Tuesday, July 31: 1Timothy 3 - The nobility of service.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task (1).

As I began reading the pastoral letters (1&2 Timothy and Titus), I decided that whenever a ‘trustworthy saying’ came up I would use it for my meditation that day.  So I find myself meditating on the verse above.

Funny how words fire off thoughts… my initial title for today was ‘a noble task’ and then the phrase, ‘the nobility of service’ sparked, so I changed it. As I begin to write, the word ‘nobility’ rattles in my thoughts. Nobility conjures up thoughts of kings and queens and days of the court.

Yesterday I watched the movie ‘The King’s Speech’. The second born, who became George VI, had a sense about him, an understanding that the throne was bigger and more important than the particular person. Even though the king had no real power, the king held an incredibly important place in British society and psyche. George VI understood the nobility of the office!

There is a ‘nobility’, in that same sense of the word, for those who serve as overseers, elders, in the church. The position is more important than the person, or at least that is how it should be. Overseeing God’s people, being a conduit for the Lord among His people has a sacredness to its calling. Setting one’s heart on that form of service is noble but as the description that continues shows it is not for the faint of faith.

What are you setting your hearts on? Is it something noble? Think about it.

Lord, may my desires, may the things I set my heart upon please You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, July 30: 1Timothy 2 - Pray for authorities.

We are in the midst of the political campaign season and since it is a Presidential election year it is all the worse. To me our political election process has grown into an ugly cancerous scar on the face of our nation. You might disagree. The process and mudslinging and pandering to voting blocks and special interests…uugghh, I cannot take it. Frankly, I listen to as little of it as possible.

Fall out from this is that I have a growing distain for politicians. I feel like they will say anything to get elected.

Into this personal backdrop comes verses 1 and 2. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Pray for national leaders (?)… I don’t even want to listen to them (either party mind you).

Immediately as these thoughts were erupting and being typed, I felt the pressure to repent. My attitude and distain has caused me to dismiss them as people and all of us are ‘mixed bags’ when it comes to motives and thoughts and priorities. Political leaders, like any person, need people praying for them.

I read on, This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (3-4). Part of the motivation to pray for authorities is that life will be peaceful and quiet so that the gospel can go forth and people saved!

I have never thought of it that way.

Pray for our political leaders so that life is even keeled and sharing the gospel will prosper. Wow, that is a very different approach to prayer for those in authority than I have previously considered…

Keep working on me, God. Keep challenging me with Your Word. Keep refining my thinking and my living and acting.

God, I pray that the men and women in office from local to national offices would govern well and life would be peaceful and stable. In that peace and stability Lord, multiply opportunities to share Jesus, so that true peace and security can enter people’s lives. I pray through Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.


Saturday, July 28: 1Tim 1 - A trustworthy saying.

By the time of 1Timothy, Paul is an older man and he has had time to think about his life and legacy. Paul has had time to mature. In this chapter he offers one of his ‘trustworthy sayings.’

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst (15).

I sat with those words before me.  Could I, would I, admit the same?

One of the subtle sub-cultures of the present day church seems to be, how do I say it, a thinking of oneself as better or more deserving the longer people are part of the church. I am not sure my words are conveying what I am wrestling with.

It seems as Paul ages, he understands all the more how much a sinner he was and continues to be, and therefore how great God’s grace to him was and continues to be. Too often in the present day, the longer people are Christians, the more arrogant and self-righteous they seem; or at least that is often what non-believes seem to think and feel about us, as Christians.

This apparently is not Paul’s case. The older and wiser he grows, the more he understands that Jesus came for sinners… peoples whose values and lifestyles and words and behaviors are anything but what God desires. It is only after grace grips their lives that change happens.

By remembering who he was before God grabbed him, Paul is able to reach out to others in the same or similar situations without judgment and invite them to Jesus, who then begins to clean up their lives. No wonder it is called Good News!

