Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 – April 30 – The Ultimate in Giving and Receiving

Study from God’s Word Psalms 29, 33, 65, 66, 67, and 68 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 68: 18… NIV 18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you RECEIVED gifts from men, even from the rebellious — that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.
Ephesians 4: 84There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and GAVE gifts to men."[Psalm 68:18]

My Journal for Today: In today’s study we get a marvelous picture as to how New Testament writers used Old Testament Scripture, taking in the context of the New Covenant purpose and life of Jesus to explain the truth of Who He was and is to mankind. It was not uncommon for the NT authors and persons in the time of Christ, even Christ Himself, to quote from the OT. But occasionally, and today’s study is one of those, there would be a twist on what was being quoted which depended on the person and position of Jesus, The Christ, as the fulfillment of Old Covenant Scripture.

In the word picture created by King David in Psalm 68, he was reflecting on the tradition, in his day, of a king returning home from battle with a train of the conquered warriors following behind him, … with the conquered peoples giving gifts, as they did in those days, to the conquering king. Now, the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4, quotes from that same Psalm, but note the critical one word change [highlighted in bold/underline above] which describes the King of kings and how, in heaven, He will not expect gifts from those who’ve surrendered to Him. No, rather, our LORD of lords will GIVE gifts to those who come to Heaven with Him.

Now, how great is that, for those of us who’ve surrendered our lives to the King of kings, Who has conquered all on the cross; and the King Whom now is in heaven interceding for Christians; and the King Who will receive me, and prayerfully you, to be with Him on His throne? And the Apostle Paul was right to change that one word when he used Psalm 68 to relate the picture of the conquering King receiving the train of the conquered into heaven.

And once again in my studies here of God’s word, daily in my quiet place, all I can muster is a humble, but definite … HALLELUJAH !!!

My Prayer for Today: Yes, LORD, I sit here in awe of how Your word fits together and speaks of You as the conquering King Who has received me unto Your throne and will give me all You have in glory. HALLELUJAH !!! Amen

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2010 – April 29 – A Blurred Cosmology

Study from God’s Word Psalms 8, 9, 19, 21, and 24 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 8: 3 – 5 … NIV 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

My Journal for Today: F. LaGard Smith, my devotional “shepherd” in the book he has authored, which I’m using for my morning times with God, asks a very pertinent question to today’s world. He asks, ”When was the last time [you] looked with wonder into the night sky and knew that [your] significance was in God alone?”

If you’re reading with me here today, you’ll have to answer that one for yourself; but each year for the past 15 years or so, my wife and I have been going with a group of adults from our church who attend what you’d likely call “Sunday School,” to a retreat on Kentucky lake, which is a lake which was created in 1811 when the New Madrid earthquake split the earth so wide that the Mississippi river ran backwards and backfilled an immense crater, creating beautiful connected lakes in southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.

And there is a place, a point near the resort where we gather for our church retreat; and on that point there is a sitting bench; and each year I go out to that point and watch the sunrise in that place while I’m doing my morning devotionals. And when I get there, often the air is crystal clear, I can see the stars twinkling down from the heavens; and then on many of those mornings in that place I’ve been treated to wondrous and awesome displays of God’s beauty. [See Ken-Lake Photo above] And in those moments, enveloped by the AWESOME majesty and beauty of God’s creation, I feel so insignificant … but so, so loved.

You know, I agree with Dr. Smith that the word “AWESOME,” which I just used above, has been devalued in our current day. It’s used far too often as a “catch-all word to express giddy and youthful excitement,” and so, when you see something truly “awesome,” … something really “awesome,” fashioned by the hands of God – as this scene I’m sharing here – the word, which is right to describe God’s awe-inspiring handiwork, has lost its edge for us when used to describe God’s creation in His display of His glory.

But, when I’ve seen those scenes, up there at Ken-Lake, I know of God’s “awesome” nature; and I realize that only a loving and caring God could paint such a picture for my sight to behold. And it’s like He’s telling me, “Bill, if you think this is my beauty, you haven’t seen anything to what I’m going to show you in glory;” … and I come away with such great hope and feeling so love by my Creator God. I hope you have seen such “awesome” displays from God through His nature, … like the displays out there in the deserts which I’m sure inspired King David to write words like those which God shared with all of us through David and His word, … the words in Songs like this one highlighted today.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, You crown me – yes, me! – with Your glory and honor; and occasionally You show Yourself in Your creation. Thank you, Lord, for these brief, but beautiful, reminders of Your glory. Amen

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2010 – April 28 – Contentment in God’s Hands

Study from God’s Word Psalms 76, 84, 90, 92, 112, and 115 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 84: 10 … NIV 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, in my devotional book, The Daily Bible Devotional, opens today with a question from an old adage we’ve all heard at some time in our lives, ”Why does the grass so often seem greener on the other side of the fence? Sure, rags to riches stories make for interesting reading; and having goals to better one’s self is not a bad thing, in and of itself. But when it is the world’s values which drives us upward to a different place in life, today’s highlight passage from God’s truth is most pertinent to bring us back into Godly focus.

But how many people, when they have an opportunity to grab hold of more power or prestige, or they are offered a whopping raise, will say, as the Psalmist might paraphrase from Psalm 84: 10, “I’ll just stay here, minding God’s door, rather than buy into the more, better, or faster life offered by the world.” When we look over the fence and know we can get over there to consume those ever greener grasses, which so often seem so luscious and appealing, are we willing to be content with where God has us right now even if it’s a career or position in life devalued by the world?

Where should our aspirations lie as Christians? And how much does an attitude of gratitude shape our choices, especially when we know we’re able to serve God mightily where He has led un in our life? If lured to bigger and better worldly things or positions of more earthly power, can we be like the Apostle Paul, whom I remember expressing his values – which are Godly values – in Phil. 4: 12 – 13. ... And now, click on the link I’m providing here to read and meditate on that passage; and then ask yourself, ”Am I really content with where God has led me; and if not, why not?” And in the same vain, we need to analyze what values are driving us forward. Are they the values of the world; or are they values which emanate from God’s word or from His Spirit?

And when we answer those questions honestly, we’ll have a focus on whether we can be content with God’s providence and His leading in our lives. I pray contentment for all who seek and follow God’s will, especially when we find it and know it.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be content with what You give me and where You lead me. Amen

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 – April 27 – When Sin Comes Home to Roost

Study from God’s Word Psalms 40, 49, 50, and 73 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 40: 12… NIV 12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.

My Journal for Today: Have you ever felt guilty, maybe even to the point of emotional paralysis, over some sin – or recurring sins – in your life? We know that David, who penned Psalm 40, as he also did Psalms 51 and 32, dealt seriously with his remorse and repentance from his sins with Bathsheba. Wow; King David had some doozies (i.e., really bad sins) to deal with in his life; and in today’s highlight passage he expresses that his “… sins [whatever they may be, had] overtaken [him]” to the point he felt emotionally blind to life.

