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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Life Happens – Starting the Year Over Again

I started this year with good intentions. I had plans. I was going to do a lot of work on promoting my devotional books. I was going to use this blog as a showcase for writing and for my photography, as well as giving people a behind the scenes look into the mind of one person who writes. (I can’t speak for all writers of course, just myself, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at what I’ve done and not been able to understand it.) Then life happened.

There’s an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I don’t think God laughed and said, “You think so? Watch this!” I don’t even think God laughed, believing as I do that God foreknew all that would happen. I think God took me by the hand and said, “Get ready my child, life is going to go out of your control, but it will never be out of my control. Stay with me.”

In early January, my mother passed away. She was 90. She’d lived an amazing life. She beat death twice in previous incidents. There were tears, of course, but during this time, I learned a lot about lamenting. I didn’t even realize I was lamenting until my pastor mentioned the process in a sermon and I realized that he was describing what I was dealing with emotionally.

Then, an event that was planned a few months earlier came to pass: my daughter’s wedding. I had the honor and privilege of performing the ceremony as my daughter married an outstanding young man. I knew him before he started dating her and I thought he was amazing before. When I saw what great taste he had in choosing a life mate, how could I not see him for the amazing young man that he is. He comes from a great family too.

Life’s about to get crazier, because the next week, we flew to Orlando, Florida to celebrate my wife’s graduation as Dr. James. I joke about her letting me call her Dr. Wife, but she is just “Lucy” to anyone who knows her. I won’t go into all that she endured in the process of getting this doctorate, most people think that battling breast cancer and spitting in cancer’s eye during this time is amazing enough.

Then came the dog. When my daughter moved away, after her marriage, she took her dog with her. My wife had grown accustomed to petting her dog, so, we decided that we would finally get a dog that wouldn’t bother her allergies. She was younger than we thought. Rather than attaching herself to my wife, she attaches herself to me. But we do have a new boss of the family now.

When my wife went for her six-month checkup with her oncologist, she mentioned a concern. The doctor arranged for her to stop taking meds for a couple of weeks, because they might cause the pain she was experiencing. Lucy did that and then had no relief, so they did a bone scan. They found an area of concern. They did a CT. We are now awaiting a needle biopsy, tomorrow, and then the results.

In short, life happened, and a lot of my plans went astray. As I thought about those possibilities, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to start the year over in July? Maybe you’ve had a rough year and you haven’t lived up to your own expectations, because life happened to you, too. One area that easily gets dropped is our spiritual growth. That’s why I’ve been promoting my July-August devotional book this last month. It is free for those of you who use any kind of eReader. If you want to re-start your year spiritually as you seek God, I want to help. Click on this link and download your free copy of “Daily Enduring Truth: July-August.” If you like those devotionals, you can buy the other volumes later. If you decide these aren’t for you, you haven’t lost anything. Accept this free gift and start the year over.

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Have I Actually Made It As An Author?

Posted originally on Bob James – Author site

This story began with another warning about a web piracy site. One of the advantages to eBooks is that they’re so much cheaper to produce and make available to the public. The disadvantage is that scammers/book pirates can find ways to make money by getting a copy of your book, and then offering it for free on a pirate site. These sites look professionally done and appear to be a great way to get books for free – after all, isn’t EVERYTHING free on the internet somehow? The problem is the authors who have poured their hearts into their books, have spent lots of money on editing their writing and creating covers, and have worked to market their books so they can make a living from the work they’ve done, don’t profit from these sites. The owner of the site steals their work and makes their money through advertising on the site.

I posted in an author site that I belong to about the problem after looking up a couple of books and finding friends in that group had been victimized by the pirate. I almost posted something about no one wanting to steal my books, because, you know – devotional books. Then, on a lark, I went to check my books. I was amazed to discover that four of the six books in the series were listed on the site. I decided that I must have really made it as an author if somebody thought it was worthwhile to steal the hours of labor writing and editing those books to promote their site. I also thought it ironic that people would steal a devotional book, designed to help them grow closer to God.

