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!

Jeremiah 27-31 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will be found when we search for Him with our whole hearts

When someone has both good news and bad news to offer us, we are often asked, “Which do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?  I usually prefer to hear the bad news first so that the conversation can end on a high note.  Some people feel they can only handle bad news after a healthy dose of good news to fortify them.  Jeremiah had been sharing devastating news to the Israelites for quite some time, not that it had done much to change their lifestyles, but finally he was given words of hope and encouragement from the Lord for His people.  And great news it was! 

@Jeremiah 29
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon contained some of Scripture’s most quoted and encouraging verses, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.’” (11-13)

The best news on the planet today is that He has plans for us and He knows what they are even when we don’t.  If I understood why He so often waits to share those plans with us, I would certainly explain it, but most of the time I just don’t know why.  I do know that He reveals His hope-filled future for us at just the right moment, His right moment, and they are good plans, plans we could not have made through our own limited abilities.

In addition to the good advice from yesterday’s reading in Job to “glorify His mighty works, singing songs of praise” when we are waiting on Him, God has given us some tangible steps to follow while we wait on Him.  “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! (5-6)  In other words, we are encouraged to continue on in life with hopeful optimism, preparing for the future with what we know to do until His plans are revealed.  During this time, we are challenged to look for Him wholeheartedly – enthusiastically, sincerely, unconditionally, with a whole heart – and He has promised that He will be found.

In the holding pattern, it’s easy for me to become discouraged and want to give up.  Where are you, God?  What is Your plan? But, of course, this response to my challenge is not the wholehearted response He desires.  I have determined to keep building, planting and seeking Him with the understanding that He is listening and I will find Him!

Obviously, with all this activity there is little time for moping, pouting, withdrawing or hermiting.  If we follow His instructions, we move forward with hope, confidence and prayer, waiting for the revelation of His good plans! 

Moving Forward:  Help me today, Lord, to follow your instructions and wholeheartedly look for You and Your plan as I build, plant, eat and do all that I know to do. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 15-16

Job 35-36 (NLT)

Discover His heart:   He uses our challenges to teach us and help us grow

Shortly after surviving the terrible twos when raising our children, we enter the world of Why?  Why do I have to brush my teeth? Why do I have to eat my broccoli? Why do I have to go to bed?  Why do stars shine? Why, why, why?  When my grandson, Kai, entered his twos (not terrible in the least bit) his inquisitive mind jump-started right into the world of why.  Is it ever okay to say that I just don’t know why? It was a long year, but we loved every minute of it.

This ritual seems to be the way we accumulate knowledge in our early years, and sometimes that nagging why continues to plague us even into adulthood. We just can’t seem to get past why things are happening to us.  Most of the great leaders in the Bible asked God why at one time or another, but Job seemed to be stuck there. At some point along the way we all learn that the real question is not why, but what. 

@Job 35
When we’re making every effort to live right, resisting things that we would like to do in order to remain pure yet pain and suffering come our way, we’re attempted to share Job’s dismal outlook.  What’s the use of it?  If we continue to wallow in this opinion, we give the impression that we are more correct about our circumstance, more righteous than God in how it should be handled. Not good. Just like Job, we may not have the full picture of our situation, but God most certainly does.

Elihu raised an interesting point, “If you sin, how does that affect God?  Even if you sin again and again what effect will it have on Him?  If you are good, is this some great gift to Him?  What could you possibly give Him?” (6-7) Elihu was right in saying God is neither damaged nor improved by our behavior, but He failed to say that God is blessed by our praise and grieved by our disobedience. 

@ Job 36
“God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress.  He is setting your table with the best food.  But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged.” (16-17) In his dissertation, Elihu was attempting to stop Job from focusing on why he was suffering and why other, more evil people, were not.  Self pity never serves us well.  He wanted Job to learn what God was trying to teach him through his suffering.

When it’s all said and done, I’ve found it’s always better to ask the Lord what rather than why when I am going through a challenging situation because it usually shortens the length of my discomfort.  What can I learn through this suffering?  What lesson will help me move forward to the other side?  Job’s what was right around the corner in Chapter 38.

