blog-home-pageIntentional> Deliberate> On purpose> Planned> Premeditated> Calculated.  When we step away from the myriad of responsibilities and opportunities calling to us each day to spend time with God, we have made an intentional decision to connect with Him.  

Join with me as I read through the Bible this year – every day will deliver a life-changing read and provide the guidance we need in the days ahead.  Just follow below or click a day on the Calendar to the right for that day’s devotional. 

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  (Ps.119:105)  More than ever before, let’s be intentional!


Psalms 131-133 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He blesses our unity with life everlasting

Olive oil has been an essential commodity since early civilization, and it’s still a lucrative product in Italy.  Imagine the excitement for this Italian girl to be taken by dear missionary friends to a castle in the hills of Tuscany, one with a working olive grove and press.  The kind workers allowed us to watch the oil making process from start to finish.  Yes, be still my heart!

The process was lengthy, beginning with a thorough rinsing to remove soil, then the olives were crushed and pulverized into a paste.  At the end, the paste was pressed under pressure, the vegetable water extracted and the finished product was the fragrant liquid we know and enjoy as olive oil.  Olive oil doesn’t just happen – it’s a process under pressure. 

@ Psalm 133
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.” (1-2)  This anointing oil not only went through the pressing process, but it was also combined with pure fragrances, producing an extraordinary aroma to the Lord.  In this same way, heaven is filled with a pleasing fragrance when God’s people live together in harmony and peace.  But just like the olive oil process, harmony most often results from a process under pressure.

The harmony that believers experience is the result of a process that involves lives that were once soiled by this world but are now cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  Their individual agendas and selfish goals are surrendered to the breaking or crushing process of the Holy Spirit to where their hearts are contrite to God’s desires and plans. This pressing, this process under pressure, produces a precious aroma of unified worship that pleases the Lord.  “And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.” (3)

I like to visualize the anointing of Aaron as the oil was poured saturating his hair, down his face and beard, filling every crevice, every fold of fabric and all the way down to his hem.  The oil saturated and marked the fabric, as oil will do, and left an amazing fragrance that filled the nostrils of God and everyone around Aaron.  All this was a visual and sensory reminder of God’s anointing on him. When God’s people live in harmony with love toward one another, we are marked and fragrant in a way for all those around us to sense. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Just as the best perfumes today attract people to them, our fragrant harmony will attract to us those who have never experienced it.  They will wonder, what is that? Where can I find it?  Just as Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, when we live together as believers in harmony, God blesses our unity, and lost souls are attracted to it because they find it nowhere else.  No wonder David sang, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” 

Moving Forward: Along with all believers, my goal today is to be saturated and marked with the oil of harmony, so fragrant that others will be attracted to us. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 7-8

Ezra 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Styles come and go, but He never changes

My laptop PC has served me well for several years.  I understand most of the nuances and foibles of my Windows PC, and I’m comfortable with it, like a pair of well broken-in shoes.  It was with reluctance that I accepted the necessity to buy a new laptop, but it was time. Voices were encouraging me to make a change, a change for the better they said, change to a…Mac.  Help! They promise no viruses, user-friendly computing, amazing video editing and on and on.  I like things the way they are, and who needs change?  Maybe…no…well, I just don’t know…but it may be the way to go…but it’s just not me…I could learn to like it…to Mac or not to Mac. Hmmm… 

@ Ezra 3
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets…With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (3:10,11-13)  Change can be difficult.

I am almost positive I have heard the “joyful shouting and the weeping mingled together” in some of our church services throughout the land.  Church just isn’t the same as it was years ago.  Newer music, relaxed style of dress and quicker paced services are just a few of the changes that many churches have grown into over the past few years.  Many seasoned believers feel disconnected from the church where they had experienced so many wonderful moments with the Lord – the new Temple is just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

History reveals quite a shake-up in the church world when the now somewhat disconnected believers were younger.  Coming out of more liturgical services, they started to accept gospel songs, clapping, raising hands to God and even shouting at times.  I’ve read that the elders from their former churches thought they had lost all respect and reverence for God; but of course, they had not.  Their new-found freedom in the Lord was in keeping with the day in which they lived, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the church.  But to some, the new Temple was just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

After 40 years in youth and young adult ministry, I can say that the current generation, with very few exceptions, does not really understand the style of the past.  As a rule, it doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t reach them, and without some new wineskins for the new wine God is pouring out today, they may be lost for eternity.

