Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 Day 31. Jan. 31 – A God Who Relents

From Exodus 32-34 ... Specifically from Exod. 32:14 – Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had promised.

My Devotional for Today: Go figure. God is a God who never lies [we can read and believe that from the passage in Numbers 23: 19, which states, God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?

Okay, God doesn’t lie; but as we read today through Exodus 32 – 34, our God is influenced by the lives we live as His chosen people; and He is touched by the pleas of His anointed ones, like Moses, who came to Him as advocates for the people of God. And so we read today that God reminded Moses (and God’s people) of His covenant; but he spared those same people because of Moses’ plea; and because of the advocacy of this transformed man, Moses, God was willing to recast His Law a second time in stone and bring that word to His people once again.

And Dr. Smith today asks the crux of a question from this study. He writes, ”Have I (you as well) learned anything from a merciful God about when to keep my promises and when to change my mind?” And yes, I have answered that question in my own mind; but you, my friend, must answer it for yourself in God’s presence here today.

How often can God see inequity and blatant sinful living being perpetrated in His presence and for all the world to see; and then how many times will our Lord be merciful to allow mankind the latitude to repent in remorse for our sins? How many times?

I cannot answer that for you; and I certainly cannot answer that for God.

My Prayer for Today : Lord, my God, have mercy on us, Your sinful children. Amen

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Day 30. Jan. 30 – Equality of Atonement

From Exodus 28-30 ... specifically from Exod. 30:15 – The rich are not given more than half a sheckel and the poor are no to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives.

My Devotional for Today: In God’s eye of justice each of us is equally guilty of our own sinfulness, and we must all pay atonement for our sin so that we can stand before the throne of grace having paid for our sins. And this atonement has nothing to do with our ability to pay. Rich and poor must all pay the price and only One – The Lamb of God – can pay that price; and He has done so forever – in propitiation for our sins - on the cross at Calvary.

The question now becomes the one my devotional author F. LaGard Smith asks today, “If God regards each and every soul as equal before Him, am I making class distinctions that really shouldn’t matter?” God sees you and me as the same at His Throne of Grace; but the ultimate sociological question becomes … do I see us as equals and do I treat you as equal to me in the judgment court which we call life?

Oh, how I pray that to be the case.

My Prayer for Today : Forgive me, Lord, if I see myself as better than others. Amen

Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 – Day 29, January 29. A Patterned Sanctuary

Study from Exod. 25-28; Passage for Today ; Exod. 25:8-9 … NIV Then have them make a sanctuary for Me; and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

My Journal for Today : If we can accept – and we should (without question) – that our bodies individually and the church collectively are the temple in which God, The Holy Spirit, dwells, why should we be surprised that God – as He describes in today’s reading from Exodus 25-28 – expects the place where He dwells to be built and furnished with the finest specifications and appointments?

We know from God’s word that He dwells in us (see 1st Cor. 6:19 and 1st Cor. 3:16 ); and so it would behoove us, as stewards of God’s Temple, to keep His dwelling place as well organized and well appointed as we can. But do we?

And here I stand ignominiously convicted by letting God’s home-place (i.e., my body and soul) become somewhat of a mess. … Well, I’m doing better recently, getting my organizational act and my discipline together so that I may honor my Lord’s presence; but I have quite a lot more to do to keep His Tabernacle clean and as well appointed as He would desire for me to have His dwelling place to be to honor His presence.

F. LaGard Smith closes his devotional entry for today by asking, “If God expects nothing but the finest wherever He dwells, how comfortable can I expect Him to be while living in my sanctuary?” I’m doing my best to answer that one for myself; as I would expect you would have to do so as well for yourself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I Keep Your Home in my Heart as Lovely as You need for it to be. Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 – Day 27. Jan. 27 – PUTTING GOD TO THE TEST

Study from Exodus 15-18; Passage for Reflection : Exod. 17:7 … NIV
And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

My Journal for Today … What a time it was for the Israelites. Just a few months earlier they had witnessed and been a part of one of the greatest miracles of deliverance in man’s history; and here they were in the desert wilderness grumbling that God had forgotten them and was letting them starve. But before we start pointing fingers of blame and disbelief at these forgetful Jews, can you remember what happened just after 9/11?
After that mega tragedy, people in the good ole US of A flocked into churches in droves, claiming a resurgence of faith and repentance; and then, just a few months later church attendance was back to the pre – 9/11 levels. What is it about the faith of mankind when it is tested by any degree of hard challenge for any prolonged period of time?

Well, I think what was evidenced in the deserts of the Negev post Red Sea and in the hearts of post-modern Christians post 9/11 is a measurement of what the Prophet Jeremiah wrote about in Jeremiah 17:9 where God writes thru this man, “The heart (i.e., the sin nature) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The Bible (in Hebrews 11:1) defines “faith” as, “…being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” But it does not take the deceitful heart of man very long to wane in faith when we don’t see what we hope for over any period of time.

How many times have we made New Year’s resolutions about weight loss or exercise saying, “This time I’m going to do it!” and before we’re even into February our faith in our own resolve has dissolved? Real faith takes real resolve in the face of real challenges; and let’s face the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 and Christ’s challenge of discipleship in Luke 9:23 (oh, how I hope you know that one!). Real faith ALWAYS takes real discipline.

Can we face the next challenge which will come around the bend of life, deny our feelings and weak faith and, by picking up that cross of challenge, faithfully follow Jesus? If we can give a likely “YES” to that one, I think yours is a mature faith in Christ. But if the answer is a sincere “MAYBE” or a likely “NO,” I think it is time for us to get our Christian rear-ends in gear and do what it takes to exercise our relationship with Christ to the point where an unqualified “YES” is our response in following Christ when life puts us to the test.

How about it? Do I sense an “AMEN” from my readers?

My Prayer for Today: Help us, Lord in our unbelief! Amen

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2010 – Day 26. Jan. 26 – Trusting in God’s Deliverance

Blogger’s Note: It’s about 4 am on 1/26/10 and I just completed the data on my 40 Days of New Year commitment and my devotional journal for today [below] for accountability and sharing on this date. However, I will likely not be posting online for a few hours because I’m not foolish enough to ask my nurse (my wife, Elly) to type this for me now. She has become, by default, my nurse, secretary, and chauffeur in the next couple of weeks following my shoulder surgery yesterday. So, please be patient with my online posting, as my rehab begins post surgery.

Study from Exodus 12-15; Passage for Reflection : Exod. 14:13-14 … NIV
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … The Lord will fight for you; you will need only to be still.”

My Journal for Today … Well, here in Exodus 14 we read what is probably the classic biblical lose-lose scenario. God had led Moses, who, in turn, had led God’s people to the beaches of the Red Sea. And here, with the sea at their backs, the Egyptian army was pursuing them from down out of the hills in front of them. So, death appeared to be ahead and also certain death behind, with no way to traverse the Red Sea. No way to go but to God; and that’s the best place there is to be when we don’t have a clue as to what to do.

And I’d almost bet you’ve had some raunchy, lose-lose scenarios in your life, haven’t you? One or two may have bubbled up in your consciousness right now. And many times they have to do with relationships, where no matter which way we turn it seems to lead to a bad outcome. As a kid you may remember a time when you had been bad and you just knew that your parents were going to “kill you” when you had to confess your wrong-doing. But here you are and they didn’t kill you, did they? And it can be like that for adults also.
Years ago I can vividly remember having to confess 12 years of habitual sexual sin and marital infidelity to my wife; and when I did, I just knew our marriage was over. But here we are, 27 years later and God saw fit to deliver us by walking us through the Red Sea of reconciliation, restoration, and renewal, taking us to a place within His grace where we can share our story of how our God is a God of the second chance.

Think of how God’s people, the Jews, now share the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians; but so do we, the Gentiles. And now from the New Covenant, we Christians can share the ultimate deliverance story of how we were saved by God’s grace, by walking into freedom from the sure spiritual death of our sin nature, as Christ gave us the resurrection power over death through his shed blood on the cross.

Yes, that is the ultimate winner versus loser scenario, isn’t it? If we choose God’s way in Christ we become winners in heaven – FOREVER. But if we choose to reject God’s answer for sin, we will be losers in hell forever. Every day we can choose to follow our Savior, Who, by His enabling grace, gives us His power to walk free from sin. It is so often such a clear choice; but why, then, do we make it so difficult by choosing the selfish, sinful way rather than the satisfying, Savior’s way?

How about it, my friend? As Paul once said to the church in Corinth 1st Cor 11: 1, {my paraphrase} “You can follow me, because I follow Christ.” Well, I may not be the Apostle Paul, but I know that if you follow God’s way from His Word, as I try my best to do now in my life, He is going to lead us to life and away from death. So, come on dear ones, let’s do it!

My Prayer for Today : Lord, show me the way – Your way – and I will follow. Amen

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 – Day 25. Jan. 25 – The Next Generation

Study from Exodus 11 – 12; Passage for Reflection: Exodus 12: … NIV 26 And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' 27 then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.' "

My Journal for Today: Being into the Passover story at this portion of his devotional Bible reading apparently reminded Dr. Smith, my devotional shepherd, of the importance of this event and relating it to the next generation; so, the lesson today focused on how God has given us – to the Jews in the Passover and now for Christians in the celebration of Communion – a wonderful way to pass along the truth of how God delivered His children from Egypt or why/how Jesus delivered mankind from sin.

And Dr. Smith reminds his readers, as I will follow and do so today, that children have a natural curiosity built in which makes it easy to relate this story to them, witnessing our faith from one generation to the next. Kiddos just naturally want to know the “why” or the “how” about almost everything they don’t understand. They are like little information or truth sponges, soaking up everything they can’t understand or about which they don’t know. So, when they see the bread and the “wine” being passed for the Eucharist in church, it’s a perfect time to answer their natural questions or to teach them something they’ll want to know about, even if they haven’t asked the “why” questions verbally. Just assume they want to know and explain what the bread and the juice are all about.

