Relationship with God


Hebrews 1-4 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because He became flesh, He understands all that we face

Our propensity to judge the behavior of others would be curtailed if we were given the opportunity to walk a mile or so in their shoes.  In their shoes we may come to understand the reason why they do the things they do.  When we’re trying to comfort someone or give direction, we so often hear, “Well, you just don’t understand” or “You just don’t get it,” and many times they are right.  Jesus, on the other hand, gets it all!  He has walked in our shoes and understands anything and everything we are going through. Praise the Lord!

We’re not certain who authored Hebrews, though most believe it was someone who knew or traveled with Paul or even Paul himself, but what a challenge faced the writer!  Most of the Jewish Christians were probably second generation at this point and faced extreme persecution from the Jewish leaders as well as the Roman government.  On top of that, doctrinal error was threatening the church, and it appeared that many were considering returning to Judaism.  The writer of Hebrews had the task of presenting the legitimacy of the risen Lord, the benefits of accepting Him and the lifestyle of one who does.   He, or possibly even an educated she, began with the humanity of Christ and the fact that He walked in our shoes.

“It was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.”(2:17-18) Because of His humanity, Jesus is a sympathetic mediator for us to God as our High Priest who goes before God on our behalf.  Jesus understands us, and He’s on our side!

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”(4:15-16)  We might be tempted to say, Of course He didn’t sin, He was God and had all of heaven’s resources to help Him.  Well, we’re not God, but we do have all of heaven’s resources to help us stay strong.  “He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  Help is on the way!

The writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to make the point that God, through His Son Jesus, became human and understands all the trials and temptations we face and knows how to provide what we need to endure and conquer.  All we need to do is run, not walk, to His throne and tell Him all about it.  This seems to be the difficult part for us, running from our temptation and trial and running to Him for help.  But when we run to Him, “We will receive His mercy.” He understands our need and does not punish.  Then, “We will find grace to help us.”  He will give us all the help we need at that moment whether we deserve it or not.  What part of that deal did the Jewish believers not like?  It’s beyond me, but then I haven’t walked in their shoes.  Fortunately, He has.

Moving Forward:  How great to know that He understands everything we will face today. Any temptation that comes our way, He’s been there, but did not yield.  Any trial we walk through, He’s been there and came through victoriously.  And He will give us exactly what we need to do the same. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 25-28

John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, my friends, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

I Chronicles 25-29 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He created us to enjoy intimacy with Him 

@ I Chronicles 28
“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.” (9)  David was rounding the final bend of his life when he gave these wonderful principles to help guide his son.  Even though his life had some rough moments, David was qualified to give this exhortation because we know from reading the Psalms of his intimacy with God.

When I read them, I think of my mom expressing these words to me, “And Phyllis, my daughter, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately…” because she, like David, enjoyed an intimate relationship with God.  As a young girl it took me quite a while to grasp what David was expressing to his son.

Many years ago I listened to a group of women discuss the challenges of keeping a fresh daily relationship going with the Lord while raising children, working and traveling, and I understood the struggle all too well.  There are days when it’s difficult to even get a brush through our hair, much less spend some devotional time with the Lord.  The consensus in that meeting was that God understands if we put our relationship with Him on hold for a few years until we have more time.  I don’t think so.

The truth is that God loves us no matter what, literally to the point of death, but I don’t think He understands being put on hold until we can make some time for Him.  Somehow in our busyness we have lost our purpose if we think He isn’t going to miss us, and just as David was reminding his son of life’s priorities, we need reminders on our journey as well.

The message is clear from Genesis to Revelation—God created mankind with much more in mind than providing a caretaker for His garden.  We were created for Him to lavish His abundant love on us through an intimate relationship.  Made in His image, our desire for loving relationships in our lives reflects His desire for loving relationships, and He has chosen us!  Our purpose for being is not the roles we enjoy as husband or wife, father or mother, etc.  No, God has given us breath today for intimacy with Him, and everything else, while worthy and fulfilling, is secondary.

