Tag Archives: daily devotional

Living in Dread…

I often tell people that whatever we fear is what we serve, so that the object of our fear basically becomes our god. This morning a passage in Isaiah reminded me of that truth.

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?  I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection [of idols] save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Is.57:11-13).

“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me…” I’m not sure how much more clear that could be! At the heart of being unfaithful to God is usually a fear of something else (no matter what that something else is, I’d call it an idol). An idol is anything we meditate on, and spend our time trying to appease. For years, I did the dance of fear trying to keep an abusive husband happy so he wouldn’t lash out. I feared him much more than God, and the result was I served him rather than God. In fact, he became my god, because of the way I served him.

Another interesting thing about this passage is “I will expose your righteousness and your works…” Very often people do good works out of fear—they worry what people think and are trying to impress them rather than God. This fear of man is idolatry of the worst sort. It becomes works-based rather than love-based. God does not desire our feeble efforts; he desires our love. From that love, genuine works of righteousness will flow naturally. The ones born of fear of man are wood, hay, and stubble mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 3. These works may look wonderful to people, but they cannot stand before the Judge.

This passage should be a wake up call to the people of God. The warning here is not based on actions, but on misplaced fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and when we are more worried about pleasing him than people or unpleasant circumstances, that is wisdom. Then we will be like the man who built his house upon the rock in in Matthew 7:24-25. No matter what life brings our way, we can overcome because we know the One we fear is in control and his love casts out sinful fear. We can stand firm knowing he is in charge. Sinful fear dreads losing control, and that is why the Israelites sacrificed to idols. They believed that appeasing them would make things run smoothly, and that if they didn’t sacrifice things would go badly. When we live in fear of man, we have a similar mentality. “If I can just…” everything will be ok. We’re trying to maintain control. Yet, the Lord calls us to leave the control in his hands. That is what the fear of the Lord does. It trusts in his goodness for the outcome, and we have nothing to dread.

Lord, help me never dread anything more than I desire to love and please you. Help me to avoid the trap of misplaced fear. Nothing on this earth is more powerful than you, so I need to reserve my fear for you alone. Yet, it is a different sort of fear than dread. It is honoring you above anything else, and resting in your control rather than trying to be in control. You are worthy of all honor and praise. Nothing on earth can ever cause me to be consumed with fear as long as I am consumed with you. Amen

The Blessing of an Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Ps. 86:11

It’s interesting that David talks about an undivided heart in relation to fearing God. I believe this is because fear is one of the best tactics of the enemy to destroy our spiritual walk. I’ve always said that whatever we fear will control us—that is why is is so important to fear the Lord. For so long I lived in fear of a man, and as a result he became the god of my life. I knew God was there, and I prayed to him regularly, but my heart was very divided. My first thought when deciding on an action was usually how my husband would respond to it. If it was something I wanted to do, and didn’t think he would like it, I might do it anyway and hide it from him. Still, the bottom line was that my life revolved around him rather than God. My divided heart put God second by default. Unhealthy fear enslaved me. An undivided heart is one that is fully surrendered to the Lord, and fears him more than anything or anyone else.

For many years the phrase “fear of the Lord” was an enigma to me, but it really shouldn’t have been. The type of fear that ruled my life with my ex husband was basically one that filtered nearly every thought through his possible reation. I feared his wrath. Although I have been redeemed from God’s wrath, a healthy fear of him would basically do the same. I would be more concerned about pleasing God than anyone else (including myself).  It is not so much a dread-based fear, but a love-based one. My love for him should far outweigh my love for anything or anyone else, and when it does I will give him control over my life. My heart is undivided, because there is no question that God comes first in every decision I make. He is in control rather than fleeting circumstances or unpredictable people. The wonderful thing about fearing God first is that it leads to peace. He is unchanging and all-loving, which means when I place my life in his hands I don’t need to fear anything else. I am surrendered and he is in control, so whatever happens I can trust him for the outcome. That is the blessing of an undivided heart.