When I mentioned that I must have “made it” as an author because my work was on a pirate site to my siblings, they responded with sincere sympathy. “Even pirates like to read.” “Way to go, Bob! Nice to expand your reading audience.” “Do they pay in gold?” “Do you get to wear an eye patch?” and finally “Aaaarrrggg!!! Pirate booty gold, but you must find it with my treasure map.” Ok, maybe more joking than sympathy. That’s ok for family, I guess. I don’t depend on writing income to eat – which is a good thing because I probably couldn’t pay for a glass of water, let alone the coffee I drink while I’m writing, from my earnings. But I have friends whose living is based on their writing. Looking at my royalty schedule and the number of times that this site claimed that my book was read/downloaded, this pirate site kept me from about $6000 in earnings based on about $1 profit per sale of each book. (But, see my proviso later.) Imagine if I wasn’t retired and married to an amazing wife who makes good money. What if writing were my sole source of income, and instead of four books, I had ten, or twenty. That could be lost revenue of between $10,000 – 30,000.

The best argument against my financial figures is that we don’t know if people would have seen or bought this work if they couldn’t have stolen, er, gotten it free. I’ll admit that. I also doubt that their figures on read/downloaded are completely accurate, or I would really be a best seller if people actually bought the books. Based on one of the authors whose books I checked to see if they were on the site, it may be a phishing site looking to profit from your info. You have to set up an account. Your account includes credit card info. Something is rotten in Denmark as another writer once said. All I know is that my books were being used in a scam and all joking about “making it” aside, I don’t like it one bit. I’ll be sending a takedown notification, probably tomorrow. But it’s sick that we have to go through all those formal procedures instead of just being able to notify someone with the power to enforce that law.

If you’ve used those sites in the past because you didn’t realize that they were stealing from the authors, then please stop using them. If you continue using them now that you know, shame on you. Most authors tend to run sales or even giveaways on their books at different times of the year. I’m doing one right now until the end of June where you can go to my Bookfunnel link and get a free copy of my July – August devotional eBook. I’ll be upfront with you about it: my goal is that you will find it so helpful to you that you’ll buy the other books in the series. (Every two months.) I think they run $2.99 in eBook format. Is that two expensive? I don’t think so, otherwise I’d price it lower. Seriously, though, if you’re drinking a cup of coffee for a dollar from a chain or buying five buck specialty coffee while you’re reading each day’s devotional, the book part doesn’t seem like the expensive part of the day. Support the authors who give you hours of enjoyment by buying their books. Those authors are trying to earn a living.


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The Spiritual Side of Egg Salad

I had some thoughts today while making egg salad sandwiches. I blogged them on my other blog, but thought I’d share the link here.:

Posted in reblogged - thought provoking

A Time For Renewal

I’ve been writing devotionals every day, or nearly every day, for almost ten years now, I believe. The writing began as a labor of love as I joyously shared what God’s been teaching me in my daily Bible reading. The first devotionals were short. I began writing them when I was limited to 420 characters on Facebook. Then Facebook allowed for expanded posts and I wrote longer thoughts. Then, I developed a pattern that was three or four paragraphs long and got a blog where I posted them. (My blog posts go back to 2012. Each day was fresh and exciting, and I looked forward to sharing what God taught me.

Recently, I realized that some of my focus had changed. Instead of sharing what God was teaching me, I was reading God’s word and looking for what I could write about to teach others. In short, rather than sharing how I was being fed by God’s word, I was starving myself spiritually so that I could find a way to feed others. Over the last six months, the whole process became dry for me. At the beginning of the year, I tried to make a change in format, thinking that would change my attitude and outlook towards the writing. While it began well, it fell into the same trap. No longer was it a labor of love, the devotionals had become my daily obligation, whether I liked them or not. Then, we had a major upheaval in our life circumstances that made scheduling my reading and writing difficult.

