December 2017


@John 14 

Discover His heart: “Let not your heart be troubled”

As we start the New Year tomorrow, many are hoping for better days ahead.  World conditions, economic woes and man’s lawlessness have threatened the security for many and have brought troubling concerns to our doorsteps.  Jesus understands the troubled heart.

@John 14
John 14 records the encouragement Jesus gave His disciples as they faced uncertainty and a troublesome future. Nothing could be any more encouraging to focus on today as we move ahead to another year than these words of Jesus, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (1)

Why should we not be troubled about the security of our future? Jesus made the following promises to those who love and trust in God:

  • Permanent Available Housing – “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (2)  We are promised a permanent home, paid mortgage, situated in a desirable location.  I’ve heard told it resembles a mansion.
  • Job Security – “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (12) We will always have a job to do! And the benefits are out of this world!
  • Supernatural Assistance – “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (13) As we’re working, we have been promised supernatural assistance when we ask for help in His name and according to His will.
  • Free and Long-term Therapy/Counseling – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”(16)  God has given us an advocate>a comforter>a counselor who is available throughout the day, who never goes on vacation and who is but a breath away at the midnight hour when we need it most.
  • Higher Education Opportunities – “[The Holy Spirit] will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”(26)  While our brains may seem incapable of learning absolutely everything, the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we really need to know to make it in this world, and then send reminders along the way.
  • A little peace of Heaven – “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”(27)  We can’t buy it, manufacture it, clone it or Google it.  This gift from Jesus is not of this world – calm, quiet, tranquility, harmony, serenity of mind and heart – His peace.

We can rest assured that we are not alone in the new year because we have this promise from Jesus, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (21)  So as we step into the new year and all the unknowns that come with it, don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Our security is not of this world, and it will never fail us. 

Moving forward:  Thank you for joining me for devotions.  What a joy to study His Word with you!  I pray your life has been enriched by His great truths just as mine has been.  Tomorrow starts another year for me of reading through the Bible, cover to cover, from grace to grace, truth upon truth.  I can’t wait!

Tomorrow @ Romans 1-2

Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons, but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great land owner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  All together, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level, but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Revelation 18-22 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Not willing that any should be lost, He waits to return for us

We often describe something that delights and thrills us as a little bit of heaven on earth.  Some individuals attempt to create their heaven on earth, their little piece of utopia, by surrounding themselves with all the tangible things they enjoy most, and still others drug themselves into a state of oblivion because heaven is where they cannot remember, cannot feel.

The understanding most of us have of heaven, God’s dwelling place, is limited to what we read in the Bible, including John’s description in our reading today.  I don’t know much about heaven and my future home; but one thing is for certain, I’m going to live there one day! 

@ Revelation 21
And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.’  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (2-4)  I’m tempted to stop reading because this is enough.  In my finite thinking, this is heaven for me, this is heaven enough – God with me and no death, sorrow, crying or pain.  Oh, but there’s even more.

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ (5)  We’ll be moving into a brand spanking new earth, unmarred by nature’s destruction or man’s input, a happy day for the environmentalists to be sure.  Nothing will exist to remind us of old hurts, scars and pain. Yet there’s more…

John went on to describe the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City “built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones” and the twelve gates of the city “made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.” (19,21)  I’ve seen some of the world’s famous treasuries and read about many others and none compare to the beauty of John’s description.  As believers, we long to see it, and we long to live with Him there in this perfect place.  Most of us say, “Anytime, Lord, come quickly, we’re ready.”  What is He waiting for anyway?

Of course God’s timing is always perfect and these plans were laid long before we existed. He will return for us at just the right moment in this world’s history.  A few years ago I had a glimpse into what I felt to be God’s heart on this subject.  It wasn’t prophetic but something I could imagine to be God’s heart.  I walked into our Sunday morning church service during praise and worship.  The moment I entered the sanctuary, I sensed God’s presence and felt like I was walking through deep water as I went to my seat.  Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw this scenario:  The Father and the Son were peering into our sanctuary from heaven.  The Son was thrilled with our worship and in response to it said to the Father with excitement, “Is it time?  Is it time to gather up the believers?  The worshipers are calling to us.  They desire to fellowship with us. Is it time? Can I go?”  In response, the countenance of the Father lifted, and I followed His gaze to view an endless sea of people, so many lost souls who do not yet know Him.

I fell to my knees and wept for the lost that morning. I believe that He longs for us to dwell with Him, but His compassion for those who have not accepted His Son as Savior constrains Him.  Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

How very fitting for the Bible to end with an invitation to come to God, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (22:17) Amen!

Moving Forward:  “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’  Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20)  My heart joins with John, “Yes, come, Lord Jesus,” but my spirit joins with the Lord, “Come…Let anyone who is thirsty come.”

