Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 – Dec 31 – Battling Strongholds … continued

Passage for Study: 1st Corinthians 6: 12 - 14 … 12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

Secondary passage: 1st Peter 5: 6 – 11 … 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

My Journal for Today: When I read and pray and meditate upon 1st Peter 5: 8, I realize that Satan is stalking me like a lioness stalks a flock of sheep in the wilderness, trying to roar or to allow his scent to drift downwind to the flock so that the lion can frighten or distract me from staying close to the Shepherd. Being part of Christ’s flock, Jesus is, of course, my Good Shepherd; and it behooves me to do all I can to stay close to Him and not allow my stalking enemy to distract me or to frighten me in some way which would separate me from my Shepherd.

And I believe that was Paul’s desire for Christians when he penned Romans 12: 1 – 2, a passage I hope you have memorized in your mind and deeply internalized into your heart. So, I am assuming that you know this passage [if you don’t let me link you to it here]; and I hope you realize what Paul was exhorting Christians (i.e., you and me) to live out our lives as worship to our Savior, separating ourselves from worldliness and fleshly living; doing all we can to let God’s Spirit transform our minds so that our lives will “… prove what is that good and perfect will of God.”

In that regard, I have decided to document those elements of my life [my habits, choices, and disciplines] which I believe God’s Spirit is using to shape me into Christlikeness. I know that I have become lax or complacent in some of these during the latter part of 2009; and moving into the New Year, it’s a good time to be doing an inventory of my habit patterns and doing what I can (or should) to form stronger covenants of commitment to my Lord, … doing those things which will prevent me from being separated from God’s flock as well as those behaviors which I pray will be viewed by others as Christ’s light shining in the darkness.

Therefore, for the next 40 days, beginning tomorrow, I will do a “40 days of purpose,” documenting the elements of my life I believe God has shown me will keep me close to the Shepherd and protect me from my stalking enemy. I’ll be praying that making these daily choices and carrying out these disciplines will bind me more closely to my Savior and build up my full armor (those elements brought out in Ephesians 6: 13-18). When I complete these 40 days of habit formation [or reformation], I am praying that these committed behaviors will launch me into the new year, allowing me to become that “living sacrifice” of daily worship spoken of in Romans 12: 1 – 2.

And if anyone reading here would like to join me, you can read each day as I journal/blog my daily devotionals, for at least the first 40 days of 2010, I will be documenting my previous day’s behavioral log. In this way, I hope to be accountable for what I’m committing to do in these first 40 days of 2010. Let me pray for those of us who desire to solidify our choices and become more like Christ into this New Year.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, we who love You are weak, in an of ourselves, to do something like this; but I know You desire that Your Spirit shape us into Your image. So, Lord, I pray that You pour out Your enabling grace, giving me and my dear friends Your power to do these things for Your glory. And we pray that what we’re doing in these 40 days will be our worship of living sacrifice FOR YOU; and, may heaven forbid, we don’t do these things for our own glory. We so want to be like You, Lord; and so, let our choices and behaviors shine Your light into the world. Help us, dear Lord! Amen

Blogger’s note: Below you’ll see the listing of the behaviors/habits, God’s Spirit has led me to commit to 40 days of purpose into the New Year. Please don’t use this as your inventory/list unless God so leads you to use something from my list for your own edification or commitments to God. I’m simply going to be reporting my 40 days of discipline so that God Spirit can mold (or remold) me into His image. <’BB><

40 Days of Covenant and Commitment: My desire with this daily documentation of events in my day is to do the things I believe will honor my Lord, build Godly habits which shine Christ’s light into the world, and allow God, the Holy Spirit to shape me into Christlikeness. I pray that I’m not just doing a checklist of good things to make me look good in the eyes of my fellow Christians, but rather I am doing these things to worship my Lord and to be that “living sacrifice” of Romans 12:1-2, separating myself from the world, my own flesh, and the ways Satan would lead me to follow him.
Previous Day … Date – 1/1/10
Element, Discipline, Behavior ... Completed=X ... [Comments in brackets]
Prayer on awakening
AM meds and supplements
Sinus rinse
Blood Glucose Level
AM Devotional Bible Reading
AM Devotional book study
AM Devotional Prayer
AM Devotional Journaling
AM Devotional Posting (online)
Dental Care (brushing, flossing)
Pool Exercising [>30 minutes]
BPM Online Ministry
Email processing
Calories below 1500
Fat Grams below 60

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 – Dec 30 – Battling Strongholds

Blogger’s Note: As I posted yesterday, I have completed Chuck Swindoll’s devotional book; and I have a devotional plan for 2010 to read through the Bible using a daily chronological bible and a companion devotional book (more on that on 1/1/10). However, there are two more days remaining in 2009; and I simply will not allow myself a devotional “vacation” in these two days. So, I prayed this morning for guidance, and the passages to which I’m referring below came to my mind; and I think I know why God, the Holy Spirit led me to these scriptures, about which I’ll explain below. So, please bear with me as I get a bit personal in my devotionals on these two days.

Passage for Study: 1st Corinthians 6: 12 - 14 … 12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

Secondary passage: 1st Peter 5: 6 – 11 … 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

My Journal for Today: To any dear one who might be reading this, … I needed a devotional to help me fill these two days; and so, as I said above, I prayed, remembering God’s truth in James 1: 5 – 6, that He will pour out His wisdom and will for any who diligently seek His truth. And I believe He’s done just that. Right now in my life, I’m dealing with a long-standing stronghold of sinfulness; and I need God’s power and grace to deal with a stronghold of habitual sinfulness in my life. So, coming to my Savior as instructed by 1st Peter 5: 7 (see above), I’m seeking God’s help to battle this sin in my life.

Some of you may know my testimony of God’s deliverance from years of habitual sexual sin before I became a Christian. Well, I now walk in freedom from the horrors of that pattern of sinfulness. If you don’t know my testimony and would like to read it, you can take this link [ ] and read it. However, I want to journal this morning about another beachhead of sin in my life, one which I’m battling currently and with which I have struggled for most of my life. And that stronghold is GLUTTONY.

My friends, I have an obsessive-compulsive personality; and all my life I’ve been the chubby kid who has dealt with gluttony and overeating. When I was a kid I hated having to wear “husky” jeans. As a teen, athletics helped me to fight my tendency to become overweight; but as I moved into adulthood, I let myself go until I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes a little over 10 years go. God, in his providence/mercy then led me to a research study being conducted by the university where I’m on the faculty. They needed diabetic subjects for a longitudinal study of the effects of weight loss on type 2 diabetes. So, seven years ago, coming under the accountability of the study, I lost 47 pounds; and, to a great degree, I have been able to keep the weight off with a variety of programs provided by the study. However, in the latter part of 2009, I began slipping to where I’ve gained about 10 of those pounds back; and I find myself falling back into some of my old sinful patterns of off-schedule eating aand night-time snacking, as well as an inability to exercise the way I’ve disciplined myself due to a shoulder injury (which will require surgery soon).

Well, this morning I was praying, as Paul must’ve prayed for his “thorn” to be removed (see 2nd Cor. 12). I also prayed that God would give me some serious conviction and direction for these two days of devotionals for my morning journaling [having finished the Swindoll devotional book]. And faithfully, God, the Holy Spirit, bubbled the two passages above into my consciousness; and I’m here to confess today my conviction of sinfulness; and then tomorrow I will report where God is leading me to develop a “battle plan” to let Him empower me with His grace to become the overcomer He desires for me in this arena of my life.

I don’t know whether any of you will read and identify with my struggles with eating and body stewardship; but I know – and need to confess here - that my body is a Temple given to me which God can use for His glory, … but only when I’m obedient to keep His Temple clean and orderly [see 1st Cor. 6: 19]. So, God has got me under conviction to clean out this slovenly pattern of gluttony in my life; and to get His Temple back into order. I’ll tell you about where I’m going tomorrow; but today, if you can identify with the need to be more rigorous and deal with a pattern of habitual or recurring sin in your life, mediate on the passages above; and pray (as in James 1: 5-6) for God’s wisdom and His clear will to provide you with His enabling and empowering grace to move you where you should go in 2010.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are leading me; and I will follow Your will and Your way in the area of body stewardship. Shine Your light brightly so that my murky mind can follow You. Amen

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 – Day 362.Dec 29 – Rationalization

Blogger’s Note: Today’s entry is the last one in Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s book, Great Days with the Great Lives. I cannot explain why there does not appear to be 365 days of devotionals in the book. However, because of this publishing glitch, I’m going to have to let God lead me to two more devotional subjects to close out 2009 because I don’t want to begin my 2010 devotional project (about which I’ll explain in January) until the first day in January. However, today’s entry is one with which I believe we can all identify and from which we can relearn, repent, and be renewed.


Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 15 … 1st Samuel 15 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: If you’re following me here, BE SURE to go back and read through the entire true story in 1st Samuel 15 BEFORE you read the remainder of what I’m about to write in my journal entry for today; and see if you aren’t personally convicted by Saul’s sin and his RATIONALIZATION of the sinful choices he made.