Several years ago, our little granddaughters, each at about five years of age at the time in their lives, gave themselves in rebirth to their Savior. It was wonderful to see; but in each instance their parents had to relate and explain the Passover/Easter stories to our granddaughters. And each of them, after hearing about Jesus, and believing on The Christ as their Savior, accepted Him as their Lord. And wanting toknow if is the real deal of conversion, they could explain to you or others how Jesus died on the cross for their sin. And now at ages 8 and 5 respectively, they could explain for you how they are sinners and how Jesus became their Savior. It’s wonderful to see happen at such a young age in their lives. In fact, not too long ago, as evidence of their understanding, our daughter’s youngest, then about 4, was acting out in some way; and her mom sent her to her room for a “time out.” And as she sullenly went off to her room, her mom heard her say, “Oh I wish Eve hadn’t eaten that apple.” Our daughter had to hide her laughter as little Brooklyn was sent off to her punishment. But our daughter realized just how deep this little one’s understand was for a pretty deep theological issue. And as their granddad, I praise God that our kids are passing along the truth of our faith to the next generation.

My friends, one thing we’ve learned as a grandparents, blessed to have five little ones. And that is the fact that they take in and understand much more than we think they can. So, especially when our kids or grandkids ask questions, we need to give them answers; and we need to give them the stories of truth from the pages of the Book of Truth. I hope we’re all being used by God to transfer our faith to the next generation with our witness of truth with our family.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank you for giving us the privilege and the joy to see our grandchildren be shaped for eternity at such a young age. Amen

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 – Day 24. Jan. 24 – Living With Purpose

Study from Exodus 9 – 11; Passage for Reflection: Exodus 9: 16 … NIV But I [God] have raised you [Pharaoh] up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

My Journal for Today: I am not an accident of nature! … And just writing that truth is both satisfying … and a bit terrifying. It’s satisfying because, like Pharaoh or Moses, I have a role to play as God works out His plan for mankind and the world; but it’s terrifying because I don’t want to be an antagonist in God’s historical drama, which we call life. I want to be one of His protagonists.

I’m on the side of God in this cosmic drama; and I’m rehearsing to play an eternal role, which has me being a friend and servant of God while I’m here on earth. Oh, wow; it’s exciting to think that God allowed me to go through all those years of sinful struggle for a reason – HIS REASON. All those years of grinding, sinful hedonism, where I played the role of the fool was for God’s good purpose. I hate looking back on what I perpetrated on others during that phase of my life; but now I see that God had other roles He want to morph me into; and God’s script would have me playing multiple roles of loyal husband, Godly father, determined parent, humble church Elder, and also as a Minister-leader of a ministry which gives our Lord glory by the mission of service God has written for us.

F. LaGard Smith asks a very pointed question at the end of his devotional entry for today. His point is that we are not cosmic accidents, … our lives in this world. Therefore, my devotional author asks, What might God show me (us) of His power even today, and what unique opportunities will I have to proclaim His mighty Name? And I have certainly been mulling that one over as I have meditated on this incredible story of God using Pharaoh as the lead antagonist in this drama of deliverance. And then there was Moses, God’s protagonist, who was groomed for years in the deserts of Midian to be the lead in this drama where God’s power is on display as He leads His children out of bondage.

This weekend I was privileged to witness many men become freed from the bondage of sin, coming to know Christ as Savior, and prayerfully their Lord as well. At a Christian Men’s Conference in Jackson, TN, scores of men gave their life to Christ; and other Christians surrendered their hearts in commitment to walk free from their own chosen bondage to Satan, the world, or the flesh. And Bill Berry, born 66 years ago in Indiana, who went through what seems like an eon in the tar pits of sin, was led by God’s loving and merciful hand to be a part of the speaking team which brought God’s message of deliverance to these men. Yes, Satan was there to fight against us as God’s emissaries; but for the men who chose to follow Christ, either for the first time in their lives or in recommitment, God parted the Red Sea for them, and these men walked free to live out God’s purpose for their lives.

So, my friend, could I hear a jubilant “HALLELUJAH!” from you; and would you join me in realizing that our Lord has a purpose for you and for me to accomplish, which is for HIS glory – yes, even today! So, let’s go on stage and play out that role, being His servant in the drama we live in this world, which we call LIFE.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You’ve freed me to grow into a new role as Your servant, helping to free others from the shackles of sin. May I play my role exactly as You have written the script. Amen

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2010 – Day 23. Jan. 23 – Bargaining with God

Study from Exodus 5 – 8; Passage for Reflection: Exodus 8: 15 … NIV But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

My Journal for Today: Have you ever had a plague of frogs in your life? Well, maybe not literally; but maybe you were immersed in a catastrophic disease, involving yourself or a loved one? Perhaps you were in the midst of a rancorous divorce for a long period of time; or maybe you experienced the grief which follows the death of a loved one. And sometimes these emotionally laden plagues can be overwhelming; can’t they?

And in the midst of a plague of “frogs or locusts, or flaming hail stones,” did you ever find yourself bargaining with God? Maybe you prayed, “God deliver me from this horrible habit [whatever your sin stronghold might be], and I’ll never do it again!” Or maybe you could be heard to pray, “Lord, if you solve this problem for me, I’ll be a better servant for whatever you want me to do.” And then when the plague passed you and the panic diminished, your part of the “bargain” was forgotten or ignored into the future. Ever been there? I have.

Or maybe … all of a sudden … out of the blue, after praying a bargain basement prayer to God, perhaps the plague went away … quickly, seemingly giving you a positive answer to your prayer. Most certainly God can do that; and, though not often, occasionally He does. But most of the time, the plague of circumstances, which has you so wrapped up or is discouraging you, must run its course in time; and you have to deal with the fact that God may have heard you but answered with a “wait and see” or maybe a “sorry, Charlie” response. Oh, how easy it is to think that God has rejected you or forgotten you as you’re riding out a long-term storm in your life. When God says, as He did to the Prophet Habakkuk, “Things are going to get worse before they get better;” … it’s hard to be patient and believe in the truth of Romans 8: 28 (and I hope you know that one by heart). To believe and live with the truth that ALL things work together for my good, as a Christian, in the midst of some personal plague is a big and hard pill to swallow. And often I’m tempted to bargain with God for relief. But God is God; and He will not be mocked by our trying to make Him into a “genie in the bottle,” with pitiful bargains we usually can’t or won’t keep anyway.

I hope you’ve grown to the place in your walk with God that you know He is doing good things for you … yes, even when the plague of frogs is upon you. I really hope, and will pray today, that you believe and live with the truth that any storm in life is there for a purpose and that purpose involves bringing you closer to God and reshaping you into the image of His Son.

Yesterday, I was a breakout speaker at a Maximum Man Conference in Jackson, TN; and I had the opportunity to meet and hear Dr. Tony Evans, the well-known Pastor and speaker from Dallas, TX. And his talk last night was taken from Jer. 29: 11-13 [linked here]. That’s a great passage, taken from a chapter where the Prophet was having a really tough time in the midst of a Book where God’s people were REALLY having a bad time. And then there is this wonderful verse, Jer. 29: 11, which is so uplifting when you, like Jeremiah, may be experiencing one of those “plagues” or storms in life. Isn’t it great, when you’re going through a bad time – a really bad time – to know that God still has plans for you, … that He wants to use this current rotten set of circumstances to draw you to Himself and then to use you for HIS glory. I don’t know about you; but the timing of Dr. Evan’s message last night, being totally in accord with my devotional this morning, spoke volumes to my soul. I hope it has for you as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I actively pray, as I do often, that You’ll be patient with my impatience … that You’ll give me grace when I’m graceless … and that You’ll reshape me into Your image when I’m so covered with the warts of my past sin. Amen

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 – Day 22. Jan. 22 – Reverence with Awe

Study from Exodus 1 – 6; Passage for Reflection: Exodus 3: 5 … NIV “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

My Journal for Today: Can you just imagine what it must have been like for Moses, there observing that bush burning and coming that close to the Creator of the entire universe? And if you’re a student of the Bible, you’ve probably read that greeting from God, ”Do not come any closer,” several times. But did you ever ponder what it must’ve been like for a very curious man, one who was raised like a king but had become a shepherd, to come – all of a sudden – into the presence of the God to Whom he had prayed for many years of his life. And what a bizarre presence it was … a burning bush which was not consumed by the fire.

Here was Moses; and he was in the very presence of the God Whom he had worshipped for the last 40 years of his life; and his God was speaking to him. The scenario certainly begs the question, ”Do we come into the presence of God in reverence and awe when we spend time with Him? We are coming to the God Who is the great I AM!! But do we really experience His presence and revere His power? ” Most of the time, I think not. Right now, in my quiet place, I do sense I’m with God; but I’m afraid I don’t have the awe that I feel I should have.

And I stand as convicted here as anyone might who has let familiarity breed [well, maybe not “contempt”] … maybe something more along the lines of commonality. It’s like one coming into the possession of a painting by Rembrandt and putting it on the wall in our home. It may be worth millions; but if we don’t watch out, having it there on the wall, after a while, it will almost disappear in our lives due to familiarity. When we first hang the painting, there is a great “WOW!” factor; but after a while, it becomes a “Ho hum” presence in our lives.

And I’m afraid that is what God has become to many believers; and I don’t point any fingers of blame at others without knowing that I have three other fingers pointing right back at myself. So, I sit here this moringin, convicted by my devotional shepherd today. F. LaGard Smith has pealed away my confession that I treat my Lord with too much commonality. Oh, … I do recoil when I hear someone pray to “Papa God” or make some casual reference like, “Oh my God!” in everyday conversation. I do have an emotional knee jerk reaction when I hear someone say, “the Man upstairs;” and I recoil even more when I hear someone use the Lord’s name in vain by cussing the name of our Savior. So, maybe I’m not totally wrapped up in the familiarity syndrome of treating God too much like a friend and not enough like the Great I AM.

