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!

Ezekiel 37-42 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to resurrect and restore all that is dry and dead.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord,” says the old spiritual taken from Ezekiel 37 that was used to teach children about anatomy. “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the leg bone,” and on it goes. 

@Ezekiel 37
Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was spectacular and breath-taking as the Lord said to him, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!’… Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.” (4-7)  Can you imagine?  I envision a few sheep now and then, but this is way beyond my pay grade.

The Jewish exiles were discouraged about their predicament and rightly so.  They had lost their nation and their glorious temple of worship and found themselves living far from home in Babylon, but God sat poised and ready to restore them, “I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock.” (36:37)  After all that God had endured through their sinfulness and rejection of Him, He was waiting for them to pray, to call on Him once again, and He would restore all that they had lost.

“The bones that covered the valley floor…were scattered everywhere across the ground.”(2) The bones were exposed, not buried, for all of heaven to see – He had not forgotten them. This is the nature of our God.  He waits for individuals, for churches, for nations to pray, to repent, and then He resurrects and He restores that which seemed dry and dead and brings life once again.

The prophet joined God’s resurrection process when he spoke the prophetic message.  When we are focused on anything in our lives that resembles those old dry bones, whether it is our nation, our church or our loved ones and friends, we are challenged to participate in the resurrection.  We can pray!  And when we pray, should the Lord reveal a prophetic word to us, we can speak!

Israel has experienced a commotion and shaking ever since those days in exile.  Those bones have come together, the nation has returned to its homeland in part and we pray and wait with them for that breath of the Spirit. “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again,” (9) and give new spiritual life to them as believers in Jesus Christ, their Messiah.

Likewise, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a commotion, a rattling if you will, when we pray because God may choose to shake things up a little in order to bring about resurrection in our situation.  If we are discouraged with the condition of our nation, with the dryness and lack of life in our church or with our loved ones who seem so dead to the things of God, remember that He sees those dry bones exposed before Him.  He will respond to our call for the Spirit to come and breathe life into them so they may live again.  This is the nature of our God.  “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!” 

Moving Forward: Thinking about our nation today, I will put aside discouragement and continue to pray for the Spirit to breathe life into us once again! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 23-24

Proverbs 13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom helps us raise Godly children

To spank or not to spank – now that’s a debate for today.  Gaining momentum is the idea that spanking promotes anger and hostile behavior in children.  Many others take a more traditional position and believe that spanking when done without anger is an acceptable means of correcting disobedient children.  Having followed the traditional position, it was somewhat disconcerting for me to learn recently from my grown son that the spankings I gave him when he was young never really hurt him.  When I reminded him that he always cried, he gave me a sheepish smile and informed that he did that to make me feel better about it all.  I honestly gave it my best shot.  In spite of this, he’s grown to be a godly father and husband today.

There was no debate in Solomon’s mind regarding corporal punishment – he was all for it!   He began the chapter with, “A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction,” (1) and added in verse 24 a stronger statement, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” “Discipline your children while there is hope.  Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (19:18) “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.” (22:15)  “Don’t fail to discipline your children.  They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” (23:13-14)  Well, I think we know where Solomon stood on the subject.

Spanking need not be our first course of action in disciplining our children, and so very often other methods will take care of the situation we are facing.  When I resorted to this form of discipline, I followed the advice of so many others and never disciplined in anger, but did so when emotions were calm and thinking was clear.  Any form of discipline administered without instruction, in my mind, is useless.  The purpose of discipline is to bring correction, to bring about a change in behavior.  How can these dear ones learn how to change without our instruction and help?  Following discipline, I often asked my children to tell me what the correct behavior would have been.  There was a lasting reinforcement in the matter when the answer came from their mouths instead of mine.

There were a few months in my daughter’s early teen years where there was a battle for supremacy between us.  Because of my determination to win, I was considered by her at times to be one of the “meanest mothers in the world.”  I must admit that I wore that label with some pride.  Then one day everything changed when my daughter told me about an exchange she had with a close friend.  She was complaining to her friend about how strict I was, never allowing her do what she wanted to do.  Her friend tearfully responded, “Well, at least she cares about you.  At least she cares about what you are doing and where you are going.  I wish my mom did.”

I believe we both won that battle.  My decisions and instructions were now received without question; my daughter finished her teen years without regrets and is today a beautiful woman of God.  Disciplining children takes time, tenacity and a willingness to be disliked from time to time, but if we really love our children and care about their future, we will do it.  “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them… Physical discipline may well save them from death,” said the wisest man who ever lived. 

