Monday, April 05, 2010

What are we worshipping?

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Judges 6:25-26 (NIV): That same night the Lord said to (Gideon), “…Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on top of this height.”

Gideon was a tentative prophet for the Israelites. He hides out in a winepress, complaining to God that he can’t understand why the Israelites remain under the oppression of the Midianites. God reminds him that he brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the land of milk and honey. Then he gets to the point: “ ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you life.’ But you have not listened to me.”

Later, Gideon is preparing a sacrifice to put before the Lord. Gideon is complaining about all the bad things that keep happening to the Israelites while he prepares his sacrifice of a young goat and unleavened bread. Behind him lie an altar to Baal and an Asherah pole his father had built. Ouch! God tells him to first tear down the idols before coming before him for requests. So Gideon rounds up a few friends and tears down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole, much to the consternation of the locals, who want to string up Gideon.

God’s message to Gideon was this: “Don’t complain of oppression at the hands of enemies while worshipping their gods, which I forbade.” The rest of the story you know: God, indeed, gives power to Gideon and the Israelites to defeat the Midianites. God pares down the Israelite army from 22,000 to a select few hundred fighting men, who, with God’s strength, go out and whip their powerful enemy under the guise of mass confusion. Point made.

What’s in our wallets, our garages, our living rooms, our kitchens, our bedroom, our back yards, or our office places that have become false idols and replaced God as the thing we worship? Idols aren’t just altars we see in a church, it’s whatever we dedicate our time and talents to. Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s a car, maybe it’s what we watch on TV, maybe it’s pornography, maybe it’s alcohol, or maybe it’s your kids. Whatever it is, those around us – our neighbors, our friends, our family – see it and they are confused as to what they should be worshipping. Before we go complaining to God about the difficulty of our lives, look around for the false idols we’ve put up and tear them down first. Then go to God for help.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to see the idols in my life, and give me strength to tear them down. Help me to worship you only. Amen.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dealing with life's interludes

Good morning. This is a devotional for single adults from Parenting Solo, but the message also applies to single adults without children who may one day marry a single parent and be a step-parent. Feel Free to forward it to a friend. If you wish to be removed from this e-mail list, simply hit reply and write REMOVE in the subject line.

Scripture: Psalm 62:8 (NLT) (Written by David) O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Interlude.

Sometimes, I wonder, “How long is God's interlude for my life? An interlude is a musical direction for a song. It's a pause, or respite. Maybe a harp or lyre was played during worship in this time of the song played during worship during the time of King David. When God answers prayers with a “Not now,” it means an interlude is coming in our lives. I am in an interlude right now, waiting to see where God takes me professionally and in ministry.

This message rang true for me during the past four days when I attended a Christian Writers' Conference at Mount Hermon in the Santa Cruz Mountains 90 minutes from my home. It was my third writers' conference, which is where published authors and would-be writers such as myself pitch their wares in hopes of getting published. My first attempt was in 2005 when I was selling a Bible study for single parents. Out of that conference, I heard God's calling to write a daily devotional for single parents, which I tried selling in 2007. Those projects brought interest from editors but no contracts to publish.

So I kept writing, trusting that I was doing God's will and ministering to a few hundred single parents in varying stages of life in the process. Now, I have more than 800 devotionals written, and in the past few years, they have become more about general Christian living, instead of just focusing on the single-parent life. This weekend, I was also trying to sell the book project I'm working on entitled Feast With the King, whose premise is using good food to build relationships and witness to friends and neighbors.

While I was waiting to meet with an editor, I was thinking of a hook for the single-parent devotionals, because publishers felt was lacking with A Single Cup, the name I've given the book. Then it hit me: add 100 easy cooking recipes that are helpful to busy single parents. Viola! The next three editors and two agents I met with loved the idea and wanted proposals from me after the conference. All three told me to ditch the single-parent angle and focus on all adults to increase my number from 100 to 365 plus the 100 recipes. A little rewriting would be in order, though.

The whole conference was a wild success for me, as I have an estimated 20 proposals to write and send off from the 27 meetings I had. Each proposal takes about 10 hours of writing, so you can see the work ahead for me. Plus, I spent the first two days of the conference meeting with magazine editors looking for interesting stories from freelance writers such as me. They, too, loved my food ideas. Food is one of the big Internet hits around the world, but the Christian publishing world is practically devoid of anything. I spent 10 hours in a class learning how to market my writing online, which is even more work ahead for me.

Is my interlude over? I don't know. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. I need to prioritize the hundreds of hours of work ahead of me, and I'm not sure where to start. Maybe my answers can be found in the beginning of this Psalm, which starts, “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.” Life's interludes are usually for a reason. Maybe the time wasn't right in 2005 or 2007 to publish my books. I don't even know if 2010 is the right time. That's where the trust comes in. God alone is “my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me” (vs. 7). I have to trust him.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for your blessing on my work this weekend. I pray that my writing be used for your goodwill. Lord, be with me in the coming months as I follow up on my projects. Amen

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Understanding the grief cycle

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Psalm 10:14(New International Version): “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Author's note: If you know someone going through a divorce or loss of a loved one, please pass along this blog post. Thanks.

According to the Psalmist, God is the author of grieving, so who better to turn to in understanding how we should grieve. Here's what the Psalmist says God's role is in our grief: He sees our trouble, takes note of it, encourages us while he listens to our prayers and is with us whenever we face our enemies. In other words, we are not alone in our grief: God is always with us.

That was the key message I gave to a hand full of single parents two weeks ago at the Bay Area Sunday School Workers Convention in Castro Valley, California. I learned about the grief cycle after my divorce in 1994. I learned about it through counseling and taking divorce recovery classes, including Just Me and the Kids, which I did with my son because I wanted him to better understand what he was going through, too. In Just Me and the Kids, written by Barbara Schiller, we learned how to remember the grief cycle by the acronym DABDAH: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, anger and hope. The Christian version adds the H at the end for our hope in God and our hope for a better life ahead, a promise God makes to us.

Here's a quick recap of the grief cycle:

Denial: “This isn’t happening to me.” Shock, numb feelings, alarm.

