March 2018


Jeremiah 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our mouths with words of hope for the lost

Artists are generally sensitive individuals. Having dabbled in oil painting through the years, I know that my best work is done when I’m not distracted and when I stay focused on the scene I’m painting. When I allow the beauty of the landscape or the drama of a scene that I’m painting to touch my heart, the feelings that are stirred end up on the canvas. They tell a story while leaving room for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks, and that is the goal of any artist.

We begin the Book of Jeremiah today, a book filled with warnings and judgments from God for Judah and Israel through His prophet, Jeremiah. Fortunately, Jeremiah was a sensitive guy and an artist of sorts in the way he delivered God’s word. By using word pictures throughout the book, Jeremiah painted many pictures of warning for the Israelites, but sadly, they didn’t appreciate his work.

At only 20 years old, Jeremiah received this word from the Lord, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, “I’m too young,” for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, ‘Look, I have put my words in your mouth!’” (1:5-10) And so, the painting began…

“The heavens are shocked at such a thing…For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (2:12-13) Picture a dry and thirsty nation leaving a life-giving fountain of water for cracked empty pots in the ground, forsaking the true and living God for dead, useless idols. Jeremiah’s illustrations showed the shocking foolishness of Judah’s behavior.

Jeremiah painted pictures of the unfaithful wife, the thief, the crooked road and wayward hearts, stalking lions, destroyed vineyards, storms, playing children, plowed ground and so many more vivid pictures. All were painted by a yielded artist who used the words that God had placed in his mouth to tell the story of judgment that would come if Judah did not repent. Each picture was worth a thousand words, but at the moment, Judah wasn’t into art.

“My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries.” (4:13) We would expect this anguish from the heart of one so tender towards God. Jesus had much the same response to the condition of Jerusalem in His day, “But as He came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42) However, all those who accept Him today joyfully celebrate the way to peace during this Easter Season.

Reading about the life of Jeremiah should be a wake-up call for us. For over 40 years he faithfully spoke the message God had given him although no one responded to it. Ever mindful of the task set before me, I am challenged to paint the picture and tell the story of Jesus to a world that is in much the same shape as the world in Jeremiah’s day. Will I be faithful regardless of the response? Am I so broken by all that I see around me that I weep for those without hope and those in need of a Savior? Before it’s too late…

Moving Forward: I pray today that I will share His message from a broken heart, painting a picture of hope for each lost soul. And as the Lord was with Jeremiah, I know He will be with me.

Tomorrow @ Mark 5-6

Job 25-26 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He captures our attention with His Almighty power

The other night I heard the loudest and longest rumble of thunder I had ever heard, loud enough to jolt me to my feet out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. It took quite some time for me to relax back to sleep, but in the process, I remembered a little dog we had at one time who was terrified of thunder. At the first clap, he was under a table, behind a sofa or under my feet, and he shook so badly that he could have been used for a back massage. Poor thing.

Thunder in and of itself doesn’t hurt us, but it definitely gets our attention. It announces the presence of storms that are sometimes powerful enough to change the landscape around us. Thunder is mentioned many times in the Bible, most often in respect to the most powerful entity in the Universe – the power of God.

@ Job 26
After being compared by Bildad to a maggot and worm in his insignificance, Job still had the presence of mind to deliver a beautiful portrayal of the God of creation and the earth’s reaction to His power. “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke.” (7-11)

The eternal – always was and forever will be – God accomplished all of this in just a blink of His time, “These are just the beginning of all that He does, merely a whisper of His power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of His power?” (14) Earth, sky, moon, oceans, day and night, animal, mankind – merely a whisper of His power. Job was asking, “Who could even imagine His thunder?” There isn’t a place hidden enough, deep enough or safe enough to stop our trembling at the thought of the thunder of His power. In light of this, I am sometimes in awe that I would find it necessary to advise the Lord on how He should handle any given situation. I mean, really.

I believe God has manifested to us the thunder of His power on this earth to a measure. And even still, I can’t comprehend it; I can’t grasp the enormity of it. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’…Then Jesus shouted out again, and He released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened.” (Matthew 27:45-52) The thunder of His Redemption power! I think I hear a rumble…

“Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it…‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.” (Matthew 28:2-6) The thunder of His Resurrection power! His thunderous power has rumbled through the centuries to save our sinful souls and to give us eternal life with Him. And with His thunder, He captured not only our attention, but He captured our souls!

Moving Forward: I can’t understand the power that changed my life and enables me to sit in His Presence, but it is as real as the earth spinning through the Universe and the moon hanging in the sky – so thankful today for the power of the cross.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 1-6

Psalms 36-38 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He responds to our delight in Him with delight!

My husband and I have never bought extravagant gifts for each other on our anniversaries. We usually enjoy a nice dinner together at a favorite restaurant and often give each other some little meaningful gift. One year my husband told me that his gift to me that day was that he would spend as much time at the shopping mall with me as I desired. You probably don’t understand the magnitude of this gift, but let it suffice to say that he’d rather have his fingernails pulled off one at a time than walk in a mall. This was huge!

