blog-home-pageWelcome 2016! A New Year and another opportunity to connect with our creator through His written Word. Let’s make it intentional, 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!

Psalms 15-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He grants entrance into His presence for those who live righteous lives

Advice floats down through the decades, words of caution, helpful hints and all the sayings that mom passed down.  I remember hearing advice such as, if you want to know how a man will treat you after you’re married, find out how he treats his mother now.  Or, if you want to know how a man will treat his children, see how he treats his pets.  I’m not certain these would be proof-positive, but they might give an indication of future behavior.  When I’ve sought employment in the past, I will admit that I made careful observation of how the potential employer treated others in the workplace. Come to find out that in our reading today David believed that God has his own kind of litmus test, if you will, for those seeking a visit with Him. 

@ Psalm 15
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” (1)  This is an appropriate question for someone like David who’s greatest desire was to live in the presence of God all the days of his life (Psalm 27:4)  In verses 2-5, David gave ten principles regarding worship before the Lord.  These principles are not about how much God loves us or about our freedom to call on Him at any time. They reflect David’s heart on who may worship in God’s sanctuary?  Those who:

  • Lead blameless lives. Our hearts are motivated by the desire to live a life of integrity before God and others.
  • Do what is right.  Our actions promote good.  They may not be the easy thing to do, but they are the right thing to do.
  • Speak the truth.  Our words are not clouded by little white lies and deception.
  • Refuse to gossip.  Even when it may hamper our popularity and acceptance with some, we refuse to backbite and speak unkindly about others.
  • Refuse to harm a neighbor.  We do not negatively influence how others view our neighbors, co-workers and others in order to promote ourselves.
  • Refuse to speak evil of a friend.  We treat our friends with loyalty and honor in the presence of others.
  • Show honor to God’s faithful followers, not to the ungodly.  We do not celebrate those who live ungodly lives, but honor those who are faithful to God.
  • Keep promises even when it hurts.  We are faithful to our word, and others can depend on it regardless of how it affects our own well-being.
  • Lend money without charging interest.  We lend to those who are in need without attempting to get rich off of them.
  •  Cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. There is not an amount of money that could cause us to compromise our integrity.

It’s interesting that David’s answer to the question of who may worship in God’s sanctuary has nothing to do with how we approach God on the outset, but everything to do with how we approach our relationships with others.  It’s in our treatment of others that we show God how much we truly love Him, “He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other…if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” (I John 4:10-12)

Psalm 15 ends with a promise, “Such people will stand firm forever.” (5)  For those who serve God in this way, no storm can move them; no hazards can displace them because they have not given place to the enemy.  Their righteous lives of integrity will allow them to stand firm forever before Him in worship.

Moving Forward:   May nothing I do or say to others today disrupt my worship before the Lord.  I want to stand firm in His presence. 

Tomorrow @ Job 11-12

Judges 1-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses both our strengths and our weaknesses to accomplish His purpose

What do Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Phyllis Benigas have in common?  No, I am not announcing my run for the White House.  Included in this group as well are Winston Churchill, Benjamin Netanyahu, Aristotle, Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Sir Paul McCartney, Mozart and Beethoven.  The answer:  All in this unique collection of individuals are left-handed. I’m just sayin’.

When my left-hand dominance became noticeable to my neighbor, a retired school teacher, she cautioned my mother to change this immediately by forcing me to use my right hand.  She claimed I would grow up to be mentally retarded. I’ve done my best to prove her wrong.

However, growing up a lefty in a right-handed world is a challenge from birth. Scissors, spiral notebooks, watches, cameras, fishing reels – just a fraction of a long list – are all designed for right-handed individuals who make up 90% of the world’s population.  Perhaps the drive to overcome and prevail over these daily challenges in life helped this impressive group of individuals, humbly removing myself, to accomplish much in life.  Regardless, they allowed the traits and characteristics God had given them to affect their world. 

@ Judges 3
“Once again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, and the Lord gave King Eglon of Moab control over Israel because of their evil… But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord again raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin. The Israelites sent Ehud to deliver their tribute money to King Eglon of Moab.  So Ehud made a double-edged dagger that was about a foot long, and he strapped it to his right thigh, keeping it hidden under his clothing.” (12,15-16)  Ehud, the left-handed assassin!

The king’s bodyguard would not expect a weapon on Ehud’s right side because customarily a right-handed person would cross the body and draw from the left side.  Ehud was allowed to enter the king’s room, catch him in what we might call a disadvantaged position and kill him.  Most ironic is that Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin which means son of my right hand.  Sometime scripture just makes me smile.  Ehud went on to kill 10,000 Moab enemies and rule over 80 years of peace and faithfulness in Israel.

