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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August 23 – We Can Do Little Things to Make a Big Difference in the Future

John 5:19-47; 1 Chronicles 20:1-22:1; Zechariah 8

“‘…These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:16-17 NKJV)

If you want a better society, you’ll follow God’s teachings. That might seem like too radical an idea for some because, after all, we have freedom of religion. Others might look at that first sentence and say, “Well, of course,” as if that was the simplest concept in the world. Zechariah shares some great concepts for living from God in this section: speak truth, stand for truth, justice, and peace, don’t think the worst of others, and don’t love the cleverness of twisting words to pull a fast one on others. Apparently the Jews didn’t learn that last lesson well, because Jesus had to deal with it when He taught us to speak plainly and let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no.” 

Whether you’re an extreme legalist, or a practitioner of “hyper-grace,” you can’t object to these teachings from God. Whether you’re a zealous Christian or an avowed atheist, you have to agree that this teaching would make a better world. Imagine what would happen if we worked to promote truth, justice, and peace. What would happen if we loved others and didn’t try to take advantage of them? Too often we look at teachings like this and think of those other people who should follow them. If we’re going to change our world though, we need to take them to heart and be an example to others – first in the church and then to our world. We can make a difference in the future by the little things we do today.

Lord, we need You in our world. We need a world that thrives on truth instead of dishonesty, practices justice instead of oppression, and seeks peace and harmony instead of war and superiority. Begin making that difference through me.

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August 22 – Breaking the Rules, Again!

John 5:1-18; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Zechariah 7 

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’” (John 5:6-7 NKJV) 

There are rules to life. Things must be done decently and in order. The guy lying down at the healing pool known as Bethesda knew that, and the rules kept him from getting any relief. Only one could enter the pool after an angel stirred the water – and he was never fast enough. Imagine Tim Conway doing his old man shuffle at the 100 meter dash in the Olympics. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made well. The guy repeated the rule and Jesus scoffed at the regulations and told the guy to pick up his bed and get out of there. I’d have loved to see his reaction. Did he pick up his bed in faith so he could walk away, or was he thinking, “Sure, easy for you to say,” as he pushed himself from the ground to show Jesus that it couldn’t be done – only to realize that Jesus didn’t follow man-made rules when He blessed people with His power. 

A lot of religions are based on rules. You do this, you do that and bing! The deity has to do what you want him/her to do. Christianity’s a little better in general, but for some reason we stray from grace and start trying to follow those rules. We follow our rituals – well, y’all do. I’m a Baptist and we don’t have rituals. We have rutuals. Someone once quipped that the seven last words of the church are “We’ve never done it that way before.” Perhaps the guy at the pool had those words running through his mind before he picked up his mat. What would happen if God’s people stopped following the man-made rules that box us off from God and let God’s Holy Spirit do His work the way He wants to? I think we’d see an amazing revival of love for God.

Lord, break through my rule following lifestyle and work miraculously. Go beyond any human rules that keep us from fellowshipping with You and show the world Your greatness. 

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August 21 – Signs and Wonders, or Acts of Faith?

John 4:43-54; 1 Chronicles 17; Zechariah 6 

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’” (John 4:48 NKJV)

Jesus left the festival in Jerusalem and went back to Cana in Galilee. They accepted Him, because they had seen what He had done in Jerusalem. They had heard of, if not seen, His miracle at the wedding. And then, a man begged Jesus to heal his son. That’s when Jesus responded with what sounds like exasperation. Jesus wanted people to learn from His teaching and not depend on miracles, so perhaps we can understand His reaction there. I don’t think Jesus was exasperated with the father so much as those gathered around. I believe that some of them were whispering that maybe they’d found a miracle Jesus couldn’t perform. That’s all speculation of course, but it’s hard for me to believe that Jesus was that harsh with a distraught father. The healing itself was anticlimactic. Jesus told the guy to go home because his son was alive. And he was.

