Friday, August 31: Jonah 4 - God's compassion.

The contrast between Jonah’s anger and God’s compassion is obvious in this chapter. Jonah is angry because he knew God would be compassionate on Nineveh and relent. He just knew. I tried to step into Jonah’s anger. He has been taken from his home, had to travel to an enemy city and preach the coming of God’s wrath only to watch the city repent and be spared. Jonah must have looked like a fool. And so he was angry at all he had to do… angry that his enemy is spared… angry that what he had to preach didn’t happen!

Stepping into God’s position, God sends one person to preach a message of doom, the recipients of the message repent and so they are spared. 120,000 people experience a revival and God is praised… and compassion flows.

I thought, I (we) can be so myopic, so self-centered that we see all of live through the lens of our singular life. God wants to reach people so they know His name and praise Him, yet we don’t want to be bothered or inconvenienced to spread the News.

It is as if Jonah wanted to see them die rather than repent!

Oh, God, am I like that??? Would I rather have people die in their sins, at enmity with You, Oh Lord, than be inconvenienced to speak the Good News of Jesus to and with them.

Oh, Lord, forgive the hard-heartedness of my life and soften my heart with the compassion of Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)

Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, August 30: Jonah 3 - God of second chances.

The chapter begins with a clear reference to Jonah’s second chance to obey the Lord. He does. He preaches to Nineveh that God’s wrath will come in 40 days and the city overturned. The Ninevites do what Jonah did not do; they immediately listen to the Lord and repent in sackcloth and ashes with fasting. And God, true to His character, gives Nineveh a second chance. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened (10).

Second chances… how often God has given me second (third, even fourth) chances. The psalmist says many times, ‘God is slow to anger and abounding in love.’

Second chances… my heart sits thankfully blessing the Lord for His second chances in my life.

Second chances… a still small voice queries me, “Bill, do you offer others second chances?” Ah, the wonder of being a follower, a disciple of Jesus… learning to live like Jesus modeled!

Lord God Almighty, I am eternally and temporally grateful for all the second chances You have extended to me. Thank You, Lord!

A growth point I am sensing in my life is to become more of a man who extends second chances to others.  Help me, Lord, to grow in the compassion and wisdom of extending second chances to others. I pray through Jesus, my Lord. Amen.



Wednesday, August 29: Jonah 2 - Lessons from times of trouble.

Mentally and spiritually, where do you go when you are in trouble? Truth be told I don’t go to one ‘place,’ my immediate circumstances have much to do with where I go mentally and spiritually.

Jonah has been tossed into a raging sea and swallowed by a big fish. Chapter 2 begins, from inside the fish… I would consider Jonah’s predicament being in trouble! Jonah turns to prayer. And the recorded prayer of chapter 2 is powerful and its depth suggests Jonah is a man familiar with prayer and the prayers of the Psalms.

Within his prayer it was the sentence of verse 8 that caught my attention. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. The first thing I did with this sentence is let it settle into my soul. I read it, re-read it slowly, pondering its message. I was particularly attracted to the ending. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

What a sad state of being.

I thought about the sentence, writing it as if it were a positive rather than a negative. It would read something like this:

Those who cling to the Lord find grace that becomes theirs.

Interesting how our minds can turn a thought over and over.

Grace dominated the remainder of my morning with God. The Lord God, my God (hopefully your God) is the giver of abundant and immeasurable grace. Why would I go anywhere else?

One day many followers began to leave Jesus because they found His teaching too difficult (John 6). Jesus turned to the disciples and asked if they were going to leave too. Peter responded for the group, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Jonah understands that the Lord also has immeasurable grace.

Grace, grace, God’s grace; Grace that is greater than all my sin. Grace, grace, God’s grace; Grace that can pardon and forgive…

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see…

Oh, God, how sad it is that people who cling to any god other than You ,forfeit grace that could be theirs.

Oh, God, how wonderful it is for those of us who cling to You because You shower us with amazing, immeasurable, wonderful, saving, life-giving grace!

Thank You, Lord. Thank You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, August 27: Obadiah - What should I do?.

You see someone in trouble, what should you do? I know the question is general, but ponder it a bit before you read on.

Obadiah’s message is for Edom, descendants of Esau, brother to Jacob. Edom stood by as Israel was attacked and did nothing. Now the Lord is about to punish Edom because they did nothing. Verse 10-11 make this plain: Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.

God judges Edom, who stood by and watched, as if she were one of the pillagers!

That is a frightening message.  How often to I sit idly by when stuff happens? Why should I get involved? Why should I risk my neck? Why? Because I am a brother… I am supposed to care.