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 33-34

Song of Solomon 7-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to seal us with His forever kind of love

The popularity of tattoos over the past decade by young and old alike has surprised me.  For someone who struggled over the thought of putting holes in her earlobes, I am stymied by the notion of permanently marking the body, intentionally.  Today’s tattoos are sometimes worn just because they are trendy and popular but many depict commitment to a variety of things – loyalty to movements and ideals, likes and dislikes, people, places and things – a seal of loyalty, if you will, that will last forever.

Years ago a soldier going off to war would tattoo the name of his sweetheart on his arm to express his commitment to her while he was gone.  I’ve always wondered how the woman he eventually married felt about him bearing the name of an old flame.  I, for one, would not care much for it, but for the young soldier and his girl, it was almost a sign of ownership – she was his girl!  At the end of the beautiful love story of Song of Solomon, the Young Man was asked to wear his lovely Young Woman as a tattoo of sorts, a seal of ownership and commitment.

@ Song of Solomon 8
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.  For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.  Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.” (6-7)  The love of the Young Woman for the Young Man was a forever kind of love that would never be removed, sealed forever by the affection of his heart and by the protection of his arm.  In her committed heart, their love was as permanent as death, with a bright unique cable flame from its fire.  Wow!  I’d say a tattoo may be in order here.

This kind of committed love could not exist in our world without God because God is love.  It began in Him, flows out from Him and is complete in Him. He ordained the love found in Song of Solomon between a husband and a wife.  The depths, the intensity and the eternal commitment of the young couple were His idea, His plan for us.

God desires for us to be forever sealed to Him with a commitment even greater than that of this couple, a love deeper than they felt and a fire brighter than they could ever know.  Just as the young couple yearned for one another, He calls us to search for Him, call to Him and surrender to Him, and place ourselves like a seal over His heart. We are His forever. 

Moving Forward:  His Word inspires and challenges me today on many levels.  That I remain forever sealed to him and to Him is my desire.

Tomorrow @ Revelation 18-22

Psalms 149-150 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He dwells in the atmosphere of praise (Psalm 22:3)

I’ve never taken a journalism class but somewhere along the line I picked up the journalism mantra:  Who, what, when, where, why and how.  If I can answer these questions, then the story has been told!  The sticking points are usually why and how, and they must be answered before the story is complete or before the case can be solved.  This style of journalism was recorded as far as back as the first century B.C., but obviously the writers of Psalms had a lock on it long before then.

Psalms, the glorious book of praise, ends with an inspirational summary in Psalms 149 and 150 that answers these journalistic inquiries.  One day each week over the past year we have read example after example of David and other psalmists praising God in a myriad of life’s situations, the good, the bad and the ugly.  These closing Psalms sum up the story of praise and its purpose in our lives and answer those vital questions about Praise:  who, what, when, where, why and how. 

WHO:  “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!  Praise the Lord!” (150:6) 

WHAT: Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song.” (149:1)

WHEN: “Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful… Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds… Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.” (149:1,5,6)  Praise the Lord in church, in the home and in battle – everywhere.  “I will praise the Lord at all times.  I will constantly speak his praises.” (34:1) 

WHERE: “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise him in His mighty heaven!” (150:1) Visit Him in His sanctuary, at His feet and praise His holy name. “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” (96:3) Publish, make known everywhere, your praise to the Lord.

WHY: “Praise him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness! (150:2)  Praise Him for who He is and what He does.  “How good to sing praises to our God!  How delightful and how fitting!” (147:1)  It’s good, delightful and fitting to praise the Lord. “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (22:3) Our praises provide a dwelling place for Him to reign amongst us.

HOW: “Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!  Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.  Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” (150:3-6)  Praise Him with our instruments, our dancing and our singing.

Well, there we have it!  The story has been told.  All of us are to praise the Lord, all the time, everywhere with our voices, our dance and our instruments because of Who He is and the great things He has done.  Now to express one last bit of journalistic jargon: I’m going to put this story to bed! 

Moving Forward: Singing praises…“In the morning, I can’t stop praising your name. In the evening, I can’t stop praising your name…” (Hillsong, Faletolu/Sampson) 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 7-8

Esther 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is keeping perfect records of our good deeds and acts of kindness

While Tom and I served as youth pastors many years ago, I was also the church bookkeeper.  Being somewhat dyslexic with numbers, this was a challenge for me.  The dictionary says that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage, which is a great relief to me.  I also admit that I was always just a little over the top on balancing the books each month to the penny – no mercy – to the penny!  Over the years, I spent several all-nighters searching for that penny or two so that I could close the books for the month.  I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but any free analysis is appreciated.