But I’m thankful today that Dr. Smith has helped me realize that when I get on my knees each morning right after I awaken, I have stepped onto HOLY GROUND, the ground won by my Savior when He died on that cross; and I’m praying to the very God Who delivered His people out of Egypt. Actually, I’m very much like Moses, who felt very insignificant when he was with God; and he was right to feel that way, being in God’s presence as the bush burned before him. He was right to feel very small before an infinitely big God. And we need to feel – and express – to God our awe of His presence and His power in our lives.

As He could have with Moses, God could squash us like a bug; but He doesn’t. Like He did with Moses, our Lord has a plan and a purpose for our lives; and like Moses, it behooves us to find out what that purpose is and to follow it unto completion. I pray that is the goal of anyone reading here with me today. It certainly is mine!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m emotionally shoeless here in this place … on Holy Ground here this morning … spending time with You, the awesome and great I AM, … the God who created me and everything which gives me life, … the God Who saved me from my own sinfulness, … and the God Who has decided to use my insignificance for Your glory. I come to You today, desiring that all see YOU for Whom You are … our God! Amen

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2010 – Day 21. Jan. 21 – God’s Mysterious Providence

Study from Genesis 48 – 50; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 50: 20 … NIV You [Joseph’s brothers] intended it to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

My Journal for Today: As Dr. Smith, the Author of my daily devotional book, points out, today’s passage, which took place late in Joseph’s life, illustrates one of the great theological conundrums, that being … God, in His sovereignty can exercise His will and His plan for mankind in the face of man’s very fallible and sometimes evil doings. It’s the age old question, “How is it that God can work His divine will through the actions of fallible human beings whose last thought would be that they are God’s agents for good?” And hence we read Joseph’s pronouncement to his brothers above, the brothers fearing, after the death of Jacob (i.e., Israel) that Joseph, who had all the power in Egypt, might turn on them for their past hateful and evil deeds. But we read that Joseph had truly forgiven them; and we know from the “rest of the story” in God’s word that God did in fact use these brothers to father the nations who would be known as God’s people, Israel.

And Dr. Smith personalizes this theological conundrum about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will by asking this question: “Is it possible that God might intend, even after I am gone, to save lives through something an unworthy soul like me has done during my lifetime?” And I hope you take the time, as I have this morning, to ponder and meditate upon the answer to that question.

For 22 years of my life, I lived a God-hating, double lifestyle, involving malignant patterns of habitual sexual sin; and twelve of those years involved a life of infidelity to my wife where I was certainly not the father to two growing girls which I should have been. But God, in His mercy and grace, saw fit to break me to the core, allowing me to humbly confess my evil deeds, receiving His salvation, and then being raised from the pits of despair to walk with my Lord in freedom and victory, even to become a Minister of His Gospel. Nobody could be a walking poster-boy for today’s passage any more than yours truly, as well as the truth of 2nd Cor. 5: 17, where Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”

For those reading with me here, I don’t know where you’ve been in your life or what you’ve done which you might regret; perhaps nothing. But if you’re like me; and you have some pretty serious sins from your past which haunt your memories, be assured that the truths from today’s highlight passage as well as the Apostle Paul’s declaration above in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, are either true or they are not. If you can’t have faith in their truth, perhaps you haven’t given your life to the Lordship of Christ. And if that’s the case, now is the time for you to repent of your sin past and accept Christ’s atoning act on the cross, which has given you pardon from your sin, … if, and only if, … you but have faith that He died for your sin and has designs on transforming your future for His will and purpose.

If you are in Christ, then let go of Satan’s lies that you are still condemned by your past and that your future cannot be useful for God. … LIES, LIES, LIES!!! … “There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8: 1); and “… if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness [1st John 1: 9].” … TRUE, TRUE, TRUE!!! …

However, if you cannot believe those truths and set aside the lies, Satan is going to have you in the grip of his deception and you will be rendered null and void for God’s purposes. On the other hand, if you do believe the truth of God’s word which I’ve quoted here today and you rebuke Satan’s lies, no matter how bad your past has been, God can use you for His glorious future; and you can take that one to the eternal bank of truth.

Now, let’s go live in the truth!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I live to be an instrument of your truth, combating the lies of Your enemies for the rest of my life. Amen

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 – Day 20. Jan. 20 – Second-guessing Motives

Study from Genesis 45 – 47; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 47: 20 - 21 … NIV The land became Pharaoh’s, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to another.

Genesis 47: 20 - 21 … NKJV So the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 And as for the people, he moved them into the cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end.

Genesis 47: 20 - 21 … Amplified Bible The land became Pharaoh's, 21And as for the people, he removed them to cities and practically made slaves of them [at their own request], from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other.

My Journal for Today: Today my personal take on F. LaGard Smith’s devotional is a reminder to me that studying scripture sometimes is like Job wrote of seeking wisdom in Chapter 28 [linked] of the book which bears his name. It’s like mining for gems or precious metals. You have to dig deeper than the surface; and many times you have to search deep to find the answers.

When one reads the NIV account of Genesis 47: 20-21 [see above], it would appear that, all of a sudden, Joseph, who had been this mild-mannered and benevolent overseer of Egypt, Pharaoh’s Prime Minister, had turned hard and cruel. And that’s why, when one is reading God’s word and he/she gets an impression which doesn’t seem to fit in the historical context of the Bible, the disciple should mine deeper to seek answers.

On the surface, reading these two verses in the NIV, it would seem that Joseph had become a hard task master, enslaving the people and putting them under the thumb of Pharaoh; but when you dig a little deeper into the mosaic of Bible translations, Joseph’s motive becomes clearer. Note the added emphasis and explanation which comes from only reading two more versions of scripture beyond the NIV (the NKJV and The Amplified Bible). One begins to get the feel that Joseph brought the people into indentured servitude, probably at their own request, to protect them and to ensure that they would have the food and seed they would need to sustain their families, flocks, and their fields. And if you study some reputable commentaries on this section of scripture, you’ll see that this, more benevolent picture of Joseph’s motives for what he did, becomes clearer.

Dr. Smith’s point this morning is that we should take care to avoid surface interpretations of someone’s decisions, especially when the observed behavior doesn’t seem to jibe with their history or character as revealed by past actions or decisions. And my point is the same is true with Scripture. When something you read and interpret from God’s word just doesn’t seem to be right in your mind, we need to dig deeper to understand what God intended, especially studying the historical context of the passage in question. And that means mining for the mind of God by using other interpretations of Scripture than just the one we happen to be reading; or it might mean going to reputable commentaries; and certainly it would mean praying for God, the Holy Spirit, to give you, a disciple of God’s truth, a clearer picture of what God needs for you to understand from His Word.

As you can see above, merely getting a wider interpretation of these two highlighted verses from other versions of the Bible revealed that there was much more to seeing Joseph’s motives than just taking it on face value that he desired to enslave the people of Goshen at the time of the famine in Egypt. I hope we all glean the lesson here today, especially when it comes to searching for truth from God’s word; and that lesson is to be willing to go deeper than the surface to mine the jewels of truth which are found in God’s word.

My Prayer for Today: Precious Holy Spirit, help me as I go deeper and deeper to know my Savior and Father through Your word. Amen

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 – Day 19. Jan. 19 – The Fine Art of Forgiveness

Study from Genesis 42 – 45; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 42: 15 … NIV And he [Joseph] kissed his brothers and wept over them. Afterward he brothers talked with him.

My Journal for Today: Well here we are in the story of Joseph where his brothers have learned that the brother whom they had mistreated and sold into slavery is now a big deal in Egypt; and they were terrified upon this being revealed. And we have seen Joseph take them through a number of scenarios before revealing himself. And finally the masks come off; and Joseph reveals himself, forgiving his brothers for the past wrongs.

My devotional author, Dr. Smith, speculates about why Joseph waited and put the brothers through what he did before revealing his identity. I had never really thought about that until this reading today. Have you? He says it might have been to give them the time they needed to see where they were and the power Joseph really had over their lives, giving much more impact to the forgiveness. It is also quite possible that the way the story unfolded, so dramatically, was for you and me in having this story as an example of God’s forgiveness of sinners like us. But nonetheless, the story does illustrate just how far God has gone (and will go) to forgive those who’re repentant and acknowledge their sin. Joseph, of course, in the story becomes a type of Jesus; and we know just how far God went with Him to forgive and save His family.

Pastor Smith makes a good point today that forgiveness is more an art than an exact science. Each case where forgiveness is called for is different because each sinner who needs forgiveness is different and each person who needs to forgive one who has wronged them is different. But there is one truth which overrides all; and that is that there is no wrong which cannot, and Smith adds, “should not”, be forgiven. If God can forgive me all those years I rejected Him, living a double-life of over 22 years of hidden sinful living; and if He can lavish His love and mercy on me, as He has, to the point of raising me to become an ordained minister of the Gospel, He can (and will) forgive anyone. I firmly believe that God, through Joseph’s patience and forbearance, shows anyone reading this story just how far He will go to give sinners a chance to be cleansed and justified in His eyes, … then lavishing His grace on us, which none of us deserve, we are allowed to be transformed to become like the One Who saved us. That’s what Joseph did for his brothers; and it’s what Jesus has done for me and for you.

