Job 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The all-knowing God directs our lives according to His knowledge

We’ve all heard the sayings, ignorance is bliss and what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but it’s difficult to not know or be ignorant in this information age. There are times, usually about midday, when my brain just hurts from too much input, but thankfully it’s nothing that a good cup of coffee doesn’t cure.  Most often knowledge on just about any subject is invaluable and helps to protect us. It enriches our lives, although sometimes not knowing does offer momentary bliss.  However, in Job’s situation, not knowing was almost killing him. 

@ Job 13
After much discussion, Job’s dialogue with his visitors became, well, cranky to say the least, and I really don’t blame him.  “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks.  If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” (4-5) Job also questioned their audacity to speak for God without His permission.

“Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent.” (17-18) No longer filled with the earlier lofty questions to his friends about God and His actions, Job took matters into his own hands and decided to take his case to court before God—and became his own lawyer!

He personally wanted to ask God what the charges were against him, why had God turned from him.  But in the closing remarks of his trial, this broken man, filled with sorrow over loss, covered with sores, acquiesced, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (14:5)  Job lost all hope for the future.

It’s important to remember here that we know some things that Job was not privy to. We are aware of Satan’s challenge in Chapter 1, but Job had no knowledge of it.  He had no idea of the purpose behind all his pain, and while Job felt he was being wrongfully punished, we know he was being tested.  Walking through difficult times in the past, nothing comparable to Job’s trials I might add, I often wondered if I had done something to cause it – why this pain?  After examining my heart for a cause, I came to realize that there are just some things I am not privy to. God has a plan and a purpose that I may or may not someday understand, and that’s okay because I have hope.

Where Job had little to no knowledge of eternal life, we are well aware that we are simply sojourners through this life on our way to heaven.  It makes me smile to read Job’s hopeful question, “Can the dead live again?  If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle.” (14:14)  Job was brave to even ask the question in his day.  Can the dead live again?  Yes, Job, yes!

We are blessed to live on this side of Calvary with a Bible to read, where we learn about God’s purpose for us and the knowledge that we will one day live again to spend eternity with Him. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18NKJ)  Where Job sat in despair, uncertain of his future, we have hope of an eternal future with God.  Be comforted! 

Moving forward: Because God is in control of today’s challenges, I have hope for the future and the assurance of eternal life with Him. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 34-39

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.

Judges 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He gives supernatural help when needed, tools included!

There is a cat of the tuxedo variety, silky black and white, in my neighborhood that frequents my backyard looking for his next meal. No, I don’t feed him, but I have a feeling that some of the birds and critters in my yard have kept him well fed.  The other day I watched him spy a lone bird snatching up seeds on the ground below the feeder. The cat got down on his back haunches, lowered his chin to the ground and slid along the grass like a stealth bomber under the radar.

As I observed, I stood ready to cause a distraction for the bird, but I’m ashamed to admit that I waited to see what would happen in this covert situation.  Well, my interception was not needed – black cat on green grass, crunching blades of grass approaching – that bird was outta there!  Whether in the animal kingdom or in human confrontation, there’s an art to warfare, and its strategies encompass many techniques.  However, few are as unique as those chosen by God and used by Gideon to defeat the Midianites in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 

@ Judges 7
“With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.’  So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.” (7-8)  I’ve tried to put myself in Gideon’s place during this discourse with God and wondered if my response would put me in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith like his response did.  To go from 32,000 troops down to 300 against the Midianite hordes – not good odds!  And the only items they were given to fight this fierce battle were horns, clay jars and torches!

This entire war strategy just doesn’t make sense in the natural, but then Gideon was now operating in the supernatural.  Through hindsight, we understand that this small army was able to quietly move into a strategic position surrounding its enemy.  The Israelites used what was in their hands; and as their horns, broken jars and shouts echoed through the valley of the Midian camp and their blazing torches encircled the enemy, Midian panic ensued.  Without lifting a sword, the enemy was defeated, and with an army of only 300 men, no one questioned who really brought the victory that day.  Just like the old song says, Little is much when God is in it.

We are facing battles on many different fronts today, and our enemy will use any strategy he can to stop our progress and bring defeat, including our own thoughts, temptations, habits and fears. Israel was victorious because the troops filled with fear were sent away, and we should send to flight our fears and any other tool the enemy could use.

Today’s troubled economy has left many with very little to work with, but just like Gideon and his 300, with faith and unencumbered by fear, we can use what is in our hands, whatever gifts and tools He has given us, to keep moving forward.  When the 300 advanced at God’s command, God performed the supernatural, and He will do the same for you and me! 

Moving forward:  Today I will use the things that God has put in my hand, perhaps rediscover old things and discover new things.  Like Gideon, I will not be stymied by the circumstances that surround me, but trust God to perform the supernatural on my behalf.  No one will question who brought the victory – little is much when God is in it!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 18-20

Genesis 24-27 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Word encourages us to live a righteous life to avoid the many consequences of sin

Tucked in between Christmas and Easter on the holiday calendar is Valentine’s Day, a day spent enjoying and celebrating those we love.  More sugary chocolate treats will be given as gifts and consumed than any other day of the year outside of Halloween.  As the saying goes, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we diet!”