Well, needless to say, I gratefully received his gift, and we strolled through the mall for several hours, laughing, drinking coffee and shopping for Christmas presents. My husband’s gift made me feel cherished and appreciated and brought me much joy. His gift was intentional because he knew me so well, and he delighted in being with me and giving me joy. My response was to make him feel cherished as well.

@ Psalm 37
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (4) Because we are made in his image, the actions that delight the Lord are not so unlike our own. Just as we celebrated our special anniversary day, what would delight the Lord more than for us to intentionally give honor and celebration to His special day – the Sabbath? “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day…Then the Lord will be your delight.” (Isaiah 58:13-14) On our anniversary, we pulled away from our regular activities to honor our special day and delight in one another. On His day, we bring joy to His heart when we rest from our busy lives and delight only in Him.

What could delight the Lord more than for us to spend as much time as He wants at the place where He most desires our fellowship – His Presence? “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Pleasures forevermore!

“…and He will give you your heart’s desires.” This promise that follows our delight in Him can be understood in two different ways. First, when we delight in Him, when we take time to honor His special day and cherish our time spent with Him, His response is to fulfill our heart’s desires. We understand this response because we react to delight in much the same way.

His response that I know to be true as well is that He will place in our hearts the desires that He wants us to have because we delighted in Him. He will give us what our hearts should desire. Delight in Him and suddenly our heart’s desires will be His will and receive His stamp of approval. When our desires are not in sync with God’s word, perhaps we are not delighting in the Lord and have found someone or something else to delight in. In this case, God is not the one we take pleasure in, appreciate, revel in and enjoy.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (23) We delight in Him, and He delights in us! When we question our next step in life or the path we should follow, our best effort to find direction is when we delight in the Lord. Honor His day, seek His Presence, revel in Him, cherish, savor and enjoy Him. His will becomes our heart’s desires, and He directs our steps.

Moving Forward: My song today, “I delight in the Lord, with all my heart…All my mind and my soul. I delight in the Lord, with all my heart…All my mind and my soul. As I wait upon the Lord, I grow stronger…” (Boloche)

Tomorrow @ Job 25-26

I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their will clashes with our will, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts, and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to: usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9). Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works.  However, if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we spend meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and accept the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me to obedience. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38

Genesis 48-50 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He speaks blessing and promise over our lives

“Get over here! You never do anything right! You’re just good for nothing! You’re never gonna amount to anything, boy.” I cringed as I heard a man scolding his young son in public. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at the boy who had just been humiliated by a man I assumed to be his dad. This young one had probably been disobedient and had somehow gotten on his dad’s last nerve, but I was embarrassed for him. Even more devastating to me was hearing the man speak curse after curse over his son. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a son.

It made me think of the words I often heard my dad speak to me, “Honey, you can do anything in life that you want to do.” Or, “You can be anything you want to be. The sky’s the limit.” He called me beautiful, pretty or cute almost every day. I don’t know if he really believed it, but because he said it, I did. Although dad didn’t know the Lord when I was young, he knew enough to speak blessings and promise over my life, for which I am eternally grateful. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a daughter.

@ Genesis 48
At the close of the book of Genesis, we find Jacob on his deathbed calling for Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, desiring to speak a blessing over them. “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.” (15-16)  After stealing his brother’s blessing at one time, Jacob must certainly have understood the weight a father’s words could carry in the life of a son or grandson.

Throughout the book of Genesis, we read about the blessings from God to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob and now from Jacob to Joseph and his sons. Not all of Jacob’s pronouncement over his other sons were the blessings they had hoped to receive, nor was Noah’s curse on his son Canaan. But all of these curses, pale in comparison to the curse of sin found in Genesis 3 through the fall of Adam and Eve that brought us separation from God. However, our loving Heavenly Father would never leave us cursed – by anyone!

God gave this little message to the serpent that fateful day in the Garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel.” (3:15) This was God’s prophetic message of One who would come to die on the cross, His heel would be bruised, but He would crush the head of the serpent, who has spent his days on his belly ever since. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1)

No condemnation, no curses! We belong to Him! The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us from the power of sin, the power of curses and of those things that anyone may speak over us. Although man’s words may be hurtful at times, we do not need to walk under the weight of man’s confession over us. We walk with the Father’s blessings of abundant life through His son, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, NKJV)

Children need our disciplines at times, but they never deserve cursing and humiliation. When we speak words of blessing and promise to our children, we are partnering with the heart of God who has promised blessing and abundant life to His children as they follow Him. Partnering with God – isn’t that something we would want to do?

Moving Forward: I am forever challenged to speak blessing and promise to my children, and actually, all of God’s children. Oh, how He loves them.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 11-15

I Corinthians 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His Word about the past provides protection for our present and our future

When we acquire a new book to read, most of us do not spend a lot of time reading the front matter, as it’s called. These are pages that may include the endorsement page, title half page, the full title page with publisher information, the copyright page, the dedication page, the acknowledgment page, the contents page, the foreword page and the introduction page. Whew! No, we want to get right into the good stuff, the heart of the book, Chapter One.

