Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 – Day 150.May 31 – From Hurting To Usefulness

2009 – Day 150.May 31 – From Hurting To Usefulness

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 17: 2 - 6 …
2 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” … 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. 7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

My Journal for Today: Sometimes we see what is happening in our lives – our circumstances – and the old “WHY” question bubbles up. However, if we truly believe the truth of Romans 8: 28 [and I really hope you have that one memorized], we may often have to be overcoming the urge to ask, “What’s with this deal, Lord?” God’s ways are just baffling at times; but they are HIS ways, and we need to be ready to accept them and grow in the circumstances, rather than dive into a hole of self-pity. Rather than asking “Why?” in the midst of our pain, we need to be asking “WHAT, Lord, do You want me to learn from this so that I can serve You more effectively?”

As Swindoll points out in his devotional entry for today, it might have been logical, by human ways of doing things, to leave Elijah there in Ahab’s court, confronting and making life miserable for the ungodly king. But no, God sends Elijah off into some cloistered setting to be tested and prepared by God for some unknown future duties for God’s glory. Apparently Elijah needed some in-service training in humility and patience. And oh do I identify with that! It’s so easy to fall into the trap and ask God, “Lord, why do I need to hurt the way I am; … can’t we just get to what You need for me to do without the pain?”

And Swindoll quotes the famous Christian writer, A.W. Tozer, who once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” And to this Swindoll adds his own words of wisdom, writing, “… the deeper the hurt, the greater the usefulness.” And I certainly agree with these wise thinkers … though I guess I’d still rather be the exception to that rule. … ;>)

However, earlier in the year, we examined the lives of Moses and King David; and both of them had to go through a season of pain and suffering to learn that sin has great and deeply painful consequences in life; and due to this humility training, as well as God’s training in patience, these men were used mightily by God and most certainly for God’s glory.

So, my dear friend, if you are going through or have gone through some painful circumstances, which may have been illogical in your eyes, be lifted up by the lives of these hall-of-famers of the faith (see Hebrews 11 - linked for your study), all of whom had to be hurt to become useful to God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I understand it; … I hate it, but I understand it! And even though it may be painful, do what You must so that I can be used for Your glory. Amen

Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 – Day 149.May 30 – Cut Down To Size

2009 – Day 149.May 30 – Cut Down To Size

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 17: 2 - 6 …
2 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. 7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll, from his experience in Marine boot camp in his years past, has an interesting take on this short passage in 1st Kings about Elijah after his confrontation with Ahab. Elijah is taken away into the wilderness; and his willingness to surrender to His Lord is tested. Swindoll likens this to his own former time in boot camp where the Marines did exactly what was needed to insure that the younger Swindoll would be cut down to size and reshaped into the soldier he needed to be to face his future in military service.

As Swindoll relates, the Marines used “… the isolation of the location, the absence of all creature comforts, the relentless, monotonous drills and demanding repetition of inspections, [and] … the constant harassment of the drill instructor;“ … all designed to reshape the na├»ve and untrained recruits into soldiers who could meet any type of warfare, knowing that they could follow their commanders into battle. And according to Swindoll, that’s essentially what we’re reading in today’s passage where God used solitude and surrender to focus His man, Elijah, and to prepare him for the battles he would face ahead.

What has God put you through in life to prepare you for the battles we must face in spiritual warfare? Do you have a “battle plan” which has been forged out of the boot camp of life? Are you focused in faith and ready to follow your Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus, just as He has commanded of His disciples (see Luke 9: 23 - a verse you should have burned into your life from the boot camp of scripture memorization). You know, that verse says we, as Christ’s soldiers, must deny ourselves, take up the crosses of life daily, and follow our Lord anywhere He leads. Have you been reshaped into the surrendered soldier in God’s army who is willing – AND ABLE – to do just that?

If not, my friend, you need a drill instructor (i.e., a mentor) who can take you through a boot camp of Spirit-led preparation, reshaping you into a hardened and ready warrior. I lead a ministry called BattlePlan Ministries [link provided to website]; and that’s part of the training we try to impart to men who have been in bondage to habitual and selfish sinful living. We try to get them to become self-disciplined warriors who are surrendered to God and willing to follow the lead of their Commander, Christ, anywhere He would lead them.

And when the bootcamp of life has reshaped them, they are self-surrendered soldiers who have been armed for battle with God’s full armor (see Eph. 6: 13-18 - linked). They know how to carry a well sharpened and practiced Sword of the Spirit; and they know how to take the high ground of prayer in the daily battles they will face.

Are you ready for battle today? Do you have a well formulated and written battle plan? Are you wearing God’s full armor? Do you carry a sharpened and practiced Sword of the Spirit? And are you disciplined to go to the high ground of prayer every day, preparing for the battle’s you will face TODAY?

If you are not, you are naked and vulnerable to your spiritual enemies. I pray that God is preparing you and reshaping you, as He did Elijah, for the battles you are going to face.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You have prepared me for battle; and I choose to follow only You. Amen

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 – Day 148.May 29 – God’s Word Is Final

2009 – Day 148.May 29 – God’s Word Is Final

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 17: 1 …
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

My Journal for Today: Once again we’re back to the introduction of this man, … this Prophet, … Elijah; and in the focus verse for today, we read a very important phrase. It is found at the end of 1st Kings 17: 1; and it concerns God’s word, from Elijah to Ahab and God’s chosen people, that there was to be a drought which would last a number of years; and as Gods’ decree was spoken, God promised that the drought would not end until the end was decreed by God, “… except at my word.”

This is God speaking through Elijah; but though Swindoll doesn’t mention it, the decree of the drought’s end would not only come from the word of God but it would also not end until it came from the mouth of Elijah. Verse 17: 1 ends with this phrase “… except at my word;” and you’ll note that the pronoun “my” is not capitalized. It’s interesting to me; and I believe, that God was giving Elijah the leverage that God’s promise on the end of the drought would come - from God – though the mouth and prophesy of Elijah. So, if Ahab were to kill Elijah, I believe the drought would likely never have ended.

And that’s just how exacting and directing God’s will can be at times. God certainly provides His word and His promises from His word, … the Bible. But there are times when He will give His direction through gifted prophets, leaders, teachers, preachers and/or anointed messengers. This can make it a bit challenging at times to discern God’s will or His promise; because it takes Spirit-led listening to decipher God’s will when it comes from sources other than the Bible. But be assured, when God speaks on a given topic or directive, His word and/or His promises will come to pass. God doesn’t lie, which is also a clear promise of God in Numbers 23: 19, which states … God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? So, when Elijah spoke on behalf of God about the drought, you could bank on the results. There was going to be a drought!

As, Swindoll puts it, ”God keeps His promises. Agree with it or not, His word is final. He never forgets anything He promises. That’s right, … never!” And what that should do for us is the same that it was for Elijah. We should seek out and then be willing to declare, God’s promises.

Now, I know that His promises or His will for the lives of Christians or His Church can be obscure at times; but most certainly we should know and believe and declare that any promise which comes from His written word, the Bible, is a “done deal.” So, my fellow seeker, again, we need to be Elijahs for this world. When we know the truth, we need to be willing to declare it to the world … boldly and even loudly if necessary.

Do you have any doubts about God’s #1 promise is found in the Gospel … that Christ died for our sins and that He is the ONLY way, the truth, and the life. So, if we know that is God’s promise, what are we going to do today to be Elijah, declaring that promise to a dark and perverse world? If you stand convicted, as do I, by that prospect, let me pray for us both.

My Prayer for Today: Help me, and all my Christian brothers and sisters, to boldly declare the promise of Your salvation in and through YOU, dear Lord. Amen

Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 – Day 147.May 28 – A Unique Spokesperson

2009 – Day 147.May 28 – A Unique Spokesperson

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 16: 29 – 17: 1 …
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. … 34 In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
1 Kings 17 : 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

My Journal for Today: Yes, same passage again; and today Chuck Swindoll drills home a very important point with this same scenario. His point … no one is insignificant when he (or she) is standing or working for God’s glory. And it is often the case that God’s chosen servants are not what the world would recognize as “THE” right man or woman for the job. The Apostle Paul even made the same point in 1st Cor. 1: 26 – 29 [linked here for your reference ] .

