Thursday, January 31: Jonah 3- Second chances.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh... (1-3a).

Jonah is a story of second chances. The Lord gives Jonah a second chance to obey. And Jonah does. This second time he sets to the task God gave him right away. I guess 3 days in the belly of a fish changes a person’s heart.

I certainly do not want to presume on God’s grace, mercy and gift of a second chance, but over and over in the Bible God grants people an opportunity to change their wayward ways and return to Him.

Even as God gave Jonah a second chance, He did the same to Nineveh. Jonah records that people from the greatest (the king) to the least repented and represented their repentance by donning sackcloth and ashes. The king even issued an urgent decree to call on the Lord in the hopes God would relent.

God does relent. God spares the city just as He spared Jonah.

How often God has spared me... too many to count.

I am so thankful our God is a God of second (and 3rd, 4th, 5th...) chances.

Thank You, Oh Lord, for the gift of forgiveness. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of another chance to bow before You, to worship and adore You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen


Wednesday, January 30: Jonah 2- Never beyond God's rescue.

Jonah thought he could run and hide from God. No sir. The all-knowing, all-seeing God saw him and found him.

I tried to imagine what he was going through… tossed into the raging sea, sinking beneath the waves and then somehow swallowed by a large fish. Amazingly, Jonah found himself alive and safe inside the fish. I wonder if Jonah even understood his situation???

Three days he lived inside this fish. What those days must have been like. Honestly, I cannot even imagine.

From the belly of the fish Jonah prays. I suspect I might have prayed, too. However, I think I might’ve been praying, “God, get me out of here.”

Jonah understands the entire ordeal as God was saving him. He recognizes the gracious hand of the Lord. The portion of his prayer that caught my eye and heart was this: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.… ’ ” (7-9a).

Jonah never gave up on God. He had sinned and he knew it. Still as his breath ebbed away he remembered the Lord and called to Him. God answered.

I pondered that. Even when we have sinned and are still living with the effects of our sin, God loves and cares for us. God hears our prayers and answers us. I don’t think we can say that God will always send a fish to rescue us; still He loves us and cares for us.

In Jonah’s case God had work left for him to do, so the fish was both a rescuer and a transport to his place of service.

I am surprised that in the midst of the prayer Jonah contemplates people who turn to idols rather than the Lord. Maybe that is the Spirit of God praying through Jonah preparing him for his assignment in Nineveh. Still that presence of mind is astonishing to me.  The recognition of those who turn to idols causes Jonah to affirm his grateful praise to the Lord, thus affirming his faith in the Lord.

Jonah reminds me that as God’s child we are never out of the reach of the Lord. And even when we blow it unintentionally or, like Jonah, intentionally disobey God, God will receive us back when we turn and cry out to Him. Another reminder in the story is that God has a mission for us to do. We might not be sent to a foreign land, but whatever it might be God knows what He is doing in calling us.

There’s so much in Jonah’s story… I’m kind of excited about tomorrow’s reading.

Lord, thank You for the adventure of Jonah and all we can learn from Your Word. Continue leading me in the adventure of faith. Where You send me I will go. And, Lord, if a balk at Your nudges, remind me of this prayer and my brother Jonah. Remind me that I cannot run away from Your call and will. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tuesday, January 29: Jonah 1- Glory goes to God.

Decades ago I heard a friend preach a 3-point sermon from Jonah. God said, “Go.” Jonah said, “No.” Then God said, “Oh.” It is one of the few sermon outlines I remember and it is hard for me to see other messages in the Jonah text than these three. I have to make it a point to open my mind and heart when I read Jonah beyond my friend’s three points.

So today before I cracked the pages of the book, I asked God to open me to new insights and aspects of the story.

Reading, I noticed the response of the crew and passengers after they tossed Jonah into the sea. First I noticed their pray prior to throwing Jonah overboard. They didn’t want to be guilty of murder, which is admirable. I’m also reminded that Jonah was tossed overboard, not by an angry mob hoping to save their skin. He is tossed into the sea at his request.

Then when he hits the sea, God calms the storm. It is at this point that I was drawn to the text. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him (16).

That is a strong reaction! These men of many faiths offer a sacrifice to the Lord!

