August 2017


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 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

Numbers 9-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is with us even when our life is on hold

Waiting for the big move, waiting for the next step, waiting for the ship to come in … waiting, waiting, waiting.  When an airport gets backed up with planes ready to land, we find ourselves circling the airport in a holding pattern for what seems like an eternity.  The inconvenience of a late arrival is insignificant, however, compared to the possibility of running out of fuel while waiting for our opportunity to land.  In these moments, tempers often flare and the stress factor is huge.  Sometimes life hands us a similar scenario – waiting to get to our destination but concerned that we’ll run out of gas, so to speak, before we arrive. Stressful.

“Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded…Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on.” (9:20-22)  I can’t cut the Israelites much slack concerning their constant grumbling about their nomadic lifestyle.  I mean really, a tangible cloud to follow and know exactly where to go and when to go?  But I guess that holding pattern got to them at times, and waiting can add significant stress in our lives as well.

A few years ago I had my finger on the Delete key, ready to delete this blog.  My life was in a holding pattern, I felt I had little to say of importance, and I was running out of gas.  The Lord stopped me mid-strike on the key and directed me to blog each day about my daily Bible reading.  Even during the holding patterns of life, God has purpose for us.  We can grumble and complain about our situation, but we are better served by focusing on Him and His purposes.  Perhaps the Israelites would not have spent the next 40 years on the road had they used their down time to worship their God who guided them so clearly and desired fellowship with them instead of whining about almost everything.

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t He spoken through us, too?’ But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (12:1-3)  During one of their stops, the siblings of Moses got a little irritable and developed a critical spirit about their brother – not the right response to their holding pattern.  When we lose our focus on Him during these periods of waiting, it’s very easy to become self-absorbed, and what a price was paid by Miriam!

God was displeased by her critical spirit and Miriam was stricken with leprosy and forced to live alone outside of the camp.  “So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.” (15)  Can you imagine Miriam’s humiliation?  As one of Israel’s leaders, she was the reason Israel continued in a holding pattern.  Often, our attitudes and responses are what keep us on hold.

No matter how we look at it, waiting, waiting, waiting is difficult, but our response to it is what makes all the difference.  Focusing on God and finding our purpose while we are in our holding pattern will insure that we are ready when that cloud begins to move.

Moving Forward:  So thankful today that He is with me in my holding pattern and that He has given me purpose.

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 15-19

2 Timothy 1-2 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He gives us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline to keep our lives burning brightly for Him

For most of us the idea of “Passing the Torch” immediately brings to mind the Olympics. The torch is lit in Greece, home of the first Olympics, and then is passed from runner to runner until it reaches the Olympic host city where it remains lit throughout the games.   What an exhilarating experience for the last runner who carries the torch to its final destination, the Olympic Stadium.  2 Timothy is all about torch passing, certainly a somber moment for Paul.

The writing of 2 Timothy was Paul’s last words to Timothy and also to us and was written during his final imprisonment in Rome where he sat in a dungeon awaiting execution at Nero’s hand.  Of all the notorious individuals from my Italian background, Nero would be right there at the top as most despicable.  Needing to blame someone for the burning of Rome, he murdered Christians throughout the empire and Paul was one of his casualties.  But first, Paul wrote his final letter, passing the torch of ministry to his young charge now pastoring in Ephesus.

“I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.  May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.  Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience…Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.” (1:2-4)  The God I serve with a clear conscience.  Paul had no regrets in his final days, he was passing on a torch that was lit and shining brightly, and this is the responsibility of the torch bearer – to keep the flame going.

Paul continued his letter with advice for his young son in the faith on how to keep the flame going, burning and moving forward.  “Never be ashamed to tell others about the Lord.  And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Him…I am not ashamed of it, for I know the One in whom I trust…” (1:8,12)  Keep the flame going.

“Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.” (1:13)  Keep the flame going.

“Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus…Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2:1,3)  Keep the flame going.

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker..who correctly explains the word of truth (2:15)  Keep the flame going. 

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts…pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace.” (2:22)  Keep the flame going!

