January 2018

Joshua 21-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He blesses those who will serve Him today and every day

I’m sorry to bring this up, but it’s been 31 days since we made our New Year’s Resolutions, our big plans to make big changes for the New Year.  How’s it going? Sometimes our intentions are great, but our resolve, not so much. Joshua has thrown down the gauntlet for us today – we have been challenged!  Today, whom will we serve?

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.” (21:43-45)  The Lord knows how to keep a commitment. 

@ Joshua 24
Joshua, now 110 years old, called all the leadership of the tribes of Israel to Shechem to present one last challenge to God’s people.  After a brief history of the faithfulness of God, Joshua presented his challenge, “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (14-15)  There, he said it!  The line has been drawn, the die has been cast, the gauntlet has been thrown.

In this scripture, the term serve means to admire or follow someone worshipfully.  Just like the Israelites who affirmed that they would serve the Lord Jehovah, our intentions every day are to serve the Lord.  I heard a television pastor ask his congregation one Sunday morning as he got up to speak, “Did you serve the Lord this week?”  The large congregation responded “yes” with enthusiasm.  The pastor quickly asked, “Well, what did you do?”  Dead silence filled the sanctuary.

“Choose today whom you will serve.”  We can’t rest on yesterday’s resolve to serve the Lord because today is a new day with new challenges.  The idols we are tempted to serve may be different than those of Joshua’s day, but they consume our thoughts and time just the same leaving little room for worshiping the Lord and reading His Word.  They come in many shapes and sizes:  our jobs, our children – yes, even our children – pleasures, sleep, community involvement, etc.  Of course, these are not bad things, they just aren’t God.

If the words to the old Bob Dylan song are correct, and I think they are, then “you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Joshua has challenged us to choose today and reaffirm each and every day in the daily routines of life the one who will receive our admiration and worship.  Choose today whom you will serve.

Moving Forward:  I accept Joshua’s challenge – as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 12-14

Genesis 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is God Almighty, the God who is enough

Over 46 years ago I changed my name.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my name, but I felt it was time for a change.  I had considered a few other names, but none of them really measured up to the one I chose.  In addition to all the normal changes that come, like new identification, driver’s license, social security card, this change affected my life in a dramatic way.  People no longer knew me by my old name and actually treated me differently; in fact, I thought of myself differently.  Yes, the day I changed my name to Benigas was monumental in my life, but I never would have done it had I not known the one who gave me the name. 

@ Genesis 17
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai—God Almighty.’”(1)  Even though Abram and the Lord had already met, Abram knew Him only as Jehovah, the true God, but he was about to know Him in a whole new way.  El Shaddai!  God Almighty who was all-sufficient, the God who was all Abram would ever need.  The God who was able to provide all the descendants that Abram could ever want.  Ishmael never would have been an issue had Abram first known El Shaddai – the God who is enough!

“At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, ‘This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!  What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.” (3-5)   First, God shared who He was by revealing a new name for Himself, and then He revealed to Abram who Abram really was by changing his name from revered father to how He saw him – Abraham, father of many nations.

When we were introduced to the Lord as our Savior, we may not have understood completely that we were putting in for some changes – a new nature (2 Corinthians 2:17), a new name (Revelation 2:17) and a new life (John 4:14).  As a new creation in Christ, we were adopted by God into this great family of Abraham’s descendants to forever bear His name.  At the very least our name is Redeemed.

Throughout the Bible, we have many examples of how God changed the names of His people to how He saw them – Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, Paul.  What is His name for us, how does God see us and are we living up to that name?  Have we changed our identification?  Do others see us differently? Do we see ourselves differently?

Do we know El Shaddai, God Almighty, the One whose name we bear?  In the challenges we face today, do we understand that we are in covenant with the all-sufficient God?  After an encounter with El Shaddai, we have no need to panic or take matters into our own hands when problems arise because we know the God who is enough! 

Moving Forward:  I’m challenged today to live the way God sees me, answering to my new name and trusting the God who is enough.  After all, my Father is El-Shaddai! 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 21-2

Romans 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He saves us through our acceptance of the risen Lord

The other day I was speeding down the busy aisles of the grocery store, trying to accomplish too much in a short period of time as usual.  The store was crowded because it was during those magic hours when teachers and employees flood the grocery stores on the way home from work.  I try to avoid the store and Starbucks during this time frame whenever possible, but there I was in the mix!

