Wednesday, November 30: Matthew 5- Re-patterning lives.

The opening of the chapter caught my attention. I often think of Jesus seeing crowds and healing those who are sick but not on this occasion. Today he taught. Matthew sets the scene like this: Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying (1-2).

Even as I meditate and write, this thought seems too simple but it tugs on me. Jesus understood that the people needed understanding and wisdom for living, that they craved help with this life. How are we supposed to live?

Jesus also understood that God’s way is not something we will come up with by ourselves. Damaged by sin, we see the world through selfish eyes.  We need to be taught another way, a better way, God’s way. We need a re-patterning of our thinking and that requires new information.

Addicts who enter a program have to face the fact that the way they were living is not working. Cleaning their bodies of the chemical dependencies is only one step. To stay clean they need to re-pattern their thinking and behaviors, and that requires information so they can see their world differently.

Jesus understood that people needed more that healing.  People need teaching if lives are going to change. So when he saw the crowds … he began to teach them…

Jesus also understood what people needed when. When their presenting issue was illness, He healed.  When they were hungry He fed.  And when given the opportunity, He taught so that people knew both the way to God and the kind of life that pleased God.

Father, help me to listen to Jesus and His teaching and to re-pattern my life in the way He teaches. Lord, I pray for my areas of weakness, I pray for strength to grow to bring my thoughts and actions in line with Your will and way.

Help me, too, in humility to grow in wisdom, knowing when and how to help people re-pattern their lives after You. Also in knowing when and how to teach and to point people to Jesus who will point them to You, Father. Holy Spirit, guide me because I cannot do this on my own. In and through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, November 29: Matthew 4- When you are weak. watch out.

The chapter opening showed me something quite simple. The devil is a cagy adversary, who knows how to strike a person when he/she is down.

Jesus’ public ministry is about to begin but before it does, Jesus spends sometime alone in the desert. Matthew explains:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread"… (1-3).

I have done a little bit of fasting in my life, mostly a day here and a day there,once I might have completed a fast of 5 days or so. Honestly, I cannot imagine 40 day fast. I’ve read people who have done that but I can’t imagine it.

Matthew’s comment, After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  That seems like a touch of humor.  Of course he was hungry!

What caught my attention is that the devil chose to strike at the moment when Jesus was hungry, when He was weak and when He was most vulnerable. That’s a strategy… strike a person when he/she is down. If I am hungry, tired, sick, in a hurry, upset, those are the moments when my fleshly, sin-filled desires are closest to the surface and I am most apt to stumble and fall.

As I have talked with friends and listened to wise counsel, this appears to be a universal human trait. The devil knows that and thought Jesus was most likely to succumb to temptation at that time. Jesus didn’t! And a devil strategy was revealed.

The Spirit’s warning to me was simple. The devil is a wily enemy who wants nothing more that to cause me to fall into sin and for me to disgrace the name of my Savior Jesus. I have to be constantly vigilant against the devil’s schemes and most especially vigilant when I am tired, hungry, sick, in a hurry, upset, etc. These are the times in my life when I am most vulnerable! And the Spirit says, “Be alert… and take care of yourself to minimize those vulnerable times in my life…”

Think about it…

O, Father, help me. Help me to be strong, to stand for You strongly. Help me to be wary of the enemy, the devil, and to resist his tactics and ploys. Father, help me to immerse myself in Your Word. Jesus used scriptures as his defense, how much more should I?  Holy Spirit, teach me scripture, that my life will be strong in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Monday, November 28: Matthew 3- John.


I found myself watching and listening to John and wondering, “Where did he get his wisdom and chutzpah to take on the religious leaders like he did?” When Jesus says things like John did, I can shrug it off saying thinks like, “Well, Jesus is God in human flesh and the Holy Spirit lighted on him and stayed with him during his ministry, so I can’t be expected to act like that.” But John is just a regular guy like me.  So I wondered and pondered…

I even spent a few minutes thumbing through this and the other Gospels for clues. The cupboard was pretty bare. I did find one verse Luke 1:17: And he [John the Baptist] will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. So now I wondered what the ‘spirit and power of Elijah’ meant. Elijah was one of the great prophets of Israel and a miracle worker. John, as far as I know, didn’t perform miracles.  Apparently God’s power was displayed in John’s message proclamation.

Where I ultimately landed in my meditations was that John, like Elijah, was a man dedicated to the Lord and who made following God his life desire. They were also men empowered by God to do great works for God’s kingdom.

Now I have some things to pray about…

Father, Jesus, Spirit, I seek the passion and will to be fully dedicated to You like John and Elijah…to go, do and say all You have for me to do. Lord, it is a bit intimidating to pray that prayer and yet I pray it. Lord, use me!