How often do I see people talking about seeking signs and miracles from God as an indication of their strong faith. One of the phrases I hear often is “putting out a fleece” in prayer as someone seeks God’s answer to a problem. They mention their test for God piously as if this test comes from great faith. Gideon laid out the fleece because he didn’t have faith that God was telling him something, and then, when God showed him what he was supposed to do, he repeated the fleece exercise only he changed the desired outcome. Given the word from God, and then two different confirmations, Gideon finally moved ahead. “Laying out a fleece” isn’t a sign of faith, it’s a sign of lack of faith. True faith was shown by this nobleman. Even though Jesus didn’t come when he asked, he believed Jesus when Jesus said his son would live. Rather than seeking signs and wonders as we come to God, let’s listen for His voice as we seek Him and obey His call.

Lord, it isn’t easy to know what You want from me. Let me hear Your voice clearly and then act in faith to do Your will.

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August 20 – All Religions Are the Same

John 4:27-42; 1 Chronicles 16:7-43; Zechariah 5

“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens.” (1 Chronicles 16:26 NKJV)

There is an innate desire in all people to find God. Pascal described that as a “God-shaped hole” in our inner being. Throughout history, people have sought to find God and that search has resulted in many different religions. Many of those religions see their god as so far above them, that they need to keep him/it happy. Sometimes, the gods were so capricious they sacrificed to bribe them from bothering them. There’s a sameness to all of these expressions, though. King David put that quite clearly: all those gods are idols – made up gods who have no power. Our God, the Lord, made the heavens. And yes, I’d extend His creative powers to the earth also. The difference is seen throughout the New Testament, but especially in the passage from John where the Samaritans believed because of what they heard first, but then their belief grew as they developed a relationship with Jesus. 

Religions may all be the same, but those who understand Christianity realize that it’s more than a religion – it’s a relationship. God often used the metaphor of marriage to talk about how He interacts with His people. Marriage, while it’s a contract, is so much more. I try to do a lot of things to please my wife – ok, not so much on the housework, but you know what I mean. I don’t do that because I’m hoping she’ll like me or that she won’t like me if I don’t do them. I’m not even worried that she’s going to taste the food I prepare for her and decide that she hates me because I can’t cook. We have a relationship built on love and trust, not on following a bunch of rules and regulations, nor even finishing “honey-do” lists. Such is our relationship with God. He broke down the barriers of sin so that we can have a relationship with Him. As a follower of Christ in a relationship with God, I do a lot of things to please Him. I don’t do them because I’m afraid I’m going to lose His love if I don’t, I do them because it’s a natural extension of the love I have for God in this amazing relationship. If you’re stuck in the grind of a religion without a relationship with God, come to Jesus and experience the joy of that relationship. If I can help you understand, please let me help.

Lord, thank You that I can celebrate my relationship with You without fear. Thank You for loving me even though I don’t deserve Your love. Thank You for grace and forgiveness that makes life worth living.

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August 19 – Taking the Road You Wouldn’t Normally Travel

John 4:1-26; 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:6; Zechariah 4

“But He needed to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4 NKJV) 

Samaria was on the road that led from Jerusalem to Galilee. That being said, no good Jew needed to go through Samaria. The normal route was to take the road to Jericho, cross the Jordan river, travel north in the Transjordan area until you got close to the Sea of Galilee and then cross the Jordan once again to head to Galilee. There was no earthly reason to go through Samaria. When God’s word says that Jesus needed to go through Samaria, you’d better believe that there’s an amazing reason – and there was. Jesus had a divine appointment with a woman at Jacob’s well.

Make no mistake. Jesus didn’t look at Google maps on His phone and tell the disciples, “Sorry guys, there’s some kind of commotion on the road to Jericho. Big mugging. Cops are questioning a Samaritan. We need to take the alternate route.” Jesus had to go through Samaria to meet that woman. Did you ever feel like God was calling you to do something completely crazy? Maybe you successfully ignored it and then looked back and congratulated yourself on not giving into that weird impulse. Perhaps you realized it was God leading you, but you didn’t tell anyone else, because they’d think you were crazy. However you respond, remember that God may call you to do the unimaginable so that you can share His love in ways that no one else could. Stay sensitive to God’s leading and your life will always be exciting1

Lord, lead me. Whether You lead me through Samaria or to my next door neighbor, let me sense Your leadership and obey when You call.