That’s what sin can do to our lives. It can render us narrow sighted (at best) and even blinded to reality at times. Our flesh can render our judgment poor; and we become the victims of our own desires or past sin habits; and we make choices which dishonor God and are a witness to our own inability to fight the flesh by thinking that we can overcome its influences with our own fleshly strength.

How many times, after I’ve sinned and see its outcomes, do I have to say to myself, “Bill, you know that you can’t fight the flesh with the flesh?” And as you read this, I don’t know if you’re dealing with some sins from your past that have you feeling down and out. The Apostle Paul was certainly feeling the ramifications of some sin weakness in his life when he penned Romans 7: 14 – 24. But he wanted his readers (the Roman Christians and then you and me) to identify with the reality that all sinners, including himself, must deal with life when sin comes home to roost; and we see our sinfulness, selfishness, and weakness for what it is.

But then, it was also the Apostle Paul, who, in his realization of what Christ had/has done for our sins, penned probably the greatest victory chapter in all of Scripture in Romans 8, which begins in verse 1, by declaring, There is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ, Jesus! And remembering whatever your sin has been – or maybe is right now – I charge you to recite that verse at least three times and go back and meditate on the entire truth of Chapter 8 of Romans; and then you pray to God a prayer of thanksgiving – that is, if you know Christ as your Lord and Savior – declaring strongly to God the praise that is due Him for dying on that cross and paying the penalty for our sins.

And then, as I am doing as I write this, my friend, you also declare how you are going to honor God by living your life in the truth of Romans 8 rather than the lies Paul felt and spoke of in Romans 7. And when we do that, dear one, we’ll be walking in true repentance and finding the freedom to walk with Christ on His road of righteousness, … walking away from Satan and dealing with our own flesh by surrendering to God’s Spirit within us.

My Prayer for Today: Dear Lord, I know You desire for me to follow You on Your road of righteousness, walking away from my flesh and looking only forward to follow You into Your victory over sin. Amen

Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 – April 26 – Getting a Perspective on Evil

Study from God’s Word Psalms 1, 14, 15, 36, 37, and 39 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 37: 1 – 2 … NIV Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

My Journal for Today: All the Psalms of David which I was led to read this day in my devotionals are songs expressing the theme of righteousness versus evil and all the feelings and ramifications dealt with by mankind in this ever present spiritual battle which works its way out in our lives. And I know that we’re all no different than King David expressed in his songs of lament and frustration where evil sometimes seems to prevail over righteousness; and the good seem to be the handmaidens of evildoers who perpetuate their wrongdoings, seemingly mocking God in their schemes and actions.

We’ve all been there, crying out, like David, “WHY, LORD!!!” Haven’t you felt, as have I, how long God could allow evildoers to perpetuate their ploys, which, at times, seem to be on the winning side? But in the midst of such injustice and when the scales seem to be weighted in favor of evil, long ago I learned to go back to some of these Psalms shared by Dr. Smith today, especially PSALM 37; and I learned to meditate on what I know – at least in my mind if not my heart – on the truth God expresses in His word. And today, I implore and exhort you to go back and read at least Psalm 37, meditating on the power of God’s truth in this matter. Let the power of God’s Spirit, through His written word, penned by David so many years ago, lift you today or whenever you feel oppressed by our spiritual enemies.

My friend, we have Jesus, Who is the fulfillment of everything God promised to David when the King of Israel was feeling and writing Psalm 37; and God strongly tells us that HE, not our evil enemies, will prevail and protect His children in the face of evildoers. Everyday in the news – and maybe in your life struggles – we see evil being perpetuated and sometimes it appears to be on the winning side. But then in Psalm 37 (from today’s verses) and verses 3-4 and 7, we read …

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and He will give you the desires of your heart. ...
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Dear one, that is truth … GOD’S TRUTH!! The question now becomes, … do we believe, trust, and cling to this truth? Do we make choices based upon this truth? Do we let our faith in these truths guide our steps; and do we walk with our God in obedience; or do we fall prey to the evildoers who want us to worship Satan, the world, and to bring our flesh into their evil schemes?

I pray for us all today.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, my dear LORD, give this weakened soul, and all who might read this, Your strength to cover our weakness. Pour the empowerment of Your grace into us so as to overwhelm our enemies who seek to mock You. You are the LORD; … You are our victory! Amen

Sunday, April 25, 2010

2010 – April 25 – What God Lets Slip

Study from God’s Word Psalms 120, 121, 140, 143, and 144 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 121: 7-8… NIV 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

My Journal for Today: According to my devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, Psalm 121 is what Jewish tradition calls “a song of ascents,” which the Jewish pilgrims, after David’s time, sang when they were ascending from the low lands, through the hills of the Negev, up to Jerusalem. Certainly when David wrote this song, he was trying to escape enemies by traversing the mountains in the deserts of the Negev hills. He was escaping his enemies, like Saul, in caves. But the later Jews sang these songs to remind the people to keep their eyes on the trails, and to keep their footsteps safe, as they traversed through the mountainous passes where the walking was precarious.

And this is a good word picture of our life. We often walk along dangerous paths, even through minefields, in this life, where there is temptation and danger ahead, to the right, and to the left along the trail of living. However, when we do, we need to be reminded, as does this Pslam, that we can depend on our God, who will watch over us and lead us on the right path – IF – we but follow Him as instructed by our Lord in such passages as Psalm 119: 105, Prov. 3: 5-6, and Luke 9: 23, ,,, and so many other of the Psalms David wrote as “songs of ascent,” which I was reading this morning – written for the Jews and for us as well.

I can’t tell you how many times, in my devotional life, I’m brought back to the words of that old, famous, and pertinent hymn of the faith by Helen Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, which I guess is my “song of ascent,” often reminding me [I’m listening to it right now in my Itunes library] that when I keep my eyes upon my Lord as I traverse the dangerous trails of life, He will lead me safely along the path of life. I’m going to put the lyrics of this song – yes, again – for you to read and remember that Jesus wants to lead us along the precarious paths of life.

Meditate on these words, my friend, as with the old Hebrew “Selah,” to be uplifted by our God …

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

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

His Word will not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

If you’re at your computer, maybe doing your devotional; and you’d like to hear Michael W. Smith sing the refrain to that old hymn, click on this link -

My Prayer for Today: Oh, my LORD, You walk ahead of me; and I follow You. Amen

Saturday, April 24, 2010

2010 – April 24 – Questions at Death’s Door

Study from God’s Word Psalms 88, 91, 95, 108, and 109 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 88: 3, 10-12 … NIV 3 For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave [Sheol] … 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah 11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? 12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

My Journal for Today: Today’s lesson from Dr. Smith, in his devotional book, is an interesting one to ponder. In a nutshell, his question could be summarized thusly: "Have I considered the afterlife and trust God to the point that the details concerning heaven or hell don’t matter?"