Oh, … my Lord, … I have been such a man, like Joseph’s brothers, who wanted my brother, Jesus, out of my life. He was a Bother to me; and I wanted to kill Him. So I sold Him for selfishness to get rid of Him from my life. But He would not forget me; and He came after me … the “Hound of Heaven,” giving me the opportunity to repent and to change; and with His grace, I did. And like Joseph’s brothers, I became broken, acknowledging that my only hope was in the Person of my Savior. And I thank God for this rich and wonderful lesson in forgiveness which we read in the life of Joseph; and I pray that if we have someone in our lives who needs forgiveness that we pray for them and allow them the dignity of humility and repentance in this art of life we call forgiveness.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, if there be anyone I need to forgive, as You have forgiven me, make them known to me and give me the grace to forgive them. Amen

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 – Day 18. Jan. 18 – Dreams That Come True

Study from Genesis 39 - 41; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 41: 32 … NIV The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

My Journal for Today: My devotional author, F. LaGard Smith, takes an interesting tack in his entry for today, focusing on Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41. In those days, in reading the Old Testament and from historians of the day, we learn that the Middle Eastern people were heavily influenced by dreams and dream interpretation. Pharaoh had his magicians, seers, and soothsayers to help him interpret the dreams which were perplexing to him to help him move forward into the future. And Joseph was brought in to help in this dream interpretation process because Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph interpreting a dream for the cupbearer earlier in prison. Enter God’s man, Joseph, who interpreted Pharaoh’s dream; and the rest is history, as they say.

But do we rely on dreams as God’s messengers today they way mankind did in Joseph’s day? I think not; and Smith, in his devotional today points out that though God certainly could do what he did in Joseph’s day and communicate with His people through dreams, it is less likely that He would need to do that. And in asking why this is so, we only need to look at the inerrant source of truth, the Bible, which God has given mankind as His primary messenger to guide us. I firmly believe that God’s “M.O.” [i.e., primary method] of communication in this age of grace, the New Testament dispensation, does not reveal that many instances of dream communication from God as in the Old Testament times. Why? Well, it’s because God has given us His word; and He wants us to be guided by its powerful precepts and directions.

And we see the language and reality of dreams has changed in our culture from the pre-biblical times. When we, i.e., postmodern man, speak of “dreams,” we do so, as Smith points out, in such concepts as a “dream house,” or maybe a woman finding the “man of her dreams,” or quite possibly an NBA fan speaking of the “dream team.” All of these concepts point to the use of our “dreams” being ideal conditions or some idea we hold out as a goal or aspiration for the future. You hear motivational speakers ask, “What are your dreams?” Or maybe you might hear such a one saying, “What you dream, you can achieve!” And in doing so, they are trying to point the mind and heart of their followers in a future drive or motivation which can affect choices and behavior.

But I think it’s clear that we do not hold out dream interpretation in these days in the same way a Pharaoh did in Joseph’s day. We try to glean from our consciousness what our “dreams” might be for the future; and we then try to set ourselves on a goal path to achieve our dreams. So, I might ask you, my fellow Christian, “What are YOUR dreams?” And Jesus addressed this, did He not, when He spoke to His disciples (as He speaks to us today), in Matt. 6: 21, saying, “… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And Paul addressed what drives us to action as well when he wrote (in Phil. 2: 5), “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

And what these two truths say to me is that we need to set our “dreams” (i.e., our goals and aspirations) on the things which we find our Savior leading us to think, say, or do. We shouldn’t be relying heavily on modern-day motivational gurus, like Oprah Winfrey, to get us to think selfishly and pursue self-driven “dreams.” No, we should be pursuing THE “dream” of thinking and being more like Christ; and Jesus even told His disciples how to do this when He said to His followers of His day, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. [in Luke 9: 23, NKJV which I have memorized] That is the “dream” which should drive us to know our God, in the Person of Jesus, and to move us to obey His word and follow His path for our lives. That is my “dream prayer” for us all.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to formulate my “dreams” so that they coincide with Your will; and then empower me to follow in Your path. Amen

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 – Day 17. Jan. 17 – Hypocrisy of Double Standards

Study from Genesis 37 – 38; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 38: 24 … NIV Judah said, “Bring her (Tamar) out and have her burned to death!”

My Journal for Today: It’s always interesting to me how the detail in the Bible, especially the stories of the Old Testament, can bring so much meaning and application into my life today. And here we have the rather bizarre story of Tamar playing the role of prostitute, lying with her father-in-law, and giving birth to twins, the older of whom is in the direct line of the Messiah. Go figure!

But the story and the focus verse for the day also illustrates a universal human sin weakness, … that of the double-standards we often exercise in the world where we judge others more harshly than we do ourselves; and we erect double standards of sin, being harsh and judgmental about the type of sin and yet very loose and excusing when it comes to sins we might commit more easily ourselves.

In today’s story we read of Judah being very judgmental to find and call out the “prostitute” with whom he had sex [who turned out to be his daughter-in-law, Tamar]; but excusing himself from the sin of lying with her. In Gen. 37 today I read the story [I hope you did too] of Jacob’s brothers excusing and covering up their own sin of selling Joseph into slavery, and even desiring to kill him. But before we judge the sons of Jacob or Judah in his hypocrisy involving Tamar, think about our own culture these days. How harsh we, as Christians, can be in judging the sexual sins of prostitutes and the lifestyle of homosexuals in our world; and yet, we will excuse our own gluttonous eating habits or a socially acceptable drug habit like tobacco use. And the church even becomes hypocritically involved as an enabler by having pot-luck dinners to celebrate some event in the church where the congregants bring food which Satan would applaud as the height of sin temptation. But do we call out the sinners, even ourselves, who overeat and treat God’s temple, the body He’s given us, with utter disrespect? I think not!

I know it’s an old adage, but we do need to remember that when we point a finger at another whom we feel is sinful, we have three fingers on our own hand pointing right back at ourselves. And F. LaGard Smith’s introspective application question at the end of his devotional today was as follows today: “What ‘respectable’ sin in myself am I overlooking as I pass stringent judgment on the ‘foul’ sins of others?”

Well, my dear one, you have to answer that one for yourself; but I confess – and I’m taking action to correct my own hypocrisy – my own laxity when it comes to my own gluttonous habits as well as my lethargy with regard to physical exercise are inexcusable. And both of these sinful habit patterns have led to my excusing my overeating and the avoidance of healthy life-building exercise. And so, by logging my commitments to repent and improve, as led by God’s conviction, I’ve been documenting daily 40 days of purpose at the outset of this new year in an attempt to be build Godly habits and to be accountable for my repentance to two groups in my life whom God has given me for such accountability.

I will pray below that all of us who read and study here can sense God’s calling on our lives to avoid hypocrisy and to hold up only one set of standards, HIS, when it comes to how we live our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may those of us who call ourselves “Christian” live in obedience to Your standards, and may we resist and repent of hypocrisy in our lives where we allow ourselves to become our own standard, living for self rather than our Savior. Amen

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2010 – Day 16. Jan. 16 – When Marriage Is Dangerous

Study from Genesis 36; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 36: 2 … NIV Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan.

My Journal for Today: Today’s reading is one of those chapters in the Bible where a lineage or line of descendents is documented and listed. And in reading this, one might ask why God’s word would carefully document the names of the descendants who would become known as the Edomites, or the progeny of Esau.
Well, how God’s Name and faith in Him, or lack thereof, is perpetuated is important to God; and out of today’s simple highlight verse in Gen. 37a we read of the lineage of one of the sons of Abraham, the one who got away. And Esau’s (or “Edom’s” as his name became) descendants had a great deal to do with the wives he chose, all of whom were pagan women from Canaan, … women who came from a culture who worshipped idols and even sacrificed their children to idols. And God’s word wants believers, reading Chapter 37, to realize that a whole generation of pagans, an entire nation, resulted from Esau’s mixed marriages, a nation of descendants who came to hate God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and a nation who developed an entire religion, Islam, which set itself up against the descendants of Abraham who did all they could to marry other believers in the one, true God. And now, even today, we have the second largest religion on the planet which has devolved into worshipping a moon God, Allah, and is at constant war with the descendants of Jacob (i.e., Israel).

My friend, one cannot minimize the importance of Christians marrying other devoted Christians. In the New Testament we read the command of 2nd Corinthians 6: 14-16 (linked), which specifically directs believers away from marrying or being in a covenant with any other unbeliever. All Christians should know that marriage is the most sacred institution created and honored by God. In fact His word even uses the marriage covenant in His word of truth to depict the relationship which God, the Son, has with “His Bride,” the Church. Therefore, we, as His children, are to honor and revere marriage; and when we dishonor it by marrying non-believers or ignoring God’s instructions with regard to marriage, the results can be disastrous, spiritually and socially. I firmly believe that if our country allows for or adopts a national policy, allowing for homosexual marriage, we will see God’s wrath of abandonment settle on our Nation, which had been founded as a nation to honor Christ; and we’ll see God turn us over to Satan’s world (see the teaching of Romans 1: 18-32 - linked here). Esau abandoned the ways of God in marrying into a pagan culture of unbelievers; and we see what has resulted; and we will also see the schism between Christians and non-Christians widen if we tamper in our culture, either individually or collectively, with the institution of marriage.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help this nation and Your world, because it is YOUR world, to realize how much You revere Your institution of marriage; and, dear Lord, have mercy on those of us who do honor Your Bride and our marriages to You in the face of our spouses here on earth. Amen

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 – Day 15. Jan. 15 – Choosing Your Battles

Study from Genesis 34 – 25; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 34: 31 … NIV But they (Jacob’s sons) said to him (Jacob after they had avenged their sister’s defilement), “Should we have treated our sister like a prostitute.”

My Journal for Today: When one reads and studies, in Gen. 34, this rather extreme, and somewhat bazaar, story of Dinah’s defilement by Schechem, the ruler of the area where Jacob had settled, we might react by thinking that the revenge taken by Dinah’s brothers was justifiable revenge. But Jacob realized that their act of revenge was ill-begotten and unwise because it would bring with it too much social chaos, misperception, and political recoil in the region.

