Saturday, July 31: 1Kings 4-Managing your life.

This chapter is a summary of Solomon and the organization of his life. It is not particularly stimulating reading from a devotional or historical perspective. It is a list of deputies, assistants, cabinet members and provisions. There is mention of topics that Solomon studied as well.

As I mused this snapshot of his life, the thought occurred to me. He managed his life and kingdom well. He governed with wisdom, he studied science (nature) and he wrote proverbs about life and how to live life. Solomon was what we might call a ‘renaissance man’, displaying uncharacteristic wisdom in many areas of life. God truly lived up to His promise of wisdom for Solomon.

Beyond that, Solomon managed his life well.  Somehow he was able to govern a nation, study nature and contemplate life in order to write proverbs. Solomon lived a full and a productive life.

From this grew a whisper in my soul… “Bill, are you managing your life well? I am not asking you to be a Solomon but I have given you abilities, talents, circles of influence.  Are you operating well in those circles? Is My agenda being advanced? Are you making a difference for good in your world, MY world?”

And so, I spent some time thinking about the life God has graced me to live and whether I am living it well… for God.

Lord, as I pause to pray, I think of the word ‘steward’. I am Your steward. You have requested that I labor in Your kingdom. I pray, Lord, that I am hearing Your instructions about what to do clearly and that I am fulfilling Your directives effectively. I love You, Lord God, and I want to serve You and bring honor to Your name. In and through Jesus I pray, Amen.


Friday, July 30: 1Kings 3- Except.

As I was reading this story about Solomon and his prayer for wisdom and his wise judgment in the matter of the dead baby, it was not any of the big themes, but rather a single word that garnered my attention… ‘except.’ Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. Solomon was faithful ‘except’ And this exception was one of the things that led to his drifting from the Lord for part of his life.

Except is a dangerous word. I love my wife except…  I am a good employee except…  I love God except… I follow God except…  I believe the Bible except…

Whenever we allow exceptions to creep into our faith, life-trouble is around the corner.

God said, “Love Me with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength… no exceptions granted.” God said, “Love your neighbor as yourself… no exceptions granted.

Think about it… I will.

O, Lord, help me to examine my life to see if there are any exceptions in my life. And, Lord, if I don’t see them but You do, show me so that I might submit my life wholly to You. In Jesus’, who loves with no exceptions, name… Amen.


Thursday, July 29: 1Kings 2-Being righteous in a ruthless world

The world of national governments and politics in the ancient world was filled with intrigue and was often bloody. Which son would become king and how would he deal with rival kings? Which advisors should one listen to and which ones were only out for self gain?

Into this world Solomon was thrust when David named him king. Scripture does not tell what training Solomon had been provided but it does record some final advice that David, his father, gives… a house cleaning of sorts.

It is difficult for me to read about all the executions that should take place. My 21st century sense of justice (where are the trials) and my turn the other cheek mentality bristles at David’s words and Solomon’s tasks. Yet there they are in the text.

Solomon, in no way a ‘slave’ to his father’s advice, shows immense wisdom and integrity in dealing with these kingdom ‘loose ends.’

Integrity… dealing with Abithar the priest, a crown conspirator yet a priest.  He is stripped of his priestly duties but allowed to live because he ‘stood before the Lord.’ And Shimei who cursed David was given fair stipulations.  If he fulfilled them he would live, but breaking them meant death. And Adonijah, his older brother who tried to usurp the throne, was given an opportunity to live but would be watched carefully for any wrong move.

Wisdom… Understanding Adonijah’s proposal for marriage was a second attempt to gain the throne. Understanding that Joab was somehow connected with Adonijah’s requests and would be a continual threat, Solomon executed both men. And Solomon remembered his agreement with Shimei even after 3+years and had him executed when Shimei broke the agreement and did what he knew would lead to this death.

These are difficult days but Solomon handled them with wisdom and integrity, two character traits that will serve anyone one well who enters a new job or new situation. Wisdom and integrity; wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and integrity is doing it from honest and pure motives. Solomon displayed both, allowing him to remain righteous in a ruthless world. I pray that I (you) do as well.

O, Lord, wisdom and integrity. Lord, these traits are not a given with us as humans. We carry the stain of Adam and Eve, sin abounds in our lives. Help me to develop these in increasing measure, O, Lord. And, Lord, show me how to apply them in all arenas of my life: work and home, child rearing and friendships, even in my community involvements. Lord, may I be a man graced with wisdom and integrity… Amen.


Wednesday, July 28: 1Kings 1-Do you have people your truly trust?

With the shift back to the OT and the book of 1Kings, we return to reading the history of the people of Israel. The books of 1&2Samuel preserve the accounts of Saul and David’s reign. 1Kings picks up Israel’s history at the end of David’s life.

Being a narrative or story, there are not always specific instructions or principles for living as there are in the NT letters. I often find myself sitting with the Lord, asking Him what He wants me to take away from my time with Him this day. Sometimes the sitting and waiting and listening and praying are the rich blessing of God for that day.

During my time of sitting with the Lord today I found myself watching David.  In his old age, with sickness increasing, David needed more than ever to trust his closest advisors. Clearly he is no longer truly capable of leading.  The time of passing on leadership to the next king has come.

The names of the men surrounding his son, Adonijah, were prominent men in David’s cabinet, likewise were the men who stood for Solomon. All of these men advised David throughout his reign.  Now as David’s reign was ending, some of the previously trusted advisors were posing with Adonijah because it was in THEIR best interest. It was all about themselves and not necessarily the King’s best interests. I wonder if they weren’t acting out of self interest much of their lives?

