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!

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

Isaiah 40-44 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’…He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (40:9,11 nkjv/nlt)  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah have been rugged with prophetic judgments on the nations, but the tone of the prophet Isaiah changed in Chapter 40 as he reminded Israel of who God really is:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (43:2) I am thankful that because of Jesus, I am part of this promise to Israel.  As I go through rivers of difficulty in my life, He is with me and will not let me drown. Sometimes the waters feel like they are right at my neck, but somehow He supports me and keeps me afloat through the difficulty.  I look back at situations in life and see myself as though I was almost walking on water rather than drowning because of God’s grace.

This is the God that Isaiah was encouraging Israel to remember and to follow.  One of the most beloved and quoted scriptures is found here in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” And they just may walk on water…

These chapters in Isaiah remind me of Who ultimately controls the outcome of powers, governments and kingdoms and their deeds.  In Chapter 41:2 and again in 44:28, Isaiah prophesied about a king from the east, 150 years in the future, who would deliver Israel out of Babylon captivity, someone God called into His own service to do His bidding. King Cyrus of Esther and Nehemiah fame, a pagan king, sent Israel back to their homeland simply because God willed him to do so.

I think of the events in more recent history where powerful men and nations chose to carry out their evil imaginations causing death and destruction, but their actions soon brought their own demise.  Out of the rubble of World War II an evil regime died and Israel once again returned to its homeland, a nation stronger than ever, with a friend by its side, a strong friend and ally, the United States.  My prayer is that we remain a friend to Israel, for our own sake as well as for theirs.

Because heartless leaders and zealot groups around the world have met their doom, the gospel is now being preached and churches established in an area of the world where they were once forbidden. I am ever convinced that God will use the acts of all powers, governments and kingdoms to ultimately bring about His good.  Yet, so personal is He that He feeds little me, carries me in His arms when needed and guides me along life’s path.  I declare with Isaiah, Behold our God!  There is none other like Him.

Moving forward:  God is in control – I will remember this today regardless of the news alerts and headlines.  I’ll remember that He is with me through my difficult moments of life as well.  He’s got this! 

Tomorrow@Matthew 20-22

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!  Any time 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