Lord, fill my mouth and my actions and my demeanor with GRACE, loads and loads of grace, so that when people disconnected from You see me, they feel that You will welcome them even as You welcomed me years ago. Please Lord, help me to show Your love, the love Jesus seemed to display as He regularly dined with sinners, and drew them closer and closer to You. Amen.


Friday, July 27: Philemon - Sharing your faith.

I love the story of Philemon and Onesimus. It is a tremendous story of forgiveness and redemption that can thrive within the family of believers in Jesus.

I have probably read this chapter 100 times in my life, so I asked God to show me something new today. And God did. It came from 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.

Philemon sponsors a church in his home, lives passionately as a Christ-follower and still Paul prays that Philemon will be active in sharing his faith…

It hit me that we can be loyal to our church and faithful Christ-followers and yet still have room to grow in personal faith sharing. There is a thought I must chew on!!

Sharing ones faith, what does that mean, suggest and/or imply?

Well, it can mean witnessing with those who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord. This comes to mind immediately. The longer I chew, the more I think that is not the sum total of what that phrase means. It could mean sharing resources with those in the body of Christ that have material needs I can fill. Maybe Philemon could help support some widows or orphans with his money (maybe I could too). Maybe it meant extending forgiveness to others in the church who hurt or wounded him, like Onesimus (maybe I need to share my faith in that way as well).

I continued thinking about what “sharing your faith” could mean so many things. Wow, it is a rich term!

Another mouthful to digest from this verse is the blessing that comes with sharing the faith… having full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Seems like God is saying, “It is when you live out your faith in Me that you understand the good things I have given to you.” There’s another thought worth digesting this morning!!!

Oh, God, thank You for the richness of Your Word. In a chapter I have read 100 times or more, there is still something new for me to digest and meditate on. Your Word is so rich. Bless You and thank You and Praise You. In and through my Savior, Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Thursday, July 26: Hosea 14 - Wisdom or folly?.

The longing of God’s heart is always for His people to return to Him when they stray away. Always.

This chapter opens with yet another call to come home.  No matter where you have been, come home. Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips (1-2). And so the Lord’s invitation to come home continues. 

As I continued reading, with my heart full of joy because God’s heart is that we always return after we have strayed. I paused for a few extra moments on the closing verse of Hosea. Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

The wisdom God speaks about is not book learning or personal IQ.  The wisdom spoken of here is revealed by the way of the heart, by the choices we make. When we choose God and His way, we show ourselves to be wise, understanding that the ways of the LORD are right.

Folly, not used here but the regular antonym of wisdom in Proverbs, is choosing to live outside of, or opposed to the ways of the Lord.

Is your life characterized by wisdom or folly? Think about it…

Oh, Lord, may I have wisdom to follow Your ways and walk in Your light. That’s it, Lord.  That’s my prayer for today. Amen.


Wednesday, July 25: Hosea 13 - Danger of self-satisfaction.

As I read the continuing saga of Israel (sometimes called Ephraim), my eyes and heart were attracted to verse 6. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.

I found myself pondering the dangers of becoming ‘satisfied.’ When I read about this kind of satisfied, I read it as being self-satisfied. I have all I need, I have provided all this for myself, I am set for life… I did, I am, I... This kind of “I” attitude closes out the need for God. Since I provided, produced, made, etc., why do I need God? The well-known Sinatra tune, “I did it my way” came to mind as I pondered this text.

As Hosea put it, as Israel grew more and more satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot God. Israel stands as a warning for me (for us). What they allowed to happen could happen to me.  If I grow self-satisfied in what I can do to care for myself… the negative of growing self-confident and self-satisfied is that I leave the Lord and His care for me out of the equation.

Lord, may it never be.  May I never grow satisfied with myself and my abilities that I crowd out trust in You. Keep me humble and reliant on You, Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.




Tuesday, July 24: Hosea 12 - Battling with our 'bents'.