Look, God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like Him?  No one can tell Him what to do, or say to Him, ‘You have done wrong.’  Instead, glorify His mighty works, singing songs of praise…Look, God is greater than we can understand.” (22-26)  Some good advice from Elihu at this point.  When I am in that holding pattern, with few answers and little direction, one thing I can do is glorify His mighty work in my life, thanking Him for all His blessings in days past.  I can sing songs of praise to Him, expressing my love for Who He is and for His power to deliver. 

Moving Forward: I will praise Him today through my circumstances, opening my heart to what He is longing to share with me.. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 27-31

 

Psalms 51-53 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will never reject a broken spirit and a contrite heart

The ocean is dramatic, the mountains are majestic, but for me nothing beats the white and purity of new fallen snow, pure and simple.  Of course, science tells us that this moisture falling through the atmosphere collects dirt particles and debris, etc., but as its glistening blanket covers the earth, we only see spotless white.  In light of this, it’s humbling to imagine ourselves as whiter than snow because of His purification, but this was the cry of David’s heart as he cried out to God in repentance. 

@ Psalm 51
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be whiter than snow… Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (7,9-10)  God forgave David for his dreadful sins in the Bathsheba moment of his life because of true repentance.  Forgiveness didn’t come because of David’s sorrow for having been caught in his sin or because he feared losing God’s favor, but because of true repentance. Contrition was shown through repentance when David asked of God:

  • Wash me from my guilt (2)
  • Purify me (7)
  • Return my joy (8)
  • Create a clean heart in me (10)
  • Renew a right spirit (10)
  • Restore your presence and Holy Spirit in my life (11)
  • Make me willing to obey, (12) a fearsome request
  • Forgive me (14)

He didn’t ask God to roll back the clock or ignore his sin, and he didn’t offer immediate sacrifices to ease the pain of it all or stop the hand of God.  In return for God’s forgiveness, David said:

  • I will teach your ways to other rebels (13)
  • I will sing of your forgiveness (14) which he did in many, many Psalms
  • I will praise you with unsealed lips (15)

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one…the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (16-17) It’s human nature to blame others for our sins or even to blame original sin (5-6), but then this would not be true repentance.  A broken spirit says, “I did it.”  A broken and repentant heart says, “I did it. I will do right.”  This He will not reject.

Every day I ask God to purify my heart of all wrong doings – deliberate sins to be sure, but also those more secreted sins, like unforgiveness, judging others, pride, envy, resentment, etc., sins that often lead to deliberate sins when left unchecked.  Secreted sin led David to adultery and murder when first he lusted.  In response to my prayer, God so faithfully reveals to me where I have failed, and when I repent, He forgives and purifies my heart.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Moving Forward:  Purify my heart today, dear Lord.  Make me whiter than snow! 

Tomorrow @ Job 35-36

2 Samuel 5-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Holy Spirit dwells in us

When I read the story of Uzzah and the Ark, I always think of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Indiana’s arrogant archaeologist rival opened the Ark of the Covenant and then melted into the floor because of the power it contained.  The hero was spared because he respected its power and refused to look on it.  No doubt the author and filmmakers had read some scriptures and took some liberties, but the story does give us pause to consider the unfathomable power of God. 

@ 2 Samuel 6
“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God…God struck him dead because of this.” (6-7)  Frightening.  Uzzah’s motivation was to be helpful, but his action was careless, as was David’s.  Had David followed God’s law in moving the Ark, on poles carried by Levites, Uzzah would never have had to make the choice he did.  It seems that both men in their enthusiasm to move the Ark to Jerusalem failed to reverence its power source.

After Uzzah’s death, David understood the power connected to the Ark and was afraid to have this power source with him in Jerusalem.  Had I been present in the procession that day when David was determining what to do with the Ark, I’d like to think I would have been waving, jumping up and down and calling out, “I’ll take it!  I won’t touch it!”  Can you imagine the very presence of God dwelling in your home?  Blessings for your entire household?

Oh!  That’s right!  His Spirit does dwell with us!  Once we are purified by the blood of Jesus, we house the very Spirit of God, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  We are not reduced to puddles on the floor in His presence because without this purification, we could never host the Holy Spirit in our homes and experience His wisdom and power in our lives.  But do we really understand the Power within us?