Smith reminds his readers that even the most adamant of atheists very likely ponder, at some point in their life, if their gamble in rejecting God and Christ is right. Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician and philosopher, posited his “wager,” which had the atheist placing his wager on the side of the fool because it’s so much better to pin your eternal future on God than on nothing. What, Pascal wagered, does one lose to believe, hold, and declare that all Christ did on that cross was real and had eternal implications, rather than to believe and declare that Christianity holds no meaning for mankind? It made no sense for Pascal to hold a faith wager as did the atheist; and so he decided it best to place all his faith in Christ.

Yes, we all need to ponder the implications of betting our eternal life on Christ or on nothingness. Where have you, my dear reader, placed your bet? Are you, as I once was in my life, putting all your chips in the box of the atheist, betting that there is nothing beyond the grave, as the roulette wheel of life spins it’s way down to a stop? Or are you, as I did in 1983, deciding to believe that Christ had to have been the real deal; and the only way to go is to choose to place all your chips on the resurrection of Christ and let that roulette wheel, we call life, run out, believing and living as if Christ died for our sins and He awaits us in Heaven to spend our eternity with Him?

Where are you laying your bet, my friend? Mine is on Christ!!!

My Prayer for Today: LORD, my eternal wager is all with You; and I will live my life out knowing that in the next life I will be with You for all eternity. Amen

Friday, April 23, 2010

2010 – April 23 – A Lifetime of Learning

Study from God’s Word Psalms 70, 71, 77, 83, and 86 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 71: 17 – 18 … NIV 17 Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.

My Journal for Today: What is the “story of a lifetime?” F. LaGard Smith, today in his devotional, reminds his readers (i.e., that’s me) of the story of an old, dying man who was asked to share the greatest truth he knew from his life as a Christian. He responded, “Jesus loves me; this I know, … for the Bible tells me so.” And this is the message David was trying to share in today’s highlight passage, wasn’t it?

We live our entire lives; and you may be one day realize, especially if you’re up there in years, as am I, that, as Dr. Smith wrote today, ”… the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. And the more we know, the more we find ourselves getting back to the basics of what we first learned as a child.” And that is the case before our lives became choked out with the worldly information that tends to take away the essence of the childlike faith Jesus declares is necessary to come into His kingdom as a little child.

Are we missing the simple truth, my friends, as this information age pours life-choking facts into our brains? Do we have a constipation of the heart which is caused by our trying, in our later years, to be sophisticated and to appear as intellectually together? Do we need to just stop and sing the old song, “Jesus loves me, … this I know, … for the Bible tells me so;” … ???

I’m going to stop there, as one of David’s Psalms might declare, “Selah,” which asks the listener to the song to pause and reflect on the truth of the lyrics to the song thus far. So, my friends, “Selah,” reflecting on the truth of …

Jesus loves me, …
This I know;
For the Bible tells me so …

My Prayer for Today:
LORD, may I live by always remembering … and living … the truth of that song I learned in my youth, but came to forget for so long in my life. Amen

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 – April 22 – Shame By Association

Study from God’s Word Psalms 61, 62, 64, and 69 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 69: 5 – 6 … NIV 5 You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you. 6 May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the LORD Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel.

My Journal for Today: Arguably, reading today’s highlight passage, we may be seeing one of the character examples of why God saw David as “… a man after God’s own heart.” In this passage, though I could not uncover exactly the time it was written, David clearly acknowledges that he has weaknesses and can be a man of “folly” or “foolishness,” which was certainly later born out in his life by the encounter with Bathsheba. But here, he recognizes the truth that no sin or foolish decision or action is hidden from God; and also, that our sinful choices can – an often do – affect others.

Here David is praying ardently that whatever his sins are, … whatever his bad decisions might be, that those sin choices or poor decisions will not bring shame on others. On a number of occasions in the past decade, we’ve seen very prominent Christian figures being uncovered in patterns of deviant sexual sin, which has brought public “shame” upon the name of Christ in the public arena. It’s what Dr. Smith describes today as the “domino theory,” which is often applied in science, business, or politics; and we can easily imagine a serpentine row of dominos falling because one is dislodged to topple the next one beside it. And that happens in life, and in Christendom, when even one public Christian leader is uncovered doing something foolish or sinful in the public eyes. As the dominos fall, it is thought by non-Christians, “Well, they all must be like that if their leaders are like that.”

We have to ask ourselves what Dr. Smith hits at with his devotional today; and the question is What choice or public decision I make would bring shame or disgrace to my family or allow others, especially those who don’t know Christ at all, to see my Lord in a darkened way?

Most certainly Christ undertook the shame of all mankind when He was publicly and unjustly mocked, ridiculed, and hung on that tree on Calvary. But He did that so that I could have the saving and enabling grace (i.e., power) to resist sinful, even foolish, choices and to avoid bringing shame on His name or others who love me or look up to me.

Oh, how I pray that God’s mercy and grace will allow me to avoid having shame brought upon any who look to me as husband, parent, or “Christian” leader. I certainly recognize, as did David, that I’m one choice away from doing great harm or shame upon the Name of Christ or upon my family. So, I must be ever vigilant, recognizing my folly is before me; and I MUST draw upon the power of Christ Himself to help me to discern evil and to make Godly choices which reflect glory upon His Name.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, help me to be Your light and to avoid darkness in my life. Amen

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 – April 21 – When Betrayal Hurts Most

Study from God’s Word Psalms 35, 41, 43, 46, and 55 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 55: 12 – 14 … NIV 12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

My Journal for Today: Reading the grieving words of David in today’s highlight passage from Psalm 55, this one cannot help but reflect on how much, as a sinner in my past, I betrayed my Savior. When I stood on the very rocks last year in Jerusalem where archeologists have documented the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, I wept; because in that moment, I realized that it was my sins of betrayal which nailed my LORD to that tree. And when my Lord looked into the eyes of those Roman Soldiers, it would be easier for Him to accept His degradation and death from Romans who hated the Jews. But it’s not difficult for me to speculate about how Jesus’ mind, as He was being nailed to the cross, might have wandered to the fateful kiss of Judas, who had betrayed Him for 30 measly pieces of silver? Or what about Christ’s anguish over Peter, who had denied Him thrice; or about His knowing that the other Apostles, whom He had been discipling for three years, had cut and ran when Jesus was captured for the crucifixion?

Have you ever been betrayed by someone whom you loved and trusted? Perhaps you were the betrayer. Smith reminded his readers, like me today, about Julius Caesar being blinded-sided by one whom he loved and had trusted, his famous companion, Brutus. And as he was being stabbed to death by the conspirators, looking into the eyes of Brutus, we have the famous line from the play, “Et tu, Brute!” And these were the words of someone who had been betrayed by a beloved one whom Caesar had trusted implicitly.