So, … I’m assuming that you’ve followed my instructions and have read the entire chapter in question BEFORE reading this. If you did not, though I’m certainly not God, Who commanded Saul in very specific language what to do after God allowed him to defeat the Amalekites, I wonder how you’re rationalizing the shortcut you have made in reading on without following through with my humble request to read the entire chapter BEFORE reading on to this point. If you did go back and read the entire chapter, as I instructed, “Way to go!” And I thank you for respecting my wishes.

But I am Bill Berry, not God! And if you rationalized your choice to read on, ignoring my request to go back and read ALL of Chapter 15, … well, you’re not going to have to deal with God in this matter – that is, unless God also was leading you to follow my instructions and you had the temerity to ignore God’s will as well as mine. But we all have likely done what Saul did in this story, haven’t we? A lot of the time in life, we clearly know what is right and wrong; and we go ahead anyway and make wrong choices, don’t we? And then we rationalize those is some selfish way, trying to convince ourselves that what we did is somehow okay in God’s eyes. And I believe this pattern of “situational ethics,” which leads to rationalization, is becoming an epidemic in the world today.

I’ve heard it said, “To RATIONALIZE is to perpetuate “RATIONAL LIES.” And that’s exactly what Saul tried to do, … did he not? But Samuel wouldn’t let Saul get away with those pathetic and selfish attempts to hold out on God. And I hope you noticed that God reached an end to His patience and mercy with regard to Saul’s sin and his rationalization. And even though Saul weakly tried to ask for God’s forgiveness, God was so grieved over this egregious act and cover-up that the Lord moved to replace him with David as King.

My friend, it is true that God is a God of second, third, or fourth chances; and His mercy is new everyday [see Lam. 3: 22, 23]; but apparently God did not see true repentance in the attempts at forgiveness Saul tried to make before God; because the Lord turned away from Saul. We Christians, now that Christ has died for our sins and has become our Redeemer, have the promise that God will never forsake a true believer [see Heb. 13: 5] and that true repentance will always lead to cleansing from sin [see 1st John 1: 9]. That’s why I believe that being omniscient, God saw through Saul’s anemic attempt at rationalized forgiveness, knowing that Saul was incapable of true repentance.

My dear one, I don’t know just what God sees in my heart; but I do know that He will turn away from my rationalized attempts to be forgiven if my heart is not truly repentant. Repentance requires action decisions to turn away and walk away from sin and to seek and pursue righteousness. Only when we are straight up with God and we reject the RATIONAL LIES, which our sin-ridden heart (see Jer. 17: 9) will want to perpetuate, can we truly and humbly repent and receive the cleansing and enabling grace which is promised by 2nd Cor. 12: 9. Only then will we, with vulnerability and honesty, turn to God and away from our sin nature.

I pray for us in that regard …

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us – HELP ME – to reject rationalization and to humbly seek to be real and honest before Your throne of grace, knowing that obedience and humility are the keys to Your enabling grace which allows us to overcome our sinfulness in Your Name and for Your glory. Amen

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 – Day 361.Dec 28 – Accountability

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 13: 1 – 15 … 1st Sam. 13 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today’s text, which we’ve looked at in past days when we were studying David’s character, is an account of foolishness prevailing over faithfulness. It is an account of our sin nature not being checked by Godly accountability.

Saul failed in three areas. First, it was God’s way to prevent a Hebrew King from taking on the role of Priest and offering up sacrifices for the nation. That was God’s ordained role for only His anointed Priesthood. Secondly, Israel’s first king ignored his covenant with Samuel to wait until Samuel arrived before proceeding with preparation for battle with the Philistines. Saul panicked and rushed ahead, demonstrating his lack of faith and his desire to placate his own fears rather than to surrender to God’s will in this matter. And finally, Saul felt compelled to trust himself and to view the world horizontally, from a human viewpoint, rather than vertically, trusting in God for deliverance.

Saul saw his earthly army evaporating before his eyes; and he panicked. And this was like the Hebrew people who selfishly demanded a King to keep up with all those countries in the Middle East at the time who had kings who appeared so strong in their eyes. And these were God’s people who had forgotten their history of deliverance by God from their own sinfulness over and over and over again, from Moses delivering God’s people from Egypt down through all those times of deliverance from themselves which we read about in the Book of Judges.

How often are we like Saul, ignoring our accountability before God and going off on our own, trying to do things foolishly rather than faithfully following God and doing things in His will rather than our own? And my friend, do you have a “Samuel” in your life, one who helps you remain accountable to God and His will, faithfully confronting you when you have blown it or when you are being a selfish or sinful fool? We are human; and in our humanity, we need to be surrounded by strong and faithful accountability partners or groups, who help to see things from the vertical, Godly perspective, rather than the horizontal, selfish world view.

My friends, over the years, with the help of God’s word, a mentor, and other co-disciples, I have been fortunate to surround myself with a number of groups and individuals who will always keep me looking outward and upward rather than going inward, which is my default, human “M.O.” Without these accountability partners and groups, I’m convinced that I would not be able to resist my “Saulish” tendencies. And God has also brought some fellow believers into my life whom I can help in this way as well. We, as growing Christians all need a Samuel to follow; and prayerfully as maturing Christians, we also can be Samuels to others as well, … all of us working together to remain accountable to God’s will.

Dear one, we all must recognize that we’re vulnerable, as was Saul, to be impatient and selfish. It is our human heart and flesh operating (see Jer. 17: 9 -linked). Satan and his world are ever ready to pour gas on the flames of our fleshly desires, moving us to do things the way of the world rather than God’s way. So, we all need agents of ACCOUNTABILITY in our lives to help keep us on the path God would have us walk, that narrow path to glory that many fewer walk than that wider path to hell which is so popular in our world.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray for all who read here to follow Your Light and to walk in Your direction, ever following You to glory. Help us to help one anther be accountable to Your ways, the ways of truth spelled out in Your word. Amen

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 – Day 360.Dec 27 – Sad Day

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 10 – 11 … 1st Sam. 10 – 11 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Well, … the Hebrew people got what they wanted, … a regal and proud warrior, a physically good looking man, and a charismatic leader. And they ushered him in as their king, giving over to him the allegiance and worship which had been due to God Himself. It seemed as if this was the crowning glory of Israel. It seemed that this man, Saul, was the one to bring Israel together and result in the change and glory that they had once had when Moses led them out of Egypt and Joshua consolidated the Hebrew nations, taking them into the Promised Land.

In 1st Samuel 10 – 11, it would seem that Israel had ushered in the glory days; but from God’s perspective, this was one of Israel’s saddest seasons. And as we know when we read ahead in God’s word, we can read of how God, Who had allowed His Spirit to be on Saul for a season in giving the people a king and the kind of king they desired, would retract His Spirit, and allow Saul’s sin nature to come to the surface, which led to chaos, confusion, and consuming degradation. Because of Saul’s impatience, rebellion, jealousy, and all-consuming pride, Saul, as Swindoll points out, “… shriveled into a twisted, maniacal, pathetic figure. … No one (in those days) could see it; … but slowly and ever so surely [evil] polluted the waters of [Saul’s] mind and soiled his soul.”

As Swindoll closes his devotional entry for today, he speculates on what the prime qualities of leadership are which you’d look for if you were trying to elevate someone to become the CEO of your company; and the prime one he pointed to was MODESTY, which I believe evolves out of a combination HUMILITY and MEEKNESS. These qualities in a leader are the only character adjectives Jesus ever used (in the NT) to describe Himself (see Matthew 11: 29 in the AMP version); and so, our God incarnate, has given us, by self proclamation and example, the prime qualities we should look for when vote for our leaders. And one must ask himself/herself, “Have we done so these days, when, in looking for change, we voted for a President who promised he would bring change to our land. He’s physically good looking; and he’s charismatic. He seems to promise that America can lead the world into a new realm of glory.

However, do we now have that leader, one who has the modesty, humility, and meekness which are Christlike and will be able to bring us the protection and leadership which brought America into prominence in the past? Or have we elected a pride-driven leader who is consumed with power and will not allow God’s Spirit to lead him to follow the only source of power Who can bring our land back to the grace we once knew which glorified God and God alone? I’ll let you speculate and answer that question for yourself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive us for where we have taken this land. And I implore Your mercy in this season of change, which, if we continue on this course, will bring Your wrath of separation from us. I know You, by your promises of Deut. 31: 6 and Hebrews 13: 5, won’t abandon Your remnant, Lord; so we pray patiently, as You’ve instructed in 2nd Chron. 7: 14, for Your healing to come to our land. Amen

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 – Day 359.Dec 26 – Striving to Be Like Someone Else

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 8 – 9 … 1st Sam. 8 – 9 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: I hope you have duly read the two chapters toward which Swindoll has pointed his readers this morning; because in this historical account of the times of Israel just before the establishment of their first human king, we read of how God’s people, over and over again, just couldn’t learn from their own foibles. It was also interesting to see that neither did Samuel learn the parenting lessons we’ve been driving home the last couple of days. … No, just like his former mentor Eli, Samuel’s sons turned out to be bad apples too; and because of this and the discontent of the Hebrew people, especially their desire to be like all the other nations around them, God let Israel have what they wanted.