Anger: “It’s the other parent’s fault!” Anger at the other parent, at yourself for letting this happen, at the situation you’re in, and even at the world in general.

Bargaining: “If you come back, I promise I'll change. It’s my fault.” A person takes on unnecessary blame and make promises of change for the return of the relationship.

Depression: “My life couldn't be worse.” Extreme sadness, lackadaisical, lack of motivation, lack of caring, no concern for others. This tends to be the longest stage.

Acceptance: “This is my life right now, good or bad.” Acceptance that the divorce is, indeed, happening to you, and there is little, if anything, you can do to change your circumstances. Forgiveness must take place before acceptance can be reached.

Hope: “I'm going to be OK.” That life is getting better, that they will be OK, hope that God has a plan for your life, even as a divorced, single parent.

Here's a few things single parents have to grieve: Loss of the relationship from the person who promised to “love you, till death do us part;” loss of your confidante, friend, partner in life, etc.; loss of the life you had; loss of sex life; loss of seeing your kids every day; loss of relationship with your in-laws, extended family and friends; loss of physical home; loss of staying at home in order to work if you were a stay-at-home mom; loss of place in various communities (work, church, school, neighborhood, etc.); loss of security (financial, emotional and physical). Plus, children going through many of the same things, but at different times.

By understanding the grief cycle, we are better prepared to grieve the various cycles of life. When my engagement broke off eight years ago to a woman I deeply loved, I allowed myself to grieve and feel my pain. When my dad died four years ago, I cried tears of joy at knowing God has blessed me with a wonderful father and Christian role model. When my son moved out of the house and went to college in Arizona, I felt sad and glad at the same time, and I knew those feelings were normal. By understanding the grief cycle 15 years ago, I could see my son at each stage and not panic or worry. I didn't try to push him into acceptance too son; he had to proceed at his own pace, not mine.

Grieving is a part of life, and God wants us us to grieve, because in our hour of pain, we turn to him. God wants us to lean on him and rest in his loving, comforting arms. But frankly, in my 14 years of working with single adults, I see far too many people who don't know how to grieve and don't want to grieve because its just too difficult. Grieving means peeling away the ugly layers of our life and exposing them to a loving God who wants to transform us into new creations. Grieving means learning from your mistakes, so that you don't repeat them.

My learning about the grief cycle helped me to make better decisions for me and my son while I was a single dad for 13 years. Our lives are infinitely richer because we learned how to grieve.

How does this apply to my life?

Today's prayer: Lord, thank you for teaching me and my son how to grieve 15 years ago. In that process, I found you. For that, I am forever grateful. Amen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Are you wandering in the desert?

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Numbers 14:17-19 (New Living Translation): (Moses speaking to God) “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.’ In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of the people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

Since my divorce in 1994, I have studied the Bible fairly consistently. As I read through the plight of the Israelites in the Pentatauch (the books of Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), I can’t help but compare and contrast the Israelites’ struggles with the life of a single parent. I think this passage, as much as any other in the Bible, tells about the choices single parents must make for them and their children, as well as their consequences.

Single parents can either choose to trust the Lord and enter the promised land of milk and honey, or they can continue to complain and grumble about missing their old life and rebel against God’s laws. One can either look behind them and remain lost or look ahead and find the life that God has planned for them. It’s that simple. We can’t change our past, but we can change our present and future circumstances by choosing wisely.

Look at what this brief passage tells us about our struggles and rebellion against God. 1) God loves us – even when we sin against him and rebel; 2) he does not excuse the guilty; 3) in fact, our sins will affect our children and our grandchildren; 4) and yet, God still forgives our sins. No matter how many times we crave our old lifestyle and choose to sin against God, he still loves us and forgives us. He understands our nature, but he still wants us to look within and see our own faults so we can correct them.

And, yet, we must look at the entire passage to understand God’s love for us. Even though he forgives us, he does not take away the consequences of our sinful choices. Divorce and out-of-wedlock relationships bear painful consequences that affect the rest of our children’s lives. Part of those consequences is that we must learn to grieve our losses to fully understand God’s nature. He teaches us the importance of grieving our past, but if we skip that part of being a single parent, the consequences may mean wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Wednesday, I will file my notes from a recent workshop I did on grieving for single parents so that we can understand the process. That also means understanding where your children are in the grief process. You may have been divorced for 20 years, but if you’ve never grieved, it’s as though it happened yesterday. You’re stuck and can’t move forward.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for showing us stories in the Bible about consequences to poor choices. Most of all, thank you for your never-ending grace. Amen

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hearing God’s voice

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Numbers 7:89 (New Living Translation): Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the ark’s cover – the place of atonement – that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord spoke to him from there.

Wow! Every time Moses went into the Tabernacle, he talked to God and heard his voice. It was clear; it was audible. What kind of conversations do you think the two of them had? Do you suppose God was giving Moses cooking tips on the newest foodie trend, manna?

Maybe, but I’m guessing Moses had the same kind of conversations David had with God. They were honest, and they were real. When Moses was frustrated, he shared his feelings with God. When God was frustrated with the Israelites, he shared his feelings with Moses. In Numbers 11 (21-23) Moses and God have a heart-to-heart talk about God’s command for the Israelites to purify themselves from their sins (and their whining). First, Moses responds: “There are 600,000 foot soldiers here with me, and yet you say, ‘I will give them meat for a whole month! Even if we butchered all our flocks and herds, would that satisfy them? Even if we caught all the fish in the sea, would that be enough?” Note the hyperbole. Then God responds: “Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!” Was that God being sarcastic?

It sounds like a typical conversation between a teenager and a parent. What passages like this – and the Psalms – show us is that God doesn’t have a problem with us venting – and even being angry with him. Moses had a real relationship with God, one in which two-way conversations occurred. It wasn’t just God giving commandments to be shared with the Israelites. Moses went to the Tabernacle to hang out with God, talking to him like two best buddies.

