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

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

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


Job 15-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows me and loves me enough to witness on my behalf

After observing a lengthy high profile court case on television a few years ago, I came to understand the role of a witness.  The case was filled with witnesses for both the prosecution and for the defense, and it was the job of the opposing lawyer to discredit each witness as much as possible so that the testimony became null and void.  Sometimes the courtroom atmosphere got a little heated as accusations were made, and I’m not talking about the room temperature.  Job’s courtroom in our reading today was picking up in intensity as the name calling continued and accusations were made. 

@ Job 15
Eliphaz continued his indictment of Job even after being called a worthless quack in Job’s last dialogue. Eliphaz was obviously offended and struck back with a long discourse about what happens to wicked people.  “Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:  ‘A wise man wouldn’t answer with such empty talk! You are nothing but a windbag… Your own mouth condemns you, not I.  Your own lips testify against you…The wicked writhe in pain throughout their lives. Years of trouble are stored up for the ruthless.  The sound of terror rings in their ears.’” (2,6,20-21)  Eliphaz, who was only a witness to the events of Job’s life, went ahead and judged Job guilty of sin and tried to scare Job into repenting of sins he hadn’t committed. What a comforter!

I can’t help here but think of our accuser, the devil, who stands before God accusing us of all manner of evil. (Rev 12:10)  But I’m so thankful to know just how God views him, “[The devil] has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  We, too, should remember his title when he lies to us. 

@ Job 16
“What miserable comforters you are!  Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.  But if it were me, I would encourage you.  I would try to take away your grief.” (2-5)  I pray my counsel is never judgmental and arrogant like that of Eliphaz, but rather that it is as Job suggests and is filled with encouragement – words that remove grief rather than cause it.

“O earth, do not conceal my blood.  Let it cry out on my behalf.  Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. (18-19)  Job was aware that he had a witness in heaven, Someone who had witnessed every deed, every word of his life, and he was calling on that witness to speak on his behalf.  However, Job was in the process of learning to give witness himself to the faithfulness of God regardless of his circumstances.

We, too, have a witness in heaven who sees every part of our lives and is well able to speak on our behalf.  But just as Job was working on his public confession of trust in God, we are called by Jesus to do a little witnessing ourselves in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  If we witness for Him, He’ll witness for us.

When accusations and taunts come to us that cause confusion, condemnation and distress, we can know that they do not come from the One who knows the truth. And as we give witness to the faithfulness of God, we can call on the One who is truth to plead our case, our Witness in Heaven who knows all things—He is the one witness that no one can discredit! 

Moving forward – Today I will refuse words and thoughts from the enemy and the accusations of things that are untrue.  I call on my Witness who knows and sees everything to speak on my behalf. 

Tomorrow@Isaiah 40-44

Psalm 21-23 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He longs to guide us, heal us, protect us, comfort us and cover us with the oil of His blessings

@ Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It was while reading the Bible on a day in February 1998, just like I’m doing today, that the familiar 23rd Psalm became more real to me than I had ever known before.  The presence of the Lord filled my little family room in a very special way and from that day forward I started to record His revelation to me of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to His sheep.  From that experience I wrote the devotional book Intimate Moments with the Shepherd – Guidance through the Challenges of Life, an illustrated portrayal of the Shepherd’s intimate relationship with us.

While researching and taking photos for this project, I visited dozens of sheep farms and learned some valuable lessons.  Out in the sheep pastures I could have called the sheep over to me all day long, but they only came when they heard their shepherd calling. At his or her call, they came running.  I learned that even with a flock of 200 or more, the shepherd knew each sheep, their lineage, their illnesses and even the grains and grasses that some preferred.  These experiences and many others like them were valuable lessons that revealed to me first-hand the intimacy we have with our Shepherd as David understood it.

Something that always blesses me when I read Psalm 23 is the subtle, yet significant change that takes place between verses 3 and 4, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (3-4)  Up to verse 4, David had been talking about his Shepherd, His guidance, His rest, His strength.  But when David reached the dark valley, he began talking to his Shepherd.

The Lord leads us along life’s path giving direction and guidance. When we face the dark valley that may be death or may just seem like it, a shadow of it, He is right there beside us often carrying us through our challenge.  We can talk to Him, confident that we are not alone.

In a personal way, David continued, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  Then, right there in front of our howling enemies, He anoints us with abundant favor, as if to say to our enemy, “Be gone!  This one is Mine, eternally!”  What an honor to sit at His table and to be marked with His fragrant oil for everyone to see and smell. “I’m my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” What a Shepherd! 

Moving Forward: As I move forward to live out the challenges I may face today, I will walk with the confident knowledge that my Shepherd, my Lord, is with me.  When the enemy comes with his taunts, I will boldly declare that I am anointed with the Lord’s favor, “Be gone! I belong to Him.” 