I remember that Cain, who kills his brother Abel, lies to God that he doesn’t know where his brother is. “Am I my brother’s keeper,” Cain rejoins God (Genesis 4:9).

Obadiah answers that question. “Yes, we are our brothers keeper!”

God leads me on a journey of introspection… “Am I a good brother’s-keeper, God asks me!”

Are you? Think about it.

Lord, ‘sometimes’ is the best reply I can make. Sometimes I seek to help, other times I look the other way pretending I don’t know… Oh, God, forgive me… forgive me. Amen.


Tuesday, August 28: Jonah 1 - God's passion for people.

Jonah’s story is a classic from the Bible. Sunday school children and even people outside the faith know the story of Jonah. As I sit with this classic, my silent prayer is that God will speak, revealing Himself and His ways to me…

Most times when I read this account, I focus on Jonah, the primary figure of the story. This morning I was fascinated by the other sailors. One aspect of this chapter is their coming to faith in the Lord.

As the ship sets sail, the sailors are all worshippers of other unnamed gods. The storm throws everyone at the mercy of their god. Each prays, begging their god to calm the storm. Nothing happens.

Eventually the lot falls to Jonah.  He is the culprit. And his solution… be tossed into the sea and God will calm the storm. After doing everything possible, short of throwing Jonah overboard, the men acquiesce in the hopes that Jonah is right and their lives will be spared.

The text explains that when Jonah is thrown overboard, the storm stops… clearly a cause and effect. There is no doubt that the two events are connected. At this, the men see the Lord for who He is and worship Him. Verses 15-16 record all this ever so succinctly. Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. 

God’s passion for people… that’s one of the first things I see. God even uses the disobedience of Jonah to bring people to a deeper understanding of who He is!

Lord, would that I have the same level of passion for others that You have… that in the good and the bad of life, I would see opportunities to point others to You. Lord, would, too, that I had the faith of Jonah to believe your miraculous ways… ways that ultimately allow You to be made known to people outside the family of faith.

Use my life, Lord God, to serve You, Your honor and glory, even should it cost me my earthly life.  Use me for Your glory. Amen.


Saturday, August 25: Amos 9 - So far beyond us.

I found myself marveling at God. Who is this God who has the right and ability to judge and from whom no one can escape? I read, re-read and pondered verses 2&3: Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. We cannot escape God… the grave, the heavens, the deepest sea and highest mountains all are within His view and reach.

These word pictures reach deep into my being… nothing is hidden, nothing gets past, no place is beyond the knowledge and reach of God.

Again, like one day last week, I find myself sitting in awe of God. His strength, power, knowledge, reach, etc.… so far beyond anything I can relate to. And yet, my awe grows because this same God longs to know me, to connect with me and to be in relationship with me. I am awed and humbled.

Alleluia… Amen. I have no words, just simple praise for God, my God, the One who saved me and loves me…

Alleluia. Praise to the Lord. Alleluia… Amen.


Friday, August 24: Amos 8 - Cheating.

God confronts Israel for their cheating… sellers cheating buyers, skimping on weight, adding fillers, etc. It is too easy to dismiss this as bad people doing bad thingsbbut they were religious people.

God’s not so subtle Word came to me, “Bill, this is My time with you. This is My Word to you. Don’t cheat, or better, be honest in your dealings with others.”

Lord, it is much easier to point fingers at others than to be honest in examining our own lives. Forgive me, Lord.

I have prayed before and I continue praying… Lord, make me a man of integrity in every area of my life! Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, August 23: Amos 7 - Standing in the gap.

There were a number of stopping points on my reading journey through chapter 7 this morning. After finishing the chapter, it was Amos’ conversation with the Lord that drew me into meditation.

God reveals His plans against Israel and Amos pleads for Israel. Even though the conversation is brief, Amos’ pleas impacted the outcome. This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts… When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!" So the LORD relented. "This will not happen," the LORD said. …

The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire… Then I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!" So the LORD relented. "This will not happen either," the Sovereign LORD said (1-6).

Twice Amos pleaded for God to stop and twice God relented…

It hit me, intercession is powerful! Standing in the gap and praying for people or nations can impact the outcome. No wonder Paul commends us to pray for others, for rulers and for those in authority.

Lord, as I continued to ponder what I am seeing and hearing in the text, I realized how poor I am at intercession. Oh, God, help me grow here. Help me grow… Amen.

Wednesday, August 22: Amos 6 - Complacent.

From the first downbeat sounded in this chapter until the final note, God grabbed me and confronted me. Have I grown comfortable, lazy and uncaring? Do I live for myself, seeking pleasure when I could help and serve others who have real needs?

