Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 – Mar. 31 – Appearances Can Be Discerning

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel, Chapters 16 – 17 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 16: 7 … NIV 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

My Journal for Today: When people see you, what do they really see?

You’ve heard the saying, “Appearances can be deceiving;” haven’t you? Well, we know that is true; and unfortunately all too many of us fall into believing and perpetuating that adage because of the amount of time – and often money – that we invest trying to make ourselves look “beautiful” for others. How often do we stand in front of a mirror, fostering the desire to dress up our outer self so that others can see something in us that covers over who we really are?

Actually, as Dr. Smith, my devotional shepherd points out today, “Appearances can be discerning;” and that was revealed in the life of young David, whom God saw from the outset as a man after God’s heart. And even others were able to see that David was different. No, he would not have appeared to be a strong, kingly figure of a man; but when he stood forth against Goliath, no one could have denied, and everyone would have discerned, that David was set apart in a special way.

Isn’t it interesting that we devote so much of ourselves, trying to cover over what we can’t change – our true appearance – when it is the inward man [or woman], whom others cannot see, that we can change. And that is the part of our personhood that God desires to transform into His own image. And it is the portion of whom we are which we can, by choice and discipline, change to reflect the image of God Himself. All David did was surrender to God, the Change Agent, and David became the person God intended him to be. Saul even tried to make him over into something he wasn’t, offering him the king’s armor to fight Goliath. But David recognized that he just needed to be who God fashioned him to be; and God would do the rest to bring down the Philistine champion. And you know the rest of that story, captured in 1st Samuel 17.

I hope we see that God is looking for us to just become the man or woman of heart HE has designed for us to be. And when we try to make ourselves over into a worldly image of “beautiful,” we will fail to become that person God wants to use to shine His light into the world. Smith’s question today hits at me powerfully, as he states, ”What surprising beauty might I see in others if I look beyond the visible and search for their inner souls?” And I might also ask of myself, ”What God-struck light might I shine into the world if I just let His light shine through the person He has cast for me to be?” Or I might also ask, Is my appearance in this world deceiving or discerning so as to glorify my God?

Answering these questions will help shape the time and effort I spend trying to become the person God is shaping me to become; and I pray that for you, my readers here, as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be the me You created me to be and to shine the light of Your image into the world. Amen

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 – Mar. 30 – Caving In To Peer Pressure

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel, Chapters 14 – 15 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 15: 24 … NIV 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

My Journal for Today: Who are the teenagers who are able to stand up to the peer pressures and resist the crazy dress fads, the smoking, or the drugs? And to answer that question it does not take a Ph.D. in sociology, does it? No, the teens who resist peer pressure are the ones who can be their own person. They are kids who know that the acceptance of their parents, who have trained them in good morals, is more important than the acceptance of their buddies who offer acceptance into “the group.”

King Saul sinned against God because he was unable to be his own man … God’s man. He could not resist the opportunity to let arrogance and self will overwhelm his sense of what was right. Saul knew that God had been clear about absolutely obliterating the Amalekites; but after defeating them, Saul took it upon himself to keep the best booty for himself, … disobeying God; and even in today’s focus passage, we read of Saul’s weak admission that he gave in to his fear of the people rather than trusting in God and carrying our the LORD’S will.

Do you see yourself in Saul? I certainly do. Is it no wonder that I don’t have the spiritual power in my life that I could have or should have if I were just completely tuned in to and carrying out God’s will and purpose for my life. Dr. Smith today asks me, ”If I should be tempted to do something simply because of peer pressure, will I remember that the only approval I need is God’s?”

As I mull over that one, I hope you are doing the same thing; because we all need to be finding any and all human acceptance in the loving arms and caring will of God, the Father. Our Lord, God, loves us completely and fully; and all He wants for us is the best of the best. So, when we’re confronted with this need, deep within our sinful nature, to fill up our soul hole with human acceptance or the idols of life, we must somehow see that fulfilling God’s will is the only acceptance we need to seek after and to realize in our lives.

When we fill up the “love-hole,” as I call it, in our hearts with God’s will for our lives, the acceptance we will find will be complete and utterly fulfilling. Let me say that again! When we let God fill up our needs for peer acceptance, our joy will be complete and our needs will be utterly satisfied. But that can only come about when we know God completely and His will for our lives. It can only happen when we CHOOSE to follow God and we CHOOSE to fill up our hearts with God’s providence rather than the things of this world.

God says to all of us, ”Try Me! …You’ll like Me!” … Are we listening; and are we hearing Him? Because if we do, we will be completely filled up with His joy and needing none of man’s substitute pleasures.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, fill me with You … and only You. Amen

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 – Mar. 29 – It’s Not About Numbers

Study from God’s Word 1st Samuel, Chapters 13 – 14 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 14: 6 … NIV 6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, "Come, let's go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few."

My Journal for Today: Unlike Jonathan, Saul’s son, we may not be able to lead God’s people, … i.e., His army, into battle to hold on to God’s Promised Land for God’s glory from the Philistines; but one day, maybe at the water cooler today, I may be given the opportunity to stand up for some righteous, Godly principle when the crowd around me is pushing for the expedient, worldly way. Maybe you will one day have the opportunity to give your Christian testimony to a lost person who is in need of a Savior. And when we do have such opportunities, just as Jonathan did, we need to stand tall for God, knowing that God and one more always make up a majority.

My dear one, do you understand and believe that doing battle for God’s principles does not take big numbers to show up and win the day for God’s glory. In fact, when God’s truth prevails in the face of bigger numbers, God gets even more glory than He might have had if His army of believers outnumbered “the enemy” by a great majority. So, my friend, where do you see yourself being a Jonathan in the face of army coming against you and God’s way? Will it happen on the job with your coworkers trying to push through some ungodly scheme which you cannot support? Will it be you supporting some Biblical principle at Church where your fellow churchmen have knuckled under to the culture and are pushing some worldly unrighteousness?

I don’t know what your battle might be for God’s glory; but I do know that I believe in the truth of Romans 8: 31 or 2nd Cor. 12: 9 or Isaiah 41: 10, all of which remind me that when I’m in the right – God’s right – no worldly force or even an army can prevail against me. When I stand with God, even against big numbers, I am on the side which will ultimately give God the glory; and all I have to do is stand for God and with God to show the world that God’s way is the only way!

F. LaGard Smith asks today, for my declaration: ”What battle will I fight single-handedly today that, by trusting God, will turn out easier than I could have ever imagined?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that we’re all answering that question with the resolve to stand for Your righteousness today. Amen

Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 – Mar. 28 – Calling All “Nobodies”

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel, Chapters 8 – 12 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 9: 21 … NIV 21 Saul answered, "But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?"

My Journal for Today: This whole process of God showing the people where they had gone astray by giving them what they asked for, a king, is most worthy of study and reflection, especially in a day when God’s people, the Church, are being very much like those Old Testament chosen peoples were being. Here we are, God’s anointed people, “the Church,” failing to follow our King of kings, Jesus, just like God’s people turned away from The Lord in Samuel’s day.

And I believe we, especially those of us here in the western world, are very much like the peoples of ancient Israel, clamoring for a “king” who can lead us to worldly glory. And in many respects, the leader we have called for personifies many of the qualities which Saul had when God elevated him to become the “king,” … the leader over God’s people.

But if you’re a student of the Bible; and you’ve read on ahead of the account of Saul, you know where this story leads. And I believe we’re being led by our own selfishness these days much as the Hebrews were being led in Saul’s day; and I think we’re going to see many of the same players on the stage of life, playing out their roles as God directs this playlet we will see unfold before us in our day. We have called for, and God has given us, our “king.” And this man stands above the crowd, appearing to be a leader of leaders.

Oh how humble he appeared to be as we sought after this leader; and Obama, like Saul of old, relented to our outcry and has take the role for which we so loudly have clamored for him to take. But now, he has taken up the scepter and has accepted the role of our national leader; and we’re going to have to accept what will transpire as the outflow of God allowing this man to become our “king.”

But we all have to ask ourselves, “What role will I play in this time of history? Am I one of those “nobodies” who has no purpose; or has God made me a child of THE KING for His good reason, … in His good time?” Of course, the latter is the truth. But we have to be willing to move onto the stage of life and assume the role which God has preordained for us in this drama we call life. And we cannot – and should not – try to hide in the background and deny the role God has for us to play.

We are not the world’s NOBODY! We are God’s SOMEBODY; and we must stand forth to be cast in that role for which God has called us to play. I pray that for myself and for all of us.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, show me my place on Your stage, that role You have waiting for me; and let me play out for Your glory in this life. Amen

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 – Mar. 27 – The Art of Divine Conversation

Blogger's Note: A bit tardy in posting today due to some personal delays; but better late than never! ...

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel 3: 1 – 7: 17 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 3: 10 … NIV 10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

My Journal for Today: Carrying on an intelligent, purposeful conversation can be a challenge, especially when you don’t know the person with whom you’re conversing. When God first came to Samuel, as a young, inexperienced prophet, Samuel had trouble recognizing the voice he was hearing was God’s; but when, with Eli’s help, he had faith that he was hearing from The Lord, Samuel was “all ears,” listening intently with a heart to surrender to anything God was saying. And over time Samuel came to get to know God’s voice and to listen to what God was saying to Him so that he, Samuel, could carry out God’s purposes.

