Guidance


Jeremiah 32-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will not easily let go of us and rewards our commitment to stay

Because I went to a small college and knew my fellow students reasonably well, the first day of each school term was somewhat revealing as to how challenging our classes would be.  After we filed into each of our classes, we would look around the room for the curve wreckers – those students that we knew would ace the tests and raise the grading curve for all the other students.  In our reading, Jeremiah, too, was looking in his day for those who would set the standard high and follow after God. 

@ Jeremiah 33
While Babylon was laying siege to the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah received these words of promise from the Lord, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come…You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead…Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace…I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.  He will do what is just and right throughout the land…I will never abandon the descendants of Jacob or David, my servant…Instead, I will restore them to their land and have mercy on them.” (3-26)

This message to Jeremiah reveals the heart of our Lord.  He desires that we ask Him when we need direction for our lives.  In our asking, we are humbly saying that we cannot figure this out on our own and that we are dependent on Him for His help, and He responds to our submission to Him. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.” (Matthew 7:7)

The “righteous descendant from King David’s line” is yet another Old Testament prophetic promise about Jesus.  Although Israel would face dark times, God had not given up on His special treasure, and He had a plan to redeem them.  Even still, the Israelites rejected the first coming of Jesus, but these scriptures foretell of His second coming where His throne will be forever established in Jerusalem.

Israel’s existence today is proof that He has not given up on His chosen ones. As adoptees into this family, it is our assurance as well that He will not give up on us.  He will send Jeremiahs into our lives to call us back to Him if we stray, and as with Israel, He will not let us slip away without great effort to keep us.  Oh, how He loves us! 

@ Jeremiah 35
Oh, those Recabites! They were the curve wreckers of their day.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)  For over 200 years, this Nomadic group had followed their ancestor’s special vow of dedication to God to not drink wine, to not buy land and to not plant crops.  Because Israel had trouble keeping a commitment to God for two minutes, much less 200 years, God brought the Recabites before the Israelites as an example of steadfast devotion to Him.  “Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me…Jehonadab son of Recab will always have descendants who serve me.” (13,19)  As with the Recabites, I pray that my commitment to the Lord will be so evident that it is imprinted on the hearts of my children and my children’s children.

Today I have learned a lesson about how to obey Him. I am challenged to listen to the Jeremiahs of my generation even though their messages don’t always bring warm fuzzies to my heart.  Their messages from God are given to save me, protect me and keep me so that one day I will worship before God’s very throne in Heaven.  I’m challenged to be a curve wrecker in my generation, setting the bar high and keeping strong my commitment to follow the Lord in obedience.   If I do this, I believe He has promised that I will always have descendants who serve the Lord! 

Moving Forward: I move forward today so very thankful that He has not given up on me.  I pray that I will always have descendants who follow the Lord, and may they be the curve wreckers of their generation! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 1-2

Job 37-38 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses the challenges we face to perfect us, to make us more like Him 

@ Job 38
“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:  Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?  Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’” (1-3) This is not the way I want the Lord to begin a conversation with me.  Job had asked his whys? But God answered with Who?

The trial against Job had continued for quite some time.  The four accusers had laid out their case against him and each time Job had risen to his own defense, disputing their accusations.  At Chapter 38, God entered the courtroom.  He was not a witness to be cross-examined.  He was not the prosecuting attorney for the four accusers.  He was not the defense attorney that Job was hoping He would be.  He was the judge.  “Brace yourself like a man!”  Help. 

Who laid out the universe, formed the seas with their tides and created darkness and light?  Were you there from the beginning, Job? Who made snow and rain, ice and frost and the laws of the universe that regulate all temperatures?  Who placed the constellations in the sky and directs the sequence of the seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall?  Because Job felt so free to question God’s dealings with him, it seems God was giving him an opportunity to evaluate whether or not he thought himself on the same level as Him.  Who? Indeed.

David often questioned God about things that were happening and defended his actions on occasion, but his heart was always one of repentance.  Job seemed to be a little too proud of his goodness to accept what had happened to him, implying that he knew better than God.  Perhaps this pride was the catalyst for Job’s great test as much as Satan’s request in Chapter l.

Was Job, in all his goodness, beginning to reflect the arrogance of Lucifer before the fall?  Where would it lead?  These questions are without answers, but they cause me to examine my own life.  Each day I ask God to purify my heart of pride and little roots that can take hold and imply that any goodness in me could come from anywhere but Him.  I want to avoid those brace yourself moments with God.

Job proved Satan’s accusation in Chapter l wrong.   He did not curse God when his world was attacked as Satan had predicted, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.” (19:25) Job had passed this test.  However, God often uses difficult times in our lives to bring about something better in us.  God was perfecting Job, and Job soon learned the what in his experience, what would make him a better man. God’s response to Job was not one of a casual acquaintance, where attitudes and weaknesses are just ignored. His response was based on relationship, personal and intimate.

The old saying comes to mind, “God loves you just the way you are. But he loves you too much to let you stay that way.”  I love Him for this, that He loves me enough, that He is mindful enough of little me, to change me and make me more like Him. 

