February 2018

Judges 17-21 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the Constant in our lives

For those who know me, it’s not a secret that I’m a coffee drinker – espresso, lattes, cappuccinos – so much so that I have my own espresso machine with all the little devices that go along with it that promise a good cup of coffee.  When I froth the milk, I use an instant-read thermometer because I like my milk at 170°; and just an additional note of information, the lower the milk fat content, the better the froth.  I don’t like giving the impression that I’m overly particular about my coffee…but I am.  Recently I noticed that my drinks were not as hot as I like them to be although the thermometer read the right temperature.  I knew it was time to calibrate my thermometer.

Using a small tool, I adjusted the thermometer to read 32° when inserted in a cup of ice and water because one of the constants in my life is the fact that water freezes at 32°.  Two plus two will always be four, 12 inches make up a foot, water at sea level boils at 212° – these are constants I can count on no matter what I’m facing in life.

Even though I would like to make $2 plus $2 equal $1,000, it just isn’t going to happen because we can’t change the constants to fit our desires or to match our lifestyles. We can run as far away from our constants as we possibly can, but whether we have lost sight of them or not, they are still constant, unchanging, and resolute.  These truths, however, did not keep Israel from trying to change God, the most irrefutable Constant in their lives.

@ Judges 17
“One day [Micah] said to his mother, ‘I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.’ ‘The Lord bless you for admitting it,’ his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, ‘I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.’” (2-3)  I’m not sure what part of Exodus 20:4 –You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind – this mother did not understand, but she chose to disregard the irrefutable Sovereignty of God and make a more user-friendly version for herself.  Eventually, Israel was destroyed because it chose to follow this example by worshiping idols as well.  The constant of God’s Word is unchangeable. 

@ Judges 19-21
The dismal story of the Levite and his concubine is heart-wrenching, to say the least, and the list of characters in this story that lost sight of their constant is long.  From the selfish Levite to the perverted Benjamites and to the Israelite army, all were living for themselves and making judgments based on tribal loyalties rather than the constants of God’s Word.  Even after God gave the army victory over the Benjamite warriors, they sought their own means to provide wives for the few remaining men of Benjamin. Obviously, the Israelites needed some recalibrating to the Constant in their lives, but unfortunately, they had lost sight of Him.

The last verse of the Book of Judges sums up the reason for all the sin, rash vows, civil war and bloodshed, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (21:25)  The Israelites chose to reject the unchangeable King of all kings and all the constants He provided – constant love, constant guidance, constant provision and so much more – because they did not want to obey the constants of His commandments.   They chose poorly. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for all the constants of the Lord, including His commandments – “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  His Word keeps me calibrated to my Constant!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 24-26

Genesis 32-35 (NLT) 

Discovering His heart: He gives the assurance of victory in response to our tenacious prayer

The assurance is a term I remember from my childhood. It meant praying until the assurance came – the word, the guarantee, the promise that would flood our beings with calm and confidence.   Although it’s not a term I hear used very often today, the assurance is still ours when we pray through, not giving up until that sense of victory fills our hearts.  In our reading today, Jacob wrestled through to his victory.

@Genesis 32
I would imagine that Jacob’s heart sunk down around his knees – yes, humanly impossible, yet feels so real – when his messengers returned with the news that Esau was advancing with an army of 400 men.  As any father would do, Jacob went into protection mode and divided the wives, children and animals into two groups—perhaps one group would survive.  “Then Jacob prayed…” (9)

In his prayer, Jacob reminded God, twice, of His promises to him, “O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’” (9) What better ground did Jacob have to make his plea to God for help than to remind Him of His promise, something David did repeatedly in the Psalms.  And better yet, God knew Jacob had been paying attention to His words.  When we are facing a challenge, we can boldly remind God of His promises – whether standing on His written Word or those He shares deep within our hearts.  I believe He is blessed that we have been paying attention.

“O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” (11)  Jacob’s prayer revealed that he was afraid, and in that fear he assumed that Esau was coming to kill him.  Cautionary fears, such as touching fire, protect us in life because we respect what that fire can do, but baseless fear never produces a reasonable response.  Jacob, reminiscent of his mother, decided he would help God out by trying to appease Esau with an abundance of gifts.  As we soon learn, this was an exercise in futility – Esau was not angry and these gifts were unwanted and somewhat insulting to Esau because he was a wealthy man.  Our fears produce unreasonable responses to our problems – exercises in futility.