At the end of his devotional for today, F. LaGard Smith asks a pointed question for me to ponder. He writes, ”Do I have balanced conversations with God, as eager to be “all ears” as “all mouth?” And to that question I have to say that it is my natural tendency to be speaking first to God rather than lending an attentive ear to “listen” for God communicating with me. It takes a purposeful choice for me to be silent – when I come to God, just as I am right now, early each morning – and try to “hear” what God is saying to me. And I have discovered that God “speaks” to me most often through His word.

I have to trust that God is listening to me; and I do. In Psalm 116: 1-2 we read,

1 I love the LORD, for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because He turned His ear to me,

I will call on Him as long as I live.

And I know from past studies, that the phrase “He turned His ear to me” in Hebrew, means that God bends down, gently and caringly, to hear what I have to say. It’s the word picture of a loving father bending down to hear what His little child has to say, not wanting to miss a word of the child’s voice.

We certainly know that God heard Samuel’s mother’s prayers, which led to Samuel’s birth and his consecration to the Lord; and now, in our passages today, we read that Samuel has gotten to know the God of the Universe and he has learned to hear God’s voice.

I have had, through the years, to learn how to “hear” God speak to me through His word, through others (e.g., my Pastor or my Christian friends), or through the circumstances in my life. But God hears my prayers; and He responds to me in His time and in His ways; and I “hear” what He says to me … as long as I’m doing all I can to have a surrendered heart and a will to “hear” what He desires for me to “hear” in our relationship.

I hope you are “hearing” God as you develop a deeper, more abiding relationship with Him. My friend, God does want to “hear” you; … BUT, He also wants you to “hear” Him as well. So, I pray, this morning, that we’re both listening intently and with purpose for our Lord to commune with us, letting us know His will and His ways for our lives. Only when we “hear” God can we respond and live for His purposes.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … open my ears to what You say to me and to all who want to hear Your truth. Amen

Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 – Mar. 26 – Falling Not Far From the Tree

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel, Chapters 1 and 2 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 2: 29 … NIV 29 ‘ … Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?'

My Journal for Today: These words, in today’s highlight passage, spoken by God to Eli, a Priest concerning Eli’s sons are a tragic rebuke and God goes on to say [in verse 30], “Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained” And so it was, as Eli’s sons were sacrificed by God on the same day because they had dishonored their father, but more so, God, by the way they made a selfish travesty of the priestly handling of the people’s sacrifices to God. And here we have a drastic lesson about parenting … that the sins of the sons are like apples which don’t fall far from the tree where they were raised.

Eli, God’s Priest, had raised two sons who heard one thing from their father but saw him condoning – from them – something different. It was the classic scenario of a parent saying one thing but allowing another; and the inconsistency played out in the lives of Eli’s sons, ultimately to their doom and tragic deaths. How many times in our world do we see the sins of the fathers, or parents, being played out in the lives of their children?

How can a parent be a smoker and then be believed telling his child that smoking is dangerous to that young one? But this was the scenario being played out in the lives of Eli and his sons; and as one might expect, it ultimately caught up with these two boys, tragically leading to their deaths. If you’re a parent reading this, I hope it’s not too late for you; but in my case, I’m a grandparent; and now my only influence would be to help our kids to do the right thing by their children, our grandchildren.

Actually, we are blessed to have two daughters, each of whom has had two daughters (and one add-on son); and thus far our kids have done an excellent job raising our grandkids with consistent and careful parenting. Now, of course, we’ll do all we can to help our kids in their parenting; but I pray that others reading this can see their kids raising their grandchildren with consistent and Godly parenting so as to yield children who honor God by falling close to the trees of God honoring parenting.

May all parents learn a solid lesson in Godly parenting from the life of Eli, raising their kids to honor God by doing not only what they heard, but what they saw being lived out in the lives of their parents.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for having given us parents who consistently showed us how to live so as to honor You with our lives. Amen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 – Mar. 25 – The Chaos of Moral Anarchy

Study from God’s WordJudges, Chapters 19 - 21 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 21: 25 … NIV 25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

My Journal for Today: When one reads and meditates on the last few chapters of the Book of Judges, as I was led to do today by my devotional study, that one – me – has to be touched with the moral anarchy which results when man turns away from the one true God. These last few chapters of Judges chronicle a horrible segment in the history of God’s people, who, even when a remnant of believers tried to stem the tide of sinfulness, they were overcome by their own culture of sinful living. It’s tough to read this without setting back and reflecting on what is transpiring in our own world today.

Reading the sad line above from Judges 21: 25 could be a headline in an internet blog today. ”In these days the people served no God; and everyone did as he saw fit!” … could easily describe what I look around and see in our world; … could it not? We live in an era where there is moral anarchy and it produces more and more sinful chaos. Today there are people who mock God’s truth (through His word); and some are doing all they can to even eradicate the use of the Bible or Christian words such as “God” or “Christ” from the public arena.

There is an ongoing political and/or social move afoot in our world to villainize Jesus Christ so that any who follow His ways will be seen by the world as enemies of the people, even to the point that what used to be seen as good is now seen as evil; and what we at one time called “evil” is now seen as “good.” And as I write this, I can’t help but think of how Isaiah saw this, prophesying, (in Isaiah 53: 6), We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him [i.e., The Messiah] the iniquity of us all.

And it is that last phrase which gives us hope, … i.e., those of us who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. With all that any Christian reads in the book of Judges about how God’s people continued and repeatedly strayed from God’s way and His will, one has to come away, from knowing the entire Bible, with the very real truth that we know and serve a Lord who truly will never leave, nor forsake those whom He has raised up and separated in the world for His purposes. Somehow, in some way, God stayed with His people, Israel; and He will, as He promises in Deut. 31: 6 and Hebrews 13: 5, never leave us. However, to see Him activate His power for His purposes, we, His remnant, are going to have to do what He has exhorted in 2nd Chron. 7: 14, praying corporately, diligently, and humbly for our Lord to intervene and cleanse our land.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I do so pray for Your deliverance. Amen

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 – Mar. 24 – False Comfort From Religious Trappings

Study from God’s WordJudges 17 – 18 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 17: 13 … NIV 13 And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest."

My Journal for Today: Wow! When I read the story of Micah, who sold out to idolatry in these times of no kings and self imposed religion, I couldn’t help but think of the rise of Oprahism in our times. As we read in these passages in Judges, Micah was a man who deluded himself into thinking that the God of Abraham would be pleased because he set up his own brand of religion. He then bought out a Levite, one from the clan of Priests; and because he could purchased this religious leader’s blessing, he conned himself into thinking that he was living in and being powerful in the favor and will of the one true, and only, God.

And isn’t that what is going on right now in our times with Oprah Winfrey, who has established her own form of religion, even invoking her own line of “priests,” who parade themselves onto her TV show, having been purchased by her influence to sell their books and peddle their brand of religiosity. Oprah is a modern day Micah; and like many people of Micah’s day, there will always be people who’ll buy into a religious line of thought as long as it has the trappings for religion and is endorsed by enough fools who seem to have the credentials to call themselves religious leaders.

I stand amazed at the number of so-called “christians” Oprah can get to come on her show and agree with her brand of new-age malarkey, … giving Oprahism the credibility of men or women who claim to be agents of God, … some promoting their books and others who are selling concepts like “angelology.” And Oprah comes off being able to claim that she promotes a form of religion which is all inclusive and non-offensive to anyone.

I pray that no one who is reading what I write here has bought into this modern-day priestess of evil; because Oprah Winfrey, like Micah of Ephraim, is deluded and dangerous, capturing a lot of influence and moving her followers toward a brand of idolatry which will lead to the absolute and eternal death of anyone and everyone who follows after Oprah’s new-age delusions. Beware, my beloved fellow readers, of those like Oprah who can sell their ideas as idols and get others to buy into their disastrous form of religion. Follow Oprah to your peril, dear one.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, open our eyes to Your truth and keep us focused on You in the face of many false religions in our world. Amen

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 – Mar. 23 – On Angels’ Wings

Study from God’s WordJudges, Chapters 13 - 16 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 13: 6 … NIV 6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, "A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name.”

My Journal for Today: Back to the Book of Judges; and I’m led into that wondrous story of Samson, the superhero Judge who led God’s people so precariously, using the super strength which God’s Spirit had lain upon this man of God. But the story of Samson reveals just how weak any man (or woman) can be, even Spirit-led believers, if he (or she) does not use the Spirit-given power which God has provided for a set-apart believer to exercise for God’s glory.

Samson was a curious and carnal leader of God’s people, relenting to his human weaknesses which rendered his Spirit-given power useless; and we all can learn from this truthful story about how any of us can be rendered powerless by choosing to pursue our carnal nature rather than relying upon the anointing power of God’s Spirit which is available to any/all believers who choose to be filled with and use God’s power, which is in us as Christians.

God brought the message of Samson being born to his parents by the Lord’s Messenger, a pre-incarnate appearance of God Himself as an Angel, … and angel of the Lord. And Samson’s mother and father had trouble seeing that this was, in fact, the Lord Himself coming to them as an Angel Messenger to bring them the good news of the birth of their son. But when The Angel of God ascended to heaven in a flame, Samson’s father realized that this was the real deal – and their lives had been spared, having been in the presence of God Himself.

Today there is a worldly, “new-age” fascination with angels. There are reports of angel sightings, and the study of angels, “angelology,” abounds. But we can easily, in our human desires for power and control, let the study of or fascination in angel stories get in the way of THE ANGEL of angels, the Lord’s true messenger, Jesus Himself, Who came to impart His power into the lives of anyone who believes in what He came to do – AND DID – so that mankind can be saved of his weakness to sin. We seek after images of angels, and we are misled by an “angel of light,” Satan, who wants us to pursue his counterfeit angels rather than seeing and receiving the very power Samson finally came to use to bring down man’s world around him.