I pray to that Your Holy Spirit will fill me as You did John and Elijah, so that I go, do and say they things You have for me to do in Your power and not mine!

To You, O, God, be the honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.



Saturday, November 26: Matthew 2- Recipe of a sin.

Herod caught my eye as I read today. Eventually he would perpetrate a dastardly crime, being considered, in our time, a mass murderer. What fascinated me was watching the sin-idea grow.

It seems for Herod that jealousy was the initial seed. I am certain from my own life that thousands of emotions can birth a sin but for Herod this time, it seems to be jealousy. Herod was disturbed that a potential rival –another king- was born in his realm.

Jealousy simmered for a while as Herod listened to the rumors bounce around the court. A murderous idea hatched.  What if I can find this rival king?  I could kill him. So, on the pretense of state business, he invited the Magi for an audience. These unsuspecting foreign dignitaries are pumped for information and asked to continue their search. “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him" (8). It was a rouse, and it almost worked.

The Magi were warned not to return to Herod so Herod’s single murder grew into mass murder.“If I can’t find and murder my rival then I can kill all the children his age in his birth region of my realm.”  And so another mass murdering tyrant is added to history’s list.

Here in brief is Herod’s sin-recipe:

üStart with an initial sin-filled seed (jealousy)

üSimmer the seed until you create a good stock

üMake adjustments to taste, add ‘spice’ and other ingredients until the ‘stock’ thickens into a dastardly ‘stew’…

I’m not Herod, nor have I become a mass-murderer. However, I can, all too easily, follow the same recipe, allowing sin to brew in my life. Sometimes through a wound, other times a human nature flaw, I allow a negative thought to plant a sin-seed. Rather than nipping it in the bud, I let this seed simmer. It seeps into different areas of my life and the sin-seed thought becomes a sin-filled action. I am not immune from this.

Pondering Herod, I sense a strong warning from the Spirit, “Bill, the best opportunity to overcome is to interrupt the recipe at the early stage. Don’t allow yourself to simmer the seed into stock. This is one way you can grow more faithful in Me.”

Lord God, forgive me. Too often I allow a sin-seed to stay and simmer in my life. Nothing good comes from this. Help me, Lord, to recognize these situations and Lord, please give me the faith to act appropriately, to confess the sin-seed and seek your forgiveness early.

O, Holy Spirit, I cannot do this on my own. Help me to listen for Your voice, Holy Spirit, so that I may walk in the way of righteousness for Jesus and the Father’s sake, in Whose name I pray. Amen.



Friday, November 25: Matthew 1- How to make a godly decision.

It is refreshing for me to be back in the NT.  Advent begins Sunday so it is doubly good to be reading one of the Gospels of Jesus.

For some reason I connected with Joseph as he had an agonizing decision to make.  How should he deal with an apparently unfaithful betrothed? Watching Joseph, I saw a godly man navigating decision highway.

Step 1: integrity & righteousness. Joseph lived his life in light of his faith in God and over the years he developed personal characteristics that honor God.  Verse 19 reads: Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. As he considered his options, he weighed his options against general God-honoring living.

Step 2: he remained open to God’s voice and leading. His mind set on one godly course, Joseph remained open to the Holy Spirit, listening for God’s leading and direction. In this case the Spirit showed him another course to follow. Verse 20, But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Step 3: obedience. Joseph obeyed the voice and direction of God. Verse 24 records, When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. This step comes as no surprise since obedience is the faith-filled response God desires from those who will follow Him.

Reviewing these steps, #2 –remaining open to God’s voice and leading is crucial for me. I have spent years working to grow in godliness. I am far from perfect but it has been a many year pursuit for me. I would like to think that with this important decision I seek to do the godly thing. Where I falter is that once I come to a course of action, I can lock in on my decision rather than remain open to the continual leading of the Spirit. Turning off listening to and for God’s voice, is never good…

Lord, thank You for this word and direction this morning.  Please help me to take it to heart and to build this pattern into my life. Lord, I want to be a man who pleases You with my life and in my decisions. Following your lead is key. Amen.




Thursday, November 24: 2Corinthians 13- Take aim.

There were two wonderful devotional verses for me as I read this chapter. Verse 5, Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? and 11, Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Verse 11 stuck and I found myself pondering the practical advice Paul gives in that verse.

Aim for perfection, I know I will never achieve perfection, but at least for me I am blessed to have such a lofty goal. It will keep me striving… striving to be the man God wants me to be. It keeps me striving to live more and more Christ-like as I walk with the Lord longer and longer. Goals motivate me and this is a goal I can work on my entire life…

Live in peace. There is so much strife in this world, within families, communities, work places, countries, churches and so on. Strife sucks the life out of me. I imagine it does the same to you. As I ponder this simple command, I balance it with Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. I find the If it is possible helpful because I can only control my actions and thoughts. Sometimes the other person will make peace, but even if they don’t, I can choose to live peaceably.I know when I do, my life is better for it.

