God’s Promise

Psalms 3-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He has set us apart for Himself

I remember my first piece of shiny jewelry, or bling as it’s sometimes called today.  It was a dime store necklace with a cross that my mom bought for me when I was very young.  I didn’t understand all the ramifications of wearing the cross, but I knew that it was an indicator that I loved Jesus.  I wore it proudly!  I don’t know what happened to it, but as a teenager I bought a small 14k gold cross that I wore along with whatever necklace I was wearing.  Sometimes it got covered up by other jewelry and clothing, but I knew it was there.  It was my statement, my mark if you will, that I was His. More important to me today than this simple gesture, however, is the profound truth that God has marked me as one who belongs to Him. And someday I will be a bit of bling in His kingdom! 

@ Psalm 4
“You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to Him.” (3)  The understanding that the God of all creation has set me aside, marked me as distinct and separate just for Himself humbles me to my knees.  God has noticed us, those who have chosen to follow Him and live godly lives, and has set us apart for Himself.  Are we able to get our minds around that thought?

Whether we are a part of any other group or club, whether we have a friend in the world and whether we feel accepted by society as a whole, we should rejoice that we are part of a group that God has set apart just for Himself.  As redeemed and grafted in to the family, we are a chosen people, but we are not exclusive.  “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)  God wants everyone, every godly one, to be a part of His special group.

As if it wasn’t enough being marked by God with distinction, we only have to call out to Him and He answers!  In a day where we can spent an entire morning on the phone on the answering machine merry-go-round, never talking with a real person, never getting any answers, the Lord will take my call!  Amazing!   “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.” (Psalm 91:14-15)  I love being chosen and set apart.

Even more exciting is what is to come.  Greater than our wearing some bling to show our dedication and love for God, someday we will be some bling.  In Zechariah 9:16-17 is a promise not only to Israel but a messianic promise to the redeemed as well, “On that day the Lord their God will rescue his people, just as a shepherd rescues his sheep. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How wonderful and beautiful they will be!”   His bling!

Moving Forward: I’m blessed to receive love and acceptance from family and friends, but even if no one showed love to me today, I know that I am loved and set apart by Him.  As I live a godly life, I am forever distinct in this way and destined to be a beautiful jewel in His crown. According to David, I can be sure of it!

Tomorrow @ Job 3-4

Matthew 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He came to rule in our hearts as King

A few years ago an advertisement on television offered the viewers the opportunity to buy a star and name it after someone special.  After watching the ad one night, my husband turned to me and asked while attempting to hide his grin, “Would you like a star named after you for your birthday?”  I thanked him for his generous offer but went on to say something to the effect that I hadn’t really accomplished anything to date that would warrant star-naming; but if that changed, I would let him know.  So far, no stars are out there in the heavenlies bearing my name. Our reading today renews in our minds the story we know so well about a brilliant star that announced the birth of a King, someone worthy to have the entire universe bear His name. 

@ Matthew 2
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’” (1-2)  Most of the wise men of that day were from Persia, a great distance away, and their commitment to finding the newborn King of the Jews is astounding to me.  How did they know the scripture about the birth of Jesus?  They may have been Jews from families that did not leave Persia after the captivity or perhaps scripture scrolls had been left behind after the Jews left.  Whatever the case, they saw the star, studied the scripture and began seeking the King.  Knowing Him as we do, how can we do anything less today?

When they arrived at the location the star had indicated, I can only imagine their disappointment to learn that no one knew about the birth of the king.  No celebration, no paparazzi, no fireworks!  They went to the rulers of the day who really should have been responsible for the festivities and found ignorance and apathy.  When the rulers realized who it was the wise men were seeking, King Herod’s ignorance turned to rage and the apathy of the Jewish leaders … remained the same.

King Herod was a ruthless leader who used politics and violence to secure his throne.  His taxation made him popular in Rome and his rebuilding the Temple pleased the Jews for a time.  He viewed the birth of this “king of the Jews” as a threat to capture his throne, but the newborn was only interested in capturing his heart.  We rub shoulders every day with people of position, power and prosperity who are often threatened by the thought of allowing a new king to rule in their hearts.  They try to kill him off with their legislation and ridicule of Him, but just like the infant so long ago, Jesus still lives, rules and reigns today and longs to capture their hearts.

The Jewish priests and scribes were well aware of the coming King, the Messiah, and knew all the scripture about Him including the prophecy of His birthplace in Micah 5:2, but for centuries they had added their own religious traditions and their own beliefs about the Messiah and this little infant born in Bethlehem was not relevant to them. The One they were looking for was born five miles away from them, and they missed Him!  We, too, can miss Him and what He is doing on the planet today when we are held back by our own traditions and beliefs and by the influence of those who rule in ignorance. Of the cast of characters in our reading today, I want to be a wise man.  I want to see His star shining in the world today, search the Scriptures for everything about Him and seek His presence with all of my heart. 