And you may be God’s chosen one for a very important ministry which honors God; and you may not even recognize your importance or even what you do as being God’s chosen one for ministry. For example, many wives and mothers or dads and husbands are devalued by the world; but your ministry as a spouse to one and as a parent to your kids could well change the world. It’s not too difficult to find great men or women of history who attribute who they’ve become to the loving and faithful “ministry” of parents who stood in the gap to model Godly living in their family. And the opposite is true as well. Many of the monsters of this world came from broken homes where the parenting was either unGodly or non-existent. So, the point, … if you’re a spouse or a parent, see it as a chosen ministry which glorifies God by your standing in the gap for everything God represents.

God could have chosen a mighty army to destroy the wickedness in the world perpetrated by Ahab and Jezebel. He did just that when you read the book of Habakkuk. But in this instance, God called only one man, and Elijah was not exactly the picture of charisma or strength. He was an older man from a nowhere town, and he was the one who was going to change the course of history by simply being God’s messenger to an evil world.

Do you see evil around you? Yeah, I know … “DUH!” Well, my friend, you are an Elijah; and you are called to stand in the gap for truth and for God’s way of living. If you’re a parent, everything you can do to raise your kids to resist drugs or pornography is being an Elijah standing for God. When you write a letter or call your governmental representatives to vote in a Godly way, you are an Elijah standing for God. When you serve your spouse in a way that mirrors how Christ served His Bride, you are an Elijah.

So, never see yourself as “a nobody,” who has no purpose. You are an “Elijah,” and when you stand for God in any way in this world or culture, you are God’s messenger for these times just as the Prophet was for his. Today … let’s go be Elijah. Let’s go change the world!

My Prayer for Today: Today, Lord, I will stand for You. Amen

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 – Day 146.May 27 – Special People For Special Times

2009 – Day 146.May 27 – Special People For Special Times

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 16: 29 – 17: 1 …
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. … 34 In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
1 Kings 17 : 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

My Journal for Today: Yes, if you were with me yesterday, you’re probably saying, “That’s the same Bible passage.” And it is; … because Swindoll is trying to drive home the point that our culture needs many Elijahs; and Pastor Chuck asks some pretty tough questions in his devotional message for today, … not the least of which is whether we would feel comfortable being in the court of Ahab.

In other words, if you were living in the times of Ahab and Jezebel, would you merge right into the anti-Godly culture where you worshipped idols and followed Ahab; or would you be willing to come behind or stand along side a man whose name and words declared openly, “The Lord is my God!”

Swindoll says it in truth; and I’ll just quote him to make the point that … "In our culture – our schools, our offices and factories, our lunchrooms and boardrooms, our ivy halls and our halls of justice – we need men and women of God, including young people of God. We need respected professionals, athletes, homemakers, teachers, public figures, and private citizens who will promote the things of God, who will stand alone, stand tall, stand firm, and stand strong!”

That’s why it’s so refreshing when you see entertainment or athletic winners, like Hollywood stars or professional athletes, who will take the opportunity when a commentator puts a microphone in their face to openly witness their faith or praise God so that all can hear them standing in the gap for their faith. These stand up Christians are, unfortunately, not as numerous in the public eye as those who support idolatrous causes like abortion or same-sex marriage. However, now and again you might hear an “Elijah” in our culture who will stand up and give testimony to their stand for God.

As I read Swindoll’s devotional today, I know where I stand; and I know that God does raise up special people for special times; and my friends, THESE ARE SPECIAL TIMES! These are the times of Ahab revisited. The question becomes are we God’s special people to stand in the gap for God’s truth and grace. And if you are saying, “I don’t think I’m one of those people,” you can take heart from many in the Bible who didn’t think they were the special ones God could choose for His special tasks.

Think about the reluctance of a Moses, who balked when God even showed him a burning bush. Think of a young Gideon, who was hiding in fear in a wine barrel when God came to him and called him a “man of valor.” And yes, even Elijah, at one time later in his life doubted God’s choosing him when he sat beneath a broom tree and prayed to have God take his life. We’ll likely be looking at that episode later in our study of Elijah; but if you feel God calling you to stand up in the culture and take a stand for God’s truth, remember this truth - GOD’S CALLING IS HIS ENABLEMENT! God will never call you to take a stand unless He gives you the enabling grace to carry out that task. That is the lesson Joshua had to learn in Joshua 1: 1 – 9 [linked]; and he was willing to move forward toward God’s promised land even when it was scary to do so. We can too; but we’ve got to be willing to take up God’s banner and carry it for Christ in our culture.

And so, when we have any opportunity to stand for truth over injustice, … for Godliness in the face of sinfulness, … or for forgiveness in the face of anger and hatred, let’s be an Elijah and let’s lend our voices to stand against the Ahabs of this world.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I repeat my prayer from yesterday … “raise up the Elijah in me … that I may be willing and able to stand for You, … no matter what! “ Amen

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 – Day 145.May 26 – Elijah - Alone in the Gap

Transition Note: Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility is our new study, again using Chuck Swindoll's devotional book, Great Days with the Great Lives as my devotional guide. I pray we all can grow closer to God and become more like our Lord in this study.

===================

2009 – Day 145.May 26 – Alone in the Gap

Passage of the Day: 1st Kings 16: 29 – 17: 1 …
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. … 34 In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
1 Kings 17 : 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

My Journal for Today: Here was the scene. It was a day when the gap between God being Lord of all in Israel had widened to its greatest extent. Ahab and Jezebel ruled the Northern tribes of Israel; and Baal was their little-g “god.” The one true God, Jehovah, had faded in the minds and hearts of God’s “chosen” people, and somewhat quietly, but significantly, we are introduced, in Verse 17: 1 of our study passage today, to “Elijah,” who came from a small town, called Tishbe, likely located about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, which was in the area controlled by Ahab.

Then Chuck Swindoll introduces his devotional readers and yours truly to the significance of Elijah’s name, which, in Hebrew, is a composite of the word “El,” which is a short of “Elohim” or the Hebrew word for “God” and “jah,” which is a short for “Jehovah,” or “The Lord” in Hebrew. These two words are separated by the Hebrew letter “I,” which refers to “my” or “mine.” So, when we put this all together we see that Elijah’s name declares, “my God is Jehovah,” or “The Lord is my God,” which would have been a very brash declaration in a country where worship of the god Baal was required.

It’s not difficult to see some parallels between the times in which Elijah stepped on the scene in Israel and today’s world. Today we live in a world permeated by false “gods;” and the concepts of “God” or “Christ” are becoming more and more hostile to the culture as time goes by. And so, anyone who stands in the gap declaring that “The Lord is my God” stands out as being in opposition to the running tide of our world. Elijah was just such a man in his day.

Swindoll points out that it doesn’t take too much interpretation to see that our Lord, God, … the same God as the one, true God who had chosen those people in Israel in Elijah’s day, desires to have men and women of God who’re willing to stand alone – if need be – to declare “The Lord and Savior, Jesus, is my God!” Elijah, just by his very name, was just such a man in his day, and Swindoll goes immediately to illustrate this by a few modern day “Elijahs,” who stood in the gap for God at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, a few years ago. Here were a few students who, where challenged as to their faith, were gunned down because they were willing to say, “Yes, I’m a Christian.” And their courage became loud witnesses in our times for someone who was willing to stand in the gap for God.

Elijah was such a man; and so I look forward to a concentrated study into the life of one who would stand up for God in a world which was hostile to our Lord.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, raise up the Elijah in me … that I may be willing and able to stand for You, … no matter what! Amen

Monday, May 25, 2009

2009 – Day 144.May 25 – A Legacy

2009 – Day 144.May 25 – A Legacy

Passage of the Day: 1st Chronicles 29: 10 – 13 …
Link for entire Chapter 29 for passage study in context ...

My Journal for Today: Well, today we close out our study in the life of David; and we read of the close of his life and the legacy he passed on to his people, … God’s chosen ones. And to punctuate his life, our focus passage today is a prayer, which emphasizes praise, which was probably David’s greatest legacy, … that he would humbly and openly praise His God and the people’s Lord in spite of all the foibles and failures in his life; and we have definitely written about those in these past few weeks.

David’s life has taught all believers a number of lessons about life, those lessons becoming our legacy by letting God’s word, which has chronicled David’s life, teach us how we should or should not live. As Chuck Swindoll puts it in his devotional for today:

”What lessons can we learn from such a man? We learn hope, in spite of his humanity. We learn courage, even in the midst of his own fear. We learn encouragement and praise in the songs that grew out of his hours of despair. We learn forgiveness in his dark moments of sin. And we learn the value of serving the purpose of God in our own generation, even though all our dreams may not be fulfilled.”