I was down to one last needed item and made the turn down the aisle to find a major traffic jam.  Boxes of pasta had fallen into the aisle and busy shoppers were either trying to turn their carts around to go another way or trying to go around them.  I slipped through the maze, picked up the boxes, shoved them on the shelves and happy shoppers sailed through.  To me, it’s just better to deal with the obstacle in the road when possible rather than trying to avoid it.  Unfortunately, the Jews in Paul’s day didn’t see it this way. 

@ Romans 9
“My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters…They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.” (2-4)  Paul grieved over the lost people of Israel, people of promise, people of covenant, who failed to deal with the Rock in their path.

“The people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.  Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in Him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.” (31-32)  Of course, this great rock was Jesus.  The people of Israel were so focused on their traditions and law about who the Messiah was that when He came in the flesh, right in the middle of their world, they stumbled their way around Him.  When they finally dealt with Him, rather than accepting Him, they crucified Him. 

@ Romans 10
This response is not relegated only to Jews.  Everyone at one time or another will deal with the Great Rock in their path.  Many have their own set of traditions and laws about God’s acceptance – do good, go to church, serve their country and community – but they stumble over the One who truly makes us acceptable to God.

The message of acceptance is uniquely simple, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (9)  However, just like the people of Israel, individuals today find this message difficult to accept because it requires humility, giving Jesus the position of Lord in their lives, and it requires faith that Jesus, whom they have never seen, is the Son of God and rose from the dead.  They may stumble over these requirements, but eventually all will deal with this Rock.  Of course, this opportunity to accept the Lord is a mute point if they have never heard the message.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’” (14-15)

The condition of our world and its lost souls often cause those who love the Lord to grieve just like Paul, but Paul didn’t sit around grieving.  He went, he wrote and he preached the good news of Jesus whether he was in church, in the marketplace or in prison.  We don’t know a lot about Paul’s physical features, but we do know that he surely had beautiful feet. 

Moving Forward:  I pray for beautiful feet today that will take me to tell someone about the Rock. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 16-19

Matthew 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the healer!

Nothing stirs up faith in me like reading Matthew, Chapters 8 through 10. I think of them as the Miracle Chapters.  Matthew shared one example after another of the miraculous healing and delivering power of our Lord.  I’ve heard it said several times that if we don’t have faith to believe for healing or for a miracle, we won’t be healed, and that it’s all about our faith. I’m just not sure that Jesus would completely agree with that statement.

Matthew’s examples include the story of healing for a man with Great Faith – “A Roman officer came and pleaded with [Jesus], ‘Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed’…[Jesus} said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!’”(8:8-10) The Gentile Roman soldier was a man of Great Faith.

Matthew included illustrations of Faith that brought healing:  “A woman who had suffered for twelve years…touched the fringe of his robe…when he saw her he said, ‘Daughter, be encouraged!  Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” (9:20-22)  Then Matthew told the story of the two blind men who shouted to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on us!’…Jesus asked them, ‘Do you believe I can make you see?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they told him, ‘we do.’  Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Because of your faith, it will happen.’” (27-29)  Without a doubt, we know how Jesus felt about faith and healing.

But then, Jesus also performed a miracle for those with Little Faith: When in the storm-tossed sea, the disciples cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” (8:25-26)

Jesus saved and healed a man with Borrowed Faith:  “Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven’…And the man jumped up and went home!” (9:2,7)  One time I was in a desperate need of healing for body, soul and spirit, and I seemed to have no faith to believe for a miracle.  My husband and two others, all full of faith, touched God on my behalf, and I was made completely whole.  Borrowed faith.

Jesus even performed a miracle for a man with No Faith: “A demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed.”  Full of the devil, this man was set free by Jesus who performs His miracles for reasons we may not even understand – the crowds were amazed.

These illustrations are not intended to minimize our need for faith to believe for miracles, quite the opposite, but I believe we put God in a box when we say that someone is not healed because of their lack of faith. We just don’t know all the purposes God has for the trials we face, but we do know we must stay connected to the One who does.