We can have that same kind of conversations with God. Our Tabernacle is wherever we want to stop and talk to God, one on one. I think everyone has a special place in which our connection with God is at its strongest. For me, it’s always been on walks by myself. I can remember having conversations with God on cold, dark mornings, before my neighbors had even awakened. Sometimes, it’s late at night, when no one else is around. It’s always a quiet, peaceful place. It isn’t an audible voice, and there isn’t a burning bush in front of me, but I hear God’s voice nonetheless. Often, he just reminds me that he loves me and cares for me. That’s what I need to hear most.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for letting me hear your still, quiet voice. Help me to take the time to find that place in which I hear you best. Amen

Monday, March 08, 2010

Praying a blessing on God’s people

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Numbers 6:22-27 (New Living Translation): Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing: ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’ Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.”

The Mosaic books of Leviticus and Numbers are filled with laws and rules and regulations for the Israelites. They come rapid fire, one after the other – more than 500 laws total. Some of the laws are for the general populous, some are for the priests or Levites. Some are on food restrictions, some are temple rituals that were to be followed. Most were on general living.

Then God sneaks in this nifty blessing for the people. He calls it a “special” blessing. It’s sort of a little reminder to the people that God wants to bless them. God gave them all these laws to live by, and he knew they would try and fail. Still, he took the time to let the people know that they, his chosen people, were blessed among the nations. God wasn’t giving this blessing to the pagan nations surrounding Israel.

I grew up with this blessing in the church my family attended (and my mom still does; 42 years total). Most Sundays, at the end of the sermon, before sending the people home, the pastor shared this simple blessing. I didn’t think much about it as a kid, but as an adult, these words mean a lot to me. Every once in a while, I hear a pastor or speaker pray this blessing on people, and it makes me smile.

Saturday, I spoke to single-parent family leaders at the Bay Area Sunday School workers’ convention in Castro Valley. At the end of my workshops, I prayed a blessing on those leaders, because they have an almost-impossible task. Sometimes, I pray blessings on people, because I know they’re working hard to serve God and to remain faithful. God still wants to bless his people. Next time you pray with someone who is going through tough times, take the time and pray a blessing on their life. Use this passage if you don’t know what to say. Then watch God’s blessing come upon that person’s life.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, I pray a blessing on the many people who serve single-parent families. I pray that you give them strength and conviction to continue helping single-parent families. Amen

Friday, February 26, 2010

What makes us dirty?

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Mark 7:20-23 (New Living Translation): And then (Jesus) added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

The Hebrews had hundreds of Mosaic Laws to follow, but over time, the Jews added many just as many traditions to be kept, too, thus making it extremely difficult to live a righteous life. The Pharisees, in Mark 7, again were trying to trap Jesus into preaching blasphemy, but he outsmarted them – again. They were questioning why his disciples ate with “unclean hands,” meaning they didn’t rinse their hands before eating, as prescribed by the Law.

Jesus went off on them, telling them that what they ate wasn’t what defiles a person; it’s what comes from the heart. Some of the terms used for defiled are “unclean” or to make “dirty” in the Greek. Dictionary.com defines defiled as tainted or polluted. In terms of sexuality, it means to “violate the chastity,” which could be anything from sex outside marriage to rape. Anything from the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue to the Victoria’s Secrets lingerie catalogs are off-limits to us, because they set our minds racing toward lustful thoughts.

Jesus was after more than just the appearance of godliness, as the Pharisees were prone to; he wanted right hearts. Every evil action begins with a single thought. Lust, envy, hatred or revenge all begin in our hearts. Paul advised the Philippians to, instead, focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Phil. 4:8). Paul, too, knew the battle was in our minds and our hearts. Right thoughts lead to right actions.

Satan knows the battle is for our minds, so he tries to fill them with garbage. Think about what’s out there these days in magazines, books, the Internet, movies and TV. Not much of it is pure and lovely; it’s all about greed and sex. It’s even harder to live a righteous life today because of the many obstacles we face. In my house, we don’t watch R movies that have sexual content. When we go through the video store looking for something to view, the first thing we check is to see what it’s rated and why. It’s really hard to find a good movie that isn’t rated R any more. People must think we’re crazy looking at a DVD, then quickly turning them back over and move on, but it’s worth it to keep the trash out of our home. As single parents, we need a clean house for our kids' sake.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to keep my mind on you and not on those things that defile my heart. Help me to think of the lovely things you’ve given me in my life and to focus on them. Amen

Monday, February 22, 2010

It’s more than just “don’t worry, be happy”

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 8:32, 9:11-12 (New Living Translation): So my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. … Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin became semi-famous for singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” a reggae a cappella ditty with the whistler in the background that the world immediately took to. The title came from a famous quote from Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba, “don’t worry, be happy.” The song goes on, “In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double don't worry, be happy.”

McFerrin got it partly right, that we will, indeed, have trouble in this life and that worrying will only make it worse. So be happy! Happiness and joy are something everyone wants to attain, and there are plenty of self-help programs on the airwaves and the Internet to help you find your way. But much of what the secular world throws at us is all about “me.” Naturally, we live in the “me” generation. The world is slowly figuring out that all this emphasis on “me” doesn’t really help one to be happy.

We shouldn’t be focusing on me, we should be focusing on God. Whereas Solomon does not address happiness directly in the wisdom chapters of Proverbs (7-9), he does tell us that the way to find joy is by seeking God in all we do. King Solomon goes so far as to say that being joyful is the way to add years to our lives. If you seek wisdom from God, you will “benefit,” whereas if you “scorn” wisdom, you will be the one who “suffers.” Happiness is based on our external surroundings, whereas Joy comes from the heart.

The happiest people I know are Christians who have weathered life’s troubles by putting God first in their lives. That search for God led to more integrity and honesty, better decision making and healthier relationships in marriage, parenting and friendships, and to growing a heart to serve others. Those kind of people laugh more and live a healthy lifestyle. A right relationship with God leads to … less worry. That’s what we’re all after. Single adults who want to find wisdom should follow Solomon’s advice and seek wisdom (God) in all you do. If you remain single you’re happy and content, and if you marry, you’ll be better prepared to choose the right mate and be happy in remarriage and blended family life, which has its own troubles.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to seek you today in making decisions today. Help me to have wisdom in all my relationships. Amen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God is like a guide dog for the blind

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Psalm 32:8, 10 (New Living Translation): The Lord says, “I will guide you
along the best pathway
For your life.
I will advise you and watch
over you.

