Meet God in the Morning – Use this Free eBook to help

A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.

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Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

I am using the New King James version in 2019

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 17 – In Every Situation, In Every Circumstance

James 5; Jeremiah 29-30; Psalm 133

“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NKJV)

Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem, did a lot of damage and took a lot of the people into Babylon. He installed a puppet king over Israel. It was a crazy, tumultuous time and the Jews were in great despair. Many expected to revolt, overthrow Nebuchadnezzar, and return to Jerusalem. There were prophets who prophesied falsely in God’s name that this would happen. Jeremiah reminded them that this exile was part of the punishment from God for their rebellion. Now that this had happened, he was unpopular among certain people in Jerusalem and Babylon because he prophesied that it would be 70 years before they returned, and in the meanwhile, he counseled them, based on God’s word to him, to dwell in Babylon and seek and pray for peace. Their peace would accompany peace for the city as a whole. 

We say today that people should make the best of a bad situation. From a Christian perspective, we might say bloom where you’re planted and be a blessing to those around us. Not happy in your job? Find a way to bless others. Having family issues, find a way to bless the person you’re most at odds with. It’s not our circumstances that are important, it’s our reaction to those circumstances. It may be that God wants you to leave a bad situation, but what would happen if because you were a blessing, the situation improved. This doesn’t apply to situations that are an immediate danger to your life or health, of course, but there are many situations where showing and sharing God’s grace will be better for everyone. 

Lord, give me Your wisdom and Your grace in every situation I’m in. Let me be a blessing to others no matter how bad the circumstances may be.

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November 16 – Are You Experiencing God’s Joy or Making Him Laugh?

James 4; Jeremiah 27-28; Psalm 132

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15 NKJV)

If you ask any management expert, planning ahead is vital. You should know, according to them, what you’re going to do, who you’re going to do it with, and how you’re going to do it. You should have a basic idea of what the costs will be and what you can expect in return. James throws a monkey wrench into the way the world plans by reminding his readers that they don’t know what’s going to happen and how God’s going to lead in life. We should begin making plans and goals by praying and we should pray throughout the process. James also reminded his readers that as short as life may be, we should always be seeking God’s will and leadership in all that we do.

Perhaps the most important teaching James gives when discussing making plans it to preface everything we plan with the words “If the Lord wills…” I’ve seen a t-shirt in the past captioned with the phrase “This is not the life I planned for.” As they wore it, you could tell they were complaining. As I read it, I began to smile, because I had to agree that this was not the life I planned for, but I was glad because God has made such a better life for me. There’s another saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I can say that if you want real joy in life, seek God’s plan and follow it.

Lord,  there are so many directions life can take. Let me seek Your guidance as I plan for the future and give me the strength to follow Your leadership.

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November 15 – Dealing With the Treachery of the Tongue

James 3; Jeremiah 25-26; Psalm 131

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” (James 3:8-9 NKJV) 

James dealt with a truth that people have known through the ages: what we say gets us into trouble – LOTS of trouble. In his description of the problems the tongue causes, he compared the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth, or the rudder of a ship. It’s a small thing that directs the whole body. Just like the bit in a horse’s mouth, or a ship’s rudder, are controlled by outside forces, though, so our tongue doesn’t act without orders from our brains. Let’s face it, when James talked about the need to control our tongue, he recognized that we have the power over our tongue – over the words we say. Instead of saying that directly, though, he continued the metaphor of a wild, restless evil that caused us to bless God on one side of the mouth, and curse people who’ve been made in the image of God out of the other side of our mouth. His logical conclusion is that this is wrong.

I will sometimes say something negative about another person, and because I know I shouldn’t have said it I’ll ask myself, or if someone else heard it, them, “Did I say that?” Jesus used a similar example when someone was worried about eating kosher. He noted that what defiled a person wasn’t what went in through the mouth, but what came out of the mouth, referencing of course, the things they said. One of the biggest changes in my life after accepting Christ is that I began to speak more grace about others, instead of insulting or cursing them. I’m still not perfect, of course, but God keeps working on me. Since our tongue blurts out what our minds are thinking, perhaps the best way to tame our tongue is to focus our thoughts on good things – whatever is pure and honorable. If we think about those things that honor God, our words will be more likely to honor God as well.

Lord, the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You. May I bring Your blessings to others and lift them to Your presence.

