January 2018

blog-home-pageIntentional> Deliberate> On purpose> Planned> Premeditated> Calculated.  When we step away from the myriad of responsibilities and opportunities calling to us each day to spend time with God, we have made an intentional decision to connect with Him.  

Join with me as I read through the Bible this year – every day will deliver a life-changing read and provide the guidance we need in the days ahead.  Just follow below or click a day on the Calendar to the right for that day’s devotional. 

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  (Ps.119:105)  More than ever before, let’s be intentional!

Romans 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will determine our faith in Him by our deeds

My mom seldom made pies for her large family because of the time factor involved, but one day she made a beautiful blueberry pie.  I watched her roll the pastry dough, mix up the blueberry filling, top the pie and slide it into the oven.  The smell as it baked was almost intoxicating – I love pie.

After dinner mom sliced up big pieces and topped them with vanilla ice cream.  We all took a big bite simultaneously and then one by one our smiles turned to frowns from the bitter filling.  It seems mom mistakenly used baking soda instead of cornstarch to thicken the sauce.  It looked like a blueberry pie and smelled like a blueberry pie, but it sure didn’t taste like one.  The old English phrase comes to mind, “The proof is in the pudding,” or more accurate is the original saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  In our reading today, Paul challenged us with the proof of a believer. 

@ Romans 1
The church in Rome had been around for quite some time, but the Apostles had not had opportunity to visit Rome.  Paul longed to visit the church to strengthen its members in the faith and to teach them, but in the meantime, his letter to them would have to suffice.  His first order of business was to establish their faith.  In this chapter, faith is not the same faith of hope and trust mentioned in Hebrews 11 but is a faith signifying a belief in God.  “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’”(16-17)  Our belief, our faith in God, is what we live by and what brings us to eternal life. 

@ Romans 2
But then Paul made a statement that could be considered contrary to this scripture when he wrote, “He will judge everyone according to what they have done.  He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.(6-7)  We may look like a believer, walk like a believer, go to church like a believer, but He and others will determine if we truly are a believer by what we do.  In other words, the proof is in the pudding.  Our deeds give overwhelming proof of our belief and what is in our hearts.

Paul went on to write that the condition of our hearts is not determined by strict adherence to the law, but rather by the work of the Holy Spirit, “One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God.” (28-29)  Only a heart that is submitted to the spirit of God will do the good deeds that the Lord will judge.  Like that old saying, the proof is in the pudding.

Moving Forward:  As I submit my heart to the Lord today, I pray my deeds will prove my faith in God – overwhelming proof!

Tomorrow @ Genesis 1-3

Genesis 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The One who gives us breath desires our fellowship

As we read our scripture today, we were traveling at the breakneck speed of 66,000 per hour around the sun and spinning several hundred miles per hour at the same time, but I didn’t feel a thing.  At that speed, it seems like life would be a chaotic blur, but instead we enjoy order throughout the Universe. I just don’t have enough faith to believe as some do that this just happened on its own.  That our creative, eternal God brought the universe into existence? This I can accept.

While traipsing around the desert for 40 some years, leading a few million Israelites and providing a place of worship, food, shelter and guidance, Moses somehow managed to find the time to write the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch.  Genesis records the amazing story of creation, the universe and all its speeding parts, as well as our first ancestors.  Remembering how and why we are here provides a firm foundation as we begin our journey through what God is saying to us through His Word. 

@ Genesis 2
I really don’t give much thought to dust.  Other than the occasional writing in it on the surface of my furniture, dust is little more than a nuisance, even though, strange as it may seem, dust is in my DNA.  “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground…” (7)  Even though scientists have tried through the years to clone humanity, to my knowledge, they have not been able to keep our dust out of the mix.  No matter what lofty heights we may reach while on earth, it helps to keep our humility in check by remembering that we, all of humanity, came from dirt.

“…He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (7)  This statement has intimacy written all over it.  Please excuse the imagery that comes to mind, but very little we do is more intimate than sharing one’s breath with someone because of the closeness it requires.  And what does His breath give to us? Most agree the breath He shares as recorded here is Hebrew for spirit or soul.  God spoke the animals into existence, but mankind was formed, created in His very own image, and given a spirit to separate it from all other creatures.  We are not an accident or the outgrowth from scum on a rock as some would suggest.   No, our creation is very personal.  Without His breath however, we would not be. 

@ Genesis 3
No wonder the enemy’s first line of attack on mankind was to introduce the element of doubt into God’s love and intimacy with His creation, “One day [the serpent] asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?…‘You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.’” (1,4-5)  Was God not honest?  Did He not care for her and want what was best for her?  Doubts.  She should take matters into her own hands.

From this dialogue, we understand who the source of doubt is regarding God’s love for us and His desire to care and provide for us. It is when these doubts come that we must remember why He created us, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.  So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”(8-9)   We were created to be more than mere caretakers of His garden.  God has always, since the garden, and will always seek out His creation for fellowship. He wants to be with us. 