I began missing, I lied to myself that I’d make them up, and then realized that the way I did things doesn’t really work with makeup work. But I felt guilty about it. I hadn’t adjusted to my new plan like I thought I would and I was feeling guilty about that, also. As I’ve thought and prayed about the situation, I realized that I needed to get back to reading God’s word to hear from Him for me, and not to find something to write for others. So, I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from writing devotionals for April, May, and June. I decided that yesterday but waited a day before saying it lest people think it was an April Fool’s Day post. I’ll still be reading my Bible, but this time to let God speak to me. I’ll probably do some kind of post related to Christianity in the news, because there are many things we don’t see or hear about in the world today. I’m planning on beginning writing devotionals again in July, but that’s subject to change as God leads.

My plans are to a) keep reading my Bible daily, b) read devotionals by other authors, and I may post them on my page, c) work on editing the book about our battle with cancer, d) work on editing some short stories, and e) building my marketing platform for the books and short stories I have written. If you’ll really miss my devotionals, you can go to this date in 2017 (see the archives on the website) and read the Scripture passage and the devotional for that day, or, even better for me, buy my devotional books from Amazon. I hope to get back to devotionals in July with a renewed purpose and a fresh sense of God’s desire for me.


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March 30 – Finding and Following Godly Leaders

Matthew 24:1-31; Numbers 25-27; Song of Solomon 6:4-8:4

“Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17 NKJV)

The time had finally come. The wandering in the wilderness was over and it was time to enter the Promised Land. God told Moses to look at the land, and then he would die. An earlier sin meant that he wasn’t going to enter the Promised Land. Moses could have tried to bargain with God, pointing out all the times that he had led the people through difficult situations. He could have pointed out that when the people sinned, he stood in the gap for them with God. Instead, he spoke to God and asked God to give them a leader who would guide them so that they wouldn’t be like sheep without a shepherd. Moses had always fought for the people of Israel and this last request to God was designed to make sure that the Israelites had a leader who would keep them as the congregation of the Lord.

Good leaders, godly leaders, are hard to find. God had Joshua in store for the Israelites. He was the leader the people needed as they entered the Promised Land. Later leaders weren’t always as godly. It’s easy for leaders today to believe their own press clippings, especially if they control the media. We may see fewer godly leaders than we’d like in the political arena. Keep praying for them. Even if they’re evil? Even if they’re from the other party? Yes, keep praying for them. God can still work in them and through them. In the church, especially, godly leaders should be loved, supported and prayed for. They’re gonna make mistakes. Keep loving them. They’re not always going to agree with you. Support them. When they seek God’s leadership and act, follow them and keep praying for them. And if God calls you to lead, seek His leadership in all things and keep loving those people God has put under your care. If Moses could love and fight for the Israelites after all they did in rebellion, you can keep loving those people God entrusts you to lead.

Lord, when You call me to lead, let me seek Your guidance and lead with grace and dignity. I pray for the leaders in my church and ask that You continue to speak and lead through them. I pray for Christian leaders around the world that they may lead under Your guidance and proclaim Your kingdom. I pray for political leaders that they might seek You and always lead with grace and dignity.

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

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March 29 – Taking Care of the Heavy Stuff

Matthew 23:13-39; Numbers 23:27-24:25; Song of Solomon 5:2-6:3

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23 NKJV)

The Pharisees knew their stuff. They knew the Law backwards and forwards. They’d follow the Law dwn to the smallest matter, including, as Jesus pointed out here, making sure they paid a full tithe as written in the Scriptures. They are great examples of that old saying about people who can’t see the forest because they’re looking at all the trees. Rather than focusing on the most important parts of the Law, they were obsessing over the small details that were unimportant in the long run. Jesus assumed that the Pharisees would tithe; what He wanted was for them to look at the important matters of life in the Kingdom of God: justice, mercy, and faith. It’s a theme echoed by many of the Old Testament prophets:  God doesn’t want your money, or your sacrifices so much as He wants you to show those positive characteristics that define a follower of Christ. The Pharisees were so lost in the minutia of obeying God, that they weren’t able to obey Him in the big things.