Tomorrow @ Job 15-16

Judges 12-16 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He is the God of mercy, patient beyond measure

Unlike all my friends, I wasn’t waiting with breathless anticipation for the day I would be licensed to drive a car.  I must admit I didn’t mind at all having my mom or friends drive me where I needed to go, and I guess this doesn’t speak well of my character.  But I think my greatest hindrance to being licensed was the driving test.  I knew I would be all over the written test with ease, but the driving test with its parallel parking portion was worrisome to me – where was the Mini Cooper when I needed it?  The thought of crunching one of those orange cones filled me with anxiety until someone explained to me that if I failed, I could take the test again!  Mercy!  I just love mercy! And I love the mercy that God extends to each one of us as He did to Samson in our reading today.

The story of Samson, a judge in Israel, is heart-wrenching. Samson was born and dedicated to God’s service as a Nazirite with a calling to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he resisted his purpose.  Although Samson wore all the outward signs of one set apart, with his long hair and brute strength, he so often did not bear the heart of one.

Samson certainly showed faith in God’s Spirit in him when he took on the lion and 30 Philistine men, but he revealed himself to be self-centered and willful when he married from the very group he was sent to destroyThe word audacity comes to mind when I read Samson’s story, yet all of us are attracted at one time or another to the very thing that will do us the most harm.  Just a side note, the fact that Samson called his wife a heifer, well, that pretty much nailed his coffin for me.

@ Judges 16
Each willful decision brought Samson closer to destruction.  The playful cat and mouse game with Delilah ended badly for him, “Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him. Then she cried out, ‘Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!’ When he woke up, he thought, ‘I will do as before and shake myself free.’ But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.” (19-20) Samson lost his hair, his strength, his eyes, but more importantly, He lost the Lord’s presence in his life.

To wake up one day without the nearness of His presence is a thought that drives me to my knees.  I cry with David, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Fortunately, Samson’s story doesn’t end here because hair grows back and God forgives when we repent of our sins.  Samson’s hair came back and so did his strength, but it was his prayer that got God’s attention.  “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” (28) And Samson “killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.” (30)

Samson’s life was filled with disobedience and selfishness, but somehow he garnered the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the Biblical greats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith through his renewed faith in God’s mercy. Though the road to his purpose had its share of potholes and detours, Samson was given one more opportunity to accomplish what he had been born to do when his death began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  A life of folly was transformed to a life of faith when he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again… 

Moving Forward: I will run from the attractive things that seek to do me harm and rob me of my spiritual strength.  If I fail, with its consequences, I will run to the God of mercy and cry with a heart of repentance, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 21-23

Genesis 28-31 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: Our loving Father patiently prepares us to receive His blessings

We all know people who have had a rough start in life, plagued with poor choices and wrong turns.  Jacob was certainly in that group.  Jacob’s struggles began even before he was born, “Rebekah became pregnant with twins. But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the Lord about it. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ she asked.  And the Lord told her, ‘The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.’” (25:21-23)

In Chapter 27 we read how Rebekah manipulated Isaac into granting his generational blessing to her favored son, Jacob, rather than the elder Esau. Even though Jacob questioned his mother’s decision to deceive his father, it appears that it was only because he didn’t want to get caught.  Regardless of Rebekah’s motivation for doing this, her actions produced a lifetime enemy for the nation of Israel and she never saw her beloved son again.  What a trade-off!  Anytime I try to help God through compromising means, I can expect the same negative results.  Lesson learned. 

@ Genesis 29
The love story of Jacob and Rachel is as compelling as any good novel, but unfortunately the saying “What goes around comes around” was true for Jacob the deceiver.  He fell in love with Rachel, the daughter of Laban, a man who understood deception only too well.  Jacob had met his match!  Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of marrying the woman he loved, robbed him of sheep and goats and changed his wages 10 times over the 14 plus years, yet Jacob persevered.

Jacob persisted because of one night long before, on the way to his future, he had a dream and a promise from God to bless him.  “Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.  At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you.  I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth!’” (Genesis 28:11-14)  God used the next several years to make Jacob worthy of this blessing and of the blessing he had stolen so many years before from his brother.

God longs to bless each of us and often places promises deep within our hearts.  It’s easy to give up when the Labans in life or our circumstances postpone our dreams, but from Jacob’s life, we understand that He is often perfecting us and preparing us for His blessing.  Jacob eventually returned home a very wealthy man with a small, but growing nation in his caravan.

Moving Forward: I will hold on to the promises that God has placed deep within my heart as He prepares me for all that He has for me, never manipulating or compromising to bring it to pass.