Verse1: Woe to you who are complacent in Zion … It becomes obvious as the chapter continues that complacency shows itself in Israel….well-off, living high –ivory couches, choice meats (in a day when eating meat was not a daily occurrence), and wine by the bowlful.

I contemplated the questions God presented to me above as I considered the option that I, too, could be complacent as described.

As the chapter neared its conclusion, God opened my eyes to a second demonstration of complacency that He despised. Verse 12b But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness. Not only were the well-off living for self, they were also denying justice to those in need. And if that weren’t enough, the general good they could/should be doing (living righteously), they had perverted so that what spewed out of them was like poison! [An example that came to me: instead of speaking kindly and nicely to others (righteous living) they spoke meanly and degradingly to others (poison)]

Oh, God, do I deny justice or close my eyes where I could speak or act for justice? Lord, have mercy on my soul.

Lord, do I change righteousness into poison with my manner of living? Lord, have mercy on me!

Lord God, pierce me with Your eyes, change me with Your Word, that I might live to lift up and help others in Your world… that others may see my good deeds and praise You, my Father in Heaven. Amen


Tuesday, August 21: Amos 5 - Seek. but what? .

The word ‘seek’ attached to my heart and thoughts as I read. ‘Seek’. I pondered those things the prophet bade us to seek.

Verse 4: This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live;

Verse 6: Seek the LORD and live ….

That seems pretty straight forward,  We are to seek the Lord; the God of the Bible, the One who makes Himself known in the Bible. Seek Him. Okay, I pondered, how do I do this? The most obvious answer is to get to know Him through what He has said, in this case through what He has written… what He says about Himself.

Today as I write, is actually a Saturday and there is nothing I have to do; a rarity. With the house to myself I scanned Facebook while I enjoyed a cup of tea. A college friend is celebrating an anniversary, another friend posted pictures of picnic in a park with friends and lots of young kids. Some post political commentary, another posted her graduate school acceptance… it was a 30 minute walk with old and new friends. Life is so rich. But I have to admit there are always some posts that are head-scratchers. Why would anyone post that I wonder??? Vulgarities, suggestive photos or comments. Like ‘people watching’ at a mall, you learn a great deal about a person by what they say about themselves in their social media, blogs, artwork, links, etc. (No surprise that companies now check out a person’s social media as part of the interview process.)

The Bible is a gigantic post by God. Want to know Him?  Want to seek Him?  Read, think about, ponder God’s post –the Bible.

Amos also says, Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you... (14). Seek good, not evil… interesting. It feels like Amos is saying seek doing good, not evil. Okay, so what is that, I thought.

I will not give you the various answers I came up with but my answers impact how I live towards other people, the manner in which I speak with other, the kinds of activities I spend my life doing…

If you are still reading along, I encourage you to spend a few moments thinking about what seeking good would look like in your life. Blessings.

Lord, seeking You in Your Word is part of the fabric of my life.  Seeking good is less so in my life. Help me, Jesus, to make ‘seeking good’ a conscious part of my life. I consciously choose to sit with Your Word most days. Help me to be equally diligent to ‘seek good’ with my energy. What a blessing!  When I seek good, I will experience You with me. Oh, the joy of You being with me!

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Monday, August 20: Amos 4 - Duty without heart.

Rituals without love. Duty without heart. Religion without kindness.  These are my thoughts as I read this chapter.

Israel, and particularly the women, followed the basic religious duties of Israel, worship, sacrifices and tithes. There is a sense that they dutifully and religiously followed these, but a heart for the poor and care for the needy were absent. In fact, their lives were grotesquely self-centered. Living opulently, ordering husbands around like slaves, while people suffered in the streets.

I flashed from back then to present day. It can be so easy to ‘play at church,’ to perform the outward religious functions (go to church regularly, give money –even tithe- attend other meetings or functions), and yet miss the connection with Jesus. In other words, we can go through the religious motions but have a stone-cold heart.

I sat with this thought for a while, considering, pondering, examining… my life.

Lord, is this true of me in any manner, way or fashion? Is it, Lord? Every fiber in my being wants to justify myself, to think it couldn’t be,  However,  even as I think and pray this thought, Holy Spirit conviction chimes in, ‘watch out, arrogance has no place in one of My children.’

Oh, God, search me and know me.  See if there is any wickedness in me… and what You find, Lord, remove, I pray. Amen.



Saturday, August 18: Amos 3 - And I mean it.

