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!

John 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He commissions and empowers us to be His witnesses

Who would have thought split pea soup would be the catalyst to lead someone to the Lord!  Back in grade school, when I was 7 years old, my best friend and her brother were over for lunch one day.  My mom had made split pea soup for us, not exactly kid food, and as she left the kitchen she cautioned, “Don’t add crackers to your soup or it will be too thick to eat.”

As we looked at our bowls of green goo in awe, we decided that crackers could only help the situation and started to crush many crackers into our soup and soon learned that mom was right.  We could have built a monument with the mortar that sat in front of us.  I started to cry just as she came back into the kitchen. Money was tight and this was wasteful.

Mom decided to use this situation to talk about obedience and pleasing the Lord.  At the time I really didn’t understand what came over me, but I started to sing an old hymn of the church, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.”  Well, at 7 years old I certainly did not understand all the theology behind that song and neither did my friends, but they started to weep and in a matter of moments they were repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Carol and Michael were the first souls I helped lead to the Lord, but it was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin. 

@ John 20
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (21-23)  When we read this scripture, it’s easy to get hung up on the question as to whether or not Jesus was saying that the disciples could forgive sin.  Unless they were the pure spotless Lamb of God and had sacrificed their lives on the cross for sin, absolutely not.  However, this was Part 1 of a Spirit-given commissioning for these new believers to present the Gospel, God’s terms for salvation, to the world.  Part 2 followed in Acts 2 when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, the dunamis, the dynamite explosion to be His witnesses.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they were not alone in presenting their message because the convicter, the convincer of sin, the Holy Spirit would be with them. “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (16:8)  The Holy Spirit is the great evangelist, and we are His voice.  Understanding this truth should remove anxiety and apprehension from sharing the Gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit convicted my friends of their sinful nature because that is His job.  Having already received the Lord as my Savior, I had been commissioned by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ, and it was so very easy because He did all the work.  I mean, if at 7 years old I could be used in this way, what is my excuse today?  We are His voice, and when we do our job in obedience, He is right there with us doing His job! 

Moving Forward: I pray that I will never let doubt and apprehension diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ.  When I share the goodness of God and the salvation He has given through His Son, I am partnering with the Great Evangelist!

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 1- 4

Amos 5-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He offers one more call, one more chance to come to Him

One of the most loved parables of Jesus is that of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son who left home with his inheritance and spent it on wild living.  When the money was gone and food was scarce, the careless young man decided to return home to his father where he knew even the servants were living better than he was.

The story goes on to give a vivid picture of God’s mercy and grace toward His children, “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)  I’m fairly certain the father watched for his son every day because he wasn’t taken by surprise at his return, he saw him coming.  He was waiting for him, looking for his return home, just like God was waiting for the children of Israel to return home to Him in our reading today. 

@ Amos 5
“Now this is what the Lord says to the family of Israel:  ‘Come back to me and live!  Don’t worship at the pagan altars at Bethel; don’t go to the shrines at Gilgal or Beersheba…Come back to the Lord and live!’” (4-6)  God was waiting for His children to return home to Him, one more call, one more chance to come to their senses and return home. Amos, the simple shepherd from outside of Bethlehem, prophesied over and over again that judgment was coming to this wayward nation because they sought other gods from other nations.

Twenty years later, Isaiah would call for Israel’s repentance and for their return to God with one more call, one more chance, “Come to me with your ears wide open.  Listen, and you will find lifeSeek the Lord while you can find him.  Call on him now while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:3,6)  But as we know from scripture, Israel would not return home like the Prodigal Son to their awaiting Father.

The Father’s invitation to come has been extended throughout the ages to any and all, and He is still making His appeal today through those of us who will share it, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)  He is still waiting for His children to return home to Him, one more call, one more chance because, like the Prodigal’s father, He is filled with love and compassion, ready to embrace all who will come. 