These thoughts lead me to the thought.  Do I (you) have people working with me I can truly trust? Or are the people around me only faithful to me until a better opportunity comes along?

This may not seem like a spiritual question but the more I contemplate, the deeper it runs. The people we trust and the people who advise us are very important to our life and faith. If they are giving bad advice, we can be put on a wrong path…

Do you have people you truly trust and do you trust them to give you wise and godly advice?

Lord, I am grateful for those around me, family members, coworkers, friends and confidants… I am grateful that they are Christ-following, God-honoring people who I do believe have my best interest at heart. Gifts from You, dear God, gifts from You. Thank you… in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Tuesday, July 27: Philemon- Full understanding of God’s will

Today God opened my eyes to something I do not remember reading before. I have read Philemon umpteen times and its message is a favorite one for me. And yet today, God had this wonderful, fresh word for me in verse 6: I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

I don't know how I could have missed this cornel before.  Paul connects sharing of one's faith with having a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. The implication of Paul's prayer is that if we are not sharing our faith, we will not understand all the good things that come with Christ. Whoa… that's a stopper of a thought. If I am keeping my faith to myself I can't understand all that God has for me in Christ… whoa again!

I looked up the word for sharing; it is koinōnia, which can be translated: fellowship, communion, communication, participation and the like. Paul is praying that as we participate in the faith (verbal sharing, contributing to the needs of others, communing with brothers and sisters in the faith) we will understand the good things of Jesus Christ. Only as we actively live out our faith in real and practical ways can we know the good things of Jesus Christ.

For me this is a strong push to keep my faith active and alive, to be living out there on the edge of verbal and action witness for Jesus. Because it is "out there" on the edge that we experience the good things of God. This reminds me of a quote by Will Rogers, "go out on a limb, that's where the fruit is." God's Word is saying go out on a faith limb, that's where my goodness is.

Well, I have much to contemplate. Far too often I live my faith safely even selfishly. God's Word today is popping this balloon.

O, God, You are providing more than enough challenge with this single sentence.  Go out on a limb for Jesus and actively share my faith in Jesus, push my comfort limits, risk for Jesus and Jesus' sake. Only then will I understand the many good things You have for me and all Your followers who courageously live for Jesus. God, help me to not simple hear this challenge but live it… Amen and Amen.


Monday, July 26: Colossians 4-Praying for kingdom advancement

This past May, I preached a sermon series called ‘Just Walk Across the Room,’ taken from Bill Hybels’ book of the same name. Hybels has an evangelism gift and this book is all about personal/relational evangelism and is a worthwhile read for all Christ-followers. Hybels exudes a passion for pointing people to Jesus…

Paul’s zeal for gospel advancement exudes in verses 2-6: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

My sense from this exhortation is that we are to be praying for kingdom advancement and personal opportunities to be involved in it. Clearly Paul requests prayer for himself . As I read his request, I connect it to praying for missionaries I know… that God would open the door for their clear and effective proclamation of the Gospel. But the Spirit also prompts me to hear Paul’s request to be open myself (ourselves) to sharing Christ clearly and effectively. Listen to Paul exhort to his readers:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. … Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Given what Paul has previously written, part of their prayerful watching is for people who would steal the freedom they have in Christ with rules and bondage.  But given the immediate context, I hear Paul exhorting them to be watching for opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others…

The Holy Spirit’s nudge to me is, “Be more intentional about this, Bill. Be more intentional about praying for opportunities to share the Gospel regularly, intentionally seasoning your conversations with God so that the curiosity of others might be peeked and questions might be asked…

O, God, may I live this exhortation… for the kingdom sake, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Saturday, July 24: Colossians 3- Live differently

The gospel of Jesus Christ will change a person’s life, at least that is the message of scripture. People who follow Jesus should live differently from people who don’t. Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and the other NT teachers were never afraid so say how one should live now that they are following Jesus.

The message that I heard reading Colossians 3 is live differently. The chapter from beginning to end sends that message and sends it pointedly … Live differently.

Paul’s starting point is aspirations… calling Christ followers to set your minds on things above, (i.e. on God)… reading these words the Spirit pushes in, “Bill, what are your dreams, hopes, aspirations? Are they God-focused or you-focused? Bill, look inside and ask yourself. No speeding here, take your time, Bill. Probe.”

Next, God reminds me of living styles before trusting Jesus (5-11)… asking if I have truly given up those ways or have I, in some ways, reverted back to the former ways of living. Again, tough questions follow.  The list is not pleasant to review honestly.

God makes one more stop, now looking at life-virtues He delights for us to emulate. The whisper of the Spirit comes, “Bill, how are you doing, cultivating these virtues and habits… compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love? Bill, are these life qualities increasing in your life???” And then as I read on, I hear God driving into this question in particular areas of my life… my marriage, my child rearing, my work. It is as God is saying, “Don’t be generic, Bill, get specific. Are you cultivating these virtuous habits at home, with your kids, at you place of employment? I want you to live differently because you follow My Son.  Live differently, Bill, live differently.”

O, God, today’s time with You was a tough assignment. I fear I am not living as differently as You would desire. Forgive me. Help me grow more resolute in my following of You, in my obedience to You, in my aspirations to be about Your business. O, God, open my life more deeply to the work of You, the Holy Spirit in my life, so that by Your strength, I might live for You. In Jesus name, Amen.


