Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009 – Day 303.Oct 31 – Sufficient Grace

Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Today, as I (we) close out on the teachings from this passage, I really identify with what Chuck Swindoll has written, which is a very vulnerable discourse on his own failings with regard to dealing with tribulation. In his devotional for today, he openly admits that he’s not the best model for handling trials; and that is me, too. My default in the midst of trials is the pity party; and Swindoll admits to a few of those himself.

He writes that it’s one thing to use Saul, who became Paul, as our model for finding strength in the midst of human weakness; but when it comes to living up to what we read in today’s passage, he says that he – and I say that I – all too often have trouble internalizing and living the truth that God’s grace is sufficient for us to receive and use God’s strength in the midst of our own weaknesses.

Yes, Paul got it; and he taught this in a number of passages in Scripture added to this one in 2nd Cor. 12. There was that oft quoted verse from Phil. 4: 13; and you may be thinking about the closing section of Romans 8. Yes, Paul got it; and he lived it, going through horrible trials and writing some his most inspiring and hope-filled words from dungeons or while imprisoned.

But it’s one thing to read Paul’s inspiring – and very truthful – exhortations that “God’s grace is sufficient.” However, when one has lost a child, or another is quadriplegic from an accident, or we’ve just learned that the prognosis is terminal cancer, our humanly makes it very difficult to live by pursuing, receiving, and using God’s grace in the midst of such trials. But that, my friend, is exactly what we need to do.

So, … how do we do it? Well, I propose that it’s now, when there is little pain in one’s life and when things are in a relative comfort-zone, that we need to prepare ourselves for future maladies when our weaknesses will be exposed. We have to decide NOW that we believe and cling to the truth of our passage today. We have to declare and make a covenant with God’s word that we’re going to live out Phil. 4: 13 even if we’re feeling weakened for any reason. And I suggest that you make that covenant NOW with some close Christian friend, … maybe your spouse. Declare with that loved one that you’re going to expect that accountability partner to come to you, when you’re in the midst of a pity party, and remind you of this time when you both made a mutual covenant to use God’s truth, such as that in today’s passage, to lift the other one up with the encouragement that comes from God’s truth. And you need to agree TOGETHER to be there for the other one, listening to his or her pain, hugging them when they are down hearted, and staying with them through those tough times, helping them to see that God’s grace is truly sufficient for any of life’s trials.

I pray that you have someone like that in your life, my friend. Well, go to them ASAP and make a mutual covenant for walking through future suffering together. The investment in such mutual vulnerability and accountability will pay big dividends one day; because, as God’s word teaches, you will experience some suffering of note in your life; and you’re human; … you will be weak. However, above all, know that the truth is … God’s grace is sufficient to give you His strength to cover your weakness.

My Prayer for Today: My Father, … help me to find Your strength when I am feeling weak. Amen

Friday, October 30, 2009

2009 – Day 302.Oct 30 – Nothing New

Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: As a teacher – and that’s one of my Spirit imparted gifts – I often repeat a mantra taught to me by my mentor years ago; and that is, “Redundancy teaches!” In other words, when you hear a message over and over again from a reliable source, we should listen and learn; because that lesson is probably important. How about God? As a source of learning, is HE reliable and important enough to listen and learn? So, I’ve learned – quite often in fact – if we read something from God’s truth, (i.e., the Bible), especially something that comes at us repeatedly, we should listen and learn (and yes, even memorize and internalize).

So, today, Chuck Swindoll hits on one of those repetitive truths; and it is one which our repeated passage today teaches just like the same message that goes back to the oldest recorded book in the Bible, which we just finished studying not too long ago, the Book of Job. The lesson: SUFFERING IS NOT NEW!

When we studied Job, we saw how he hated, by accepted God’s deal with Satan (unknown to Job) which visited horrible suffering upon Job and his family. We read of Job’s poor wife telling her man to curse God and die; and Job retorting that his family had accepted so many blessings from God; so why shouldn’t they accept adversity. But in today’s culture, even from so-called “christian” sources, we hear the teaching of the prosperity teachers, saying that when we find God, we’ll experience good health and great wealth. And the message of Job’s suffering and now Paul’s thorn just doesn’t sit well with a people who try to sell pain reduction at all costs and the pursuit of happiness as our inalienable right.

But my friend, we had better learn the lesson of inevitable suffering sooner, rather than later; because when suffering hits, if we are bowled over by it, we become easy prey for an enemy who would use our suffering to get us questioning the very presence of God, let alone that His love is found in the midst of the suffering.

Dear one, I hope – and will pray today – that we all learn and know the lesson of the OT and NT, … that God will never leave us, nor forsake us (see Deut. 31: 6 and Heb. 13: 5). I pray that we can be witness to the truth that God loves us just as much – if not more – in the hard times as He does in the easy times. I pray that we learn that God’s “blessings” might just include suffering as well as good fortune. Because if we can’t learn that lesson proactively, we’re very likely to have to learn it, as did Job and Paul, retroactively. It’s one of the most highly repeated lessons in all of Scripture; so, my friend, let us learn it and use if for God’s glory!

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, help us to learn the lessons You have to teach us in suffering; so that our responses will be as Job or Paul, by giving witness to Your love in the midst of the suffering. Amen

Thursday, October 29, 2009

2009 – Day 301.Oct 29 – It’s Not About You

Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Yes, we’re hovering again here in the passage about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh;” and today Chuck Swindoll wants me to really see and internalize one of the bottom-line truths from this passage of Scripture. And that is related to what I wrote about yesterday – that life is not about comfort and accumulation and personal fulfillment. No, … dear one, … we simply must learn what Paul espoused in verse 10 of this passage … that life, no matter how challenging, is all about God; and we must learn that what Paul also taught in Romans 8: 28 and Phil. 2: 11-13 [look them up!]… that in all situations, all circumstances, and all struggles, God is in control and He ALWAYS has our good in His plan for us; … AND it is all for Him and not for me.

Paul got truly got it; as we can read in this passage, even boasting about … well, take a look at the list, which Swindoll helped me see today. Paul said he could BOAST about …
• What he had lost,
• In his weaknesses,
• In the face of insults,
• When he was slandered,
• When he was persecuted,
• As he faced any of the difficulties in life, … and …
• With any of the pressures the world presented.

Even after praying and praying and praying that God, in His sovereignty, would take away the “thorn” from his life, Paul came to realize that God had allowed this painful thing, whatever it was, into his life so that he could and would remain humble, therefore allowing him to receive God’s enabling grace and for him to be able to be strong in the face of his weaknesses. As I alluded to yesterday, it was as if the Apostle was saying, “Okay, Lord, if this thorn is what it takes for me to have Your strength; bring it on!” And by extension, it was also as if Paul was witnessing to the world by saying, “Hey, world, look at how God can deal with my weaknesses in the face of this pain … just like He will for you, if you let Him!”

And there is another Pauline truth that I thought of as I was reading Swindoll’s devotional this morning, which also came from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in Phil. 1: 6. You probably know it. It says, “… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” And so, as the title of my devotional for today says, my friend, “It’s not about you!” No, it’s all about God and HIS plan and purpose for our lives. And that was the opening (and really the closing) message of Rick Warren’s incredibly popular book The Purpose Driven Life, wasn’t it? Life is not about me; … it’s about God.

And so, trusting in the truth of what Paul learned via his “thorn,” and living in the reality of the truth of Paul’s admonition of Romans 8: 28, that ALL things work together for my good, I too can boast of all those challenges which come my way in life; because the truth is that God is using those “thorns” to be a staging ground for His work to make me just like Jesus. And isn’t that worth anything it takes? Isn’t that the bottom-line goal for all Christians … to become like our Savior? Of course it is. So, I pray – as I will below – that God allows me to share Paul’s “bring it on” attitude; and to let the world see God shaping me into the image of my Lord.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, it is with fear and trembling, Lord, that I come before Your throne of grace saying “THANK YOU” for all the weaknesses in my life, … all of which showcase Your strength and give You glory. Lord, it’s all about YOU! Amen

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2009 – Day 300.Oct 28 – Grace That Won’t Let Go

Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Are we getting God’s perspective yet? The world would have us believe that weakness is a bad thing. But what is God’s perspective? Well this passage today, which is being repeated by Chuck Swindoll, certainly teaches that God’s perspective is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. So, let’s begin to get it … weakness is something God can use for His glory; and as Paul finally came to realize, … his recognition and realization of his weakness (i.e., “the thorn”) was God’s lesson that Paul could actually boast in his weakness; because it was that recognition (i.e. his humility) God sees it as the ticket to His grace. And we read, in Christ’s own words, that “… [His] grace is sufficient for…” anyone who desires for God’s strength to cover his/her weakness.

