Proverbs 8-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is wisdom, understanding and counsel for those who reverence Him

I know others may never have done this…I mean, only a procrastinator would need to do it.  But I confess – I have done it. I remember a moment of sheer panic back in college when I realized a big exam was the next day, and I hadn’t studied.  There was no time to read the entire History of Western Civilization.  At that time, I hadn’t really lived much of it, so first-hand knowledge was not very helpful.  I decided to study just the large, the colorful and the bold print in my history book, and somehow the next day I aced that exam.  I learned what happened in history, but I didn’t know why.

Several times through the years I have chosen to read for the week just the red letters in a red-letter edition of the Bible.  These are the powerful words of Jesus, the wisdom of Christ, who is our Counselor, words that teach us how to live. However, I think I would be short-changing myself if I didn’t read ALL of God’s word on a regular basis, all the Old Testament stories and New Testament inspiration because they give an explanation of why He said what He said.  He used these illustrations Himself on occasion as examples.  Because of this, I love ALL Scripture, but I must admit that sometimes those red letters just knock my socks off, so to speak. 

Proverbs 8
In our reading today, Solomon was finishing up his lessons on wisdom.   He concluded that wisdom is for everyone (1-5).  It is easy to understand and find (8,9,17).  It is invaluable (18), true and fair (20).  It is established, not whimsical and elusive. (22-31).

In Proverbs 8, wisdom itself explains how it was established, “The Lord formed me from the beginning, before He created anything else.  I was before the earth…before the oceans…before the mountains…before the soil…before the heavens and oceans…before the clouds and seas…I was the architect at His side…I was His constant delight.” (22-31) Wisdom described here sounds a lot like Jesus, the Word with us of John 1 and the wisdom of God in I Corinthians 1:24.

Most do not believe Proverbs 8 is an Old Testament representation of Jesus but instead tells how, with wisdom’s skill, God created the Universe.  Neither a scholar nor a theologian, I am not required to debate this, which brings me great happiness, but one thing I know, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1)  Jesus, the Messiah, is wisdom, understanding and counsel!

When I need wisdom and counsel from heaven, I read those red letters in the Bible, the words of Jesus, the One who was there at the very beginning with God.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He tells me truths I need to know about relationships, finances, success, eternity and everything else that concerns me… and Him. It’s all right there in red!

Moving Forward: With gratitude in my heart, I move through this day, confident that His wisdom will counsel and help me.  With certainty, I know I will need it. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 19-24

Leviticus 7-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has cleansed us to serve Him in the priesthood

The soon return of the Lord was a daily conversation in my home when I was young.  My mom would often go to a window, look up at the clouds and say, “One of these days we will see Jesus coming in the clouds, and we will rise to meet Him in the air.” When she said this, I imagined grabbing onto her skirt for all I was worth so that I could go with her.  Over time I learned that it would be my own blood-bought commitment to the Lord that would give me rise.  The same was true in Old Testament times – no one got a free ride into the presence of the Lord. 

@ Leviticus 8
The process for priestly ordination was lengthy and detailed.  Although Aaron the High Priest was from Levitical lineage, he was instructed by Moses to follow the process of cleansing for priestly duties.  His sons, also priests, were not exempt from this cleansing because of who their father was and what he had done.  They, too, were submitted to the same cleansing that would make them worthy instruments of service for God, “So Moses followed the Lord’s instructions, and the whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance.  Moses announced to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded us to do!’  Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (4-6)

The Tabernacle was then anointed with oil throughout, and sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins for the priests and another for the congregation.  A third sacrifice was offered for the ordination of the priests, and in this ceremony, blood was applied to the right earlobe, the right thumb and the right big toe.  The ceremony had become very personal for Aaron and his sons at this point.

Scripture does not elaborate on the significance of this blood application, but most believe it speaks for itself.  The blood on the right earlobe was symbolic of the dedication of the priests to hear and listen to God’s Word.  The blood on the right thumb represented a willingness to do His work, and the blood applied to the right big toe was a commitment to walk in His ways and commands.  All priests were to follow this ordination process, even lefties like me, because it demonstrated total commitment to God.

