Daily Devotions


James 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals Himself through our salvation and our good works

Most of us have encountered the wheeler-dealer, the pitchman, who makes promises but doesn’t deliver.  Our dealings with them often result in difficult learning experiences.  Years ago we planned a mission’s trip to Paraguay with 200 youth and leaders.  A travel agent approached us with the best price on tickets we could find, and more importantly, he was the only agent who found seats on the days we needed to travel.  We sent him the money with the understanding he would meet us at the airport with the tickets – lesson #1.  And indeed, he met us at the airport on our day of departure, but could not produce the tickets because … well, at that point it really didn’t matter.

There we sat with 200 eager students on a mission with no tickets. Through a series of miracles, and I mean miracles, we reached our five cities of ministry in Paraguay, and those churches we helped to plant are still reaching the lost today.  God is faithful when others are not.  That travel agent could say he was a travel agent all day long, but until he produced the tickets, it really didn’t matter what he said – lesson #2.  We have to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak.  James, one of the Jerusalem church leaders, was all over this one. 

@ James 2
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless…You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (14-19) Show me the tickets!

To prove a contradiction in scripture to James 2, Bible skeptics love to point to Romans 1 where Paul teaches, “‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’…people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” (3,5)  Good works do not save us, only the blood of Jesus can do that, but good works are an indicator that we have received salvation.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (2:8-10)  Show me the tickets!

God sees our faith, our belief in Him, because He sees our hearts.  Man sees our faith through our love and good deeds.  Many of us have begun the Christmas shopping tradition and what a great opportunity to show our faith to those without food or clothing.  I know a family that first buys Christmas with all its trimmings for a needy family, and then with the money that is left, they buy gifts for each other.  I see Jesus all over them.  However, our good deeds should reveal our faith to others all year long.  We don’t want to be like the useless travel agent who never proved to us that he was a travel agent.  Show them our good works! 

Moving Forward: I plan to do some good works today because of the great work He did for me when He saved me. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 4-6

Acts 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He gives us the grace we need to reach the most hateful of men

Rising high in the center of beautiful Vienna is the extraordinary St. Stephen’s Cathedral, built in 1160.  It honors the deacon from the early church in Jerusalem, Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr and stoned by the Temple leaders because he believed that Jesus was the Messiah.  The Church is magnificent in its architecture and Gothic style, but its beauty could never be compared to the radiant face of Stephen as he saw the Lord and prayed as they stoned him, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.” (7:59-60) 

@ Acts 8
Stephen preached a great sermon on the day he was killed and gave a historical account of the rejection of God and His Son by Israel’s religious leaders.  Little did he know that the message of Jesus would one day greatly impact one of the bystanders, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.” (1)  Saul was one of the haters.

When we step out in obedience to share the love of God in the marketplace, we may be surprised at who is listening to our message and at how it is impacting them.  I think of the story of Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson.  In the late 1950’s, bold street evangelist David Wilkerson witnessed to the hardened gang members of New York City, and there in the gang was the hardest of them all, Nicky Cruz. Even though Nicky beat him and threatened his life, David expressed God’s great love for Nicky with the heart of one like Stephen, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”

Nicky had a radical conversion, not unlike the Apostle Paul who earlier had approved of Stephen’s stoning.  Nicky went on to preach the Good News around the world drawing many gang members and lost souls to the Lord, and he still is preaching today about the transformation in his life.  As we know, Paul shook the world with his conversion and the Church of the Lord Jesus has never been the same.

We just can’t imagine the impact our witness will have in the lives of complete strangers when we are simply obedient to the Great Commission and present the Good News. No one is too bad, too lost or too hateful to be touched by God’s love through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Never shortchange Him!  It was Paul who said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (l Timothy 1:15-16) 

Moving Forward: I won’t let the hateful words or deeds of sinful men stop me from presenting the Good News to them. I may be reaching the next great evangelist!

Tomorrow @ James 1-3

Nahum 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He delivers the good news through His messengers 

@ Nahum 1
A few years ago I had the opportunity to trek up a mountain path to the top of a hill overlooking a multicolored tree-studded valley in the Austrian Alps and see the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  And yes, it’s good for all to remember that only God is credentialed to be jealous (verse 2).  During that time away, I was privileged to fellowship with missionaries and pastors who minister in the International Churches of Europe.  No one deserved this amazing retreat setting more than they did.  These messengers, with their beautiful feet, know something about delivering a message of good news, just as the messengers prophesied about in Nahum.

The prophet Nahum delivered a message of judgment to the powerful Assyrians in his prophecy.  Assyria’s torment of Israel was coming to an end, and their terrible fate would soon be heralded throughout Israel.  “Look!  A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news!  He is bringing a message of peace.  Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again.” (15)  God was jealous for His people, just as a husband is jealous over his wife and wants no rivals, and the Assyrians would meet their end because they sought to steal God’s people from Him.  The destruction was so complete that the ruins of Assyria’s great cities were not discovered until the 1800’s.  God doesn’t mess around.

