Welcome 2015! A New Year 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 each day so we don’t miss what He has to say to us. My input will be the same as last year, but rest assured God’s revelation on the Bible reading will be fresh and up to the minute. As my friend Kim says, “How many times do we read the scriptures and something new pops out of the same scripture we’ve read many times before?” If you haven’t already done so, subscribe at the right to have devotionals sent daily to your email or phone – follow the reading plan and next year at this time you will have read through the Bible! Cover to cover, the Bible is a great life-changing read! Don’t miss it.

Job 41-42 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: With wisdom and mercy He directs our lives.  He can be trusted. 

The Job Finale!  The final two chapters of the season will have you glued to your…Bible.  Stay tuned as the drama unfolds. 

Previously in Job. In his accusation to God, Satan charged Job with believing in God only because of God’s goodness to him.  He wanted to test Job.  God responded, “All right, you may test him.” (1:12)  Job lost all his wealth, his children and his health.  As Job battles for his life, he is left with four accusers, a wife who wants him to die, his belief in God and the gnawing question of why this has happened to him.  On trial for crimes against his humanity Job defended himself against his accusers, refused to die despite his wife’s wishes and presented the case of his innocence.  Believing he was falsely accused, Job demanded to speak to the Judge, but the Judge had not entered the courtroom.  Job believed the Judge had ruled incorrectly in this case because he was innocent.  The Judge must answer questions as to why he has ruled in this way.  Where is the Judge? 

The following takes place today in Job.  The Judge entered the courtroom…
Forgive the dramatic pretense, but the story does read somewhat like a courtroom drama.  In some mysteries, the viewer is discovering who the culprit is right along with the detectives; in others, the viewer is privy to the crime and watches as the detectives discover the culprit.  In Job, we already know the scenario from Chapter 1, but other than God and Satan, none of the other characters are aware of the set up – ever.

Hitchcockesque in nature, the ending of the story never revealed to Job why all this trouble happened to him, but then that really isn’t the point of the Book of Job.

Job revolves around two major principles:  Our belief in God cannot be based on His goodness to us, but must be founded on Who He is.  This was the premise of Satan’s test, and Job passed the test and did not curse God when troubles came.  After losing everything, Job declared, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.” (19:25)

The second principles is that our trust or confidence in Him cannot be based on our goodness to Him.  This is where Job faltered.  In long soliloquies throughout the story, Job defended his innocence – he was very, very good and his goodness did not deserve this response from God.  He demanded answers, “Look, I will sign my name to my defense.  Let the Almighty answer me.” (31:35)  I get chill bumps every time I read this. Job revealed that he had lost confidence in God when he questioned God’s wisdom, God must have made a mistake.  Not good.

Finally, the Judge entered the courtroom.  God did not answer any of Job’s questions nor did He commend Job’s goodness.  Through a series of questions to Job, He revealed Who He is, and Job was humbled.  “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (42:5-6)  Job had nothing more to say.  Mission accomplished, case closed, the series ends! 

Epilogue. God rebuked the bumbling detectives/friends who tried to discover the reason for Job’s trial, and Job forgave them.  Then, God restored Job’s fortunes and “blessed him in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.” (42:12)  Everyone loves a happy ending.

The lessons of Job are invaluable.  We learn that God is Sovereign.  He loves and cares for us regardless of how good we are.  His ways are higher and more perfect than we could ever imagine, and in humility, we bow to His wisdom.  In Chapter 1, we learn that our enemy, Satan, is not all that!  He is not sovereign and must ask permission to do anything.  He is not omnipresent and must patrol the earth to find out what is going on.  He cannot read our minds nor foretell the future or he would have already known the outcome.  Someday, when we see him cast into his eternity, we will wonder how this sniveling nothing was able to make us think he was anything more than that.

As Job learned, life is not so much about what happens to us or why as much as it is about Who, Who our God is, and the relationship we have with Him along the way to eternity. 

Moving Forward: Whether or not this day finds the answers I seek, you are the living God!  I bow to your wisdom today, Lord. You know what is best. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 42-46

Psalms 60-62 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He hears our silent confidence as we wait for His help

There are several ways to say something without speaking.  A picture is worth a thousand words. A smile speaks volume.  Body language says it all.  The silent treatment can be deafening.  I knew a little girl who, in response to her mother’s look of disapproval, would cry, “You’re yelling at me,” yet not a word had been spoken.  And yes, as the old saying goes, silence can also be golden. 