And I join Swindoll to thank God for inspiring and teaching us from the life of this shepherd boy warrior turned failing king, who ultimately showed the world the power and value which comes from humility and surrender to God. From David’s life, as Swindoll also writes, we can declare, ”… thank You, Father, for using us though we are weak, forgiving us when we fail, and loving us through all the Sauls and Goliaths and Jonathans and Abigails and Bathshebas and Absaloms and Joabs and Solomons of our lives. Thank you for showing us that we can be people like David … people of passion and destiny.”

And to that I would humbly add that I thank God for sharing David’s life with us so that we can realize that we, in spite of all of our foibles, faults, and failures, can become PEOPLE AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART!

My Prayer for Today: Thank You, Lord, for the life lessons You have imparted into the life of any believer who might see them from David’s pursuit of Your heart. Amen

And a Post Script of devotion: Tomorrow we move on to another life study into the a man Swindoll refers to as … Elijah, A Man of Heroism and Humility

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2009 – Day 143.May 24 – The Best I Can

2009 – Day 143.May 24 – The Best I Can

Passage of the Day: 1St Chronicles 28: 1 – 11 …
Passage linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
Today’s passage is a great illustration of a dedicated servant of the Lord who could have expressed regrets and wallowed in self pity, but rather chose to acknowledge God for what he was allowed to do in his life and praise His Lord for what God will do through others to see His kingdom glorified. And I totally identify with David in this scenario as he passes the mantle of God’s will on to his son Solomon.

Perhaps you’ve lived with a big dream which, at this stage in your life, you realize God has put on hold for someone else to accomplish. Perhaps you’ve had to endure some personal challenge in life; and you realize that only in heaven will you be free of some thorn or handicap. Perhaps God had said “No” to your dream of romance or marriage; and you will only find fulfillment in your eternal relationship with our Savior now or in Glory. And you must, as did David in today’s passage, move onward without realizing the fulfillment of your dream.

I’m there, my dear one. For years I’ve dreamed of seeing big numbers of Christians walk out of the self-induced prisons of habitual sexual sin and into the freedom they can find by surrendering to follow Christ. And in my later days, I’ve come to recognize that God has entrusted me with a much smaller effort in this regard than I would have liked to see for His glory so that someone else, one day, can be blessed to see great numbers walk free in Christ. Battle Plan Ministries [website link provided], the calling which God has ordained me to lead, has been blessed to lead many, mostly men of God, to become more Godly Christians and to find the freedom path which can only come by following Christ (see Luke 9: 23, which, by now, I hope you have memorized). And I have yet to identify, as David did, a successor who could lead big numbers of Christians to freedom and to move away from self imposed prisons of sin.

But I praise God that He has allowed me, as He did David, to acknowledge and confess my own sin; and to sing praise to my God in my lifetime for finding and taking the path of honesty and vulnerability so that I might show others that God way is the only way to follow in this life and on into the next. And I praise God that He has allowed me to build the plans for God’s dream, as did David, where others can see what lies ahead for God’s glory. And I praise God that, as David did, I’ve been given the charge to pass this dream on to someone else, one who can move God’s kingdom plan and will to another level.

And if such a place is where you are in life, I pray that you can praise God and revel in what you’ve been allowed to do and what lies ahead for the glory of God. … David did; and so can we.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank you for allowing me to see Your dream and to get it started. Amen

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2009 – Day 142.May 23 – Penetrating the Darkness

2009 – Day 142.May 23 – Penetrating the Darkness

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 22: 1 – 31 or Psalm 18: 1 – 30 …

Link to 2nd Sam. 22 for study …
Also link to parallel version in Psalm 18 …

My Journal for Today: After reading these parallel versions of the same song from David, focus on Verse 29 of 2nd Sam. 22 or Verse 28 or Psalm 18, which truthfully sings …

28 For You will light my lamp;
The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.


Now, Swindoll asks some pertinent questions, which I condense into one: “Ever been into some tough times when things seemed very dark?” Of course, you have; … we all have! Well, the bottom line becomes, “Is God your light in the dark times?” He obviously was for David; and the King of Israel captured his feelings about this in the poignant Psalm we read from two versions today, a song which we should remember to give us insight and encouragement when things seem so very dark.

I really love the story Swindoll tells in today’s devotional to illustrate the truth of verse 29 from 2nd Sam. 22. He relates his boyhood days, when his dad showed him how to gig flounder at night in shallow waters, by using a small lamp to light the way. He relates that the flounder would come into the shallows to feed on shrimp; and using the small lamp his dad used just gave enough light to see about one step forward and to reveal the flounder.

This story is doubly telling as a word picture; because there are times when we “flounder” in the darkness; and we need a light to move forward. And the light of God is very often just revealing enough to see one step at a time; but when we seek it, God’s light of truth is there to light the way. I think about this truth also with regard to following God’s word, which we know from Psalm 119: 105 is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

We need to always remember the truth from these songs when things seem threatening and dark. If we’re willing to humble ourselves to seek God’s light, He will provide it, usually through His word, allowing us to see ahead just far enough to take the next step. Below I pray a prayer that I pray almost every day and very often when things are dark in my life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine Your light brightly on my path so I can’t help but see it to follow You. Amen

Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 – Day 141.May 22 – Downward Steps of Sin

2009 – Day 141.May 22 – Downward Steps of Sin

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 13: 1 – 30 and 2nd Samuel 18: 24 – 33 …
2nd Samuel 13 and 18 linked for your study …
2nd Samuel 13 –
2nd Samuel 18 -

My Journal for Today: I hope you’ve digested the scriptures passages from today’s lesson, because the truth contained in this biblical scenario holds a somber reality for followers of God. And if I may summarize the bottom line with an exhortation, these passages teach us that we cannot compromise God’s precepts and principles with selfish desires. As Swindoll points out at the end of his entry for today, “God is not mocked;” and our author/teacher points out that we cannot go through life picking and choosing righteousness or sin. To compromise and choose sin will always lead to a downward spiral of circumstances, which may become overwhelming in our lives. As we read today, that was David’s plight; and prayerfully we’re learning proactive lessons from David’s life.

As David languished in the death of his sons, one at the hand of the other and the other at the hands of David’s own soldiers, it’s not difficult to imagine how David would have liked to rewind the tape of his life, desiring that he should have been off doing battle with his mighty men the night he decided to stay home and to walk over and take a peek at Bathsheba over that balcony. Or having taken the peek, we can imagine that David would have wished he had confessed his lust before God right there on the spot, repented, and left his home to go back to the battle fields.

BUT, … neither righteous course was his choice. No, David chose to act on selfish lust and then to cover his sin and then to take the life of a comrade and then to deny his own sinfulness by trying to forget it all. But God was not mocked; and David, even after confessing and repenting of his sin, paid the price for his past laziness, his pride, and his arrogance before God. And now we read where it got him.

Oh, I’ve been there and done that in my life; and it is true that we have a loving and merciful God Who can choose to forgive when we humbly repent of our sin; but do not expect that our sin will be free of any consequences. God truly will not be mocked; and THERE WILL BE consequences for sin. Therefore, I quote Swindoll’s recommendations for any who might be convicted of their sinfulness in reading this devotional entry. Swindoll writes …

>>> “Turn your life over to Him [i.e., God]. Broken and bruised, twisted and confused, just lay it out before Him. Ask Him to give you the grace and strength to face the consequences realistically and straight on.”

And then I would add, … we must honestly and forthrightly confess everything to God; and pray for His mercy from the truth of 1st John 1: 9 [linked], so that, even though there will be consequences for our sin, we can at least face them, knowing that we are cleaned and covered by the blood of The Lamb of God.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, my Lord, You have covered me, forgiven me, and cleansed me by Your blood. Oh, praise Your Holy Name !! Amen

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2009 – Day 140.May 21 – A Sheltering Tree

2009 – Day 140.May 21 – A Sheltering Tree

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 15: 1 - 18 …
Link to passage for study …

My Journal for Today: Once again in David’s life in today’s passage, we read that he has to flee from those who had expressed love to him. In the past it had been Saul before David became king. Now, in our passage today, David is King of Israel; and he must flee his own son, Absalom, who had grown strong and was plotting to take over the kingdom. Strategically, David had to retreat from the “city of David,” Jerusalem.