Years before we had children of our own I sat in the living room full of young couples. Most were seriously dating or were young marrieds. Scattered in the crowd were a few young children, the oldest maybe three or four. This ‘oldest’ child was a precocious girl and stairs leading to the second floor had her attention. “Don’t go up the stairs,” mom spoke. The girl moved closer.

“Don’t go on the stairs,” came a second command. Undaunted she reached the first step.

Don’t (!) go up the stairs,” came mom’s directives a bit louder. The girl glanced and made it to the first step. At step two there was a landing and the stairs turned direction and a wall hid the child from the mother’s view.

As the toddler reached the landing, mom shouting louder said, “Don’t go UP the stairs.” The toddler went another step or two –now out of sight of the mom but still in my view, she sat on the step moderately self-satisfied.

Mom now at her boiling point shouted while wagging her finger, “Missy, don’t go up the stairs, (breath) and I mean it!” The girl sat there out of sight of mom, wagging her finger (just like her mom, who she couldn’t see). As she wagged her little finger, she mouthed her mom’s addition –and I mean it. After that her expression changed. Mom exasperated, marched across the room and removed the young girl from the stairs. What ensued was not a particularly fun party moment.

What I found fascinating was that the girl clearly understood that when the “I mean it” was added, mom meant business. 

This chapter was God’s “I mean it” to Israel. God paints with vivid color ‘word-pictures’, letting Israel know judgment is coming.

It is a sad day when judgment comes… so many chances to correct the course before this moment… unheeded.

I find myself pausing to listen for the Lord to speak. Are there course corrections I need to take? I don’t want to be Israel or that little girl…

 Lord, show me the errors of my living that I may repent… to Your honor and glory, I pray. Amen



Friday, August 17: Amos 2 - Correct balance .

Throughout this chapter and the last, God has been levying His punishments on various nations. God seems so harsh, so mean. I hear people say often, “Where is the love?” We want ‘love’, by which they generally mean ‘we want to get away with breaking God’s laws. We don’t want to be punished.’

As I read the judgment on Israel, I noticed some balance providing verses. "I brought you up out of Egypt, and I led you forty years in the desert to give you the land of the Amorites. I also raised up prophets from among your sons and Nazirites from among your young men. Is this not true, people of Israel?" declares the LORD. "But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy (10-12).

Yes, God is pouring out punishment on Israel but this is not some whimsical ‘I’m mad so you are going to get it’ over-reaction. Those verses remind the people (and us) what God has done for Israel.

First God saved them from an enemy in Egypt. Then, after giving Israel the ‘family rules,’ God sent many prophets to remind Israel of the ‘family rules’, when they forgot them, strayed from them and even turned their backs on them.

Think of it this way, a lawbreaker gets caught and stands before a judge who says, “Okay, first offense, don’t do it again.” Then the judge lets the perp go. Fast forward… 2nd time, 3rd time, 4th, 5th … how many times does a person get to stand before the judge and receive a warning and a reminder before the judge throws the book at him/her?

God has reminded and reminded and reminded Israel and they have continued to disregard God’s warnings and invitations to stop and ‘return home.’

None of us would have been as patient as God was…

Balance… my wife who works with parents and children sums up parenting with two concepts: unconditional love and appropriate limits –love & limits.

God is loving, but real love has limits!  Don’t ever forget this.

Lord, thank You that Your mercy runs deep. I am sorry that I try Your patience so often.  Please transform me to be more and more like You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen



Thursday, August 16: Amos 1 - the BIGness of God.

Having preached through Amos earlier this year, it will be interesting for me to read the book devotionally. I wonder if God will spark different issues as I read through it as connection time with my Lord.

I found myself marveling at God’s position far above all things we know and control here as we live on earth. I realize it is figurative language but to say when God speaks, pastures dry up and mountains wither, is to put God in a category so far above and beyond anything human. Words like ‘almighty’, ‘sovereign’, ‘all-powerful’ convey similar truths but do not capture the emotion of withering mountains and burning up pastures. God is so far beyond what we know!

And this ‘so-far-beyond-what-we-know’ God exercises his prerogative and judges the wrongs and errors of people and nations! He judges not on capricious whims but on the actions of lives… which means He knows what we have done and do! He knows!

I sat and marveled that this same ‘so-far-beyond-what-we-know’ God, wants to live in relationship with me!! This ‘so-far-beyond-what-we-know’ God reaches out to me through Jesus and invites me to know Him as Father, Protector, Redeemer, Counselor…

I find myself praising, thanking, adoring, and worshipping God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit- this morning with the remainder of my time…

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. Oh, my soul praise Him because He is my Help and Salvation…

Praise God from whom all blessing flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above you heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Oh Oh praise Him. Oh Oh praise Him. Alleluia, Alleluia All-le-lu-u-ia!