My friend, if we believe in the saving power of “The Angel of the Lord,” Who is Jesus, we have His resurrection power in our lives to do all He has anointed us to do in His Name and for His Father’s glory. So, that is the image of Angels we need to be pursuing, staying away from any worldly image of angels Satan may use to confuse and confound us as to The Truth. Jesus is the only “Angel” I need pursue; and He is the way, the truth, and the light for all of mankind.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … You are my only Angel; and Your Spirit brings me Your power for life. Amen

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 – Mar. 22 – Choosing at the Crossroads

Study from God’s Word Ruth, Chapters 1 – 4 … Passage for Reflection: Ruth 1: 16 … NIV 16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

My Journal for Today: Well, Dr. Smith takes a breather from his teaching time in the Book of Judges to look at a famous story from the Book of Ruth, the story of another person living at the time of the Judges who made a critical choice in life based on values. And this is the story of Ruth who chose to follow her Mother-In-Law, Naomi, back to Naomi’s native land, leaving behind all Ruth had there in her home country of Moab. And this included a choice to turn away from the gods of Moab and to follow Naomi’s God, Who was the God of the Israelites.

Yesterday [see my journal entry from 3/21], we read of warriors who had to choose to say “Shibboleth” as they crossed the Jordan; and if they said the wrong thing, it led to their death. And God led 42,000 Ephraimites to their death in this way, once again liberating the Hebrews from their enemies. The story from my devotional time today about Ruth is much easier to take; but it, too, involves making choices which have ultimate and eternal implications.

Ruth had a choice to make when Naomi decided to return to Canaan from Moab; and Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, … also choosing to worship Naomi’s God, Who was the one true God. This choice, as we read in the Book of Ruth, led to a whole series of people making their own choices, or in reality led by God, which became choices leading to the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, her kinsman redeemer, and ultimately to the birth of a son, who became the grandfather of King David.

CHOICES! We make choices; and they will have consequences; and the consequences will be used by God – in some way – for His glory. But in the mix, our choices will have consequences for us personally as well. Ruth could have chosen to stay in Moab, as did her sister-in-law, Orpah; and we don’t know what happened to Orpah. But we do know, as do all through history who read God’s Book, that Ruth’s choices, especially to follow the one, true God, led her to be the grandmother of the great King, David. And the story of Ruth is one we should recognize as having powerful value for our lives and our choices.

When you or I make Godly choices, God will honor those choices within His perfect plan; and we will become a part of that plan. And we know, from reading much of the Old Testament, that ungodly choices, such as those made by the Pharaoh of Egypt in the times of Moses, will lead those who make such choices to be part of God’s plan to overcome man’s evil with His good. How we participate in God’s grand scheme will all be reflective our choices. I will pray that our choices be Godly choices. And today, I pray that I will make choices which honor my God.

To any of my non-American readers, forgive my being a bit provincial here; but yesterday many of our governmental representatives made choices to vote for or against a health care plan for our nation; and those choices are going to have consequences which ripple through our land for years to come. But God is in control! … And just as He was in the life of Ruth, our God will have His will in the lives of all today. May He have mercy on us; because the choices made yesterday by our government do not appear – at least to this humble observer – to be choices which honor and glorify God. And my friend, God will not be mocked; and we will reap what we sow; … AND … the rain of God’s plan will fall on the righteous as well as the unrighteous. Oh, may God have mercy on us!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me, lead me, … shepherd me to make choices which are part of Your plan and Your perfect will. Amen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 – Mar. 21 – When Vows Become Shibboleths

Study from God’s Word Judges 10 – 12: 15 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 11:35 … NIV 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."

My Journal for Today: Do you have faith in God? Well, most of those who read this, knowing who I am and who you are, will likely respond “Yes,” to that question. But what if I were to ask, “Are you faithful to God?” What would your response be then?

There is a difference between “having faith” and “being faithful,” isn’t there? And we saw that difference on trial in the story, in Judges 11, of Jephthah, who made a vow to God; and then this man of God had to carry out that vow when it ultimately meant him having to sacrifice his own daughter as a signature of his faith. Jephthah had to not only have faith in God, but he had to show his faithfulness to God by carrying out a vow which was tested much as the test used in Judges 12 where certain people had to declare their allegiance to God by their pronunciation of the word “Shibboleth.” And like those tests, when God lays a test of faith before us, we may not ignore it; and we’ll have to show our faithfulness openly by our actions.

No, the only way we can show our faith at times of testing is by living up to the values we hold as believers. If we have faith, we often are asked to show that faith by living up to what we believe with actions. Life will challenge us, … God will challenge us; … and we’ll have to declare whom we follow by the choices we make and the actions which show who we are. In Judges 12 one people, the Ephraimites, wanted to cross the Jordan to Ephraim, and the Gileadites would ask them to pronounce the word “Shibboleth,” and if they said “Sibboleth,” it showed them to have allegiance to pagan gods; and they would be killed.

I know that this reads as cruel and unusual; but in that day it showed that – and carrying over into our day – beliefs are critical. And how we demonstrate our beliefs is even more important. Jephthah certainly passed his own “shibboleth,” when he fulfilled his horrible vow to the one true God which involved the life/death of his daughter. The question becomes, do I pass the faith test when I live as Christian. Is my life a “shibboleth” or a “sibboleth.” When I’m tested to cross my Jordan of faith, do my actions match up to my words of faith? I say I’m a “Christian.” When you see me living, do my choices and actions give me away; or do I fail the test with my actions not living up to my words? Only you who know me can be my judge in this life; but God is certainly my Judge for eternity; and I can only pray that my declared faith is my actual faithfulness in real life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I say, “Shibboleth!” Amen

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 – Mar. 20 – Godly Leadership

Study from God’s WordJudges, Chapter 8 and 9 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 8: 23 … NIV 23 But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."

My Journal for Today: The premise of Dr. Smith’s journal entry from his devotional for today is worthy to state, up front, as the highlight truth from my study of Judges 8 & 9 today. He writes: Unless I’m willing to let God be king of my own world, how can I possibly be king of any other world?”

And therein lies the story of Gideon, who was offered, by God’s people, the opportunity to become their king, especially since he had led the people to be freed from the control of the Midianites. However, Gideon realized and recognized Who the real KING was and who had really led them to victory in his day. He knew that the Lord was their deliverer; and so, he exhorted the people to recognize this truth as well and to make God their king.

Can you imagine some of our political leaders today being willing to recognize and transfer their power over to the One who really deserves it, … God? No, unfortunately when some get a taste of leadership control today, they become addicted to the power very quickly. How many of our elected leaders do you see recognizing God’s anointing and His part in their positions of leadership? It just doesn’t happen; does it? When today’s leaders, in whatever sphere of life you may recognize, get a position of control, they want to keep it and to develop as much power as they can so that they can exercise as much control as they can.

Who today would live by the teachings of the King of kings Who taught and modeled “servant leadership?” Gideon, in the biblical times which I’m studying now, recognized exactly on Whom the leadership of God’s people should rest; but unfortunately, just as today, the people seek leaders who will take the reigns of leadership; and one who will take their own individual responsibilities for leadership, copping out to “the king.”

I hope we all recognize that in certain aspects of our lives, each of us needs to be the “servant leader,” stretching ourselves to exercise our personal control over that God-anointed part of our life. We cannot, and should not, turn over all control and responsibility for leadership to the CEOs, the politicians, and/or the worldly leaders who would gladly desire to control our lives. When God calls us to lead in certain areas of life, we need to lead; and then, God will give us, as He did for Gideon, what it takes to get God’s job done for His glory. And so, let us learn and lead as God so designates. And when we do, He will get the glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, if You call me to lead, I will lead. If I am to follow, I will follow. Amen

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 – Mar. 19 – Fleecing from Faith or Doubt?

Study from God’s WordJudges 6: 1 – Judges 7: 25 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 6: 39 … NIV 39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew."

My Journal for Today: I really dig the character of Gideon in the Old Testament; and I do so because I identify with him a lot. First there is his lack of self assurance. Who among us has not doubted our own self worth at some time in our life? Well, Gideon certainly did; and yet, God saw in Gideon a warrior, … in fact God saw a “mighty warrior,” a character trait which Gideon doubted severely. In fact God even allowed this “scaredy cat” more than one test, which we have come to know as “fleeces,” to see if God’s angel (Who was probably Christ in a theophany) was for real. And don’t you just love God’s patience and forbearance as Gideon needs to put out these fleeces more than once to see if he’s moving within God’s will or not.

Have you not wondered at times whether you were working or moving as God would have you move? I certainly have; and there have been times when I looked for God’s signs as to whether a leaning I had or a decision I questioned was in the center of God’s will. And the “fleece” I sought usually came in the form of God’s perfect peace when I needed confirmation of God’s will for my life. Many times in my life, when I felt God driving me forward in a certain direction, I have used Paul’s (i.e., God’s) instruction in Phil. 4: 6,7 to help me fleece out what God wanted me to do.

In this passage, as I hope you’ve memorized, we’re instructed to avoid worry and to take our leaning or quandary to God in prayer, … praying diligently, and with sincere discipline, to seek God’s peace about the direction or focus we have in our mind’s eye. And if what we “feel” is God’s will, we will find that He will send His peace, … that peace which surpasses all understanding, to confirm our leaning or direction. And I have used that method of decision-making many, many times; and when I don’t get that peace from God, I know that He’s saying to me, “stop” or “wait.” But if I do get a peace about the direction or choice in my mind, I move ahead, knowing that Satan cannot counterfeit God’s peace.

