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Good Morning!


This is just a note to let you know that there will be a slight interruption in the publishing of the, "Morning Manna."  Several "life" issues have bombarded me and I need a time of restoration and renewal in the Lord.  I will be back soon and would ask that you pray that my priorities would be those of the Lord.


In the meantime (which I hope will be very short-lived), let us keep praising the Lord for He has indeed done, and is doing, great things.  Let us lift our voices and praise Him daily, driving away the enemy who would so love to see us destroyed.  Let us remember that we are always led by God to triumph in Christ Jesus.  Let us dwell on and be consoled and strengthened by the fact that we are children of the Most High God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Let us remember that, with God all things are possible and nothing is impossible.  Let us keep dwelling on the fact that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.  Let us meditate on the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Let us never forget that no weapon formed against us will ultimately prosper and that we are more than conquerers through Christ Jesus who strengthens us to do all things!  Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  His joy is our strength and He remains a shield round about us holding us up with His victorious right hand!


Be back with you soon, the Lord willing!


Much love,



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Mark 2:14 (NLT)  14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.


It's good to be in a crowd sometimes.  Jesus taught crowds.  He had a big ministry.  But, that didn't stop Him from caring about individuals!  Jesus was on His way to preach to the crowds and, as he walked along, he saw Levi.  Levi was doing his everyday business (which was profitable but not on the up-and-up).  As we go about our daily business, how many times are we so much in a hurry that we do not really see individuals as we move through our highly crowded days?  If we do happen to look at individuals, how many times do we judge them?  Especially if they are involved in something we know (or think) is wrong?  It's good to dislike evil but it's not good to overlook individuals just because they are bound by some kind of sin.  Jesus challenged Levi that day.  Levi was a tax collector and he was in the practice of collecting a larger amount of tax than was required and keeping the over payment for himself.  In other words, he was a corrupt government official.  He was just doing what all the others in his profession did.  The sad thing is that Matthew was Jewish but he was working for the Romans on the one hand and cheating his own people on the other hand.  On that one day when Jesus just happened to be walking by on His way to preach to many who were waiting to hear Him, He stopped for one person.  He did that often and He still does that today!  One person can make a difference in the world and for eternity!  Levi (whose name we know now as Matthew) was not being good at the time.  He was involved in corruption.  Jesus didn't say one thing about that.  He only said two words, "Follow me."  Jesus had (and still has) time for crowds, as well as needy individuals.  Matthew probably was not really aware of how needy he was until later.  He was just doing what everyone else was doing.  You have to know that God, the Father, was in this divine meeting.  Jesus was just walking down the road on His way to do something else.  Matthew was just sitting at his tax booth collecting way too much tax.  Two words made all the difference in the lives of so many that day.  "Follow me."  Right then, Matthew made the choice.  Do you wonder why he just got up and left his lucrative (though shady) career just because this stranger said, "Follow Me."?  Jesus said that we could not come to Him unless the Father was drawing us.  (John 6:44)  Matthew certainly must have heard that drawing call of the Father.  Matthew made a good choice that day when he followed Jesus.  Matthew made a difference in your life and in my life.  He wrote one of the books we know as scripture.  Not only did Matthew follow Jesus but , later on, he invited Jesus and his disciples to his house for dinner.  That was fine and good.  Maybe Matthew would learn something from them.  The thing is that Matthew also invited lots of other corrupt officials and other kinds of sinners.  (Mark 2:15)  In the New Living Translation it says that there were many kinds of sinners among Jesus's followers.  This caught the attention of the teachers of religious law and they didn't mince any words about what they thought about the likes of Jesus eating dinner with sinners!  "Why does He eat with such scum?", they whispered among themselves.  While the religious leaders of the day wondered why Jesus would eat with such people, Jesus was more interested in the fact that they would eat with Him!  There is that drawing of the Father again!  Of course, Jesus heard the disgruntled religious leaders, or at least heard about what they said and He had (as always) the right reply.  In the New Living Translation, Jesus says, ".........I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."  (Mark 2:17)   If anyone (including religious leaders) think they are righteous in and of themselves and because of their outward works and actions, they are deceived.  Although those we tend to call, "sinners," do some outrageously awful things, if they admit it and repent, they are more righteous than the one who thinks he or she is righteous just because of their own works.  These "sinners," of Jesus's day sought to be with Him.  The religious rulers just wanted to destroy Him, although they said they were following God.  Hypocrites, they were!  And, I wonder if there are not many like them today.  I wonder who Jesus would be hanging with if he were walking this earth in the flesh today.  Most likely, it would be the same sort of people.  I was in a small church at one time when the new pastor went out into the neighborhood and loved the, "sinners," into the church.  The older leaders of the church left!  They didn't want the likes of these, "sinners," in their church!  It's a very old saying but perfectly true that, if you find a perfect church and you join it, it will become imperfect!  Jesus didn't come to save those who think they are perfect!  Even though I want so badly to be perfect ( which is a character flaw), I know that I fall short so many times.  Even in my worst times of sinfulness, Jesus has not turned me away when I asked to be near Him.  He still will not turn one sinner away who is calling on Him.  He has patiently let me read His Word, hear His Word and His Word has slowly made changes in me.  More than looking for those who say and do everything just right, He's looking for hearts that want to be in His presence and hear what He has to say.  Where do we fall within this spectrum of people? 


Matthew 18:11 (AMP)  11 For the Son of man came to save [from the penalty of eternal death] that which was lost.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, I know that I am not worthy to be called by You.  Yet, You chose to love me, just as You love all of the sinners in this world.  Help me to remember that, without You, I am lost.  Help me to remember that about others too and please work through me to spread the good news that You are out looking for the lost.  You will gladly sit and talk and eat with very imperfect people if they are content to be in Your presence and hear You.  Thank You for Matthew's willingness to get up and follow You.  Thank You that, when You look at me, You do not condemn me even though I might deserve it.  Your invitation is always for me to keep on following You.  Although I know I have wandered off of Your path at times (too many times), thank You that You always come looking for me and Your Word becomes that lamp that guides my feet in the direction that You are going!  Although I don't always understand where You are leading, help me never to tire of following You.

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Mark 14:8 (NLT)  8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.


Do you ever fall into the trap of being driven by the world's, "hurry up," attitude?  Does it cause you to go from one thing to another trying your best to keep up but never quite making the mark?  Does it keep you from looking into the eyes of people you meet along your way and connecting with them, meeting a need if you can?  I used to be that way.  Then I thought I had that one conquered.  Still again, I have found God peeling another layer off of my tendency to want to do everything and, as a consequence, not do much of anything with focus and depth.  When I went through the earlier, "layer," of being driven, I remembered that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  I am one of His sheep.  Jesus never drives His sheep.  If He did, He would not be a good shepherd.  Cattle are driven, but sheep are led.  It's our arch enemy that is the slave-driver!  So, with that in mind, I got a new mindset and focused on the fact that Jesus did not say, "Come to Me and I'll load you up with things to do."  What did He say?  He said, "Come to me and I'll give you rest."  He said that we could trade our burden for His burden and promised to help us carry it.  He also said that His burden would be light!  Today, are you tired all the time and tired of being tired?  Have you been trying to do everything, not feeling fulfillment and satisfaction in anything?  Maybe, like me, God is peeling another layer off of you, like dermabrasion, cleaning off the old and letting the new shine through.  I am once again remembering a verse that I printed out on colored paper and propped up where I could see it all the time.  It is Mark 14:8.  I printed out the words, "She has done what she could."  I knew that, if I had a gravestone, this would be what I would want on it and I would want it to be entirely true.  This is a story of a woman.  This woman apparently was not running around trying to do everything.  She had figured out what she could do and she set out to do it.  It would be costly.  It would cause her some embarrassment because everyone does not understand when you do what you are called by God to do.  She gave what she had materially and she worshipped Jesus publicly by pouring out what she had on Him.  There's a song called, "Alabaster Box," that has some very poignant lyrics in it about the woman who did what she could.  Some of the lyrics say, "I've come to pour my praise on Him like oil from Mary's alabaster box."  The alabaster box of perfume is what Mary had and she did what she could with it because Jesus had done so much for her.  She poured the perfumed oil out on Him.  We can get so caught up in the expectations of the world and even of significant others in our life that we try to do everything.  We can even drive ourselves by our perception of what church leadership expects of us.  We become driven instead of led.  We start to think we can do all of these things because, after all, we are working for Jesus!  Isn't the enemy subtle?  He sort of masks being driven by telling us it's okay because we're doing it for Jesus!  It is sometimes the smallest acts of obedience that catch the attention of Jesus and bless Him.  It is when we simply take what we have and give it to Him.  We all have something to offer.  Today I read that it might be better if we did not ask Jesus to let us do a great work for Him but, instead, we might ask that He do what He wants to do in and  through us.  That way, it doesn't end up being about us and we are free to do what we can.  We're not driven by the enemy to do what we can't do.  We're free to remember that we can't do anything without Jesus anyway!  We're free to keep in mind that He gently leads His sheep.  His sheep don't have to be frazzled and weary.  He offers rest and relief from our burdens.  He sets us free to do what we can and He strengthens us to do it.  He does not despise or refuse small things!  The woman in this story did what she could and Jesus promised that all who came after Him would hear about it!  God has placed within each of us something that we can do.  It may not look like or be like anything we see someone else doing but we're each His unique creations, created with a purpose for our life.  Every snowflake is different and each one has an appointed place to fall.  The wild flowers are different and God paints beautiful multi-colored hillsides with them!  You may not think that what you can do could compare with what someone else is doing but, if it's what God put in you to do, you need to do it!  That's all He wants.  Not only will He be blessed by your loving worship, you'll be blessed too.  Part of that blessing will be that you can sit back and be satisfied with the simple fact that you did what you could!  It may not seem like much but if God called you to do it, you can be sure He will take notice of you.  The woman in this story was not after recognition.  That was not her motive.  Her motive was worship.    She did what she could and Jesus, even close to the point of His own death, multiplied it back to her with great recognition.  Can it be said that you have done what you could?


Mark 14:9 (NLT)  9 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, like the woman who did what she could in Mark 14:3, let me just be satisfied to pour my praise on You like the expensive oil she gave.  Help me to be satisfied to do only what I can and not try to be like others who seem to be able to, "do it all."  Help me not to keep getting caught up in this world's system that expects and even drives me to do everything.  Make me remember who You are.  The Gentle Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd.  Thank You that You do not drive Your sheep to distraction like the Devil does.  Thank You for putting what we can do into each one of us and then giving us the strength to do it.  Thank You for taking my heavy burdens (even the ones I have loaded unnecessarily upon myself) and giving me Your light burden in exchange.  Thank You for allowing me to be yoked with You and only requiring of me that which I can do!  When all of life is over, let me with satisfaction know that I did what I could do and that I did it for You.

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Matthew 10:2-4 (KJV)  2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;  3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;  4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.


While looking at people with whom Jesus chose to associate Himself, I thought of the e-mail that has circulated several times regarding a fictitious, "headhunter," who had evaluated the choices Jesus made for His disciples.  It gives a chuckle but it is also so thought-provoking.  I am thinking, in particular, of Judas Iscariot.  Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples but it wasn't for the reason listed in the made-up evaluation below.



To: Jesus, Son of Joseph. Woodcrafters shop. Nazareth.
From: Jordan Management Consultants. Jerusalem.
Subject: Staff Aptitude Test.
Date :May 22, 30

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests, and we have not only run the results through our computer but also have arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contact in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and innovative. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. All other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.


Isn't it interesting that Jesus chose imperfect people to help carry His message to the world?  We might all find a little piece of ourselves (if we were honest) in the assessments of the first disciples mentioned.  But, what about Judas?  In this fictitious letter, Judas was described as a man of resourcefulness.  We all would like to fit that description, wouldn't we?  Judas was a good talker too.  He was highly motivated (but in the wrong direction).  He was pretty innovative too (sort of like the people we have seen today fall from corporate leadership and devise Ponzi schemes in our own day).  I would think that Judas looked pretty good on the outside but Jesus knew his heart.  Nevertheless, he was chosen and then given several choices, each of which he managed to botch.  Right about this point, I can also relate to Judas, having made some pretty wacky choices in my life.  Judas walked and talked with Jesus just like all the rest of the disciples.  He saw the miracles and he heard the teaching.  He was even given a great responsibility in the ministry of Jesus in that he had control of the money for the group.  His greed was one of the things that got the best of him.  (John 12:6)  Judas had exactly the same choices that were afforded to the other disciples.  At any time during his discipleship, he could have come clean, repented, been forgiven and received eternal life.  But, with each poor choice, the chances of his turn-around became more dim and, finally, we are told that Satan entered into him and he consorted with the chief priests and captains of the Temple guards as to how he could betray Jesus!  (Luke 22:3-4)  Before we get too hard on Judas, we have to remember that most all of the disciples abandoned Jesus at His time of death.  Only John was found standing at the foot of the cross.  The most boisterous and seemingly proud and self-sufficient one of the bunch, Peter, denied Jesus just before He went to the cross.  Abandonment, denial, and betrayal was what Jesus found at the end of His life here on earth.  But, each one had the same choices.  Judas made the wrong choices right to the end.  Instead of repenting and weeping because he knew he had done wrong and instead of being ashamed of himself, he wept because he had finally come to the end of his rope.  He could not reverse the line of poor choices and, instead of running toward God in repentance, he continued his rebellion and took his own life.  All the other disciples were restored after the resurrection of Jesus.  Even Peter was rebuked, but restored.  Judas did not have to end his life that way.  He could have turned to God just as one of the criminals, who was crucified next to Jesus, did.  Instead, he made the last and final choice to turn away from God.  God made a choice to give each of us a choice (and many choices through our lives).  We can turn to Him in our imperfection and sinfulness or we can continue to turn away and finally end up, like Judas, in a place we do not want to be!  Everyone that Jesus chooses is imperfect in some way (some more than others).  We can all ask to be forgiven and receive that forgiveness; but, even if we don't, God's plans will still go on.  They did when Judas made the wrong choice and they will, despite what we do too.  The question really is, will we choose to give up our imperfection in exchange for God's restoration and renewal through Christ Jesus or will we continue on down the road making poor choices until we run out of choices like Judas did?  As I read about Judas, one commentator indicated that Judas may have done us a favor if his life and choices make us reflect on our own lives.  Are we really serious about our commitment to God?  Are we pretenders like Judas was even though we have heard His Word and seen His Hand at work in our lives?  The good news is that we can, right now, make the right choice and be totally open with God, confessing any sin and repenting.  What will our choice be?


John 13:21 (NLT)   21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for sending Jesus to indicate that You have chosen to give me the choice to be chosen.  Thank You that anyone can choose to come to Jesus, in repentance, and become a new creature in Christ.  Even though I am so much less than perfect, thank You that I have a chance!  I remember how it was to be the last one chosen for a team, knowing I was not really wanted but having to play anyway.  Thank You for choosing me and wanting me. Now, Lord, help me to ponder the life of Judas and the others You chose as disciples, using their lives (along with all of their weaknesses) to help me make the right choices in life.  Choices that turn me more and more in Your direction and in love toward my fellow man.  Please allow me to be totally transparent with You.  Lord, thank You that I even have choices!  Thank You for not forcing me to be on Your team or abandoning me to the team of the enemy, but rather allowing me to make the choice!  Lead me by Your Word and Your Spirit to have my choices be pleasing to You.  Let every choice be one made out of a pure love for You and with no other motive.

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Luke 10:38 (AMP)  38 Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.


Have you every been distracted?  It is not a good feeling.  There is a saying that, "hurting people hurt people."  Maybe it is the same with distracted people.  Do distracted people distract people?  There was a woman in the life of Jesus and her name was Martha.  She gets a pretty bad report in most cases.  Even Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names gives the following meaning to the name, Martha.  "Who becomes bitter, provoking."  Strong's Dictionary defines the word, "Martha," this way:  "probably of Chaldian origin (meaning mistress); Martha, a Christian woman..."  Because my middle name is "Martha," and I named one of my daughters, "Martha," I have always been interested in the, "Martha," that was in the life of Jesus.  She is the topic of many sermons in which she is quite vilified.  Yet, the first thing I read about her is that when Jesus was going through her town, she welcomed Him into her house!  Martha was  a, "take charge," kind of person!  If she wasn't, perhaps her sister Mary or her brother Lazarus would have never met Jesus!  Maybe they would not have noticed Him if Martha did not exhibit the gift of hospitality and welcome Him into her house!  As it turns out, according to one commentary, Martha was the oldest of the siblings.  I just happen to be the elder sibling too!  This commentary also says that older siblings have an irritating tendency to take charge, having learned that while they were growing up.  I can relate!  The other thing I can relate to is that, according to what I read, Martha was used to being in control. It is one thing to be hospitable and quite another thing to feel the need to always be in control!  Martha had great intentions and she wanted to serve Jesus the best dinner He had ever eaten.  That's not a bad thing!  The problem arises when she is left to do all of the elaborate preparations by herself.  Being a proper, "lady," in that day, she felt that she should be in the kitchen while the men talked.  She also thought that the other lady in the house, "Mary," her younger sister, should be there with her. Why wasn't Mary setting the table?  What was she doing?  Everything must be done perfectly for their house guest!  Mary didn't seem the least bit interested in any of what Martha was doing and this made Martha extremely irritated.  Provoked!  So, being provoked, she marched herself into the place where the men sat talking with Mary sitting at Jesus's feet and challenged Jesus to put Mary "in her place."  "Make her come and help me!," Martha exclaimed to Jesus.  I guess Martha did like to be in control because now she was not only trying to control Mary, she was trying to control Jesus!  She was a distraction to the conversation going on!  Her hospitality seemed to have some strings attached!  After all, she was "working for Jesus."  All Mary was doing was sitting there listening to Him!  Martha was concerned with every little detail of the outward appearances but Mary was just interested in what Jesus had to say.  Of course, Jesus knew Martha and He knew Martha's personality.  He loved her anyway and He appreciated her efforts but she had let her efforts get the best of her and they had distracted her from the best of her Guest!  Look what Jesus says to Martha!  Luke 10:41 (KJV)  41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  Martha's initial intentions were good.  She was hospitable but she got distracted!  She got anxious and disturbed about many things!  I can so relate to Martha!  Can you?  There are tons of things to do in our world.  More to get done than is humanly possible, it seems.  Is there any time just to sit and listen to Jesus?  Is there any time to rest at His feet?  Martha felt too driven and distracted to do so but her little sister, Mary, was attracted to their Guest rather than being distracted by working for Him.  Jesus, while loving Martha, complimented Mary for her ability to be undistracted and sit at His feet.  Martha got overly distracted and disturbed because she wanted every detail to be perfect.  She got so distracted that she did not notice, like Mary did, that Perfection was sitting in her living room!  Have we even been known to do the same thing, getting so caught up in the details of this earthly life that we tend to forget why we're doing all this work?  Have we ever left the Unseen Guest in our home alone and without attention while, in our distraction, we tried to make everything perfect.  Have we sometimes even judged and distracted those around us that were joyfully just resting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him without distraction?  Have we ever been a distraction to Jesus in His work instead of attracting others to Him?  So many times, I have heard Jesus say to me, "Martha, Martha!"  I don't know what your name is, but is Jesus calling your name, in love, inviting you just to sit down with Him for a while and find comfort, encouragement and rest?  If you accept that invitation, what you receive will never be taken from you! 


Luke 10:42 (NLT)  42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, thank You for never failing to stay in my house and dwell here.  Forgive me for sometimes being distracted and trying to make things so perfect when nothing could be more perfect than just sitting with You.  Don't let me neglect hospitality but help me to remember that it's not about perfection and control.  Help me to remember that it's about You and about what You have come to say.  Even though I am, basically, a "Martha," help me to remember to keep the "Martha," in me aware of how Mary chose the better thing.  Help me to remember that all the details of this life will fade away.  Perfectly set tables, spotless mirrors, skillfully sung songs, and well-written devotionals will mean nothing in eternity unless the motive behind them comes from Your direction to show love and build relationship.  Lord, keep me aware of Your presence and help me never to ignore it just because there is work to be done.  Let me remember that I am not in control.  You are.  Help me to make Your presence my first priority.  Help me not just to welcome You into my home (which is Yours anyway), but also to make You feel right at home and comfortable.   In fact, Lord, just take control of me, my home, and those within its walls!  Speak Your Life into us and help us to listen, undistracted, when You speak!  And, Lord, when You have to say, "Martha, Martha," help me not to hear condemnation, but to hear the imploring love in Your voice letting me know that You want the best for me because I am Yours. 

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FEBRUARY 28, 2011




Revelation 2:5 (NLT)  5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.


I can remember my zeal as a young believer.  I would not hesitate to go up to a complete stranger on the street and ask if they knew Jesus.  I wanted them to know Jesus.  I had a love for Jesus and a desire to spread His love everywhere I went.  Of course, I came into some opposition, even in my family.  Some probably called me a, "Jesus freak."  Some would have considered me to be a fanatic.  No matter what, I was passionate and, for a quiet, and shy girl, I made that passion known to others.  As I got older, I began to get into the, "religious routine," that we can slip into when our, "first love," sort of cools down.  There's a big problem with that because Jesus does not like, "lukewarm."  Revelation 3:16 (KJV)  16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, (pardon the graphic nature of this sentence) that He will vomit out of his mouth those who have become lukewarm.  How is your love for Jesus and for others?  Is it filled with passion?  Does it burn with desire to be closer to Him and to bring others with you?  If not, you have probably fallen.  Hopefully, you have not fallen far, as John writes to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:5.  You know, its a subtle thing.  Look at how Jesus detailed what the Ephesian church was doing.  They labored with patience.  They did not like those who were evil.  They exposed some false apostles.  They persevered for His name's sake.  They did not become weary.  The hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans (whose deeds were obviously hated by Jesus also).  Wow!  these people were on the ball!  They did a lot and their patience is mentioned twice in this passage.  They looked really good on the outside but the fire had gone out on the inside and, perhaps, without even knowing it, they had fallen a good long way!  They had some repenting to do.  After spending a month meditating on what God's love is and how it's supposed to be in me, I, too, have had to do some repenting.  Even to the point of becoming totally undone!  Yes, I have done a lot of things for Jesus in my life.  There have been times when I have persevered through difficult trials and even times when I was described as being a patient person.  I'm still trying to do things for the Lord and work in His Kingdom but the truth is that I don't have the passion I did at first.  Like the believers in Ephesus, some of what I have done has just become routine.  It has been done out of duty, which is okay, but Jesus wants a passionate love relationship with you and me and He wants it to spill over to others.  One commentary I read said that the believers in Ephesus had lost their spiritual vitality that sprung from love for the Lord.  It had degenerated into orthodox routine.  Is it time that we checked ourselves to see if we, too, have left our first love?  Do we feel that we have to go to church, read the Word, fellowship with others, give with generous hearts, etc., or is it something that we desperately want to do?  Are we going through the routine of, "Christianity," looking good (even sometimes fooling ourselves) or are we passionately committed to the Lord and the winning of others into His Kingdom?  We can look really good even though we may have fallen far!  If Jesus was addressing your life (like He was addressing the church at Ephesus), what would His Words be?  I have found this to be a deeply soul-searching experience.  Maybe you, like I, have fallen at least some distance from your "first love."  Your passionate, fire-filled love for Jesus and others.  There is still hope!  His Words to us are the same as they were to the church at Ephesus.  We can repent quickly.  As we do, He will hold out His hand to us and help us up from our fallen state.  Have you fallen?  With the forgiving Hand of Jesus, you can get up!

Revelation 2:4 (KJV)  4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, I remember in John 3:16, You said that You loved us so much that You gave Your only Son so that all of us could receive Him and be saved.  Make that verse burn in my heart once more like it did when I first loved You and wanted to tell everybody what You did out of love!  Your love in giving Your Son was not a lukewarm, routine deed.  It was highly passionate and totally driven by Your love for me and for all the world.  Thank you that in Revelation 3:16, You remind me once again that I need to be Holy Spirit fire-filled with Your kind of love and not lukewarm.  You want a passionate, relationship-seeking love.  A, "routine," kind of love is no love at all.  It is just religious playacting and, even though, it can be really convincing from the outside, You are looking on the inside and You are looking for a passionate love.  Revive me again with Your love and help me to repent quickly from any lack of spiritual vitality that springs from my love for You.  Forgive me for sometimes slipping into duty instead of living an all-out life of unabandoned love!  Help me to find my first love again!  Thank You for Your Hand of love that is always reaching out to where I am!

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Matthew 10:42 (NLT)  42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”


Some of the greatest gifts of love in life come in small packages.  We might think sometimes (at least I do) that, in order to show love to another, we have to do or give something really big and expensive.  Yet, it is also said that a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)  In this world where real love sometimes seems elusive, I have found myself wanting in that area!  The more I learn about God's love, the more I realize how little I know and how little I have given.  I wish I could say, after the number of years I have lived, that I have loved well and loved with abandon just has God has done for us.  But, the truth is, I still have much to learn.  The reason I am linking a cup of cold water, with children taking the lead is this.  I was out today at Costco which has a very large parking lot.  I was parked toward the end of the lot.  I walked into Costco feeling emotionally dry and needing a touch from God.  Even though I know that God loves me and has kept me this far, I don't feel like He is near (really it is me that has missed the mark somewhere, I'm sure).  I felt down and lonely.  When I came out to my car, there was something on the windshield.  You might say, it was a cup of cold water.  It was surely a gift of sacrificial love.  It was a large index card upon which a teen had drawn and colored in a cross and the words were, "Trietsch Youth Group Loves You - Drive Home Safe!"  We are members of Trietsch United Methodist Church and have been for only a short time.  I really don't know the members of the youth group and I don't think they know me!  I looked around at all the other cars and didn't see another car with one of those cards on it!  God's love worked through a young person to let me know that they loved me and He loved me!  This is no coincidence.  It is the hand of God reaching down through the younger generation to give a cup of cold water to a "dried out," feeling older child of God!  It was love in action!  Somebody took quite a while to hand-make that card and some younger person was obviously operating in that, "first love," season, sharing the love of Christ.  It was not signed by an individual but an individual did make the card and somebody took the time to place it, through the leading of God's loving Holy Spirit, on just the right car!  The car whose driver was needing a spiritual and emotional cup of cold water!  God bless the young person who did this and God bless you and me as we remember that precious and costly things come in small packages!  Love is one of those things!  What can we do today, out of the love of Christ, that might make a big difference in the life of someone we don't even know?  What sort of, "cup of cold water," is in our hands that we might pass along to another?  Oh, by the way, I wanted to keep the precious card but I knew that someone else was probably needing to know that they were loved just as much as I was, so I passed the card along by putting it on the windshield of another car.  Acts of love like this will be rewarded because Jesus, Himself, received the card on my windshield.  There is still hope for this broken world too, because love still lives in and acts from the heart of its youth!  God, in His great love has blessed and encouraged me today.  I don't even know who He used but He does!  He knows when you and I reach out to others too with whatever we have to use.  Sometimes the smallest thing can have the greatest meaning!  Thank you for spreading God's love, Trietsch Youth Group!


 John 13:35 (AMP)  35 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Loving Heavenly Father, You have blessed me so greatly today!  You are my Father who sees me even when I can't quite see You.  You know everything about me.  You know how I feel.  You know when I get to the end of my rope.  You know how I long to love and be loved.  You know when I go to the store and where my car is parked.  How good of You to have others in my pathway who are thinking more about You and others than they are of themselves!  How wonderful that you have renewed my hope in this world by using young people to minister to me at a low point!  How uncoincidental that You should know that it was my car that needed the carefully crafted little card of love.  Thank You for your marvelous love that will not end.  It will endure to all generations just as you said!  Thank You for every act of love that is unselfishly given and finds its way to a needy heart.  Thank You for every young person that loves You and is spreading Your love to others.  Please find your way into the hearts of every person, young and old.  Help me to find a way to pass out a cup of cold water to some needy or weary traveler every day!

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Isaiah 54:1 (AMP)  1 SING, O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.


Have you ever felt barren in any way?  Have things in your life seemed unbearable at times?  Are there things you expected that just didn't happen?  Maybe you have felt like you were, "fruitless."  That's what being barren is.  Even though I have been writing on, dwelling on, meditating on and trying to study what real love is for a month now, I find myself feeling totally barren, unfruitful, and overwhelmed.  I can give some reasons why I feel this way and there are feelings I can't even explain.  I just know that there is an attack from the enemy.  My knowledge of God's Word tells me that, when the attacks come strong and heavy, something good is about to happen but my feelings are a whole other story.  I hope you are not feeling that way today but there's a chance that you, also, have some of those feelings of inadequacy, ineffectiveness and other negative things.  The world is upside down.  Most people have more to do than they can get done in a day.  Focus is harder and harder to maintain, especially if you are trying to focus on the Lord!  Now that I have really thought a lot about God's love and my total inability to truly love without the infilling of His love, I feel rather barren.  I realize that I fall short in so many ways.  I feel barren and unable to change anything.  The truth is that I can't change anything.  But my Heavenly Husband can!  If you are going through such a season, either feeling inadequate at loving or feeling unloved yourself, sing!  That sounds like a strange solution but that's what Isaiah says to the proverbial barren woman (which, by the way, could be either a female or a male, since we are all part of the Bride of Christ).  Why sing?  Because God has said that your spiritual fruit will be great!  Sing because you are loved.  As God said to Israel,  For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord of hosts is His name—and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth He is called.   Isaiah 54:5 (AMP)  If you and I believe in Christ, we are included in this statement.  Our Maker is our Husband and the Lord of hosts is His Name.  He's the ruler of all of the armies of Heaven!  He's not just our Husband, He's our Redeemer!  We will not remain unfruitful, we will bear spiritual fruit because of the love our Husband has for us!  No matter what we feel like, it's time to sing!  Our Husband is powerful and He is a Redeemer.  Last night, I was having a fretful time because of the attacks that seem to be coming against my emotions and feelings.  In the middle of the night, somehow I leaned on the, "power," button on the remote (there were several things on my bed at the time).  Out of a sound sleep (into which I had finally fallen), the TV came on and startled me awake (partly because the volume was so loud).  A deep voice said, "no weapon formed against you shall prosper."  I was half angry at being awakened and half bewildered and filled with joy that God knew my emotional state and He was willing to yell at me in the middle of the night to make me know that He was my Protector, as a good husband should be!  As I looked at the scriptures surrounding this verse today, I was even more encouraged.  There are times when we feel as though God has gone from us.  We can't see what He's doing and we feel depressed and ineffective.  It may be that He does look away for a moment when we get off track.  He did that in the case of the Israelites.  Isaiah 54:7 (AMP)  7 For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion and mercy I will gather you [to Me] again.  Nevertheless, whether we have done anything wrong or done everything right, that doesn't change God's love for us - and that's reason to sing.  He promises to gather us to Him and He sees and understands the grief we sometimes feel in our spirit and emotions.  Isaiah 54:6.  He knows about it when we feel forsaken.  It is then that He says that, with a love that endures through the ages, He will have compassion on us.  It's hard sometimes to overcome feelings of inadequacy and depression.  The very last thing you want to do is sing!  What a selfish thing to withhold our song of praise just because we feel something negative!  Because our Maker is our Husband, we are never without reason to sing!  It's true, He's also our Protector and He takes the brunt of all of those negative things that the enemy tries to throw at us!  It may feel like we are going under, but what God says is true.  His love for His bride is so great that no weapon formed against her will ultimately prosper!  That gives us great reason to sing! 


 Isaiah 54:17 (AMP)  17 But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  My dear Heavenly Husband, Maker, Redeemer, and Protector, thank You so much for your everlasting love for me that is not swayed by anything I do or do not do.  Thank You that Your emotions do not go on a roller-coaster like mine do sometimes!  Thank You for your unchanging love!  Thank You that all of the weapons of the enemy are made ineffective and cannot ultimately prosper in my life, whether I feel like it or not!  Thank You for stepping into my life in many ways that just cannot be, "coincidental."  Although I detest having the TV on at night, thank You for waking me up at just that specific moment with one of Your servants letting me know that You said that no weapon formed against me will prosper.  Thank You that, even when I feel barren, You have said to, "sing."  You are my song no matter how I feel.  Your love for me is what holds me up even when I feel down!  I love You my Heavenly Husband!  My song is for You alone!  

