Guidance


Acts 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: One holy night long ago He sent His presence to abide with us

Selling a home, especially in today’s market, can be tricky business.  Through the years, I’ve had several home sellers tell me that their home sold before they even had it on the market or shortly after that, and this miracle was God’s stamp of approval on their upcoming move or change.  I’m always at a momentary loss of words at this point. The two beautiful homes we owned in the past took months and months to sell even though well priced.  Does this mean we were moving outside of God’s will?

Knowing that we were in God’s will is what carried us along during those difficult months.  And this begs the question in our reading today – Was Paul out of God’s will when he insisted his case be tried in Rome?  The hardships he incurred on the way to Rome were extraordinary, but in spite of it all, he ultimately answered God’s call to preach to the Romans.  As we celebrate Christmas, another question comes to mind. Were the difficulties, then, that Mary and Joseph faced at the time of Jesus’ birth an indication that God was not with them?

@ Acts 27-28
Paul was under armed guard as they set sail for Rome, and the trip was treacherous, to say the least.  A violent tempest tossed the ship for days, and Paul’s life was threatened as the soldiers attempted to kill the prisoners rather than risk their getting free in the storm. When they finally ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta, miraculously not one life was lost.  If this wasn’t enough peril, Paul was bitten by a deadly viper, yet not even a mark remained.

“Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him… Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (28:16,30-31)  The sailing was not smooth, the house did not sell, but God was with Paul on his trip to Rome, and his mission was accomplished.  Paul preached the gospel to the Romans. 

@ Luke 2
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (4-8)

Having just accepted the unbelievable truth of an Immaculate Conception, Joseph and pregnant Mary traveled the difficult road to Bethlehem to find there was no lodging available.  Then Mary went into labor and gave birth to the Messiah, the very Son of God … in a stable.  And, if that wasn’t trial enough, the king tried to kill their son.  With all these difficulties, some would say that this couple was out of the will of God and perhaps this Holy Spirit conception was a farce.  And they would, of course, be wrong.

Now, some 2,000 years later we honor this glorious birth as we sing, “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”  We join with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God and say:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (14)

As with Paul, Joseph and Mary and so many others who have gone before us, the path to our future may not always be smooth sailing, and we may find ourselves in difficult situations from time to time. However, there is one thing we can be certain of today in our celebration of Christ’s coming to this earth, and it is that He is with us!  As we travel His path, He is with us.  Merry Christmas, fellow travelers! 

Moving Forward:  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” He has come, and He is with me as I travel life’s path. 

Tomorrow @ Jude

Esther 1-5 (NLT Link) 

Discover His heart: He positions us to fulfill His purpose

Chess is a game of strategy using specific characters on a chess board with the ultimate goal of blocking the opponent’s king so he cannot move.  Many people find this to be entertaining.  In fact, I  joined dozens of people one time to watch a game of chess in Salzburg played on one of the town squares with chess pieces 3 feet tall.  Every move not only involved cerebral energy but physical energy as well.  I must admit that I don’t play chess.  I spend most of every day strategizing how to get accomplished all that needs to get done before bedtime, so why would I play a game of strategy for fun?

However, the different characters on the chess board do intrigue me.  Each piece has a specific function and direction of movement from the lowly pawn to the queen herself.  A pawn that is moved to the correct position can bring down the king – checkmate!  Imagine that!  When a pawn is positioned for a purpose, anything can happen.  Today we read about a lowly Jewish girl, some would call a pawn in the scheme of things, who was positioned for the purpose of saving a nation. 

@ Esther 4
While most believed that Esther had become the Queen of Persia because of her great beauty, her uncle Mordecai understood that God had positioned her to save her people.  Through the influence of his advisor, evil Haman, the king had issued a decree that all the Jews be killed, but Mordecai encouraged Esther to consider that she had been positioned for purpose. “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”(14)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position that we find uncomfortable for various reasons.  That position may be boring and dull, or it may be stressful and risky, or it may be downright painful.  Regardless of the reason, we just don’t like it.  We complain a lot and feel like we’re bumping into a brick wall as we try to change things, but have we considered the possibility that we have been positioned for purpose?

We may not save a nation in the position we find ourselves, but just as important to God, we may help to save a soul – a neighbor, co-worker, a sales clerk.  God loves every soul on the planet enough to position us for the purpose of reaching each one.  Or perhaps in our position right now, He is changing us and making us ready for His purpose.  Positioned for purpose!  May the question of Mordecai reach down through the centuries to open our eyes to the possibility that we, too, are positioned for a purpose, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

Moving Forward:  I submit to the endless possibilities that His purpose has positioned me for today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 146-148

Revelation 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals His secrets to us at just the right moment

When someone has a secret and is forbidden to share it, I, for one, would just as soon not know about it.  Ignorance is bliss.  I remember children on the playground chanting, “I know something you don’t know,” to torment those who plainly did not know the something.  I would prefer that these individuals keep to themselves the fact that they have hidden information, but I guess there is a certain headiness that comes from others knowing that we have inside information.