So, I’m no different than Gideon. There are times when my “faith” is really no more than doubt in disguise. But Gideon had a heart for God’s will; and God, of course, knew that. And even when we doubt what’s going on in our lives, if we genuinely seek God’s direction and His best for us, just like Gideon, God will give us, in HIS good timing, what we seek from Him, which is His perfect will. Go back and meditate on the passage I’ve referred to here, i.e., Phil. 4: 6-7, as well as Psalm 37: 4, Prov. 3: 5-6, Romans 12: 1-2, and James 1: 5-6, all of which will help you, as they have me for years, give you assurance that seeking and finding God’s will and/or wisdom is a pursuit we all should undertake so that we can fulfill the commands of Jesus, Who said to His disciples (see Luke 9: 23 – common, you know it!), If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

And though I’m not into betting, I’d wager that – if you’re a genuine, born-again Christian – you, like Gideon, seek to find and do God’s will for your life. So, my friend, just like Gideon, you just keep on, keeping on in that pursuit; and God will ultimately honor you with His mind and His heart in the matters which mean the most to you, especially those matters which mean the most to God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I simply seek Your will!!! Amen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 – Mar. 18 – Reluctant Role Reversals

Study from God’s WordJudges, Chapters 4 and 5 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 4: 9 … NIV 9 "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman."

My Journal for Today: HOT BUTTON!!! Today, as I reflected on the stories, in Chapters 4 and 5 of Judges, what came to mind – and what I’m about to post here as a hot-button issue in my life – may not sit well with some of my more, independent, “liberated” female followers [if there are any out there? ;) ]. But today’s lesson is a good one we need to read in these days where the outcomes of “woman’s liberation” are so apparent in our world.

Deborah was a unique – and most interesting – personage in the history of Israel. There is no doubt, as Dr. Smith points out in his devotional today, that Deborah was a very capable, strong, and decisive leader. But one has to take into account the cultural milieu of her time, which was decidedly male dominated when it comes to political and/or military leadership. And yet, in Deborah’s time, the people, including the men, came to Deborah as their “Judge;” and she decided their directions. And this included the political/military leaders of the day. All you have to do is read Judges 5: 7-8, from the song of Deborah and Barak, to see that male leadership had failed in those days of pagan influences in Israel.

God’s order, whether you like it or not, is to have males at the forefront of leadership, taking their assertive roles as leaders of families, communities, cultures, countries, and yes, … churches. In Deborah’s day, reading Judges, Chapters 4 & 5, we see that God’s order had broken down; and a void in the ability to lead the political structure, as well as the military, had been created; and without any capable or willing male leaders on the scene, God led Deborah into the breech to lead the Israelites; and she did, along with another key woman, Jael, who was needed to help the armies kill a fleeing Cannanite King, Sisera.

As we see in these passages, the question is not whether a woman can lead effectively. Deborah is ample proof that women can lead when they’re called upon – by default or desire – to do so. The question becomes, in light of Godly design, whether women SHOULD be put in roles where there are no men to lead. The wavering passivity of leadership began in the Garden of Eden when Adam balked, stood back, and let Eve take the lead. That led to the curse of God upon women, which you can read in Genesis 3: 16, which, in turn, led to women desiring to take the leadership God had intended for man and for man to overcompensate by trying to “rule” women.

The design for man and for woman is modeled in the marital relationship; and there, as you can read from God’s word in Ephesians 5: 22-33 - [linked], God would have the man take the lead in the marriage, honoring and loving his wife the way that Christ loves His Bride, the church. And the order would have a wife (i.e., woman) respecting and yielding to a capable and loving husband, who would lead as God has intended men to lead families – and by extension whole cultures.

But this was not certainly the case in Deborah’s time; and because if it, God’s people once again, in spite of a generation of numbing military peace, were led toward disobedience and disastrous consequences in their history. You may not like my position being state here; but God does not intend for a family, a church, a community, or, I believe, a country to be led by a woman. And when that happens, I see it is because a void of God intended, male-led, leadership which has been cast on the scene. When men become passive and surrender to female leadership, God cannot impart His enabling and empowering grace in the same way He could or would if men were taking their rightful roles of assertive leadership, … following God and pursuing His grace the way they should.

We see this today with default, dead-beat dads taking a hike in our world; and the results become fatherless kids and a social plague of gangs, drugs, and destruction in our world. We see this with husbands not honoring and loving their wives the way they should and not taking the spiritual leadership in their homes; and the results are broken marriages, broken families, and broken communities. We see this with churches, which are being led by women. And God cannot, and will not, honor a church with His Spiritual power when it’s led by a woman, especially with men cowering and not taking their designated and God-led roles as leaders.

Where are the men in our world? Where are the leaders? Where is God when the men are not there to take their place in leadership? You look at our world and answer these questions.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be the man I need to be in my family, in my church; and in my world. Amen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 – Mar. 17 – Just a Single Generation

Study from God’s Word Judges 2: 7 [Josh 24: 31]; Judges 2: 10 – 23; Judges 3: 1 – 31 … Passage for Reflection: Judges 2: 10 … NIV 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

My Journal for Today: I’ve now been transported in my journey and journaling through the Bible this year to the time of the Judges, when the Israelites would pay the piper for not having eradicated the pagan peoples and practices from their midst as they conquered and moved into the Promised Land. And having read through the Book of Judges in the past, and these passages which I read today, I know that over a period of some 335 years, there would be succeeding generations of disbelief, disobedience, and destruction experienced by God’s people, the Hebrews. But God would, in each of these generations, raise up Judges to help lead the people out from their collective, national disobedience into patterns of repentance and renewal. But in each era there would be another human cycle of disobedience which would overtake God’s people, sending them back into their own repetitive tarpits of sinfulness. And in each era it only takes one generation of people to miss out on living up to their covenant with God.

Dr. Smith today uses a word picture I think we can understand. Imagine someone trying to tell us an important message via cell phone; and the message would be garbled in the transmission. Imagine also that we were responsible to pass that message on to others because of its importance. Isn’t it likely that the message would get distorted in the transfer? And that is what happened with God’s people after Moses and Joshua were off the scene. The message of God’s covenant, His law, and His commands to God’s people became distorted by the pagan cultural values which had crept into the lives of God’s people, these cultures not having been eradicated completely in the occupation of the Promised Land. And we see the degradation of choices and actions which took place, leading to destruction of the Godly, covenant honoring life which God’s people had promised they would hold onto in their relationship with God.

With our word picture of a messed up phone conversation and the passing on of “the message,” we get a very small picture of what is happening in our times today. As Smith teaches today in his devotional, ”Cultural values are transmitted through customs, traditions, and rituals. When a civilization (or church or family) quits telling its story to the next generation, it isn’t long before cultural screeching begins. And decry as we might the evils of the younger generation, the story of cultural and moral values is theres to HEAR, not to TELL. … Whether it be a whole society, the church, or an individual family, there is ALWAYS only one generation difference between faith and disbelief.”

And is that not what we’re seeing in today’s generation? And Smith pointedly asks his readers (and that’s me – and now you), ”Do my children know about the three little pigs, but precious little about the three persons of the Godhead?” … Maybe that’s not the case with your kids or grandkids. Maybe your kids, like ours, are raising up the next generation as believers; but they are being engulfed in a morass of disbelief and disobedience to God’s ways as well as a generation of cultural disbelief in His word. And I fear that this will be the case for my grandchildren, knowing that “the rain will fall on the saved as well as the unsaved.”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I have faith that You will protect your remnant of believers, which is my only hope for the generation of our grandchildren. Amen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 – Mar. 16 – The True Test of Trust

Study from God’s Word Judges 2: 8,9 [Josh 24: 29,30]; Josh 24: 32; Judges 1: 1-10, 16-19; Josh 15: 13,14 [Judges 1: 20b]; Judges 1: 11-15 [Josh 15: 15-19]; Judges 1: 22-26; Josh 13: 13; Josh 16: 10 [Judges 1: 29]; Josh 17: 11-13 [Judges 1: 27, 28]; Josh 15: 63; Judges 1: 21; Judges 1: 30 - 36; Judges 2: 1-5; … Passage for Reflection: Judges 1: 19 … NIV 19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.

My Journal for Today: Today my devotional shepherd, Dr. F. LaGard Smith, asked me to read the target verse for today several times, asking, in essence, ”What’s wrong with this picture?” And the answer to that question is really quite obvious when we realize – and believe – that God’s covenant with His people, through Joshua, is truth. God had promised that wherever and whenever His people moved to conquer the pagan peoples who occupied the Promised Land, that He, God, would be with the Israelites and they could – and should – eradicate the pagan peoples and cultures from these lands. So, … what’s with today’s highlighted verse?

It says that God’s people, in this case the men of Judah, stopped short and were failures when it came to taking possession of the hill country because the armies who inhabited these lands had iron chariots. Hey!, … isn’t God able to overcome even thousands of iron chariots? Well, of course He is; and what this shows is that the Hebrew armies (and especially their leaders) failed to trust in God; and they balked when they saw all those iron chariots. And isn’t that the way with all of us who claim to trust in God? We can do fine when we perceive that we are in control; but give our spiritual enemies a seemingly overwhelming advantage; and we, so often, bolt and run from letting God have the victory.

