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

Psalms 39-41 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He gives mercy and strength in our trials

Much of the discipline of my children was done through the look rather than through corporal punishment, and I think this is true for many mothers. My children often said I was scolding them even though I hadn’t opened my mouth, and trust me, I am not a ventriloquist. This technique was especially handy in church and in public places, and although I wasn’t really aware that I was giving the look, it certainly was effective.

Even in working with youth and young adult leaders, I was told that they knew things were not right with the world when I gave the look. Nowadays I’m doing my best to keep the look under control around my grandbabies – I gladly have left their discipline up to their parents. In our reading today, David understood all too well the look of discipline from God and how to respond to it.

@ Psalms 39
“I said to myself, ‘I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.’ But as I stood there in silence—not even speaking of good things—the turmoil within me grew worse.” (1-2) Few of us have experienced the pain that David felt – anointed as king of Israel, yet running for his life from Saul and from his own son, Absalom, and betrayal by his closest of friends and family. David had a lot to complain about.

David believed he was being disciplined by the Lord and chose not to broadcast his complaints to the world but instead went to his only Source of help. Wisely, he didn’t want to be embarrassed later by his fretful words when he had passed through his trials. Complaining to others certainly didn’t work well for Job. When as believers we relay all our sorrows and complaints to those around us, we have no idea how our words may hinder or discourage those who are doing their best to trust in God through their own situations.

When God finds it necessary to give us His look of discipline, it brings us to our knees, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, And give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears…Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength.”(12-13) It’s on our knees where we can seek God’s forgiveness when needed and cry out for help in our struggles. We will instead find strength and mercy in His Presence rather than filling the ears of all those around us with constant words of complaint during our brief time on earth.

According to David, life is just too short for that. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” (4-5) I close my mouth.

Moving Forward: During this time of year when we celebrate the living Christ, I pray that my words broadcast the Good News of God’s blessings and that my words encourage others to trust Him through their trials.

Tomorrow @ Job 27-28

I Samuel 16-20 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He looks at our hearts to determine our role in His kingdom

I was recently at a party and spent much of the night eyeing a delicious-looking cake on the food table. Artfully crafted with gooey chocolate buttercream frosting and gorgeous sugar glazed strawberries adorning it, the cake seemed to be beckoning me throughout the meal.  I was really looking forward to dessert time. Finally, the cake was cut, and we casually made our way to the dessert table. After all, this wasn’t a sale at a bargain basement, and some decorum was expected.

Disappointment is just too generic of a term to describe how I felt after taking my first bite, but of course, devastated is just too dramatic. The buttercream wasn’t butter, and I’m almost certain the cake had freezer burn…dry and tasteless. A single strawberry saved the day! Once again I was reminded that we just can’t judge a book by its cover. I would imagine this is somewhat the point the prophet Samuel was making when he chose the next king of Israel, but with a more eternal illustration.

@ I Samuel 16
When [Jesse’s sons] arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (6-7) While the baker was able to fool me by the outward appearance of a cake, God is never fooled by how we look on the outside. He is able to look past what man is able to see right through to the heart of the matter, and with David, God saw pure gold.

“Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse replied. ‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’ ‘Send for him at once,’ Samuel said…So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.’”(11-12) In light of God’s previous statement, David could easily have been ugly, but he was handsome as well. However, God’s anointing on David had nothing to do with his appearance.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that if we were more attractive, more charismatic or more irresistible, then we could be more used by God, but that is how man looks at things. David and also Moses were both trained and equipped for service to the Lord because of what God saw in their hearts.

No doubt the long hours spent in the pastures as a shepherd sharpened David’s musical skills as he played the lute and harp to where he would one day play in King Saul’s court. No doubt David’s commitment to protecting the flock against the animals of prey made him strong, agile and a sharpshooter who was trained to take down a giant. No doubt David’s faithful care for his father’s sheep at any cost prepared him to lead the great nation of Israel.

None of this had anything to do with David’s appearance but had everything to do with his heart. “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22/I Samuel 13:14) God’s choice of David to lead His people was all about David’s heart of obedience to God, and as we read last Tuesday, obedience is more beautiful to the Lord than anything else

Yes, in consideration of others, every day I do a face-check before the mirror, enhancing as best I can, but every day I also do a heart-check before the Lord. I ask the Lord to purify my heart of anything I have allowed to taint it, those little things that over time will change the condition of my heart. I surrender my heart and life to Him to be used however He pleases. I don’t want to just look my best on the outside – I want a heart that looks like His heart.

Moving Forward: Once again, Lord, purify my heart, make me a pure reflection of who you are and then anoint me for your service.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 39-41

Psalms 30-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He watches and advises us as He guides us on our best path

If I made a list of the things I like least about going to the dentist, it would be difficult for me to choose my very least favorite aspect.  Surely close to the top of the list would be having equipment larger than my mouth shoved in it along with hands, suction devices, and gauze.  And usually, this is the moment when the dentist casually asks me a question about my day.  Of course, answering is impossible, and nodding could send a drill up my nose, but I will admit I’ve become very adept with eye signals.  In this position, we can’t speak, we can’t move, and we know that the dentist is in control of things.

I’ve wondered if this is somewhat how horses feel when their owners choose to use a bit in their mouths and a bridle to control them.  From what I understand, when basic training steps are given and followed by the horse because of its trust in the trainer, a smaller, less offensive bit can be used to guide and direct the horse or even no bit at all.  If these steps are not followed or if the horse has lived in the wild for some time, the will of the horse is more difficult to train and often more severe bits are needed.  It just seems that trusting and following the guidance given in the first place would save a lot of pain and discomfort, not only for horses but for us as well. 

