Zechariah 1-7 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He provides all the power we need to accomplish His will

Traveling in Europe presents an interesting set of challenges for someone from the United States.  Besides the language barrier from country to country, there is the whole electrical outlet mismatch.  I’m able to do without a lot of conveniences, but please don’t ask me to forgo my blower dryer and flat iron – a girl has to do what she can to look her best.  The bottom line is that U.S. appliances have flat prongs conducive to 110 current, and European outlets have round holes for 240 current, a problem similar to a square peg in a round hole.

Now I could try to force my plug into those round holes, I could stand on my head and whistle Dixie and or I could even recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but it’s just not going to fit.  However, with some outside help from a transformer when necessary and a little object called an adapter, I am able to plug right into that current that is much more powerful than I am, and voilà! I have power! 

@ Zechariah 4
After the Israelites returned home to Jerusalem from Babylon, Zerubbabel was put in charge of rebuilding the revered Temple.  The hindrances and opposition were so great that the building was put on hold for ten years because of discouragement and conflict.  God sent along two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to encourage Zerubbabel and the Israelites to finish the project in order to receive the blessing of the Lord.

The refugees had done everything in their power to move past the opposition, but they were unsuccessful.  They needed to plug into a higher source of power to get the job done, the power of the Holy Spirit.  “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him!  And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’?” (6-7)

The Spirit of God is neither enhanced by our strength nor hindered by our weakness, but we do need to plug into the flow of the Spirit to receive His power.  Zechariah’s vision of the lamp and two olive trees depicts an unlimited reservoir of the Holy Spirit that we can plug into for a constant source of power in our lives to do whatever He has called us to do.

We don’t need to rely on our own force and strength that come and go and are often short-circuited when we are weary, but through the Holy Spirit we can plug into an unlimited reservoir of His power that never fails and never flips a breaker.

I join with Paul in praise to the One who provides all the power to us that we will ever need and deserves all the praise for it, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Moving Forward: By His grace, I’m plugged in and flowing in the Spirit today.  With His power and strength, I can do all things! (Philippians 4:13) 

Tomorrow @ Acts 15-16

Ecclesiastes 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  God takes care of the injustices in life so that we can live free

I remember a discussion I had with my dad many years ago regarding World War II and Adolph Hitler. In a study about Hitler, my teacher at school had left room for the possibility that Hitler had not died in the war. I’m not sure how much disgust and ire a 5th grader can muster about a past war, but I know that I was very upset.  That this monster could possibly still be alive and breathing was more than I could handle, and I immediately approached my dad about it when he got home from work.

Without a doubt, dad’s answer revealed his heart on the subject.  He thought there was enough proof that the evil man had died in the war, but if he had not, Dad hoped that the Jews had imprisoned him and that they were dishing out the kind of judgment he deserved.  My dad was not a vindictive person at all, but no one wants to see crimes of this nature left unpunished.  From our conversation, my indignation dissipated somewhat because I believed that justice had been served one way or another. 

@ Ecclesiastes 8
“I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor…In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!” (9,14)  Solomon was disgusted as well that people seem to get away with evil at times, and the injustice of it made him feel as though life was meaningless.  It’s not so much a matter of wanting revenge, but it’s our nature to want to see people get what they have coming to them, whether they deserve good for their good deeds or evil for their evil deeds.

“But even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God.” (12-13)  Well, they may prosper here on this earth, but without repentance, eternity doesn’t look good for them.  The godly, however, look forward to the joy of eternity in heaven, and eternity is a very long time.

To counteract these injustices that occur on occasion, Solomon had a suggestion, “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” (15)  From all of Solomon’s writing, we understand that he was not suggesting that we act irresponsible in response to the unpunished evil that we see, but rather that we change our focus to the good things in life.

We have to let go of evil and injustice over which we have no control.  I’ve known too many dear souls that have allowed this very thing to eat at them until they are ill and depressed.  I’ve always believed that we allow evil to win when we let it diminish our joy and peace in life.  Evil that is out of our hands is punished best when we disregard its future and leave it to God to handle.  Our hurt and disgust will roll off of us like water off a duck’s back, and as Solomon suggested, let’s enjoy life. 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today that I don’t have to carry the weight of injustice and unpunished evil over which I have no control.  God will handle it all.