Moving Forward:  I will focus today on Who He is.  I may or may not learn the why of the challenges I face, but in knowing Who, I will soon learn what He is perfecting in me. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 32-36

Exodus 21-24 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His presence protects and guides us

Much of the remaining book of Exodus consists of laws and regulations for everyday living.  Throughout history, one of the first acts of any group or gathering is to establish guidelines that bring protection and order to the group, and this new nomadic group of Israelites was no exception.  Because of God’s special covenant with their forefather, Abraham, God took special care to establish the very best guidelines for their success.

The laws were based on common sense and respect for others.  Many of the dictates are similar to our laws today, but they were met with very different consequences when broken.  Death was often an immediate penalty.  An eye for an eye was the rule of the day, especially in cases of personal injury.  If this were the law today, lawyers would be out of business, television commercials would be completely different, and we would definitely keep our goring ox under control to be sure. (29) Exodus 22 dealt with the protection of property, the proper treatment of others and finally, their responsibilities to God. Sorcerers, sexual deviants, and idolaters were put to death – zero tolerance.  Regardless of how much we abhor such sins, we can be thankful today for God’s grace and His ultimate justice through Jesus Christ. 

@ Exodus 23
Hidden within the laws of justice (1-9), the Sabbath laws (10-13), the Festival laws (14-19) and the laws of consecration (25-33) was an amazing promise to the Israelites.  “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.  Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.  Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion.” (20-22)  What angel would have the ability to forgive or to not forgive?  Many believe this angel to be a manifestation of God, even an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.  He certainly was, at the very least, a representative of the presence of God in the same way as the pillar of cloud and fire.  This angel was sent to go before them and lead them to the Promised Land.  What a blessed people!

And what a blessed people we are!  Those who have accepted the manifestation of God’s only Son, Jesus, have this same promise of protection and guidance for their lives.  It’s easy for this incredible promise to get hidden by all the laws of man, laws of nature and laws of God that we follow each day.  This account in Exodus of God’s faithfulness to His imperfect people serves as our reminder:  In our obedience to God, His presence is with us to protect and lead us through life. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) It just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward: So thankful that I live in this day of His grace and experience His presence to protect and guide my life as I follow closely after Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 10-14

Jeremiah 27-31 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will be found when we search for Him with our whole hearts

When someone has both good news and bad news to offer us, we are often asked, “Which do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?  I usually prefer to hear the bad news first so that the conversation can end on a high note.  Some people feel they can only handle bad news after a healthy dose of good news to fortify them.  Jeremiah had been sharing devastating news to the Israelites for quite some time, not that it had done much to change their lifestyles, but finally he was given words of hope and encouragement from the Lord for His people.  And great news it was! 

@Jeremiah 29
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon contained some of Scripture’s most quoted and encouraging verses, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.’” (11-13)

The best news on the planet today is that He has plans for us and He knows what they are even when we don’t.  If I understood why He so often waits to share those plans with us, I would certainly explain it, but most of the time I just don’t know why.  I do know that He reveals His hope-filled future for us at just the right moment, His right moment, and they are good plans, plans we could not have made through our own limited abilities.

In addition to the good advice from yesterday’s reading in Job to “glorify His mighty works, singing songs of praise” when we are waiting on Him, God has given us some tangible steps to follow while we wait on Him.  “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! (5-6)  In other words, we are encouraged to continue on in life with hopeful optimism, preparing for the future with what we know to do until His plans are revealed.  During this time, we are challenged to look for Him wholeheartedly – enthusiastically, sincerely, unconditionally, with a whole heart – and He has promised that He will be found.

In the holding pattern, it’s easy for me to become discouraged and want to give up.  Where are you, God?  What is Your plan? But, of course, this response to my challenge is not the wholehearted response He desires.  I have determined to keep building, planting and seeking Him with the understanding that He is listening and I will find Him!

Obviously, with all this activity there is little time for moping, pouting, withdrawing or hermiting.  When we follow God’s instructions, we move forward with hope, confidence and prayer, waiting for the revelation of His good plans! 

Moving Forward:  Help me today, Lord, to follow your instructions and wholeheartedly look for You and Your plan as I build, plant, eat and do all that I know to do. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 15-16

2 Samuel 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our patience and integrity; He desires that our zeal is surrendered to Him

“I was just trying to help.”  How many times have we offered this explanation when our attempt to help someone has not been helpful.  Often unsolicited, our help is well-intended, but sometimes it doesn’t achieve our goal.  So often we don’t understand the big picture in a situation or the long-term ramifications, yet we charge ahead with opinions that we feel would be helpful.  Through the years I learned to offer my help to others with enthusiasm; but if it’s not accepted, I know there must be a reason for it.  In our reading today, the less than helpful Amalekite and valiant Asahel had not learned this lesson.

