Relationship with God

Psalms 18-20 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He blesses our right living and provides the keys to His blessing

Each year I spend 52 days with David in Psalms.  After 28 years of doing this, I feel like I know him fairly well. The Biblical record of David, the mighty warrior, is impressive; but make no mistake, David was a shepherd at heart.  We think of shepherds as mild-mannered and gentle; but when the flock is in jeopardy, the warrior rises up — David > slingshot > giant.  I’ve met many shepherds, and never met one who wouldn’t go the distance to protect the flock.  Our Shepherd will do the same.

@ Psalm 18
David, the warrior
, knew where his help and strength came from to engage the enemy.  He opened Psalm 18 with, “I love you, Lord; you are my strength …rock …fortress …savior …shield …power …place of safety.”  Twice in Psalm 18, David declared the reason God’s help came, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right…to the faithful you show your faithful, to those with integrity you show integrity.  To the pure you show yourself pure…the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.” (24-28)  What an incentive for right living! 

@ Psalm 19
David, the shepherd
, was qualified to write Psalm 19:1-6. Shepherding gave him the opportunity to enjoy and contemplate God’s creation.  “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.” (1)  When I walk through gardens, view majestic mountains and travel His countryside, I always say that He could have made everything gray; but, no, that would not reflect who He is. We enjoy beauty and colorful landscapes because we are made in His image, and, obviously, He enjoys color! 

David, the shepherd, had the opportunity to meditate on God’s laws and their purposes.  Back in the ’70 we often sang the Psalms in our praise and worship, and Psalm19:7-11 was one of my favorites.  Instead of viewing His commandments as rules to inhibit my freedom, I look to them as the essential keys to a blessed life.  When obeyed, His commandments come with a promise for the future.

God’s laws tell me how to respond to life’s challenges, and they give His wisdom and His warnings.  “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.  The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” (7-8)

Most of us long to revive our body and souls in this fast-paced world and many spend great sums of money on spas and retreats for a quick fix, but living out the commandments of the Lord that He designed for our well being is the permanent solution. We attend conferences, seminars, online classes and read volumes of books seeking to improve our lives and make us better, yet the Lord has provided clear, insights for living in His Word, providing all the wisdom we need to live a blessed life.  After all, He would know.

Moving Forward:  “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (19:14)  Today I will meditate on Him and pursue right living with tenacity, opening the doors of blessing in my life. And He will light up my darkness. 

Tomorrow @ Job 13-14.

Isaiah 18-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is our help in the time of storm, worthy of our trust

Florida is a beautiful place to live with its dramatic coastlines and lush greenery.  Fresh year-round fruits and vegetables and seafood only add to its appeal.  Yes, Florida is a great place to live, except for those pesky hurricanes, and they definitely keep everyone on their toes.

Generally, Floridians respond to an approaching hurricane in one of two ways.  Most will stock up on water, lots of water, and non-perishable foods, tape windows, put away lawn furniture/play equipment and secure plants.  In other words, they batten down the hatches.  However, some Floridians have friends come over, turn up the music to drown out the wind and throw a big party to ride out the storm.  I am more of the batten down the hatches crew combined with some very serious prayer for protection.  When Israel faced utter destruction back in the days of Isaiah, they trusted in their weapons and stockpiles and chose to party.  They failed to pray. 

@ Isaiah 22
“You run to the armory for your weapons.  You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.  You store up water in the lower pool.  You survey the houses and tear some down for stone to strengthen the walls…But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.” (8-11)  I can’t imagine facing possible annihilation without turning to God for help and protection.  We can reinforce our structures and stock up on water, and this is wise, but God is the one who is able to cover us with His protection or even turn the storm out to sea.  Isaiah warned of Israel’s fate through his vision, but once again he was ignored.  The God of the Exodus, the Red Sea and miraculous victory after victory was not called upon for help in the face of the storm.

In the face of sickness, loss or any kind of storm, we should do all that we can to strengthen ourselves through doctors and those who are trained to help us.  But when we fail to pray, we put our trust in everything other the One who controls all things just as the Israelites did.

