Deuteronomy 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to guide and protect our children

Over the years I’ve spent time in large European cities where I have observed very young children on city streets, subways and tourist areas begging for money as the parent or guardian stands by to watch.  These children are mostly treated with disdain by those who pass by them, and it’s a heart-wrenching scene to watch.  It’s difficult to understand the willingness of parents to sacrifice their children in this cruel process, but then we have our own issues on this side of the big pond. One thing I know for certain is that God expects us to protect our children not exploit them. 

@ Deuteronomy 18
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there.  For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.” (9-10)  Who would do such a despicable thing?  Well, mostly no one today, at least with an intention to do so.  We may not offer them as a burnt offering, but are we sacrificing them through our ignorance of the detestable customs and practices surrounding us?

 I’m always amazed by the television programming, movies, and music that youth, Christian and secular alike, digest each day.  Parents have complained through the years about their troubled teens that don’t follow the lifestyle they have lived out in front of them, but other influences are much more attractive and enticing than the day to day routines that parents are exhibiting.  To be sure, our godly modeling to our children is valuable, but we need to be attentive to what is captivating their attention through their media as well.

When we discover something in our child’s environment that appears to be questionable or something we just don’t know anything about, our best course of action is to check it out for ourselves and to be knowledgeable about it.  If we find something objectionable, a dialogue is much more effective than a declaration as a starting point and it keeps the doors of communication open for the future.  If our impressionable youth still does not accept our viewpoint, we may be tempted to let it go because it’s just easier to do so or because we’re afraid of the response that may come, but sacrificing them to the customs of this world just isn’t an option.

When we stick to our convictions, we can offer this resolution to our children:  In scripture, we understand that God expects children to obey their parents, and He really doesn’t provide a way around that.  If they disobey, God will deal with them.  However, if we as parents make an unreasonable demand or an inaccurate assessment that is not righteous, God will deal with us. As the child or youth waits for lighting to strike the parent for grave errors in judgment and the heat of the moment is gone, they often move on to yet another thing or are distracted by something else. The disagreement becomes a moot point.  In the process, offering a godly alternative is helpful although not always immediately appreciated.  Youth need our guidance whether they like it or not.  We do our part, but they are responsible for the decisions they make.

As parents, smothering is not our goal, but guidance and discipline are the responsibility God has given us according to a myriad of scriptures including, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)   There’s more than one way to sacrifice our children, and we don’t want to participate in any of them and end up with a millstone around our necks (Matthew 18).  Fortunately, we are not alone in raising our children if we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day and make certain that He is our first reaction to the challenges we face.

Moving Forward: I’m praying for parents who need God’s help today, believing that God will give them the resolve to follow through with their convictions with all the grace and wisdom He has to offer them. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 6-10

Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed, and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters, God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church?  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with you or with me, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a long, detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and also enables the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute? 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their will clashes with our will, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts, and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to: usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9). Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works.  However, if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we spend meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and accept the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me to obedience. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38

Deuteronomy 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to guide and protect our children

Over the years I’ve spent time in large European cities where I have observed very young children on city streets, subways and tourist areas begging for money as the parent or guardian stands by to watch.  These children are mostly treated with disdain by those who pass by them, and it’s a heart-wrenching scene to watch.  It’s difficult to understand the willingness of parents to sacrifice their children in this cruel process, but then we have our own issues on this side of the big pond. One thing I know for certain is that God expects us to protect our children not exploit them. 

@ Deuteronomy 18
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there.  For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.” (9-10)  Who would do such a despicable thing?  Well, mostly no one today, at least with an intention to do so.  We may not offer them as a burnt offering, but are we sacrificing them through our ignorance of the detestable customs and practices surrounding us?

 I’m always amazed by the television programming, movies and music that youth, Christian and secular alike, digest each day.  Parents have complained through the years about their troubled teens that don’t follow the lifestyle they have lived out in front of them, but there are other influences that are much more attractive and enticing than the day to day routines that parents are exhibiting.  To be sure, our godly modeling to our children is valuable, but we need to be attentive to what is captivating their attention through their media as well.

When we discover something in our child’s environment that appears to be questionable or something we just don’t know anything about, our best course of action is to check it out for ourselves and to be knowledgeable about it.  If we find something objectionable, a dialogue is much more effective than a declaration as a starting point and it keeps the doors of communication open for the future.  If our impressionable youth still does not accept our viewpoint, we may be tempted to let it go because it’s just easier to do so or because we’re afraid of their response; but sacrificing them to the customs of this world just isn’t an option.

When we stick to our convictions, we can offer this resolve to our children:  In scripture, we understand that God expects children to obey their parents, and He really doesn’t offer a way around that.  If they disobey, God will deal with them.  However, if we as parents make an unreasonable demand or an inaccurate assessment that is not righteous, God will deal with us. As the child or youth waits for lighting to strike the parent for grave errors in judgment and the heat of the moment is gone, they often move on to yet another thing or are distracted by something else and the disagreement becomes a mute point.  In the process, offering a godly alternative is helpful although not always immediately appreciated.  Youth need our guidance whether they like it or not.  We do our part, but they are responsible for the decisions they make.

As parents, smothering is not our goal, but guidance and discipline are the responsibility God has given us according to a myriad of scriptures including, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)   There’s more than one way to sacrifice our children, and we don’t want to participate in any of them and end up with a millstone around our necks (Matthew 18).  Fortunately, we are not alone in raising our children if we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day and make certain that He is our first reaction to the challenges we face.

Moving Forward: I’m praying for parents who need God’s help today, believing that God will give them the resolve to follow through with their convictions with all the grace and wisdom He has to offer them. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 6-10

Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church.  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with me or with you, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a lengthy detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and allows the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute. 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24