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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December 7 – Bringing True Justice to the World

Ephesians 4:1-16; Ezekiel 10-11; Isaiah 42

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42:1 NKJV) 

Justice is a two-edged sword. When we’ve been wronged, we want justice. We want someone (else) to pay. We may know of someone who’s been wronged and want things to be made right. On the other hand, if we’re the ones who’ve done wrong, justice isn’t so appealing. We don’t want what we deserve. I believe that those Jews who heard this message had one understanding: the Gentiles will get what’s coming to them. It was Gentiles who fought against them and then took them into exile. It was Gentiles who destroyed Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. They would need to pay! True justice, though, happens when the world is in alignment with God’s plan. I believe God’s plan was to bring the Gentiles into His family so that we’d live in a just world where everyone had a chance to be in a positive relationship with God.

I don’t know what the meaning of this passage was to the original audience of Jews, but I believe God’s plan was to make it possible for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, to live in a just world where God was in control. We saw that hope come to life in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. As followers of Jesus we believe that He is the Elect One designed to bring justice – not through a process of judgment, but of reconciliation. Paul said that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) and I believe that’s the ultimate picture of God’s plan of Justice for all.True justice will happen when we become reconciled to God. We can show that justice now as we live in the reconciliation by seeking reconciliation and bringing God’s brand of justice to our world. 

Lord, bring justice to our world. Let it flow like a mighty river as we see people reconciled to You through Jesus. Let us all delight in Your justice.

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December 6 – The Love of Christ, The Fullness of God

“..to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV) 

Paul summed up his prayer for the Ephesians in this amazing statement. If you know the love of Christ, you’re filled with the fullness of God. What can you experience that’s more important than Christ’s love? You may talk about miracles of God, salvation, protection, sustenance, or many numbers of things that may seem important, but all of those things are there because of the love of God. The amazing thing about the love of Christ is that His love is always there, it’s always around. It’s freely available. Many people who would be considered evil benefit from the love of Christ without even knowing it. Many people who are considered good in the eyes of the world can relate stories of great things happening, and not realize that they are experiencing Christ’s love. When Paul prayed that they would know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, he was praying that they would recognize God’s fullness in a world where love is sorely lacking.

It’s possible to experience Christ’s love without knowing Christ. It’s also possible to know Christ and not comprehend the depth of His love. That’s why Paul had to pray for the Ephesians to know that. I can’t think of anything that would be more important for you than to know the love of Christ and experience the fullness of God. That is my prayer for you today.

Lord, help me to know the love of Christ and experience Your fullness. Help me to share that love and help others know it as well. May our lives reflect Your fullness in us. 

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December 5 – Preparing The Way of the Lord

Ephesians 2; Ezekiel 6-7; Isaiah 40

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV)

All or parts of this passage are quoted in each of the four gospels to describe John’s call to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah, Jesus. Those who heard him preach realized that he had a power from God and asked if He was the Messiah, but John made it clear that he wasn’t the Messiah, he was preparing the way. The allusion here is to the visit of a king, or, in the case of Roman times, the emperor. Kings back then didn’t have Air Force 1 to fly them places, they didn’t have an armored limousine. They either rode on horseback, took a carriage, or were carried on a litter. The roads would be prepared so the king would have a smooth ride. You wouldn’t want inclines of any type, so as much as possible, The roads would be made straight and smooth to welcome the visiting monarch. In a spiritual understanding of that idea, this was John’s job as he prepared the hearts and minds of people for the coming Messiah.

I’ve nicknamed one of the roads on the way to our house “Patchwork Quilt Lane.” It tends to get potholes, and the city, instead of fixing it properly, pours asphalt into the holes and hopes that will do the trick. It doesn’t help a whole lot. It does create an interesting visual effect as the patches dry in different colors, creating the effect that gave me the idea for the nickname. While it would be inconvenient for many of us, what the city needs to do is take out the old road and build a new one that won’t keep falling apart. That’s how God works in us. He doesn’t throw a patch over those things we used to do allowing us to continue with the same sins in our minds. He tears us down, destroys the old way of sin in our life, and rebuilds us in His image. No longer are we stained with the potholes of sin that we’ve sought to cover up, we become a new creature in Christ. Sometimes that process is painful or inconvenient, but the rebuilt, the new you is worth any price. 

Lord, tear me down and rebuild me in Your image every day. May my life be a pathway to lead others to know You.

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Update

For the last few days, I’ve been having internet/computer issues as I’ve been writing. It’s been frustrating trying to get any of my devotionals finished and/or uploaded because of the sporadic, in and out issues I’ve been having. I’m going to be getting my computer updated soon, so I may be without for a few days. I’m going to try to upload the last three days of devotionals and time them for about an hour apart. I apologize for the delay and I apologize for the spam like repetition of posts that I hope will be coming.