… But unfailing love surrounds
those who trust the Lord.”

Guide dogs are the eyes for the blind, assisting them in their everyday lives. When they reach a street corner, they know when to stop and when to go, so that the blind do not walk into oncoming traffic. The dogs come to know the way to the supermarket or to the post office by going left or right. They learn where danger is and protect their masters. Before a dog can become a guide dog, he must go through rigorous training as a puppy to prepare him.

God is like a guide dog for the blind – except he doesn’t need any training. He is omniscient and all-knowing, so he knows what is best for each of our lives. He knows what is coming up in our lives, so he tries to guide us “along the best pathway.” Dictionary.com gives several definitions for the verb to guide: a) to assist (a person) to travel through, or reach a destination in, an unfamiliar area; b) to force (a person, object, or animal) to move in a certain path; and c) to supply (a person) with advice or counsel as in practical or spiritual affairs.

God is like the examples in a and c, but not b. He gives us assistance and advice, but he doesn’t force us to do what he suggests because he gives us free will. Following God’s path does not mean an easy life. On the contrary, scripture says that following Christ will mean difficulty. When we stray from God’s direction, we get off the path he has chosen for us and the consequences mount. Sometimes, we see the error of our ways and we scurry back to God’s chosen path for our lives because we see how bad the wrong pathway is for us. God is always there to take us back, although there still may be a rebuke. He takes us back because he is graceful. God’s unfailing love is there for those who choose his path. His love gives us the peace and confidence in our lives that we can face any trial and survive and even thrive.

Back to our guide dog analogy: What if the blind person didn’t trust his dog, and he fought the dog’s guidance? Chaos would ensue, and the blind person may end up lost. Trust builds over time between the blind and his guide dog. A bond develops between the two when, day after day, the dog leads the blind safely to his destination and back home again. With trust comes love and assurance of future safety. So it is with God. Each time we choose the right path, our trust in God builds. The hard part is coming to that place where our faith in God is tested. Our faith grows when we say “I don’t know where we’re going, Lord, but I trust you are leading me down the right path. I know you’re with me to guide me. Here we go.”

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to turn to you today for guidance and direction. Help me to trust you with where you send me. Amen

Friday, February 12, 2010

Attaining wisdom in a world fraught with recklessness

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 8:12, 13 (New Living Translation): “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.

The book of Proverbs is filled with verses about wisdom, which is why it’s often called the book of wisdom. Much of it is written by Solomon, called the wisest man on earth at the time. Solomon constantly challenges us to seek wisdom. This passage clearly states that the author of wisdom is God himself: “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.” When scripture capitalizes a term like LORD, it’s referring to God. In this case, Wisdom is capitalized. Hence, God is Wisdom.

Solomon tells us how to discover wisdom, through “knowledge and discernment.” The two go together. Wisdom is not just book smarts. We attain those traits through a relationship with God. Seeking God makes us more like him. Talking to God every day and seeking to please him helps us to think more like him. The New Testament is all about following Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son, and acting more like him. Part of that desire to have a personal relationship with God is to think like him. How we make decisions sets us apart from the ungodly. Those who love God will “hate evil” and love justice and mercy.

Solomon gives us a brief synopsis of how we should act: We should “hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech.” Think about that for a minute. So much of society today is filled with pride and arrogance. Politicians, Hollywood moguls, athletes and entertainers, and big business leaders fill out news stories with corruption, sexual misconduct and bribery. You can’t watch a movie today without hearing an onslaught of F-bombs and God’s name being taken in vain. Who is next up on the infidelity headlines?

Solomon calls those acts “folly,” the opposite of wisdom. The New International version uses the word “prudence” instead of good judgment. Dictionary.com says the opposite of prudence is recklessness. When I went to my Thesaurus to look for synonyms to prudence, the list included calculation, care, circumspection, concern, deliberation, diligence, discretion, foresight, frugality, judgment, precaution, vigilance. Those are all traits we need to be seeking in our own lives, through our relationship with God, so that we can pass them on to our children. Setting a godly example is the best way to teach wisdom to our young people. Let them see wisdom in our lives by our actions and speech.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to set a godly example for my sons and my wife. I pray that others might see wisdom in my lifestyle. I ask for wisdom today in everything I do. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Avoiding foolish ways

Good morning. This is a devotional for single adults from Parenting Solo, but the message also applies to single adults without children who may one day marry a single parent and be a step-parent. Feel Free to forward it to a friend. If you wish to be removed from this e-mail list, simply hit reply and write REMOVE in the subject line.

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 7:6 (New Living Translation): While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain, I saw some na├»ve young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.

You may already know where this story is going. If not, read the whole Proverb. Here's the Cliff Notes version: An immoral woman is bored and seduces the young man because he is easy prey – he lacks common sense. As parents, one of our main jobs is to help our chidren develop common sense. A little common sense would have kept the young man from being by the seductress, who, day after day, looks for easy prey while her husband is away on business. Proverbs uses the term “folly,” meaning, “the fool.”

So just how do we give our children common sense? The Bible equates common sense to wisdom, and we gain wisdom through a relationship with God. We develop our relationship with God through time spent with him, reading and studying the Bible (alone and with others), praying, spending time with other believers, listening to a sermon on Sunday morning, and serving others. Let's take one of those areas, serving, and see how God uses it to teach us wisdom and common sense.

Take your child with you to feed the homeless. While the two of you are working, ask your child, “What do you think happened to that person that they reached this stage of life?” Maybe you ask the question on the job or in the car on the drive home. Then let them think about it, and keep asking questions when they respond. Sometimes, people are in their predicament because of poor choices. As you pull into the driveway, stop and say a prayer. “Lord, show my son how to be a person of good character, how to care for others who are less fortunate, and give him the wisdom to avoid being where these people were today. And help my son to always feel compassion for the poor and the needy.”