Friday, July 23: Colossians 2- A God honoring approach to life.

I find it helpful for my spiritual life when I come across sentences that carry straightforward approaches to living faithfully in my Lord Jesus. Today verses 6-7 gave me just such an approach to life. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

This sentence acknowledges that the Christian life begins by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord. It is not church membership or attendance or some religious ritual or even sacrament that ushers a person into the faith. Rather it is receiving, putting one’s heart and soul into believing and following Jesus as one’s Lord God Almighty. For me that happened some 35 years ago and I have never regretted my confession of Jesus as Lord, for a day.

In a wonderfully simple fashion, the sentence reminds me that being a Christian, a Christ-follower, is not simply a one-time decision but a daily living in and for Jesus- continue to live in him, Paul writes. And then he offers some practical suggestions on what to do- rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Rooted and built up in Jesus reminds me that daily/regularly I need to be drawing my life source from Jesus and that for me means spending time with Him, like I do, in His Word. There is little better for my faith than to spend time reading and contemplating the truth God has revealed to us in His Word. And then talking with God about His Word and about life.

Strengthened in what you were taught, reminds me that I should study and talk with others about the faith. When I go to the gym for a physical workout, I workout pretty much alone, and yet there are people who I see every day I go.  They encourage me to keep on with the routine. Occasionally a trainer will show me something new or correct a technique. This, too, is important and helpful. Even though I have a routine that works for me, there are always gaps that others can help me improve upon. So it is with my faith.

Finally Paul suggest thankfulness and at the overflowing with thankfulness. A thankful heart is a strong heart. As I write, I sit in Nigeria and outside my room a woman is sweeping the floor with a broom whose handle is broken off at about 2-feet in length, so she is hunched over as she does her work. She lives a very humble life by my standards. I visited her home yesterday. And yet what I love is, she is humming a hymn. Her heart, I know, overflows with thankfulness for the job she has, the studies she can do, for her family and Lord…

There we have it, a God-honoring approach to life… thanks, Paul, for your words (or should I say, Thanks God for placing Your Word in Paul).

O, Lord, as I go about my day today, rooted and built up in you, strengthened by my sisters and brothers, may I overflow with thankfulness… thankfulness that finds its source and fervor in You. Through Jesus, my Lord, I pray… Amen.


Thursday, July 22: Colossians 1-No namby-pamby prayer


Some day I think it would be interesting to put all of Paul’s prayers side by side. I think I will learn a thing or two about prayer when I do. In Colossians 1, Paul prays one of his powerful prayers:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (9-12).

I hope people pray that kind of prayer for me. I long to be filled with spiritual wisdom so that I can live a life worthy of my Lord, so that my life can bear kingdom fruit, so that I can continually grow in knowledge and understanding of God, so that I will have endurance and patience no matter what the hand of God allows to come my way.

Yes, I invite anyone who reads this, to pray this prayer for me… to pray it often and continually for me… because, by God’s Grace, that is the kind of life I want to live for my Lord Jesus and I need the prayers of others to do so.

And I will pray it for all who read this devotional…

O, God, I pray for all who read Colossians 1 today, that you will fill them with the knowledge of You, along with all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And Lord, I pray this in order that they may live a life worthy of You. Lord, may it please You in every way. May it bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of You, God.  May they be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might so that they may have great endurance and patience as they live for You, Lord. Also may they joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. God, for Your sake may it be so… Amen.




Wednesday, July 21: Philippians 4- What are you thinking about?

The word from the Spirit that spoke most clearly to me today concerned what I spend my time thinking about. Paul speaks a powerful promise to his friends at Philippi when he writes in verses 8-9: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. ... And the God of peace will be with you.

Read that again… God promises His peace as we think about things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. I know I appreciate peace in my life.  Here is a recipe for peace… pay attention to what you think about!

One day traveling on my recent trip to Nigeria, I was traveling in the morning and it was clear I was going to get back to campus late for my 1pm class. For a while I sat in the van fretting about the traffic, road conditions and the weather.  Rain was coming and that would only slow us down more! I could feel anxiety rising within me. After a time of fretting, I recognized that there was nothing I could do. I sent a text to a student telling him that I would be a few minutes late.  I then began to think about what I would teach, about each of my students and the privilege I have to teach.  I also thought about the wonderful greenhouses I had just visited that were producing excellent food as a source of income for Nigerian orphans. Without trying to produce peace, my shift of focus to things that were good, pleasing, excellent and gifts of God, brought peace.

I lived the promise of this verse! And it was only this morning during my daily scripture reading that I realize what happened the other day in the van.

Meditating on these verses, I noticed that it is what we ‘think on’ that brings or blocks God’s peace. We cannot often control what happens to us but we can control what we think upon. That, it seems, is the message of the text.

Before prayer, I allowed myself to meditate more on this text, giving me more practical ways to live this text… may God bless your meditating, too.

Lord, I confess that living the truth of this text is not natural to me.  Help me by your grace to incorporate this truth into my life so that it becomes more and more natural for me to live this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.



Tuesday, July 20: Philippians 3- Being a good person is not enough

I like good people, honest people. They make good friends and companions. They are honest and for the most part they live up to their word, keep confidences and are, well, generally good. I kind of fancy myself as a good person, too.

Being a good person is good!

