July 2017


Leviticus 22-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is blessed by our celebration of His goodness

As somewhat of a foodie, I am immediately attracted to any chapter in the Bible that is all about feasts.  Foodie or not, all of us have good memories of holidays, festivals and celebrations through the years, most involving visits with family and friends and consuming lots and lots of good food.  As a child, I knew it was Thanksgiving when I woke to the smell of roasting turkey and pumpkin pie, and Christmas was certainly right around the corner when I smelled cookies baking in the oven all day long.  What birthday celebration is complete without the traditional decorated cake with gooey butter cream frosting? Decorated eggs at Easter and grilled hot dogs on the Fourth! We have so many memories of delightful days spent celebrating momentous occasions. 

@ Leviticus 23
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.  These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as official days for holy assembly.’” (1-2)  The feast or festivals mentioned in Leviticus 23 played an important role each year in the life of the Israelites.  Life was difficult during those early years on the road to Canaan, and the festivals were welcomed opportunities for relaxation and celebration for the Israelites.

The feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread centered around their deliverance from Egypt; the feasts of First Harvest, Harvest (Pentecost) and Trumpets were feasts of thanksgiving for God’s provision and blessing on their lives; the Day of Atonement was actually a day of fasting as offerings were given to atone for their sin as individuals and as a nation; and the feast of shelters celebrated God’s protection and guidance in the wilderness.  These feasts were observed throughout the centuries, including the time of Christ, but for most of this time period, the impact of what they were celebrating was lost because their hearts were seeking other gods and other things to worship.

Often we are so busy with all the preparation and festivities for our holidays, we, too, forget what we’re celebrating.  Certainly for a secular society, this is true, but even as Christians, we forget.  Our hearts are there, but our lives get so very busy.  If we think about it, we understand that the celebration of Jesus at Christmas and at Easter is a combination of all the Jewish feasts.  With thankful hearts we celebrate the deliverance and atonement for our sins, so grateful for the tiny babe who came and grew to become our sacrifice as well as our Shepherd who guides and protects us through our wilderness.

We, however, look forward to yet another feast, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.  For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself…Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Revelations 19:7,9)  All other feasts, festivals and celebrations pale in comparison to this wedding feast when we, His Bride, join with our Savior to celebrate eternal life together.  This foodie is not going to miss this one!  I’ve already received the invitation!

I decided in my heart several years ago that I was going to spend some time every day celebrating Christmas and Easter.  While no food is involved in these daily celebrations, the joy is amazing.  Every day I thank God for sending His only Son.  He didn’t send a substitute or facsimile. He sent the only part of Him that was His Son, His Heir, knowing what the future held for Him.  Every day I thank Jesus for His willingness to come, leaving a place more glorious than I can imagine, willingness to suffer sin and humiliation for me on the cross.  And every day I thank Him for the empty tomb and the power of the risen Lord.  Sometimes I sing, sometimes I dance and sometimes I just sit and visit with Him, but regardless, it’s a great celebration.  Christmas and Easter every day! 

Moving Forward: After celebrating this morning, I think it’s time to go out and spread some Christmas cheer! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 21-25

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  But my lists keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of a prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I obviously have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Luke 23-24 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Bread of Life for those who follow Him, and they will never hunger again

We consider an acquaintance as someone we know only slightly, someone we greet but not necessarily engage in a personal conversation.   But, we also have friends, individuals with whom we share our personal and often intimate thoughts.   It’s a special treat when we have the opportunity to reconnect with a friend from long ago, where 20 or 30 years have passed without communication.  Sometimes we feel a little apprehensive about an upcoming visit, wondering if we will even recognize our friend from the past, but uneasiness melts away when we sit down to fellowship with one another.  We feel like the relationship picks up right where it left off, not missing a beat, and that is true friendship.  Our travelers on the road to Emmaus experienced a similar reconnection with a friend; it just took them a while to realize it. 

@Luke 24
Luke is the only New Testament writer that goes into detail about this encounter on the road to Emmaus. Scripture is not clear as to their identity, but we do know they are followers of Jesus and one is called Cleopas.  Many believe him to be the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, and the other traveler to be his wife who was at Calvary (John 19:25), and they were returning home from Passover and the events of that weekend.  Regardless of their identity, they were blessed beyond measure by an intimate encounter with the risen Lord.