And the God of love and peace will be with you. God rewards right behavior and having God with me is reward itself…

Thank You, Lord, for calling me to a higher way to live, for spurring me on to faith and good deeds, for setting the bar high.  And for providing the Holy Spirit who gives me strength to do the things You call and ask me to do! Lord, I pray that I will know Your presence in my life as I go about my days… in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, November 23: 2Corinthians 12- Who gets the glory?.

    Sometimes God doesn’t heal. A person of sincere faith prays and yet God chooses not to heal, but rather allows us to live with, suffer through and even die from a sickness and injury. Why does God do this? I don’t know, I wish I did but I don’t.

As I read about Paul’s non-healing, I wondered about this whole issue again. One question that this passage seemed to answer for me is this, “Can God receive honor and glory when He doesn’t heal?”

Well, with the apostle Paul as an example, the answer is apparently, YES.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me (7-9).

In his weakness, inadequacy, and non-healing, Paul boasts in Jesus whose power becomes obvious in and through Paul. Since it cannot possibly be Paul himself who accomplished what he does, it is obviously God though Paul who gives the strength, wisdom and power for Paul to do what he does.  So Paul points people to God. To GOD be the glory! 

God gets the glory when we give God the glory. The question that erupts in my thoughts is this, “Do I give God the glory in good times and in bad? Do I point to Jesus as the one who gets me through the tough times or do I take the honor for myself or whine and complain against God?”

O, God, forgive me.  There are times I whine and complain rather than seeing Your hand giving me strength in a hard time.  I complain. Why can’t my life be easy???? Forgive me, please.

And forgive me, too, when I usurp Your rightful place and seek to take the glory when it is You who deserves it.

O, God, may Your grace be sufficient for me. Amen.



Tuesday, November 22: 2Corinthians 11- What are your boasts

Boasting, we all do it. Some of us may be braggadocios, boasting and bragging about most things. We may even be bombastic, loud and obnoxious in our boasting and bragging. Others of us are more quiet, even reserved, but touch on certain subjects and we, too, will boast.

People boast about cars and homes –possessions. Others boast about universities attended or degrees earned. Job titles and athletic prowess are other common sources of boasting. Parents boast about their kids… ‘my daughter has lead in the school play,’ ‘little Johnny sleeps through the night and he is only 6 weeks old.’ We can and often do boast about things…

Paul makes a fascinating statement about boasting. If I must boast, he writes, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (30). And so he boasts about beatings and hardship and trials…

How radically different Paul was. He truly marched to the beat of a different drum.

I wondered about Paul’s comment, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. What’s the deal with that? I have read the Scriptures enough times so that I know where he is going. He will boast in his weakness because when he is weak, God is strong.

I am fascinated and spurred on by how Christ-centered Paul really is. What motivates him is whatever gives most glory and honor to God.

Boasting generally seeks to bring honor to the boast-er, but not Paul. Even in his boasting, he seeks to bring honor to the Lord. Wow, I have so much still to learn about living for God’s honor and glory all the time…

O, Lord, I have so much to learn, so many places in my life to grow. Continue to work with me.  Continue to challenge me through Your Word. I pray this through my Savior Jesus; in His name. Amen.



Monday, November 21: 2Corinthians 10- Surface or substance?

You are looking only on the surface of things. These words from verse 7 started wheels turning within.  How often I live on the surface alone, not asking or observing the deeper things. I realize this is a bit of a bounce off of the text, but I seemed to hear God saying look below, contemplate deeply the life you live.

I am so blessed, my family is healthy and we all get along. There are no real tensions that prick at us. How often I pass over this, missing how blessed we are by the Lord. By not pausing to think on these things, I miss seeing the mighty hand of God at work. I think that is what the Lord wants me to realize today. His hand is so great!  Thank You, Lord.

Even though I read God’s Word daily, I can go through seasons where I forget to ponder the wonder of a God who would put His Word into written form so that I, and fellow believers, might have His Word with us. What a treasure God’s Word is and yet sometimes I take it for granted. And I take the fact that I can read and I have finances such that I can purchase a Bible for granted. This pops into my mind as yet another thing God wants me to realize today… God is so good.  Thank You, Lord.

And so it seems, Lord, that You want me to slow down and think deeply about life and to stop rushing from thing to thing, activity to activity.  This constant rush of life, in which I generally find myself, allows me only enough time to look at the surface of things alone.  And I am all the poorer because I don’t take the time to think deeply…

Lord, this is a surprising word, thank You. Now please help me to slow my internal motor so that I take time to think and ponder.  And in so doing, see the wonder of Your hand at work in my life and in the world around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, November 19: 2Corinthians 9- A little generosity goes a long way.