And we read that God led Samuel to the handsome young man from the House of Benjamin, Saul, who would become Israel’s first king; but even with God, Samuel, the Prophet, warning the people what it would be like to have a human king, the hard-headed people wanted to be just like all the other nations in the region. They wanted a king. And as I read this account again this morning, I was impressed by the parallels to this day in time in which we live. And any reader, who reads this, as we transition into a new year very soon (2010), we are going through a time in our country when God’s elected representatives are pushing through a government take-over of health care in America. And I can see a lot of historical and social parallels with what went on in 1st Samuel 8 – 9.

Today we see the voted will of the people, i.e., our elected officials, moving toward what many other countries are doing in the world; and that is to socialize health care. Countries in Europe and our neighbors to the north, Canada, have done so; and we just seem to be clamoring to do the same thing, not looking at what has happened in these countries. And there are other things going on in our government – unGodly trends – toward which we are moving, like government funded abortion and changing the status of marriage to allow homosexuals to marry, all of which are attempts to do things like other countries; and I can see God allowing them to have their way just to show America that not following God’s way will lead to disaster. It certainly did in Israel, if ones know their history when Saul took over as King. And I also move ahead in history to Paul’s New Testament reminder to the Roman Christians as one reads Romans 1: 18 – 32, which I exhort you to read from this link.

And when you’ve read the passages in 1st Samuel and Romans 1, I hope you’re as impressed as am I to see how we can read what God has written in His Book of Truth, the Bible, and yet mankind will pursue the self-destructive trends which God’s word clearly warns will be our undoing. And I think that my dear grandchildren are unfortunately going to experience the pain which the world is bringing on itself, because as it is said, “The rain, when it falls, will fall on the righteous as well as the unrighteous.”

Sure, we must do all we can, as Samuel tried to do, to fight against evil in our world and to alert our governement to what is truth from God’s word. And we, as Christians, must pray as diligently as possible for God to heal our land (as prayed in 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 -linked). But if the world will not hear and they keep clamoring for and doing evil in the sight of God, His reign will fall and our world will feel His wrath. And may God have mercy on all of us.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, reading these things does not give me good feelings going into the New Year; but I know that You’re in control; and I know You’ll never leave, nor forsake, those who love You and are Your called ones according to Your purpose. Amen

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 – Day 358.Dec 25 – Be Involved … Get Involved

BLOGGER'S NOTE: To all who find this under their devotional tree for this morning >>> MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 3: 19 - 21 …
1st Samuel 3 linked for study and context …

My Journal for Today: Today from the message of the story about Eli, the High Priest and his passivity as a father, we read of Samuel’s intervention in his youth, as he was called to be a Prophet of God. And even as a young lad, being groomed spiritually by Eli, Samuel could see the familial dysfunction in Eli’s sons; and even though it was difficult to relay God’s message to Eli, we read in 1st Samuel 3 that Samuel was finally prompted by Eli to relay the horrible message that God’s blessing on Eli’s sons and his family had been lifted forever.

Swindoll, from the study we’ve being making into Samuel and Eli the last few days, is trying to wake up Christian parents or church leaders to the reality that family leadership is the priority mission or ministry field for anyone who has been blessed to become a parent. Eli is an example of a father who may have been successful in his career as a church leader (i.e., priest); but because he failed as a dad, God’s judgment fell on his entire family. Today, father absenteeism has risen to become a social plague in our culture; and our families, … in fact our nation, is now paying the piper for passive, inactive dads, … just as Eli was an exemplar.

We have rampant fatherlessness in the land, especially in certain ethnic segments of society; and the crime, gang violence, and broken homes in our country loudly trumpet this condition. As the family deteriorates, so God’s judgment will come down – as Samuel prophesied – against a people, especially fathers, who will not obey God’s teaching and guidance from His Bible about marriages, families, and our personal lives. We cannot expect God’s blessing if we disobey our Lord with regard to His God-established institutions; and the first one He established for mankind was the family.

Yes, Eli prioritized his role as an Overseer in God’s “church,” another important God-ordained institution; but when he ignored his role as a husband and especially as a father, he openly disobeyed God; and anytime we do that, we must expect that God’s wrath of abandonment may result. We cannot expect God’s closeness, protection, and blessing if we openly disobey His principles, His guidance, and His commandments. God’s blessing is always preceded by our obedience; and when we disobey, somehow, somewhere, sometime God’s love through His chastisement can be expected. [See Heb. 12: 5-6]

And what Swindoll is pleading for, primarily from fathers or parents, in today’s devotional entry is for us (and I am certainly one of those daddies) to be vigilant for the signs of dysfunction in our homes. And many times the signs are there with kids acting out in some way; but the natural tendency so often is to deny what we see, rationalizing the signs. We just say, “M child is just going through a phase.” If we don’t intervene, especially in these days of gangs, drugs, and a hypersexualized world, the results for our kids will become what we’re seeing in this world: teen pregnancy, STDs, gang violence, and much, much more.

As God’s timing would have it, this very morning my computer scheduler led me to read a poem that I cued to be read at the end of each month. I cannot remember where I got this poem, called My Liberty, authored by Ginger Devoto; but I have it to read monthly because it carries such a powerful message and a prayer, which just happens [don’t you just love God’s timing!] to be compatible with this morning’s devotional. So, in lieu of – or in accord with – my prayer for the day, I’m going to copy this powerful poem to close my devotional entry for this day.

My Prayer for Today: This poem, My Liberty, is my prayer … Amen

My Liberty … by Ginger Devoto

The Watchman of the vineyard is watching over me,
He is the Anointed One; … He has come to set me free,
To take away the shadows that hover over me,
To remove the many cobwebs that I can clearly see.

When I least expect it, Satan walks upon the scene,
His demons follow closely, and they are sorely mean,
For the enemy is waiting to find an open door,
And enter in at every turn, with arrows all the more.

Lord, guard me with Your love and guide me with Your hand,
May my heart be confident to bow at your command.
I will lean upon your Word that will strongly hold me up,
Remembering that in Your love, for me You drank Your cup.

When there is a stronghold, battering my mind,
Help me to destroy it, in doing this I find,
Fortresses and prisons are demolished in Your might.
Arrayed in Your armor, I fight the worthy fight.

Lord, you are my safeguard, You keep me free from the foe,
And as I walk with You, Your peace I’m blessed to know.
You are my ready Warrior, to protect on every side,
Your love will circle round me. … In Your Word I will abide.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 – Day 357.Dec 24 – Disintegrating Families

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 3: 1 – 18 … 1st Samuel 3 linked for study and context …

My Journal for Today: The lessons we parents can learn from Priest Eli’s failure as a daddy should be quite obvious; but they may not be to a parent who, like Eli, was locked into a long standing pattern of inactivity, passivity, and denial when it came to his kids. He could not – or would not – see that he was not there for his boys while they were growing up in the home of a prominent religious figure of that day.

I can just imagine how difficult it must’ve been for Billy Graham to raise his kids; and we now know that Billy and Ruth Graham had five children, all of whom became dedicated Christians, involved in Christian ministry in some way, … two of them Anne and Franklin becoming very prominent in international Christian ministries. But Franklin was an example of a prodigal child, who questioned why his dad was not around all that much when he was growing up; and he rebelled, going through a period of questioning, and even being expelled from his Christian college, not coming to Christ until he was 22. But as it is said in Prov. 22: 6, he was raised by loving parents who set clear boundaries and provided their boy with time and affirmation. He was also mentored by Christian leaders in Graham’s ministry, two men who helped give the rebelling Franklin clear guidance. And now, we know that Franklin Graham, returned to the faith as promised in that Proverb, having founded and leading Samaritan’s Purse and becoming very active in preaching in the Bill Graham crusades, now taking the reigns of that ministry now that Billy is aging.

As Chuck Swindoll points out today, by using the case of Eli and his sons, even if you’re dedicated and prominent as a religious or business leader or public figure, you cannot abandon the role which God considers every parent’s primary mission field, and that is the family, with the priesthood being the co-roles of parenting. Every man should be the Priest of his home; and his wife becomes the minister’s help-mate in the role of parenting. And so, when priority decisions come as we parents must decide between time spent in parenting and the home as opposed to the church, business, or the public life, the priority decision for time investment should always come back home first.

Such was obviously not the case with Eli; and we read of the result of his parenting decisions. His two boys grew up as deviants and drags upon Eli’s ministry and society; and the Priest may have been a Priest to God’s people; but he certainly was not THE priest in his home and for his boys. Oh, how I hope that all who read this have been the parents we should have been for our kids. For me, it came close to being a disaster. For the formative years our girls were being raised, I was an athieist and an AWOL parent, deeply into a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde double life. But praise God, He brought me to brokenness just in time; and coming to know Christ when our girls were pre-teens, both my wife and I became break-through Christian parents in time for God’s Spirit to get a hold of our daughters and to help us become the parents they needed when they were going through those tough teen years. Now our girls are dynamic Christian mothers, who have had their own children and are doing their best to raise them in Christian homes, where their dads are Christian fathers. I can only praise God for His intervention and redirection in our family life so that our girls could be raised by spiritually growing Christian parents, who learned, from God’s word and from the example of the church, what parenting should be like in God’s scheme of living.