Prayer:

Lord, I pray that my heart will be always undivided — that nothing on this earth will be more important to me than you! You are worthy of my praise, worthy of my fear, and so very good. I can trust you completely. Human nature tends towards fearing circumstances and even people, but Lord I know what a trap that is. That is like building a house on the sand. When the storms of life come, “great is the destruction” of that house. Father I ask that my life will be built upon the rock, because I put you first in everything. “All other ground is sinking sand.” Amen

When All is Stripped Away

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. (Dt. 8:2-5)

 God delivers us from bondage, but there is a stripping away of earthly comforts that needs to occur for us to understand that he is our source. We are free, but we are still far too self-reliant. I know that has been the case for me. For the first 20 years of my walk with him, I tried to control circumstances, and even to get him to bless my agenda. Things were much the same for the children of Israel. They wanted freedom as long as it was accompanied by worldly comforts, but as soon as they became uncomfortable they began to complain and doubt God. They were led out into a barren wilderness, and even though God provided, the manna was not nearly as satisfying as what they had eaten in Egypt. Here God explains that there was a reason for the way he led them. He allowed comforts to be stripped away in order to humble them, and teach them that their trust was to be in him rather than earthly resources. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord disciplines those he loves. Even though those who equate victory with pleasant circumstances might question God for leading his children into a wilderness, this passage shows that he had a good agenda for his people. His intention was to humble them and to teach them to trust so that he could bless them. It was to burn out their pride and sense of entitlement. We tell ourselves that we deserve blessing. However, the human heart is wicked and deserves nothing but the wrath of our holy and perfect God. Still, we get his mercy. In his mercy he disciplines us and leads us as his very own children. In his mercy he transfers us out of darkness to light, and from wrath to favor. What an amazing honor! We can certainly trust his good plan for our lives.

Lord, I have been stripped and humbled time and again. I suppose I am slow to learn, but I appreciate that you love me and have a good plan. You are lovingly using these humbling circumstances to teach me to trust you and to recognize that you are my source. You are stripping away my self-reliance and teaching me that I can live by every word that proceeds from your mouth. Thank you for loving me so much. Help me to live in a manner worthy of that calling. Amen

Standing Alone in Faith

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Nu. 14:1-9)

 Standing in faith is never the stance of the masses. It seems to go against every bit of human logic. Ten out of 12 of the Israelite spies came back with negative reports based on fear, but only Joshua and Caleb reported in faith. Only these two would be allowed to enter the Promised Land, and the rest would perish. After the other 10 died, the people who had been swayed by their report decided they would go into the land after all, even when Moses warned against it. The result was complete failure, and the Amalekites and Canaanites chased them out of the land. The bottom line was that they wanted to be in control of the situation. First they fell into fear because of the negative reports of the ten, and when faced with the consequences of their disobedience they decided to “fix it” in their own strength. What a typical reaction. It’s so much easier to barge ahead than to wait on God in faith. It’s also not easy to face the consequences of our sin, so we usually try to figure out how to avoid them. The problem is that our actions generally make things even worse.

The better place to be is standing in faith, and trusting God, even when it seems foolish by human standards. Sometimes the blessing is not immediate, and even if the Israelites had been able to enter the land at this time, they would have faced many battles (just as they would in 40 years). Standing in faith does not guarantee an easy path. In fact, the easier path here would have been to remain in Egypt, where at least all their physical needs were met, (even though they lived in bondage). Isn’t that interesting? They wanted to go back to bondage, because walking by faith into the Promised Land was too hard. Waiting on God is not easy. Believing in spite of circumstances is not easy, but that is the path to blessing. Only the 2 spies who believed would enter the land, and their blessing would be delayed by the unbelief of the majority. Still, they never wavered, and when the time finally came to enter the last, they were blessed beyond all others. Waiting and standing in faith is not easy, but it’s always worth it, because he is faithful.

