Commitment


Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return, we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provisions, the resources that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our resources are meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with them.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provisions, are from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me, and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

Acts 11-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He calls us to be His followers regardless of the cost

I really dislike labeling, for the most part. Of course, I don’t mean the labeling on my files or canned goods, and I must admit I enjoy an upscale label or two on my clothing.  I don’t appreciate labeling people or people groups because our labels are often judgmental and confining.  However, there is one label you can give me all day long, and that is Christian.  A Christian by definition is a believer in Jesus Christ as Savior. Unfortunately, in the jargon of today, I’m not certain what is meant by the term Christian.

“Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)” (11:25-26)  For many, the term Christian has become a generic term for anyone who is not a pagan, but the New Testament Christian was much more than a label, “About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church.  He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter.” (12:1-3)  In the early church, professing to be Christian was life-threatening!

I remember reading the interesting conversation between Jesus and the Sons of Thunder, James and John, “Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do us a favor.’ ‘What is your request?’ He asked. They replied, ‘When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking!  Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?’…‘Oh yes,’ they replied, ‘we are able!’” (Mark 10:35-39) And, of course, they did drink from that cup.  Peter said to Jesus, “I’m ready to die for you,” (John 13:37) and he did.  These disciples were Christians to the death. There were many early Christian martyrs who were tortured for their faith, like Stephen and like Polycarp who declared to his death, “I am Christian!”

Many individuals in this century also who know what it means to be Christian. I met a young woman from a Muslim country who accepted Jesus as her Savior.  She was forced to run to save her life because her father was ordered to kill her.  She was now living in a foreign country, no home, no job, but said to me in her broken English and with tears in her eyes “I love my Jesus so much. I never forsake Him.”  She is Christian.

Jesus explained the walk of a Christian in Matthew 10:37-39, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”  The words of Jesus beg the question, “Am I Christian?”

Moving Forward:  More determined than ever, I declare today I am Christian.  I understand the meaning.  No wavering, no hesitation.  I am Christian. 

Tomorrow @ I Peter 1-3

2 Timothy 1-2 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He gives us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline to keep our lives burning brightly for Him

For most of us, the idea of “Passing the Torch” immediately brings to mind the Olympics. The torch is lit in Greece, home of the first Olympics, and then is passed from runner to runner until it reaches the Olympic host city where it remains lit throughout the games.   What an exhilarating experience for the last runner who carries the torch to its final destination, the Olympic Stadium.  2 Timothy is all about torch passing, certainly a somber moment for Paul.

The writing of 2 Timothy was Paul’s last words to Timothy and also to us and was written during his final imprisonment in Rome where he sat in a dungeon awaiting execution at Nero’s hand.  Of all the notorious individuals from my Italian background, Nero would be right there at the top as most despicable.  Needing to blame someone for the burning of Rome, he murdered Christians throughout the empire and Paul was one of his casualties.  But first, Paul wrote his final letter, passing the torch of ministry to his young charge now pastoring in Ephesus.

“I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.  May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.  Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience…Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.” (1:2-4)  The God I serve with a clear conscience.  Paul had no regrets in his final days, he was passing on a torch that was lit and shining brightly, and this is the responsibility of the torch bearer – to keep the flame going.

Paul continued his letter with advice for his young son in the faith on how to keep the flame going, burning and moving forward.  “Never be ashamed to tell others about the Lord.  And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Him…I am not ashamed of it, for I know the One in whom I trust…” (1:8,12)  Keep the flame going.

“Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.” (1:13)  Keep the flame going.

“Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus…Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2:1,3)  Keep the flame going.

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker..who correctly explains the word of truth (2:15)  Keep the flame going. 

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts…pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace.” (2:22)  Keep the flame going!

Someday the responsibility to carry the torch will be on those who follow us.  Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” (1:6)  Fanning those flames will keep it going!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (4:7)  Paul’s faithfulness to God to the very end credentialed him to pass the torch, the torch that was aflame.  As we live and work, in whatever we do, will those who come behind us find that we were faithful to God?  Will the torch that we pass on to the next runners be burning brightly? And will we say, “I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience.”

Moving Forward:  Planning to keep my flame burning today!  “May all who come behind me find me faithful.  May the fire of my devotion light your way.” (J. Mohr) 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 9-12

I Timothy 4-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He gives us all the tools we need to run the race for Him

Several years ago my husband, Tom, bought me a great treadmill because I wanted to do some training and get in shape.  Knowing me like he does, he set up a little television and DVD player with remote controls as an incentive to get on it and tread.  The treadmill has served me well.  It has served as an excellent place to hang clothes to dry, stack boxes and collect lots and lots of dust. Apparently, I forgot that I was in training.

