New Year’s Eve Devotional

This week I want to share a devotional I wrote a few years ago about setting goals instead of making resolutions. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration as you face a New Year.

I pray you and your family have a safe holiday and a blessed and prosperous 2014.


Clean Dishes

Several years back, I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of making resolutions, I started writing out goals.

I have found that if I write down my goals, I have a much better chance of meeting them. I learned this quite by accident.

Several years back I was going through a tough time in my life and didn’t like who I was or how my life was unfolding. So I took some time and wrote down some changes I wanted to see in my life. Some of the changes were financial, some relational, some had to do with my career, some had to do with emotional healing. There were several items on the list.

For the first few weeks, I would go back and read over the list every day. Then it became more sporadic. Eventually I forgot all about the list.

A few years later while packing for a move, I was cleaning out a desk drawer and ran across a notebook. As I was glancing through it, I saw the list.

As I read through it, I was amazed. I had accomplished everything on the list! I had totally forgotten about the list. I had not thought about some of the items on the list since I last looked at it.

But somehow everything on the list had been accomplished.

Since then I have created a list of goals for each New Year. And though I haven’t always completed all of them, my track record is much better than it used to be when I made resolutions on New Year’s Eve that were forgotten by end of January.

But this year I may do something different.

I just read a blog that I follow regularly and it’s making me think.

The blog talked about NOT setting specific goals but instead making it your goal to be the best version of you in the coming year. To be the person you want to be—in every situation you find yourself next year.

Instead of setting goals and focusing on attaining them, your one goal is just to be—to be the best YOU you can be.

Not a bad idea.

SMART goals are the kind of goals we have to set in the workplace. Our goals have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. S.M.A.R.T.

However, if all I did on my job was what it took to meet my SMART goals, I wouldn’t be a very good employee. There’s a lot more to doing a good job than just achieving a list of goals.

I think that’s what the blog I read was talking about.

We can set goals and focus so intently on meeting those goals that we miss out on living life well.

We can become so focused on external measurements of who we are and what we do that we start believing what we’re measuring.

We either start believing we don’t measure up because we’re not meeting all our goals. Or we start believing we’ve reached the summit. Either place is dangerous because we’re determining our value based on what we do, not who we are. We’re focused on doing instead of being.

This problem hasn’t been created by our fast-paced, media-driven, technology-crazed 21st century society. It’s been around a long time.

In fact, Jesus addressed it on multiple occasions. One example is in Matthew 23.

Jesus is talking to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. These were the Jewish religious leaders of the day. And according to Jesus, they were only concerned with their appearance. They cared about how ‘good’ they looked. They did deeds that made them appear to be righteous in the people’s eyes.

But Jesus knew what they were really like. And He called them out on it.

In verse 25 He says, “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” In other words, you do whatever makes you look good on the outside.

These leaders were very focused on keeping the law. They followed the rules. They met their S.M.A.R.T. goals.

They were focused on external measurements and they believed what they measured.

But Jesus called them hypocrites, blind guides, snakes, a brood of vipers! In verse 23 he talks about how they fulfilled even the tiniest detail of the law but ignored more important matters like justice and mercy and faithfulness.

I think it’s very possible for me to do that.

In fact, I think I have done that. Maybe even this past year.

As I look over my list of goals for this past year, I am again blown away by how many I have accomplished. And none of them were evil goals. They were good goals. Things I’m proud to have done.

But that doesn’t mean I was the best me I could be. In fact, I think I may have been more focused on the externals than the internals.

And that’s NOT the goal I want to accomplish in the New Year.

Jesus has a remedy that He shared with those religious leaders in verse 26. He said, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Good advice. I think I’ll take it.

So for the next year, I’m going to focus on the internals. On becoming the best version of me.

I’m also going to set some goals. And I will write them down.

But my main goal is allowing Jesus to change me from the inside out, becoming the best version of ME, focusing on the internals and letting that spill over into the externals.

Like the cup and dish Jesus talked about.

Got any dishes you need to clean in the New Year?

© Rhonda Fleming, 2012

A Christmas Devotional – Joseph

Today I want to share with you a Christmas devotional I wrote a few years back that was published in an online magazine.

This devotional is about Joseph . . . but not the Old Testament Joseph we’ve been reading about the past few months. This is about the New Testament Joseph, part of the Christmas story.

I hope you enjoy this devotional and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.


What a Character!