Early on in this chapter the prophet spoke an interesting line about Jacob, In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God (3). The prophet seemed to be acknowledging that from the womb. Jacob had a bent (a character trait) that drove him to get ahead by any means. The grasping of the heel comes from his birth (Gen 25:26), where Jacob is born grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau. His name Jacob means ‘grasping the heel’ which has a figurative meaning of ‘deceiver.’ In fact, the next Genesis vignette after his birth is Jacob deceiving his brother Esau out of his firstborn birthright.

As I pondered this text, it occurred to me that Hosea was intimating that throughout his life. Jacob had a personal ‘bent’ to get ahead by any and all means, which often led him to do things that disappointed God.

I am not Jacob, my ‘bents’ are different, but the Spirit’s nudge reminded me that I do have bents, character traits from my earliest years. I will battle with these ‘bents’ all my life to keep within the bounds of honorable living. My ‘bents’ continually want to lead me into trouble. I have to submit them to the Lord regularly, daily, hourly…

I pondered some of my ‘bents’ and asked myself and God how I was doing handling them.How are you doing with your ‘bents’?

Lord, I submit my personality traits to You. You made me. You know my ‘bents’ and where they lead me astray and where they direct me into good and godly action. Lord, I submit my problem areas to You, asking for strength to control them, so that my life is lived for Your honor and Your glory until the time I live with You in glory forever. Amen.


Monday, July 23: Hosea 11 - A glimmer of hope.


God is upset with Israel. They have pursued other gods. Like a prostitute looking for the next trick, Israel was constantly looking for another god, another king, another ‘lover.’ The Lord calls them home but they never come, so the time for discipline and punishment has come.

Yet even in His justified anger, God holds out an olive branch, the compassion of His heart bursts forth… How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? … My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man-- the Holy One among you. … (8-9).

Compassion. God has compassion for Israel.

As I meditate on God’s compassion, I realize that I have been the recipient of God’s compassion more times than I could ever number. My mind scrolls through instances of God’s compassion in my life. My heart grows lighter with each remembrance.

God has been there. God is there. His love has washed over me time and again.

Before you put down this reading, I believe the Spirit is inviting you to recall and remember times of God’s compassion in your life. See if your heart doesn’t grow lighter with each remembrance!

Oh, God, You have been there for me. Your compassion has been great, Your love amazing. I might not even be alive were it not for Your compassion and love. Left to myself, I would likely have self-destructed by now. Thank You, bless You. Praise be to You Lord God, my God. Praise be to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Saturday, July 21: Hosea 10 - Word Pictures.

I love word pictures and scripture is filled with them. Hosea uses them regularly. Verse 7: Samaria and its king will float away like a twig on the surface of the waters. Does that communicate or what?!

Verses 11-12 paint a very different picture. Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground (11). Being a cow yoked for work wasn’t particularly appealing to me. Then again, cows like this are strong and able, the perfect animal to clear land and prepare it to produce crops. And God, after all, is the plowman.

I was impressed how Hosea altered this image into a call to spiritual maturity. Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Sow … righteousness. I pondered what I have to do to sow righteous for myself. The character I need to develop, the attitudes I need to convey, the kind of speech I need to use and not use.

Sow … righteousness and reap … unfailing love. Reap unfailing love from whom? God? People? I suspect the latter is in view. God has promised His hesed (unconditional love). People, on the other hand, generally respond to the actions of others. Aren’t nice people, people full of God’s fruit, often rewarded with kindness and love from others? Ponder this…

Break up your unplowed ground, this picture launched me into thinking about the many hard places in my life that still need to be broken up… mean-spirited places, impatient places, prejudiced places.  It hit me; these are the very places where after I ‘break up the ground’, I need to sow righteousness.

The final words of the prophet became my prayer.

Oh, Lord God, even furloughed and planted land needs rain for crops to grow.  Please shower my life with Your gifts of mercy and love and righteousness. Without Your showers, I will forever be a barren and arid land. I can only do so much to grow.  Without Your blessing of showers, I will never grow.

Lord God, I will seek You… I will seek You until You come with Your grace-filled showers.