Gloating may not be the intention when someone confesses to having secret information, but instead, it may be intended as a source of encouragement that plans are being made behind the scenes or things are under control even though we cannot see it.  John revealed unbelievable end-time events in our reading today to encourage believers, but there were some things he just couldn’t share. 

@ Revelation 10
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.  And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.  When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.” (1-4)

It’s hard to imagine that John would have the ability to write anything while viewing an angel wearing a rainbow on his head with feet like pillars of fire and voice of seven thunders.  I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to write what I was hearing and would probably have been on my face; however, John made every attempt to do so but was stopped.  Some have reasoned that the message of the seven thunders was too horrific to hear, and others believe that our minds would not be able to comprehend it.  Regardless of the reason, John knew something we don’t know.

Other writers in the Bible were not allowed to share what God had revealed to them.  “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase… Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4,9)  God had revealed many secret dreams to Daniel that he was free to share, but this secret He would reveal at the end times when people would understand its meaning.  God reveals His secrets at the perfect time.

In our personal lives there are answers we do not have and secrets God has not revealed to us, but of course, we want to know them now.  Moses did a great job in Deuteronomy 29:29 instructing the Israelites who were entering a new land as to God’s secrecy, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”  Our hearts and minds may not be in a position to know all that God has planned for us, but He will reveal His secrets at just the right moment.  In the meantime, our job is to be accountable to what He has revealed to us through His Word and what He has already spoken to our hearts.  All this should keep us busy for quite some time, and in due time He will reveal what He knows that we don’t know, and He will reveal it exactly when we need to know it.

Moving Forward:  I will be faithful today to what I do know, confident that He will reveal what I don’t know at just the right moment. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 23-25

Psalms 137-139 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He knows everything we do and everywhere we go

While traveling by car around the city of Vienna, Austria, Tom and I greatly appreciated the Global Positioning System (GPS) that was provided for us.  I don’t understand how it works, something about a satellite up in the sky and…I don’t know.  How that little box can pinpoint my location and direct me to my next destination is a mystery to me.

I nicknamed our GPS Helga because she was a no-nonsense kind of girl, and really, she wasn’t very pleasant.  No offense intended to all the Helga’s in the world, but she never offered a please or thank you when we complied.  However, for the most part, she got us to our destinations, and we often thanked her for it.  Helga discerned traffic patterns on route to our destination and was able to redirect our course when necessary.  What a gal!

On occasion, the GPS would signal an alarm, but we had no idea what we should be alarmed about.  After the fact, we learned that Helga was informing us about radar detection boxes that were located throughout the city.  She was so attuned to our location that she was able to guide us through what could have been challenging situations, and she was there for us, guiding and directing our steps.  Thanks again, Helga, for a great ride! 

@ Psalm 139
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (1-7)  Like the workings of the GPS, I don’t understand the omnipresence of God, how He goes before me yet follows me, and I don’t understand His desire to do so.  It humbles me.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (13-16)  How could we not trust our Creator who has been with us from our very beginning, the One who planned our course and direction?

When we’re going through a difficult time, we often wonder where God is.  Has He left us? Abandoned us?  Sometimes our GPS was silent when we needed her most because of a tunnel or obstruction, but eventually, she came through for us.  Unlike our GPS, God is infallible, but sometimes He is silent, and we question His whereabouts.

David understood this position when he wrote, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.  Don’t abandon me, for you made me.” (138:8)  We can trust that God will come through for us, “I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.” (138:2)  Now that’s quite a backing!  GPS units like Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom may be helpful, but they don’t hold a candle to the Name of the Lord!

David ended his Psalm soliciting God’s guidance, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (23-24)  Find my position, Lord, beam your radar deep within my heart and signal the areas of concern.  Lead me along this life to my final destination of eternal life with you.  I trust your Name! 

Moving Forward:  Led from above today, I can trust His guidance and direction because they are backed by the honor of His name

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 11-12

Deuteronomy 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to guide and protect our children

Over the years I’ve spent time in large European cities where I have observed very young children on city streets, subways and tourist areas begging for money as the parent or guardian stands by to watch.  These children are mostly treated with disdain by those who pass by them, and it’s a heart-wrenching scene to watch.  It’s difficult to understand the willingness of parents to sacrifice their children in this cruel process, but then we have our own issues on this side of the big pond. One thing I know for certain is that God expects us to protect our children not exploit them. 