But is that what we hear or feel in this life? Is that what the world preaches? Do I hear a resounding, “NO!!!” … No, what the world wants us to internalize is the lesson that worldly success is the goal of our pursuits. And there is also the heavily touted lesson that PAIN IS BAD!! And finally there is Satan’s message that we are to avoid weakness and appear strong at all costs.

These messages are everywhere. Advertising and marketing sells so many pain relievers and drugs that we become obsessed with the reduction of physical and emotional pain. Have you ever seen a TV show that paints a message that men are weaklings and women are strong? Of course you have! And what about that patriotic mantra, the words of which formed the framework of our American independence … that mankind is “… endowed by their Creator” … with the “unalienable rights” … of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

And it’s that latter phrase that we believe … that we have the right of HAPPINESS, which has conned us into thinking that we should avoid pain at all costs and pursue a life that is characterized by the image of strength. So we live our lives thinking that anything painful is bad and we should avoid those painful elements of life in our “pursuit of happiness.” And so we honor strength and dishonor weakness. We pursue feelings of happiness and ignore the truth that it is the tough lessons of life where we glean the most strenght. We take a myriad of drugs so that we don’t have to experience anything painful in life; and many go to hell in this pursuit of happiness.

But that was not the lesson of our passage and Paul’s story today, was it? No, God had to allow Satan to buffet Paul with a permanent physical “thorn” so that Paul – and by extension, we – could learn the lesson that we must choose to humble ourselves before God as the ticket to God’s enabling grace. Unfortunately it took physical pain for Paul to learn this lesson; but in the end of our passage today, we read Paul having the attitude that if Satan’s torn was necessary to keep him humble to receive God’s grace, … well then, Paul would say, “Bring it on, Lord!”

So, where are our pursuits in life? Are we pursuing God’s grace; or are we pursuing painlessness? Are we recognizing and openly acknowledging our weaknesses; or are we trying to hide our selves behind masks of pseudo-strength? Are we in headlong pursuit of happiness to the exclusion of God getting His glory as we receive His strength to cover our weakness?

I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself; but the Apostle Paul certainly answered them for himself; didn’t he? He came to the place where he found that God’s grace won’t let go easily; and he actually decided to boast about God’s ability to give him strength in the place of his own weakness. And that’s my prayer for me (and for you, too) … that we recognize that pain can be a good thing if we learn from it and let it teach us that God ALWAYS has our good, as His children, in His plan for our lives. Another Pauline passage, in Romans 8: 28, teaches us this lesson in a powerful way, doesn’t it? AND … when we can internalize these truths, our lives will be oh-so-much more joyful, peaceful, and fruitful.

My Prayer for Today: Dear Lord, help us to understand and live with the challenges you allow into our lives to deepen our relationship with You … as You shape our lives for Your glory. Amen

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2009 – Day 299.Oct 27 – A Thorn in the Flesh

Passage for Study: 2nd Corinthians 12: 1 – 10 … Linked for study …

My Journal for Today: I’m glad Swindoll is revisiting this passage in his exposé on Saul, who became Paul. I personally think we could park and preach here for many days; and I just looked ahead in Swindoll’s book; and that’s exactly what Pastor Chuck will be doing as we close out the month of October. So, get ready as we park here for a while.

And I love the word picture Swindoll uses to start his discussion about this thorn in the flesh, which became a storm of pain in Paul’s life. Swindoll writes, and it’s true, that on the high seas, especially in Paul’s times, a sailor knew to tie himself down on deck during a storm. He would secure himself to something solid with a rope so the raging waves could not wash him into the ocean. To do that, the sailor had to have learned that he was not strong enough to weather the storm. He had to set aside pride and humble himself to use the strength of something much more solid than himself. And here was Paul in the midst of a storm of pain, which God had allowed Satan to bring into his life.

And when I was first learning about this passage, I couldn’t help but think about Job, who strapped himself to God when Satan was allowed by God to bring all that pain into his life. Job’s Rock for his anchor was God, wasn’t it? And here was the Apostle Paul, who, by the way, had just experienced some extreme spiritual high after getting a vision of God’s glory in some way; and God allows Satan to brings this physical “thorn,” whatever it was, into Paul’s life. And you see what Paul does. He immediately goes to the One Whom he knows is capable of helping him deal with the pain. Yes, Paul, who was once Saul who had rejected Christ, now cries out to The Lord as the only One Who can help him deal with this storm. He anchors himself to The Rock in his storm of pain. Yes, with his anchor of faith, Paul anchors himself to God for help.

God, … being God, knew that Paul needed to learn – or relearn – the lesson that only in humility could Paul receive and use the grace that He, God, would freely offer Paul to anchor himself in this storm of pain. And so over and over and over again, Paul attaches himself to God with his anchor of faith in prayer; because Paul had learned, by this stage in his discipleship, that the grace of Christ was the only place to attach his tether of faith.

In fact, if you have a red-letter Bible, Paul quotes Christ directly, which is the only red-letter quote you will find in all of the Pauline epistles. You find it in that great line in 2nd Cor.. 12: 9, in which somewhere/sometime Christ had told Paul personally, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And experiencing Satan’s storm of pain, Paul apparently learned the lesson that this storm of thorns was apparently necessary in his life so that he could deal with the pain. Job learned that lesson after faithfully going to God over and over again; and so Paul.

But now the question for us is, “Have we learned this lesson?”

My friend, when we have a storm of thorns come into our life, what do we do? Do we go the “Why me” questions first; or do we, in faith, strap our anchor to the Rock so that we can ride out the pain, praying to God saying, “What are You teaching me here, Lord?” Do we ask God what we can learn from the thorns, rather than why we’re going through the storm? I’m afraid all too often my default question is “WHY,” rather than “WHAT.” But here we see Paul had learned that God’s enabling grace is only released when we can set pride aside and come to our Lord, humbly, asking God WHAT we need to gather from the thorns of life.

I pray that we can lean that humility is the key to unlocking God’s strength when we don’t have the strength to weather the storms of life. Because only when we can do that will we be able to capture God’s strength from His grace to cover our human weakness.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, when the thorn storms come, may I be faithfully tethered to The Rock. Amen

Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 – Day 298.Oct 26 – From God’s Perspective

Passage for Study: Romans 8: 22 – 23 from the context of Rom. 8: 18 – 25 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll, my devotional author and guide this year, brings up an interesting point (i.e., lesson) today. And besides using this powerful passage from Romans 8, that great theological treatise, he quotes the famous Christian author/teacher John Stott, who wrote, concerning this passage, “Some Christians, …, grin too much and groan too little.”

It’s not that Christians shouldn’t be joyful. Swindoll points out that Christians, certainly much more than the lost, should choose to live joy-filled lives; but we often don’t know how to deal with a fellow Christian who is depressed, down, or has what Paul is picturing as a “groaning spirit” from this text today. And Swindoll cautions us not to try to encourage one of our brothers/sisters in Christ who is obviously down by telling them to “smile more” or to try to shame them for their depression.

Paul certainly knew what being depressed was all about; but he did put our feelings of physical, emotional, or spiritual depression into the perspective of the truth we have, as Christians, … that hope we have in Christ. And that is what is expressed in today’s passage, as wall as so many other truths which come from God’s word, pointing us the eternal truth of what Christ has given us by His suffering on the cross.

But being physically down or emotionally drained is a reality of our human existence; and we shouldn’t try to put a guilt trip on fellow Christians who are in the dumpers viewing a present life filled with pain. Who knows, … your depressed friend may be dealing with a diagnosis of terminal cancer; or maybe they have suddenly lost a loved one in an accident; or quite possibly, like a friend of mine right now, they are dealing with chronic, intractable migraine headaches. Certainly in these scenarios, wouldn’t we expect our pain ridden fellow Christians to “groan” in their suffering? Of course, we would; … so how do we help them?

Well, I think all we can do is share their pain, listen to their feelings, and genuinely share the truths from God’s word which might be a balm of soothing help. We should possibly help our friend[s] in pain see that they are not alone in their depression. There are a number of giants of the faith who were in such pain and/or anguish that they wanted to die or never to have been born. In our studies from Great Days with the Great lives we seen this from Elijah, exhausted under the broom tree, and Moses who needed encouragement from His brother, Aaron, when God’s people grumbled and brought their challenges to him. And we know of situational depression grabbing hold of Job, who voiced – to God – the desire never to have been born rather than bear the suffering Satan had visited upon him (of which he had no knowledge). And even Paul had his “woe is me times,” as we read in Romans 7: 14 – 23 or 2nd Cor. 12: 7 – 10 [each linked here for your study].

And these are passages which, if we can point our depressed friends toward, perhaps they can see that though they are down because of the suffering they have encountered, God still desires for us to live – as much as we can – in the hope which is IN CHRIST. And then, sharing these things, we just need to be there to listen and to empathize as much as we can with anyone dealing with a depressed spiriti, sharing God’s love and helping, as much as we can, to refocus our friends on the glory ahead which is in Christ.