And, as Swindoll points out, it had to be uplifting that a number of David’s men stood with him, providing the cover of their loyalty and standing with their King. Swindoll points to the poet Samuel Coleridge who likened friendship to a “sheltering tree.” And the point of this study is that we all need strong trees to cover us when the heat goes up or a tree to lean on when the wind blows.

And our devotional author, Chuck Swindoll, asks if his readers have at least one strong tree to provide shelter and support when the sun bears down or the storms of life come our way. David had his brothers in arms, … friends who would die for him and stand with him – no matter what. Do you have such friends? I know that I am blessed to have more than one band of brothers, as David did, whom I believe would stand over me, with me, and around me – no matter what! And as David felt, I’m sure, having friends like this is often the strength which will carry one through when things get hot or when the winds of the times blow hard.

I hope that any who read here have a grove of trees, or at least one such strong tree, which [or “who”] will be there to cover you when the heat of life beats down or to provide support when the storms of life blow. As I’ve said so often over the years, “Lone Ranger” Christianity just doesn’t cut it in this life. Christians need to stand together, needing and providing mutual support when things get hot or stormy. Swindoll encourages his readers from the devotional for this day to have or find a tree, or preferably more than one, which will be there in the tough times of life to supply shelter and support. With such “trees” in life, the heat is bearable and the support is so welcome. But without such shelter/support, life is going to be very difficult to bear.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for the support I have in life. Amen

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2009 – Day 139.May 20 – Riding Out The Storm

2009 – Day 139.May 20 – Riding Out The Storm

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 12: 13 – 25 …
Link to 2nd Samuel 12 for study …

My Journal for Today: In today’s passage we read of one of the worst storms in David’s life. Yes, he shared it with Bathsheba; but like most storms in the life of believers, we have to ride out the storms of life essentially alone. Others may be there, as they were for David; and others may be affected. But they have to ride out the storm for themselves as well.

David, in this scenario is a pretty good model of riding out the storm. He did the right things. He fasted and prayed. He relied on God and His truth (i.e., God’s word); and He turned his life and circumstances over to God, not giving in to his own feelings of remorse and grief. And then, when the circumstances took the life which he and Bathsheba had born, David moved on, not wallowing in self pity as is the case for many, if not most, of us. Oh, how our enemy, Satan, loves to see us paralyzed in self pity.

When we are faced with the consequences and the whirlwind which comes after we have sinned, I’m one who has a tendency to beat myself up and to wallow in self pity. And it does no good … for me, for those around me, and most certainly, for God. And though it’s taken years, I’m learning to follow the model of David in this storm of life which is recorded in God’s word for us in 2nd Samuel.

I pray that you don’t have to face the storms which will arise in the aftermath of sin, especially habitual, long-lasting sin. Obviously the best way to avoid such storms is to avoid sin in the first place. But should the storm come as a result of your sin, ride out the storm you must. And if you can confess and repent and move on, as David did, the storm will pass. And if you have done what David did in this scenario, you can go to Psalms 51 [linked for you] and then to Psalm 32 [also linked here]; and you will read how God can take a sinner and bring about restoration so that he offender can move on and still live for the glory of God.

Today’s devotional entry has been a good study for me. I hope it has for you. We all need to remember that God will never abandon His children (see Hebrews 13: 5); and He will be there on the other side of the storm with His grace to give us strength and to move on (see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9 and Phil 4: 13). And after the storm passes, we can move on and still be used by God for His glory. David did; and so can we.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for the reminder of who I am in Christ; and how You will stay with me even in storms which I have created. Amen

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 – Day 138.May 19 – The Consequences of Sin

2009 – Day 138.May 19 – The Consequences of Sin

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 11: 1 – 12: 13 …
Linked to 2nd Sam. 11 – 12 for study ...

My Journal for Today: If you’re reading along with me in this study of David, we’ve finally come to that juicy story of David’s rejection of God’s way. And wow [!], when David does something, he doesn’t just do it half-heartedly. No, he does it up big time. Think about it. Our David, the so-called “man after God’s own heart,” commits adultery, lies, cheats on his wives, conceives a child out of wedlock, conspires to commit murder, and orders a contract killing. And the “hit” is not just on some obscure soldier in David’s army. It is one of his most highly decorated military leaders; and probably a close friend in arms. He commits sin upon sin upon sin upon sin; and then God waits until just the right time to send Nathan, the Prophet, to confront David.

As Swindoll points out, scholars have said that it could have been about a year between the sins of 2nd Sam. 11 until the confrontation by Nathan in chapter 12. And that may seem like a long time; but I hope you have learned, as have I, that God’s timing is always perfect. I agree with Swindoll that there are times when I question God’s timing, thinking that The Lord should intervene sooner than I think. But I’ve learned my lesson over the years … that God is God; and I am not … that (and it’s documented in Isaiah 55: 8 – 9) God’s ways are higher than my ways … and that God knows exactly what to do and when to do it.

But the confrontation by Nathan and the confession by David which followed (well documented in Psalm 51) illustrates the overriding truth that sin, especially flagrant conscious rebellion by a believer against God and/or His ways, ALWAYS has consequences.

David was not some ignorant, new believer, who was doing something bad because he was not mature in his faith. No, the actions we read about in these passages are being committed by the young boy of faith who slew Goliath. He is the one whom God had saved from Saul all those years; and he was the one who had become King when Saul fell on his sword. But David is also the one who let his guard down over selfish sin; and he was the one who chose lust over his love of God. He was the one who set aside what he knew to be truth; and chose to believe Satan’s lies. And he was the one who was revealed in all of this by God through Nathan.

If we have sin we’ve stuffed away in the closet of our souls, do we really think God has not seen it? Do we really think, without confession and the atonement of Christ’s blood, we can keep this sin a secret? Do we really think God is just going to let it go THIS ONE TIME? Duh …!!!

I don’t need to belabor this issue; … this is another lesson into the truth of Jeremiah 17: 9, which I bring up so often in my devotionals. We are walking through life with flesh and a heart which is deceitful beyond measure; and Satan loves to parlay that reality into situations, like the one for David in today’s history lesson, where our heart will fall pray to his temptations.

Get it straight, fellow warrior! SIN ALWAYS HAS CONSEQUENCES!!! And if we know and believe 1st John 1: 9 [linked here for you if you don’t know it – memorize this one because it is one of the most important New Testament truths!], what are we waiting for? Let’s bring it out into the light and confess it and be cleansed of it FOREVER!!! I don’t’ think I need to write any more about this.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, help me to stay vigilant and vulnerable in Your sight. Amen

Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 – Day 132.May 18 – Hope with Broken Dreams

2009 – Day 132.May 18 – Hope with Broken Dreams

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 7: 18 – 29 …
Link to 2nd Sam. 6 for study ...

Passage #2 for the Day: 1st Chron. 22: 1 – 6 … Link to 1st Chron. 22 for study ...

My Journal for the Day: Many of us may have been there. We have a dream; and God seems to say “No” to us; and yet, someone, maybe someone younger, comes in and makes it happen. Oh, the potential to let pride build anger, covetousness, or envy into our lives, especially if or when we see someone else taking our dream and running with it.

As we read the passages for today, we see David having to step aside to allow Solomon, his son, build God’s Temple to honor God, a dream which had been birthed in David’s heart. And as David steps aside to let Solomon build the temple, here we begin to see why God thought of David as “a man after My own heart.” David’s response to God when he learned his son would be the one to build the Temple for God was exactly what God expects from any of His children; and that is humility and obedience. As Swindoll pointed out in his devotional for today, “When God says no, it means He has a better way, and He expects [us] to support it.”

He goes on to point out that not everyone is called to “build the temple;” but we’re all called to be faithful and obedient. But man, … that can be tough when we see others getting all the credit for something we knew we could have done or something which had our mark on it.

And yes, it is hard; but we’ve got to realize that the only really important thing is God’s plan and His purpose; and when He gets the glory, that’s really all that counts in the eternal scheme of things. So, if I start something and someone else finishes it; … even if they get all the earthly recognition, that is okay if that project was for God’s glory. And I hope all of us can realize this; and we can develop the kind of humility we see in David from today’s lesson for our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, my God, teach me to find Your dream and do whatever it takes to make YOUR will my will. Amen

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 – Day 136.May 17 – Who Am I?

2009 – Day 136.May 17 – Who Am I?

