Mark 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He welcomes all who minister in His name

When I’ve worked hard on a project from the beginning, knowing all the ins and outs of it, I tend to take ownership – it’s my baby! Others may come along to work on the project with me, but they always seem to do things differently. I have the tendency to think that without following my expertise, everything could be ruined. Most of us have felt this way at one time or another, and we’d almost rather go it alone. Because of this, we can somewhat understand the disciples’ hearts when newcomers on the scene started preaching about their Jesus.

@ Mark 9
“Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” (38) He wasn’t in our group sounds cliquish and juvenile, but the disciples were more than likely concerned about protecting the name of Jesus. Perhaps they were questioning why this man wasn’t in their group? What group was he representing? What if he prays in a different style than ours? How will this affect our Lord?

Jesus was not terribly concerned about His reputation in His response. “Don’t stop him!” He said with emphasis. “Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.” (39-41) To spread this Gospel, to reach the lost around the world, the disciples were going to need all the help they could get. Many of their encounters had been met with much opposition to the message of Jesus, but this man appeared to have faith in His very name.

We face this same issue in spreading the Gospel today. We need all the help we can get! The churches down the street or other ministries so often have a different style than we do in reaching the lost. Some are hard-sell, some are soft-sell and some, like us, get it just right. While we can appreciate the humor in that statement, why would we ever criticize a genuine move of God just because the method is different than to what we are accustom?

The criterion, according to Jesus, is not the style or method we use, but in whose name we are ministering. (39) Rest assured, He knows who belongs to Him and exposes charlatans and cons in due time. We all answer to Him directly, bypassing the opinions of others, and it’s His acceptance of our methods and results that have eternal value. So, I relinquish any ownership to the message of the Gospel and pray for all who minister in His name.

Moving forward: I’m thankful today for all who minister in the name of Jesus with pure hearts, regardless of style or method.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 15-16

Jeremiah 12-16 (NLT)

Discovering His heart: He longs for repentance rather than judgment

Remember being 13 years old? Help! I remember it well, and I would never ask God for a do-over because once in a lifetime is more than enough. Life was an emotional roller coaster, where one day I thought I was ready to take on the world and the next day I wanted to play with dolls. Laughing and carefree one moment, and crying and depressed the next. I’m not sure why God created us with that year of upheaval in our lives, but I’m sure of this — it’s only because of His mercy that we make it out alive! Jeremiah was just a few years older than this when he found himself prophesying in Judah, but he was flooded with emotions just the same over the assignment God gave him.

Jeremiah’s emotions during this time period seemed to run the gamut. When prophets speak the truth, listeners often get angry. After Jeremiah discovered the plot to kill him because of his truth-telling in Chapter 11, he was angered by these wicked men and called for justice. Why didn’t God just take them out? “Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!” (12:3) While swift justice seemed appropriate in this case, do we really want God to respond so quickly to all wrongdoing?

@ Jeremiah 14
Judgment was coming, but God gave Israel yet another opportunity to repent by sending a drought to the land. They responded by crying out for help to the God but did so without a heart of repentance for their rejection of Him. “Our wickedness has caught up with us, Lord, but help us for the sake of your own reputation.” (7) They took the first step by acknowledging their sin, but they did not follow through with repentance and refusal to sin. God wasn’t interested in saving His reputation; He was interested in saving their lives!

So God rejected them. Jeremiah went on, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not pray for these people anymore. When they fast, I will pay no attention…Instead, I will devour them with war, famine, and disease.’” (11-12). It seems to be human nature to run to God for help with our problems, but then refuse His Lordship in our lives. This is where mercy is valued over swift justice when we think of those we love who are in this place of disobedience. Unfortunately, God’s patience and mercy for Israel had ended and judgment was finally at the door. It could have been stopped had they been willing to repent. Hopefully, we understand the value of this lesson.

Jeremiah’s anger now turned to compassion as he appealed to God on behalf of Judah and Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, but God’s mind was set. Jeremiah’s response was to become filled with remorse and self-pity. Was all the pain and rejection he had endured for nothing? Now these evil people would take him down with them. He felt like God had rejected him too.