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Ephesians 5:21 (NLT)  21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.


I think it is interesting that Ephesians 5:21  starts out with, "and further..."  This is in the New Living Translation.  Although the other translations do not use these words, "and further," the punctuation indicates that the rest of the dissertation here is connected to what was said before.  In Ephesians 5:2 (NLT), we find these words about love.  2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.  I do believe this is the key to the whole passage!  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.  Love offers itself to and for the other.  That's what Jesus did for us.  In the most intimate of earthly relationships, the marriage relationship, is a glimpse of God's heavenly order and love.  In the days in which Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesian believers, it was a revolutionary writing.  Women were not considered to be much of anything but a possession.  A woman did not have any say in who she was going to marry.  This was a deal made between families and for a price.  I just heard today that women could not even call their husband's by their first names until given permission.  This was usually only given after she proved her value by being able to bear children.  Now, Paul was saying, "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  To one another!  The whole passage starts out by Paul's statement about how we should all live a life filled with love.  There are other statements in Ephesians 5 that tell us how our life should look as a follower of Christ, but the key theme is love!  When we live a life of love we will want to please Christ.  We will want to emulate Him in our walk, which may (and most likely will at some time or another) include a walk of sacrifice.  As we read the rest of Ephesians from 5:22 through 5:33, we will find words of submission, love, reverence and respect.  There is an order to all of this.  Our marriages will be so much more comfortable and stable if we submit to one another in love!  The writer of The Message says to "be courteously reverent to one another."  Why is this?  Because marriage is just an earthly (many times imperfect) picture of how things are going to be when Jesus takes the church Home to be His Bride.  Jesus loves us enough to give us the choice to receive His sacrifice or not.  It's sort of like a marriage proposal.  Before He even asks us to be His Bride, He makes the sacrifice. That sacrifice continues to keep us all through this earthly life and into eternity when Christ and His Bride will be united forever.  That's the way husbands are supposed to live with, and for, their wives.  Sacrificially. On the other hand, if we accept the offer of salvation from Jesus, we are committing (as His Bride) to submit to Him.  He tells us, flat out, that if we love Him we will obey His commandments.  He doesn't make us do it.  We want to do it because we are secure in His love.  We know He wants the best for us.  We love Him because He first loved us.  That's the way it should be in marriage too.  A wife will respect a husband who sacrifices his life for her and there are many ways that a husband can do this.  A husband will be spurred on to do good things and feel secure when his wife respects him.  Check out this passage from the Amplified Bible.   Ephesians 5:33 (AMP)  33 However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [hat she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].  Husbands, can you really say that your life is lived as a sacrifice for your wife?  Wives, can you really say that you serve your husband as is noted in the above reference from The Amplified Bible?  Husband and wife, can you both say that you submit willingly to one another out of reverence for Christ?  If not, maybe the first step for you is to make Christ the head of your lives and your home.  You can do that right now!  All of these principles that have become, sometimes, misinterpreted, "rules," for a Christian marriage are really nothing but a fulfillment of Christ's perfect love and His Church's (His Bride's) love to Him in return.  We can do none of this without His Spirit and a marriage without Christ as the Head will never be complete and work as He planned.  Every one of us is imperfect and we go into marriage like that.  We all have trash in us and we're well aware of it.  When one or the other marriage partner dwells on and dredges up the trash, the marriage starts to fade away.  Jesus, as the perfect Bridegroom, purchased us, trash and all.  Instead of dwelling on our trash, he forgives, removes, and forgets it and places His treasure in us.  In our marriages, just as in Christ's relationship with us, let's choose to cover the trash with love (which covers a multitude of sins).  Let's choose to dwell on and bring out the treasure in each other, all out of love and reverence to Christ!  Then we, and those around us, will begin to get a picture of Heaven on earth!


Ephesians 5:32 (AMP)  32 This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning [the relation of] Christ and the church.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, thank You for being my Bridegroom and for making all who will accept your offer of salvation a part of Yourself, a part of Your own Body, Your Bride.  Thank You for giving us the institution of marriage to show us something greater.  Help me to look for the treasure in my spouse and to forgive the trash, knowing that I have been forgiven by You of much trash.  Thank You that all of us who have accepted Your, "marriage proposal," have the treasure of You living inside of us.  Help me to keep that treasure polished, uninhibited by unnecessary clutter, and shining for all those around me to see.  Let me, and all those who are seeking to love You in return, show a bit of Heaven on earth as we take care of our marriages and as we learn to bring out the treasure of You in each other.  Lord, be the Head of our homes and help us to see You in one another.  Thank You for the greater vision which is still partly a great mystery about the relationship of Jesus and His Church.  Help us all to be "courteously reverent toward one another," knowing that You are living in each of us who has invited You.  Let me be constantly aware of the treasure that is in my spouse, around me in others, and in me, because of You!  

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1 John 3:17 (NLT)  17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?


I have a tendency to focus on the, "spirituality," of Jesus.  Do you?  Here's what Jesus said when Philip, one of His disciples was a bit disgruntled because he could not see the Father.  John 14:8-9 (NLT)  8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”   9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?  It is our nature, as human beings, to want to be satisfied by being able to see something, isn't it?  But, God wants us to live above our natural senses.  He wants His children to live by faith.  Phillip might as well have been saying to Jesus, "....show us Love."  The answer that Jesus gave Philip would have been the same, don't you think?  The scripture tells us that God is love.  I would think that it stands to reason that, if we've seen Jesus, we've seen, "Love."  The trouble, for me, comes to making everything spiritual.  Although everything is spiritual, it manifests itself in the natural.  What if I asked you if you have ever seen love.  Have you?  How would you describe it?  It's my belief that, as the scripture says, Jesus and the Father are one.  Therefore, they are both, "Love."  Although you and I have not seen Jesus in the flesh, Philip could see Him, touch Him, and talk with Him.  So could the other disciples and the people that lived in the day Jesus walked on earth in the form of man.  Because of their written testimony, we can, in effect, see Love too.  All we have to do is look at what Jesus said and did while He was on earth.  What did He do?  What did Love do?  It (He) went about doing good!  (Acts 10:38).  He healed all who were oppressed of the devil, according to Acts 10:38.  What does the devil do?  He steals, kills, and destroys!  What does Love do?  It  (He)  restores, gives life, and rebuilds!  Jesus, although the most spiritual person to walk the earth, did not walk up and down the paths of Galilee, Samaria and Jerusalem just spouting off platitudes and blessings.  He did something.  He fed people.  He healed people.  He raised people from the dead.  He drove demons out of those bound by them.  He cared about the practical side of the lives of the people as well as the spiritual side.  Love is practical.  It is compassionate.  It works out of faith.  It works out of something we can't see with out eyes.  Faith expresses itself in love.  (Galatians 5:6)  James tells us that it does no good to see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing (very practical things) and wish them a good day full of warmth and nourishment when we don't give them what they need!  (James 2:14-18)  Faith should be expressing itself (or working through us) in love in a practical way!  What can we do today to show love in a practical way?  As the old saying goes, "find a need and meet it."  That's what love does!  If we say that we have faith (and love) but our actions don't prove it in a practical way, we're probably not telling the truth!  Love is practical.  God (who is Love) cares about all of His creation as shown by the way He keeps the world in order and feeds the little birds!  He makes the lilies grow in the field.  How much more Love cares for us and all of our needs, both spiritual and practical.  It's one thing to say that we love each other.  It's quite another to prove it by our actions!  I've been thinking a lot about this as I have thought of the subject of love this whole month of February.  I find myself knowing that I need to do a little less speaking and a little more, "acting," when it comes to this subject.  There's more than just one way to express love.  It's important to say it but equally, if not more important, to show it by meeting a practical need of another!


1 John 3:18 (NLT)  18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You that You have let us, "see," Love in action through the testimony of those who walked with Your Son when He was on this earth.  Thank You that You care about all the needs of your creation and especially about the practical needs of Your children.  Thank You that You are our Provider of spiritual, as well as practical, needs.  Help us, Lord to look at the life of Jesus and to remember that He said He only did what You told Him to do.  So, Lord, help me to open my eyes to the practical needs of others (as You do) and let my faith be expressed in love as I do what I can to meet those needs.  So often, I have probably overlooked another's need because my mind was on my own interests.  Help me to be so filled with Your love that I am anxious and ready to meet the practical need of a brother or sister.  As Jesus went about doing (and not just saying) good, help me to do the same!  Lord, please also help me to remember that even a cup of cold water given in Your Name is a practical show of love.  I do remember that You said that if we clothe the naked and do such things as visit those in prison or those who are sick, we are doing it to You.  Help my eyes to see You in all those I meet and help my faith to work in love by meeting practical needs as You give me resources and opportunity. 

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Ephesians 5:2 (KJV)  2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.


As believers, we are instructed to walk in love.  Of course, we know that the, "love," spoken of here in the scripture is not anywhere near the definition that the world has for love.  Today, the word, "love," is tossed about without restraint and it can mean anything from lust, to craving to, who knows what?  I admit it.  I do it myself.  I might say, "I love dark chocolate."  The truth is that dark chocolate is one of my favorite things to eat but, "love."?  There is a verse in the scripture that says our prayers are not answered sometimes because we don't ask for the right things.  We ask for things that will please only ourselves and forget the bigger plan of God.  Love will pray for what is best for others and for us!  Love will pray for God's will even when it doesn't quite match our own.  Our God is the giver of good gifts because He is love.  But, that love began with a sacrifice.  The sacrifice of His Son so that we could be brought into right relationship with our Father again.  This morning, I heard something that really hit home.  A preacher said that every choice we makes involves a sacrifice.  The question in my mind, since I am writing on love this month (and since I have not found myself anywhere near perfected in that area) was this:  "Does love determine my every choice?"  If you are reading this right now, I know that the Holy Spirit is working with you on your love walk with the Lord (which will then affect all those around you).  I have to say that, since I started writing on love, I have become a bit uncomfortable in the Spirit.  I am aware that some changes need to be made in me from the inside out. I have, just this morning, become aware that my every choice in life involves a sacrifice.  If I choose one thing, I must sacrifice another.  Everything will not fit into my life! I was reminded that sometimes I might sacrifice God's best for something that's just good.  That's not a choice that is rooted in love.  God wanted His children back so He gave the supreme sacrifice of His perfect Son.  You know, God and Jesus could have sat happily ever after in perfect love, comfortably in Heaven, and let us all destroy ourselves as the enemy bound us, stole from us, and killed us off.  God loved His Son!  If you have children you know that the love of a parent is probably one of the strongest ties on earth.  God is not any different.  Our children are a part of us.  Jesus is a part of His Father.  If I were God, I might have said to Jesus, "Well, it's just us two and no more.  Humanity does not love me, so let them be destroyed."  But, God made a different choice.  Somehow, because God is all-knowing, He knew that His created children were going to go astray. Long before we did, He made a choice.  It was to sacrifice something so He could have something else.  It was Jesus for us!  What guides us in making our choices in life?  We only have one go-around! Is it a sacrificial love that urges us to make the right choices in life?  Will our choices be the ones that will lead us closer to the Lord?  Do our choices lead us to love those around us in a sacrificial way instead of always demanding our own way?  Do we really walk in love as Jesus did, becoming a sweet smelling savor of sacrifice to God?  I know several people who have changed my life by their unselfish, sacrificial love.  It certainly made my world smell a lot sweeter.  Go today and be a sweet perfume to the Lord and to everyone you meet!


 1 John 3:16 (KJV)  16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, the more I dwell on and try to study love, the more I find myself floundering because of the depth of Your love for me and because my love is so inadequate toward You and toward others!  Help me to think about the choices I make every day, each and every one of them, realizing that each one represents a sacrifice of one thing or another.  I can sacrifice a morning Bible Study because I chose to stay up too late watching TV or I can sacrifice that tempting late-night TV show so that I will be bright and fresh for the Bible Study!  As I make these seemingly insignificant choices in life, please help my heart to be ruled by love.  Love for You and love for other people.  Help me to make this, sometimes foul-smelling, world more fragrant because I have sacrificed the good for the better, because I choose to meditate on Your love for me and because I choose to make Your love known to those in my pathway each day! 

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1 Corinthians 13:8 (NLT)  8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!




It really doesn't matter whether we are male or female.  We all want a love that lasts forever.  The wonderful thing is that we've all got the opportunity to have it!  Or, should I say, we all have the opportunity to have, Him!  God is love!  We know that God is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  We also should know, if we have read His Word to us, that He offers Himself to anyone who will receive Him!  (John 3:16)  In the King James Version, 1 Corinthians 13:8 starts out this way:  "Charity never faileth."  We live in a world of disappointments and often times experience love that seems to fail.  But, real love never fails.  God's kind of love will never fail.  It will never drop away.  It will never be lost to us.  It will never become ineffective or inefficient.  At this moment, I must confess that I have failed in my attempts at real love.  It is not a feeling or just something we can muster up in ourselves.  We can only have the kind of love that will never fail if we have first received it from "Love," Himself.  His Word tells us that we love Him because He first loved us.  Some versions say, "We love because He first loved us," indicating that we cannot really love God or one another the way He wants us to, with an unfailing love, unless we first realize that we did not and cannot create the love.  (1 John 4:19)  All we can do is receive "Love," as our Lord and Savior and then pass Him along to those around us.  The old song says, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love."  Part of that lyric is true.  The world does need love, but not the sickening, sweet flimsy, self-seeking love that we see all over media screens and read about in the latest romance novels.  What the world needs now is Love!  God's love.  All of God's gifts, including prophecy, speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge are given to us out of God's love for us but they are only for a season.  They will fade away but love will last forever!  That's because, despite what some may say, God is not dead and God will never die!  I'm so glad that God did not say to me, "I'll love you until you fall in the mud and get dirty."  No!  His love sees beyond the messes I have made in my life and gives me His message of love.  His Word tells us that, if we really get a handle on how much forgiveness we have received from God, we will be able to love greatly.  We will be able to forgive others and cover their mistakes because we know that we are loved with a forever love!  Real love will love the sinner with a sacrificial love while hating the sin.  That's what Jesus did for the woman who had sinned greatly.  Luke 7:47-48 (NLT)47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Could it be that sometimes we don't even realize (or maybe we forget) how much forgiveness we have received and then we develop a critical or condemning spirit toward others?  This is not the forever kind of love that the Lord has given us!  The forever kind of love that has been poured into us from God came freely, sacrificially, and without condemnation.  Is that the kind of love that now flows from us?  Even in my elderly years, I am still learning about the forever kind of love that never fails or proves to be inefficient!  How is your love life?  Real love is the only thing that will last forever!


Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)  36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”   37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.  39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Fill me with Yourself, Lord, for You are love!  Teach me to be like You and to offer myself willingly to Your purpose and plans.  Give me a love that reaches out to others and is not always looking out for my own interests.  Thank You that You are love.  You are never lost to me, even when I sometimes choose to wander from Your paths.  Your forever love is always reaching out for me right where I am.  Oh Lord, may I be that for someone else too, giving them a glimpse of You!  Thank you that, although I have failed to love completely and have been disappointed by others who have not loved with an everlasting love, I will never be disappointed by You.  Your love will never, ever fade away.  Thank You for the many gifts that come from Your love for us.  Help me to readily receive Your gifts with joy and use them to bless others, but to remember  that they are only an outpouring of Your love for a season.  Thank you that You have made it all so simple.  You are love, You give us love and You allow us to keep all of Your commandments with the forever love that You give.  You give us Your love so that we can give it back to You and give it to others!  Thank You for such a simple plan and for providing everything we need to enjoy and spread a forever kind of love!

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1 Corinthians 13:7 (KJV)  7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.


It hasn't been that long since we have celebrated Valentine's Day.  We have celebrated, "love."  I just talked to someone the other day that felt left out on Valentine's Day because that someone that she had expected to give her a gift did not do it.  But, in that same conversation, she admitted that she hadn't really thought of anyone else either.  She was expecting the gift of love when she realized that maybe she should have been giving a gift of love!  There you have it.  What we call, "love," today can be far from how God defines it.  God says that, love bears all things."  Notice it says, "all."  The word, "beareth," is not a word that always has pleasant connotations.  Real love covers, and endures.  It protects and preserves and wards off things that threaten the one that is loved.  In other words, it takes some hits for the one loved.  It does not expose the weaknesses of the one loved.  It covers them.  Strong's Dictionary says that it covers with silence and endures patiently.  In other words, it suffers for the welfare of another.  One version of scripture says that love is loyal to the one loved, no matter what the cost.  Real love puts up with stuff that is not always pleasant.  It's always ready to believe the best of everything and everyone.  After all, God is love.  He has great plans for those who will seek and follow Him.  Circumstances may look bleak but love believes the best about God and about others and it waits patiently to see the hope and future that God has for it.  Love never gives up hope.  If you have ever had a loved on go astray, you know how painful it is to love.  You may get angry for a moment but, if your love is real, you are deeply grieved and you suffer until that one is brought back into a good place.  Your hope does not fade because your love does not weaken, despite setbacks and disappointments.  So, no matter what, you endure patiently knowing that God has heard your prayers and that love wins in the end!  Many times the love-walk is a walk of suffering and not the fluffy versions of love we see in the greeting cards on the shelf.  Real love comes from God and it doesn't give up!  It is like a roof over the loved one that keeps them sheltered when they are at their weakest.  That's exactly what God does for us!  He has sent Jesus to be our covering.  Our, "roof," if you will.  When we think of love and what it does, that's exactly what it does.  It covers and protects even if it means the lover suffers!  I wonder if you are like I am and finding yourself a bit lacking here, especially when there is a bit of suffering involved.  Aren't you glad that Jesus showed us what real love is in that He suffered and died for us before we even loved Him?  He did it when we were still His enemies.  What does real love do?  It makes the choice to cover and protect another even if the other is undeserving.  Is that how you and I live every day?  I know that I am not always that way but the wonder of wonders is that God can take my heart and change it until I am truly loving and until my life shows exactly what real love does!  He can do the same for you too.  Are we willing to let Him change us?


Romans 15:1 (KJV)   1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I so long to be loved!  I often look for it to come from others in the form of gifts or attention and forget that I truly am loved by You.  Thank You that You have already covered all my sin and weakness and poured out your blood as a covering of love over me!  Help me always to remember that and strive to be an example of real love to those around me.  Help me not to be critical or contentious but to cover the weakness of others because You have forgiven and covered so much of my own weakness.  Help me to remember, even when the world defines, "love," in selfish ways, that love gives.  It suffers.  It makes the choice to protect the one loved, even when that one is undeserving.  Please Lord, keep me in remembrance of the fact that You are my loving and Strong Tower.  You bear my infirmities when I find myself in a weak place.  Help me to be loving and strong and to be patient with those who are struggling, remembering that everyone in this world struggles with sin and temptation.  Please help me to do what love does and put up with things that displease me, remembering that You did not please Yourself as You walked this earth but You constantly gave a love that delivered, healed, and brought peace into the lives of others.  May I please do that too?  I know it would be a miracle if my heart were so changed but I also know that You are a miracle working God!  I want to do what real love does!  Thank You Lord! 

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1 Corinthians 13:6 (AMP)   6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.


Here's a true confession.  I used to watch TV a lot more than I do now.  The confession is that sometimes I was on the side of the bad guy!  Sometimes I wanted lovers to live happily ever after even thought it meant the breaking up of marriages.  I didn't think past the ripple effect on others.  My feelings just connected with the feelings of those who were not doing right.  That is not how real love works!  Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness.  If you are a movie or TV fan, how many times do you find yourself being entertained by things that do not involve justice or righteousness?  There's not much you can watch, read or listen to these days that is not filled with injustice and unrighteousness!  Right at this moment, I'm stuck in a place where there is a TV going and all they are talking about is injustice and unrighteousness, playing it up to be something good!  Some watching this are soaking it up as something to be sought after.  In other words, they are rejoicing at things that God hates!  Still, God gives us a choice.  We can choose to be on the side of the bad guys or not.  We make every day choices to do this in real life too.  We choose how we will handle relationships, employers, church leadership, and political leadership.  Will we laugh at and rejoice at other's suffering while some are on top of the world?  The Message puts it this way: (Love) "doesn't revel when others grovel."  How does love rejoice?  It rejoices when right and truth prevail!  John 17:17 (KJV)  17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.   You and I are in a process of sanctification through the Truth (who is Jesus).  As believers who are filled with love, we all rejoice when we see Jesus prevail in our lives and in the lives of those around us!  When Truth prevails, righteousness prevails.  Now that's something about which to rejoice!  It's wonderful to know that Love lives in us and that we can have joy at the fact that Jesus is also our righteousness.  His truth will prevail even when things around us seem to be filled with injustice and unrighteousness!  When truth and righteousness prevail and we are rejoicing in it, other things fall into place too.  Real love seeks after and rejoices when truth and righteousness usher in healing, peace, and contentment.  In this world, that many times seems upside down, injustice and unrighteousness seems to prevail.  Our spirits ought to be crying out to the Lord for His truth and righteousness to prevail!  Our lives ought to be an example of His truth and righteousness.  We know what that is from reading His Word.  Yet, sometimes our hearts wander, following feelings instead of the truth of His Word.  Let's determine to be the ones that are rejoicing because, in our own lives, truth and righteousness prevail.  It just could be that the ripple effect will take place in the lives of those around us and there will be many whose hearts and minds are turned from rejoicing at injustice and unrighteousness to rejoicing at the truth and righteousness that comes from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  That is how real love rejoices! 


 Psalm 40:10 (AMP)  10 I have not concealed Your righteousness within my heart; I have proclaimed Your faithfulness and Your salvation. I have not hid away Your steadfast love and Your truth from the great assembly.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I confess that there have been times in my life when I was rejoicing in unrighteousness and injustice instead of the other way around, especially when getting caught up in worldly stories where lust and greed were central to the theme of the story.  Even in real life, I have sometimes let my feelings overrule my knowledge of Your Word and failed to rejoice in truth and righteousness.  Please forgive me and change all of that.  Help my life to be an exhibit of Your truth and righteousness and let Your joy flow from me as I rejoice in the truth and righteousness of Your Word and Your Spirit!  Oh Lord, let all those in my path get a glimpse of what it means to have truth and righteousness living within.  Let Your will and Your Word prevail and may all we who cling to You as Lord and Savior show Your love by the way we rejoice in truth and righteousness! 

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1 Corinthians 13:5 (AMP)  5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].




It's amazing what God can say in just one verse!  1 Corinthians 13:5 is very detailed in showing me what love is not!  It does not bring condemnation, but it does bring conviction!  If you did not read yesterday's Morning Manna, you might want to read it since it deals with the first part of this verse.  Now, for the second part!  When we have God's love in us, we don't insist on the right to be right (even if we are right)!  That's a lifetime practice for me!  If I feel that I am right, I want everyone else to agree with me; but that is not God's love.  God is always right!  He is totally righteous, but even He does not insist on our acceptance of His Word and righteousness.  He give us a choice.  He says to us, "If you think you know better, try it out and let me know how it works for you."  Still, that does not change the fact that He is right.  It just shows His mercy, grace, and patience with us until we have tried our own ways and found them to lead to dead-end roads and even brick walls where we might find ourselves beating our heads trying to butt our way through!  You have opinions and I have opinions.  Each of us is right sometimes and not right other times.  If we are sure that what we know is right (according to God's Word), we do not have to insist on the right to be right!  We just know we are right and we can leave others to make their own choice, praying for the Holy Spirit to speak the truth to them.  Love leaves others room for their own choices!  I also like my own way!  However, love does not insist on it's own way!  For me, this is a very hard saying!  If I want to write, I want everyone else to be quiet.  I don't want to hear the TV or other loud noises.  But, that's not the way life is!  So, I'm in the process, right now, of asking God to let love operate in me and focus on Him as I write, asking Him to shut everything else out.  Believe me, the world's noises are loud!  I'm sure you have experienced that yourself.  However, God's love invites me to rest in Him no matter how the atmosphere tries to affect me!  It boils down the little things too.  I might be riding with my husband and know that I know a better way to get to our destination.  We have actually had heated discussions about little things like this.  I'm sure my way is right and I am convinced he should follow.  I'm learning that love does not insist on it's own way.  An even harder saying for me is that love is not self-seeking.  Often, I find myself just wanting to do things that please only me!  The media will tell you that this is the way to be.  "You deserve it," they report.  That's a lie from the devil!  We don't deserve anything (except maybe Hell), yet Jesus died so that we could have abundant life on this earth and eternal life in Heaven.  I've also been known to be touchy, fretful and resentful, which makes a person very difficult to live with.  When we become those things, we even find it hard to live with ourselves!  When Love, Himself, lives in us, we don't need to be any of these things that love is not!  Here's the kicker at the end of this verse.  Love does not pay attention to or dwell on evil things done to it and it doesn't keep accounts!  Unless we really count on the verse, that let's us know that we can do all things through Christ as He strengthens us, we will constantly fail in operating in love!  We don't have to wonder if it is God's will for us to think, walk, and act in love.  That's His command to us.  And, He says we can do it but He will not take the choice away from us.  The second part of 1 Corinthians 13:5 leaves us with so much to think about as we go about our daily life.  What will be our choice each day regarding the call of Christ to walk in love and stay away from the things that are not love?


Ephesians 5:1-2 (AMP)  1 THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].   2 And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I am so often acting in ways that are not love but I trust You that it is Your will for me to walk in love in every situation and relationship.  Help me to remember that I can do all things through You because You strengthen me.  I am so often tempted to be self-serving, resentful, touchy, and easily provoked.  Yes, I often am fretful even when I know that You have told me not to worry about anything. Help me to remember that only You are completely righteous and it is Your Word that brings wholeness and righteousness into my heart which will work from the inside out!  Help me to remember that I don't have to be touchy or resentful.  It's my choice and Your love with not take that choice away from me.  I know that, as my Father, You are saddened when I make the wrong choices because You want the best for me, so please help me to make choices that are love!  Thank you that, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, I can let hurts roll off of my back like water rolls off of a ducks back.  May love rule my heart and life pushing out all of those things that are not love!  Thank You that You are love and that You have reached down into my life asking to fill me!  Make me willing, Lord, make me willing! 

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1 Corinthians 13:5 (AMP)  5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].


Some verses in the Bible are more difficult to take.  One reason for that is that God's Word is a very sharp instrument that can divide between such fine things as bone and marrow.  God's Word is living so that it can and does apply to every area of our lives.  It is a, "now," Word which can have different connotations on different days and different situations, depending upon how the Holy Spirit reveals it to your mind at any given moment. There's no doubt about it, God's Word of, "love," is at the core of everything.  So, painful as it may seem, we need to read verses such as 1 Corinthians 13:5  and let God search our hearts (or our love meter) in several areas.  The Apostle, Paul, is telling us most of the things that love is not in 1 Corinthians 13:5.  Although his words may seem to be condemning and harsh, they are a wonderful check-list to see how we are doing in our relationship with God and our relationships with those around us.  So, this day, we might consider all of these things that love is not and ask God to reveal the depths of our heart in each area.  If His scanning eye finds something that is definitely not love, He is more than willing to help us change that and get cleaned up!  Love is not  conceited.  If we have love in us, we will not be arrogant or proud.  These three things sometimes show up in our actions, yet, we are not aware that they are planted in our heart!  That's why we need a, "heart-check," by the Lord and even by our own choice to look at things within us that may be difficult to admit.  I had one lady tell me that she thought I was conceited when she first met me.  I suppose that was true.  The way she saw me was as one who was quiet and not prone to socializing with others.  She thought I thought that I was better than others; but, the truth is that I just have never felt like I fit in and so I have had many moments in my life of what psychologists call, "low self-esteem."  All of that said, "low self esteem," is a form of pride.  If we have really taken the time to dig into God's Word, we'll find that there is no reason for low self-esteem!  We are wonderfully and marvelously made by God.  As one Bible Study has let me know, His fingerprints are all over me.  That should bring me great satisfaction and let me know that I am loved, cared for, protected, and provided for by the love of my Heavenly Father!  The word, "self," in the word, "self-esteem," kind of points out the fact that, we're not in agreement with God and His view of us.  Not a great place to be!  Self-esteem, for the believer, should really be looking at ourselves as being highly esteemed by God which is a humbling place to be!  We can think well of ourselves because God thinks we're valuable!  So, conceit, pride, arrogance and an inflated (or deflated) sense of self is not of God!  Anything in our lives that puts, "self," before God's Word and God's principles of love, is not real love!  When we know just how much we are loved by God and remember that with His own hands, He formed us and protected us until we could be born here on earth, we can have "God-esteem," rather than, "self," esteem.  When we know that we are highly esteemed by God, we will know that any rude, unmannerly, or unbecoming behavior does not stem from the love that God has freely given all of us who have, or will, accept it!  These things above are not appropriate behavior for those who love the Lord and, as I said before, we might like to open up our hearts to the Lord and let Him search everywhere within us to see if any of these things remain, preventing us from walking in love.  These are only a few things written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:5, dealing with things that are not love.  Tomorrow, I'm going to dig into the rest of the verse and take a second, "quiz," before the Lord.  I hope you will come back and do that with me.  May God help us today with these things mentioned to receive His love so fully that we will not be able to do anything but walk in it, ridding ourselves of everything that is not love


Ephesians 5:1-2 (KJV)   1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;   2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I confess that I do not always walk in love.  I don't pass along Your unconditional love to others, even though You have unconditionally loved me.  Some days are much harder for me than others and I tend to wear my feelings on my sleeve, allowing myself to get out of Your love and act towards others in an arrogant, conceited, and prideful way.  Most of the time, I don't know I am doing this.  But, You know!  Please start to reveal every place in my life in which I do not operate in Your love.  Reveal to me the areas of my life where I am counting on and feeling like I need self-esteem and lead me back to the fact that I am highly esteemed by You because You have made a unique me and written all of my days in Your book!  Help me, in my comings and goings, to treat everyone in my path just the way You would treat them, never considering myself to be better than any other person, no matter how that person differs from myself.  Please don't let me operate in anything that is not love.  Thank You for revealing these things in 1 Corinthians 13:5 to me so I can be honest with You and honest with myself about the areas in my life that are not filled with love!