Now Jonah’s action of self-sacrifice is not exactly a ‘good work.’ He did cause the situation by his faithless running from the Lord. Still I was reminded of Matthew 5:16, In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (16). Jonah’s honesty, if not his faith, helped these men see the Lord. I wonder, did any of them change allegiances to the Lord, or was this merely a blip on their spiritual radar. We will never know. Still glory went to God and people gained a better understanding of who He is.

Certainly I don’t have to correct something I did that was wrong for God to receive glory. It is, however, nice to know that even when I am selfish and sin, I can repair the situation and allow my actions, done in a Christ honoring manner, give glory and praise to God!

Lord, give me strength to live for You. When I sin, show me my error that I may make my confession to You. When I do what You would have me do, supply your Holy Spirit strength to accomplish all You desire. In the name of Jesus and for the advancement of Your kingdom, I pray. Amen.


Monday, January 28: Obadiah- Pride.

I wondered at first, “Why, God, are you so interested in Edom? She was never a major player on the world stage or in the future of Israel. Bit parts here and there, so why all your interest, God?”

I cannot answer for certain, but Edom was the descendants of Esau, son of Isaac, brother of Jacob (Israel), so Edom is Israel’s family. Where there should have been some familial connection, there was none. Maybe this accounts for God’s interest.

Setting aside my question… I tried to listen to God’s Word to them. Edom’s pride seems to be at the heart of God’s W,ord to them. And pride is certainly an issue I battle so my ears perked up. “See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD (2-4).

The capitol of Edom, Petra, is apparently an amazing place to visit. I have not been there, but there is no shortage of Petra info on the Internet. One of the NEW Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is a city cut into the rock. It apparently seemed impregnable to its inhabitant, but today it is an ancient ruin located in a desolate part of the world. Their ‘haven and home’ is nothing today.

Pride gives us a false image of self. Pride gives us a false belief in our security. Pride, the author of Proverbs reminds us, comes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.)  

I felt a prompting to read up on Obadiah. In one commentary I came across this explanation:

Pride was Edom’s undoing. Her deception, the concomitant of pride, was rooted in an inordinate self-estimation. Not taking God into account, they expressed their presumptuous pride in a defiant challenge, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” Even if the Edomites could “soar like the eagle” and “make your nest among the stars,” they would be powerless under the scrutiny of the wisdom and power of God.**

Warning Bill Gestal… to this day, pride comes before a fall. Not taking God into account is a destructive attitude. We are all powerless under the scrutiny of the wisdom and power of God.

I think about this personally. Whenever I am tempted to think I have everything under control I can manage my way out of this situation. I can… fill in the blank. And I do this without parallel thoughts of ‘God, would You help me?  God, would You lead me to the right way, solution, etc.?’ I am speeding down the highway to destruction. A devotion, I heard yesterday from a friend, reminded me that God’s ways are higher and wiser than our ways (read Isaiah 55). Yes, God has given me a mind to sort things through. Yes, God has given me friends with whom I can bounce ideas and options off of… but to stay only in the human plane and neglect God is to fall into Edom’s trap.

I wonder about this as I read the news from Washington, where our national leaders seem to have removed God from the equation. And add to this they seem to be looking inward, cutting ties with friends and allies relying only on self, us, the USA. I fear we are falling into Edom’s trap, thinking, Who can bring [us] down to the ground?

When I superimpose that thinking against this book of the Bible I do not see a good outcome.

Back to self… I need to be vigilant to keep pride under control.

Lord God, as I sit this morning, I pray to You and speak to myself, I will lean on You. I will use the gifts You have given me as I walk in relationship and connection with You to discern the way I am to go, regularly checking that I am in step with You.  I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


**Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Daniel-Malachi.


Saturday, January 26: Amos 9- Disaster precedes restoration.

Judgment meted out; disaster comes as a result of judgment, then comes restoration.

I sat with a group of people trying to figure out how to deal with someone who broke one of the significant rules of life and relationships. I repeat, the individual broke a significant rule and crossed a boundary, a significant relationship boundary. We wrestled with consequences of the action and the role of grace, love and forgiveness. It was a difficult conversation.

One person in the group said, something to the effect, “the individual has to feel the consequences of the action (sin) before restoration can be instituted.” As we wrestled with the situation, we discovered there was wisdom in this comment.