I can only pray for all of us that we take the role and ministry of Christian parenting very seriously; and for those who have been blessed with the stewardship of having children to raise for God’s glory, may we acknowledge the blessing and do all we can to prioritize that mission field as being the pre-eminent ministry of our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, our daughters are Yours. Our grandchildren are Yours. Help us to parent and grandparent them as Yours, … for Your glory. Amen

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 – Day 356.Dec 23 – Watching The Kids

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 3: 1 – 18 … 1st Samuel 3 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: If you believe – as do I – in the truth of 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17 that all of God’s word has been given to us for instruction in righteousness and so that we can serve God, “… thoroughly equipped for every good work,” then today’s passage is for all of us as a lesson in Godly parenting. Now, it’s also for you singles as well; because you live in a world where marriage and family are God-created institutions which form the foundation of a Godly, but crumbling, culture. And we all have the responsibility to either be the parents God allowed us to become or to support all things God’s word gives us to promote God-following families. And singles may not be able to be Godly parents; but you singles can be witnessing and working in the world to honor your own parents and to promote a culture which supports the rearing of Godly families. And those precepts, in today’s world, have become vitally important as the family structure, especially involving Christian parenting, is being attacked from all sides. But let me hone in on what today’s passage is teaching.

In 1st Samuel 3 we read about Eli, who was an upstanding High Priest, installed by God to be the spiritual leader of God’s people; and in that role he did everything he could or should to be a God-following Priest who did all that was required of him in that role. And Swindoll documents many of these duties which included leading in Temple worship and sacrifice, keeping the Temple Holy and cleansed, giving priestly counsel to God’s people, and even judging them as their primary, God-ordained Judge. BUT [and this becomes an enormous “BUT”], Eli was passive and lax in one of his primary, God-ordained roles; and that was to be the Priest of his own home; …AND … to be the Godly father of his two boys. Yes, Eli was way too passive as to what transpired in His home, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, was just as much (or maybe even more) a part of his ministry as were the duties of his leading Gods’ people politically and spiritually.

And oh how Eli failed as a dad; and we read about his sons, who became absolute scoundrels, taking away the best of the meat from the sacrifices for their own consumption, … as well as taking, for sexual consumption, the nicest looking women who came to the Temple for worship. By Jewish law, remembering that their father was the High Priest and Judge, these boys should have been taken out of the Temple and stoned to death; but Eli did nothing. And his sons devolved into godlessness and were later brought down and sacrificed by God for sinfulness, which actually became Samuel’s first prophesy for God.

My friends, I don’t know if you are married or whether God has blessed you with kids; but if God has been generous in this way, I hope we can all take heed from today’s lesson. Actually, I hope your kids were raised by parents who saw their folks as Godly, active, involved parents, and who took their God-ordained roles as parents even more seriously than we treated our careers or anything else in our lives as we were raising our kids.

As some of you who may be reading here know, I’m an Elder in my church; and I take the duties and responsibilities of that calling very seriously; but before I could even become an Elder in my church, I had to come under the examination (by my fellow Elders) of God’s own criteria for eldership in His church; and you can go to 1st Timothy 3: 1 – 7, where Paul laid out for Timothy [and God’s church], the criteria which all church leaders (Elders, Bishops, Pastors, etc.) come under. And if you know these (or go back and read them), you’ll see that one of them clearly states the family/parenting responsibilities church leaders have. It says that the Elder, Pastor, Priest, or Overseer should be … one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) Too bad Eli didn’t live up to this one in his home or in his role as a Priest.

So, with these things in mind, these Godly instructions from God’s own word, as it says in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17 are given to us, especially those of us chosen to be parents, as God’s instructions so that we can become the parents we should be in our families. But maybe you did all you could do, following these God-led instructions, and one (or more) of your kids turned out bad. Your child was raised in a Godly home; but he took an unGodly route in life; and for that scenario, God’s word gives us hope … that the child, a prodigal child, will return to us and God one day as we pray for him or her to do so. Don’t give up, take heart from Jesus’ parable of the prodigal father and son [see Luke 15: 11-32]; and from the rock solid promise of Proverbs 22, 6, stating, as you probably know, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

But if you have young children or grandchildren in your life as parents or grandparents, now is the time to get involved in their lives, devoting God-honoring time with God-led boundaries and instructions, so that those kids can learn what is Godly and know the path which God would have them follow.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m so thankful that I chose to follow You and learn from your word what a Godly father should be like and to be able to see our two daughters become Godly women and parents. Now, I have the opportunity to help them be Godly parents to our grandchildren. Oh, I’m such a blessed man! Amen

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 – Day 355.Dec 22 – The Voice of God

Passage for Study: 1st Samuel 2 - 3 … 1st Samuel 2-3 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today’s passage, written by some scribe or storyteller for God, is a fascinating true tale of the young, growing Prophet-to-be, Samuel. And a lot of it deals with him being mentored by a man, a Priest of God’s people, Eli, who may have been an upstanding, diligent Priest, but who had apparently been a lousy father. His two sons, having a dad who probably was not around very much because of his priestly duties, became scoundrels; and God would ultimately come down on them for defying the Lord. But our scene today focuses on God speaking audibly to Samuel; but the boy prophet didn’t recognize the voice because Samuel had not developed a deep and abiding relationship with God at this point in his life.

Swindoll points out several times when God spoke to people in the Bible, such as when He knocked Saul (who would become Paul) off his horse on the way to Damascus; or when Elijah heard the Lord in a still small voice; or when He spoke instructions to Noah about the ark in Genesis 6. And here we have the Lord, God Himself, speaking directly to His young prophet boy, Samuel; but note in 1st Sam. 3: 7 the Bible author’s note (in parentheses in most versions), where the storyteller writes, “(Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him.)”

And I think this is quite revealing about God’s relationship with His chosen and/or anointed agents or leaders under the Old Covenant. In those days, before the coming of God’s Spirit to all who believe in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, God was very selective in whom or as to how His Spirit was imparted to God’s selected agents for action. And Samuel, being very new to God’s selection of him as a Prophet, did not recognize God’s voice.

And I think there is a lesson here – at least there is for me – and I hope there is for you as well. Any Christian under the New Covenant (i.e., in the New Testament dispensation of grace) can hear from God; because God imparts His Spirit into the heart of any born-again believer. No, I don’t mean God speaks audibly to all believers, though God being God certainly could speak audibly to anyone whom He chooses. However, I must admit that I’m a bit of a skeptic when I hear someone say to me, “God told me to …” Or if I hear someone claim, “God said to me …,” I balk a bit in disbelief. Why? Because I’ve never heard God speak to me audibly. Have you? Maybe, like Samuel (or Noah or Elijah or Saul of Tarsus), you are favored or anointed in some special way to hear God speaking to you. I must admit that I was a doubter years ago when Oral Roberts, just recently deceased, clamed that God told him that the Lord would kill Pastor Roberts if he didn’t raise so many millions for the hospital God had “told him” to build in Tulsa, OK.
You see, I do believe that God communicates His truth to any or all believers. And like with even a Samuel, I think that God reasons [note: I don’t say “speaks”] more clearly to those who have a deeper, more mature, relationship with the Lord. But now, in this age of grace, when we have God’s completed and canonized Scripture, I don’t think God has to use the “office of Prophet” to speak for Him. Nor does The Lord need to anoint and speak through specially selected agents to accomplish His will on earth as the Lord did in the Old Testament times.

My friends, any day that you delve deeply into God’s word, trying to get to know your God, through His Book of Truth, you are “hearing” the word of God. When you hear an anointed preacher, who has interpreted and is speaking God’s truth from His word, you are “hearing” the spoken word of God. But the latter is not because that preacher/teacher is singled out to hear from God in some special way as were the Prophets of old, men like Noah, Elijah, Isaiah, or Samuel. No, when a Preacher is speaking from a pulpit and you hear God speaking through him to your heart, it’s because this preacher is correctly and faithfully interpreting God’s truth – from God’s word, - the Bible.

Hence, the point today is for all believers to recognize our calling to go deep, developing an abiding relationship with God, by going deep into His word. And it behooves us to know God intimately through His word, so well that we recognize false teachers/preachers who are numerous on the landscape these days. Secret Service agents are trained to know a counterfeit dollar because they’ve studied the real thing so long and so hard that they can recognize a fake one when they see it.

My friend, we need to be so mature in our study of God’s word, when we hear pretenders to God’s truth, like those you might see or hear on Trinity Broadcasting Network; or when a popular televangelist, like (you fill in the name of one you know is a faker here), you’ll be able to recognize his counterfeit teaching. Dear one, I hope you’re going deep DAILY into God’s word and studying the ABSOLUTE TRUTH of God’s word, so that you’ll know the truth or fiction when you hear if or read it. Your ability to sense God’s truth is going to be dependent on the depth of your understanding of God’s word. So, it behooves all believers to go deep and get to know God intimately through His word.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I come here daily to get to know You closely through Your word. Show Yourself, Lord, to me through Your truth. Amen

Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 – Day 354.Dec 21 – Dark Days

Passage for Study: Judges 21: 25 … In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Secondary passage: 1st Samuel 1: 1 - 28 … 1st Samuel 1 linked for study and context …

My Journal for Today: Today Swindoll is setting the context for a short study into the life of Samuel. And as we read in the last verse in the Book of Judges, in our study today the up-and-down period of the Judges is about to end; and God’s people, the Hebrews are without leadership again. And as the book of 1st Samuel opens, the Hebrew nations have fallen again into a spiritual lull. And at this point we’re introduced to a faithful woman of God, Hannah, … a woman who regularly went to the Tabernacle for prayer, praying that God would give her a son, her being barren into her older years. Hannah prayed and prayed for a son; and God finally granted her a son, whom she named “Samuel,” whose name in Hebrew means, “asked of God,” or “God heard.”