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August 18 – More Jesus

John 3:22-36; 1 Chronicles 13-14; Zechariah3

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV) 

John’s disciples and some of the Jewish leaders got into a dispute about the rules of purification. My guess, based on the wording in this section, is that the Jewish leaders tried to minimize John’s importance because people were going to that new guy, Jesus. John’s disciples didn’t like that idea and they went straight to John. If they expected assurance from John about their importance, they didn’t get it. In fact, John told them that it was supposed to happen that way. He knew that people needed to go to Jesus and stop following him. While we know that John had disciples who followed him up until the time of his death (Mark 6:29) John realized that his job had been to prepare the way for Jesus, and now, Jesus’s time had come.

It’s easy to grow accustomed to the applause – or so I’ve heard. We get on social media and want those likes and comments. We want people to recognize our greatness that often only our mothers recognize. (Or perhaps our spouses.) The problem with those desires, though, is that all we do should point people to Jesus. Like John, we must seek even greater things for Jesus, and less for ourselves. If you meet me and think I’m a great fellow, I haven’t made my priorities clear. If you meet me and marvel at the greatness of God, I’ve been successful. 

Lord, let all that I do point people to Your greatness. May my life be a beacon to draw people to You.

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August 17 – It Began at Night

John 3:1-21; 1 Chronicles 12; Zechariah2

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’” (John 3:1-2 NKJV)

At first glance, this seems like a simple story of a Pharisee seeking information from Jesus. As opposed to most of the Pharisees, he gives Jesus some respect. Unlike most of the other encounters with Jesus, though, we see Nicodemus three times throughout the gospel of John. In this first encounter, he visited Jesus in the darkness of night, and of his soul. While he shows respect, if not flattery toward Jesus, He responded by getting to the heart of the matter by telling Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. Later in this encounter Jesus explained that God’s love was so great that He loved the whole world – which would have left any Pharisee wondering.

Nicodemus is a picture of the natural progression of a person seeking God. We begin in the dark – lost in our sin. We know that there’s something better for us, but we’re not quite sure what to do to get it. We try to make nice to God so that maybe He’ll like us. If we search in the right place, we’ll discover that we need a new birth, a spiritual birth. We’ll discover that we don’t need to make God love us because He already loves us no matter what’s happened in the past, and that He offers forgiveness because of the sacrifice of Jesus. And, since we’re supposed to be imitating God, we’ll learn to love other people no matter who they are and no matter what they’ve done. This can only happen when we’re born again as children of God through a spiritual birth. If you haven’t developed that relationship with God yet, please feel free to contact me so that we can talk about how you can.

Lord, thank You for the gift of eternal life. Thank You that You broke through my barriers to show me how much You loved me and that You continue to do that to show others how much You love them. Help me to love others like You do.

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August 16 – What Can You Bring to God?

John 2; 1 Chronicles 10-11; Zechariah1

“And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’” (John 2:10 NKJV) 

This is a strange story from the book of John. At one time, I thought this came from Jesus’s younger days, because He told His mother that HIs time hadn’t come yet. (v. 4) A more careful reading reveals that His disciples were with Him. (vs. 11-12) Without getting into the whole “should we drink alcohol” discussion, we should note that this was real wine – a fine wine. It was better than the other wine served at the wedding. On the other hand, this was not Jesus teaching us that everybody must drink wine. I believe that there’s a deeper meaning to this story that’s followed quickly by Jesus cleansing the Temple. (Remember the campfire story concept?) It’s a living example that Jesus is greater than the prophets – all those who’ve gone before. The old ways of slavishly following the Law hoping somehow to gain favor with God are gone. The grace of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. 