Perhaps, in your life, or the life of a friend, we need to grin less and groan more; and as I do so often, we need to do what is expressed in that priceless and powerful old hymn, which I’m blessed to be listening to on my Ipod even as I write this …

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

My Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, help me … when I’m down or I’m trying to help a depressed friend, to see You and Your ever faithful love as well as the truth of the hope we have - and can only have - in You. Amen

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 – Day 297.Oct 25 – Trusting God in the Shadows

1st Passage for Study: Acts 11: 25 … Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

2nd Passage for Study: 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 11 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today: Yesterday, from these two passages, and with Swindoll’s help, we were reminded that God’s M.O. of preparation often involves a leader-type, like Saul/Paul, being stashed away in some difficult place for God’s Spirit to mold him (or her) into the disciple He needs to move forward for God’s glory. And today Swindoll posits four principles which outline this process.

The first of these, and I quote Pastor Chuck, “… when God prepares us for effective ministry, He includes what we would rather omit – a period of waiting.” And He does this because learning to wait on God CULTIVATES PATIENCE. Swindoll points out that one seldom ever finds a young, immature person with patience. In fact, in today’s hurry-up world, it’s hard to find anyone with patience. But if any Christian desires to be an effective disciple of Christ, he or she must learn to wait on God; … because to determine God’s will often requires a significant waiting period.

Secondly, again from Swindoll’s words, ”… as God makes us wait, hiding in His shadow, He shows us we’re not indispensable.” This is the period of discipleship which PRODUCES HUMILITY. And if there is one element of Christlikeness we need in a personal ministry, it is humility. We pointed this out yesterday, from the charge of Phil. 2: 5 - 11, for us to have the attitude or mentality of Christ; and we know that this passage powerfully delineates the humility of Christ. So, if we’re going to be able to receive the enabling grace from God, the Holy Spirit, we’re going to have to choose humility and set aside pride.

Thirdly, again from Swindoll’s writing, ”… while God hides us away, He reveals dimensions of Himself and insights regarding ministry.” And this is the process which DEEPENS US. Today, in our world, Swindoll is right. We don’t need more intelligent people or speedier people. We need wise people with a deep calling to do whatever it takes, … especially Christians who have become deep because of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.

And finally, for the last of these processes which produce more effectiveness as Christians, Swindoll writes, ”… when God finally chooses to use us, it comes at a time least expected, … when we feel the least qualified.” This surprise calling actually MAKES US EFFECTIVE. How many times have we seen it in the great characters of faith we have studied? These great and effective saints, who were used for God’s glory, when it came down to crunch time, they were surprised and usually balked in the moment of truth. There was Joseph when he was confronted by his family for the first time. There was Moses at the burning bush. There was Elijah when we he was confronted by the prophets of Baal. There was Esther who felt so inadequate to lead her people out of their death trap. There was David, when he was “outed” by the prophet for his sinfulness. And of course, there was Job when he finally learned how big was his God and how small he was. And now we have Saul, becoming Paul, seeing the glory of Christ and how sinful he had been. All of them were shocked and felt inadequate when they were called by God into their place and time of purpose.

So, there you have it. If you or I want to be or become effective in a personal ministry of God’s calling, we’re very likely going to have to go through a patience building, humility rendering process, which deepens us and shapes our effectiveness to follow Christ. And it will be a process for any of us who are called out to shine our light of good works which will glorify our Father in Heaven (see that calling in Matt. 5: 14-16). I pray we’re all up to the challenge.

My Prayer for Today: Lord God, whatever it takes, I’m ready to be shaped for ministry. Take me. Use me. And may I respond and go forth for Your glory. Amen

Saturday, October 24, 2009

2009 – Day 296.Oct 24 – God’s Waiting Room

1st Passage for Study: Acts 11: 25 … Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

2nd Passage for Study: 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 11 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today:
Wow, … 2nd Corinthians 12 is one of my favorite Pauline application passages from God’s word, telling about Paul’s thorn in the flesh and Christ’s perfectly sufficient grace to give Paul (and us, by extension) strength in the midst of our weakness. Perhaps you’ve gleaned a lot of strength from this passage … as have I.

But Pastor Swindoll, this morning, helped give me more historical context on this passage. He helped me see that when Barnabas came and retrieved Paul from Tarsus, it was during that time in his home town that the former Saul was tortured, flogged several times, and even survived a stoning. And quite possibly, Swindoll speculates – and I think it could be so – Paul may have lapsed into the semi-conscious state he refers to in 2nd Cor. 12: 2, where Paul was given a vision of glory, which would lead him to be able to declare that he could boast only in his own weakness, discovering that God would pour His own strength into Paul’s weakened life, … Paul having been humbled by this experience in Tarsus.

And then Swindoll points to our own lives, speculating that some of us may have had our “times of Tarsus,” experiencing some devastating time of personal damage. Perhaps it was a devastating injury. I think of Joni Eeareckson Tada, who’s been a quadriplegic for over 40 years; but she is one who always declares God’s goodness and purpose for her “handicap.” Maybe you have had a devastating personal setback; … maybe it was an incarceration like that of Chuck Colson, whose salvation and ministry to prisoners resulted from his Watergate conviction. Maybe, like yours truly, you arose from years of habitual sin to discover that God’s mercy can – and does – heal and renew us to serve Him and to use His power to overcome our own weaknesses.

That’s what the Apostle Paul discovered in his time of privation in Tarsus; and it was during those horribly difficult times, his time of preparation, from which he arose, with the help of Barnabas, and came to Antioch to join the other Apostles and disciples of Christ in a church movement which had been growing. But, as we would see, God’s Church which would grow exponentially from Paul’s Spirit-imparted gifts which would be used, by God’s enabling grace, to spread the Gospel to much of the known world at that time.

But Paul had to learn – as he did in Tarsus and we need to learn now – that it is only in humility we can receive God’s enabling grace to overcome our own weaknesses. And prayerfully we are learning that lesson as we are living our lives … maybe in a Tarsus time right now.

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the “Tarsus-time” in my life which led me to find and use Your strength so that I could serve You. Help me to be continually wrapped in that humility so that You can pour Your grace and strength into my weakness. Amen

Friday, October 23, 2009

2009 – Day 295.Oct 23 – Out of the Shadows

2nd Passage for Study: Acts 11: 19 – 26 … Linked for your study …

My Journal for Today:
Today Chuck Swindoll, by using this passage from the text of Acts 11, speaks to the Christian who may seem to himself or herself as being placed in the shadows of life, … one who may be in a dark, quiet place where nothing significant seems to be cooking in life. It’s like God has taken you out of the game of life and put you on the bench. Are you there? Or maybe you’ve been there in the past and you can identify with the story of Acts 11, how God went and got Paul, via Barnabas, and pulled Paul off the bench and put him into the game of soul winning.

Swindoll’s point today is made through stories like this one; and through the lives of many of the Saints he’s been reviewing in his book, Great Days with the Great Lives. If you would go back and review the devotionals for this past year, which Swindoll has been using, every one of these men and women, great action models of the faith, went through some period of preparation or waiting on God while they were honed and shaped into usable vessels for God.

Think about it. There was Joseph’s period of over two years in prison, seemingly unjustified, after his encounter with Potiphar’s wife. There was the 40 years Moses spent in the wilderness tending sheep. There was David’s two separate times where he was an obscure shepherd boy for his dad; and then there was the time he was running for his life in the caves of the Negev when Saul was after him. Both of these were times in darkness where David was benched; but we know how God used him following both of these times for great and Godly work. And I could go on; but here today is the story of the Apostle Paul, after his conversion, be benched for a period of time in Tarsus, while God readied him, humbled him, and shaped him to finally come to Antioch where the newly named “Christians,” many of them Gentiles, were being saved.

And God was about to say, “Get in the Game, Paul! Your time and place is now!” But he had to learn to wait on God, as did all of these great Saints of the faith mentioned above. Maybe that’s where God has you now, … waiting! Swindoll aptly quotes from Psalm 27: 14, which states, “ Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! “ As Swindoll points out, having used the giants of the faith in his book, … in his words, … “ Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects.”

Some of you have been there and now you’re in the game of God’s choosing; and you can say, “Amen!” to Swindoll’s teaching here. I certainly can. Before I became an Elder in my church (and even in the early years of my Elder apprenticeship), I wandered in my discipleship and waited for years, being readied for a time when I might be used by God for His glory. During that time, and maybe in your life now, I really wondered if God was ever going to take me off the bench and get me into the game; but He did; and if you’re in a waiting time in your life, “keep your head in the game,” as any coach would say for those who’re sitting on the bench. If God has you in waiting mode, it’s for a good reason, … it’s God’s reason.