As you're walking up to the house, remind your son or daughter that life is difficult sometimes. Often, we get in such predicaments because we have strayed from God's ways and a relationship with him. God is never far from us, but we sometimes choose to keep him at a distance. We want to make our own decisions to prove we can be independent. That's a normal emotion for a teenager. Remind them that being independent from our parents does not mean we should be independent of God. We always need him; it's part of a life lived with wisdom.

In the Proverb, the difference between the fool and the wise person is the fool can only see the immediate gratification of his action, whereas the wise person sees the consequences of his choices. That's a trait we want our children to have.

How does this apply to my life?

Today's prayer: Lord, help me to raise my children with common sense and wisdom so that they can see the folly of life. Help me to raise them with you as their focus every day. Amen

Monday, February 08, 2010

All life is precious

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from John 10:10 (New Living Translation): The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Yesterday, my wife and I watched the Super Bowl, hooping to catch the Tim Tebow ad sponsored by Focus on the Family, on the right to life. Before the game, some sports fans and pro abortionists spoke out against CBS' decision to run the ad because it was such a “controversial subject.” Somehow, we missed the ad during the game, so this morning we got up and looked for the ad online. The ad could not have been less controversial. In fact, it was downright cute. (See links below.) If you didn't know about the ad beforehand, you might not guess that it was a pro life statement.

We watched the 30-second ad on Hulu.com, and then went to Focus on the Family's Web site, which I think was the point of the ad. There, we could open a link to the real Tim Tebow story, with Bob and Pam Tebow being interviewed. The Tebows were missionaries in the Philippines when Pam got pregnant with Timmy (as she calls him in the ad). Doctors told the Tebows that there were complications, that the baby would probably born with birth defects, and that they should consider abortion. After praying, the Tebows, who already had four healthy children, decided to keep the baby and to trust God with whatever lay ahead of them.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Tim Tebow was born healthy and full-sized. He grew up to be a 6-foot-4, 245-pound quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy two years ago and has led the University of Florida to two national championships. He's also a would-be evangelist in his own right, going into prisons and going on summer mission trips to the Philippines to share the gospel, just as his mom and dad raised him to do. When Timmy was born, Bob promised the Lord he would raise him up to be a preacher. His full-time preaching days may have to wait awhile, as the younger Tebow has a budding professional football career ahead of him.

As my wife and I watched the real story of Tim Tebow on www.focusonthefamily.com, I listened intently to what the Tebows said. They raised their children to have goals beyond everyday life. They sent their children on mission trips when they were 15, so that they could learn about life in third-world countries and to have eternal values. They grew up with a heart for other people and other countries. Tim Tebow was able to see people in real-life struggles and gain real perspective. He learned the power of the gospel, which is powerful, transforms lives and gives hope. The Tebows focused their efforts on eternal values, not worldly values; they gave their children a strong work ethic and what scripture says is important,not what society labels as important.

We can all learn valuable lessons from the Tebow's story. What kind of message would we have learned had Pam Tebow chosen to abort her child 22 years ago?

How does this apply to my life?

Today's prayer: Lord, thank you for the boldness of the Tebows, and I pray a blessing upon their family. I pray that you bless their message today, and that thousands of girls and women choose to have their babies because of their story. Amen





Friday, February 05, 2010

Remaining faithful still the standard

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 15:25b-26 (New Living Translation): It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Sometimes, God’s commands see difficult to comprehend, or we aren’t sure of the direction God is leading us. Yet, at other times, God’s decrees are incredibly simple and basic. The message Moses relayed to the Israelites was as easy as it gets: Listen carefully to God’s voice, and obey his commands. That’s it.

If we always accomplished that objective, we wouldn’t be facing the troubles we face day after day. Many people would argue that it’s hard to distinguish God’s voice at times, and that it isn’t always black and white when it comes to doing the right thing. Imagine how the Israelites felt; Moses hadn’t yet brought down the 10 Commandments from his mountaintop experience. Just what were his decrees?

Ah, but we cannot make the same complaint the Israelites made. We have the wisdom of the Bible to fall back on. We know what the 10 Commandments say, and we know that Jesus whittled that down even more, to two basic rules: Love God first with all your heart, mind and soul, then love your neighbor as yourself. That’s still the standard of faithfulness that God gives us.

The next day, God would rain down quail and bread for the people to let them know that he is the God who provides. Some still complained, or they didn’t trust that the food would come every day, so they hoarded away extra food. That’s what we do; we don’t really trust God to meet our needs, so we take matters into our own hands. We keep watching God tap a rock and watching water flow out of it, then a few days later, we forget, whine some more and wail some more, then we ask for another miracle. Instead, when trials come along, we should take a deep breath and remember the manna that God always provides in our lives. God is always there for us; we just have to remain faithful.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, I admit that sometimes I struggle to hear your voice. Help me to be faithful and to remember your provision in difficult times. Help me to remember that you are the God who provides. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at http:/www.oneyearbibleonline.com/february.asp?version=51

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The land of ‘Milk and honey’ is approaching

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 13:5 (New Living Translation): When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month:

Let me see if I have this right. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt, being forced to work back-breaking labor from sun-up to sun-down and they despise their masters. Moses comes along and promises them freedom from said slavery. So to prove God’s power to Pharaoh, Moses sends plague after plague that devastates the land for years to come. When that doesn’t work, he tells the Israelites to slaughter a lamb, grab a hyssop branch and smear blood over their doorposts so the angel of death will “pass over” their house when killing all the first-borns, people and livestock alike, in every household in Egypt. Finally, Pharaoh tells Moses to take the Israelites and get out of town! NOW!

The Israelites take up a collection of silver and gold from the Egyptians on the road out of town. God warns Moses that the Israelites would likely bitch and moan about the life they were leaving behind. After all, they had it pretty good, making bricks all day long with no straw – “but keep up your production boys, or there will be hell to pay!” Today, that would be akin to giving someone a laptop with no battery left and no power cord – but keep up your work load – or else! It didn’t take long for the complaining to start.

“A land flowing with milk and honey” is a poetic word picture that Moses used to describe the land of Canaan. He doesn’t use the term in stereotypical used-car salesman fashion, trying to sell the Israelites on a vacation to visit London Bridge in the middle of the desert. He first uses the term in Exodus 3:17 after God speaks to him from the burning bush.