Lord, I ask you to keep me from being swayed by what seems most logical, especially when it contradicts your calling on my life. You have called me to walk by faith, and sometimes it seems absurd, but I trust in you. I know you have a good plan, and I know in your timing it will all be clear. Help me never choose bondage over the adventure of living by faith. I love you so much, and choose to stand in faith. Amen

Where is God When I’m Suffering?

No matter what we suffer in this life, God is for us and actively involved. Psalm 56:11 tells us that God collects our tears in his bottle. This always reminds me of the memory books I kept for my children when they were young. I saved a lock of hair from their first haircuts, saved the armbands we wore in the hospital, and even took a picture of one’s first Band-Aid for her baby book. I wasn’t able to shield them from all the insults of life, but I do remember that those bad experiences were often useful in teaching them lessons. If they fell down because they were doing something dangerous, they were more careful the next time. Although God does have the power to shield us from all harm, we live in a fallen world and he does not always do it. I believe that is because there are precious lessons to be learned from suffering. How would we understand or appreciate his goodness if we did not have pain and sorrow? We would take it all for granted. As much as I hate trials and tribulation, I have to say that they have been amazing tutors. I have learned so much about his faithfulness, and so much about my weaknesses. I have learned that no matter what happens, he is with me, just as any loving parent would be. He collects my tears in his bottle, and records my sorrows in his memory book. They are precious to him, as I am. He is for me! Many people see suffering as a sign that God doesn’t care, or that he has abandoned them, but it is quite the opposite. When you seek him, you will find he is closest to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). Trouble is not a sign of an uncaring God, but a chance to prove his love.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. On the very day I call to you for help, my enemies will retreat. This I know: God is on my side. O God, I praise your word. Yes, LORD, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? Ps. 56:8-11 NLT

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:32-39

Lord, thank you for caring so deeply for us. Even when things are difficult, you lovingly hold us and save our tears. I remember hearing that in ancient times, tears were used to make perfume. The maker would add fragrance to the tears to make something beautiful. That’s exactly what you do. You take our pains and sorrows and turn them into something beautiful. Thank you Lord that nothing is wasted in your kingdom, and that you have good intentions even when bad things happen. I appreciate that so much. Thank you for your tender loving care. Amen

Treasures from Leviticus… Say What!?

I’ve got to admit that reading through Leviticus is not one of favorite pastimes, but I want to be acquainted with the whole counsel of scripture, so I do it anyway. It recently came up in my yearly bible reading plan, and I actually found myself complaining to God about it. Rather than deciding to skip it, I decided to ask him to help me get through it and find something valuable for my spiritual walk. Who knows? Besides the clear references to Messiah Jesus in feasts of the Lord in chapter 23, I could possibly find some other nuggets of truth for daily living. I realize that the temple was a shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice. The book of Hebrews seems to connect the dots fairly well. However, there is still so much I struggle to get through in this book. Take all the blood for example. When you read it, you realize what a bloody place that temple had to have been. The pathway to the Holy of Holies was covered with blood. For a woman who gags over raw meat, it’s just not a pleasant read. Yet, Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. The penalty for sin is death and separation from our holy and perfect God (Rom. 6:23). In the Old Testament, the priest laid his hands on the animals, and the animals bore the penalty for the people. When Jesus laid down his life, the sacrifice was made once for all, and animal sacrifice became unnecessary. Interestingly, the temple was destroyed within a generation of Jesus’ death, and sacrifices have not been made in Israel since then. He was the perfect, spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Because of his sacrifice, we can come boldly before his throne (Heb.4:16).

Under the old covenant, only the high priest could come into his presence only once a year, and he ran the risk of dying if he failed to follow every detail of instruction on atoning for sin. However, now “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). I find that completely amazing! In a world that is so tainted by sin and evil, we have been washed and made holy— even as he is holy. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co. 5:21). That just blows my mind. Can you believe that you are the righteousness of God? That you are holy? I have a hard time wrapping my head around that, because I know how weak I am. I fail daily, and yet my amazing and gracious Lord sees me without spot or blemish. Wow! I truly do stand amazed!