Late June through mid-July, I spent time in Jos, Nigeria on a 3-week mission trip. We stayed in friends’ house in a walled compound. The two gates were guarded 24/7 by guards who worked 3 weeks on, one off. It was not uncommon for us to take our leftover dinner out to the guards to share. On one such visit to the guardhouse, the guard, Peter, said, “Aye, I remember you from 2 years ago. You brought us food then, too. Thank you, thank you. I have been praying for you since then and hoping that I might see you again. Thank you.”

For two years the gate-guard Peter has been thanking God and praying for us because we shared our leftover meal occasionally with him. A little generosity goes a long way…

Paul understands the power of generosity too. In verses 13-15 Paul writes: Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

My simple thought is this…. how can I cultivate generosity as a part of who I am? And what can I do today to be generous to someone?

Think about it. No, better…..go out and be generous… cultivate generosity in your life.

O, God, you are so generous and lavish with Your love for me. Help me in turn to be generous with others… generous with my money, resources, time and words. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Friday, November 18: 2Corinthians 8- Finish the work.

Intentions do not always match execution, at least that is true for me. I want, desire, even speak that I will do this or that, and then I never quite complete it. My actions do not always match my heart…

Apparently it was so for the Corinthians as well. They pledged to give to the needs of others, but were lagging in collecting and sending their pledged offering. So Paul writes: Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means (11).

Finish the work… those were the first words to attach to my heart. When God puts a good thought in my (your) mind or heart…do it! (At this point God reminded me of a promise to pray for someone and encourage them by email, so I paused to do it as part of my morning time with God).

And that is very much the point the Spirit is hammering into my soul… do what you say you will do. Do the things God prompts you to do. Follow through, finish the work…

My thoughts drifted back to the text and the context which is about giving… finish the work,give what God put in your heart to give…

Lord, are there promises I have made or impulses I have entertained -promises and impulses that honor You and advance Your kingdom that is- that I have not completed. Help me, Lord, to be a man of my word, a man who finishes what I have pledged, promised and spoken.

God, I can be lax., I need the Holy Spirit to give me the ‘follow through’ when I lack it in my human nature. To be true to You…to honor You in all I say and DO… this is my prayer.  Prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, November 17: 2Corinthians 7- Fears.


Here I was reading God’s Word, reading that the great apostle Paul had fears. For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within (5). I was a little surprised to read this. I am sure that I have idealized Paul and made him in my mind to be more perfect than he was in person. Reading the last two words of verse 5, I realized that one of the perfect traits I projected onto Paul was never being afraid. But here he was, admitting he was harassed from the outside by conflict and from within by fears!

I have fears sometimes and reading that Paul did, too, normalized the fears I sometimes feel. The first time I went to Nigeria.  The first time I went to Nigeria with only my family –no mission leader to make the sticky decisions. Oh, I could go on listing other occasions, many of them are ‘firsts’ in my life… anyway, fears surface.

Though having fears normalized, the text also pressed me not to let the feats stop me from things God has called me to do. Yes, Paul had fears within and conflicts without, yet neither of these prevented him from doing what God called him to do. It is like God comforts me in one moment during my devotion time with Him and then He challenges me in another.

Each morning with God is fresh and new and real!

The next verse spoke volumes to me as well. In the midst of harassment God arrived. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus (6). God arrived in the form and person of Titus and poured comfort into Paul’s fragile hurting heart. Go God.

God has done that for me, too  In those moments of fear and harassment, comfort comes, often in the form of a sister or brother. And in the economy of God, there have been times when I am the encouraged and other times when I am the encourager…

I pray that if you are troubled, God will arrive in your life.  Keep your eyes open, God may arrive in the skin of a sister or brother in the Lord.

I pray too that you will keep your eyes and ears open because God may be prompting you to reach out and touch someone who needs divine encouragement …

Lord God, thank You for the many, many times You have showed up in my life and calmed a fear or injected courage in my life just when I needed it. You are so awesome, Lord. Thank you…

And thank You, also Lord, for the times You allow me to be Your agent of mercy, help, encouragement to a sister or brother. Lord, thank You for gracing me into life with You. I am blessed to be part of Your family and to be used to execute Your salvation plan. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.




Wednesday, November 16: 2Corinthians 6- God's favor, an interesting take.

Favor, God’s favor. I hear people speak of it.  I have prayed for God’s favor in others’ lives and people have prayed for it in my life. Routinely I associate God’s favor with having good things happen to me. If I have a need and people pray for God’s favor, they are praying that my need is met. Praying for God’s favor can also mean asking God to go ‘above and beyond’ in meeting my needs. Hopefully you get my drift. God’s favor is often associated with material needs being met, even extravagantly met, or blessings (generally of a material nature) flowing into my life.