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1 Corinthians 13:4  4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud


We don't have to look too hard to find out exactly what real love is and is not.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.  If we dig around in those verses, we will have more just a vague idea of  how God describes love.  There are a lot of contrasts in this chapter about love.  First of all, in the King James Version, the word we find is, "charity," instead of, "love."  The word for, "love," that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, is a derivative of word for God's love for us but its focus is on how we love Him back through our actions of love.  First of all, love is patient.  Before I even dug into the meaning of this word in the Strong's Concordance and Vine's Dictionary, I knew that I lacked patience.  It is not one my stronger points!  But, God said that love is patient.  Things from slow computers to slow people bring out my impatience and my lack of love!  How about long lines in grocery stores or bumper to bumper traffic?  Do you get impatient in rush hour traffic, giving dirty looks or even worse to those you feel are not driving as well as they should be?  What about our children?  To we offer them patience?  If so, we offer them love.  That goes for spouses too, as well as siblings and parents!  There is an old saying which is meant to be funny.  "Don't pray for patience!"  The inference is that, if you pray for it, God is going to answer that prayer and provide you with many opportunities to practice patience! Patience is not just biting your tongue to keep from saying things you might be sorry for later.  It is actually long-suffering.  In other words, it suffers for a long time without lashing out at anybody or anything. It includes forbearance.  Patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit.  Have you ever stopped to think (when you're impatient) just how long you have suffered with some uncomfortable situation or some person that just rubs you the wrong way?  Did you want to make the suffering disappear instantly?  Do you welcome opportunities from God to exercise that patience that He is waiting to see manifested in you?  My daughter told me a long time ago, "Mom, pick your battles!"  You see, I am so impatient that I want everyone to think and do what is right, right now!  Of course, I want that for myself too so I tend to be very hard on myself.  Why should we ever be hard on ourselves when we know how much God loves us?  Many tend to think that God is hard on them, instead of realizing they are being hard on themselves!  Why should we be hard on ourselves when we know we are forgiven?  Why should we be disgruntled in unpleasant or new situations that take us out of our comfort zone?  These are all opportunities we have to be more patient and exhibit this part of the fruit of the Spirit!  Do we want to be able to love God, those around us, and ourselves with a real love?  Then, we need to be patient and kind!  Kindness is displayed when we show ourselves useful and we act in ways that are for the good of others.  But, there are also some things that love is not.  It's not jealous, boastful, or proud.  If we notice that we are zealously wanting something someone else has,  we may need to check to see if we are jealous.  Love is not boastful, at least about self. Love will boast of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And, love is not proud.  No matter what our station in life is, pride is not a good thing.  Love is not proud because love lets us know that whatever we have gained in this life, even the necessities, have come from God and God is love!  If you are a believer, do you want to let others know about Jesus and His love for them?  We probably all want to do that. How can we do that and bring glory to God.  We can be kind, making ourselves useful to others and we can be patient, especially with those who do not seem to, "get it," yet. So today, let God's love shine through you.  Be patient with something or someone (maybe even yourself).  Be kind to another by seeing their need and doing what you can to be useful in helping them.  Do not, I repeat, do not be jealous, boastful or proud.  None of those things are of God and none of those things show love to Him or to others.  I wish you a day of great patience and kindness!


Romans 8:25 (AMP)  25 But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, I want to be patient and kind but the trouble is that I want those things now.  I know that You want me to have them now too but You are forever patient in waiting for me to read Your Word, let Your Spirit shed light on it and then do what it says!  Thank You for Your supreme example of patience and kindness toward me!  As I go through my day today, help me to remember that my growth in these areas is going to take time.  Help me to remember that I can possess those attributes because Your Word tells me that I can do all things through Christ.  Please, please, Lord, do not let my natural self get in the way and become jealous, boastful, or proud (which will prove that I am not yet grounded in love).  Help me to be kind and patient in every way, showing those around me and the world that Love lives in me and that they can invite Love to live with them also.  

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1 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT)  1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.


There's an old Broadway song entitled, "What I Did For Love."  The lyrics are something like this:  "won't forget, can't regret what I did for love"  Other lyrics are, "Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow."  Of course, this is a love song depicting the relationship of a man and woman.  But, are you as surprised as I am when I find out there is some spiritual truth in secular love songs?  It really depends upon to whom we choose to sing these songs!  As I grow in the knowledge of how much God loves me, my focus will be on loving Him back and loving others.  Although I may forget some things that I do strictly from love, God keeps a record.  So, no worries there!  When we operate out of love, we are actually operating out of God (who is love).  I think it's good to sometimes forget things we have done in love.  That way, we won't get puffed up about what a loving person we are.  I have actually heard people say of themselves, "I'm such a loving person."  While that may be true, it is not something we need to tell another.  Our lives will show it and, in the final judgment, it is God who will decide whether we have been loving people, or not!  When we do things strictly out of love for others, there cannot be any strings attached. Love has a way of giving without asking anything in return.  There are many good things we can do in this world and there are many things we can do in the name of the Lord.  The thing is that, out of all of those good things, if they don't spring from love, they are useless.  When the day comes in which we stand before the Lord, we may have thought we were loving and we may even be able to claim that we cast out demons and healed the sick (oh, so much for the Lord).  The troublesome thing here is that the Lord is going to say to some who have filled their lives with, "good works," "I don't know you, depart from me."  That's not really what we want to hear is it?  Do you suppose this is because He doesn't see His love in us?  All of us who believe want to hear those cherished and treasured words from Jesus, "Well done, you good and faithful servant!"  Being a faithful servant means operating in love.  It doesn't mean that we never make mistakes, only that we are acting out of the love God has poured into us.  We may have some slips but the key is not to get bitter or down on ourselves.  We just need to keep the Word (who is Jesus) in us so that, if and when we slip, we will be sure to repent quickly and keep on moving in love!  In the first three verses of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13,  there are six, "if's," in the New Living Translation.  If we could speak in all the languages of the earth and also in the tongues of angels, it would do us no good and it would quickly irritate others since we would just sound like a clanging cymbal.  Here's the second three, "If's."  1 Corinthians 13:2   2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  Wow!  God is telling us that we might have the gift of prophecy.  He's telling us that we might have the gifts of knowledge and understanding, discerning His plans through scripture.  We might even have so much faith that we could move mountains.  These things are all possible for a child of God.  God is the giver of all of these things but if we don't have His love within us, we would just be noisy, irritating people to those around us.  We would be good for nothing and we will have gained nothing!  In fact, it might even tempt us just go about boasting of the many things we have accomplished, "for the Lord."  It's quite possible that our deepest heart's agenda may be about making ourselves look good and not giving God the glory!  It's possible that we can learn all the languages of the world and that God will give us a language of Heaven.  It's possible that we could prophesy, and have great knowledge and insight into God's Word and His plans.  It's possible that we could have such strong faith that we could move mountains.  Believe it or not, God wants us to have those things!  What He doesn't like is the way we sometimes use them!  Unless they all stem from love,  they are of no profit to us.  We could even feed millions of poor people and sacrifice our bodies for the Lord (both of which we can and should do).  But when these things don't flow from love,  they don't mean a thing!  There is no reward for us and God even looks away, disregarding what has not been done in love.  Today, make a list (even if it is only a mental list) of all the good things you do.  Then ask God to reveal those things He really ordained for you to do and the kicker is, are you really doing them out of pure love for God and others.  Only God can help us with such an exercise and we have to open our whole heart to Him and let Him re-order us so that we operate completely out of love.  Am I willing to go that deeply?  Are you?  You won't regret what you did for love!


1 Corinthians 13:3   If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, help me and help all of Your children reading this today.  Even speak by Your Holy Spirit to all of us, reading or not, about the necessity of doing all things out of love.  Help us not to do things out of our own power, and according to our own agenda,  but let us receive and use the power of Your Spirit in all areas of life.   Show us just how many of the good things we have done that we might be boasting about and stop us right there.  Help us to remember that the Apostle, Paul, said he would boast about nothing but Christ!  Remind us over and over again that our salvation does not come from works.  It comes from Your love.  As we receive Your love more and more into our hearts and minds, let us move out with it, blessing others and letting them know that You love them too.  Lord, I don't want to be a nosily, clanging cymbal.  I want to do what the song says, "I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, oh my soul rejoice.  Take joy my King in what You hear and let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."  Just please let me operate in Your love, having no regrets when I meet You face to face.  Lord, let me kiss today goodbye, leaving it with You to sort out the good from the bad.  Help me to remember that I am forgiven and then, Lord, will You point me toward tomorrow? Let Your love flow through me more and more every day that I live!

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Colossians 3:14 (NIV)  14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Did you have a good Valentine's Day yesterday?  I hope so.  I also hope that you were able to remember that, even though we gave cards, candy, jewelry, Teddy bears, and the like, the real story behind Valentine's Day is about one of sacrificial love, not a mushy or sentimental romantic love.  As far as Paul writes in Colossians 3:12, love is also a responsibility for those of us who have heard God's call on our lives.  Love is the binding force for all of the things God is asking us to do.  I know that I cannot do these things in my own strength, so I have to count on God!  He chose you and me to be holy people and He does love us.  But what are holy people?  Are they better than other people?  No, they're just set apart.  What sets them apart?  It's their clothing.  But, not in the way you might think.  The New Living Translation says that, as holy people that God loves, we have to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  I notice it says we have to clothe ourselves.  Of course God gives us the clothes but we have to put them on!  When we put on such things as humility, kindness, etc., we will make allowances for each others faults and forgive those who offend us.  If we go out dressed in the wrong clothes, this is not going to happen!  What will help us to remember to stay properly dressed is the fact that we remember that the Lord has forgiven us and that is why we can forgive others.  (Colossians 3:13)  All of these Godly attributes are admirable and certainly can only be achieved by His help.  How does He help us.  He is love.  His Word says to clothe ourselves with love which binds us all together.  If you're old enough, you will remember the hymn, "Bind us together, Lord. Bind us together in love."  That's what makes everything else work.  It is being clothed in Love (which is being clothed in God).  God is our covering that keeps us warm in this sometimes cold world.  When we are warmly covered in God's love, we will leave in peace with one another and have a thankful heart!  (Colossians 3:14)  Nothing could be better than that and love is the force that binds it all together!


Romans 12:10 (KJV)  10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, during this month when love seems to be in the air, help me to remember that there are many people whose expectations were not met yesterday on Valentine's Day and that there are just tons of people in this world that do not know they are loved.  They don't even know that love comes from you and that You are love personified.  The only way they will ever know is if I (and the others who have heard Your call) will take that call seriously, knowing that we are greatly loved but that, with that love, also comes the responsibility to show it to others.  Help me Lord!  I am not always clothed in the proper clothing.  Sometimes I am impatient and less than gentle.  Sometimes I forget to put on a tender heart that is filled with mercy.  Kindness, humility, and gentleness are not always the garments I have on when I go out, especially if things are not going my way or if I am in a hurry.  Most of all, Lord, I must remember that all of those things will fall off in public and I will be left looking pretty bare in my natural state if I haven't taken the time to clothe myself in love which is the binding force for everything You want to show in and through my life.  Thank You for choosing me to be one of Your loved and holy people!

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John 15:13 (KJV)  13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Well, today is the day we celebrate love.  We give cards, candy, flowers, pajamagrams, Teddy bears.  Some people even given engagement rings or schedule their wedding day for February 14th!  Men give expensive jewelry of all sorts.  All of this is an effort to pump up romantic love.  I read something interesting the other day and I learned a lot that led me right back to the love of God!  Legend has it that St. Valentine lived in the time of Emperor Claudius 11, Gothicus, in the Roman empire.  Claudius was a power hungry leader who wanted to have a great army, but he discovered that men were hesitant to enlist if they were married because they didn't want to leave their wives.  So, Claudius outlawed marriage.  But, Valentine, who was highly in favor of marriage and troubled by the oppression of Claudius would marry young couples in love, in secret.  One dreadful night, he was caught while performing a marriage.  Thankfully, the young got away but Valentine was arrested and put in jail.  Claudius tried and tried to convert Valentine to Roman paganism but Valentine tried just as hard to convert Claudius to Christianity.  During his in stay in jail, with a death sentence hanging over his head, the jailer brought his young,  daughter, who had been blind from birth, to visit Valentine and asked if he would could bring healing for her eyes and tutor her because the jailor could sense Valentine's extraordinary spiritual and natural wisdom.  The girl grew in wisdom and Valentine taught her about God.  One day she asked Valentine, "Does God really answer our prayers?'  Valentine answered that God hears them all.  She believed and asked if God could heal her eyes and give her sight.  Valentine prayed with her and one day a bright light filled the cell.  Miraculously, the girl received her sight!  Nevertheless, on February 14, around AD 269, Valentine, was executed for not converting to Roman paganism.  He was buried in  the Via Falminia, where it is said that a beautiful gate was erected years later in his honor.  It is also said the jailor's daughter, Julia, planted an almond tree by his grave.  Going back to the Bible, we know that it was Aaron's rod that was cut from an almond tree that miraculously sprouted, giving him the right to the office of priest.  Pope Gelasium declared February 14 as St. Valentine's Day around AD 498.  Later on, Pope  Paul VI deleted Valentine's Day from the calendar of saints in 1969.  I think he was surely justified in doing this since the true meaning of this story has been so twisted.  This was not a story about romantic love.  It was the story of a man who was about to be executed for His belief in Christ, yet he chose to help others right up to the moment of his death.  Julia, the jailor's daughter certainly was a changed person after her encounter with him.  He passed his faith on to her and she was healed by the blood of Jesus!  Today, as we celebrate Valentine's Day, let's remember that it is not about hearts, cupids, candy, jewelry and not even mainly about romantic love (although there is nothing wrong with romantic love).  The Valentine story is a story of sacrificial love.  The love that comes from God to bring healing and wholeness.  It is about a man laying down His life instead of caving in to the Roman pagan trends of the day and, in the process, bringing hope and healing to a young girl that was helpless and hopeless.  I wonder if we can find some way today to show that kind of love to another?  On the eve of his execution, Valentine quickly wrote a note to Julia and gave it to the jailer to give to her.  In his note, he encouraged her to stay close to God and he signed it, "Your Valentine."


 John 13:34-35 (AMP)   34 I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.  35 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, help me!  I have never bothered to read many things and to know how the world has twisted things that originally came from You.  Thank You for helping me to understand, today, this Valentine's Day, that romantic love is good but sacrificial love is Godly.  This is Your kind of love that was demonstrated by Valentine of old.  Your kind of love is the love that heals hopeless people and helps them find a relationship with You again, even when the world around is touting all sorts of ways to be, "spiritual," or, "religious."  Thank You for reminding me that it's about, "relationship," not the sleezy kind of relationships that we see plastered all over the media but about an intimate relationship with You that leads us to care about others and want the best for them.  Help me to be a walking, "Valentine," today and every day, showing Your great love to all those I meet!

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John 3:16 (KJV)  16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


We all want to know we are loved.  We desperately want to know it.  If we have doubts as to whether we are loved or not, peace is the farthest thing from us!  We want it from our spouses, from our children, from our parents, from our friends, from our pastors.  Some of us get that assurance from others and some of us don't.  Sometimes we feel unloved because someone actually does withdraw their love from us and sometimes we feel unloved because our expectations of the other person are just more than they have to offer.  We go through seasons of feeling loved or unloved, depending on our circumstances.  However, when it concerns love, there is only one "season," with God!  That season is love.  From His Word, we know that we are loved by Him.  We can say we don't believe it; but we can also say we don't believe in the law of gravity.  Whether we believe it or it, it's there and, put to the test, both God's love and the law of gravity will be in effect!  Do not test this by jumping off of a tall building!  We can search for peace in this world and usually we will be led to all the wrong places.  Places that will only fulfill a temporary, carnal desire within us.  The truth is that we cannot take steps toward real peace, unbelievable peace, until we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved.  Loved by our Heavenly Father, whose love will never fail.  His love always looks out for our best interests.  His love prompts Him to want to give good gifts to His children (that's us!).  His love will not ever fade or falter.  Have you taken the first step toward finding the peace that passes all the understanding you can muster up in your mind?  Is your mind and heart settled on the fact that you are loved?  Whether you believe it or not, you are!  (John 3:16)   You better believe it.  Shalom


Jeremiah 31:3 (TLB)   For long ago the Lord had said to Israel: "I have loved you, O my people, with an everlasting love; with loving-kindness I have drawn you to me.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Thank You, Father, for the assurance that You love me with an everlasting love and that Your love will always be faithful, even when I am not so faithful.  Thank You that You, not only love me, but You love all of those who live in this chaotic world today.  You love the ones that are hard for me to understand and to love.  Thank You for loving the whole world  so much (no one discounted) that You gave the One You loved most as a sacrifice so that we could all get in touch with Your love again by having our sins blotted out forever.  Oh Lord, help me to be an example of that love even to the unlovely.  With loving-kindness, let me draw others to You just as You have drawn me.  Thank You for the promise that anyone who will can receive this love that You offer through Jesus.  In a world driven by pride, greed, lust for money and power, and selfishness, thank You that there is a way out by ushering in the Prince of Peace.  What the world needs now is love, not just sweet love, but Your love!  Let me be a vessel that draws those around me to Your love.  Thank You that Your love is enough - more than enough!

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Philippians 4:1 (KJV)  1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.


We live in a world that is becoming increasingly devoid of peace.  What does that have to do with knowing we are loved?  Unless we really, really know that we are loved, we will not have peace!  Twice, in Philippians 4:1, Paul uses the word, beloved to describe those to whom he is writing.  This word, "beloved," comes from the root word, "agapao," which is the same word that describes the love God has for you and me.  A love that wants the best for the other party.  A love that does not give up, not matter what is done to it.  It is the same word used by God, Himself, when Jesus was baptized.  Matthew 3:16-17 (KJV)  16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Paul was encouraging the Philippians and building them up before giving them the list of responsibilities they needed to meet to be able to experience the peace that passes all human understanding.  Love is always the foundation upon which God builds because God is love!  1 John 4:8 (TLB)  8 But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love. Although the Apostle, Paul, was probably a very stern, strict man and many of his writings are hard to understand, he followed the example of God by uplifting the people he spoke to with words of love.  Twice in this one verse in Philippians 1:1!  He wanted to be sure they knew that he loved them with an unconditional love!  It's important to know that the foundation of our peace is knowing that we are loved.  John 3:16 (KJV)  16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  The word used here for God's love toward each and every one of us is, "agapao."  Not a one of us is worthy of such love; but God is love.  He has chosen to love each one of us and He wants us to know that for sure!  Romans 9:25 (NIV)  25 As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one,"  Do you know that you are loved with a love that will never fail, no matter what you do?  Do you receive that love and then operate in it so that you will not do things that displease the One who loves you so much?     Just like the Israelites, some of us may have been rebellious and lived in a way displeasing to God but, whatever we have done, did not, and could never, change the unending love that God has for us.  If we will receive that love, we will have taken the first step toward experiencing His peace.  I can't comprehend any of this with my human mind but God's love and peace have been given to us if we will receive it and follow the instructions in His Word.  When we know, for sure, that we are loved by God with an unconditional love, we automatically have His peace on the inside, no matter what is going on in the world around us!  You are loved by God.  Receive it today and pass it on!


Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)  3 Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, help me this day to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loved!  I have had so many expectations of other people, Lord.  So many times I have been disappointed.  All along, You were there waiting to me to realize that I am truly loved with an unconditional love.  Oh, You let me try to find it in all the wrong places but, as the song says, "You were there all the time, waiting patiently in line."  Oh, forgive me for the times that I did not notice that You were right there with Your loving arms open wide while I looked in other places for love, affirmation, and acceptance.  Thank You that Your love makes You patient with those, such as I, who look for that perfect love in other people instead of noticing that You are right there offering it to us!  Thank You for the peace that comes when I take the time to meditate on the fact that I am always, unconditionally, and purely loved by You.  Thank You for that perfect love!  Help me to receive it and share it!

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Isaiah 61:1 (KJV)  1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;


Everybody seems to like a good love story.  My favorite, as has been with many little girls, is, "Cinderella."  However, as I grew into a woman, I realized that this kind of love story does not come about often and, even if it does, there is not always a, "happy ever-after," ending.  For a time, I was angry with Walt Disney for painting such a pretty picture of life for me and persuading me to think that a man would ride into my life on a white horse and I would suddenly be his princess and live forever happily in the palace!  Recently, I have been reading portions of a wonderful book entitled, "Dancing in the Arms of God," by Connie Neal.  I learned something about Cinderella that I did not know.  And, in case you men think this is just a story that might interest women, you might want to see if you could be suffering from the "Cinder-fella," complex!  We all have dreams, hopes, and expectations of life and of love.  Mostly, we put those expectations on other people and mostly we become disillusioned, hurt, and sometimes even abused because somebody turns out to be the, "wicked stepmother," that is forever keeping us from realizing our full potential.  Anyway, I found out that the story of Cinderella varies from culture to culture.  In the English versions, Cinderella lives among the cinders because of her wicked and oppressive stepmother.  But, the German version, by the Brothers Grim, gives the one we call, "Cinderella," the name, Aschenputtel."  The name,
Aschenputtel," means, "a person who stirs around in the ashes," according to Connie Neal.  In the German and French versions of our story of Cinderella, the heroine is not forced to live among the cinders but rather chooses to sleep among the ashes in order to keep warm.  Connie Neal says that ashes portray mourning and purity, while cinders portray blackness and dirtiness.  Whether we are male or female, we all have fires in our lives that seem to burn our hopes and dreams.  When those fires come and we're tempted to feel unloved, we can sing like Cinderella did, "Someday my Prince will come," because it's true!  Jesus did come long ago to love us into the Kingdom of God by His sacrifice on the cross.  Every day, He is with us in the form of His Holy Spirit, and one day He will come again, of all things, riding on a horse!  It's no fairy tale!  But, back to the fires in our lives.  We can either live among the cinders being held captive by our unforgiveness and bitterness at those who have hurt us or not met our expectations or we can live among the ashes.  If we live among the cinders, there are still pieces there which are fuel for more fire.  But, if we choose to keep warm in the ashes of the totally burnt up agendas that were going on in our own mind, we will find the warmth and love of our prince.  Now that's a love story!  Once our lives are down to ashes, the love of God comes in with His good plans for us and comforts us as only He can.  (Isaiah 61:2)  And, then - and then, He gives us beauty for our ashes.  He gives us the oil of joy for our mourning.  He  replaces our mourning with the oil of joy.  He even gives us new clothes!  We get a garment of praise in exchange for those rags of heaviness we've been wearing!  Wow, the love of God comes into our lives.  The Prince of Peace moves in and gives us a complete makeover, even making us His Bride!  (Remember this is true for both men and women.)  We have all endured fires in our lives and we all need the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings to love us as no one else has ever or will ever love us!  How is your life this morning?  Are you listening to the lies of the devil that tell you that you must live among the cinders or resentment and bitterness?  Or, have you accepted the love of your Prince who has come to give you a real happy-ever after ending?  Have you chosen to get close to those ashes of your life?  Close enough to give them over to God so that His love can make you a brand new creature?  He's waiting for us all to get out of those cinders, surrender the ashes to Him, and be a part of the greatest love story ever told!


Isaiah 61:3 (KJV)   3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Oh Lord, it's amazing how much I can see you in the stories of life!  Thank You for those who are willing to study and write and point us all to You in the different ways we choose to live our lives.  Thank you for being my King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Thank You for being my ever-after perfect Bridegroom!  Thank You for being the Prince of Peace in my life even when the world is in chaos all around me!  Lord, let me let go of all bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment and envy.  Take my pride and change my name from, "Cinderella," to "Aschenputtel."  I want to choose to let all the ashes of my misguided and mis-directed dreams lead me right to where the warmth of Your love will change my life and make it a life that brings glory to You.  Thank You that no one can do a make-over like You do and, when you do it, it never fades away.  It just gets better and better!  Thank You that Your strength will be seen in me as You plant me like a tree that brings forth the fruit of righteousness.  Thank You for Your wondrous love that never disappoints!

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2 Chronicles 5:13 (NLT)  13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the LORD with these words: “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD.


Have you ever counted on another person to love you in the way you wanted to be loved, maybe even in the way you needed to be loved?  And, after, counting on that person, were you disappointed, hurt, frustrated and left feeling alone and neglected?  That's what happens sometimes when we count on people to meet our needs; especially the need for the sacrifices that only love can make.  People are fragile and sinful.  Everyone has their own problems to work through and, in doing so, they may appear to neglect us or not provide the love we feel we need.  A long time ago, Solomon, built a temple for the Lord.  At the dedication, there was a great ceremony.  In 2 Chronicles 5:13, we read that many musicians gathered to praise and give thanks to the Lord.  In the New Living Translation, it says that they sang, "He is good!  His faithful love endures forever!"  God's love for us is entirely faithful and it does endure forever.  He's the only One who does not have emotional and spiritual issues of His own with which to deal!  I was reading a story about a woman who was let down by her earthly father.  He had a problem with gambling and got himself into trouble many times.  He was so busy keeping himself out of trouble that he didn't have time to be the father he should have been for her.  In fact, he finally got into so much trouble that they lost their home at just the time for her entrance into college.  Without going into the whole story, the essence of it is that she began to call on God's love instead of expecting more out of her father than he was able to give.  God came through for her in a miraculous way and, in the end, she had no resentment toward her father and he was proud of her as she graduated from one of the finest colleges in the country!  This happened because she finally realized that there is only One whose love on which you can always count!  If another in your life has a weakness that prevents them from giving you all the love you need, look higher!  In fact, we should always be looking higher, no matter how blessed we are with loving people in our lives!  It's interesting that Solomon built the finest earthly temple and this is where the priests and musicians gathered to sing praise to God, declaring that His faithful love endures forever.  Yes!  It does!  You and I are much more precious to God than that earthly temple that Solomon built and we, who believe, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  When God's love was declared in unison in Solomon's temple, a thick cloud filled the temple.  It was so thick that the priests could not even minister.  The cloud was God's Spirit, His very presence.  He was ministering to them because they had acknowledged that He, alone, had a love that could be counted on forever.  Think of how much more His presence fills us when we look only to Him for the love we need to last a lifetime (and beyond).  Think of His Spirit filling us so much that we just have to be still inside, even in the midst of this gone-crazy world!  That's His love!  And, that's what happens when we acknowledge that only His love can satisfy us and keep us.  It lets us know that we don't have to hold others responsible for loving us in exactly the way we want or need to be loved because God has already done the job!  As I read in the story, God's love does not displace the love we receive from others in our lives (who sometimes disappoint us).  God's love takes up the slack!  You see, He knows that we are all only human.  Yes, He wants us to love like He loves but we're all in a process and we're not all in the same place in that process.  God, on the other hand, is perfect and complete and that is the way His love is for us!  This morning, just know that you are loved by your Heavenly Father with a perfect love that will last forever.  You might even want to tell someone about that love and that He loves them that way too!  May the cloud of His presence bring you everything you need and give you rest as you realize that Your Father loves you with a perfect and unending love!  Like those musicians in Solomon's day, maybe some singing about God's love might be rising up out of you right now as His glorious presences fills you - His beloved temple!  No matter what today brings, you can rest in that love and in His presence!


2 Chronicles 5:14 (NLT)  14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of God.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for Your perfect and everlasting love.  Thank You also for those around me who love me but help me to remember that they are just human like I am.  Help me not to expect to be loved exactly the way I want to be loved by others because only You can love me perfectly.  Help me to be lovingly forgiving of those who fail to meet my expectations of love and to always have a song in my heart of Your faithful and eternal love for me.  Thank You that, when others don't quite make me happy, You take up the slack.  Instead of always looking outward for love, help me to look upward where I will find Your love.  Then, let me look outward and display the wonderful love You have for me and pass it along to others!  Help me always to acknowledge and rest in Your love and let this temple always be filled with praise, just as the musicians did in Solomon's temple.  Lord, send Your presence into my life and into the lives of others of Your children who are acknowledging Your perfect love right now!  Thank You that Your love is a love we can always count on! 

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Genesis 29:32 (KJV)  32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.


Poor Leah!  If you remember the story of Jacob's attraction and desire to marry Rachel, who was Leah's younger sister, you remember that Leah was not that good looking.  She seemed to be completely out-classed by her younger sister, Rachel.  Besides that Jacob had met Rachel first and he seemed to fall in love with her at first sight.  He was attracted to her from the beginning.  But, in those days, there were rules and traditions regarding marriage and, even though Laban, the girl's father, agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel, he did a, "switcheroo," on the wedding night and Jacob ended up with Leah because, according to their tradition, the older daughter had to be married before the younger daughter could be married.  The downright truth of the matter was that Laban tricked Jacob!  It looks like Leah found herself right in the middle of the situation.  I can't imagine being her and seeing Jacob's look of disappointment and perhaps even disdain when he found that he had slept with Leah instead of Rachel.  He was married but not to the girl of his dreams!  I don't know if Leah was forced into going along with the switch or if she really desired to marry Jacob but, either way, he did not love her.  In that day, children were considered to be a blessing from God (by the way, they are a blessing from God).  But, in that day, a woman who could not have children was not considered valuable.  Jacob finally did get to marry Rachel too but Rachel could not have children.  (Genesis 29:31)  Still Jacob loved her more than he loved Leah!  Can you imagine the sibling rivalry in that home?  Leah longed for her husband to love her the way he loved Rachel.  Leah seemed very fertile so she just kept having children, hoping to win the love of her husband.  (Genesis 29:32-35)  In fact, she named her first son Reuben and declared that surely her husband would love her.  Reuben's name means, "see ye the son."  Leah thought, for sure, if Jacob saw Reuben, it would cause him to love her!  Understandably, Leah was hurt when that love did not come about.  So she had another child and named him Simeon (meaning, "heard") because she said that the Lord heard that she was hated.  I don't know if Jacob really hated Leah or not but he most assuredly did not love her as he loved Rachel.  Obviously that must not have worked either so Leah kept on trying in her own strength to bare enough children to make Jacob love her.  She had another son, Levi, (meaning, "associated with him")  and this time she thought that surely her husband would be joined to her in love.  Still nothing!  Finally, she made one more attempt and had another child naming him Judah.  Finally, it looks like Leah may have started to see the light.  Instead of looking to Jacob for love, she began to praise the Lord! As much as we all want love and were born to love and be loved, we cannot make anybody on this earth love us by our performance.  Love is a choice and the one who loves has to make that choice.  It's too bad that we still live in a performance-based society, sometimes leaving us with the feeling that we can earn love by what we do.  Not so.  Leah didn't earn it, no matter how many children she had.  You know, we can't make God love us more by the things we try to do either!  Thankfully, God has already made the choice to love each one of us and, since He is love, He can't help Himself.  Whether we receive it or not is another story.  It's our choice.  It could be that you have someone in your life that you want to love you but it just doesn't seem like that is happening.  Maybe, like Leah, you have tried and tried to do things for that person to elicit the love you're looking for, but still it doesn't come.  Why not remember that there is One who loves you and He will never stop loving you.  You can't do anything to make Him love you more and you can't flub up enough to make Him love you less.  He just loves you because He chooses to.  Leah, no doubt, had some hard knocks in life and felt like she just didn't measure up.  Maybe you feel like that too.  In God's eyes, you are beautiful (or handsome as the case may be).  You can know that you are highly favored because Jesus loved you enough to sacrifice Himself on the cross so you could climb back into your loving Father's arms!  We don't have to work like Leah did to try to follow traditions or perform religious acts.  We just have to do what Leah finally did and begin to praise the One whose love for us will never end.  So, this morning, just soak up that love and begin to let your praise rise to Heaven.  You are loved - no matter what!


Psalm 18:1 (KJV)   1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.



PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, sometimes I have tried to do things to make other people love me.  I think I have probably tried to do good things to make You love me more too.  Please help me to relax and realize that I can't make anybody love me.  Let me take a lesson from Leah.  Help me to remember that, it's not my job to make anyone love me, it's only my job to be loving like You are loving.  To love unconditionally.  Thank You that, even on my worst days, when I might not be feeling the love I want to feel from others, Your love is always with me and in me.  Thank You that Your love never fails.  Let me rest in the fact that I can't do anything - not one thing - that is going to make You love me more than You do right now!  Thank You that, even when I make a mess, You love me enough to turn it around and make a message out of it.  A message of Your love, grace, and mercy!  May I sing to You Lord, "I love You Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, oh my soul rejoice.  Take joy my King in what You hear.  May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."  Thank You Father, Son and Holy Spirit for your powerful, never-ending love for me!  

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Ruth 4:13 (NLT)  13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the LORD enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son.