Tomorrow @ Zechariah 1-7

Psalms 131-133 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He blesses our unity with life everlasting

Olive oil has been an important commodity since early civilization and it’s still an lucrative product in Italy.  Imagine the excitement for this Italian girl to be taken by dear missionary friends to a castle in the hills of Tuscany, one with a working olive grove and press.  The kind workers allowed us to watch the oil making process from start to finish.  Yes, be still my heart!

The process was lengthy, beginning with a thorough rinsing to remove soil, then the olives were crushed and pulverized into a paste.  At the end, the paste was pressed under pressure, the vegetable water extracted and the finished product was the fragrant liquid we know and enjoy as olive oil.  Olive oil doesn’t just happen – it’s a process under pressure. 

@ Psalm 133
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.” (1-2)  This anointing oil not only went through the pressing process, but it was also combined with pure fragrances, producing an extraordinary aroma to the Lord.  In this same way, heaven is filled with a pleasing fragrance when God’s people live together in harmony and peace.  But just like the olive oil process, harmony most often results from a process under pressure.

The harmony that believers experience is the result of a process that involves lives that were once soiled by this world but are now cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  Their individual agendas and selfish goals are surrendered to the breaking or crushing process of the Holy Spirit to where their hearts are contrite to God’s desires and plans. This pressing, this process under pressure, produces a precious aroma of unified worship that pleases the Lord.  “And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.” (3)

I like to visualize the anointing of Aaron as the oil was poured saturating his hair, down his face and beard, filling every crevice, every fold of fabric and all the way down to his hem.  The oil saturated and marked the fabric, as oil will do, and left an amazing fragrance that filled the nostrils of God and everyone around Aaron.  All this was a visual and sensory reminder of God’s anointing on him. When God’s people live in harmony with love toward one another, we are marked and fragrant in a way for all those around us to sense. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Just as the best perfumes today attract people to them, our fragrant harmony will attract to us those who have never experienced it.  They will wonder, what is that? Where can I find it?  Just as Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, when we live together as believers in harmony, God blesses our unity and lost souls are attracted to it because they find it nowhere else.  No wonder David sang, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” 

Moving Forward: Along with all believers, my goal today is to be saturated and marked with the oil of harmony, so fragrant that others will be attracted to us. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 7-8

Ezra 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Styles come and go, but He never changes

My laptop PC had served me well for several years.  I understand most of the nuances and foibles of my Windows PC, and I’m comfortable with it, like a pair of well broken-in shoes.  It was with reluctance that I accepted the necessity to buy a new laptop, but it was time. Voices were encouraging me to make a change, a change for the better they said, change to a…Mac.  Help! They promise no viruses, user-friendly computing, amazing video editing and on and on.  I like things the way they are, and who needs change?  Maybe…no…well, I just don’t know…but it may be the way to go…but it’s just not me…I could learn to like it…to Mac or not to Mac. Hmmm… 

@ Ezra 3
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets…With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (3:10,11-13)  Change can be difficult.

I am almost positive I have heard the “joyful shouting and the weeping mingled together” in some of our church services throughout the land.  Church just isn’t the same as it was years ago.  Newer music, relaxed style of dress and quicker paced services are just a few of the changes that many churches have grown into over the past few years.  Many seasoned believers feel disconnected from the church where they had experienced so many wonderful moments with the Lord – the new Temple is just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

History reveals quite a shake-up in the church world when the now somewhat disconnected believers were younger.  Coming out of more liturgical services, they started to accept gospel songs, clapping, raising hands to God and even shouting at times.  I’ve read that the elders from their former churches thought they had lost all respect and reverence for God; but of course, they had not.  Their new-found freedom in the Lord was in keeping with the day in which they lived, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the church.  But to some, the new Temple was just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

After 40 years in youth and young adult ministry, I can say that the current generation, with very few exceptions, does not really understand the style of the past.  As a rule, it doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t reach them and without some new wineskins for the new wine God is pouring out today, they may be lost for eternity.

When I worship in church today, beyond the music and the style, I am most blessed by seeing people’s lives changed by the power of God, and that is really the bottom line for me.  If I didn’t see this taking place in my church, I would find a place where it was happening.  Methods and music style, whether new or old, without the touch of God are simply entertainment.  The temple may not look anything like the temple of my youth, but I’m not going to weep because too many young lives are finding the Savior.  Hear my joyful shouting!

