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.

Isaiah 45-50 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He teaches us what is good for our lives

It seems like almost every day I run to the Internet for answers that I need immediately – what did I do before Google? Guess at the answers?  The internet offers us an answer to every possible question within seconds just by one quick little Google click.  It gives guidance and directions based on information handcrafted by man.

I love the 30 different German Chocolate Cake recipes I immediately had at my disposal to choose from today. Well, I may allow it to give me directions for a cake, but there’s not a chance it will give directions for my life unless, of course, God chose to use it for that purpose.  Many wonderful scripture-based Christian sites are uplifting and great ministry tools, but ultimately I turn to the Source of all knowledge for His guidance and direction.

Just as we are sojourners in this life on our way to Heaven, the Israelites were captive sojourners in Babylon.  They were struggling to keep their faith in the true and living God and were tempted by the idol worship of Babylonian gods going on all around them.  In Isaiah 46, God reminded His people of the origin of these idols, “Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move!  And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” (6-7) I’ve known more than a few individuals who treat their computers/smart phones like an idol…pour out their cash to buy it…carry it around all day…and nearly worship it. Help!

As sojourners, we are surrounded by idols crafted by the world and capable of pulling us away from the true and living God.  Besides the distraction the internet offers, we can find advice and counsel from television talk shows and news programs on just about every subject imaginable.  Most of the information sources available to us today are helpful, but they are fallible and often derived from ungodly resources.  Would we really want them to direct our lives? 

“Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (46:10) While our enemy would like us to think that he knows the future, he does not and only spews out what he wishes to be the future.  Basing our direction on this false information is just as useless as man’s handcrafted devices.  There really is only one Source that can be trusted.

“I am the Lord your god, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” (48:17) While this is amazing in itself, God reveals the intimacy of His love for Israel and for all those who love Him, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (49:16)  Incredible!  Why would I ever look to anyone or anything else for guidance in my life! 

Moving Forward:  It’s you, Lord, the one whose direction I seek, no one other than you. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 23-25

Job 17-18 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He put up security for our redemption

I have a friend who is a bail bondsman.  Being the gentleman that he is, he has never gone into great detail about his work, but needless to say it is not a typical nine to five job.  When a defendant is in jail on criminal charges and desires to be released until trial, a large fee or bail is required as a deposit to insure that the defendant will not skip town.  When the defendant is unable to pay this deposit and family and friends refuse to do so, a bondsman is contacted to pay the bail and serve as a guarantor that the defendant will appear in court.

It’s a risky business and some defendants jump bail, leaving the bondsman holding the debt, and we can understand why he or she tracks down the defendant. After all, the bail has already been paid! Poor Job understood this practice and was looking for a bondsman to free him from his jail of affliction and suffering.  Job was looking for his get out of jail free card. 

@Job 17
“Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.  Who else will put up security for me?” (3, NIV)  Job called on God to act as his guarantor, to pay what was necessary to free him from his miserable situation.  Who else will put up security for me? We certainly know that it wouldn’t be his friends who had already tried and convicted him, case closed.

While God abundantly blessed Job over the next many years, Job’s cry for a bondsman, for the everlasting bondsman, was answered some 2000 years later when Someone paid Job’s bail, not with money but with His very blood, Job’s guarantor. “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time.” (Romans 3:25-26)  Amazing!

This reminds me of the old song, “He paid a debt he did not owe.  I owed a debt I could not pay.  I needed someone, to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song ‘Amazing Grace.’  Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.” (G. McSpadden) These words sums up the freedom Jesus gave us at Calvary – we’re out on bail awaiting eternal judgment where the Judge will declare innocent all those who have received Jesus’ payment.

However, not everyone has honored Christ’s generous payment – there are so many bail jumpers. Just like the bondsman for the courts, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)  Some would say it was risky business sending His Son to die to us, and we can understand why God has sent us to round up those who are running from their day in court.  Don’t they understand that the debt has been paid for them?   “And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 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…We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)  My heart cries with Paul, “Come back to God.” 