There’s nothing like a Christmas pageant to get me in the Christmas spirit. I think it’s the humanity infused into such a divine story that does it, that brings it down to my level and reminds me that this isn’t just a story about heavenly angels, although they’re included. And it’s not just about God, although He’s definitely the main character. This story is about people. People being invited by God into His Story. And the invitation is repeated every time the story is repeated.

This year I’ve discovered a character in the Christmas story that I’ve overlooked in the past. He rarely has lines in pageant scripts. He doesn’t have any superhero actions to perform. And I don’t remember the spotlight ever being aimed at him alone.

But this year I’m amazed by how I’ve underestimated this character for so long.

I’m talking about Joseph.

It’s no wonder he’s gone unnoticed. Good grief. He’s married to the Virgin Mary and he’s the temporary, stand-in step-Dad for One-Third of the Holy Trinity. It would be almost impossible to stand out in that family!

But I think he does. At least I do now.

In most of the Christmas pageants I’ve seen or been a part of, any ol’ Joe could play the part of Joseph. As long as you looked good in a bathrobe and could sport a non-descript facial expression and carry a lantern, you could play the part. If the pageant was really in-depth, you might have to say one line: “His name is Jesus.” So even if the ‘first string’ Joe doesn’t show, just about any guy in the audience could step into the role.

But not in the real story.

I’ve been reading the Christmas story again recently. I started in Matthew 1 and Joseph got my attention immediately. Not sure why after all these years I’m focused on him, but I’m beginning to see why God chose this man.

I used to think God chose Joseph because here was a guy who didn’t have a problem playing second fiddle. And I do think that was part of the reason. I’m sure Joseph was humbled that God chose him to play this role. But I think more than likely Joseph was chosen because he was already humble.

And righteous. And just. And upright. And tender. And responsive. And responsible. And brave. And self-controlled. And honorable. And respectful.

Through Matthew’s gospel, I’m starting to get a glimpse of the kind of person Joseph was and possibly some of the reasons God chose him.

You probably know the story. Joseph and Mary are engaged to be married. In their time and culture, an engaged couple doesn’t break up as easily or as often as it happens today. In fact, for them to break an engagement was similar to getting a divorce today.

So when Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant, it’s a HUGE deal. Because Joseph knows it’s not his baby. And if it’s not his baby, then it has to be somebody else’s. Which means that apparently Mary isn’t the person she claimed to be, nor who her friends and family – and Joseph – believed her to be.

So now Joseph has a decision to make.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been betrayed. Let me rephrase that. I don’t know how many times you’ve been betrayed. I believe it happens to everyone who lives very long.

Betrayal hurts. A lot. And I think the basic human response to betrayal is justice. And – speaking for myself here – not necessarily God’s loving justice. I don’t know about you, but when I’m betrayed, I want things made right—for everyone to see.

And I have to believe Joseph felt that way, too. At least for a while. Somewhere deep down inside.

But that’s not how he responded. Even though he had every right to. In fact, based on their laws, Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death in public for her “indiscretion.”

But he didn’t.

His planned response was more toward the other end of the spectrum. Joseph was going to divorce Mary secretly. Privately. He was not going to bring shame or disgrace to Mary by making a public spectacle of her.

Joseph laid aside his rights in order to spare Mary any more humiliation than she would already have to experience.

In the face of seeming ultimate betrayal, Joseph thought of Mary and her predicament above his own desire for retaliation or revenge.

Remind you of anyone?

Say, someone on a cross?

Someone who laid aside HIS rights? Someone who bore shame and disgrace so his betrayers wouldn’t have to?

Joseph definitely has my vote to play his part in The Story. Not only is he a gentle man, humble, and others-focused, but check out what happens next.

God sends a messenger to Joseph. He tells Joseph to not be afraid to marry Mary. That the baby is God’s Son and will be the Savior of the world. And that Joseph should name the baby Jesus.

And Joseph does.

Joseph listens to God, believes God, and obeys what God tells him to do.

No matter what things look like.

No matter what people say.

No matter what it costs him.

And years later, Jesus obeys His Heavenly Father.

No matter what things look like.

No matter what people say.

No matter what it costs him.

Because of the kind of person I’m discovering Joseph to be, I believe Jesus learned a lot more than carpentry in his earthly father’s workshop.

I don’t think God could have chosen anyone better to play Joseph’s role in God’s Story.

This year, I’m shining the spotlight on Joseph. I think there’s a lot I can learn from this character.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2010

A Christmas Devotional – Gabriel

Well, the Christmas season is here. I love this time of year. I love the celebrations and the food and the time I get to spend with friends and family.