Moving Forward:  I’m rejoicing today over lives being changed by the power of God.  It may be a different approach, but it’s the same God and the same power. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 131-133

Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help! – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provision, the thing that keeps food on the table and a roof over our head. Our provision is meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with it.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provision, is from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

I Peter 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He will one day reward us with crowns for our faithfulness

“There she is, Miss America. There she is, your ideal……”  What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having that glittering crown placed on her head as she walks the aisle to begin her reign as Miss America.  There’s something about a crown that adds validity to a role.  One time I toured the Treasury of the former rulers of Austria, and let me say, those folks knew how to design a crown.  Extravagant crowns filled with large diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were beautifully displayed, all behind glass and security.  No doubt the weight of each crown was excruciating, but don’t we love their beauty.  Well, one day we’ll see some crowns that could only be described as priceless. 

@ I Peter 5
“And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches…when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1,4)  The life of a pastor is often difficult with few accolades, but Peter declared a crown of glory and honor that will last forever for those faithful pastors.  How do you put a price on that?

“After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.” (I Thessalonians 2:19)  The crown of rejoicing will be given to those who have led others to the Lord, but I believe seeing them in heaven will be reward enough! Priceless!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)  This is the crown that marks us as one who loves God, and this is the crown for which we have been waiting.  It is our identity, it is invaluable!

“And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)  For those who are not tied to this world and its riches but looking for the return of Jesus, this crown of righteousness will be given.  More precious than gold!

These are the crowns we will receive from the Lord when He returns for us, and their worth puts all others since the beginning of time to shame.  However, I don’t think we will be displaying them in our heavenly homes or wearing them around heaven.  No, I believe we will follow the example of the 24 elders, “the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne.” (Revelation 4:10)

How could we not give to Him, the One who loves us most, our prized possessions, the treasures we value most?  With all of heaven we will sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come… You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” (Revelation 4:8,11) 

Moving Forward: I’m looking for Him today, staying faithful to the end and bringing along as many as I can to heaven with me.  Hoping to adorn Him with many crowns! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 13-15

Acts 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He gives His Holy Spirit to guide our mission in life

When we set out on a mission to buy a new product of any kind, we’re the most successful when we do our homework first.  We check the advertising flyers and then visit the store to touch and hold the product.  Or we scour the internet for consumer reports, special sales and anything that will inform us about the product.  Really, a savvy consumer would not depend on impulse or guesswork to complete a mission like this.  However, as believers, we are on a mission every day and so often we don’t take the time to do our homework.

Whether we choose to accept it or not, the Gospels presents to us our mission, the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mark 16:15)  When we step out into our world each day, how prepared are we to accomplish our mission? 

@ Acts 13
It’s only right that Paul, the Great Evangelist, the great consumer of souls, would serve as our template for our mission. “One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them’…So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit… Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit.”(2,4,9)  Paul did his homework!  He spent time in prayer, worship and fasting to where his will was surrendered to God’s will.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit to where his steps were surrendered to God’s steps.

Throughout Acts, we read how God guided Paul to the right place at the right time. “On the Sabbath [Paul and Barnabas] went to the synagogue for the services.  After the usual readings from the books of Moses and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.” (15)  I just love when God opens the doors for our mission.  When we are led by the Holy Spirit, we see the open doors, His set-ups, and walk right through them to present the Gospel.

Sometimes we are hindered by the response we receive on our mission.  Once again, Paul was not threatened by the response of his listeners.  Many people, especially Gentiles, accepted his message and received the Lord as their Savior, but many others rejected his message to the point of physical attack, “They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.” (14:19)  Paul was not responsible for the response of his listeners.

It’s our responsibility to present the Gospel, and it’s the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to touch the hearts of men.  Of course, when we surrender our day to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we have Him right there with us, partnering in our mission.  We need not be discouraged when our message is rejected because we have no idea where the Holy Spirit will take it in those hostile lives.  Remember, Paul was present at Stephen’s stoning.  Every day we are challenged to accept our mission, do our homework and follow through with unhindered tenacity. 

Moving Forward: Yes, I’ll accept my mission today. Yes, I will do my homework.  And yes, I will tenaciously complete my mission just like any savvy shopper would do.

Tomorrow @ I Peter 4-5