January 1. Back to the Beginning
Today's Reading: Genesis 1-3; Matthew 1
Today's Thoughts: Back to the Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
Sometimes I need to go back to the beginning of the Bible to get a new perspective on things. The book of Genesis is a wonderful book filled with all kinds of new beginnings. From the creation of the universe to the beginnings of civilization, I am always blessed when I start reading Genesis. Let's look at the first four verses to see how they can give us a fresh and new perspective for today.
I love the first four words: "In the beginning God…" That says it all. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that God has always existed. It is hard to comprehend the concept that before "the beginning," there was God, but it is a truth that we can embrace with love and respect. He is God and there is none other. "God," as used in this passage, is the Hebrew word "Elohim," which is plural (meaning more than one). Elohim refers to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, existing since the beginning of creation. It brings great comfort in being reminded that God is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present, from beginning to end (Alpha and Omega), while taking care of us in the middle too.
The next amazing part of these verses describes how God separated the light from the darkness. The earth was dark and had no form or substance. But, God is light and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Thus, God brought forth His light for us. When I feel as though darkness surrounds me, I look upon Jesus and He is still bringing forth His light for me today. These verses remind me that God understands darkness and never intended for us to live in it. He created the light, separated the light from darkness, and said, "it was good."
What should we meditate on today from reading these verses? First, know that God is eternal and there is no other god like Him. He is our Creator and the Creator of all things. He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as One. And, know that God saw the darkness and knew that the whole earth needed His light. God created the light for us and sometimes we need to be reminded that God is our light.
When man sinned, darkness entered into our hearts and the light of God went out. God sent His Son, Jesus, to bring light into the world so that all who believe in Him might be saved from the eternal darkness. For those of us today who have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are filled with His eternal presence through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Everywhere we go, we shine His light. Isn't it great to go back to the beginning?
February 14. As Christ Loves Us
Today's Reading: Leviticus 15-16; Matthew 27:1-26
Today's Thoughts: As Christ Loves Us
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Valentine's Day is celebrated as a day to express love and most notably, romantic love. The history of Valentine's Day, along with the saint for whom it is named, is shrouded in mystery. Both Christian and ancient Roman traditions make up its origins, but the exact details of what happened to St. Valentine are uncertain. What is certain is that through a series of events dating back to the middle ages, February 14 became the date to commemorate Valentine's Day. Roses and chocolates will be sold at exorbitant prices and in massive quantities, all in hopes to express our love in that special way. What is the most special way to express our love?
The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is known as the love chapter of the Bible. The apostle Paul writes about true love, what it is and what it is not. It "suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;" (verse 4). It "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;" (verse 5). Paul puts it very simply in verse 8, "Love never fails." Flowers fade and candies melt, but true love never fades, never dies, never fails. The most special way to express our love is to practice these qualities Paul speaks of as we learn to love beyond ourselves.
Romantic love is a wonderful feeling and being in love is truly a gift from God. Those feelings of heightened joy and excitement seem to make everything else less significant. But today, let's ask the Lord to help us love beyond the feelings of the gifts and the favors. Let's pray that we can love as Christ loves us and that we can express that love in ways that bless those around us more than anything else we can give. Why not make today a day to take love more seriously than you ever have before? Pray that love becomes the motivation for all that you do. Enjoy the flowers and candies and candlelight dinners, but remember to keep love in your heart, not just in the festivities.
March 16. The Gift of Salvation
Today's Reading: Deuteronomy 28-29; Mark 14:54-72
Today's Thoughts: The Gift of Salvation
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Why is a gift of salvation so hard to accept? Why do so many people look for their own way to heaven? Why do people try to make God fit into their own belief system? Regardless of the many who reject these two verses, they are truth. There is only one way to heaven and the only Way is by receiving the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Despite the growing and ever present number of religious groups which believe otherwise, this truth will be the only one that matters when it is all said and done. Because in essence, we as mankind have a hard time accepting the "gift." The old saying that there is no free lunch sets us up to trust only in those things we earn. Trust is the key word. Where do we put our trust? We either trust in the Lord or we trust in ourselves.
Many today try to blend a combination of the two. They trust the Lord to give them the gift of salvation because they work so hard to please Him. And these works and efforts can really look good. They attend church regularly, serve when needed, give as required, and try to live overall lives that maintain Christian moral values. But they give themselves too much credit. God does not want anyone to do anything for Him because He has already done everything for us. So how do we accept His gift? We need to realize that the gift has been given by grace, and to receive the gift, all we need to do is believe. We just need to believe in our hearts that Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins and that without Him we are spiritually dead and destined to spend eternity separated from Him. Believe in Jesus, not in man's good works.