So, what are we to learn from this story? And there is a plain truth here; and that is, “Pick your battles wisely.” And the most obvious, pertinent example God brought to my consciousness this morning had to do with parenting. As our kids grow into and through those “terrible teen years,” we are going to be at odds with our kiddos as they try to test our limits and boundaries (and they will!). And the question will become, “Where do we draw the lines of battle?” Will it be that earring my son wants or the tattoo our daughter desires? Which of the music their downloading from I-Tunes do we allow? Should we let our son have a laptop behind closed doors in our home? Do we let our kids have Internet accessible cell phones?

Some of those battles are worthy battlefields where battles must be fought to protect the purity and growth of our kids; but some of them will be fought with the collateral damage (the relationship between parent and child) being too much to go to battle. And unfortunately it takes the wisdom of Solomon and the war vigilance of Joshua to do battle as parents in this sexually charged culture.

Today parents are faced with battlefield decisions which are mind boggling at times. When my parents were raising me, about the most vigilant they had to be was to watch the friends with whom I hung out. But today, parents have to be vigilant about protecting their kids from the drug wars, the hypersexualized media, and all the rapidly advancing technologies on the horizon. When I was growing up, my parents could easily monitor my whereabouts; but today a parent almost needs to have a GPS device implanted under the skin of their kids to know where they are and to sense what they’re doing.

Parent … if you have kids today, as a grandparent, I hope (and pray below) that you can pick your battles and let God be your guide, as was Jacob in moving to a place where God led him for protection. I pray that your kids recognize your love in settling on clear boundaries for their lives; because the world is ever trying to draw these young ones into the godlessness of our culture; and it’s becoming harder and harder to do the right thing – to pick the right battles – in raising our youth as Christians.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I lift up the kids of our culture. May those who raise them in Christian homes have the wisdom and discernment that only You can provide to pick their battles and win them over for You. Oh, and how I pray that for our daughters, their families, and our grandchildren. Amen

Blogger’s note: My reader-followers, please forgive me for getting a bit personal with my entry for today. Normally, I try to go “generic” with the lessons God gives me to share in this place. However, today, when it came to applying what my devotional had to teach from Genesis 34, the examples above, which are quite personal, came to mind. So, being faithful to God’s leading, I have posted them above as commitments to Godly direction for me … and prayerfully for you as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 – Day 14. Jan. 14 – A God Who Watches

Study from Genesis 31 – 33; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 31: 49-50 … NIV It [the place where Jacob and Laban made their covenant] was also called Mizpah, [means “watchtower”] because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me."

My Journal for Today: In our western world you might hear kids say, witnessing to something they know to be true, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Or you may hear adults say, “As God is my witness.” Well, in the chapters I read today, a biblical story illustrates the truth of our God being our ever present witness.

When Jacob and Laban, who had been at odds, came together to mend their ways, they formed a covenant; and they sealed that covenant with a sign, as was the custom them. Their sign was pile of rocks, a symbol of a tower, which Laban labeled, ”Mispah,” which means “watchtower.” Today when we establish modern-day covenants we also use signs of the sealed agreement, such as a wedding ring, a signed contract, or a hand shake, all of which are mutually agreed upon signs that the agreement will be faithfully carried out by both parties. Unfortunately, a hand-shake, a signed contract, or even a wedding ring as a sign of modern-day covenant, does not hold the weight of long-term commitment in our culture that it once did.

Do you have any “mispahs” in your life, signs of the covenant which you have made with God to be your Watchtower? If you’re a Christian, you certainly should have made one; and that is to surrender your life to the Lordship of Christ, acknowledging His shed blood and Your repentance of sin as well as your reception of His saving grace. And now that you’re a part of the NEW COVENANT in Christ, what is your “Mispah?” Do you have some sign which has helped you seal this covenant with the Lord and remember that God is your Watchtower?

Mine is the verse of Scripture God used, Philippians 4: 13 on 4/13/83, when the Holy Spirit broke me to a place where I could see that He was the only way I was ever going to find the spiritual strength I was seeking; and I’m convinced that God used that date … 4 – 13 … as His sign in the covenant. Therefore, the number “13” is ever before me, helping me to remember that God is my “Mizpah,” my watchtower; … that He is ever watchful with His enabling grace. And any time, in moments of weakness, Phil. 4: 13 often comes to my mind to remind me that God’s grace is always mine as long as I humbly receive it, knowing that God is ever my “Watchtower.”

Do you have a sign of your love covenant with God? Do you move in life, ALWAYS remembering that God is your Watchtower? Do you remember that He always sees your choices; and that He’s always there for you, desiring to have a deeper relationship with you (go back and meditate on Rev. 3: 20)? My friend, I hope you have a “mizpah” in your life to help you remember that God is our Watchtower.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, YOU are my Watchtower; and I will ever have the “mizpah” of Phil. 4: 13 to be a light in my life, drawing me ever closer to You. Amen

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 – Day 13. Jan. 13 – Working Too Hard At Love

Study from Genesis 29 – 30; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 29: 34… NIV Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons."

My Journal for Today: When one reads of the ancient soap-opera-like story of Laban and Jacob deceiving one another; and then the two daughters of Laban, Jacob’s two wives, doing all they can to win a war of the womb, it illustrates what mankind will do in the so-called name of “LOVE.” And when I read Genesis 29 – 30 this morning, I harkened back to that old saying, “Oh the web we weave when we practice to deceive.”

And F. LaGard Smith’s self-inventory/application at the end of his devotional for today is one all Christians need to ask ourselves. He writes as a mirror into which I can see myself, ”Am I operating under the [self] deceptive premise that the more I work at pleasing God, the more He will love me?” Just recently I was led to launch a 40 day effort to develop or implant a number of disciplines [i.e., repeated behaviors] which I felt were God-led habits which could/would help me to go deeper into a more intimate relationship with Christ. However, I truly am not deluding myself to think that God loves me any more or less because I check off the behaviors/choices on my list or when I fail to do them. I truly hope that I’m not choosing to do these things to try to get God to love me any more as Rachel and Leah were competing for Jacob’s favor by having child after child.

No, my 40 days of purpose, here at the outset of the new year, is a pro-active surrender to those elements of good or Godly living which I believe will help me know my God more intimately, love Him more deeply, obey Him more readily, serve Him more willingly, and then to humbly receive His grace from this process. And I fully recognize that God’s grace (i.e., His love) will come; but I have no idea in what form it will take. It may even be in my Lord giving more challenges in life so that I can grow closer to my Lord rather than more “warm and fuzzies” to make me feel good. I seek my God’s blessing; but I know it will be there for me whenever I seek for His love in my surrender … not my performance.

I hope none of you, … any who may be reading here, are doing “religious stuff” or working overboard just to be good to show off your love to God. Or do we get the message from my sharing here today … that we cannot earn God’s love with the things we do? Nor can we drive God’s love away by what we don’t do or that we do selfishly. God’s love for us is always there; and His grace will be there when our obedience to His will in our humility opens His treasure chest of providence for us [I hope you know from your heart what the truth from Phil. 4: 19, 2nd Cor. 12: 9, James 4: 6, and 1st Peter 5: 6].

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that what I do everyday, those choices I make which I truly believe YOU lead me to make, … that they are my living sacrifice for Your glory and are not carried out to earn Your favor. Amen

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 – Day 12. Jan. 12 – Enslaved by Family Grudges

Study from Genesis 27- 28; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 27: 41 … NIV Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him.

My Journal for Today: Oh, how the parental wounds of injustice, insensitivity, or perceived inequity haunt our lives. Rereading the story of Jacob’s deception and the plotting of his mother to gain Isaac’s blessing for Jacob, and then the resultant grudge which Esau held for his brother, is a story which may be playing itself out in your family or families you know or maybe, even more personally, in your own life.

It is so easy to let wounds from our family past dictate our feelings for our parents or siblings; and they can become motivations for anger and bitterness, infecting our feelings, behaviors, and choices for many years after the incidents which may have caused the original anger or misgivings. Perhaps you have a sibling which you felt was more loved by your parents than you felt you were loved. Maybe you’re a parent who held feelings for one child more than another. Unfortunately these types of family scenarios can play themselves out in decisions or acting out much later in life, causing those who perceived ill treatment to reject family members or to plot actions which have vengeance as their motivation.

Today, in a very personal way, I’m thinking about how I let a misperception of my mother’s withholding of physical love drive me to do things in my later life trying to “make up” for what I felt were lost hugs and affection. I now recognize that many ill begotten and immoral sexual choices in my life were driven by my desire to find the physical affection I perceived I did not get in my youth. And it was a type of “grudge” against my parents which drove me to many actions later in life I now regret. Perhaps you, who read this, may have wounds from the past, maybe from your family, which have driven feelings of bitterness or behavioral choices which you now regret.

But the time is now, as a Christian, to take those burdens, … those feelings from the past and those desires for making things right, and lay them at the foot of the Cross, repenting of past sins and moving forward to love the God Who shows no favoritism and THE Heavenly Parent Who will never leave you nor forsake you. Holding on to past grudges or feelings of inequity of blessing will never drive us to expressing the love God had for us when He died on the cross for our sins. And the only way to reciprocate this love from God is to express God’s love into the lives of those who may have driven us from the past. We need to repent of hatred and haunting grudges; and then we must forgive those in our past who have “wronged” us. We must lay the burdens from these past feelings before God’s throne of grace, confessing them, and asking for the cleansing promised in 1st John 1: 9. And then we need to move on, letting go of any bitterness and finding the love God has waiting for us to fill the holes of lost love from our past.

