Luke 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the way we live, He sees our true repentance.  He gives the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word to counter the enemy’s attacks.

John the Baptist certainly had a unique style of ministry. “When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented.” (3:7-8)  Wouldn’t that approach draw the crowds today!  Perhaps he was dining on too many locusts and not enough wild honey, and, of course, camel hair can be so scratchy. (Matthew 3:4)

Actually, this voice in the wilderness, filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, discerned that many had come to hear his message simply to escape eternal punishment, as if he were a lucky charm.  He was looking for true repentance of sins and a changed life. John told his listeners to prove that they had repented by being generous, honest and kind to one another at the very least. (3:10-14) Great advice from the wilderness evangelist!

I’ve always known those who consider church-going their lucky charm, keeping the Big Guy happy with them, but never allowing His power to change their lives.  Because God loves their souls, He often allows challenging situations to occur in their lives to get their attention and to turn their hearts toward Him.  This is when we are able to step in to encourage and undergird them with generosity, honesty and kindness expressed by John in Chapter 3.  Time and time again I’ve seen those out on the fringe of God’s grace turn to a true relationship with Him.

It’s interesting to note that while Jewish Matthew’s genealogy only went back to Abraham, Luke the Greek went all the way back to Adam, proving once again that Jesus, our elder brother, is related to all mankind.  Luke’s love of details blesses me. 

@ Luke 4
I wish I could say that our walk with the Lord is paved only with wonderful moments, but that wouldn’t be true.  Fresh out of the carpentry shop at age 30, Jesus was baptized in water, filled with the Holy Spirit and started His ministry in the wilderness with a full-fledged frontal attack by Satan.  And sometimes we think we’re having a bad day!

The record of this encounter is filled with many truths about the Kingdom of God, but two of them stood out today in my reading.  Satan had been successful in his temptation of Adam and Eve, and the failure of Jesus would certainly have been a plus for him.  However, even trying to tempt Jesus proves one glaring fact:  Satan does not know the future.  Although he often confronts us with fears and outcomes that sound prophetic in nature, he’s just guessing!  He is offering what he wishes to be true; and just like Jesus did, we should resist him.

How did Jesus resist him?  By quoting scripture!  The two-edged sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in our armor against the enemy. (Eph. 6:17)   When He was under attack, Jesus did not hesitate to bring out His Sword to take down His attacker.  We keep our weapon sharp and ready for use by our daily attention to the Word and its application to our lives.  The enemy knows scripture too, but Satan’s misuse of scripture in his encounter with Jesus left him powerless – knowledge without relationship is futile.

Being the slow learner that he is, the enemy will make many attempts to bring us down just as he tried with Jesus, but armed with our fine-tuned weapon and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are invincible!  “Submit yourselves, then, to God,” is the often neglected part of James 4:7; submit first to Him and to His Word, then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)  Armed and dangerous! 

Moving Forward: As I carry with me His Word today, I face the day armed and dangerous against any attacks. With generosity, honesty and kindness – proof of a changed life – I will undergird and encourage those that He is drawing into true relationship with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 11-13

Luke 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Filled with unexplainable love for us, He sent His Son to us

Details, details, details! Women especially love details, and the Book of Luke is loaded with them.  Because most of the women in Luke’s day were uneducated, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t writing to accommodate the female reader.  His detailed accounts of the life of Christ more than likely resulted from his profession as a doctor.  Luke’s life had been filled with accuracy, details and careful observations, and we are blessed by what he has added to our understanding of scripture because of this. He talked with eye witnesses, many believe he interviewed Mary, and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (1:3) As a Greek, Luke was the only known Gentile author of the New Testament, but his love and devotion to the Lord was evident in both of his books – Luke and Acts. 

@ Luke 1
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.” (6-7)  Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”(13)

I’ve tried to imagine a visit from the angel Gabriel, and I would like to think that after I picked myself up off the floor, I would believe all that he had to say.  Zechariah, however, doubted the angel’s message because of the sheer impossibility of it all. This obviously offended Gabriel and he made Zechariah mute, temporarily.  Physical limitations clashed with the power of the living God.  I’ve often wondered if it offends the Lord when we pray for something to come to pass, and when it does, we are completely shocked.  Thankfully, He forgives our faltering belief and does the extraordinary any way.