Are you tired and weary of trying to please God? Even if you have professed faith and accepted Jesus as your Lord, you still might be trying so hard to please Him. Today, we need to accept His promise and rest in Him. Let's live today to the fullest in God's gift by trusting Him in all things and all areas of our lives. Start by talking to Him. Give your heart to Jesus, give Him your burdens today and He will show you mercy. Worship and praise Him and your heart will begin to sense His joy and peace. Why would any of us desire to follow any other way?
July 4. Listen as a Disciple
Today's Reading: Job 28-29; Acts 13:1-25
Today's Thoughts: Listen as a Disciple
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
Do you ever find yourself knowing deep within the depths of your heart that God wants to bring about change, and even though you have been the one praying for it, you aren't ready when He is ready to answer your prayer? Well, that happened to me today.
In the mornings, I spend time reading the Bible, praying on my knees and worshiping. Then I allow time for silence so that the Holy Spirit can minister to me in the quietness. Sometimes that's all there is… quietness, which in itself is such a blessing before the day begins. But this morning's quietness was different. This morning the Lord wanted to impress something on my heart that I didn't want to hear. My quiet time was cut short by my choice this morning. But the Lord didn't quit, and right before I left the house, I got a strange impression that I was going to have to face something that I was refusing to hear from the Lord. And that is exactly what happened. Within two hours of my devotional time and one hour from the impression, I heard things that I wished I had heard first in the presence of the Lord. And then I found myself repenting to Him and shocked that it was actually going to come about. Foreknowledge would have eased my heart regarding this matter.
God's intention is always for our best. We all have to remember that God does nothing without revealing His plans to His servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7). He desires to include us in His plans and He even places those desires within our hearts first. God wants to give to us whatever we ask in Jesus' name to bring Him glory, as He fulfills the desires He has placed within our hearts. If we are in His Word and quiet in worship before Him, we can also be included when He unfolds His plans. Today, take time to just be still before Him and listen. Quiet your heart and allow His heart to minister to you. And I am sure that your day will go better than mine did today.
September 14. Choose to Love
Today's Reading: Proverbs 19-21; 2 Corinthians 7
Today's Thoughts: Choose to Love
These things I command you, that you love one another.
As a child, one of my favorite words was "why." I know it drove my parents crazy when I used it repeatedly. Why do I have to brush my teeth? Why do I need to eat those green things? The answer was always the same, "Because I told you so." There are times when we must submit and do as we are told. Children have little choice in the matter, but as adults we can choose our own course. Jesus tells us to "love one another." And even in this command, we have a choice. Have you ever found yourself wondering why you have to love that person who seems so undeserving? The answer is because Jesus says so.
Love is so important to Jesus that He summed up all Ten Commandments into two: love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that nothing we do really matters without love. But in today's world, we are confused about love. Movies and television lure us into fantasies about "true" love using sex, guilt and manipulation as tools to obtain love. When we are hurt by someone who says they love us, we begin to wonder if love really exists at all. Is love a feeling or is it an attitude or a behavior? Jesus knew exactly why He had to command us to love each other. Because we would not do it based upon our own feelings. We are human and our nature is sinful.
The only way to keep this commandment is to pray. Pray for God's love to fill your heart. Pray that you will love your enemies as well as your neighbor (the good and bad). Pray that you will love Jesus more every day. It is only when we stop asking "why" and start asking "how" that we can truly know what love is.
November 15. Faith and Prayer
Today's Reading: Ezekiel 1-2; Hebrews 11:1-19
Today's Thoughts: Faith and Prayer
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
God rewards faith. Christianity started with the faith of Abraham. Faith means that we do not see to believe. So, praying is an act of faith. When we pray, we are acknowledging that God exists and listens even though we do not see Him. God rewards our faith by answering our prayers.
I have noticed that when I first came to Christ, He answered my prayers pretty quickly. It was as if I was in "obedience school" and He wanted to reward my good behavior of including Him. As I grew in my faith, I next noticed that God answered some prayers quickly but other prayers, He did not answer at all. He was then training me to learn how to pray and ask for certain things differently. When I studied the Word to see God's heart on the matter or asked God to clarify my motives of why I was asking, He would answer those prayers as well as what I asked.
Now, after having walked with the Lord for many years, my prayer life has changed again. I have more of a conversational prayer life than an "ask and believe and receive" prayer life. Now, I talk with the Lord about my requests. I ask Him to reveal His heart to me about the matter and I wait to see if there is any change in my heart as I also search the Scriptures to hear His heart. The requests themselves have now become smaller in comparison to the relationship of talking and listening and learning from Him. There is no request or unanswered prayer that becomes more important than my ongoing relationship with Him. So my faith is rewarded in a completely different way than answered prayer; my faith is rewarded by enjoying His presence in the process.
God is good. Learn to seek Him in faith. It starts with prayer requests and continues until you are praying without ceasing. You will not be disappointed. How could we ever be more satisfied than with the very presence of God Himself?