So many times in the ministry God has called me to lead, I hear the story from men who’ve chosen to get into the pits of habitual or recurring sexual sin; and how they’ve come to hate and repent of what they did to betray their wives by stealing off and viewing porn or by having an affair or by going off and being with prostitutes. And my wife, in her ministry to the wives of these very same men, hears these women tell their stories of broken trust and shattered marital dreams when they learn of their husband’s betrayal.

But I’m here to give witness and testimony to the truth that, even in these latter, very dire, scenarios where the closest of relationships are shattered to pieces by mistrust and betrayal, God can heal, restore, and renew. And it’s all because Jesus died on that cross so that sinners, who betrayed Him, like me, can be forgiven. It’s so wondrous that I can become a repentant sinner, … one who can be transformed by the same Spirit power which raised our Lord from His grave to be restored to His throne of grace. My wife and I have experienced the renewing and empowering grace which allowed her to forgive me and enabled me to be transformed to the promise-keeping husband she desired when we were married, … a husband she now has and can trust. Yes, it was excruciating for her and difficult for me; but we’ve seen it happened time after time in the lives of others who have surrendered their wills to a Lord, Who loves them and will give them the power to walk into the future in spite of the worst of betrayals in the past.

God is able and He will provide healing; but only if and when one, like His betrayer friend, Peter, is willing to receive Christ’s wondrous healing and enabling grace and be changed forever by Christ, as LORD. Dr. Smith asks the provocative question today, ”I I constantly betray God in little ways, might a day come when I inflict the unkindest cut of all?” … >>> You’re going to have to answer that one for yourself, my beloved! I have; and I can only pray that my surrender and walk with Christ will deepen my commitment to Him to the point I will not be one who will betray Him again the way I did in my past.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, help me to stay the course as Your trusted servant and friend. Oh how I see to hear You say in glory, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” Amen

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 – April 20 – Confidence in the Lord

Study from God’s Word Psalms 13, 17, 23, 26, 28, and 31 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 26: 1 … NIV Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have a blameless life; … I have trusted in the Lord, without wavering.

My Journal for Today: In studying the Psalms, especially those of David, God’s ancient song-writer, we can run into some puzzling points of seeming confusion; and one of them is in the raw comparison of Psalms like Psalm 26 and 51.

On many of the Psalms of David, we don’t have time markers in our Bible . Some give us historical time stamps by what is said in the song. For example, when we know what David got into later in his life … all that business with Bathsheba, his putting out a hit on Uriah, and his cover-up of his sin for more than a years, it seems obvious to me that David penned Psalm 26 some time before Psalm 51 (or an even a later one in Psalm 32). Otherwise, how could David claim, in today’s highlight passage, that he “led a blameless life” or that he “trusted in the Lord without wavering?”

To me studying in the Psalms and historical Scriptures, like those found in 1st and 2nd Kings or 1st and 2nd Chronicles, we see the human complexity of a man, like David, who was labeled by God as a “man after God’s own heart.” And I can identify with David, in Psalm 26, being in a place in his life where he feels, deeply and internally, a strength of faith and confidence in His God. Then later, in Psalm 51, after he has failed deeply and is in the process of honest repentance, we read of how he owns up to his weakness and pleads for forgiveness and strength from God. Then, in Psalm 32 (not in my readings for today), we read of God lifting David back up again and restoring his confidence, … not only in God, but in himself as well.

Psalm 26 is a red flag of warning for me. It tells me that I mustn’t get overconfident of my own faith or personal strength. Peter, in the NT, was also a good example of one who felt confident in God and himself, … too confident to recognize his own potential to fall. And with David, when we read/study Psalm 51, we see he came to recognize just how he could let his guard down and how one unGodly choice could bring disaster into his life. But then, going to Psalm 32, we read how a loving, caring, and capable God can (and did) restore the weakened warrior to shine God’s light of strength in the midst of his own (and our own) human foibles. That’s what Paul discovered as well, when we read 2nd Cor. 12: 7-11, … that great passage of God providing His enabling grace in the face of mankind’s recognized and acknowledged weakness.

My friend, … It’s great to have confidence and be on a roll of spiritual victory with faith and confidence in our unseen, but ever present, God. But, dear one, be aware that we have an enemy who stalks those who get overconfident and lack vigilance (see Psalm 10: 9-10 or 1st Peter 5: 8). Almost everyday I recognize and pray against my own personal weaknesses, doing all I can to dress myself in God’s cloak of righteousness and His full armor, carrying his Spirit-sword, and going to the high ground of prayer for the battles I face everyday. I know that, even though I have great head-confidence in my God, I can be – and often am – blinded by my own selfishness or my fleshly desires. So, I need to be, like David, a man after God’s own heart; but at the same time, I need to be, like Paul, a man who recognizes that I am only strong when I allow God’s strength to cover my weaknesses.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, I have ultimate confidence in You; but little in me. Help me to walk, in Your steps, Lord, having confidence that Your path is my path. Amen

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 – April 19 – A God Who Seems Distant

Study from God’s Word Psalm 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 10: 1… NIV 1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? … Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

My Journal for Today: We’ve all been there, in the place of David, as he wrote the songs which Dr. Smith had me read and meditate upon today. If you’re a believer, like yours truly and even King David, there are going to be days when God just SEEMS (and note my emphasis) absent. And most certainly, we know the human/worldly effects when leadership is perceived to be absent.

What happens, Dr. Smith asks, when parents are absent to lead their children? What happens when a boss is never around at work or a coach never calls a practice? And these human analogies call attention to one of the most difficult things about our relationship with God. How do we have faith in a God, Who is a Spirit, and Who doesn’t speak audibly to us, … especially now in these New Covenant times? I’m sure you’ve had times, as I have had and these Psalms document David had, when God just didn’t seem to be there as He has promised He would ALWAYS be. Many of you know what it says in both the OT and NT (see Deut. 31: 6 or Heb. 13: 5), … that our God will never leave us, not forsake us.

Well, then, why are there times when we desperately seem to need Him and he’s not there to swoop into our lives with a red cape and supernaturally heal our ills or solve our human dilemmas? And the answer to this one has everything to do with – and you know what I’m about to write - … FAITH! God’s SEEMING absence, … if we truly have faith, is ALWAYS a matter of our perception and never a matter of God’s reality. And we could speculate all we want; but there are going to be times when the truth of the passages I cited above as well as Isaiah 55: 8-9 from the OT and Paul’s exhortation in the NT in Romans 8: 28 are going to be called into personal reflection and question. (I hope you know what all these passages say about our inability to explain many things in our life as well as our faith in a God Who might seem to be absent. If you don’t know these Scriptures by heart, it would be good to find these passages, meditate on their truth, and then, do a check on your belief in their veracity.)

As evidenced by the Psalms I read today for my devotional time, it’s not wrong to feel the questions about God’s absence at certain times in our lives; and it’s not wrong to even raise the questions to God. David certainly did; and we know that many other giants of the faith in our Bible studies raised “WHY” questions to our God. But the thing we must guard against is letting our human feelings get in the way of surrendered faith; because it is only the latter – many times – which can give us faith’s victory to believe God being there when He seems to be absent. And knowing and clinging to His promises and His truth – from His word – as I’m convinced did David, we will be able to wait on the Lord for His presence to be felt and realized.