Canaan was not literally “flowing with milk and honey.” Moses was using a metaphor to describe the land they would be traveling to would be beautiful and productive. In other words, “We’ll have everything we need, fellas, to survive in the wilderness.” Moses wanted to give the people a visualization of what the place would look like. Every time the grumbling started, I imagine Moses just shouted out the words, “Milk and honey, people. Milk and honey. Let’s keep moving.” That metaphor is also a reminder of what our life with Christ is like after we leave behind our slavery to sin. You may be going through a divorce or unemployment right now, but the cow isn’t always gong to be dry. We need to remind ourselves that “milk and honey” is coming. Sweet!

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to not turn back and think of my past with honesty. Help me not to deceive myself that life was so grand in my past sinful life. Help me to remember that my life with you truly is “milk and honey.” Amen



This week’s reading plan can be found at

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gordon Ramsay, eat your heart out

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Exodus 4:11-12 (New Living Translation): Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

My wife and I spent the weekend with the singles group from our church at Pebble Beach in a palatial house (a gift) for a leadership retreat. My role was to combine my ministry resources with my culinary acumen and blend it into an interactive team-building exercise in the kitchen. Thirteen single adults were given cash to spend and a 4 ½-hour time limit to plan, shop and work together in the kitchen to prepare a meal. The emphasis for the day was to build camaraderie amongst the leaders.

Before sending them off, I had prepared to show them an episode from “Hell’s Kitchen,” in which the star of the show, Gordon Ramsay, lays into one of the young chefs on the show for making a blunder, but just as I was ready to hit play … my computer battery died. I gave them the Cliff Notes version, telling them there would be no yelling or screaming on my part when one of my would-be chefs blew it on a kitchen task. Maybe we’ll call my version “Heaven’s Kitchen,” in which only friendly tones and encouragement are offered by this kitchen coach.

For the next 20 minutes, I witnessed utter chaos. My role for the day was not to cook the meal, but to simply instruct here and there and give my advice on cooking techniques. I nudged one of the leaders I knew well. “You guys need to pray, or this is going to be a disaster,” I suggested. Sure enough, after the group prayed for direction, peace and calm reigned. Cooperative planning and good decision-making suddenly replaced the bedlam. For the next four hours, the exercise went fairly smoothly, much to the delight of all.

After the meal was prepared, everyone sat down to a wonderful meal on beautifully decorated tables. This was their celebration, and together, we gave thanks for what we had produced. Friendly conversation and laughter filled both tables, as participants shared their learning experiences – good and bad. After we finished eating, we waddled over to the living room to debrief. I reminded the group about the importance of prayer when serving the king. When we pray, we are asking the Holy Spirit to bless our efforts and to guide us to the work that God needs done. He gives us special powers to accomplish things we never dreamed we could do. Prayer removes fear and limitations and empowers us to be creative with humility and great strength.

(FYI, the team-building exercise I designed is called Feast With the King for the church, and Kitchen Coach for the corporate world. I’ll share more about my ideas later. God bless)

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the empowerment you give us when we turn to you for strength and guidance. Truly, I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Right hearts, right actions

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Genesis 42:28 (New Living Translation):

“Look!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!” Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?”

Two weeks ago, I started again on a trek to read through the Bible again in a year. (There is a link at the end of this devotional.) When I came to the story of Jacob, his wives, his, concubines and his 12 sons, I was delighted, because Joseph is one of my favorite Old Testament characters. His life story is one of mystery and intrigue. It could be a modern-day drama on the big screen, with murder plots, deceit, sex, thievery and revenge – all the good stuff. Joseph has an amazing ability to keep his trust in God at every travail that he encounters.

At this point in the story, Joseph is second in command of all Egypt, and his brothers have come from Canaan to buy grain to keep from starving during a severe famine. Joseph recognizes his brothers right away and begins to plot revenge, though what he really wants from them is a confession of their dirty deeds some 15 years prior. The storyline goes back and forth, and Joseph even makes his brothers out to be thieves and prepares prison cells for them. Spine-tingling stuff, all of it.

This passage in Genesis is rich with behind-their-thinking scenes. “What has God done to us?” the brothers ask each other. It seems God is, indeed, weighing heavily on the brothers’ minds. I do think God weighs on our minds to fix what we’ve broken. Relationships are important to God, and when our lies hurt someone, God expects, more than anything, for us to confess our sins and seek forgiveness. Lastly, he expects us to change our ways. True reconciliation can’t happen without those three things.

Now, Joseph didn’t become the No. 2 honcho in all of Egypt for nothing. Pharaoh saw that he was a wise man who knew God intimately. That was a combination that Pharaoh admired greatly in Joseph. He plays a cat-and-mouse game with his brothers for one reason: He genuinely wants to know his brothers are repentant for their deeds long ago. He wants to see that their hearts have changed. That’s what God wants from us, too. He keeps putting things in our lives to remind us that we have some confessing and reconciling to do. Jesus said if we’re at the altar ready to drop money in the offering basket, but have a broken relationship that needs fixing, to pull our cash back and go repair the friendship first. God wants right hearts first, then right actions. That’s what Joseph wanted from his brothers, and it’s what God wants from us.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to hear your voice when you call on me to reconcile a relationship. Help me to know what I must do to fix what is broken. Amen

This week’s reading plan can be found at http:/www.oneyearbibleonline.com/january.asp?version=51

Monday, January 25, 2010

The aftermath of deception

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Genesis 33:8 (New Living Translation): “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”

Liars have to constantly work at covering up the lies of their past. Isaac named his second son Jacob because he came out of his mother’s womb grasping onto Esau’s heel. The Hebrew for Jacob sounds like “heel” or “deceiver.” From the time he was a boy, Jacob played the part of the deceiver. He stole his brother’s blessing and birthright by lying to his father. He wasn’t honest with Laban when he took his wives and clan away from the valley he had lived in for 20 years. Lying had become a part of Jacob’s daily life.