I can tell anyone, from first-hand experience, that letting God deal with past hurts brings far more joy and healing than holding on to grudges or seeking vengeance can bring. God’s love is the healing balm; and our hope in Christ is the only way to drive us forward, letting that healing be expressed in how we worship our God and show love to others.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I thank You for giving me all the love I found wanting from my past; and I praise Your Name for giving me Your love to share with others, releasing me of any past wounds which had driven me to sinful living. My rebirth in You has given me healing and hope forever. Amen

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 – Day 11. Jan. 11 – Selling Ourselves Short

Study from Genesis 25 – 26; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 25: 34 … NIV So Esau despised (i.e., sold) his birthright.

My Journal for Today: Studying this very short verse in the context of what transpired between Esau and Jacob has incredibly strong implications on all of mankind. Please go back, read, and meditate on Genesis 25: 29 – 34 [linked here]; and your reaction will likely be, “What was this adult first-born son of Isaac thinking?” In that culture and time, the implications of the birthright were HUGE; and because of a brief encounter involving hunger and his need to satiate that hunger, a first-born child, Esau, was willing to readily barter away that birthright for the immediate gratification of some bread and stew.

However, before we start pointing figurative fingers of blame at Esau, we must ask ourselves if we are not like Esau in our propensity to make choices where immediate gratification is our reactive decision, setting aside the big-picture of delayed gratification, which would be better for us. How many of us, yours truly included, eat the wrong things or too much of the right things because we’re HUNGRY, even though we know that filling that hole in our stomachs with bad food choices will hurt us in the long run? In the ministry God has led me to lead, I encounter scores of men who will “sell the birthright” of their marriage by relenting to their immediate sexual desires and partaking of pornography, even binging on it, even though they are very aware of the long-term ramifications and the evil which they pursue. At one time in my life and for a very long time, I was one of those men; and for the first twelve years of my marriage, even though I knew that pursuing sexual gratification outside of marriage was wrong; but I did it anyway. In the headlines and tabloids today we see Tiger Woods and others like him, men who seem to have it all, blowing their long-term lives in favor of their short-term desires. We’re no different than Esau; are we?

Fortunately, God led me out of those latter tar pits of sinful self-gratification, leading me to walk free from my habits of sexual sin; but I still struggle with the former stronghold of making poor food choices – even though, having diabetes – I know that poor dietary choices could damage my health or shorten my life.

What’s with our willingness, just like Esau, to go for the immediate by pursing the sinfulness in the short-term and ignoring the Godliness of the long-term? Well, of course, it is wrapped in the big picture of our basic Adamic sin nature. We’re simply born that way; but as Christians we need to recognize – and I need to remind myself here today – that we (I) need not make immediate, horizontally based, choices which satisfy our flesh in the here-and-now when there are better, vertically related, choices and pursuits which honor and glorify God in the long-term picture of life.

Even today, I will be dealing with food choices which might, in the short-term, satisfy my immediate desires. However, I can see and respond to God’s conviction and direction to set aside my flesh and honor my Lord with food choices which His Spirit shows me are more healthy for my body in the physical realm; but even more importantly they are choices that gratify and glorify my God eternally. And those kinds of vertically based, long-term decisions, such as avoiding sexual sin or being humble as opposed to prideful, will be choices which honor God and do not sell-out our re-birth rights which were won for us when the Lamb of God gave Himself on the cross so that we, who know Him as Savior and Lord, might have a Spirit within us which shines a light on our choices and gives us a clearer picture of the long-term good over the short-term wrong.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me (us) to make decisions in the here-and-now which ripple onward and outward into the future to glorify You. Amen

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010 – Day 10. Jan. 10 – Praying for Success

Study from Genesis 24; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 24: 12 … NIV Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.”

My Journal for Today: Today I was led by my Daily Bible in Chronological Order and the companion Devotional to read the story of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac. And we read about how the servant subsequently prayed to God for success and was led to Rebekah, who ultimately became Isaac’s wife. And the devotional by Dr. Smith focuses on the prayer of the servant for success in his covenant task, charged by Abraham to find a wife for his covenant son, Isaac, from among God’s people and Abraham’s kinsman.

And in Genesis 24 we read that the servant, given the task, immediately went, with a surrendered attitude, to God, praying for God to lead him to success. And we read that the servant’s prayer was very specific and focused on what he believed was in accord with God’s will and Abraham’s charge. And this becomes a lesson in how we need to seek after God’s will and pray diligently and specifically when we think we have God’s peace, leading us in God’s direction.

As New Covenant Christians, we too can – and should – bring all things to God. We can read of this charge in such passages as John 15: 7 and 1st Peter 5: 7, and if you don’t have those verses memorized, I hope you’ll go to those and study them. And when we understand the implications of these truths and the outcomes of the story in Genesis 24, we’ll see that God strongly exhorts His children to bring anything to Him; but we know that He’s only going to grant “success” (from His omniscient view of our lives) for those things which we NEED, not necessarily what we want. In other words, “success” from our prayers must always be viewed in the light of God’s will and His timing and not from our own (especially selfish) desires.

When Abraham’s servant prayed for success in the task Abraham had given him, the servant trusted that the task came from God through Abraham to him. And for years now, I’ve come to learn a protocol for determining God’s will when I am seeking for God’s leading and desiring to pray for “success” in the things which require some well-considered decision making. I was taught this protocol for making God-led decisions years ago by a Godly mentor; and it comes from using the passage in Philippians 4: 6-7 [linked here – which I hope you know - ]. I don’t have the time/space to go into it in depth here; but in summary, it involves avoiding anxiety by taking a leaning I have (something I think God is directing me toward) to God and, as Abraham’s servant, being very specific by asking God to give me HIS direction and success in moving toward this leaning. I make sure, as I’m sure Abe’s servant did, that I’m praying to God with a humble, contrite, and purified heart. I know that praying out of prideful or selfish desires will never unlock God’s grace; and I also know that praying with unresolved sin in my life won’t allow God to release His will for me. So, assuming I come to God with a ready and contrite heart, I pray – very specifically – for that leaning I have; and if I get no peace from my prayers, I simply know that God is saying either “NO” or “WAIT.” If, on the other hand, I get God’s peace that surpasses all understanding, I know that I’m on God’s track to success; and I pray for that success as did Abraham’s servant.

This method of seeking out God’s will and praying for God’s success has never – and I mean NEVER – failed me when I come to the Lord with a right heart seeking HIS success, in HIS timing, and in HIS way. Again returning to the verse, referred to above, John 15: 7, along with my directed passage in Phil. 4: 6-7, these are God’s promises, not Bill Berry’s; and God doesn’t lie (see Num. 23: 19).

So, my dear one, I hope you see that God invites (actually commands) us to come to Him seeking His will and success for our lives; but He wants us to realize that HE is the one defining that success. That is why God commanded Joshua the way he did in Joshua 1: 8, to be in God’s word so deeply and regularly that Joshua (and we) would know God’s truth and God’s way. And if we know God’s word when it comes to praying for success, we’ll be doing the praying and inquiring based upon God’s truth and His will and not upon our own selfish desires. That is my prayer for me … and for all of us.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You know that I come to You often seeking Your way, within Your will, and in Your timing. Help me to come to you with a pure heart, ready to find Your direction and then to follow it diligently. Amen

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2010 – Day 9. Jan. 9 – A God Who Provides

Study from Genesis 22 – 23; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 22: 14 … NIV So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

My Journal for Today: My devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, poses a very poignant and provocative question at the end of his entry for today. He writes, ”Who is depending upon me to provide for the distressing needs that God has put me in a position to supply?” And when I really think about that convicting and perplexing question, it puts a very personal spin on the story of how God provided the lamb from the thicket in this story of God demanding of Abraham the sacrifice of his only son of the covenant promise, Isaac.

Okay, we see from the story of Isaac’s near sacrifice how God does provide for even our most dire needs; but then what do we do for all the poverty, starvation, and those nagging homeless people we see out on the streets in the bitter cold weather we’re experiencing even as I write this? And that takes me back to F. LaGard Smith’s question today? And it gets personal when I think of how God has provided so generously for my needs. I have a very livable retirement income; and we are warm in the midst of this cold snap. I’m even overweight from the food I can and do purchase. We tithe and give, I believe generously, above our tithe; and yet I see so much neediness in the world.

And I am back at Dr. Smith’s question as it is generalized to our Christian world. What are we, as the Church, to do as extensions of Jehovah Jireh, … God, The Provider? And perhaps that’s when we can – or must – see ourselves as the lamb in the thicket in the story of God providing the lamb for Abraham just as he was about to bring his knife down on his son, Isaac.

I don’t know about you; but every time I see one of those disheveled men standing on a corner with a small cardboard sign, which reads something like, “Homeless! Please help;” I’m drawn to want to dole out cash from my wallet to meet his needs. Then the rational side of my brain asks, “Is this guy going to take my money to the nearest liquor store and buy booze?” And I wonder if I’m really the lamb in the thicket for these panhandlers. It’s a tough dilemma, isn’t it?

I do believe that we, who have, are the lamb in the thicket for those who need in our world? I do believe that is why God, The Jehovah Provider, requires at least the tithe and then as much as we can give as stewards of His provision (see Matt. 25: 14 – 30, the parable of the talents); but I also believe that we must let God’s Spirit, the One Who enlightens our mind, to help us know how much and where to be God’s lamb in the thicket. And I will probably continue to be challenged by that issue in my life and in this very perplexing world where God has placed me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to discern where and how much You desire for me to be Your lamb in the thicket of life for others whom I can be the extension of Your provision. Amen

Friday, January 08, 2010

2010 – Day 8. Jan. 8 – Rationalizing Sin

Study from Genesis 20 – 21 ; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 20: 11-12 … NIV Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.' 12 Besides, she [Sarah] really is my sister, the daughter of my father, though not of my mother; and she became my wife.