This morning as I read chapter 14 of Leviticus, I found myself pondering verse 14. The verse pertains to lepers who had been cleansed. Many believe leprosy to be a picture of sin. The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. When I did a little research I saw that Moses had done the same thing to Aaron and his sons when they began making sacrifices in the wilderness tabernacle. After the sacrifice had been made, the blood was applied to these very specific areas. Obviously, we hear with our ears. Faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17), and Jesus often ended his messages with “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Obviously, our hearing has to be redeemed so that we can hear his message. The world’s message is loud and clear, but hearing and understanding spiritual things does not come naturally. In these Leviticus passages, the blood was mixed with oil to anoint the ears. Oil in the Old Testament seems to represent the Holy Spirit; so not only do we need redemption to hear his voice, we need his Spirit. These things are foreign to those who have not been redeemed.

After anointing the right ear, the priest would anoint the thumb of the right hand and the toe of their right foot. As I thought about this, it seems the hands represent doing. Redemption involves a change in what we believe, but “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Those who have been set free become his instruments of grace to a lost and dying world. This is not about following a bunch of rules, but putting action to our love for God and others.

Finally, the priest would anoint the foot of the cleansed person, which would seem to represent going or walking. Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of our flesh. It is so easy to follow our own desires and once again, without his Spirit, we cannot do it. We must daily surrender our flesh to his Spirit, and keep in step with him. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are empowered to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). As his children, we are called to be his hands and feet in this world. We should reflect his goodness and grace in all we say and do. Thank God it is not dependent on us, but his finished work on the cross and his Spirit. When we fall in love with the one who loved us and gave his life for us, we will be forever changed. He imparts his Spirit into us, and as we daily surrender to him, we will listen for his voice, do his will, and walk in his ways to impact this dark world for his kingdom.

Oh Father, I am so grateful for your provision. Thank you for sending Jesus to take the penalty for my sin, and for sending your Spirit to empower me to walk in your ways rather than mine. Thank for the love, joy and peace that flow from walking in your Spirit. You have freed me from myself! Hallelujah! I praise you and ask that you will help me to daily yield my ears, my hands and my feet to you so that my life will make an eternal difference in this world. Amen

Sacrifice & Gratitude

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. (Ex. 12:26-27)

Up until this point, the Israelites had seen God’s hand moving on their behalf, but final deliverance would mean the death of many firstborn sons. Their freedom was purchased at a great cost, and their worship here seems to indicate they recognized that reality. They had to realize that God seriously loved them. “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life” (Is. 43:3)– what a sobering thought! Surely they must have had relationships with many of the families who lost children. They acted as their servants, and interacted with them daily. Now they would not only gain their freedom, but also plunder the treasures of the ones they served, and leave them grieving their lost children. Of course, this foreshadows God’s sacrifice of his own son on the cross. My thought is that the Israelites must have felt so unworthy of the sacrifices made on their behalf. I know that is how I feel about Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf. It is beyond comprehension that a life, especially a life so precious would die to give me life. Interestingly, many of the lives that were sacrificed in Egypt were the most innocent- babies died. Surely, they did nothing worthy of death. Again, the reality had to be extremely sobering. The only logical response would be worship.

When I think about the great sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, I am often overwhelmed. It’s something that never gets old for me. Even as God told the Israelites to keep this event as a special memorial, we are to keep the cross ever before us. Passover became the beginning of the year for Israel, and salvation is the beginning of our new lives. Out of death comes life, and the recipient of life should respond in utter worship.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Rom. 12:1)

Lord, help me to keep the cross ever before me, and to remember the sacrifice made on my behalf. I did nothing to deserve it, and yet you loved me enough to do it anyway. I stand amazed. Let my life be a constant act of worship, knowing that you loved me so much you gave up your only Son. Thank you!! I am so grateful, and I bow down before you now. Amen