I’m called in ministry to work with men who’ve stared down defeat over and over and over again in the area of sexual purity and freedom. They have confronted the enemies, which are Satan and their own flesh, and they’ve come to believe that they cannot be victorious. They see “iron chariots” in the presence of their own weaknesses of the flesh; and they simply relent, giving in to their fleshly desires, failing to take advantage of the power they have within themselves as Christians, the same resurrection power, the Holy Spirit, Who raised Jesus from the dead, … the same God, Who can, and will, enable and empower any Christian to choose purity over impurity and to defeat the enemies Satan is sending into battle in those “iron chariots.”

When are we, as disciples of Christ, going to realize the truth of 1st John 4: 4, which loudly declares to believers, … every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [i.e. the spirits of antichrist], because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Like the people of God in the times of Joshua, we have, when we fully trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior, have made a covenant with God, believing on the Name of Christ; and trusting/clinging to the truth that He [the Holy Spirit] is greater in us than any spirit in the world and even Satan, who certainly will do all he can to show off his “iron chariots” and try to make us believe that He is stronger that the Spirit of God Who resides in our hearts when we are truly born-again.

Dr. Smith asks his readers today, ”Do I glibly speak of trusting God when all is well, but cower in fear when the situation looks hopeless?” And each of us must answer that question in the light of our faith; because God’s word and His covenant with us are true and strong; and the power we have in ourselves as followers of Christ is most certainly stronger than any “iron chariots” we see coming against us. The question will be answered when we stand and fight or … we cut and run.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I stand with you in the truth of Romans 8: 31. Amen

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 – Mar. 15 – Making Good Choices

Study from God’s Word Josh 22: 1 – 34; Josh 23: 1 – 16; Josh 24: 1 - 28; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 24: 15 … NIV 15 “ … But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlight verse is an oft quoted exhortation from Joshua to God’s people, taken from the third address he made to three separate segments of the Hebrew tribes late in his life. Part of these addresses involves Joshua quoting God as a Prophet; but some of what he said was his own words, as were these when he stated exactly what the chosen people of God would face in their future.

And Joshua could be addressing you and me with what he said to the Israelites, because we certainly have a choice as to whom we serve; … don’t we? We can serve our spiritual enemies, … Satan, the world, or our own flesh; and unfortunately just like God’s ancient peoples, that’s exactly what we often do. Now, having been one of those pagans who denied God at one point in my own life, I can almost excuse a lost person for their choices. They choose Satan or selfishness or worldly idols above God because they simply don’t believe God exists. Would we really expect the lost to make Godly choices when they don’t even believe that the God of Abraham is there for them? BUT … and this is an enormous “but” … what about those of us who do believe in the God of the Old and New Covenants? What about our choices?

How can I excuse myself when I do believe that God delivered His people from Egypt; and I do believe that God, the Father, did send His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross to pay for my sins? And I do believe that I will spend eternity with Jesus, having God, the Spirit, in my heart to seal my eternal future. So, believing all of this, why do I still make unGodly choices?

And Dr. Smith this morning nails our problem as he writes that our big challenge today is the choice to have choices, which so often takes precedence over the one choice to serve God. We live today in a culture which demands choices. We are captivated by the need to have many choices in any situation. When we go to a restaurant, we want to be able to choose from many tasty choices. When we go to select a car, we want to be able to satisfy our need for speed and selectivity by having many vehicles from which we can choose. Our “god” has become the god of many choices rather than what Joshua charged God’s people toward; and that is to have ONE choice which leads us to make all other choices; and that choice is the One True God, … the God Who wants to lead us into making any choice as we desire to serve Him and glorify Him with our choices.

As Smith so aptly puts it, ”Correctly understood, our reverence for choice has so much to do with satisfying our own desires that the lesser god we end up worshiping is self!” We can be pro-choice or pro-life; but above all we desire to have a choice to be one or the other. When, in point of truth, we are pro-God, our choices become His choices and we will live as Jesus Himself instructed His disciples to live, (see Luke 9: 23), … “to deny self … and to follow [Him].”

So, my dear one, what is your choice?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I choose You!!! Amen

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2010 – Mar. 14 – Promises Delayed, Not Promised Denied

Study from God’s Word Josh 18: 1 – 28; Josh 19: 1 – 51; Josh 20: 1 – 9; Josh 21: 1 - 45; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 21: 43 – 45 … NIV 43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

My Journal for Today: Okay, here, … F. LaGard Smith has me reading deeply into the times of Joshua when God is working out the fulfillment of a promise He had made to Abraham over seven centuries earlier; and we could ask, “Why is all this documentation so important in the Book of Joshua?” But really the answer to that one is pretty clear-cut, almost three thousand years later, so that we can see that God is a promise-keeping God. And what we read about in these passages documents the reality that our God is the God of His word, as we can also read in Numbers 23: 19, which states, 19 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?

But how would one of those Jews who was living during that 700 years, when God’s promises were delayed, feel. Maybe like many Christians today feel when they see what is happening in our world, with all the degradation of sin and the mockery of God’s Name and purposes. And here we are, … to wait on promises made by God in the Person of a Man Who died on a cross, as documented in the New Testament. Have you ever wondered why God is so slow in bringing on His full and completed Kingdom?

Well, in this regard, my favorite Old Testament Prophet, old Habakkuk, came to God with such questions; and I’d charge you to go back and read old Habby’s interaction with God in the Book designated by Habakkuk’s name. It’s a wonderful true story about a man who needed to bring his doubts and confusion to his God; and ask “WHY?” of His Lord. And God took the questions and He interacted with Habakkuk, showing the Prophet that Habakkuk would have to wait for God to do HIS thing in HIS time; and that Habakkuk would actually have to watch and see that things would actually get worse before Habakkuk would see that God’s promises would be fulfilled. And don’t you just love that passage in Habakkuk 3: 17 - 18, which reads, 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

My friend, I hope we have the faith to let God be God, trusting in His ways and His timing, and especially in His promises. Because if we don’t, we’re going to live lives of desperation as we see what is transpiring in our world. We need to be post-modern day Habakkuks and choose to hold onto our joy even though we see what is going on today, with the world unfolding as God’s word documents in Romans 1: 18 -32 [linked here]. God is still God, my friend; and we can trust and cling to His promises which were completely fulfilled and punctuated by God, the Son, dying on the cross so that all who believe in Him would live eternally in the hope which is His resurrection.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I do trust You; and I wait on You to do all that You have promised and what You came to us to demonstrate to/for us by living, dying, and being raised again. The promise of Your coming again suspends, but never denies, the promises activated by your first coming. And we stand ready – and waiting – for all You have promised to transpire when You come again. Amen

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 – Mar. 13 – Old, But Not Out!

Study from God’s Word Josh 13: 1 – 33; Josh 14: 15a; Josh 15: 1 – 12; Josh 15: 20 – 62; Josh 16: 1 – 9; Josh 17: 1 – 18; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 13: 1 … NIV
1 When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

My Journal for Today: Today’s study does open up an indictment of our cultural marginalization of Kingdom servants who are older. In the highlight passage for today we see God recognizing Moses’ maturity; but the Lord then immediately indicates that there is much ahead to be done – by Moses – for God’s glory in the taking and partitioning of the Promised Land. And in the passages I read for today there is also the story of how God favored Caleb [see Josh 14: 10 – 12], the other of the two faithful Hebrew spies past, with Caleb’s request for taking the hill country for his tribe. Both Joshua and Caleb were 85 years old at this time in their lives; and in those times, 85 was old, but certainly that age was merely seen as mature. Such people in that culture would be designated as an “elder,” … a person of worthiness, respect, and honor.

I guess that’s why I actually love it when people tease me with the nickname, “ElderBerry,” which I take as a sign of respect, rather than a name denigrating my age. But back to our study, in which we see that God Himself recognized that there was much ahead in the lives of these two servants of God, Joshua and Caleb, which could be done for God in spite of – and likely because of – their maturity.

As I mentioned above, today, there is a strong cultural tread to marginalize our elderly; and unfortunately the older ones in our world play right into that expectation, becoming “victims” of this hyper-aging philosophy. How many people these days look forward to “retiring” and dream of doing selfish pursuits like playing golf, fishing, or traveling the country in RVs, avoiding what they could be contributing to our world and God’s glory by using their maturity, experience, and gifting in/for God’s kingdom?

Elderberry Witness: There was a time, before I became a Christian, when I dreamed of a life filled with 2 or three rounds of golf a week and building a place in Florida on a plot of ground my dad/mom had left to me. But Christ came into my life at age 39; and my desires and pursuits – for God’s glory – thankfully changed. And after I was broken to receive God’s Spirit into my heart, the Lord reshaped my visions and dreams to move toward a very different type of “retirement.” And as I was discipled and grew deeper into my salvation relationship with God, He showed me that I could – and should – view my retirement from my former healthcare career as a “commencement” TO ministry rather than a retirement FROM my former pre-Christian selfish pursuits. And that’s where the Lord has led me in these days of my more mature life for Christ. I may be old; but I’m not out!

Now, … here I am, well over 60 years old; and I find myself trying to emulate Joshua and Caleb. Actually, I see myself as just getting started in my “career” pursuits for God, taking up the mantle of leadership in a ministry to help Christians to walk free from habitual sexual sin, and to work with my wife in this ministry as long as we’re physically and mentally able, … doing all we can to stand for Christ together in this ministry calling. Like Joshua, I may be aging, but I have much to offer to God’s Kingdom from my testimony, my witness, and the gifting with which my Lord has given me to use for His kingdom work.