At first glance, if you look at Ruth 4:13, you might think that the main characters are Ruth and Boaz.  To me, they are definitely necessary and prominent characters but I'm thinking more about babies and about bitter women right now.  Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, had come back to Bethlehem, accompanied and cared for by her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth.  Upon entering the town she announced to the whole town that she didn't want to be called Naomi any more (which means pleasant).  She wanted to be called, "Mara," (which means bitter).  What Naomi was calling herself was, "bitter," which includes, "greatly discontented, chafed, and bitterly angry."  Her heart was filled with bitterness instead of pleasantness.  I have never lost two sons and a husband, but I have harbored bitterness in the past.  It certainly did not help my personality and, most of the time, I was less than pleasant.  I do know someone who has had two children and a husband pass away and she has been a great testimony to me in my life.  Instead of being bitter, she has chosen to be joyful and to go on in an expectant manner because she knows that the Lord has always been her "everything."  That's not to say that she doesn't have any hard days or that there are days that she does not have to do spiritual warfare to fight bitterness.  She does.  Still she goes on praising the Lord and watching for His provision and protection in her life.  Naomi was really having a hard time though.  She wanted to let everyone know that she was bitter and that she blamed God for it!  (Ruth 1:21)  How many times have you or I blamed God for something that seemed to be awful that happened in our lives?  Maybe we don't blame Him openly but our hearts are not as quick to praise Him as they are when everything is going our way!  The truth is that God had seen Naomi's suffering and Ruth's suffering.  They were both His children and He had a good plan for them but, Naomi, in particular, couldn't see past her bitterness until.............A baby was born!  Out of the love story of Ruth and Boaz came a tiny baby boy.  His name was Obed.  All the women of the town saw that Naomi had a baby grandson and they praised the Lord for the whole affair!  (Ruth 4:14)  They pronounced a blessing on Obed that he would be famous in Israel and carry on the family line!  Even if Naomi had bitterly resented the loss of her biological family, the women of the town saw things from a different perspective.  They saw baby Obed as the one who would restore Naomi's youth and then care for her in her old age.  They reminded her that Obed was the son of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, who had loved her unconditionally all this time and was really better to her than seven sons!  (Ruth 4:15)  Sometimes it takes someone looking at our lives from the outside and from a different perspective to remind us of how much we are loved and blessed!  As the song says, "A Baby Changes Everything."  Naomi, who had not long before, called herself, "bitter," was extremely blessed.  It was the result of her daughter-in-law's committed love for her and for the love story that ensued between Ruth and Boaz.  (Ruth 4:16-17)  A baby does change everything.  Obed was a blessing to Naomi, making her forget her bitterness and Obed was also the grandfather of King David and a part of the Messianic line!  Love is not always easy but, in the end, it is worth it!  Look at the change in Naomi when God loved her enough to give her a grandson when it looked like there was no way!  Is there a situation in your life that looks like a dead-end?  Be encouraged by all the facets of this story in the book of Ruth and also know that one Baby changed everything for you too!  His Name is Jesus.  He's no longer a Baby in a manger.  He loved you and me enough to live and die for us and then take His life back again and go back to His Father where He sits constantly, lovingly interceding for us in prayer.  He's the Way-Maker.  Love always finds a way!


Ruth 4:17 (NLT)  17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for Jesus who came to earth as a Baby and changed everything!  Thank you for the story of Ruth, Naomi, Boaz and Obed.  Thank You for showing me that love is not always easy and that it takes courage and commitment, suffering and sacrifice.  But, Lord, thank You that when we are following You, the blessings are unbelievable!  Thank You for new little lives that come into our lives, making us know that You have a plan for the world to go on and a good plan for their lives.  Thank You for the changes that babies and children make in our lives as they give us their unconditional love.  Thank You that You have shown me in Naomi's story that, bitterness can be changed to blessing.  Help me to see the blessings in front of me and not concentrate on the things I don't have.  Thank You for others in my life that adjust my perspective a bit just as the women in the town reminded Naomi that Ruth was better to her than seven sons!  Help me Lord, to rid myself of all bitterness, great discontentment, irritation, and bitter anger, even if I feel I have a reason to be that way.  Thank You that Your Love always makes a way where there is no way if I will get bitterness out of the way and let You do Your marvelous works in and through my life!

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Ruth 2:20 (NLT)  20 “May the LORD bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”


Have you ever thought of God as being a matchmaker?  I hadn't until this last reading of some of the book of Ruth!  Have you ever had grief and pain in your life, and even lack?  I would venture to say that most everyone reading this has had both; and may even have one or both at this very moment!  But, there is hope!  Hope springs out of love.  (Romans 5:5)  Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, had lost hope, apparently because she began to call herself, "bitter," a very negative thing!  But, since Ruth's love for her bitter mother-in-law (who may not even have shown much appreciation for her) did not wane or waiver, Ruth went to the fields to gather the grain that was left behind by the harvesters.  She found herself in the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, the late husband of Naomi.  If you are a young girl (or maybe even an older woman, like myself), ponder this for a moment.  Boaz seemed to be drawn to Ruth the moment he set eyes on her.  She was a foreigner and most of the other Jews would have ridiculed her and put her down, but not Boaz.  And, Boaz was rich and influential!  It's not what you look like or where you come from, ladies, that brings you favor with God or men.  It's what's in your heart.  Boaz had noticed the love in Ruth's heart that drove her to stay with a bitter mother-in-law in spite of her own grief.  Boaz noticed that Ruth was committed to working hard every day just to glean enough left-over grain to bring food to her mother-in-law's table.  Love seems to beget love because, in the end, this relative of Naomi's dead husband sought to marry Ruth!  Can you imagine God's inclusive love that brought Ruth, a foreigner and former worshipper of false Gods into the ancestral line of our Messiah?  Boaz was what they called, at that time, a family redeemer.  It's interesting, isn't it, that Jesus is our Redeemer and God was showing us a little bit about how this would come about in the love story between Ruth and Boaz.  Like Ruth, we, especially as Gentiles, were foreigners.  The Jews were God's chosen children.  By rights, Boaz should have married one of his own.  But, he loved Ruth, a foreigner, just like our Father loved us Gentiles and all sinners.  Like Ruth found herself in the city called the, "House of Bread," we, who have received redemption through Jesus, find ourselves living in the Bread of Life.  God often uses the most beautiful of all relationships, the marriage relationship, to reveal Himself and His love for us!  A lot of emphasis is placed on looks these days and people find themselves attracted to what is on the outside rather than looking deeper and discovering what is on the inside like Boaz did with Ruth.  God does that with us too.  He knows that He originally made us in His image.  But, then we got tarnished and His image was pretty much undetectable in us (at least on the outside) by sin.  Instead of just looking on the outside, God looks at the inside.  He searches deep down in our hearts looking for the love that came from Him, who is Love, when He made us.  He invites us into His field like Boaz did with Ruth.  Finally, like Boaz and Ruth, a match made in Heaven, occurs and we find ourselves as part of the Bride of Christ, redeemed by our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, Himself.  Ruth and Boaz were finally married.  Her life was redeemed by love.  It didn't just affect her either!  Many were affected by this match made in Heaven.  Even the bitter Naomi!  Love has a ripple effect and it's that love that's inside of us that can change the lives of all those around us.  Have you taken advantage of the match made in Heaven with you and Jesus this morning?  Have you received a new infilling of love and are you ready to go out and make some lives turn from bitter to better?


Ruth 4:13 (NLT)  13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the LORD enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, You are truly amazing!  Thank You for the whole story of Ruth and Boaz.  Thank You that You are looking deeply into my heart, and the hearts of Your other children, and that You don't judge or have favor on us because of what we look like on the outside, but by what is deeply implanted in our hearts.  That seed of Love that was planted there directly from You, our Father, because You are Love!  Thank You for the many matches You have made in Heaven, both for human marriages here on earth and our relationship with Jesus. Thank You that those of us who receive Your mercy, as Ruth received Boaz's mercy, will find ourselves a part of Your Bride and that we will one day see our Redeemer, face to face!  Help me Lord, and help those of Your other children who have received such a great love and so much mercy and grace in our redemption, to go out into the world and help take some embittered lives and turn their face to You so that they can receive Your blessing and become better!  Thank You that, through love, lives can be totally and radically changed in an unfathomable way! 

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Ruth 1:20-21 (NLT)   20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.  21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”


As they say, "stuff happens," in life.  It is not different for God's children than it is for those who do not acknowledge Him.  We're in this world and we take some hits like everyone else but we're not really part of this world.  But, sometimes we forget that, don't we?  When, "stuff happens," in our lives, especially if it is a lot of stuff at once, do we sometimes get flustered, overwhelmed and turn bitter?  That's what happened to, "pleasant," Naomi!  When we get bitter, do we sometimes miss the blessings in front of our face?  I feel like Naomi did that.  Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, gave up her family and her gods and took the trek from Moab to Bethlehem because she loved her mother-in-law.  All the way from Moab to Bethlehem, love was walking with and talking with Naomi.  I have to say, I think I might relate to how Naomi felt.  It was nice that her daughter-in-law loved her but I'm sure she would much rather have had her two biological sons and/or her husband walking with her.  Naomi apparently felt very sorry for herself in spite of the fact that God had made miraculous provision for her companionship after so much stuff had happened in her life.  Part of the miracle was that stuff had happened in Ruth's life too.  Her husband was dead too, but love seemed to drive her to look beyond her, "stuff," flush her own, "pity pot," and concentrate on Naomi.  Well, when they got to Bethlehem, the whole town was excited and all the women exclaimed, "Is this really Naomi?" (Ruth 1:19)  I wonder if they weren't really sure if it was really her because of Naomi's fallen countenance due to her self-pity and refusal to be comforted in her grief.  Naomi retorted,  Ruth 1:20-21 (NLT) 20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”   Oh my goodness! I'm sure Ruth was standing right there and heard this exclamation by Naomi!  After giving up all that she had to help her mother-in-law along, Naomi stood there bold-faced and downcast declaring to the whole town that the Lord brought her home empty!   If I were Ruth, I would have felt like saying, "What am I?  Chopped liver?"  Naomi did not go home empty.  She went home with a convert and someone who loved her.  Ruth loved Naomi even though she didn't have to love her!  I wonder what their trip was like with Naomi wallowing in her grief and apparently not paying much attention to the grief that Ruth was also bearing.  Now, Naomi was calling herself names, a negative name - "Mara," "bitter."  Thank God, He saw past all of this and kept his good plan in effect.  Amazingly enough, Ruth was still subservient to her mother-in-law and, lo and behold, God's timing was perfect.  They arrived just at the time of the barley harvest and a relative of Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband, stepped into the picture.  His name was Boaz and he was rich and influential.  (Ruth 2:1-23)  Imagine that Ruth, in her love for her mother-in-law, decides to go into the nearby fields and pick up the crumbs left by the harvesters so they could have food.  Imagine that God, whose plan of love for both Ruth and Naomi was in place, placed Ruth right in the field that belonged to Boaz!  As they say, "The rest is history."  Really His-Story because we find that Ruth is in the line of the Messiah, Jesus!  (Matthew 1:5)  There's a lot more to this love story that involves, God's love, the love of a daughter-in-law for her mother-in-law, and the love between a man and a woman.  But, for now, let's just remember that when, "stuff happens," in our lives, we must refuse to name ourselves, "Mara," or, "bitter."  God has a plan for us that is going to make us better than ever if we will just trust His love.  And, if you are going through a tough time like Naomi was, don't miss the blessing that might be right in front of your face, as Ruth was for Naomi.  It might not be in the package you expected or even wanted, but God does not leave His children without blessing and comfort if we will just receive it!  Naomi didn't know it at the time because she was too busy feeling sorry for herself, but she was about to go from bitter to blessed!  Why not just trust God with our own lives and skip the, "bitter?!?"  The Lord is the lover of our souls and He has a plan for each one of us - a good one at that!  A blessing!


Ruth 2:10-12 (NLT)   10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”    11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.  12 May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”



PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, there are times when I have held elaborate and long pity parties for myself.  Please forgive me.  Help me always to face every situation knowing that, through You I can become better instead of bitter because it is Your desire to bless me more than I can ask or believe.  Lord, sometimes I have felt like Ruth must have felt, like my efforts to love others have gone unnoticed and that it really didn't matter what I did.  But, Lord, how wonderful to see that You don't overlook any act of love!  Sooner or later, You bring the blessing.  Thank You for reminding me that Boaz had noticed all that Ruth had done for her mother-in-law and, because of that, he decided to bless her greatly.  Thank you that I don't need to go to the trouble of decorating my life for any more personal pity parties because You, like Boaz knew of Ruth's heart, know my heart and you know the grief that has been in my life.  Thank You that, as Boaz said to Ruth, You, under whose wings I take refuge, will reward me for whatever I have done out of pure love!  Help me to see beyond the troubles of today in my life, by faith, to the blessing that You have in store for me.  Like the blessing Naomi was about to receive, it will be more than I could have ever imagined or believed.  Thank You Father for Your love and the way it is shown throughout Your Word through others.      

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Ruth 1:3-5 (NLT)  3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons.   4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later,  5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.


Have you ever felt like you have tried to do everything possible to make things turn out well in your life but just one thing after another attacks and distracts until you are left to battle that feeling of defeat and bitterness?  Meet Naomi!  She left her home in Bethlehem with her husband because there was a famine there and, apparently, Elimelech, Naomi's husband  figured things would be better for them if they traveled to Moab and settled there for a while.  They left Bethlehem, called the, "House of Bread," because food had become scarce there.  They traveled to Moab.  Moab was the name of Lot's incestuous son.  In Moab, they did not worship the one true God.  So, consider Naomi.  She left her friends and family and traveled with her  husband and two sons to this supposed, "land of promise."  I don't know if Naomi was in agreement with her husband on this move or not but, eventually, Elimelech died.  I know how it is to leave your family behind and go to live in a place where you know not a soul, except your husband (and, in this case, Naomi had her sons).  It is not easy!  Now, not only was Naomi in a land foreign to her, but her husband was dead.  In those days, a husband was definitely his wife's covering for financial provision as well as protection.  But, Naomi did have her two sons, Mahlon (whose name means, "sick") and Kilion (whose name means, "finished, complete, perfect').  Both boys had married women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah.  Naomi, though not in her own country and widowed, still had two sons and their wives.  But only for about ten years.  Both Mahlon and Kilion died.  Now there were three women without the covering of a husband or sons who could take over as the head of the house.  Naomi (whose name means, "pleasant,") was feeling a lot less than pleasant at this point.  Everything was taken from her and she was still not in her homeland.  So, she decided to make the trek back to Bethlehem, hearing that the Lord had visited His people there again and there was once again food in the land.  Both Ruth and Orpah were Moabite women with their own customs and with the option of going back to their mother's homes.  When they heard that Naomi had decided to return to her homeland, they both told her that they would stay with her.  (Ruth 1:10)   But, Naomi, knowing they might probably be better off in their own land, in their own parent's home, soon finding another husband, urged them to stay behind.  (Ruth 1:8-9)  Finally, Orpah decided to return to her own land (Ruth 1:14) and so she did.  But, Ruth would not leave the side of her mother-in-law.  In fact, not only did she refuse to leave Naomi, she confessed that Naomi's God would be her God.  Naomi had a convert!  She also had a daughter-in-law who truly loved her and would stay by her side!  That's what love does.  It stays when it's not easy.  It leaves some comforts behind and risks the journey into the unknown and the unfamiliar if it will benefit the one loved.  (Ruth 1:16-18)  That's what Ruth did for Naomi!  She gave up what was familiar to her and vowed not to leave her mother-in-law!  With all the jokes and poor relationships with in-law's today, this is truly a miracle of love!  There is one thing that has always been true though.  God is love.  You can't out-love God.  God had a plan in mind for both Naomi and Ruth.  Ruth was about to be blessed with love beyond her wildest imagination.  Would it be easy for her?  Not at first.  But, she clung to her vows to her mother-in-law and she made Jehovah God her God.  You can't out-give God either.  Ruth gave away everything she was familiar with to follow Naomi because of her great love for her mother-in-law.  God was about to give both Ruth and Naomi more love than they could imagine.  Both of their lives were at zero when they left Moab but, back in the House of Bread, in Bethlehem, they would find love again.  If you have never received Jesus as your Savior, take a little trip in your mind to the city of Bethlehem, aptly named, because the Bread of Heaven would be born there in a manger.  He's not that baby in a manger any more but He is now the loving Savior of anyone who will receive Him.  You may have to leave what is familiar to you to follow Him but, like Ruth and Naomi, you will not be disappointed and you will find love like you have never known love before!


Ruth 1:16 (NLT)  16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Dear Father in Heaven, how good you are to illustrate love in all directions in your Word and then bring it all down to the focal point, which is You and Your love!  Thank you that no matter how much I love You or anyone else, I cannot out-love You.  In fact, I cannot love at all without You because You are love and You are the One who loved me first and are now teaching me how to love as You love.  Thank You that I cannot out-give You in the area of love or of anything else.  Your plans are to give me, and all the rest of Your children, good gifts if we will decide, like Ruth decided to follow Naomi, to follow You and be led back to You through Your Son, Jesus!  Thank You for this story of the love of a daughter-in-law for her mother-in-law that is quite rare in our day.  Thank You again for reminding me that love means giving and sacrifice and commitment even when I am at my lowest ebb in life.  Sometimes, it seems that nothing goes right and things just seem to slip out of my control.  Help me to know that it is then that You have complete control and Your loving plans for me are good just as they were good for Naomi and Ruth!  Just as in wedding vows, You have promised to be with me in sickness and in health, for better or for worse and I can be assured that You love and cherish me like no other; even when others might forsake me or be taken from me in death!  Thank You that, even in the tragedies of life, Your love always leads us to triumph! 

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Genesis 29:18 (AMP)  18 And Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, I will work for you for seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.


I don't know if it was anywhere near Valentine's Day or not but, as Jacob obediently went to the relatives of his father to find a bride, we find love at first sight.  Jacob traveled a long way and when he came to the land where his Uncle Laban lived, he saw shepherds and sheep near a well.  Asking around, he found that he was in the right place and they all knew exactly where Jacob's Uncle Laban lived.  It wasn't really time for watering the sheep, but God is never concerned with man's idea of time.  It is His timing that is perfect!  Rachel, Laban's younger daughter just happened to bring her father's sheep to the well at just the time Jacob was there.  He saw her coming and the first time his eyes met hers, he knew she was the one for him.  He didn't waste any time either.  He was so emotional that he wept and he kissed Rachel right there in front of all the other shepherds waiting to water and feed their sheep!  (Genesis 29:11)  I don't suppose they had even had a proper introduction but Jacob had ascertained that Rachel was one of his father's relatives and that made her a qualified woman to be his wife.  As the story goes on, we find Jacob meeting his Uncle Laban and staying with him for about a month before Laban made Jacob a deal he couldn't refuse.  Laban allowed Jacob to name his own wages for his work for Laban.  Jacob was so in love.  His love and great desire to be in the presence of Rachel and possess her as his wife made him willing to work for seven years, the only wages being that he could marry her.  These days, that kind of love would be very hard to find.  Our culture has gotten to the place where we want instant gratification.  We want what we want when we want it and we don't really want to work too hard to get it either!  But, in this instance, Jacob's love for Rachel was his motivation for offering his services to Laban for seven years!  Today, love at first sight is usually really "lust," at first sight and much of the time there is not waiting or even marrying.  There is no commitment or covenant of marriage.  Sometimes, the man is not even willing to work to provide for the woman and the children they might have.  Even though Jacob had a past that was tainted with deceit and trickery to get what he wanted, this time it was different.  He really loved Rachel.  He loved her enough to sacrifice seven years of hard work for the privilege of having her as his wife.  How much of what we call, "love," today is like that of Jacob for Rachel?  How many are willing to delay gratification and wait and work with commitment until a marriage covenant is finally instituted?  Even after a marriage, how many are quick to run toward the divorce court the first time there is a disagreement or the first time the woman looks less than an appealing air-brushed model and the man less than one of those ripped sports figures?  Jacob really did show his love for Rachel when he worked for her hand in marriage for seven years.  However, deceit must have run in his family because when he awoke after the wedding night, he found he was in bed with Leah, Rachel's older sister.  His Uncle Laban had tricked him.  Leah was not pretty like Rachel and Jacob was not really attracted to her but now he was married to her!  His Uncle's deceit did not change Jacob's love for Rachel though.  He had worked seven long years because of his love for Rachel!  Now he was stuck with Leah.  In those days, men often had more than one wife and so, because Jacob really loved Rachel, he sacrificed another seven years of his life working for his deceitful Uncle Laban.  This is a story of sacrificial love.  A love that would not let go even though what was promised had not been delivered.  Jacob loved Rachel enough to sacrifice fourteen years of his life working for someone who had tricked him and really did not have his best interests at heart even though they were relatives!  God shows us through many different scenes of love all through His Word that love of not just a fuzzy feeling or a Valentine's Day treat.  It's a sacrifice.  That's the way God loves you and me and that's the way He wants us to love one another!  Maybe your life has not gone as well as you planned.  Your spouse may not be the person you expected him or her to become.  Maybe your relationship with God is not as close as is should be.  These things can change if we, like Jacob, realize that real love requires a sacrifice and many times a very long waiting period before seeing the desired results.  The great thing about love is that is comes from God.  He is love and He gave of His very best because He loves you so much.  He loves me that much too!  Like Jacob, are we willing to sacrifice some time and energy to make our marriage relationships and our relationship with the Lord one of commitment and unbroken covenant?  If you asked Jacob, I think that he might say, "Love does not give up, even when its full realization is hindered by the evil deeds of others."  God never gives up on us, though some would try to tear us away from His presence and some of us wander far from Him.  Is there someone in your life who really needs to know they are loved but somehow you don't seem to be able to get through to them?  Do you really need to have a full revelation of just how much you are loved by God?  First of all, prayer can change that.  Jesus can get through to them (and to us)  and He can do it through our unwillingness to give up on love, no matter what.  Love never fails and we won't fail either if we walk in sacrificial love and we don't give up!


Genesis 29:30 (KJV)  30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, how thankful I am that Your love never gave up on me, even when I had just about given up on myself!  Thank You that, because You are Love, You can reach the very hardest heart and turn that heart around, letting that person know that they are loved with an everlasting love.  Help us, Lord in our relationships with each other, especially in marriage relationships.  Help us to realize that it's not always going to be our way and to realize that, when it doesn't go our way, that doesn't mean we run for the divorce court.  It just means that we run for Your court and into Your presence where we find the wisdom, comfort, and strength we need to keep on walking in love!  Help us, like Jacob, not to let anything or anyone get in the way of true love.  Keep us focused on You, the very essence and source of all love.  When we are disappointed or feel heart-broken, help us to remember that You are the lover of our souls and that You are very close to the broken-hearted!  Thank You for the many stories of love throughout your Word that will help us through the difficult times of our own lives and help us to remember that You dearly love imperfect people, like us.  When we are disappointed or misunderstood, please let us find our way to Your courts and Your presence for another infilling of the kind of love that never fails!    

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Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV)   4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


God's commands all come out of love for us because He is Love and He is the one who made us and greatly loves us.  When you really, really love someone, you want to protect them.  Isn't that how it is with us, if we have children?  We want to protect them and sometimes we ask them to do things they don't want to do or not to do things they want to do because we know that they will get hurt if they don't follow our commands.  There's no higher authority than the Lord God!  He demands and commands our love toward Him because He knows that we have an enemy.  This enemy, Satan, may be depicted as a red character, but he is far from a Valentine!  If he brings us a box of candy, it will contain poison!  He's a liar and a killer from long ago but he can make himself look pretty good at times and lure us to himself.  Nevertheless, God is the real thing and He knows that, if we love Him with all of our heart and being, we will not be deceived, or even distracted, by the devil and his promises of this world's, "candy."  One of the wonderful things about God is that He loves, not only us, He loves our children and their children too!  In fact, He truly loves them more than we do.  That's a lot of love!  God commands (yet He does not force, so it's more like an invitation) us to love Him with all we've got.  Now, if we refuse the invitation, there will be consequences.  There's no doubt about that.  The consequences will not only affect us; they will affect those we love the most in this world.  Our children.  God knows that so, like any good parent, He gives us a command to love Him fully and completely.  Does He stop there?  Is it all about us?  No!  He keeps going because His love lasts from generation to generation.  He tells us to repeat His commands again and again to our children.  You know how much children love to hear us repeat things over and over again!  However, it's because God loves them that He wants them to hear His Words over and over again so that they might find life and walk in His blessing.  So, our children should be hearing us talk about Him and His Words when we're at home and when we're out on the road.  (Deuteronomy 6:7)  We've got to remind them when we are going to bed and then when we wake up each morning. The Jews were to wear God's Words on their hands and put them on their foreheads as reminders.  (Deuteronomy 6:8)  Their children saw these things too, and they were also reminded of God's unrelenting love.  Today, we do, oftentimes wear jewelry that depicts a symbol of our belief and, most importantly, God's Word should be right behind our foreheads, forefront in our brain so that we are thinking about it in every situation.  Then God says to write His Words on the doorposts of our homes and on our gates.  I have garden flags that display God's Word.  I have a doormat that has scripture on it.  There is a scripture verse just inside my front door.  You will find scripture in some form in every room in my house.  Everyone who enters the house sees these things, but, most of all, my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will see them when they come in.  Constant reminders of the love God has for us all.  No, it's not just about you and me and God.  It's about those children of ours that we love so much and their children and on down to future generations of children, yet unborn.  Do we love the Lord with all of who we are?  It sounds really hard and I have had problems trying to figure it out for much of my life.  I could relate to the song, "I Don't Know How To Love Him," from the musical, "Jesus Christ, Superstar."  Yes, we've got to follow our Father's instructions because He gave them to us out of love in order to protect us.  But, He also made it easy for us to love Him with everything that's in us.  We can do that because He loved us first!  Because of that great love from the Lord, we can teach our children and theirs by how we live our lives in obedience to His loving commands and by what we teach them about His Word.  It's not just about us and God.  It's about many future generations and His love reaching!


John 14:21 (AMP)   21 The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, if I call You Father, let it not be because of vain tradition or religious piety.  Let me remember that You truly are my Abba Father, my Heavenly Daddy.  Help me to remember that Your commands are for my protection and the protection of my family if I will teach them and reveal You to them by the way I live.  Thank You that You love my children and all those who come after them with an everlasting love.  A love that reaches past my own relationship with You and extends that invitation for them to love You too.  My most loving prayer for my children is that they will accept that invitation and raise generation after generation of those who receive Your Word and Your loving commands so that they, also, can serve You and live under Your protection.  Help me to find new ways to display and live out Your Word, not only to my own children but to the children that come from homes where parents never even give You a second thought.  Give me compassion for the spiritual and physical welfare of abused children and third-world children who suffer from disease and starvation.  Lord, let Your command to love You be my highest goal in life so that Your love will flow through me and keep right on flowing down through the generations and outward to those families who may not know you yet, but will know You because of that flow.  Lord, I love my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren but, thank You that You love them even more and that Your love will extend to all generations!

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Genesis 22:2 (KJV)  2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

I am thinking about love this month, as are most other people who are reminded that it will soon be Valentine's Day.  Yesterday, I was reminded that love was not some fuzzy or lusty feeling but a choice to submit to the Lord, to make sacrifices for Him and for each other, and to worship.  Today, I continued to look into the word, "love," in the Hebrew language as used in Genesis 22:2 and the order from God to Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  The original word used here is equivalent to the English word, "to love," in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or to be in the presence of the object - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words.  Yesterday, as I began to search out the first time the word, "love," was used in the scriptures, I had a surprise coming.  You see, I just assumed it would be when God ordered that we must love Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)  That is what is in the law.  In studying this, I found another revelation of just how legalistic I still am, even though I am genuinely trying to get rid of a critical and judgmental spirit and trying to have a closer and more intimate relationship with God, through Jesus.  When I found that God first spoke of love in a way that we humans could understand, I felt pretty undone.  I still had more to learn, lots more, about how our Father relates to us and how He teaches us.  God chose to use the word, "love," in a father-son setting for the first time in scripture.  Now that I think of it, it's not at all unusual because He would one day want us to understand the relationship He had with His own Son and how much love it took to let that Son empty Himself of all of His deity and enter the world in the form of a helpless little baby.  He entered the world just like you and I did.  He didn't know if He would be cared for or not.  He was just here at the mercy of his parents and those around Him who would love and nurture him.  Like the rest of us, everyone around Him was not loving and nurturing.  In fact, some even wanted to kill this defenseless little infant!  When you and I are born, Satan has his eye on us to try to keep us in the darkness until he finally kills us, body, soul, and spirit.  But, Jesus!  Jesus took the fall for us, as it says in one popular worship song.  As another saying goes, it was not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross in order to deliver us from our sin and set us free.  It was His love for us.  Yes, love is in the law but, first, it comes from Love, Himself, who is God.  (1 John 4:8)  Then God lets us see it form into relationship, such as Abraham who loved his son, Isaac, greatly.  Although it is not stated openly, Abraham had a relationship with God also and, in obediently following God's orders to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham showed us how to put our love for God above all other love in this world, above all other relationships.  Today, I checked.  It is exactly the same Hebrew word that God used first in regard to Abraham's love for his son that He uses in the law when He states that we must love Him with all of our heart, soul, and might!  That's the way Abraham loved Isaac and that's the way Abraham loved God.  But, which of those relationships had to come first, no matter what?  Abraham's love for God.  I have a friend whose son just passed away unexpectedly in the prime of his life.  I don't know what I would do if that happened to me.  Here's what I do know.  She trembles sometimes at the trauma of the sudden emptiness in her life but her joy is always evident.  She spends all of her time thinking about how her son is now in the very presence of Jesus, far away from any sadness, sickness, or sin.  She could focus on herself.  God did not even really give her time to consent to sacrificing her son, but still she chooses to make her relationship with the Lord far more important than her own grief or hurt.  In fact, she goes around rejoicing knowing that her son has no more worries or troubles.  She rejoices knowing that, because of her love for God and his love for God, they will be together again for eternity.  She is an example to me and many others of a love for God that comes first, even though the love of a mother for her son is deep.  Love is the law but it is not legalistic.  Love is a Person who wants us to love Him above all other loves in this life.  We can love others like we love God, just the way Abraham did Isaac, but we must love God more than anyone or anything else on earth, trusting that love will endure forever.  Yes, Abraham loved Isaac.  He wanted to be in his presence but being in God's presence was more important and that attitude is what brought Abraham the blessing!  It will do the same for us too.  Isn't God a wonderfully practical teacher?  He taught us first about love in baby steps before He insisted that we love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength.  We can all relate to loving relationships on earth, be it child-parent, the love of one spouse for another, love for our parents, and love for our siblings.  Because our hearts can be touched with this love, we can learn to love God just like that, only more than we love any of the others! 


Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV)  4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:   5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, help me to get back to the basics.  Help me to see you as a kind Father, teaching me in ways that I can understand before yelling at me because I need to keep the law.  Thank You for the law of love but, most of all, thank you that it comes from You (and You are Love).  Thank You for demonstrating Your love and what our love should be for you in telling us about Abraham and Isaac!  I can understand that Lord.  It is not a hard thing to take.  I love the children you have loaned to me on this earth.  I love them greatly, just like Abraham loved Isaac.  I know this is how You want me to love them and yet, I also know that this is how You want me to love You!  It's not a hard kind of love to understand because of your illustration of the practical, earthly show of Abraham's love for Isaac, yet his show of that same kind (but greater) love for You!  Lord, please remove any remnants of a critical spirit in me or any spirit of judgment.  Just, please, help me to really love.  Help me to love both others and You.  Help me to keep love in perspective so that You always come first, knowing that when I put You first, my children will be blessed and all of those on whom Your love pours from me will be blessed too! 

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Genesis 22:2 (KJV)  2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.