In this chapter God will bring judgment and then comes restoration…

Judgment is coming. Israel will feel God’s wrath. After that the ‘love-covenant of God’ kicks in and restoration is released for those who turn from their sin-way.

Sometimes in life we need to experience the pain of our bad and sinful actions before we can receive true forgiveness and restoration. Sin has consequences.

I found myself considering that final thought. Sin has consequences…

Yes, it does.

This is why Jesus had to die on the cross. He took the consequences we deserve upon Himself so that we do not have to bear the weight of our consequences….

Consequences were meted out… Jesus took them in our stead.

Oh my, the extend of Jesus’ saving action hit me, hard.

Oh, the gift Jesus gave us…

Lord, I am overwhelmed by your gift and the sacrifice You made accepting our consequence so that we could be brought back into relationship with the Father. Praise and thanks to Jesus for His amazing gift. In His name I pray. Amen.


Friday, January 25: Amos 8- .

The time is ripe, how will God bring His judgment upon Israel? History shows us that God used many avenues. Towards the end of the chapter Amos however focuses on one. “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. (11-12).

A famine of the word… God will shut His mouth and no longer speak to Israel.

Imagine living in a family where the Father refuses to speak. The one who loves and guides and protects and directs and helps and leads goes dormant, silent… This is part of God’s punishment… He withdraws His Words.

Words like ‘abandoned’ come to mind.

One really sad aspect of this is that at first the people weren’t even looking for it. They didn’t notice God had withdrawn His voice, and then they made up their own to ‘fill in’ for God. How sad.

A famine of God’s Word… Oh, Lord, may it never be so, in my life and in the life of my church. I fear, Lord, that there is a famine of Your Word in my world. But among your people, may it never be, Lord. May it never be. Amen and amen.



Thursday, January 24: Amos 7- Diligence is required.

As a person who works with wood and has refinished basements and built sheds, decks and the like, the imagery of the plum line caught my attention. If my work isn’t plumb and square, then it is out of whack… windows, doors, walls, cabinets won’t fit properly.

A plumb line is a tool to square things so they fit.

Israel was out of whack… she was no longer square with God’s directives. Where God wanted things one-way, Israel was crooked.

For this reason Israel was being judged. God called her back time and again. But Israel rejected the Lord’s appeals. It was as if the construction people disregarded the engineer’s designs and blueprints. Not only that when the engineer pointed out some problems the owner/construction crew refused to make the necessary corrections, so God is now condemning the building. It will be torn down because it is unsafe.

Israel is being torn down… they have disregarded all of God’s directives and warnings.

It is clear from verses 10-11 that Amos’ ministry included more than the words of this book. Apparently he spoke directly to the crown and foretold Jeroboam’s downfall, which was rejected by the court.

Unfortunately for the court, Amos was speaking God’s Word and God’s Word will come to pass. What God has said will happen…will happen.

Stepping back, verses like the 10 Commandments, Jesus’ repeated call to ‘love one another’, Galatians 5 and the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ flood my thoughts followed by the question, “Is my life square and plumb with God’s revealed will for living?” Does my life and living square with God’s Word?

It is a constant battle to keep my life square with God’s Word. Vigilance, reflection, contemplation, and review of my life against the direction in God’s Word is a constant responsibility. Some days it is a chore to hold my life up to the scrutiny of God and His Word. Some days it feels as natural as breathing. Either way it is a necessity. It is all too easy to allow the push and pull of the world around me to knock myself out of plumb with the Lord.

This is why I sit regularly and read, study, consider and reflect upon God’s Word. Diligence is required.

Lord, I pray for strength to keep at it… to put in my time, inspecting my life for flaws, cracks and areas that are not square with You and Your Word. Send Your Holy Spirit to be Your engineer inspecting my life to make sure it is safe and strong. And prompt me, Lord, to listen to Your Holy Spirit that I may remain plumb with You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, January 23: Amos 6- Complacency.


Complacency is not a good word particularly when it comes to issues of faith. God is angry. Not only is Israel sinning, but they are complacent about it. Life is good, so they think ‘ahhh, no worries.’ Complacency robs effort, drive, and determination.

The Lord hits them hard: Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! (1).