Dear one, when you FEEL that God is far away – or even absent – know His truth from His word to give you hope. When you feel your prayers bouncing off the ceiling, seemingly unheard, know, at least in your mind, if not in your heart, the reality that God will always hear you. So, like David, cry out to our God, and, though He already knows your feelings, let Him hear of your concerns; and keep praying for His power to be invoked and to cover your weakness.

My friend, God is there – ALWAYS THERE!! He hears – ALWAYS HEARS!! And He loves us – ALWAYS!!!

My Prayer for Today:
LORD, when I’ve needed you – even when You seem far away – You were always there, bending down to hear me; and covering me with Your wings of protection. Help me to believe in my heart as much as I do know Your promises in my head. Amen

Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 – April 18 – Invasion of Privacy

Study from God’s Word 1st Chronicles 26: 12 – 32; 1st Chron. 27: 1 – 34; 1st Chron. 28: 1 – 21; 1st Chron. 29: 1 – 22 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 28: 9… NIV 9 "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

My Journal for Today: The age of “Big Brother” is upon us; and we feel like we need to fight for our rights to privacy; don’t we? But in reality, as believers in the One and only omniscient God, our privacy in the world – or lack thereof – is the least of our mental worries. As F. LaGard Smith, in my devotional book for today, quotes: ”If I am too embarrassed to tell even my closest family and friends what I’m thinking about, dare I allow [those thoughts] to enter my mind for an observing God to see?”

That personal assertion really gets to the heart of our faith and understanding of the God we know, love, obey, serve, and glorify, doesn’t it? If we believe in the same God King David came to know and love (and, of course, we do!), we’ve got to do all we can to live by the truth that our God knows EVERYTHING we’re thinking – and why we’re thinking it – before we even think it. My friend, we have no private thoughts as Christians; and we have no right to privacy in God’s world as well.

And with this in mind, what I am thinking right now, if it does not glorify God is a breech in the relationship I have with my LORD; and that, I expect, is why the Apostle Paul wrote what he did, inspired by God’s Spirit, in Philippians 4: 8, where we, as believers in Christ, are charged to – and given God’s enabling grace to – think on only things which honor our LORD. So, as a Christian, who also knows the truth of God’s word, through Solomon, in Prov. 23: 7, which states [in the NKJV], As a man thinks in his heart, so is he …, I must realize that I will never have any real privacy in my life. And so, I need to live as an open book, realizing that all I think, say, and do is out there for God to know even before I think it, say it, or do it. And when I live like that and live for my LORD in what I think and become, I will live to honor Him in this life and into the next.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, my thoughts are always known to You. I pray they will become Yours. Amen

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 – April 17 – Service, … the Great Equalizer

Study from God’s Word 1st Chronicles 23: 1 – 32; 1st Chron. 24: 1 – 19; 1st Chron. 25: 1 - 31 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 25: 8 … NIV Young and old alike, as well as student, cast lots for their duties.

My Journal for Today: In my service to God, I’m an Elder in my church; and I have achieved the title of “Reverend,” being an ordained Minister of the Gospel. And also in my local church, I’m designated as “Director” of a ministry outreach to Christians who are trying to walk free from patterns of sexual sin. Now aren’t you impressed? Well, other than the fact that God is pleased for me serving Him, I know He’s no more impressed with my Eldership and my being “Rev. Bill Berry,” maybe even less so, than others in our church who have no titles and are given no worldly credit in their service of God. But they are warriors and servants who serve “behind the scenes,” doing all they can with their time, talent, and treasures, with no regard to titles or recognition by the world, to serve their LORD.

Do you find it interesting, as do I, from today’s reading and Smith’s highlighted passage, that David had the duties of the Levites, when he was planning for the building and establishment of the Temple by his son, Solomon, that this tribe of “Priests” would divide up the duties God would ascribe for them by simply casting lots? It seems so capricious and random, doesn’t it? There was no strategic planning, as a worldly corporation might do it today, making sure that the duties matched up closely with the experience, rank, seniority, or titles of those needed to carry out the duties of the organization. No, God simply had David find all the Levites and designate what duties were to be handled by these men; and then he had them, thousands of them, cast lots for the duties. And if any of these were ascribed a given duty, no matter what it was, it was for God’s glory in the overseeing of the Temple by the Levites. No titles were given. No earthly credit system was established to reward a given servant with more recognition than any other.

This, I believe, is much more like God would have us go forth to serve Him in the church today. Oh, I’m not saying that gifting or volunteer commitment should not be utilized; but we who serve God and His Kingdom, especially in the church, put far too much credibility and credit on those with known years of service, or titles, or staff name badge recognition. It is a major fault of the modern church, I believe, to look to the paid, so-called “full time” church staff, to do the work of the church, rather than individually to seek out our God-given gifts, find our calling into service, and then, just dive in and do it for God.

Besides, God clearly designates, through His word, that all of His servants in the age of grace – i.e., in the Church - are “Priests” [see 1st Peter 2: 9 - linked], So, there are many priestly duties out there in the world to perform for God’s glory. So, we all need to find out is how God has gifted us; and then – almost as if by lots – just jump into the fray of service and serve our Lord, with no expectation of title or recognition … except the aspiration to hear in glory, from the lips of Jesus, Himself, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

My Prayer for Today: Serving You, my LORD, is all the recognition I need. Forgive me if I aspire to more. Amen

Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 – April 16 – The Importance of Silent Protest

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 21: 1 - … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 21: 6 – 7 … NIV 6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king's command was repulsive to him. 7 This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

My Journal for Today: To be quite honest, I really don’t know what my devotional Pastor, Dr. Smith, is trying to say through the highlighted passage today. Clearly, Joab was morally right in being repulsed when David, the King, had ordered a count of the fighting men of Israel. However, God’s word clearly says that the LORD abhorred what Joab did in quiet, probably unseen, protest of David’s orders. God, of course, saw Joab’s protest was God; and that was enough for God to punish the entire nation because of Joab’s “secret” act of defiance.

You know, something like this is raising its ugly head in my life these days. In this nation, though we don’t live under a theocracy, we have a leader who has pushed through legislation which will likely provided for tax-payer supported abortion, something I find morally abhorrent, and something I believe is clearly unGodly. Now my dilemma is probably much like that of Joab responding to his King, David. Do I take the action taught by Romans 13, and follow the dictates of my elected government, which God has allowed to be instituted in this land? Or do I withhold some or all of my taxes because I feel that using my tax dollars to fund abortion is unGodly and unconscionable?