No matter what your age might be, I hope, and will pray today, that you sharpen your Spirit sword (see Eph. 5: 17; and as we’re commanded in Acts 1: 8, I pray we all will be shining witnesses for our faith and for our Lord; and finally, I pray that we – no matter what our age may be – rigorously follow the commands of our Lord in Luke 9: 23 to deny self, take up our crosses daily, and to follow Christ for His glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I beseech You to charge all who read this with Your challenge of commitment with courage to march forward as soldiers in our Lord’s army, doing all we can – at whatever stage in life we might be – to conquer worldly and fleshly kingdoms in His Name. Amen

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 – Mar. 12 – Depreciating An Incredible God

Study from God’s Word Josh 9: 1 – 27; Josh 10: 1 – 43; Josh 11: 1 – 23 [14: 15b]; Josh 12: 1 - 24; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 6: 4 … NIV 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

My Journal for Today: As I was led to read about the conquests God provided for Joshua and His people over the many tribes and people of that day, … as God delivered the Promised Land into the hands of the Israelites, we come across a remarkable story about an even more remarkable historical event. In pursuit of one of his enemies, Joshua sings out a prayer from an old Song Book in Israel in today’s focus passage, and God stops the sun in the sky, allowing God’s forces to pursue and defeat the enemies of Joshua.

And, … what’s up with this, we might ask? You mean we can pray for something so extraordinary as a sun-stopping even and expect God to suspend the laws of nature to give us what we desire? Have you ever wished you had more time to carry out some task in life? Well, why didn’t you just pray that God stop the day; and give you the time you need to get your task accomplished? … No, we don’t pray that way, because, even though we believe in a wondrous and miraculous God, we, as Christians should – and most of us do – know that God, though He can do what He did for Joshua, even stopping the sun, will do what He, God, wants to do to accomplish for His good purposes.

We have a tendency to put God is a box, which is just as big as our knowledge and experience provides for our understanding. And we also have a tendency to want our God to carve out a future for us which fits in with our desires and focuses on our personal needs. But we need to revisit a truth from God’s word [see Isaiah 55: 8-9 - linked], upon which I often have to meditate to remind me that God is God, and I am not! And I also need to remember the truth evolving out of my interaction with God, as I pray for what I perceive to be my needs/desires.

My friend, we know from both the OT [see Ps. 37: 4] and the NT [see John 15: 7] that God will – in fact – give us the desires of our hearts, when – but only when – we are couching our pursuits within the center of God’s will and purposes. But we must also remember that we serve a God, Who is powerful enough to suspend the very laws of nature for His purposes. That’s how Jesus walked on the water and raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. And we, as born-again, Spirit-filled Christians, have the same power in us; but it is a power which is tempered and controlled by the same God who has and still exercises that power for His good will.

What we need to do is believe in the wondrous sun-stopping power of our God, the same power which raised Jesus from the dead to life eternal. And then, we need to seek to do His will and conform to His good purposes; because when we do this, we will be able to see God’s mighty hand lift us up (see Isaiah 41: 10) and to show us where we need to go in life to be used for His glory. As Pastor Smith says in my devotional for today, … we should avoid being ”… desensitized into thinking that, just because [we’ve] never seen the sun stand still, God either CAN’T or DOESN’T work in [our lives].”

My Prayer for Today: Creator God, my mind is too small; and I try to shape You into a form to fit my life. Help me to conform to Your will as You shape me for Your glory. Amen

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 – Mar. 11 – When Rule Breaking Becomes A Priority

Study from God’s Word Josh 6: 1 – 27; Josh 7: 1 – 26; Josh 8: 1 – 35; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 6: 4 … NIV 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.

My Journal for Today: Study of these passages today, concerning Joshua’s victory at Jericho reveals a couple of interesting biblical conundrums. You know, until my devotional teacher, Dr. Smith, pointed it out today, in the marching of God’s army around Jericho, God actually orders the people to break one of the Ten Commandments. At least one of those days, when the Israelites were marching around Jericho had to be The Sabbath; and it was forbidden for God’s people to march or work on the sacred “seventh day,” God’s day, … His day, the Sabbath. And then there was the conundrum of Rehab, the prostitute, being rewarded for telling a lie as she helped the two Hebrew spies there in Jericho.

So, what’s up with these seeming inconsistencies of truth? Obviously both of these are breeches in the strict observance of God’s law; but these actions/decisions were blessed by God. And they are not the only ones in Scripture. You may have questioned in your past Bible studies why God blessed David and his men eating consecrated bread as common bread, … bread which had been consecrated as Holy bread in 1st Samuel 21. And this incident is also mentioned in Matthew 12 as Jesus seems to breech God’s law on the Sabbath by gathering food and then, by healing (i.e., which was seen as work) on this “seventh day.” So, are these instances which show that man can violate God’s commands with impunity? Hardly!

No, what this shows us is that God is in control of God’s Law; and God can – and will – be God, doing what He desires and demonstrating HIS priorities whenever and wherever He decides to do so. God’s Laws are God’s, not man’s … to be breeched whenever such an action seems to fit into man’s feelings or priorities. We must always remember that God is God; and we are not! God can – and may – exercise His merciful override of even His own Laws if He so desires. That is why we must know and believe in the truth of Isaiah 55: 8-9 in the OT and Romans 8: 28 in the NT [I hope you know these passages].

There are going to be times when our understanding and observance of God’s commands/laws becomes challenged in our minds and lives. That’s why, at times, there seems to be conflict in strict observance, and legalistic interpretation, of God’s word when certain circumstances present themselves. Have you ever told a “white lie,” maybe to protect the secret of a surprise birthday party where you’re trying to give your spouse a lovely and memorable time; but you have to fib to make it happen. What about how we protect the image of Santa Claus for our kids? Are those unGodly decisions? … No, I think there are going to be times, as with Rehab, when we make decisions which seem to go against God’s stated law, but the actions represent a higher, and more Godly, decision/action.

Hence, at times there may seem to be a conflict between grace and truth; and, of course, we are always challenged to pursue truth; but then again, we are also, as disciples of Christ, to be exercising God’s grace whenever and wherever we can. And it can be tough, can’t it? But we move forward in these pursuits, knowing that God is still in control; and His will is our pursuit in all such circumstances.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, when making decisions is perplexing, shine Your light on my path that I might take actions, … always for Your glory. Amen

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 – Mar. 10 – Crossing Our Own Jordan

Study from God’s Word Josh 1: 1 – 9; Josh 3: 1; Josh 2: 1 – 24; Josh 1: 10 – 18; Josh 3: 2 – 17; Josh 4: 12 – 12, 13; Josh 4: 9 – 11; Josh 4: 15 – 18; Josh 4: 1 – 8; Josh 4: 19 – 24; Josh 4: 14; Josh 5: 1 – 15; … Passage for Reflection: Joshua 1: 9 [along with verse 8 for more context] … NIV 8 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

My Journal for Today: Today in my reading of The Daily Bible and the material provided by F. LaGard Smith in his devotional targeted for March 10, I am reading and meditating on one of my favorite passages in all of the Old Testament. It is the time when Joshua is handed the mantle of leadership of God’s people; and he takes them, at God’s command and with His careful instruction, across the Jordan river, once again be protected by another dry-ground crossing of a body of water, engineered by God to miraculously show the people just how powerful their God is and how following Joshua, His designated leader, is the only way to go.

And in today’s target verse (Chapter 1, verse 9) along with one of the most powerful instructions in all of the OT, Verse 8, we read exactly what a believer needs to remember and follow as each of us crosses our own “Jordan.” I don’t know what your “Jordan” might be. Perhaps you’re battling cancer; and you need to decide to cross the Jordan of trust in God and your medical treatment team. Maybe, like many of the men in the ministry I’m called to lead, you’ve had years of repeated sexual sin; and you need to cross the “Jordan” of confessing your sin to others, maybe including your wife or your Pastor. Perhaps, you’re facing the ultimate “Jordan,” and that is impending death, because you have a diagnosis of a fatal disease of some kind.

Actually, every human faces the latter “Jordan,” because we all have the fatal diagnosis of aging and 100% of us will cross our personal “Jordan” from this life into eternity. The question is not whether we will or will not “cross over,” … it is whether we will do so with faith in the same God, through the deliverance of His Son’s death on the cross, Who delivered God’s people across the Jordan, being led by Joshua.

How about you? Will you be crossing the “Jordan” of death, knowing that you’ll be delivered unto eternal life on the other side? And what about any other “Jordan” you might be facing. Do you have absolute assurance that you’ll have spiritual success in the march forward in life once you cross that “Jordan” in your life?

Well, my friend, in today’s passage you have God’s absolute promise of success as you contemplate crossing that “Jordan” in your life. If you get into and stay into God’s word [i.e., the Bible] – day and night – following all that is commanded therein, God’s word promises [see Josh 1: 8] that you’ll have success in the march forward, doing what Jesus has commanded you (again, as I refer so often, see Luke 9: 23). And when we cross the “Jordan” of decision, which God has lain before us for our life, we can know, as did Joshua, that we will enter into God’s Promised Land, with ultimately what Heaven itself has to offer.

And is that not worth following God across the “Jordan” in our lives today?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I crossed the “Jordan” to which You led me long ago; and now I claim the Promised Land in Your Name. Amen

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

2010 – Mar. 9 – Hopeful Disappointments

Study from God’s Word Deut 31: 48-52; Deut 33: 1 – 29: Deut 34; 1 – 12; … Passage for Reflection: Deut 32: 52 … NIV 52 “Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel."