Wednesday, August 15: Joel 3 - God is our refuge.

The psalmist wrote, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble… (Ps 46:1). This verse flooded my mind as I set to put my devotions into words. God was there for us, God is there for us and God will be there for us.

Joel looks toward the day of God’s judgment, the day of the Lord. It is a terrible day and a wonderful day, terrible because judgment is terrible. Being called to account is uncomfortable in the human arena. I think of the courtroom and classroom as examples. Judgment reveals our failings and brings to bear upon us what our failings deserve.

Standing before Almighty God on God’s Day of Judgment will be terrible for everyone who has fallen short. Joel speaks of it with these words: Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel (14-16). It will be a terrible day for all… all but the Lord’s people.   

On the day of God’s judgment, God Himself will be the refuge for His people. For God’s people, judgment day will be wonderful because we will see the wonder of God’s Salvation. God will be a stronghold. God will be our Fortress. God will be our Redeemer and Savior. God will be everything we need to stand and flourish in the Day of Judgment and we will see this, understand this, like never before, and experience God’s Love in ways unlike we have experienced it before!

As I said, the Day of Judgment will be terrible and wonderful, depending upon your relationship with God.

Are you living in relationship with God Almighty through faith in Jesus Christ? Connection to Jesus will make all the difference… think about it.

Oh, Lord, I cling to You. You are my only hope on the Day of Judgment… You are my only hope. So I cling to You, Who loves me, Who died for me, Who redeemed me and Who calls me His own. Praise be to You, Lord God Almighty –Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Tuesday, August 14: Joel 2 - One of the great OT promises.

Joel continues God’s call to the people to repent. Verse 12-13: ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Everywhere I turn in the Old Testament this year I am seeing how much God longs for His people to come home to Him. There is this notion that the God of the OT is a mean God, simply waiting for us to step out of line and wham He will smite us. But this year, as I read through the OT, I see more and more how patient God was, how longingly God calls and how many, many chances God gave His people to return when they strayed.

God’s heart is for His people, desiring them (us) to walk closely with Him and welcoming us back home after we sin and stray.

I spent some time reviewing my ways and confessing/returning as appropriate…

Today’s reading was much bigger than simply a call home. The chapter concludes with one of the great promises given in the OT that is fulfilled in the NT. Peter takes this OT promise of the Spirit for all people and applies it on Pentecost to the Church (see Acts 2)! God’s Spirit poured out on all people… men/women, young/old. What a gift, what a wonder. No longer will only a select few be filled with the Spirit; all God’s people will be filled!!!

I am awed by this and humbled that God would fill me to be a difference maker and kingdom builder for Him! And this goes for you, too, if you are a Christ-follower.

Ever so subtly God’s voice posed this question, “Bill, how are you making use of My Spirit within you to build My kingdom?” In the quietness of the morning I contemplated life… am I giving my best to the advancing of God’s glory and reign? Am I?

These contemplations made me wonder what would I put on my CV if I was called by God to list what I had done for His Kingdom to this point in my life…

Lord, I could be doing more for You with my life. Forgive me and lead me to give my life for Your glory, will and reign. Through Jesus, my Lord, and by the power only Your Holy Spirit can give, I pray and live. Amen.



Monday, August 13: Joel 1 - Getting our attention.

God specifically promised to take care of Israel and care for the land. God would provide rain. God would oversee the crops.  The land would produce because God was watching out for them. Now when problems occur with the land, it was a sign that there was a problem between Israel and God.

Joel understands this. So when an unusual confluence of locus destroy crop after crop, Joel realizes that God is calling to them. And Joel understands that the call is to repentance. Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD (13-14).

The incident of the locus, being a call from God to Israel, got me thinking about God trying to get my attention. I know there are times when stuff in my life does seem to be God trying to get my attention. I cannot and will not say that everything that happens to me is a sign from God. But there are definitely times when God wants my attention.

Am I listening? That is the question that the Spirit poses to me today. Am I listening for the voice of God in my life? I know God speaks through His Word, but along the day there are times I sense a nudge from God inviting me to do something.

This is the joy of following the living and true God. He speaks with us! Sometimes He calls me to repentance, sometimes He corrects a behavior, and sometimes God gives me an assignment. The wonder and delight is that God speaks with me.

I hope and pray you experience God communicating with you as well… that’s one of the gifts I have found in following Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Oh, Lord, thank You for caring enough to communicate with me, to confront me, to direct me, and to lead me. I love You and I thank You. Through Jesus,  my Lord, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, August 11: Titus 3 - The final trustworthy saying.