The Lord turns my thoughts from Israel to self. Am I complacent? Do I feel secure so that there is no spiritual urgency in me to press into the Lord? Professionally as a pastor, am I complacent or am I still learning, growing and striving to be all of the man God want me to be?

Success and security, while good, can become a negative if/when we grow complacent...

Lord, give me a thirst for You. Give me a hunger for more of You. Drive me to pant for you... that my hunger and thirst will drive out any inkling of complacency in my walk with You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.



Tuesday, January 22: Amos 5- Consistency and integrity rather than hypocrisy.

Consistency... integrity... not hypocrisy, these are the words that came to me upon concluding my reading of this chapter.

God is angry with Israel. They pursued false gods, yet somehow they believe that by performing the ritual sacrifices of the faith, God Almighty is bound to bless them. Amos, as God’s mouthpiece, gives a stinging rebuke as the chapter concludes:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god— which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty (21-27).

The word ‘your’ strikes me as highly important in verse 21. I hate, I despise your religious festivals... It is not that those religious observances were bad in and of themselves, in fact, they are good having been instituted by the Lord. But their observances of these religious festivals render them unacceptable because they are offered by people who were actually pursuing false gods, which is an abomination to the Lord.

God expects consistency, integrity, honesty. If you are going to worship God, GREAT... go for it. If you are going to pursue false gods, the Lord will not be pleased but at least He can do things to call you home. But Israel was pretending to love God while actually loving false gods. They are fooling themselves. And when God did things to get their attention, they didn’t pay any attention to them because they had duped themselves.

Israel’s sin begs the question of me... am I fooling myself? Am I consistent and full of integrity in my love for God? I am not perfect. I sin and fall short of God’s ideal, but am I pressing into the Lord and living as a person who has the Spirit of God in their life?

Again and again God’s Word causes me to examine my life.  Am I faithful to the Lord? Today is another call to do just that.

Lord, I avail myself to Your gaze. Examine me and know me and see if there is any wickedness in me and then purge that wickedness from me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, January 21: Amos 4- God's heart for the poor.

I found myself thinking... wow, how much God loves and cares for the poor!

Amos begins lambasting the women of Israel for neglecting the poor in order to live in personal comfort. Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” (1)

The remainder of the chapter is God’s response to these people who oppress the poor and crush the needy. It is not a response from the Lord I would want to face!!!

God’s indictment of these women got me thinking about my life and my treatment of the poor. If I don’t want to fall under a similar judgment then I need to evaluate how I treat people who are poor and needy.

First I spent a few moments considering my attitude toward the poor and needy? I ask questions like:

  • Do I dis them?
  • Do I think ill of people simply because they lack?
  • Do I assume they are lazy simply because they have needs?

Where does my heart go when I think about or hear reports about or see people who are poor and needy?

Next I considered my actions:

  • How do I treat people who are needy?
  • How do I speak with them? Do I speak with them?
  • Do I feel compassion for them?.. and then,
  • Do I help them as I am able?

How about you? What are your attitudes and actions toward people who need help?

Lord God, I can have a stony heart. Help me to grow more like You, to be more helpful and caring to people who have needs. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, January 19: Amos 3- Reduced to humble praise.

Terrible, terrible is the Word of the Lord. Terrible, terrible is the Word of the Lord.

Amos is sent to the Israel, the northern kingdom, with a word of doom and destruction. The time for God’s judgment has come. This is what the LORD says: “As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued, with only the head of a bed and a piece of fabric from a couch” (12).

What a gruesome picture. The sheep is not saved; it is torn to bits. What is ‘rescued’ is of no use. Only bits and pieces of a mauled animal remain.

God is forecasting destruction of Samaria. And this forecast came to be when Samaria was overrun by the Assyrians.

I tremble inside... Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, as we say in the Apostle’s creed. Judgement for those outside of Christ will be devastating... the lake of fire, eternal punishment, thrown where there will be gnashing of teeth. These are only three of the pictures given in the New Testament for the judgment of God.

The words of Amos fulfilled stand as testimony that what God has said, God will do.

I tremble again.  Were it not for Jesus, my Lord, my fate would be the lake of fire, eternal punishment, thrown where there will be gnashing of teeth.

Again, I am reduced to humble praise...