Tomorrow@Judges 12-16

Romans 15-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He burdens our hearts to ambitiously reach the lost 

@ Romans 15
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity on several occasions to share the Good News with those who have never heard it before and there’s nothing quite like that experience.  It was difficult for many of them to accept that there was a hope, a help and a future for the miserable existence they were living out, but when the Lord came and touched them, everything changed.  This was the goal of Paul, “My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.” (20)  Paul’s ambition was a difficult ministry road, but the joy he reaped was immeasurable.

Many missionaries today are sent to areas of the world that have had the Good News for centuries.  The world’s cities are filled with ornate empty cathedrals, and most individuals no longer have even a memory of their function nor do they have a relationship with God.  Their hearts have become cold and dark to the gospel.  In fact, there are children in the United States that only know Christ as a curse word.  And this, too, is a challenging mission.

In Paul’s personal notes in Romans 15, I think we see the heart of a true missionary.  We have the impression that an ambitious person is someone only concerned about personal gain, numero uno.  But Paul had an ambition, a goal>aspiration>objective, that we can only admire, and it begs the question today what is my ambition?

Paul concludes Chapter 15 with a simple request, “Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me…” (vs. 30)  Paul did not have the advantage of slick colored prayer cards to hand out everywhere he traveled, nor did he have a website, facebook or twitter.  But even with these wonderful tools that our missionaries enjoy today, they are making the same request, Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me.  I’m confident that every second of every day there is a missionary somewhere in the world facing a struggle that is more difficult than we can even imagine.  Will I join in their struggle and pray for them?

“I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.” (24)   Paul, so filled with ambition to get the Good News to Spain, allowed the Romans the privilege of assisting him on his journey. When our missionaries present to us the challenge of their righteous ambition, how can we resist the privilege of helping them on their journey to reach the lost?  “How can anyone go and tell them without being sent?” (Romans 10:15)  I think we have an assignment, an ambition, a mission if you will. 

Moving Forward: What is my ambition today?  Is it righteous?  Today I will join in the struggle with our missionaries through prayer, and I will give my offerings with joy to His sent ones. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 28-31

Matthew 17-19 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He provides a way for us to reconcile with others

Counselors, therapists, mediators and coaches spend a great deal of time helping clients resolve conflicts in their lives, and they accomplish a lot of good and help people move past difficult situations.  It’s not surprising, however, that the Bible offers some guidelines for believers within the church who find themselves at odds with someone.

For those individuals who have never experienced conflict with anyone, I suppose this devotional may be irrelevant.  Still, just in case a conflict should someday pop up, it could never hurt to be aware of the plan Jesus offered to resolve conflicts. 

@ Matthew 18
It’s troubling that God’s straightforward set of guidelines for conflict resolution is so seldom followed.  Maybe because it’s so clear-cut, we feel it just isn’t profound enough to help, or perhaps we’re just too cowardly to try it.  I’m not sure. “If another believer sins against you,” this is what we should do…according to Jesus:

  • “Go privately and point out the offense.  If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  But if you are unsuccessful,
  • Take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.  If the person still refuses to listen,
  • Take your case to the church.  Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” (18:15-17)  Now that would be a memorable Sunday service.  And to be considered a tax collector – the ultimate disgrace!

If we find ourselves in conflict with someone, common sense should prevail.  If I am upset because someone says something insensitive to me, fails to compliment a new hairstyle or ignores me, etc, it’s probably time for a little dying to self on my part. In Matthew 18, Jesus was talking about “if another believer sins against you,” follow these guidelines.

If we fail to follow the Lord’s instructions, we often end up sinning ourselves with an unforgiving heart or by gossiping and causing division.  There will always, absolutely always, be someone close at hand who is willing to listen if I choose to gossip instead of following His guidelines. In our conflicts, God will provide all the grace we need to resolve them, but there may not be grace for those uninvolved individuals that we choose to include through gossip.  They, in turn, pick up our offense without grace, and it always turns out badly.  Sometimes rather than follow His guidelines, we may feel it’s just easier to keep our hurt, keep it to ourselves, let it fester and grow into bitterness.  Ugh!

When we follow the Lord’s plan to resolve conflict, we find ourselves back in unity, in agreement.  I love that Jesus followed these guidelines with a promise of help in matters of conflict and discipline, and I believe, for prayer in general as well, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.  For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (18:19-20) Who doesn’t want that!

Moving Forward: Imprint these guidelines on my heart, Lord, that I might not sin against you. Help me live in such a way that no one has the need to approach me regarding sins I have committed against another.  With His help, all things are possible. 

Tomorrow @Romans 15-16

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with the hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, school shootings and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path.  As long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19