I have copied the entirety of the first eight verses of this chapter into this blog, which made it easier for me to record my meditations…

The first thing I noticed is that doing what is good brackets this section. How often has our behavior and living come up in these pastoral letters? So many times. Clearly God’s desire is for us to live in a manner that resonates with His love and goodness. It hit me as I had this thought, how many “rough edges” still need to be filed off in my life?!!

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

As I read into the second paragraph, the thought struck me… how is it that we can show patience and humility toward all other people? By remembering where we came from! We too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We are the same as everyone else, except (in the text ‘but’) God lavished His kindness and love upon us.

I am considerate and show humility because I can (thanks to God redeeming me) and because that is the best way to light a path for others to God!

What a wonderful description of purpose in the Christ-following life.

I hope you enjoy chewing on this during the day. I will…

Oh, God -Father, Son and Holy Spirit- marinate me in Your goodness and love so that I can reflect the same to others. Really, Lord, help me become a new person and more Jesus-like person. I love You and I want those in my circle of life to know the delight and peace and love I have found in loving You, in being redeemed by You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Friday, August 10: Titus 2 - Sound doctrine.

The chapter opens with this sentence. You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (1). Generally when I read the word ‘doctrine,’ I think of truths and propositions, those things Christian’s believe, like Jesus died on the cross or Jesus’ virgin birth and the like.

What fascinates me in this chapter is the explanation of ‘sound doctrine’ that Paul directs Titus to teach. I won’t print the verses of the rest of the chapter but go back and read the ‘sound doctrine’ that Paul speaks of.

Every example, Paul uses refers to behaviors, lifestyle and actions which is different than the mental ascent beliefs I anticipate reading the word ‘doctrine.’

Doctrine is a word used often in the pastoral letters of Timothy and Titus. This chapter is causing me to think deeply about life and living and my ‘doctrine.’

What is becoming clear to me is that how I live is a direct result of what I truly believe. And how I live is probably a better indicator of what I believe than simply stating the “things I believe.”

The not-so-subtle whisper of God… “Bill, take a good look at how you are living. Are you temperate and self-controlled (2)? Does my mouth offer a soundness of speech that cannot be condemned (8)? Am I honest and trustworthy at work (10)? And so on…”

How about you?

These are the ‘sound doctrines’ that Titus was to teach. Think about it…

Lord, Your Word gives me pause to look at my life and particularly my manner of living. What I see isn’t always honoring of You. Forgive me and strengthen me that I might live in a manner that pleases and honors You above all things. Amen.



Thursday, August 9: Titus 1 - What are you living for?.

I have always been fascinated by the ways Paul opens his letters. It seems to me that his self-description often telegraphs issues, problems and concerns he will address in his letter. For example, when he mentions his apostleship and call from God, then the letter is generally strong, correcting some issue in the church.

This morning my eyes lit on Paul’s opening. There is a lot in these verses, more so as I soaked in it for my morning meditation. Verse 1-3: Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

Servant and apostle… I contemplated what it means to be a servant, which is something beyond my world. I do not have nor have I been a servant, someone at the beck and call of another. In Paul’s day it meant being owned, literally, by another. Servant speaks volumes about a person’s relationship to God! I continued to ponder this.

Apostle, one who is sent… ordered to go and do some duty on behalf of another. I thought about people who live on the road, and what it is like to not really have a home. Again, this is outside my realm of experience. Paul was honored to have been chosen by God for these duties. I thought about this.

For what purpose did Paul do these things? For the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness… I unpacked this as I meditated. Paul was a servant and apostle for the elect- for the church. Paul gave his life for people who followed Jesus. This seemed appropriate.

It was the next phrase which required some additional pondering. Paul was a servant and apostle for the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. Paul served truth, God’s Truth revealed in scripture. And it was not merely abstract facts and figures, it was the kind of truth that impacts behavior… leads to godliness.

I could fill pages on the thoughts that these three verses set off in my mind…

Ultimately God asked me a question, which I leave with you. “What are you living for?”

Think about it.

Lord, You have posed to me one of those BIG questions. And it is easy to ask it and move on before I search my heart for the real answer. I ask You, Lord, for the grace to stick with this question throughout my day. To answer it deeply, for the sake of my life in You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Wednesday, August 8: 2Timothy 4 - the battle for truth.

As I read the opening verse, I immediately heard it in the context of the life I live. Note my addition in parenthesis and I believe my readers will understand.

Verses 1-4: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (political correctness and cultural norms).

