God’s Disciplines


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

Hebrews 11-13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He’s set a race before us and cheers us along the way

Everyone needs a hobby, a way of relaxing or blowing off steam.  Some enjoy sports, golf, and tennis, etc., and others just enjoy reading a good book.  I’m married to a bicycling enthusiast.  Tom has several 500-mile rides under his belt and really enjoys the experience.  Me?  Not so much.  As a point of information, cycling is an expensive sport.  While there aren’t any green fees to pay, the equipment involved in cycling is costly.  A $79.99 bike is not going to make it on a 500-mile ride.

Bikers wear clothing that I view as rather…well, indecent, but the tight, lightweight clothing prevents the wind from catching it and slowing the biker down.  All the cycling gear is lightweight, including the bike itself.  Imagine a bike weighing 14½ pounds!  Racers keep everything as light as possible so that nothing slows them down.  Also, they are focused on the road ahead so that no debris in the road trips them up, sending them airborne.  Throughout the race, crowds gather to cheer them on as they ride, and when they cross the finish line, the crowds witness the victory.

@ Hebrews 12
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  As we race toward the finish line of life, we need to remember the people of faith who have finished the race before us – Abraham, Joseph, Moses and all the heroes of Chapter 11.

Remembering the race of these faithful finishers will cheer us on to victory as long as we keep light and stay focused. A biker who has made the costly investment of a 15-pound bicycle is not going to put a plush, comfortable 10-pound seat on it.  It might feel good at the time, but it really would defeat the purpose of finishing the race in victory.  No, he’s going to keep it light.  Some sins cross our path that may feel good for the moment; but over the long haul, they only serve to trip us up and weigh us down.  We need to keep light.

If the racer takes his eyes off the road for even a second, he will miss the small stone in his path that will unsteady that skinny bike tire and cause a painful crash.  The road sets the biker’s course and is what provides his forward movement so he can’t afford to look at the distractions along the way.  Jesus is our course. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  We will only move forward to the finish line, eternity in heaven with the Father, by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the reigning Champion.  We need to stay focused.

Jesus is our example, our motivator and the loudest voice of all that is cheering us on because He was the first to finish the race in victory.  He knows just what to say to carry us through to the finish line.  “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (2-3)  I can hear the roar of the crowd, the cheer of the saints along the way to witness as we race forward to the finish line. They’re calling to us to keep light, stay focused and don’t give up! 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything but move forward today toward the finish line when I think of all those who are cheering me on.  We can’t give in, and we can’t give up! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 1-3

Micah (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires our fellowship rather than our sacrifices

It’s painful when someone close to us leaves or ignores us.  Our first response is to question what went wrong, what did we do to cause the separation.  While it’s true that time heals wounds, it sometimes takes a long time to finally stop second-guessing what we could have done differently.  The one place we can go for solace is to God because He really does understand our hurt and our questioning as we read in Micah today. 

@ Micah 6
“Listen to what the Lord is saying: ‘O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!’” (3)  It’s hard to imagine that humanity would put God in a position where He would ask these questions.  How foolish are we anyway? Yet, I would think most of us have given cause for God to question our distance from Him at one time or another.  It is our God we read about on Tuesday in 2 Chronicles 16:9, whose eyes “search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  He loves us enough to go searching for us.

The Israelites response to God’s questioning was typical, “What can we bring to the Lord?  What kind of offerings should we give him?”(6)  When we have been in a similar situation with a loved one, what do we really want from them?  We want the person, not their stuff.  Flowers and gifts are nice to receive when a relationship is restored, but they are not proof to us that it has been restored.  How we walk with one another in a relationship tells the story, and God feels the very same way.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (8)  We do our best to make our walk with the Lord confusing and difficult to understand at times, but it’s actually pretty simple.  He isn’t after some showy sacrifice to appease Him; He wants a relationship just like we do.  We also prove our love and commitment to Him by doing what is right in our dealings with others – just doing the right thing!  Showing mercy to others demonstrates that we acknowledge and appreciate the mercy He has extended to us. Humble submission in our walk with Him is really what He desires, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (I Samuel 15:22)

Oh that we would never cause God to question our relationship with Him with, “What have I done to make you tired of me?” However, if we do, He will receive our true repentant hearts back without our flowers, gifts or showy sacrifices because, bottom line, He wants us! 

Moving Forward:  I’m challenged today to fulfill His requirements – Do what is right, show mercy and humbly walk with Him, never tiring of His Holy presence. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 5-6

Numbers 33-36 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  His instructions will provide a blessed future for us

I really don’t like going to the doctor, but sometimes I just have to do it.  A while back a doctor diagnosed me with pharyngitis, sinusitis and some other itis and then ordered a prescription of antibiotic to kill all the infection.  His most important instruction was that I will be certain to take all the medicine even when I started feeling better because we want to kill all the infection or it could return.  And really, when those with experience and authority give instructions to us, it’s wise to follow them.  Sadly, the Israelites just didn’t see it that way. 

@ Numbers 33
The Israelites had finally finished their 40-year trek in the desert and sat poised to enter Canaan, God’s Promised Land.  Through Moses, God gave a prescription of sorts to the Israelites for them to enjoy a healthy and productive life in Canaan.  “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy.” (51-53)  The instructions seem clear enough, take all the medicine, drive out all the people and destroy all their idols.

Like my doctor explained to me, God let the Israelites know what would happen should they fail to drive out all the people, “But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live.  And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.” (55-56)  And as we know, that is precisely what happened to Israel.