Moving Forward:  Reminded today of the intimacy with God that brought about my life and of the fellowship He desires, my first thoughts are of Him.  As I breathe throughout this day, I will not doubt His love and care for me. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 1-5

Joshua 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is willing to save anyone who calls Him Lord

Whenever I’m visiting a city for the first time anywhere in the world, I make it a point to find a travel book on the city or visit the local Visitor’s Center for maps and local information.  But when I get down to the nitty-gritty about where to eat, shop and hang out, I talk to the locals.  Yes, the hotel concierge is helpful to a point, but when I want to find the best seafood or barbeque ribs in town, I have a little chat with some of the locals, especially those who look like they’ve eaten a rib or two.  Joshua’s two covert spies that entered Jericho must have had this same strategy; but, unlike them, I must admit I’ve never chatted with a harlot…to my knowledge. 

@ Joshua 2
“Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” (1)  Help!  What were two nice Jewish boys doing in a place like that!  Well, I imagine it might be a good place to gather information from the locals.  We are uncertain of their reason for stopping at Rahab’s place and they may have been unsure themselves, but we do know that God was in it.  After all, if God can use a talking donkey, an ungodly Persian king and a stubborn Pharaoh to accomplish His will, He certainly can use a prostitute.

Rahab gave just the information the spies needed to know, “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (9-11)   Most agents of espionage only hope to have intelligence like this handed to them!

Rahab’s actions that night not only spared the lives of the two spies when the king’s men came searching for them, but also provided them with valuable information to report to Joshua. “Then the two spies came down from the hill country… and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them. ‘The Lord has given us the whole land,’ they said, ‘for all the people in the land are terrified of us.’” (23-24)  Victory was at hand!

Through her encounter with the spies, Rahab and her entire family were saved.  As a relative of Boaz, she is mentioned in Matthew in the lineage of Jesus, imagine that.  And because of her faith, Rahab is included with the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11.  When God chooses individuals to use for His purposes, we would be wise not to question the validity of their credentials.  God saw a hungry heart in Rahab who recognized Him as “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below,” and, sadly, many of the Israelites never made that leap of faith.  Rahab the prostitute was a hero.

There are individuals connected with us at work, in the neighborhood or even in our families who we feel are the least likely to ever find the Lord as their Savior, but because they are in our lives, we are probably wrong.  God sees their hearts and, like the spies, we are expected by God to follow His leading to their heart’s door with the message of Jesus.  Who knows how God will use them to bring victory in our own lives.

Moving Forward:  Because He knows each heart that is open to Him today, I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me, regardless. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 1-2

Psalms 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Word is a wellspring of counsel and guidance for us

It’s not a surprise to me that Psalms, this wonderful book of comfort, inspiration and guidance, would open with a Psalm directing us to the Source of all comfort, inspiration and guidance.  We’ve all heard the old joke about the individual seeking guidance through Bible roulette.  One opens the Bible to a random page, places a finger on a random verse that says, “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”(Matthew 27:5)  Not receiving any viable direction from this verse, the seeker once again arbitrarily selects a verse which reads, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)  Not good.  However, some of our sources for advice and direction can be just as misdirected.

@ Psalm 1
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” (1) This is one of the verses that my mom drilled into my heart early in life.  Even now, I can almost hear her saying, “Phyllis, do not ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly.’”(KJV)  Of course, we would never intentionally seek out the counsel or advice of ungodly people, but our lifestyle seems to lend itself to it at times.  I remember working in a bank, sitting around during coffee break and hearing all sorts of counsel coming from my co-workers for me as a young college girl.  No, they didn’t openly mock God, but their lifestyles were in and of themselves contrary to God and His commandments.  The hair or nail salon where we sit for an hour or two or three is another source of free advice that flies around the salon along with all the fumes. Unless these scenarios are Christian environments, I’d rather take my chances with Bible roulette.

And then there is the mother of all free advice – the internet.  According to Google stats for 2017, there were over 3.5 billion Google searches per day – that’s a lot of Googling! These stats represent people searching for advice, guidance, comfort and just a myriad of answers.  The internet is great for advice on how to fix the washing machine, where to buy the cheapest copy paper and how to make Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake, but do I really want to find direction for my life there?  Even with Christian websites like this blog, if they do not point us to the true Source of counsel, they are joining in with the mockers.

Speaking of the Source, “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (2-3)  If we want to prosper and be successful, let our counsel come from Him, His Word.  Meditate on it; get it deep within our hearts so that when advice is needed, we are able to reach down into our roots that are saturated with His Word and bring forth His counsel for our lives.  And then others, some godly others, may serve to encourage, inspire and perhaps provide some tools in sync with His counsel.  With the counsel of His Word, we will prosper in all we do, and who doesn’t want that!

Moving Forward:  As I meditate on His Word, I know He will direct me in the counsel that I will need for this very day because He is the Source and He’s got it covered. 