Through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.



Friday, July 20: Hosea 9 - What's your life-trajectory?.

The message of so many of the prophets is difficult reading….doom and gloom, doom and gloom. Hosea’s message has become like that; every chapter is filled with chastisement.

Verse 7: The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.

Verse17: My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.

I hear people complain that the prophets only spoke judgment to Israel.  Where’s the good news? I’ve been thinking about that since I am reading so many of the prophets this year. The prophets spoke over the course of hundreds of years. For hundreds of years God has been trying to get their attention.  Does that mean that God is some kind of an ogre? NO! God cared. Israel was abandoning God and His ways and God was calling them back home.

Over the last few years I have noticed more and more gruesome TV ads trying to get people to stop smoking. It seems that the ads are appearing more frequently. Does the presence of these ads on TV mean our government, who sponsors the ads, is some kind of an ogre? NO, they recognize the insidious nature of smoking and how bad it is for one’s health and they are trying to encourage people to stop smoking.

God was trying to get people to stop sinning…

Wait, God’s Word is for today as well as back then. Hosea’s word is a word for me to check my behavior and my life so that I stop turning from the Lord!

Judgment awaits people today who remain in their sin, just as it awaited Israel if they remained in their sin.

Think about it… what is the trajectory of your life? Are you moving closer to God or moving away from Him?

Lord, help me to pause today from the rush of life and examine my life trajectory.  What should it do to move closer to You and what should I avoid so that I move closer to You as well?  Show me, Oh Lord, that I may draw nearer to You with every breath I take… Amen.


Thursday, July 19: Hosea 8 - It is time for discipline.

Yesterday, Hosea called one more time to a people who over and over again rejected God’s call to return. Today God’s message through Hosea says ‘enough is enough’, God will now discipline… Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law. Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!' But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him (1-3).

The trumpet of judgment has sounded, because people have said with their lips, our God we acknowledge you, but their lives do not confirm what their lips proclaimed!

Do I ever speak a better faith than I live? Do I ever put on airs and pretend to be more of a Christ-follower than my actions will confirm? I am reminded of a line from a Lloyd Ogilvie sermon, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I chewed on this thought for the remainder of my time with the Lord…

Lord, may my life be a living testimony to You, Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.



Wednesday, July 18: Hosea 7 - God's relentless pursuit of us.

God longs to heal Israel, but all of His moves to restore or heal lead only to more sin (1)… The inner corruption of Israel show through over and over again.

The whisper of God reminds me that that my inner corruption shows through again and again too…

Even though I found myself attracted to verse 1 for my morning meditation, I wasn’t quite sure what the NIV was saying… so I read it in different translations…

NIV: "Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. …

ICB: I would like to heal Israel. But their sin can be seen by everyone. The wickedness of Israel is too well-known. They cheat one another. They break into other peoples' houses. There are robberies in the streets.

MSG: "Every time I gave Israel a fresh start, wiped the slate clean and got them going again, Ephraim soon filled the slate with new sins, the treachery of Samaria written out in bold print. Two-faced and double-tongued, they steal you blind, pick you clean.

Listening to these different translations cleared up my uncertainty. God was continually healing (forgiving, giving a fresh start to) Israel and each time Israel returned to her cheating, lying, stealing, sinning ways. God sent Hosea to give Israel yet another chance to change and truly return to Him.

I flashed to my own life. All too often I slide back into my same sin-patterns after God heals (forgives, gives me a fresh start).

My morning with my Lord reminds me that I must never take God’s forgiveness and mercy for granted. Never.

Oh, Holy Spirit, help me to change, to grow, to mature, to be truly transformed, so that each and every day I seek to live like You would have me live. That others would see Jesus, be introduced to Jesus, be drawn to Jesus through my living. Amen.


Tuesday, July 17: Hosea 6 - Come home.

Come home, come home; no matter where you have been, come home.

