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.

Numbers 13-16 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will provide all we need to step into our destiny

I remember when my granddaughter learned the word humongous on Sesame Street and used it with great excitement whenever she saw something she considered really large.  I thought of her this week as I read the story of the twelve spies.  The spies returned to the Israelite camp with a humongous cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it; but, unfortunately, all they remembered were the humongous giants in the land.

@ Numbers 13
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But…” (27-28)  The children of Israel stood at the threshold of their destiny to occupy their promised land and allowed the little three letter word but to keep them from it.  “‘…the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!…We can’t go up there against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.” (28,31-32)

The names of all twelve men are listed in Chapter 13, but of those names, we only remember two of them.  The others are all very forgettable.  When we are positioned by God to step into His destiny for us, we can easily lose sight of it if we focus on the humongous obstacles that may be present instead of the humongous promise He has given to us.  Those grapes were huge and represented God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, rich and abundant.

Joshua and Caleb were impressed by the grapes, not by the giants.  “They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’” (14:7-9)

When we are on the edge of something wonderful that God has planned for us, we want to have the faith of Joshua and Caleb, not the fear and doubt of…of…whatever their names are.  God will never promise something to us that is impossible to attain.  Of all the Israelites standing in the camp on that day, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land to receive God’s humongous blessing. 

Moving Forward: I don’t want to miss all that God has for me because of obstacles that I perceive to be bigger than they really are.  I want to be Joshua and Caleb who saw the huge blessing God had waiting for them. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 20-24

2 Timothy 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has given His inspired Word to give truth and to equip 

@ 2 Timothy 3
A couple of years ago I was packing up my library, getting ready for a move.  It was quite a trip down memory lane as I recalled the history involved around many of my book selections.  I came to one shelf dedicated to books on diet and health and started to laugh.  The number of different approaches to diet and health over the past quarter century is staggering – eat according to your blood type, eat protein and no carbs, eat carbs and no protein, eat only uncooked vegetables, eat eight times a day (my personal favorite), eat nothing white, eat nothing with a face – just to name a few diet choices.  Each one was based on its own brand of truth.

One year the scuttlebutt was that drinking coffee would kill you.  Two years later it was touted as a great antioxidant that would improve health in many ways.  I have chosen, of course, to believe the second truth.  It amazes me how truth seems to change from one year to the next.  Be assured that many of these books did not make it to the keep box.

Another shelf in my library was filled with many different versions, sizes and colors of the same book. It is a book that’s truth has not changed since its words were written millenniums ago, every copy I have is a keeper and that book, of course, is the Holy Bible.  In 2 Timothy 3, Paul validated the Scripture that comprises our Bible and shared its function, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (16-17)

While some may take and twist the sacred words of the Bible, we can always depend on the Bible itself to be inspired by God and to be true.  Coupled with the great truth bearer, the Holy Spirit, the Bible is alive to us and gives us the specific truth we will need for each day. (Hebrews 4:12)   It equips us for the day with whatever tools we may need to navigate through this life, correcting us when needed, and helps us do what He wants us to do. What a book!

The Israelites may have had their pillar of cloud and fire to guide them, but we have the truth from God’s Holy Word to guide us, inspire us and equip us.  Can we afford to miss even one day of receiving the truth He has for us?  Not really.

Moving Forward:  Reading His Word today, grabbing His truth and moving forward to do His good works. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 13-16

John 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has provided the gateway into His presence

Even though the wonderful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep expressed in Psalm 23 needs no affirmation, John 10 does just that.  David explained that relationship from the viewpoint of a sheep, and Jesus confirmed it from the viewpoint of the Shepherd.  I can’t help but give pause to John 10.  Here’s an excerpt from Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, Chapter 48, a visual impression from the Lord entitled,“The Gatekeeper.”

Night was advancing across the countryside as the sheep rushed past the Shepherd to the fold, tired and ready for rest.  As the Shepherd approached the fold, He found a bottleneck at the somewhat narrow gate as the sheep pushed and jostled to move through it.  The Shepherd moved to the middle of the gateway and stood, allowing the sheep to pass one by one on either of Him safely into the fold.

Although it would seem that His position at the gate would narrow the passageway even further, it actually brought order and safety to the flock.  As the sheep passed by Him one by one, the Shepherd, knowing each name as He did, was able to see who was there and who was not.

Why not have many gates and avoid all this chaos?  More sheep could enter more quickly and rest would come all the sooner to the weary flock. “‘I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,’ [Jesus] said.” (John 10:7)  Why is the gate so narrow?  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)  Why is there only one way into heaven?  Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone there?  “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers.   But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes I am the gate.  Those who come through me will be saved.” (John 10:8-9)  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

None of our questions will change the facts.  The Lord our Shepherd is the only gateway into eternity with God and He was chosen by God to fulfill this role.  God, our creator, overflowing with great love for His lost creation, sent His Son, the only part of Him that our finite minds could ever understand, to be our gateway to Him.  All that is required of us is to accept this Savior and to follow Him to His Father.

Any other gate would be an insult and a mockery of God’s sacrificial gift to us.  “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)  Paul, not known to mince words, laid it out plainly in this passage. An individual who believes someone or something created life other than God may take exception to this declaration.  Unfortunately, eternity will clear that up one day should that mindset continue.

Order was not the only benefit given to the flock by the Shepherd positioned as the gate.  Their Shepherd was a very personal shepherd, and He knew each one by name.  Because of this familiarity, the Shepherd would know immediately if one had failed to pass by Him, and He would search for the missing sheep.