@ I Timothy 4
Train yourself to be godly. ‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.’” (7-8)  What a concept!  Train yourself to be godly because it isn’t going to happen on its own.  Just as it doesn’t help to buy exercise videos and not use them, it doesn’t help to have Bibles and Christian resources in every room of our home and not open them.  Just as it doesn’t help to watch exercise videos while we sit on the couch eating ice cream, it doesn’t help to read the Bible and not apply it to our lives.  Paul is reminding us to really pump it up and do some cardio for our spiritual hearts.  We are in training!

Put on your training gear because here is Paul’s workout program.  Remember:  Know pain, know gain!

  1. Exercise until we break a sweat.  “This is why we work hard and continue to suffer, for our hope is in the living God.”(10)  Train hard, every day, don’t give up!
  2. Exercise with authority and determination.  “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.” (12)  The enemy will come around tempting us to believe we can’t make it, we don’t have the goods. Remember Who gives us the authority and ability to train.
  3. Run every day.  “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” (6:11)  Run from evil and run to righteousness – every day.
  4. Exercise obvious abilities – keep them toned. “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.”(14)  Just like any athlete, we will lose the tone of our spiritual muscles when we don’t use them.  Using our gifts and abilities will keep them toned and effective.
  5. Exercise through meditation – Paul doesn’t mean transcendental or yoga. “Give your complete attention to these matters.”(15)  The best exercise comes through focus and singleness of mind, no distractions.
  6. Exercise in public.  “Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.” (15)  Nothing encourages us more to press on than someone watching our progress, cheering us on.
  7. Add resistance training to your schedule every day. “Keep a close watch on how you live…stay true to what is right.”(16) “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)  Of course, this resistance is most effective when we, last but certainly not least, follow Paul’s final training guideline:
  8. Surrender to the Personal Trainer.  “Submit to God, resist the devil…” (James 4:7)  Our personal trainer, God through His the Holy Spirit, guides and helps us through our weak moments and keeps us on track, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26) Uncertainty in our training program will bring discouragement, defeat and definitely some groaning, but the Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness when we don’t know if we can continue on.

If we follow Paul’s not for wimps training program, we will press on to our goal and become one lean, mean fighting machine for God.  Get on your mark…get set…go!

Moving Forward:  I’m in training today, ready to pump it up, follow the program and become strong and fit for the Kingdom.  I may even get on my treadmill…or not. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 5-8

John 5-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: The One who lives in us will do His work through us

Copycat has never really been considered a term of endearment.  It denotes someone who lacks imagination or independence to the point of copying what others do instead of being original.  An impersonator, on the other hand, is someone who takes that copying to the point of making it difficult to know what is real and what is Memorex.   As the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  Then, there are those who imitate someone else out of sheer respect and admiration, even to the point of adoration – for me, that someone would be Jesus.

@ John 5
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (19) Jesus was not a copycat, an impersonator nor a flatterer. No, He was in unity with the Father to the point that it was impossible for Him to do anything else but what the Father did.  He only did what He saw the Father do which lets us know that He was watching the Father’s actions.

“What would Jesus do?” was a popular slogan a few years ago.  We saw bracelets, bumper stickers and t-shirts, but it’s so much more than a slogan to be worn.  A true heart that follows Jesus does so out of adoration and love to the point that it seems impossible to do anything but what He does.  Unlike Jesus, we fail on occasion, but our hearts seek to have unity with Him equal to the unity He has with the Father.  In any given situation when the opportunity is there to fail, we can ask with a sincere heart, “What would Jesus do?” By seeing what He did in scripture, we have a pattern to follow.

How incredible it would be to imitate Him to the point that others would see only Jesus in us.  How incredible it would be to do the works that He did while on earth. Well, actually we can.  “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:10-12)

Greater works!  It doesn’t matter to me if I’m called a copycat, an impersonator or a flatterer.  I’m going to follow hard after the Lord and do what He does.  Maybe one day someone will find me to be someone very much like Him…be still my heart. 

Moving Forward:  My song today, “I want to be more like you, Jesus.  I want to be more like you. I want to be a vessel that you work through…” (C. Brown) 

Tomorrow @ I Timothy 4-6

Daniel 7-12 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He hears and answers our prayers

“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer!  Listen as I plead.  For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair.  See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.” (9:17-18)  Daniel’s fervent prayer for his people and for his city of Jerusalem arrests me as I read it and reminds me of the need for continual prayer for my city, for my nation.  Because of Israel’s gross sins, Daniel didn’t ask for undeserved help for His people – he asked for God’s mercy.  I, too, cry for mercy.  Lord, don’t give us what we deserve. 