As I read this chapter, particularly with its opening invitation to return, I thought of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Even though we think of the Old Testament God as harsh and judgmental, this chapter paints a portrait that breathes with the spirit and message of the loving gracious New Testament.

NO matter where Israel has been, God is calling them to come home: Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds (1).  God will heal; God will bind up… like the Father in Jesus’ parable, God will embrace!

After a while of pondering, my thoughts slid to verse 6: For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. As I ruminated on this, it struck me, God desires relationship not just rule-following. I hope this isn’t too far a stretch.

Mercy suggests the ways of God have moved into one’s inner being. This happens as I spend time with a person, appreciate a person, watch and learn from a person… when my time with a person infects me and changes me. That’s relationship.

Acknowledgement…  recognizing God and His place in life and my life. After all, my relationship with the Lord is different than between two friends or lovers. God after all, is God. Yet, God desires a relationship with us!

So as I sat quietly with Jesus this morning. I contemplated the love of God He brought into my life and the relationship He invites me into…

What a wonderful morning in God’s Word.

Oh, Lord, I bask in your love and mercy this morning. I pray that it so infects me that it oozes out all day long as I meet and interact with others. May they see a love in me that I can then explain comes from You. Hallelujah. Amen.


Monday, July 16: Hosea 5 - God is watching.

I always enter God’s Word with expectation, wondering where and how God will speak with me. This morning I found myself immediately attracted to verse one. I made a mental note and continued reading. The final verse also interested me.

Verse 1: Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you: You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor. God calls to the priests…the religious leaders. God calls to the people. God calls to the royalty… the political leaders. I found myself thinking about this.

Sometimes God singles out the religious leaders or the political leaders but I cannot recall a time when God so specifically speaks to leaders and people together.

We all bear responsibility, leaders for leading properly and people for living appropriately. And when we don’t, God may call us out, too. I ran this thought through the differing hats I wear. As a religious leader, am I leading properly, leading people toward faithfulness to God? Am I helping them grow in faith?

You may not be a religious leader, but you could ask similar questions of yourself with regard to children you may have, or a Sunday school you teach, or a friend you mentor.

Next I spent some time thinking about my personal life. Am I living appropriately? Do I live my everyday in a manner that pleases my Lord? Immediately I recalled doing a chore yesterday I don’t like to do. I found myself growing frustrated even angry. It was not a stellar moment. No one else was present to see my darker side… no one, that is, except God.

At this point the chapter’s final verse, 15, cued back up in my thoughts. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.… God was angry with Israel. He expressed His anger and would now wait for their response, for them to admit their guilt.

The Spirit’s nudge came, “Bill, will you admit your guilt to me?.”

Clearly my time for prayer had arrived.

Lord, I am in dire need of You. I messed up yesterday and do every day. My manner of living was not. and often is not. pleasing to You. Sometimes I put on false airs and even fool myself. Forgive me, Lord. I repent and am truly sorry for my sin which is ever before me. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter then snow. Then I will praise You and my lips will be loosed to praise You.

Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, July 14: Hosea 4 - What God notices.

God’s indictment against Israel is spoken. Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land (1). The remainder of the chapter is a litany of wrongful things they are doing.

What caught my attention is how the Lord opened. He was looking for evidence of those 3 positives noted in verse 1. He did not find any; instead He found a bunch of junk (verse 2-19).

All too often I think about the “don’ts,” the things God does not want me (us) doing. But what the Lord first looked for was the “do’s.” I spent my devotional time considering the 3 ‘DOs’ God mentioned in verse 1.

God looked for faithfulness, doing what God deemed right in any given situation. It would involve how we act or speak to someone else. It would involve the gods we worship. It involves the manner of life we live.

God looked for love. My sense is that the love God was looking for was love toward others. I immediately thought of God’s love definition in 1Corinthians 13:4-8a. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…

God looked for acknowledgment of God. God looked for a people who by word, action and lifestyle lived as if God was present in their lives… lived as if God existed and mattered.