Really Swindoll doesn’t have a major point or powerful lesson from today’s passage other than to set the context for the next few days of study; but it is of interest to identify with Hannah’s desire to be right by God as well as her discipline to seek the Lord’s favor with diligent and disciplined prayer. Hannah’s day was a time in the life of God’s people when their faith and spiritual discipline waned. The world was getting more worldly again; and if you’ve read the book of Judges that had been the pattern over and over. God’s people would succumb to the ways of the world, waning in spiritual worship of the one true God; and God would have to send bad times and a “Judge” to wake them up.

For a Christian who might be reading here, … does the pattern here where we meet Hannah, Eli, the Priest, and Samuel sound familiar? Yeah, it’s not unlike today, is it? The people are motivated by worldly schemes and pursuing self-reliance, rather than surrendering themselves to the Lord. That was the case in the days we see taking place in 1st Samuel; and it is the way of the world now. But we see how just one diligent, and praying, believer can have an impact. And we’re going to be looking at the life of Samuel, who was the result of Hannah’s prayer, as he interacts with Eli, the old Priest.

But here we see the principle we need to glean from today’s study. Yes, we need to see – and believe - how God listens; yes, even when God is silent and when our prayers of concern seem to be bouncing off the ceiling of our prayer closet unheard by God. We must see – and believe - that this is not the case. And as I’m meditating on this and writing here, God’s Spirit, through my memory of His word has brought me remembrance of two wonderful truths; and the first comes from Proverbs 3: 34 and/or Hebrews 13: 5, that “God will never leave us (as believers) or forsake us.” And the second truth is from Psalm 116: 1-2< which says, “I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.”

I love that one phrase in Psalm 116: 2, which says, that God “inclined His ear to me.” That phrase is the Hebrew word “natah,” which has the word picture of someone bending down and straining to hear what is said. I can just imagine a father wanting to make sure he hears the little voice of his young child, to make sure what he/she is saying by getting closer, bending down to listen intently. That was the God to Whom Hannah prayed; and He is the Father in Heaven, in the person of our Advocate and High Priest, Jesus, Who, through His Spirit, listens intently to every prayer where we come to Him with a humble heart, praying intently, even if, like with Hannah, it is with requests which seem way beyond our reach. God wants to hear our hearts praying to Him. Oh, of course He knows our hearts before we pray; but He wants to hear us, even bend down to hear us, when we voice our hearts to Him.

My friend, what in our world or in your life do you need to be going to our Lord and praying diligently and intently for Him to intervene? Do you have a dear loved one who has rejected God who needs salvation? Do you see injustice and evil in the world which absolutely needs a work of God to correct? Perhaps you have a stronghold of sin which needs to be eradicated in your attempt to live as a “living sacrifice” to God. I don’t know what the desires of your heart might be; but we need to know and believe that God is listening, even listening intently as it says in Ps. 116: 2. And it’s comforting for me to know that my God will never leave a child of pure faith, like Hannah, to just ignore her (or you). Sure, God may SEEM distant; and He may SEEM like He’s ignoring our prayers; but if we cannot and will not believe that God hears, we will be without the hope that is promised and has been revealed in God, the Father’s Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

My dear one, purify your heart and remain humble and diligent in your prayers. God hears!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You know my heart; and You hear my prayers. So, I will continue to bring my heart to you every day, knowing that You bend down to hear … just me. Amen

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 – Day 353.Dec 20 – Faith Reveals Goodness

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 1 – 14 … Genesis 22 linked for study and context …

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll closes out his short study into Abraham this morning by giving his readers (me) three short – but powerful – lessons we (I) can glean, which will help us (me) both live and die in a deeper relationship with The Lord. Here are the three, which were illustrated by Abraham and/or Isaac in their trek up to the mountain for the ritual, but very personal, sacrifice.

#1. God the Father showed us how to live when He released His dear Son. >>> My friend, I hope you know the truth of Romans 8: 32, which states [NKJV], He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? In the incarnation of His Son, God the Father, actually provided His most precious relationship completely for His children – that’s you and me. And His Son did all God the Father led Him to do, absolutely becoming the Lamb of God to save us from our sins. And in today’s scenario, Abraham illustrated, with great maturity of faith, as did Isaac, the son, just how far they were willing to go in life to faithfully follow God. How much are we willing to live and give for our Father?

#2. God the Son showed us how to die when He released Himself to the Father. >>> In this story, Isaac was a wonderful picture of God, the Son’s, i.e., Jesus’, total submission to the will of His father, Jesus willingly setting aside His personal relationship with His Father to humble Himself, even unto death, so that He could fulfill what the Father desired for Him. And so did Isaac to Abraham in our story. But, my friend, what are we doing in our lives to be a “living sacrifice” of worship, as it says in Romans 12: 1-2, so that we can prove, with our living, what God the Son proved by His dying?

#3. God the Spirit will show us how to live and die as we learn to release what has us in its grip. >>> And here is Swindoll’s charge related to that, which can also be seen in our proof text for today. Swindoll writes, “As long as we’re owned by whatever we’re clutching, we’ll never be given over completely to the Holy Spirit.”

And I don’t know about you; but that last statement has me wrapped up in conviction. For years I held tightly to a pattern of recurring sexual sin. Then God came into my life; and He showed me how, by living in His truth, I could let that go and walk in HIS victory. You can see this in John 8: 32 which documents God’s promise that if/when we capture and live in His truth, that Truth (with a capital “T”) will set us free. But, my friends, I still have human issues which I hold to and therefore have me in their grip.

For example, right now I’m dealing with the sin stronghold of gluttony in my life. God even allowed me to contract Type 2 Diabetes as a thorn to help pry this gripping selfishness from me. But I still do things all too often, such as eating things I shouldn’t; and as long as I choose my sin over my Savior’s leading, I will never be able to be given all God has for me in this life. What about you, … do you have something you need to release to God so that He can let you walk free from that gripping issue?

Swindoll’s absolutely right that God will, through his truth (i.e., His word) gently convict and direct us to follow Him as He states in Luke 9: 23; but when I resist and decide to partake of my selfish desires rather than use His power to resist my sinfulness, I will force God into a process, which is almost always very painful, to pry my fingers from the stronghold of my own sinfulness.

In other words, if I won’t do what God tells me I must do voluntarily, He will have to show me the price I will pay for my selfish resistance. How many times, do I have to see God’s banner headline, which reads like the words of that old car filter commercial, Pay me now or pay me later!

Okay, it’s another 2nd Cor. 13: 5 pop quiz, as we ask ourselves, “What must we (I) do to give ourselves (myself) over to God now, so that we (I) won’t have to pay ourselves, the world, or our Lord later?” And when we answer that question, will we be willing to pay God what He is due in discipleship now, or will He have to help us pay Him later … so very painfully?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You again for mercifully showing me what I must do to be a living sacrifice for You. Amen

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 – Day 352.Dec 19 – Releasing Our Group

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 10 – 14 … Genesis 22 linked for study and context …

My Journal for Today: Just a few days ago, Swindoll’s devotional (and therefore mine – see Day 348, Dec. 15) emphasized our tendency – from our default sin nature – to hold on too tightly to the things of this world, especially those things or relationships we hold most dear in our lives. The point, again from Genesis 22, has been illustrated again today by Abraham’s willingness to put his full and complete trust in God and being willing to sacrifice his only son on Mount Moriah, as God was seemingly irrationally demanding Abraham to do so.

Now in the larger context of the New Covenant, which we have in our New Testament, as well as the Old Testament story we’re into here, we know that this very same Mt. Moriah became the Holy City of God where God Himself was not only willing – but did – let His only begotten Son, Jesus, The Messiah, be sacrificed, which we’ve renamed Golgotha, as our Lord would become the perfect Lamb of God, shedding His blood, just as God provided that perfect lamb in the thicket as for Abraham to sacrifice to/for God that day.

We now know that this story in the Old Testament became a pre-picture of the Messiah being provided so that mankind could be saved from the sure death of sin. And we also learn from this that God can and will always provide the grace to save us when we’re willing to hold on loosely and give for His glory anything and everything He provides for us. We have to be willing to let go of the things of this world, … yes, even the ones we hold dearest, so that they can be – in faith – given over for God’s glory. And many times, if not most times, these giving scenarios become totally irrational to our human minds and hearts. Again, I think of a dear young couple, friends of mine, who recently lost their six hour old baby; or I think of a 65 year old man, a devout Christian friend, who sometime ago was fired in a downsizing, placing his family in a horrible financial crunch. Think of that entire study in the Book of Job, where Job (and we) had to learn that God is God and we are not, especially when we feel entitled to things in this world we’ve been provided and hold onto so tightly.