On the other hand, Mary’s reaction to Gabriel and his news that she would bear God’s son was different.  News that she would be an unwed pregnant teenager was not met with resistance.  As a virgin, Mary must have been confused by Gabriel’s message, but she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (38) The miracle pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth, did more than provide the forerunner to Jesus, but also added credibility to the miracle that Mary was experiencing and must have encouraged her in the weeks ahead.  “For nothing is impossible with God,” declared Gabriel. (37)  Nothing is impossible with God!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary.  Two miraculously pregnant women – emotional, joyful, wondering, and awestruck – bring out the tissues!  Two observations have always blessed me in this meeting.  “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.”  Now, how could a soul-less, unborn, useless fetus be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) and respond with such emotion?  David explained it so beautifully, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:15-16)  As a society, how can we be so bold to tamper with God’s plan?

Then came Mary’s beautiful Song of Praise.  Knowing she would face ridicule, disbelief and disdain for her explanation of this pregnancy, Mary submitted herself to God with a song of praise on her lips.  “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (46-47) Jesus left heaven’s splendor and came to this world for us. I can’t help but rejoice with Mary at His goodness.

When Zechariah was finally able to speak, he eloquently expressed, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (78-79)  And I sing with Mary, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything today without praises in my heart for His amazing love and grace?  He came, He conquered, He reigns in my heart. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 9-10

Psalms 51-53 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will never reject a broken spirit and a contrite heart

The ocean is dramatic, the mountains are majestic, but for me nothing beats the white and purity of new fallen snow, pure and simple.  Of course, science tells us that this moisture falling through the atmosphere collects dirt particles and debris, etc., but as its glistening blanket covers the earth, we only see spotless white.  In light of this, it’s humbling to imagine ourselves as whiter than snow because of His purification, but this was the cry of David’s heart as he cried out to God in repentance. 

@ Psalm 51
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be whiter than snow… Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (7,9-10)  God forgave David for his dreadful sins in the Bathsheba moment of his life because of true repentance.  Forgiveness didn’t come because of David’s sorrow for having been caught in his sin or because he feared losing God’s favor, but because of true repentance. Contrition was shown through repentance when David asked of God:

  • Wash me from my guilt (2)
  • Purify me (7)
  • Return my joy (8)
  • Create a clean heart in me (10)
  • Renew a right spirit (10)
  • Restore your presence and Holy Spirit in my life (11)
  • Make me willing to obey, (12) a fearsome request
  • Forgive me (14)

He didn’t ask God to roll back the clock or ignore his sin, and he didn’t offer immediate sacrifices to ease the pain of it all or stop the hand of God.  In return for God’s forgiveness, David said:

  • I will teach your ways to other rebels (13)
  • I will sing of your forgiveness (14) which he did in many, many Psalms
  • I will praise you with unsealed lips (15)

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one…the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (16-17) It’s human nature to blame others for our sins or even to blame original sin (5-6), but then this would not be true repentance.  A broken spirit says, “I did it.”  A broken and repentant heart says, “I did it. I will do right.”  This He will not reject.

Every day I ask God to purify my heart of all wrong doings – deliberate sins to be sure, but also those more secreted sins, like unforgiveness, judging others, pride, envy, resentment, etc., sins that often lead to deliberate sins when left unchecked.  Secreted sin led David to adultery and murder when first he lusted.  In response to my prayer, God so faithfully reveals to me where I have failed, and when I repent, He forgives and purifies my heart.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Moving Forward:  Purify my heart today, dear Lord.  Make me whiter than snow! 

Tomorrow @ Job 35-36

2 Samuel 5-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Holy Spirit dwells in us

When I read the story of Uzzah and the Ark, I always think of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Indiana’s arrogant archaeologist rival opened the Ark of the Covenant and then melted into the floor because of the power it contained.  The hero was spared because he respected its power and refused to look on it.  No doubt the author and filmmakers had read some scriptures and took some liberties, but the story does give us pause to consider the unfathomable power of God. 

@ 2 Samuel 6
“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God…God struck him dead because of this.” (6-7)  Frightening.  Uzzah’s motivation was to be helpful, but his action was careless, as was David’s.  Had David followed God’s law in moving the Ark, on poles carried by Levites, Uzzah would never have had to make the choice he did.  It seems that both men in their enthusiasm to move the Ark to Jerusalem failed to reverence its power source.

After Uzzah’s death, David understood the power connected to the Ark and was afraid to have this power source with him in Jerusalem.  Had I been present in the procession that day when David was determining what to do with the Ark, I’d like to think I would have been waving, jumping up and down and calling out, “I’ll take it!  I won’t touch it!”  Can you imagine the very presence of God dwelling in your home?  Blessings for your entire household?

Oh!  That’s right!  His Spirit does dwell with us!  Once we are purified by the blood of Jesus, we house the very Spirit of God, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  We are not reduced to puddles on the floor in His presence because without this purification, we could never host the Holy Spirit in our homes and experience His wisdom and power in our lives.  But do we really understand the Power within us?