As I was pondering these attributes I understood by the Spirit that they are meters I could use to measure my life and my living… faithfulness, love, acknowledgment of God. A simple life-evaluating triad.

Lord, thank You for this practical and simple word. Help me to move beyond merely reading and into doing, by living in a manner that is faithful, loving and acknowledging of You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Friday, July 13: Hosea 3 - Paid for twice.

How devastating would it be to have a wife who forsakes you to be a prostitute? I simply cannot imagine. I have no frame of reference.

Hosea marries a prostitute. I can understand that, though it is not easy for me to understand. Then she abandons him to return to that lifestyle and he goes and buys her back with the pledge that she can live with him many days, adding the caveat of being faithful this time.

I really don’t know how to process that depth of commitment, dare I say that depth of love.

God is using Hosea’s actual life as a prophetic reflection for God’s love and commitment to Israel. Though Israel strayed again and again to religious prostitution seeking other gods, God will buy her back yet again!

Covenant love displayed… an Old Testament version of the story of the prodigal Father!

The Spirit whispers, God loves me. God loves me. God loves me with a love so deep that He will buy me back again and again

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so… Yes, that is exactly what the Bible tells me!

Thank You, Lord God Almighty. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit… for Your incredible love. Amen!



Thursday, July 12: Hosea 2 - Adultery as a picture.

Hosea continues to use adultery as a word picture for Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord.

The picture pains me. I have sat too many times with a spouse in deep pain because of an unfaithful spouse. That pain runs straight to the heart, it pierces like no other. In addition to the expected hurts of rejection, lying, and cheap words, there is a dirtiness, a wondering, during what should be the most intimate times, will he/she do it again? Can I really trust? Am I being used… again?

This is the picture God uses to convey what Israel has done.

And yet despite the gravity of the situation and Israel’s utter lack of faithfulness, repeatedly craving after other lovers, God closes the chapter with: "In that day I will respond," declares the LORD-- "I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'"

I found myself meditating on the incredible depth of love it takes to say and do this…

God’s love for His people, God’s love for you and me, His people, is immense. I soaked in the love of God this morning. I soaked some more in thoughts of God’s love for me…

Lord, I do not deserve Your love anymore than Israel. I fall short, I sin, I turn from You. And yet You keep on loving. You keep on caring and forgiving.

I am overwhelmed by Your love…

Oh, Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit that I may grow into Your love and that I will grow stronger in loving You with my whole heart and mind and soul and strength…

Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, July 11: Hosea 1 - Doing what God asks.

I found myself caught up in thinking about Hosea’s life and all the things God asked him to do. God directs him to marry an adulterous woman. Was she a prostitute or a woman who previously been married was caught in adultery and divorced? The text isn’t clear but technically if had she been caught in adultery, she and her lover should have been stoned. So it is more likely that she was a known prostitute.

Let that sink in a moment.

This is not some wonderful ‘redemption’ story like the movie “Pretty Woman.” Not at all! Hosea is directed to marry a prostitute with all the contempt that would mean in his day and culture and even more so he is to take her previously born illegitimate children as his own. "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness..."(2).

Then he has his own children with Gomer and the names he gives them are symbolic.

Note: he fathers 3 children with Gomer, which likely indicates 3+ years. Hosea has a long-term call.

I pondered everything asked of Hosea…

to marry a wife that would bring him disgrace

to parent children not his own, who were the product of illicit sexual encounters

to father his own children and name them with names that would be a constant reminder of God’s distain for His people. And how could it not affect Hosea who has to call and address his children with those names (not loved, etc.) every time he calls to them?

What would others think of all this?

I found myself wondering how I would react to God directing me to do these things. Would I do them? Would I be faithful like Hosea? Obviously, I would love to think I would easily be obedient to the Lord but would I, really?

This led me to examine my actions and my day-to-day faithfulness or more honestly my oft times lack there of…

Oh, God, compared to Hosea, You have asked very little of me.  Though I regularly fall short, You continue to love me and to forgive me. As I sit I am overwhelmed by Your grace and mercy. I have no recourse but to thank and praise You for redeeming and loving one such as me.

Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, July 10: Colossians 4 - Season your conversations.

It’s funny how God can give you a living lesson. I happened to be out of town as I read this text and write the devotion. I'm in a gorgeous spot enjoying a most beautiful morning. I start my reading and verse 6 leaps off the page. That's what I want you to meditate on this morning, comes the whisper of God. I make my mental note.

Before I can move on the owner of the B&B I am staying at pops on to the porch to chat. Verse 6 keeps running through my mind as we chat about the 'nothings' of life. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Then as quickly as Tom appeared, he is off to other things.

My natural inclination was to ‘shoosh’ him away so I could enjoy, in peace, this pristine NE morning in Gloucester, MA… crisp, cool, and beautifully sunny with boats gliding in and out of the harbor.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone... I think about it, one has to engage people in order to season a conversation!

I doubt my conversation had any real spiritual seasoning, the conversation was to short. But the lesson was experienced...

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Think about it.  It is how the Gospel goes forth... person-to-person, one-on-one, seasoned-conversation by seasoned-conversation.

Lord, help me season my conversations with the salt of the Gospel… Amen.



Monday, July 9: Colossians 3 - Set your minds and change your clothes.

Once Jesus Christ affects your jailbreak from the prison of the evil one and you are saved, it is time to begin living a new way. Confessing Jesus is the first step in living with and for Jesus. For the remainder of our lives we are learners… learning the ways and habits of living in Christ. Like someone who moves to a new country, we have new rules and new ways of living that we need to assimilate into our lives.

Paul begins explaining the new way of Jesus by writing, Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (2). New things need to occupy the spaces of our mind… things of God (‘above’) rather than the things we have entertained before Christ came into our life. Life change begins in the mind as we reorient our thinking to align with the ways of God.

Next Paul says that we are to trade in our prison clothes for new clothes, clothes befitting our new life in Christ. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (12-14).

Clothes are a word-picture for the values and character-traits of our new life.

As I review Paul’s list, I thought those are traits I appreciate seeing in others with whom I have dealings. They are positive ‘world-would-be-a-better-place-if-everyone-lived-that-way’ traits. Then when I look at myself I see how much work I have to do to model these…

Oh, God, keep tutoring me, keep training me, keep showing me how to live Your way! Please Lord, teach and train me… through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen




Saturday, July 7: Colossians 2 -Christ the center and end-all.

The wonder of Colossians is the incredible portrait of Jesus that it paints. Chapter 2 shouts that Jesus is the center and end all of the faith. Nothing else need be added.

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.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (6-8).

Receive Jesus… live in Jesus… root yourself in Jesus… build yourself up in Jesus… overflowing with thankfulness. Is that a powerful nugget or what?!

Don’t follow ‘hollow’ human-made principles, follow Jesus Christ. Build your life and faith on what the Word says of Jesus… another tremendous nugget! 

Lord, help me to build my life on these truths. In and through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Friday, July 6: Colossians 1 -To be mature in Christ.

Colossians is one of my favorite books.  It seems like there is richness in every verse. The picture of Christ painted in this chapter stops me every time. Generally my image of Christ is of his incarnation; a man teaching or healing or on the cross.  However, but being the fullness of God, wow, that is quite another image.

Where I lingered, however, was in verses 10-12. 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. I marvel the effect Paul desires from his prayer for the Colossians.

Live a life worthy of the Lord…

Please Him in every way…

Bearing fruit in every good work…

Growing in the knowledge of God…

Growing stronger with all power so that:

      They might have GREAT endurance


      Joyful thanksgiving

When I put all this together, I see an incredible definition of what it means to be mature in Christ.

I slowly reviewed and pondered what Paul prayed for the Colossians. Do I see those traits growing in me?

Oh, God, would that those traits be seen growing in me!  Amen.


Thursday, July 5: Daniel 12 - Live faithfully till you die.