When I worship in the church today, beyond the music and the style, I am most blessed by seeing people’s lives changed by the power of God, and that is really the bottom line for me.  If I didn’t see this taking place in my church, I would find a place where it was happening.  Methods and music style, whether new or old, without the touch of God, are simply entertainment.  The temple may not look anything like the temple of my youth, but I’m not going to weep because too many young lives are finding the Savior.  Hear my joyful shouting!

Moving Forward:  I’m rejoicing today over lives being changed by the power of God.  It may be a different approach, but it’s the same God and the same power. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 131-133

Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return, we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provisions, the resources that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our resources are meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with them.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provisions, are from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me, and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

I Peter 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He will one day reward us with crowns for our faithfulness

“There she is, Miss America. There she is, your ideal……”  What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having that glittering crown placed on her head as she walks the aisle to begin her reign as Miss America?  There’s something about a crown that adds validity to a role.  One time I toured the Treasury of the former rulers of Austria, and let me say, those folks knew how to design a crown.  Extravagant crowns filled with large diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were beautifully displayed, all behind glass and security.  No doubt the weight of each crown was excruciating, but don’t we love their beauty.  Well, one day we’ll see some crowns that could only be described as priceless. 

@ I Peter 5
“And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches…when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1,4)  The life of a pastor is often difficult with few accolades, but Peter declared a crown of glory and honor that will last forever for those faithful pastors.  How do you put a price on that?

“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.” (I Thessalonians 2:19)  The crown of rejoicing will be given to those who have led others to the Lord, but I believe seeing them in heaven will be reward enough! Priceless!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)  This is the crown that marks us as one who loves God, and this is the crown for which we have been waiting.  It is our identity, it is invaluable!

“And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)  For those who are not tied to this world and its riches but looking for the return of Jesus, this crown of righteousness will be given.  More precious than gold!

These are the crowns we will receive from the Lord when He returns for us, and their worth puts all others since the beginning of time to shame.  However, I don’t think we will be displaying them in our heavenly homes or wearing them around heaven.  No, I believe we will follow the example of the 24 elders, “the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne.” (Revelation 4:10)

How could we not give to Him, the One who loves us most, our prized possessions, the treasures we value most?  With all of heaven we will sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come… You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” (Revelation 4:8,11) 

Moving Forward: I’m looking for Him today, staying faithful to the end and bringing along as many as I can to heaven with me.  Hoping to adorn Him with many crowns! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 13-15

Acts 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He gives His Holy Spirit to guide our mission in life

When we set out on a mission to buy a new product of any kind, we’re the most successful when we do our homework first.  We check the advertising flyers and then visit the store to touch and hold the product.  Or we scour the internet for consumer reports, special sales and anything that will inform us about the product.  Really, a savvy consumer would not depend on impulse or guesswork to complete a mission like this.  However, as believers, we are on a mission every day, and so often we don’t take the time to do our homework.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, the Gospels present to us our mission, the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15)  When we step out into our world each day, how prepared are we to accomplish our mission? 

@ Acts 13
It’s only right that Paul, the Great Evangelist, the great consumer of souls, would serve as the template for our mission. “One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them’…So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit… Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (2,4,9)  Paul did his homework!  He spent time in prayer, worship and fasting to where his will was surrendered to God’s will.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit to where his steps were surrendered to God’s steps.

Throughout Acts, we read how God guided Paul to the right place at the right time. “On the Sabbath [Paul and Barnabas] went to the synagogue for the services.  After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” (15)  I just love when God opens the doors for our mission.  When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we see the open doors, His set-ups, and walk right through them to present the Gospel.

Sometimes we are hindered by the response we receive on our mission.  Once again, Paul was not threatened by the reaction of his listeners.  Many people, especially Gentiles, accepted his message and received the Lord as their Savior, but many others rejected his message to the point of physical attack, “They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.” (14:19)  Paul was not responsible for the response of his listeners.

It’s our responsibility to present the Gospel, and it’s the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to touch the hearts of men.  Of course, when we surrender our day to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we have Him right there with us, partnering in our mission.  We need not be discouraged when our message is rejected because we have no idea where the Holy Spirit will take it in those hostile lives.  Remember, Paul was present at Stephen’s stoning.  Every day we are challenged to accept our mission, do our homework and follow through with unhindered tenacity. 