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of hosting the Holy Spirit in my home, and wonder how often I fail to reverence its power source.  Today it’s not a problem of reaching out to touch it as with Uzzah, but it’s more a problem of failing to touch it.  So often I face a challenge, fix this or that problem and carry its stress all by myself when the power source of all Heaven is dwelling in me. “And the Holy Spirit [dwelling in us] helps us in our weakness…pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Perhaps our lack in trusting and using this powerful Source within us is a form of disrespect as well.  Because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we may not experience a physical meltdown, but we may go through an emotional or spiritual meltdown even though this great power to overcome all challenges is available to us.  With a purified heart, we have no need to fear an Uzzah experience.  The Spirit is on our side and waiting to help us.  Go ahead, reach out and touch Him! 

Moving Forward:  Unafraid, my heart sings for more, “More Love, More Power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart…” (J. Del Hierro)  Blessings for my entire household! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 51-53

Exodus 17-20 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His special treasures

No visit to London is complete without a visit to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels of England, an interesting location for them to say the least.  The lower floors of the Tower display various methods of torture used in England’s history, and all I can say is that crime and punishment were taken very seriously in early England.  Help!

The Tower’s Jewel House, under serious armed guard I might add, displays centuries of priceless crowns and jewels viewed by millions of people each year.  At first I wondered why the royal family would take the risk to display their fortune, but when I considered the price I paid for my ticket to see the jewels, it all came together for me.  I appreciate, however, that they have chosen to display their treasure for the entire world to see.  And really, God has this same perspective about His special treasure. 

@ Exodus 17
Israel defeated the Amalekites!  What a great story from Israeli history.  The Amalekites were the evil descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau.  Although they were from the same bloodline as the Israelites, there was not a bond of brotherhood.  I call them evil because it was said of them that they killed purely for the pleasure of it, but their contest with the Israelites brought them no pleasure.  Due to Joshua’s leadership and to loyal staff who stood by Moses’ side, they were soundly defeated.

I’m always blessed by this great example of the role of under staff.  Moses climbed to the top of a hill to see the battle, but it was equally importantly for the warriors to see their leader.  I can imagine looking up and seeing the silhouette of my leader holding high his staff over his head like a banner, Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my banner.  Along side of him, I see his assistants, not jealous or lazy, not arguing or bored, but holding up their leader’s tired arms until the victory was won.  Oh, I like that!  Leadership has a heaviness to it that few understand, and those who support the leader ease the burden and enable the banner or standard to remain lifted until the victory is won. 

@ Exodus 19
“Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among the people on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.  And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.” (5-6)  What a great message of promise from God that Moses delivered to the Israelites that day!  God’s own special treasure!  But God’s desire was not to hide His treasure in safekeeping as we do sometimes with treasures.  No, God’s plan was for His treasure to be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him.

In every covenant or contract there always seems to be an if clause, and God included His if clause, “Now, if you obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure.”(5)  God knew what it would take to make and keep this strong-willed nation worthy of such a covenant, and He gave to Moses a list of practical guidelines laid out over the next several chapters for the Israelites to follow.  More guidelines were revealed over time, each attempting to bring holiness to His treasure.  Of course, after centuries of resistance, God finally had enough and personally came to His people through His son Jesus Christ.  The if clause was no longer just a list of guidelines to follow, but it was now a personal Savior to accept and follow.

It humbles me to think that through my adoption into this family (Romans 8:15), God considers me His own special treasure as well.  This is cause to jump for joy and/or fall on my knees!  I am, however, ever mindful of the if clause.  While no longer required to follow the endless regiment of laws found Exodus, I am still challenged to a life of holiness as I follow Jesus.  Then I, too, will be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him – His treasure. 

Moving Forward: As His special treasure, I am compelled to support the leaders I serve, making certain our victory.  And as His treasure, I seek the brilliance of His holiness today in my life that I may draw many others to Him 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 5-9

2 Corinthians 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  “And God has given us the task of reconciling people to Him.”

When election time rolls around, we have an opportunity to choose by ballot individuals who are elected to represent us in the federal and state governments.  Compared to many forms of governing around the world, this system of representative government is desirable over dictatorships and communism. However, we run into problems when the representatives choose not to represent their constituents and succumb to pure politics. Any time representatives or ambassadors fail to perform their duties, there is a breakdown in communication and the system fails.  May we never be guilty of failing to serve faithfully in our roles as ambassadors. 