How fascinating it was for me to read today’s chapter, particularly verses 2b-9.

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

I found it fascinating that immediately after Paul proclaims that now is the time of God’s favor, he lists some of the hardships, perils and trials he has faced in order to proclaim the Gospel.

Apparently in Paul’s mind (at least in this instance), God’s favor has little or nothing to do with personal benefit or material goods. Instead, God’s favor has everything to do with God blessing the proclamation of the Gospel. Personal cost to Paul for the privilege of proclaiming Jesus is inconsequential, so long as Jesus is preached and people respond.

Looking back, I should have grasped that from verse 2b where Paul uses a ‘couplet’, which equates the time of God’s favor with the day of salvation. I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

The greatest expression of God’s favor is not material blessings in my life or miraculous healing. The greatest expression of God’s favor is that upon hearing the Gospel, God’s grace was upon me so that I believed and was saved. God’s salvation is God’s favor…

Musing on all this, I realize again how shallow and “me” centric my faith is. I so easily fall into the trap that God’s favor is about me having an easy life. For Paul, God’s favor is about people coming to faith in Jesus not his personal wellbeing.

I have so much maturity still to attain…

Lord, continue to saturate my life with Yours. I pray that as You do, my self-centered focus and other lingering effects of the fall in my life will diminish and You will increase. O, God, I do not want to settle for easy faith or complacent faith, instead I long for vibrant, deep, Jesus-Gospel centered faith. O, God, continue to work on me… I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.



Tuesday, November 15: 2Corinthians 5- Standing before God

A number of verses and thoughts pricked at my soul, but it was verse 10 which stuck and became the foundation for my time with the Lord this morning. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Face to face with Jesus, face to face with the eternal Judge; that thought gives me pause. Jesus, the eternal judge, will require an accounting from me, from everyone.

From my reading of scripture it seems that there will be two elements of our judgment. There will be the salvation judgment; this pass/fail judgment hinges on faith in Jesus Christ. If we believe in Jesus then He clothes us in His righteousness and we are granted entrance into God’s kingdom and family.

A second element will be the judgment of the things we have done with our lives.This thought lingers. I will be judged by Jesus for the way I have lived my life, whether good or bad (recently I preached on this same theme from Luke 19:11-ff and the parable of the minas).

Introspection grew. I began to talk with the Lord:

God, how am I doing? Am I living a life that pleases You? Surely there are places I should improve, aspects of my life that need to grow. Show me, Lord. Reveal to me one concrete aspect of my life that needs more maturity and transformation into Christ-likeness. This is my prayer, O, Lord.  Prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, November 14: 2Corinthians 4- We do not loose heart.

Two times Paul mentioned that ‘we do not loose heart,’ verse 1 and 16. These two occurrences of the same phrase basically bracket the entire chapter, which suggests that potential discouragement abounded for Paul. To ward off discouragement, Paul:

·         Focused on God’s mercy (1)

·         Renounced evil and continued to dispense God’s calling in his life (2)

·         Got up whenever he was knocked down (7-12), and continually

·         Believed God and the resurrection of Jesus (13)

I moved from Paul to my life, contemplating what I do to ward off discouragement…

What do you do? Processing your discouragement is key. Discouragement will surface from time to time, but how we deal with it and how we combat it will make the difference.

Spend a few moments before moving on.  How do you deal with and combat discouragement?

Paul has his plan, and if you don’t have a plan or your plan doesn’t seem to be working, then I invite you to try Paul’s plan.

O, God, when discouragement comes, help me to face it and to ward it off by trusting in You and Your plan. Help me, Lord, to trust You with my life and to trust that You have a plan and purpose for everything.

I love You, Lord, and I am so thankful for Your Word and its practical application in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, November 12: 2Corinthians 3- How are you changing?

Questions flood my thoughts sparked by 18: And we … are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

How am I being transformed? What is God doing in my life right now? How have I changed and grown over the years?

The Word says I am being transformed by the Lord. I found it encouraging and intriguing ,thinking back over my life and noting how I have changed and grown. Yes, God is at work in my life. I have a long way to go… but I am on the way!

Thank You, Jesus, thank You, Father, Thank You, Spirit, for believing in me and for helping me grow and transform…

Before I closed my Bible for the morning, I thought about where God might be taking me and where God will be transforming me in the weeks and years ahead. I can’t say for certain. A few days ago God began working on my giving. I wonder what else will come by the Spirit of the Lord.

Jesus, I look forward to where You will take me and how You will transform me. All I ask God is that my life will bring You great joy and glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Friday, November 11: 2Corinthians 2- Restoration

Many believe that Paul’s words in verses 1-11, and particularly 5-11, are a continuing discussion of the immoral brother from 1Corinthians 5 who Paul instructed should be expelled from the church. Assuming this to be true, the immoral brother once expelled, came to his senses and apparently sought forgiveness and restoration. The expulsion, which was intended to be redemptive, worked as hoped.