We may not be knife-plunging, sword-drawing warriors, but we can be inspired by Ehud’s story.  The very characteristic, trait or deficiency in our lives that hinders us the most is often our most effective tool in God’s hand when we surrender it to Him.  Moses’ speech impediment, Paul’s thorn in the flesh and Peter’s impetuous nature advanced the Kingdom of God beyond their wildest imaginations because they learned to yield their insufficiencies to the Lord.  God made us just the way we are to achieve His purposes for us, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) 

Moving Forward:  I surrender to Him today my inadequacies, my lack and anything that causes a struggle in my life.  Who knows how He will use them for His purposes!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 15-17

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nations > his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Romans 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He transforms us into the person He created us to be

When my son was young, he had a collection of toy cars called Transformers.  Each car transformed into a warrior robot in full armor ready to conquer the world – talk about a makeover!  So popular were these Transformers that in recent years several movies have been made about their exploits.  Unique entertainment, to say the least.

More to my liking are the makeovers on television that take plain or fashion-challenged women and men and transform them into living, breathing creations of awe.  The audience always gasps when the transformation is revealed and then breaks into thunderous applause.  This causes me to wonder if my transformation, the new creation that I am in Christ, has been startling enough to bring perhaps a gasp out of heaven. 

@ Romans 12
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (1-2) The ultimate makeover!

I’m sure those makeover candidates feel a little like sheep going to the slaughter as they step behind the curtain to be transformed, uncertain of the outcome.  Similarly, Paul suggests we should present ourselves as living, sacrificial lambs on the altar, submitted to His transformation.  But of course, as they say, the problem with living sacrifices is that they have a tendency to climb off that altar.  It’s usually painful to change the way we think.

Now as Paul often did, he provided a little check list for us in verses 9-21 to see just how transformed we really are, a gasp meter if you will:

  • “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
  • Hate what is wrong.
  • Hold tightly to what is good.
  • Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
  • Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
  • Rejoice in our confident hope.
  • Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
  • When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.
  • Always be eager to practice hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
  • Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with each other.
  • Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.
  • And don’t think you know it all!
  • Never pay back evil with more evil.
  • Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
  • Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone…
  • Never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…
  • If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them…drink…
  • Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Well, then.  I think the only gasp I’m hearing right now is my own. These aren’t bucket list items.  They are characteristics of the transformed life!  This is the life of one who has remained on the altar and allowed the transformation of God’s power to change that life, even the way he or she thinks and relates to others.   And the makeover bonus, the parting gift for this transformed life, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (2)  Who doesn’t want to know that! And again I gasp. 

Moving Forward:  I pray I will do something today that leaves heaven breathless…even just for a moment. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 20-23

Matthew 11-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His yoke is easy and His burden is light

I fondly remember the first time I walked into a bakery in Paris and viewed the vast array of French pastries. Be still my heart!  As I walked back and forth in front of the pastries, I saw chocolaty éclairs, buttery croissants, eggy sweet brioche, nutty tarts and many other delectable sweets.  Choosing just one was painful, but for the sake of my well-being, it was necessary to decide on just one.

That’s how I felt today reading Matthew because it holds so many great truths from the words of Jesus Himself.  How do I choose to share about just one?  Fortunately, many of the His truths from our reading today are woven together into one great thought.  By the way, at the bakery, I chose the Chocolate Almond Croissant with that gooey creamy filling – a little bit of everything together in one great pastry! 

@ Matthew 11
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”(28-30)  These verses spoken by Jesus and found only in Matthew are some of the most comforting words in the Bible to me.  The burdens of this life can be difficult to carry, but Jesus offers a remedy for us.

There is a yoke of responsibility that comes with living on this earth and living for God, and those who attempt to live a yoke-free life often shirk their responsibilities and live only for themselves.  One might think that those already bearing a heavy burden certainly don’t need the burden of yet another yoke, but Jesus was saying try my yoke instead, trade off your yoke of heaviness.  A yoke is simply the framework used to carry a load, and a proper yoke is an easy yoke, one that balances the load and makes the task much easier. This is the yoke that Jesus offers us.

In the following chapter, Jesus went on to give examples of the yokes that burden us and make us weary.  The man-made laws of the Pharisees did not allow the disciples to pick wheat for lunch nor did they allow Jesus to heal a man on the Sabbath.  Those with a religious spirit are always more concerned about legalistic rituals than they are about man’s needs and they have little desire for the supernatural work of God.  Jesus said, “You would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”(7)  His yoke is easy and full of mercy.

The parables of Jesus that followed were examples of what He meant by, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  For all those who would take the yoke of Jesus and learn from Him, they would be good soil and reap a great harvest. (13:23)  The parables of mustard seed faith, planting good seeds, hidden treasures, the pearl of great worth and all His teachings are words that will bring understanding to our hearts and lighten the load we carry.