But when it comes to eternity and heaven and salvation, being good is not enough. One blemish, one mistake, one sin, no matter how small, is enough to keep anyone, even a good person, out of heaven.

Paul discussed this topic when he wrote, If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (4b-7).

Friends, it is faith in Jesus Christ, and faith alone, that saves a person, brings them into a relationship with God and guarantees eternal life when they die. Have you put your Faith in Jesus? Or are you still trusting that you are a good enough person to make it to heaven on your own? Paul was about as good (religiously speaking) as a person could get and he knew his goodness was not sufficient. Being good does not guarantee salvation, only Faith in Jesus Christ brings salvation.

Dear God -Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit- I want to thank You for showing the correct way, the way of Faith in Jesus. I praise You for the faith I have in Jesus. I am eternally in Your debt, O God.

Even more, through faith in Jesus, I can have this on going living relationship with You. I can come to You with any trouble, I can share with You any heartache, I can rejoice with You and thank You for every blessing. I love You, my God. I will serve and walk with You all the days of my life… in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Monday, July 19: Philippians 2-Work hard to live like Jesus


This chapter opens with strong words calling believers to live radical lives, lives that consider others more than self. No where in Scripture does it suggest that the way of Jesus will be easy…

To make his point, Paul writes or adapts a hymn to Jesus Christ (5-11). Listen to it one more time: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse 12 follows, beginning with a ‘therefore,’ which suggests that it is a summary or injunction to action built upon the preceding thought. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

It is the bolded words at the conclusion of verse 12 that led to my morning meditation in Scripture.

The way of Jesus is not easy.  The call to follow Jesus and to be like Jesus challenges me (us) to the very core of our being. Following Jesus will take work and lots of it. Following Jesus will take diligence and lots of it. Naturally human attitudes are selfish but disciples are to live a different way (3-4).  We are to adopt Jesus’ attitude, which was one of humbleness and obedience to the Father in all things.  This led Jesus to the cross! Living this way, Paul aptly says, will require us to work at with fear and trembling, to work with diligence and effort.

At this point the Spirit whispered, “Bill, are you living this way?”

Lord, I am not. On my better days I try -falling short often. On my not so good days, I am not sure I try. I coast. I let selfish, self-consuming attitudes motivate me. I need Your help, oh, Lord. I need more fear and trembling before Your majesty and Your holiness, O Lord. Amen.


Saturday, July 17: Philippians 1-Special people in my life.

Not uncommonly there were a number of connection points between the text and my life. Such is the joy of a living relationship with Jesus.

A piece of important personal background.  As I write this devotional, I sit in Nigeria teaching at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS). I sit here alone, no family or church members were able to travel with me this year.  Presently, I have minimal ability to contact home, little power, no convenient internet, etc. As you can imagine, I am feeling a bit isolated. It is in my personal context that verse 3 crossed from the text to my life. I thank my God every time I remember you.

I am not in prison as Paul was, yet sitting here alone and disconnected from family, friends and my church, I can understand in measure what Paul is saying. It is my remembrances of those I love and care for -those who love and care for me as well- that sustains me. I find myself thinking about loved ones and friends more here than at home where they surround me. And the Christian faith connection with people back home is particularly strong.  More prayer on my end is sent to God and I can feel more intensely than when I am home the peoples’ prayers for me.

Like Paul, my remembrances are filled with thanks… thanks for these important folk in my life and thanks to the Lord for providing these people in my life.

One nagging thought I have is, “Why is all of this heightened when I am away alone and lessened when I am surrounded by family, friends and church family”??? Maybe the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” is true. Maybe the need for companionship is greater. Whatever the complexity of reasons, I find myself so grateful for those I love, those who walk the road of faith in Jesus together with me.

Lord, this morning the prayer welling up in me is one of thanks and love… to You, my God for the gift of loved ones that You have provided. I am also so thankful and grateful for my family, friends and church family. Even though they are far away, I feel their love, I miss their companionship and I left them in prayer, knowing that You can bridge the miles and let my prayers be effectual, by Your grace in their lives.

Lord, I am grateful, too, that I am never alone.   Your presence is with me, Your love carries me. I am forever grateful for Your love and presence. In Jesus name. Amen.


Friday, July 16: Ephesians 6- Be strong in the Lord

The words Be strong in the Lord (10) caught my attention. That’s what Paul hoped for and prayed for. Paul did his part on behalf of the Ephesians. He prayed for them (recall his prayers in 1:15ff and 3:14ff) and he taught them. Now they needed to cooperate and put energy into their own strengthening.

Paul bids them to clothe themselves in the Lord… putting on truth (correct thinking about God), righteousness (correct living for God), readiness (preparedness to live and speak) and God’s truth. Along with these, Paul enjoins them (and us) to put on faith (belief and trust in God; that He will do what He says He will do), salvation (live in the reality of their new Christ-bought relationship with God) and finally, the word of God. How does one put on the word of God by taking it into one’s life?

Finally, now fully clothed. they (we) should pray, pray in the Spirit. Prayer makes us strong in the Lord. Prayer builds us up and prayer advances the kingdom. As we exercise the muscles of prayer we grow stronger. As we exercise the muscles of prayer for ourselves we invoke the presence and power of God in our lives. And as we exercise the muscles of prayer for and on behalf of others (i.e. intercession) the kingdom of God is advanced! This is what mighty men and women of God do… they advance God’s kingdom.