“At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn… But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.  You feast on meat and drink wine.  You say, ‘Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!’”(12-13)  And die they did. I’m always ready for a party, but if God calls for fasting and weeping, I’m going to fast and weep.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:4, “For everything there is a season…A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.”   It wasn’t time to party.  Israel had lost their faith and trust in God along the way; and not only did they fail to pray because of it, they approached the coming storm with a fatalistic attitude.  Feast, drink, tomorrow we die.  Many in our world share this attitude, not only because of personal storms but because of the turmoil in the world.  If for no other reason, this should give us cause to fast and weep when our hearts are stirred to do so, and then He will never need to question why we never asked for help. 

Moving Forward:  I’m going to prepare for life’s storm as best I can and pray for His help.  I know where my help comes from – the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and in Him have I placed my trust.  When the victory is in hand, I will celebrate! 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 8-10

Job 7-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His attention to our lives, He makes us more like Him

As a child, I don’t think I really appreciated the luxury of lying on the grass for an hour or two, drinking in all the Vitamin D I would need for the day and observing the cloud formations overhead.  I saw ships, alligators, clowns and whatever my imagination could conjure up and then think of all the adventures they held.  Over the minutes, I’d watch each image slowly dissipate into vapor, the story ended and the image was gone forever.  I’ve wondered how a video game could possibly compete with that, but I guess that’s just me.  Job had watched a few cloud formations in his day; in fact, he felt that he was one. 

@ Job 7
“O God, remember that my life is but a breath, and I will never again feel happiness.  You see me now, but not for long.  You will look for me, but I will be gone.  Just as a cloud dissipates and vanishes, those who die will not come back.  They are gone forever from their home—never to be seen again.” (7-10)  Clearly, Job’s reflection on clouds did not hold for him the same happy thoughts that my memories give to me.  Yes, this life is fleeting, as James concurs with Job in James 4:14, “For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (NKJV)  Nevertheless, while we are living, we have adventures and stories to live out, but Job didn’t care much for his adventure, and I can’t really blame him.

Early in history, God-fearing individuals had little knowledge or understanding of eternal life.  Job wanted God to know that time was running out for Him to bring justice to his situation in life or at least to bring an explanation.  Job would die, and he would be no more.  Later in the book, Job uttered a brave hope of a life after death, but without the revealed truths from God’s Word that we have, he had no assurance of a better day.  With the Bible as the vanguard directing our lives, we have the understanding that regardless of the trials we face during this brief vapor of life, eternal life is in our future.

Reading Job’s cry for help is difficult, to say the least, but the real stab to my heart comes in verse 16, “I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.”  His words make me think of the all too many times I’ve heard individuals, young and old alike, utter these words in despair. Words of comfort often fall useless to the ground, but it’s then that I pray for a revelation of eternity from God to flood their hearts and minds.  Life with its pain and disappointment is short, eternity is a very long time.

“What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often?  For you examine us every morning and test us every moment.  Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow!…Why make me your target?” (17-20)  Or in today’s urban lingo, “Why you all up in my business?”  No matter how it’s said, Job’s response to God in the midst of his trial is opposite to the response of what we read yesterday.

Yesterday we read that David found God’s constant watch over him comforting, but Job found it annoying at best. Job felt God had made him His target, which was true in a sense; and over the course of his affliction, Job would correct the very area where God was aiming.  Imagine that!  When we’re going through a rough patch in our journey, we may be tempted to consider ourselves God’s target for pain and agony, especially when things are not resolved quickly.  Just as God was perfecting Job through his pain, He uses our trials to perfect us and make us more like Him.  In the process, we may mutter, “Why you all up in my business?” but then, isn’t that really where we want Him to be?  Watching over us, protecting, avenging and perfecting.

Moving Forward:  I surrender my business to the Lord today. I’m so thankful that He is mindful of my brief stint on earth, and my cry is “Don’t leave me alone!” Someday, our eternal life with Him will make it worth it all.

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 18-22

Genesis 12-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He communes with us at our altar of dedication

A few years ago Tom and I took up residence at a new location.  It wasn’t a place we had planned to live, but through God’s leading, we knew it was exactly the right place for us at the time. The Lord provided it for us through one of His servants whose generous heart made it possible, and although we didn’t own this place, it was home to us.  Before the very first night we slept under the roof of our new home, we built an altar – no, it wasn’t a literal altar for sacrificing animals, followed by a visit from the local Fire Marshall.  It was an altar of prayer, straight from our hearts, where we thanked God for His provision, and it was an altar of dedication, calling on Him to bless and protect our dwelling.  We learn from our reading today that the patriarch Abraham knew plenty about pitching a tent and building an altar.