Moving Forward: I can never thank the Lord enough for taking a chance on me!  I will, at the very least, help Him capture with His love all those who are running from Him. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 45-50

Psalms 24-26 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to give direction for our lives

What is it with men and asking for help with directions when driving?  I’m not into man bashing by any means, but I don’t understand their reluctance to ask for help in finding an address, store or whatever.  I think it may have something to do with their God-given drive to conquer, defend and provide, but I’m not certain.  Fortunately, put an electronic device in the hands of a man, and he’ll ask it to find absolutely everything.  A word of praise for the GPS!  The Psalmist David, on the other hand, had no trouble asking God for directions – a great paradigm for men and women alike! 

@ Psalm 25
“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” (4-5) Astonishing! A man asking for directions – a King nonetheless!   In truth, women are often guiltier than men in trying to move forward in their own strength and wisdom without asking for God’s guidance because they are multitaskers, always doing, fixing and nurturing.  Most certainly, everyone needs God’s direction every day.

In the next several verses, David shared who may receive God’s directions and how He reveals His direction.  The Lord gives directions to “those who go astray…the humble…all who keep His covenant and obey His demands…those who fear the Lord.” And God reveals His direction in different ways, “he shows the proper path…he leads…teaching them His way…with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (8-12)

Sometimes we miss God’s directions because our view of how He reveals His guidance is too limited.  Yes, we love the wide open door that only the clueless individual could miss; but most often He reveals our path by leading us one step at a time to our future.  The Word of God is God’s instrument, His GPS if you will, to teach us His ways, the non-negotiable path to His promises.  Regardless of how God leads, we can rest assured that He will lead with “unfailing love and faithfulness” when we follow Him with a heart of obedience.

When we stand before that fork in the road, when we see no way forward at all or when we cry, “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow,” we have this assurance from David, “Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who reverence Him, and with them He shares the secrets of His promises.” (14,TLB)  To His friends He will reveal His promises; and the path to His promises that may be hidden from view at times, He will show the way.  His guidance is never early, His guidance is never late, and it will always deliver us safely to our destination. 

Moving Forward:  Based on our friendship, I believe He will direct my path today, and I will trust His faithfulness and His perfect timing.

Tomorrow @ Job 17-18

Judges 17-21 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the Constant in our lives

For those who know me, it’s not a secret that I’m a coffee drinker – espresso, lattes, cappuccinos – so much so that I have my own espresso machine with all the little devices that go along with it to promise a good cup of coffee.  When I froth the milk, I use an instant read thermometer because I like my milk at 170°; and just an additional note of information, the lower the milk fat content, the better the froth.  I don’t like giving the impression that I’m overly particular about my coffee…but I am.  Recently I noticed that my drinks were not as hot as I like them to be although the thermometer read the right temperature.  I knew it was time to calibrate my thermometer.

Using a small tool, I adjusted the thermometer to read 32° when inserted in a cup of ice and water because one of the constants in my life is the fact that water freezes at 32°.  Two plus two will always be four, 12 inches make up a foot, water at sea level boils at 212° – these are constants I can count on no matter what I’m facing in life.

Even though I would like to make $2 plus $2 to equal $1,000, it just isn’t going to happen because we can’t change the constants to fit our desires or to match our lifestyles. We can run as far away from our constants as we possibly can, but whether we have lost sight of them of not, they are still constant, unchanging, and resolute.  These truths, however, did not keep Israel from trying to change God, the most irrefutable Constant in their lives.

@ Judges 17
“One day [Micah] said to his mother, ‘I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.’ ‘The Lord bless you for admitting it,’ his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, ‘I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.’” (2-3)  I’m not sure what part of Exodus 20:4,You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, this mother did not understand, but she chose to disregard the irrefutable Sovereignty of God and make a more user friendly version for herself.  Eventually, Israel was destroyed because it chose to follow this example by worshiping idols as well.  The constant of God’s Word is unchangeable. 

@ Judges 19-21
The dismal story of the Levite and his concubine is heart wrenching to say the least, and the list of characters in this story that lost sight of their constant is long.  From the selfish Levite to the perverted Benjamites and to the Israelite army, all were living for themselves and making judgments based on tribal loyalties rather than the constants of God’s Word.  Even after God gave the army victory over the Benjamite warriors, they sought their own means to provide wives for the few remaining men of Benjamin. Obviously, the Israelites needed some recalibrating to the Constant in their lives, but unfortunately they had lost sight of Him.