I believe that Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord that Heals, that Jesus, the Great Physician, will perform miracles on our behalf.  As we learned from the Roman soldier, our faith blesses the Lord, and who doesn’t want to bless the Lord?  From the other healings mentioned in these chapters, we know that faith gets the Lord’s attention.  Who doesn’t want the Lord’s attention?  Our faith brings healing.  Who doesn’t want healing?  Bottom Line: Jesus is the healer. Whether we believe or not, Jesus is the healer.  It’s all about Him.

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that His miracles are not exclusive to my measure of faith, but I’m equally thankful that He responds to my faith with healing and blessing. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 9-10

Isaiah 18-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is our help in the time of storm, worthy of our trust

Florida is a beautiful place to live with its dramatic coastlines and lush greenery.  Fresh year-round fruits and vegetables and seafood only add to its appeal.  Yes, Florida is a great place to live, except for those pesky hurricanes, and they definitely keep everyone on their toes.

Generally, Floridians respond to an approaching hurricane in one of two ways.  Most will stock up on water, lots of water, and non-perishable foods, tape windows, put away lawn furniture/play equipment and secure plants.  In other words, they batten down the hatches.  However, some Floridians have friends come over, turn up the music to drown out the wind and throw a big party to ride out the storm.  I am more of the batten down the hatches crew combined with some very serious prayer for protection.  When Israel faced utter destruction back in the days of Isaiah, they trusted in their weapons and stockpiles and chose to party.  They failed to pray. 

@ Isaiah 22
“You run to the armory for your weapons.  You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.  You store up water in the lower pool.  You survey the houses and tear some down for stone to strengthen the walls…But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.” (8-11)  I can’t imagine facing possible annihilation without turning to God for help and protection.  We can reinforce our structures and stock up on water, and this is wise, but God is the one who is able to cover us with His protection or even turn the storm out to sea.  Isaiah warned of Israel’s fate through his vision, but once again he was ignored.  The God of the Exodus, the Red Sea and miraculous victory after victory was not called upon for help in the face of the storm.

In the face of sickness, loss or any kind of storm, we should do all that we can to strengthen ourselves through doctors and those who are trained to help us.  But when we fail to pray, we put our trust in everything other the One who controls all things just as the Israelites did.

“At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn… But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.  You feast on meat and drink wine.  You say, ‘Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”(12-13)  And die they did. I’m always ready for a party, but if God calls for fasting and weeping, I’m going to fast and weep.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:4, “For everything there is a season…A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   It wasn’t time to party.  Israel had lost their faith and trust in God along the way; and not only did they fail to pray because of it, they approached the coming storm with a fatalistic attitude.  Feast, drink, tomorrow we die.  Many in our world share this attitude, not only because of personal storms but because of the turmoil in the world.  If for no other reason, this should give us cause to fast and weep when our hearts are stirred to do so, and then He will never need to question why we never asked for help. 

Moving Forward:  I’m going to prepare for life’s storm as best I can and pray for His help.  I know where my help comes from – the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and in Him have I placed my trust.  When the victory is in hand, I will celebrate! 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 8-10

Job 7-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His attention to our lives, He makes us more like Him

As a child, I don’t think I really appreciated the luxury of lying on the grass for an hour or two, drinking in all the Vitamin D I would need for the day and observing the cloud formations overhead.  I saw ships, alligators, clowns and whatever my imagination could conjure up and then think of all the adventures they held.  Over the minutes, I’d watch each image slowly dissipate into vapor, the story ended and the image was gone forever.  I’ve wondered how a video game could possibly compete with that, but I guess that’s just me.  Job had watched a few cloud formations in his day; in fact, he felt that he was one. 

@ Job 7
“O God, remember that my life is but a breath, and I will never again feel happiness.  You see me now, but not for long.  You will look for me, but I will be gone.  Just as a cloud dissipates and vanishes, those who die will not come back.  They are gone forever from their home—never to be seen again.” (7-10)  Clearly, Job’s reflection on clouds did not hold for him the same happy thoughts that my memories give to me.  Yes, this life is fleeting, as James concurs with Job in James 4:14, “For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (NKJV)  Nevertheless, while we are living, we have adventures and stories to live out, but Job didn’t care much for his adventure, and I can’t really blame him.