I think I’m getting the message clearly in my mind from these studies; and hopefully my faith is maturing to the place of a Job or an Abraham, where I don’t have to be tested in the extreme [Oh Lord spare me from that!] to see if my heart has learned the lesson of humility and sacrifice as well. So, let me pray for us, my dear one.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may any who read here join me in the prayer of knowing, deeply in our hearts, that You loved us so much that You gave us Your only Son, Who was the perfect Lamb, provided on that Mount, so that we could be saved from our sin. Amen

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 – Day 351.Dec 18 – Faith Involves Risk

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 9 … Then they [Abraham and Isaac] came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

My Journal for Today: As we’ve been looking at this test of faith where God has brought Abraham to Mount Moriah with his son being led to be the sacrifice, we’ve been viewing the scenario from Abraham’s point of view as well as that of God. But what about looking at Isaac’s viewpoint?

And Swindoll is right to do so, because in Isaac we see the quiet faith of a son who not only had learned his faith in God and his theology from his father, Abraham, over the years; but Isaac also, in today’s verse, demonstrated incredible faith in his own earthly daddy as he obediently allowed himself to be bound and placed on the altar. Think about it. Isaac was a younger man, much more physically strong than his aging father. And he knew that his dad was building an altar to provide a blood sacrifice to God. And with all of this, Isaac quietly and obediently allowed himself to be bound and placed upon the alter, knowing full well, by this point in time, that he was the physical object of the sacrifice to The Lord. Sure, we have seen Abraham’s complete and utter trust in God during this test; but I think, even more incredible, is the faith of Isaac during this scenario.

My dear friend, how much of yourself have you been willing to risk in your relationship with God? Swindoll is right. Many of us, as Christians, really have not been called upon to risk all that much in our lives for God. In fact some of us, who might be accurately be called “control freaks,” do all we can to keep things very safe and under our own physical, emotional, and spiritual control so as to avoid as much risk as possible in our lives. But that might not be you. Perhaps you been called on to risk a lot for God.

We just had a couple we know who lost their child six hours after their little baby was born. We also have some friends, a couple who have four children and are missionaries in a Muslim nation where a number of Christians have been murdered. My wife and I were called upon to make a commitment to found a ministry where we have to be vulnerable about our pre-Christian past, which involves revealing my unfaithfulness to my wife in our marriage before Christ delivered my wife to forgive me and me to be delivered from that past pattern of sin to walk in freedom and fidelity for years. We now help others to find repaired marriages and to find hope in Christ; but we have to be willing to risk ourselves in faith, being vulnerable with our story to others. Perhaps your risk involves being a Christian parent who has a prodigal child whom you’ve had to faithfully give over to God because that child has rejected your parenting - and God - by leaving your home to live in sin.

Yes, there are those of us who have experienced the risk of faithfully following God and having to give up much in our lives, being tested in our faith, much as Abraham and Isaac were tested. My dear one, we have to realize and acknowledge that faith in God is not some bed of sweet smelling roses, where we walk through life in painless bliss. No, … it is not uncommon, if not expected, that our faith in God is going to call us to risk a great deal, if not almost too much, for our Lord. In fact, God wants no less than ALL of our hearts and ALL of whom He has made us to be, … FOR HIM and HIM ALONE.

So many of the characters I’ve studied this year from Swindoll’s devotional book, Great Days with the Great Lives, have exemplified the truth that faith brings risk. Think about them: Joseph, Moses, David, Esther, Job, and the Apostle Paul. All of them were called out by God to risk their very lives at some point for their faith in God. And here I am, so often balking when I’m afraid to share my faith because of what some lost person might feel about me if I were to witness to the Gospel and to tell them how Jesus has changed my life? Oh, I can be such a coward at times!

What will I be willing to do today, if some faith test is thrust upon me, to show that I’m willing to give it all up for the Savior Who came to earth, died on a cross FOR ME, and saved me from my own sinfulness by being raised from the dead to ascend to heaven and become my heavenly High Priest (see Phil. 2: 6 - 11). Will I be willing to give my all for the One Who gave His all for me?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray for the willingness to risk all for You. Amen

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 – Day 350.Dec 17 – Genuine Faith

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 3 – 8 … Genesis 22 linked for study …
Secondary Passage: Hebrews 11: 8 – 19 … … Hebrews 11 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: When you read through these passages, Swindoll is right that we can easily get wrapped up in the emotions of the scenario, especially those of us who have children, as we empathize and simply can’t imagine how/why Abraham responded in faith the way he did to the test God was putting him through. I, for one, would be the first to have cried, “Why God!” in this scenario. So, we ask how Abraham could be so faithful to his God by going up to Mount Moriah to offer up his ONLY son as a living sacrifice.

Well, the answer really is in common logic, operating in concert with the maturity of Abraham’s faith. Abraham simply had a highly developed trust in His God by intimately knowing His God. He knew God could not lie; and God had promised that Isaac was to be God’s seed of promise for a nation of people; and the only way that could happen would be for Isaac to live. Abraham also knew that God was God, Who had the power over death. And so the logical conclusion was that God could, and would, make sure that no matter what transpired on that mountain, God would provide a way for Isaac to cheat death and live to carry out God’s covenant with Abraham. Hence, we read old Abe responding quietly and logically to Isaac’s question about where the lamb was for the sacrifice that day. Isaac’s father simply, and logically, responded in Genesis 22: 8, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

And so, we read what real faith is all about in this story; and real faith is measured by choices which fulfill the command Jesus gave to His disciples, when He said, (in Luke 9: 23), “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” And the only way a follower after God can deny self and take up a cross like sacrificing his son would be to truly know His Lord and to trust that God would only lead him in such a way as to provide a way – God’s way - even when there does not appear to be a way.

I’m going to repeat something here I’ve come back to often in my devotionals. And it’s something which I learned from my dear mentor years ago, … something which has become my mantra of faith over the years. And my friend, if you can internalize the truth here, it can help you have the faith of an Abraham in the face of seemingly overwhelming situations. My mentor taught me that to know God is to love God. And to love God is to obey God. And to obey God is to serve God. And to serve God is to be blessed by God.

My dear one, Abraham knew His God, loved His God, and obeyed His God; therefore, Abraham knew to simply serve God in that obedience, no matter what God led him to do. And ultimately Abraham knew – in faith - that if he served God faithfully, God would bless him by providing a way, even though there seemed no way. That, my friend, is the promise of two verses from God’s truth which help me follow God’s way – as much as my growing faith can muster. And those two verses are Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 and 1st Cor. 10: 13. I hope you have these passages memorized and internalized; because they will help believers when doing things God’s way seems illogical to the world and even when they seem impossible to us. I won’t quote those two truths here. I hope you go back and meditate on these two passages; and if you don’t know them, memorize them; and then join me to do all we can, by living – in faith – from these truths, to know God, to love God, to obey God, to serve God and to live with God’s blessing – as did Abraham.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to have the discipline to know You in such a way that I can have the faith of an Abraham when things seem senseless in this world, knowing that You will always provide a way for Your children. Amen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 – Day 349.Dec 16 – The Test

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 1 – 2 … 1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

My Journal for Today: Again, we have the same text for today, from Acts 22, where God tests Abraham’s faith by having him take his only son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah and see if God loved the gift (i.e., Isaac) more than old Abraham loved God. Yesterday, we discussed how tightly we hold onto things God has provided is a test of our love of God. And we saw how we can hold too tightly to the things we come to adore, especially dear relationships like our children. And we noted that we must carry any and all things in life loosely, not letting any of them to be grasped too tightly.

Well, it is legitimate to ask why a loving God would put old Abe to such an extreme test of faith. Was it to let God see that Abraham really did love God or Isaac more? No, … that can’t be; because God is omniscient; and God knew before it happened how Abraham would respond, didn’t He? Well, then, to whom was God trying to show the object of Abraham’s faith and love? And the answer is in the word “test” in verse 1 of Genesis 22. And from the Hebrew that word TEST is the word “nacah” [prounounced “nasah”], which is an assayer’s term. It means that something is put to a test (for example, gold or silver) to prove just how pure it is. And the ones in this passage who needed to determine the purity of Abraham’s faith were Abraham himself and his son, Isaac.

Abraham, having failed God on several occasions in his past needed to see that he had the faith to do exactly what God would command; and Isaac, Abe’s son, needed to see the pre-eminence of Godly faith in action from his dad’s example for his future as the one to carry on God’s seed to God’s people. Abraham had been impure of faith when he lied to save his skin twice and when he didn’t trust God for the Covenant by having a child by his wife’s handmaiden. And so, we see God, Who knew how Abraham would respond, with Abe’s faith having matured over the years, putting Abraham through this test to show Abraham and Isaac just what faith in God is all about.

Now, we come to a 2nd Cor. 13: 5 (check it out) faith test in our New Covenant lives. As Swindoll puts it, we have to ask ourselves, “Do I adore the gifts of life more than I adore the Giver?” Yes, when we put our faith in God through the crucible of life, letting the pressure and heat of our choices test whom or what we really love most, how does our love and trust of God come out from this test? Is our love of God, the Giver, purer and more refined than our love of the gifts He has given us? Or have we allowed our hearts to become polluted by the love of stuff more than our love of the Savior?