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November 14 – Show Me What Ya Got, Don’t Just Tell Me

James 2; Jeremiah 23-24; Psalm 130

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 1:26 NKJV)

Martin Luther didn’t like the book of James, in part because of verses like this. I think he misunderstood James. Far be it from me to correct Luther, but James makes an important point with this whole chapter. I believe that what he’s trying to say is that if you have faith, it will show in the way you live. The examples that James gives are simple examples of things we should be doing because of our faith: treating rich and poor alike, meeting needs with action instead of platitudes, and showing mercy to others. He would say that if your faith doesn’t move you to that kind of action, then what you have is a nice warm feeling about God, but not true

True faith will affect you so that you care about people and work to help them deal with issues instead of just saying, “Trust God and everything will be ok.” Faith is not a personal opportunity to retreat from the world because everything’s right between you and God, faith is a call to charge into the world, meeting needs and caring for people just like Jesus would. The long and the short of it is that your faith in Jesus Christ should make you a better person who finds ways to help people. Faith isn’t just about having a nice warm feeling about God. Faith is about honoring our relationship with God by doing good for all people.

Lord, there’s a world of need and hurt beyond the walls of my home and my church. While I can’t meet all those needs alone, Your people can make a difference in the lives of so many people by reaching out and helping. Let us show the world our love for You by the way we love others, especially those in need.

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November 13 – Wait For It, Wait For it, Wait For It….

James 1; Jeremiah 21-22; Psalm 129

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3 NKJV) 

There are times when the book of James requires reading while wearing steel-toed boots. These two verses are pretty tough. James admonishes his readers to count it all joy when trials come. Mind you, when James was writing this, those trials could be major life and death issues because of faith. He could have been talking about believers being disowned by family and thrown out of the house without any means to support themselves. He could have been talking about losing employment because of their commitment to Christ. Rather than getting angry and fighting back; rather than sighing and saying something like “well, that’s my cross to bear,” James tells his readers to consider it a source of joy because that testing of faith produces patience – and growing faith, or a deepening relationship with Jesus is worth those inconveniences.

And let’s face it, for the Christian, all of life is a reflection of our faith. And I gotta admit, I don’t do too well on this checkmark. I’ve gotten better, but there are still some things that can make me lose my patience – or should I say that I let certain circumstances get to me when I shouldn’t and lose my patience. I discovered part of my issue yesterday, as I analyzed why I lost my patience. I was trying to do something nice for another person. I followed the instructions. Then, someone else stepped in who had some control over the situation and said, “do you really want to do this?” I said yes, but apparently took too long to respond. Without my knowledge, they cancelled what I was trying to do. I followed all the rules, jumped through all their hoops, and the only reason I found out what was going on was because I double-checked. The smart thing to do would have been to express my disappointment and fix things. Instead, I expressed my rage and ranted and fumed and vented until I went back and fixed things. I endured that trial and was found guilty of impatience. I realized that I was mad because I had done the right things and others messed up. The plan for the future is to make sure that I forgive when others mess up and then fix what I can…patently. If you get impatient easily, like I do, figure out why, and then make plans to learn to consider those trials all joy.

Lord, I hate to tell You this, but You still have a lot of work to do in me. I guess You knew that, though. Keep working on me and help me to consider those trials joy as they lead me to grow in patience and forgiveness.

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November 12 – From the Slavery of Sin to the Brotherhood of Christ

Philemon 1:1-25; Jeremiah 19-20; Psalm 128

“For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave–a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. “ (Philemon 1:15-16 NKJV)

Slavery was an integral part of the Roman culture and economy. As the Roman army conquered other nations, they took captives. Captives were either killed or became slaves. Some people in Rome were still bothered by that slavery and began setting their slaves free. As a result, the Romans passed a law that limited the number of slaves that one could set free. As widespread as slavery was in Rome, treatment of slaves never reached the shocking cruelty that happened in the early days of the United States.I say all this to remind you that Philemon, to whom this letter was addressed, was a slave owner. He had apparently sent Onesimus to Paul, and Onesimus in the process ran away, and then came to know Christ under Paul’s teachings. As Paul sent a letter to the church at Colossae by Onesimus, he included a letter to Philemon asking for Philemon to give Onesimus to his care. Onesimus was once not useful, but now, he was serving Jesus first as a brother in Christ which made him more useful in the work of the kingdom. Paul’s appeal tugs on Philemon’s heartstrings, but even more importantly, called on him to do the right thing.