So, in faith and using the patience God has given you as a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23), WAIT; … and be ready for God to one day say, as He did for Paul. “Now, get in the game; it’s your time to move for My glory!”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank you for all those years where You had me waiting in the wings, shaping me, … preparing me for the game of life, where I could be used for Your glory. Amen

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 – Day 294.Oct 22 – Stubborn Independence

2nd Passage for Study: Acts 9: 28 – 31 [NKJV] ... 28 So he [Paul] was with them [Christ’s disciples] at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

My Journal for Today: The title of my journal entry for today, Stubborn Independence, all too often reflects the attitude of many Christians; and once again we use the passage from Acts 9: 28-31 to illustrate that Paul had to be knocked off his high-horse of stubbornness and independence of spirit by the very Lord who needed him to be in humble reliance to do The Lord’s work.

Chuck Swindoll, in his devotional for today, quotes the great Christian apologist, Francis Shaeffer, who taught this: “The Lord’s way must be done the Lord’s way.” Well, that sounds right, doesn’t it? But what does that truth imply? Well, duh! … It is this: “The Lord’s way cannot be done Bill Berry’s way?” Ergo, I’ve got to either choose to get down off my high-horse of stubborn independence and surrender to God, the Holy Spirit, or like Paul, I can expect that God will knock me off that high-horse so that I can see Him for Whom He really is and do life His way … not as the famous song implies, “My way.”

As I said yesterday, we either CHOOSE to humble ourselves to God’s way; or He will humble us for His purpose; … and as I also put forth, it’s a lot less painful do the humility bit ourselves, voluntarily, rather than having God do it for us. … Been there, done that, … and I have the T-shirt of surrender.

I love the stark, and very true statement from the Apostle, whom we’re studying, Paul, in Phil. 2: 5, stated right before he exposes the humility model of Christ’s life. It reads, quite simply in the NKJV it reads, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, …” In the NIV it reads, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:… " And of course, in the context of Phil. 2: 5 – 11 [linked for your study], that attitude is HUMILITY.

So, are you resisting “God’s way,” trying to get God’s purpose done as best YOU can, rather than surrendering to God’s Spirit and let Him lead you to do what Francis Shaeffer spoke of earlier … doing God’s way, God’s way! Personally, I’m one who’d really like to humble and surrender myself to do life God’s way; but so often I find myself, when I’m feeling the conviction and direction of God, reverting to my default human mode; and that is pridefulness and/or selfishness. And when I go there, I try to do God’s will my way; … NOT GOOD! But when I finally come around – sometimes from a Damascus road knock-down – I find that when I go the humble route voluntarily, God pours His grace into me doing life His way; and though life still may be tough, God gets the glory when I’m doing it His way rather than … “MY WAY.”

How about it, my friend? How about we just do what Christ commanded His disciples to do in Luke 9: 23; and I’m not going to link you to this one because I’m assuming you know it by now. So, let’s just agree today to surrender and move forward as Nike says it; and … “just do it”God’s way!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to do it Your way … not as Frank Sinatra would have sung it, … “My way!” Amen

PS: I’ll bet you never heard Frank Sinatra mentioned in a prayer before, did you? ;) <’BB><

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2009 – Day 293.Oct 21 – Humble Reliance

2nd Passage for Study: Acts 9: 28 – 31 [NKJV] ... 28 So he [Paul] was with them [Christ’s disciples] at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

My Journal for Today: Today we have a lesson repeated by my devotional teacher, Chuck Swindoll, in his book, Great Days with the Great Lives; and it’s a lesson which Swindoll has taught from every one of the great character studies he has undertaken. Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Job, and now Paul; they all had to learn this lesson, which is that HUMILITY is the key to unlocking God’s treasure chest of grace. And if you’ve been following all these daily devotional entries with me, we’ve seen that each of these great characters in the Bible had to learn the humility lesson by going through some pretty tough lessons plans from the Master Teacher, … God!

Oh, how I desire to be humble; but I must admit that I know, from these character studies, and from my own experience, that it is far less painful if we can learn God’s priority on humility by CHOOSING to accept the principle that God’s grace is sufficient and that we must CHOOSE to receive God’s grace if we are to be able to handle the challenges of life with God’s power to replace our own weakness (see that lesson in 2nd Cor. 12: 9), a teaching which the Apostle Paul taught to the Corinthian backsliders, which came right out of his own experiences.

My friend, how many times have I said this in my morning devotional? “We will choose to humbly receive God’s grace or He will humble us to a place in life we simply will have to reach out to receive that grace!” That’s what Saul, who became Paul, learned in today’s scenario; … that he needed to rely on other leaders in the church and to go where those leaders – and God – told Paul to go. As you read today, they sent him to Tarsus; and he had to lay low for a period of time, letting God’s plan for His church unfold. That assignment might seem, on the surface, to be a curious one. To be sent to his home town and to have to stay in the background; wow, that just wasn’t in the M.O. of this former Jewish leader. However, he did it; and because he did, God used the time to teach Paul and to build up the church with Paul sitting back and watching others come to the fore to get that plan accomplished.

Are we trying hard to run ahead of God’s planning and His purpose? Would we like to be out there in the limelight, being a leader in the church, rather than having to sit back and learn lessons from God? Well, my friend, perhaps that is God’s plan for you; but take it from a disciple who’s been led to become a discipler of others? We have to follow God first before we can become a leader of others. If we’re to move to at the frontlines in battle, leading others into the fray, we first have to learn to follow other leaders and walk the walk of faith, IN HUMILITY, before we will ever lead with effectiveness.

Paul was able to write the book of Romans and to travel the known world as God’s evangelist to the Gentiles because he learned how to humbly follow God’s plan and to accept God’s timing. Paul became a leader of others, like the Corinthian church (see 1st Cor. 11: 1) or the young Pastor, Timothy, (see all of 2nd Timothy) because He had learned to HUMBLY follow Christ and then to HUMBLY accept the mantle of leadership.

Let’s get it straight, dear ones. We must learn that obedience follows humility; and it is God’s blessing, from His grace, which results from obedience. So, when we’re led to follow our Lord, may we choose to follow – in surrender and humility - and then, if it’s God’s plan, we may someday be chosen to lead others into a deeper, more fruitful relationship with our Lord.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, help me learn to be humble; and then may I choose to BE humble so that You can give me the grace I need to lead others. Amen

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 – Day 292.Oct 20 – The Value Of Others

2nd Passage for Study: Acts 9: 28 – 31 [NKJV] ... 28 So he [Paul] was with them [Christ’s disciples] at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

2nd Version for Study: Acts 9: 28 – 31 [The Message] ... 28-30 After that he [Paul] was accepted as one of them [the disciples], going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master's name. But then he ran afoul of a group called Hellenists—he had been engaged in a running argument with them—who plotted his murder. When his friends learned of the plot, they got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus. … 31 Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.

My Journal for Today: It’s good to take in this passage in the context of Paul’s growth as a disciple of Christ and as an Apostle (i.e., one called out to serve the Lord). Because it was likely during this time, in the growing Christian Church, that Paul learned the value of “the Body” of Christ and the power of interdependence therein.

Paul, the former lone-gun hitman for the Sanhedrin, had been a Lone Ranger anti-Christian; but now he was learning that going it alone as a Christian is simply counter-productive. God could use individuals for His glory. But that’s not the normal “M.O.” of God and His church, the tool He uses for His glory.

God has designed “His Body,” the church collective, to function TOGETHER; and in that paradigm, Paul had to learn that he was just one member of a living, breathing entity, … The Church. And that’s a lesson that many today, sadly, do not get. Perhaps you’ve been one of those “Lone Rangers” as a Christian, thinking that you can go it alone and serve Christ. But if you won’t humble yourself, as Paul was learning how to do at this time in his discipleship, God will lead you through some set of circumstances in life which will humble you. And that’s no fun, my friend!

I had to go through 22 years of my life, trying to go it alone, living for Bill Berry and only Bill Berry, to finally be knocked off my “high horse” in life and to discover that my only real power comes in surrender to God’s Spirit and finding how I fit into God’s plan and into His Church.

I’ve taught for years now that there are three “abilities” which every Christian needs to develop to become an effective disciple of Christ; and I believe the Apostle Paul learned to develop these three in the context of the early Church. Those abilities are: availABILITY, vulnerABILITY, and accountABILITY. And you will note that all three of these, coming in the order that I’ve listed them, are absolutely necessary for a Christian to grow in power and to be used effectively by the Holy Spirit, … all three of them requiring humility, unity, and interdependence within the Body of Christ.

I don’t have the time here to develop this teaching at this time; but the main point, which Paul came to learn, to live, and to teach was that we must integrate into Christ’s Body so that our gifts and talents can be maximized for God’s glory. If you’re out there trying to go it alone, trying to be independent as a Christian, you’ve missed God’s way of doing business, my friend. Get the message of Hebrews 10: 24-25 - linked - and get with God’s program. Choose to be available, vulnerable, and accountable – WITHIN God’s vehicle for success, The Church; or God is going to have to teach you His lesson in humility.