Jacob!  Always the schemer – but not for long!  Jacob sent his gifts and family ahead, but stayed behind in the camp and had an encounter with an angel, a wrestling match like no other.  Jacob was about to earn the blessing he had received through deception so long ago from his father. All through the night, Jacob wrestled the angel with tears and pleading (Hosea 12:4) and would not stop until he received the blessing, the victory, the assurance.  Jacob left Peniel, the face of God, with a limp and a new name, Israel, both reminders that God would be in control of his life now, no deceiving and scheming, a Prince with God.

Even better for us today is that we do not wrestle alone!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)  Oh, that we would be as tenacious as Jacob, praying until the assurance comes and until we receive the blessing.  Blessed Assurance!

Moving Forward:  I choose to relinquish baseless fears that only bring futile responses from me.  In my challenges today, I will wrestle with tenacious prayer until the assurance comes, moving forward with a calm heart and with confidence in His promises. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 17-21

I Corinthians 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to share His wisdom and deep secrets with us

My husband recently purchased a Kindle for me, a nifty little electronic book that is less than one-fourth of an inch thick yet holds an entire library of reading.  I must admit that I love the feel and weight of tangible books, flipping through those pages and smelling the ink; but at the time of purchase, the Kindle was ideal for my travel.  It was a used Kindle, so after reading through the manual, I deleted most of the previous library, not really interested in Sci-Fi and horror.

My mind was having trouble getting around the concept of adding books to this little device because surely the process would be complicated and filled with technical lingo.  To my amazement, in two or three clicks, using very familiar terms to me like purchase and select, my new book was there on my Kindle in black and white.  I did my best to make the process more complicated than it really was because sometimes it’s difficult to accept that something of worth could be so simple to attain.  Paul wrote about this very thing in our reading today. 

@ I Corinthians 1
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (21-23)

The Gospel is uncomplicated:  John 3:16 – God loved, God gave.  We believe, we receive.  For the intellectuals who were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day, this message was foolish and too simple to be true.  For those with a religious background, the Jews, this message was foolish and too simple to be of value.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  So many neighbors and acquaintances through the years have looked down their long intellectual noses as I’ve shared the simple Gospel with them, and many religious people, those who have been christened or confirmed or catechismed, have no need for the truth I am sharing.  Yet, if they will accept this simple Gospel, a door to wisdom will open for them that is so deep that only the Spirit can reveal its truths. 

@ I Corinthians 2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (9-10) The Gospel of salvation may be simple, but God’s deep secrets will never be understood without it.

With salvation come the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to understand God’s Word and the secrets it contains.  “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (12)

We will never understand all the mysteries and depths of God’s wisdom while here on earth, but those recorded in the Bible, at the very least, are available to us through His Spirit – His love for us, His intentions, and His direction. Isn’t that what the early Greeks and Jews were seeking in all their philosophical debates and teachings?  Isn’t that what people everywhere today are seeking?  Love, purpose and direction?  And it all begins with acceptance of the simple Gospel – God loved, God gave. We believe, we receive.   Simple but priceless. 

Moving Forward: I will continue to seek out through the Spirit the revelation of His wisdom, the mind of Christ.  And I will continue sharing the simple Gospel, undaunted by the intellectuals and religious, and finding those hearts that desire to learn God’s deep secrets. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 32-35

Matthew 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is mercy and grace

My first real job out of high school was working in the stenographer’s pool at a large bank while I attended college.  Different departments throughout the bank called the steno pool when they needed someone to take dictation, do filing, answer phones, etc.  The goal of everyone in the pool was to eventually find a permanent position somewhere in the bank.

One employee who had worked there for a long time was a source of irritation for most of us as we waited for our escape because of her poor work ethic.  On occasion, I thought how great it would be to file my nails, make personal phone calls or in my case do homework while on company time.  It seemed unfair that she was paid for 40 hours each week like the rest of us, but for some reason a measure of grace and mercy was given to her. This was bothersome to us because, in the natural, we don’t want grace for others as much as we want justice!  Thankfully, we’re not God. 

@Matthew 20
In Matthew 20, Jesus shared a parable about grace and mercy, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.” (1-2)  Normal pay for a normal day sounds reasonable.  Throughout the day the landowner added workers, even up to the final hour of the workday, and a conflict arose when their pay was divvied out.