With the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, this ritual is no longer necessary because we have a new High priest, the Lord Jesus.  Those who have had His blood applied to their lives are now part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6)   A whole new process is in place, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

By the personal acceptance of His sacrificial blood to our lives, we may now enter His Holy presence just as Aaron and his sons did, no need grabbing hold of another’s coattail. As part of His royal priesthood, we are qualified to serve Him with sincere hearts by listening to His Word, and fully trusting Him when doing His work and following His ways.  Sometimes we just don’t fully understand what His supreme sacrifice has accomplished in our lives.  We are His royal priests, and we have ministry to do!

Moving Forward: Ever mindful of my ministry role, I will keep my life cleansed and pure, listening to His voice, doing His work and following His ways. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 19-22

I Corinthians 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His Word about the past provides protection for our present and our future

When we acquire a new book to read, most of us do not spend a lot of time reading the front matter, as it’s called. These are pages that may include the endorsement page, title half page, the full title page with publisher information, the copyright page, the dedication page, the acknowledgment page, the contents page, the foreword page and the introduction page. Whew! No, we want to get right into the good stuff, the heart of the book, Chapter One.

From the viewpoint of an author, I believe those front pages are relevant and should be read. In many cases, it’s the only opportunity for authors to express their purpose for writing, their gratitude to others and their credentials. As a reader, I appreciate knowing these things. They add validity to what I’m reading and an understanding of what the author intends for me to glean from the book. The pages that follow are their heart and soul, and I don’t want to miss a beat. I think this is somewhat how Paul felt about Israel’s recorded history. The Corinthian Church was living in the here and now, but he desired for them to reread the front pages of their history because they were written down for a purpose by the Author.

@ I Corinthians 10
“These things happened to [the Israelites] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” (11) The Corinthian Church was struggling in many areas of conduct and dedication to the Lord, and Paul’s purpose for writing this letter was to address these issues. Paul gave a brief summary of Israel’s past blessings from the Lord, but to keep history from repeating itself, he also gave a brief account of Israel’s past mistakes.

“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud… all of them walked through the sea… all of them were baptized as followers of Moses… All of them ate the same spiritual food… and all of them drank the same spiritual water.” (1-4) Obviously, God is an equal-opportunity provider! But here was the glitch, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” (5) Help. Provision is not necessarily an endorsement of our behavior.

In response to all this supernatural provision from the Lord, most of the Israelites decided to “crave evil things…worship idols…engage in sexual immorality…put Christ to the test…grumble.” (6-10) And God responded to their sin by sending a plague where 23,000 died in one day, allowing some to die from snakebites and others to be destroyed by the angel of death. “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did.” (6)

We love the New Testament message of grace, mercy, and blessings, but those front pages, the Old Testament, are vital for us to understand so that history does not repeat itself in our lives. Just as with every author, when the Author wrote the Bible, every word was intentional and carried with it His heart on the matter.

Wise one that he was, Paul added this caution because he understood the hearts of those he ministered to, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (12) In other words, if we think we would never do such a thing – we would never crave evil, worship idols, commit sexual sin, tempt God or live a grumbling lifestyle – watch out because that attitude sets up a fall through temptation.

To this heavy message, Paul added a word of comfort for his readers, “And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (13) New Testament grace through the Holy Spirit for an Old and New Testament challenge! I once read, When you flee from temptation, be sure you do not leave a forwarding address behind. That should cover it.

Moving Forward: Learning from the past, applying to the present, protection for the future. Join me tomorrow for a little Old Testament…

Tomorrow @ Genesis 48-50

Isaiah 62-66 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His faithful disciplines lead us to eternal life with Him

A few years ago I watched my daughter follow through on a warning of punishment when her three-year-old, my sweet angelic granddaughter, did not obey her.  This was hard for me.  As Giana’s defense attorney, I mumbled something outside of her earshot about her being very tired, stretched to the limit, blah, blah, blah, but her mom would have none of it.  No empty threats in this household, mom followed through with what she had promised.  Of course, I respected her for this because she had been raised in this way, but I just want it known that because I’m not the one raising my grandbabies, they will only get kisses, hugs, and cookies from Nonna!  I’m good with that.

Serving in youth ministry for so many years, I saw the end result of children raised with empty threats – “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to…When we get home…Wait until your father gets home…” but no follow-through.  I also observed that some children received the discipline they needed, but still lived out their lives in rebellion.  Raising children is difficult at times even for the best of parents.  God understands our challenge.  Because the children of Israel would not respond to His disciplines, judgment was at hand.  In our reading today, God makes good on His promise to punish Israel for their disobedience to Him.  Father was in the house. 