The moral, ethical, and even, legal choices in our world today are getting more polarized and difficult. What is the LORD calling Christians to do, … people like little old me (empathizing with Joab this morning)? Am I to follow our government, as the Bible commands [again, see Rom. 13: 1-7 - linked]; or am I to openly protest what I see as unGodly actions/policies on the part of my government? That’s what we saw Paul and his compatriots do so often in the Book of Acts when the authorities in several places ordered them to be silent in preaching the Gospel? But they would not obey these authorities; and went on spreading the Good News in the world, even though they were acting in opposition to the laws of the land.

So, what are we – what am I – going to do if (and probably more likely “when”) I’m being asked to pay my taxes which I know are going to be used for the killing of innocent babies, whom I also know are loved by the very God Who is allowing my government to do this? Why is God allowing this to happen? What do I do? Do I pay the taxes and pray to God that He will shut down this horrible practice of government funded abortion; or do I openly, and defiantly, withdraw my taxes, risking the outcomes to my defiance? Ugh; … why … why … why; … what … what … what; … when … when… when; … how … how … how???

My Prayer for Today: O LORD, give me the discernment to do Your will and the courage to do it. Shine Your light brightly on my path, LORD, so that I can follow Your way. Amen

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 – April 15 – In Praise of Mothers

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 19: 5 – 40; 2nd Sam. 19: 41 – 20: 2; 2nd Sam. 20: 3 - 26 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Samuel 20: 18 – 19 … NIV 18 She continued, "Long ago they used to say, 'Get your answer at Abel,' and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD's inheritance?"

My Journal for Today: When I first saw the passage Dr. Smith selected for his devotional today, I said, “Wow, that’s pretty obscure. What will he teach from these verses to help me grow in Godly understanding?” But when I read his devotional, it brought out much which served me well in agreement with him that mothers have great intuitive and instinctive wisdom which should be utilized more in our world, especially in our homes.

In today’s highlight passage, this mother of Abel, a town in Israel which apparently was known as “the mother of wisdom” in the country, had to deal with a challenging situation which could have caused the demise of the entire city; and she took the situation and dealt with it wisely, saving the city, which you can read about in 2nd Sam. 20.

It is true that mothers have great intuitive wisdom; and we see that illustrated in biblical mothers like Deborah, who identified herself first as a mother and became a Judge for God’s people (see Judges 5, especially verse 7). And in the NT, there was Jesus’ Mother, Mary, who certainly had to have been wise beyond her years, as a teen mother raising the very Son of God. Everyday in our families we see mothers solve social and parental problems which are mind-boggling; and they do it with intuitive skills. I agree with Dr. Smith, that if the mothers of the world were given the task of coming up with a world peace plan, we’d definitely live in a more peaceful world.

But don’t underestimate how tough a mother can – or must – be to bring about harmony and peace. I can remember my mother, wisely saying to me, “Bill, would you prefer me whipping you; or would you rather wait until your Dad gets home to take care of this?” And then, very wisely again, she’d have me go out to our bushes and get the switch which she was to use to spank me. And though her whippings were strong enough, she never used that switch on bare skin; and my tears would be consoled by her allowing me to go to my room to think about what I’d done, again knowing that I wasn’t going to have to face that switching from the stronger hand of my dad. And I knew that she’d keep me from being whipped by my Dad, whom I never want to be involved. That’s the wisdom of a tough, but tender, mother handling discipline in the Berry home.

And this woman of Abel, in today’s passage, was tough and wise too. And with her tough-minded wisdom, she handed over the head of Sheba to Joab, who was pursuing this traitor on the run from King David’s army. She thus saved the city by being wise in a very tough-minded way. That’s the wisdom of motherhood, my friends. And today, that instinctive wisdom is being put to tests, far beyond what it should be, as so many dads in our world bail out and are not there to be the “priests” of their home the way they should.

Many mothers, I’m convinced, are earning great heavenly rewards, doing what they must and what God has gifted them to do; but many men are not gleaning the rewards they could have by not being there to provide the home leadership which complements their wives, the mothers of the world, who have the instinctive wisdom to come along side the men who will do what’s right to lead in the home. Today’s story illustrates how this cooperation can yield a Godly ending; because the city of Abel was saved because a wise mother did her work, cooperating with the men of the city, who did lead by delivering the head of Sheba which was delivered to Joab.

Yes, it’s a rather gruesome story to illustrate a truth about the way husbands should lead along with wives who provide their wisdom to make the reality of Godly co-parenting work in our world. I hope – and pray – that all mothers who read this today recognize how, using their wisdom, to complement their husband’s leadership, can yield great children and great families.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, You know how much I recognize the wise, but tough little Dutch mother who has been so instrumental in raising our two daughters years ago when I was not there for her and for my family. But later, when I did take on the leadership of our home, You blessed us with Your grace to produce two strong and wise daughters, who’re now using Your wisdom to be wise mothers in their homes. Thank You, LORD!!! . Amen

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 – April 14 – A Father’s Love

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 16: 15-22; 2nd Sam. 16: 23 – 17: 4; 2nd Sam. 17: 5 – 29; 2nd Sam. 18: 1 – 33 [including today’s verse]; 2nd Samuel 19: 1 – 4 …Passage for Reflection: 2nd Samuel 18: 33 … NIV 33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!".

My Journal for Today: When you read (or have read) about the death of Absalom and his personal and political attempt to unseat and even kill his father; and then we read of David’s tender desire to spare Absalom; and we read of David’s grief over his death; … what do you glean from all of this as a take-away lesson from God’s word?

Well, there are a couple of lessons for me. One is that the sins of the father can – and often do – visit the next generation. We know how weak and immoral David was in the Bathsheba incident and cover-up; and we can speculate that David still had fondness for his son, after Absalom’s death, because he reflected on his own weaknesses and felt that he had failed being the example he should have been for his son. Perhaps, you are like I am … knowing that you could have done a better job of raising your kids; and you have great empathy and love for any weaknesses they might have which could have been attributed to the poor modeling or parenting you provided for your kids. Perhaps you did the best you could, even being a good Christian parent; and your child still turned out bad; and you grieve over their disobedience and weaknesses, willing to excuse their faults because of your past parenting.

Now, we have to look at all of this from Absalom’s viewpoint. Obviously, Absalom wasn’t able to see in David what God saw in this “man after God’s own heart.” Instead, he felt slighted in some way. Perhaps he was not given the attention (i.e., time) or affirmation which Absalom felt he deserved, especially being the son of king. How often does a preacher’s kid go bad when the pastor father gives much more time to the church and very little comes the child’s way? But whatever caused the parent/child wounding, Absalom certainly had it in for his dad, the King; and we see how this ultimately played out in the tragic and gruesome death of the King’s son as he tried to go to war with David.

If you are a parent reading this, I don’t know how your kids turned out or what attitude they hold for you as a parent. Somehow, despite much neglect and poor “dadsmanship” as a parent of our two daughters when they were very young, they turned out to be Godly, Christian women, who are currently raising their kids, along with their hubbies, in a Godly fashion. To that I can only praise God’s grace. I guess I came to a saving and sanctifying relationship with Christ in time for me to give them the parenting they needed in their formative years of growth. And my wife was certainly a wonderful role model and caring Christian mom during all those formative years.