Because they failed to drive out all the Canaanites and destroy all the idols, the Israelites’ everyday lives were slowly infiltrated by them, and this brought about their downfall.  Eventually, the Assyrians and Babylonians swept in and drove them out of their land.  What part of all do we not understand?

I’m happy to report that I have taken all my medicine so that not even a little trace of infection is left to grow and infect my body again. What we don’t destroy could destroy us. And so it is with sin.  How foolish it is to preserve something that we know to be sin simply because it seems so harmless, because it is too beautiful to let go of or because it makes us feel good.  There’s no such thing as a little bit of pornography, a little bit of stealing or a little bit of lying because eventually it will grow, spread and easily affect our entire lives.

The lesson we learn from the Israelites today is to follow all of God’s instructions, and then we can be assured that we will live happily and healthily in the land He has given us.

Moving Forward: Lesson learned! Taking all my medicine and following all of God’s instructions. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 16-20

Amos 1-4 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He speaks through those He chooses to deliver His message

I must admit that I have a certain affinity toward the prophet Amos.  He was a shepherd who had visions!  Minding his own business and tending sheep in the countryside just south of Bethlehem, he started to receive visions from the Lord.  Perhaps the solitude of the country and the lack of social interaction provided the right atmosphere for God to communicate with Amos. This is something I think about when I find myself running all day long.

Amos was not from a family of prophets or priests, but he most certainly had a heart for God with open communication with him.  He was a shepherd and used many metaphors from the pasture in his writings.  Equally important to the lessons learned from what Amos said is the example of how his life reveals God’s intention to use anyone who is willing to touch the world.

Amos was a forerunner in the timeline of Israel’s next three professional prophets. Through divine revelation, he pronounced judgment on the surrounding countries as well as on Israel, and his tactic was brilliant.  People often say that sheep are dumb, and with that thinking, it wouldn’t have taken much intelligence or skill for Amos to tend them. However, through my encounters with countless sheep and numerous shepherds, I can say with confidence that most sheep are not as dumb as they are willful.  How better to describe the mindset of Israel at this time in history – pleasure seeking, idol worshiping willful sheep.

Just like with his sheep, Amos found a way to get the attention of Israel.  In Chapters 1 and 2, Amos waxed eloquent on the judgment that was coming to Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon.  This must have thrilled the Israelites, and I can imagine them shouting in agreement with Amos, “Yes! Get them, God, for their injustices to us.” It’s easy to see the error in the lives of others and overlook our own problems, and so it was Israel at that time.

Then in his proclamations, Amos lowered the boom, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The people of Judah have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished!  They have rejected the instruction of the Lord, refusing to obey his decrees. They have been led astray by the same lies that deceived their ancestors.  So I will send down fire on Judah, and all the fortresses of Jerusalem will be destroyed.’” (2:4-6)  Party over.

The cultural norm of Israel at this time was not unlike what we are experiencing in the world today, a blending of right and wrong, blurred lines, everything gray.  Do what feels right…it can’t be wrong if it feels so right…God only wants us to feel good.  Many in Israel had crossed the line to what they knew to be wrong, yet did it anyway. After enumerating the ways God had attempted to get Israel’s attention through the years, Amos, speaking for God, delivered the final blow, “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”  I’m relatively certain that any affection for Amos and his message was over.

We can somewhat understand the feelings of the Israelites at this point.  I really don’t like it when a preacher, or a devotional for that matter, gets all up in my business and conviction comes to my heart. It’s easy to get uncomfortable and perhaps a little angry thinking, don’t mess with my gray areas and certainly don’t mess with my sin.   It never helps to shoot the messenger; it only helps to submit to the message.

When I stand before the Lord one day, I want to have responded to His merciful messages, I want to have experienced His wonderful grace, and I want to hear something like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)  So, messengers of God, bring it! 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today that He opens doors of ministry to each one of us, regardless of our backgrounds, and I’m ever challenged to submit to the messages that He brings my way. 

Tomorrow @ John 16-18

Proverbs 20-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we show kindness to others equal to His kindness to us

@ Proverbs 21
I’ve always wondered if Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew what he was doing when he married so many wives.  Most men are challenged enough with just one wife, but perhaps Solomon thought, being so wise and all, that he could handle it.  His Proverbs, however, give cause to question that.

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (9)  “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” (19)  “A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.” (12:4)  “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” (14:1)  “…a quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping.” (19:13)  And once again, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (25:24)  I think I see a theme going here.

Several years ago I saw an interview on television with one of Hollywood’s older starlets.  She and her actor husband had been married for over 25 years, and that alone would grab our attention, but for Hollywood couples, 25 years is momentous.  When the interviewer asked her to what she attributed their lengthy marriage, she replied that every day they make a commitment to each other to be kind.  No matter how difficult a situation they may be walking through, they chose to speak and act with kindness to each other.  I thought that was great advice.

The familiarity we have with a spouse carries freedom to say and do what we feel when under pressure.  While we wouldn’t speak to another friend with brashness or rudeness, we often say to our spouse the very first thing that comes to mind…and sometimes that isn’t good.  Solomon later in the chapter throws in, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.” (23)  It’s just better to say nothing at all if we can’t say something kind.

Paul gave excellent advice in Ephesians 4:31-32 on how to treat others, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Remember the old saying, charity begins at home, and hopefully, it won’t stop there. 

Moving Forward:  I’m committed today to kind words and kind deeds in my home regardless of what this busy day throws my way.  My dear friend, my husband, is worthy of nothing less. 

Tomorrow @ Hosea 8-14

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us, or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile at David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that God knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104

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