Because, if there’s anything in our lives which is polluting our love of God by causing us to love self over Savior, we must either eliminate it or let it go to the point where God becomes our first love again. That was Christ’s message to the rich young ruler [see Luke 17: 18-27 or Matt. 19: 16-30 or Mark 10: 17-31]; and it was His message to His church (of Ephesus) in His first letter of Rev. 2: 1-7. Our God knows that the only way He can provide and dole out His grace is when His children trust and obey Him; and so His love is a jealous love. It’s not like our human jealousy. It’s a jealousy which desires that we have all God can provide for us when we hold His love as the pre-eminent desire of our lives.

So, this story, of Abraham being able to see the reality of his own dominant love for God was God’s way of demonstrating to Abraham’s that his first love was for God and God alone. And the lesson was also for you and me as we read it from God’s own word from the pen of Moses in God’s first book. The question becomes our test; and we need to see – from the heat and pressures of life – just whom (or what) we love as our first love. Is our first love God; or is it something else in our lives?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I declare You # 1 in my life. I pray that my life choices – under the test of life’s fires – prove that as truth. Amen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 – Day 348.Dec 15 – Holding Too Tightly

Blogger’s Note: For the remainder of December Pastor Swindoll will be looking at three brief character studies which give him the opportunity to make some closing points for the year. The first of these deals with the great patriarch, Abraham.

Passage for Study: Genesis 22: 1 – 2 … 1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

My Journal for Today: If you’re a Bible reading, Bible studying Christian, as I would pray we all are, especially those reading here, we know what happens after reading this passage. Pastor Swindoll has gone to Abraham for today’s devotional lesson. And perhaps you can identify with Swindoll’s main point today, as he writes, ”… Anything we hold dear, we must learn to hold loosely. … If we hold anything too tightly, it probably has us rather then our having it.” I definitely agree with Pastor Chuck that we do have a tendency to clutch too closely the things we adore the most.

And for those of us who’ve been blessed as parents to steward the growth and development of children, given to us by God, when they grow up and leave the nest, it can be difficult to let them go. And can you imagine what Abraham, who had been given one – and only one - son so late in life, must have thought when God put him through that horrible test of faith with Isaac? But we know just how much trust Abraham put in God by following exactly what God instructed him to do, just as he had done years earlier when God told him to pack up everything and go to a land Abram knew not (see Genesis 12).

What are you holding onto too tightly, not trusting your life and times to God? Is it your security, your money, your talents, or maybe your time? Maybe it’s even your child or children. Oh, how we have a tendency to grip tightly those things in our lives we’ve come to hold onto so dearly. But my friend, we have to decide, as did Abraham, if we can live under the exhortation of Proverbs 3: 5, … to … “Trust in the Lord with ALL our heart!” (emphasis added) God’s word doesn’t say MOST of our heart; does it? And all too often in my past I’ve held too tightly to stuff in my life, … things which became idols of possession rather than tools of stewardship for God’s glory. And even our kids can become that to us.

So, I take this lesson today under the conviction of my past attitudes and actions; and I point myself in a direction to LET GO AND LET GOD. Will we join Abraham and let go of even the things which mean the most to us? Will we have enough faith and trust in God to give everything which He’s given to us over to Him so that He can truly be THE LORD in our lives? That is my prayer here today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, take it all. Take me. Test me if You must; but let all You’ve given to me be Yours … for Your glory. Amen

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 – Day 347.Dec 14 – An Urgent Charge

Passage for Study: 2nd Timothy 1 - 16 … Passage linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Paul closes out his life, writing a letter to a young mentee and pastor, Timothy, giving him a charge, which we read in today’s passage, … a challenge we all should take to heart. And I can just sense some of you saying, “But Bill, I’m no Pastor; … I’m not a preacher.” And yes, most certainly Paul’s charge to Timothy is for those who are called to preach from the pulpit or to pastor a church or to teach God’s word. However, as Swindoll points out this morning, in another sense the charge is for all of us because of another charge we Christians have been given by Jesus, Himself, in the Great Commission and Commandment (see Matt. 28: 19 – 20 and Acts 1: 8). And I won’t link you to those passages; because I hope you have them memorized as the charge from God, Himself, for ALL CHRISTIANS to share the Gospel, to know and teach God’s truth, and to witness the life-changing power of Christ to any and all in our lives.

And to support this, I also refer you to go to the charge made by another Apostle, Peter, in 1st Peter 3: 15, where he wrote … ”But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

My friend, in a sense we’re all to be like Timothy from Paul’s charge to take Christ’s Gospel truth to anyone and everyone in our lives. We’re all to live the truth and speak the truth; and that means we’re to take what we glean from our churches and most certainly from our in depth study of God’s word and tell anyone who’ll listen how Christ has changed our lives. We’re all to share the truth that God can change the life of anyone who believes and confesses that our Lord came to save them from their sins.

And Swindoll is also right today as he indicts the post-modern church, which all too often is presenting a watered-down, seeker-friendly, and lukewarm message, which tickles the ears of those who come to church to be entertained rather than to be challenged by the mirror of God’s truth. Even the preachers and Pastors of churches today are falling way short of Paul’s charge to Timothy. But we all can be and should be preachers, teachers, and pastors in our worldly sphere of influence. We all can be the Bible for those at work who will only know God’s truth and learn of His Gospel by observing how we Christians live and from hearing our testimonies. All Christian parents can be pastors, preachers, or teachers in our homes and families to our kids and grandkids who need to see/hear God’s truth being lived out in the lives of their parents and grandparents.

My dear fellow Christian, we all have a mission field in our friends or neighbors, our co-workers, and most certainly in our families. And most fellow believers who read this know of someone in our lives who needs to hear our testimony or who needs to know the truth of God’s salvation message. There are those in our lives who need to “read” the Gospel by seeing it lived out in our lives where they can hear our testimony – a story of how Christ changed us and how we now have the hope of heaven rather than the reality of hell for eternity.

As this year closes out, will we take Paul’s challenge to Timothy to heart and go share Christ with someone who needs to hear about Him?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me Your divine opportunities to share Your truth and Your good news with others; and give me the boldness and words to do so in Your Name and for Your glory. Amen

Blogger’s Note: Today Pastor Swindoll ends his devotional study and exposition of the life of the Apostle Paul. Tomorrow and through the remaining days of December, he concentrates on a few messages involving three more brief character studies of some men of the Bible who illustrated pertinent and powerful points we all need to learn.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2009 – Day 346.Dec 13 – Anchor of Reality

Passage for Study: Acts 27: 39 - 44 … Acts 27 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Pastor Swindoll is absolutely right as he writes in today’s devotional, "The best plan for surviving a storm is preparation.” A ship’s captain would never launch his vessel onto the open seas without going over the navigation charts and – these days – checking out the weather forecasts. If you’ve ever been on a cruise vessel, the first thing the crew goes over with the passengers are the emergency procedures. Think about those boring instructions which every flight crew goes over with the passengers on an airplane before the plane gets into the air; and I hope you pay attention to them before that plane takes off: because, though no plane or ship captain would ever want to go through what that pilot did by landing his plane in the Hudson River last year, he was well prepared for the emergency and all of his passengers survived because of his training and his pre-flight preparation. Because that pilot was so well trained and he knew exactly where to land that plane, those passengers all survived.

Today’s title for this devotional is the “Anchor of Reality;” and reality is an anchor as long as we, as Christians, carry that anchor into the reality of our future. As Swindoll points out, ”Passivity is faith’s enemy.” And to that I’d add a Pollyanna attitude that nothing bad will ever happen because we’re in Christ. No, the Boy Scouts have it right in their motto, which takes the anchor of reality into account as it declares … BE PREPARED!

My friend, what are you doing right now to prepare for a potential shipwreck or turbulent flight? When you get on a flight, are you lulled into passivity, apathy, and lack of attention as the crew instructs you on how to prepare for an emergency? Do you know where the nearest emergency exit is? Are you briefed and ready if the ship goes down in water to know where the flotation devices are; and do you know how to use them? Or have you been lulled into that “nothing bad will ever happen to me” attitude, which the enemy will use against you if/when a bad storm develops and the ship goes down.

That crew of that ship Paul was in all made it to shore because of the preparation they had taken just before ship broke up to surrender their leadership to Paul and to join him in prayer to the God of Abraham. My dear friend, what are you doing now, during the calm of life to prepare and make sure that you have the anchor of reality covered in the event your ship of life runs into a really bad storm? And if you’re in the storm right now, you may find, as Swindoll writes, that you’re having to use the pre-planning (or as we call it in our ministry – the “battle planning”) which you had done in the calm of life to deal with the storm.

Maybe you’re now having to find out that you have to humble yourself and find help from a competent Christian counselor to make it through a marital storm. Perhaps, you now recognize that those bad choices you made in the past, when you believed you could get away with some sin, have now come crashing down around you; and you have to take serious emergency procedures to save your marriage, your church, or your very life. That is why it’s best to humble yourself now and take preparatory actions to avoid the storms or to be prepared BEFORE they come your way. As my mentor used to tell me, ”Humble yourself now in your day-to-day worship of God, or He will humble you later when you’ve let pride take you down.”

And so, we need to ask ourselves …
• Am I taking decisive action to avoid the storms by having a disciplined DAILY devotional life and by having a written battle plan to avoid the potential pitfalls of life?
• Is my prayer life going deep to keep me humble and to deepen my relationship with Christ?
• Am I getting to know my God by studying Him through His word?
• Am I worshipping my God everyday by the choices I make, the people I serve, and the actions I use to honor our Lord?
Answers to these questions, by our life choices, will show whether we are carrying the anchors I written about in the last few days, the anchors of STABILITY, UNITY, RENEWAL, and then today, the anchor of REALITY.

