blog-home-pageA New Day and another opportunity to connect with our creator through His written Word. Let’s make it intentional, let’s make it a habit to read the Bible every day so we don’t miss what He has to say.  Follow the reading plan and next year at this time you will have read through the Bible! Follow below or click a day on the Calendar to the right and that day’s devotional will appear. The Bible is life changing. Don’t miss it!

Acts 21-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He places a resolve in yielded hearts to do His will

I know several missionary families that have left the comforts of home to travel and live in dangerous parts of the world.  Some met with opposition from family and friends at their decision to do so; but with resolve, they moved forward in obedience to God.  Paul, the greatest missionary that has ever lived, faced some opposition in his decision to return to Jerusalem.  When prophets shared a word from the Lord to discourage him from going to Jerusalem, Paul stuck to his resolve.  Was he right?

@ Acts 21
“We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.” (4)  “Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, ‘The Holy Spirit declares, “So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.”’ When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” (10-12)

This was Paul’s resolve in response to their warnings, “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lies ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (20:22-24) And so it is with the missionaries that preach the gospel around the world.  They are bound by the Spirit who calls them, and their lives are worth nothing unless they do the work God has assigned them.  Those who love them must understand this.

Were the prophets who warned Paul in error?  Let me just say that the life of the prophet can be as difficult as the life of the missionary.  The responsibility of the prophet to speak only what God has revealed to them, without their personal input and interpretation is a challenge.  Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:20-21, “Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said.  Hold on to what is good.”  God had revealed truth to the dear brethren who were warning Paul about his trip to Jerusalem, but how he should respond to that truth was between Paul and the Lord.

“Even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture.” (I Corinthians 13:9) Only part of God’s plans for Paul had been revealed to the prophets, and there was a higher purpose in Paul’s trip to Jerusalem.  It was the first step toward his movement to Rome, God’s final purpose and destination for Paul.  Bound by the Spirit, Paul was moving ahead in his calling.

“Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.’  When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’  After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem.”(21:13-15) Paul’s companions were not going to desert him now.  They would give aid, comfort and support to Paul to accomplish his mission.

How could we do any less for those we love who are fulfilling God’s calling on their lives?  To parents, support the calling God has placed on the lives of your children no matter how difficult.  To children, support the calling God has placed on the lives of your parents regardless of personal desires – He will reward you.  The very least we can do for those bound by the Spirit to do God’s will is to not hinder them, and God will bless all our efforts to support and enable them. 

Moving Forward:  Bound by the Spirit to present the gospel, may we not be hindered or discouraged by those who see only part of the picture. 

Tomorrow @ 2 John

Revelation 1-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He redeemed our lives through His Son, the Lamb of God

Several years ago I sent a Christmas card to family and friends that had a picture of a lion and lamb resting together under a starry sky with the inscription, Peace on Earth.  I received several comments about the card and the wonderful message it brought to our hearts on many different levels.  At first glance, the peaceful setting spoke of the Christmas message and Christ’s coming to earth to bring peace to even the most unlikely scenarios, but in light of our scripture today, we come to an even greater understanding of the meaning behind the Lion and the Lamb. 

@ Revelation 5
The apostle John had been banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.  Now in his solitude, he received an extraordinary vision from God, “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (1:1-2)

Through revelation, John was to give a report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!  What a daunting task!  Yet, while our witnessing is not the recorded Word of God, we are representing the testimony of Jesus Christ in part as we share the good news and what he has done for us.  We, too, have been given a task.

In Revelation 5, God held a scroll about the future but no one was found worthy enough to open it.  As John wept over this dilemma, one of the 24 elders called out, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5)  Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, found in the very first book of the Bible, talked about this Lion, “Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey…The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.” (Genesis 49:9-10)  Jesus, the Lion!

Imagine the excitement that rose in John’s heart in anticipation of seeing the Lion of Judah, the powerful King, the mighty Ruler.  But John did not see a lion.  No, he saw a lamb. “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” (6)  We will never really understand and fully realize the kingship of Jesus until we see Him first as the lamb, the lamb that had been slaughtered to remove our sins.  John the Baptist recognized Him when he called out, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Jesus, the Lamb!