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 7: 4 – 20…
Link to 2nd Sam. 7 for study …

My Journal for Today: In today’s passage we read of a man taking stock of his life. God has let him know that it will not be David who will build the Lord’s Temple; and he comes back to God, basically asking the question, “Who is this David, Lord?” And as Swindoll rightfully points out, the language David uses to converse with God is almost like a child; because it is children who refer to themselves by their own name to their parents, before growing and later in life using self-directed pronouns.

So, we read David asking “Who am I?” to God. And in doing so, he does a self inventory which leads David to count his blessings. If I were to ask God today, “Who am I” … what would I see in my life as it has been cast by God? What would my life look like? And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing today as I meditate on what David asked of God.

Maybe you’d be asking “Who am I” that God would give me life when the lives of others are snuffed out by tornados or tsunamis? Maybe you’d say, “Who am I that God would allow me to have a regular income when others are struggling so much financially?” Who am I that I drive over the speed limit and I don’t get fined when others do? And we could go on and on and on, couldn’t we?

Do we really stop long enough or often enough to realize just how blessed we are? Do we really appreciate the truth of Lamentations 3: 22,-23 [linked], which says that God’s mercies are new every day. As I sit here this morning, I realize that for what I’ve done in my past, I could be an ex-con; … but I’m not. I correspond with a young man in prison who is now labeled by his state as having committed a sex crime; and yet, here I sit on the outside when I have committed what my state labels as sex-crimes in my past. I am an Elder in my church and an ordained minister, leading a ministry for God’s kingdom; and my young brother in Christ languishes in prison. Who am I to receive such mercy when my young friend has not?

It is no wonder that David lamented where he was in life and who he had become? And this study today helps us [well, at least me] see that God can use each of us for His glory in different ways and in different places in life. I don’t know why God has put me here and my young brother in Christ in prison. But now that we are what we are, where we are, and whom we are, it behooves us to grow where we’re planted and to be used for God’s glory, going just where He leads us and being just whom we have been molded to become.

I am the clay, God is the potter? May this cracked pot be used for His glory?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I am so blessed; and even if I can’t build Your temple, may I be Your servant as You call me to be. Amen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 – Day 135.May 16 – When God Says No

2009 – Day 135.May 16 – When God Says No

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 7: 4 – 17
Link to 2nd Sam. 7 for study …

My Journal for Today: Isn’t it stifling at times when God says, “No;” and you had plans that seemed so God honoring? And as we read in today’s passage, sometimes God’s “No” is not chastisement or a penalty for sin. No, it may just be God redirecting us for our own good and/or for His glory.

God’s plan can be a mystery to us. Read and meditate here on Isaiah 55: 8 – 9, which says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” That’s a humbling directive, isn’t it? God is God; and we are not! It can really be just that simple at times when we diligently following God with commitment and direction. But we let our feelings and/or our pride get in the way.

We FEEL (and the operant word there is “feel”) that we should go in one direction for God; but we sense from Him that He says, “No, go in this other direction, which is My direction.” And we can’t understand why God would take us in another way than the one we FEEL is the way we should go. David would have loved to build a temple for God; but God said, “No, it will be your son who does that.” That wasn’t a punishment for David’s pridefulness or sinfulness. It was simply God being God.

But, … Ouch! That had to have hurt David’s pride; and maybe that was exactly the point. All too often it may be our pride that causes us to FEEL that we should go one way; and God needs for us to be humble, so He takes us in another direction, which will glorify His Name; and it hurts our pride.

Oh, this pride thing is a bug-a-boo, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder why God gave mankind the capability of being prideful. But then again, if we couldn’t choose pride over humility, the concept of “faith” would have no meaning. If we were automatons for God, He would really not get the glory, as He does when we, by faith, choose humility and set aside pride to follow God, especially when the outcome seems so mysterious to us.

David needed to learn that lesson as God was teaching him through the Prophet, Nathan. And so do we need to learn that lesson today. … Hey, dear one who might be reading this; … will you join me in covenant with God today, that we won’t let our feelings get in the way of God’s direction for our lives? Join me in praying to God that we allow Him to take us wherever He would lead us for our good and His glory. Let’s declare His directive from that verse I quote so often in my devotionals, Luke 9: 23, which is Christ saying to any or all of His disciples, "Just follow Me!”

My Prayer for Today: My Lord, I need to say it every day … You are God and I am not! Amen

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 – Day 134.May 15 – The Interludes of Life

2009 – Day 134.May 15 – The Interludes of Life

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 7: 1 – 3 …
1 Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies all around, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.”3 Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

My Journal for Today: This is a short segment from the life of David; but, as Swindoll points out, it illustrates an important point about how we prioritize moments of our life that can allow us to sense God’s will or direction. Swindoll calls a moment like the one illustrated by today’s passages as an “interlude” in life. And he contends that we need many moments like this in our life to slow down and sense the direction God has for us.

It was in such an “interlude” from which David got a leaning that he was uncomfortable about living in a house when God was residing in a tent. Have you ever had times when you were quiet enough to avoid the tyrannies and the urgencies of life or the deluge of information in this world to sense God’s leading? Perhaps such moments occurred when you were alone studying for an exam as a student and you were praying for enlightenment. Or maybe you went off to a retreat and God’s Spirit enlightened you as to a new direction for your life. Or maybe you just woke up, as it often happens to me early in my quiet times with God, and you got one of those “aha” or “eureka” moments from God.

Right now two scripture passages have bubbled up in my mind, sitting here meditating on this premise. One is my wife’s favorite, Proverbs 3: 5 – 6, which you probably know by heart (or I hope you do). It says, “…in all your ways acknowledge [God], and He will direct your paths.” Well, think about that. If you’re so wrapped up in the demands of the world or not taking the time to seek God’s wisdom (see also James 1: 5 – 6, you will be subject to the leaning or leading of the world or your own deceitful heart (see Jer. 17: 9); and how dangerous the latter can be! No, the point here is that we have to CHOOSE to slow down and we have to humbly CREATE the interludes in life which allow us to seek and sense the mind of God.

The second verse which comes to me here in this morning’s meditate is Ephesians 5: 15 – 16. This passage says, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. And God seems to be saying to me here, “Bill, you will not be able to walk circumspectly or wisely, following My lead, if you don’t slow down enough to let Me guide your paths in life.” And this supports Swindoll’s contention in today’s devotional, illustrated by David slowing down enough and living in that cedar home, that he needed to make a move to honor God. And so do we!

Are you CHOOSING to slow down and create listening interludes which allow you to hear God? Perhaps you do it by going off on a retreat periodically to seek God’s leading. Perhaps you take off a half-day of prayer periodically to just go out in nature somewhere on a lovely warm day to listen to God and pray and meditate on His word. But more importantly than these periodic events, which are very healthy interludes for your spiritual well being, I’m asking if you have an EVERDAY INTERLUDE with God, where you intentionally and intently go to a quiet place, … and in solitude, you take time – God’s time – to be with our Lord and to sense His will or direction for your life?

Dear one, this is a discipline I began and developed a little over 20 years ago; and using the disciplines of solitude and meditation daily changed my life. And from times like this one, where I’m here, CHOOSING to take the time to get into God’s word, to pray for His mind and direction, and to journal my thoughts, I reap the benefits of joy and peace; and quite often I get those “eureka” direction-finding thoughts which lead me in toward God. And you might ask, “Bill, how do you know these are moments of insight are from God?” And to that very good question, I would answer that I’m confident because [#1] these interludes lead me in a direction which is consistent with God’s word; and [#2] they draw me closer to God. And since I know that Satan (or even my own selfish nature) would never lead me in a direction which was totally consistent with God’s word, I’m safe to know that God is leading me. And most certainly I know that Satan would never lead me deeper into my relationship with God. So, when, from these day interludes with God, He gives me His light of insight, I know I can respond as David did to the Prophet Samuel, who came to David with God’s leading and said, [verse 3 today], “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”

I do pray that you selectively create listening interludes in your life to be with God; and then, I hope you do listen for God’s direction. Because if and when you do, He will lead you.

My Prayer for Today: Thank You, Lord, for leading me from these quiet times we have together. Amen

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 – Day 133.May 14 – True Freedom

2009 – Day 133.May 14 – True Freedom

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 6: 14 – 23 …
Link to 2nd Sam. 6 for study ...

