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.

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

Matthew 14-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to a courageous heart of faith

I’ve had some great friends in my life.  In fact, I had a friend that came and cleaned my kitchen floor for 14 years.  No matter what was dropped or spilled while cooking or eating, the mess was cleaned up by this faithful friend for all those years.  When my friend passed away several years ago, I grieved for quite some time; and even today, I miss that extra help in the kitchen.  Yes, Toby, my Miniature Schnauzer was a great friend and a good little floor cleaner.  He never missed a crumb!  I have to admit that sometimes I intentionally dropped a scrap or two just because I loved him.  It’s hard to believe, but Jesus had a discussion with a woman about this very thing! 

@ Matthew 15
“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.’” (21-22)  Right from the beginning of this story, I liked this woman.  First of all, she was a mother on a mission to save her daughter.  I understand the heart of a mother whose child is sick.  We will do just about anything to save our children.  She had a mother’s heart.  Secondly, I admire her courage.  It was courageous for a woman, a Gentile woman nonetheless, to approach a Jewish man she did not know to ask a favor.  She was brave.

The woman was a Canaanite whose ancestors had been the bane of Israel’s existence, but she had obviously heard about the miracles of Jesus, disregarded her heritage and came to Jesus.  When Jesus informed this dear woman that He was sent only to help the Jews, she was undaunted by His response, “But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”(25)  She was tenacious.

Strangely, Jesus again resisted her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (26)  Jesus was reiterating the mindset of a majority of the Jews of His day.  They knew themselves to be children of God, and all others, well….were not.  However, Jesus, in His only trip outside of Palestine, was about to prove that His message was for everyone, and this courageous, tenacious mother was assisting Him whether she knew it or not.

The woman replied to Jesus, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” (27)  What a clever response!  Evidently, she had a Toby or two in her life, canine friends who were only too happy to take whatever would come their way in order to satisfy their needs.  And this woman was not too proud to receive whatever the Lord would do for her, scraps and all.  She was humble.

“Dear woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘your faith is great. Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was instantly healed.” (28)  No doubt through the faith of this woman, news spread throughout this Gentile region about Jesus, the healer of Jew and Gentile alike.  She had great faith.

It’s easy to allow hindrances to keep us from receiving the miracles that God has for us.  Are we willing to walk down the aisle at church for prayer, admitting we have a need?  Are we brave?  Will we ask again and again from the Lord until we receive?  Are we tenacious?  Will we humble ourselves and receive whatever the Lord has for us, however He chooses to give it?  Are we humble?  Will we believe that God is able to do anything we ask?  Have we great faith?  Apparently, these are things that grab the heart of God and cause Him to grant our requests. 

Moving Forward:  I believe the Lord has set a banquet for me today; but even if He offered only a scrap, only a crumb, it would be just what I needed for my miracle. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 13-14

Isaiah 29-33 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, our thoughts are turned to those we love and the ways we will express our love.  Capitalists that we are, we have turned this sentiment into a multi-billion dollar enterprise – chocolate, flowers, diamonds…and again I say chocolate!  In step with this focus on love, television programming is filled with love stories to touch our hearts and to remind us of our own love story.

A familiar story is one of unrequited love where the dear young man desperately loves the young woman who seeks after the more dashing or successful men in her life and ignores his adoration.  Or another story is where the young woman, listening to her biological clock, becomes impatient in waiting for the right man to come along and almost marries Mr. Wrong.  Fortunately, with television movies of this nature, love sweeps in at just the right moment and everybody lives happily ever after. (Sigh) In our reading today, Isaiah talked about God’s unrequited love for an impatient nation, a love deeper than Hollywood could ever imagine. 

@ Isaiah 30
“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.  They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’” (15-16)  As the advancing Assyrian army threatened Judah, God asked them to rest in Him, and in due time He would deliver them, but Judah was impatient.  Time was ticking away, and they considered an alliance with Egypt. This response reminds me of an impatient young woman, her biological clock and unfortunate alliances.

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (18)   Here was a compassionate God waiting for Judah to fall in love with Him, to stop looking to others for love and protection.  Unrequited love.

If they would once again fall in love with God and not turn to others, He would love and protect them beyond their wildest dreams. “He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…he will still be with you to teach you… Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (19-21)   Their gracious God who loved them so dearly would answer, teach and guide if they would only turn to Him, forsaking all others.

And what a great message for us in the climate that we live in today!  Instead of turning in panic to unknown sources for our answers and help, God asks us to patiently wait for Him to respond to our hearts cries.  He will be gracious if we will ask for help.  He will respond to our cries and teach us along the way as we wait on Him.  He will direct our steps on the very best path and at the perfect moment in time.

When we are tempted to turn to others first for help, He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love and compassion to us and be gracious to us.  A sovereign God, so full of love, created us to be the recipients of this great love – He only has eyes for us!  How can we resist so great a love?  How can we make Him wait? 