Oh God, tears well in my eyes. Your grace has saved me. I deserve nothing but wrath and yet I have received mercy and grace. I will bless You with my mouth. I will bless You with my life. I will bless You, God, my Redeemer. Through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.


Friday, January 18: Amos 2- Am I living up to my calling as a child of God?.

Deftly Amos reels in Judah and Israel. Imagining Amos speaking to a crowd of Jews, I can hear them cheering each time one of their neighbors gets judged by the Lord. “They are getting what they deserve,” you can hear them chanting.

Unsuspecting the noose tightens until Judah and then Israel are in God’s crosshairs. Judah is judged for rejecting the law (4) and Israel for violating various aspects of the law. Neither is living up to their calling as children of God.

Typing that last phrase hits me. Am I living up to my calling as a child of God? It can be so easy to point fingers at Israel or anyone else and say this or that is what they are doing wrong, but never look in the mirror and honestly appraise one’s self.

I looked back on these sins of Judah and Israel.  Maybe these would provide plumb lines for me to measure my life against… forsaking God’s law, God’s Word, mistreating the poor, sexual sins, greed and drunkenness. I start here and then begin thinking about the 10 commandments… honoring God, honoring people. How am I doing?

I fall short… I can be selfish and self-seeking. I’ve been known to lie to cover my shortcomings... I am deeply imperfect. If I were alive in Amos’ day, God’s finger of judgment would have pointed to me! And it does even today. The only difference is that through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I am covered by His blood. I have been saved by His death on the cross, where He took my sins and gave me His righteousness.

Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. Thank You, Jesus, for bearing my sins and giving me Your righteousness. I surrender to You. I look to You as Lord and Savior. I believe in You and I confess with my mouth that You, Jesus, are Lord and believe in my heart that You have risen from the dead. Thank You, Oh God -Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. To You, Oh God, I pray through Jesus, my Savior. Amen.


Thursday, January 17: Amos 1- I wonder.

The book of Amos has burrowed its way into my heart over the years. His lyrical approach, for three sins of xxx, even for four... setting up his condemnation of a particular country. His methodical approach speaking hard words to all of Israel’s neighbors. I am gripped every time I read this book.

As I began to read today, the opening beckoned me. I found myself considering the man, Amos, rather than any of his particular words to Israel’s neighbors

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel (1).

Who is Amos? A shepherd. And seemingly not even a shepherd of particular renown. He is one of the shepherds of Tekoa. He is a working class man, indistinguishable from the working class men around him. To this everyday ‘Joe’ God sends a vision, a vision he understands he must speak and record for the people.

I wondered what prepared him for this task, if anything. I wondered how a Mr. Nobody summoned the courage to speak this word in a forum that caused it to be recorded and kept for posterity. I wondered if God chose me, another Mr. Nobody, to speak a word on His behalf to the nations if I would have the courage to do it.

I wondered...

Lord, am I faithful to the calling You have set before me? Lord, am I strong enough in You to be an Amos? I pray, Lord, for all the strength I need to be the ambassador and servant You need me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, January 16: Joel 3- Remain faithful in good times and bad.

Ok, honestly vengeance is not the most inspiring topic on which to mediate. Still somehow the final words of this book arrested my attention. Verse 21: Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.” The LORD dwells in Zion!

That question and answer posed by the Lord is chilling when you let it sit in your thoughts for a while. Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.

The word is spoken about God’s Old Testament people, so it is probably fair to expand it to include all of God’s family now that the New Testament has come.

Shall I leave [my children’s] innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not.

Two thoughts spring from this thought.

One, some of God’s children will suffer at the hands of others. Innocent blood will be spilt. Throughout the New Testament we see that God’s people face persecution, trial and pain. This will happen to some of God’s people. Theologies of ‘all is well for the follower of Jesus’ are just false. Innocent blood will be spilt.

God will avenge His children’s pain. In His day He will judge those who are against Him and His people. I don’t know when this day will come, but it will. God has spoken this over and over again.

So what does this say to me today, here in 2019? First, I don’t know what will come my way, but God will see that justice is executed. The Righteous Judge will hold court on a day of His choosing. Until then, I need to remain faithful. In good times and in bad I need to remain faithful!

Lord, I pray for strength to remain faithful... faithful to you in thought, word and deed. Faithful to you in service and giving and living. Faithful in witness and in the quiet moments of my life. I pray this in the name of Jesus who was ever faithful. Amen and amen.