Take it from one who had to learn that lesson the hard way. It’s SO MUCH LESS PAINFUL to choose to be humble than to have God humble you in life. And if you can learn the lessons of mutual availability, vulnerability, and accountability, God will find a way to use you bigtime to shine His light, to use your good works, and to glorify our Lord (see Matt. 5: 14 - 16 - linked). But if you go it alone … God will let you go it ALONE, and your Christian light will become hidden under your own basket of selfishness.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, maximize my humility and my ability for Your glory by using me in Your Body. Amen

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 – Day 291.Oct 19 – Son of Encouragement

Passage for Study: Acts 9: 26 – 30 [NKJV] … Linked for study …

Passage for Study: Acts 9: 26 – 30 [The Message] …
Linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
Today’s study passage focuses again on the influence which one of the local disciples, Barnabas, had in standing forth as an advocate for this man, the former Saul of Tarsus, who had stricken fear into the band of leaders in the Jerusalem church. And I thought it might be helpful for any who read with me here to study that passage from The Message paraphrase version of Scripture, which does a nice job of bringing out some of the emotions in this scene today.

And in this passage we see Verse 27 beginning with the contrast phrase, “But Barnabas,” which stands in contrast to the statement in verse 26, documenting the fear of the Jerusalem Christians about Paul. “But Barnabas” obviously was not afraid; and he stood in the gap for Paul to the Jerusalem church leaders. And I think it’s interesting to note that Paul, a very strong, assertive personality, obviously submitted to Barnabas’ help; and let Barnabas be his advocate. Paul didn’t let pride stand in the way of forging a relationship with the Christians in Jerusalem. No, he backed off and let Barnabas, who was well known and trusted by the local Christians, take the lead in representing him to those men.

Do you know of a Barnabas type in your church? Maybe it’s you. Do you know that there is a type of spiritual gift called the “gift of encouragement,” [also called the gift of “exhortation” – see Rom. 12: <8/u>] and it’s obvious to me that “Barney,” Paul’s new friend had that gift – bigtime! Do you have it?

Someone with this gift finds it very easy to see someone who needs encouragement or an advocate; and that “son of encouragement” will be willing – and able – to come along side the one in need and give that person the support he/she needs. I hope I don’t seem like I’m bragging; but I have this gift; and without even trying, I often perceive that people who need encouragement come into my life; and I don’t have to work very hard to be there for them, … to give them encouragement, … or to stand for them if they need an advocate.

Maybe you’ve had the help of someone like this in your life. And maybe you’ve been that one for others, giving them a boost of encouragement when they needed you … a kind, but genuine, uplifting word, … a heartfelt hug, … or even an advocacy if they need you for that. Maybe you have been there to stand for someone who needed someone to recommend them for a job or some task. If you have this Barnabas-type gift, I hope you’re using it for God’s glory everyday.

Obviously Barnabas stood up for Paul; and was a “son of encouragement,” just like his name defines him. And I hope you’re using your spiritual gift of exhortation for God’s glory as did Barnabas. But even if you don’t have this spiritual gift, we all can be encouragers. We all can give someone a positive smile when that person seems down. We all can give someone a hug who is depressed. We all can stand up for someone who needs, but can’t find, an advocate. It may not be your #1 spiritual gift; but you can be an encourager today for someone. I hope you’ll keep your eyes out and be a “Barney” for someone if you’re needed today. Pray for God to send you someone to encourage; and then watch for that one who needs you. You may be someone’s “son of encouragement” today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be perceptive and sensitive today; and if someone needs a son of encouragement, let me be that one. Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2009 – Day 290.Oct 18 – Quiet Encouragement

2nd Passage for Study: Study focus on Acts 9: 26 – 30 … Acts 9 linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
Wow! I really identify with today’s passage from Acts 9 [ see verses 26-30]. Here we have the former hit-man for the Sanhedrin coming home to Jerusalem; and he desires to meet and become a part of the inner circle of the Apostles; but they won’t have anything to do with him because they’re afraid of his past.

Why? And the answer is simple … fear! They wouldn’t have anything to do with him because of his past “rep.” And it is with this I truly identify. In the year 2000, we began a ministry at my church which the Elders let me lead. It was – and still is – known as Battle Plan Ministry [BPM]; and BPM reaches out to help Christians who desire to walk free from habitual sexual sin. And many in my church knew that I became the leader of BPM because God had delivered and discipled me out that plague of habitual sin in my life, leading me to have burden to help others do the same. You can read about BPM by going to this link.

Well, as I began to lead BPM in my church, many of the men in our church didn’t want to be near me lest they might be identified as someone who needed the help of BPM. They simply didn’t want to be seen – because of fear – as having the problems with which BPM dealt. Ironically, many of them may have needed the help of BPM but stayed away from me, hiding their shame and their weakness from others. So, Bill Berry became the “Battle Plan Ministry guy;” and few would sit with me at men’s breakfasts or other church events. Couples shied away from being friends with my wife and I because of my identity and past baggage. The rejection was obvious and somewhat painful.

But like the Apostle Paul, a few “Barnabas” types came forward and became quiet encouragers. They were men who were led to stand with me; and a few of them were leaders in the church, Elders and Staff who let it be known that they were standing with Bill Berry and BPM no matter how emotionally laden was a ministry like this one. It felt great; and as I’m sure it must’ve felt for Paul, it was great encouragement for me to have someone stand with me when others were rejecting me out of fear. Barnabas became an advocate and a personal encourager for the Apostle Paul … a behind the scenes hero, who lived up to his very name, “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement” in Hebrew.

If you’ve had a past, I hope you have a Barnabas or two in your life who stands with you no matter what your past as been like. But if you don’t, take heed; … you still have Jesus; and He will never leave you nor forsake you (see Hebrews 13: 5, which is a restatement of Deut. 31: 6 or Joshua 1: 5. You may be rejected because of human fear or ignorance; but God can and will use your past for His glory if you let Him; so, stick in there, and pray that God sends you a Barnabas to help and encourage you in these times … until you can let the past baggage go and you can let God help you to carry it (see Matt. 11: 28-30).

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m so thankful You sent me several Barnabas supporters when I need them to lift me up. And You never forsake me when I’m doing Your work. Amen

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2009 – Day 289.Oct 17 – Slow Down!

2nd Passage for Study: Devotional focus on Galatians 1: 1 – 11 … Galatians 1 linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
It’s a little obscure to see why the text to which Swindoll refers us today fits his devotional message, which is to “Slow down!” But the message of Paul to the church of Galatia actually is more the result of Paul’s post-conversion time alone in Arabia than it was a description of those times in solitude where the former Saul of Tarsus really became the Apostle Paul, …the man we would read about in the New Testament and the man who could preach a message like that we read of in the first chapter of Galatians.

Actually I think that the message of Ephesians 5: 15 – 16, to which I’m linking you here fits the message of Chuck Swindoll this morning a little better. Because what Swindoll is pitching is how the rabid anti-Christian, Saul, became the Christian zealot, Paul; and that was by separating himself from his former world and using the discipline of solitude and priority focus on Christ to let God, the Holy Spirit, do business with his soul. And that’s Swindoll’s message today … for us to slow down and take our focus off of the world and get it onto Jesus.

Swindoll posits that it’s hard these days, in these “evil days” to which Eph. 5: 16 refers, to keep God’s priorities straight. Oh how our enemy, Satan, and his informationally loaded world, works on us is to get us to react to the demands of these “evil times” and to get us caught up in the world of multi-tasking, taking our eyes off of Jesus and the priorities He desires for us, … the desires He commands for us, … which are documented in Luke 9: 23, which is a verse I truly hope you have internalized by now.

How can we deny our selves and follow Christ when we’re overloaded with worldly demands and even with church-related stuff. That’s what apparently had happened to the Galatians as Paul wrote to them about getting side-tracked by false messages and false doctrines (see Gal. 1: 6-7). And Paul was trying to get these dear Christians to stop, refocus, and get their priorities straight.

Swindoll proposes that we seriously prioritize some time on a periodic basis to get alone and refocus our lives on Christ and His will and direction for our lives. And that is a message of the chorus of that great Christian hymn which I so often use to refocus my life. Here it is; and if you’ve been following me in this past year, you’ve read me quote this one … many times: …

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

And my friend we cannot do that if were on overload from the world, … if Satan has us bound up in so many good things that we can’t see what is God’s best for us, … if we have succumbed to the “tyranny of the urgent.” I’m actually tougher than is Swindoll about this point. I think you can’t just take what he is proposing as periodic, chosen times of solitude and focus to accomplish what God proposed in the BIG 10”] [yes, I mean the 10 Commandments] … and that is to have times of Sabbath on a regular basis. I maintain that in order to be able to fulfill Paul’s command in Eph. 5 to prioritize the things of God in our lives, we need a time of solitude or Sabbath in our lives EVERY DAY. And I propose that this should be a time in the morning, one like I’m investing right now, to get alone, … quietly, with God …and to seek His mind through His word and in prayer to fulfill the purpose of the hymn I quoted above.