My Journal for Today: I have been up on the crowning point of Mount Nebo where Moses was led to go to see the promised land [see Deut. 32: 48-52 - linked here], into which he would not set foot in his physical lifetime. We know why Moses didn’t cross the Jordan, as would Joshua later, leading God’s people into that ever so elusive Promised Land, from which God’s People had been restrained for 40 years of wandering so that they would be purged and ready to claim for God’s glory. Moses was restrained from setting foot in the promised land because of the ramifications of past sin.

But as I looked out over the expanse of that Promised Land on that day in Jordan when I was up on Mount Nebo, being where Moses must have stood, I could not get a grasp on the disappointment and emotional discouragement Moses must have felt, knowing that it was nothing but the consequences of his own sin which kept him from entering into that wonderful promised land which God had set before His people. Then as I looked out over that expanse of green and fertile lands, I remembered, … Moses may have physically been restrained from entering that land of promise; but the Promised Land of God will be Moses’ eternally because of his faith.

Yes, there would be another leader of God’s people, the Chosen People, Who would die before He would physically see the realization of God’s plan for His glorious elect. And that One, Whom we would know as our Savior, must’ve felt even more “hope-filled disappointment” when He languished in the garden of Gethsemane that night before His crucifixion.

Sometimes we encounter someone in this life who seems to die “before their time.” Maybe it’s a younger parent or grandparent who never gets the physical/emotional opportunity to see their children or grandkids blossom fully. Perhaps it’s someone who had a great idea which was developed after his death by someone else. I think of Martin Luther King, who had “a dream,” which is now unfolding, … but only after he was so ignominiously and precipitously killed. But, as F. LaGard Smith points out, there is no such thing as a “premature death,” … a concept which is really a spiritual oxymoron; because if someone had a small part in God’s will or His plan for God’s people, that promise will be fulfilled; and that person, who may have died before realizing that dream in this life, will see the fruit of his/her efforts in glory. As Smith writes it, ”No dream or efforts made that are consistent with God’s own good pleasure will be unfulfilled or wasted.”

The question becomes what are we doing NOW which is from or part of God’s will for our lives or for the future God has for His people. And we should (well, really, we MUST) know that anything which is launched or hatched today in God’s Name, of which we are a part, will be realized in God’s future; and being a part of His chosen ones, you or I will see the fruit of our labors growing, if not in this life, … in glory.

So, what we must do is seek to live within God’s will and for His purpose … for as long as we can; … and to move His dreams and plans forward as much as we can. We may not see the endpoint in this life; but as Moses will see the Promised Land and walk in it with his Savior, so we will be able to see our completed future unfold in eternity with God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, point me in Your direction; and may I do all I can to see my part of that glorious plan unfold in my lifetime. Amen

Monday, March 08, 2010

2010 – Mar. 8 – The Blame Game

Study from God’s Word Deut 31: 1-16, 23; Deut 31: 17-18; Deut 31: 19-29; Deut 31: 30 – 32: 43; … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 31: 17 – 18… NIV 17 On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, 'Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?' 18 And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

My Journal for Today: In my study today, my devotional author, Dr. Smith, had me reading about the time, from Deut 31 – 32, where Moses turned over the mantle of earthly leadership to Joshua, with God encouraging God’s people as they are about to cross over the Jordan River and move into the Promised Land. However, God and Moses foresee that these fickle Hebrew people will once again become recalcitrant and selfish, turning away from God and His Law. And once again the people will shift the blame for their selfishness away from their own sinfulness and blame God.

Ever been there? Have you ever been in a place in life where you felt that God had turned away or was distant from you? Maybe you’ve seen some other believer – a good friend or a loved one – who couldn’t see their own sin for what it was and blamed God for all the bad stuff going on in their lives. It probably wasn’t you, was it? ;>)

Certainly we see hardened criminals trying to hide the blame for their crimes by denying responsibility; and we even see three year old kids, caught red-handed, who will blame anything and everyone but themselves. It’s part of the human condition to default to the blame game. Adam did it in the garden by blaming Eve; … Eve did it by blaming the serpent. And we often try to blame God for not being there when we need Him.

But who is really to blame? Does God change in some way or become mysteriously absent in our lives when things go awry? No, … if you’re reading this, I think we’re all looking into God’s mirror of truth; and we probably don’t like what we see looking back at us. We want to see God’s image – that of Christlikeness; and certainly His likeness does reflect back from His word, which is our best mirror of truth. However, we so often want to deny that what we see in the mirror is the self which we have not totally surrendered to God for transformation and re-formation.

My friends, it is only when we can – and will – know that God never leaves us, nor forsakes us, that we can be in the seeking posture God needs for us to be for Him to reshape us into His image. That was actually there for me to read today in Deut. 31: 6. But God not is not only just there for us 24/7, … He goes on ahead of us to prepare the way for our path in life (see Deut. 31: 8). And so, … we need to see the truth when we look into God’s mirror, … His word. We need to see God for Whom He is; and we need to see ourselves for the rank sinners we are. But finally we need to see that God is reshaping those of us who’ve received Him into our hearts to become like God, the Son.

Blame shifting just won’t cut it in this life, my dear one. So, let’s see God, seek God, and let Him shape us into His image.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I stand here a sinner, surrendered to be transformed into Your image. Amen

Sunday, March 07, 2010

2010 – Mar. 7 – A False Sense of Security

Study from God’s Word Deut 26: 16-19; Deut 28: 1-68; Deut 29: 2-29; Deut 30: 1-20; Deut 27: 1-26; … Passage for Reflection: Deut 29: 19 … NIV 19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way." This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.

My Journal for Today: Well, in all the devotional entries I’ve read from F. LaGard Smith this year thus far, this one today is the most disquieting and personally disturbing. In The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, Dr. Smith, as the Editor, had readers today reading through the sections from Deuteronomy where God solidified His covenant with His people, demanding that they realize the seriousness of disobedience to this oath to God as well as reviewing the blessings which would flow to them from their obedience.

Unfortunately, I agree with Dr. Smith in his devotional entry today, that in our New Covenant lives as Christians, we have a far too lackadaisical attitude about our saving relationship with Christ than we should. Sadly, in this post-modern era, I believe we’re living in an age of “easy” (or “cheap”) grace, many thinking that they have spiritual fire-insurance against “hell” (though many don’t even believe there is such a place). However, these folks, who become nominal “christians,” don’t live out their lives as if God has saved them from their sinful nature. Smith states, “… it is frightening – as long as we confess our sins, we’re tempted to believe it’s actually okay to persist in those very sins! If we just throw God a bone, we think surely He will be satisfied!” So, making and keeping solemn vows to our God concerning our way of living has become passé; and we float through life thinking and acting no different from the world nor showing any of the fruitfulness promised by our God to those who are truly saved.

Ouch! Ugh!! Groan!!! … I think of the Apostle Paul’s admonition and exhortation in Romans 5: 20 – 6: 4, upon which we should all meditate here and now (as I have in the NIV):

>>> 20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. … 1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Yes, 1st John 1: 9 is no less true in the life of any Christian today; but the promise that our sins have been paid for in full on the cross and our confession of those sins brings full cleansing does not give the Christian the right or the license to sin with impunity and treat God’s saving grace with such reckless abandon. In fact, reading the entire 1st letter of John, tells us that Christians – true, born-again believers – simply will not be able to continue to sin with chronic and reckless disregard of God’s Law and His provisions for us to join Him in heaven. I grieve to think that there are many – if not most – of those who will sit with me in church today who believe they have a license to be a sinner, rather than the grace to be a saint in the eyes of God. I can only pray to my Lord that I am not one of those.

My friends, I pray that I pursue the righteousness which is eternally mine when I know that I know that I know that I know that Jesus Christ is my LORD … as well as my Savior, … when I live so that the fruit of His Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23) is apparent in my life, … when I have a sense of dread when I feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon my sinfulness so that I can keep short accounts and be cleansed from self in order to glorify my Savior.

May I never have a false sense of security in my walk as a CHRISTIAN.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I sit and stand here as a CHRISTIAN, … let me live as one! Amen

Saturday, March 06, 2010

2010 – Mar. 6 – Tassels of Remembrance

Study from God’s Word Lev 22: 31-33; Deut 12: 32; Deut 15: 37-41; Deut 22: 12; Deut 31: 9-13; Lev 26: 3: 1-46; … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 15: 37 – 41 … NIV 37 “The LORD said to Moses, 38 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.' "

My Journal for Today: Is forgetfulness a challenge in your life? Do you – as I do – have to use “to do” lists to get things accomplished? Do you put important dates, like your spouse’s birthday, on a calendar; or maybe important appointments so that you don’t forget to remember these important events? Do you take notes when you go to seminar, especially one with an important teacher, like yours truly, {yeah, right! ;>)} says something that you don’t want to forget?

Yes, many of us do some, or all, of these things because forgetfulness is part of the human condition. God certainly knew that in the days He gave Moses the Law. So God wrote those big ten laws down on tablets; and Moses placed them in the Arc of the Covenant. And then Moses had all these laws, which I’ve been studying and reviewing these past few days from the Pentateuch, written down; because God, through Moses, recognized that mankind had short memories with regard to obedience to the God who had given them life and had delivered them from Egypt.

And in today’s passage we even see that Moses (from God’s instruction) had the men wear blue tassels on their outer garments as remembrance of God and His Law; so that, by wearing these tassels, the men might remember and be obedient to their very personal God. And if you read through Leviticus 26 – linked here for your study - any Jew in those days might have been really motivated to wear those tassels and to be obedient to God’s provision and practices because the provisions for disobedience was certainly horrible.