Well now, here we are at another new beginning.  It is the beginning of the second month of this new year!  It's the month where we see the color, red, a lot.  We see hearts all over everything from socks to candy boxes.  We see pictures of cupid's with their arrows pointed and we hear the word, "love," over and over again!  Love is a wonderful thing, but I fear that the love that the world is celebrating around Valentine's day has gotten its meaning slightly skewed from the original.  So, I say, "Let's start from the very beginning," and that's what I did.  I looked up the first time the word, "love," was mentioned in the scriptures.  Very interesting.  It was about a son who was greatly loved.  Does that sound like a glimpse of God's Son?  The first mention of love that I could find was in Genesis 22:2, where God told Abraham to sacrifice the very one that God had promised him!  Abraham was told to sacrifice the son (Isaac) whom he loved greatly!  What that tells me about love is that it requires a sacrifice (or at least the willingness to make a sacrifice).  Is there anything that God has given you (and He's the one Who has given us everything we have), that you would not be willing to sacrifice if He asked you to?  That's a hard question, isn't it!  Abraham must have felt a bit confused when God told him to sacrifice the very one that He had promised.  However, Abraham's faith in God did not waiver.  He climbed up that mountain that God showed him and prepared to sacrifice his only son.  The thing is that Isaac laid down on the alter without a fight.  Does that not bring us a picture of Jesus climbing the Mount of Calvary to lay down His life on the altar for us so that we might live forever with our Father?  Well, in Abraham's case, God provided a ram at the very last minute so that Isaac's life would be spared.  If God asked you to give up something that you dearly loved, would you be like Abraham?  If you had to make the greatest sacrifice you have ever made, would you be like Isaac and like Jesus, who willingly submitted to the end?  These are questions for us to ask ourselves as we begin to be bombarded with all sorts of things from jewelry, to candy, to clothes, to flowers, in advertising.  Is this just an attempt to assuage our guilt at not having been loving the rest of the year?  Will we buy and give out of real love or just out of tradition and, sadly, sometimes guilt (which is a forerunner of resentment)?  Abraham could not buy God a box of candy and give it to Him to show His love and submission to the Father.  Jesus could not pick a bouquet of flowers and offer it to His Father to show His love.  These people had to give the very best that they had!  When we celebrate Valentine's day this year, let's make it a new beginning in our thinking.  A day of celebration is not a bad thing and we should use it well.  But, maybe every time we see a heart or a cupid or some soft fluffy red pajamas or even a sparkling diamond, we could travel back in time to a rugged mountain where Abraham took the son he greatly loved and, out of obedience (which is really love) was willing to release Isaac to the Lord.  Maybe our hearts could go back to that day that Jesus carried the cross on which He would lay down His life for us in love and stand there watching in our mind's eye his battered and beaten body struggling to carry the very instrument on which He would die.  Over two thousand years ago, the color red represented love.  There's a song that says, "In letters of crimson God wrote His love on a hillside so long, long ago...........and love's greatest story was told.  I love you, that's what Calvary said, I love you, written in red."  Today, make the new beginning knowing that you are loved, no matter what you have done.  It's true.  Jesus said it.  It was written in the red flow of His blood.  Love is not some sentimental feeling.  It's a choice to do the very best thing for another.  As the scripture tells us, there is no greater love than if a person would lay down his or her life for another!  Will the new beginning of February leave you thinking all the way through the month about what love really means?  About sacrifice?  And, most importantly, about just how much God loves you?  There is a saying that, when Jesus died, He said, "I love you this much and then spread out His arms and died."  There is no greater love and, if you already know that you are loved by the Father and have received Jesus as Your Savior, you are called to live out that kind of love, not only around Valentine's Day, but your whole life through!


John 15:13 (KJV)  13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, I admit that I cannot fathom having to sacrifice one of my children.  I cannot fathom losing them to death or to their wandering from You.  I don't know how Abraham had the faith that He did or how Isaac exercised the submission that made him lay down on the altar trusting his father.  I just know that I need to trust You, my Father, that much and be willing to let go of anything You might ask from me!  I can't make my mind go deep enough to endure making it look at the sacrifice Jesus made for me in the garden, with his closest friends falling asleep on Him.  I can't envision the mocking, beating. the torn flesh, the thorns pressed into His forehead that made the blood come streaming down.  I can't imagine that kind of love and I certainly can't imagine that He had it for me!  Yet, I must believe it!  Help me to celebrate love this month but not exactly as the world celebrates it.  Help me to dwell on what love really is.  Sacrifice.  Submission.  Obedience.  Then, let that sort of love flow from me as You give me opportunity to let others know about real love with the open doors that will be available this month!  Yes, Lord, I am sentimental.  I like gifts and candy and flowers and beautiful red decorations but help me to remember that I LOVE You because You first loved me.  Let this be a new beginning of how I forever think about what love really is!   

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Psalm 23:1 (NLT)  1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.


Well, if you can believe it, at the end of this day one twelfth of this year will have passed us by.  The first month, the first fruits, of this new year have ended and we now begin our journey into the rest of the year with tomorrow being a sort of new beginning in that we will enter into the second month of this year.  Into a brand new month!  What did you do with this last month?  Hopefully, you were able to see some progress in all areas of your life, especially in the, "abiding in the Vine," area!  Hopefully, you have been encouraged to remember that life is fragile, short, and unpredictable.  Just yesterday, I heard that a sister-in-the-Lord had gone home to be with Him.  In my opinion, she was way too young; but, God is not interested so much in my opinion (although He does care) as He is in His own good plan.  When believers leave this earth, we ought to be rejoicing with them because they are with the Shepherd and they can see Him face to face!  They are in a place with no tears, good-byes, suffering, or emotional and relational problems!  As you and I enter into February down here on earth, it is not quite that way, although the Shepherd has promised to be with us always.  And, we have complete assurance that He is, not just any Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd!  On the last day of this first month, maybe we might consider Psalm 23.  The Lord is our Shepherd and (as the King James Version puts it) we shall not want.  When I checked out the original word meaning for, "want," I found that this very first verse says that, because the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not lack, fail, or lessen.  We won't be abated, bereaved, decreased made lower or have any want.  Now, that is in the very first verse out of the six verses of  Psalm 23!  The Psalm never says we won't have challenging times but He does say that He will let (and even make) me rest in green pastures and that He will lead me to quiet and peaceful streams!  (Psalm 23:2)  In all the rest of this year, let's remember that, through every circumstance, He will renew our strength, He will continue to guide us in good paths and help us to bring honor to His name!  There will be mountains and valleys.  If we didn't have valley's to go through, we would not appreciate the majestic heights of the mountain tops and the broader vision we can see from up there!  So, Love promises to walk with us through even the darkest valley - that valley that involves death.  (Psalm 23:4)   It could involve physical death and it also involves death to our own selfish ways and lusty flesh.  The Good Shepherd is right there, not condemning or condoning; but comforting and convicting so that we will be spurred on to keep walking and then to climb to the mountaintop!  Right in the midst of everything He sets out a table for us.  Our enemies have to watch us feast on His delights but they can't come near us!  He anoints our head with the oil of the Holy Spirit and we are nourished and refreshed.  (Psalm 23:5)  If that is not more than we can think or imagine, He tells us that, for sure, His goodness and His unfailing love will pursue us and overcome us all the days of our lives.  And then.............and then, we will live in His house forever.  Eternity!  Will you enter the new beginning of the month of February with me seeking the Good Shepherd, seeking Love?  This is the month that the world celebrates Valentine's Day.  The month where, "love," is the focal point.  Well, there can surely be nothing better than having a Good Shepherd who is with us in every detail of our lives pouring out His goodness and unfailing love on us!  His love leads us forward!  Let's follow that lead!


Psalm 23:6 (KJV)  6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Oh, my Good Shepherd!  Thank You that I can choose not to lack or to be lessened by what others think of me.  Thank You that I can choose not to be bereaved because I know that, being the Good Shepherd, You have a plan for me that is more than I can ask, think, or imagine!  Thank You for the mountains and the valleys of life and for the fact that You have promised to be there every step of the way.  Thank You for Your arms of comfort and Your strength that leads me through the valleys and for that look of joy on Your face as You rejoice with me on the mountaintops!  Through all of life and, in each new beginning, thank You that You anoint my head with the oil of the Holy Spirit.  You feed me the delicacies of the manna from Heaven, which is Yourself!  In the upcoming month, when the world celebrates love, help me Lord, to exude real love, Your love.  Fill me full and give me a soft and willing heart so I can shed that love abroad into the broken lives all around me.  Oh Jesus, Good Shepherd, give me a new beginning and a new filling of Your unconditional love and let me live this coming month in that love, not stopping at the end of February, but carrying through all the days of my life until at last I dwell with You in Your love and in Your house of love forever!

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Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)  28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


Did you end last year with a bit of weariness?  Did you carry some burdens over into this year that still seem heavy?  Did you make some, "New Year's Resolutions," or at least decide that your were going to make this year better than last year?  Did you make a decision to de-stress your life because you know that stress is a killer?  It kills emotions which, in turn, kills self-worth and relationships.  It kills the body as it releases the wrong hormones and enzymes in the wrong amounts at the wrong times.  I don't like the word, "stress."  I love to just say (by faith), "I'm too blessed to be stressed."  I took the word, "stress," and determined that, within it, lies the word, "rest."  It's in there but there's a couple too many "s's," and the other letters are not in their proper place.  What causes this stress that slowly kills us and everything around us?  Like the difference between the word, "stress," and the word, "rest," there are too many letters in the word, "stress," and the letters that are there are not in order!  It's interesting that Jesus knew that there would be a lot of us out there that would become weary.  He knew about those of us who would be carrying heavy burdens.  That's not the way He intended it.  How many of those heavy burdens are we carrying because we loaded them onto our own shoulders by not using that one little word, "no."  When you are asked to do something, do you feel guilty if you have to say, "no?"  Don't!  God has given us each day to complete the works He intended for us to do - not the works that others expect us to do!  Don't try so hard to please everybody.  Better than that, please the God who created you to do those specific works He had in mind!  One of the pointed questions asked by Chris and Kerry Shook in their book, "One Month To Live," is this:  "How much of any given day do you spend doing only what you do best?"    Have you ever used the familiar scripture about God redeeming time so that you can get all those things done that you wanted to do, but didn't have the time?  (Ephesians 5:16)  Well, God does redeem lost and stolen things in our lives but in Ephesians 5:16, God tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil.  So, what has happened since the first day of this year in your life?  Did you try hard to keep those resolutions?  Most of us do.  But, this usually only lasts a few days into the year.  Did you continue to carry those burdens that you dragged over the bridge of last year into this new year?  After almost one month, do you continue to find yourself weary and heavy laden?  Could it be that we forget that it is not by our own might or power that we can do anything?  Do we sometimes forget, in all of our trying, that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can accomplish bearing fruit in each day that we live?  Are we really trying more than we are trusting?  Are you trying hard to grow spiritually?  Well, here's something I realized in my reading on the subject.  Healthy things have a tendency to grow so, instead of focusing on spiritual growth, thinking ourselves to be so pious, maybe we should focus on spiritual health.  That focus is easy.  It's about abiding in Jesus, who is the true vine and trusting in our Father who is the vine tender.  In all that we do, we need to remember that God, the Father, will cut off every branch that does not bear the fruit He is looking for.  He will also prune those branches that do bear fruit so that they will have the strength to bear more fruit.  Any branch that is not fully connected to the vine will wither away and die or the Father will take it off the vine so the vine does not become drained.  Where do we stand in this scenario as we get ready to enter the second month of this year?  Are you connected to the Vine (Jesus)?  Have you made Him Lord of your life?  If so, He has offered to take all of your stress (burdens and cares) and give you, in return a very light load to carry!  If we are connected to the Vine, are we bearing the fruit that God made us to bear?  Or are we using our time for some other, perhaps good, things but letting His giftings in us go to waste?  It has been said that we spend twenty percent of our time doing the things that we do best and eighty percent of our time doing things that we are probably not even called by God to do!  If we are connected to the Vine, are we carrying heavy burdens instead of casting them on Jesus and receiving His light burden?  What is His light burden?  It is His invitation to abide in Him.  Just to hang there on the Vine and let His life flow through us until we are an irresistible beautiful and sweet piece of fruit!  We can't try to stay on the Vine.  We can't try hard enough to bear fruit.  That can only come from Christ who strengthens us!  It can only come from trusting Him and the fact that He said, ".......without Me you can do nothing."  Would you like your February and the rest of the year to be stress-free, restful, productive, and pleasing to God and those around you?  Then start trusting His Words to you (of course you have to read them and know them in order to trust them).  Rest in Him and you can do all things.  Stress with the world and you can do nothing.  Not a very hard choice to make, is it?  Here's to a great year ahead of using our gifts and talents for God, trusting Him with the results, and abiding in the Vine where we can rest our weary souls!


John 15:5 (NLT)  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  It all sounds so easy Lord.  All I have to do is abide in Jesus and I will bear fruit.  I admit, Father, that thinking about that requires a stretch of my faith.  I'm so used to trying very hard to please others and to please You that perhaps I have either forgotten or never really had the full revelation that all I have to do is abide in Jesus and He will take my burdens and give me rest.  All I really have to do is do those things which Your Spirit calls me to do and not stress about them because it is not by my own strength that I can do anything.  Sometimes I think I can do a lot.  People have even told me that I can do so much.  Yet, I can do nothing without You, Jesus!  It is in You that I have my being.  It is in You that I become spiritually healthy.  It is not by my own trying but in Your timing and by Your nourishment flowing through me.  I want this year to be better Lord, yet, even in all my wanting, I have been stressed even in this first month of the new year.  I want to de-clutter my life and my mind so that I can just hang with and in You, receiving strength and growth that I could never get in my own, "trying."  Thank You that, even though the world (and even some of those that I love) have told me I have to do certain things in order to be accepted and promoted, really, all I have to do is abide in You.  That's where you accept, nourish and grow me.  That's where You make me spiritually healthy and acceptable to Yourself.  If I could I would try to make myself acceptable to You but I realize that only Jesus can do that.  It is only when I rest and abide in Him that You see me as fully acceptable.  Thank You so much for giving me the easy part!  Help me to restfully abide! 

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Colossians 3:1 (KJV)   1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.



January is almost over.  We've had a taste of what the new year is going to be like.  For some, the taste is bitter.  I have a friend that gave me a placard that says, "Every problem is an opportunity in disguise."  Most of our problems surely don't look like opportunities.  If things aren't going as well as you wanted or expected in this new year, think about your perspective.  I'm going to try to keep adjusting mine.  I always say, "We're not living under the circumstances, we're living above the circumstances looking down on them in complete victory."  I base that on the scripture that tells us that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ.  I base that statement on Ephesians 2:6 where we are told that God has raised us up to sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.  However, living that statement in another story.  Sometimes, when things get really difficult, I forget that God has already raised me up to sit in heavenly places in Christ.  I start looking down and thinking about living under the circumstances instead of above them with my Savior.  Being a person who likes to control my own circumstances, when I lose control, I have to renew my mind often to remember that God has every circumstance in control and, whatever it is that I am going through is going to make me better if I don't let it make me bitter!  I need to keep adjusting my perspective according to God's Word and His perspective.  He's not obligated to give me all the, "why's," and, "when's."  He isn't even obligated to let me know that, because I live above the circumstances, I will always be led to triumph.  But He does tell me that and He tells you too in 2 Corinthians 2:14.  Now, really, what more could we ask for?  February is coming and then, before we know it this year will be over.  It always happens like that.  There will be days that cause us to cling to the Lord like there's no tomorrow.  There will be other days that bring lots of happiness and things seem to go our way.  Let's hope that on those, "good," days we cling just as tightly to the Lord as we do when we have let our perspective get out of adjustment and we start looking at our problems as bigger than our God!  Earthly reason and logic tell us, in fact they scream at us, that our problems are bigger than our God.  Sometimes earthly reason and logic tells us that there isn't even any God!  We can't listen to that!  If you have had some unwelcome problems already this year, how have you, or how are you, looking at them.  From the bottom up?  If so, you will be overwhelmed.  Start looking at them from the top down.  From your seat in the heavenly places there in Christ.  From this higher perspective, the problems will not look big any more.  In fact, in light of the fact that nothing is impossible with God, they will look quite small!  You and I can be like David.  We can get firmly seated in the heavenly places, gather our stones and slingshot and, in the name of Jesus, be led in triumph over everything the enemy brings against us!  God's Word says so!  As we come to the close of this first month of the year, let's determine to live every day with an "over," perspective.  Let's look down on our circumstances, knowing that God is leading us to triumph in Jesus.  It will be amazing how small the problems will seem the closer we sit to Jesus in those heavenly places!  I'm not saying this is an easy thing to do.  We have to constantly bring it to mind and keep on renewing our minds and taking all of those negative thoughts captive.  God never really promised it would be easy.  Usually, nothing worth having is easy.  But, we're promised the best seat in the house.  The seat where we can see life's drama unfold the way God sees it.  He sees the good that is being accomplished in and for us.  What are we seeing?  What will we choose to see each and every day that unfolds for us this year?  Let's choose to look down on everything, both good and bad, and see it from God's perspective, while carrying on boldly, exercising risk-taking faith for the sake of the Kingdom of God!


Ephesians 2:6-7 (NIV) 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.



PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You that You have raised me up to sit in the Heavenly Places in Christ Jesus.  Thank You for letting me be in Christ Jesus where it is safe and I am saved!  Keep my perspective clear and help me always to remember to look down on the circumstances of this life and remember that they are nothing compared with Your great power and love for me.  Thank You Abba, Father, that You are not going to let any weapon formed against one of Your children prosper in the end.  Thank You for the fact that You always lead us to triumph in Christ Jesus.  Thank You for the problems that You turn into opportunities for my growth and also for my moving ahead.  Let me remember to look right through the problems to the opportunity that is being presented to me by You.  Lord, You have seen the things that have come into all of our lives already this year.  You have not missed a thing.  Thank You for the fact that You will turn everything to good if we will just keep on loving You and doing what You've called us to do!  Thank You Heavenly Daddy that no one can say to us, "My daddy is bigger than your Daddy," because no one and no problem is bigger than You are.  I'm so thankful that You have chosen me to be Your beloved child.  Help me to remember that, with You, I am never living under the circumstances but always over them!

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Hebrews 3:15 (AMP)  15 Then while it is [still] called Today, if you would hear His voice and when you hear it, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [in the desert, when the people provoked and irritated and embittered God against them].


I'm still learning to get over the, "someday syndrome," (as it is called by Chris and Kerry Shook).  I have always enjoyed staying in the, "safe zone," of life.  I like to stay where I am comfortable.  But, God is always about doing the supernatural and that is not what the world calls a, "safe zone."  Nor, is it always comfortable.  Yet, it is one of the most exciting places to be!  Have you ever gotten so comfortable with your spouse that your marriage becomes just a, "safe zone?"  You no longer look for or try to drum up some change or a bit of the, "out of the ordinary," to keep the passion going.  That would be a risk for some of us, but a risk that would be well worth taking so that our marriage could be rejuvenated and both partners would benefit!  Some of us do take risks for selfish reasons and fail to see that God is attempting to do the supernatural in all areas of our lives, not just the ones we think are most important!  Some of us are not willing to take any risks at all and stay in the rut of every day life just as it is.  Others, by not stepping out and around the pitfalls of life, have fallen into a deep pit.  Oh, it is quite comfortable there even if it is boring.  People feel sorry for you and they may even do things for you that you really could do yourself or they may give you things that you could have gotten for yourself if you were willing to let God pull you out of that pit and place you on solid ground again!  There's no other chance to live the life that God made us to live except this moment.  We don't know if we have the next moment.  We can't settle for being a, "someday," person, waiting for all the circumstances to be right or for that, "perfect moment," (as we see it).  God has a better plan.  He planned works for us to do before the foundation of the earth.  Special works that only we can do in cooperation with Him.  He never said it would be easy, but He did say that He would be with us.  He never said that He would not ask outrageous things of us either.  Just check out Noah's story if you don't believe that.  We have things to do and places to go, within God's plan, but we have to take the risk of faith and follow the Lord's leading if they are to get done.  As always, God gives us a choice.  We can reject His leading and stay in our rut (or worse yet, in our pity pit), or we can be like Peter and believe that we can do the impossible! Today is the, "someday," we may have been waiting for.  I wonder if that's how David felt when he decided to fight the giant, Goliath.  Not one brave man in Israel was courageous enough to try it but one lone shepherd boy with five smooth stones and a sling shot took the risk!  He must have looked foolish doing such a thing.  He even refused to wear any armor.  Do you know why?  I think I do.  I think David was so intimate with His Lord that he knew that the Lord is a shield around us!  David had a risk to take but he knew how to take risks.  He knew it was not by his own might or his own power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that he could do unbelievable feats.  That's why he yelled at the towering giant, 1 Samuel 17:45 (KJV)  45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.  We all have giants in our lives that threaten to take us down.  I have already experienced them during the first few days of this year.  I am learning that I must fight the good fight in the Name of the Lord of hosts!  I'm learning that I have to take some risks, knowing that God is a shield about me.  Today and each of the rest of my days must be the, "someday," I've been dreaming about!  Today is your, "someday," too and every day for the rest of the year will be a, "someday."  What is God calling you to step out and do in His name and by faith?  You and I have a choice.  We can let the day slip by, along with the divine opportunity, or we can step out in risky faith and believe that, with God all things are possible!"


Ephesians 2:10 (KJV)  10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, You have given me so many examples of common, ordinary people in the scriptures.  These people are imperfect just like me.  Yet, they had faith and they were willing to risk everything they had on what You called them to do.  Thank You for being a shield about me.  Thank You for planning things for me to do before the foundation of the earth.  Help me to venture out of my, "safe zone," (which is really not safe at all if it's not where you've called me to be) and get into Your Zone.  The Zone where Your Spirit is working.  Release Your power, through Your Spirit in me and through me as I step out to do the outrageous things You ask.  Thank You for the many times You have shown me glimpses of Your blessing when I'm obedient.  Now I want to see it in full-force.  Delete any spirit of fear that I may have picked up and help me to remember that, when I have the mind of Christ, (no matter what it looks like to the world), I have Your power, Your love, and a sound mind!  Let every day of this year and every day of every year be that, "someday," that I step out in obedience to Your call and the work that You have called me to do! 

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Luke 2:49 (KJV)  49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?



It is very interesting to me that on September 20, 2009, I was about at Day twenty, out of thirty readings, in a book called, "One Month To Live," by Kerry and Chris Shook.  It is a book written to those who would like to spend thirty days finding a way to accomplish living a, "no-regrets," life.  If you have time to read the book, it's a very interesting and thought-provoking read.  The Shook's describe how people change their lifestyle if they are given a doctor's report that they have very little time to live.  The idea is that, if you knew you only had thirty days left to live,  you would change your priorities, your relationships, your actions, your words, etc.  What would you do differently if you knew you only had thirty days to live here on earth?  It just so happens that on September 20, 2009, I experienced a near-death experience.  I was not only reading the book, I lived through the miracle of being spared when hit without notice by a pulmonary embolism.  For those of you who might not know what that is, it is a blood clot in one or both lungs.  In my case, there were several in both lungs and it is only by God's grace that I sit here writing this today!  But, I had already started thinking about how I would live my life differently if I knew I had but few days to live!  Laying in the intensive care unit of the hospital that September, I knew that I might only have a few days to live!  God's timing is fantastic, even through the hard, "adventures," He has planned for our lives.  Here it is, almost the end of January.  We have almost lived the first month of this new year and it seems (at least to me) that it has flown by.  I have not done some of the things that I would do differently if I knew I had no tomorrow.  Have you?  Ed Young, the Senior and Founding Pastor of Fellowship Church made a remark concerning the Shook's book.  He said, "God never meant for life to be boring."  How many young people today have you heard say, "There's nothing to do."  Many come right out and say that they are bored all the time.  This is a time when everyone has way more to do than anyone could do in a lifetime.  Yet, people are walking around unfulfilled and bored.  Do you think it's because we need to get back to the basics?  Do you think we have become complaisant about our days and take the gift of each new day for granted.  I think I've done that sometimes.  Well, my life has not been boring the first month of this new year?  How about yours?  I have had some new beginnings and all of them didn't go smoothly!  But, but, but.......... The Lord has been with me through them all!  I have some choices to make now.  Whether each new day brings a challenge or a triumph, I have the choice to live it as though it were my last day and set priorities on the basis of something Jesus said, "I must be about my Father's business."  As a friend told me today, the Lord has been speaking to her about not using her time frivolously.  And, as the forward in the Shook's book quotes, "for such a time as this," as was spoken to Esther when she became the Biblical heroine that she is.  Each of us is here for this day and for such a time as this.  So it will be for the remainder of the days God gives us.  I hope to be thinking more and more about my Father's business and seeking to do it daily.  Maybe that is something you want to consider too!


Esther 4:14 (NLT)  14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, You do so much for us, sparing us from things that are too difficult for us at the time and going through other challenges with us to help us strengthen our faith in You!  Help me to always remember the times that You stepped right into my life and my situation to help me or deliver me!  Even today, I realize that I could not have done what I did today unless it was You strengthening me.  At the same time, Lord, bless all those who have been and are still praying for me.  Some of them are praying even while they are in their own distress or grief!  How humbling to know that others are willing to realize their calling to pray and reach out to another at such a time as this, even though they have problems of their own.  Lord Jesus, thank You that life is not boring.  Thank You that, although we, as believers, have the same problems that those in the world deal with, we don't have to go it alone.  Thank You that in all the ups and downs of life, You go through them with us!  After being granted this new month in a new year, help us each to consider making each day of the rest of the remaining months of this year a day of being about Your business.

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James 4:13-17 (KJV)   13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:   14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.


I just had a medical procedure done and I needed to be anesthetized.  They used, Propofol, the same medication that was found in Michael Jackson's system when he died.  I watched the anesthesiologist put the medication in the intravenous tube and for one instant I knew I was going out and then I was gone! I knew nothing until I woke up.  Even when I woke up I didn't really know where I was at first and I was not really even aware that I had been asleep for an hour.  Perhaps that's the way it is with death.  I don't really know but I know that I did wake up still on this earth but Michael Jackson did not.  We do not know what a day will bring.  As a known procrastinator, I, many times, put off things that I should do one day thinking that I can do them tomorrow.  For instance, I had a card on my desk ready to send to a sister in the Lord who was ill.  I waited too long.  She passed away never knowing that I was thinking of her and praying for her.  I make plans for this day or that day lots of times without taking the time to think that God is in control of my life and not myself!  As the scripture tells us, we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.  In fact, when I watched them put that Propofol into my veins, I really did not know what the outcome would be.  A slip on the part of anybody concerned with the procedure could have resulted in my death.  We don't know God's complete plan for our lives but we do know, for sure, that our life is like a vapor.  It's there for a moment and then you don't see it again and you really don't even know where it went.  That's why we should not boast about our plans, although we should make wise plans.  We've got to remember that we're supposed to make our plans but then be open to God directing our steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)   His plans may not be exactly like we planned!  There are things that we can do each day that are important to God and beneficial to those around us and to us.  We need to prioritize each day because each day counts, since we don't know if we'll have the next day.  At the beginning of this year, I want to make each day of the rest of the year (and every day that God gives me on this earth) count.  I want to make it count for something good.  For worship.  For giving.  For helping and encouraging others.  For nurturing my family.  I want to make each day count and I'm sure you do too.  God's timing is so perfect that, if we will leave our plans open to His changes, we will see wonderful results in lives changed, both others and our own.  We will see people get a glimpse of the Light and even be delivered from the darkness to the Light.  We will see people healed and delivered.  We will see Christ moving in the world and the world will see Him in us if we just choose to make each day count by setting our priorities according to God's priorities!  In case you're wondering where to start, His first priority is love.  Love for Him.  Love for others.  We don't know how long we have to make a difference, but He has given us this day and this day counts. Let's see what we can do to make it count for the Kingdom of God!  Let's make it count by constantly asking the Lord if what we're planning is His will and not think we can run our lives and live out our plans without His blessing.  We know to do good.  But, if we don't do that good, then it is sin.  Let today, and every day count for the things of God.  These are the things that bring God pleasure, others joy, and fulfillment in our own lives. 


James 3:15-17 (KJV)  15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.  17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I am so thankful for this day.  Thankful that You have given me the gift of another day on earth to make a difference for You in lives; my own life, and in the lives of others.  Thank You for the opportunity to make each day count for good by not boasting about my own plans but fitting into Your plans.  When You present me the opportunity to do good, help my eyes to be open to it and help me to be willing to do it.  I know a lot of Your Word Lord and so do many of Your children.  Sometimes we fail to do what we know!  Please help us to, not only know to do good, but to do it so that we might not be found in sin.  None of us knows how many days we have here, but thank You that each day is a gift and each day counts.  Help us always to make the day count for You and nothing less!

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Genesis 8:22 (KJV)  22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.


As we get close to the end of this first month of the new year, we've probably already experienced lots of new things.  Some of them may have been wonderful; while others may have been difficult and challenging.  In all of these things, our focus on Jesus will help get us through pain and rid ourselves of pride.  I hope that many of you have experienced great things already this year and that your expectations have been met and even exceeded.  I love it when those things happen.  But, one thing to remember, for me, is that I need to be careful that I do not become prideful when God showers me with blessing after blessing.  I need to remember that it's not because I'm so good but because He's so good!  Then, there are times when we don't understand what God is doing because we experience pain.  Sometimes new kinds of pain that we've never felt before.  It could be in the physical realm, in emotional issues or in relationship problems.  Even financial problems.  Actually, there are times when we might answer, "yes," to all of those problems at once.  Yet, underneath it all, and in every new day we experience for the rest of this year, the key is to keep our focus on Christ.  To remember that, although we may be experiencing new things, He's the same yesterday, today, and forever!  If you're like me, sometimes your focus is better than others.  Sometimes, it seems like you can see Him right there by your side and then other times, like those with blurred vision, it's hard to determine exactly where He is and what He is doing in your life!  Every day is a special gift for us.  When we open our eyes in the morning and see the sunlight, that is an indication that God is on His throne, controlling everything so that we can count on daytime and nighttime!  When we open our eyes to the gift of a new day, it is a new beginning with new mercies from the Lord!  Things may not have gone well with us yesterday.  We may even have made some mistakes and had to repent.  Yet, our merciful Lord puts that behind us and gives us the gift of new mercies, added to the gift of a new day!  Maybe yesterday didn't feel so good but God has promised that, if we love Him and are called according to His purpose, all things will turn out for good!  (Romans 8:28)  In this land of sin, in which we live, it is only because God offers us new mercies daily that we are not smashed, done in, and consumed!  Because God has such great compassion on us (even though we don't deserve it), He starts us off with each new day with His new mercies, enough to keep us through every new beginning of every new day!  His compassion will never run out!  His faithfulness will last forever (even when we goof up and become unfaithful for a moment).  It is because of God's great faithfulness that each new day and each new beginning can be faced with a positive attitude.  Because we are in Christ (if we have received Him), we know that if God is for us, no one and nothing can be against us.  In every new beginning, the enemy will try to slip in and make us fearful or cause us to lose hope.  God's ways of starting us on new beginnings are not always logical according to the world's ways of thinking.  So, the enemy might tell us we're losing our mind.  Things that don't go the way we want them to go can cause us to become a little irritable and not respond to others in love.  On every new day of this year, in every new beginning, we need to keep His Words close to our hearts.  Words of assurance that He hasn't given us a spirit of fear.  No.  We've got power, love and a sound mind - no matter what!  We need not lose hope either.  Because the Lord is our portion, our hope is always in Him!  (Lamentations 3:24)  The writer is recalling some beginnings in his life that were not so good, yet even though he remembers them, the thing that is foremost in his mind is the fact that God is the God of all hope and that His faithfulness endures forever.  He is also the God of new beginnings, wiping away our past and giving us second (and more) chances!  Every day is a new beginning.  What are we going to do with this new day that has been gifted to us?  How long will it take for us to have to start drawing on those new mercies?  Today is a day of hope and possibility for everyone reading this.  That's because God has some good things in mind of each of us and, if we have read the end of the Book, we know that we win!  One day will be a brand new beginning of a never-ending day with Jesus where there are no good days or bad days.  Just one eternal perfect day!


Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)  22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I am ever thankful for your faithfulness.  I want to be faithful to You, faithful to my commitments to others and faithful to my own goals.  Yet, so often I fail.  Thank you that Your faithfulness is there for me when I'm feeling weak and worn.  It's there when I know that I've messed up royally.  It's there when my body doesn't want to cooperate with Your Word of healing.  Thank You Lord for each new beginning, no matter what it looks like because I know that You have a magnificent plan and that all the goods and the bad's in my life are like threads in a tapestry.  I only see the back and it just looks like a jumbled mess but You see the front.  You see everything woven together in perfection into the beautiful picture you have in mind for me and for all of You children.  Thank You for being with me when there are new beginnings of pain and ridding me of pride when I get just a little to big for my boots!  Thank you for the gift of the present day that is filled with the present of Your presence!  Thank You for new mercies that will keep me through this day until you give another new beginning tomorrow.  Let me remember to give glory to You for each new beginning of each new day the moment you open my eyes each morning!   




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Exodus 2:11-12 (AMP) 11 One day, after Moses was grown, it happened that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of [Moses’] brethren. 12 He looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.


It's a new year and we've all made some resolutions or meditated upon some new ideas that will make this year a better year than last year.  In fact, maybe our best year ever!  I'm sure that's what God wants for us too.  His plans for us are for good and for a hope and for a future (Jeremiah 29:11)  He puts dreams within our hearts and gifts within us.  He wants us to see those dreams fulfilled and He wants us to use those gifts He has put within us to build up His Kingdom.  (Ephesians 3:20)   Not only that, when we do use His gifts in the right way, we will experience a sense of fulfillment.  But, sometimes, we get a glimpse of a dream and then run with it, without first waiting for God's timing.  Moses did that and it didn't work out too well.  Deep inside, Moses must have known that he would play a great part in the new beginning for the Jewish people.  He had a new beginning when the Pharaoh's daughter found him in a basket, that his mother had made for him, floating down the river.  His mother didn't want him to meet an early death and, knowing that the Pharaoh had called for the death of all the new Jewish baby boys in the land, she took the chance of putting him in a basket and placing him in the river.  Of all things, Pharaoh's daughter found him and loved him.  Thus, he received a new beginning, rather than an untimely death.  Although he was Jewish, he was raised in the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh.  He was educated and lived in the finest of circumstances.  Still, there was something inside him, placed there by God.  Some kind of dream.  Something that was leading him to know that he was still connected to his own people.  The Jewish people.  We can have gifts and dreams inside of us that will pop up and tempt us to use them in the wrong way at the wrong time.  I think that might have been what happened to Moses.  As he walked through the area, he saw his people being mistreated.  He saw injustice everywhere.  His gift started to rise up in him and he kind of ran ahead of God with it.  Have you ever done that?  This morning in our sermon at church, I heard the preacher say, "Find out where Christ is and go there."  Moses had the gift but he failed to find out where and when God wanted to use it; so he let it come out at a very inopportune time!  (Exodus 2:11-12)  No doubt, Moses was right when he reckoned in his mind that the Egyptian, whom he saw beating the Jewish slave, was wrong.  However, Moses's timing was wrong when he let his emotions, rather than God, control his gift of deliverance.  He impulsively killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  You would have thought that the Jewish people would have been drawn to Moses, as a leader.  After all, he had stood up and protected one of his own.  But, he had run ahead with his gift and the timing was all wrong!  Soon after, even his own people turned against him because one of them saw him kill the Egyptian.  He saw some of his own people fighting among themselves and tried to intervene but they resented it.  (Exodus 2:13-14)  Soon, Pharaoh found out about all of these things and was going to kill Moses.  So, Moses had another new beginning.  He went to the back side of the mountain and God did some more refining until finally his gift was ready to be used!  (Exodus 2:15)  Do you have a dream in your heart that you know has been stirring there for a long while, yet God has not seemed to bring fulfillment?  Do you have a gift that you know is from God but it has never been used the way you know it can be used?  Do not run ahead like Moses, no matter how long you have to wait.  If you do, you might find yourself on the back side of the mountain just like Moses did, waiting for God to perfect that gift and make the best use of it.  It could be that you are even on the back side of the mountain right now wondering what happened.  You thought for sure that you would be dong something great for the Lord, yet here you sit wondering what life is really all about.  If you ran ahead of God, don't worry, He's still there and He will bring everything to fruition at just the right time because He doesn't change His mind about His gifts and callings.  If you ran ahead of Him, apologize to Him, repent, and find out where He is right now and what He's doing.  Join Him there.  That's where He'll use your gifts and dreams to the fullest!  This is a new year.  It will surely be filled with new beginnings.  All new beginnings begin with finding Christ, joining Him where He is, using those gifts and dreams He put in you to partner with Him in the saving of souls and building of His Kingdom.  All new beginnings are for the purpose or working with Christ to help others find new beginnings in Him!  Don't run ahead and don't lag behind.  God has already placed within you the special good things you are going to do. Just walk in the Spirit and let Him bring them out when the time and place is right.  You won't be disappointed and neither will He! Others will also be encouraged and delivered from the darkness into the Light!  What better new beginning could anyone ask for?  This year, let's determine to partner and cooperate with God and watch those new beginnings change us, change others, and please God!


Galatians 5:25 (KJV)   25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, many times, I have taken the wheel of my life and decided what to do with my dreams and gifts, somehow forgetting that they are gifts from You and not of my own making!  I also have forgotten that I'm not the greatest driver.  So, when I take the wheel, if the road is open, I just may be found breaking the law and speeding along, missing the opportunities and getting ahead of Your timing.  Then, all of a sudden, I find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to use a gift You gave me without Your presence there to make it work for good.  Forgive me when I have done this, Lord, and made a mess of things, just like Moses did in his life.  Help me Lord, just as you helped Moses (in Your own time) to find You taking my mess and turning it into Your message.  A message that will turn others to You, build them up in their faith, bring encouragement in hard times, deliver them from oppression and bring glory to You.  Help me to stay in perfect step with You this year and all of my life!  This is my fervent prayer, oh Lord.  Thank You for the promise that, if I ask anything, in Jesus's Name, believing, it will be done!

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Acts 8:1-3 (KJV)  1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.   2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.


I remember, as a young person, reading about Stephen.  He was a man with a love for Christ that was evident in everything he did.  He was a tender, but courageous man and he was not hesitant to tell others about the Messiah.  "What does this have to do with a new name for Saul"?, you might ask.  I will get to that.  But first, what would you think of a man who would stand by and watch a man like Stephen be murdered for speaking of the Messiah?  What would you think of a man who would not only stand by watching a brutal murder and, furthermore, be in agreement with it?  I'll tell you that every time I read the story of Stephen's stoning just because he was loving and courageous enough to tell others about Christ, I wept.  Even after Saul watched an angry mob kill Stephen, his heart remained hardened and, as Acts 8:3 says, he made havoc of the church.  He went into every Christian house he could find and had men and women carried away to prison.  Who knows if some of them were even put to death!  Saul was a very religious man.  He thought he was doing God a favor!  The man, Saul, had all the religious credentials to make him a, "big man," among his religious peers.  The only thing is that, according to Hitchcock's Dictionary of Biblical names, the name Saul meant, in part, "death."  Saul in his early days was certainly a party to the death of anyone who believed in Jesus as the Messiah!  No one knows exactly why or where Saul changed (or had his name changed) to Paul.  However, there is an interesting opinion that Saul (also the name of King Saul, the first King of Israel) had a change of heart when he met up with Jesus on the Damascus Road.  There, Saul had an encounter with Jesus that was a new beginning of great proportion.  If you have time read  Acts 9 and beyond to see how Saul had a very new beginning when he met Jesus!  It is said that perhaps Saul did not want to be connected with his namesake, King Saul, in a negative way.  King Saul stood head and shoulders above all the men of Israel.  However, being that tall did not make him a better leader.  In fact, he ultimately failed.  At first King Saul saw himself as small in his own eyes.  This was not a bad thing.  At first, King Saul was a humble man.  But, many times power corrupts and that's what happened to King Saul.  He became jealous of David, his loyal servant (who was later to become King) and he persecuted David fiercely.  The Saul, who became, "Paul," in the New Testament sometime after his encounter with Jesus had also persecuted God's children, the ones who had received Jesus as the Messiah.  No one really knows, but perhaps when Jesus gave Saul a new beginning by literally shedding the light on Saul's religious traditions, as opposed to a real relationship with God, Saul chose to change his name to Paul in order to distance himself from the negative aspects of King Saul.  (Acts 9:3)  The name, "Paul," means, "little," or, "small."  A theory is that Saul took the name Paul because he wanted to be known for the positive attribute of King Saul who started out very well because he considered himself small in his own eyes.  Certainly, Saul, after meeting Jesus was a different man and then found himself with a different name, however and whenever it happened.  It was definitely a new beginning and now, "Paul," would call himself the least of all the apostles.  (1 Corinthians 15:9)  Paul called himself this because, although he was forgiven by Jesus, he still remembered that he had persecuted the church.  Paul knew about the grace of God that gives us what we don't deserve.  New beginnings with a chance to serve Him greatly even though we might have a past that is pretty tainted!  I have heard people way that, "When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!" Paul did not wallow in his sinful past but he disciplined himself to walk in the ways of the Lord.  He received grace and never forgot that old saying, "There, but for the grace of God go I."  It was Paul's preaching that still comes to us today and lets us know that we can be a new person if we will just receive Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Maybe, like Paul, you have a not so good past.  Maybe you want a new beginning desperately but feel that you are unworthy.  That's just fine because you are unworthy in your sinful state; but Jesus will meet you right where you are right now just like He met with Paul.  Once you have that encounter with Him, you, too, will be a new person.  A new beginning will be yours.  And, there will be many more new beginnings down the road as you grow in the Lord.  It won't always be easy.  It was not always easy for Paul but, it will be worth it because Jesus has promised that, through all of those new and unfamiliar beginnings, He will be with us, giving us the strength to do everything that He asks us to do!  Saul became a new person with  new name.  Even if the Lord does not give you a new name here on earth, if you walk with Him and obey Him, you already have a name waiting for you in Heaven!  (Revelation 2:17)        


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, thank You for Paul.  Thank You for showing me that, even though he had a very awful past, You were still interested in him.  You found him in a very bad state of mind but Your Light shown upon him and changed his heart to know Jesus, love Him and serve Him sacrificially.  Lord, I still remember how I used to weep when reading about Stephen being stoned to death and never denying You.  I remember that Saul seemed to be happy about that.  I didn't want to forgive him.  Yet You, in your grace and mercy, did forgive him and caused him to be one of Your greatest servants.  I know that I have hurt people in the past and I'm so thankful that You have forgiven me and even allowed me to be of use in Your Kingdom.  Help me to remember always that, despite my sinful past, as the hymn says, "There's a new name written down in glory and it's mine, oh yes, it's mine.  And the white-robed angels sing the story, a sinner has come home."  Help me always to remember where I came from but only so I can remember the great grace that you have showered on me so that I can shower that same grace on another and encourage them to receive a new name too.  A name that brings glory to You and spreads Your love abroad just as Paul did when he walked the earth.

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Genesis 28:1-2 (KJV)   1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.  2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.


While thinking about new beginnings and new things since this is the start of a new year, I have been looking at some of the people mentioned in scripture.  Today, I am thinking of Rachel.  I'm not sure why.  Anyway, Rachel was a beautiful young lady.  (Genesis 29:17)  She was the cream of the crop as far as young women went.  Rachel had an older sister, Leah, who was, perhaps a very nice young woman but not as pleasing to look upon.  In those days, there was no dating and not a lot of choices as to marriage.  It was mostly done according to the parents wishes and the woman rarely had a say in it!  That would never fly these days!  When Isaac was about to die, he blessed Jacob, as all good fathers did in those days.  It wouldn't hurt if fathers began to do that in these troubled days too.  Too many children are walking around confused and depressed because they have not been told of the Lord and blessed by their dad!  Without going into detail about Jacob's ill-gotten blessing, let's just concentrate on Rachel.  Isaac told Jacob not to marry a pagan woman but to go find a wife from the family of his Uncle Laban.  Jacob was obedient and he happened to find one of Laban's daughters at the well when he got to the land where his Uncle Laban live. Behold!  Rachel was tending sheep and he saw her in the field.  She was beautiful.  I'm sure his eyes popped out and it was, "love at first sight."  (Genesis 29:9)  What a new beginning!  Jacob revealed his identity to her and she ran and told her father, Laban that she had met Jacob at the well while watering the sheep.  (Genesis 29:10-12)  Actually, Jacob was super-emotional and he wept and kissed Rachel right there at the well!  She got so excited, she ran and told her father, Laban.  This is looking like the perfect love story!  A new beginning with the perfect couple!  (Genesis 29:13-14)  Laban got excited too and took Jacob into his home.  So far, so good!  But, Laban was not the most savory character either!  Laban asked Jacob what he would like for wages since he was working for Laban while living there.  They say that love is blind but Jacob was so in love with Rachel by this time that he asked to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for a marriage to Rachel.  Still, so far, so good!  Seven years is a long time but Jacob really loved Rachel and I think the feeling was probably mutual.  Rachel and Jacob were probably looking very forward to a new beginning!  Leah, Rachel's older sister, may have been a bit put out because it was not proper in those days for the younger sister to be married before the older sister.  Can you just imagine the family dynamics going on here?  Well, Rachel did get her new beginning after much distress.  Laban switched the brides and gave Jacob Leah (in the dark) instead of Rachel!  The next morning the new beginning that Jacob was expecting was not exactly what he expected.  He had been tricked.  He had actually experienced a, "whatever you sow, that shall you also reap," moment.  He and his mother, had tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing instead of his brother and now Laban had tricked Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel.  I'm not sure what Rachel was thinking or doing during this "secret exchange," but I imagine she was immersed in sadness, madness, disappointment, frustration, resentment, bitterness and who knows what else!  Well, Rachel did get her new beginning because Jacob loved her so much that he agreed to work seven more years for the trickster, Laban in order to marry Rachel too.  What a new beginning!  Can you imagine having to share your husband with your sister?  Jacob got his wish.  He married Rachel but he also had to be a husband to Leah.  This new beginning for Rachel was just the beginning of many sorrows.  It didn't have to be that way.  I don't know if Rachel even did anything to bring this about.  But, I do know that Jacob, his mother, and his Uncle Laban were deceivers and what they did affected the life of beautiful Rachel, as well as her sister, Leah (who may not have done anything to deserve what happened to her either).  As we start this new year, let's remember that everything we do will affect another's new beginning.  God wants good and healthy new beginnings in our lives.  We surely want to be careful to live wholly for Him so that we pass along those kinds of new beginnings to those who come after us!  God has promised that blessing if we will just obey His commandments!


Deuteronomy 28:4 (NLT)   4 Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Heavenly Father, thank You so much that You are the perfect Father.  None of us are perfect parents, Lord, and we need Your help and Your blessing in our lives.  We need You to lead us to want to do Your will and to love as You love us.  Lord, thank You for Your promise that our children will be blessed if we obey Your commandments.  Help us not to take this lightly.  Jesus, we need You now!  We need You to do what You do, ever interceding for us so that we might live in a way that will bring blessing on those who come after us.  Help us to learn a lesson from Rachel's new beginning.  Help us to remember that what You say is true, we will reap what we sow.  Thank You Lord, though, that You are a forgiving Father if we will come to you in true sorrow and repentance.  Father, break the generational curses that our ancestors have brought upon us and break anything in us that will cause curses and not blessings to fall upon all of our seed down through the generations.  Oh Lord, help us to remember that's it's not just about us but that our actions will affect, for good or for evil, all of those we love and touch in this life.  Have mercy on us Lord, and give us a heart to follow You in every way! 

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Hosea 1:2 (KJV)   2 The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.


Has the Lord ever told you to do something totally outrageous?  Something risky and really unheard of?  I can't imagine being he prophet, Hosea.  As the Lord began to speak to and through him concerning Israel, His first instruction was for Hosea to go and marry a harlot - a prostitute.  What?!?  I wonder if Hosea had any doubts as to whether he was really hearing from God!  The reason God wanted Hosea to do such a thing was so he could demonstrate how Israel had committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord (Hosea 1:2).  Because Hosea knew the Lord's voice (despite how inappropriate it may have seemed to Hosea), he obeyed and he married Gomer.  Here's a brand new beginning for Gomer!  How incredulous is it that a prophet would want to marry a prostitute?  Gomer became pregnant.  Another new beginning.  She had a son and the Lord told Hosea to name him Jezreel.  This was to show God's upcoming judgment upon Israel for it's sin which would be held in the Valley of Jezreel.    Back to Gomer.   I have heard it said that the new two children that Gomer conceived were not Hosea's children.  The first one was a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah (which means no mercy) , and the second was a son, Lo-Ammi (which means you are not mine).  If it is true that these were not Hosea's children, Gomer, who had been given a fresh start and a new beginning with Hosea, blew it!  It appears that she went back to her old ways.  When she delivered Lo-Ruhamah, God told Hosea to name her that because God was no longer going to have mercy on Israel.  In fact, He was getting ready to take them away totally!  (Hosea 1:5)  Then, when Gomer delivered another son, God told Hosea to name him Lo-Ammi because God said, "For you are not My people and I will not be your God!"  Not good news!  I can't help but wonder if Gomer did go back to her ways of harlotry and this is why the prefix of, "Lo," (meaning, "not) was put in front of the names of Ruhamah and Ammi.  There are not a whole lot of men who would take a child in and raise him or her if he knew that his wife had committed adultery and the child was another man's biological child.  What did Gomer really do with her new beginning?  What do we do with our new beginnings?  Use them to satisfy our own lusts or use them to become new and better servants of our Lord and Master?  Our human nature is selfish and sinful and even when we're given, "new beginnings," we have the capacity to fail.  Still, God chose Hosea to have a love for Gomer that was a choice.  Not a feeling.  It was a commitment to Gomer for her benefit even if she did not regard the generous gift.  God did this to show us that He cares about us that much.  He chooses to love us for our own benefit.  If we fail, we cannot stop His love for us because it is not based on His feelings or our works.  Yes, God has emotions.  He is a jealous God.  He does not approve of us going after other gods.  However, even in the case of Hosea and Gomer and the children of harlotry, God makes a promise to Israel.  Through Jesus, we have the same promise.  Once we were not children of the Light but now we are.  Once God named Gomer's children, "No mercy," and "You are not Mine."  Yet God had a plan found in Hosea 1:10-11.  And, though God was righteously angry with Israel, as demonstrated through the story of Hosea, Gomer and the children, He would not remain angry forever.  One day, He would again call them His people and He would once again show them mercy.  The book of Hosea is filled with new beginnings, strange ones, and wonderful ones.  My thoughts this morning are on Gomer.  I wonder why she felt the need to go back to her old ways when she was given the honor of marrying a prophet of the Lord.  I wonder how many times I have failed to see the honor that God has given me as a believer in Christ and wasted my time, energy and God-given gifts on the smaller gods of this world.  Praise God, He is a God of mercy.  Repentance is in order when we find that we have messed up.  God receives true repentance and offers forgiveness (another new beginning).  At the start of this new year, I don't want to throw away the fantastic new beginnings that God has for me by running back to old ways.  How about you?


Hosea 1:10-11 (KJV)   10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.  11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, You are truly a God who loves to give His children good gifts; gifts of new beginnings.  But, thank You God, that you still give us choices.  As new beginnings come from You in my life, help me to grow into that new beginning by choosing to love You more, no matter how I feel about my circumstances.  Help me to be grateful for the fact that You have gifted me with things I don't deserve.  Help me to use those new beginnings that you send to make this world a better place.  To be a testimony to Your grace and mercy.  Help me never to run back to the false lovers (gods) of this world but to always remember that it is You Who has chosen to love me unconditionally, gift me generously and forgive me when I fail.  Lord, I do desire new beginnings, new growth, new ways of service but, more than that, I desire Your presence, Your righteousness and Your pleasure in the way I live.  In every new beginning during this coming year, may I see Your Hand, hear Your Heart and follow in Your Footsteps!

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2 Kings 2:9 (AMP)   9 And when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.


Sometimes life seems dull and full of the same old, same old.  Yet, we may have something deep inside that is telling us that God has more for us to do than just the things required for existence on this earth.  I read of a man like that in scripture.  His name was Elisha.  I wonder if he felt kind of bored and tired of doing the same old thing every day.  He was just doing what he did every day.  He was plowing a field when Elijah, the great prophet of the Lord, was told to go find Elisha and anoint him to be a prophet.  I don't know if Elisha had been wondering what he was to do for the Lord or not.  But, in this case, (as in the case with some of our lives), someone of stature and influence will suddenly be led to have favor upon us.  Really, it is God that is showing us favor through another person.  Elijah heard the Word of the Lord to anoint Elisha to take his place.  If we are older, God may be calling us to mentor someone or help someone to do what we have done for the Lord.  To take the torch and carry it on, so to speak.  (1 Kings 19:16)  This morning it may be that you are to pass your anointing on to another as Elijah was told to do.  Or, it may be that you might be the one to whom the anointing will be passed.  Either way, don't miss your moment when God speaks and don't miss your new beginning.  Since we are just starting a new year, that's not a bad way to begin to think.  God is about to do new things!  Elijah, being an obedient servant of the Lord went and found Elisha.  Where did he find him?  In the field with the oxen, plowing the ground.  Probably doing the same thing he did every day!  The Lord uses ordinary people and many times, He confronts them, not in a church or some giant ministry conference, but in their everyday activities!  Whatever you are doing this morning, whether it be getting ready to go to work, doing laundry, caring for children, or whatever, God can and will meet you right where you are.  When Elijah found Elisha in the field plowing, he immediately threw his garment over him.  This word is also translated, "mantle," and in some cases, it denotes glory.  What was being done here is that Elijah was anointing Elisha to be his successor in the office of prophet.  A new beginning for Elisha; and it came during a very ordinary time when Elisha was just going about his everyday business, doing what he was supposed to do!  Many wonderful things were to come after this initial meeting but what I was concentrating on for this morning is that later on, when it was time for Elijah to go to be with the Lord, Elisha was about to be in for another new beginning.  He would be the, "Elijah," of his generation!  New beginnings don't always come easily.  Elisha had to steadfastly insist on his new beginning, even when he was not treated very nicely by Elijah.  It was nearing Elijah's time to go to be with the Lord and Elijah told Elisha to, "stay put," while he went somewhere else.  (Check out 2 Kings 2:1-8)  It was almost as if Elijah was trying to get rid of Elisha but Elisha wouldn't budge!  Finally, Elijah asked Elisha what he wanted.  (2 Kings 2:9)  Elisha stated that he wanted a double portion of the anointing that was on Elijah.  Elijah told Elisha that he had asked for a very hard thing but he gave the conditions under which this new beginning might take place. (2 Kings 2:10-12)  The conditions were met and Elisha received what he had asked for!  What hard thing do you want to ask God for this morning?  Are you desirous of a new beginning, one in which you can serve the Lord more fully and be more committed to Him?  God did it for Elisha and He'll do it for you to, but you have to be stubborn enough to stay close to Him, even when it doesn't look like you are making any headway.  And, you have to be courageous enough to ask for what seems like the impossible.  For, my friend, God has promised that those who seek Him with their whole heart will find Him.  And, He has also promised that nothing is impossible with Him! Do you want a new beginning with more power than you ever had before from the Lord?  Press in just like Elisha did and believe that all things are possible with God.  Because they are!


Matthew 19:26 (AMP)  26 But Jesus looked at them and said, With men this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.

PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, help me to do my daily chores and the necessities of life as unto You, knowing that You have promised never to leave me or forsake me.  Help me to trust in You for new beginnings in my life, no matter whether I am very young or very old.  Thank You that You will connect me with those to whom You have given the power to take me to the place You want me to be.  Thank You that since there is nothing impossible with You and that all things are possible with You, a new beginning with more power from above is possible for me at any moment and in the most unlikely of circumstances!  I will wait for You Lord, knowing that, in my everyday chores and trials, You will strengthen me and You will meet me in Your own perfect time with a new beginning in which I will be able to serve you with more fervor and zeal than ever before.  Help me to steadfastly and expectantly, "hang in there," remembering that, if I don't ask for something, I won't have it (according to Your Word).  Help me to remember to ask, believing Your Word that whatever I ask for, I will receive!

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2 Kings 20:1 (AMP)  1 IN THOSE days Hezekiah became deadly ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.


There are always people running to tell bad news.  Watch it every day, all day and all night, on the cable news stations on TV.  But, we don't really expect that a prophet will give us bad news.  We all know that God is good and that He is not out to destroy us.  We know now that Jesus reversed the curse put on mankind for the original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden.  Yet, still, sometimes we receive some bad news.  Sometimes it is concerning our health.  Those who have studied and know their business  in the medical community will sometimes say, "Get your things in order.  You only have, "x" amount of time to live."  That's what King Hezekiah heard from the prophet Isaiah.  Hezekiah had become quite ill, sick unto death, if you will.  I'm sure the last thing he wanted to hear was that this illness would cause his death.  Now, Hezekiah, like you and me did some good things and made some poor decisions too during his lifetime.  I can almost hear the devil whispering to him, "You deserve this," and bringing to memory every wrong thing that Hezekiah had done.  You know, that's what the enemy likes to do to us too.  Especially concerning our physical health.  Those of us who really want to serve God and be productive are sometimes hit with news that we don't like.  News that we have a terminal disease or that we'll just have to live with a debilitating condition.  Well, God's Word is the last Word and, according to scripture, by the stripes of Jesus, we were healed!  (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24)  Of course, Hezekiah didn't know all that we know now.  He did the natural thing.  He got depressed at Isaiah's news and he turned over in the bed and wouldn't look at anything but the wall!  (2 Kings 20:2)  But, even then, Hezekiah did not just give up.  He prayed!  That's what you and I have to do when we hear some bad news too!  We hear it with our ears but we take it to God with our heartfelt prayer!  Isaiah asked God to remember his faithfulness and wholehearted service to Him.  Isaiah wept bitterly while he prayed.  (2 Kings 20:3)  His weeping was loud and magnified.  He poured out his soul to the Lord.  Have you ever done that?  Sometimes our praying must be total and transparent and that may include some loud weeping!  After all, who is happy when they are told they are going to die of an illness!  Well, Isaiah started to go his way but a strange and miraculous thing happened.  God heard the prayer of Hezekiah and, just as Isaiah was leaving, God, in essence, said, "Wait a minute."  (2 Kings 20:4) Isaiah was told to go back. To tell Hezekiah that his prayer was heard.  To tell Hezekiah that his tears were seen.  (2 Kings 20:5)   God hears your prayers too and He also sees all of your tears.  God told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that He would heal him so that he could go to the house of the Lord in three days. God added fifteen years to Hezekiah's life and, not only that, He delivered Hezekiah and Jerusalem from the hands of its enemies! (2 Kings 20:6)   Now that's good news!  Bad news can signal a new beginning if we take the bad news that we hear to the Lord in fervent prayer.  Now, whatever was wrong with Hezekiah had to do with inflammation.  Modern science is proving that all illness in man has its roots in inflammation.  Isaiah was told to get a cake of figs and lay it on the inflammation so that Hezekiah could recover.  (2 Kings 20:7)  Hezekiah recovered!  God has His ways in this earth to bring recovery from sickness!  Do you and I have the faith to pray and know that God has heard us and that He will honor His Word?  Well, Hezekiah asked for a sign that this healing would come true.  (2 Kings 20:8-11)   You and I already have the sign.  Our sign is to remember the stripes of Jesus so that we could be healed.  Hezekiah, even according to the prophet, Isaiah, was about to die but God had mercy on Hezekiah when he poured out his heart to the Him and fervently wept.  God still has mercy on us today.  As I was just writing to a good friend, God's mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)  We're not consumed in any situation, whether it be sickness, finances, relationships, or any other thing, when we call out for God's mercy just as Hezekiah did.  You may have heard some bad news recently, but don't keep it as your own.  Take it to the Lord.  Call out to Him fervently.  You just may see your new beginning in the morning when His mercies will once again be poured out anew.  He's done it before.  He'll do it again!  And, He'll do it for you!


Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, I will never know why You love me so much or why You chose to give Your Son to be beaten and crucified and then rise again so I could be healed of whatever comes into my life that is destructive.  Thank You for overcoming the evil one and his destructive plans and giving me life and life anew.  Thank You that, by the stripes that Jesus bore that ripped His flesh to shreds, I was and am healed!  I give you praise this morning that Your mercies are brand new and that, even though I might have heard some bad news, the Good News of the gospel will always overcome any bad news if I just take it all to You in prayer.  Thank you for new beginnings.  Help me at the beginning of this new year to know You can bring a new beginning any time You want to bring it!  Thank You that, just when everything looks hopeless, because of Your mercies, hope springs up again and You bring new strength and vitality to my life.  Thank You that, even though it sounds almost ridiculous, Your Word says that, I am strongest when I am the weakest.  Thank You for Your joy.  The joy and hope of new beginnings that continues to give me the strength to go on in spite of negative reports I might hear.  Thank You that You are my healing Jesus!   

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1 Kings 17:1 (KJV)  1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.


As I think of new beginnings during the beginning of this new year, I am thinking of people mentioned in scripture.  Many of them had many new beginnings in their lives.  Many of them were the agents of new beginnings in the lives of others!  Last night I was thinking of Elijah.  According to the Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names, Elijah's name means, "God the Lord, the strong Lord."  Then I began to look to see where Elijah came from.  It seems that he just appeared out of the woodwork of scripture!  He is first mentioned in 1 Kings 17:1.  God lets us know that Elijah was a Tishbite (meaning, "recourse").  He also lets us know that Elijah was an inhabitant of Gilead at the time (although perhaps a temporary inhabitant, since he was not a native).  Isn't it interesting how people can step into our lives from other places and make a profound effect on us and our circumstances?  That's what Elijah did in the case of Ahab.  Although Ahab was a king, he was a weak man.  He was swayed by the evil around him, especially from his wife.  Ahab didn't quite know who he really was and, if he did, he refused to live up to the standards that should have governed his life.  On the other hand, even though we know not exactly how Elijah appeared in Gilead and was able to speak into Ahab's life, Elijah knew who he was.  He knew that he served God.  He apparently had a very personal relationship with the Lord because he was able to speak the Word of God to a king, no matter how dreadful that Word seemed to be!  We have to know who we are and Who we belong to when we start speaking the truth of His Word to others.  At this moment in time, spoken of in 1 Kings 17:1, Elijah was filled with power from above to speak a Word from God to the highest government official.  It was a Word of truth but not a very exciting word for Ahab to hear.  I'm sure that, if Ahab had perceived Elijah to be a prophet and had regarded his words as being from the Lord, things would have been different.  But, Ahab was weak and Ahab had more regard for his evil wife than for the Lord.  A good lesson to learn for some of us right now at the beginning of this new year.  No one can come before God in our lives.  Not even our spouse!  Especially if that someone is not walking in accordance with the Word of God!  That doesn't mean that we leave or don't speak.  It just means that we live according to what God tells us to do and let the chips fall where they may.  God is certainly able to take care of us when we are walking in His truth!  It appears that Ahab had been flirting with the Canaanite storm-god, Baal (probably because of his wife's affinity toward false gods).  Now, here comes Elijah, seemingly out of nowhere.  He walks up to Ahab and declares that he is speaking the Lord's Words.  He declares that it's not going to rain!  Not for several years.  This went totally against the beliefs of those who worshipped Baal because they believed that he was the god who brought the rains which brought bountiful harvests.  No matter what we believe, be it superstitions or the false gods of this world, there is none greater than the Lord God (for whom Elijah was named).  Well, this whole affair became a new beginning for Ahab.  It was, in fact a new beginning starting the beginning of the end for this king whose great military power could do nothing for him when confronted with a drought!  First of all, God has created you and me to serve Him.  He will give us opportunities when His time is right.  They may be outrageous opportunities such as Elijah (the worldly nobody) had with Ahab (the great king).  Elijah had to be brave and that he was!  Today, in this world of darkness and drought (of living water), we can be agents for new beginnings.  It really is not God's desire to destroy.  That's the devil's job.  But, God will do everything possible to get our attention.  Elijah certainly got Ahab's attention!  Too bad Ahab didn't really pay attention!  Watch for new beginnings in your life this year.  Watch for opportunities that come from the Holy Spirit to bring new beginnings into the lives of others.  Elijah did it and so can we when we know who we are.  When we know that we serve a living God, with Whom nothing is impossible.  Especially new beginnings!