But I do know that Godly parenting holds with it great promise or horrible heart-aches. I don’t know how it has turned out for you; but whatever you do, hug your kids everyday. Tell them – yes, …TELL THEM – you love them … OFTEN. Give them a lot of positive affirmation; and then hug them some more!!! Prayerfully your parenting will not yield an Absalom-type tragedy; and you will see your children be raised in the admonition of God’s truth as well as the in the loving shadow of His wings. And in that environment, I pray that your children, like two we have raised, will come to know Christ and have a deep and abiding relationship with Him, passing along their God to their children as you have given them Christ in your life.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, I pray that all who read this love their parents and their parents love them; and I pray that Your love is being passed on through the generations of their families. Amen

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 – April 13 – Open to God’s Discipline

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 14: 25 – 33; 2nd Sam. 15: 1 – 37; 2nd Sam. 16: 1 – 14; Psalm 3 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Samuel 16: 11-12 … NIV 11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him [Shimei, a man from Saul’s clan, who cursed David for taking the throne from Saul years before – called David “A man of blood”] alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today."

My Journal for Today: When we receive criticism, how do we react? And if we are in a position of power and someone of lesser power levels strong criticism at us, what would be our default reaction? Well, I suspect that most of us, yours truly included, would be tempted to have the critic immediately belittled or put down in some way.

But not King David in this scenario we read about today. Here we have a man, still angry at David for assuming the kingship from Saul, coming out of the crowd as David travels, throwing rocks and dirt at the King (yes, literal rocks and dirt) and yelling for all to hear that David is a “man of blood.” And though David could have silenced this critic, even having his head cut off; David shows a character trait which our Lord, Jesus, described in Himself as well; and that is MEEKNESS.

Humility and meekness are the only two character traits Jesus ever voiced as describing Whom He was (see Matt. 11: 29 -linked); and in this scenario we see both of these traits in David. And in many respects this is one telling scenario which gives us a clue as to why God described David as a “man after God’s own heart.” Meekness is power kept under harness; … it is power under control. And that’s what we see David exhibiting as this man cursed him and even threw stones at him.

At sometime in our lives, it is likely that we’re going to have someone “throwing stones and dirt” at us, … possibly leveling criticism and maybe even slander our way. How will we react? Will we want to immediately take the critic out of the picture, especially if we have the power to do it? Or will we exercise Christ-like, or even David like, meekness? Will we, as David did, first listen to the critic, especially trying our best to see if there’s any validity to the criticism? That’s what David did when he heard this man, Shimei, vociferously coming against him, even throwing dirt at the King. David even reasoned that perhaps God was in this event, telling David to remain humble and to seek God’s favor. And that’s what David ended up doing as he fled from his own son, Absalom, who had also been politicking and trying to become the King of Israel. David shows remarkable – yes, Christlike – humility and meekness here; and so should we when our enemies come after us with barbs and criticism.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, help me to be like You when I’m criticized. Amen

Monday, April 12, 2010

2010 – April 12 – A God Who Rescues

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 23: 24-25; 2nd Sam. 5: 13-16 [1st Chron. 3: 4-9 and 14: 3-7]; 2nd Sam. 13: 1-39; 2nd Sam. 14: 1-14… Passage for Reflection: 2nd Samuel 14: 14… NIV 14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.

My Journal for Today: Today’s passages, which I was led to read from 2nd Samuel and 1st Chronicles, depict the socio-political intrigue of David’s rule in these ancient times of the Old Testament; and to say the least there were some pretty squirrely things going on back then. And not the least of these was the way disputes and relationships were handled by men in authority like David. And today’s highlight passage comes from one of those points of intrigue; but a great truth is revealed by David’s interaction with a certain wise woman who had come to him representing Joab’s scheme to get the King to intervene and allow the return of David’s son, Absalom, who had fled from the court of His father.

And note the wonderful truth in the praise of 2nd Samuel 14: 14, which states, “… God does not take away life; instead He devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.” And when we consider the finality of physical death, this ringing truth, which was reminded to King David, is the same truth which Jesus was teaching to Nicodemus in John 3 as to how we can – and must be – born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Isn’t it wonderful that we (prayerfully you do) serve a God that doesn’t allow physical death to stand in the way of His having a permanent, eternal relationship with His children. He created us to be in a glorious, eternal relationship with Himself; and His grand scheme has allowed for a way for us to be reconciled and returned to the King, even though we have been estranged from Him by our own sin. That is the word picture and truth being expressed in these passages in today’s devotional from this part of King David’s life.

We, who choose to make the King of Kings, our Savior AND Lord have been saved from our own earthly folly; and we can – and will – be able to return to our King FOREVER. And to that all we can – and must – say is a loud ”HALLELUJAH !!!”

My Prayer for Today: Yes, LORD, HALLELUJAH … that You have made a way for me to escape separation and death and return to Your courts forever! HALLELUJAH!!! Amen

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2010 – April 11 – Toward Godly Resignation

Study from God’s Word 2nd Samuel 12: 18 – 32; 2nd Sam. 12: 26-31 [1st Chron. 20: 1-3]; 2nd Sam. 8: 2 [1st Chron. 18: 2]; 2nd Sam. 8: 3,4,7,8 [2nd Chron. 18: 3,4,7,8]; 2nd Sam. 8: 5-6 [1st Chron. 18: 5-6]; 2nd Sam. 8: 13-14 [1st Chron. 18: 12-13]; 2nd Sam. 8: 9-10 [1st Chron. 18: 9-10]; 2nd Sam. 8: 11-12 [1st Chron. 18: 11]; 1st Chron. 18: 10; 2nd Sam. 23: 8 [1st Chron. 11: 11]; 2nd Sam. 23: 9-10 [1st Chron. 11: 12-14]; 2nd Sam. 23: 11-12; 2nd Sam. 23: 13-17 [1st Chron. 11: 15-19]; 2nd Sam. 23: 18-19 [1st Chron. 11: 20-21]; 2nd Sam. 23: 20-23 [1st Chron. 11: 22-25]; 2nd Sam. 23: 24-39 [1st Chron. 11: 26-47] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Samuel 12: 22-23 … NIV 22 He [David] answered, "While the child [the child David conceived with Bathsheba ] was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

My Journal for Today: God knows best! … Do we really believe that? … David did; and it was tested severely when the child, born by Bathsheba was taken from them by God. And when the child became ill, after Nathan’s prophesy of the babe’s death, David fasted, prayed for God to spare the child; and he wept – deeply wept – as the child passed from this earth into heaven. [BTW, this passage is one of the few proof texts in Scripture applying to the truth that children, before the age of accountability, are taken into heaven.]