O, God, make me a kingdom advancer.  Help me clothe myself today and every day with You, Lord. To put on those things that drawer me closer to You and that help me live more fervently for You. And, Lord, teach me to pray Your prayers, prayers that come directly from the Spirit of God… In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Thursday, July 15: Ephesians 5-What pleases the Lord?

I love it when I see something I don’t recall reading before. When that happens I try to take note because often that is where God will have me ponder that day.

Today, as you have guessed, is one of those days… a single sentence in the middle of the chapter spread over a couple of verses. Taking out a parentheses and here is the sentence that stopped me. Verses 8b &10: Live as children of light … and find out what pleases the Lord.

Simple, yet the more I think about it, highly profound. Paul is using ‘light’ as a metaphor for God and God’s way. Live God’s way, aka, according to the scriptures, is his first word. To which I want to respond, “Yeah and….” This is such a no brainer!

It is the next thought that grabbed me; find out what pleases the Lord. I am not sure what it is exactly but I find that a powerful thought. Yes, of course, I need to be attending to Scripture and to the confirming voice of the Holy Spirit to discover what pleases the Lord.  Then I must do it.

I sit here and marvel at the practicality of this word…

As a husband, I have learned (and continue to learn) what pleases my wife. When I choose to do those things, pathways to a deeper relationship opens.  As a dad, it is similar with my children, and as a friend, it is so with my friends.

God’s word is so straightforward and practical sometimes… find out what pleases the Lord… and do that.

If you are wondering where to start, go back and scan the last two chapters. God shares plenty of behaviors that please the Lord.

Lord, today’s time in Your word is one of those gems. A simple thought that grows as I meditate upon it and LIVE it! Lord, I seek to please others.  I pray that today I would live in ways that please You. Bring scriptures to mind that can instruct me. Holy Spirit, nudge me throughout the day that I might live pleasingly to You, O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


Wednesday, July 14: Ephesians 4- Pulling for one-another

As I conclude my reading and begin to mull over God’s teachings in this chapter, one unifying theme I hear is, “Are you building fellow-believers up?” I realize there is much more going on in this chapter.  However, as I read I see every paragraph encouraging readers to be building others up, to maintain a manner of living that helps others grow in the Lord.

I went back and re-read the chapter and some highlights that caught my attention and offer practicality to my devotions this morning.

Verses 2-3: be patient, bearing with one another… keep the unity. I am programmed by education and sports to push to be number one, climb over, get passed or surpass that person next to me. God suggests a different style of living, one that bears and maintains unity. This will take some work for me, first envisioning it and secondly living it…

Verses 25-30: speak truthfully, don’t let anger get the best of you-reconcile, watch your language, speak in positive encouraging ways, be kind and forgiving. We are in this ‘walk with Jesus’ with others. Make the most of your partners!

There is so much practical living teaching here.  I think the best thing for me will be to read it one more time.   Then I better pray because there is no way I can do this on my own…

O, God, help me. So much of what You are showing me this morning is counter to my natural inclination. I cannot come close to living this way on my own. I need You and I need the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in my life desperately. Forgive me for all the times I fall short and help me!  Please help me to grow to be a person who exudes Your character. In Jesus’ name, Amen.




Tuesday, July 13: Ephesians 3- Freedom and Confidence.

Verse12 seemed to be in bold print as I read this chapter…  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. What a word from God. We may approach God with freedom.  In olden times, average people could only go into the king’s presence if summoned or a personal petition was granted.  Common folk were denied access to Kings and other important people. It is much the same today with governors and presidents.  They are too important and too busy to see anyone and everyone who wants to stop by and chat. But through Christ, (note the words ‘in him’) and the doors that faith in Jesus opens, we have freedom to enter God’s presence whenever we want! We have complete open access to the one who made the heavens and the earth.

And it gets better. We may approach God with confidence, also! We don’t have to enter wondering if maybe, possibly, hopefully, God will give us his attention and listen to what we have to say or ask. NO, we have confidence that God will receive and listen to us.

Freedom to approach when we want/need and confidence that God will receive us is a great  gift given by Jesus!

It is no surprise that Paul prays such a bold and BIG prayer immediately following this word from the Lord. Today, I conclude praying Paul’s BIG prayer for you and for me…

O, Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of [Your] glorious riches [God] may strengthen you [and me] with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you [and I], being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you [and I] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (14-21).


Monday, July 12: Ephesians 2-Thank you Jesus

This is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. I can read again and again of my rescue by Jesus and God’s subsequent call to go and do the good works God has prepared for me to do. Verses 1-10 feed my soul every time I read, think and meditate on them.

Before opening the Bible today, I purposely asked God let me see/hear something beyond which I always hear when I read this chapter. And God didn’t disappoint.

The blessing of verses 1-10, not withstanding, it was verse 13 that seemed to have a neon sign pointing to it flashing, “Your meditation for today.” Verse 13 says, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. The imagery of ‘far’ verses ‘near’ arrested my attention.

I used to be far from God and then God brought me near.That thought rings with comfort. No getting around it, distance is an impediment to relationship.  Without contact, relationships grow cold and die. God brought us to be with Him, God did the work, God bridged the distance, God paid our transit… God, God, God… God did it all!

How this filled my soul.

And God did it through (or by) the blood of Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross was the cost of and the means for me to be brought near to God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank You.

And so my meditations spun today, more than I can write; as deep as the oceans, not to be exhausted today or any day is the love of God in Christ Jesus, my Lord.