Some have said that it’s natural for people to search for God. We all want to please God. Religions of all types have sprung up through the ages as people sought to please, or perhaps appease one deity or another. Even today, there are those who would seek to make God like them by doing good things or going to church. If you were to ask them why God should let them into heaven, they could recite a long explanation of how good they’ve been. Jesus offers us the new wine: a relationship with God based on grace. What makes the Christian faith different from religions is that we believe that God has reached out to develop a relationship with us. It’s not something we deserve, it’s what we’re given because God loves us so much. It’s a joy that we should want to share with others. We can do nothing “good enough” to get into heaven, but we can enter into a relationship with God because of His grace seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Lord, I come to You with nothing good and depend on Your amazing grace. As our relationship grows, though, let my thoughts, words, and deeds reflect Your love and grace to a dying world.

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August 15 – The Work of Priests in God’s Kingdom

John 1:35-51; 1 Chronicles 9; Haggai 1:1-2:23

For in this trusted office were four chief gatekeepers; they were Levites. And they had charge over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God. And they lodged all around the house of God because they had the responsibility, and they were in charge of opening it every morning.” (1 Chronicles 9:26-27 NKJV)

The Levites were God’s priests in ancient Israel. If you were to ask most people what the job of a priest was, though, you could get many different answers. I always thought that since worship revolved around the sacrifices, that the priests had the task of accepting and preparing the sacrifices. This passage in 1 Chronicles set me straight. There were loads of tasks that needed to be done in and around the Temple. Some opened the doors. Others brought out the vessels used. My guess is that they were in charge of washing the dishes later that night. Some made sure the furnishings were in good shape. Others prepared spices, baked, took care of the wine and the spices, and all the other little things that needed to be done that aren’t noticed, unless they aren’t done. Some were the singers whose only job was to sing, and they needed to do that all day long. While we might elevate the high priest in his position, we can’t minimize the work that each of these other priests did.

As we look at this idea from a Christian perspective, Peter taught us that we were all priests in God’s kingdom. Usually we hear that idea and we think about being the mediator so that others can come to know Jesus. That is so true, but it misses a large part of the jobs we have as priests in the church. To make a long list short, the work of a priest is anything done to further the work of God’s kingdom. Whether it be changing babies in the nursery, welcoming visitors, or preaching sermons inside the building. Whether it be parachurch work on college campuses, worship leader on the radio, or, as I humbly seek to be, a writer publishing guides to help people grow in their faith. Lest we think about looking down on any of the work done to promote the Kingdom of God, imagine what would happen if the custodians didn’t clean the church for a month. All those jobs, and more, are “priestly” vocations in the kingdom of God and should be treated with honor. Do what God called you to do in furthering His Kingdom and rejoice that what you do is important in building the kingdom – whether others see you or not.

Lord, Your Kingdom deserves the best from all Your followers – all Your priests. Empower me to serve in Your Kingdom and to approach each task with joyful expectation of how You will use it to grow Your Kingdom. 

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August 14 – Tearing Down the Sin Barrier

John 1:19-34; 1 Chronicles 7-8; Zephaniah 3

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29 NKJV) 

The religious leaders had been grilling John about who he thought he was. They asked if he thought he was the Messiah, which John denied. They asked if he was Elijah, which John also denied, but Jesus later confirmed. John pointed to Jesus, perhaps not even knowing who He was – just knowing that God had called him to prepare the way for the Messiah. Then, Jesus showed up. John shifted the attention from himself and pointed to Jesus. “This is the guy! He’s the one who’s going to to take away the sin of the world.”

There is a difference between “sin” and “sins.” Sins are those things we do that are contrary to God’s will for us. They keep us from experiencing all the joy of walking with God. They leave us with feelings of guilt and we act like Adam in the garden as he tried to hide from God. Jesus brought forgiveness from those sins. He did that by eliminating sin. Sin (no ‘s’) is the natural state of mankind living in separation from God. Living in the state of sin means that there is no possible way to develop a relationship with God. The sin barrier between man and God prevents us from communing with God. When Jesus came, He broke through that barrier and took away the sin of the world so that now we can have fellowship with God. God isn’t out to zap us for doing wrong. God wants to love and forgive us. Jesus broke the barrier and made that possible.

Lord, thank You for breaking down the barrier of Sin so that we could be forgiven. Thank You for allowing me to experience the joy of living with You each day.

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