Moving Forward:  As I patiently wait on Him today, I’ll listen for His voice right behind me, directing my path.  I love Him so. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 14-16

Job 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our trust in Him with deliverance

When the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? started airing on television, I’d watch it whenever I could because I loved the title and enjoyed having my knowledge put to the test.  After all, who doesn’t want to be a millionaire?  As one who has been known to pick up an Encyclopedia book, say H-I, and read it for pure enjoyment, I find discovering what I really know to be entertaining and obviously thousands of others who watch the program do as well.

While watching the program one night, I discovered that I knew the answer to every question up to the $500,000 question without phoning a friend, asking the audience or eliminating half the answers.  Amazing, yet true!  Then, the buzzer rang and the show was continued to the following evening.  I wasn’t home to watch the next program, but I seemed to walk with my head held a little higher.  That is until a few days later when I watched the show again and missed a $1,000 question.  Job was surrounded with friends who thought they had all the answers to life, but none of that knowledge was helpful to poor Job. Sometimes we just don’t know as much as we think we do. 

@ Job 11
“Then Zophar the Naamathite replied to Job: ‘Shouldn’t someone answer this torrent of words?  Is a person proved innocent just by a lot of talking? Should I remain silent while you babble on?  When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed?’” (1-3)  Well, the old saying comes to mind, With friends like that, who needs enemies? Evidently, tension had been mounting for Job’s third friend as he listened to the discussions, and he must have felt that someone had to stop the polite discussion and straighten out sinful Job.

Zophar said to this man who had lost all his wealth, all his children and most of his health, “Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” (6)  Or, “Here Job, here’s a little salt for your wounds.”   What Zophar knew about Job was based on fallacy, yet he thought he knew everything and judged Job accordingly.  May our hearts always be sensitive to the hurts of others, putting judgment in the hands of God where it belongs.

@ Job 12
“Then Job spoke again:  ‘You people really know everything, don’t you?  And when you die, wisdom will die with you!  Well, I know a few things myself—and you’re no better than I am.  Who doesn’t know these things you’ve been saying?’” (1-3)  I’m not sure how Job had the strength to respond to Zophar and his friends with this pithy counter, but it certainly made me feel better.

Job went on to talk about the magnitude of God’s knowledge and power, “But true wisdom and power are found in God…He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; he brings light to the deepest gloom.” (13,22)  We think, in all our brilliance, that we have discovered the cure for diseases, space travel and our endless inventions, but did He not know it all first?  Do our breakthroughs surprise Him?  No, He is the One who uncovers all the answers for which we are given credit, and it is He who places them in the hearts and minds of men.

All this knowledge spouted by Job’s friends was not impressive to him because he knew that it came from the Source of all knowledge.  Job’s greatest concern was not about what he knew about God.  Job’s greatest concern was about what he did not know about God – why was God punishing him?  As we will learn, deliverance came to Job when he finally turned his focus back to his knowledge of who God was regardless of what God did. Deliverance from the trials we face is certain for us as well when we focus on who we know God to be and put our trust in Him. 

Moving Forward:   Because I know Him to be all wisdom and faithfulness, I will trust Him in all that I may face today, assured of His power to deliver. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 29-33

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews 11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nation> his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Romans 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He transforms us into the person He created us to be

When my son was young, he had a collection of toy cars called Transformers.  Each car transformed into a warrior robot in full armor ready to conquer the world – talk about a makeover!  So popular were these Transformers that in recent years several movies have been made about their exploits.  Unique entertainment, to say the least.

More to my liking are the makeovers on television that take plain or fashion-challenged women and men and transform them into living, breathing creations of awe.  The audience always gasps when the transformation is revealed and then breaks into thunderous applause.  This causes me to wonder if my transformation, the new creation that I am in Christ, has been startling enough to bring perhaps a gasp out of heaven. 

@ Romans 12
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (1-2) The ultimate makeover!

I’m sure those makeover candidates feel a little like sheep going to the slaughter as they step behind the curtain to be transformed, uncertain of the outcome.  Similarly, Paul suggests we should present ourselves as living, sacrificial lambs on the altar, submitted to His transformation.  But of course, as they say, the problem with living sacrifices is that they have a tendency to climb off that altar.  It’s usually painful to change the way we think.

Now as Paul often did, he provided a little checklist for us in verses 9-21 to see just how transformed we really are, a gasp meter if you will:

  • “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
  • Hate what is wrong.
  • Hold tightly to what is good.
  • Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
  • Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
  • Rejoice in our confident hope.
  • Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
  • When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.
  • Always be eager to practice hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
  • Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with each other.
  • Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.
  • And don’t think you know it all!
  • Never pay back evil with more evil.
  • Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
  • Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone…
  • Never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…
  • If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them…drink…
  • Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Well, then.  I think the only gasp I’m hearing right now is my own. These aren’t bucket list items.  They are characteristics of the transformed life!  This is the life of one who has remained on the altar and allowed the transformation of God’s power to change that life, even the way he or she thinks and relates to others.  And the makeover bonus, the parting gift for this transformed life, “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (2)  Who doesn’t want to know that! And again I gasp. 

Moving Forward:  I pray I will do something today that leaves heaven breathless…even just for a moment. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 20-23