The difference between the yokes of this world with their heavy burdens and the yoke that Jesus offers to us is that it is balanced by His merciful love.  Yes, without a doubt, to follow Him we must keep His commandments, but in the keeping of them, He gently guides us along in the process.  So Jesus says to us today, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,” cast away the yokes of man’s rituals and expectations and the taunts from the enemy, throw away the yokes that make you heavy and downhearted,“Take my yoke,” and be light and easy.  Jesus has made us an offer we really can’t refuse. 

Moving Forward:  I won’t wear the yoke of heavy burdens today because I’ve chosen to wear His yoke, and I feel as light as a feather. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 11-12

Isaiah 23-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He keeps our hearts in perfect peace when we trust Him

Like most everyone, I’ve passed through some difficult moments in my life.  When I look back over those times, I see how rough and rocky they truly were, but in the midst of them they didn’t seem so troublesome. There was an undergirding, strength and peace that I can’t explain, but I know it was from God. In our reading today, Isaiah prophesied about a peace that not only permeates all of heaven but also sustains us on our journey to heaven. 

@ Isaiah 26
Amidst all the terrible judgments to come on the nations of the world, Isaiah threw in a little oasis from it all with his prophecy about heaven.  When circumstances in life seem to be at their darkest, we have the hope of heaven and all that awaits us there.  Right now we are on a pilgrimage to that Holy place where God’s presence and peace abide; and while we travel some rough roads at times, we are not alone on our journey – the Peace of Heaven is with us even now.

“But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” (7)  Often in our walk with the Lord we see where the Lord has gone ahead of us and smoothed out the path – the job is waiting for us, the house has sold and reports are good – and we praise Him for His goodness.  These steps may not require as great a faith or trust in the Lord from us because we quickly see His handiwork and our hearts are at peace.  However, sometimes we look at our path, and we certainly see steep and rough, a view that can rob us of our peace.  It’s in these moments that we need to focus, not on the difficult path, but on the Lord.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” (3)  Perfect peace in the Hebrew here means shalom, shalom or peace, peacePeace on top of peace – oh, I want that!  However, we’ll never experience this peace, peace as long as we think about how rough the road is. When we fix our thoughts on Him, the eternal Rock, we travel that rough road without realizing how rugged it really is and verse 7 becomes our reality by faith even in the midst of the struggle. It’s supernatural!

David expresses this supernatural walk this way, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23)  Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Peace, peace! 

Moving Forward:  Should I face some bumps in the road today, I’ve decided to keep my focus on the one who holds my hand and who provides supernatural peace.  Peace, peace! 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 11-13

Job 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He sent a mediator to reconcile mankind to Him

When labor and management are in a dispute over wages or work conditions, the atmosphere can get tense and volatile.  Fortunately, individuals are brought to the table that have the ability to negotiate the terms of a contract between the two parties and bring them together. These mediators are highly gifted in this arena and do their best work when they have the complete trust of both parties. The best mediators have the keen ability to make both sides feel as if they won – now that’s a talent.  In our reading today, Job was looking for someone who could do this very thing – Job was looking for a mediator. 

@ Job 9
“God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.  If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together.” (32-33)  Poor Job had presented to God his side of the conflict as best he could, but from his standpoint, negotiations for relief were going nowhere.  First of all, he couldn’t see God, “Yet when He comes near, I cannot see Him.  When He moves by, I do not see Him go.”(11)  Job did not have an experience to hold on to like Moses did where God’s presence was seen in a tangible way. Secondly, Job felt inadequate to talk with God, “So who am I that I should try to answer God or even reason with Him?”(14)  Job wanted a qualified mediator who was worthy to talk to God on his behalf, yet one who understood his pain.  It certainly would not be any of his so-called friends.

We, on the other hand, are privileged to have a top-notch, highly-qualified, personal mediator working 24/7 to negotiate with God on our behalf.  Our mediator lived tangibly on earth at one time and understands our pain, yet He lives in heaven and is seated right next to God – who better to mediate for us!

Our mediator’s great bargaining chip is that He was willing to die in order to bring both sides together, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ JesusHe gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1Timothy 2:5)  Talk about a win/win situation!  And Jesus still sits at the table, so to speak, mediating on our behalf should communication with God break down, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins…” (1 John 2:1-2)

Job didn’t know that he was calling for the Mediator across the centuries of time who would one day come to bridge the gap between sinful man and a sinless God.  Of course, God was listening to Job’s lament, spared his life and blessed him abundantly. But it was Jesus who ultimately negotiated for Job’s eternal life and for all of us as well by His death and resurrection.  The work of the great Mediator made us worthy enough to one day see Him face to face and worship around His throne, and He’s still on the job!

Moving Forward:  I’m so thankful today that I don’t need to negotiate my way into heaven – Jesus did it all! 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 23-28

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