My Journal for the Day: This passage illustrates the power of obedience to produce freedom in one’s life. And Chuck Swindoll brings out two specific points in that regard which relate closely to the way we view life, either vertically in our relationship with God or horizontally, following the world’s view. I’ve discussed this in past devotionals; and I believe that Swindoll’s study today illustrates the strong vertical focus David had on God. I’ve certainly seen this illustrated in my past studies by see David’s vertical focus on God in his slaying of Goliath and his honoring Saul as God’s anointed king in spite of Saul’s hatred and jealousy for David. And now we see it in the way he honors God as he prepares the Arc of the Covenant and worships God with open abandon.

And Swindoll points out that … the better you know where you stand with the Lord, the freer you can be. In today’s passage we see David boldly and gleefully dancing, almost naked before God, much to the chagrin of his wife, worshipping his love for his God openly and honestly. And in Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, we see what can happen when the world and the flesh come into contact with someone, like David, who boldly and openly proclaims his love for God. And it’s true that when you get bold and vulnerable in your witness for God, the world will likely recoil with embarrassment in the least or anger/hostility at worst. You’ll note Michal’s response in verse 16 of today’s highlight passage. She saw David dancing freely and joyfully, worshipping the Lord, and the verse says, "she despised him in her heart.”

And the second point Swindoll brings out, which is illustrated in today’s stud, is that the freer you are before the Lord, the more confident you will become. And this was certainly true of David as he danced with joy, throwing aside the conventions of “kingly” dress, and freeing himself to worship His Lord. David, in this scenario is the picture of vulnerability and unconventional witness. He didn’t care what others thought, … only that God knew how joy-filled he was in the presence of his God.

What about you? I know that at times I’ve found myself balking a bit and muting my enthusiasm in worship on Sunday mornings, letting my horizontal feelings dictate just how open I would be to raise my hands while worshipping God in our service. We’re a church that has come from a “tradition” of a more subdued, muted style of worship; and having broken away from the boundaries and traditions of our “denominational” style, we now find our newer worship style evolving and growing to be freer and more expressive, which makes some, especially the older members of our congregation, uncomfortable. And I, personally, love the newer, freer style of worship! But I’m convicted by today’s study that I’m not open and free enough in the way I personally express my worship of the God of the Universe and the One Who saved me.

Why should I care what others think when I raise my hands with joy on Sunday morning, singing my praises to my Lord? I need to have more of David in my worship and less of Michal.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, as I grow to know You more, help me to be free to worship You, letting Your Spirit witness my love for You openly and freely. Amen

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009 – Day 132.May 13 – Principles Versus Precepts

2009 – Day 132.May 13 – Principles Versus Precepts

Passages of the Day: …
1st Samuel 13: 14 …
“But now [Saul] your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”
2nd Samuel 6: 9 – 13 … 9 David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 10 So David would not move the ark of the LORD with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household. … 12 Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep.
Acts 13: 21 – 22 … 21 And afterward [the time of the Judges] they [God’s people] asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’

My Journal for Today: Today, with these three passages we see why God raised up David to be the replacement King for Saul; and even in the New Testament (see Acts 13 above), he was touted as “the man” after God’s heart, … the man who would do ALL of God’s will. And Swindoll points out that such a one is a man [or woman] who will follow God’s precepts as well as to follow God’s principles.

Swindoll uses a common word picture to explain the difference between precepts and principles, comparing the following of a sign like “Speed Limit 15” as a precept; and a sign like “Drive Carefully” as a principle. Dr. Swindoll says that the 2nd Samuel 6 passage above shows that when David saw one of God’s precepts, he would conform his decisions to those of God’s precepts; and when David perceived or knew of God’s principles, he would submit and follow it as best he could.

Now, we know that David was certainly not perfect in this regard. We know, from the entirety of David’s life, especially the time he fell into sin with Bathsheba and tried to cover his sin with the murder of Uriah, that this man had the flesh to fall away from following God. But when we read God’s word in Psalms 51 and 32, we see that David, once convicted, would come back with a heart desirous of pursuing Godly righteousness.

So, Swindoll points out that Christians who are men or women after God’s own heart are rare when we look at the world. They may not be perfect; but these are the ones who keep short accounts of sin; and when they are convicted by God’s principles or precepts, they respond with confession and repentance, and they bring their lives into conformity to the way God would lead them.

That was the pattern of David’s life; and so, we have another of the pop quizzes which come from such a study. And the question from our quiz is much like the one where we opened this study of David (see my devotional for April 8, 2009). And the question for me comes up again, “Am I a man after God’s heart?”

Well, I know that I have a heart which is deceitful (see Jer. 17: 9); and I know that I’m a sinner (see Romans 3: 23). But I also know that God will always be there to pour His strength into my weakness (see Isaiah 41: 10 or 2nd Cor. 12: 9), giving me His ever sufficient grace to lift me up. So, I will continue to pursue God’s precepts and principles to my utmost, doing all I can to be “a man after God’s own heart.”
My Prayer for Today: Lord, all I can do is surrender; You have to do the rest. Amen

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 – Day 131.May 12 – God Cares

2009 – Day 131.May 12 – God Cares

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 6: 1 – 9 …
Link to passage for study …

My Journal for Today: When some people read a passage like this one today, they might think that it illustrates a heartless God; but the opposite is the point in this passage. God does care; and as long as we care about what God has clearly spelled out are His cares, i.e., His will, as He had in His decrees about the Arc of the Covenant, we can know that our hearts and actions are in accord with His will; and we will be blessed. However, if we, as did Uzzah in this passage, breech God’s will, the consequences can be dire – even to the point of death. Uzzah, not being a Levite, touched the untouchable; and the penalty had been clearly defined by God’s decree; and Uzzah died.

And we also see an interesting point of humanity from David in this passage, who showed a moment of displaced anger toward God when Uzzah was stricken dead. I personally think David, “the man after God’s own heart,” knew that he should have not let such an incident happen. David should have done his homework and insured that only Levites would be within touching distance of the Arc. But because of David’s haste, a man died needlessly; and I believe that David’s misplaced anger reflected his own actions and lack of studied care for which God had declared His care.

Have you ever been careless and thoughtless; and your thoughtless actions caused someone else to be hurt? And in that moment of realization, it’s easy to get mad at others or even God, when, in point of fact, it is you who was at fault. This was really David’s fault in the moment God struck down Uzzah. Yes, as Swindoll points out, David was a “man after God’s own heart;” but he was not a perfect man; and even his imperfect anger reflected a misplaced heart for God’s perfection and for His declared word.

Swindoll helps his readers, in this case yours truly, to see that we need to KNOW in our minds and hearts what God cares for. And where do we learn that? Well, the answer to that one is “Duh !!” The answer, of course, is that we know God and His will from His word.

So, what does that imply? It means, if we’re to have a heart for God, we must have an intentional heart for God’s truth, which is found in His word, … the Bible. So, I return to a verse which often rings true when we look for God’s desire that we succeed and prosper in caring for what God cares for; and that passage is found in Joshua 1: 8, linked here for you. … [And I really hope you have memorized this one!]

If you’ve been reading along with me through this study of the life of David, I hope you’ve picked up on one of the main recurring themes, pointing believers toward God’s word as the source for knowing God and His will for our lives. Dear one, we cannot, and will not, know God or His will for our lives if we choose to ignore God’s word. It’s that simple; and if we choose to prioritize other things in our lives above investing diligent time studying God through His word, we just might suffer some dire consequences, like others being hurt because WE ignore God’s will.

My friend(s), sin leads to death; and choosing to ignore God and His truth, is sin. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to cause the death of a Uzzah because you chose to worship idols rather than to worship God through His word. My heart is for God; and I pray that I internalize this message that my God wants me to be pursuing Him through His word.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I get the message; and I am here today pursuing You through Your word. Amen

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 – Day 140.May 11 – Taking Control

2009 – Day 140.May 11 – Taking Control

Passage of the Day: 2nd Samuel 2: 1 – 7 …
Link to passage for study …

My Journal for Today: Finally the time came for David to move from fugitive to monarch. But with Saul now dead by his own hand, how did David move ahead? He had been a dozen or more years fleeing Saul and fighting in the desert wilderness; and David had learned to look to God before leaping ahead on his own. And this is the lesson we should learn from today’s passage in David’s life.