God called Jeremiah to come up higher, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” (15:19) He also offered restoration to Jeremiah and promises of protection for him. Because of God’s mercy rather than swift judgment, Jeremiah was given the opportunity to change his attitude. He then prayed with confidence, “Lord, you are my strength, and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!” (16:19)

There are times when my emotions can run this same gamut over a situation – all in one day! But, I cry for mercy for myself and for others, not swift justice, repenting when needed and relinquishing my thoughts and cares to Him. I join with Jeremiah, “Lord you are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!”

Moving Forward: Regardless of the situations I face today, I’ll guard my emotions and trust the One who is my strength.

Tomorrow @ Mark 9-10

Job 29-30 (NLT)

Discover His Heart: He is the source of all blessings as He watches over our lives

I distinctly remember the first time I was bumped up to First Class on an airline flight. As I sat down on the roomy, comfortable seat, I thought I was one of the most blessed people on the planet. With the personal attention, upscale meals and china, I repeat china, coffee cups, I felt that it was definitely where I belonged. It was a long flight, and I felt especially blessed that day to sit so comfortably on my journey.

On my next flight I found myself back in Coach with the regular folk, and unfortunately, now I knew what I was missing. That Coach seat was smaller than ever, the peanuts were…just peanuts. Flying would never be quite the same. (Sigh) In our reading today, a significant part of Job’s misery was remembering what he had enjoyed at one time and realizing that it was now gone.

No doubt Job’s enemy, Satan, was thrilled to hear Job’s account of his past glories in Chapter 29. I would imagine his test of Job included proving that all creation was full of pride just as he was. Job’s recount of his past sounds almost prideful. Better he had reviewed all the blessings God has given him, rather than detailing all he had accomplished himself. In his defense, I am reminded of something a friend said to me when I was struggling with something early in my ministry. She explained that when we live our lives for Him, as time goes on we tend to remember only the beautiful. On this occasion, Job was remembering only the beautiful moments in his life, and the painful events had been forgotten.

Usually, our memories of blessing bring hope for the future, but they did not bring hope to Job. To fall from how he lived and was regarded in Chapter 29 to the degradation and scorn of Chapter 30 explains the depths of his present anguish. Often throughout the book, Job rightfully stated that all goodness comes from God, but occasionally he implied that his former blessings came from his piety and this was why he felt he didn’t deserve his trial.

In Chapter 29:9-10, Job recounted how others viewed him, “The princes stood in silence and put their hands over their mouths. The highest officials of the city stood quietly, holding their tongues in respect.” “I assisted…I helped…I caused…righteousness covered me like a robe…I served.” (vs.12-15) Even in our humblest of circumstances, pride can rear its ugly head, threatening our future dependence on Him. Yes, God blesses our right living with His goodness, but we do well to remember that He is the source of all blessing, and through His mercy and grace He blesses us.

For me, Job’s greatest anguish came when he said, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.” (30:20) Of course, we know from Chapter 1 that God was looking at him intently, but to think that God was unconcerned about him was Job’s greatest anguish of all!

Sometimes we may be tempted to feel this same way, but from Job’s story, we know that God is looking at us intently regardless of our circumstances. It is out of our lack that He is able to bring great blessing, and it is out of our lack that we will appreciate and cherish His blessings, never taking credit for them and never taking them for granted. Flying First Class no matter where we’re seated!

Moving Forward: From an old hymn, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below…” (The Doxology) This truth is my heart’s song as I move forward today. I will praise Him! Regardless of my circumstances, I know He is looking at me intently, and His blessings will flow.

Tomorrow@Jeremiah 12-16

Psalms 42-44 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He satisfies the thirst of all those who long for Him

Once in a while we hear stories about individuals who have been lost at sea, clinging for life to a small buoy or dingy. Their greatest need is always the hope of rescue, but their most immediate need is something to drink. With the sun beating down its brutal heat, the body quickly loses a great deal of water and through parched lips, the poor souls cry out for water. Of course, we see the irony here – surrounded as far as the eye can see with water, but unable to drink it. It’s water that won’t satisfy; it’s water that will cause even more thirst.

