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 advice 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 Saul 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 precisely 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 troubled 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 we would 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 there’s 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 a 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 superhighways, but deep within the earth is an abundance of precious gems and fuels. Even in Job’s day, man had found these hidden 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 solutions 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 utterly 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

Isaiah 56-61 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has anointed us to bring Good News

Several years ago I was waiting in my car for my daughter to finish her music lesson and reading my scripture portion for the day that happened to be in Isaiah.  I was going through a difficult time, dealing with some minor health issues and also with some ministry challenges, and I remember saying, “Lord, can’t we do better today than Isaiah.  Come on!”

While Isaiah seems to be mostly about judgment, my reading that day happened to include Isaiah 61.  As I began to read the first verse, I felt His Spirit fill my little car, and before I knew it, I was singing the Word, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  He has anointed me to preach Good News, Good News. To bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to deliver the prisoners from darkness and to comfort those who mourn.”  I sang it over and over again until my spirit was soaring with His.  I believe He gave me a song that day to highlight His mission and to remind me of my mission. 

@ Isaiah 61
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come…” (1-2)  These words in Isaiah repeated by Jesus in Luke 4 sent a shock wave through those gathered in the synagogue of Nazareth in Jesus’ day when, “He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’” (Luke 4:20-21)  This was how Jesus announced His earthly ministry.

Jesus did not complete the scripture in Isaiah which continued, “…and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” (2) Most feel he stopped because the day of God’s judgment had not yet come, and the next time He came to earth would be the Day of Judgment.  Today we are living in the time of the Lord’s favor, the time the Lord has given to save the lost, the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of Jubilee!  This was His mission.

What did Jesus come to do?  Anointed by the Spirit of Adonai Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord, His mission was clear:  He came as Prophet to preach the good news, the gospel of the Kingdom, to all those who would humbly listen.  He came as Priest to heal the brokenhearted, all those who were broken and sought healing for body, soul and spirit.  He came as King to deliver, as only a king could do, all those who were held captive by sin and sinful enemies.  He came as Comforter to comfort all those who mourn.

This was His mission, and so it is ours as well. As Jesus was leaving this earth, He told His followers, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)  Isaiah prophesied that those who accept the One who sends us will receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (3, KJV) How can we help but share this good news!

On that day so long ago when the Lord gave me His song, He was reminding me of His mission, my mission.  He was encouraging me to not get bogged down with the challenges or heaviness of the mission, but to allow Him to breathe on me and receive help from His Holy Spirit.  We are not alone in our mission; He has anointed us to bring Good News. 

Moving Forward: All I can say today is, Holy Spirit, breathe on me and pour on the oil of joy. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 1-2

Isaiah 51-55 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals His thoughts and ways through His Word

When author Dr. John Gray wrote his book several years ago, Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, his goal was to help men and women understand each other, to help them understand why their mates think the way they think and do the things they do.  Kudos to Dr. Gray for attempting the near impossible!  However, according to Isaiah 55, this challenge is a piece of cake, as they say, in comparison to understanding the thoughts and ways of God.  It’s not a matter of different planets – we’re talking beyond the Universe! 

@ Isaiah 55
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord.  ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” (8-9)  So how in the world, no pun intended, are we ever able to know and understand our God?

When I begin a new computer program or application, I approach the instructions and guidelines with fear and trepidation because understanding computerese is not my gifting.  I must admit that it’s somewhat demoralizing for me to read the instructions and then find it necessary to Google for instructions on how to understand the instructions, but I’m always thankful for the help.  And fortunately, God has not left us without support to know and to follow Him and His ways.  He has given us His Word.

Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word was written by holy men to help us understand our Creator, our God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)  Just like we desire that our friends know and understand us, God desires that we know and understand Him.  He, on the other hand, knows us better than we know ourselves

God’s Word is intentional.  Just as an arrow leaves the bow on an unaltered course, God’s Word whether heard or read cannot be retrieved – it will reach its mark. “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”(10-11)

I recently heard the story of a young boy who attended a Sunday School class one time and heard one scripture read by the teacher that day.  The boy grew to be a man, never attending church or hearing God’s Word again.  But one day 40 years later, one God-appointed day when the man needed it most, that scripture came back to him.  Because of it, he gave his heart to the Lord and has a great testimony to share today.  God’s Word restores, renews and replenishes just as faithfully as His rain produces fruit.  Whether in reading it ourselves or in sharing it with others, God’s Word is powerful in our lives, and its potential is far more significant than we can imagine.

Created to be in an intimate relationship with God, I can’t think of a single reason to miss reading God’s Word each day.  It is Holy Spirit inspired to help me understand the heart of God whose thoughts and ways cannot be comprehended without it, and it is intentional in touching my life in a very personal way.  Reading His Word every day?  It’s a no-brainer. 

Moving Forward: Without excuse and full of desire, I gladly read His Word today so that I may know Him and know His heart.  The added bonus to my reading – “You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! (12)  Let the music begin!