Moving Forward: I move forward today with a grateful heart.  Grateful for the wisdom from His Word that produced the wonderful children I enjoy today. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 37-42

Psalms 87-89 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is righteousness, justice, unfailing love and truth.  He is entirely faithful 

@ Psalm 89
“For who in all of heaven can compare with the Lord?  What mightiest angel is anything like the Lord?…O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies!  Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O Lord? You are entirely faithful.” (6,8)   When I read these words of praise to the Lord, I can’t help but join with the writer in worship to God, “You are entirely faithful!

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.  Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.” (14) No other ruler, king or president, including God’s favored David, has ever ruled or will ever rule with complete purity and fairness, demonstrated through eternal love and honesty.  In His dealing with us, it would be good to remember that these are not attributes that come and go at a whim.  No, God IS righteousness, justice, eternal love and truth.  He can only be entirely faithful, so why do we sometimes question His actions or fear His deeds?

Perhaps we waiver when we read something like verses 3-4, “The Lord said, ‘I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant.  I have sworn this oath to him: I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on your throne from now until eternity.’” Yet, we know that the rule of David’s descendants did come to an end and Israel was swallowed up by Babylon.

Just like most of God’s promises, this one includes the if clause, “But if his descendants forsake my instructions and fail to obey my regulations… then I will punish their sin with the rod…But I will never stop loving him nor fail to keep my promise to him. I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie: His dynasty will go on forever.” (30-36)  David’s descendants strayed from the example set by their forefather, committing despicable sins against God. Because He is Justice, He punished them, but He did not break His covenant with David.

Enter the eternal King, the everlasting ruler, Jesus Christ.  “The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:3-4)  God cannot lie.  He is entirely faithful.

We may find ourselves living short of what we feel He has promised in His Word.  Whether this is the result of sin for which we have repented, the deeds of another or reasons we don’t understand, God wants us to understand that He will never stop loving us nor fail to keep His promise to us.

I have a friend who has suffered endless illnesses over several years and the family has been without employment for quite some time due to no fault of their own.  Most would think life looked pretty bleak for her, but nothing could be further from the truth. Believing this moment is but a blip on the screen of eternity, she knows God loves her and He is faithful to His promise of abundant life (John 10:10) because of her amazing relationship with Him.  He is her Savior, and she knows that He will be faithful to His promise of eternal life (John 3:16).   She gets it!  God cannot lie.  He is entirely faithful! 

Moving Forward: I will not be swayed by the temporary challenges of life that may come.  I am convinced that He loves me, He cannot lie and He is entirely faithful.

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 13

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39)  While we want freedom for everyone to worship as they please, it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in my God and my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Leviticus 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides for those in need through the generous hearts of those who love Him

@ Leviticus 19
With four older brothers, the prospect of hand-me-downs was a little disconcerting when I was young.  Money and all the amenities that it buys were scarce in my early years, and those clothes were threadbare by the time they got to me. However, somehow beautiful clothes seem to magically appear for me to wear from time to time.  It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that a couple of generous families in our church periodically collected clothing for me and gave them to my mom. Yes, they were second-hand but not threadbare, in fact, they were beautiful!  When I wore them, I felt like a million bucks and didn’t realize how poor we really were during those early years.  God bless those generous hearts!

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God instituted the first welfare program, the first method to meet the needs of those who were without food.  Instead of seeking to get that last grain, that last grape into their own coffers, God encouraged the harvesters to simply regard those who were lacking and provide out of their surplus for them.  What a concept!  No government programs, no welfare red tape, just generous hearts, representing a generous God and providing for the needs of others. Imagine that.

A few years ago I was shopping at the grocery store when a woman walked past me wearing a dress that was familiar to me.  From some distinctive alterations to it, I realized it was a dress I had bought and worn for a while and then donated to a ministry that provided clothing for those in need.  She wore it well, and that made me smile as I remembered generous hearts that had touched my life so many years ago.

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.’”(2 Corinthians 9:7-9)  When we give cheerfully to those in need, God continues to bless us to do even more.  While I have remembered generous hearts from my youth for almost 50 years, God remembers them forever, and that, my friends, is a very long time.

Moving Forward: Shrugging off the selfish trends all around me, I pray that God will open my eyes to those in need and fill me with a great big heart of generosity. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 16-20

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

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