Proverbs 14:27 (NLT)   27 Fear of the LORD is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for showing me the lives of people in scripture who had new beginnings and started new beginnings in this world by bravely declaring the truth of Your Word.  Thank You for being the God of creation, bringing rain when and where You will.  Even though the rain sometimes seems dreary, thank You that You send it in order to bring growth to flowers, fruits and vegetables so that I can be fed.  But, thank You most for the Living Water, Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me not to get caught up in the, "Baal's," of this world, trusting in false gods for rain or anything else.  Thank You that You have promised to be my Provider.  Thank You for the, "Elijah's," You have brought into my life speaking the truth of Your Word.  Help me never to disregard Your Word or the person that brings it to my life.   Let Your Living Water flow through me as I walk through the new beginnings You have for my life and help others perceive the new beginnings You have for their lives.  Let Your Living Water flow!  Drench me Lord, until I am filled to overflowing! 

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1 Timothy 1:2 (NLT)  2 I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.


If you are a young person reading this, you may tend to think that it's too soon for you to begin working for the Lord (and it's true, if you are a bit older, you might think it is too late).  Well, in either case, it's not too early or too late; but it's time!  "Time for what?" you ask?  It's time to stir up  the gift of God that is in you.  Now, you can't count on anyone else to stir you.  You have to choose to do it yourself!  It may be that people in the past have blessed you or prophesied over you or guided you and laid hands on you blessing you to strike out on the journey that God has planned for your life.  This is all good.  But, only you can cause a new beginning in your life by stirring up the gift that God put in you.  You have to make the choice to do it!  When you leave a pot of gravy on the stove for a while and don't stir it, it starts to separate and the, "good stuff," goes to the bottom.  If you don't stir it soon, it will become a globby mess on the bottom and the gravy will not be the best!  Even if you do try to stir it back in after it has become glued to the bottom of the pan, it may not cooperate and your gravy will be lumpy!  Young person, (or whatever age you are), stir yourself up!  (2 Timothy 1:6)    Fan the flames of the Holy Spirit within you so that you will keep on keeping on with what God put in you!  This beginning of a new year is a great time to, "stir the gravy."  Make sure it is smooth and tasty with everything in just the right place.  No lumps!  Timothy was a young man but the great man of God, the Apostle, Paul, had great confidence in him.  Timothy had grown up with a mother, Eunice, and a grandmother, Lois, who both had great faith.  Timothy could have just decided to, proceed on the apron strings of his mother and grandmother.  But, no, the Apostle, Paul, called Timothy his true son in the faith.  Paul encouraged Timothy in the fact that Timothy needed a new beginning.  He had to honor the faith that was in his family but he needed to strike out with his own faith in Jesus and call to mind, without fear, that thing to which God had called him personally.  (2 Timothy 1:7)  It's not always easy to step into a new beginning!  Sometimes it looks frightfully fearful!  But, Paul reminded Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear.  Nope!  God has given us power, love and a sound mind with which to operate in the gift He has given us!  Timothy was young.  He was going to have to lead and confront people older than himself (and sometimes older people think they are wiser just because of their years, but that is not necessarily the case).  I imagine that Timothy was mighty tempted to be afraid of this great undertaking.  He could not count on his grandmother's or his mother's faith.  He could not even count on Paul's faith (although all these were a great encouragement to him).  He had to have his own personal relationship with the Lord.  Timothy had to use his own faith to stir up what was already inside him just waiting to boil into a new beginning for him!  Are you a bit bored going into this new year?  Does it feel like nothing new is happening?  Maybe you need to do a little stirring.  Maybe all the good stuff inside you is down on the bottom of your heart and the cares of this world are keeping it from bubbling up.  Are you ready for a new beginning?.  Are you ready for God to do something new in your life?  Then you have to cooperate with God.  Everything you need is in you.  God has already put it in there.  But you have to stir it up!  Are you ready to start stirring?


2 Timothy 1:2 (NLT)  2 I am writing to Timothy, my dear son. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  First of all, Father, let me thank You for Your Son Jesus, who died and rose again so that I might have the gifts of the Holy Spirit within me.  Lord, don't let me waste them.  Don't let me store them up and let them fall to the bottom of my being without stirring them up and using them to help change the lives of those hungry and hurting in this world!  Keep me from just seeking knowledge about the gifts and being proud that I have a gift.  Help me to stir the gift, knowing that it is not of myself, but of You.  Help me to remember that all the gifts are for the building up of Your people.  Help us all, Lord, to stir the gifts You have put in us so that we can be an example of Your grace, mercy and peace.  Help us to remember that You have given us power, love and sound mind with which to use the gifts You have given us.  This new year, help us, if we are weak, to start stirring vigorously so that we might use what is inside of us for Your service the whole year through.  Strengthen us to start fresh this year in seeing lives transformed and changed by Your Word, including our own lives!  No matter what our age, let us see Your new beginnings!  

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Exodus 2:1-2 (KJV)  1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.  2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.


The opening verses of Exodus 2 sound like a very happy new beginning for this new family, except for one thing.  Why would any new mother decide to hide her new baby?  Especially if that baby looked like a very fine child?  Well, right after Moses had has introduction into this world - his very first new beginning, his life started changing and after just three months of being, "in hiding,"  he was to have many more new beginnings!  Jochebed, the mother of Moses, hid him because a new ruler of the land of Egypt had ordered that all the male Hebrew babies be killed at birth by the midwives.  (Exodus 1:15-16)  People do strange things when they are overcome by a spirit of fear.  The new king of Egypt was fearful because the Israelites were multiplying so fast (God always multiplies His children).  The king was afraid that the Israelites would join one of their enemies and fight against Egypt. (Exodus 1:8-10)  This fear caused the king to make a very poor and cruel decision.  He decided to kill all the male babies.  But, he was cowardly enough to delegate the job to someone else.  He gave the job to the Hebrew midwives.  Here's where fear comes into play again!  This time it is a fear that leads to life!  The Hebrew midwives feared God and they feared God a lot more than they feared the King of Egypt!  (Exodus 1:17)  They knew it was wrong to murder babies!  So, the let the boy babies live.  (Exodus 1:18-19)  These God-fearing ladies had to come up with something to say to the King of Egypt to explain away their actions.  So, they just told the king that the Hebrew women were strong and they had delivered their babies before the midwives could get there.  Fear of man will lead us to make very poor decisions, just as the King of Egypt did but fear of God will cause us to do the right thing.  When we do the right thing, we will be blessed!  (Exodus 1:20-21)  Nevertheless, the King of Egypt made a declaration that all the male babies must be thrown into the river but he let the girl babies live.  (Exodus 1:22)   Now we come to Moses birth.  Jochebed hid her son for three months, but when she could hide him no longer, she developed a plan to try to save his life.  Moses had his new beginning in the river, all right.  But, he was not thrown in to die.  He was carefully placed in the river so he could live!  (Exodus 2:3-4)  This was a risky plan, but it worked!  The daughter of the King of Egypt happened to be at the river when she saw the little basket made of bulrushes that Moses's mother had made for him and she saw the beautiful baby boy floating in it in the river!  At first sight, she loved the boy and kept him as her own.  There's so much more to this story that we couldn't possibly take it in, in just one devotional.  But, suffice it to say, that new beginnings are sometimes surrounded with some sadness and some strange circumstances.  However, God does take care of His children.  Moses was adopted, basically.  It may be that you are adopted.  It may be that, for whatever reason, you are not living with your birth parents.  Still, if you are reading this, you have the opportunity right now to connect with your Heavenly Father and know that He has loved you enough to bring you this far.  There will be lots of new beginnings in your life in the future, just like there was for Moses, if you will trust in Your Father.  God is a God of new beginnings and, being the perfect Father that He is, He always takes care of His children!  He makes ways where there is no way.  In fact, we, as believers, are all adopted by the Perfect Parent!  Moses's name means, "rescued," and God has rescued us all out of the dirty water of sin into the Living Water who is Christ, if we have received Him.  Will you trust Him and receive Him today?  It will surely be a new beginning for you!


Exodus 2:10 (KJV)  10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You so much that, even though I lived with my birth parents, I am still adopted.  Adopted by You, through the blood of Jesus!  Drawn from the dirty waters of this world of sin into the Living Water that flows from Your Kingdom!  Thank You for the stories of people like Moses.  Stories that show me that You do make ways where there isn't any way.  Thank You for Your willingness to care for Your children and keep them safe, even when there is trouble all around them!  This year, help me to remember that it will be a year filled with new beginnings.  Some may look bad at the beginning and be uncomfortable.  Some may seem unfair.  Some may cause me sorrow and pain for a time.  But, Lord, thank You that, in all of this, You are working to bring about the good plans You have for my life.  Thank You that You have given me Your hope to keep me through the hard times.  And, thank You Lord, that You have promised me a future!  Even death will only be a new beginning into eternal life!  Help me to die to my own flesh that I might experience many new beginnings of the wonders of walking with You and serving You here in a world that is in such need of You!

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Matthew 1:18 (NLT) 18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes it's difficult for us to imagine any new beginnings for our lives.  We may have been in a rut for so long that we have sort of become comfortable or complaisant in something that is not God's best for us.  New beginnings don't always come neatly wrapped in beautiful packages with handily-tied gold bows!  A new beginning may sometimes feel uncomfortable and it may not even seem right.  Almost, for sure, it will seem impossible!  Consider Mary.  There are several Mary's in scripture but right now, I'm thinking of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Her agenda included a marriage to Joseph in the coming months.  She was probably a happy young girl considering and planning to be the wife of a noble man.  It's a good thing that Joseph was a noble man because Mary was about to get a new beginning that wasn't on her agenda!  She was visited by the angel, Gabriel, and told of this, "new beginning," which did perplex her at first.  (Luke 1:26-33)  We may not all experience angelic visitations but we all do have God's Word to tell us that He's all about doing new things in our lives.  Things that are impossible!  That was Mary's first question upon being told that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  "How can this be?"  (Luke 1:34)  What the angel had told her seemed to be an impossibility.  But, the angelic answer was simple and it can be applied to us today as well.  "The Holy Spirit will come over you and power from on high will overshadow you."  (Luke 1:35)  Now, Mary carried the baby Jesus in her womb until He was born into this world.  We also carry Jesus within us if we have invited Him to be Lord and Savior of our life.  As we live a faithful and obedient life, He is born into the lives of others who see Him in us and invite Him in themselves.  We're all carriers of the Lord Jesus, if we have given our lives to Him. We have the power from on high in the form of the Holy Spirit in us so that we can do things that others cannot do.  We can speak boldly of Jesus and we can bring healing and deliverance to people who are in bondage through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This new beginning for Mary was not comfortable.  She was not married and now she was miraculously pregnant!  Nevertheless, she reacted in obedience and faith.  She told the angel that she was willing to do whatever the Word of the Lord was calling her to do.  (Luke 1:38)  This was not a conventional new beginning for a young and hopeful bride-to-be.  It wasn't comfortable for Joseph either.  In fact, he, being the noble man that he was, planned to send her away so that no one would know.  At first, he didn't understand about this strange, "new beginning."  (Matthew 1:19-20)  We don't know exactly when the birth of Jesus really took place but we do celebrate it in December.  Think of the new year that Mary and Joseph faced with all the challenges, moves, strange occurrences, and even threats of death to the new baby!  This, being the start of a new year for us can also be the start of plans to start over with new dreams, goals, and achievements.  When I look back on the story of Mary's new beginning, I see that sometimes new beginnings, although they will bring joy, peace, and love eventually, will sometimes start out with questions, maybe even fears, uncomfortable situations as we get out of the rut we're in and begin traversing new territory, etc.  Mary was a very young girl.  Her dreams and plans were suddenly changed by God's plans for her.  The significant thing is that she did not hesitate to go with God's plan!  Opportunities for new beginnings come to us all, young and old.  Do you have a dream or goal for this new year?  If so, I'm sure it's a great one, just like Mary's original plan was.  But, like Mary, are we willing to let God step in and revamp our dreams of new beginnings (which are probably good) to His plans (which are the best)?  Mary would continue to have new beginnings in her life and see God's hand at work.  They would not all be joyful occasions but her choice was to go through each one trusting in God's ability to make every new beginning work together for good because she loved Him and did what He  called her to do!  (Romans 8:28)  It's good to plan new things for the new year and, even better, to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, if He should choose to change our plans so that He can bring God's best into our lives.  Mary, in her obedience and trust, did deliver God's best into this world!  You and I can continue to carry Him to others in all of our new beginnings!


Matthew 1:23 (NLT)  23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You so much for sending Your own Son into this world through a young girl with plans of her own who was willing to forgo those conventional plans in order to follow Your plan for her new beginning!  Thank You that both Mary and Joseph showed us their faith in You by listening to Your Word and following obediently, although uncomfortably and maybe confused at times.  Sometimes I feel a bit confused when I think I hear You telling me to go one way when I have planned to go the other way.  But, Lord, help me to follow You, no matter what.  Help me to plan new beginnings which are good but, if You point me in a better direction, give me the courage to follow even though it might prove to be uncomfortable and even inconvenient.  Lord, help us all at the start of this new year, to begin to look to You for guidance as to the new things You want us to do, new places You want us to go, new people You want us to meet, and new projects You have for us.  We want to serve You.  We don't just want to do good things.  We want to do what You deem as best! Be with us and guide us in all of our new beginnings and help us to trust You as You walk through them with us!

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Judges 6:12  (AMP)   And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, The Lord is with you, you mighty man of [fearless] courage.


How was your year last year?  I hope it was a good year for you but, for some, it was a very difficult and challenging year.  Many lost jobs, homes, retirement savings, and even relationships because of the stress involved.  Last year had the potential to make some people feel worthless and frustrated.  Despondent and hopeless.  Weak and the least of all people.  Great trials came against many until they just wanted to run and hide to try to keep the little they had left.  That's where we find Gideon!  It had been years of trials for the Israelites because the Midianites had pretty much plundered them.  God had tried to speak to the Israelites but they would not listen.  (Judges 6:10)  They did not obey.  God is always speaking but lots of time we are not listening and then we suffer the consequences of disobedience because we were not paying attention to God.  That's what happened to the Israelites.  I am not judging anyone here but I do think we all have to ask ourselves some serious questions about whether we are prone to wander or purposing to listen to God and obey Him.  We find Gideon hiding in a winepress trying to save the little bit of wheat that the he had left.  Most people do not beat wheat in a winepress!  Why was Gideon hiding?  (Judges 6:11)  Well, besides the obvious (to hide the wheat from the marauding Midianites), Gideon was fearful.  Gideon was feeling like one of the lowest of the low!  (Judges 6:15)  Ever felt that way?  Israel was a great nation even though, for a time, God had given them over to the Midianites as a result of their negligence in following Him and remembering His miracles of old and the goodness He had poured out on them.  Gideon was one of the poorest and least of the Israelites.  He knew that.  What he did not know is what we now know because we are in the new covenant and we have the New Testament.  God chooses the weak and foolish things of this world to confound the wise!  (1 Corinthians 1:27)  If you are feeling a bit low this morning and perhaps coming out of a difficult year last year, keep that verse in your mind!  Gideon had a new beginning and so can you and I!  God is not a respecter of persons.  As the song says, "What He's done for others, He'll do for you!"  Gideon had an encounter with the angel of the Lord even though he thought he was hiding down there in the winepress.  It appears that Gideon and the Lord had a difference of opinion!  When the angel spoke, he did not speak in condescending terms to Gideon.  He did not even show any sympathy for Gideon's perceived low estate. How did the angel greet Gideon?  (Judges 6:12)  In modern terms, it might have been something like this, "Hey, strong and mighty dude!  I can see that you are not afraid of anything!  You've really got it going with the courage."  I can imagine that Gideon turned and looked around wondering to just whom the angel was speaking.  It couldn't be that the angel was saying this about him!  Or, could it?  If Gideon did look around, he saw that he was the only one in the place!  Has the Lord been speaking to you lately, giving you encouragement to get up and move because, even though you feel like the least of the least, He has told you that He has good plans for you?  (Jeremiah 29:11)  He had a new beginning for Gideon and He has new beginnings for us too! He has plans to give us a future and a hope!  How did Gideon turn from a fearful, "least of the least," man?  The Lord was with Him.  The Lord is with you today too, if you will look up and notice!  Okay, we may have had a less than encouraging year last year but that was then and this is now.  The Israelites had had a horrendous seven years of oppression but they were about to get a new beginning and that new beginning was about to come from the least likely person to whom God was about to give a new beginning!  God has done it before and He'll do it again!  If you want to be encouraged about how the Lord can take you from the depths of despair to the height of victory, read all of Judges, Chapter 6 and see how Gideon and the Lord worked together until Gideon finally perceived that it was really the Angel of the Lord who was calling him to do something he could not do in His own strength.  Today, may it be that we perceive the Lord speaking to us in His Word and by the revelation of His Holy Spirit.  May we respond like Gideon, obey Him, receive His peace and build an altar in our heart so that we never again forget that the King of Kings has created us all to be mighty people of valor who cannot only receive strength and might from God, but who can use that power to help deliver the world from the oppression of the enemy, Satan, who is trying his best to cause God's children to run away and hide, feel useless, and impotent.  No!  Today, you can have a new beginning just like Gideon.  So can I!  Look up, the Lord is speaking.  He is speaking words of power and might over you and me so that we can complete the Kingdom work for which we were placed on earth.  Let this new year herald a new beginning in your life by perceiving that God is really speaking to you and what He speaks is what is true!  Are you longing for a new beginning this year?  Meditate on Gideon's story.  God will do it again, my friend, and He will do it in you and me when we finally perceive Him for who He really is and believe His Word about who we really are! 


Judges 6:23 (AMP)  23 The Lord said to him, Peace be to you, do not fear; you shall not die. 


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, it's true.  Sometimes I feel like the least of the least.  Powerless, useless and even sometimes hopeless!  If I look at my family, I know that I really am a, "nobody," as far as this world is concerned.  If I look at the, "giants," in the Christian world, I know I am way down there on the bottom of the totem pole.  If I look back at my own life, I see a weak creature in the natural.  One who has given in to sin so many times.  Forgive me, Lord, for not always perceiving that You have always been with me, speaking through Your Word and by Your Holy Spirit.  Forgive me for my difference of opinion with Your Words because I think and act on my feelings rather than the truth You speak about Yourself and about me.  Help me to know that You can do anything with anyone You choose and that You do choose to use the weak things of this world to confound the mighty, the foolish things of this world to confuse those who think they are the intellectual elite.  Help me to trust You for a new beginning this year.  Help me to go in the power that You give me.  Help me, like Gideon, to finally perceive You for Who You are, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Let me walk in the way, operate in the truth and receive the abundant life You have given me!  Thank You that, like Gideon, I can have a new beginning in which I can serve You with might and power! 

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Genesis 11:4 (KJV)  And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.


At this time, when the year is new, do you have thoughts of creating new things?  Thoughts of organizing things so everything will be easier during the year?  Doing something you've never done before to make your life better?  Well, after Noah went through the flood with his family, for a while all the people of the earth spoke the same language.   (Genesis 11:1)   This created a very strong unity between them.  They decided to create something new. They took brick and hardened it and used slime for mortar and began to build a tower to heaven.  They wanted to create a name for themselves!  As we concentrate on reorganizing and regrouping, making things better for this new year, for whom are we trying to make a name?  Ourselves?  Or, are we thinking about how me might make things better so we could be of better service and profitability to the Name above all names?  Jesus!  Unity is wonderful and it can give us strength to do new things!  Whatever we are doing, God is interested, just as He was when the children of earth started to build the Tower of Babel.  (Genesis 11:5)  God took a, "look-see," at what these people were doing!  He realized that they were in unity, partly because they all spoke the same language.  God also knows that, with unity, comes power!  (Genesis 11:6)  This power can be used for good or evil.  The motivation behind the unity can be for selfish reasons or for godly reasons.  When we are working for the One whose Name is most important, unity is good.  When we are working to make a name for ourselves, we are being self-absorbed and this is not good!  God saw that the unity of language that enabled these people to try to build a tower to reach heaven and make a name for themselves was not good.  So, God did a new thing.  He gave them all different languages so that they could not complete the project and He scattered them all around.  (Genesis 11:7-9)  Now, God is not against unity.  In fact, God is highly in favor of unity when it's done in the right way and for His glory!  Jesus prayed that we, who believe in Him, would all be one just as He is one with the Father and the Father one with Him.  (John 17:22, Psalm 133:1)  In fact, even though we all have different gifts and callings, these are just parts of one complete Body of Christ and the goal is that we all come into unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus and grow together in perfect love.  (Ephesians 4:13)  Right now, we are in the process.  Jesus is preparing His Bride, His Body, making her spotless and without blemish.  One day, and perhaps soon, He will have finished the process and we will all be in one accord, in unity, singing His praises.  From Genesis to Revelation we read His-story, seeing the many new things that man tries to do in his own strength and finding that God's strength is mightier and He is always about doing new things to get rid of the messes we make and make us into His perfect message.  This is the message of unity in the Spirit where, together we worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth!  One day we will once again all speak the same language.  A new language of praise to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!


 Revelation 19:5-6 (KJV)   5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.   6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!  Thank You that Your will is that we should be in unity under one King and that King is Jesus!  Make us ready for Your coming, Jesus.  Perfect and beautify Your Bride.  Help us to make choices that reflect unity between one another and unity with Your purposes and plans.  Father, make us one with each other and one with You.  Thank You that there is great power in unity.  Make us a unified Body with You as the head so that we can take Your Word and Your salvation to a lost and dying world, bringing them into the Body and relieving pain and suffering.  Thank You that You said that even the unity between two or three on earth would cause a thing to be accomplished!  Help me Lord, to remember that I do not walk alone but that I need others and others need me.  Help us all to remember that we all need You and that You are the Heavenly, "glue," that holds us all together as one!  We choose to praise You right now, this morning, as one Body! 

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John 16:21 (KJV)  21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.


If you have ever witnessed a new baby being born, you know the joy and wonderment of such a miracle!  If you are the parent, you are over-joyed.  However, before the birth, it is hard on everyone in the family.  Especially for the mother when the labor sets in and the child is almost ready to make his or her entrance into the world!  However, soon after that baby is born, the mother forgets the pain because she has a precious new life, a part of her and a part of her husband that she can hold in her arms and nurture.  After a while she forgets the anguish of giving birth.  This is evidenced by the fact that some women have many children!  Something new happened in the Book of Genesis and, as we begin this new year we might want to get a focus on how this new thing (which was very negative) can be turned around by our choice to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.  First of all, let's think about new babies.  As they are born into this world, pain is going on around them so that they can have life!  God created His new children from the dust of the earth and they were perfect in a perfect environment but then evil stepped in to tempt them and they turned away from their Heavenly Father for just a moment, changing the course of the world forever.  A new thing was introduced into the new world.  Death!  But, God was not surprised nor was He caught without a plan.  He had a baby in mind who would change everything.  This baby was His own Son, Jesus, who was born of the virgin Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This Baby would be Life, itself and this  Baby would give you and me (and anyone who will) the opportunity to have new life.  During this life on earth, we can become a new creature.  We can be born again!  But, since we live in a world filled with sin, these bodies that we dwell in for a season, will die.  However, that is just the end of the beginning!  From the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, God is doing new things.  In Genesis, death entered into the world because of man's choice to follow a voice other than God's.  But, God loved us so much, He sent His Baby into the world to live and die for us so that we could be born again.  God continued to love us so much that He is now preparing a new heaven and a new earth for us to live in where there will be no more death!  (Revelation 21:4)   The beginning of this new year is a good time to concentrate on all the new things God has done and is doing for those who love Him.  If you have ever lost a loved one to death (and most of us have), you know the grief and pain involved.  Hopefully, our loved ones know Jesus and have been born again while on this earth.  So, when death to this world does come, we know that it is just the end of the beginning for that one who has crossed over to the place where there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or death!  Since I have been having some physical challenges of late, a very dear and well-meaning friend said to me, "You need to concentrate on staying alive."  At first, I thought, "That's right."  Then I realized and wrote back, "Don't worry, I will be alive forever."  Praise the Lord, He has given us physical birth, spiritual re-birth and everlasting life is coming where we will experience a very new thing - no more death!


Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)   3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, You know I love new things.  Exciting things.  Thank You for new babies!  Thank You that the baby in the arms of the new mother helps wipe away the feelings of pain she has just endured!  Lord, thank You that, when sometimes things do not go exactly right and a new baby goes back Home to be with You, we can know that we will see them again!  Thank You for re-birth through Your Spirit so that we can experience new and abundant life here on earth!  Thank You for bringing that to us, Jesus, through your labor and pain on the cross!  Thank You that a new day is coming with something new to look forward to!  No more pain, sorrow, trouble, sad good-bye's, and no more death!  Thank you for a new and forever life with You!

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Genesis 2:9 (KJV)  9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


The books of Genesis and Revelation have so much in common.  We can find lots of new things in each one even though the book of Genesis outlines God's creation of the heavens and earth that we know now, the book of Revelation lets us know of the new heavens and earth that God is about to create, though we know not exactly when.  When God placed man and woman in the Garden of Eden, it was the perfect environment.  They walked in the innocence of young babies, yet they were full grown and able to tend the garden.  They had a Father that taught them how to do it.  He also taught them how to eat.  They were provided with many trees that were beautiful to look at and sweet to eat!  There was only one tree that God told them to stay away from.  That was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  You know, sometimes it is better that we don't know everything!  Look what wanting to know everything got for Adam and Eve!  As one preacher has said, they ate us out of house and home.  You and I might still be living in the perfect atmosphere, not needing clothes or microwaves in which to cook our food if Adam and Eve had obeyed God.  If they had been satisfied with the diet that their Father gave to them.  Isn't it so like us to go for that one forbidden thing?  Well, one thing I can tell you from the Word of God and from experience is this:  go for the forbidden thing and eventually you'll get your, "come upin's," from the Lord.  In the case of Adam and Eve, they were banished from the garden into a different place on earth that was a very hard environment in which to live.  If they would not have listened to the suggestions of the evil one, they would have stayed in the garden and been allowed to eat from the tree of life and live forever!  God could not allow them to do that and, consequently, live forever in sin.  He had a better plan.  To me, the tree of life represents Jesus.  Jesus did come to earth and died on an old rugged tree so that we would not have to live forever in lives of sin.  When we get to the Book of Revelation, we find the full revelation of Jesus.  We find total and permanent restoration of the humanity that chose to follow Jesus!  Watch this!  We have something to look forward to!  God restores Eden!  (Revelation 22:1-5)  God is interested in what we eat.  Even today, although Eden is not restored, God prepares a table for us to eat of His finest foods right in front of our enemies and they can't touch us because of His provision and protection!  (Psalm 23:5)  Even now, when we're trusting God, we have to drink out of our saucer because our cup overflows!  But God is doing another new thing in the last book of the Bible!  Jesus is coming back to get His faithful followers.  (Revelation 22:12)  And guess what?  Those who have followed His commandments will be blessed and have the right to the tree of life!  A new and forever fruit that will nourish us for eternity in peace, joy, and love!


Revelation 22:14 (AMP)  14 Blessed (happy and to be envied) are those who cleanse their garments, that they may have the authority and right to [approach] the tree of life and to enter through the gates into the city.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I love Your story.  It reminds me of the old hymn, "I love to tell the story of unseen things above."  Yes, thank You for creating this wonderful earth I live on and the majestic heavens to which I turn my eyes in expectancy to see Jesus coming again.  Thank You for all of the different kinds of trees you have put on earth.  Thank You for every kind of fruit that you have made for us to eat and be nourished.  But, Lord, thank You, thank You for the fact that, if I follow Your commandments and stick with You through this life, I will have access to that new, sweet, super-fruit from the tree of life!  Although I don't understand it fully, thank You that this tree will bear twelve kinds of fruits, a different one every month!  Wow!  I can hardly wait to taste that Heavenly fruit salad!  Thank You that, because of Jesus, I will be nourished by You forever!  Help me to daily read and meditate upon the Bread of Life, the Manna from Heaven, the Word of God, so that I will follow Your commandments to the end of this life and experience a brand new and eternal life with You!

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Genesis 3:16 (KJV)  16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.


Something new happened in the Garden of Eden.  Humanity brought this new thing upon themselves by listening to Satan instead of to God.  It was not God's desire, but in His justice and righteousness, He had to let sorrow enter the world because of sin.  The garden was never meant to contain sorrow, so Adam and Eve were put out of the garden after God's declaration that, because of their sin, sorrow would invade their lives.  To Eve, He said He would greatly multiply her sorrow.  That meant he would bring worrisomeness, pain, labor, and toil upon her.  If you are a mother, you know that your labor does not end with the delivery of your baby.  Your pain and toil do not end there either and neither does your anxiety over your child!  This word, sorrow, comes from a root word that includes the aspects of anger, worry, grief, hurt and a number of other negative emotions.  Sorrow is a very negative word!  To Adam, God said the ground would be cursed for his disobedience and that he would eat of it in sorrow all the days of His life!  If you are a man, the thought that you must work to provide for your family can seem overwhelming, especially in economically trying times!  Aren't you glad that God sent His Son to earth so that we could find relief from all of this sorrow and all the negative emotions that it brings upon us?  (Isaiah 53:3) Jesus became a man of sorrows so that we could be relieved from the sorrows of the results of sin.  (John 16:19-24)  He told His disciples that they would be sorrowful but that there would come a time when their joy would be so permanent that no man could take it away!  Ever since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been shedding tears of sorrow for one reason or another.  Well, in the Book of Revelation, God says that He's doing a new thing in the new heaven and new earth.  He's removing tears and sorrow!  (Revelation 7:17, Revelation 21:4)   Can you imagine it?  Never having to cope with sorrow and tears again?  Never having to be angry, to grieve, to worry, to be depressed or any of those negative things?  Never again to be hurt by others or to hurt others?  Wow!  That is a new thing, especially when we compare it with the things we hear everyday in the media!  One day, and maybe soon, the pain, sorrow and grief that we hear of and experience in our own lives will be a former thing.  God is going to do a new thing!  No more tears and no more sorrow!  Does today find you angry, grieving, in pain, toiling hard for what seems like nothing, crying over something that you cannot change?  Even though the new heavens and earth are not yet here, Jesus is here.  Look to Him, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Know that He cares about what you care about and that He is interested enough in your tears to collect them in a bottle and actually record your sorrows in a book!  (Psalm 56:8)  He is a Savior (if you have received Him as such) who knows exactly how you feel in every situation.  (Hebrews 4:15)  Because of Him, we can go boldly to God's throne of grace when we're filled with sorrow and find help in the time of need!  (Hebrews 4:16)  This is because, if we have received Christ, we have become a new creature!  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  All things are becoming new.  Old things are passing away.  Soon we will be in the new place that God is preparing for us where there will be no more tears and no more sorrow!  Hard to imagine, but true!  These things are just a few of the new things God is doing in this new year and in every new year until we find ourselves in the new place God is preparing for us!

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord and Father, so many times I get so tangled up in this world and in my negative emotions that I lose sight of the fact that You are always doing something new and that, one day, You will take me to a place where there will be no more negative entanglements.  Thank You for Jesus, who loved me enough to come and relieve me from my sorrows and griefs by taking them upon Himself!  Thank You that, because He lives in me, I can now come boldly and confidently before Your throne, even through my tears and sorrow, and find grace and help in my times of need!  Thank You for making me a new creature in Christ, preparing me to enter the new home that you are preparing for me!  Thank You for Jesus, the second Adam, who took upon Himself the curse brought about by the first Adam, and set us free!  Thank You for newness of life and circumstances as You work in and among all of us who have received Jesus and belong to You!