In other administrative news, I am rolling some planning idead around in my head for the future of this blog and a possible ministry avenue related to discipleship. This would begin next year and I’d appreciate your prayers as I seek God’s will for this area.

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December 4 – Two Beautiful, Unifying Words

Ephesians 1; Ezekiel 4-5; Psalm 150

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2 NKJV)

What beautiful words those two words are: grace and peace. It’s the grace of God that brings us peace with God. We’re granted forgiveness through God’s grace and that allows us to live in peace with God and with ourselves. At the same time, Paul blends greetings from two cultures, the Greek greeting of grace (charis) and the Hebrew greeting of peace (shalom) as a way of reminding the members of the Ephesian church that there is no division between the two ethnic groups. The gospel, when seen in all of the beauty God planned, brings former enemies together and unifies those who would never get together otherwise. 

Grace and peace brings together the “you guys” from up north and the “y’all” folks from the south. Grace and peace unites all ethnic groups in amazing ways that speak volumes to a society that thrives on division and confrontation. Our lives should reflect the peace of God in our hearts as we share the grace of God in our words and actions. God’s grace and peace should overflow in our lives to allow us to speak grace and peace to others no matter how different their sin may be than ours, or no matter how different their skin color or language may be than ours. God wants all people to experience His grace and peace: sometimes we are the way He shows it.

Lord, thank You for the grace and peace I’ve experienced, Let my life reflect those qualities and may I always show others Your grace and peace.

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December 3 – You Never Do Bad When You Do Good

Galatians 6; Ezekiel 2-3; Psalm 149

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 NKJV) 

When we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, we should become better people. The sad thing is, it’s easy to slide backwards on the scale. We become judgmental, finding ways to pick fault on Christians and non-Christians alike. We begin to think that God chose us because of how good we were and that other people need to hear what they’re doing wrong. Instead, Paul reminds us that those of us who walk in the Spirit of God will have opportunities to do good to all people. Here’s the kicker: we should take advantage of those opportunities to do good to all people, especially those who claim to follow Christ. 

There’s nothing to be gained when a Christian is hateful, even if they’re right. People like that leave a sour taste in your mouth. What if instead of focusing on being right, we spent more time knowing that we’re right and ministering in love and doing good to all people. When we build a caring relationship with people, they’re a lot more willing to listen to us than when we attack them for being wrong. Our society is so polarized that people are searching for conflicts and evidence to use against people they disagree with. As followers of Christ, may the only evidence people can find against us is that we love our brothers and sisters and support them, and that we do good to all people, even when they disagree with us.

Lord, help me to swallow my words and my pride, especially when I’m right and learn to treat all people with the same love that You have for them. Let me love my brothers and sisters in the faith, especially, as I seek to do good to all people.

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December 2 – The TLDR of the Book of Galatians

Galatians 5:16-26; Ezekiel 1; Psalm 148

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

There’s an abbreviation people use when they’re telling a long story so that people can get the gist of it, even if they don’t read the whole thing: tldr. That means “too long, didn’t read.” It was originally meant as a response to someone telling the long story, but now it’s used pre-emptively if a story’s going to take a long time to read. It’s come to mean “in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the main idea.” I think Galatians 5:25 is Paul’s “tldr” not just for the chapter, but the whole book of Galatians. We are called to live and walk in the power and direction of the Spirit. The negative examples, caused by living to satisfy our earthly desires, are peppered throughout the letter, but the truth is, if we’re living in the Spirit, we won’t get distracted by the cares of the flesh. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in living “right” that we worry so much about following rules and regulations that we attribute to God, and never take the time to experience His love in our relationship with Him. I love my children so much that nothing could ever make me stop loving them. I don’t always agree with them, but they could never make me stop loving them. Were Jesus to respond to that He might say, “If you then, being evil….” (see Matthew 7:11) How much more is God able to love me than I’m able to love my children? No matter what I do? In the long run, if we’re living and walking in the Spirit, we’re going to avoid doing those things that we’re worried could make God turn His back on us. By walking in the Spirit, we please our Heavenly Father who continues to show us amazing grace in the best and the worst of times. 

Lord, help me to live in the freedom of the Spirit by walking in the Spirit. Keep me so focused on You as the Holy Spirit works in me, that I don’t even consider engaging in the works of the flesh.   

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December 1 – Using Your Freedom Within God’s Limits

Galatians 5:1-15; Lamentations 5; Psalm 147

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14 NKJV) 

Paul was fighting a war in the early church that was an essential part of Christian theology. Were Christians to be involved in following the Jewish Law or were they going to be free from the burden of the law? The Galatian church was one of the battlefronts for this war and Paul was emphatic that Christians were called to liberty. He was equally emphatic that Christians should not live a libertine lifestyle. God didn’t give us this freedom so that we could indulge ourselves, but so that we would serve others in love. For those who were emphasizing the law, and for those who were emphasizing love, Paul called them to fulfill the law by loving their neighbors as much as they did themselves.