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of hosting the Holy Spirit in my home, and wonder how often I fail to reverence its power source.  Today it’s not a problem of reaching out to touch it as with Uzzah, but it’s more a problem of failing to touch it.  So often I face a challenge, fix this or that problem and carry its stress all by myself when the power source of all Heaven is dwelling in me. “And the Holy Spirit [dwelling in us] helps us in our weakness…pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Perhaps our lack in trusting and using this powerful Source within us is a form of disrespect as well.  Because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we may not experience a physical meltdown, but we may go through an emotional or spiritual meltdown even though this great power to overcome all challenges is available to us.  With a purified heart, we have no need to fear an Uzzah experience.  The Spirit is on our side and waiting to help us.  Go ahead, reach out and touch Him! 

Moving Forward:  Unafraid, my heart sings for more, “More Love, More Power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart…” (J. Del Hierro)  Blessings for my entire household! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 51-53

2 Samuel 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our patience and integrity; He desires that our zeal is surrendered to Him

“I was just trying to help.”  How many times have we offered this explanation when our attempt to help someone has not been helpful.  Often unsolicited, our help is well-intended but sometimes it doesn’t achieve our goal.  So often we don’t understand the big picture in a situation or the long-term ramifications yet charge ahead with opinions that we feel would be helpful.  Through the years I learned to offer my help to others with enthusiasm; but if it’s not accepted, I know there must be a reason for it.  In our reading today, the less than helpful Amalekite and valiant Asahel had not learned this lesson.

The Amalekites, Esau’s descendants, had been the bane of Israel’s existence for quite some time, and now one lone Amalekite came to David bearing the crown and armband of David’s arch rival, King Saul, announcing his death as well as the death of his son, Jonathan.  Some believe his story of killing Saul to put him out of his misery was fabricated; but regardless of the truth, David did not congratulate him.  “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” (2 Samuel 1:14) Obviously the Amalekite did not anticipate the integrity of David, and David ordered him killed for his terrible deed. I guess he was just trying to help. Shortly after this, David was anointed king of the southern kingdom of Judah. 

@ 2 Samuel 2
Ishbosheth (say that fast three times), Saul’s son, was crowned king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and almost immediately fighting ensued between the divided kingdoms.  David had the three sons of Zeruiah who were dominant figures in his army – Joel, Abishai and Asahel.  Chapter 2 gives the fateful account of the young Asahel who put upon himself the task of taking out Abner, Ishbosheth’s mighty leader.  We learn through this story that the life of even the fastest runner in the land is worth very little when he is running in the wrong direction.  Abner tried hard not to kill this young warrior; but it was kill or be killed, and Asahel died at the hand of the mighty Abner.  Although Asahel’s desire to diminish the strength of the enemy by killing Abner seemed valiant, dead self-directed heroes can do little else for the kingdom.

Not only did Asahel die that day, but his murder sparked a great civil war between the two kingdoms that finally culminated seven years later at the murder of Ishbosheth.  David was crowned king of Israel and the two kingdoms were finally united.  God rewarded David for his integrity and patience.  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land many years before, their assignment was to rid the land of its inhabitants and to build a holy nation, God’s special treasure.  It took many more years to accomplish this than was necessary because of disunity and infighting. Asahel’s self-directed zeal came at a cost. Obedience is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22).

Several times throughout my life I have tried to help God out in areas where He hasn’t asked for my assistance.  My intentions were honorable, but my actions were not.  Anytime I try to be the Holy Spirit, rather than be led by Him, I can expect poor results.  Fortunately, the Lord has not let it kill me, but I have found myself on my knees, asking forgiveness, pleading His mercy. And, true to His nature, He is merciful. The Holy Spirit is big enough for any task and His guidance never misdirects. 

Moving Forward:  Like all the examples from His Word, I receive its life-giving counsel to make me better, more like Him. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 48-50

I Samuel 26-31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His Spirit will guide us into all truth

The first time I saw a commercial on late-night television for the Psychic Hotline I laughed and wondered who would ever resort to such nonsense to receive guidance.  Well, the laugh was on me.  This billion dollar industry has entrapped countless numbers of individuals into seeking guidance from counterfeits who can only pretend to know the future rather than receiving direction from the Source of all truth. It’s hard to imagine why the chosen King of Israel would do the same by contacting a counterfeit. 

@ I Samuel 28
The story found in I Samuel 28 of Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor probably saddens me more than any of his other sins.  To digress from anointed King of Israel, more handsome and stately than any other man, to a panic-stricken, desperate man is tragic.  Throughout I Samuel, we read about the steps that brought him to this dreadful position, and now Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel is dead. The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14) and the Philistine army is ready for battle – not a good scenario.

