, blood and the like.  As believers, should our entertainment include anything that glorifies and focuses on sucking the blood out of people?  I mean, really, how disgusting.  How could I ever put before my eyes something that dishonors or discredits the only eternal life-giving blood, the blood of JesusOnly the enemy of my soul could entice me in that way.  No, my focus should be on this, “With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12)  For our bodies, life is in our blood; but for our eternal spirits, life is in His blood.

Moving Forward:  Thinking of the old Andre Crouch song, “The blood that Jesus shed for me, way back on Calvary…the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.”  Taking that song with me today.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 11-15

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