I’m happy to report, however, there is Someone who is keeping the books on each one of us, keeping track of all that we do and say, and He has no disorders or phobias.  His books are balanced to the very second, they never fall short and are disclosed at the perfect moment in time.  This truth is vividly portrayed in the life of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

@ Esther 6
“That night the king had trouble sleeping, so he ordered an attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him.  In those records he discovered an account of how Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the eunuchs who guarded the door to the king’s private quarters. They had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes.” (1-2)  The Jews in Persia were on the verge of being annihilated by the king’s evil assistant, Haman; and out of the blue, the king discovered this valiant act by Jewish Mordecai that was buried in the Persian history books.  Imagine that.

My mom was the Sunday School teacher for sixth grade girls at her church for 20 years.  During that time, every girl that attended her class heard an anointed teaching every Sunday, material she had studied, prayed and even wept over at times.  Every girl in her class heard the message of Jesus and was given an opportunity to accept Him and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as well.  Times had changed and younger voices were desired so mom retired from her position.  She cared nothing about this, but I observed that little appreciation was expressed to her at the time.

As she stepped into eternity a few years ago, however, I know the One who keeps the books met her with the only words of appreciation she ever wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with some of the girls who sat in her class Sunday after Sunday, and they have expressed their appreciation to me for the testimony and example my mom was to them.  I probably needed hearing their words more at that time than my mom ever needed hearing them.  God has a way of disclosing the books at the perfect moment.

The recognition of good deeds and right living often has a way of falling through the cracks with little notice or so it seems; but when those deeds are done with the right motive, we really don’t care whether or not they are noticed or appreciated.  There is a satisfaction that comes just from doing the right thing.  However, God is keeping the books on all our deeds; and whether they are disclosed during this lifetime or in eternity, the reward will come at just the right moment.

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” (10:3)  Now today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we honor as well the good deeds of Mordecai and the selflessness of Esther, an Old Testament type or example of Jesus. Their faithful deeds are ministering to us today at just the right moment. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that I’m no longer a bookkeeper but most thankful for the One who is keeping the books on my life.  His books are balanced right to the very second, they never fall short and are revealed at the perfect moment in time. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 149-150

Deuteronomy 31-32 

Discover His heart:  He is our Rock, an immovable foundation

While I’m not an avid beach-goer, I have managed a few treks to the beach over the years, loaded down with beach chairs, towels, cooler and sunscreen. All that effort is spent in order to catch a few rays that will eventually dry my skin and give me freckles.  Somehow, it just doesn’t work for me; however, I digress. It’s definitely relaxing to listen to the waves and watch them blanket the shore with their glistening cover.  We build our sand castles and then watch the surf slowly eat away our creations, grain by grain, right down to the foundations. There’s something to be said about building on the rock – an immovable foundation! 

@Deuteronomy 32
The leadership of Moses was drawing to a close, and like most of us when our tenure in a position is ending, he shared his heart.  More importantly, Moses gave his final declaration from the Lord to the Israelites and did so in the form of a song before the entire assembly.  His song included Israel’s history, God’s warnings and words of hope. Shepherd, prophet, leader, warrior, writer and songster! Moses was a man whose words deserve our attention.

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (3-4) When everything around us is shifting and changing, He is the Rock! When governments and institutions crumble and fall, He is the Rock!  When others abandon or fail us, He is the Rock!  There’s something to be said about building on the Rock!

“But Israel soon became fat and unruly…Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.” (15)  I would imagine the crowd grew a little quiet when Moses sang this stanza. God delivered Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage – He was the Rock of their salvation! But they took Him for granted and abandoned Him to worship other gods. Just as we read about the Young Woman in Song of Solomon, sometimes we take for granted that He saved us from eternal bondage. He is the Rock of our salvation!

“You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (18) The Song of Moses became very personal in this verse, from they to you. As any father would do, God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage because He was the Rock who had given them birth.  He nourished and clothed the Israelites for 40 years in the desert because He was the Rock who had fathered them. He protected them from the hordes that came to annihilate them because He was the Rock, their father!  How could we ever forget the One who gave us new life, the One who delivers, provides and protects. He is the Rock, our Father!

“But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock…The Lord says, ‘Look now; I myself am He! There is no other god but me!’” (31)  No other rock is like our Rock.  No other god is like our God.  I love the Dottie Rambo song that few have sung better than Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack:

I go to the Rock of my salvation
I go to the stone that the builder’s rejected
Run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When all around me is sinking sand
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.

I pray Whitney went to the Rock in her final hours.  No other rock is like our Rock!

“When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, he added: ‘Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. These instructions are not empty words—they are your life!’”  (45-47)  He is the Rock of our salvation who has given us birth – there’s no other rock like our Rock.  These are not empty words – they are our life!

And today, especially this day, I am thankful for the Rock of our Salvation! Merry Christmas! 

Moving Forward:  Another great song comes to mind, my theme today, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” No other rock is like our Rock! 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

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