Psalms 45-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Presence is a river of joy in our lives

Watching the news unfold today is not for the faint of heart.  Many parts of the world are filled with political chaos while other areas are facing catastrophic events unlike any time in history.  Individuals performing ordinary tasks on any given day have had their world turned upside down with earthquakes, floods or storms, but we can take heart in the words of Jesus, “when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:33)

This section of Psalms begins with a prophetic account of the marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, in Psalm 45.  The King, anointed with the oil of joy (7) at this happiest of all occasions is joined with His Bride, who has left her past life (10) for the delight of one who loves her eternally. These are the things of which movies are made, and one day, this will be our reality!  But until then… 

@ Psalm 46
Psalm 46 reminds us of the protection He offers His beloved as we wait for His return.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”(1) Have we seen any trouble lately?  “So we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble into the sea.”(2) Hundreds of earthquakes around the world are reported each day, ever growing in strength.  “The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!” (6) Have we ever seen a day like today where countries are facing national bankruptcy, with our own country on the verge of collapse at times?  “God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!” (6)  Today we see tsunamis leveling cities and lava destroying everything in its path, filling the air with volcanic ash.  Fearsome are the days in which we live.

However, The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us.(7)  We will not fear!  Even though the events surrounding Jerusalem at the time this Psalm was written were chaotic, there was a river bringing joy to the city, “A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.” (4).  No, Jerusalem did not have a river like we would think; it was a different kind of river.  It was a river of joy from the throne of God, filling God’s people with His presence regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.  As long as they stayed in the river, peace and joy were theirs.

We, too, have a river of joy, the very presence of God flowing through our lives to bring peace and joy in troubled times. We should not fret and wail like those who have no hope, but we should follow His advice, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (10)  I stand silent in His Presence. 

Moving Forward:  I will not fear. I will remain in the river of joy today, ever confident that “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us!” (11) We are not alone. 

Tomorrow @ Job 31-32

Mark 9-10 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 15-16

Jeremiah 12-16 (NLT)

Discovering His heart: He longs for repentance rather than judgment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow @ Mark 9-10

Job 29-30 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow@Jeremiah 12-16

Psalms 42-44 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow @ Job 29-30

Jeremiah 7-11 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires that we know Him and that we reflect His goodness

I’m not sure what it is that causes us to brag about ourselves sometimes, perhaps a need for acceptance or a need to feel valued. For some it is a way of life, living large in their own eyes on a daily basis. I remember a conversation that took place several years ago where two men were trying to impress me with who was wearing the most dollars. They had no idea that $500 shoes, $300 sweaters and $1,000 watches really didn’t impress me much. I kept thinking of what a missionary could do with that money.

I’ve found the best way to counteract habitual braggarts is to beat them to the punch by complimenting and bragging on them before they have a chance to open their mouths. This makes everyone happy. In our reading today, God has an even better idea on the subject.

@ Jeremiah 9
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.’” (23-24)

If we find it necessary to boast, the only thing worth boasting about it that we know God. In Hebrew, the term to know speaks of an intimate and personal relationship. When we are intimate with someone, we know how they think and act, and we seem to know what they are going to say before they say it because we are of one mind. Of course, the more we know God, the more we realize how little we know Him. It’s an ongoing ever-present quest for us as believers, but what a journey!

The more we know Him, the more we understand and reflect His divine attributes, and He summed them up so clearly for us in His words to Jeremiah – unfailing love, justice or fairness, and righteousness. The more we exhibit these traits in our lives, the more obvious it is that we are on the quest to know Him, yet we understand with Jeremiah, “Lord, there is no one like you! For you are great, and your name is full of power… Among all the wise people of the earth and in all the kingdoms of the world, there is no one like you.” (10:6-7)

In light of this, should we give up on our pursuit to know Him, to be like Him? No! Paul challenged us in Ephesians 5:1, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” 2 Peter 1:3 gives us this hope, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.” Most assuredly, no one will ever mistake us for God in our pursuit, but through Jesus, He has given us everything we need to Him resemble Him along the way.

Moving Forward: My prayer and song today, “More love, more power, More of You in my life. More love, more power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart. And I will worship You with all of my mind. And I will worship You with all of my strength. For you are my Lord, You are my Lord.” (Jeff Deyo)

Tomorrow @ Mark 7-8

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