Animals in the wild will travel great distances to find water during a dry spell. Deer and other animals can actually smell the water in the air and will follow their noses to the source. All living things need water. While the feeling of thirst is what signals our need, the need is there long before our bodies sense it. We require a constant intake of water to keep our bodies functioning properly, and so it is with the soul.

@ Psalm 42
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?” (1-2) The psalmist of Psalm 42 paints an accurate picture of how we feel when we haven’t stayed connected to the source of living water, and we find ourselves in a dry condition. “When can I go and stand before Him?” I would say that now would be a good time to so do, better sooner than later.

“Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’” (9-10) It seems that when we are at our thirstiest, the enemy comes around to taunt us with questions about the God we love and serve, but just like the psalmist, we can go to the Source who fills our thirsty souls with living water. “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.” (43:3-4)

Send out your light! “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Send out your truth! “For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true.” (I John 2:27) His Word and His Spirit lead us to Him, and it is there that, “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There’s no need for us to be thirsty, wandering in the dark! His Word and His Spirit will lead us to Him, and it is in that place where we can drink from His river of delights. Thirst no more!

Moving Forward: I don’t want to get dry today, so I’m drinking first thing, getting full up, from His river of delights!

Tomorrow @ Job 29-30

I Samuel 21-25 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His anointing on others calls for a respectful response from us.

The race for high-level positions in corporations, government and even in churches has always been a source of amusement to me, although I’m sure it’s not anyone’s intention to amuse me. Once a position is secured, the winner assumes by virtue of the position that respect can be demanded. Well, hold on there! Do the job, fulfill the promises, live a life without compromise and then my respect for them will be earned.  That being said, I’ll always act respectfully to those who hold these positions because they have been selected to serve, and I would not dishonor the position through gossip or slander. However, any disfavor would definitely be expressed through my vote when applicable.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T is more than an Aretha Franklin song from the ‘60’s. Aretha was asking for a little more respect in her life because she felt she had earned it. In our reading today, King Saul was shown the ultimate respect by David even though he hadn’t earned it, but David would honor God’s anointing at any cost.

@ I Samuel 24
Only God could have orchestrated the event that took place in Chapter 24. King Saul, pursuing David to kill him, decided to take a restroom break in the cave where David and his men were hiding. I mean, what are the chances of that? “Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, “I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.”’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.” (4)

“But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. ‘The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,’ he said to his men. ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.’ So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.” (5-7) It’s doubtful that David respected the actions of this demon-inspired, disobedient King who was insanely jealous of him, but he showed respect to him because of his position as anointed king of Israel. Lucky Saul!

Growing up in my home, I never heard my mom speak disrespectfully about one of our pastors, whether to me or to anyone else for that matter. As I look back, I know she must not have agreed with all of their decisions, but we never spoke disrespectfully or damagingly about our leaders, whether in the church, the school or the government.

The pastor was never the subject over Sunday lunch unless our words were of a good report. I heard her say many times, “Touch not God’s anointed,” and because of it, I have respect for the anointing God has placed on the lives of others. David’s message has reached down through the ages.

We did, however, pray for our leaders every day. We prayed for presidents, mayors and our employers. We prayed for our pastor throughout the week as well as on the way to church, that his words would touch and bless the lives of everyone who heard them. When others broached my mom with something negative, her quick response that halted the discourse was always the same, “Well, we just need to pray for him or her.” Mom felt it was our job to pray, and it was God’s job to deal with His children.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1Timothy 2:1-2) Serving in ministry for over 40 years, I’m thankful for those who prayed for me whether I was right or wrong and showed respect whether I deserved it or not. They were gracious in doing so, and the Lord has been gracious and merciful to me beyond measure.

Moving Forward: Even though showing disrespect for leadership is almost in vogue today, I’m challenged to always act respectfully, honor the position and pray for my leadership at every level. Respect. That’s what it means to me.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 42-44

Exodus 5-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His perspective, nothing is impossible

When painting a picture, an artist goes to great length to exact the proper perspective in a landscape or portrait. An old trick that many painters use is to hold up the thumb at arm’s length to measure the apparent height of a tree in the foreground in relation to objects in the background, etc. The apparent height of the tree may look like it is the length of the thumb; but of course, we know the actual height is much taller. It’s all about perspective, the measured or objective assessment of an object or situation.