@ Genesis 12
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others’… So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed.”(1-2,4)

This obedience to the Lord by Abram was monumental on many counts:  1) Abram worshiped many gods when God called him (Joshua 24:2), so to be obedient to this voice of one and make this challenging transition was huge.  2) Abram was a wealthy landowner, and it was a risky proposition. The nomadic lifestyle in that day was assigned to those without a land or inheritance. 3) This move wasn’t just a matter of packing up the family and pulling a trailer to a new location.  Abram moved everything – livestock, valuables, servants and their families.  4) Abram knew nothing about his new home.

We can conclude that hearing this word from the Lord created faith in Abram’s heart, and a belief that this God, Yahweh, was the true God worthy of his obedience.  In our times of transition, it is often the Word of God that reinforces our determination to follow the One who is Yahweh, the true God who is worthy of our obedience.

The first stop of significance for Abraham was Shechem, “Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh…Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’  And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (7)  Second stop, “After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord.” (8) I’m beginning to see a pattern here – pitch a tent, build an altar. 

@ Genesis 13
Abram experienced a brief and difficult sojourn to Egypt where no tent was set up, nor altar built, but now he was back on track, “So Abram left Egypt and traveled north into the Negev…From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before. This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again.” (1-5)  Then, finally after a long and tedious journey from his home in Haran, Abram settled in Hebron, “So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord.” (18)

Wherever Abram set up his tent, he built an altar to God – the pattern of one who follows God’s plan in obedience.  No matter where Abram was on his journey, God was going to be honored, worshiped and called upon by him.  Communication would continue, not only in the process, but also in the promise.

What we learn from Abraham’s walk with God is that no matter whether we are on the way to our next dwelling or living in the promise, wherever we pitch our tent, we should build an altar, a place of reverence to Him.  Whether it is a new home, a new job or a new marriage, we would do well to build an altar in our hearts to honor and worship the Lord, to call upon Him and to commune with Him. 

Moving Forward:  My tent is pitched today and the altar is built where I worship and commune with my God. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 16-20

Romans 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very own

Back in the ’70’s, America was singing and dancing to “We are family…I got all my sisters with me.  We are family…get up ev’ry body and sing.” (Rodgers/Edwards, 1979)  Our post Vietnam/Watergate nation was looking for kinship and trust in somebody.  With the rise in broken homes and families over the past few decades, we find teenagers in a similar search for family.  Symbols and colors have separated youth into alternative families that hold their loyalties and commitment.

Aside from the occasional hermit, most everyone longs to be part of a family, something bigger than themselves, a place of belonging.  When God created the family unit back in the Garden, this desire of connection and belonging became a part of us.  When Jesus came along to redeem us, He sealed the deal with his blood, and we were adopted into God’s family.  We are family! 

@ Romans 8
“You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, ‘Abba Father.’  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (15-16)  Our family has a daddy, and we have inherited His spiritual DNA.  Paul really stepped out on a limb when he addressed God in this familiar way because this Aramaic word “Abba” was not used to reference God in Paul’s day.  Paul wanted us to understand that the Father is our Father, our loving, approachable dad.

“All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” (14,17)  We have siblings!  And although it may be difficult to understand, we adopted siblings are blood relatives thanks to the sacrifice of our elder brother, Jesus, whose blood covers our sin.  “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5)

As with all families, sometimes we siblings fight and don’t get along, but we would do well to remember of what family we are a part.  Our family is to be known to the world by our love for each other (John 13:35), and some of His “house rules,” help us to behave like His family should, “You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)   These rules alone should keep us too busy to fuss at each other.

I love our family gatherings, on Sundays or whenever, with the Father and our older brother.  We often talk about the great family reunion we all will attend one day.  There’s no worry about being left out or being disinherited because, unless we choose to leave it, we are blood relatives forever.  This is all because Dad loves us.  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (38-39)  We are family – forever! 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today that I’m one of His kids, with no fear of abandonment or rejection, so thrilled to be part of His amazing family. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 12-17

Isaiah 12-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has filled us with living water so that we’ll never thirst again

When we’re really, really thirsty, there’s nothing as satisfying to quench our thirst as an ice cold glass of water – that is, if we take the time to drink it. The body is made up of 60-70% water; and on an average day, we lose 8-10 cups of it through breathing, perspiration and elimination.  Because of this, most doctors and nutritionists encourage us to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid each day in order to keep the body functioning properly.