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Revelation 21:1 (KJV)   1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.


Nine days ago God gave us something new.  A new year.  Today God gave us something new too.  A new day.  A day in which we are to rejoice because it was given to us by God.  (Psalm 118:24)  He also gave us His new mercies for this new day!  (Lamentations 3:22-23)  Long ago, God did a new thing.  He created the heavens and the earth.  We read about it in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  (Genesis 1:1)  But, in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we also read about new things from the Lord.  Many people do not like to read the book of Revelation because they can't understand it.  But, one good reason to read it, no matter what, is that a blessing is promised to those who will read it!  (Revelation 1:3)  Some are afraid to read it because of all the graphic descriptions of judgment on the world.  They consider it a book of judgment.  But, the real story is that it is the real story.  It is the full revelation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  He is not only the Lamb of God but, also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is everything we will ever need for salvation and eternal life.  Everything we will ever need to walk in the blessing of God and to escape the judgment of those in the world who refuse to acknowledge Him!  As I was thinking about the new year and the new things that God does for us, I came across a comparison of new things done by God in the book of Genesis, as compared with the book of Revelation.  You can find this in the Word in Life Study Bible.  I wanted to share it with you this morning.  In Genesis, God created the world for us.  Sin entered the world and so God prepares a new heaven and a new earth for us as described in the book of Revelation.  In Genesis the devil introduced something new into our perfect world.  It was sin.  In Revelation the devil is no longer in the new heaven and earth!  In Genesis, humanity gave into the temptation of sin.  In Revelation, God restores those who have trusted in Jesus to their original sinlessness.  That is one of my favorite parts when thinking of the new place God is preparing for us.  I will not have to struggle with temptation and sin any longer!  Something new happened in our perfect world in Genesis.  Humanity, because of its own rebelliousness, was subjected to the curse.  When we receive Jesus, we receive a new life and the curse is reversed for us, although we still live in a world that is suffering under the curse of the original sin.  But, in Revelation, the curse is removed forever!  When Adam and Eve sinned in the book of Genesis, they became separated from God and we are too unless we have received Jesus.  If we have received Jesus, He is with us all through this life and we will live with Him forever as described in the book of Revelation.  These are only a few of the new things that God is preparing for us and of which He tells us in the Book of Revelation.  I don't pretend to understand everything in the book of Revelation.  In fact, my intellectual understanding is probably severely deficient.  However, these, "new," things I just mentioned from the book of Revelation can be set, side-by-side with God's new creation in the Book of Genesis as we see His-story finally completed and sin finally defeated!  If you want to receive a blessing, start reading the Book of Revelation even if you don't quite understand it.  As the Holy Spirit for His "revelation," as you read.  Trust God that you will receive a blessing for reading it.  Then look for all the new beginnings we are going to have when this sinful earth finally becomes another one of God's new things!


Revelation 21:5 (KJV)  5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, there are so many things that I don't quite understand in Your Word.  Probably the Book of Revelation is one of the parts of Your Word that I understand least.  Yet, it is Your complete revelation of Your Son to me and a revelation of new things to come!  Thank You that You promise a blessing to those who will read it and hear it.  To those who will keep the Words of the prophecy written in it.  Thank You for letting me know that the time is near for a very exciting, and never seen before, new beginning because I have received You into my heart.  Help me to fully trust You and obey everything in Your Word.  Please, by the power of Your Spirit, reveal to me Your secret truths that are hidden within the Words of Scripture and help me to read them, hear them, meditate upon them, trust them and obey them as I ponder the many new beginnings You have planned for all of us who are watching for You.  As I live out my life, help me to remember that the time is near and to make sure I am following You completely!

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Isaiah 43:18 (KJV) 18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.


You and I now find ourselves on the eighth day of this new year.  Looking back on creation, God finished everything on the sixth day and rested on the seventh day.  The number, "eight," in the scriptures is very often related to new beginnings.  So, on this eighth day of the new year, we might want to look forward to the new beginnings that God has for us!  We live in a time of turmoil in the world.  The worldly financial state doesn't look promising.  Yet, those in the Kingdom live by Kingdom standards.  God's financial status has not changed.  He still owns the cattle on a thousand hills, all the hills, and everything else in this world - plus, everything in the universe!  In hard times, throughout the scriptures, those who believed in and followed God, were taken care of.  We must not go into this new year expecting bad things.  God's new beginnings are always good if we are walking in obedience and fellowship with Him!    We were created to show praise to God in the way we think and the way we live.  One day everyone will do that.  Every knee shall have to bow in praise and subservience to God.  Why not do it now and watch for the new beginnings God has in store for us!  (Isaiah 43:21)  I do believe that God will be very pleased with those who voluntarily, and from a heart of gratitude and love, show forth His praise.  Faith in God, enough faith to trust and praise Him even when things look bad, brings a reward.  (Hebrews 11:6)  When we come to God, we've got to truly believe that His is Who He says He is and trust that He loves to give His children good gifts!  (Matthew 7:11)  Some of us may be walking in what seems like a wilderness today.  We may be faced with relationship problems, financial distress, health issues, legal battles, emotional disturbance, etc.  You may even say, "Yes, I have every one of those problems."  God is able to give us what is necessary to bring us out of those problems and give us a new beginning in any of our areas of need.  But, we have to trust Him.  We have to know that His love conquers all relationship problems.  His provision will bring us out of financial distress.  By the stripes of Jesus, we are healed.  In legal matters, He is our Wonderful Counselor and He is that for emotional disturbance also.  He will bring us out of emotional problems by allowing us to be transformed by His Word instead of conformed to the negativity of this world!  All of these things are new beginnings.  Now, if you've never made Jesus your Savior and the Lord of your life, will you take the time to do it now?  Just say, "Jesus, I believe in my heart that You died for my sin and I confess with my mouth that God has raised You from the dead."  (Romans 10:9)   If you did that, you've just experienced the best new beginning that you will ever experience.  You're now a child of God, through the blood of Jesus!  So, are there wilderness areas in your life today?  Or, maybe your whole life seems like a wilderness.  God does great work in the wilderness when we are ready to submit to His leading.  The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years going around the same mountain on the way to a new beginning but they could have had that new beginning in a matter of a few days if they had not complained and been obedient.  Beginning this eighth day of the new year. shall we resolve to stop complaining and begin trusting and obeying God so that we don't have to wait forty years to see some results?  One of the things God does best is to make ways where there seems to be no way.  That's when He gets all the glory! 


Isaiah 43:19 (KJV)  19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, sometimes I do feel like I am in a wilderness.  I hear negative news every time I turn on the TV.  I hear of relationship problems within my circle of family and acquaintances.  I even have my own relationship problems and emotional distress many times.  Financial troubles are the plague of many.  There are others, including myself, fighting health issues where there seems to be no answer.  Father, in the Name of Jesus, I thank You that You are in the business of making ways in the wilderness!  Even in the driest times, the desert times of my life, Your living water is there to quench my thirst and refresh me!  Thank You that every day means the possibility of a new beginning in some way if I will just look to You!  Help me not to look to the past and wish for the, "good old days," (forgetting that there were troubles then, just as there are now).  Let me refuse to dredge up old negative history and, instead, watch You work in what's ahead of me.  Help me to have open eyes to see that new thing from You that is about to burst forth in my life.  Thank You that every day is a new beginning with abundant new mercies from You! 

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Genesis 2:1 (KJV)  1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.   2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.



What could be more perfect than a day of rest?  I have just completed only one half hour of trying to reorganize and put holiday things away and I'm tired!  I have made myself sit down to rest for at least one half hour.  Having been made aware, in the last few weeks, of just how weak my physical frame is, I have decided to live as wisely and productively as I can, asking the Lord for instructions as to when to move and when not to move.  Even when He says, "move," I want never to forget that it is His strength that I must move in and not my own.  After all, I was created on the sixth day (and so were you).  We are only, "six's" in the scope of things.  We're good but we're not God.  We're very good but our strength is nothing without Jesus!  In fact, He (being the perfect seven) said that we can't do anything without Him.  That means nothing!  How often I have tried to do things in my own strength (even today) and been reminded by His still, small voice that I can only do whatever it is that I do through Him as He strengthens me with His strength!  Six, also a number denoting labor, is how I operate most of the time and I think the world is driving most of us to think that way.  We leave not time for rest, yet we say that we belong to the One who invites us to come to Him when we're weary and heavy laden.  He promises to give us rest!  What about rest is it that we don't like?  What about an invitation from the King of Kings is it that does not make us jump at the chance to be in His presence?  God approves of creativity.  He approves of work too, but not in the sense that we might think of it.  God worked for five days to get our earthly home ready for us.  Then, He did his crowning work on the sixth day and created humanity, male and female, each with their own unique qualities, but equally magnificent.  Oh how happy God must have been.  He even called these creatures He made out of dust, "very good."  But, that wasn't until He breathed the breath of life into their clay bodies!  As we labor this year and create good things around us by His strength, let's not forget that it is by the breath of the perfect, "seven," that we have our being.  We live and move and have our being in Jesus!  (Acts 17:28)  Sometimes I forget that.  Do you?  I get headstrong and determine to do a thing, forgetting that even in my labor, the One who says, "I will give you rest," lives in me.  I sometimes forget to draw on His strength instead of expending energy from my, "less than six feeling body."  God worked joyfully over His world and over those who would become His children.  Everything was perfect and He took a rest.  Not that He needed one.  He took one to look around and enjoy what He created!  He was not in the least worried about what He might do next week!  No, and He wasn't sitting there saying, "Oh shoot, I forgot to do this or that thing this past week."  He did not say, "If I had only done that better......"  Nope!  He rested.  He didn't flaunt His perfection by showing off with all the things He could have done on the seventh day.  He rested.  He didn't do it for Himself either.  He did it for us, "dust dummies," who sometimes act as if we can go 24/7-365!  (Mark 2:27)  So, do you take time to enter into God's rest?  The perfect, "seven," or our constant, "Sabbath," is Jesus!  You can rest in Him whether you are vacuuming, driving, teaching, working on the assembly line, or whatever.  Rest is in you if you have received Jesus as your Savior.  The outward show of what we experience everyday because of Jesus should be observed every seventh day.  I will not argue about which day is the real Sabbath.  I have my own thoughts about that.  The most important thing is to realize that the Sabbath is more than a specific day.  It is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Kings.  The One in Whom we rest our weary soul in every situation and circumstance, every day!  Whatever you do today, take your rest in Jesus!  God is pleased when we do that.  He likes it when we take time to rest and notice the great work He has done in, around and through us!  That's what He did on the seventh day! 


 Genesis 2:3 (KJV)  3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord God, Creator of the earth, Father, Who created me, thankYou for Who You are!  Thank You that You are almighty, yet You took time to rest from Your labor after the first week of creation and gave me a pattern for rest.  Thank You that this day of rest was just a type and shadow of my Sabbath, my Jesus!  Thank You that Jesus is divine perfection, signified by the number seven!  Thank You for creation and for rest.  Thank You for saying, "very good," after You created us human beings, even though You knew that we would be rebellious and sinful.  Thank You for the perfect rest that we can enter into through salvation in Jesus Christ!  Lord, help me to rest everything I do in You and help me to take a physical rest every seventh day because it is a gift from You.  A good gift!  Help me to receive everything You have to give me as Your child, especially Rest!

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Genesis 1:26 (KJV)   26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.


This is the sixth day of the new year!  What have you accomplished so far?  Have you seen the hand of God at work in you and around you, creating things in your life?  Are you following in your Father's footsteps and speaking positive things into your life and into the lives of others?  What was God doing on the sixth day of that first year?  He was creating us!  Wow!  What a day.  If it wasn't for that first sixth day, we might not even be here!  The first five days were spent creating the perfect place for us to live.  What a loving Heavenly Father we have!  The number, six, in the scriptural sense is less than perfect, seven denoting perfection.  On the sixth day God created human beings to be a bit less than perfect, little lower than the angels.  (Psalm 8:5)  God made us in His own image and that includes both male and female!  (Genesis 1:27)  On that day God blessed us and told us to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over all the living things of the world!  Wow, what a privilege and responsibility!  (Genesis 1:28)  We lost that dominion when Adam and Eve gave it away to the enemy when he appeared in the perfect garden in the form of a servant.  However, on this sixth day of our new year, we can remember that Jesus came and reversed all of that.  If we will receive Him, He has given us back all the power to do the things that God commanded in Genesis 1:28!  (Luke 24:49)  Now, we are called to be fruitful and multiply, not just in the biological sense but also in the spiritual sense, making disciples of all nations!  (Matthew 28:19)  God gave us everything! (Genesis 1:29-30)  But, today many have forgotten that it was and is God who supplies all our needs.  We have counted on ourselves, our intellect and our own power.  We do have great intellect and power.  We're marvelously made!  (Psalm 139:14)  But, we are still human.  Much less than God.  Some say that the number, six, is also the number of labor, which was included in the curse put on man when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden.  The number of the beast, spoken of in Revelation  13:18 just happens to be 666!  This is the fullness of man, it is everything he can do on his own without God (and that is a very dangerous place to be).  On this sixth day, let's celebrate the fact that God made us in His image and made us for His own pleasure.  He loves us and wants a relationship with us.  Imagine that, the Perfect desiring a relationship with the imperfect!  Let's remember that God took the first days of creation to make everything just right for us.  Do we do that for others in our lives?  Do we make the circumstances and atmosphere just as nice as we can out of love for others and out of love for the One who made us creative creatures?  This is our day!  Our collective birthday, if you will.  We also have a couple of other birthdays.  The day we were delivered into this world from our mother's womb is one.  But, the greatest is the day when we were born again be receiving Jesus as our Savior and being delivered from just being a, "six."  When Jesus lives in us, we're being made into His image.  His power and love flow through us!  Are you just a plain, "six," today or have you received Jesus and are you growing and maturing in Him, on your way to being just like Him, a perfect seven! 


Genesis 1:27 (KJV)  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for making me in Your own image!  For even wanting me to look like You.  So many times, I have looked very different than You look and I'm sorry!  I want to be like You.  I receive all of Your re-work on this number, "six," and ask that You, through the power and blood of Jesus, make me a brand new person, the beginnings and the growing into Your image again.  Let me look at others, not with my natural eyes, but with spiritual eyes that see what You made them to be.  Let me be an encourager of my own self and others that we can be restored into Your image because Jesus has made us new creatures.  Thank You for our collective birthday on the sixth day of creation.  Thank You for each of our biological birthdays!  But, thank You most of all for our spiritual birthdays when You made us brand new creatures in Your image again!  Help me to remember that I must never operate in my own strength which is only a, "six," but in Your strength, which is a perfect, "seven."  I am weak, but You are strong.  Thank You that, through Jesus, I can receive Your strength to do all the things You created me to do!

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Genesis 1:22 (NIV)  22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth."


"Grace, grace, God's grace."  If you're old enough, you've sung that hymn.  Or maybe you're old enough to have sung, "Wonderful Grace of Jesus."  I'm sure you're all familiar with, "Amazing Grace!"  The number, five, often represents grace in the scripture.  There are some other thoughts about the number, five, in the Bible; but, in general, it is considered the number of God's grace.  On the fifth day of creation God made the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and He blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  When I read this, I can't help thinking about the dove that brought the olive branch back to Noah to signify that the earth was once again inhabitable after the great flood.  (Genesis 8:11)  What grace God showed Noah through the dove (which is sometimes used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit).  And, I think about the ravens that came to feed Elijah when Elijah had to get away from wicked King Ahab.  Another demonstration of God's grace through the birds He created on the fifth day!  (1 Kings 17:1-6)  Just think, God knew that He would be using these fish and birds that He created to show His grace to us humans!  Thinking of the fish and the principle of multiplication, I think of Jesus multiplying a little boy's two fishes (along with the five loaves) to enough to feed thousands!  (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41)  God ordered the fish of the sea to multiply and fill the seas.  There were plenty of fish in the sea to feed that crowd, but Jesus needed only two and, when combined with His compassion and grace, He multiplied the two to feed more than five thousand people!  What about the grace He showed the disciples when they had fished all night and caught nothing?  (John 21:1-13)  This incident is centered around Jesus showing Himself to His disciples after His resurrection and, "fish."  It certainly was through grace that Jesus appeared to His disciples for this third time since His resurrection.  First of all, the disciples were trying to go back to fishing for fish after they had been told by Jesus before He was crucified, that they would be, "fishers of men."  Have you ever tried to go back to what was comfortable for you when you lost hope, as the disciples must have done when Jesus was crucified?  Jesus found them trying to fish but, in their own intellect and strength, they had worked all night and caught nothing.  They were professionals but they caught nothing!  Jesus had been waiting for them on the beach and yelled out to them when they saw Him, "Cast your nets on the other side."  They really didn't know it was Jesus at first.  Can you imagine being a professional at something and then hearing a stranger yell to you instructions that went against all you knew to do?  Anyway, they figured out it was Jesus, obeyed and caught a great amount of fish.  One Word of grace from Jesus and multiplication happens!  If that wasn't enough, there was a gracious host on the beach with the barbecue pit going and fish roasting for the tired fishermen's breakfast.  Just when you think you're too tired to go on and nothing good is happening, Jesus is likely to appear with the grace it takes to see you through and refresh your tired body, soul, and spirit!  It's interesting that on day five of creation, God was busy creating the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  He knew what He was going to be doing with them down through the ages.  His grace was going to be demonstrated to us through such things as birds and fish.  His principles of multiplication would be demonstrated too.  His grace causes things to multiply!  On this fifth day of the new year, will you look for God's grace?  It's all around us.  I know that I overlook it many times and sometimes even ignore it.  May we always be in awe of God's amazing grace and the many ways He shows it in our lives.  Then may we reach out and show it to others!  For sure, God will be pleased when His grace is multiplied through us!


Genesis 1:23 (KJV)  23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, thank You for giving us the number, "five."  Thank You that it stands for Your grace, along with many natural things such as our five natural senses, our five fingers on each hand, and five toes on each foot.  Thank you for the five loaves that You multiplied to feed more than five thousand people and the two fishes that You multiplied even though You had already placed multitudes of fish in the sea!  Thanks for the ravens that fed Elijah, a very unusual thing for a raven to do!  Thanks for the dove that returned the olive branch to Noah to let him know he could open the door of the ark and inhabit the earth.  Thanks Lord, for these and so many other evidences of Your grace throughout the scriptures and for using such things as birds and fish!  Thank You for Your grace in my own life which feeds me daily with wonderful things that I don't deserve.  Truly Lord, Your grace is wonderful and amazing! 

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Genesis 1:19 (NLT)  19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.


Well, what are you doing this fourth day of the new year?  Apparently God was busy on the fourth day of creation, doing some separating.  Still working at setting things in perfect order so you and I could have a wonderful place to live on this earth!  He separated the day from the night.  (Genesis 1:14)    In the spiritual realm, we, too, need to separate the day from the night.  We need to separate ourselves from the kingdom of darkness and enter, by receiving Jesus, the Kingdom of Light.  (Luke 1:78-79)  God marked off the seasons, the days, and the years.  It's interesting that on the fourth day, God created the four natural seasons!  We all go through spiritual seasons in life too.  Maybe today finds you in a less than comfortable season.  Don't worry.  The seasons change!  That's the way God planned it.  God caused the lights to shine down on earth.  That reminds me of Jesus, the Light of the world and the song that says, "Daystar, shine down on me, let Your love shine through me in the night."  That's exactly the prayer some of us may need to be praying right now so that, even if we're in a night season, God's love will shine through us to all those who are stumbling around us in the dark!  (Genesis 1:15-17)  God made the sun and the moon.  He made the stars too.  We're supposed to shine like stars according to  Philippians 2:15 (NIV)  On this fourth day of the new year, are you shining like a star even if your circumstances might be less than favorable?  God set the lights in  the sky, separated and arranged them so they would light just the right places at the right times.  He set us here on earth to do the same thing in a spiritual sense.  If you feel a bit cracked and broken, be glad.  It's from those cracks that God's light can shine forth and light your way and the way of those around you!  Yes, God has lights of different kinds all over the world.  We may not look and act like one another.  But, our main purpose is the same.  To light the world with the light and love of God.  (Matthew 5:14)  Every good thing we do is a beam of light.  We've got to let the light shine!  When God put the sun, moon and stars in place, He said that it was, "good."  Just as it was with them, so it is with us.  He has given us places to be and things to do in which we will shine like stars pointing others to the Lord.  Bringing glory to God.  It's a dark time in the world right now but it's an exciting time because we have the answer to the darkness.  (Matthew 5:16)   We carry His Light!  Let's be reminded of that on this fourth day of the new year and remind ourselves every day thereafter.


Genesis 1:18-19 (KJV)  18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Our Father, help us to remember that we are Your lights.  Help me and all those other little lights to remember that we have to work together to point to Jesus, the Light of the world.  Help us not to try to be, "the star," but to be thankful that we are stars in this dark world shining for You!  Lord, thank You for the days, the years, and the seasons that You have given me.  The comfortable ones and the ones that haven't been so comfortable.  Thank You for Your healing, soothing Light that comes to me at just the right time giving me the strength and courage to go on.  Lord, let Your Light shine in the lives of those I love who haven't seen the Light yet.  Thank You that darkness must flee when Your Light invades our lives!

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Genesis 1:13 (KJV)   13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.


Well, here we are embarking on a voyage through a brand new year and this is day three!  What was God doing on day three of the creation?  Well, He fixed the earth so that there would be dry ground and made the waters of the earth gather together!  He created one of the things I like the most.  Beaches!  (Genesis 1:9)  He was beginning to put things in order for our home on this earth!  The beginnings of new years are always a good time to put things in order.  To set priorities.  To learn from the failures of the past year and regroup in a more orderly fashion for the rest of the new year!  But, God did not stop His work on the third day just by creating beaches for me (and for you if you're particularly fond of them)!  He ordered the dry ground to burst forth with seed bearing plants and trees!  Suddenly, there appeared all kinds of vegetation and fruit.  Now, the earth was beginning to become suitable to house and sustain us!  Can you imagine how beautifully pristine that earth was?  The Biblical number, three,  has quite a bit of substance to it.  There are a few facts that point to the number, three.  God's attributes are three:  omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.  There are also three great divisions of time - past, present, and future.  I just also read that there are three persons in grammar that express and include all of the relationships of mankind.  As I read on, I'm reminded that thought, word and deed are the sum of human capability.  There's a ton more of this kind of trivia but it is interesting as we ponder that we are beginning the third day of a brand new year.  As I look at Biblical numbers I find that the number, "three," is the first of four perfect numbers, the other numbers being seven, ten and twelve.  Three, in scripture, usually denotes divine completeness or perfection.  It is all about God.  Yet, on the third day of creation, God was thinking of you and me by creating seed which would last forever, creating the seasons of seedtime and harvest.  (Genesis 8:22)  Seeds would be planted and harvests would be gathered!  Oh my goodness!  I'm seeing so many things about three that I must stop (and perhaps write a whole book about the number, "three!"  But, before I stop, I want to remind myself (and you), that it was on the third day that our Savior, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead!  New life began for you and me.  The Manna from Heaven had risen again and He was ready to go and prepare a place for us just as God was preparing earth for us that first third day!  (1 Corinthians 15:4, John 14:12)  The number three denotes divine perfection and that's exactly what happened on the third day, when Jesus rose up out of the grave and won the victory for you and me!  Jesus is divine perfection!  Because of Jesus we now have three things we would not have had.  We have access to the Father.  We have salvation from Jesus and all the power behind His Name.  And, we have His Holy Spirit alive within us guiding, leading and directing us all the way.  On this third day of the new year, isn't it good to know that Divine Perfection has been thinking of us since before the creation of the world?  Preparing for us, providing for us, and placing us in His family again!  Ever pointing us in the right direction!


 Luke 24:45-46 (NLT)  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Father, thank You for the number, "three."  Thank You for this third day of a brand new year, a day filled with the possibilities of new life, preparation, and provision.  Thank You for Your Divine Perfection, for Jesus who was raised from the dead on the third day so that I could live with You forever.  Thank You for creating beaches, oceans, land and seed bearing fruits and vegetables so that life could go on season after season!  Lord, help me to have a thankful heart for every season, whether it be lean or plenty.  Help me to be wholly devoted to You as I, too, remember that I am made up of three parts.  Body, soul, and spirit.  Thank You for Your marvelous creation, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and for making seed time and harvest a thing of the past, present, and future!  There is none like You! 

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Genesis 1:6-8 (NLT)  6 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.”7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.


I'm so glad each day is important to God.  No one day is like the other.  Every day is a day that the Lord has made and each one is one in which we should rejoice.   (Psalm 118:24)  God has plans and purposes for every day.  On the second day of creation, he divided the water of the heavens from the waters of the earth.  That's why we have the beautiful sky to look at!  Today, on the second day of this new year, maybe we need to do a little bit of separating.  I know I do.  I need to stop looking at the things of this earth as much and focus on the things above more.  The big, usually bright, Texas sky where I live reminds me of that.  It reminds me to look up to the heavens and the unimaginable vast universe that God has made.  It reminds me to look higher than I can see with my eyes to the things that we cannot yet see with our eyes.  The throne room of Heaven.  It reminds me to look to the One who sits on the throne and the One who cares for me so very much!  Now that we have come through a season of high celebration, it's possible for boredom to set in.  It's possible to start quickly forgetting those New Year's resolutions we have made!  But, no!  This is a special day!  It is the second day of the new year.  It is a day for which God has good plans for His Kingdom.  Plans in which you and I get to participate.  But, we have to begin the practice of each day deciding upon which things we will focus.  Will it be the things of this world or will it be the things that are even more real?  The things of God.  (2 Corinthians 4:18)  Did you get some nice gifts for Christmas?  I hope so.  I did.  And, I got even more gifts because my birthday is just five days after Christmas.  I can see these gifts with my eyes and I am so thankful for the friends and family who generously showed their love for me with gifts.  But, my Father in Heaven has also given me (and you) great gifts, many of which cannot be seen with our eyes.  Of course, God wants us to enjoy the earthly gifts and blessings we have but the Apostle, Paul, reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, that everything we see and go through on earth is very temporary.  These things are fleeting.  If you don't believe me, think about the last time something you bought broke just after the warranty was up!  Whether we look at the troubles or the treasures of this earth, we need to remember that they are fading away.   The things of God are deathless!  They are everlasting!  But, we have to look up to see them!  I remember that Jesus said to look up because our redemption was close.  (Luke 21:28)  On the second day of creation God separated the waters of the earth from the waters of the sky.  On the second day after Jesus was crucified, He was separated from life on earth but His purpose was not thwarted.  No, the second day was a part of the process of victory!  There is a reason and a purpose for each day.  What is God calling you to do on this second day of the new year (besides, of course, rejoice)?  Each of us can only answer that for ourselves, as we look up and stop to listen to the still small voice of our Shepherd leading us.  The second day of creation was a day of division.  Today is a day to divide our attention from the things of the earth and focus most of it on the things of God that are unseen which are deathless and everlasting!  Are you up for the challenge?


2 Corinthians 4:18 (AMP)  18 Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Lord, I am so prone to looking at all the trappings of life!  Looking at material things and wanting everything here on earth to look, feel, and be just right.  Help me today to remember that the second day of creation was a day of division when You separated the earthly from the heavenly.  Thank You for both.  Help me to set my sight on things above.  Help me to make division a part of my life too so that I do not get too attached to the things of this world that will quickly pass away.  Thank you for the love behind all the gifts I have received this year from family and friends.  Help me to remember that it is the love behind those gifts that will live on long past the life of the material gifts.  Help me to treasure things like love, peace and joy much more than I do the things that are of this earth.  Thank You for the words that were spoken to me once by a very wise pastor, "Sometimes God has to divide in order to multiply."  Thank you that, as my heart is more and more divided from earthly things, heavenly things will be multiplied in my life!  

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Numbers 29:1 (AMP)
1 ON THE first day of the seventh month [on New Year’s Day of the civil year], you shall have a holy [summoned] assembly; you shall do no servile work. It is a day of blowing of trumpets for you [everyone blowing who wishes, proclaiming that the glad New Year has come and that the great Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles are now approaching].



Today is a new day.  It is the first day of a new year!  If we were to think of the Biblical principle of first fruits, we might want to give this day wholly to the Lord as a first fruit offering of this new year into which He is bringing us.  I am not suggesting this as a religious practice or a tradition, merely a suggestion if we want to give God the first and the best of all He gives us.  I will admit that sometimes it is hard for me to devote a whole day to the Lord, not doing what pleases me, but only what pleases Him!  I'm sad to say that because He has given His best for me!  In the Old Testament, on the Jewish New Year, they (Numbers 29:1-6) were to do no work.  They called a holy assembly and they offered burnt offerings to the Lord, as well as other offerings.  These offerings were to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord.  Just think of it!  Our prayers are a pleasing fragrance to the Lord!  (Revelation 8:4)  This is a new day.  God's mercies are brand new today - this first day of a new year.  (Lamentations 3:23)  God is faithful and He has brought us through one year and into the first day of this new year.  The slate of this year is blank.  We can turn our faithfulness to a faithful God and begin a year filled with communion with Him!  Why not begin filling it with the incense of our prayers of worship and intercession for others?  If we know someone who is in need, why not make an offering.  Yes, it is good to give offerings to ministries and places of worship, but it is also good to take a look around at those you know and see if there is some need you can meet.  It doesn't have to be a financial need or offering.  It could be the offering of comfort to one grieving, help to one who is physically challenged, relief to a young mom who feels like she has a ton of bricks on her chest.  Only God knows who in our lives needs some encouragement or a nudge to stay motivated.  If we look around on this first day of the year, we just might find that He will show us a way to give some kind of offering to someone else, "as unto the Lord."  If we're obedient, it will be a sweet-smelling savor, just as the offering was from the Philippian believers to Paul when he was in prison.  (Philippians 4:18)  Paul declared that these offerings were acceptable and well-pleasing to God.  Usually, we celebrate on New Year's Day.  But, what about those around us who are having difficulty and feel as if they have nothing to celebrate?  What if we were to give at least part of the first day of this new year to communing with God and giving offerings of some sort to Him by doing something for people around us who need a lift?  These sorts of offerings would be sweet-smelling to the Lord.  Do you remember how inviting it is to walk into a home where holiday food is cooking?  That sweet smell?  Think how God's Kingdom would be smelling if each believer would spend some time on the first day of the year offering the first fruits of worship to God and sacrifice to Him by spreading His joy and provision to another?  Wow!  That's sweet!  When we start out the new year with God and others on our minds, it's got to be a great year!  In all of our celebrating, let's remember that it's only by the grace of God that we have come through the past year and arrived at this new day!  No doubt there will be some troubling circumstances this coming year, but I've been told to concentrate on the, "plus's," and, with God there are certainly plenty of those.  Let's be sure to celebrate the One who gives us each day, filled with new mercies!  We have a choice to celebrate with the Lord today and every day this coming year.  We can be despondent and afflicted, hanging on to anxious thoughts and forebodings.  Or, we can have a glad heart, knowing that each day God gives us is a present which is filled with His presence, if we'll receive it.  This year we can choose to have a glad heart and feast continually on God's Word and His love in every circumstance!  A blessed New Year to you all!


Proverbs 15:15 (AMP)  15 All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]


PRAYER FOCUS FOR TODAY:  Dear Lord, thank You for bringing me through one more year.  Thank You for both the difficult and the joyful circumstances because You have promised that all things will work out for good if I love You and do what I am called to do according to Your purpose.  Help me to keep You first in my heart this first day of the new year and every day thereafter.  Help me to think of the needs of others and meet them if I have the opportunity.  Keep my heart from being despondent and anxious even when circumstances don't look promising.  Thank You that You have given me Your joy to make my heart glad and to be my strength.  Thank You for the table You have set before me so that I can continually feast on Your provision!  I purpose in my heart to give this year that You've given to me right back to You, joyfully, yielding to Your presence and direction every day!

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