Guidance


2 Kings 6-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He surrounds us with His army of protection

Spies, counterspies and espionage – all ingredients for a great story, at least in my mind.  I love spy stuff and really enjoyed visiting the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. a few years ago.  The inventory of spy gear, listening and recording devices and weapons developed over the years boasts of a well-developed spy industry around the world.  The Museum tells the story of many notorious spies dating back to early Roman times and even offers the visitors the opportunity to adopt spy profiles and memorize their covers. Fun stuff.

Most spies through the ages had one goal in mind and that was to secure classified information from enemy territory for their king, country or company, and they used many different tools to accomplish it.  However, one spy in history never had to infiltrate enemy territory, never used spy gear and was always right on the money.  What government wouldn’t pay big bucks to sign up the prophet Elisha!  Unfortunately, his services have been terminated…but not his Source. 

@ 2 Kings 6
The King of Aram was at war with Israel, but every strategic move he planned fell into the hands of his enemy, Israel.  Certain that there was a spy within his ranks, he questioned them and soon learned that the prophet Elisha was the culprit. “It’s not us, my lord the king,’ one of the officers replied.  ‘Elisha…tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!’” (12)  Obviously, Elisha had supernatural help.

The king sent a large army to capture the threat to his kingdom, but they were no match for this humble prophet.  When the mighty army surrounded Elisha, his servant cried out, “Oh sir, what will we do now?”(15)  More calm, cool and collected than 007, Elisha replied, “Don’t be afraid!… For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’  The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”(16-17)

In the battles we face against our enemy, there is a dimension beyond what we see in the natural, a Source not limited by spy paraphernalia.  He knows the enemy’s strategy and is never taken by surprise.  We may be tempted to cry out in the heat of battle, “What will we do now?”  But that is when, like Elijah, we should pray, “O Lord, open my eyes and let me see.”  And at that moment, we will see through eyes of faith the invisible and know that we are not alone for there are more horses and chariots of fire on our side than any number of enemies we may face

“The angel of the Lord is a guard:  he surrounds and defends all who fear him.” (Psalm 34:7)   He was with Daniel in the lion’s den, the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, Peter in the prison cell and He is with us in whatever battle we are facing.  “If God is for us, who can ever be against us.” (Romans 8:31)  When we pray, He will open our spiritual eyes to see His hand, His army, His whatever that is needed to bring victory to our lives, and we will not be afraid! 

Moving Forward: I will move forward this day with the confidence that my Source already knows the enemy’s strategy and has surrounded me with an invincible defense. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 81-83

Galatians 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He desires to fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit

Paul questioned the Galatians, “What has happened to all your joy?”(4:15 NIV)  Now that’s a question I don’t want to be asked because it signals to me that, in the eyes of others, my joy is gone. If asked this question, I would feel obliged to examine what really did happen to my joy so that I could give an answer.  Where exactly did my joy go?

I’ve noticed when I am especially embroiled in a tedious task like income tax filing, checkbook balancing or bill paying, the joy really isn’t flowing.  Although I love to cook and try new recipes, following a very detailed Martha Stewart recipe can change the environment in my kitchen very quickly. Suddenly, it’s just not fun anymore.  This is how Paul found the Galatians – encumbered by the Law of Moses at the bidding of the false teachers who had invaded the church.  Their relationship with the Lord had been usurped by legalism, and they had lost their joy. 

@ Galatians 5
“So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (1)  The incessant observance of all the laws had turned the Galatians’ focus from the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ in their lives to their work in their lives, saving themselves through circumcision and the adherence to all the laws.

Anyone or anything that turns our focus from Jesus and what He did on the cross to rules and methods that we must follow to earn our salvation is wrong.   “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

New life through the Holy Spirit!  “So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (16,22-23)  Joy is the end result when the Holy Spirit controls our lives.  Joy doesn’t come from our substitutions for Him or our manipulations of Him, but rather His pure guidance and freedom in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit guides us, we are filled with a deep, abiding peace regardless of our circumstances and a joy that comes from deep within us.

“Now with patience in our suffering, perseverance in our prayers, with good reason this hope is in our hearts.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.” (Sara Groves)  With His joy, no one will ask “What has happened to all your joy?” because He puts a song of joy in our hearts and we sing Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Moving Forward:  As I move through this day led by the Holy Spirit, I experience His joy because He is guiding me and producing what is good in my life.  Hallelujah! 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 37-40

Proverbs 1 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He supplies all the wisdom we need to live right, just and fair

“These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just and fair.  These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.” (1-4)  We want wisdom to be sure, but discipline? Not so much.  Yet, they always seem to go hand in hand.

“Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.”  Well, I’d stand in line all day for that!  Wisdom, however, is not a destination, but a journey.  We never stop gaining wisdom unless we want to stop, “but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (7)  By nature, we don’t really want to hear about the disciplines of God.  We want to hear sermons that only make us feel good about ourselves, pat us on the back and say “Good job!”  Every pastor knows that a feel-good message will draw a crowd, but then according to Solomon, does this mean we are fools?

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” (7)  To fear God, which is to reverence and respect, to honor, and to obey, is what we are encouraged by Solomon to build upon for our entire lives.  We can only respect and build on what we know. The Proverbs of Solomon, as well as the rest of God’s Word, were written so that we may know His wisdom and his disciplines (1). And the end result is true knowledge.  Everyone seems to search for counsel today, but they tend to seek the negotiable areas of man’s wisdom rather than the well-defined areas of God’s wisdom.  Doesn’t that seem… foolish?

I love Solomon’s picture of wisdom shouting in the streets, an ethereal form, calling out, “Follow me. Follow me.”  Wisdom calls, “Come and listen to my counsel.  I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (23)  When Jesus lived on earth, He was Wisdom personified as He called out, “Follow me! Follow me!” We, too, share in that calling when our message to the lost calls out to follow Him.  “He who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV)

The wisdom and disciplines of God are a constant source of comfort and security for me because they show me how to behave in life, how to respond to life and how to love in life.  I’d rather know the disciplines of God than to be one who flounders through life like, say, a fool. 

Moving Forward: Today I will look to wisdom in His Word and respond to its call to come and listen to its counsel.  And if I take heed, it will make me wise. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 47-52

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

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