If you’re ready for any storm of life because of the daily battle plan or preparation you’re making now to build your faith (i.e., your anchor), then you will not fear any storm which may be brewing ahead for which you cannot plan. And like the ship did when the storm hit Paul and his compatriots, you’ll be able to survive even a shipwreck because you had all the anchors you needed to keep you afloat or to allow you to swim ashore safely.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, when the winds of life blow calm now, keep me humble and ready for any storm ahead by the planning and actions I take now – everyday – to be ready for any storm which might come. Amen

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2009 – Day 345.Dec 12 – Anchor of Renewal

Passage for Study: Acts 27: 23 - 38 … Acts 27 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: The scenario Swindoll has pointed his readers (me) toward today is quite a scene, isn’t it? Here are over 250 men on this sinking ship, depleted and famished from two weeks of fighting the storm without eating; and they’re desperate. Now this Jewish prisoner, obviously with the favor of the ship’s Captain, gives them hope that he’s been given from a vision from God that no one will perish IF – and only if – they stay with the ship. And then Paul exhorts them to eat and to renew their strength; and he leads them in prayer, worshipping the One, True God.

Swindoll’s speculation is probably right on target … that many of these men had likely never prayed; and most of them certainly were not believers in Yahweh, the Hebrew God. So, for many of the crew, this was the first time they had ever prayed and been led in worship to what Paul was claiming was the God of hope in the midst of this horrible storm. But all of these men, and the ship’s Captain, were willing to surrender to Paul’s encouraging words and directions. They had no where else to turn; and they prayed.

And this becomes a model for us as well. Pastor Chuck is also right that it is a human tendency to let the disciplines of the faith, like worship, praise, and prayer, lapse when we’re depleted, tired, and wracked with hopelessness. It’s very easy to let self pity take us down a road of physical, emotional, and, most certainly, spiritual depletion. And oh how our enemy, Satan, loves for us to get drained of all physical, emotional, or spiritual energy so that we cower within ourselves in self pity, rather than do what Paul did to re-establish the anchor of renewal with the ship’s crew.

For the physically depleted, food and rest are the anchors of renewal, aren’t they? Well, for the spiritually and/or emotionally drained, meditation in God’s promises and the commitment and dedication to pray are the spiritual anchors of renewal; and in both of these arenas of restoration, Paul led the men on the ship. He told them to gather what food they had left; and then he led them in prayer. And when Paul prayed, though we don’t have the prayer recorded by Dr. Luke, there is little doubt those men heard Paul praising God, expressing thankfulness for having spared them to that point; and then they no doubt heard Paul petition God to save their lives so that God would be glorified. These men got a lesson in the anchor of renewal which Paul knew would come if they remained dependent and prayed to God.

Dear one, most certainly we all need to maintain life habits which help us to maintain our physical well being, … proper diet and regular exercise. However, maybe even more importantly, we need to do what it takes to keep our spirit thriving as well. Do you remember what Paul wrote to Timothy about the latter? He said (in 2nd Tim. 1: 7), For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. And Paul knew that truth in this life or death scenario as well. He also had the insight of receiving a word of knowledge from God about the outcome of the ship; and he took that message to the crew; but he also prayed; and so should we when we need the anchor of spiritual renewal when we’re spiritually depleted in our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Holy Spirit, I hope all who read this have a vital and renewable prayer life with You, Lord; and may we all come to You for hope, peace, and joy when we’re feeling depleted of Spirit in our lives. Amen

Friday, December 11, 2009

2009 – Day 344.Dec 11 – Anchor of Unity

Passage for Study: Acts 27: 27 - 32 … Acts 27 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: When you read through the short highlight passage from Acts 27 for today [verses 27 – 32], as Swindoll writes in his book, it’s pretty easy to find the personal or modern-day application. In this scene, the ship on which Paul found himself was about to run aground and sink; and the crew was going into sinful default mode, which is panic and escape anytime we humans get into life-threatening situations. But Paul knew that the only way the crew could make it, saving all the lives in a sinking ship, was for the crew to stay in the boat together.

And that’s the way it is for Christians today as well when our spiritual well-being is threatened by the storms of life and world is coming down around us. Right now there are many people – maybe you - experiencing dire financial pressures. Some of you who read this may have life-threatening illnesses yourself or involving dear loved ones. Others may be under intense relational pressures, … maybe a marriage which is breaking apart. And as with the men aboard that ship where Paul was in the first century, the normal human reaction is to bail out or to cut and run. But Paul saw from his messenger from God what we today need to know or remember during these intense storms; and that is to rely on the fellowship, love, and support of family, friends, and fellow Christians. Unity and togetherness are the keys to staying afloat when the ship is close to sinking.

Some years ago our church was a sinking ship. Being a relatively new ordained Elder at that time, our Board of Elders was split and our congregation was even more torn asunder. But now I look back on those stormy times with grateful fondness; because our Elder Board discovered the truth of surrendering to God’s Spirit, coming together with unity of purpose; and we also learned to surrender our direction to follow God’s lead no matter how bad things might seem. And our Church came together as well. Oh, there were some who jumped ship and left; but those who stayed on the ship of Central Church came through the storm and found a unity of purpose and Spirit-led direction as we’d never experienced before. And now our beloved church is riding the waves of Godly power and being steered in the Lord’s direction, … all because we discovered and chose to live out the lesson of Acts 27, … that we must stay together in the face of the storms of life.

I don’t know where your ship is heading in life at this time. Maybe it’s sailing in calm waters; or perhaps you’re in the midst of a storm. But, no matter where you’re headed in life, remember that you can travel life more effectively and powerfully if you do it within the togetherness of the body of Christ, working in unity in God’s direction and for His purpose with other Christians.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, guide the ship of our lives TOGETHER in Your direction … for Your glory. Amen

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 – Day 343.Dec 10 – Anchor of Stability

Passage for Study: Acts 27: 1 – 26 … Acts 27 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: In this last year of devotionals with Chuck Swindoll, in his book, Great Days with the Great Lives, I cannot recall disagreeing with my devotional shepherd, even once. However, I’m afraid I don’t hold with his word picture of “the anchor” Paul experienced when he became shipwrecked on his voyage to Rome along the coasts of Asia Minor in the highlight passage from Acts 27 in today’s devotional. And in this story, it looked hopeless to all aboard the ship on which Paul was traveling. But we see the Apostle rising to declare to the ship’s captain and crew that he had received a visitation of a heavenly messenger telling Paul that no life aboard that ship would be lost. And Paul’s faith in that messenger and the message from God became the only hope for the crew, who believed they were about to God.

When we read, in Acts 27, of Paul’s staunch and encouraging words in the presence of such dire circumstances, Swindoll alludes to a passage in Isaiah 43: 1-2, in which God states, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” In this passage and in Paul’s dire circumstances of Acts 27, Swindoll refers to a word picture which closely addresses what the Apostle Paul and his fellow crew members faced in that winter storm. And here’s where Swindoll’s teaching is slightly out of tune for me.

Swindoll likens Paul’s dilemma to our facing storms in life as we are buffeted by winds of life’s circumstances which blow us off course; and I have no trouble with this word picture. However, he posits that Christ becomes the picture Paul’s anchor of stability, THE Anchor, if you will, God especially having provided, through a heavenly messenger, a message of salvation in the midst of the storm. Maybe you also see where I might not agree with Swindoll that Christ is the anchor in this word picture.

Actually, I see Christ as “the rock,” to which “the anchor” of faith is affixed rather than Jesus, Himself, being the anchor. Paul did have an anchor, which allowed him to be cool in the midst of the storm; but I contend that anchor was Paul’s faith to which he attached the ultimate trust in His Savior, Jesus. Maybe I’m splitting semantic hairs here; but I recognize that we all need “an anchor” in our mind/heart to give us stability in the midst of any trying times in our lives. But to me that anchor is my faith in Christ, not the Lord Himself. Jesus Christ never changes; and His promises, for any believer (like Paul), become the rock to which we can affix our faith, because the Lord as our Rock will never leave, nor forsake, us in the midst of any storm or trials. If we know His word and His promises, we can trust in this stability, Christ being our Rock, as we read in such passages as Deut. 31: 6, Hebrews 13: 5, and from Paul in 1st Cor. 10: 13. I do hope you know what these passages say so that they become the rock to which you attach your anchor of faith.

So. in my word picture, God is our ROCK, and our faith in the “Rock” is our anchor as we attach our faith to the immutable and immoveable truth of God’s promises and His provision. I can see how others, like Swindoll, use God as a word picture of “the anchor;” but I’ll just continue to hold to my picture, of faith in God being my anchor; because my picture drives me to know my God more and more and go deeper and deeper into His word so that I’ll know, deeply in my heart, the Rock to Whom I can attach my faith to give me stability in the face of the storms of life.

Thank you for listening to my little argument today with Chuck Swindoll. You’ll have to be my referee in this word picture dilemma. But you need to answer for yourself and decide >>> What is your anchor in life?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are my Rock; and to You I affix my anchor of faith. Amen