This begs the question, how do we handle things when someone repents and seeks restoration back into the church or back into a relationship? Verse 7 shows the way: Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

Forgive and comfort…

Jesus forgave Peter after Peter denied him during the torturous hours of Jesus’ final night. And upon resurrection, Jesus intentionally reached out to Peter (Mark 16:7) so that Peter would be sure to come back to Jesus and not wallow in his defeat.

Paul instructs the church to live what Jesus would do…

Having pondered the situation of the text, I quieted myself and listened for the Spirit’s voice. As common with me, questions began to float in my thoughts. Am I forgiving or do I like it when those who hurt me stew in their own juices even after they repent and ask for forgiveness? Do I go the extra mile to comfort those who hurt me and repent so that he/she will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow?

Honestly, I am not above letting them stew a bit, even sometimes helping them stew a bit. However, God is showing me this morning how wrong I am to do that and to live that way. Ouch!

Where is God taking you in His word today? Was it to a similar place He took me or did God have a different and unique message for you?

Oh, Lord, thank You for showing me those rough spots in my life. I beg You, please, help me grow so that the rough spots become smooth and I emulate Your life, Jesus, more and more in mine. Amen.



Thursday, November 10: 2Corinthians 1- Despair and grace

Can a Christian despair? Can a believer find him/herself wondering if they will make it? Can a Christ-follower feel crushed?

After this morning’s reading I say ‘yes’,or more precisely, Paul’s experience teaches ‘yes’. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (8-10).

Paul was overwhelmed, far beyond his ability to endure, but God saw him through. God ultimately delivered Paul and in so doing Paul knew his deliverance was not by personal determination but by God’s grace. This in turn gave Paul strength to continue believing that God could and would deliver him. So a moment of God’s grace became a teaching moment for life…

I began thinking about moments when God’s grace turned the tables in my life… this exercise encouraged my heart!

And, God, now I pray that the encouragement I now feel from remembering your deliverances and other wonders of Your grace in my life would also strengthen me to continue believing that you will deliver me in the future. I pray God that as I contemplate your deliverances and graces it will give me courage to act more boldly in my service and witness of You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


PS: Another factor in Paul’s deliverance was the prayers of the saints (10). Having experienced an African mission trip this summer, I resonate with Paul’s thankfulness for prayers prayed on his behalf. I know I was carried by the prayers of many who daily prayed for me and the others on our trip.

May this be an encouragement to you to keep on praying for those people on your prayer lists. Your prayers make a difference. They really do.


Wednesday, November 9: Isaiah 66- Humble, contrite, tremble.

And so this is how Isaiah concludes: a reminder of judgment and a word of hope. What is it that determines which is for whom?

My eyes lit on verse 2b: This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. Another simple summary of what God desires (some day I should make a list of all these simple summaries I find in scripture). I spent time meditating on this single sentence.

I thought about the opening, This is the one I esteem. I don’t think I have ever contemplated God esteeming me or any person before. I looked up some definitions, “to regard highly or favorably,” “highly value” or “to regard with respect or admiration.” I thought about this.  If I or anyone lives this way, God highly values them and regards them favorably. That is quite a statement. So what does one have to do to have God esteem them?

Humble and contrite spirit… Being humble is to know our place, especially before God, to not think too highly of oneself.  Contrite is to understand our sense of guilt and have a desire to atone for ones’ sins. Together these emphasize that we know our place before God, recognizing God’s greatness and our smallness and dependency upon God’s grace and mercy.

Trembles at my word… As I ponder this, I see a person who stands before God in awe, amazed that God would speak to him or her. God’s Word spoken is treasured and commands obeyed. 

This person is esteemed by God. Oh, that I would live this way…

Oh, Lord, help me… help me to be humble and contrite. Help me to always put You first and to remember my place. You are the potter and I am the clay!

Lord, forgive my wanderings from Your way. I am dependent upon You for grace and forgiveness! Oh, Father God, thank you for speaking.  May Your Word be sweeter to me than honey, even honey from the comb! May I receive Your Word as air… something necessary for life itself. Oh, God, may I live a life that honors and gives You glory. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



A word about II Corinthians

Not much more than a year has passed since Paul's first letter. Paul has made his second visit to Corinth (his first visit established the church). This was an unpleasant visit.  False teachers, who were speaking against Paul, were swaying the church against Paul. So Paul sent Titus to Corinth to deal with these difficulties. When Titus returns to Paul he informs him that the majority of the Corinthians have had a change of heart, and returned to the true Gospel. That's when Second Corinthians is written.  Paul is expressing his thanksgiving, and encouraging those who are still listening to the false teachers to return to the true Gospel. This is one of Paul's more personal letters.  It lets us see how deeply he cares for and loves the churches.