If the perspective in a painting is off, the entire picture will look skewed and off balance. This fact holds true in all of life as well – if our perspective in a situation is wrong, our response and behavior will be off balance and skewed. Moses learned a lesson on perspective in our reading today.

After finally acquiescing to God’s call on his life to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses buckled at the first sign of resistance from Pharaoh, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”(5:22-23) God had to put things into perspective for Moses.

Once again, God revealed to Moses precisely with whom he was dealing, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them.”(6:2-4) The patriarchs knew Him as the Almighty, but now He also would be known as Yahweh, Jehovah, the One who would keep His covenant with Israel, the One who would perform great miracles in order to do so.

Moses! Raise your thumb and see the Egyptian landscape through faith in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises. When I think of the challenge before Moses, I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. As David looked out on the landscape before him and saw the giant, perhaps his boldness came from a raised thumb as he thought, “God will help me take him! Why that giant is no bigger than my thumb!” Faith changes our perspective.

Moses went before Pharaoh with this promise from God, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.”(7:1) Through God’s perspective, apparently, Moses seemed like God to Pharaoh who was considered a god himself. Even though Moses still met with much resistance from Pharaoh, he was allowed regular access to him because of his status.

How do we look at the challenges we face? When our trust is in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises, we will measure our problems with a different perspective. We will hold up our faith, that thumb if you will, and see our apparent trial as God sees it. And in order to keep His promises, He will do great miracles. Thumbs up!

Moving Forward: Today my thumb is up. I’ll not look at my challenges in the natural, without faith. I’ll view them as God apparently sees them, and nothing is impossible for Him! He kills giants, parts water and raises the dead!

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 21-25

I Corinthians 13-14 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs for us to love others in the pure way He loves us

Love! Now that’s a heady subject for a 600-word blog. Great literature and screenplays have been written since recorded time about this basic emotion that we all experience. Today we have diluted the meaning of the word so much that I wonder what it really means to most of us in light of a relationship. We love chocolate and music, movies and sports, but what does it mean when we love someone? Hopefully, it is more than feeling lightheaded and warm fuzzies.

When we ask a young couple today if they are in love, I wonder what that question means to them? Is their love a commitment to each other more lasting than the music or food they both love at the moment? With the blur between love and lust in our movies and on television, do they understand that love is a noun with significance, not just a feeling? Apparently, the subject of love had its share of misunderstandings even back in Paul’s day, and he wrote a brilliant chapter about it with only 320 words. Imagine.

@ I Corinthians 13
It’s interesting that Paul’s writing about love falls between chapters on spiritual gifts in the church and the use of the prophetic gifts. I’m reasonably sure it was intentional. All of our giftings, knowledge, faith, and generosity are without merit and often turn sour if they do not flow out of a heart of love. (1-4)

Most of us can describe how love makes us feel, but in Chapter 13, Paul did us the favor of giving the character of love, what love is, not how it feels. In reading his list, how does our love for others reflect true love’s character?

• Love is patient
• Love is kind
• Love is not jealous
• Love is not boastful
• Love is not proud
• Love is not rude
• Love does not demand its own way
• Love is not irritable
• Love keeps no record of being wronged
• Love does not rejoice was injustice
• Love does rejoice whenever truth wins out
• Love never gives up
• Love never loses faith
• Love is always hopeful
• Love endures through every circumstance

Well, on my report card, I’ve written a big “N” for Needs Improvement in how I love others. I wonder what would happen to the divorce rate in our country if the love we brought into our marriages was true love’s character rather than the movie screen version. The next time a dreamy-eyed young couple tells me of their great love for each other, I may just whip out this list to make sure they know what they’re talking about when they say the word love. It couldn’t hurt…she writes in 465 words.

Moving Forward: I’m challenged today to love others with the unselfish character of I Corinthians 13, enduring through every circumstance.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 5-8