October 2017


2 Chronicles 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His power is on our side to defeat the enemy

One of the best Christian songs of the 80’s was Carman’s The Champion, the battle of the ages between Lucifer and Jesus.  It reminds us of who our enemy is, but more importantly, it reminds us of Who our God is – The Champion!  King Hezekiah experienced God’s victory first hand when he trusted Him to fight his battle.

How refreshing to finally read about King Hezekiah, a king who was faithful to the Lord, a champion in his own right.  “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.” (31:21)  Hezekiah’s heart for God directed him to restore temple worship and once again follow the laws of God, and the Lord rewarded his efforts.

The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians, and now King Hezekiah and the Southern Kingdom were under siege by them.  Hezekiah encouraged his people with these words, “Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (32:7)

Hezekiah’s words were just what the Israelites needed as Assyrian King Sennacherib hurled his insults and threats at them, “What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power?…No god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” (32:10,13-15)

Well, I can tell you I’ve been there.  The enemy comes around in the heat of the battle, pouring his lies and deceit to bring discouragement with a kidney punch or two.  Jesus called his bluff when He said of the devil, “He 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)  Really, why would we believe anything he says?

We could only expect the enemy to hit below the belt when he belittles the power of the living God.  How foolish! It is then that the Spirit of the Lord rises up within us and just like Hezekiah’s uplifting words, we can encourage ourselves with the Word of God.  “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)  “No weapon turned against you will succeed.  You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” (Isaiah 54:17)   “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”  (Revelation 1:17)  The Champion!

“And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land.”  (32:21)  Sennacherib was defeated, discouraged and down for the count because a godly king “sought his God wholeheartedly.”  And we, too, will be victorious and defeat our enemy when we refuse his lies and accusations in the midst of the fight and turn to the Champion of our Faith, the Lord Jesus Christ who will take him down. 

Moving Forward: I won’t even begin to listen to the lies of the enemy today, much less believe him.  I seek God with my whole heart because the battle is His, and He always wins – He’s the Champion!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 125-127

Deuteronomy 7-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very special treasure.

There’s nothing like being a part of a family.  Even with all of its ups and downs, black sheep and sibling rivalries, there are certain privileges afforded a family member that others are not given.  As long as we are a part of the family, we are provided with food, clothing and shelter, and we are included in all the family gatherings such as family reunions, holidays and Will readings.

We don’t earn the right to be a part of the family by our good deeds or because we are perfect, but it is because our parents chose to bring life into the world.  Out of disobedience or rebellion, some have decided to leave the protection that the family provides, and they often end up living empty troubled lives, alone.  With the holidays just around the corner, I’m especially grateful for my family, and I want to protect it and all the privileges that come with it.  Oh, Israel, how could you desert the family!

Moses continued his instructions as the Israelites sat poised to enter the Promised Land and reminded God’s children of who their Father was, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.”(7:6-8)  And the Lord did not provide for His children because they were so good, “You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (9:6)  Ouch!

Moses also reminded the people of the responsibilities that came with being the children of God.  “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord…Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.  So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” (8:2-6)  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not accept every word that came from the mouth of the Lord and in their stubbornness and rebellion, most of them eventually deserted the family and left all the privileges that came with it.

Just like many childless fathers, God adopted or grafted in a new family, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”(Romans 11:17)  I’m so thankful to be a part of the family!  However, because of His great love, God is like the prodigal’s father in Luke 15, who waits and waits for His lost children of Israel to come home and rejoin the family by accepting His Son.

We, too, need to remember the privileges we have received as members of the family of God.  Because of Jesus, we have become “joint heirs” in all that God has to offer His children.  We are God’s special treasure as well.  We did not receive His blessing because we are so good, but simply because He loves us.  With His love and all the privileges I receive as His child, I can’t imagine why I would ever desert my family. 

Moving Forward: I’m encouraged today to walk in the privileges provided for me as His child, to protect the family name through my behavior and never leave the safety of His love and care. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

James 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He has provided help for us to resist the devil

Dieting – the great American pastime, or is that baseball?  This is a subject I could write about all day – dieting that is, well, maybe baseball as well.  The Weight Loss industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and I’ve certainly added to its coffers.  My favorite weight loss program is the “eat all you want and still lose weight” approach.  It doesn’t work, but it’s still my favorite.  My husband thinks diet programs are a waste of time because he says that losing weight it is simply of matter of burning more calories than you eat. This is what he does, and it works.  I must admit, I really resent him for it.

Over the years, I’ve tried just about every angle to weight loss, and there is one thing that I know for certain.  We can resist that chocolate cake all day long, but if we’re not submitted and committed to a program, a prayer or a strait jacket, we’re eventually going to eat that chocolate cake. Forgive this trite analogy, but we need to know that there is more to resisting the devil than meets the eye.