Do you have such a time each day, my friend? I pray that you do. And don’t be deluded to think that the enemy will not do all he can to divert and to discourage you from have a daily Sabbath where you get alone with God for some chosen quiet time and to seek His will and His way for your life. But I’m telling you, … from experience, … nothing will help protect your Christian priority focus, as is commanded in Eph. 5: 15-16, any better than the discipline of daily devotional focus on Christ. Let me pray that for us, my friend.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, God, … You are the focus of our lives; but we need to decide to seek that with our daily quiet times with you. Help to protect us as we choose to seek Your mind and Your priorities for our lives by spending time with You ever day in Your word. Amen

Friday, October 16, 2009

2009 – Day 288.Oct 16 – A Desert Retreat

Passage of the Day: Devotional focus on Acts 9: 20 - 25 … Acts 9 linked for study …

2nd Passage for Study: Devotional focus on Galatians 1: 1 – 11 … Galatians 1 linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
We know that Paul, the converted Apostle, spent about three years in the deserts of Asia-Minor, somewhere around Galatia, being prepared by God for the Ministry unto which he was called. It was there that this converted Jewish zealot really became a changed Christian missionary; and God, the Holy Spirit, along with Paul’s prodigious knowledge of Hebrew Scripture, transformed the theology and spiritual outlook of this man of God, morphing him into a truly Godly man.

Paul had to learn to examine all the theological and traditional teachings of his former teachers, like Gamaliel; and he had to surrender to the teachings of God’s Spirit thru the study of His word on such topics as God’s sovereignty, election, man’s depravity, and above all the divinity of Christ. But this brings up a very salient point. It’s difficult for us to be all we can be as Christians, … called as we are by the Great Commission (see Matt. 28: 19 – 20) or by God’s call to witness in His Name (see Acts 1: 8). Yes, it’s difficult to be these witnesses we are all called to be unless we understand and have a grasp on sound Christian doctrine.

There’s a reason why most young Christians, who have a calling into Christian ministry, go off by tradition/practice (usually to some accredited school) and learn about God’s truth in the way it’s preached and taught in God’s word, even studying the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek so that these young Christians can become more Godly ministers or missionaries of the Gospel. The question becomes: “How well versed are most of us in God’s truth so that we can be effective witnesses for the Gospel in our lives?”

Personally I think there is much doctrinal and biblical illiteracy in the Christian church today; and many of those who call our selves “Christians” are not as well versed as we should be in the basics of the Bible so that we can effectively be able to witness for our about God’s truth.

Am I saying that all Christians should go off into the desert and get their Christian doctrine straight? Or should we become a monk for a number of years, as did Martin Luther, to understand the intricacies of Scripture? Or does the Christian life demand two or three years of Seminary to get what we need in foundational doctrine to be a witness for Christ? … Absolutely not!

However, I am saying that many of us need more foundation when it comes to Biblical doctrine so that we can stand and be witnesses for our Lord in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity.

No, I don’t need to become an Apostle Paul or a Martin Luther; but I do need to be a Bill Berry who understands the Bible well enough to make sound, Godly decisions. I do need to be able to know enough scripture to be able to reject heretical teaching, like that put forth by crack-pot televangelists who are teaching a lot of the spiritual garbage found on so-called “christian” TV these days. It’s frightening to think how people like Oprah Winfrey and others are having so much influence over Christians when what they are putting forth are lies from the pit of hell. But Christians are buying in to many of those lies because they simply don’t know enough truth from God’s word to be able to recognize when Oprah is telling them a lie.

Here’s my bottom line today. Paul is an example of how God, the Holy Spirit, can transform the mind and heart of a Christian; but Paul had to do his due diligence to study and learn sound, foundational Christian doctrine; and so do we, my dear Christian friend! We need to be studying the world of God from trustworthy Christians teachers enough so that we can decipher the will of God and walk in the ways of God. I can only pray that we’re doing that.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, God … precious Holy Spirit, teach me in Your ways and make Your will clear from Your word. Amen

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 – Day 287.Oct 15 – A Forgotten Hero

Passage of the Day: Devotional focus on Acts 9: 20 - 25 … Acts 9 linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
Hopefully, as we read about the Saul – to – Paul conversion and transformation, we’ll never forget that it was the faith, obedience, and courage of Ananias which triggered all we read in Acts 9: 20 – 25. So, with that said and recognized, we turn to what the faith of this Prophet produced. It was the Apostle Paul preaching Christ like no one had ever heard The Messiah preached to that day.

Can we grasp the scene? Here this former Sanhedrin hit-man was taking the pulpit of the Temple and giving the people sermons like they had not heard before. He was “proving” from the Old Testament texts that Christ was Whom He said He was, … the Son of God. And that word “proving” from Acts 9: 22 in the Greek is “symbibazo,” which means that Paul put his words together so skillfully that the people could not deny that Christ was, in truth, the son of God. And all these words were coming from the mouth of the man who had imprisoned and killed Christian Jews just days before. And to see and hear this, the people were astounded, amazed; but excitedly so. The Greek word used to describe their astonishment, which is found in Acts 9: 21 is “existemi,” from which we get our word “ecstatic.”

So, what we read in this passage is God’s ability to bring about scenarios which dumb-found the non-believer and open the eyes of the lost who’ve become blinded by their own selfishness. I think about the wall of communism which came falling down in a matter of days or weeks after so many years being built up by mankind to protect Godless communism. In my lifetime I never thought I’d see the effective elimination of the Soviet empire; but I did because God desired it take place. And when it happened, it dumb-founded us all, causing many thousands of godless atheists to take note of God at work.

And do you think it’s possible to see a revival the likes of which is described in 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 - linked here for your review? Well, God says it can and will take place if those called by His Name, i.e., Christians, will humble ourselves and pray and turn from our wicked ways. For how long do we need to do this; and how many will it take? That I don’t know; but I most definitely believe it will happen if we follow that formula. If God can take one former Christian hater and transform the world with him; we can be a party to revival in this world with our humility, prayers, and transformed lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may revival begin with my heart, Lord. Amen

2009 – Day 286.Oct 14 – Stepping Out

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 10 - 21 … Acts 9 linked for study …

My Journal for Today:
There’s a great principle of faith on exhibit in this chapter, and it’s found as both Ananias and Saul (to be Paul) step out to learn more of God’s plan. When Ananias responded to God’s call for him to help the Christian hater, Saul, none of God’s instructions made much sense; but he stepped out in obedience anyway. And when he did, God showed him more. And when Saul stepped out in faith to God’s anointing call for his life, God revealed so much more to him … in fact even giving him sight back so that he could physically see where he was to go.

And that’s the principle! Stepping out in faith reveals more of what God has for our lives down the road. And beyond this, in this story we also see that obedience to God’s will always stimulates growth and deepens our relationship with God. In his devotional, Swindoll gives testimony and uses himself as an example of this obedience to growth principle. But if I may, let me use my own witness here.

When God called me to use the internet and email to reach out in ministry to Christian men who were mired in sexual sin, I balked at this calling. First of all I knew nothing about this new (to me) mode of computer outreach; and secondly it made little sense to me that just sharing my testimony of transformation would impact the lives of others similarly. But as I stepped out and learned to use the Internet to communicate with a few Christian men who seriously desired to shed the chains of internet pornography “addiction,” I simply shared how God had led me out of that tar pit of sinfulness; and as these few men did what I had done, God poured His enabling grace into their lives and they changed. And I was astounded how my simple obedience to use this new computer communication tool to minister in His Name was so effective. Therefore, BattlePlan Ministries was born; and God revealed more to me along the path of life as I stepped out in obedience to His calling and His will.

That’s the way God works, my friend. You sense God’s direction; and when you follow in faith, He reveals more of where to go. Think of how many in the Bible experienced this stepping out principle besides the Apostle Paul. There was certainly Abraham; and there also were Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, and Nehemiah, just to mention a few. All of them really didn’t know where to go when God called them; but they stepped out in faith; and God led them where they were to go … all walking in faith for God’s glory. I pray that we all can grasp that truth; and follow its premise practically in our own lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to listen for Your calling and to step out in faith when I hear You. Amen

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 – Day 285.Oct 13 – Surprising Elements

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 10 - 21 … Acts 9 linked for study …

My Journal for Today: Chuck Swindoll, a Pastor with over 50 years of experience as a Minister, Pastor, and Bible teacher, posits the following at the end of his devotional entry for today. He writes, “Be careful (in life) about feeling too settled where you are – physically, emotionally, spiritually, or geographically.”