When we get an opportunity, perhaps a promotion or the chance to exercise our own control in life, the natural tendency is going to be to “take control” in the flesh. However, it would be wise to learn from David’s life here. The first thing David did when he was finally anointed to be the King in Judah was to humbly wait on God for direction and guidance. And that it is the ever present life lesson we get from God’s wisdom in Proverbs 3: 5 – 6, linked here for your convenience.

And I hope you have that one passage memorized and down cold; because the guidance from God’s truth here can impact anyone throughout our lives. And David, in our study today, is a good example of this truth. When we have the opportunity to exercise power or control in life, the wisest thing we can do is to set aside pride and humbly do what Christ commands in Luke 9: 23 … to set aside self and follow our Savior no matter what the daily cross might be.

Now, back in the day when our passage today was describing David’s time of anointing, God spoke directly, and even audibly, to His servants or anointed leaders. But in this time of the New Covenant, God primarily “speaks” to His followers through His word, … the Bible. And that is why the advice of Prov. 3: 5 – 6 and from the very words spoken by our Lord in Luke 9: 23 are so pertinent to us in life. Because when we have the chance to move ahead and direct the affairs of mankind, exercising God-given control, when we follow His word, we will find His will and His way; and He will lead us to take Godly actions which will glorify our Father in Heaven. Relying on self, however, will very often lead to selfish disaster.

So, here we have another inventory moment, … one of those “pop quizzes” from God’s truth, … a 2nd Cor. 13: 5 moment, … a test of our faith. And I ask myself, “Bill, do you filter ALL of your directions and decisions through God’s word for guidance and confirmation?” And to that question, I can honestly say that I’ve come to the place where that is my reflex and “M.O.” in life. How about you? Are you looking to God’s word, and going to God in prayer (as we’re directed in Phil. 4: 6 – 7) to seek out God’s peace as our stamp of approval on the decisions we make?

If you’re not, I would exhort you to begin developing and acquiring the discipline which was exhibited by David in today’s passage. Take it from one who has learned by the life courses of “hard knocks.” Going to God first and humbly finding His will through His word is going to pay big dividends in your life if you can learn that as a discipline rather than relying on our own hearts and our flesh to make important decision in life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I humbly seek Your way through Your word to guide me in life. Amen

Sunday, May 10, 2009

– Day 129.May 10 – God Takes Charge

2009 – Day 129.May 10 – God Takes Charge

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 31: 1 – 13 …
Linked to 1st Samuel 31 for your study …

My Journal for Today: I don’t think I would have seen the parallels between Saul’s death and the death of Christ had I not gotten the interpretive help and teaching in today’s devotional from Chuck Swindoll. However, he does point out that in both scenarios, God changed everything for Israel and mankind as Saul’s death became a picture of what would take place when God demonstrated His control of history and mankind’s eternal future by the death of a ruler. Here are some points to which Swindoll points out to illustrate this.

>>> First, in both instances, in the death of Saul and centuries later, Christ, the end of all national hope for Israel seemed to have occurred. But in both deaths, a whole new hope for mankind was given light.
>>> Secondly, when both Saul and Jesus died, the adversary of Israel or mankind appeared to have one a final victory. However, as history marched forward from both deaths, the line of David would prove that the victory was in the hands of God’s chosen people.
>>> Thirdly, in both instances God ushered in a whole new plan of salvation, which came through the line of Jesse and David to bring salvation to God’s people. And so, Saul’s death brought David’s line into the line of succession, which would not have occurred without Saul dying in the way he did. With Christ, the line of salvation was opened to the Gentile as well as the Jew. So, in both deaths God opened up salvation to a whole new people.
>>> And fourthly and finally, Saul’s death showed God’s people how futile and foolish a kingship based on human worship could be; and with David becoming king, the hope of Messiah became the way man viewed their eternal future. With Christ’s death, the era of law and guilt died and mankind found that his way to salvation based on his own sacrifice had ended, being replace with the hope that comes only through God’s grace.

With both of these deaths in history, Swindoll thinks God was and is saying to mankind. “When are you going to turn your lives over to MY control?” In Saul’s death this message was prophetic. But with Christ’s death on the cross, the message to man was the fulfillment and final answer to the prophesy. Saul’s death pointed mankind to the line of David, showing where the King of kings would come. In Christ’s death, we see clearly, if we’re willing to receive our Lord as the King of kings, that mankind has only one hope for salvation; and that has come through the life, death, and resurrection of David’s line, culminating in Jesus Christ, Who was and is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Your story, which both ended and began on the cross, tells it all; … You are the only hope for our salvation. Amen

Saturday, May 09, 2009

2009 – Day 128.May 09 – Our Epitaph

2009 – Day 128.May 09 – Our Epitaph

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 31: 1 – 13 …
Linked to 1st Samuel 31 for your study …

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll poses a thought provoking question after one reads today’s passage about the passing of Saul and his sons in 1st Samuel 31. He asks the rhetorical question, “What words will be used in the eulogy to sum up your life?”

In today’s passage we read of the tragic demise of a man who could have been, as Swindoll points out, David’s role model and mentor; and yet, as we’ve been studying these past days, Saul ignominiously pursued Israel’s anointed one to try to kill him. And then today, we read how he took his own life to avoid being killed by uncircumcised pagans. What a sad legacy!

And as I pondered Swindoll’s question about my potential eulogy, I thought about what might have been said at my funeral had it taken place over 30 years go when I didn’t know Christ as my Savior, … when, as some Southerner might say, “He was as lost as a ball in high weeds!” And at that time, because of the politeness at funerals, no one probably would have likely spoken the truth that I had denied my daughters a lot of my presence and parenting as a father because of my brain being consumed in a bondage to pornography. My wife would have likely been thinking, but probably would not have said the truth, … that I had abandoned her emotionally and physically as a husband.

But God mercifully and gracefully reached into my sin-dead life; and He broke me to a place where I could, and did, receive Him as my Lord and Savior. And now over 25 years after I have become my Lord’s disciple, I would hope that someone would say, should I go home to be with the Lord, “Bill was a devoted Christian husband to Elly since 1983 when he gave his life to Christ.” And I hope that someone would say, “The Berry Patch, as they call their family, has two strong Christian daughters, their two devoted Christian husbands, and five Christian grandkids, all of whom are thriving in the example set by Bill, who was a Christian who led his family to the Lord.” And then I pray that someone might recount how I was called into the Ministry and became an Ordained Christian Minister, who was affectionately nicknamed “Elder Berry,” and who was called to found and lead a Christian ministry, BattlePlan Ministry, to help Christians walk free from habitual sexual sin and into a fruitful walk of freedom in Christ.

Whatever anyone would say in my eulogy besides the above, which underlines my life in Christ, would be icing on the cake which has become my life. But as you have read of king Saul’s life in 1st Samuel and from my witness above, have you asked yourself what one might say in your eulogy down the road of life, … after you’ve had some time to let God’s Spirit be used in and through your life to give glory to God? I shudder to think what my eulogy could have been like or would have been like from those years before I was given the opportunity to turn my life around with God’s grace enabling and empowering me to do so.

My dear one, … if you’ve given your life to Christ (see Romans 12: 1 – 2), then you now have the same power in you to live fruitfully for Christ which was the power that raised our Savior from the grave. Even if you were just saved yesterday, you could begin tomorrow to intentionally and purposefully shine Christ’s Spirit-empowered light into a very dark world, letting others see Christ giving you that light for God’s glory (see Matthew 5: 16). And one day, whenever you go home to be with your Lord, someone might give a eulogy of purpose and Christian power, which would be a testimony of glory for Your God.

And that is my prayer today for all of us … that we leave a eulogy of purpose and fruitfulness which trumpets the glory of God for all to hear.

My Prayer for Today: And my powerful Holy Spirit, let Your Light shine through my life for all to see You, precious Savior, and so that my eulogy will glorify You, my Father in Heaven. Amen

Friday, May 08, 2009

2009 – Day 127.May 08 – “A Very Present Help”

2009 – Day 127.May 08 – “A Very Present Help”

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 30: 1 – 6 …
Linked to 1st Samuel 30 for your study …

My Journal for Today: Down about as far as he could go; so, where does David turn? He’s tired and depressed; and he no doubt was worried about the loss of the women and children under his leadership, including two of his own wives who’d been captured by the Amalekites, a fearsome warrior tribe of the time. What was the king-to-be to do? No where to look, but up; and that’s exactly where David turned. Read 1st Samuel, verse 6; and we read that David was strengthened by His Lord.