@ Psalm 32
“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.’” (8)  When I was a young girl, the Lord directed me to this treasured verse at a time of uncertainty.  The thought that God, the One who knows my future, would guide me along the best pathway for me brought tremendous peace to my young heart because I knew He could be trusted.

David’s quote from the Lord goes on to say, “Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”(9)  The bit is restrictive and causes a measure of pain if resisted, but in time the animal learns to respond to its direction. Just as with the horse, when we come under the Lord’s training, He sometimes will use even more purposeful means to challenge us to surrender to His gentle guidance.  How much better it is to trust our guide and trainer from the start!

Just as thrilling as His guidance is the fact that He promises to advise and watch over us.  God doesn’t just set a course and expect us to go it alone.  No, not our Guide.  He watches over each step, taking care that we don’t stumble. The success of the popular horse whisperers of today is in the relationship that develops through trust – man and animal alike.  And it is through a trusted relationship that the Lord whispers cautions and comforts to help us along the way.  What a great alternative to mouth gear! 

Moving Forward:  Since those early years, the Lord has proven over and over again that He will guide me along the best pathway, watching, advising and often carrying me in the process.  Yes, I will trust Him today!

Tomorrow @ Job 21-22

Psalms 27-29 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He invites us to come to Him without delay

The pleasure of your company is requested…”  When we receive an invitation of this nature to attend an event, we understand that it isn’t an ordinary affair.  Whether it involves a wedding or dining with heads of state or any other celebration, we can assume the dress will not include t-shirts and flip flops and only invited guests will attend.  We’ve heard of political event crashers in recent years, but most intelligent individuals would never approach the royalty of another country or the President of the United States without an invitation because we know the Secret Service would be on us like flypaper – and rightly so.

As we read in the story of Esther, ancient kings held royal scepters which they would raise as an invitation for a loyal subject to approach them.  “When [the king] saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court, he welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter.” (Esther 5:2)  By touching the end of the scepter, Esther showed that she accepted the king’s gracious invitation.  In the busyness of our day, we sometimes fail to respond to our regal invitation from the King of Kings, but the scepter is raised, and He is waiting… 

@ Psalm 27
“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’”
(8)  In a Psalm so full of wisdom, we may read this verse without thinking about its message.  David recalled the Lord speaking to his heart “Come and talk with me,” and the Lord’s invitation spoken once is heard twice in the mind of David.  Yes, David recalls, I have received the invitation!

We hear the Lord’s invitation to come to Him as well, over and over as He whispers to our spirits and through His Word. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:37) The royal scepter is raised!

Most certainly, we are not event crashers!   The invitation is real – The pleasure of our company is requested. The royal scepter, the sacrificial Son, has been extended and has made it possible for us to enter His presence.  There is no need to enter through the service entrance or walk along the perimeter of the room as one who should not attend.  “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.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Clearly, the invitation has been given.  Will we stick it in a drawer with all the miscellaneous items of our lives?  Or will we respond along with David and say, Lord, I am coming.”  This day, this hour, I am coming to you, and tomorrow and the days that follow, I accept your invitation to come.

P.S.  The favor of your reply is requested. 

Moving Forward: How could I ignore such a regal invitation from the King!  Lord, I am coming – I will touch the royal scepter! 

Tomorrow @ Job 19-20

Psalm 21-23 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He longs to guide us, heal us, protect us, comfort us and cover us with the oil of His blessings

@ Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

It was while reading the Bible on a day in February 1998, just like I’m doing today, that the familiar 23rd Psalm became more real to me than I had ever known before.  The presence of the Lord filled my little family room in a very special way and from that day forward I started to record His revelation to me of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to His sheep.  From that experience I wrote the devotional book Intimate Moments with the Shepherd – Guidance through the Challenges of Life, an illustrated portrayal of the Shepherd’s intimate relationship with us.

While researching and taking photos for this project, I visited dozens of sheep farms and learned some valuable lessons.  Out in the sheep pastures I could have called the sheep over to me all day long, but they only came when they heard their shepherd calling. At his or her call, they came running.  I learned that even with a flock of 200 or more, the shepherd knew each sheep, their lineage, their illnesses and even the grains and grasses that some preferred.  These experiences and many others like them were valuable lessons that revealed to me first-hand the intimacy we have with our Shepherd as David understood it.

Something that always blesses me when I read Psalm 23 is the subtle, yet significant change that takes place between verses 3 and 4, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (3-4)  Up to verse 4, David had been talking about his Shepherd, His guidance, His rest, His strength.  But when David reached the dark valley, he began talking to his Shepherd.

The Lord leads us along life’s path giving direction and guidance. When we face the dark valley that may be death or may just seem like it, a shadow of it, He is right there beside us often carrying us through our challenge.  We can talk to Him, confident that we are not alone.

In a personal way, David continued, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”  Then, right there in front of our howling enemies, He anoints us with abundant favor, as if to say to our enemy, “Be gone!  This one is Mine, eternally!”  What an honor to sit at His table and to be marked with His fragrant oil for everyone to see and smell. “I’m my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” What a Shepherd! 

Moving Forward: As I move forward to live out the challenges I may face today, I will walk with the confident knowledge that my Shepherd, my Lord, is with me.  When the enemy comes with his taunts, I will boldly declare that I am anointed with the Lord’s favor, “Be gone! I belong to Him.” 

Tomorrow @ Job 15-16

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.