While slavery in general didn’t exhibit cruelty in ancient Rome, it was still slavery. Philemon could have punished his runaway slave severely. Paul’s appeal was to treat him not as a slave, but as a beloved brother who was useful to the kingdom of God. The gospel message here stretched the cultural mores as Paul asked Philemon to forgive his runaway slave. I don’t know any slaveholders today, although we still have slavery in these times. Think about human trafficking. What I do know is that often people come from lives where they’ve been in bondage to sin. Once they come to Christ and been freed from that bondage, they come to us. How do we treat them? Do we welcome them with open arms, thanking God that someone who used to be in bondage to sin is free, or do we hold them at arm’s length and watch them to make sure they don’t fall into sin again? When I came to Christ, God’s people welcomed me and helped me grow. When I sinned, they picked me up. I got a lot of judgment from people outside the body of Christ who tried to remind me of my past. People who leave the bondage of sin will be reminded of their past by those whom they used to associate with; let’s work hard to accept new believers, love them when they sin, and lovingly draw them closer to Christ instead of waiting for them to mess up so we can accuse them of being fake Christians.

Lord, there are so many caught up in the slavery of sin. I pray that they might experience freedom in the grace of Christ. I pray that I might welcome them with open arms and lead them to grow in Your love and, Your grace.

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November 11 – Living in Our World With One Purpose

Titus 3; Jeremiah 17-18; Psalm 127

“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” (Titus 3:1-2 NKJV)

As we read Paul’s words here, it’s important to remember that this book was probably written after Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. It would be easy for Paul to feel bitter about his situation. It would have been easy for him to say “I’ve seen the evil among the rulers and authorities: RESIST!” Instead, Paul’s message is one designed to foster the spread of the gospel instead of making it a target for ruling authorities. It’s a simple solution to spreading the gospel: live at peace, inasmuch as it’s possible for you to do so, with the ruling authorities. I have no doubt that were the ruling authorities to make laws contrary to good order or spreading the gospel, Paul would say that we should obey God rather than men, but in all other areas we should be subject to the ruling authorities. He reminded Titus and others who would read this message that we should be ready to do good works, not speak evil of anyone, and to be peaceable and gently while we show humility to all. Our job is not to make ourselves look great; our job is to proclaim the greatness of our God.

I’ve gotta admit – sometimes when I write these devotionals, I have someone in mind: someone who needs to read and heed the message because they’re not living right. Today, that someone is me. I have a hard time when Paul tells us to speak evil of no one. I say in the back of my mind, “But Paul you don’t know <insert name of politician or other person who’s ticked me off.> If you had known someone like him/her, you would have…” Remember that Paul wrote this after his first trial before Nero. Let me just say that it doesn’t matter which party you support, if any, none of those people are as bad as Nero was. The problem for Paul was that if Christianity became known as the “Anti-Nero” of the anti-anything religion, he would have closed the door to the gospel to a segment of the population. I have strong political opinions, but I avoid voicing them, lest the most important message, the message of Jesus Christ, be confused with political opinions, although I will comment on moral concerns. I’ve seen people on both sides of the aisle equate their party with God’s ways. Let’s be honest: both parties have some pretty rotten people and stand for some pretty rotten things – just as both parties have some great people and stand for some great things. Our job, no matter what the governmental situation may be, is to live at peace with the government so that we can do good works and show all people the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Lord, work in me so that I will always speak grace and kindness to others. Let me focus all that I do on sharing Your love and grace. 

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November 10 – Living Under Grace

Titus 2; Jeremiah 15-16; Psalm 126

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,” (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV)

The grace of God has come for all people. There is no one who is outside of His grace, no one for whom God says, “Sorry, this isn’t for you.” Some reject that grace, sadly. Others embrace God’s grace. When we do embrace God’s grace, it makes a difference in our lives. We begin by denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. Indicators of ungodliness are anything that pulls us away from our relationship with God. Worldly lusts are anything that make us more comfortable living in the world than with God’s people. Here’s a hint, if you can’t share it openly with your pastor and/or your Sunday School class, that action or attitude is probably ungodly or a form of worldly lust. As we get rid of those, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly. Soberly includes more than avoiding illegal drugs and legal ones designed to alter our perception. It also means not getting too excited about the latest “thing” in society or in the church. It means not getting too depressed about the problems of the world. (Note: I am NOT talking about people who have depression. That’s a different situation.) Righteously means living in a right relationship with God and with others, while godly speaks about a lifestyle that honors God and draws others to Him. There may be better definitions of each of these words but that’s how I understand it.