As I stood at the top of the hill and looked out across the mountains, I imagined messengers reaching the mountain crest from the other side, shouting their message of good news and peace as they came into view. God is jealous for His creation and has sent his messengers to the nations, over the mountains, through the valleys, and across the oceans to declare the good news, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation.” (Isaiah 52:7)  They come with a message of deliverance from the enemy’s snare, the enemy who will one day be utterly destroyed.  They come with a message of peace and hope.

The path I walked that day was filled with tree roots and rocks, making climbing difficult at times, and I thought of the challenges along the way that our missionaries face as they bring the good news to the nations. I am reminded to pray for a clear path for their beautiful feet, safety along the way and for their resounding message to touch more lives than they have ever imagined. 

Moving Forward:  So thankful today for His messengers who take His message of peace and hope around the world and grateful for those who brought it to me. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 7-8

Proverbs 31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His love shines through women who reverence Him

Well, I knew the day would come when I would have to address Proverbs 31 and the perfect woman, I mean virtuous woman.  Reading her amazing attributes reminds me of the old perfume commercial with the gorgeous woman singing, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let him forget he’s…” and so on. In defense of all women, everywhere, let’s remember that this woman in Proverbs 31 had help!  She “planned the day’s work for her servant girls.” (15)  I dream of what I could accomplish in a day with help!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.” (10)  And that really is the question, isn’t it?  Who can find a woman like this?  Most scholars believe that Proverbs 31 is a composite of the ideal characteristics that a Godly woman may possess.  I’ve known many women in my lifetime who exhibit a great many of these attributes – industrious business women, great homemakers, crafty and generous, but nobody does it all by herself and lives to tell about it.  “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (29)  She is our model to examine, to study and to emulate.  Bottom Line – Because of her great respect for the Lord, all that she does is selflessly done to bless and help others

We have no idea if the Proverbs 31 woman is always faultless and perfect in all that she does because, after all, everyone needs to rip out a seam or throw out the burnt toast on occasion.  But we understand that in her very busy life, she manages to plan well, give generously and treat others with kindness.  If we try, we all can accomplish that!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” (30)  With surgery and cosmetics, beauty seems to be lasting longer than it did in the past, but physical beauty isn’t really how we want to be remembered.  Beautiful women entertain us today and significantly influence the world with their style, but when their beauty fades, we hardly remember them.  One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known worked in my church when I was very young. She had a birthmark that covered a third of her face, but when she smiled and taught me about Jesus, she lit up my world, and I will never forget her.

“Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.” (28)  I’ve carried in my Bible a Mother’s Day note I received from my husband several years ago.  On the days when I’m a little discouraged, when my day isn’t so faultless and perfect, I pull it out and read his kind words of admiration, respect, and encouragement.  Let me tell you, it is like a shot of adrenaline to my spirit.  I also cherish the kind notes and words from my children that I’ve received through the years that let me know every effort I made was well worth it. Their words challenge me to live a life worthy of their praise.

May verse 28 encourage us to give our praises and blessings to the wonderful women who have enriched our lives through their respect for the Lord, their careful planning, generous hearts and kindness.   We should speak our accolades and write our notes of praise today because I would imagine that now is when they are most needed. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for my precious mom and all the women through the years who have shown me the wonderful graces of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

Tomorrow @ Nahum

Psalms 120-121 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He watches over us day and night and protects us from harm

Traveling around Europe, whether by car or train, we can’t help but notice the enormous castle fortresses that were built centuries ago usually at the highest point of the city. They were built to hover over the city as a protector from enemies who could advance from any side.  Sentries stood guard day and night so that the city would never be hit by a surprise attack and the residents could work and sleep with the knowledge that they were protected.  Wouldn’t that be a great solace?  Well, we have our security systems, alarms, and law enforcement today that help to keep us safe, but sometimes we forget about our Sentry who is so highly skilled that He even sees the invisible forces that come against us.  Move over ADT!

@ Psalm 121
“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (1-2)  It certainly does help to look up when we need help, but as the psalmist decided, we need to look a little higher than the mountains.  Our help comes from the Lord who made the mountains, the oceans and who made us, but He didn’t just create us and leave us to flounder here on earth.  No, He protects us as well.

“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you!” (3-5) Just like the sentry guarding the city, the Lord watches over us 24/7, but from His vantage point, He sees both the visible and the invisible and is never taken by surprise.

Not only does He watch over us, but He stands with us, “The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.  The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.”(5-7) He stands with us like a shadow covering us from the intense heat of life and the darkness that comes. (Psalm 91:1) The word keeps speaks to His ability to preserve us as we walk through the harm that is all around us.

Sometimes when we’re going through an especially difficult moment, we are tempted to think that God has closed His eyes or stepped away from His Sentry post, but nothing could be further from the truth.  God is faithful!  “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (8) And as we all know, forever is a very long time. 

Moving Forward:  So very thankful today for the protection of the Lord.  He watches over all my comings and goings and stands with me through the challenges. 