As Jacob and his family get closer to his brother Esau, he plots to bribe his brother because he fears for his life, because Esau had threatened his life when his birthright was stolen. God has blessed Jacob greatly while working for Laban, who, it must be noted, did not treat Jacob very fairly. After agreeing to let Jacob marry his younger daughter Rachel after seven years of labor, he tricked him into marrying gloomy-eyed Leah first. Then Laban made Jacob work another seven years for Rachel’s hand. Jacob felt firsthand what it felt like to be deceived.

The term “Liars’ Den” means that liars stick together or deserve each other, which certainly suited Laban and Jacob. A liar’s reputation takes awhile from which to recover. Businessmen or salespeople who lie and cheat their customers soon gain the tag of “untrustworthy” or “unreliable.” People like that tell themselves that “everyone does it; what’s the big deal?” God helps Jacob overcome his dishonesty by changing his name to Israel, so he doesn’t have to live down to his namesake.

That’s why God tells us it’s so important to be honest and trustworthy, in all our dealings. When we fail to be honest, we are to go to the other party, confess our sins and seek forgiveness. There may be painful consequences to our lying, such as broken trust in a relationship. Being honest is at the forefront of any healthy relationship. Many dating and marital relationships are strained by lies and deceit. Trust is hard to gain in such circumstances. Warning: If you’re dating someone and lying is a part of their MO, get out now: It’s not too late. Don’t marry a born liar: Married life will be hell for the deceived.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to be honest with all my relationships. Help me to have a heart like Jesus, and be truthful with everyone I come across. Amen

Friday, January 22, 2010

Do you have sparkly eyes?

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Genesis 29:16-17 (New Living Translation): Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face.

The story of Jacob and Rachel is one of love and patience. From the first time Jacob laid eyes on Rachel, he was “in love” with her. That first glance hooked Jacob, and he was willing to work seven years for his Uncle Laban to gain her hand in marriage. Who among us would be willing to wait seven years to marry someone– with no other wages during that time other than room and board.

What has always attracted my eye in this story was the description of Rachel. This New Living Translation calls Rachel “beautiful” and “lovely” when Jacob saw her, but when he looked at her older sister Leah, she had no “sparkle.” The NIV calls it “weak” eyes, and the footnote in the NLT calls it “dull” eyes, but the Hebrew meaning is uncertain. In plain Ennglish, Leah was boring. What I believe Jacob saw in Rachel – but not in Leah – was a zest for life. Rachel was happy and vibrant, and Jacob was attracted to that. That’s a great quality to have in life.

Attraction of the eye takes on many forms for men and women, and it’s is very real. It isn’t wrong; it’s how God made us. That love-at-first-sight thing is what Jacob originally saw in Rachel, but seven years later, scripture says that Jacob “loved” Rachel. Being “in love,” as the passage above states, is infatuation. Part of that infatuation, surely, is that physical attraction. We want to make a good first impression, and Rachel seems to have that appeal, at least in Jacob’s eyes. But over time, Jacob grew to love Rachel. It took time.

Let’s get back to that sparkle that Rachel had, but Leah didn’t. Countenance counts, people. Are we happy and lively or are we dull and boring? How do we act after we’ve been around people for a while? Being happy and content is a sign of growth and maturity. God wants his followers to have that sparkle in the eye because it reflects on who He is. This has nothing to do with catching the eye of a beau – it’s about attracting others to Christ. It’s like the ad says: “Happy cows make happy cheese.” The fruit we produce is meant to sparkle and not be dull. It’s a choice we make.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to have that zest for life today. Help me to have a sparkle in my eyes as I go about doing your will. Amen

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An angelic marriage match

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Gen. 24:39-41 (New Living Translation): “But I said to my master, ‘What if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to go back with me?’ He responded, ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have lived, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful. Yes, you must find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. Then you will have fulfilled your obligation. But if you go to my relatives and they refuse to let her go with you, you will be free from my oath.’

In today’s culture, we have the freedom of choice when it comes to marriage. Men and women can choose who they marry here in America (although arranged marriages still occur in some parts of the world). But what if we still had arranged marriages? What would it look like? Would we blame God or an angel if our marriage ended in divorce? Or, as in the case of Rebekah and Isaac, would we be happy with the outcome?

Let’s recap the story from Genesis 24. Sarah has died, and Abraham is an old man. Isaac is 40 years old and hasn’t married yet. Abraham realized it was time to find his son a wife, so he sent his servant to find Isaac a wife from his kinfolk; he made his servant promise that, if Abraham died, Isaac would not marry one of those Canaanite women, saying it with contempt. So the servant traveled in a large caravan bearing expensive gifts from Canaan to distant Aramnaharaim, where Abraham’s brother Nahor had settled. Abraham sent his servant to an area where he thought he could find a suitable wife. Today, the equivalent would be to go to church to look for a spouse.

As the servant entered town, he asked for God’s help in finding the right woman to become Isaac’s wife. The servant prayed that he would have success, that the young girl who gave him a sip of water would respond with kindness and would offer to water his camels, too. Rebekah, Isaac’s niece was friendly and did just as the servant had prayed, so he asked Rebekah if there was room in her father’s home to put him up for the night. The servant told Nahor and his family the story and he, Nahor and Rebekah agreed to a marriage pact with Isaac, and off she went the next day – after she opened all her nifty presents. It was a God thing.

The key to the story is in verse 40: “He responded, ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have lived, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful.’” Just as it was 4,000 years ago, it is still important that we seek God’s will in our choices of marriage. We should ask God for his wisdom and guidance in selecting a mate. Rebekah and Isaac were a good match because God blessed the pairing. Once the wedding ring goes on, a pact has been made and all effort must be made to make the match successful and happy. If God says no, you can walk away with far less pain. An angel will be with you, if you desire, at no extra cost. The choice is yours.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, help us all to include you in our choices to date and marry. Help us to turn to you in every stage of dating, including our decision to marry. Amen

Friday, January 15, 2010

Smile when you see a rainbow

Good morning. Today’s scripture comes from Genesis 9:12-13 (New Living Translation): Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.

My wife and I enjoy being outdoors and seeing God’s creation in all its splendor. Whenever she sees a rainbow, it makes her smile, because she knows God created it for her to appreciate. She always points out rainbows to me. But God is also reminding us of his covenant with us and how much he loves us. That rainbow is God’s promise that He will always be there for us. The cloud formations just kind of go with rainbows.