@ Daniel 10
Most of us have experienced times when we pray desperately for a need, but the answer doesn’t come.  Sometimes we feel disconnected from God because of unforgiveness or sin in our lives that seems to block the flow of communication with Him.  Other times our answers are delayed because of God’s testing; and in these moments, our faith is stretched as we grow to trust Him more.  We even have been known to pray amiss, and God cannot answer our prayer.  We learn that Daniel experienced a delay in his answered prayer for yet another reason.

The heavenly visitor said to Daniel, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way…Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.” (12-14)  Twenty-one days…interesting to note that Daniel had been fasting for twenty-one days.

We know Daniel was a man who completely trusted God and whose prayer life was remarkable.  Once again he proved his faithfulness to God by steadfast prayer and fasting until the answer came.  Little did he know that the answer came immediately but was hindered by the enemy; and likewise, we don’t know when the answers to our prayers have been hindered by the enemy.   I am encouraged by our reading today to dare to be a Daniel and pray through the hindrances until the answer comes!

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10)  The good news is that we are not fighting alone.  Like Daniel, we have the heavenly hosts in our army fighting in the heavenlies on our behalf.

When we experience a delay in answers to our prayers, we’re challenged to examine our hearts to know we are free from unforgiveness.  We are challenged to pray according to God’s will and pray that He will remove our desire for anything that is not His will.  Then, whether the delay is a testing or a hindrance, we can pray with tenacity for the answer.  “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)  The answer’s on the way!

Moving Forward:  Encouraged by Daniel’s prayer of mercy for his people, I will pray in earnest for my nation and God’s mercy for us.  And for the many challenges I face today, I’ll pray according to His will until the answers come – they’re on the way! 

Tomorrow @ John 5-6

1 Chronicles 5-9 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He carefully planned for the security and care of His Temple

I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most outstanding pastors, missionaries and evangelists of our time.  Life has just afforded me that honor, and I’m grateful to have met them and to have sat under their ministries. If you asked who I considered being the most faithful man or woman in the work of the church in my lifetime, it would be difficult to choose.  It could be a missionary hero like Mark Buntain who changed the future of so many in Calcutta, the great evangelist David Wilkerson whose ministry rocked the drug culture of our nation, Reinhard Bonnke and his powerful evangelism of Africa or it could be a church custodian I knew by the name of Bob. 

@ 1 Chronicles 9
“In all, there were 212 gatekeepers in those days…David and Samuel the seer had appointed their ancestors because they were reliable men.” (22)  In the verses that follow we learn the role of the gatekeepers who opened the Temple doors in the morning, protected and cared for the Temple furnishings and utensils, oversaw the entrance and all those who entered, took care of the money, made sure supplies were available for the priests, provided the showbread for the offerings and finally closed the doors of the Temple at night.  We may call them gatekeepers, custodians or even janitors, but all those who follow after them in this role serve the house of the Lord with faithfulness.

Bob was the custodian at my church when I was growing up.  He opened the church early Sunday mornings long before Sunday School began and stayed to lock up until the very last souls left the building late that evening, which usually included my mom, my sister and me.  Mom was a prayer warrior. Every time we came to church for any event on any given day we walked into a spotless building, every chair in place, paper goods always provided in the restrooms, the communion set ready to go…Bob was reliable, Bob was amazing.  We always knew where he was by the jingle of his keys and the song he was humming.  Bob smiled through the messes his fellow parishioners made and smiled even when we stayed late at night.  Bob served his church for many, many years and is one of the most faithful men in the work of the church that I have ever known.

Our churches are filled with workers just like Bob who receive few accolades for their faithful service – janitors, ushers, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, offering counters, sound men and pew fillers.  Oh, the list is endless.  Most are volunteers, some receive some small remuneration; but, trust me, it’s not enough.  However, Someone sees everything they do and is keeping a record of it.  God was concerned enough about His Temple that He gave detailed instructions about its security, care and maintenance, and we can be sure that He sees every moment spent on something that is so close to His heart.

Someday when God divvies out all the eternal rewards, Bob is going to get a boatload, as well as all of God’s many other faithful gatekeepers.  In the meantime, we would bless the Lord by praying for these faithful servants and by sending notes of thanks and sharing kind words of gratitude to the many Bobs in our churches who serve us so very faithfully.  “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) 

Moving Forward: My prayer today is special blessings for the gatekeeper and servants at my church, followed up by words of thanks. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 96-98

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