Our God knows us by name, as well.  In fact, His knowledge of us is so personal that He actually has numbered the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:30)  For those who are hair challenged this may not be such a big deal, but for most of us, it screams intimacy—intimacy with our Creator.  Although He will not force our devotion, He will pursue us and abundantly fill us with His love.  Bless the Gatekeeper!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful for my intimate relationship with the Shepherd today.  I know Him and He knows me…intimate moments. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 3-4

Hosea 8-14 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because of His love for us, He does not willingly let us go

The value of a soul.  Well, we really can’t place a value on one’s soul – it’s priceless.  So much so that God sent His only Son to die in order to redeem that soul.  When we’ve been praying for someone for a long time, one who is resistant to the Lord, we’re often tempted to give up on that soul.  Hosea continued to reveal God’s abiding love for His people even though they had rejected Him.

“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?…My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” (11:8)  In the previous three chapters, Hosea summarized Israel’s rebellion against God, and because of their continued rejection of God, they would harvest what they had planted (8:7)  But God’s heart was torn, “How can I let you go?

Hosea challenged those who had rejected God for so very long, “Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.  Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.’” (14:2)  This, this is what God is longing to hear; and His response to heart-felt repentance is, “I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.”(4)

There are several individuals I have prayed for as long as I can remember, asking God to touch their lives and change their direction.  I must admit that I have gone through periods where I’ve just given up because it all seems so futile.  Then I read something like this, revealing God’s unbelievable capacity to love and to hope, and my commitment is renewed to keep praying, keep believing.  These dear ones I have been praying for may walk through some seeds they have sown, but if our pure and Holy God loves them so very deeply, who am I to give upon them? 

Moving Forward: My hope is renewed today as I continue praying for those who desperately need fellowship with the One who loves them so deeply. 

Tomorrow @ John 10-12

Proverbs 20-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we show kindness to others as He has shown to us 

@ Proverbs 21
I’ve always wondered if Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew what he was doing when he married so many wives.  Most men are challenged enough with just one wife, but perhaps Solomon thought, being so wise and all, that he could handle it.  His Proverbs, however, give cause to question that.

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (9)  “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” (19)  “A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.” (12:4)  “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” (14:1)  “…a quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping.” (19:13)  And once again, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (25:24)  I think I see a theme going here.

Several years ago I saw an interview on television with one of Hollywood’s older starlets.  She and her actor husband had been married for over 25 years and that alone would grab our attention, but for Hollywood couples, 25 years is momentous.  When the interviewer asked her to what she attributed their lengthy marriage, she replied that every day they make a commitment to each other to be kind.  No matter how difficult a situation they may be walking through, they chose to speak and act with kindness to each other.  I thought that was great advice.

With the familiarity we have with a spouse comes a freedom to say and do what we feel when under pressure.  While we wouldn’t speak to another friend with brashness or rudeness, we often say to our spouse the very first thing that comes to mind…and sometimes that isn’t good.  Solomon later in the chapter throws in, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.” (23)  It’s just better not to say nothing at all if we can’t say something kind.

Paul gave great advice in Ephesians 4:31-32 on how to treat others, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Remember the old saying, “Charity begins at home,” and hopefully it won’t stop there. 

Moving Forward:  I’m committed today to kind words and kind deeds in my home regardless of what this busy day throws my way.  My dear friend and husband is worthy of nothing less. 

Tomorrow @ Hosea 8-14

Psalms 102-104 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with love, mercy and good things

Can we really believe anything we read in the newspaper and on our computer news feeds or see on television news?  So often today the news is filled with bias and opinion, and we rarely get the straight scoop on a story.  I think of the old television police detective who would say when interviewing at a crime scene, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”  When we want to know about someone through the media, we have a hard time deciphering fact from fiction.

After all, these reporters don’t really know the individuals they are reporting about, they simply reveal facts, using the term loosely here, that they have been able to uncover.  When we read the Bible, it’s a different story.  Inspired by God’s own Spirit, the Bible is an accurate portrayal of who God is and His relationship to us and no one portrays Him any better than David.

@ Psalm 103
Psalm 103 is one of so many chapters in the Bible that helps us understand the heart of God and confirms what we already know to be true about Him through our experience.  David is not writing from hearsay or supposition.  No, David had an intimate relationship with the One he was writing about.  Some of my favorite verses about our awesome God, awesome in the truest sense of the word, are found here.  When I read them, my heart and all that I know about Him confirm their truth.

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (3-5)  As if forgiveness of sins was not enough, He heals us and is responsible for all good things in our lives.  “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (8)

How One so perfect can be so unbelievably merciful to one so far from perfect is difficult to understand, but I know it to be true.  In fact, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (12)  When our thoughts turn to our failures and sins from the past, we can know that it wasn’t God who introduced them back into our lives.  He’s very forgetful that way…

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (13-14)  Many have tried to label God as uncaring and fierce, but those who really know Him have experienced His tenderness, His gentleness.  When earthly fathers have portrayed a poor example of our Heavenly Father, it’s difficult to understand how loving and tender He really is.  It’s true that a father who dearly loves his children will discipline them when necessary; and our Heavenly Father sometimes disciplines us, but He does so in love, remembering how frail we are.  This I know to be true.

After reading David’s accurate account of some of God’s attributes, we can rest assured that his information came to him first-hand and can be trusted.  But greater still is when we take this inspiration from David and experience it for ourselves.  We can know our tender, loving Father who forgives and forgets our sins because of His great mercy, who heals our bodies and who fills our lives with good things.  And that’s the straight scoop! 

Moving Forward: More in love with Him today than yesterday, I can move forward in His love and mercy, expecting good things.

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 20-21

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile to David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry … or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that He knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104

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