O, God, thank You so much for bringing me near to You. What a joy it is to live connected to You… near You. I ask that as I go through this particularly busy day, that this thought would carry me and that during other moments of meditation, it would seep deeply into my inner life. Hallelujah, Amen.


Saturday, July 10: Ephesians 1-Chosen by God

My wife and I decided to buy a particular type of wooded Christmas decoration as a memento of our recent trip to Germany. Both of us have German blood in our lineage, it was our first trip to Germany, our 30th anniversary and the first time we had seen our son in almost a year. It was a special trip and we wanted a special memento. We saw one early on in our trip, kept our eye open as we traveled, looked at and examined numerous possibilities, but in the end there was this one.This was no impulse buy, it was just right, so we chose it.

It could be said of this piece, chosen by the Gestals, thought and care went into the choice and now it holds a special place in our memories and our lives.

This memory flooded my mind when I read verse 11: In him [Christ] we were also chosen … With these words God, through Paul’s pen, is expressing how special each and every one of us is to God. God chose us, each and every one of us, with care to be part of His family. We were not an impulse choice, nor one that would be relegated to a junk pile some day! No, each and every one of us were chosen with care and are loved immensely by God. God is proud we are His. He has never and will never regret His choice of you and me.

The Spirit’s simple whisper to me (& you through my pen), dwell on this. Allow God’s incredible love and His choosing of you to seep deep into your soul and mind and heart today.

O, God, to be loved by You… what a wonderful thing. Words do not come today as I pray and as I bask in the incredible, indescribable, amazing love of God my Father, God my Savior and God my Comforter. May my life bless You and give You honor and glory… through Christ my Savior I pray, Amen.



Friday, July 9: Galatians 6- Verbs mean action

Typical of Paul, he closes his letter with practical life actions. For Paul, correct thinking and right understanding of God will result in appropriate living. There is really never a divide between our minds and actions. What we believe we will put into action. And so Paul offers some practical prods to get his friends in Galatia and us into appropriate God-honoring action.

Restore gently

Carry each others’ burdens

Test our own actions (hmmm… that’s where God took me yesterday)

Carry your own load

Share with those who instruct you

Do good for all people, especially believers.

Yesterday God had me think about rotten fruit verses good fruit. Today the Lord gives me some specific areas of life to examine, areas I might add, that were not necessarily on my examination list from yesterday

Restore gently: How do I handle situations where I see others who seem/are (things aren’t always as I perceive them) to be walking wrong paths? Do I seek to restore or do I ignore? And if I sense a nudge from God to enter to help, do I do so graciously and gently or like a hammer and judgmentally?

Carry each others burdens… carry my own load: The word for carry is the same in both sentences; the object of what is carried differs. One writer summarizes the differences this way: In 6:2 the word is báros, a burden or difficulty. In 6:5 the word is phortíon, responsibility. In the first case, Christians are being enjoined to help each other bear up under the vicissitudes of life. In the last case, Christians are told that each person must assume responsibility for his particular duties in life; they have no right to shirk their responsibilities or to expect others to perform them. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament.). By the way, my most often given away book, ‘Boundaries’, is built on the distinction of these two verses. (Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend is a worthwhile read!)

Test our own actions: Re-read my thoughts from yesterday. Note, we test ourselves not others!

Share with instructors: i.e., take care of those who teach you rightly.

Do good for all people especially believers: Does this really need explaining?

Well, believing this is the word of God. I have to put my belief into to action and live out these verbs today and everyday. That should keep me busy… J.

Lord, I receive this call to action today. I know left to my own, I will revert to selfish living. Help me put Your Word into action in my life today and always… Amen.



Thursday, July 8: Galatians 5-What am I producing?

It seems Jesus regularly used the illustration, “by their fruit you will recognize them” (see Matthew 7:16, 20, 12:33, Luke 6:44). His point is that a person’s inner character -who and what he/she is living for- will be seen in the fruit that their lives produce.

In the closing verses of this chapter Paul uses a similar illustration asking me (us) to examine our lives to see what kind of fruit we are producing…

Rotten fruit: sexual immorality, rage, jealousy, discord, selfish ambition, drunkenness… and the like. These Paul explains comes from people living for self.  They are acts of the ‘sinful nature’ which every human inherits, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden.

Good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… and the like. These, Paul explains, comes from God the Holy Spirit living in people who are following Jesus.

Good fruit verses Rotten fruit…

Where the Lord took me was an introspective look into my life. When I hold a mirror up and look inside what do I see? Honestly, I see a mixed bag with a bit of both kinds of fruit produced by my life. But I can also see the trend line. If I am honest with myself, and this is the key being honest with self, the fruit of my (our) lives can reveal the faith orientation of my (our) lives. Am I oriented toward self (producing rotten fruit) or God -Father, Son and Holy Spirit- (producing good fruit)? Even more so, Jesus says we will be recognized by our fruit. What do others see? Others who know us well, what do they see in us?

It is good for me to take a hard look at my life from time to time to make sure I am on track with Jesus. That is what the Spirit is asking me to do today. The Spirit is asking me to do some life ‘quality control.’ I am to examine the fruit of my life and to see if it points to a life transformed and transforming into the likeness of Jesus.

Lord, help me as I walk through today to spend time looking at how I am living. Am I living in a way that shines with Your light, Jesus? Or am I absorbed with myself? Jesus, where I find sin, may I confess it. And where I find Your fruit being produced, may I give You praise for changing my life and transforming me to be more like You. Amen.