Thirst is the body’s way of telling us that we are already deficient in water, that somehow today we haven’t gotten what we need to replenish the body.  We need to avoid this, but the problem is that when we’re not thirsty, water just isn’t all that appealing.  Even though a refreshing glass of water is available to us, we don’t drink if we’re not thirsty, never thinking about how much we really need to drink it. The Bible has a lot to say on the matter of thirst. 

@Isaiah 12
“In that day you will sing:  ‘See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.’ With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!” (1-3)  Isaiah prophesied that God would deliver the remnant of Israel from captivity and provide a highway back to Jerusalem. (Isaiah 11:16)  They would sing a song of victory similar to their song after the Exodus out of Egypt in Exodus 15:2.  And with joy they would drink deeply from the fountain of salvation.

We can’t help but think of Jesus here, the one who is our salvation, who invited the Samaritan woman at the well to drink deeply from Him, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)  When we drink from His salvation, we receive access through the Holy Spirit to this bubbling spring of water to where we need never thirst again.

Well then, we might ask, if we have this bubbling spring within us, why do we sometimes feel so dry and thirsty? It could be because we’ve left the Source.  When the Israelites sinned and rejected God, He said, “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned methe fountain of living water.  And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13)  We can drink all the soda or alcohol we want, but it’s not going to do for us what a drink of pure water will do.  And spiritually speaking, we can connect to any other source we want in order to fill our spirits, but that source will never give us eternal life with God.  Talk about thirsty!

We may feel dry and thirsty simply because we haven’t taken a drink.  It’s like the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  We can stare at that refreshing glass of water all day, but if we don’t make an effort or take the time to pick it up and drink it, it won’t help us.  Soon, we will begin to feel thirsty, but at this point we are already deficient.  As believers, we need to understand that the fresh, bubbling spring is within us; and because of this, we can drink, drink deeply, anytime and never be thirsty again. Our devotional time is when we drink up His Word and drink up His fellowship – this is where we drink deeply.

If we find ourselves thirsty, if we’ve failed to drink, we have this invitation from the Source, “Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17) 

Moving Forward:  “Cheers!”

Tomorrow @ Matthew 5-7

Romans 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He made peace with us through His Son

When two nations are at odds with each other, the conflict will continue until some sort of an agreement can be reached to end it.  The two parties involved will send mediators to a peace summit where a peace agreement is signed and usually a celebration follows, everyone feeling the love and warm fuzzies.  However, most of us have observed through the years, especially in the Middle East, that this euphoric feeling of peace and safety is often short-lived because it was based on an agreement to be at peace and not a standing or position of peace. Signing an agreement is a good initiative and may make those involved feel good at the moment, but real peace is much more than a feeling.

@ Romans 5
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”(1)  Paul is not talking here about the peace of God, which I might add is one of the great blessings we receive in our walk with God, but he is talking about our peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us.

This is not a peace that comes and goes according to our feelings at the moment.  This peace is a standing or position of peace with God, and it comes with benefits as well, “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (2)

I appreciate that someone, and Paul of all people, placed some blame for the fall of mankind on Adam.  Eve has shouldered most of the blame for man’s separation from God, but Adam could have resisted that beguiling woman of his had he wanted to do so.  “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” (18)

Because of Christ’s one act of righteousness, we are no longer in conflict and hostile with God.  We are at peace with God.  We are not only in agreement with Him, but in good standing with Him.  We are standing in a place of undeserved privilege where God shares His glory with us.

Our position of peace with God allows us to receive the peace of God and that is why Paul says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (3-5)

Sometimes reading the complexity of Romans makes my brain hurt, but I get this one.  God sent His Son, our mediator, to make possible our peace with Him before we ever even came to the peace talk, while we were still His enemy, because of His great love for us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners… So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (8,10)  Friends of God!  Not only are we enjoying peace with God and the peace of God, plus all the privileges, but we are friends! 

Moving Forward: I can’t help singing today, “I am a friend of God.  I am a friend of God.  I am a friend of God – He calls me friend.” (I. Houghton)  So thankful for Jesus.

Tomorrow @ Genesis 8-11

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