Moving Forward: My guarantee today from His Word, “you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)  Yes, the familiar cliché has to be said, wise men still seek Him today! 

Tomorrow @ Romans 3-4

@John 14 

Discover His heart: “Let not your heart be troubled”

As we start the New Year tomorrow, many are hoping for better days ahead.  World conditions, economic woes and man’s lawlessness have threatened the security for many and have brought troubling concerns to our doorsteps.  Jesus understands the troubled heart.

@John 14
John 14 records the encouragement Jesus gave His disciples as they faced uncertainty and a troublesome future. Nothing could be any more encouraging to focus on today as we move ahead to another year than these words of Jesus, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (1)

Why should we not be troubled about the security of our future? Jesus made the following promises to those who love and trust in God:

  • Permanent Available Housing – “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (2)  We are promised a permanent home, paid mortgage, situated in a desirable location.  I’ve heard told it resembles a mansion.
  • Job Security – “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.” (12) We will always have a job to do! And the benefits are out of this world!
  • Supernatural Assistance – “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (13) As we’re working, we have been promised supernatural assistance when we ask for help in His name and according to His will.
  • Free and Long-term Therapy/Counseling – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”(16)  God has given us an advocate>a comforter>a counselor who is available throughout the day, who never goes on vacation and who is but a breath away at the midnight hour when we need it most.
  • Higher Education Opportunities – “[The Holy Spirit] will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”(26)  While our brains may seem incapable of learning absolutely everything, the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we really need to know to make it in this world, and then send reminders along the way.
  • A little peace of Heaven – “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”(27)  We can’t buy it, manufacture it, clone it or Google it.  This gift from Jesus is not of this world – calm, quiet, tranquility, harmony, serenity of mind and heart – His peace.

We can rest assured that we are not alone in the new year because we have this promise from Jesus, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (21)  So as we step into the new year and all the unknowns that come with it, don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Our security is not of this world, and it will never fail us. 

Moving forward:  Thank you for joining me for devotions.  What a joy to study His Word with you!  I pray your life has been enriched by His great truths just as mine has been.  Tomorrow starts another year for me of reading through the Bible, cover to cover, from grace to grace, truth upon truth.  I can’t wait!

Tomorrow @ Romans 1-2

Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons, but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great land owner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  All together, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level, but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Revelation 18-22 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Not willing that any should be lost, He waits to return for us

We often describe something that delights and thrills us as a little bit of heaven on earth.  Some individuals attempt to create their heaven on earth, their little piece of utopia, by surrounding themselves with all the tangible things they enjoy most, and still others drug themselves into a state of oblivion because heaven is where they cannot remember, cannot feel.

The understanding most of us have of heaven, God’s dwelling place, is limited to what we read in the Bible, including John’s description in our reading today.  I don’t know much about heaven and my future home; but one thing is for certain, I’m going to live there one day! 

@ Revelation 21
And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.’  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (2-4)  I’m tempted to stop reading because this is enough.  In my finite thinking, this is heaven for me, this is heaven enough – God with me and no death, sorrow, crying or pain.  Oh, but there’s even more.

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ (5)  We’ll be moving into a brand spanking new earth, unmarred by nature’s destruction or man’s input, a happy day for the environmentalists to be sure.  Nothing will exist to remind us of old hurts, scars and pain. Yet there’s more…

John went on to describe the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City “built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones” and the twelve gates of the city “made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.” (19,21)  I’ve seen some of the world’s famous treasuries and read about many others and none compare to the beauty of John’s description.  As believers, we long to see it, and we long to live with Him there in this perfect place.  Most of us say, “Anytime, Lord, come quickly, we’re ready.”  What is He waiting for anyway?

Of course God’s timing is always perfect and these plans were laid long before we existed. He will return for us at just the right moment in this world’s history.  A few years ago I had a glimpse into what I felt to be God’s heart on this subject.  It wasn’t prophetic but something I could imagine to be God’s heart.  I walked into our Sunday morning church service during praise and worship.  The moment I entered the sanctuary, I sensed God’s presence and felt like I was walking through deep water as I went to my seat.  Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw this scenario:  The Father and the Son were peering into our sanctuary from heaven.  The Son was thrilled with our worship and in response to it said to the Father with excitement, “Is it time?  Is it time to gather up the believers?  The worshipers are calling to us.  They desire to fellowship with us. Is it time? Can I go?”  In response, the countenance of the Father lifted, and I followed His gaze to view an endless sea of people, so many lost souls who do not yet know Him.

I fell to my knees and wept for the lost that morning. I believe that He longs for us to dwell with Him, but His compassion for those who have not accepted His Son as Savior constrains Him.  Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

How very fitting for the Bible to end with an invitation to come to God, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (22:17) Amen!