@ Isaiah 65
The ending chapters of Isaiah give us a good summary of God’s dealings with Israel. Here He pronounced His judgment, “All of you will bow down before the executioner. For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned—before my very eyes—and chose to do what you know I despise.” (12)  Some have questioned how a loving God would discipline His children in such a harsh manner, but through our reading of the Old Testament to this point, we understand that God was patient beyond measure, more so than any child should expect.  As any good parent would do, God explained throughout the chapter why they were being punished and only through discipline could any good come out of it all.

Out of the punishment came a remnant of Israelites that understood that He was not a God of empty threats, and they responded to Him and listened to His voice. (8-10)  And with them were others, other nations, who responded to the voice of God, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.  I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.’” (1)  The Lord was referring to Gentiles who knew nothing of God and His love, but responded to His call as quoted by Paul in Romans 10:20.

Isaiah prophetically offered to this combined remnant a glimpse into their future, our future.  We look forward to a millennial reign with long and joyful lives, fruitful labors, protection and the blessing of God on all that we do, “I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (24)  Sounds a lot like heaven on earth.

What better incentive to live for God than this glorious reminder of our future with God.  Should we falter on our way, I say, “Bring on the discipline, make good on your warnings, Lord!”  Because yielding to His disciplines with repentance and obedience will deliver us from judgment and secure our place in this amazing future that He has planned for us. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful that He hasn’t raised us to be unruly children, but loves us enough to discipline us. He had me at, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” but I’m so thankful that I get Heaven too! 

Tomorrow @ Mark 3-4

Job 19-20 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is our Light and our Redeemer

Whether we’re moving through a mountain of laundry or walking through a difficult situation in life, we live for that moment when we see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the tunnel becomes an illusion, and the light becomes our reality.  Of course, there will be the pessimists who see it another way – The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train, or perhaps the quote that has special meaning for us today, “Politicians are people who, when they see the light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.”  Ugh. However, I choose to side with Job who delivered an optimistic statement of hope in our reading today – he saw the light! 

@ Job 19
“I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me… God has blocked my way so I cannot move. He has plunged my path into darkness… His fury burns against me; he counts me as an enemy… My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me.”  And to add insult to injury, “My breath is repulsive to my wife.” (7-17)  Job once again rehearsed his miserable condition, but through his pain in a moment of clarity, he went on to declare, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last.” (25)  Job saw the slight glimmer of light at the end of his agonizing ordeal.

Job was looking for God to be his mediator in Job 9:33, and then his witness in Job 16:19, but now he saw God as his Redeemer, his vindicator, his Savior.  As we read in the Book of Ruth, the redeemer was a relative who paid the debt of those held captive to bring about their freedom, but Job’s family and close friends had deserted him.  His Redeemer would be his God, who, regardless of Job’s miserable circumstance, still lived and would one day stand on the earth.  What a statement of faith!

“And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!  I will see him for myself.  Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought! (26-27)  In his day with little knowledge of life after death, this was quite a declaration.  David and a few others referred to it in the Old Testament, but Job was the first to answer his own question in Job 14:14, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” Job made it clear that he won’t see God in a vision or dream or represented by someone else, but he would see Him, his Redeemer, with his own eyes.

Through the benefit of time, we can better understand the concept of eternal life and have come to know our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Few have ever experienced all the tragedies of Job, but regardless of what difficulty we may be walking through today, how can we declare anything less than Job’s pronouncement, Job’s light at the end of the tunnel, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives!” 

Moving Forward: Instead of what I see in the present, I look to the future, to my Redeemer, the One who is alive, and to the mighty works He will do on my behalf. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 51-55

Proverbs 8-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is wisdom, understanding and counsel for those who reverence Him

I know others may never have done this…I mean, only a procrastinator would need to do it.  But I confess – I have done it.  I remember in college the moment of sheer panic when I realized the big exam was the next day, and I hadn’t studied.  There was no time to read the entire History of Western Civilization.  At that time, I hadn’t really lived much of it so first-hand knowledge was not very helpful.  I decided to study just the large, the colorful and the bold print in my history book, and somehow the next day I aced that exam.  I learned what happened in history, but I didn’t know why.