Tomorrow @ Job 1-2

Job 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He allows testing to strengthen us and help us grow closer to Him.

Florida is a beautiful place to live with its warm winter temperatures, lush colorful landscape and delicious fruits and vegetables.  If you can get past the alligators, snakes and sharks, the waters of Florida are delightful as well.  The dream of many individuals is to spend their waning years playing golf and relaxing in the sun, but the Year of the Hurricanes, 2004, changed a lot of dreams.  When three of the four hurricanes that year passed through my county, they left a path of devastation that took years to restore and the downed trees will take decades to replace.  It was a rough year and many people lost their dreams.

It was difficult to drive around our city after the storms and see the hundreds of lofty laurel oak trees uprooted and on their sides.  They couldn’t weather the storms because of their shallow roots, but the bright note in the landscape as we traveled around town was the collection of palm trees still standing tall, lacking only a few fronds.  One would think those skinny palms would be the first to go, but they survived because of their root system that grew deep enough to find a source of nutrition and because of their ability to bend and withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour.  Job was like the palm tree.  When the storms passed through his life, he was able to survive because he was rooted to the Source and because of his ability to bend…but it wasn’t easy. 

@ Job 1
“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil…He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.” (1-3) Growing tall and stately, Job caught the attention of God and Satan in their discourse about humanity.  Satan accused Job of only respecting God because God was good to him, and he sought to remove God’s blessings and watch Job crumble.

And this is where the good news in Job begins!  This is where we read that Satan does not know the future or he would not have asked to test Job – God was secure in allowing this testing of Job because He knew the end result.  Secondly, Satan must get God’s permission to touch God’s children – God is not taken by surprise in the trials we face and provides comfort and help when we need it most.  Thirdly, Satan can’t read our minds or he would have known Job’s commitment to God – God knows every thought we think even before we think it!  And finally, although he has little imps to help him, we know that Satan is not omnipresent because he had to patrol the earth to watch what was going on – God is everywhere he chooses to be, all the time. Outside of accusation and temptation, the accuser is greatly limited in what he can do in our lives unless, of course, we open the door to him.

But the greatest message from the Book of Job is not about what happened to Job, although it was tragic to be sure, nor is it about why this happened to Job.  The great message of Job is about who, the Sovereign Almighty God, and about one man’s, one good man’s, journey of total surrender to Him.  We should not be afraid of Job’s journey and its message because they will only make us better. And there’s always Chapter 42 to look forward to. “But the godly will flourish like palm trees…” (Psalm 92:12) 

Moving Forward:  I’ll seek out and stay grounded to the Source today so that I can withstand the storms that may come my way.

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 1-6

Isaiah 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He cleanses our hearts so that we may sit in His presence

“I saw the Lord! I saw the Lord! He was high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple, He was high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. The angels cried, ‘Holy!’ The angels cried, ‘Holy!’ The angels cried, ‘Holy is the Lord!’” When I was just a little girl of five or six years old, I remember my pastor walking to the microphone singing this song. I’ve always thought this song with its several verses was a spontaneous outflow by my pastor from Isaiah 6 following personal time he had spent with the Lord.  Today, I’m not really sure who originated the song, but I know it was someone who had an encounter with God.

Even though he had been a missionary, an evangelist and was then the pastor of our church, my Pastor was like Abraham or Moses to me.  Like all the youth and children in our church, I sat spellbound as I listened to his messages.  I didn’t understand a lot of what was being said, but he spoke with an authority, an anointing, that could only come from someone who had experienced an encounter with the Lord similar to that of Isaiah. 

@ Isaiah 6
The life of a prophet was not easy during Israel’s disobedient years, and this was true for Isaiah.  His prophecies to Israel, Judah and the surrounding countries were dismal and spoke of devastation, but nestled in between his declarations of judgment was a little bit of heaven.  “I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!’” (1-3)  Often when our hearts are heavy from the sin and disregard for God that we see all around us, the Lord offers us an oasis in His Holy presence.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord…” Perhaps a tribute by the Seraphim to the Trinity, the Hebrew meaning of Holy implied to Isaiah that God was unapproachable and separate, exposing his sin and he cried, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, ‘See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.’” (5-8)

To be sure, an encounter of this magnitude with the living God could only humble us, but our loving God would not leave us wallowing in our sin and separation as Isaiah feared.

No, He offers the coal, the fire of the Spirit, the blood of the sacrificial Lamb from the altar to remove our guilt and sin.  And just as He asked Isaiah, the Lord asks us, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” (8)

So the question for us from Isaiah’s encounter with God is whether or not we will separate from our busy lives and step away to His presence where He will purify us and where we will receive the words, the songs and prose He wants to give us to touch our world.  Even more sobering, if He asks us, will we go? 

Moving Forward:  Stepping away to sit in His Holy presence, I’m so very thankful for His cleansing.  I’ll wait to receive all that He has for me today. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 2

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