But mainly I love the story. The Christmas story. It just never gets old. And there are so many lessons we can learn from it.

Today I want to share a devotional I wrote a couple of years ago. It’s about the angel Gabriel and his part in the Christmas story.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with a Christmas devotional about Joseph . . . the New Testament Joseph.


Gabriel and the Two How’s

Gabriel really racked up the air miles in the first chapter of Luke. He was sent to Earth twice to share special birth announcements. Well, they were actually conception announcements. Both were pretty unusual. And the recipients’ responses to the announcements seem very similar. But Gabriel’s reactions to their responses were very different. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

The first announcement is to Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest who was married to Elizabeth. According to Luke, they both followed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They were an upstanding Jewish couple. But that was the problem. They were just a couple. No kids. And they were OLD.

One day when Zechariah’s priest division was on duty, he was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense. That’s where things got interesting. An angel appeared to Zechariah and scared him half to death. The angel told him not to be afraid. But more importantly he told him that his prayer had been heard. That his wife Elizabeth was going to become pregnant and have a son!

The angel then goes into detail about what they’re to name him and how they’re to raise him and the role he would play in God’s plan.

Zechariah’s response to all this is a question. A ‘how’ question. He asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Something about Zechariah’s question doesn’t sit well with the angel. He replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” He goes on to explain that because Zechariah didn’t believe him, Zechariah wouldn’t be able to speak until everything Gabriel had told him came true.

When he left the temple, Zechariah couldn’t even explain to the other priests what had just happened.

Zechariah went home and sure enough, Elizabeth became pregnant.

Just like Gabriel said.

And Zechariah still couldn’t speak.

Just like Gabriel said.

Now for Gabriel’s conversation with Mary.

Six months after the Zechariah trip, God sends Gabriel back to Earth. This time to Nazareth, to carry a message to a girl named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph.

Gabriel appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

I think it’s interesting that Mary isn’t startled by Gabriel’s sudden appearance like Zechariah was. However, she was confused by how he greeted her. So he explained it to her. He told her his greeting was a good thing. He told her that God had chosen her for a special assignment. That she was going to become pregnant, have a son, and name him Jesus. And that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High and that his kingdom would never end.

And just like Zechariah, Mary responds to Gabriel with a ‘how’ question. “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

But Gabriel’s response to Mary is very different than his response to Zechariah. Gabriel actually explains to Mary ‘how’ things are going to happen. ‘How’ she is going to become pregnant even though she’s a virgin. He even goes on to tell her that Elizabeth, who is Mary’s relative, is pregnant.

And then Gabriel makes one of my favorite statements in the entire Bible. He says, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I have a feeling it became one of Mary’s favorites, too.

Okay. Those are the two stories. And the two ‘how’ questions. And Gabriel’s absolutely opposite responses.

Now I just have one question.


Why did Gabriel silence Zechariah for nine months for asking ‘how’? But six months later when Mary asks ‘how’, why did he explain everything to her?

Gabriel hasn’t appeared to me recently [or ever!] so I haven’t been able to ask him. But after looking closely at these two scenarios and the two questions, I came up with an answer to my ‘why’ that satisfies my curiosity. At least for now.

I took a closer look at Zechariah’s question. Zechariah wasn’t really asking how he and Elizabeth were going to have a son after all these years. Zechariah was asking for a sign. I think he was saying: an angel appearing to me and telling me that God has heard the prayer I’ve been praying for decades and that He is now going to answer it, isn’t quite enough for me. Telling me that my wife is going to have a boy and that we’re to name him John and explaining the role he will play in God’s plan, doesn’t exactly convince me that it’s really going to happen. I need something more.

Whoa. I think Zechariah had lost sight of something very important.


And I think he had forgotten how important faith is to God.

Zechariah was very good at following the rules, but somewhere along the way, he had forgotten that what pleases God is faith—believing without seeing any evidence. And apparently asking for more evidence right after God sends an angel direct from His throne to share good news with you, isn’t a real smart move.

I don’t need to criticize Zechariah. I’m pretty sure I’ve been exactly where he was.

I think Zechariah’s . . . and Elizabeth’s . . . hearts had been broken several times over the years. Probably several times a year . . . for many years. Their dreams of having a family had been crushed. They had lived for decades with the shame of being childless. This upstanding Jewish couple, who followed every command and regulation God had given, lived in disgrace among their friends and relatives because they couldn’t get pregnant.