Tuesday, November 8: Isaiah 65- A Day is coming.

Promises of a bright and wonderful future, seeds of heaven and a glorious day. As Isaiah’s word from the Lord winds down, God gives a glimpse into the day when He will make things new. From verse 17 to the end, brush strokes of a new Jerusalem are splashed on future’s canvas.

Here is but a portion of what God said through Isaiah:

"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. ….

The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD  (17-19, 25).

My thoughts immediately traveled to the last book of the Bible and to its next to last chapter where God puts the final accents of color on the canvas of what heaven will be like:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).

There is a future and a hope and a home for those who love the Lord. Hang in there, remain faithful to Jesus because you will not regret it.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to see a glimpse of heaven and eternity, the new heaven and earth You will create, fills my heart with strength. Like catching a glimpse of the finish line while still in the midst of the race, I am filled with both awe for Your love, compassion, and new found energy to keep running the race. Thank You and bless You for this gift this morning. Praise be to the One who has secured the future. Alleluia, Amen.


Monday, November 7: Isaiah 64- Remembering my place.

I found myself thinking I could… should… would pray verses 8 & 9 as my own prayer. Yet, O LORD, you are [my] Father. [I am] the clay, you are the potter; [I am] the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember [my] sins forever. Oh, look upon [me], [I] pray, for [I am] yours.

I prayed it, I owned it, I pondered it even more…

I am clay in my Heavenly Father’s hands.  Mold me, Father ,to be the man you desire me to be. Shape me for service, to be whatever You need or want me to be. I will be a latrine pot or a goblet, only let me be useful in Your service, O, Lord, my God…

I am deeply scared and imperfect, my sin abounds. I hate admitting my sin.  I feel small and weak, which I am. My sins are part of the reason Jesus needed to die. I am depraved. O, Father don’t hold my sins against me forever, I am in deep need of forgiveness. Jesus, my Lord and my God, thank You for nailing my sins to the cross. Oh, what a gift! Forgiveness, I will not take my pardon lightly, I will sing of Your great love.

I am Yours.  Yes, I am Yours, I surrender to You, Oh, my Lord and God, I humble myself before you!

My heart rends… I am so deeply grateful.

Praise to the Lord the Almighty the King of creation. Oh my soul praise Him, for He is my health and salvation! All you who hear, now to His temple draw near; Praise Him in glad adoration….

Praise to the Lord, Oh, let all that is in me adore Him! All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.


Saturday, November 5: Isaiah 63- Return of the King.

Tomorrow I will gather with my church family and we will come to the Lord’s Table. There, in the Bread and Cup, we will remember what Jesus did for us when he died on the Cross for our sins, offering us atonement. His life and flesh and blood were given for mine. Taken by itself, crucifixion is a brutal picture.  However, when it is understood in light of the sacrifice Jesus, God’s son and my Lord, made for me and all who believe in Him, it fills me with gratitude… the amazing gift Jesus gave.

As I stand at the Table, I also realize again that sin –my sin, your sin, our sin- has a penalty and must not be taken lightly. Sin earns judgment. Believing in Jesus and acknowledging his payment for my sins lifts the burden and wrath of sin. But without faith in Jesus, the guilt of sin remains and judgment will come…

These are the thoughts which coursed through my heart and mind as I read the opening of Isaiah 63. Garments dipped in blood, wrath poured out, battle fought, wicked judged and given their deserved penalty… this is no pretty sight.

The return of the king has two distinct outcomes. For his people the king’s return is a time of joy and dancing and triumph and praise. But for those who stood opposed to him it is a time of wrath, punishment and death.

I invite you, on behalf of Jesus, to choose life, choose Jesus, to acknowledge him Lord and God of your life and live. Otherwise the opening of Isaiah 63 is your date with destiny. Think about it…

Lord, reveal Yourself to those who do not yet believe that they may choose You and choose life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Friday, November 4: Isaiah 62- New Names.

As I read this chapter, I kept asking God what’s here for me to grab onto devotionally. Spirit speak to me. After reading the chapter I went through it again. The second time, as with the first, the closing verse drew my attention.

Verse 12: They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.

I found myself thinking about the 4 names… applying them to myself. Thinking about what God might be saying by calling His people, calling me, by these names.

Holy People: a set-apart-for-God people. That’s a rich name… being set apart for God is an honor. What a calling!

Redeemed of the Lord: the Lord cares for us so much He redeemed us, He rescued, He ransomed us. I found myself wondering why God would do that for me. What does God see in me? I found myself sitting in awe of God and His graciousness toward me.