Tomorrow @Proverbs 31

2 Chronicles 21-24 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He loves when our guidance directs others to dependence on Him

A lot of families carry some bad blood in them due to jealousy or unfaithfulness.  Often communication is nonexistent, and sometimes crimes are committed.  However, nothing I’ve heard really holds a candle to a Queen Mother who so desperately desired to rule a nation that she killed all her grandchildren and other heirs to make it happen.  But then what would you expect from the daughter of Jezebel.

The story of the early years of King Joash is about as exciting as they come, and I’m sure the movie industry has produced some variation of it through the years.  Jehosheba, the aunt of Joash, hid him as a baby from wicked the Queen Mother Athaliah when she was on her killing spree.  He was raised by the faithful priest Jehoiada who mentored him through the years and encouraged many Godly reforms for Israel.  Unfortunately, all of Jehoiada’s reforms and counseling did not bring the final results he desired. 

@2 Chronicles 24
“Jehoiada lived to a very old age, finally dying at 130.  He was buried among the kings in the City of David, because he had done so much good in Judah for God and his Temple.  But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead!” (15-18)  It seems Joash did not have a love for God like his mentor Jehoiada.

The specific training and guidance given Joash by Jehoiada are sketchy in the Bible, and because of that I offer no criticism, but apparently, something went terribly wrong in the process.  Some mentees are resistant to the guidance offered to them or choose not to respond favorably to it.  Some mentors have difficulty releasing those they are helping by allowing them to fly on their own.  Mentoring and counseling are serious undertakings, and I’ve never taken the task lightly.

Guiding young hearts in their move forward through life with positive results is challenging, yet so very rewarding.  This is especially true when we see them move past the handicaps of difficult families or circumstances to become thriving adults.  I know I’ve been successful as a mentor when I’m no longer needed.

As Christian mentors, our goal is not for others to be dependent on us forever, even though it may affirm us and make us feel needed.  Our goal is to lead those we mentor to a dependency on the Lord, where they are able to trust His guidance in their lives.  The greatest reward comes when they have matured to the point of teaching and mentoring others.  I would imagine that the apostle Paul was busting his buttons, so to speak, at the fruitful ministry of his young charge, Timothy.  May button-busting be in your future!

Moving Forward:  Once again I am challenged by the role of mentor, praying that my guidance directs others to a dependency on the Lord and not to me.  They deserve to follow the very best, and that could only be Him!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 120-121

Deuteronomy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He sometimes waits to answer our prayers to make us stronger

There’s nothing I like more than when God says yes to my prayer.  Bring out the brass band, serve the fried chicken and potato salad.  It’s time to celebrate!  When He says no to my prayer, I may have a low day or two or 30, but eventually, I accept His wisdom.  When He says wait, I want to perhaps negotiate a deal, offer a bribe or, in my weakest moment, move forward on my own.  Not good.  I have come to understand when God says wait, it’s not because He wants to make me suffer, but it’s because He is perfecting me or my circumstance to answer my prayer according to His will.  He always has a purpose in my waiting.

After 40 years traveling in the desert to make an 11-day journey, Israel was finally poised to enter the Promised Land.  In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, we’ve learned in our reading that God was perfecting His people, but it seems they were terribly slow learners. “Forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.” (1:3)

Moses began his instructions from the Lord with a brief history of their travels since they had left Mt. Sinai headed for Canaan.  Because of the people’s negative response to the scouting reports by ten of the spies sent into Canaan, they would have to wait as a nation to receive the answer to the prayers that they had cried out in Egypt. Because of their hard hearts during their waiting period, only their descendants realized the answered prayer, except for Joshua and Caleb.

It seemed like every time the Israelites moved forward one step, they would retreat two steps, and, of course, it’s impossible to make any progress on a journey that way. As with Israel, it’s in the waiting period that we discover what we are made of.  While we wait for our prayers to be answered by God, our choice is whether or not will we trust Him or murmur, complain and disobey like the Israelites did in the wilderness.  The writer of Psalm 119 understood the challenge, “My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.  When will you comfort me?” (82)  No one has said it’s easy to wait for our answers to prayer, but do we really want to turn an 11 day waiting period into 40 years? Help! 

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what God is made of.  Through the history lesson of Moses, the Israelites learned that God was faithful, even when they were not.  God was merciful even when they didn’t ask for mercy.  God was loving even when they were unlovable.  God was leading even when they didn’t want to follow.  Even more important was that God revealed His glory to them throughout the entire journey whether they wanted to see it or not – a glorious pillar by night and by day.  We are not alone while we wait! God is revealing Himself to us along the way.

It’s in the waiting period that we learn what we are made of.  Will we trust Him regardless of the circumstances?  As we wait for God’s answers, are we learning what He is made of?  Do we see His glory leading us along or have we closed our eyes in discouragement?  Ultimately, God may answer no as He did to Moses when he requested to enter Canaan; but regardless of the answer, it will be the perfect answer at the perfect time.  After all, one day Moses’ journey would be to the eternal Promised Land.  His final answer was yes.  There’s nothing I like more than when God answers yes to a prayer in His timing and in His way.

Moving Forward: Some days I’m straining to see answered prayers, but in His perfecting and with His grace I sense His glory and receive His goodness as I wait.  He can be trusted. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 21-24

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