I wonder how many calluses were on their hearts. Is it even possible to keep a tender heart while living for decades in their situation?

When Zechariah doesn’t immediately jump on the baby bandwagon with Gabriel, it may have been out of self-protection. I don’t think Zechariah wanted to get his hopes up again . . . and run the risk of having them crushed again.

And I really don’t think Zechariah wanted to get Elizabeth’s hopes up again. I’m sure he had watched his wife’s heart break more times than he could count. So before he went home and told Elizabeth what Gabriel said, Zechariah wanted to be sure Gabriel knew what he was talking about. And as it turned out, he couldn’t tell Elizabeth anyway. Because Zechariah had been given the sign he requested.

Now to Mary’s question.

I think Gabriel answered Mary’s question because her question was a real ‘how’ question: How is this going to happen?

In fact, I wonder if Mary was asking an even bigger question.

A question I need to ask.

A question you may want to ask, too.

I wonder if Mary was saying:

  • I understand what’s going to happen—I’m going to get pregnant and have a very special baby.
  • Here is my current situation—I’m a virgin and not planning to get married immediately.
  • So, what is my role in this scenario? What, if anything, do I need to do differently in order for God’s plan to be accomplished in my life?

I wonder if that’s what Mary was really asking, because that seems to be the question Gabriel answered.

Gabriel told her how God was going to do something miraculous with her life.

But he didn’t tell her that she needed to do anything differently. Apparently she just needed to keep doing what she was doing. She didn’t need to go ahead and marry Joseph in order to get pregnant. She just needed to keep living her life, believing God, and remaining open to whatever adventure God brought her.

Mary’s role was to continue doing the possible part of the plan. God would take care of the impossible part.

And He did!

And He still does.

I think I need to spend some time with God and ask Him Mary’s question: What, if anything, do I need to do differently in order for Your plan to be accomplished in my life?

And then I need to listen.

And then I need to do my part—the possible part. And watch God do the rest.

For nothing is impossible with God!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2011

Life of Joseph – Part 21 – Stepping into his Destiny

Last week Joseph shared the interpretation of a couple of very strange dreams Pharaoh had. The dreams warned of a future famine . . . one that could potentially devastate Egypt.

However, Joseph didn’t stop there. He went on to share with Pharaoh and his officials a detailed, 14-year plan for keeping Egypt from starving during the coming famine.

Pharaoh and his officials were impressed with the plan . . . and with Joseph. And after getting their approval, Pharaoh gave Joseph  responsibility for running the program he just outlined. With all the authority Pharaoh handed Joseph, he was second-in-command over the entire country.

What a promotion!

Don’t miss the important question I ask below! I think it’s a great one to think about as we head into 2014.


Here are today’s verses:

Genesis 41:33-40 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

33 So now let Pharaoh seek out and provide a man discreet, understanding, proficient, and wise and set him over the land of Egypt [as governor].

34 Let Pharaoh do this; then let him select and appoint officers over the land, and take one-fifth [of the produce] of the [whole] land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years [year by year].

35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and lay up grain under the direction and authority of Pharaoh, and let them retain food [in fortified granaries] in the cities.

36 And that food shall be put in store for the country against the seven years of hunger and famine that are to come upon the land of Egypt, so that the land may not be ruined and cut off by the famine.

37 And the plan seemed good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants.

38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find this man’s equal, a man in whom is the spirit of God?

39 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Forasmuch as [your] God has shown you all this, there is nobody as intelligent and discreet and understanding and wise as you are.

40 You shall have charge over my house, and all my people shall be governed according to your word [with reverence, submission, and obedience]. Only in matters of the throne will I be greater than you are.


Here are the truths I found in today’s passage. For me they seem very business-oriented, probably because of where I am in life right now. However, they are also appropriate in other areas of life. I’d love to hear how they apply to you.

– Don’t go to your superior, partner, client or prospect with a problem unless you also bring a potential solution.

– Don’t allow the power and position of others in the room to intimidate you and keep you from being all you were created to be, from saying what you need to say, or from taking on a challenge when given an opportunity.

– Even when in a high position, a wise leader gets input from and listens to his/her team before making big decisions . . . especially decisions about hiring another team member.

– Giving God credit for your gifts and talents can increase the value your superiors see in you . . . and in turn can increase the authority they entrust to you . . . even if they’re not believers!


Where would Joseph have ended up that day . . .