Like the beautiful, multi-colored rainbow, the world is filled with reminders of God’s love for us. The more we get out, the more we see God’s hand in his creation. That covenant can be seen in all living creatures. When I catch trout in a mountain stream, I do one of two things: I either release it or take it home and prepare it up for dinner. My policy is that if I’m not going to eat it within a day, I release it back into the wild. The joy was in catching it. I absolutely love eating fresh, rainbow trout, and sometimes they’re meant to fill my tummy. God either provided the sheer enjoyment of catching it or giving me the delight of cooking and eating it. Both are fun.

Fishing is one of the things I love doing outdoors. I have all the gear, and sometimes I take it with me on vacations. I’ve been known to pack up my gear and drive two hours to a remote Sierra stream and just commune with nature for a morning. I like the quiet time alone. That mountain stream or lake is my sanctuary. At times I’m totally focused on catching a fish, whereas at other times I look up and see a beautiful mountain setting that makes my jaw drop in awe. My reactions are usually something like, “Wow, Lord, that was really beautiful. Thanks.” Then I stare for a minute. (My wife, on the other hand, wants to capture the moment with her camera!)

The Bible is filled with reminders of God’s desire to relate to us. God makes the same covenant in Genesis with Abram, for the Hebrews. He makes a covenant with David and his descendants. Jesus presented a new covenant, with all people, with his death on the cross. God’s covenant with us is for eternity. We can count on his promises.

So, the next time you see a rainbow, smile, because it’s God reminding you he wants to hang out.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for rainbows, clouds, and mountain streams. Thank you for your simple reminders of your love for us. Amen

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

God has already provided

Today’s scripture comes from Genesis 1:29: (NIV): Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

Some 6,000 years ago when God created the earth (I’m a young-earth creationist) on Day 1, he knew that people and beasts would be a part of his creation later in the week. He knew that they would need food to nourish them, so he first created plants and fruit for food. God shows his omnipotence early in the Bible to ease our minds of how he would provide for us.

Throughout the Biblical story, God provides for his people. Adam and Eve lived in not just a beautiful garden, but a garden plentiful in fruits and vegetables. (And wasn’t it wonderful that the food was so tasty and not bland! Except for eggplant. What’s up with that, Lord?) When Noah was loading up for his roughly year’s journey on his big boat, God reminded him to bring along seven of certain kinds of animals for sacrifice and eating, as well as seven kinds of birds. Noah had to bring lunch for every animal for a year. Psalms 104:16 says “The trees of the Lord are well cared for …” When John the Baptist was living in the desert, he survived on locusts and wild honey. God has provided for his people from Day 1.

Sometimes, God’s provision will be plentiful, as it was for Adam and Eve in the beginning with the Garden of Eden, and at other times, as with John, the sustenance may not have been exactly what we had in mind, but we survived. During lean times, people learn to get by on less. Perhaps that is the message God wants us to see during such ordeals. Fasting reminds us we can do without food awhile longer than we thought we could. During lent, people sacrifice something that is important to them, such as coffee or chocolate. OK, we won’t go that far.

The point is that when we go through tough times, God knows what will be coming and he has provided for us in advance. We can be thankful for God’s provision before the day even begins because God promised to take care of our needs. It’s that trust part we all struggle with. When the hunger pains cry out from our stomach, we begin to wonder where God is and we start to question God. Why is this happening? What God wants us to do during difficult times is, instead, to ask “Lord, what is it you want me to do? What am I supposed to learn?” Such responses help us to mature and grow in our trust for God’s provisions. He will provide for us what we need to accomplish his purpose for this day.

How does this apply to my life?

Today’s prayer: Lord, before the day even begins, you have already planned out my day and have provided for me. Thank you. Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Here we go again

Today’s scripture comes from Proverbs 1:1-3: (New Living Translation): These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.


Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
to help them understand the insights of the wise.


Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
to help them do what is right, just, and fair.


As I have shared before, I have basically had writer’s block for the past three months. My notes say it started around Oct. 13. I sort of skipped over 35 chapters in the Psalms and suddenly ended it with a year-end devotional from the last chapter. I wish I could say that life is settling down for me, but for an unemployed guy, I’m extremely busy. I don’t know what I will do when I am employed again full-time.


By my notes, I see that 2010 is Volume 5 for these daily devotionals meant for single adults. That means I have been doing this for four years. By my calculations, I have written over 750 devotionals. My original intention was to write for single parents, because I was one for 13 years. Then I done got hitched, and I became a part of a blended family. I expanded the devotionals to included all single adults and blended families. The rules for living in the kingdom are mostly the same, whether you are a single adult or are married.


In the past few days, my desire to write these devotionals has increased again. A medication I take seems to be in balance – finally – and I again am rising before 6 to be with God every day. What will I write about? A couple of days ago, a book in our book case caught my eye: The One-Year Bible, my inspiration for the devotionals in 2006. Then I studied the Gospels more in depth, and last year I studied the Psalms. The purpose of my writing is best exemplified by Solomon’s desire to share his vast wisdom with others in Proverbs.


So it is with my writing in these devotionals. But the wisdom I try to share comes from God’s Word, his story of his creation of heaven and earth, the fall of man, and his plan for redemption – sending his son Jesus Christ to live among us and to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. My wisdom and your wisdom come from the same source: by seeking God’s will through prayer and study of scriptures. As I read The One Year Bible each day, I ask God to reveal to me the message He wants you to have. First, and foremost, He wants you to know he loves you and wants to be a part of your life – every day. He wants to hang out with you, be with you as you walk through life (good and bad), listen to your problems, and tell you how to solve them – if you will sit silently long enough to listen to his advice.


As my partner in this endeavor, I ask that you pray that God gives me the wisdom to write fresh messages every day. I will try to write 2-3 times a week, but I make no promises. I write as God leads me. May God bless you as you read along.


How does this apply to my life?


Today’s prayer: Lord, thank you for my gift of writing. I pray that I write solely you’re your glory, and that those who read it see you more clearly. Amen