Moving Forward:  Reminded once again of His great love for His lost children, I will continue to make the appeal for Him to those who have lost their way, Come back to the Lord and live! Come back to God!

Tomorrow @ John 19-21

Proverbs 25 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our example of patience and steadfastness 

Cool your jets.  Take a chill pill.  Back off.  Slow it down. Take a little time to smell the roses.  Don’t rush to judgment.  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. Take it down a notch.  These are all phrases we use when life comes racing at us, when we need to pull in the reins and look before we leap and…sorry, the colloquialisms just keep coming.  Proverbs 25 has its own brand of cautions for us today. 

“Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great.  It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace.” (6-7)  Promotion is always better when it comes from the Lord rather than our own efforts alone.  Jesus actually provided us with a parable on this very subject in Luke 14:7-11 regarding a dinner guest.  He advised to take a less prominent seat at the table to avoid being asked to move should a more distinguished guest come to the table, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)  Sometimes being first in line isn’t helpful.

“Just because you’ve seen something, don’t be in a hurry to go to court.  For what will you do in the end if your neighbor deals you a shameful defeat?” (7-8)  It’s often said that 20 observers of any criminal act will have 20 different testimonies of what actually happened.  Jesus offered the solution for when we observe or experience something we believe is a wrongdoing in Matthew 18:15, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”  Don’t rush to judgment.

“A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (14)  Wisdom would say it’s better to count the cost before we promise something we can’t deliver.  Most everyone remembers something promised to them as a child that never came to pass – those moments are hard to forget.

“Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones.” (15)  As they say, timing is everything.  Quiet, prayerful patience will do more to get the end result we desire from those in leadership than nagging or yelling.  Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but we always remember it demanded our attention rather than deserved it.  My mom never had to raise her voice to me in quick anger, but she had one killer of a look she would give, without breaking any bones, by the way.

For the laid-back person or someone who look at every angle of a situation and seems to get little done in life, Solomon’s cautions may not be needed.  Perhaps taking to heart Proverbs 24:33-34 would be more beneficial, “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”  In other words, get with it!

However, we all know someone who desperately needs his advice today.  Those Type A’s out there, always moving and clicking away, need to take a few moments each day to read these words of wisdom from Solomon so they will look before they leap, take a step back and punt, remember haste makes waste…enough!

Moving Forward: My prayer today is, “Lord, help me to say and do all that you have for me to say and do, without moving ahead of your plan and without driving anyone crazy in the process.”

Tomorrow @ Amos 5-9

Psalms 111-113 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He shines His light on the godly. 

@Psalm 112
No doubt over the next few months our attention will be drawn to the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” and the transformation in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge who was the antithesis of Psalm 112.  Greedy and selfish, the old man held on to every cent he had for dear life and overlooked the needs of others in the process.  Then he had an encounter with the values in life that really matter and could not keep from sharing and giving and blessing.  Anything in this life we hold too tightly will prevent us from living the generous life of one who trusts in God.

Psalm 112 is a promise of success to those who fear only God, to those who revere and respect God and do not revere or respect calamity and to those whose respect for God is reflected in their behavior.  “Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.  Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” (4-5)  No Scrooges here.  Acts of generosity come from hearts that do not hold too tightly to the things they possess and from those with an eternal viewpoint.  Because of this, they live with an open hand to others.

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (7-8)  Only with an eternal viewpoint can we live without fear of when the next shoe will drop, what news the mail will bring or what calamity lies ahead.  Those who fear the Lord do not hold too tightly to this life, knowing it is only a temporary dwelling, a stopping point on their way to eternity. They can live with full assurance 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)  They do not fear bad news.

“They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.  The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.” (9-10)  Well, if we want to see our enemy slink away in defeat, we just need to be willing to let go of the things the enemy wants.  When we give our lives and our possessions to the Lord and His purposes, the enemy has nothing to take from us.