Bad things were to be wrought by God if the Israelites disobeyed His Law. And F. LaGard Smith, my devotional shepherd in his devotional entry for today, points out that we may not, as Christians, wear tassels of remembrance on our garments these days; but there are ways we can remind ourselves that we need to be obedient as our Lord has instructed us to be (see John 14: 21). We can have our “tassels of remembrance” whenever we take in God’s word through Scripture memory. Smith points out that teaching God’s word, through verse-by-verse memorization, explaining to our kids the meaning of God’s truth, is one of the best ways to help establish and maintain a relationship with God for our children.

And when we, personally and consciously, decide to take in God’s word into our hearts, truly contextualizing its meaning and understanding its application, we will be doing what God charged Joshua (see Josh. 1: 8) to do so that Joshua (or we) could realize spiritual success. Every verse we memorize, and can use for our lives, becomes our remembrance and use of God’s prescription to avoid sin (seePsalm 119: 9-11). Every verse we memorize, and discipline ourselves to use to deal with life’s challenges, is the way we sharpen and practice with our Spirit-swords for battle (see Eph. 6:17). Jesus certainly used this technique when He was tempted by His arch rival (and ours), Satan. When challenged by Satan, Jesus remembered and invoked the word of God [see Matt. 4 or Luke 4] to demonstrate His “tassels of remembrance.”

And this is a technique of spiritual battle my mentor taught me years ago; and I now teach it to any Christian who’ll listen to me. We are weaklings when it comes to remembering God’s truth and applying it to our lives. We need the kind of help which God imparted to His people by having them wear those blue tassels on their garments. What “tassels of remembrance” do you have in your life, … “tassels” which help you to continue to go deep – on a daily basis – in your relationship with God? Is your daily priority time with God one of those tassels? How many tassels of scripture memory do you wear in your heart, … tassels which bubble forth in your consciousness when you’re confronted by some spiritual enemy which is trying to get you to live in accord with Satan or self, rather than to remember and live for our Savior?

I leave it to you to see if you’re wearing any “tassels of remembrance” where others can see that your life is a living display of your relationship with and obedience to Christ.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m so grateful that Your word has become my garment with tassels to help me remember You each day; and to display Your glory for the world to see – YOU – and Your Robes of Righteousness, covering my rags of sin. Amen

Friday, March 05, 2010

2010 – Mar. 5 – Acts of Compassion

Study from God’s Word Lev 19: 9-10, 23: 22; Deut 24: 19-22, 24-25; Lev 25: 35-38; Deut 5: 16; Lev 19: 3a; Ex 21: 17; Lev 20: 9; Ex 21: 17; Lev 20: 9; Deut 21: 18-21; Lev 19: 32; Ex 22: 22-24; Ex 22: 21, 23: 9; Lev 19: 33-34; Lev 24: 22; Lev 19: 14; Lev 19: 16-18; Ex 23: 4-5; Deut 22: 1-4; Deut 5: 21; Deut 25: 4; Deut 22: 6-7; Deut 20: 1-20; Deut 23: 9-14; Deut 24: 5; Deut 21: 10-14; … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 22: 6 – 7 … NIV 6 If you come across a bird's nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. 7 You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.

My Journal for Today: Today’s study was a review of the Old Testament social welfare laws and principles God passed on to His people to aid them interacting with one another and promoting compassion, which is the focus virtue highlighted in today’s study verses. And when you, as I did, read these verses, you might have a tendency to say, “Well, … how quaint!” And we see that God cares even for His little birds; and then we extract the argument from the lesser to the greater … that if God so cares for birds the way He does, how much more does He care for you and me? And wow, in the Person of Christ we certainly see the answer to that one, don’t we?

In today’s study we see that structure, laws, and social principles were set in motion to provide for the poor, to help the handicapped, to honor the elderly (especially our parents), and even to take in foreigners when they were in need of accommodations. And F. LaGard Smith, in raising these issues, asks a couple of very pointed questions of his readers, “Can you even begin to imagine a world without daily acts of compassion? Indeed, what would you and I be like if we were devoid of compassion?”

And it was just yesterday, while I was going through my physical therapy in rehab after my shoulder surgery, the TV was on in the PT clinic; and I saw a segment from the Dr. Phil show (wow, such enlightenment!] where a Pediatrician had sexually abused over 100 little girls by taking advantage of them while he was examining them in his clinic; and there was another segment where three security guards in a shopping mall watched – and did nothing – to aid a young girl who was being pummeled by four other girls. And the question “Dr. Phil” was posing with his show was, “How can people act like this?” And there you and I have the answer to Dr. Smith’s question above. If the world was compassionless, anarchy would rule; and we’d see that the man with the biggest stick would rule.

And if we let – as a culture – the family degenerate into a structure God did not intend; or … we – as a people – are unwilling to take care of the Samaritan who is lying on the road, beaten down by the world [Luke 10: 25-37 - linked], we will become what I was viewing yesterday on that Dr. Phil show – a world devoid of compassion; and that my friends, would be sad, beyond measure, and personally intolerable. But that, my dear ones, is where we’re headed as mankind begins to live out what Paul wrote about in Romans 1: 18-32; and if we’re unwilling to live with compassion and promote caring love in our laws and culture, we will become an unlivable world.

So, as Dr. Smith asks today, ”Whose life might be uplifted today because of some compassion I might show?” A good question to move us to become what Christ would have us become … like Himself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Help me to live beyond self and to act like You toward my fellow man. Amen

Thursday, March 04, 2010

2010 – Mar. 4 – Dining Separately

Study from God’s Word Lev 11: 46 – 47; Lev 11: 1-3; Deut 14: 3-5; Lev 11: 4-8; Deut 14: 6-8; Lev 11: 9-12; Deut 14: 9-10; Lev 11: 13-19; Deut 14: 11-18; Lev 11: 20-23; Deut 14: 19-20; Lev 11: 41-45; Lev 11: 24-38; Lev 20: 25-26; Lev 11: 39-40; Deut 14: 21a; Lev 17: 15-16; Ex 22: 31; Lev 17: 10-14, 7: 26-27, 19: 26a; Deut 12: 16, 12: 23-25; Lev 7: 22-25; Ex 23: 19b, 34: 26b; Deut 14: 21b; … Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 11: 47 … NIV 47 You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.

My Journal for Today: Today F. LaGard Smith had me into the study of ancient Jewish dietary laws and practices; and there is some debate as to whether God declared all these dietary restrictions for His people to protect their health or to separate their eating habits from those pagan cultures which surrounded them. Perhaps it was a lot of both; but most certainly the Jewish dietary restrictions did separate the Jews from other cultures; and we read of that illustrated in the Book of Daniel when Daniel was confronted by the Babylonian king/court with foods he decided not to eat because eating the foods would dishonor God (see Daniel 1: 8).

In today’s world there are religions, such as Muslims, who will not eat certain foods because of religious restrictions. When I was growing up, my best friends were Roman Catholic; and I found it fascinating that they would eat fish every Friday. And later in life, even now, we have Orthodox Jewish friends who “keep Kosher,” which certainly separates them from the world as we, here in the southlands, eat our barbecued pork and often devour shell fish, both of which are part of these Jewish dietary restrictions. So, what does this illustrate for us in our world today?

Well, as Smith points out in today’s devotional study, we unfortunately don’t separate ourselves as Christians often enough with the way we live. Oh, certainly some do … by dressing differently (such as kids today who dress in the “GOTH” style); or there are others who are “Vegans” and will not eat meat. But are these practices done to illustrate Godly values of modesty or sobriety which witness our Christian faith; or are they just practices which call attention to ourselves as being different as individuals in the world?

Again today Smith is right when he says, “Modesty, sobriety, and self-control are increasingly rare [Christian] virtues.” And as he also states, “Dressing oddly doesn’t necessarily make us separate – only odd. Eating strangely doesn’t make us separate – only strange. If we truly want to be seen as separate, it will come in our conversations and values … in our material possessions and financial priorities; … in what we listen to and what we watch.”

Yes, my friends, what we have to ask ourselves is this, “Are we living up to the standards of separation set up by the Apostle Paul, who instructed God’s people in Romans 12: 2 to avoid becoming like the world or from Jesus, Himself, Who charged His disciples to avoid loving the world (see 1st John 2: 15 and John 14: 21)?”

You know, as Smith points out, it’s interesting that we seem to intuitively know some things which would separate us from the world. For example, we know which jokes are “clean” jokes and which are “dirty” jokes. You probably can discern which activities are “just plain fun” and those which are “just plain filth.” The late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, as to whether a certain movie was to be ruled obscene, wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [i.e., that it was “pornographic”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it [i.e., pornography] when I see it.” I think you know which entertainment media we should be viewing and which dishonors God by our witness in seeing it.

Unfortunately there are way too many Christians who know that something is self destructive (such as smoking) or visually evil (such as pornography); but they do not separate themselves from the world by standing up and refusing to participate and giving witness that they do so avoid these things out of conviction – just like Daniel refused to eat the food the Babylonians desired for him because he knew he must remain separate from the world and honor God’s way of living.

May we be “anointed” (i.e., set apart) for God’s glory by the way we live, … yes, even by the way we eat. May we stand up and be counted for righteousness in a world which is pushing us ever more to accept evil or sinful practices. At the water cooler this week when a co-worker is saying that we should just let homosexuals get married, what will be your response? When someone wants you to take a drink to join them at dinner in their home when your sobriety is a witness to your faith, what will be your decision? As the world demands us to be more and more tolerant of what God’s word teaches is evil, how will we separate ourselves for God’s glory?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I have the courage of my conviction and commitment to Your ways and living for Your glory. Amen