When Jesus came alongside of them on the road and inquired as to what they were discussing so intently with such sadness, they did not recognize Him.  Cleopas replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.’ ‘What things?’ Jesus asked. ‘The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,’ they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people…We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” (18-21)

To the travelers Jesus was a man, a prophet, a teacher, but not the Messiah.  He had died without doing what they had expected the Messiah to do by overthrowing the government and setting up His throne.  When I read their response that He was just a man, I envision the nails and cross all over again for Jesus.  But loving His followers like He does, He decided to give them a little history lesson.

Over the next couple of hours, Jesus recounted to them the 120 plus prophecies from the Old Testament regarding Himself.  I can only imagine the anointing that burned up that road as they walked that day, with Jesus, the King of Glory, reciting all the Scriptures about His suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.  They felt it, we know, when they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (32)  But wasn’t He just an acquaintance that they met on the way to Emmaus? It wasn’t until they had fellowship with Him later, when He broke bread and blessed it that they realized He was Jesus, their friend, the resurrected Lord.

When they received from Him the broken bread, something happened.  It wasn’t the Lord’s Supper or like the feeding of 5,000 – it was just dinner.  Scripture doesn’t explain their sudden awareness; but for me, it was symbolic that their eyes were opened when they had fellowship, ate bread with Jesus the Bread of Life. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” (John 6:35)

In most of the world’s religions today, Jesus is accepted as a man, as a prophet and as a teacher, one who went about doing good.  They can know all about Him and even read His words, but sadly, until they fellowship with Him, sup with Him, and receive Him as the Bread of Life, they will not understand that He is the Messiah, the King of Glory, the Prince of Peace, the only Son of God.

Moving Forward: Who can I tell about the Bread of Life today?  Whose eyes can be opened to knowing Him as more than a man, more than a prophet or teacher, but as the Savior? 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 4-5

Ezekiel 37-42 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to resurrect and restore all that is dry and dead.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord,” says the old spiritual taken from Ezekiel 37 that was used in the past to teach children about anatomy. “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the leg bone,” and on it goes. 

@Ezekiel 37
Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was spectacular and breath-taking as the Lord said to him, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!’… Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.” (4-7)  Can you imagine?  I envision a few sheep now and then, but this is way beyond my pay grade.

The Jewish exiles were discouraged about their predicament and rightly so.  They had lost their nation and their glorious temple of worship and found themselves living far from home in Babylon, but God sat poised and ready to restore them, “I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock.” (36:37)  After all that God had endured through their sinfulness and rejection of Him, He was waiting for them to pray, to call on Him once again, and then He would restore all that they had lost.

“The bones that covered the valley floor…were scattered everywhere across the ground.”(2) The bones were exposed, not buried, for all of heaven to see – He had not forgotten them. This is the nature of our God.  He waits for individuals, for churches, for nations to pray, to repent, and then He resurrects and He restores that which seemed dry and dead and brings life once again.

The prophet joined God’s resurrection process when he spoke the prophetic message.  When we are focused on anything in our lives that resembles those old dry bones, whether it is our nation, our church or our loved ones and friends, we are challenged to participate in the resurrection.  We can pray!  And when we pray, should the Lord reveal a prophetic word to us, we can speak!

Israel has experienced a commotion and shaking ever since those days in exile.  Those bones have come together, the nation has returned to its homeland in part and we pray and wait with them for that breath of the Spirit. “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again,” (9) and give new spiritual life to them as believers in Jesus Christ, their Messiah.

Likewise, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a commotion, a rattling if you will, when we pray because God may choose to shake things up a little in order to bring about resurrection in our situation.  If we are discouraged with the condition of our nation, with the dryness and lack of life in our church or with our loved ones who seem so dead to the things of God, remember that He sees those dry bones exposed before Him.  He will respond to our call for the Spirit to come and breathe life into them so they may live again.  This is the nature of our God.  “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!” 

Moving Forward: Thinking about our nation today, I will put aside discouragement and continue to pray for the Spirit to breathe life into us once again! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 23-24

Proverbs 13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom helps us raise Godly children

To spank or not to spank – now that’s a debate for today.  Gaining momentum is the idea that spanking promotes anger and hostile behavior in children.  Many others take a more traditional position and believe that spanking when done without anger is an acceptable means of correcting disobedient children.  Having followed the traditional position, it was somewhat disconcerting for me to learn recently from my grown son that the spankings I gave him when he was young never really hurt him.  When I reminded him that he always cried, he gave me a sheepish smile and informed that he did that to make me feel better about it all.  I honestly gave it my best shot.  In spite of this, he’s grown to be a godly father and husband today.