Sugar!  Who doesn’t like sugar!  Even now I look across the room to my kitchen and spy my glass sugar canister with the sun hitting it just right and each sweet grain sparkling in its rays.  I’ve known a few individuals in my life who care little about sweets and can pass up a sugary dessert without batting an eye.  I’m not sure what planet they’re from, but I’m certain it’s a miserable place.  While sugar seems rather benign in nature, it does hold an addictive property to where our appetites require more and more in order to be satisfied.  In addition to obvious weight gain over time, we now have learned that when sugar consumption is left unchecked, serious health issues can arise.  But then, as we discover today in our reading, uncontrolled appetites can lead to all sorts of problems in our lives.

@ Genesis 25
“One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’…‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’ ‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?’” (29-32)  I sincerely doubt that Esau was truly starving to death, but the excuses we make are quite creative when we yearn to satisfy our appetites.  “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.”  Those were expensive lentils, to say the least.

Jacob, a heel-gripping deceiver during those early years, made a great deal for himself because of Esau’s uncontrollable appetite.  He would now possess the wealth and power of a first-born son.  Appetites come in a variety of passions, and any appetite that causes us to make a poor trade and sacrifice something of value should certainly be considered out-of-control.  Many have sacrificed their honor and reputation to satisfy their lust for power or have lost the respect of family and friends to satisfy their sexual appetites because they traded their core values for temporary pleasure.

Esau lost his future, his riches and his promise.  Hebrews 12:16-17 reminds us, “Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”  Fortunately, God forgives our sins, but it is at the very least difficult and often impossible to restore the honor, reputation and respect we once enjoyed when we dishonor them as Esau did.

This disheartening story of Esau is not one of the feel-good uplifting stories of the Bible, but I would imagine that God was intentional with its inclusion.  If we heed its message, it will spare us the pain and loss that comes with making a poor trade in order to satisfy a fleeting moment of power or pleasure.  And in that sense, the story of Esau is priceless. 

Moving Forward:  I love the Lord for showing me the disciplines of His word.  I choose today to protect those things of value, praying never to trade the eternal for the temporary in my life. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 7-11

Romans 13-14 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His gift of love compels us to share it with others

Several years ago I saw a touching movie about a young boy who started a campaign to encourage everyone to pay forward the kindnesses that others had shown them.  He alleged that in doing so, the world would be a better place and people’s lives would be changed for the good.  I agree!  I can’t help but feel indebted to those in my life who have shown kindness to me without any desire for payment and believe me, I am indebted to countless wonderful individuals.

I remember being given a car many years ago by a very dear couple, and this kindness changed everything for us.  Since that time, we have had the opportunity to pay forward that great kindness on two occasions, and nothing has thrilled us more.  But I have one debt that, frankly, I will never be able to pay, but I’m going to keep on plugging along at it until Jesus comes. 

@ Romans 13
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” (8)  Accepting God’s wonderful gift of love through salvation has forever indebted us to Him, and since His love is continual, we are obligated to continually extend our love to one another.  When we truly have experienced His love, this is not a negative obligation, but we are compelled by His sheer love and goodness to pay it forward.

“For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’  These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (9)   Paul said it here and in Galatians 5:14; and Jesus said it in Matthew 22:39, so I’m assuming it is acceptable for us to love ourselves.

I’ve known some people who are in love with themselves.  They think about themselves all the time, lavish themselves with gifts and praise, and it’s obvious that there is a love affair going on.  This isn’t the self-love that Paul was talking about.  If we didn’t love ourselves, we wouldn’t care for our needs by eating properly, clothing ourselves and providing a roof over our heads.  So with this obligation to love others, we naturally should be concerned that others have food, clothing and shelter. It almost sounds like some sort of compassionate welfare program where no taxes are required to pay for it, just love.  Sign me up!

All the commandments are summed up in this commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We wouldn’t steal from ourselves, covet or tell lies about ourselves because we love and care too much about our own welfare, and so it is when we love others.  However, love for others such as this is impossible without God’s help.  “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5 NKJV)   We don’t have to drum up this love for others on our own because the Holy Spirit equips us to love and to pay His love forward.

Compelled by God’s love and goodness and equipped by His Holy Spirit, we will obey the great commandment to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.”  But we need to understand that this is one debt where we will always have an outstanding balance because we just can’t outgive God, and we will always be indebted to Him.  It’s just the way it is. 

