November 2018


Ecclesiastes 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our obedience to Him with eternal life in heaven

My husband and I are avid readers.  While he manages to read five books at a time, a little here and there until he has finished them, I enjoy reading one book at a time and giving it my full attention.  A real treat for me that doesn’t happen often enough is reading a well-written novel.  I have a friend who pages ahead occasionally to find out what’s going to happen and has been known to read the end of the book first.  I worry about individuals who do this.  There’s nothing like a plot building, collecting all its intricate parts and then exploding at the end with a grand finale.  Who would want to ruin that by reading ahead?  Almost like a novelist, Solomon has been building a story in Ecclesiastes, and today we read his grand finale.

We’ve read through some rather dark moments in Solomon’s life over the last twelve chapters: “Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless! …Everything is wearisome beyond description…all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,14)  Solomon had tried everything on earth to bring meaning to his life, but nothing worked. After years of searching, he finally came to this conclusion, “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him.” (2:24-26)  Everything is fleeting, at best, apart from the eternal God.

Solomon also brought us words of encouragement and understanding, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” (3) and “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (5:20)  We can toil and strive to get ahead of God’s plans for us, but Solomon concluded that living in our moment and accepting His timing will bring the most peace during our brief stint on earth. 

@ Ecclesiastes 12 – The Grand Finale
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:  Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (13-14)  Living with unbridled devotion to the One who created us and gives us breath, never assuming that role as our own, is the very least we can do to show our love and respect to God.  Obedience is a natural result of our devotion to Him.  Whether it’s our job, our family or sports, if we’re devoted to it, we are going to play by the rules.

Solomon’s statement that God will judge everything we do should confirm in our hearts that eternal life is inevitable otherwise there would be no need for judgment.  “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (3:11) Our hearts yearn for that day when we will live with God for all eternity as recorded in the Revelation.  I must admit, the Bible is one book where I’ve paged ahead to see how it ends, and guess what?  For those who love God, it’s all good!

Moving Forward: With a heart of devotion to Him, I move through this day in obedience to His commands, ever mindful of my eternal home. 

Tomorrow @ Malachi

Psalms 137-139 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He knows everything we do and everywhere we go

While traveling by car around the city of Vienna, Austria, Tom and I greatly appreciated the Global Positioning System (GPS) that was provided for us.  I don’t understand how it works, something about a satellite up in the sky and…I don’t know.  How that little box can pinpoint my location and direct me to my next destination is a mystery to me.

I nicknamed our GPS Helga because she was a no-nonsense kind of girl, and really, she wasn’t very pleasant.  No offense intended to all the Helga’s in the world, but she never offered a please or thank you when we complied.  However, for the most part, she got us to our destinations, and we often thanked her for it.  Helga discerned traffic patterns on route to our destination and was able to redirect our course when necessary.  What a gal!

On occasion, the GPS would signal an alarm, but we had no idea what we should be alarmed about.  After the fact, we learned that Helga was informing us about radar detection boxes that were located throughout the city.  She was so attuned to our location that she was able to guide us through what could have been challenging situations, and she was there for us, guiding and directing our steps.  Thanks again, Helga, for a great ride! 

@ Psalm 139
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (1-7)  Like the workings of the GPS, I don’t understand the omnipresence of God, how He goes before me yet follows me, and I don’t understand His desire to do so.  It humbles me.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (13-16)  How could we not trust our Creator who has been with us from our very beginning, the One who planned our course and direction?

When we’re going through a difficult time, we often wonder where God is.  Has He left us? Abandoned us?  Sometimes our GPS was silent when we needed her most because of a tunnel or obstruction, but eventually, she came through for us.  Unlike our GPS, God is infallible, but sometimes He is silent, and we question His whereabouts.

David understood this position when he wrote, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.  Don’t abandon me, for you made me.” (138:8)  We can trust that God will come through for us, “I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.” (138:2)  Now that’s quite a backing!  GPS units like Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom may be helpful, but they don’t hold a candle to the Name of the Lord!

David ended his Psalm soliciting God’s guidance, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (23-24)  Find my position, Lord, beam your radar deep within my heart and signal the areas of concern.  Lead me along this life to my final destination of eternal life with you.  I trust your Name! 

Moving Forward:  Led from above today, I can trust His guidance and direction because they are backed by the honor of His name

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 11-12

Nehemiah 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is always attentive to our prayers

Leaving our church youth pastor position of six years to transition to a state youth position several years ago was a difficult move for us.  We dearly loved our pastor, our youth and youth leadership, and it was a tearful time.  On our last Sunday morning at the church, the youth choir sang, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them…” by Michael W. Smith.  Most everyone cried with us that day as we listened, but, thankfully, we have remained “friends forever” with these dear ones.

Life has kept us running and has afforded little time for fellowship with these friends, but when we have the opportunity to meet, the friendship is still there. We remember our history together, but now all the new details have to be filled in.  This is sometimes how we feel when our relationship with the Lord has grown distant, but today we read about a man whose friendship with God was fresh and up to date.