@ James 4
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (7) Of course the Word is true, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” but the success of our resisting is far greater when we first submit ourselves to God. Sometimes we forget about the first part of the verse, but He is the one with the strategy to overcome. And sometimes we forget exactly who we’re resisting, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” (I Peter 5:8-9)  Just like with the chocolate cake, on our own we may waver in our resistance, but surrendered and humbled before the Lord, the enemy is no match for us.

When a soldier reports for active duty, he has surrendered his personal goals and way of life all the way down to the uniform he wears.  God has provided a uniform of sorts for all who are submitted to him.  We will resist our enemy best when we are in our military dress, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil…Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians 6:11-13)

If we truly want to resist the devil, it’s time to suit up. “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)  Submitted to our leader and dressed in our armor, we won’t waver, we won’t give, and we’ll be all that we can be and then some.  Not only will we resist the devil, we’ll send him fleeing!

Moving Forward: I may have trouble with that chocolate cake, but I will submit to the Lord today, suit up, resist the enemy and see him take flight!

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 7-9

Acts 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God uses our difficult experiences to touch the hearts of others

When we receive salvation and follow the Lord, we make a decisive break from the old way of life, the old way of doing things.  We become new creatures yet we bring along with us memories from our experiences in life to date.  God is faithful to help us move past the difficult moments we’ve experienced so that we can look forward to better days ahead, but He doesn’t always remove all painful memories and feelings.  He has a purpose in this.  Paul is a great example of how our past experiences can serve God’s greater purpose for our lives. 

@ Acts 9
“Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.  So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.” (1-2)  When we think about hateful leaders and individuals throughout history who murdered Christians for their faith, we might as well throw Saul into the mix because he was one of them.  Talk about painful memories and feelings.

Better than just about anyone, Paul understood the hearts of those who were blinded to the truth about Jesus.  Highly educated and qualified, Paul made his appeal for Christ to the Jewish leaders, to government leaders and to Jews and Gentiles alike.  He understood their hatred, their confusion and their doubt because he had lived it.

Just as the scales fell off of Paul’s blinded eyes after his glorious conversion, we read throughout Acts how he was so very capable to open the blind eyes of others to see their need for salvation. “Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” (22)

Paul remembered enough of his painful past to make this statement to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.”(I Timothy 1:15-16) God used Paul’s hateful past to serve a greater purpose of which we, too, are the recipients today through his written words.

Remembering our difficult experiences in the past makes us more sensitive to others who are walking through similar trials.  We understand their fears, their broken hearts and sometimes even their anger at God and everyone.  Like Paul in his day, we are able to help them and convince them to believe in God.  “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

We can fulfill His greater purpose to touch others who walk where we have walked only through opening our hearts and eyes to see their need of Him.  Our understanding of this walk and our victory through Christ challenge us to share with them that “they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

Moving Forward: My prayer today is that God will open my eyes to see those whose pain I, too, have felt so that I may lead them to Him. 

Tomorrow @ James 4-5

Habakkuk (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses whatever means He chooses to change the hearts of men

I’ve had several friends throughout the years that are just plain bold.  They’re not intimidated by anyone and seem to have the intestinal fortitude to ask the hard questions of others without batting an eye.  Some of them have come from difficult situations that have made them strong and fearless, and I think a few of them just don’t know any better.  Regardless, they are the ones I like on my team, whatever the task, because they get the answers we need.  After reading Habakkuk, I get the impression that he was one of them.  I mean, with a name like Habakkuk, it’s either going to make you or break you, and in the way he addressed the Lord, I think we can assume he made it just fine.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!  Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?” (1:2-3)  See what I mean?  Habakkuk was bold, he asked the hard questions of the Lord and he certainly lived up to the reputation of a prophet.  God answered Habakkuk’s questions because He understood his heart.  Over the years, the prophet pleaded with the Israelites to repent and sought God’s help, but sin and disobedience increased.  In these verses, He was calling on God to act.  Many of us find ourselves in similar situations, calling for our nation, our family or our friends to repent and praying for God to act, but as Habakkuk learned, we must be prepared to accept how He chooses to respond.

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people.  They will march across the world and conquer other lands.” (1:5-6)  God would one day allow the Babylonians to humble Israel, but this wasn’t what Habakkuk had in mind when he prayed.  Not willing to hold back, he responded to the Lord, “O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins…Will you wink at their treachery?” (12-13)

God will use whatever means He desires to bring about change in the hearts of men, and He went on to inform Habakkuk that Babylon would one day receive its punishment for its willingness to destroy Israel.  Whatever change we are praying about in the lives of individuals or nations, we must surrender to God’s omnipotent plan for the answer he chooses and not attempt to confine Him to our limited understanding.