From the viewpoint of an author, I believe those front pages are relevant and should be read. In many cases, it’s the only opportunity for authors to express their purpose for writing, their gratitude to others and their credentials. As a reader, I appreciate knowing these things. They add validity to what I’m reading and an understanding of what the author intends for me to glean from the book. The pages that follow are their heart and soul, and I don’t want to miss a beat. I think this is somewhat how Paul felt about Israel’s recorded history. The Corinthian Church was living in the here and now, but he desired for them to reread the front pages of their history because they were written down for a purpose by the Author.

@ I Corinthians 10
“These things happened to [the Israelites] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” (11) The Corinthian Church was struggling in many areas of conduct and dedication to the Lord, and Paul’s purpose for writing this letter was to address these issues. Paul gave a brief summary of Israel’s past blessings from the Lord, but to keep history from repeating itself, he also gave a brief account of Israel’s past mistakes.

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud… all of them walked through the sea… all of them were baptized as followers of Moses… All of them ate the same spiritual food… and all of them drank the same spiritual water.” (1-4) Obviously, God is an equal-opportunity provider! But here was the glitch, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” (5) Help. Provision is not necessarily an endorsement of our behavior.

In response to all this supernatural provision from the Lord, most of the Israelites decided to “crave evil things…worship idols…engage in sexual immorality…put Christ to the test…grumble.” (6-10) And God responded to their sin by sending a plague where 23,000 died in one day, allowing some to die from snakebites and others to be destroyed by the angel of death. “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did.” (6)

We love the New Testament message of grace, mercy, and blessings, but those front pages, the Old Testament, are vital for us to understand so that history does not repeat itself in our lives. Just as with every author, when the Author wrote the Bible, every word was intentional and carried with it His heart on the matter.

Wise one that he was, Paul added this caution because he understood the hearts of those he ministered to, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (12) In other words, if we think we would never do such a thing – we would never crave evil, worship idols, commit sexual sin, tempt God or live a grumbling lifestyle – watch out because that attitude sets up a fall through temptation.

To this heavy message, Paul added a word of comfort for his readers, “And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (13) New Testament grace through the Holy Spirit for an Old and New Testament challenge! I once read, When you flee from temptation, be sure you do not leave a forwarding address behind. That should cover it.

Moving Forward: Learning from the past, applying to the present, protection for the future. Join me tomorrow for a little Old Testament…

Tomorrow @ Genesis 48-50

Mark 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He speaks peace to the storms of life

The thing I remember most about viewing the movie, The Perfect Storm, is the irritation that started to build in me as I watched it.  Anytime money and/or greed determine the destiny of an individual, life takes an unfortunate turn in one way or another.  I was irritated that the storyline made me care for the willful crew of the Andrea Gail and for the loss that would occur.  Commercial fishing is a fickle business, dependent on weather, sea, and fish, all of which are out of the fisherman’s hands.

The Captain and crew didn’t know about the catastrophic storm that was brewing when they started out.  When they learned of it, they chose to put themselves at the mercy of the storm in hopes of saving their catch instead of seeking safe harbor.  Grrrr….  Some fishermen in our story today found themselves in the perfect storm, but instead of riding it out alone, they ran for help. 

@ Mark 4
“They took [Jesus] with them in the boat…A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (36-41, NRSV)

Several years ago I happily found myself in a boat on the Sea of Galilee…without a storm.  It was hard to visualize a treacherous storm as I sat on the calm water, but our host described the nature of this Sea.  Encircled by mountains and hills, the Sea of Galilee sits at 680 feet below sea level with somewhat shallow waters for a body of water this size, making it aptly conducive for a sudden, perfect storm. This was the situation the disciples found themselves in that night.

It was no small rowboat that carried the crew across the Sea.  It was large enough to hold 12 men and provide space for Jesus to stretch out for a nap.  Most on board were not novices at sea – they were seasoned fishermen.  To find them in a panic speaks to the fierceness of the storm they were facing, but they soon learned that no storm was too fierce for the Lord.  Although their fright revealed a lack of faith, at least the disciples knew where to go to for help!  “The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” (Matthew 8:25)

We may find ourselves in a situation that feels like the perfect storm, out to destroy us; but as with the disciples that night in the boat, our storm is never too fierce for the Lord to save us.  When we follow the Lord, we are never at the mercy of the storm.  We are at the mercy of Jesus, the peace speaker.  And when we run to Him in our storm with its raging winds and torrential rains crying “Lord, save us!” we will not drown.  He will speak peace to our storm, and if we let Him, He will fill our hearts with peace as well.

We may sense the storm still raging around us, but it’s as if He places us in the calm of the storm, the eye of the hurricane, if you will.  Our hearts are filled with peace, and we are in a place of safety until the storm dissipates.  When we’re facing life’s storms, it’s easy to forget that we are not alone in the boat.  Right there with us is the peace speaker who will speak to our storm, Peace! Be still!” 

Moving Forward:  Who then is it that even the wind and the sea obey him?  “I know the Peace Speaker, I know Him by Name.  I know the Peace Speaker, He controls the wind and the waves.  When He says, ‘Peace, be still,’ they have to obey. I know the Peace Speaker, Yes, I Know Him by Name.” (Geron Davis/Meadowgreen) 

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 9-10

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