Nehemiah was a Jew born in captivity in Persia, but he had a profound knowledge of God’s laws and a deep affection for the land of his ancestors.  He was a godly man.  Deeply distressed about the safety of the Jews who had returned to a defenseless Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew exactly Who to talk to about it, “When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of Heaven.” (1:4)  Nehemiah had an intimate relationship with God.  It wasn’t a casual or distant friendship, and he didn’t need to re-introduce himself to God, so to speak – it was fresh.

In his prayer, Nehemiah asked God to give him favor with the King of Persia as he went to speak to him on behalf of Jerusalem’s broken walls.  “The king asked, ‘Well, how can I help you?’  With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.’” (2:4-5)  Right there amid the dialogue with the King, Nehemiah offered a silent prayer to God for His ears only.  There really wasn’t time for getting caught up in the relationship or exchanging sentiments.  No, their friendship was spontaneous and current.

It isn’t as though God doesn’t hear or care about the prayers of a long-lost friend because He knows our prayers before we even pray. (Matthew 6:8)  It’s more about our comfort level in asking something from a friend we haven’t talked to for a long time.  We feel awkward and unworthy to make a request.  We have a tendency to struggle through the situation alone, without help from someone who could assist us.  I can’t count the number of hurting souls I have talked to through the years who felt too distant to approach God for help.

Just like our friendships with distant friends, our relationship with God is but a call away.  He misses us in our absence, and He is ready to hear our heart’s cry.  But I want to be like Nehemiah, ready to offer spontaneous prayers even in the middle of a conversation, at a second’s notice without regret or an apology for my neglect.  I often find myself praying throughout the day to Him, offering a word of thanks, a request or a praise.  And He’s one friend who never seems to get tired of hearing from me. 

Moving Forward: “With a prayer to the God of heaven” I move through this day with confidence that He is listening and answering. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 137-139

Deuteronomy 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is with us through every battle we face

My husband and I were thrilled with the opportunity some years ago to take a few days off after a busy summer.  We rented a cabin in the Tennessee Mountains and enjoyed lazy days and beautiful scenery.  One late afternoon we were grilling out on the deck and spotted an uninvited guest. A black bear smelled our delicious barbecue ribs and decided to join us.

Having read several books and seen movies about bears and their hunt for prey, I knew the most important thing was not to be afraid because the bear would smell my fear and could attack.  Well, needless to say, he smelled a lot more than ribs.  We ran in the cabin, slammed the glass door shut and locked it as if the bear would choose to try to open the door.  Fear can cause irrational behavior.  The bear walked around the deck for what seemed like an eternity, sniffed the ribs and peered in at this shaking woman and then sauntered down the steps and out of the yard.  I’m assuming his delicate palate was looking more for sushi than my ribs, and I just wasn’t worth the effort. Thank God! 

@ Deuteronomy 20
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (1)  Whether we’re facing a battle right now or in the future, we can take the words of Moses with us as a source of encouragement.  As the Israelites looked at the strength of their adversary in their new land, it may have caused their knees to shake, but he encouraged them, “do not be afraid.”  David, the mighty warrior, often found himself facing the giants of the land but encouraged himself, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  In the heat of the battle, we need to remember the Lord is our General and recall His faithful guidance in the past.

Moses then urged the officers of the army to release from battle all those who were distracted by the cares of this life. (5-7)  Focus is a powerful tool in our battle against the enemy as we follow our leader to victory, but distractions will change our focus and resolve.  Another concern of Moses was that of fear. “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.” (8) Fortunately, my fear did not frighten my husband in our close encounter with a bear, perhaps because he was too busy videoing our dinner guest and laughing at me.  In a truly perilous situation, fear is contagious.  It can cause even the bravest of souls to lose heart, and it’s not helpful on the battlefront.

The advice Moses gave that day as the Israelites sat poised for victory in the Promised Land was advice that we should take to heart when we face any battle.  Whether it is in the area of our health, our relationships, our finances or anything, we should keep our focus on the Lord and remember His faithfulness.  We never should be afraid.  “Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (3-4)  Thank you, Moses. I needed that today! 

Moving Forward:  By His grace, I am focused, unafraid and ready to see what the Lord will do on my behalf today.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 1-4

I John 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He commands us to love others in the same way He loves us

Love makes the world go round…love is a many splendored thing…love will keep us together…he loves me, he loves me not.  There are thousands of songs and sayings on the subject of love.  Nothing makes us feel more content and happy than when we feel loved.  It’s no wonder that John would once again tackle the subject in I John, but he wrote not so much about feeling love, but instead about showing love. 

@ I John 2
“Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new.” (2:7-8)  This commandment actually came from Jesus while He was still on earth, “So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (Luke 13:34)  It wasn’t a suggestion from the Lord or something to be considered.  No, it was a commandment.