@ Psalm 62
“Truly my soul silently waits for God…” (1,NKJV)  God hears our silent confidence with a volume that reverberates throughout heaven.  It says, “My hope is in Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.  My victory and honor come from God alone.” (5-7)  He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him (8) because it shows Him that we consider Him our refuge, our salvation, but even louder than our supplication, is our silent confidence that He is our hope.  It says the trial is over before there is evidence of it.  It says the victory is at hand regardless of the circumstance.

If a child still cries when in a parent’s arms, it’s saying its needs have not been met.  If I’m resting in the arms of the Lord, but I still make much noise, I’m saying my needs have not been met and perhaps I lack the confidence that they will be met. Yes, we are to “come boldly before the throne of God and make our petitions known,” and ask until we receive.  Absolutely!  However, there is a point in our asking, when the resolve comes to our souls, and we wait in confidence regarding our need.

The silent trust deep within our hearts becomes even louder than our words and says, “I will not be shaken.”  We should not fear that in our silence our needs will be forgotten.  He is the One holding us – how could He forget?  And He faithfully places our needs on the hearts and minds of others when they pray.

David’s psalms touch our hearts because they are expressions straight from his heart.  We see him as very human, walking through the struggles we face.  The giants we slay may not be tangible giants like Goliath, but they are giants nonetheless.  We have known betrayal from those we have trusted, and we understand struggles with temptation.

David set a pattern for us in most of his psalms:  He states the obvious – the problem or the enemy he is facing – but then he turns his attention to the One he knows will help him. David came through unbelievable trials in his life by his hope and confident trust in God.  “Let all that I am wait quietly before God…” (5). All, not just the part that God sees, not just what others see and not just in the mind, but also with our mouths.  Sometimes we just need to let our silence do the talking. Shh.. 

Moving Forward:  I will definitely turn up the volume today on my silence.  May my silent confidence be deafening throughout heaven to where the angels must cover their ears.

Tomorrow @ Job 41-42 (The Finale!)

2 Samuel 20-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His nature is forgiving and endlessly good

David may have been the original Renaissance Man – multitalented to say the least.  I’m hard pressed to think of another man who has carried the titles of shepherd, king, giant slayer, harp player, warrior, song writer and God lover.  Really. Who does all that? 

@ 2 Samuel 22
In the later years of his life, David fought a few more battles, killed a few more giants and wrote a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving to God, almost identical to Psalm 18.  In this chapter, he listed many of the characteristics of God he had observed throughout his lifetime of intimacy with Him. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior.” (2-3)

In His writing, David described a God who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, rewards, sees, shows faithfulness, reveals, enables, trains, helps, strengthens, preserves, avenges and loves.  Is this the God that I know?  Yes, yes and yes!  Because He lives with us, as we read in Exodus yesterday, we have the opportunity to observe all sides of His nature, and this is Who He is!

After reviewing David’s life for the past few weeks in our reading, including the Bathsheba incident, we may question David’s declaration of innocence in verses 21-25, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right.  He has seen my innocence.”  But this is the one characteristic of God that is the most amazing.  When we repent, and David was one who repented, He forgives and forgets.  He really does!

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Ps103:12) God doesn’t throw our repented sins in our faces to prove a point or rehearse them to make us feel badly. We live with the consequences of sin and often have trouble forgiving and forgetting ourselves, but He moves on. He wants our relationship with Him to continue, unfettered and unblemished. David said with confidence, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”(Ps51:7)

When I’m facing a difficult challenge or when life has thrown a few blows my way, I read the Psalms of David because of this expressive man’s ability to communicate the characteristics of God – He is the One who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, and the list goes on and on… 

Moving Forward: Because of God’s character, I move on with Him today as one of His forgiven, unfettered and unblemished, ever encouraged by the amazing nature of my God. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 60-62

Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with me or with you, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a lengthy detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and allows the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute. 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

2 Corinthians 11-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He provides loving shepherds to protect us from wolves in sheep’s clothing 

@2 Corinthians 11
It’s difficult to read about Paul’s humbling experience defending his ministry.  We know of his exploits of faith to establish churches around his world at that time, but apparently the Corinthians were not aware of them or chose to ignore them.  “Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool…I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more!…You have made me act like a fool—boasting like this.” (17,23;12:11)  Naturally Paul was embarrassed to defend his ministry.  After all, he was the one who had founded the church in Corinth, but now the circus had come to town!