Tuesday, January 15: Joel 2- Loved by God.

The chapter ends with the lines used by Peter on Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. Because of familiarity it was tempting to pause with those verses and ponder. But before I read those words ,verses 12-14 caught my eye, so I returned to them for my meditations.

“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. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

Following immediately on the heels of the destruction by an invading army, the Lord offers a gracious hand to Israel. God invites them to return, to come home and be restored. At the heart of God’s invitation to return are very familiar words, words that show up numerous places in the Old Testament. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Those words paint for me a compelling image for God. Who would not want to run into the arms of one who is gracious, compassionate and slow to anger? I certainly would. Honestly, how wonderful would it be to be embraced by an all-powerful, all-knowing God who is known to be gracious, compassionate and slow to anger?

I kept turning those 3 descriptors over and over in my head.

Gracious… full of grace, extending love and care when it is not returned by the other party.

Compassion… caring, heart for the hurting,

Slow to anger… I have met some people quick to anger, they are NOT pleasant to be around. Life in their orbit is like walking on eggshells, not wanting to provoke them in the slightest way. The Lord God is the opposite of that, the kind of person you can be around and feel safe.

This is our God, this is my God. He invites me into relationship with Him creating a safe and comfortable place to be. And even when I have strayed, like Israel did, the Lord always welcomes His family back when we come to our senses and repent.

What a gift.

What a God…

Lord, I thank and bless you because You have welcomed me back with open arms time and again. I praise You and I bless You. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen


Monday, January 14: Joel 1 Where do you turn in time of trouble?.

How do you process disaster? Where do you turn in times of trouble, yes, even times of extreme trouble? I had to stop and ponder my own questions.  Where do I turn when trouble strikes?

Life is asking this question of Israel. Israel has been ravaged by locusts, hordes of locusts. Fields are destroyed. Livestock is suffering. Where do you turn in times of trouble? Joel turns to the Lord.

To you, LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field (19).

Five words say it all for Joel. To you, LORD, I call.

I don’t want to sign up for trial by disaster, but the questions still remain. Who will I, who will you turn to in a time of disaster –personal, family, national, what have you?

I would like to think I would be like Joel and turn to the Lord. I hope that a faith honed over the decades will find its anchor in God more than self or ability or ingenuity. I hope and pray this is so, but do we ever truly know until the time of testing comes?

This chapter is leaving me pensive, thoughtful, wondering.

My sense is that I would turn to Jesus, but I don’t want to be arrogant or prideful about this because I know pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). So I trust that my faith will be strong enough to weather any storm life throws at me. At the same time I will continue to lean into my faith in Jesus. I will read His word, pray, worship, meditate on the Word and try to serve Him faithfully believing He is with me and will never let me know.

Lord, as I sit today, I say again, ‘I put my life in Your hands, Jesus’. Lead, guide and direct. I pray this in Your name. Amen.



Saturday, January 12: Hebrews 13- .

The writer ends his ‘letter of exhortation’ with a series of practical final thoughts. Any one of them pondered serves the Christ follower well. My heart was drawn to verses 5 & 6.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

I am a planner. I have to do lists. I make plans and check plans. I like to think things through before I do something. Many of these are good traits, at least they work for me.

I save for the future and know that someday I will retire from working for an income. And some days I question myself, “Have I stewarded my income well enough to be able to retire.” With stock market news ubiquitous on news outlets, particularly as 2018 closed out, I can easily get sucked into concern about retirement and if my stewarding of resources has been wise enough over the years to cover the years of retirement ahead.

Verses 5-6 are a great reminder for me that the Lord is my true security net. Yes, I am a steward of the resources the Lord gives me, but He is my bedrock. He is my future. He is my confidence. He is my life.

Confidence in Jesus doesn’t mean I will be healthy, wealthy and wise all of my life. The Lord’s plans can have strange twist and turns. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:12: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Contentment in whatever situation the Lord deals to me is the goal. And I am able to find contentment precisely because the Lord never leaves or forsakes me? He is my Helper so I need not fear what humans or life will deal to me.

Hopefully my stewarding will provide for my life when I do not earn a paycheck. This seems to be the way of wisdom, but no matter what happens, God is with me and He is all I truly need.