Someday the responsibility to carry the torch will be on those who follow us.  Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (1:6)  Fanning those flames will keep it going!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (4:7)  Paul’s faithfulness to God to the very end credentialed him to pass the torch, the torch that was aflame.  As we live and work, in whatever we do, will those who come behind us find that we were faithful to God?  Will the torch that we pass on to the next runners be burning brightly? And will we say, “I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience.”

Moving Forward:  Planning to keep my flame burning today!  “May all who come behind me find me faithful.  May the fire of my devotion light your way.” (J. Mohr) 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 9-12

John 7-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He “came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)

There are some really great questions out there that will never make it into a Trivia game mainly because we don’t know the answers.  Why does the Mona Lisa smile?  What does she see or know that we don’t?  Why is there a crack in the Liberty Bell? Or like the question from our reading today, what did Jesus write in the dust in front of the adulterous woman and the Pharisees?  The answers to these and so many other questions remained locked in time, but we certainly have a good time speculating their answers.

@ John 8
“Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.” (4-6)  I’ve heard a lot of theories on what Jesus wrote that day.  Some believe that Jesus was writing down all the sins of the religious leaders standing there.  Others believe He was writing the Ten Commandments, and still others believe He was stalling to answer because that was the custom for men of wisdom, pondering the best answer.  After considering all the options, I’ve come to the definite conclusion that I don’t know for certain what Jesus was writing.

More important for us than what He wrote is what He said, “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one.” (7-8)  Of course, the only one qualified to throw any stones that day was Jesus, but He was not there to accuse or condemn the woman.  He was there to save her.

The entire scenario was a set up to trap Jesus into either saying she should be set free which was against the laws of Moses or saying she should be stoned which was against Roman law.  For most of us, this could be a sticky situation, but Jesus had it covered.  If we share our testimony at all, we will encounter those who want to argue about the Bible or excuse their disdain for Christianity because of all the hypocrites in church.  I’ve always said that I’d rather spend a few short years with a hypocrite or two in church than all of eternity with them in hell.  Just as Jesus had the perfect response for the Pharisees, the Holy Spirit will direct us in our response to the questions we face.

This story makes me want to be more like Jesus.  Besides the thrill of having the right answer at the right moment, I want to be the one who desires that a life is saved rather than condemned.  I’ve found it impossible to lead others to Jesus for forgiveness of sin when I’m too busy judging them for their sins.  “Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said.  And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (10-11)  What a great story!  What a great message for us!

Moving Forward: No stone throwing, no judging, just the message of a Savior who is willing to forgive our sins. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 1-2

Hosea 1-7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to prove His love for us

I’ve met some individuals in my life who have a capacity to love difficult people, so much so that it’s not easy for me to comprehend it.  A spouse or a child repeatedly betrays and offends, yet these loving souls keep hoping and believing for a change.  The book of Hosea is about God’s unfathomable love for His people in the face of their betrayal and offense.

Hosea is a love story between God and His people illustrated through the life of Hosea.  Some believe Hosea’s story is symbolic and others believe it to be history, but regardless, the story is compelling.  Imagine being asked by God to marry someone that He promised would be unfaithful to you to the point of having children with other lovers.  It would be difficult to say the least, but then imagine this request, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (3:1) Hosea bought back his wife out of slavery to love her again.

Hosea’s story foretold Israel’s bondage to a foreign land because of their continual idolatry and sin, yet because of God’s great love for them, He one day would bring redemption to them.  Hosea and many prophets to come were sent by God to warn of impending doom if Israel did not repent – God calling, reaching, loving.

We all have those in our lives who are on this same fast track to doom because of their disregard for God.  Hosea’s story offers this important lesson for us – God loves their souls regardless of their disregard, their betrayal and their sin.  He will bring judgment one day if they don’t repent; but in the meantime, He will send any number of prophets or challenges to their lives to get their attention and bring them to repentance – God calling, reaching, loving.

God may not ask us to continue fellowship with them, but our role is certainly to love their souls, pray for them and never give up on them as long as they are breathing.  If Hosea could do the hard things that God asked of him, we can do this! 

Moving Forward: Today I will continue to pray for those in my life who seem so very far from God, remembering that He knows exactly where they are and He loves them. 

Tomorrow @ John 7-9

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