The joy and freedom that awakened in the heart of Scrooge on Christmas morning are just a brief vignette of the joy and freedom we experience every day when we live generous lives, unencumbered by the concerns of this world.  It is a life with promise, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.  They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.” (1-3)

Most of us have lived long enough to know that life is not without its challenges for the godly, but those who fear and respect the Lord and obey His commands walk in the promises and blessings of the Lord that have eternal value.  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so. 

Moving Forward:  Moving through this day with a generous heart and hand, unencumbered and loosening the grip on all that I am and all that I possess. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 25

2 Chronicles 1-5 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our firm foundation

It’s always troubling to watch television news reporting on the California mudslides or similar places that seem to occur every year.  We see homes literally sliding down the hillside, sometimes into the coastal waters below.  As the furnishings and memories of a lifetime are swallowed up in mud and debris, I often wonder if the great ocean view their homes afforded them was worth the devastation.  There’s nothing like building on a firm foundation. 

@2 Chronicles 3
Whether building a home, a marriage, a church or a family, we want to build something that will last, something that will survive the storms of life.  David had chosen such a place for his son to build God’s temple. “So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the site that David had selected.” (1)  Solomon’s Temple on Mount Moriah was built on a firm foundation, both in structure and in history, and the history is intriguing.

Mount Moriah was a place of faith:  Mount Moriah was first mentioned in Genesis 22:1-2,9-11, “Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘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’… Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar…Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’”  Is whatever we are building in our lives based on faith in God, is He the sure foundation?  As with Abraham, God may give us an opportunity to demonstrate our faith in our process of building to be certain that it will stand.

Mount Moriah was a place of sacrifice:  Because of David’s sin of taking a census, the hand of God was set to destroy Israel, but the angel from God halted its destruction at the threshing floor of Araunah when David repented.  This special place where God would spare His people was Mount Moriah.  David went to purchase the land, but the owner, Araunah, wanted to give it to him – David would have none of it. “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!’” (I Chronicles 21:2-4)  It will cost us something to build on a firm foundation.  Careful planning, diligence and countless hours are just a few of the sacrifices that go into building a marriage and home or anything that will last.

Mount Moriah was a place of worship:  Solomon completed the beautiful and ornate Temple for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell, the presence of God.  May all that we build be a place of worship to God, where His presence dwells.  Solomon’s Temple was built with careful planning and the very best quality of supplies and furnishings – it was built to last forever.  However, 400 years later it lay in ruins.

The Temple had a firm foundation – it was built on faith in God, it was a place of sacrifice to God and it was a place of worship to God.  Should it not have lasted forever?  Although the foundation was good, the structure lost its function when the Israelites left the Temple and put their faith in other gods, sacrificed to other gods and worshiped them in others places.  They abandoned the very principles the Temple was built on, and God allowed pagans from other countries to demolish it.

From this sad history we learn not only to build our lives on faith in the Lord, but also to hold fast to those principles that guided us from the very beginning.  The world will forever attempt to seduce us with many other areas to place our faith, to offer our sacrifices and to bow our knee to worship, but it never ends well for us. What we build will last when we build on the Lord, our sure foundation, and we stand firm. 

Moving Forward: On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!

Tomorrow@Psalms 111-113

Numbers 21-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He has provided salvation through His Son

After seeing hundreds of young lives receive salvation and a touch by His Spirit at camp one summer, we drove the 45 minutes home over the weekend to get refreshed, wash clothes and buy supplies for the next week of camp. This particular weekend my husband Tom was out ministering, but I stayed home with our children.  I got up one night to visit the bathroom, and when just about finished, I looked down on the floor and saw movement.  It was a snake.

The snake in my bathroom had to be reckoned with because this worn out body would not get needed rest for the week ahead with a snake in the house.  I prayed for His strength, woke up my 9 year-old son and loaded us up with shovels and hoes. We went after that 14 inch snake as though our lives depended on it, and got it!  Unfortunately, the Israelites’ snake encounter did not go as well as ours did. 