The last verse of the Book of Judges sums up the reason for all the sin, rash vows, civil war and bloodshed, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (21:25)  The Israelites chose to reject the unchangeable King of all kings and all the constants He provided – constant love, constant guidance, constant provision and so much more – because they did not want to obey the constants of His commandments.   They chose poorly. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for all the constants of the Lord, including His commandments – “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  His Word keeps me calibrated to my Constant!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 24-26

Genesis 32-35 (NLT) 

Discovering His heart: He gives the assurance of victory in response to our tenacious prayer

The assurance is a term I remember from my childhood. It meant praying until the assurance came – the word, the guarantee, the promise that would flood our beings with calm and confidence.   Although it’s not a term I hear used very often today, the assurance is still ours when we pray through, not giving up until that sense of victory fills our hearts.  In our reading today, Jacob wrestled through to his victory.

@Genesis 32
I would imagine that Jacob’s heart sunk down around his knees – yes, humanly impossible, yet feels so real – when his messengers returned with the news that Esau was advancing with an army of 400 men.  As any father would do, Jacob went into protection mode and divided the wives, children and animals into two groups—perhaps one group would survive.  “Then Jacob prayed…” (9)

In his prayer, Jacob reminded God, twice, of His promises to him, “O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’” (9) What better ground did Jacob have to make his plea to God for help than to remind Him of His promise, something David did repeatedly in the Psalms.  And better yet, God knew Jacob had been paying attention to His words.  When we are facing a challenge, we can boldly remind God of His promises – whether standing on His written Word or those He shares deep within our hearts.  I believe He is blessed that we have been paying attention.

“O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” (11)  Jacob’s prayer revealed that he was afraid, and in that fear he assumed that Esau was coming to kill him.  Cautionary fears, such as touching fire, protect us in life because we respect what that fire can do, but baseless fear never produces a reasonable response.  Jacob, reminiscent of his mother, decided he would help God out by trying to appease Esau with an abundance of gifts.  As we soon learn, this was an exercise in futility – Esau was not angry and these gifts were unwanted and somewhat insulting to Esau because he was a wealthy man.  Our fears produce unreasonable responses to our problems – exercises in futility.

Jacob!  Always the schemer – but not for long!  Jacob sent his gifts and family ahead, but stayed behind in the camp and had an encounter with an angel, a wrestling match like no other.  Jacob was about to earn the blessing he had received through deception so long ago from his father. All through the night, Jacob wrestled the angel with tears and pleading (Hosea 12:4) and would not stop until he received the blessing, the victory, the assurance.  Jacob left Peniel, the face of God, with a limp and a new name, Israel, both reminders that God would be in control of his life now, no deceiving and scheming, a Prince with God.

Even better for us today is that we do not wrestle alone!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)  Oh, that we would be as tenacious as Jacob, praying until the assurance comes and until we receive the blessing.  Blessed Assurance!

Moving Forward:  I choose to relinquish baseless fears that only bring futile responses from me.  In my challenges today, I will wrestle with tenacious prayer until the assurance comes, moving forward with a calm heart and with confidence in His promises. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 17-21

I Corinthians 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to share His wisdom and deep secrets with us

My husband recently purchased a Kindle for me, a nifty little electronic book that is less than one fourth of an inch thick yet holds an entire library of reading.  I must admit that I love the feel and weight of tangible books, flipping through those pages and smelling the ink; but at the time of purchase, the Kindle was ideal for my travel.  It was a used Kindle, so after reading through the manual, I deleted most of the previous library, not really interested in Sci-Fi and horror.

My mind was having trouble getting around the concept of adding books to this little device because surely the process would be complicated and filled with technical lingo.  To my amazement, in two or three clicks, using very familiar terms to me like purchase and select, my new book was there on my Kindle in black and white.  I did my best to make the process more complicated than it really was because sometimes it’s difficult to accept that something of worth could be so simple to attain.  Paul wrote about this very thing in our reading today. 