And why is this? Simple answer: God is full of surprises. God certainly surprised Saul of Tarsus and even Ananias in our historical story today. And Swindoll posits that this is an M.O. for God’s way of doing business in our relationship with our Lord. His will is often to shake us from our comfort zones in life and to move us to confront circumstances which shake and transform us into an image which glorifies God, the Father. With our human nature being what it is, this process of metamorphosis, which is called sanctification, often – if not always – requires surprising changes in our attitudes, positions in life, and even occasionally in where we live, move, and have our being. We can certainly see this in the life of Paul in the NT, but also Moses, Joseph, Gideon, Nehemiah, Habakkuk, and others in the OT.

God shakes us up so that the scales can fall from our eyes. He shakes us up so that we can move to serve Him. And he shakes us up so that we can become more like Him.

My friend, … do you want to become more like Jesus? Well, if your answer to this is an unqualified “Yes!,” you better be ready for some surprises in life; and you better be a firm believer in a verse the Apostle Paul wrote later in his life, … that sometimes aggravating truth from Romans 8: 28; and I won’t quote it because you probably know that one by now.

Let me pray for us, my friend; and I pray that we’ll be like the Apostle Paul when he was shaken to the core of his being by Jesus. I pray that we shake the scales out of our eyes, … that we get up, check out where God wants us to go, … and that we simply do what God calls us to do.

My friends, let’s not resist God’s will. Let’s just respond in the words of that old Nike commercial. When God requires surprising change, let us …“just do it!”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I so desperately want to serve you as YOU desire to be served, … in the way YOU call me, … and in the place YOU lead me. Amen

Monday, October 12, 2009

2009 – Day 284.Oct 12 – A New Beginning

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 10 – 19 … 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” 13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. 19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

My Journal for Today: Don’t you just love the message of metamorphosis in the life of the Apostle Paul, being transformed by God’s grace from a murderous marauder to a zealot for the Gospel. Oh how I identify with this message of hope, having been a Saul of Tarsus in my life and having been raised from the ashes of sinful living to become an Ordained messenger of the Gospel in my own life time.

I hope that any who are reading this are not imprisoned by the lies of shame and blame the enemy would love to see us carrying around from anything in our past. The message of God’s saving grace is so simple and complete. It is actually found in that great victory chapter of Romans 8, where in verse 1, God had him write, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Do you believe that, my friend? Do you live with that truth in your heart? I hope so; because if you do and you’ve forgiven yourself for anything in your past, just as has God if you are saved, then you can become, as I am, a poster child for another of God’s great truths from the Apostle Paul, … that one from 2nd Cor. 5: 17.

My friend, take in one of the greatest truths in all of the Bible, "… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” … Now, dear one, meditate on that one for a moment. Think on the reality and hope embedded in that message.

You know, it is said that Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer, came to Christ a short time before he was executed for his murderous life. Remember that Jesus told the one thief on the cross that his repentance and acknowledgement of Christ as the Son of God would mean that this thief is now with Christ in heaven. So, if God can save a Saul of Tarsus, or the thief on the cross, or even a Ten Bundy, our God can save and forgive ANYONE; and that includes Bill Berry … or you. My dear friend, if God can forgive and save a Bill Berry, His grace and mercy can – and has – saved you from any sin in your past.

We simply have to allow Him to forgive us; and then we have forgive ourselves; and, in the hope of Christ, we are and remain saved from any sin … sins past, sins present, and yes, even sins in the future.

What a glorious hope we have in our Savior, Jesus.

Let it go, my friend. If you have anything in your past which has you shackled by your own shame, let it go! If you are in Christ, dear one, and you have confessed this past to your Lord and Savior, in the words of Christ Himself from the cross, “It is finished!” You are now cleansed FOREVER; and you can walk from this day forth as the new creation in Christ you are.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that all who are in You accept the truth and reality of Your saving grace and live as You have cleansed us … forevermore. Amen

A Pastor’s PS: If you’d like to meditate on the truths in this journal entry for today, click on this link and you can see a music video of the wonderful song sung by Casting Crowns, … East to West. I hope you’ll take this in. It’s well worth the few minutes you’ll take to do it. … <’BB><

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2009 – Day 283.Oct 11 – A Chosen Instrument

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 10 – 16 … 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” 13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. 19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

My Journal for Today: Well, here we have poor Ananias being called by God to go to Saul of Tarsus and give him sight so that the one to be called “Paul” could go forth as a “chosen instrument” in God’s Name. And if Paul thought that this anointing by the Holy Spirit had been rough thus far, he was just at the outset of the suffering he would face to bring the message of Christ to the known world of his day.

Have you ever wondered why God’s preparation mode always seems to be suffering? Wow; if you look back at the life of the Apostle Paul you see all of what God took him through so that the Lord could use this chosen instrument of God’s grace. If you haven’t done so, please go back to 2nd Cor. 12: 22 – 33 - linked here - and read Paul’s litany of troubles which he suffered while being God’s agent to the Gentiles of his day. It’s impressive; but often God has to use our trials and tests to shape us into His own image or to convey to others just how serious we are about our faith.

In the past I had wondered why God allowed me – or led me – to go through so many years of darkness to then finally show me the light of Christ. Why didn’t He just save me from all my sinful days of living and let me just get on with my Christians life? But now I recognize that only by being led through the valley of the shadow of death could I really appreciate the eternal life I now have in Christ so that I will be fully motivated to spread that good news and to work for God’s kingdom and His glory. And it’s not hard to see that this was God’s “M.O.” in choosing a Saul of Tarsus to become His ambassador, the Apostle Paul.

I hope we all recognize that we’re each God’s “chosen instrument.” Oh, we may not be called to carry the Gospel to a foreign land or to endure shipwrecks or floggings, as was Paul; but God has given us a commission – a chosen calling – to go and spread His Name with others and to “make disciples,” teaching them the truth of His word. So, in that Great Commission (see Matt. 28: 19-20), like Paul, we are God’s chosen instruments; and we should be surprised if that will involve suffering for Christ’s Name.

My Prayer for Today: Thank You, Lord, for the trials You give me so that I can be Your chosen instrument. Amen

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 – Day 282.Oct 10 – God Wins

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 5 - 9 … 3 As he [Saul of Tarsus] journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

My Journal for Today: Theologically God’s goading is called “prevenient grace,” which is that so-called grace which “goes before,” calling the lost to Himself or maybe calling the found back into fellowship. And God’s prevenient grace is relentless. If you are one of the “called according to God’s purpose,” God is going to win. So, you might as well surrender today.

It took God’s goading, during the days when Saul of Tarsus was so resistant to Christ’s call, to bring this hard-headed Jew to this place on the road to Damascus where God could knock Saul off his high-horse of pride and show him Whom the real Lord of life is. But God won with Paul; and if you’ve been resisting God’s call of purpose for your life, you might as well give up voluntarily or you may have some road to Damascus experience in your future.

Maybe you even consider yourself to be a Christian; and I’m not here to judge your heart. But if you’ve been trying to control life on your own terms, you are in a fight with God, my friend; and you need to give it up and surrender to God’s will for your life. I doubt if you’re lost, however, if you’re reading this; but per chance if you are lost, you need to climb down off your high horse and surrender to Christ as The Savior and Lord of your life.

My friend, God is going to win … just as he did with Saul who became Paul. So, as Chuck Swindoll says in his devotional this morning, “Why wait for a storm” to declare that God wins. Why wait for Him to knock you for a loop? Take it from one who had to be knocked about severely to get the message. It’s so much less painful just to surrender quietly and allow God to be the Lord of your life.

God’s going to win, my friend; so, … just let Him. In a chess game you’d knock over your king to show God that He’s won the game. As the old Nike commercial says, “Just do it!”

My Prayer for Today: You win, Lord … every day of my life! Amen

Friday, October 09, 2009

2009 – Day 282.Oct 9 – God’s Goads

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 5 - 9 … 3 As he [Saul of Tarsus] journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

My Journal for Today: Today Chuck Swindoll in his devotional does a little exposition of the phrase “kick against the goads,” which is not a very common expression in our language. But apparently a “goad” was an implement a 1st century farmer used to drive oxen, which would cause pain if used to direct the oxen and thereby direct the large beasts to move. However, when the oxen resisted the “goading,” they often “kicked against goad,” causing even more pain as they resisted.

I think we often think that Paul’s conversion happened all at once on that road to Damascus; and certainly that was a crucial moment in Saul/Paul recognizing Christ as his Lord. However, as Swindoll correctly points out, the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth had to be a “goad” to the young “bull,” Saul of Tarsus, who had likely seen/heard Jesus preaching in the countryside of His day. And it’s likely that it was a “goad” to see the people follow this man, many of them claiming that Jesus was “The Messiah.” So, when Jesus asked why Saul was “kicking against the goads,” the Lord was likely referring to why Saul had been resisting Christ as his Lord so strongly.