– if he had only interpreted Pharaoh’s dream because he was too intimidated by Pharaoh and his officials to share the solution with them?

– if he had shared it but then said no, I’m not Egyptian or I don’t have as much experience as other people here . . . let one of them run the program?

– if he did not have the reputation of being a good slave in Potiphar’s house? a model prisoner in the dungeon? always eager to take on more responsibility?

– if he had not been preparing himself . . . even as a slave and prisoner . . . to fulfill the dreams that God had given him earlier in his life?

Personally, I think Joseph could easily have been sent immediately back to prison. However, because he came to Pharaoh cleaned up and looking more like an official than a prisoner, humbly told Pharaoh God’s interpretation of his dreams, shared a very workable plan to save Egypt from the coming famine, was not intimidated in a meeting full of men used to being in the presence of Pharaoh, and was willing to take responsibility for administering the solution he presented, Joseph never went back to prison. In fact, everything about Joseph’s lifestyle changed from that day forward.

So, how well prepared are we for what God has planned in 2014? We need to get ready! It’s going to be an exciting year.

Application Questions:

– How often do I just share a problem without also bringing a potential solution?

– How often have I allowed the power and position of other people in the room to intimidate me? How much wisdom have I not shared? How often have I “played down” and not been all I could be? Why? What has it cost me?

– When could sharing my wisdom and discernment have helped someone make a better decision than they made?

– When have I made decisions without asking for input from those around me?

– When have I failed to give God credit? Why? What has it cost me?

Life of Joseph – Part 20 – Joseph’s Big Opportunity

This next passage is really long. I moved it to the end so it doesn’t distract those who aren’t in the mood don’t have time to read that much.

Today . . . FINALLY . . . Joseph gets the big opportunity he’s been waiting for. He’s been pulled out of prison for an audience with Pharaoh. He’s cleaned himself up and shaved and put on clean clothes.

But that’s just the “outside.” God has been preparing Joseph “inside” for this moment since he was born. He’s been having dreams and interpreting dreams and learning to maneuver the minefields of politics and family dynamics his entire life.

He has known for years that God’s plan for his life was bigger than anything he’d seen so far. And it looks like today’s opportunity is finally a step in the right direction.

If you’re not familiar with this part of the story or if you want to refresh your memory, you can read today’s passage a little further down. If not, here are the truths and application questions I saw in these verses.


– We need to give God credit for how He works through us–even when someone in authority blatantly gives us the credit.

– God sometimes gives prophetic dreams to people who don’t even know Him.

– There are times when God’s plans can be changed by people’s repentance (Jonah’s story), but sometimes His plans are firmly decided and we just need to prepare.

Application Questions:

– When have I allowed someone to give me credit for something God did through me?

– What dreams has God given me about my future?

– What am I doing to prepare for what God has shown me He’s going to do? What else do I need to do to prepare?


Genesis 41:15-32 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it; and I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream and interpret it.

16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, It is not in me; God [not I] will give Pharaoh a [favorable] answer of peace.

17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood on the bank of the river [Nile];

18 And behold, there came up out of the river [Nile] seven fat, sleek, and handsome cows, and they grazed in the reed grass [of a marshy pasture].

19 And behold, seven other cows came up after them, undernourished, gaunt, and ugly [just skin and bones; such emaciated animals] as I have never seen in all of Egypt.

20 And the lean and ill favored cows ate up the seven fat cows that had come first.

21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be detected and known that they had eaten them, for they were still as thin and emaciated as at the beginning. Then I awoke. [But again I fell asleep and dreamed.]

22 And I saw in my dream, and behold, seven ears [of grain] growing on one stalk, plump and good.

23 And behold, seven [other] ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them.

24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears. Now I told this to the magicians, but there was no one who could tell me what it meant.

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, The [two] dreams are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.

26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears [of grain] are seven years; the [two] dreams are one [in their meaning].

27 And the seven thin and ill favored cows that came up after them are seven years, and also the seven empty ears [of grain], blighted and shriveled by the east wind; they are seven years of hunger and famine.

28 This is the message just as I have told Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.

29 Take note! Seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt are coming.

30 Then there will come seven years of hunger and famine, and [there will be so much want that] all the great abundance of the previous years will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and hunger (destitution, starvation) will exhaust (consume, finish) the land.

31 And the plenty will become quite unknown in the land because of that following famine, for it will be very woefully severe.

32 That the dream was sent twice to Pharaoh and in two forms indicates that this thing which God will very soon bring to pass is fully prepared and established by God.