Our freedom is Christians isn’t designed for self-indulgence. When God blesses us financially, we should be seeking ways to bless others. When we have extra time, we should be finding ways to serve God by serving others. Need I go on? The freedom we have in Christ has boundaries. We are bound by the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our faith should make us care for those around us who are in need. We can’t all help in the same way, but we can all find some ways to help. Our faith should never allow hatred to have a part. There are people who have different beliefs and different lifestyles that we may believe to be wrong. Neither Paul nor Jesus called us to limit our love to those who agree with us, in fact, Jesus’s example of a neighbor was a person repugnant to Jews of that day. And he, the Samaritan, was doing the right thing. I’ve always told people that they are free to hate anyone that Jesus hates. At the same time, that means that we should love (and show that love) to everyone that Jesus loves. 

Oh Lord, help me to love others as You love them. Let me use my liberty as an opportunity to share Your love with those around me.

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November 30 – Finding Hope in God in the Midst of Utter Desolation

Galatians 4:21-31; Lamentations 3-4; Psalm 146

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3: 21-24 NKJV) 

After Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, those left behind in the city were without hope. It was during this time that the book we know of as Lamentations was written. The book is attributed to Jeremiah, who was there at the time, and I will consider the author. It reflected the anguish of the people dealing with the fact that God had allowed their beautiful city to be desolated. Even in the midst of their despair, there are indications of hope and trust in God. Jeremiah, in the middle of this Lamentation, began with understanding that God’s mercy could be seen in the truth that they were still alive. Hope existed because they were still alive and God was still faithful. When they had lost everything else, they learned to depend on God. That doesn’t mean that they stopped lamenting their situation, it just meant that they recognized that God was still with them.

There’s a heresy in today’s world that says that if God loves you, He’s going to bless you real good. It’s heresy not because God doesn’t bless His children, but because those who proclaim that only think in terms of financial prosperity. The implication is often that those who don’t gain great wealth somehow aren’t right in their relationship with God. One of the criticisms of the Pope in the middle ages before the Reformation was “The son of Man came into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey while the Pope comes into Rome on a warhorse with an army.” Perhaps we should refine that commentary for today. I always wonder about those who would cheapen the gospel to make it about financial prosperity in light of Christians in areas of the world where people are suffering imprisonment, torture, and death merely for believing in Jesus. My guess is that those Christians see much more of God in the book of Lamentations than in the proclamations of health and wealth. Going through that persecution, they understand that hope begins with life and God’s compassions never fails. They’ve learned to cling to God and put their hope in Him. They understand what it means to be blessed real good in ways that I will never be able to understand. Today would be a good day to pray God’s blessings on the persecuted church 

Lord, my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are undergoing severe persecution. Many are dying for their faith. Others are undergoing torture and imprisonment. I pray that they would recognize Your presence in the midst of all the persecution. I pray that Your mercy would be real to them and that You would continue to give them hope and an experience of Your presence. 

One article that relates the persecution Christians undergo is here

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November 29 – Living as People Who Are One in Christ

Galatians 3:19-4:20; Lamentations 1-2; Psalm 145

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28 NKJV) 

Too often, when we talk about baptism we get into discussions about the method of baptism. Paul reminds us here that more important than the method of baptism is the purpose of baptism: we’re to be baptized into Christ. That happens when we’re brought into the kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit. If we have come to Christ, we’ve put off the old person that we used to be and put on Jesus Christ. That should show in the way we live. It should also show in the way we relate to other people. As Paul wrote to a class-stratified society in ancient Greece, he taught them that those classes which used to define behaviors and beliefs no longer existed among God’s people. God’s people aren’t Jew or Greek, they’re followers of Christ. The distinction between slave and free dissolves because Jesus died for both. The privileged related to gender no longer exist, we’ve all been privileged to be in a relationship with God through Christ Jesus.

Sadly, we’ve lost the concept of equality in Christ. While we’re getting better than we used to be, we still have color and ethnic barriers. We still make women feel like second class citizens in the church, although many, if not all, churches wouldn’t survive without the work women do. We still show partiality based on financial ability and class. If we’ve been made one in Christ Jesus, then we need to show the world the unity we have in Christ. Let’s learn to uplift and support our brothers and sisters in the faith instead of criticizing them. Even when we disagree on issues, remember that neither of us is perfect and let’s show love to each other so that the world will know that we are Christians by our love.

Lord, I am amazed at how much You love me and forgive me. Help me to work with my brothers and sisters in Christ as equal partners in the proclamation of the gospel. Help me to love them even when we disagree.

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