@2 Corinthians 5
“And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him…So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (18-20)

Just like Paul, as believers in Jesus, we are His ambassadors.  Just what we need – another task!  We are already spinning so many, many plates – providing income, meals, clean clothes, clean homes, raising children. Where would we find the time to be an ambassador?  An ambassador is an official representative of a country or organization.  The definition alone is daunting, yet our message is so simple:  “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.”  (17-18)

I guess I would feel pretty silly, being His representative and all, to stand before Him one day and explain that I was just too busy washing those dishes, frying that bacon or working on the job to tell someone the simple truth of His gift of love, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (21) 

@ 2 Corinthians 4
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God…Yes we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus.” (8-11)  I can’t help but think of missionaries when I read this – heroes willing to leave their homes, families and friends and venture out to parts unknown around the world as His ambassadors.  They can’t help it.  It’s all they know to do with the task of sharing the wonderful message of reconciliation to those who do not know about it.  Like Paul, many of them face difficult situations and even death, but they would say with Paul, “But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, ‘I believed in God, so I spoke’” (13)

Will I speak today to that troubled co-worker or neighbor?  Will I share God’s love with the unhappy sales clerk or waitress who so desperately needs Him?  Will I speak, “Come back to God!  Come back to God!” 

Moving Forward:  Today I pray that I won’t be able to keep from sharing His wonderful message of reconciliation with those who don’t know Him.  When I stand before God one day, a clean house or my job performance really won’t matter.  He’ll be looking for those I brought along with me. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 17-20

Mark 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is blessed by the sweet fragrance of our worship

When I was very young I was given a tiny bottle of perfume.  It wasn’t cologne.  It was the real deal – perfume.  I remember opening it, enjoying its sweet fragrance and thinking that it was something only for special occasions.  Over the next few Sundays I dabbed it behind my ears and on my wrists like my mom had taught me, and I have to admit that I felt pretty special.  The perfume was a gift of great value for such a young child, and I used it sparingly.

Somehow the perfume was misplaced, and after a while I forgot about it.  When I discovered it several years later, it had become rancid and stale and had lost its value to me.  That was when I understood that some things need to be spent and enjoyed when they’re fresh and available.  This was a lesson that dear Mary understood very well.

@ Mark 14
Chapter 14 portrays the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume.  We learn that she was Mary, of Mary, Martha and Lazarus fame.  There was just something about Mary.  Mary was excessive. Mary was extravagant. Mary was irrational in her worship of Jesus.  According to the dictionary, worship is great or excessive love, admiration, and respect felt for somebody or something, and Mary was all over that.

In fact, we read in Luke 10 that Mary had an adoration problem when Martha could not pull her sister away from the Lord’s presence to help in the kitchen.  So this excessive use of her resources does not come as a surprise. Mary didn’t hoard or save.  Mary didn’t open her jar of spikenard with great care so that she could save some for other occasions.  No, she gladly broke it open to saturate her Lord with a year’s worth of wages.  Can you imagine giving to the Lord something equal to this entire year’s wages?  Not holding back some for a rainy day, but giving it all?  Mary got it – she understood worship.

All through the ages God had been looking for a people, made in His image, whose desire to give themselves to Him is equal to His giving of Himself to them.  In our humanity, we’ll not achieve this, but He responds to our desire to do so.  Mary’s selfless worship of Jesus that day reflected God’s undying love for us, the gift of Jesus who was His most precious treasure, and it also reveals His desire for intimacy with us. “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (9)  Just as we’re doing today

Some of those present that day did not appreciate her extravagance, Judas to be sure, because they just didn’t get it – unabandoned worship was off their radar.  I’ve found that sometimes it’s easy to justify economizing my resources, time and attention rather than lavishing them on the One who most deserves them. It’s at those moments that I just don’t get it.  He’s waiting for my love for Him to resemble, as best as this human body possibly can, His love for me – excessive, extravagant love.

Jesus left the dinner that day carrying with Him the sweet fragrance of Mary’s gift.  “She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” (8)  Her gift permeated the Last Supper, it surrounded the betrayal and arrest in the garden and it lingered in the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus was led to His death.  Oh, how I want my love today to permeate heaven, to fill His nostrils with a sweet fragrance of my excessive, extravagant love for him, to somehow reflect His love for me.  But for this, I understand it takes some breaking, some spilling out…some excess. 

Moving Forward:  My prayer today, “Broken and spilled out, and poured at Your feet. In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out and used up for Thee.” (G. Gaither) 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 4-5

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