Moving Forward:  “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’  Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20)  My heart joins with John, “Yes, come, Lord Jesus,” but my spirit joins with the Lord, “Come…Let anyone who is thirsty come.”

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 33-34

Esther 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is keeping perfect records of our good deeds and acts of kindness

While Tom and I served as youth pastors many years ago, I was also the church bookkeeper.  Being somewhat dyslexic with numbers, this was a challenge for me.  The dictionary says that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage, which is a great relief to me.  I also admit that I was always just a little over the top on balancing the books each month to the penny – no mercy – to the penny!  Over the years, I spent several all-nighters searching for that penny or two so that I could close the books for the month.  I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but any free analysis is appreciated.

I’m happy to report, however, there is Someone who is keeping the books on each one of us, keeping track of all that we do and say, and He has no disorders or phobias.  His books are balanced to the very second, they never fall short and are disclosed at the perfect moment in time.  This truth is vividly portrayed in the life of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

@ Esther 6
“That night the king had trouble sleeping, so he ordered an attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him.  In those records he discovered an account of how Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the eunuchs who guarded the door to the king’s private quarters. They had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes.” (1-2)  The Jews in Persia were on the verge of being annihilated by the king’s evil assistant, Haman; and out of the blue, the king discovered this valiant act by Jewish Mordecai that was buried in the Persian history books.  Imagine that.

My mom was the Sunday School teacher for sixth grade girls at her church for 20 years.  During that time, every girl that attended her class heard an anointed teaching every Sunday, material she had studied, prayed and even wept over at times.  Every girl in her class heard the message of Jesus and was given an opportunity to accept Him and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as well.  Times had changed and younger voices were desired so mom retired from her position.  She cared nothing about this, but I observed that little appreciation was expressed to her at the time.

As she stepped into eternity a few years ago, however, I know the One who keeps the books met her with the only words of appreciation she ever wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with some of the girls who sat in her class Sunday after Sunday, and they have expressed their appreciation to me for the testimony and example my mom was to them.  I probably needed hearing their words more at that time than my mom ever needed hearing them.  God has a way of disclosing the books at the perfect moment.

The recognition of good deeds and right living often has a way of falling through the cracks with little notice or so it seems; but when those deeds are done with the right motive, we really don’t care whether or not they are noticed or appreciated.  There is a satisfaction that comes just from doing the right thing.  However, God is keeping the books on all our deeds; and whether they are disclosed during this lifetime or in eternity, the reward will come at just the right moment.

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” (10:3)  Now today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we honor as well the good deeds of Mordecai and the selflessness of Esther, an Old Testament type or example of Jesus. Their faithful deeds are ministering to us today at just the right moment. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that I’m no longer a bookkeeper but most thankful for the One who is keeping the books on my life.  His books are balanced right to the very second, they never fall short and are revealed at the perfect moment in time. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 149-150

Revelation 12-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He defeated the enemy through His birth, death and resurrection

Pink and soft and sweet.  There’s nothing like a newborn baby!  As we gaze at God’s workmanship, we marvel at the intricate details right down to the tiny fingers and fingernails.  No doubt Mary and Joseph we enthralled with their new little bundle of joy.

At Christmas I enjoy setting up the many nativity sets that I’ve collected over the years.  One set is beautiful porcelain made by Goebel and another is elegantly designed by Thomas Kinkaid, but just as precious to me is a rustic wooden set carved in Paraguay.  One thing they all have in common is the peaceful, serene setting depicted on that night so long ago when the Prince of Peace came into the world.  However, not everyone was at peace that Israel delivered the Savior of all mankind. 

@ Revelation 12
“Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne.” (1-5)

I’ve watched many Christmas pageants over the years filled with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds and the erroneous wise men at the stable, but I’ve never seen one that included a huge red dragon with seven heads.  I’m thankful for that.  Most believe the woman of Revelation 12 to be actually symbolic of Israel rather than Mary, but regardless, Israel brought forth the One who would defeat the enemy.

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” (7-9) Jesus sacrificed his life for our redemption, and it was the final nail in the coffin that secured Satan’s defeat!

“And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” (17) So, if we’ve wondered why the enemy throws his arrows at us and attacks us at every turn, we now understand it’s because he is angry at us for keeping God’s commandments and maintaining our testimony for Jesus. This is why Paul encourages us to put on all that armor every day found in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

The war will continue until Christ’s return, but we will defeat our enemy in the battles we face each day by suiting up and by using the very things that made Satan angry in the first place, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (11,NKJV)

The enemy’s time is short, and he knows it, “For the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” (12)  And we know it as well, “He who is the Faithful Witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (22:20) 

Moving Forward:  As I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am ever mindful of His ultimate mission and the victory He has brought to my life to defeat the enemy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 26-28

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