When people ask how you show your faith, how do you respond? Do you talk about going to church? That’s a good thing that all Christians should do, so don’t forget that. Do you mention your work among the underprivileged and those who are oppressed? Or is your area of ministry different and you work in a place where you never get a chance to show others about your faith? Do you give lots of money to support ministries that you can’t actively participate in? All those activities may be wonderful ways to exercise your faith, but do you show justice and mercy toward others? That’s the hard part of faith, isn’t it? Odds are, that the people you need to show justice and mercy to don’t deserve either. Of course, that’s exactly why we need to do that. “Impossible!” you say? Perhaps, but when we recognize how much justice and mercy God showed us, we should be able to show justice and mercy to others. So do all those other good things, but don’t forget the more important parts of God’s plan for us.

Lord, it’s so easy to get lost in the small things of my belief. Remind me to observe the weightier things of Your way: justice, mercy, and faith. May I always show those attributes to others in all I do.

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

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March 28 – Nevertheless, He Persisted – To His Own Regret

My schedule has been convoluted since my daughter’s wedding and my wife’s graduation ceremony. (EdD) I’m finally getting back on schedule. I hope.

Matthew 23:1-12; Numbers 22:41-23:26; Song of Solomon 3:6-5:1

“Then Balak said to him, ‘Please come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and shall not see them all; curse them for me from there.’” (Numbers 23:13 NKJV)

Under other circumstances, you could almost feel sorry for Balak. He used some of his top people to convince Balaam to do a job. When Balaam refused, based on the Lord’s word, he sent even bigger muckity mucks from his kingdom and offered him a lot of money. So the Lord told Balaam he could go, if he would repeat what God told him. Then, Balaam, who only had one job, which was to curse the Israelites, did just the opposite. He blessed them. So, Balak, came up with an interesting idea: he decided to take Balaam to look at a different part of the vast tribes of Israel, hoping to get a curse on at least part of the group. So Balak set up a second round of sacrifices and waited for the curse to happen, only a stronger blessing. Instead of taking the hint and trying to make peace with Israel, he griped and complained when the guy who told him he could only say what God said, said what God said.

Persistence is usually considered a virtue. It’s not a virtue, though, when you’re persistent in trying to go against God’s ways. Balaam should have never listened to the second delegation. If it weren’t for his donkey, he would have paid a great price for listening to them, even though God sent him. He did commit to telling Balak what God said, even though it caused him trouble. Balak persisted in seeking evil, Balaam, except for a misstep, sought to follow God. There are some lessons to be learned from this story. The first is, when God tells you something, listen to Him the first time. Balaam went back for a recount. While he shouldn’t have, God still used it. Balak wasted a lot of time and money looking for a second opinion from the same seer. The second lesson is that persistence is a problem when practiced outside of God’s will. Balak was so insistent on getting his curse on Israel, that he ended up hearing Israel blessed three times. The corollary to that lesson is that we should never seek to persuade God to take our side, rather, we should seek to align ourselves with God’s plan. His plan is far better than any idea of ours.

Lord, help me to seek Your plan and persist in following that, no matter what the cost. Keep me from following the temptation to ask for a second opinion hoping that You’ll change Your mind.