When I surrender to His divine plan for the one I am praying about, I often say a similar prayer as this offered by Habakkuk, “I have heard all about you, Lord.  I am filled with awe by your amazing works.  In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by.  And in your anger, remember your mercy.” (3:2) Remember your mercy.  We surrender to your plan, but our hearts cry for mercy. Don’t give us what we deserve, but be merciful in how you perfect and change us.  And we know He hears our prayer because we, just like Habakkuk, have heard all about Him. (3:2) 

Moving Forward: I may not be a bold prophet like Habakkuk, but I know how to pray a bold prayer for my nation and for those I love.  I will trust His plan to bring about change, but with it, I pray for His mercy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 9-10

Ecclesiastes 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: All that is meaningful in life comes from Him

Many individuals feel a need as they begin to age to make a record or a memoir of their years on earth.  Some memoirs are filled with funny escapades and joyous moments, some are tell-alls written simply to embarrass others and some memoirs are just plain sad with stories of disappointments and tragedy.

Most memoirs are filled with both the hills and the valleys of life, like the memoir of my husband’s Aunt Ottie.  She was in her 80’s when she decided to write it all down – finding the Lord as her Savior, fulfilling God’s calling on her life as a Kentucky mountain missionary, raising a family, losing a husband and God’s faithfulness through it all.  I loved reading it because it’s a memoir that lifts the spirit.  Ecclesiastes is a memoir of sorts that doesn’t have quite that same affect due to the negative outlook of the author, most believing it to be Solomon.  However, mixed in with all his pessimism are some wonderful truths that make it well worth the read.

“Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!…Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,8,14)  This sounds like someone having a really bad…life.  We struggle through life trying to achieve and accumulate a fraction of all that Solomon had, and then he has the nerve to say that it is all meaningless.  I guess he would know.

In his pursuit of a meaningful life, Solomon tried pleasures of all kinds that included drinking, gaining material possessions, philosophy and even hard work, but it all was meaningless to him, like chasing the wind, a pointless pursuit to say the least.  The real problem was that at some point, Solomon left God out of his life.  God blessings without humility can become a very destructive thing in a life, and Solomon, the wisest man on earth, had done a very foolish thing when he became distracted by all his blessings and deserted the God of his father.

Solomon painted a dismal picture of life and its meaning without God, but thankfully, a moment of clarity came to him as he neared the end of his life. “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him?   God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him.” (2:24-26)

Forgive me if I sound a little Solomonesque, but I often think of each day that God gives to us as a flower.  We can enjoy our flower, smell its fragrance, enjoy its beauty and make the very most of it or we can ignore it, cast it aside or even step on it.  The choice is ours.  Our flower will fade by day’s end, but tomorrow is another flower from God’s hand, and it just seems we would want to enjoy what He has handed to us. I question how we can glory in any achievement or gain we have enjoyed yet disregard the One who gave it to us.  I guess it would be, as the man said, meaningless. 

Moving Forward:  “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.   But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (I John 2:17) Looking forward to that day, the flower that never fades!

Tomorrow @ Habakkuk

Psalm 122-124 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He signals us with His hand of mercy as we fix our eyes on Him

I remember a movie from several years ago about a bride who left several grooms at the altar over a period of time because she got cold feet and ran away, hence the title, Runaway Bride.  The final groom devised a plan to keep her feet from running through eye contact as she walked down the aisle.  It was a great plan and all was going well until a camera flashed, she lost eye contact with the groom, and yes, she headed for the hills.  As with most romantic comedies, they eventually got married and lived happily ever after, but the movie provided a great example of what can happen when we get distracted and lose our focus. 

@ Psalm 123
“I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.  We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (1-2)  Servants stand ready to move, like runners at the block, anticipating the signal to run, to fetch, to do for the master.  Shifting their eyes away could cause them to miss the awaited signal, the chance to serve or even to be served by the master’s generous hand.

Whenever I faced a difficult situation in my youth, my mom always said, “Phyllis, you can’t look at circumstances. You have to keep your eyes on Jesus.”  And how right she was!  Every time I put my focus on the problem, I lost sight of my Master and His hand of mercy for my problem.  When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, just like the servant fixed on his master, we won’t miss anything God has for us and the opportunity to serve Him.

As we read in Acts 7 last week, Stephen knew where to turn his focus as the stones were flying, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (55)  Stephen’s darkest moments was turned into a glorious light as he looked to God for His mercy. And as we recently read in Hebrews 12, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  He’s our Master who signals, who initiates and perfects our faith as well as how we move in that faith.

I don’t want to miss even the slightest signal from the Lord, where He directs my life through His mercy.  Mom was right – keeping my focus on the circumstances of life will cause me to get cold feet and run.  I have to stay focused on the Lord no matter how many flashes attempt to disrupt my gaze.  I’m no Runaway Bride!  My eyes are fixed on my Groom. 

Moving Forward: I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus today, ready to serve.  I won’t look at circumstances but only to His hand of mercy for even the slightest signal. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 1-2

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