(A note of caution, when examining ourselves it is not about justifying ourselves before God. None of us could ever live up to the perfect law of God on our own. Self-examination is a tool to help us find those areas of life in which we still need grow and surrender to Jesus.)


Wednesday, July 7: Galatians 4-The delight of the familiar.

You know how when you first meet people there is an awkwardness about the relationship? However as time goes on and the relationship deepens, you become more and more comfortable with that person or persons.

I think of some of my in-laws. Thirty years ago I knew them because they “came” with my wife but over the decades I have developed a stand-alone relationship with some of them. Yes, the blood-relationship is through my wife, but now I have the personal relationship. There is a delight, a joy, a relationship that I have with them independent of my wife. We can joke or cry or go to deep places together and it is good.

Paul made a powerful statement in verse 6: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." First, through Christ we are all sons, that is incredible in and of itself. But it gets better, because of the Spirit in us, we can call God ‘Abba, Father.’ Grammatically, Abba is a diminutive, which means that it is the familiar form of the word. To capture that, we could translate it ‘daddy.’ And typically in our language daddy expresses a very comfortable, loveable relationship. Daddy is a heartwarming expression… Daddy, we can call God, Daddy!

Some of us may not find it comfortable to call our earthly fathers ‘daddy’, but through Jesus we are all invited to call our heavenly Father, ‘Daddy- Abba’. Abba describes a deep comfortable, wonderful, healthy, loving, delight-filled relationship. It is good and it is there for all who confess Jesus as Lord.

Abba, Father, Daddy, Oh thank You for drawing me into a wonderful relationship. Thank You for loving me deeply and unconditionally. Thank You for becoming ‘familiar’ and close. Thank You for Your love. Oh, God, I am so blessed that You drew me into a relationship with You. Daddy, Son and Spirit… bless You and thank You … Amen.


(I don’t do it all the time. But sometimes I open my prayer with ‘Daddy.’ It gives my prayer a very different feel… intimate and close. Sometimes my prayers require reverence and I use another name for God. Try opening a prayer with ‘Daddy’ and see what it is like. After all God is Lord and creator and your Abba (Daddy) Father. Just a  thought.)


Need a Reading the Bible

I forgot to try to get on to Skype, I will try that now.  In the meantime, I need a Reading the Bible for next week.  Nothing else going on here, I guess it was pretty empty on Sunday. I was away in Baltimore, so didn’t notice.  Anyway that is it.


Lisa Steigerwald

Administrative Assistant

Presbyterian Church of Old Greenwich

38 West End Avenue

Old Greenwich, CT 06870


Fax 203.698.1370


Tuesday, July 6: Galatians 3-Two ways to life, law or faith.

You and I have two options when it comes to our life before God. We can live by law, We can try and strain and work and try some more to live perfectly and not break any God-laws or we can live by faith in Jesus Christ. Option A or B, you get to choose, I get to choose, everyone gets to choose… law or faith.

There is only one problem, the options do not have the same outcome, as Paul notes (10-11): All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The big problem with the law is that no one can live up to the law perfectly and if we break one part of the law, we have broken the law.

Picture it like this.  You move into a house and your yard is not fenced in when you unpack. You have a dog. You run to the hardware store and buy a long chain so your dog can have the ‘run of the back yard’ until you can get a fence installed. The chain is very long, 1000 links. Naturally your pup will test the chain, pulling on it as he sniffs the furthest corners of his reach. No big deal. If, however, when the dog is enjoying the yard one link breaks, it doesn’t matter which one, now the dog is free to run away and into the busy street. All it takes is for one link of the chain to break and the chain is broken. The same with the law, break it at any point, even the smallest point, and it is broken.

Paul saw the problem with the law, " Clearly no one is justified before God by the law!

Faith in Jesus Christ is the other option. Faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s family and makes us heirs of God’s promise of salvation. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (26-29).

Before you close your Bible or turn the page on these thoughts, ask yourself, “Which option have you chosen for life… or faith?”

I pray you chose faith in Jesus Christ. I did 35+ years ago and I am so glad I did. My life is so much better. I have found unconditional love from Jesus, a peace and security that bank accounts and 401K’s can never provide.

If you have never done so, I invite you to pray today and ask Jesus to become Lord and God of your life. Here is a prayer you might pray to do so:

Dear Jesus, I have been trying to be a good person in my own strength and I have made mistakes and sinned and hurt myself and others. I want to choose a different way, the way of believing in You. Jesus, I put my faith in You. I cannot do it on my own. I ask You to become Lord and Director of my life. I ask You to please forgive my sins. And I ask You to give me a desire to read and live by Your Word, the Bible. Please send Your Holy Spirit to be with me every moment of every day as I choose to exercise my faith in You. In Your name, Jesus, I pray, Amen.


(If you sat with God and prayed this prayer, please do me a favor let me know and let someone else you know who loves Jesus know, too. I would love to help you grow stronger in your faith in Jesus and I’m sure your friend would, too.)



Monday, July 5: Galatians 2-Time and diligence, year after year.

This is a wonderfully rich chapter. There were any number of moments, as I read, where my mind began to muse deeper into the word declared…

Reading verse 11: When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. My mind contemplated when and how we confront a brother or sister we believe is in the wrong, and how do we do it appropriately and biblically…

I also contemplated that if Peter -the apostle Peter, the spirit-filled miracle working Peter- is wrong here, then we all get it wrong at times and how much we need the correction of a trusted brother/sister in Jesus.