The primary defense the church has in the battle for truth is God’s Word. What does the Bible say?  What is its plain meaning? If every Word is from God and is inspired (God breathed, verse 3:16), then it carries truth. Unfortunately, from the beginning, people have distorted its meaning to suit their desires. Timothy was warned of this and it still happens to this day.

My best defense against people distorting God’s Word is to sit with God’s Word myself and to allow it to speak. Here are a few keys I use to increase my hearing and attention to God’s Word….

  1. As best as I am able, I need to turn off my presuppositions and listen to what it actually says. Calvin once astutely commented, "Moses wrote in a popular style, which without instruction, all ordinary persons endued with common sense are liable to understand."
  2. Another key is to allow the whole of Scripture to speak on a subject. There are 66 books spanning 2+ millenia, listen to what the whole says. Often one verse in not the sum total of what God has said on a matter. Listen to the whole.
  3. Another key is that I try to understand what it meant to the first hearers before I bring it into my life and times.
  4. I read the verses I am studying in a couple of translations. Different translators use differing approaches on how they take words from one language and era and translate them into another. I have a number of translations in my study beyond the NIV. The New American Standard and the New Revised Standard are excellent more literal translations built on the best scholarship. The English Standard Version, like the NIV, is another fine translation for the modern reader. I sometimes consult more ‘free-less’ literal translations, like the Message or a simple English version called the International Children’s Version. When it comes to Psalms, I still love the beauty of the King James. Using multiple translations help me hear the text well.

These are four things I do to help me hear what God intended to say when He authored the Bible.


Happy Reading… and remember, the Bible is our best defense against error and the best tool we have for knowing what God wants us to know for life and faith and living.

Lord, thank You for Your Word, for giving me this gift. Help me to treasure it all my life long and so keep my life and thinking in line with Your Will and Way. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Monday, August 6: 2Timothy 2 - Stay connected to Jesus.

Another trustworthy saying appears in this chapter. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (11-13).

I love three of the four pairs… God is with us, and even when we are weak and struggle with faithfulness, He will not give up on us…. if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

It is the third pair that troubles me, If we disown him, he will also disown us. What makes disown so different from unfaithful? Then again, this pair does reflect Jesus, Himself, who said, But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33).

So I thought some more about disowning. Disowning has permanence to it. When a parent disowns a child, they sever the family and inheritance tie. Disown is a rejection. And people who reject Jesus will be met with rejection when they stand at their final hearing before God.

This statement sends chills down my spine.  Stay connected to Jesus! Hold fast to Jesus! Imperfect in my faithfulness as I may be, I still confess Jesus as my Lord!

Lord, I know I am far from perfectly faithful. I fail and fall repeatedly. Please forgive me. But even in my failings and fallings, Lord, I still commit myself to following You. And I trust that You will keep me. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, August 7: 2Timothy 3 -. Thoroughly equipped

If ever there was a theme sentence for my daily devotionals it would be verses 16-17. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

All Scripture: Old and New Testaments, historical books, poetry, prophetic writings, letters, gospels, all Scripture, every sentence and word is from God and is useful to help me know and follow God.

Every bit of God’s Word is, well, God’s Word, which by definition is useful. By reading the whole of Scripture, I hear everything God says, even the harder teachings, which left to myself I might avoid.

Another key thought, the sentence reads ‘thoroughly equipped.’ By attending to the whole of the Bible we are thoroughly equipped. I have an acquaintance who is a Navy Seal. He explained once that their training, in general and training for a particular mission, is much more difficult than the actual mission itself. They rehearse and train for the worst of conditions and events so that they can handle anything that happens in the field. No surprise they are arguably the best soldiers in the world. Navy Seals are thoroughly equipped for every mission.

By attending to God’s Word with diligence we, too, will be thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has prepared for us to do (see Ephesians 2:10).

Lord, as I spend time with You in Your Word, equip me for life and service. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, August 4: 2Timothy 1 - Staggered by God's plan.

For more than 35 years I have been walking with Jesus and I am still staggered by God’s plan and grace. It takes my breath away. [God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (9). God did it all. He chose me, a lowly sinner, saved and called me for His purpose. That truth never ceases to blow me away!!! And God did it for you, too!!!

And God’s grace was sent forth before the beginning of time… talk about a mind-bending thought! This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (10).

I sat and marveled.  Before time God did this! How can there be anything ‘before time?’ I am so puny compared with God and He still loves and graces and calls me for His own purpose. WOW! What an incredible thought to start my day! What an incredible thought to have on the eve of worship!