Like well-trained carnival people, a group of false teachers had come to the Corinthian church with a pitch that sucked the congregation in under its influence. Like the famous circus showman P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and they were being duped.  Just like a father will do anything to protect his young child, Paul, who had fathered this young church, was willing to sound like a madman in order to shake the church free from this deception.  Had these false teachers endured beating, stoning, imprisonment and other dangers in order to preach the message of Christ?  Were they afflicted with a thorn in the flesh to insure humility?  Paul felt confident that they had not.

Unfortunately, these charlatans still exist today and their message extends past the local church right into our homes through all forms of media.  How do we keep from falling prey to false teachers who want to deceive us?  Paul gave us insight into their pitch:

  • Do they preach a “different Jesus than the one we preach…a different kind of Spirit than the one you received…a different kind of gospel than the one you believed?” (4)
  • Do they mesmerize their listeners through their smooth talking? (5-6) The Greeks were known for theatrical prowess, but content should never be second to performance.
  • Do they deceive about their credentials and require huge payment for their ministry?  (7-9)
  • Do they disguise themselves as servants of righteousness but their lifestyle does not confirm it (13-15)
  • Do they boast about human achievement? (18;10:18) Paul did so in his defense, but with disdain and embarrassment.
  • Do they attempt to tear down other proven ministries? (22-23) It’s obvious the false teachers had done their best to tear down Paul’s ministry or he would not have felt the need to defend it.

Paul ended his letter to the Corinthians just as any loving father would follow up a discipline, “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words:  Be joyful.  Grow to maturity.  Encourage each other.  Live in harmony and peace.  Then the God of love and peace will be with you…May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (13:11-14)  Paul obviously loved this congregation that he had fathered in spite of their failings.

Many ministries we view on television and the internet are valuable to the kingdom of God and serve a valuable role in the church.  They may reach people that the local church cannot reach, and I am thankful for their faithfulness to the call. Sometimes the credentials of media and itinerant ministries are difficult to evaluate, and sadly, sometimes we are fooled by impostors.

There really is not a substitute for the compassion and guidance of the local shepherd who is concerned about the growth and health of each of his sheep.  He is the pastor who is with us in the difficult times of life to help and strengthen, the one who tells us not what we want to hear but want we need to hear.  The pastor knows that he will face us each week and understands that his message must be consistent and honest.  There’s nothing like the shepherd who sticks with the sheep. 

Moving Forward:  I am thankful for my pastor today and pray God’s abundant blessings on him and on his family.  I will protect my eyes, ears and heart from those who seek to deceive me with a flamboyant but empty message.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 29-32

Luke 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the way we live, He sees our true repentance.  He gives the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word to counter the enemy’s attacks.

John the Baptist certainly had a unique style of ministry. “When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented.” (3:7-8)  Wouldn’t that approach draw the crowds today!  Perhaps he was dining on too many locusts and not enough wild honey, and, of course, camel hair can be so scratchy. (Matthew 3:4)

Actually, this voice in the wilderness, filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, discerned that many had come to hear his message simply to escape eternal punishment, as if he were a lucky charm.  He was looking for true repentance of sins and a changed life. John told his listeners to prove that they had repented by being generous, honest and kind to one another at the very least. (3:10-14) Great advice from the wilderness evangelist!

I’ve always known those who consider church-going their lucky charm, keeping the Big Guy happy with them, but never allowing His power to change their lives.  Because God loves their souls, He often allows challenging situations to occur in their lives to get their attention and to turn their hearts toward Him.  This is when we are able to step in to encourage and undergird them with generosity, honesty and kindness expressed by John in Chapter 3.  Time and time again I’ve seen those out on the fringe of God’s grace turn to a true relationship with Him.