Tomorrow @ Matthew 26-28

Genesis 32-35 (NLT) 

Discovering His heart: He gives the assurance of victory in response to our tenacious prayer

The assurance is a term I remember from my childhood. It meant praying until the assurance came – the word, the guarantee, the promise that would flood our beings with calm and confidence.   Although it’s not a term I hear used very often today, the assurance is still ours when we pray through, not giving up until that sense of victory fills our hearts.  In our reading today, Jacob wrestled through to his victory.

@Genesis 32
I would imagine that Jacob’s heart sunk down around his knees – yes, humanly impossible, yet feels so real – when his messengers returned with the news that Esau was advancing with an army of 400 men.  As any father would do, Jacob went into protection mode and divided the wives, children and animals into two groups—perhaps one group would survive.  “Then Jacob prayed…” (9)

In his prayer, Jacob reminded God, twice, of His promises to him, “O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’” (9) What better ground did Jacob have to make his plea to God for help than to remind Him of His promise, something David did repeatedly in the Psalms.  And better yet, God knew Jacob had been paying attention to His words.  When we are facing a challenge, we can boldly remind God of His promises – whether standing on His written Word or those He shares deep within our hearts.  I believe He is blessed that we have been paying attention.

“O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” (11)  Jacob’s prayer revealed that he was afraid, and in that fear he assumed that Esau was coming to kill him.  Cautionary fears, such as touching fire, protect us in life because we respect what that fire can do, but baseless fear never produces a reasonable response.  Jacob, reminiscent of his mother, decided he would help God out by trying to appease Esau with an abundance of gifts.  As we soon learn, this was an exercise in futility – Esau was not angry and these gifts were unwanted and somewhat insulting to Esau because he was a wealthy man.  Our fears produce unreasonable responses to our problems – exercises in futility.

Jacob!  Always the schemer – but not for long!  Jacob sent his gifts and family ahead, but stayed behind in the camp and had an encounter with an angel, a wrestling match like no other.  Jacob was about to earn the blessing he had received through deception so long ago from his father. All through the night, Jacob wrestled the angel with tears and pleading (Hosea 12:4) and would not stop until he received the blessing, the victory, the assurance.  Jacob left Peniel, the face of God, with a limp and a new name, Israel, both reminders that God would be in control of his life now, no deceiving and scheming, a Prince with God.

Even better for us today is that we do not wrestle alone!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)  Oh, that we would be as tenacious as Jacob, praying until the assurance comes and until we receive the blessing.  Blessed Assurance!

Moving Forward:  I choose to relinquish baseless fears that only bring futile responses from me.  In my challenges today, I will wrestle with tenacious prayer until the assurance comes, moving forward with a calm heart and with confidence in His promises. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 17-21

I Corinthians 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to share His wisdom and deep secrets with us

My husband recently purchased a Kindle for me, a nifty little electronic book that is less than one-fourth of an inch thick yet holds an entire library of reading.  I must admit that I love the feel and weight of tangible books, flipping through those pages and smelling the ink; but at the time of purchase, the Kindle was ideal for my travel.  It was a used Kindle, so after reading through the manual, I deleted most of the previous library, not really interested in Sci-Fi and horror.

My mind was having trouble getting around the concept of adding books to this little device because surely the process would be complicated and filled with technical lingo.  To my amazement, in two or three clicks, using very familiar terms to me like purchase and select, my new book was there on my Kindle in black and white.  I did my best to make the process more complicated than it really was because sometimes it’s difficult to accept that something of worth could be so simple to attain.  Paul wrote about this very thing in our reading today. 

@ I Corinthians 1
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” (21-23)

The Gospel is uncomplicated:  John 3:16 – God loved, God gave.  We believe, we receive.  For the intellectuals who were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day, this message was foolish and too simple to be true.  For those with a religious background, the Jews, this message was foolish and too simple to be of value.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  So many neighbors and acquaintances through the years have looked down their long intellectual noses as I’ve shared the simple Gospel with them, and many religious people, those who have been christened or confirmed or catechismed, have no need for the truth I am sharing.  Yet, if they will accept this simple Gospel, a door to wisdom will open for them that is so deep that only the Spirit can reveal its truths. 

@ I Corinthians 2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (9-10) The Gospel of salvation may be simple, but God’s deep secrets will never be understood without it.

With salvation come the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and the ability to understand God’s Word and the secrets it contains.  “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (12)

We will never understand all the mysteries and depths of God’s wisdom while here on earth, but those recorded in the Bible, at the very least, are available to us through His Spirit – His love for us, His intentions, and His direction. Isn’t that what the early Greeks and Jews were seeking in all their philosophical debates and teachings?  Isn’t that what people everywhere today are seeking?  Love, purpose and direction?  And it all begins with acceptance of the simple Gospel – God loved, God gave. We believe, we receive.   Simple but priceless. 

Moving Forward: I will continue to seek out through the Spirit the revelation of His wisdom, the mind of Christ.  And I will continue sharing the simple Gospel, undaunted by the intellectuals and religious, and finding those hearts that desire to learn God’s deep secrets. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 32-35

Romans 13-14 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow @ Genesis 24-27