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

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March 21 – The Wrong Question for the Right Reason

Matthew 19:16-30; Numbers 11-12; Ecclesiastes 8

“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ … ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’” (Matthew 19:16,20 NKJV)

Every once in a while, someone asks an excellent question that shows that they have no understanding of the situation. In this situation, the rich young ruler asked a question that people still ask today. It’s a great question: “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” The problem with that question is that it falls into the trap of thinking that we, as human beings, can do anything to earn eternal life. Jesus gave the guy a chance to make his case and discussed the commandments that related to dealing with mankind. The first four deal with our relationship with God, the last six deal with our relationship with other people. The guy listened to Jesus and pulled out his checklist. Every commandment that Jesus listed, he nodded his head with the assurance that he was already doing those things. When Jesus finished, he said something like, “Is that all? I’m already doing all those things and something’s still missing.” Jesus focused on the man’s weakness: he trusted his wealth to take care of him, not God. When Jesus told him to sell all his stuff and follow Him, the guy walked away muttering, probably something like, “Who is he to tell me to sell my stuff and follow him? I’ve worked hard for all that I have. I’m not giving it away to some lazy bum who’s never worked a day in their life.”

An even better question would be, “How can I have eternal life?” Some might suggest following the commandments as Jesus seemed to suggest. Some might suggest taking a vow of poverty and giving everything away to the poor, as Jesus seemed to suggest here also. If you follow all the commandments though, you, just like this guy will still feel like you’re missing something. The call to give away everything isn’t universal, because we see others giving away some things, but not everything. The key is that they give it away out of joy in their relationship with God. The rich young ruler trusted in his wealth: Zacchaeus trusted in his new-found relationship with God. The answer to the question of “How can I have eternal life?” is not “Die,” as some have said. The answer is “Through a relationship with God.” Eternal life begins the moment you commit your life to following Jesus by accepting His sacrifice for you. It’s not a thing you do, it’s a relationship you have. And, you don’t have to wait to begin your eternal life: it begins now. Have you made that commitment to follow God by accepting His free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ? If so, praise God! If not, you can do that today.

Lord, thank You for the death of Jesus that paid the penalty for all my sins. Thank You for Your grace that allows me, and everyone who turns to You, the opportunity to have eternal life. Let anyone who hasn’t done this yet, and reads these words, ask You to give them that same gift of eternal life.

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

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March 20 – Some Quick Thoughts on Marriage

Matthew 19:1-15; Numbers 9-10; Ecclesiastes 7

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV)

Something’s going to happen this year that’s going to upset the norms of what we call “traditional marriage.” There will be a court ruling, or a law proposed, or a movement started that gets Christians upset because traditional marriage will be under attack. There are a couple of truths we’ll need to face. Truth number 1: We live in a world/country where traditional Christian values are no longer accepted, and that shows up in the area of marriage as well as other areas of life. Truth number 2: Christians haven’t been doing such a good job of promoting traditional Christian marriage when you realize that the divorce rate among Christians is similar to the world at large. While we moan and wail about how the world has changed its understanding of marriage, we need to recognize that while we say we support traditional marriage, the high divorce rate among church members belies our words. Yes, some divorces need to happen because of issues like abuse, or, perhaps, cheating. But every failed marriage among Christians is a reminder that we are failing to recognize the value of Jesus’s words here.

Marriage has been on my mind as we prepared for my daughter’s wedding recently. I had the privilege of performing the ceremony, and I used these time-honored words in the service. I believe that God brought my daughter and her husband together. I believe they will stay together because they understand that marriage isn’t a 50/50 proposition, but a 100/100 proposition. If we want to show the world God’s plan for marriage, we need to recognize that we have the responsibility to establish marriages, families, that are built on the love of God. We do that when we recognize the gifts and talents of our partners. There are some things I do better than my wife. There are more things that she does better than me. On those things I do better, I take the lead. On those things she does better, she takes the lead. We both forgive each other a lot. (OK, she has to forgive a lot more than I do.) We mutually submit to each other knowing that God has gifted us in different ways. And, we continue to love each other through everything. Obviously, we aren’t going to solve the marriage problems in one short devotional, but maybe we can learn to stop complaining about the world destroying marriage when we in the church ain’t doing such a good job with it either.

Oh Lord, You ordained marriage. As Your followers, we want things to be done Your way. Help Your people to be good examples of Your plan for marriage. Remind us that we bring Your redemption to the world through love, and not through condemnation.

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

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