While this appears to be a perfect time for Saul to repent and call on God to deliver Israel, this man who had known and felt the Spirit of God on his life chose to seek out a witch for help. Just as troubling is the fact that his advisers knew just where he could find one!  Godly advisers would have discouraged this abomination to God and to the king’s own law, “Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead.” (9)  David certainly had it right, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1, KJV)

Scholars have debated over the centuries about the appearance of Samuel.  Was he a demonic substitute for Samuel?  If so, why did the witch shriek with terror when she saw him?  She was the last one who would have been surprised by his appearance.  How did the spirit know the future?  That would imply that Satan is omniscient and knew the future regarding Saul and his sons dying the next day.  Absolutely not!  Was the appearance of dead Samuel from God?  He accurately read Saul’s mail and foretold the future regarding his death.  I have come to the conclusion that…I’m not certain, but lean towards the last thought.

If Samuel’s appearance was from God, does this give us license to consult the dead?  Not on your life!  Besides the Old Testament prohibitions, the New Testament also denounces it in Galatians 5:19-21 and in Paul’s deliverance of a woman who practiced sorcery in Acts 16:16-18.  The big question to answer is why would we need to consult the dead?

When I understand that Jesus holds the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:18), why would I consort with an underling or substitute of any kind?  Through His Holy Spirit He reveals truth to us, “But I will send you the Advocate [counselor] – the Spirit of Truth….He will guide you into all truth…He will tell you about the future…the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.”  (John 15:25;16:13-15)

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in these passages, but these words are true for us as well because of the Spirit of truth living in us.  Why would I not go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak?  Through the Living Word, including His still small voice spoken to our hearts, He reveals all that we would ever need to know, and an added bonus? His timing is perfect! 

Moving Forward: I call only upon the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to reveal to me all that I need to know for today through His Living Word. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 45-47

Job 27-28 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our hearts with wisdom when we search for Him

Over the past 40 years we have had an understanding in our home that I am the finder of all things lost. Socks, homework, ketchup, tools, pencils, scissors, tape, ties, shoes, brush, camera, clickers – well, I think I’ve painted an accurate picture. My husband and children alike often have trouble locating the things they need the most, and I’m called to the rescue. I’ve heard it said that nothing is really lost until your mom can’t find it. In truth, even I, the crack detective, find myself occasionally baffled by the location of a pair of scissors.

Fortunately, my husband was able to find me, something for which I am eternally grateful, and more important is that he found the Lord and helps many others find Him too. In our reading today, Job was looking for something that all of mankind searches for with great effort, and he gave us the clue where to find it.

@ Job 28
“Food is grown on the earth above, but down below, the earth is melted as by fire. Here the rocks contain precious lapis lazuli, and the dust contains gold.” (5-6) We rarely think about the treasures that lie beneath our gardens, buildings and super highways, but deep within the earth is an abundance of precious gems and fuels. Even in Job’s day, man had found these unseen treasures through his digging and searching, shining light in the darkness and exploring the farthest reaches of the earth. (3) Without a trusty flashlight and a good supply of batteries, I’m not sure how this worked for them, but clearly it did.

With all our wonderful discoveries on this earth, however, there is one thing we cannot find here, “But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living.”(12-13) We run to the internet to find answers to some of our dilemmas but discover 150,000 different answers in response to our searching. Which one is wisdom? Some individuals travel to distant lands and climb high mountains to receive knowledge from an old sage. They believe he must be right because the wisdom was so very difficult to achieve.

Job had it right! “God alone understands the way to wisdom; He knows where it can be found…And this is what He says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”(23,28) So, it seems that when we need wisdom for a difficult situation in our lives, we should surrender first to the Source of all wisdom instead of soliciting answers from those who are only guessing.

We fear the Lord not by cowering in dread of His mighty hand, but by showing reverence and respect in much the same way we reverence and respect others. We hang on His every word and honor all that He does and says. Our search for wisdom will find us on our knees in prayer, digging into His Word and shunning all that is evil and unrighteous. And according to God, this, in and of itself, is wise. Solomon agreed with Job, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” (Proverbs 9:10)

So in our search for wisdom to help us with all of our life issues, if we find Him, we find wisdom. Somewhere through the pages of His Word or through His still small voice and through Holy Spirit guidance, we will find the wisdom we seek. He is faithful!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful that I don’t need to travel to the top of the world or search for an internet signal to find the wisdom I need in life. It’s all right here in Him.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 7-11