@ Numbers 21
The Israelites had just won a huge battle and defeated the Canaanites.  The Promised Land was within a few days reach after 40 years in the desert, but they became impatient.  They knew the journey ahead through Moab would be long, they were tired of manna and they wanted to possess the land now.  They complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’ So the Lord sent poisonous [fiery] snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died.” (5-6)  Oh…

“Then the people came to Moses and cried out, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.’   So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!’ So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!” (7-9)  In a weakened moment after a great victory, the Israelites sinned, but a replica of the very thing that had caused them pain became their salvation.  In just a short time they went on to possess their land.

I don’t remember complaining about anything that summer weekend invoking a snake encounter to bring about correction from the Lord as it did with Israel.  I do know that I was worn out, somewhat depleted and a perfect target for the enemy who sends His fiery darts in weak moments.  It’s often after a great victory for the Lord, like the powerful camps we had experienced or the Israelites’ mighty victory, that the enemy brings his attack.  However, Jesus has already provided the remedy for us.

“And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)  Jesus became sin (2 Cor 5:21), became the very thing that was killing us so that we may be saved and have eternal life with Him.

And we may also look to Him for salvation from the enemy’s fiery attacks against the body, soul and spirit.  The enemy did not win in my life that weekend, and we went on for yet another great week at youth camp, lives changed by the power of God.  When we turn our focus to Jesus, high and lifted up, whatever our fiery trial may be, He will bring victory. 

Moving Forward:  Jesus lifted up! I look to Him today for salvation and deliverance because He paid the price for me on the cross. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 1-5

Philemon (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we generously forgive others

As a rule, we’ll do just about anything for our good friends.  We celebrate with them on their joyous occasions, and we run to them to give comfort and aid in their difficult moments.  It is disheartening to have a friendship dissolve over a dispute or offense.  In our reading today, Paul was treading on dangerous ground in his friendship with Philemon.

Philemon was a prosperous businessman in Colossae who hosted the church in his home.  Paul had nothing but good to say about him, “I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” (4-7)  A careful reader may catch that this is not just a casual letter, but one with an agenda of sorts, “praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith.”  A request was coming.

Philemon’s slave from the past, Onesimus, had either stolen from him or damaged his property and had run away.  This betrayal by someone he trusted had obviously caused heartache to Paul’s dear friend. Sometime later, the slave happened to encounter Paul in Rome and accepted the Lord as his Savior. Paul had some choices to make – keep Onesimus as his assistant and remain silent, turn Onesimus over to the Roman authorities where he could possibly face death or return him to Philemon for punishment.

And now the request, “That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you…I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus.  I became his father in the faith while here in prison.” (8-10) Circumstances had changed over the course of time. Yes, Onesimus was a slave, sadly a role that was acceptable at that time, but now he was a fellow believer.  Salvation is the great equalizer in life. “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:13).

Paul may have been referring to the meaning of the name “Onesimus” which means profitable or useful as he continued in his request, “Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.”(11) Paul was definitely placing their friendship on the line when he added a promise to personally pay everything Onesimus owed Philemon. He added, “I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!”  (19)

Although this comment sounds remarkably like a major guilt trip, Paul was counting on Philemon to remember that at one time he, too, was forgiven and set free from sin.  Jesus paid a debt for him that he did not owe just as Paul was willing to do for Onesimus.  This personal letter of Paul’s serves to remind us all of the forgiveness and grace that has been extended to us.  How could we not extend it to others?

In situations where others have cheated us or been unkind, it is so very helpful to remember that God loves them as much as He loves us.  He may not like their deeds, but He sent His Son to die for that very reason.  When we forgive and offer mercy to others, we are behaving like Jesus, and that could only be good. 

Moving Forward: Should the occasion arise today, I choose to forgive others for any unkindness, remembering that God loves them.

Tomorrow @ Numbers 21-24