My Journal for Today: You’ve no doubt heard it said, “Oh, the web we weave when we practice to deceive.” And here we have Abraham, the so-called “Father of the Faith,” once again deceiving himself that it’s justified to tell a half-truth, which is really an out-right lie, because of his fear of another man. About 20 years earlier old Abe had used this ploy with an Egyptian King; and now here he is with Abimelech, the Philistine king, doing it again. And it’s the same self-deception and the exactly the same sinful deception.

And with this story as our Author’s highlight passage for today’s devotional, F. LaGard Smith asks, ”What persistent sin do I [you] engage in and have rationalized so repeatedly that it now hardly seems to be sin at all?” And to this I said, “OUCH!” It was not long ago, right at the end of 2009, that I covered this very subject matter in one of my devotionals led by Chuck Swindoll [if you want to look it up, it was a series of devotionals I did from Dec. 29 – 31, in fact, beginning with Chapter 15 of 1st Samuel about Saul’s rationalization of sin and into Paul’s exhortation against such sinful deception in 1st Cor. 6.] This was a personally convicting series of devotionals for me; because it revealed my own personal stronghold of sin and self-deception in the area of gluttony and poor body (i.e., “Temple”) stewardship.

In that series, Chuck Swindoll used the weakness of Saul, short-cutting and deceiving Samuel (and God, of course) by holding out, knowing full-well the extent of God’s will; and yet Saul deceived himself that it was okay to only do part of what God had told him to do. And now in today’s passage we see Abraham, … faithful Abraham, succumbing to self-deception and sinful rationalization by choosing to exercise and repeat a personal rationalization of his own. And I think God is telling me something with these two devotionals, timed so closely together. Yes, my God is definitely exposing my own weakness to rationalize (i.e., to tell myself RATIONAL LIES) as I use food to comfort something in my soul which desires fulfillment, something which only God can fill, of course.

Perhaps you who read this have some pattern of recurring sinfulness which is a thorn in your side, … something that leads you to excuse your own personal choices which you really know is sin and strikes out against God’s will for your life. For many years of my life, before I was a Christian, one of my worst areas of rationalize sinfulness was habitual sexual sin; but when I came to know Christ as the Lord of my life, though it was a struggle, God led me out of that tarpit of sinfulness into the light of freedom and deliverance.

However, after over six decades of life being a glutton, I excuse this business of repeated over eating by telling myself that it’s a such a small sin; and I give myself license for it by seeing so many other “Christians” who are obese or who are also wallowing in gluttonous self-denial as well. And then I see my own church enabling me in my sinful weakness by having many venues where I’m tempted with wonderful, fattening foods – potluck dinners, banquets, etc. And I excuse my sinful eating choices as being “not so bad,” thinking that I’m strong in my righteousness in the much more malevolent area of sexual sin. Shouldn’t I have the license to be like other sinners and to satisfy my fleshly desires in this other, much more benign area of sin (or so I tell myself)?

Bill Berry it is sin! And the excuses are lies … LIES FROM THE PIT OF HELL! And when I knowingly deceive myself, rationalizing my sinfulness in this way, I’m not any different than Saul excusing his sin or Abraham telling these kings that Sarah was his sister. And when I choose to sinfully overeat, I short-change my relationship with God; and I’m very likely dampening my ability to use God’s grace in ministry and in my own life by not making the right and righteous choices when I’m tempted to overeat.

But – though I know it’s a platitude – TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE – and I can make eating choices today and in the future which will quit honoring Satan and rightfully and righteously honor my God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I know your promise in 2nd Cor. 12: 9; and Your enabling grace is there for me to use Your strength to cover my weakness. May I receive and use Your empowering grace today, … and tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, … to overcome my rationalization and sinful living. Amen

Thursday, January 07, 2010

2010 – Day 7. Jan. 7 – The Power of God

Study from Genesis 18 – 19; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 18: 13-14 … NIV Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

My Journal for Today: Again I go to Pastor Smith’s devotional question at the end of today’s entry, which asks, ”Is there anything [you’ve] desperately tried to make happen without thinking that if God wants to make it happen, He has the power to make it happen?” Sarah’s laugh in today’s passage is evidence of our human failing. We tend to judge God’s power based on our human ability to perform. Sarah simply couldn’t fathom how God could give her the ability to conceive a child at her age. So, her reaction was to giggle in disbelief. Not a good thing to do in the presence of God; would you say?

But my friend, when God promises something, He is truthful, serious, and ALWAYS capable of fulfilling His promises. And as I read today’s highlight passage and my study from Genesis, one of my memory verses bubbled up into my consciousness. It is Numbers 23: 19, which reads, God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? So, my friend, laughing off God’s promises or His power to act is the height of human arrogance, pride, and absolute foolishness.

In Genesis 19 Abraham was given a first-hand look at the results of the promises and power of God as he looked out from the plains of Hebron and saw Sodom and Gomorrah burning. God had promised the destruction of those perpetuating evil in these cities; and Abraham witnessed the result. And we need to be alerted to this reality when we look around and see what evil is being perpetrated in our world, evil which mocks God’s protection and mercy thus far in our culture. I read Romans 1: 18-32 [linked]; and I shudder at what I know to be the truth that God’s mercy will only last so long (and we know not how long) to protect the righteous remnant of believers from God’s wrath of abandonment. God will not and cannot continue to look the other way as Sodom/Gomorrah type evil is being perpetrated in our time.

Those who have read my journals here in the past year will know that on more than one occasion I have brought forth the adage that the rain, when it falls, will fall on both the unjust and the just. So, God’s church needs to be in prayer – diligent prayer – the type of prayer exhorted in 2nd Chron. 7: 14 [linked] - for God to heal our land of the evil which appears to be growing in our midst. But as Habakkuk, the Prophet of old learned, we need to be prepared for things to get worse before they get better. God will do what He feels must be done to bring His plans to fruition. And we must be willing to trust Him to do His thing, in His time, and in His way!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, we stand before You, trusting and knowing that You know best what You must do to heal our land; but I do humbly pray that you have mercy on those who believe in Your sovereignty and Lordship. You are in control; and we trust You in all things; and we plea for Your deliverance and merciful judgment. Amen

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010 – Day 6. Jan. 6 – Commitment to Keeping Covenants

Study from Genesis 15 – 17; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 17: 7 … NIV I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you [to Abram] and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

My Journal for Today: Do you realize what really happened when God made that covenant with Abram (whose name was changed to “Abraham” as a part of this one-way covenant God made with him? When you really look at it, especially from a human point of view, God’s covenant with old Abe really didn’t make much sense. Here was the Creator of the Universe lowering Himself to make a one-way deal with a very fallible man; and to make a commitment into an eternal relationship with that man and his progeny to come. Why would God do such a thing? Well, the reality and truth of God’s covenants in the Old Testament speak loudly of God’s desire to have a relationship with mankind; and He was willing to “stoop down” to man’s level, retaining all of His Deity, and using a concept of man’s culture of that time – i.e., the establishment of a “covenant” – to show man (in the persons of Noah, for example, or in this example with Abraham) just how committed He, God, was to have an eternal relationship with mankind. What a deal !!

And when we realize the true character of God, His Holiness, and His everlasting truthfulness and faithfulness, we have to see – if we’re willing to look – that this one-way deal God made with man is eternal; and it came from the Creator to the created. And that my dear one is truly mind boggling. And it was so mind boggling to Abram, who became Abraham, and his wife Sarai, who became Sarah, that they just couldn’t completely get it. Oh, they believed in their God; but they just couldn’t grasp the depth of the covenant God had made with them … to the point that they tried to devise a human solution to a dilemma, i.e., Sarah being able to conceive a child at her late age, which seemed, to them, even beyond God’s ability to solve.

And it’s that human failing of trustfulness in God’s covenant with His children which trips up Christians even today. We, as Christians, to whom I’m writing here, need to realize that the “New Covenant” is still a covenant with God; and in Christ, the New Covenant is a fulfillment of God’s “Old Covenant” to bring a Savior, a Messiah, Who is Christ, The Lord. But this new covenant with Christ is a two-way covenant; when God sent His Son to be the sacrificial Lamb and die for our sin, being raised to be the Lord of all is God’s part of the New Covenant. But our part of the covenant is a surrender to His Lordship and a commitment to worship Christ with our lives, surrendering our very being to His Spirit so that the Holy Spirit can mold us into the image of The Glorified Savior.

I really don’t think that many, who call themselves “Christian,” realize the depth of a COVENANT relationship as the Bible teaches this concept for our lives. And I’m afraid there are many who sit in the pews every Sunday, thinking that they have the fire-insurance of salvation, when they haven’t fulfilled their part of the New Covenant; and that is to surrender their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. These people may believe that Jesus was and is their Savior; but they haven’t surrendered to Christ’s Lordship. And the Bible is clear that both parts of that reception formula are necessary for the completion of the New Covenant from Christ which brings salvation to the one who believes and receives Christ as BOTH SAVIOR AND LORD.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you recognize the depth of the concept of “covenant;” and I pray that you are sealed by God’s Spirit into an eternal covenant with Christ, recognizing and living in covenant worship of the Savior who has become your Lord.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that my life is the working out of Your coming to live, die, and to be raised back into glory so that I can partake of Your New Covenant to the glory of Your Father, my Heavenly Father. You are my Savior AND Lord; and may my life reflect that covenant forever. Amen

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2010 – Day 5. Jan. 5 – Following God’s Call

Study from Genesis 12 – 14; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 12: 1 … NIV The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

My Journal for Today: F. LaGard Smith, my devotional Pastor this year and the Editor of The Daily Bible In Chronological Order [NIV], through which I’m reading this year, poses some interesting and challenging questions today.
• What does it mean to follow God’s call?
• Does God really lead people into disastrous conditions?
• How can we be sure we’re really following God and not our own selfish desires?
• By what means does God call His children?
• What gives … when we truly follow what we believe to be God and we’re disappointed?