“When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’” (10-12)  I feel their pain. I’ve heard these simple definitions of mercy and grace:  Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve; grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  Matthew 20:1-16 is all over this.

In the same way, it may seem unfair that someone with a death-bed conversion to Christ who lived a pleasure-filled godless life will spend eternity in Heaven with God and with all those who lived submitted and obedient lives to Him. But it is really unfair?  Would any of us be so bold as to say we deserve eternity in Heaven because of our righteousness?  That any of us will spend eternity with the Lord is only because a righteous God spared us from what we deserved and gave us what we didn’t deserve through our acceptance of Jesus Christ – plain and simple.

As far as my co-worker from so long ago, one day I realized that she had missed the point.  She was still in the steno pool long after the rest of us had moved on to a better position in the bank.  Mercy kept her employed and grace kept her paycheck coming, but she missed out on all that she could have achieved and enjoyed along the way.

Those who come late in life to the Lord miss out on the abundant life He offers here on earth, and even more so, they miss out on the pleasure that comes from a lifetime of pursuing His purpose for them.  God is merciful, but waiting to come to Him does not secure the abundant life on earth He has offered us.

I am ever mindful that God has given each of us assignments to accomplish while we tread this sod, but our purpose, both on earth and in Heaven, is something much different.  He has given us life, our very next breath, for the purpose of fellowship and intimacy with Him. Obedience and self-denial may be our path to Him, but anything we surrender is insignificant compared to the pure pleasure of His company! 

Moving Forward:  I approach this day with a greater understanding and thankfulness for His mercy and grace on my life.  Before I accomplish the myriad of things I must do today, I first will pursue the pleasure of His company.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 1-2

Isaiah 40-44 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’…He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (40:9,11 nkjv/nlt)  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah have been rugged with prophetic judgments on the nations, but the tone of the prophet Isaiah changed in Chapter 40 as he reminded Israel of who God really is:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (43:2) I am thankful that because of Jesus, I am part of this promise to Israel.  As I go through rivers of difficulty in my life, He is with me and will not let me drown. Sometimes the waters feel like they are right at my neck, but somehow He supports me and keeps me afloat through the difficulty.  I look back at situations in life and see myself as though I was almost walking on water rather than drowning because of God’s grace.

This is the God that Isaiah was encouraging Israel to remember and to follow.  One of the most beloved and quoted scriptures is found here in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” And they just may walk on water…

These chapters in Isaiah remind me of Who ultimately controls the outcome of powers, governments and kingdoms and their deeds.  In Chapter 41:2 and again in 44:28, Isaiah prophesied about a king from the east, 150 years in the future, who would deliver Israel out of Babylon captivity, someone God called into His own service to do His bidding. King Cyrus of Esther and Nehemiah fame, a pagan king, sent Israel back to their homeland simply because God willed him to do so.

I think of the events in more recent history where powerful men and nations chose to carry out their evil imaginations causing death and destruction, but their actions soon brought their own demise.  Out of the rubble of World War II, an evil regime died and Israel once again returned to its homeland, a nation stronger than ever, with a friend by its side, a strong friend and ally, the United States.  My prayer is that we remain a friend to Israel, for our own sake as well as for theirs.

Because heartless leaders and zealot groups around the world have met their doom, the gospel is now being preached and churches established in an area of the world where they were once forbidden. I am ever convinced that God will use the acts of all powers, governments and kingdoms to ultimately bring about His good.  Yet, so personal is He that He feeds little me, carries me in His arms when needed and guides me along life’s path.  I declare with Isaiah, Behold our God!  There is none other like Him.

Moving forward:  God is in control – I will remember this today regardless of the news alerts and headlines.  I’ll remember that He is with me through my difficult moments of life as well.  He’s got this! 

Tomorrow@Matthew 20-22

Job 15-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows me and loves me enough to witness on my behalf

After observing a lengthy high profile court case on television a few years ago, I came to understand the role of a witness.  The case was filled with witnesses for both the prosecution and for the defense, and it was the job of the opposing lawyer to discredit each witness as much as possible so that the testimony became null and void.  Sometimes the courtroom atmosphere got a little heated as accusations were made, and I’m not talking about the room temperature.  Job’s courtroom in our reading today was picking up in intensity as the name calling continued and accusations were made. 