Sought After: my first thought was God seeking after me or others… I bounced to what are the things people seek after….valuable things, meaningful things, important things… that’s what people seek after. God was saying that ‘we’, His people, are valuable, meaningful and important to Him. Amazement dawned as I thought about God saying He sought after me (you, us). God seeking after me… humbling.

No longer deserted: at first I thought that this is an odd name, more powerful in the original context as God spoke earlier about His judgment of Jerusalem. Now He was restoring their dignity. God restoring dignity… that became my mediation point. It is a name of blessing, God would take that which was once empty and fill it up. I began thinking about how Jesus has filled my life with the presence and wonder of God.

Before I prayed, I sat awed by what God thinks of His people… what God thinks of me. Another set of names came to mind from 1Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Lord, I pray that the names You have given me (us) would lead me to live more vitally and intentionally for You… that I would declare Your praises and Your good news to those I meet… I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, November 3: Isaiah 61- A garment of praise.

What an incredible chapter. I am familiar with verses 1&2, Jesus quotes them in Luke 4 and they have particular meaning to my home church. Because 1&2 were familiar, I paid special attention to what followed, reading the other verses slowly and often repeating lines. Rich, awe-inspiring, I soaked them in.

So many of the word-pictures grabbed me. Because of a myriad of issues circulating in my extended family, life has been draining the last month or more. Verse 3 was salve for my soul, 3 …the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Thank You, Lord, You provide what I need… the oil of gladness, a garment of praise! Please, Lord, send them special delivery, Oh, how I could use both…

Oil of gladness, I stopped and reflected upon the many blessings I have seen and received during the last month or more. Wow, even in this tough time God is there providing and blessing. I have so much for which to be glad! God is lubricating my gladness!

And as gladness seeps in and gratefulness blooms, I find praise for God growing within me. Is this God’s garment of praise?

My soul was heavy when I came to the Lord today. It feels a bit lighter now.

O, God, our help in ages past, our hope in years to come; our shelter from the stormy past and our eternal home… Yes, my heart sings, sings the praises of the Lord.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above you heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness. Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of gods, His love endures forever…  (Ps 136). Amen.


Wednesday, November 2: Isaiah 60- Light into the darkness

The chapter begins, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (1-3). The image of light took me back to words from Isaiah 9.2,6:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I sit and it is pitch black outside in my back yard, a cloud covered night.  I can barely see my hand in front of my face. I cannot make out one feature of my back deck, much less my yard. Travel, work, safety would be precarious at best. Darkness is fraught with danger when there is no source of light.

Martin Luther reminds us that “our world with devils filled threatens to undo us.” Life is filled with pitfalls and dangers. But God’s promise of light is a way through the treacheries of life.

Jesus, the light of the world, the child promised in Isaiah 9, and the servant of the Lord from the latter chapters of Isaiah, is God’s Light. Jesus will lead us back to the Father. His gift of forgiveness and restored relationship with God, the Father, is the Glory of the Lord that has risen upon us!

Take a few minutes today and consider your relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Do you believe in Jesus? Have you put your faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life? Are you walking and following Jesus? He is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness (John 8:12).

Jesus, thank You for revealing God’s light to me. Please send the Holy Spirit so that I, with courage and determination, will follow You, serve You and love You, to the glory of God, the Father. In Your name, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, November 1: Isaiah 59- Unconfessed sin.

God understands that we are far from perfect. He offers forgiveness from sins to all who call on Him. 1John 1:9 assures us of God’s cleansing (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.). And yet sin does carry its consequences. Isaiah 59:1-2 paints a vivid picture of sin’s consequence: Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Sin separates us from God and puts a barrier between God and us. Yes, confession of sin removes the barrier but as long as we let sin linger, we bear its consequences.

I have been reading the Westminster Confession lately and I found its authors comments succinct and helpful on this point when they wrote:

… the temptations of Satan, the world, and their old carnal nature, along with neglect of the means of their preservation, may lead believers to commit serious sins and to continue in them for a time. They consequently displease God and grieve his Holy Spirit, have some of the fruit of God’s grace and his comforts taken away from them, have their hearts hardened and their consciences wounded, hurt and offend others, and bring temporal judgments on themselves. (17.3)

It is never pleasant to ponder the pain I face when I choose to live in sin…

Lord, as I consider this, I realize all the more what a gift forgiveness is. Thank You, Jesus, for establishing the way for us to be forgiven… Your death on the cross and the call to repent and confess.  Thank You, O God, that when we confess You are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. And thank You that Your forgiveness is complete and that You purify us from ALL unrighteousness.

You are so good, Lord. My heart just wants to sing Your praise. Praise the name of Jesus. Praise the name of Jesus. He’s my rock. He’s my fortress. He’s my deliverer, in Him will I trust. Praise the name of Jesus… Amen.