Several times through the years I have chosen to read for the week just the red letters in a red-letter edition of the Bible.  These are the powerful words of Jesus, the wisdom of Christ, who is our Counselor, words that teach us how to live. However, I think I would be short-changing myself if I didn’t read ALL of God’s word on a regular basis, all the Old Testament stories and New Testament inspiration, because they give explanation of why He said what He said.  He used these illustrations Himself on occasion as examples.  Because of this, I love ALL Scripture, but I must admit that sometimes those red letters just knock my socks off, so to speak. 

Proverbs 8
In our reading today, Solomon was finishing up his lessons on wisdom.   He concluded that wisdom is for everyone (1-5).  It is easy to understand and find (8,9,17).  It is invaluable (18), true and fair (20).  It is established, not whimsical and illusive. (22-31).

In Proverbs 8, wisdom itself explains how it was established, “The Lord formed me from the beginning, before He created anything else.  I was before the earth…before the oceans…before the mountains…before the soil…before the heavens and oceans…before the clouds and seas…I was the architect at His side…I was His constant delight.” (22-31) Wisdom described here sounds a lot like Jesus, the Word with us of John 1 and the wisdom of God in I Corinthians 1:24.

Most do not believe Proverbs 8 is an Old Testament representation of Jesus but rather tells how, with wisdom’s skill, God created the Universe.  Neither a scholar nor a theologian, I am not required to debate this, which brings me great happiness, but one thing I know, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1)  Jesus, the Messiah, is wisdom, understanding and counsel!

When I need wisdom and counsel from heaven, I read those red letters in the Bible, the words of Jesus who was there at the very beginning with God.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He tells me truths I need to know about relationships, finances, success, eternity and everything else that concerns me… and Him. It’s all right there in red!

Moving Forward: With gratitude in my heart, I move through this day, confident that His wisdom will counsel and help me.  With certainty, I know I will need it. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 19-24

Leviticus 7-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has cleansed us to serve Him in the priesthood

The soon return of the Lord was a daily conversation in my home when I was young.  My mom would often go to a window, look up at the clouds and say, “One of these days we will see Jesus coming in the clouds, and we will rise to meet Him in the air.” When she said this, I imagined grabbing onto her skirt for all I was worth so that I could go with her.  Over time I learned that it would be my own blood-bought commitment to the Lord that would give me rise.  The same was true in Old Testament times – no one got a free ride into the presence of the Lord. 

@ Leviticus 8
The process for priestly ordination was lengthy and detailed.  Although Aaron the High Priest was from Levitical lineage, he was instructed by Moses to follow the process of cleansing for priestly duties.  His sons, also priests, were not exempt from this cleansing because of who their father was and what he had done.  They, too, were submitted to the same cleansing that would make them worthy instruments of service for God, “So Moses followed the Lord’s instructions, and the whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance.  Moses announced to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded us to do!’  Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (4-6)

The Tabernacle was then anointed with oil throughout and sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins for the priests and another for the congregation.  A third sacrifice was offered for the ordination of the priests, and in this ceremony, blood was applied to the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe.  The ceremony had become very personal for Aaron and his sons at this point.

Scripture does not elaborate on the significance of this blood application, but most believe it speaks for itself.  The blood on the right ear lobe was symbolic of the dedication of the priests to hear and listen to God’s Word.  The blood on the right thumb represented a willingness to do His work, and the blood applied to the right big toe was a commitment to walk in His ways and commands.  All priests were to follow this ordination process, even lefties like me, because it demonstrated total commitment to God.

With the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, this ritual is no longer necessary because we have a new High priest, the Lord Jesus, and those who have had His blood applied to their lives are now part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6)   A whole new process is in place, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

By the personal acceptance of His sacrificial blood to our lives, we may now enter His Holy presence just as Aaron and his sons did, no need grabbing hold of another’s coattail. As part of His royal priesthood, we are qualified to serve Him with sincere hearts by listening to His Word, and fully trusting Him when doing His work and following His ways.  Sometimes we just don’t fully understand what His supreme sacrifice has accomplished in our lives.  We are His royal priests, and we have ministry to do!

Moving Forward: Ever mindful of my ministry role, I will keep my life cleansed and pure, listening to His voice, doing His work and following His ways. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 19-22