Moving Forward: Yes, I’ll accept my mission today. Yes, I will do my homework.  And yes, I will tenaciously complete my mission just like any savvy shopper would do.

Tomorrow @ I Peter 4-5

Haggai (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His blessings follow our obedience to Him

Many books and movies tell the story of the farmer who plants the seed and then waits for the sun and the rain to bless his efforts and bring about a bountiful crop.  Because he has invested all he has on the seed, his investment is lost if the rain doesn’t come.  The drama of waiting for a dark cloud, even a small one, to form in the sky is heart-wrenching to watch, and sometimes the families are on edge as they struggle with what to do next.  Anytime a blessing from the Lord seems to be withheld from our lives, it gives cause to consider the reason.

“Look at what’s happening to you!  You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:  Look at what’s happening to you.” (Haggai 1:5-7)  The Israelites returned to Jerusalem with the specific instructions to rebuild the temple, but instead, they built their homes and did not work on the temple.

When life is not going well and our efforts seem in vain, it never hurts to examine what’s happening to us and to make sure we are following His plan for us.  God’s love makes Him longsuffering, but He will do what is necessary to get our attention.  When the Israelites realized their disobedience, they turned to the Lord and His gracious response was, “I am with you, says the Lord!” (13)

A drought or dry season in our life may have nothing to do with our willfulness, but it may be a testing time to develop character and prepare us to be used by Him.  I’m sure the 40 years that Moses spent on the backside of the desert caused him to search his heart and question what was happening to him, but God was preparing him for great things.

When our efforts bring little reward and we feel that God’s blessing is not on them, it’s not time to blame Him or to resist Him.  It’s the perfect time to look at what’s happening to us and evaluate our situation.  Are we doing our best to follow His direction for us?  If so, we can be confident that He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  His blessings will come in due time.

Our obedience to God brings a promise to our lives like the one given to an obedient Israel after the foundation for the temple was laid, “Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  (2:18-19)  Regardless of how it comes or when it comes, obedience brings the blessing of the Lord to our lives. 

Moving Forward: I am certain of His blessings in due time as I walk in obedience to Him. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 13-14

Ecclesiastes 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He gives the health and wealth we need to live a contented life

Planning a wedding with my daughter was one of the happier stages of my life.  I say stages because it really was quite a process.  Planning a wedding with my daughter was also one of the more stressful stages of my life.  A once-in-a-lifetime event always comes with extra pressure – one chance to get it right.  The wedding day held all the regular tensions plus a few last minutes glitches.  An hour before the wedding was to start; I was running around like the proverbial chicken with no head.

The church wedding coordinator, called the “Wedding Nazi” by some, caught me as I raced down the church aisle loaded with boutonnieres, etc.  She grabbed my arm and walked at a snail’s pace down the rest of the aisle.  “I’ve got to hurry,” I told her.  “No,” she said, “you’ve got to slow down, take some deep breaths or you will never remember this day,” and we strolled down the aisle together.  She was my “Wedding Angel” who saved the day for me, and I cherish the wonderful memory of a beautiful wedding.  Sometimes we just have to stop and, yes, smell the roses regardless of the drive to do and to be. 

@ Ecclesiastes 5
“It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (18-20)  Go-getters and Type A’s probably take exception to Solomon here, and there’s nothing wrong with working to provide for our families and doing what we can to improve our situation.  After all, most of the inventions of the last century came from this mindset.  But, when our drive removes all the pleasure from life, and we never enjoy the fruits of our labors, we really have missed the point.

I can’t imagine spending every day of my life doing a job that I dislike.  Out of high school, my husband wanted to be a pharmacist because he had heard they made a lot of money.  While some people enjoy the stability and structure of counting pills, it would have been a miserable life for him because he is an adventurer, and 40 years of youth ministry has certainly been an adventure for him.  Solomon expressed the peace and contentment that comes with accepting what God has provided and planned for your life.

Paul certainly got it, “for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12)   No striving, no rat race, no regrets, but contentment through Paul’s secret:  Christ who gives strength to do all things. (13)

When we accept the health and wealth that God has provided for us, we are so busy enjoying life that we forget about what we haven’t had or what may have been taken from us, and the past holds no regrets.  We just let it go…ahhh…deep breaths…and life is full of beautiful memories. 

Moving Forward: I’ll walk in contentment today, enjoying every step because of His faithfulness to provide just what I need for today.

Tomorrow @ Haggai