This is the truth of my Christmas card – Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb, pure and spotless, to remove the stain of sin from our lives.  Yet, He is the Lion, our resurrected King, whose victorious reign is worthy of all praise.  “And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’ And the four living beings said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.” (13-14)  The lion and the lamb.  I fall down and worship. 

Moving Forward:  May my life testify today of the Lamb of God and what He has done in my life.  And I pray this testimony will draw others to the true meaning of Christmas. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 21-22

Song of Solomon 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He satisfies all our longings

“Are the stars out tonight? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, ‘cause I’ve only got eyes for you…”  This old love song comes to mind every time I read the love story of the couple in Song of Solomon.  What a delightful portrayal of the passion and purity of love between a man and a woman!  Solomon tested our obedience with the Proverbs, he challenged our minds with the philosophy and questioning of Ecclesiastes and now he delights our hearts in Song of Solomon.  This book is not only an intimate love story about the covenant between a man and wife, but it’s also a beautiful portrayal of God’s eternal covenant with mankind and Christ’s commitment to His bride.

“Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine.  How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance,” (1:2-3) said the Shulamite woman.  From the very beginning, we understand that the Song includes the passion of love.  In fact, at one time or another, it expresses three of the four meanings of love recently discussed (December 3 @ I John 4-5).  God intends for us to enjoy all forms of love, and here the young woman spoke of eros, or the pleasure of love.  We can’t separate ourselves from the desire of this love because it is God’s gift to us to enjoy, but through the Song, the young woman delivered a challenge to the chorus of women around her.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.” (2:7)  Throughout scripture, especially the writings of Solomon, men are confronted with the challenge to remain pure, but now the gauntlet is passed to the women.  This love is reserved for a permanent, monogamous marriage, and what a challenge for women today who are confronted at every turn with the enticement of premarital or extramarital sex.  For men and women alike, we will never experience the excited passion of Song of Solomon that God intends for us by diluting its intensity with lustful substitutions of any kind.  They only cause us to crave more and more and never satisfy what only God can give when He divinely blesses our marriage bed.

“I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots,” responds the King. (1:9,KJV)  I must admit that being compared to a company of horses is not really the love language I would want to hear at this point; but in fact, it is one of the greatest endearments a husband can express, outside of his wife’s ravishing beauty, of course.  With the term love in this verse, the King declared that his beloved was his friend and companion, the one he was familiar with, a love that was phileo.  Along with all the other joys of marriage, my husband and I are best friends, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (2:4) For the first time in the Song, the Hebrew equivalent to agape is used for love, the selfless, pure love from God.  The King’s banner represented a covering, a protection, an intimacy for the one he possessed and who possessed him, and God’s love for us is all this and more.  Be still my heart…

In response to our reading today, my heart is full of love for my husband and for my God who has divinely blessed our marriage covenant.  I can’t help but thank Him for the fulfillment of His love covenant with mankind in the coming of His Son to redeem us.  The joys of love while here on earth are but a foretaste of the perfect love we will share with Him through all eternity. I can only imagine. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful for my husband – thrilled and protected by his love and selfless commitment.

Tomorrow @ Revelation 1-6

Psalms 140-142 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He perfects and changes us through His messengers

No one likes to be criticized.  I’ve never started the day with the thought I hope someone criticizes me today so that I can grow and improve.  Critical words can disrupt a friendship and destroy family ties, yet when those words come from pure intent, they can change us and make us more like Him.  David was facing an enemy in our reading today.  We don’t know for certain if he was trying to save his own life from the king who had gone rogue or if it was in battle; but in the midst of it all, David opened his life to criticism as he prayed to the Lord for help. 

@ Psalm 141
David’s heart-felt prayer that he offered in a difficult circumstance is an example for us of the contrition and humility we should exhibit in the challenges we face.  His first step was surrender, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” (2)  His arms were raised in surrender to the One who would help him.  David offered plenty of suggestions of what God could do to his enemies, but his first action was one of surrender.

David surrendered the most difficult member of his body according to James 3:6; he surrendered the words of his mouth.  “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” (3)  How easy it is in the face of criticism and pressure to spout off the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s rarely a good thing.  Guard our lips, Lord.

Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness.  Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” (4)  Seldom do we move from a godly life one day to the depths of sin the next.  It is usually a slow drift, a little compromise here and a little concession there.  It is right here, at this moment, that David opened his life to the possibility of criticism.  God often uses the wise counsel of others to help keep us on track, to keep us from drifting and sharing in the deeds of evil and wickedness.  It’s much easier to see the drift in others because we’re not standing in their skin.

However, David knew exactly what he was praying, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.” (5)  Only a heart of humility will look at criticism in this way.  The key word is godly. “Let the godly strike me!”  David asked God over and over again to protect him from the criticism of the ungodly, but when the godly offered correction, he said “Bring it on!”  Solomon expressed this same thought throughout Proverbs, “Correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” (9:8-9)

No, I don’t like criticism, but when it comes from time to time, I want to listen with the surrendered heart of David, keeping my mouth shut in the face of it. I want to view it as an act of kindness from someone who cares about my well-being and prayerfully consider its message.   In prayer, God has always been faithful to reveal the truth of the matter to my heart.  Even more than my own desire, God wants me to be wise and righteous.  He will send the godly to my life when He sees the drift, and how could I not receive His messengers? 

Moving Forward: It humbles me to think that the God of all heaven and earth is so mindful of the condition of my heart that He sends His messengers to bring wisdom and righteousness to my life.  “All to Jesus, I surrender…” 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 1-2 (Help)

Nehemiah 5-9 NLT)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we show respect and honor to His Word

Sometimes we forget the impact of scripture on our lives.  If we take a moment to think about it, we will remember occasions when we were distraught over a situation but a verse from the Bible brought comfort and strength to us.  Then, there have been numerous times in my own life when I have been reading His Word and a particular scripture gets all up in my business, if you know what I mean.  This is when the conviction of the Holy Spirit invades my life, and I am reduced to tears of repentance.  I really don’t enjoy the process, but the peace and joy that follows makes it all worthwhile.  The entire nation of Israel experienced the convicting power of the Holy Spirit when the Levites read from the Book of Moses. 

@ Nehemiah 8
“Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion… they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.” (4-5)  As Babylonian captives, 42,000 plus Israelites returned to their home of Jerusalem.  Their Temple had been rebuilt under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Ezra, and the walls of their city had been rebuilt under the direction of their wise governor, Nehemiah.

With purpose in their hearts, they had assembled together for the reading of God’s Word, and as the book was opened, they rose to their feet to show honor and respect for His Holy Word.  Perhaps this example is why we often stand for the reading of God’s Word when we assemble together in our churches.  It’s only right that our position and demeanor should distinguish between man’s words and God’s Holy Word.  Nothing we say in our own strength can compare to the perfect, trustworthy and pure words of God. (Psalm 19:7-8)  At the very least, our hearts should stand at attention when we read or hear His powerful Word.

Apparently the Israelites had a lengthy Bible Study that day as they stood assembled together.  Over the 70 years of captivity, Aramaic rather than Hebrew had become the first language for many of the younger Israelites.  Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites went to great lengths to translate and interpret the scriptures so that all could understand their meaning.  This is the role of our pastors today as well, to read the Word of God and explain it in a way that all will understand.  Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”(4:6) Thankfully, the Holy Spirit anoints His Word and the lips of His servants, and He touches our hearts as we listen.

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, ‘Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.’ For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (9)  Just like King Josiah when he heard the words of the law for the first time, the hearts of the people were tender to God’s Word and they were remorseful for their many sins of the past.  The scriptures had revealed to them the high cost paid for their low living.

But now the people had repented, the Temple was standing and the walls had been rebuilt – it was time for celebration!  “And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (10)  With sins forgiven, it was time to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in their lives.

God doesn’t want us to live in guilt over our past sins and mistakes.  “If we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (I John 1:9)  It’s time to celebrate and put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness! (Isaiah 61:3)  Then His joy will be our strength to celebrate His goodness and to live in obedience to Him.  It’s difficult to sin against God while celebrating His goodness and mercy with great joy in our hearts…it really is. 