I don’t list indicators of ungodliness or following worldly lusts because I’ll probably leave mine, or yours out. I don’t want people to say, “Oh, he didn’t mention this one, so it’s ok.” If you’re seeking to follow God, your conscience will clue you in when you’re headed the wrong way. Those positive attributes reveal themselves as you continue to grow in Christ each day. You’ll recognize them in your life as you experience more peace and joy as you go through the days and draw closer to God. Some people worry about what they’ll have to give up if they want to follow Christ; the truth is that we gain so much peace in our relationship with God that we forget about the things we give up. Our lives are so much better when we commit them to living in God’s grace.

Lord, thank You for Your grace. Thank you that people who had experienced Your grace showed it in their lives and drew me to You. May people look at my joy as I experience Your grace and be drawn to You as well.

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November 9 – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Titus 1; Jeremiah 13-14; Psalm 125

This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.” (Jeremiah 13:10 NKJV)

God set Jeremiah up to perform a living parable. Jeremiah got a sash, like a belt, and wore it without putting it in water. Then, God told him to hide it under a rock in the Euphrates River. Then, after “many days,” God told Jeremiah to go back and get the sash. It was utterly ruined. It was useless. The parable was that the people of Israel and Judah were to cling to God like that sash clung to Jeremiah. When the sash hid away, like the people of Judah and Israel hid from God, it, like they, became profitable for nothing. One of the phrases used in this passage that really struck home was that one of the indications of being profitable for nothing is that they follow what their heart says. How often do we hear people explain their actions, that had terrible results, by saying that they were following their heart. God notes that in the case of some people, they follow the dictates of their hearts because they refuse to hear God’s words.

Many popular Christian songs of today recognize this issue by asking God to give us His heart so that we can know the right things to do; the right way to live. We read in Jeremiah 17:9 that “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked…” That wickedness happens because we don’t have the heart of God, leading us, we have our own sinful attitudes taking control of our lives. Rather than seeking God, we do what we want to – an attitude described in Judges by the words “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” We live with that kind of teaching when we say that everybody can do their own thing. As our society falls apart in so many different ways, we can see that many of the things that happen in society come from this belief that God is irrelevant in our world and we can do whatever we want. God’s given us instructions for living not to be the eternal killjoy who takes the fun out of everything, but so that we can experience the greatest joy in life. Let God take control of your heart and follow His lead for an amazing life full of joy.

Lord, take my heart and rework it. Let me hear Your words and seek to follow You all of my days.

And, just for fun, I thought I would post a video clip from one of my favorite TV shows ever. In this clip, if you go far enough, you’ll hear Jerry Van Dyke singing about his heart.

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November 8 – There Is No Easier Way

2 Timothy 4; Jeremiah 11-12; Psalm 124

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV)

As the early church grew and developed, stories diverged from the truth, often to make things sound better for the speaker. The message of commitment and responsibility might have been de-emphasized because it was easy to get people to follow, not so easy to get them to become disciples. And people who might have been touched by the gospel message began to find variations that made life easier. They began to think of having just enough Jesus to make them feel good, but not enough to spur them to action to minister to others and sacrifice, if necessary, to show the love of God.

As a society, we’re becoming polarized into an “us vs. them” mentality. “They” are the bad guys; “they” are evil. Rather than listen to “them” we do all that we can to shut “them” down. On the other hand, if someone agrees with us, we know that they must be telling the truth and we don’t even need to check the facts. And it spills into our religious discussions as well. “Jesus wants you to be rich” is a much more popular teaching than “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor.” “God helps those who help themselves” is much more popular than “caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” “Do your own thing” beats “keep yourself unstained from the world.” We gather around those teachers that make us feel good about our wrong beliefs and shun hearing the truth from God’s word. As Paul continued his message to Timothy, he reminded him to stay true to the faith and continue doing the work that God called him to do. May we stay true to the faith God has called us to and continue in the work that God has called us to do.

Lord, the road You’ve called me to follow isn’t an easy one, but it’s the right one. Help me tay true to Your guidance and avoid the trap of searching for easier ways to live this life.

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