It’s interesting to note that while Jewish Matthew’s genealogy only went back to Abraham, Luke the Greek went all the way back to Adam, proving once again that Jesus, our elder brother, is related to all mankind.  Luke’s love of details blesses me. 

@ Luke 4
I wish I could say that our walk with the Lord is paved only with wonderful moments, but that wouldn’t be true.  Fresh out of the carpentry shop at age 30, Jesus was baptized in water, filled with the Holy Spirit and started His ministry in the wilderness with a full-fledged frontal attack by Satan.  And sometimes we think we’re having a bad day!

The record of this encounter is filled with many truths about the Kingdom of God, but two of them stood out today in my reading.  Satan had been successful in his temptation of Adam and Eve, and the failure of Jesus would certainly have been a plus for him.  However, even trying to tempt Jesus proves one glaring fact:  Satan does not know the future.  Although he often confronts us with fears and outcomes that sound prophetic in nature, he’s just guessing!  He is offering what he wishes to be true; and just like Jesus did, we should resist him.

How did Jesus resist him?  By quoting scripture!  The two-edged sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in our armor against the enemy. (Eph. 6:17)   When He was under attack, Jesus did not hesitate to bring out His Sword to take down His attacker.  We keep our weapon sharp and ready for use by our daily attention to the Word and its application to our lives.  The enemy knows scripture too, but Satan’s misuse of scripture in his encounter with Jesus left him powerless – knowledge without relationship is futile.

Being the slow learner that he is, the enemy will make many attempts to bring us down just as he tried with Jesus, but armed with our fine-tuned weapon and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are invincible!  “Submit yourselves, then, to God,” is the often neglected part of James 4:7; submit first to Him and to His Word, then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)  Armed and dangerous! 

Moving Forward: As I carry with me His Word today, I face the day armed and dangerous against any attacks. With generosity, honesty and kindness – proof of a changed life – I will undergird and encourage those that He is drawing into true relationship with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 11-13

Jeremiah 37-41 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He rewards our faithfulness when we face opposition

I always marveled at the tenacity and courage of an elderly man who stood day after day on various busy corners in our city wearing a placard that said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Through the years I saw him receive many signs of agreement with honking, thumbs up and friendly waves.  I also saw crude gestures and unkind words; however, this did not deter the man from doing what he felt was his part in building the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t let his temporary comfort level and the measure of his popularity affect the eternal destination of a soul that needed to hear the good news.  I never heard if anyone’s life was changed by his stand for the Lord, but rest assured, Heaven was keeping track of it.

The story of Judah’s last king is a sad one.  King Zedekiah was only 21 years old when he was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to rule over Judah as his vassal.  Maybe his age played into his poor leadership, but regardless, he was only interested in saving his own life.  The prophet Jeremiah was unpopular with the king and the Israelites living in Judah because his message from God was one they didn’t want to hear – surrender to God or die.

The king’s officials had imprisoned and beaten Jeremiah because they hated his message, yet the king secretly listened to the prophet’s message, “King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, ‘Do you have any messages from the Lord?’” (37:17)  Zedekiah was not willing to openly accept the message of the prophet because of fear of what his officials would think of him.  What would they do to him? Jeremiah, however, bravely spoke God’s message no matter what the consequences.

Zedekiah would one day regret his cowardice.  He eventually lost his kingdom, lost his family, lost his eyes and lost his freedom. (39:6-7)  We do not have the promise that our stand for God will always save our lives – many have been martyred through the centuries – but we will be able to look back without regret.

Jeremiah had suffered much because he took a stand in the face of opposition, but he ultimately came out the winner.  Jeremiah was offered freedom and protection by the Babylonian king who took Israel captive.  What a different outcome than that of Zedekiah!  The words of Jesus come to mind in Luke 12:8, “I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.”

God may never lead us to wear a sign on the street corner, but He is expecting us to boldly stand for truth whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity. Whether it’s a new job or new neighborhood or perhaps a new relationship, taking a stand and proclaiming truth in love are just easier over the long haul.  They involve no cover-up or fancy footwork, promise no regrets and secure a place in heaven before God’s angels. 

Moving Forward:  May I live this day without regrets, not missing even one opportunity to take a stand for the One who will one day take a stand for me before all of Heaven. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 3-4

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