God’s final word to Daniel was the word I chewed on this morning. "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance" (13).

I have the impression that Daniel was yearning for more information. “When will all this happen, Lord?  Tell me.”

After God gives out the info He wants to give away, the Lord brings the episode to a close with those final words to Daniel… "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."

Enough Daniel, here’s how you (a person wanting to obey and follow me) should live:

Go your way… continue to live faithfully.

You will rest… until you die.

Then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance… when the end comes you will receive your reward.

Not a bad way for all of us to live!

Continue to live faithfully until you die and when the end comes, you will receive your reward.

We may not have all the answers we want, but the One we serve, follow, and obey does. And this is a life that pleases Him.

Lord, I have prayed before and I continue to pray.  Help me to be a Daniel, a man of faith who lives faithfully for You day in and day out and trusts You with the rest. Amen.


Wednesday, July 4: Daniel 11-12:2- Protected and Delivered.

When I came to the end of the chapter, I kept reading… it was actually verses 12:1-2 which caused me to pause and meditate. At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Ahh, Daniel is visioning the end of times. The battles of chapter 11 lead to the end. These may be the battles depicted in Revelation.

My heart was drawn back to 12:1-2. God has a prince protecting His people. That’s worth chewing on.

God’s people have a protector. Reading of the ‘time of distress’ seems to indicate that some, among God’s people, will experience travesty during this ‘time of distress’ but the people of God will not be destroyed. They are protected!

The great promise of God is not that His people will NOT suffer, but that everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered. Along with this, they will be granted everlasting life at the Resurrection.

Thanks be to God!  Lord, give me strength to follow You wholeheartedly until my day comes to close my eyes in death or I see Your deliverance. Amen.


Tuesday, July 3: Daniel 10 - God's reward.

A chapter likes this lends itself to much speculation.  Who is the king of Persia? Why was the speaker detained 21 days? What does it mean to have Michael as your prince?

If you have been reading with me for awhile you probably guess that something else caught my devotional attention. Verse 12: Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.

God has collected and heard all of Daniel’s words (prayers). Now the time is right to respond.

The first chapter of Daniel is many years in the past. Daniel has been praying three times a day for decades. And God has been listening… listening to the prayers for immediate attention and the prayers that have continued through the years.

God listens to our prayers.

I know that in my head and through my experience. Yet, for some reason the way the text put it this morning hit me with the reality that God listens to all our prayers and all our cries to Him. Before I get too wide-eyed about this, I looked back at the verse.

This promise of listening is preceded by Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God….

I began to ponder the demeanor Daniel displayed in verse 12. Daniel set his mind to gain understanding. Daniel worked at knowing God and God’s Word. Daniel pondered, studied, thought about, and connected the Word of God with his life.

Daniel humbled himself before the Lord. Earthly promotions, titles, and influence did not puff Daniel up when he came before the Lord. Years of faithfulness didn’t influence Daniel to make demands of God because he somehow earned the right to be heard. (I remember yesterday’s thought that it was God’s mercy, not righteousness, that was the backbone of Daniel’s prayer times).

Humility of heart and a studied mind… these characterized Daniel’s life. How did God reward Daniel?  He rewarded him by listening to his prayers, hearing his prayers, and now answering his prayers because the time is right.

God, again I long to be a Daniel, a man of humility and studied mind. These are character traits I can pursue. Grant me the strength, diligence and perseverance to be a Daniel. Through Christ, my Lord, I pray. Amen.


Monday, July 2: Daniel 9 - Banking on the mercy of God.

Daniel prays a powerful prayer much of which connects with me, particularly the opening sections. Within the opening section it was verse 18 which spoke most deeply to me. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes …. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

Daniel captures the heart of repentance and prayer.  We come before God, not because we are good, but because God is kind and merciful.

I spent time thinking about God’s mercy. What joy! What wonder filled my soul!

Oh, God, I am in awe of Your love and mercy and kindness. What can I say beyond Thank You and Bless You? Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.