I wish I could say that I’m the poster child for intimacy with God, but unfortunately that would not be true.  In recent years, however, I’ve changed my priorities each day.  Sleep is less important to me if I need to get up earlier to spend time with Him. In fact, I desire to put everything else on hold instead of Him.  I’ve learned that the day goes better when I first fulfill my purpose for breathing.

 I’ve learned that He isn’t requiring marathon devotions every day.  He just wants to touch me and be touched, to love me and be loved.  Just like every other relationship, this requires time and care that sometimes may last for only a few minutes or sometimes for much longer. I’ve learned that the more intimate we become with Him, the more there is to learn about Him, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful for the reminder from David to continue to know my God intimately.  God is my first priority today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 108-110

John 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His friends.

What would we do without our friends?  We share just about everything with them, confide in them and trust them to keep it close.  I would hardly go to a stranger at the grocery store and tell personal information about myself, although I have to admit I’ve had many strangers share more than the basic communication with me at the store. I’ve decided I must have a very generic face and strangers feel they know me, or perhaps the Lord is setting up opportunities to share His love.  Either way, His love and truth are shared.

But with our good friends, we share all the extremes of our lives as well as the mundane little things that only our good friends would care about.  Sometimes we share information on our social networks that good friends are hungry to read but casual friends really don’t care about, and that’s okay.  We have buttons to handle that for us, like Ignore, Delete, Hide…oops, too much information. 

@ John 15
One of the most humbling days of my life was when, as a teenager, I read and understood the weight of John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves.  Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”  In my mind, I am His servant, but in His mind, I am His friend.  Because of the intimate things about Himself that He has shared with us in His Word and in our hearts, He could only be our friend.  This is NOT grocery store-sharing kind of stuff.  He has shared everything His Father has told Him – amazing!  This is an intimate relationship like none other.

Of course, the if clause is included in our friendship with the Lord, but it has nothing to do with His love for us because that is unconditional. However, if we want to be His friend, there is a condition to be met. “You are my friends if you do what I command… You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit…” (14,16)  We read in I John 4:14 that He loved us first and died for us (John 3:16), and this is what makes our friendship possible – He chose us.

We either accept or reject His offer of salvation, friendship and all that goes with it, and with our acceptance comes responsibility, as with any good friendship.  Our obedience to the Lord keeps that friendship alive as does our commitment to cultivate it through our love for one another. “This is my command:  Love each other.” (17)   If we’re going to be intimate friends with the Lord, we want to love and appreciate all His other friends as well, and, thankfully, God will help us do that. Friends forever!

The realization that Jesus is my friend has carried me through moments when earthly friends were not close by me, and when without Him, I would have felt so very alone.  When my friends are in need, I drop everything else to help them, and my friend Jesus is even more available to me than that.  He’s as close as the mention of His name.  I listen to the advice my friends give because I know they have my best interests at heart.  Even more so, my friend Jesus gives only the very best advice and direction for my life and He can be trusted.

Moving Forward:  I am a servant of God, willing to do all that He commands, but I know that I’m also His friend.  I want to be the best friend I can possibly be.

Tomorrow @ Titus

Luke 23-24 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Bread of Life for those who follow Him, and they will never hunger again

We consider an acquaintance as someone we know only slightly, someone we greet but not necessarily engage in a personal conversation.   But, we also have friends, individuals with whom we share our personal and often intimate thoughts.   It’s a special treat when we have the opportunity to reconnect with a friend from long ago, where 20 or 30 years have passed without communication.  Sometimes we feel a little apprehensive about an upcoming visit, wondering if we will even recognize our friend from the past, but uneasiness melts away when we sit down to fellowship with one another.  We feel like the relationship picks up right where it left off, not missing a beat, and that is true friendship.  Our travelers on the road to Emmaus experienced a similar reconnection with a friend; it just took them a while to realize it. 

@Luke 24
Luke is the only New Testament writer that goes into detail about this encounter on the road to Emmaus. Scripture is not clear as to their identity, but we do know they are followers of Jesus and one is called Cleopas.  Many believe him to be the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, and the other traveler to be his wife who was at Calvary (John 19:25), and they were returning home from Passover and the events of that weekend.  Regardless of their identity, they were blessed beyond measure by an intimate encounter with the risen Lord.