Reading verses 15-16: "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified I thought about my justification through Jesus’ atoning death and what it means to have faith in Jesus… real life-changing faith.

But where I mused longest today was with verse 1: Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem…. The fourteen years caught my attention. Fourteen years is a long time, add to it the 3 years Paul notes toward the end of chapter 1 and we are up to 17 years. Paul has been at this ‘following Jesus’ a long time. He has been exercising his faith, studying and obediently living the scriptures, changing, growing in faith and pursuing God for 17 years. He has stayed the course and he is doing the hard work that faith requires, not to earn his salvation but to go deeper with the Lord.

Growth takes time and diligence.  That was the principle nudge of the Spirit I had this morning as I read. God was reminding me to keep at it, to stay in the Word and live what I find in the Word. God is reminding me that faith-greatness or faith-maturity comes with a cost… the cost of time and diligence.

O. Lord God, Father, Spirit, Jesus, too often I grow weary and I don’t give my all to study or to living what I know. I allow complacency and even lethargy slip into to my faith life. Today, first of all, I confess this propensity within me. Forgive me, Lord! Forgive me.

Secondly, Lord, I pray for strength, stick-to-it-ness, and courage to keep on walking with, growing in and living for You, my Lord and my God. In Jesus name and through the power of the Holy Spirit I pray. Amen.


Saturday, July 3: Galatians 1-NO other Gospel.

After weeks in the OT, I find it refreshing to swim in the sea and teaching of the New Testament. And Galatians is like a dive into the Atlantic on a Connecticut summer day. The temperature of the water jolts you awake, my body tingles with the cold but after a moment or two, I am invigorated and ‘alive.’

From its opening line, Galatians jolts me with the wonder and uniqueness of the gospel. Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (1). God is the source of the preaching of Paul… not man’s wisdom, not a keen mind that ‘figured things out.’ NO, God deposited into Paul the message he was and is to preach and teach… read on. Verses 11-12: I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. The gospel is God’s, plain and simple. And as such, we can accept itor reject it, but it is not ours to change. And its truth is not dependent upon what we believe about it.  The gospel’s truth and veracity comes from the fact that it is God’s!

Reading this opening chapter, it is easy to spot that the issue for them (and for us) is accepting the gospel as delivered… no changes allowed. Something is going on in Galatia that is tempting them to change the gospel.  We will read about this in the days to come. My mind floats to my day, our day, this day and how people today continue to attempt to change God’s delivered gospel.  They cut out this or that to make it more palatable for the taste of the 21st century person. But remember words from above:

We can accept it or reject it but it is not ours to change!

For me -and probably for readers of these words- the remainder of this morning would be well spent thinking through the Scriptures.  They are the revelation of God. They are the foundation of the faith and the carriers of the gospel as God presented it. Here are a few questions I am pondering:

  • How well do I know the scriptures and the gospel it presents?
  • How well do I know Jesus Christ as presented in the scriptures?
  • Am I letting God’s gospel and God’s word inform and transform me or am I trying to make God’s word fit my likes and dislikes?

Oh, many more questions spin in my mind but you have a sense of where the Lord is taking me in my quiet moments with Him today…

Father and Jesus, Your gospel is a gift from You to me (us).  Forgive me those places where I misunderstand and correct me into correct thinking and living. And more importantly, Lord, discipline and even rebuke me where I am in my sinfulness subverting Your word and changing it to something I ‘like’ better. Cut out those places in my life. O, Lord, that Your word would form and transform me… this I ask through the power and presence of Your Holy Spirit living in me… through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.



Friday, July 2: 2Samuel 24-The sovereignty of God.

Believing God is sovereign can be a troubling and humbling. I am comforted to know that God is in control but when God’s control includes me, I sometimes balk, at least mentally.

Verse 1 causes me to pause, balk, think and hopefully to ultimately submit to the God who has called me and has redeemed me. Verse 1: Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

Now if that verse didn’t stop you in your tracks read it again: Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." He [God] incited David against Israel… and 70,000 people died as a result.

Ruminate on this for a while. Israel’s actions are angering God. They are living unfaithfully, so God incites David to sin and the just punishment for the sin was the death of 70,000 Israelites. Thus, Israel is punished for their unfaithfulness…

It seems that David is little more than a pawn in God’s hand here. This is one part of my ruminating that troubles and humbles me. I like to think that I control MY LIFE. I like to believe -for good or for ill- that I am the captain of my ship, that my actions, thoughts, etc. fully and completely control the direction of my life. But plunging beneath the surface, this kind of thinking boxes God out of my life, and in particular, life in general. Heaven forbid! With David I cry: "I am in deep distress. [My thinking that I am in control of my life is just like David counting his army… wanting to know what he controls. Yikes.] Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; …" (14). Thankfully God is merciful… with me an overconfident sinner.

Lord, sitting this morning before Your word, I am realizing how self-centered I am. How self-confident I am. Lord, to keep my ego in check, I confess that You alone are sovereign, that Your are Lord God and I am but a creature, a creation of Your hand. I submit to You. I acknowledge my self-centeredness and my self-confidence before You, who alone is God. Into Your hands I throw my life… Amen.


(Now if you want your head to spin a bit more, read 1 Chronicles 21:1, which is a second recounting of this same incident of David counting the army… Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.)