Early in history, God-fearing individuals had little knowledge or understanding of eternal life.  Job wanted God to know that time was running out for Him to bring justice to his situation in life or at least to bring an explanation.  Job would die, and he would be no more.  Later in the book, Job uttered a brave hope of a life after death, but without the revealed truths from God’s Word that we have, he had no assurance of a better day.  With the Bible as the vanguard directing our lives, we have the understanding that regardless of the trials we face during this brief vapor of life, eternal life is in our future.

Reading Job’s cry for help is difficult, to say the least, but the real stab to my heart comes in verse 16, “I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.”  His words make me think of the all too many times I’ve heard individuals, young and old alike, utter these words in despair. Words of comfort often fall useless to the ground, but it’s then that I pray for a revelation of eternity from God to flood their hearts and minds.  Life with its pain and disappointment is short, eternity is a very long time.

“What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often?  For you examine us every morning and test us every moment.  Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow!…Why make me your target?” (17-20)  Or in today’s urban lingo, “Why you all up in my business?”  No matter how it’s said, Job’s response to God in the midst of his trial is opposite to the response of what we read yesterday.

Yesterday we read that David found God’s constant watch over him comforting, but Job found it annoying at best. Job felt God had made him His target, which was true in a sense; and over the course of his affliction, Job would correct the very area where God was aiming.  Imagine that!  When we’re going through a rough patch in our journey, we may be tempted to consider ourselves God’s target for pain and agony, especially when things are not resolved quickly.  Just as God was perfecting Job through his pain, He uses our trials to perfect us and make us more like Him.  In the process, we may mutter, “Why you all up in my business?” but then, isn’t that really where we want Him to be?  Watching over us, protecting, avenging and perfecting.

Moving Forward:  I surrender my business to the Lord today. I’m so thankful that He is mindful of my brief stint on earth, and my cry is “Don’t leave me alone!” Someday, our eternal life with Him will make it worth it all.

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 18-22

Psalms 9-11 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  From His Holy Temple, He observes both the righteous and wicked alike, but the righteous will see His face

Head for the hills! Cut and run! Turn tail!  Take to the woods!  Fly the coop!  Skedaddle! Hightail it!  There are a lot of ways to put it, but they all mean pretty much the same thing – retreat, run from the battle.  While sometimes we feel we have to pick our battles, we really aren’t comfortable admitting retreat, even though the situation may call for it.  As a warrior, David faced this dilemma over and over again. 

@ Psalm 11
I trust in the Lord for protection.  So why do you say to me, ‘Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!’” (1)  David sounded insulted that his advisers would suggest that he retreats.  Did he back down from Goliath? Did he not send the Philistines to flight?  Why would he fly to the mountains for safety?  David put his trust in the Lord for protection.  David was not afraid.

We understand from scripture, however, that David did retreat from the battle on occasion.  Did he not trust the Lord during those moments?  I’m sure David must have had moments of apprehension, but he was a brave warrior who knew what battles to pick.  He would have been put in a position of kill or be killed had he come face to face with Saul, the anointed king of Israel, or with his own son Absalom, so David chose to hide from them.  Can you imagine looking into the eyes of your own son and facing the decision to kill or be killed?  I would retreat as well.

Sometimes we find we have an enemy that should not be an enemy at all, but aggressive and hurtful things have been said and done to us.  We’re ready for an all-out attack, no running for the hills, we’re ready to rumble!  While victory may feel good for the moment, an altercation could possibly destroy that person in one way or another forever.  Do we really want to be responsible for that?  Better to have the heart of David.

Just as David was a warrior, we suit up every day in our battle dress from Ephesians 6 to fight the devil.  We are not afraid!  But we, too, have to pick our battles and be led by the Spirit when it comes to those individuals who oppose us.  When it’s all said and done, no one ever really gets away with anything. “But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven.  He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked.” (4-5)

For the wicked, the future does not look good. However, for those who trust in the Lord for protection and live a virtuous life, it’s all good! “For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.” (7) 

Moving Forward:  I’ll trust the Lord to protect me whether in battle or at peace; and with His help, I’ll live a righteous life so that I may see His face. 

Tomorrow @ Job 7-8

Next Page »