@ I Corinthians 1
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (21-23)

The Gospel is uncomplicated:  John 3:16 – God loved, God gave.  We believe, we receive.  For the intellectuals who were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day, this message was foolish and too simple to be true.  For those with a religious background, the Jews, this message was foolish and too simple to be of value.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  So many neighbors and acquaintances through the years have looked down their long intellectual noses as I’ve shared the simple Gospel with them, and many religious people, those who have been christened or confirmed or catechismed, have no need for the truth I am sharing.  Yet, if they will accept this simple Gospel, a door to wisdom will open for them that is so deep that only the Spirit can reveal its truths. 

@ I Corinthians 2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (9-10) The Gospel of salvation may be simple, but God’s deep secrets will never be understood without it.

With salvation come the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to understand God’s Word and the secrets it contains.  “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (12)

We will never understand all the mysteries and depths of God’s wisdom while here on earth, but those recorded in the Bible, at the very least, are available to us through His Spirit – His love for us, His intentions, and His direction. Isn’t that what the early Greeks and Jews were seeking in all their philosophical debates and teachings?  Isn’t that what people everywhere today are seeking?  Love, purpose and direction?  And it all begins with acceptance of the simple Gospel – God loved, God gave. We believe, we receive.   Simple but priceless. 

Moving Forward: I will continue to seek out through the Spirit the revelation of His wisdom, the mind of Christ.  And I will continue sharing the simple Gospel, undaunted by the intellectuals and religious, and finding those hearts that desire to learn God’s deep secrets. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 32-35

Matthew 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is mercy and grace

My first real job out of high school was working in the stenographer’s pool at a large bank while I attended college.  Different departments throughout the bank called the steno pool when they needed someone to take dictation, do filing, answer phones, etc.  The goal of everyone in the pool was to eventually find a permanent position somewhere in the bank.

One employee who had worked there for a long time was a source of irritation for most of us as we waited for our escape because of her poor work ethic.  On occasion I thought how great it would be to file my nails, make personal phone calls or in my case do homework while on company time.  It seemed unfair that she was paid for 40 hours each week like the rest of us, but for some reason a measure of grace and mercy was given to her. This was bothersome to us because in the natural, we don’t want grace for others as much as we want justice!  Thankfully, we’re not God. 

@Matthew 20
In Matthew 20, Jesus shared a parable about grace and mercy, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.” (1-2)  Normal pay for a normal day sounds reasonable.  Throughout the day the landowner added workers, even up to the final hour of the workday, and a conflict arose when their pay was divvied out.

“When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’” (10-12)  I feel their pain. I’ve heard these simple definitions of mercy and grace:  Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve; grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  Matthew 20:1-16 is all over this.

In the same way, it may seem unfair that someone with a death-bed conversion to Christ who lived a pleasure-filled godless life will spend eternity in Heaven with God and with all those who lived submitted and obedient lives to Him. But it is really unfair?  Would any of us be so bold as to say we deserve eternity in Heaven because of our righteousness?  That any of us will spend eternity with the Lord is only because a righteous God spared us from what we deserved and gave us what we didn’t deserve through our acceptance of Jesus Christ – plain and simple.

As far as my co-worker from so long ago, one day I realized that she had missed the point.  She was still in the steno pool long after the rest of us had moved on to a better position in the bank.  Mercy kept her employed and grace kept her paycheck coming, but she missed out on all that she could have achieved and enjoyed along the way.

Those who come late in life to the Lord miss out on the abundant life He offers here on earth, and even more so, they miss out on the pleasure that comes from a lifetime of pursuing His purpose for them.  God is merciful, but waiting to come to Him does not secure the abundant life on earth He has offered us.

I am ever mindful that God has given each of us assignments to accomplish while we tread this sod, but our purpose, both on earth and in Heaven, is something much different.  He has given us life, our very next breath, for the purpose of fellowship and intimacy with Him. Obedience and self-denial may be our path to Him, but anything we surrender is insignificant compared to the pure pleasure of His company! 

Moving Forward:  I approach this day with a greater understanding and thankfulness for His mercy and grace on my life.  Before I accomplish the myriad of things I must do today, I first will pursue the pleasure of His company.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 1-2

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