Thank You, Jesus, for the peace that comes knowing You are with me. Give me ears to hear Your voice so that I stay in step with You and do not stray from You. I pray in Your name Jesus. Amen.


Friday, January 11: Hebrews 12- Take one more step.

After saying that Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame, the writer goes on to admonish believers writing: Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (3). Jesus remains our example as one who perseveres in the call of God.

The writers point is when I grow weary, when I am tired of the walk of faith, look to Jesus and draw strength from His example. Take one more step forward, like Jesus needed to do as He carried his own cross to Calvary. Take one more step forward like Jesus did as He pushed through the jeers and insults of the crowd. Take one more breath like Jesus needed to do on the cross so He had the strength to forgive those who persecuted Him.

Take one more step faithfully following God’s will. Take one more breath faithfully living God’s will. When tired and fed up, take one more step in the name of Jesus, your Savior. Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Lord, there are days I am exhausted from following Jesus, when I don’t want to love that enemy or that neighbor, when I don’t want to forgive, when I want to seek revenge, when I want to strike back rather than turn the other cheek… Oh, God, I have those days.

First, please forgive me for choosing the low road rather than Jesus’ way. Lord, when those selfish, sin-filled desires rise up within me help me to look to and see Jesus. Burn on my retinas Jesus on the cross, Jesus forgiving those who taunt Him… and I pray, Lord, that through the aid of Your Holy Spirit those images of Jesus will soften my hardened heart helping me to choose Jesus’ way rather than my own. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, January 10: Hebrews 11- By Faith.

The event of the other day still stings, I wish you could have seen my face when I realized that Hebrews 11 was my reading today. The famous FAITH chapter was my reading this morning.

It did not disappoint. Two words, ‘by faith,’ crossed from the page into my heart. We live by faith...

People back in the day, the original recipients of the letter to Hebrews, and Christ followers like me today live by faith. Yes, we live by faith.

This thought touched me in my hurting places. Disappointments, hurts, persecutions, illnesses, and the like last for a season. Sometimes these seasons are long and arduous continuing through our earthly life. Still we live by faith in this world and the next. In fact faith opens the door to the next eternal life.

Many of the people named in this chapter went through arduous times. Faith helped them persevere. And faith carried them to their reward; a reward never fully realized this side of eternity.

My personal pain right now is nowhere on the scale of many named in this chapter... still the reminder that I live by faith not circumstances was a God-gift for my aching heart today.

By Faith... my work, my relationships, my everything is lived by faith. It is time to look to Jesus the author and finisher of my faith rather than wallow in my disappointment of the hour.

By Faith... I choose to live by faith in Jesus

Thank You, Lord, for this simple word –By Faith –to me today. Your gift is a blessing. Thank You. Thank You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, January 9: Hebrews 10- God's timing; impecable.

It never ceases to amaze me how to-the-point my daily Bible reading can be. How it can touch places of the heart. I received some crappy news this morning. On the scale of major life issues, it is not all that big. Still I am wounded, frustrated, angry... a jumble of emotions. It is something I cannot really talk about beyond the vagaries of what I just wrote.

It was an early morning happening, so my Bible reading happened after the event when I got home. And what do I read, Hebrews 10! While the particular situation was very different than my personal situation, the bottom line connected directly with my heart. As the NIV heading above verse 19 put it: A Call to Persevere.

That is just what I needed. A bit of my heart was ripped out, but it was not time to devolve into a pity party or get sidetracked. It is time to persevere in Jesus. Knowing that He alone can heal wounds. He has tasks for me as His ambassador. He has good works for me to do, that I am strategically placed to do on his behalf and I need to keep on.

Through the pain –not avoiding the pain –Jesus has things for me to do.

Verses 35 and 36 stuck to me. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

When my heart gets ripped my confidence flags. These words remind me not throw away [my] confidence. Were they ever timely. As was the writers rejoinder to persevere. The will of God needs doing and at the end of this life God has promised me His eternal life and there is no prize, no delight better than that.

Lord, I am re-upping my pledge to be Your son, Your ambassador, Your agent, Your... in the world. Use me. Bandage my wounds and send me back out into the work. I pray in Jesus’ name and for the sake of the elect... those who need encouragement and invitation. Amen and amen.