Oh, God, marinade this truth into my life so that tomorrow, in worship, it bursts forth with flavor and vigor as I gather with Your people and sing Your praises and worship You -Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Friday, August 3: 1Timothy 6 - .

Slavery & work-ethic; money & chasing after money; personal living; and finally a word to the rich; these are the topics of today’s chapter. Anyone of these could easily speak into my life. I sat wondering where the Lord would take me.  I did not have a strong draw to any particular topic as I read through the first time. Maybe you do, if so, go back and ponder where God prompts.

I scanned the chapter again, more quickly a second time. Verse 11 and the opening of 20 caught my attention. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (11). Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care… (20).

Paul was not only coaching Timothy on how to lead the church under his care, Paul was teaching Timothy about life and living. But you, man of God, flee from all this… Timothy, guard…. Timothy was to guard his own life and to flee from all those things that were causing problems in his community.

God’s instructions are first and foremost for us and then for us to pass along.

Timothy was to be a living example of following God. God’s Word is not given so that we can have knowledge or information per se. God’s Word is given to us so that we can take it to heart and into our lives and live according to it.

So I needed to ask myself, am I fleeing the ‘God-dishonoring’ aspects of my culture? Am I guarding my heart and the truth of God’s ways in my life?

Are you? Think about it.

Oh, Lord, give me strength and your Holy Spirit in fullness that I might orient my life to Your will and way… fleeing what is not of You and what does not ultimately lead me closer to You. Also guard my heart and the truth You have placed in my life through the promised Holy Spirit.

Lord, I cannot do this on my own.I can only move closer to You when I align my will to Yours and seek Your help and strength to overcome the still carnal portions of my life.

This I pray. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Thursday, August 2: 1Timothy 5 - Good and bad deeds.

I found myself fascinated by Paul’s final 2 verses, a closing comment on our deeds.  How we live our lives reveals who we truly are on the inside. Consider these words of Scripture: The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden (24-25). Eminently practical.

Verse 24 sinful deeds: The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. Some sins are so garish that they are obvious to all (or at least to many). These people live in such a way that they are almost flaunt their sins or get exposed by making the front pages of the papers. You have a list and so do I; the ‘Hitlers’, and ‘Mansons’ top the list of hardened criminals whose sins are obvious to the world.

It was the second group that really set me thinking. People whose sin shows up later, people who live the lie of goodness only to be discovered later, possibly after they have died. Interestingly, in all cases their sins become known and of course they are always known to God.

As a general rule the deeds of our lives will become known. Eventually the evidence comes out. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

The same is true, obvious v. hidden, with good deeds as well. They, too, generally become known. Some good deeds are hard to hide or perform in secret, so be it. They are done to help and bless people, which is the point after all. Mother Teresa, one of my ‘top-of-the-list-good-deeds’ people of my lifetime is an example. She never flaunted her good deeds but eventually word got out. Other people are able to remain far more stealth about their good-deed living but the stories often surface posthumously. And again, God knows all the time.

I began thinking about my life, particularly the cloaked parts of my life. Are they filled with good or sin-filled deeds? What does the record book of my life –hidden as it may be right now- show?

Lord, help me to be a’ good-deeds’ person. For the sake of others helped and in the power of Jesus, may this be so. Amen.



Wednesday, August 1: 1Timothy 4 - Another trustworthy saying.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance… (8-9).

Maintaining physical health through training and regular exercise adds value to our life. Bodies are healthier and minds are sharper. It is a good thing to do this side of eternity. But applying the same discipline to our godly living has value on this side of eternity and throughout eternity!

It sounds so simple, so I spent my time with Jesus thinking about what godliness looks like and what training for godliness might be. Here are a few thoughts.

Godliness is both an inner attitude and the manner of life that flows from it. What others see is the manner of life, what I often have to work on is the attitude that produces the manner of life. So what are the things that lead and direct me to life as God would have me live?

ü Being in the Word daily so that my mind is filled with God’s thoughts not merely my thoughts.

ü Prayer informed by the Word… learning to pray as we see displayed in God’s Word. Left to myself, my prayer is often highly self-centered. Yet what I see in scripture is prayers that challenge my selfish prayer life.

ü Developing the discipline to say ‘no’ willingly to things that harm my walk with God or open me up to unhelpful or ungodly attitudes, thoughts or desires.

There is nothing particularly new here but it is good to be reminded why these habits are good and help develop godliness…

Lord, it is one thing to think about these things, it is another to live them. Help me live them. And, Lord, if one is more appropriate to my life at this time than others, I believe it is learning to pray more selflessly. Help me, Jesus. Amen.