@ Deuteronomy 18
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there.  For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.” (9-10)  Who would do such a despicable thing?  Well, mostly no one today, at least with an intention to do so.  We may not offer them as a burnt offering, but are we sacrificing them through our ignorance of the detestable customs and practices surrounding us?

 I’m always amazed by the television programming, movies, and music that youth, Christian and secular alike, digest each day.  Parents have complained through the years about their troubled teens that don’t follow the lifestyle they have lived out in front of them, but other influences are much more attractive and enticing than the day to day routines that parents are exhibiting.  To be sure, our godly modeling to our children is valuable, but we need to be attentive to what is captivating their attention through their media as well.

When we discover something in our child’s environment that appears to be questionable or something we just don’t know anything about, our best course of action is to check it out for ourselves and to be knowledgeable about it.  If we find something objectionable, a dialogue is much more effective than a declaration as a starting point and it keeps the doors of communication open for the future.  If our impressionable youth still does not accept our viewpoint, we may be tempted to let it go because it’s just easier to do so or because we’re afraid of the response that may come, but sacrificing them to the customs of this world just isn’t an option.

When we stick to our convictions, we can offer this resolution to our children:  In scripture, we understand that God expects children to obey their parents, and He really doesn’t provide a way around that.  If they disobey, God will deal with them.  However, if we as parents make an unreasonable demand or an inaccurate assessment that is not righteous, God will deal with us. As the child or youth waits for lighting to strike the parent for grave errors in judgment and the heat of the moment is gone, they often move on to yet another thing or are distracted by something else. The disagreement becomes a moot point.  In the process, offering a godly alternative is helpful although not always immediately appreciated.  Youth need our guidance whether they like it or not.  We do our part, but they are responsible for the decisions they make.

As parents, smothering is not our goal, but guidance and discipline are the responsibility God has given us according to a myriad of scriptures including, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)   There’s more than one way to sacrifice our children, and we don’t want to participate in any of them and end up with a millstone around our necks (Matthew 18).  Fortunately, we are not alone in raising our children if we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day and make certain that He is our first reaction to the challenges we face.

Moving Forward: I’m praying for parents who need God’s help today, believing that God will give them the resolve to follow through with their convictions with all the grace and wisdom He has to offer them. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 6-10

Deuteronomy 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His commandments guide our steps as we keep our focus on them

Having already confessed the fact that I’m a compulsive list maker, I might as well come completely clean.  Some have labeled me the Queen of Sticky Notes, and there is an element of truth to this lofty title.  Surely everyone finds them helpful, just as I do in organizing my day, my stuff and my life – I even have sticky notes for my sticky notes. I’m happy to report, for those who are not as savvy on the subject of sticky notes, these notes come in many sizes, colors, degrees of stickiness and some even have lines!  Imagine my relief to find that Moses was also a little over the top on posting notes everywhere to remember important things. 

@ Deuteronomy 6
Ready to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites were once again instructed by their leader, Moses, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (4-9)  They would have loved our sticky notes.

Moses began his exhortation with a call to love the Lord and follow His commands with their whole hearts because it’s impossible to remember something we don’t already know.  Once they were acquainted with God’s commands, they were to repeat them over and over to their children while at home and while on the road, when they went to bed and when they got up in the morning.

It’s been my experience that many parents expect the church to do all the teaching about God to their children, and that’s a big mistake.  The greatest chance of a child remembering scripture and its concept outside of the church walls, while at school or with friends, is when scripture has been taught and reinforced outside of the church walls by the parent as well.  God’s Word is not just a Sunday thing – it’s a seven-days-a-week guidebook for everyone.

Growing up in my mother’s home, a day never passed without her quoting, at the very least, one scripture to me, and we always started the day by pulling out a scripture verse from the Scripture Box on the kitchen table.  Her examples followed me in raising my own children where long rides to our church were filled with Bible stories disguised as great adventures.  The books of the Bible and scriptures were taught by my husband with the Jerry Lucas picture/memory system, and we still laugh today about the inventive pictures that were used.  Each night they fell asleep listening to Bible stories on tape by the delightful “Dan and Louie.”  God’s Word was not just for Sundays.

Still today, Orthodox Jews tie small boxes around their foreheads with scriptures inside in observance of this command.  I must confess I have not posted scriptures on my forehead with my sticky note fetish, but I have posted them on mirrors, computer screens, kitchen cupboards, calendars and just about everywhere else, even a doorpost or two.

I can’t seem to get enough of God’s words of encouragement as well as His disciplines.  The commands that Moses was speaking of are what guide our steps to do what blesses Him, and when God is blessed, we are blessed.  “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Oh, that’s a good one.  Where are my sticky notes… 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for His commands that give guidance to my day as I follow them, assured of success. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 25-28

Deuteronomy 1-3 (NLT link) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 21-24

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