The Amalekites, Esau’s descendants, had been the bane of Israel’s existence for quite some time, and now one lone Amalekite came to David bearing the crown and armband of David’s arch-rival, King Saul, announcing his death as well as the death of his son, Jonathan.  Some believe his story of killing Saul to put him out of his misery was fabricated; but regardless of the truth, David did not congratulate him.  “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” (2 Samuel 1:14) Apparently, the Amalekite did not anticipate the integrity of David, and David ordered him killed for his terrible deed. I guess he was just trying to help. Shortly after this, David was anointed king of the southern kingdom of Judah. 

@ 2 Samuel 2
Ishbosheth (say that fast three times), Saul’s son, was crowned king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and almost immediately fighting ensued between the divided nations.  David had the three sons of Zeruiah who were dominant figures in his army – Joel, Abishai and Asahel.  Chapter 2 gives the fateful account of the young Asahel who put upon himself the task of taking out Abner, Ishbosheth’s mighty leader.  We learn through this story that the life of even the fastest runner in the land is worth very little when he is running in the wrong direction.  Abner tried hard not to kill this young warrior, but the confrontation was a case of kill or be killed, and Asahel died at the hand of the mighty Abner.  Although Asahel’s desire to diminish the strength of the enemy by killing Abner seemed valiant, dead self-directed heroes can do little else for the kingdom.

Not only did Asahel die that day, but his murder sparked a great civil war between the two kingdoms that finally culminated seven years later at the murder of Ishbosheth.  David was crowned king of Israel, and the two kingdoms were finally united.  God rewarded David for his integrity and patience.  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land many years before, their assignment was to rid the land of its inhabitants and to build a holy nation, God’s special treasure.  It took many more years to accomplish this than was necessary because of disunity and infighting. Asahel’s self-directed zeal came at a cost. Obedience is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22).

Several times throughout my life I tried to help God out in areas where He hadn’t asked for my assistance.  My intentions were honorable, but my actions were not.  Anytime I try to be the Holy Spirit, rather than be led by Him, I can expect poor results.  Fortunately, the Lord has not let it kill me, but I have found myself on my knees, asking forgiveness, pleading His mercy. And, true to His nature, He is merciful. The Holy Spirit is big enough for any task, and His guidance never misdirects. 

Moving Forward:  Like all the examples from His Word, I receive its life-giving counsel to make me better, more like Him. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 48-50

Exodus 13-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Remember His power to deliver

Several years ago my uncle did a great favor for me, my siblings and cousins.  As a gift to our grandparents, he officially documented their passage through Ellis Island to the United States when they arrived from Italy over a century ago.  Because of this, I was able to visit Ellis Island a few years ago and view the record of their entrance and see their names inscribed on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor.  It was a touching moment for me as I remembered the courage of my young grandparents as they embarked on a journey of new discoveries that certainly affected the course of my life.  It’s good to understand and to remember our heritage. 

@ Exodus 13
“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’  Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery.’” (13:14)  Immediately after the escape from Egypt, God gave Moses some instructions for the Israelites in light of their new-found freedom:  give your first-born sons to God because He spared their lives in the escape from Egypt and buy them back through the sacrifice of a young lamb or goat.  I would imagine the children in the future would want to know what that was all about.  It was about remembering, remembering all God had done, “This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.” (16).

This story causes me to wonder if I have adequately shared with my children the story of my deliverance from slavery, the slavery of sin, and the day the Lamb was sacrificed in my stead.  What happened that day to draw me to Him?  Where did it occur?  How did I feel?  Remembering…forever marking their hand or forehead in remembrance of His great power to deliver, and one day passing it on to their children and their children’s children along with their own stories of deliverance.

“The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire.” (21) A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to guide their every step!  Come on!  How could they go wrong?  But they did.  We may think that if we had visible guidance from God like this, we would never take a misstep. But then, we do have His guidance.  We hold in our hands the Bible, the tangible Word of God that brings guidance and direction through the work of the Holy Spirit to direct our lives and keep us on the right path. How could we go wrong?  But we can.

Just like the Israelites, we may take for granted the wonderful gift of His direction regardless of how it comes to us, or we may look for a new word, possibly a word with a face.  But for certain, remembering how He has directed His people in the past through the living Word of God and remembering how He has led us will help to keep us on the right path.

@ Exodus 14
As the 2 million Israelites stood wedged between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, panic ensued.  In verse 11 they cried, “Why did you make us leave Egypt? We said, ‘leave us alone!’”  Huh?  Had they already forgotten the miracle night of their escape?  “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.’” (13)  And of course, He miraculously rescued them that day, split that sea wide open and they crossed on dry ground.

What wonderful words for us today!  Regardless of how tightly we are wedged between our challenges with no obvious way out, we can remember, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.” 

Moving Forward: Today I remember the story of my deliverance, retelling it to my children, and look to my pillar of cloud and fire for guidance – the Living Word.  Unafraid in my circumstances, I will just stand still and watch… 

Tomorrow @ II Samuel 1-4

I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking advice from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought Saul to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew precisely where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been troubled by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why we would need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit, He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and there’s an added bonus. His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

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