Moving Forward:  With joy in my heart for His forgiveness and grace, I move through this day celebrating His goodness. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 140-142

Deuteronomy 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we bless those who serve us with generous hearts

I don’t think any novel has had more movies made from it than the beloved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and I enjoy them all.  From the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim to the contemporary Jim Carrey rendition, and every movie in between, I love the story of a changed man named Scrooge.  Not only was the old Scrooge miserly in his giving to the poor, but he was stingy with his faithful employee, Bob Cratchit, as well.  His treatment of Bob was the historic raw deal, overworked and underpaid.  Of course, Dickens wasn’t the first to address the subject of stinginess.  Moses had it covered long before. 

@ Deuteronomy 25
“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” (4)  We may not feel edified by this scripture, but keep reading because it’s more relevant than we may think.  Moses was addressing kindness and mercy towards the animals that toiled for the Israelites.  The oxen crushed the grains under their hooves for hours to remove the hard outer shells, and to muzzle them would deprive them of eating some of the grain for themselves.  Solomon wrote, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)  The sanitary conditions of this aside, even an ox deserves compensation for its labors.

Paul took this simple scripture to another level in the New Testament in I Corinthians 9:9-10, “For the law of Moses says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’  Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.”

How we treat those who serve us is important to God.  Employees who work for us, those who faithfully minister to us and individuals who make a living off of tips offered in gratitude deserve to share in the harvest.  Living the life of Scrooge is not a godly lifestyle.  It’s one thing to be frugal, but it’s another thing to be cheap.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (I Timothy 5:17-18)  Paul took to heart our verse today from Deuteronomy, quoting it twice in his writings.  Those who preach and teach the Word of God “should be respected and paid well” for their faithfulness to the work of God.  The old school of thought that a pastor only works one day a week is pure ignorance.  Most pastors serve their congregations six or seven days a week and are generous with their time almost to a fault.  How cruel it would be a muzzle them by not providing for their needs.

During the Christmas Season when the spirit of giving is in the air, as well as throughout the year, let’s remember with generous hearts those who serve us in so many different roles and those who minister to us.  I want to be like the new and improved Scrooge of Christmas morning but without the nocturnal visitors.  “Ever afterwards..it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (C. Dickens)

Moving Forward: I thank God today for the generous hearts that minister to me and bless my life.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 5-9

I John 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God is love

My husband performs a beautiful wedding ceremony for young couples.  What I enjoy most about it is his challenge to the bride and groom about the kind of love on which they should base their marriage.  The English language has one word for love.  We love each other, we love chocolate and we love sports.  Many other languages have several words that differentiate the type of affection being expressed.

In his wedding ceremony, Tom explains the four Greek words for love and how they apply to a marriage.  Eros is a sensual or passionate love and is conditional on how someone makes us feelPhileo is a friendship love and is conditional on similarity in interests or direction.  Storgē is the love shared within a family based on the family ties.  While these forms of love are valid, they are all conditional on something, and when the conditions no longer exist, so often neither does the love. 

Agape is unconditional, supernatural love that exists regardless of flaws and weaknesses in others, regardless of affection, regardless of love offered in return.  This love is higher and more perfect than any love that man can achieve by himself.  This love is God’s pure, selfless unaffected love, and John writes all about it today. 

@ I John 4
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (9-10)  In verses 7-21, John expressed the agape form of love 27 times, and knowing this helps us to understand that the love John is talking about is not love that we can achieve through our own desire or works.  We need God’s help.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (16-18)  As we follow the Lord and become more like Him, our love becomes more like His – pure, selfless and unaffected by the behavior of others.  It was God’s love that allowed Jesus and Stephen to forgive those who were killing them.  We won’t live with fear of man, with fear of the future or with fear of judgment when we are filled with God’s agape.

The more we know Him and surrender every part of our life to Him, the more our human love changes to His perfect love, “our love grows more perfect.”  It is through His perfect love that we are able to love others with the pure, selfless love of I Corinthians 13, not only in marriage but in all of our relationships.  “We love each other because He first loved us.” (19)  If we want to know how to love others, love others the way He loves us!

Moving Forward:  May I grow closer to His perfect love today and reflect His love to all those I meet. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 23-25