When Jesus came alongside of them on the road and inquired as to what they were discussing so intently with such sadness, they did not recognize Him.  Cleopas replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.’ ‘What things?’ Jesus asked. ‘The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,’ they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people…We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” (18-21)

To the travelers Jesus was a man, a prophet, a teacher, but not the Messiah.  He had died without doing what they had expected the Messiah to do by overthrowing the government and setting up His throne.  When I read their response that He was just a man, I envision the nails and cross all over again for Jesus.  But loving His followers like He does, He decided to give them a little history lesson.

Over the next couple of hours, Jesus recounted to them the 120 plus prophecies from the Old Testament regarding Himself.  I can only imagine the anointing that burned up that road as they walked that day, with Jesus, the King of Glory, reciting all the Scriptures about His suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.  They felt it, we know, when they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (32)  But wasn’t He just an acquaintance that they met on the way to Emmaus? It wasn’t until they had fellowship with Him later, when He broke bread and blessed it that they realized He was Jesus, their friend, the resurrected Lord.

When they received from Him the broken bread, something happened.  It wasn’t the Lord’s Supper or like the feeding of 5,000 – it was just dinner.  Scripture doesn’t explain their sudden awareness; but for me, it was symbolic that their eyes were opened when they had fellowship, ate bread with Jesus the Bread of Life. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” (John 6:35)

In most of the world’s religions today, Jesus is accepted as a man, as a prophet and as a teacher, one who went about doing good.  They can know all about Him and even read His words, but sadly, until they fellowship with Him, sup with Him, and receive Him as the Bread of Life, they will not understand that He is the Messiah, the King of Glory, the Prince of Peace, the only Son of God.

Moving Forward: Who can I tell about the Bread of Life today?  Whose eyes can be opened to knowing Him as more than a man, more than a prophet or teacher, but as the Savior? 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 4-5

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39)  While we want freedom for everyone to worship as they please, it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in my God and my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Luke 13-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He asks that we count the cost of following Him, loving Him more than any other 

@ Luke 14
Within our cache of junk mail, we all have received the seemingly innocuous credit card offers.  What a deal!  Free annual fee, 0% interest for about two minutes followed by a monthly pint of blood and extortive interest rates.  Well, somebody has to pay for it!  We would be wise to count the cost of this incredible offer – some offers just are not what they appear to be.

On the other hand, we all have been offered an amazing opportunity that is not only more than what it appears to be, but more than we can even imagine:  free paid membership, life-long eligibility as per the agreement, including out-of-this-world dividends – literally.  However, before we sign on the dotted line, it would be good to read all the print. There will be some dues to be paid as well as commitment to the everything stipulation.  In spite of this, the offer is miraculous, and there’s really nothing like it anywhere.

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…carry your own cross and follow me…count the cost…giving up everything you own,” Jesus explained to the large crowd following Him that day. (26-33) While these requirements to His offer may seem difficult, this blog couldn’t begin to hold all the blessings that result from our acceptance of His offer – abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven, just to name a couple of them.

We can easily understand the examples Jesus gave of the builder, the king and the importance of counting the cost to follow Him.  And because of the example of Jesus at Calvary, we can somewhat understand what it means to carry our own cross and the willingness to follow Him even to death.  Many throughout history have followed Him to this very end, and others are walking this path today. Does He really require us to hate our families and friends? In comparison to our love and devotion to Him, it may appear that way at times.

The giving Him everything stipulation is a tangible, hardcore, giving of all that we are, all that we ever will be, all that we have and all that we ever will have.  The truth is that our everything could not be in better hands—He gives back to us what we need, when we need it and how we need it.  We couldn’t find a better life coach and financial planner anywhere!  More importantly, He is our Creator, the One who knows us better than anyone else does and the One who knows our tomorrow.

Jesus desires that we count the cost of following Him so that our passion and enthusiasm is authentic and eternal.  The offer is this:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  When counting the cost, how can we can we not consider His incredible offer!

Moving Forward: Today I renew my commitment to the cost of following Him, regardless of the path it takes. I’m yours, Lord, everything I am or ever hope to be, everything I have or ever hope to have.  I love Him most. 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 1-2

Next Page »