And here is another place where my identification with Paul goes so deep. For many years, I fought to resist Christ, even though for several of these years I recognized the spiritual weakness in my life, seeking strength in many “isms” of the day. But finally, after pushing Christ away from me for years, I had my own “Damascus Road” experience; and like Paul, I became broken to the core, recognizing that this Jesus Christ was my only way to lasting peace and strength.

Swindoll correctly teaches, I believe, that when you encounter someone like a Saul of Tarsus or a Bill Berry, … a resistant seeker, it is best just to encourage such a one to study the life of Jesus. Because when such a person really sees the truth of Christ, they are overwhelmed with the reality of just WHOM this God-Man truly was and is.

Think of those who came to Christianity from atheism by examining thoroughly the facts about Christ. There was Lee Strobel, the author of The Case for Christ; or before him, Josh McDowell, who wrote Evidence That Demands a Verdict, or even earlier, C.S. Lewis, who wrote the masterpiece of Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity. All of these brilliant men “kicked against the goads,” rejecting Christ as the Son of God for many years in their lives. But God pursued them and broke them; and they became some of our Lord’s greatest apologists and Christian teachers. And as I write this, though I may not be a C.S. Lewis, I truly identify with how these men had to become broken to self so that they could, like the Apostle Paul, find Christ as their Lord and Savior.

As I write this, I can only hope that any who read here are not “kicking against the goads,” fighting what Christ would have for the life of any of His children. Oh how God wants the best for His kids; and anytime we “kick against the goads,” we simply resist the wonderful and fruitful life God has for us. All He wants us to do is to surrender and quit “kicking against the goads.”
My Prayer for Today: Lord, I surrender all !! Amen

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

2009 – Day 280.Oct 8 – No Surprises

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 1 – 4 … 1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

My Journal for Today: Okay, let’s take a second look at this shocking event (at least to Saul/Paul), which, on the road to Damascus, changed his life forever. And as Swindoll points out, for a little over three decades, this man, Saul of Tarsus, had been in personal control – or at least he thought – of his own destiny. And his ego management had taken him to the top of his Jewish culture. He had become renown as a strong leader of his people and culture.

But on that fateful day, as he traveled to Damascus, with purpose in mind, Saul of Tarsus learned exactly Whom was really in control of life. He also found out that day that his personal purposes in life were at cross purposes with God’s will and designs; and as Swindoll points out, that also happens to many of us.

We’re riding along, thinking that we have things in hand and under control; and WHAMMY! We get a phone call and find out that a loved one has been in a head-on collision. Or we have a check up and learn that we have “the Big C” … cancer. Or we’re mugged at gunpoint while on vacation. And in each instance, our lives will never seem the same. From that point onward we have a different perspective on life. Who, post 9/11, doesn’t see the world as different than before that fateful day?

Yes, dear one, we may think we exercise personal control over life; and most certainly, God has given us the free will to make choices; but we mustn’t be deceived to think that the God of the Universe does not have ultimate control over our lives. But unfortunately, according to Jeremiah 17: 9 - linked for study - that is the nature of the human heart … to be deceived into thinking that our free will gives us God-like control. However, like Saul of Tarsus, God intervened at one point in my life to show me that I had to surrender my life to His way … in His timing … for my life to have real meaning.

And that’s a lesson we all must learn – sooner or later. For Saul of Tarsus, he needed to be blinded and stricken from his ride to Damascus to get the picture of God’s control over his destiny; and it took him in a direction which he would have never forecasted before that God-ordained set of events. Have you had a “Damascus road” experience – or maybe more than one – in your life? I certainly have; and I went from being a Devil’s advocate to a Minister of the Gospel because of my “Memphis Road” experience. God broke me down from being an atheist; and He has built me back up to recreate in my heart the desire – and ability - to share Christ with anyone who’ll listen.

So, maybe you can see why I identify so strongly with Saul/Paul. You don’t have to teach me that God is in control! I’ve learned that lesson; but I still have to keep learning that I must submit my plans, my purposes, and my power to my Lord’s so that my surrender and choices can honor and glorify Him in what I think, say, and do. I hope you’ve learned that lesson, my friend. Because if you haven’t, God will most certainly teach it to you somewhere in life; and He may just have to kick you off our high horse to do it.

Take it from me … from experience. It will be far easier to CHOOSE to humble yourself before God than to have Him do the humbling process for you. So, repeat after me … “God is God … and I am not!”

My Prayer for Today
Lord, oh, may I remain humble before Your throne of grace. Amen

2009 – Day 279.Oct 7 – Roadside Conversion

Passage of the Day: Acts 9: 1 – 4 … 1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

My Journal for Today: This is the scene in Paul’s life for which I have the most identification. Some of you know my story, where on the morning of April 13, 1983, I was brought to a halt emotionally, driving to work that morning, while listening to a taped testimony from a young football player who had become quadriplegic from a football accident; but yet this young man found strength from Christ and saw his future through the eyes of God rather than through the eyes of his loss. This incident brought me to “my knees” spiritually; and on that morning I found Christ at the age of 39.

There’s more to the details of my story; but for me, like Paul, it was a Damascus Road turnaround for my life. That day I left for work with my agnostic attitude; and I came home with a new view of the world; and that’s what happened to Saul of Tarsus, who left for Damascus with hate in his heart for Christians but was suddenly bolted on his journey to finally see Christ for Whom He really was. And the life of Saul, who was to become Paul, was never the same again.

But isn’t that just the way of God sometimes? Maybe you’ve experienced it. That’s the way He works in life at times. You can be cruising along through life thinking that you’re in total control; and WHAM, a doctor tells you that you have cancer. Or maybe you had a relative die in the twin towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Or maybe a tornado sweeps in and destroys your home. Sometimes, we just cannot predict how or where God will intervene in our lives to show us that He’s in control. And when these life-changing incidents occur, we may try to deny God’s in the moment; but we will find that trying to ignore or deny them is simply trying to deny God Himself.

My friend, I hope we all are seeking and pursuing all God wants to tell us or all He wants for our lives. Saul of Tarsus certainly got his eyes opened (well, after they were blinded first) to the reality that God had much more for his life than the hatred he held for Christians. Saul was about to find out Whom he really served; and this Jewish leader would never see life the same way again after that day.

I know that after April 13th, 1983 my world view changed forever; and I hope that you are now doing all you can as well to see the world through the eyes of God rather than through selfish, human eyes. Because if you prefer looking at God’s world through selfish eyes, you may be in for a Damascus Road experience one day which will throw you into a posture where you cannot help but see God for Whom He is. I just pray for you that this happens by your choice rather than through some natural disaster one day.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, I pray your mercy to help me see the world in Your way rather than in my own. Amen

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 – Day 278.Oct 6 – An Unexpected Ally

Blogger’s Note: … Had to wait until the evening, here in France where we're vacationing to post my journal entry for today. I’ll be on French time for about 10 days and this posting may not match readers who’re used to me posting my journal entries each morning on CST in the USA. Thanks for your patience if you're following here.

Passage of the Day: Acts 5: 33 – 39 ... 33 When they [the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council] heard this [that the Apostles would follow the teachings of Jesus rather that the commands of the Council], they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

My Journal for Today: This passage, before the conversion of the Apostle Paul, is a fascinating illustration of God’s controlling influences in life. Here we have the Apostles, before Paul became one of them, brought before the Sanhedrin for trial; and Paul, then Saul of Tarsus, was no doubt in attendance. And remember, at this time the young Pharisee, Saul, would have been the hothead zealot who hated everything that Peter and Christ’s disciples represented. And in this historical scenario, an unexpected ally steps up, … Gamaliel, a teacher of note and considered a Master Rabbi of his day, … and a man who had been the Mentor of Saul of Tarsus. So, what does this man advise with regard to these Christians? Well, he tells the Sanhedrin to back off, saying that if their true God was truly in charge of this Christian movement, nothing the Sanhedrin could do would or could stop it.

This must’ve been a shocker for young Saul, the Christian hater. But it’s illustrative of how God’s truth, and especially His will, can and will prevail even when mankind has other motives or plans. We must remember always, as I’ve said it here so many times: “God is God, and we are not!” And when God has His mind and heart in a course of action, the biases and stereotypes of mankind will not thwart our Lord.

So, when things seem really … REALLY … bad, my friend; if you know that you know that you know you must follow God’s way, rather than man’s, you stay in there, my friend. If your way is God’s way, then there will be Gamaliels there or other forces at work to allow God’s will to prevail. We certainly saw that modeled best during Christ’s Passion, didn’t we? And we have seen it at work in this scenario as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, show me YOUR way so that I will not become deceived by mine, nor discouraged by the world. Amen