But Smith is right that these questions become moot when we, like Abram, have no doubt that we’ve really sensed God’s calling. No, the question then becomes, “Are we willing to leave our comfort zone in life and just GO wherever and whenever God calls us to go?” Jesus in the NT has a challenging call on the lives of His disciples, when He says [in Luke 9: 23] If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me?” And if you have been an Abram and followed God, I’ll bet you’ve experienced and/or know that God seldom calls one into more comfort, more luxury, or a higher degree of “blessing” (at least how we worldly creatures would define “blessing”).

No, one of the things which tells us that a path in life is likely a Godly direction is whether one is being led, as was Abram, into an uncharted direction, requiring a test of our faith. If one is looking for God’s leaning, one of the first things we need to look for to determine if this is God’s direction in life is to see whether the direction requires more or less faith in God than the previous path or place. If it is the easy or wide road to follow, BEWARE; it is more likely that Satan or selfishness is doing the leading. If, on the other hand, the road is the narrow road, the one less traveled, and the one which is insecure or ultra-challenging, that is more likely the road God is testing you to travel. And if, in spite of the anxiety over that more challenging route, you pray and get a peace – that peace which surpasses all understanding - about that leaning or direction, (as instructed by Phil. 4: 6-7, which I hope you have memorized and use often in decision making) then, like Abram, you simply MUST pick up and go where God is leading You … whenever or wherever that might be.

Yeah! … This Christian discipleship business can be a bear, can’t it?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I be ever sensitive to Your leading in my life; and then may I have the courage to deny self and follow You. Amen

Monday, January 04, 2010

2010 – Day 4. Jan. 4 – The Language of Pride

Reading and study of Genesis 10 – 11; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 11: 4 … NIV Then they [the descendants of Noah] said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

My Journal for Today: Today I move, in my Daily Bible study, into the account of Babel, as Noah’s descendants move onward and decide to build the “tower to the heavens,” which becomes an idol representing the original sin of pridefulness, that sin which was brought into the Garden by the serpent and became mankind’s undoing. When we look at pride, the mother of all sin, we need to realize, as my devotional Pastor, F. LaGard Smith points out in today’s study, that “PRIDE” is a two sided-coin, one having a good side and the other a bad – VERY BAD – side.

I’m a grandparent, and when I see our grandkids doing incredibly precocious things, the pride of being part of their very being and upbringing rises in me. That is not necessarily a bad kind of pride. Nor is the pride I have as being a Christian and seeing some whom I have taught or mentored becoming stronger and more mature in their faith in Christ. My pride here stems from the realization that Christians, some of whom I had led to Christ, are growing in their faith and surrendering their being to their Lord. That is pride in what God is doing, not the other type of self-centered pride which is the other side of the pride coin.

That type of selfish pride is seen even in little kids. It is that “terrible-twos” kid of pride where a child will lie rather than be uncovered doing bad things. It is the pride of the cover up of Nixon’s Watergate or of Clinton’s sexual affairs. It is the pride of Tiger Woods, thinking that he’s above God’s moral code. It is the pride of mankind who would build a building to rise to the heavens as a monument to their own accomplishments, not to recognize the greatness of the One True God. And that could be the twin towers in New York as well as the Tower of Babel. Yes, this is the pride which led God to give man many languages and to disperse God’s children into the world to form many nations, living prideful lives where wars and what we see going on in the ever darkening world occur even today.

So, Pastor Smith asks a very salient and pointed question at the end of his devotional today. He writes, What kind of pride do other see in me – an appropriate sense of pride [in God’s glory], which they will notice with respect, or a self-focused pride shouting to the world that it’s all about me?” And I added the phrase in the parenthesis above because it is our pride in what God is doing in our lives which should be the only pride we pursue; and most certainly any pride in self or our own accomplishments must be deferred to what God is doing in and through us, which reflects HIS glory, not our own.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray today that my pride is only in You for what You are doing in and through You for only Your glory. Squelch in me any pride of self; and raise in me the recognition and thankfulness for what I might do for Your glory. Amen

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010 – Day 3. Jan. 3 – A God With Feelings

Studying Genesis 6 – 9; Passage for Reflection: Genesis 6: 6 … NIV - The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.

My Journal for Today: I don’t think we, as fallible, ever failing humans can grasp the depth or height of God’s feelings when He either senses His creatures of grace living in sin to abase Him or living in sacrifice to honor Him. We’ve all been disappointed somewhere in our lives by disappointment when someone we love fails us. Maybe a wife learns that her husband has been unfaithful; or parents learn that their daughter is unexpectedly pregnant. Or a dad learns that his son is into drugs. Well, take those feelings of remorse and regret and magnify it by infinity to sense the extent of God’s anguish over seeing mankind’s extent of falling to reject the very God Whom had given them life.

God is both a God of justice and of mercy; and all of that is worked out in the Genesis account of Noah and the flood (i.e., Genesis 6 – 9) which I was led to study in my devotional time this morning. And by contemplating my wife’s feeling of anguish over the years of infidelity which I visited upon her over 30 years ago; and then, to think on the degree of her mercy, forgiveness, and patience to allow God to transform me from an agnostic fool into a loving and purposeful Christian husband gives me a picture, though only a reflection, of the feelings God must have had for mankind by allowing a remnant to live when man had so rejected God’s love in those centuries following the fall in the Garden.

F. LaGard Smith’s question at the end of his devotional today challenges me to reflect on God’s feelings about my sinfulness. He writes, ”When I repeatedly disappoint God, do I understand that I have genuinely and truly broken His heart?” But then, I need to add the other side of that coin of humanity. I need to understand just how much my God smiles with glee when any of His kids (and that certainly includes me) stands up for Godly righteousness or uses His enabling grace to overcome the temptations or tests which our spiritual enemies place in our lives. We have a God who feels for His created children; and we need to honor those feelings with choices which turn His anguish to joy.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I so desire to make You smile today and be filled with joy, not sorrow, as I honor You with my choices. Amen

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 – Day 2. Jan. 2 – The Problem of Sin

Passage for Study: Genesis 4: 6 - 7 … NIV 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

My Journal for Today:
Do you have trouble dealing with sin? I sure do. Sometimes I feel like the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 7: 13 – 24 [linked for your study] . And when I struggle with my wretchedness (Paul’s term; but mine too!), I have actually wished that God had refrained from giving us free will, … that we just would always make the right choices automatically. However, it just doesn’t work that way, does it?

We are sinners; and that sin nature – our Adamic DNA – came from one who was created to live and walk with God in a perfected setting, … The Garden. But God gave Adam (and Eve) free will, the ability to choose good versus evil; and we know that Eve first and then Adam, being her responsible head, chose evil. And we certainly could ask why would they do that, being so close to God? Why do we, now, choose evil when we know – full well – what is right versus what is patently wrong?

Well, as my devotional author, F. LaGard Smith, writes today, perhaps we choose wrong over right at times because it just feels so immediately good [what a lie Satan perpetuates and we buy]. Perhaps we do so because we just rationalize our humanity, excusing our sinfulness because we think, “I’m only human; and aren’t humans expected to sin.” Maybe we even go so far in our sin habits to pin the blame on God, saying something like, “Well, since God’s in control, He could prevent me from sinning if He so desired.” But none of those excuses or “rational lies” hold water, do they?

No, sin is sin; and it never can be excused or rationalized! God allowed for EVIL in this world so the concept of GOOD would have meaning. If there was no evil in the world, we’d never be able to recognize goodness; and the concept of free-will, the part of us that makes us like God, would be neutralized and made null-and-void. One cannot have free-will without the ability to make choices; and choices require an ability to recognize two opposing forces from which we can choose. Hence, good cannot be good unless there is evil to give definition to what is good.

So, we have the law of God’s good working in the universe He created so that we can honor God by choosing to avoid what is recognized to be not-good (or evil). And without this ability to choose (i.e., free will), the entity of faith has no meaning as well. God chose to allow evil in the world and for us, His created children, to see that evil, recognizing its nature as not-good, so that we can exercise faith in our loving, grace-giving God. If we didn’t have the inborn ability to recognize good and evil, we could not have faith in a God who has created evil to allow us to recognize good.

I know that can be somewhat convoluted in its logic. But it’s important for us to realize God has engineered into mankind the ability to choose good or evil; and when we do NOT have faith in God and choose evil (i.e., sinning), there will be consequences; and we recognize those consequences, as Smith points out, as “shame, guilt, fear, and regret.” And this ability to recognize the consequences of sin (as was evidenced in that passage of Romans 7 to which you were referred above) becomes infinitely more acute in the born-again Christian who has God’s Spirit residing in him/her. It is easy for the non-believer to develop human, emotional calluses which blind him to the consequences of his sinfulness (i.e., doing or perpetuating evil). But when one is in Christ, he/she is tuned into the mind of God by His Spirit residing in our hearts; and this allows us born-again Christians (prayerfully you as well) to more easily detect the consequences of sin.

So, may we thank God for this sign of our salvation in being able to detect, regret, and even to hate our sin nature; and may we celebrate – as we move into this New Year – God’s grace in allowing us to be cleansed from our sin when we come to His throne of grace and confess (as we read and believe from 1st John 1: 9). Today I (and you) have a choice. I (we) can pursue self or my Savior. We can choose to ignore God’s law and respond to the law of sin in our nature; or we can avoid sin and walk in victory with a God Who created us for His glory as we choose His way over the way of sin.

My commitment today is the latter; … my challenge - everyday - is always the former.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, make sin ever apparent, every moment of this day. Shine Your light so brightly that I cannot help but see my own sin choices. And give me Your strength so that I can choose Your good over Satan’s evil. Amen