Many of our acquaintances are just so easy to love.  They’re kind, generous, funny or just plain lovable, and a commandment to love really isn’t necessary.  But there always are a few individuals that seem to go out of their way to be unlovable, and they are the ones that may require a commandment in order to be loved. “If anyone claims, ‘I am living in the light,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness.  Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness.”  (9-11)

I really don’t see any loopholes here, and believe me, I’ve looked.  We may not like the things that the unlovables do, but we should love them just the same.  Think of the most unlovable soul in your fellowship in light of this truth:  the righteous, pure and holy God of heaven loves that soul enough to die for him or her.  Who am I that I would refuse to love?  Time and time again I’ve asked God to fill me with love for the unlovable souls who have passed through my life, and the process so often begins with forgiveness. God has been faithful to help me in this because that’s who He is – God is love. 

Moving Forward: Through His grace and goodness, I will love the unlovable today, and I pray they will love me. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 20-22

Acts 17-18 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the known God; and in Him, all things exist

A somber moment in my life was a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It’s a monument that honors fallen soldiers of war whose remains had not been identified but who are our heroes just the same.  We would never want to miss out on the opportunity to honor and remember those who so valiantly gave their lives for our freedom.  The Greeks of Paul’s day had a monument to an “Unknown” as well because these pantheistic Greeks did not want to miss out on an opportunity to honor and worship all gods.   In Paul’s visit to Athens, he let them know exactly who their unknown god really was. 

@ Acts 17
“So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: ‘Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” (22-23)

Paul didn’t try to impress the council with his exhaustive knowledge of Jewish history, but he talked in terms that were relevant to his listeners.  He talked to them about the attributes of the true and living God they had not yet discovered but who was the God of their search.  They had reserved a place for God in their thinking but could not put a name or face to Him, so Paul did his best to enlighten them.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.” (24-25) In Verse 16 we learn that Paul was deeply troubled by the many idols he saw everywhere in the city of Athens, but the God they were seeking could not be put on a shelf or displayed on an altar.  Men could not create God in their own fashion because God is the creator “who made the world and everything in it.”

Our world today is similar to Paul’s day in Athens.  Men today are searching for the “unknown” to fill their deep longings inside.  They talk about and worship a God that they do not know, or they create a god that sits on a shelf to serve their purposes when needed.  The true and living God will never live inside the definition of man’s understanding of Him.  Many individuals want to create a God that fits their own image of Him. Paul added, “For in HIM we live and move and exist,” and it’s not the other way around. (28)

Our job is to bring an understanding of God through the message of Jesus Christ to those we meet each day.  The Holy Spirit’s role is to help us present a relevant message and to touch the hearts of our listeners.  Of course, it’s difficult for us to talk about someone who is unknown to us or to share a testimony we don’t have.  God expects us to be informed and equipped just as Paul was in his day to combat the darkness in our world. 

Moving Forward:  My very existence today is in HIM, and my every move is by HIM. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to share this truth with others today. 

Tomorrow @ I John 1-3

Zechariah 8-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the God who does the impossible

One of the highlights of my life to date was a trip I took several years ago to visit the Holy Land.  It was a thrill to look out across the Sea of Galilee and imagine Jesus viewing the same scene so many years ago, to walk the streets of Jerusalem where He walked and visit the Garden of Gethsemane stained by His tears.  At the Wailing Wall, I felt as though I heard the prayers of God’s people through the ages, prayers for peace and safety.  Will it come? 

@Zechariah 8
Returning to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, the Israelites saw utter devastation to their beautiful city and Temple.  The controlling forces in Jerusalem had no desire to see Jerusalem rebuilt by the Jews, but God’s people rebuilt their Temple by the Spirit of the Lord (4:6).  Now their prophet gave a declaration from the lord, “I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will be called the Holy Mountain.’  This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: ‘Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.  And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.’” (3-5)

These words were difficult to accept because of the dismal reputation that Israel had in the eyes of its neighbors.  Zechariah was a great Messianic and end-times prophet and the words that he shared from God will come true.  Throughout the ages, God enabled the Jews time and again to return to their Jerusalem, but because of their rejection of Him as in the day of Zechariah, they had been scattered throughout the world.

In 1948, Israel was once again recognized as a nation before the eyes of the world, and just as in the past, their neighbors did not accept them.  Zechariah continued the message that has carried Israel through these many years of turmoil, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (6)  Nothing speaks more clearly of God performing the impossible for Israel than does the six-day war of June 1967, where Israel fought against countries much larger and better equipped, yet came out the victors.

One day the prophecy of Zechariah will come to pass and the Lord will return to Mount Zion and live in Jerusalem.  Until that day, those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior have been grafted into the vine as His chosen people and can claim His promises to Israel as well.  Circumstances that seem impossible to us now – our healing, a job, our unsaved loved ones, or whatever it is – must respond to the question from the Lord, “Is it impossible for me?”   Israel is our example of how the hand of God moves in the impossible areas of our lives.  “With God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) 

Moving Forward: Believing today for the impossible things in my life to be touched by the God of possibility.

Tomorrow @ Acts 17-18

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