There was no debate in Solomon’s mind regarding corporal punishment – he was all for it!   He began the chapter with, “A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction,” (1) and added in verse 24 a stronger statement, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” “Discipline your children while there is hope.  Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (19:18) “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.” (22:15)  “Don’t fail to discipline your children.  They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” (23:13-14)  Well, I think we know where Solomon stood on the subject.

The most abusive discipline by parents that I have seen came from words spoken rather than spanking. However, spanking need not be our first course of action in disciplining our children, and so very often other methods will take care of the situation we are facing.  When I resorted to this form of discipline, I followed the advice of so many others and never disciplined in anger but did so when emotions were calm and thinking was clear.  Any form of discipline administered without instruction, in my mind, is useless.  The purpose of discipline is to bring correction, to bring about a change in behavior.  How can these dear ones learn how to change without our instruction and help?  Following discipline, I often asked my children to tell me what the correct behavior would have been.  There was a lasting reinforcement in the matter when the answer came from their mouths instead of mine.

There were a few months in my daughter’s early teen years where there was a battle for supremacy between us.  Because of my determination to win, I was considered by her at times to be one of the “meanest mothers in the world.”  I must admit that I wore that label with some pride.  Then one day everything changed when my daughter told me about an exchange she had with a close friend.  She was complaining to her friend about how strict I was, never allowing her do what she wanted to do.  Her friend tearfully responded, “Well, at least she cares about you.  At least she cares about what you are doing and where you are going.  I wish my mom did.”

I believe we both won that battle.  My decisions and instructions were now received without question; my daughter finished her teen years without regrets and is today a beautiful woman of God.  No matter what form we use, disciplining children takes time, tenacity and a willingness to be disliked from time to time, but if we really love our children and care about their future, we will do it.  “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them… Physical discipline may well save them from death,” said the wisest man who ever lived. 

Moving Forward: I move forward today with a grateful heart.  Grateful for the wisdom from His Word that produced the wonderful children I enjoy today. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 37-42

Psalms 87-89 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is righteousness, justice, unfailing love and truth.  He is entirely faithful 

@ Psalm 89
“For who in all of heaven can compare with the Lord?  What mightiest angel is anything like the Lord?…O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies!  Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O Lord? You are entirely faithful.” (6,8)   When I read these words of praise to the Lord, I can’t help but join with the writer in worship to God, “You are entirely faithful!

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.  Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.” (14) No other ruler, king or president, including God’s favored David, has ever ruled or will ever rule with complete purity and fairness, demonstrated through eternal love and honesty.  In His dealing with us, it would be good to remember that these are not attributes that come and go at a whim.  No, God IS righteousness, justice, eternal love and truth.  He can only be entirely faithful, so why do we sometimes question His actions or fear His deeds?

Perhaps we waiver when we read something like verses 3-4, “The Lord said, ‘I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant.  I have sworn this oath to him: I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on your throne from now until eternity.’” Yet, we know that the rule of David’s descendants did come to an end and Israel was swallowed up by Babylon.

Just like most of God’s promises, this one includes the if clause, “But if his descendants forsake my instructions and fail to obey my regulations… then I will punish their sin with the rod…But I will never stop loving him nor fail to keep my promise to him. I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie: His dynasty will go on forever.” (30-36)  David’s descendants strayed from the example set by their forefather, committing despicable sins against God. Because He is Justice, He punished them, but He did not break His covenant with David.

Enter the eternal King, the everlasting ruler, Jesus Christ.  “The Good News is about His Son. In His earthly life He was born into King David’s family line, and He was shown to be the Son of God when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:3-4)  God cannot lie.  He is entirely faithful.

We may find ourselves living short of what we feel He has promised in His Word.  Whether this is the result of sin for which we have repented, the deeds of another or reasons we don’t understand, God wants us to understand that He will never stop loving us or fail to keep His promise to us.

I have a friend who has suffered endless illnesses over several years and the family has been without employment for quite some time due to no fault of their own.  Most would think life looked pretty bleak for her, but nothing could be further from the truth. Believing this moment is but a blip on the screen of eternity, she knows God loves her and He is faithful to His promise of abundant life (John 10:10) because of her amazing relationship with Him.  He is her Savior, and she knows that He will be faithful to His promise of eternal life (John 3:16).   She gets it!  God cannot lie.  He is entirely faithful! 

Moving Forward: I will not be swayed by the temporary challenges of life that may come.  I am convinced that He loves me, He cannot lie and He is entirely faithful.

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 13

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39)  While we want freedom for everyone to worship as they please, it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in my God and my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

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