Perhaps you’re in a place of despair and seeming hopelessness even as you read this. Maybe it’s the lousy economy which has you down and almost out. Perhaps it’s a diagnosis of cancer. Or maybe it’s a relational problem in your home. But you can empathize with David; … no where to turn but upwards … from the horizontal to the vertical. And that’s exactly where God had allowed David to plunge; and that’s exactly where David turned; … to God.

And if we read on in David’s immediate plight or on to times later, we learn that God lifted David up and delivered him into victory after victory, … even on to the kingship for which God had anointed David. But David had to be delivered from his immediate valley of the shadow of death (you know Psalm 23, a Psalm of David), seeing that God will never forsake, nor abandon, His chosen ones [Do you remember Deut. 31: 6?]. David had to experience the strength which can come only from God, written about by another Psalmist in Psalm 46: 1, “… a very present help in time of trouble.”

I could personalize this with testimony and more from God’s word; but I think you’ve probably been in some valley of despair, as was David in today’s passage; and I pray that you know Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you don’t, and you’re in that low place in your life, you’re there alone; aren’t you? But if you have God in your life, you’re with the One Who wants you to look up to Him, … to cry to Him, … to rely on Him. Because only God can take you through that valley of despair and give you that peace that surpasses all understanding (I hope you have Phil. 4: 6-7 internalized).

My Prayer for Today: Down and out? Look up, dear one, to the God Who is there to deliver you. Amen

Thursday, May 07, 2009

2009 – Day 126.May 07 – Lesson Learned!

2009 – Day 126.May 07 – Lesson Learned!

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 25: 35 - 38 …
Link to 1st Sam. 25 for study …

Highlight Passage – 1st Samuel 25: 35 – 38 … 35 So David received from her [Abigail’s] hand what she had brought him, and said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.” … 36 Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light. 37 So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. 38 Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.

My Journal for Today: Above I have given you the link to go back and study the context of today’s shorter highlight passage [also above for your quick study]. It’s another rather remarkable story, illustrating the interaction between Abigail, David, and Nabal, Abby’s husband.

You may remember that Abigail had done the tough, but Godly thing, standing in the gap for her scoundrel (and probably abusive) husband, saving his life from a very angry anointed one, David. And David recognized that Abigail had given him wise and Godly counsel; and he spared her household, allowing Abigail to give David and his 400 men all the food and drink they needed. And what was Abby’s hubby doing the whole time his wife was being his advocate? As you’ve hopefully read, this “scallywag” was off getting drunk and probably carousing without his wife. And so, what did God do?

Well, the next morning, after Abigail informed her husband what had transpired with David, The Lord saw fit to bring some sort of severe vascular malady (maybe a stroke or heart attack) to this evil man; and he died ten days latter. And if you take a sneak peak by reading ahead a bit, you’ll see that David, recognizing how special Abigail was, proposed to her; and she came to David and was made over to be one of his wives.

This is not the place to discuss the rights or wrongs of David having more than one wife (which becomes interesting theological speculation given David’s fall into sin some years later); but at this point we realize that God can, in His own timing and in His own way, take care of seemingly impossible situations and honoring our righteous decisions, especially when we honor God by doing things the right way rather than the world’s way.

There are many examples in Scripture of God honoring His promises, even when mankind has trouble doing the right thing. BUT, when man does it the RIGHT way, God may not do things exactly as we might imagine or desire; but He’ll always do it the best way for those who believe and follow Him. That’s the working out of a verse (Romans 8: 28 - linked below) which I hope you have memorized and internalized. And we see it played out in this true-life scenario in 1st Samuel 25.

Abigail does the right thing; and God takes over, doing exactly what was needed to protect her family, her household, and to bring about justice for her life with her abusive husband. And so, here’s the deal, … my fellow Christ follower. If we live up to the truth of Luke 9: 23 (also one you should have memorized by now – but linked here if you don’t), God will do the right thing by us (again, I refer you to Romans 8: 28 - linked for your convenience).

Oh, how it’s taken many failures on my part and God's mercy over the years for me to come to the belief and realization of these truths. I pray that you don’t have to incur God’s humility if/when you can’t or won’t choose to humble yourself and learn the lessons we’ve been learning from the life of Abigail. And the main lesson is, … if you don’t humble yourself before God, He will take you through the lessons in “Humility 101;” and the lessons you will have to learn may be something like Nabal had to learn. Personally, I’d rather intentionally submit and humble myself intentionally to life God’s way rather than having to take a mandatory God lesson in humility from our Lord. What is it the old commercial says, … “Pay me now or pay me later!”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I surrender to You in humility now; and I truly believe that You will guide and protect me as you’ve promised in Your word. Amen

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

2009 – Day 125.May 06 – Patiently Waiting

2009 – Day 125.May 06 – Patiently Waiting

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 25: 29 - 34
Link to 1st Sam. 25 for study ...

My Journal for Today: If you’ve been following this interaction between David and Abigail in these past few days, we are learning some lessons from this wise woman. The character lessons are obvious, such as her loyalty to her husband and family and her courage in confronting an angry king-to-be with a force of 400 men who were bent on taking out her household. But beyond this, Swindoll points out three lessons in wisdom which we can glean from today’s passage.

And the first of these is stated this way, “When conflicts arise, … be wise.” And I’d go a step further, I’d say, “Be Godly wise!” And my dear fellow believer, take it from my personal record of failures, when we’re in a conflict, the NATURAL reaction will be to act according to our flesh or our feelings; and this is almost always NOT the wise way to go. I learned a long time ago that I need to resist letting feelings dictate my choices or decisions. Rather, instead of reacting, I need to respond. And that means I need to make choices which are consistent with God’s way, not my own way.

In any conflict, there are always at least two sides; and Swindoll is right when he writes, “Weigh the differences” before responding. Hence, I’ve learned, whenever I can, to run any decision or action through the truth of Phil. 4: 6-7 to seek God’s peace from prayer before I go off half-cocked and react in the flesh. In other words, when in doubt, seek God’s route and deny self. And again, I refer – as I do so often – to Christ’s formula for discipleship in Luke 9: 23. God’s way is always THE WAY.

Next Swindoll writes about this scenario, “Take each conflict as it comes; … and treat it separately.” Each conflict and situation may require a different approach or decision. And that’s the reason the flesh can so often lead us astray. When we react in the flesh rather than to respond with Godly wisdom, we have a tendency to do handle varying situations with the way our flesh dictates; and that will often be with similar, selfish motives. The battle you won yesterday may not need the same approach as a conflict which arises today. So, we must take on each situation as it arises … one at a time!

And finally, there is great wisdom in letting time help us dictate our decision making. And so, Swindoll points out, “Whenever you realize there’s nothing more you can do, … WAIT.” And actually, this wisdom melds with the other advice we’ve been covering these past few days. If David had acted brashly, in the flesh, he would have killed Abigail’s husband and all the males in that household. He would have reacted in the flesh rather than to respond with Godly wisdom. But by waiting and listening to Abigail’s wise counsel and teaching, God’s way was found and the Lord’s wisdom prevailed. Often – well, whenever possible – it’s best to take some time to make a decision, seeking God’s will and His way, rather than letting our feelings or our flesh overcome our faith. And, oh, how the enemy desires for us to listen to our deceitful flesh (again, always remember the ever prevalent truth of Jer. 17: 9) rather than to take the time to respond to God’s leading.

As I meditate here about Abigail and her advice and counsel for David, I think about how I’ve learned to take time, when I need to make a decision, seeking and listening to the advice of my God-given wife, Elly. I may not always take her counsel [though if I’m honest, I usually do]; but I’d be a fool not to let God use her Spirit-given gifts to temper my feelings or leanings on any given matter. And often, when I’m listening to my wife, I’ve heard her return to her favorite Bible verse; and she will say “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding.” And I know the rest from Prov. 3: 5 – 6, which is always the best advice, “In all your ways, acknowledge [God’s way], and He will keep your paths straight.” [My emphasis added.]

The advice we read above, which comes from this biblical encounter, is a good teaching; and it’s one we’d all be wise to learn and implement, especially when we’re confronted with decisions which weigh our feelings and our faith. Let’s let Abigail be our teacher and let David’s surrender to God’s wisdom be our guide.

My Prayer for Today: Father, thank You for Your word which teaches me Your way rather than following my way. Amen