@ Job 15
Eliphaz continued his indictment of Job even after being called a worthless quack in Job’s last dialogue. Eliphaz was obviously offended and struck back with a long discourse about what happens to wicked people.  “Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:  ‘A wise man wouldn’t answer with such empty talk! You are nothing but a windbag… Your own mouth condemns you, not I.  Your own lips testify against you…The wicked writhe in pain throughout their lives. Years of trouble are stored up for the ruthless.  The sound of terror rings in their ears.’” (2,6,20-21)  Eliphaz, who was only a witness to the events of Job’s life, went ahead and judged Job guilty of sin and tried to scare Job into repenting of sins he hadn’t committed. What a comforter!

I can’t help here but think of our accuser, the devil, who stands before God accusing us of all manner of evil. (Rev 12:10)  But I’m so thankful to know just how God views him, “[The devil] 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)  We, too, should remember his title when he lies to us. 

@ Job 16
“What miserable comforters you are!  Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.  But if it were me, I would encourage you.  I would try to take away your grief.” (2-5)  I pray my counsel is never judgmental and arrogant like that of Eliphaz, but rather that it is as Job suggests and is filled with encouragement – words that remove grief rather than cause it.

“O earth, do not conceal my blood.  Let it cry out on my behalf.  Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. (18-19)  Job was aware that he had a witness in heaven, Someone who had witnessed every deed, every word of his life, and he was calling on that witness to speak on his behalf.  However, Job was in the process of learning to give witness himself to the faithfulness of God regardless of his circumstances.

We, too, have a witness in heaven who sees every part of our lives and is well able to speak on our behalf.  But just as Job was working on his public confession of trust in God, we are called by Jesus to do a little witnessing ourselves in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  If we witness for Him, He’ll witness for us.

When accusations and taunts come to us that cause confusion, condemnation and distress, we can know that they do not come from the One who knows the truth. And as we give witness to the faithfulness of God, we can call on the One who is truth to plead our case, our Witness in Heaven who knows all things—He is the one witness that no one can discredit! 

Moving forward – Today I will refuse words and thoughts from the enemy and the accusations of things that are untrue.  I call on my Witness who knows and sees everything to speak on my behalf. 

Tomorrow@Isaiah 40-44

Psalm 21-23 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He longs to guide us, heal us, protect us, comfort us and cover us with the oil of His blessings

@ Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It was while reading the Bible on a day in February 1998, just like I’m doing today, that the familiar 23rd Psalm became more real to me than I had ever known before.  The presence of the Lord filled my little family room in a very special way and from that day forward I started to record His revelation to me of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to His sheep.  From that experience I wrote the devotional book Intimate Moments with the Shepherd – Guidance through the Challenges of Life, an illustrated portrayal of the Shepherd’s intimate relationship with us.

While researching and taking photos for this project, I visited dozens of sheep farms and learned some valuable lessons.  Out in the sheep pastures I could have called the sheep over to me all day long, but they only came when they heard their shepherd calling. At his or her call, they came running.  I learned that even with a flock of 200 or more, the shepherd knew each sheep, their lineage, their illnesses and even the grains and grasses that some preferred.  These experiences and many others like them were valuable lessons that revealed to me first-hand the intimacy we have with our Shepherd as David understood it.

Something that always blesses me when I read Psalm 23 is the subtle, yet significant change that takes place between verses 3 and 4, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (3-4)  Up to verse 4, David had been talking about his Shepherd, His guidance, His rest, His strength.  But when David reached the dark valley, he began talking to his Shepherd.

The Lord leads us along life’s path giving direction and guidance. When we face the dark valley that may be death or may just seem like it, a shadow of it, He is right there beside us often carrying us through our challenge.  We can talk to Him, confident that we are not alone.

In a personal way, David continued, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  Then, right there in front of our howling enemies, He anoints us with abundant favor, as if to say to our enemy, “Be gone!  This one is Mine, eternally!”  What an honor to sit at His table and to be marked with His fragrant oil for everyone to see and smell. “I’m my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” What a Shepherd! 

Moving Forward: As I move forward to live out the challenges I may face today, I will walk with the confident knowledge that my Shepherd, my Lord, is with me.  When the enemy comes with his taunts, I will boldly declare that I am anointed with the Lord’s favor, “Be gone! I belong to Him.” 

Tomorrow @ Job 15-16

Next Page »