Moving Forward:  I’m planning to pay some on my debt today, as much as He enables me, because I’m compelled and equipped by His great love. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 24-27

Matthew 14-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to a courageous heart of faith

I’ve had some great friends in my life.  In fact, I had a friend that came and cleaned my kitchen floor for 14 years.  No matter what was dropped or spilled while cooking or eating, the mess was cleaned up by this faithful friend for all those years.  When my friend passed away several years ago, I grieved for quite some time; and even today, I miss that extra help in the kitchen.  Yes, Toby, my Miniature Schnauzer was a great friend and a good little floor cleaner.  He never missed a crumb!  I have to admit that sometimes I intentionally dropped a scrap or two just because I loved him.  It’s hard to believe, but Jesus had a discussion with a woman about this very thing! 

@ Matthew 15
“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.’” (21-22)  Right from the beginning of this story, I liked this woman.  First of all, she was a mother on a mission to save her daughter.  I understand the heart of a mother whose child is sick.  We will do just about anything to save our children.  She had a mother’s heart.  Secondly, I admire her courage.  It was courageous for a woman, a Gentile woman nonetheless, to approach a Jewish man she did not know to ask a favor.  She was brave.

The woman was a Canaanite whose ancestors had been the bane of Israel’s existence, but she had obviously heard about the miracles of Jesus, disregarded her heritage and came to Jesus.  When Jesus informed this dear woman that He was sent only to help the Jews, she was undaunted by His response, “But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”(25)  She was tenacious.

Strangely, Jesus again resisted her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (26)  Jesus was reiterating the mindset of a majority of the Jews of His day.  They knew themselves to be children of God, and all others, well….were not.  However, Jesus, in His only trip outside of Palestine, was about to prove that His message was for everyone, and this courageous, tenacious mother was assisting Him whether she knew it or not.

The woman replied to Jesus, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” (27)  What a clever response!  Evidently, she had a Toby or two in her life, canine friends who were only too happy to take whatever would come their way in order to satisfy their needs.  And this woman was not too proud to receive whatever the Lord would do for her, scraps and all.  She was humble.

“Dear woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘your faith is great. Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was instantly healed.” (28)  No doubt through the faith of this woman, news spread throughout this Gentile region about Jesus, the healer of Jew and Gentile alike.  She had great faith.

It’s easy to allow hindrances to keep us from receiving the miracles that God has for us.  Are we willing to walk down the aisle at church for prayer, admitting we have a need?  Are we brave?  Will we ask again and again from the Lord until we receive?  Are we tenacious?  Will we humble ourselves and receive whatever the Lord has for us, however He chooses to give it?  Are we humble?  Will we believe that God is able to do anything we ask?  Have we great faith?  Apparently, these are things that grab the heart of God and cause Him to grant our requests. 

Moving Forward:  I believe the Lord has set a banquet for me today; but even if He offered only a scrap, only a crumb, it would be just what I needed for my miracle. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 13-14

Isaiah 29-33 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, our thoughts are turned to those we love and the ways we will express our love.  Capitalists that we are, we have turned this sentiment into a multi-billion dollar enterprise – chocolate, flowers, diamonds…and again I say chocolate!  In step with this focus on love, television programming is filled with love stories to touch our hearts and to remind us of our own love story.

A familiar story is one of unrequited love where the dear young man desperately loves the young woman who seeks after the more dashing or successful men in her life and ignores his adoration.  Or another story is where the young woman, listening to her biological clock, becomes impatient in waiting for the right man to come along and almost marries Mr. Wrong.  Fortunately, with television movies of this nature, love sweeps in at just the right moment and everybody lives happily ever after. (Sigh) In our reading today, Isaiah talked about God’s unrequited love for an impatient nation, a love deeper than Hollywood could ever imagine. 

@ Isaiah 30
“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.  They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’” (15-16)  As the advancing Assyrian army threatened Judah, God asked them to rest in Him, and in due time He would deliver them, but Judah was impatient.  Time was ticking away, and they considered an alliance with Egypt. This response reminds me of an impatient young woman, her biological clock and unfortunate alliances.

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (18)   Here was a compassionate God waiting for Judah to fall in love with Him, to stop looking to others for love and protection.  Unrequited love.

If they would once again fall in love with God and not turn to others, He would love and protect them beyond their wildest dreams. “He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…he will still be with you to teach you… Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (19-21)   Their gracious God who loved them so dearly would answer, teach and guide if they would only turn to Him, forsaking all others.

And what a great message for us in the climate that we live in today!  Instead of turning in panic to unknown sources for our answers and help, God asks us to patiently wait for Him to respond to our hearts cries.  He will be gracious if we will ask for help.  He will respond to our cries and teach us along the way as we wait on Him.  He will direct our steps on the very best path and at the perfect moment in time.

When we are tempted to turn to others first for help, He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love and compassion to us and be gracious to us.  A sovereign God, so full of love, created us to be the recipients of this great love – He only has eyes for us!  How can we resist so great a love?  How can we make Him wait? 

Moving Forward:  As I patiently wait on Him today, I’ll listen for His voice right behind me, directing my path.  I love Him so. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 14-16