But after the child does die, in today’s highlight passage, David seems almost blasé, doesn’t he? Were all those crocodile tears before the child’s death merely show for his people and God? … NO, with David, what you see in his actions is who the “man after God’s own heart” is in life. When David is joyful, he dances with delight. When he’s sad, he weeps deeply. And when he recognizes God’s will, our David is resigned in faith and, like a child, he surrenders his own will to that of God. And that, my friends, is what true faith – a heart which totally trusts God – is all about.

The child died. David knew, from his deep and intimate relationship with God, that God knew what was best for David, for Bathsheba, for the world, and for that child. David knew, in his heart that, though he would not be able to have this child in his life on this earth, he [David] would be with the child in heaven. We see that in 2nd Sam. 12: 23b, which reads, ” … I [David] will go to him [his son], but he will not return to me.”

Dr. Smith, in his devotional for today, points out that we rarely have our faith really tested unless some deep, personal tragedy or challenge transpires in our life. In instances, like the one illustrated by the passage today, can we – and do we – resign ourselves to God’s will and move on with life, clinging to our relationship with God and trusting that the LORD has nothing but our best when He allows or engineers those life challenges? David knew that he couldn’t go back and have a “do over” with regard to his sin with Bathsheba. He knew that the boy was not going to be with him in life; and He knew – and trusted – that God had what was best for the boy in heaven. So, David sucked it up; and moved on, trusting in his LORD.

How about it? Are we able to trust in God that way? As Smith writes for our perusal this morning, ”Is there some bitter disappointment in my life that I need to turn completely over to God this very day?” You, like me, will need to answer that question and let it test our faith in God.

My Prayer for Today: LORD, in my head I trust You; but help it become my heart if/when I’m tested. Amen

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 – April 10 – Grieving Over Sin

Study from God’s Word2nd Samuel 21: 15-17; 2nd Sam. 21: 18-22 [1st Chron. 20: 4-8]; 2nd Sam. 8: 1 [1st Chron. 18: 1]; 2nd Sam. 10: 1-5 [1st Chron. 19: 1-5]; 2nd Sam. 10: 6-14 [1st Chron. 19: 6 – 15]; 2nd Sam. 10: 15-19 [1st Chron. 19: 16-19]; Psalm 60; 2nd Samuel 11: 2 [1st Chron. 20: 1a]; 2nd Sam. 11: 2-27; 2nd Samuel 12: 13a; Psalm 51; 2nd Sam. 12: 13b - 17 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 51: 3 … NIV For I know my transgressions, and my is always before me.

My Journal for Today: I know. Most of us know the story of David and Bathsheba quite well; but not everyone who will read this can identify personally with David’s fall, his sin, his cover-up, and his repentance quite as much as I can. And in today’s highlight verse, from the famous, or infamous, Psalm 51 (verse 3), we can read of the extent of David’s repentance and his grief over his sin.

My friends, I languished in serious sinfulness against God, my wife, my family, and others for 22 years of my life, … twelve of those being in rank infidelity from my wife. And my cover-up, though it didn’t involve murder as did David’s, was skillful in the human sense to hide me from others, like my wife, family, and colleagues; but, of course, nothing was ever hid from God; and my sin, like David’s, caught up with me; and as with David, my repentance broke me to the core of my being, leading me to the horror of memory that I will hold in my mind as long as I live on this earth.

I’ve been saved in Christ for over 25 years; and He has forgiven my sins, allowing me to daily put on His robes of righteousness, activated by His blood sacrifice on my behalf, and letting me cover over my rags of sinfulness. And even after this quarter century plus, I still grieve for my sin. But my repentance and commitment to the walk of freedom/victory He has given me, allows me to breath God’s air of freedom; and it also, as it did for David (reading Psalms 51 and 32), has given me the opportunity to witness to the power of God’s grace to others, and to be vigilant, preventing future breeches of sin and helping others, through the ministry God has called me to found/lead (see And by living and modeling “battle plan living,” my grief over my past sins can, through my repentance and ministry, be set aside in lieu of walking in freedom, exhibiting the hope that all sinners have for forgiveness and faithfulness in Christ.

King David, as I did, sinned grievously; and we can read in God’s word just how much he grieved over his sin; … BUT … he didn’t languish long in the tar pits of self-pity. No, David was a great example of surrendering himself to God’s saving, forgiving, and empowering grace and getting back into the flow of life, … allowing God to regenerate and renew his soul. Yes, David’s sin had dire consequences. Sin always has consequences. I’ll always have to deal with the consequences of my past sins; but like David, I can – and have – become a “man after God’s own heart” … by repenting of my sin, grieving of its effects, and then submitting myself to God’s enabling grace as He calls me to serve Him by wearing His full armor, carrying his Sword, and taking the high ground of prayer in the daily battles I face in His Name.

I pray that we all have come to hate the sins of our past, … that we’ve desperately have grieved over those sins, … and that we’ve repented and taken up the banner of Christ in being examples of His saving and empowering grace.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that you’ll keep me tuned to my weaknesses and ever relying on Your power and walking the road to righteousness on which You shine Your light of freedom and victory. Amen

Friday, April 09, 2010

2010 – April 9 – A Matter of Priorities

Study from God’s Word1st Chron. 16: 37-43; 2nd Sam. 8: 15-18 [1st Chron. 18: 14-17]; 2nd Sam. 9: 1-13; 2nd Sam. 7: 1-3 [1st Chron. 17: 1-2]; 2nd Sam. 7: 4-17 [1st Chron 17: 3-15]; 2nd Sam. 7: 18-29 [1st Chron. 17: 16-27]… Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 17: 1 … NIV 1 After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent."

My Journal for Today: Studying the interactions of King David, the Prophet Nathan, and The LORD in these passages today has interesting; and, at least for me, convicting implications on where our LORD resides and how we honor or dishonor Him in His residence, … i.e., His Temple.

In our readings today from 1st Chronicles and the parallel passages in 2nd Samuel, we read how God liked and affirmed David’s idea to build a Temple, a permanent residence for God, rather than where the LORD had been housed for so many years … i.e., in an ark in a tent as the people wandered in the wilderness. David wanted to honor God and give Him an elaborate and permanent residence, where the Ark and God’s place on earth could be established in a Tabernacle of Worship for God. And God apparently like the idea, though David himself was never allowed to build the Temple. We know, as we read ahead in God’s word, that this honor and task fell to David’s son, Solomon.

But our focus verse for today, 1st Chronicles 17: 1 (along with 2nd Sam. 7: 1), documents David’s conviction for not doing enough to honor God’s residence in the Ark of the Covenant, feeling that God’s residence should be honored with more than just the impermanence of a tent. And this raises my conviction from meditating on these passages.

My question is, simply stated: What do we do to honor God in His established residence, … i.e., His Temple, … our bodies? We do a lot to honor God with the collective family places for God’s worship and service, … i.e., the church structures and organizations we build and maintain. However, when it comes down to the bottom line of honoring God where HE has chosen to reside, I’m afraid we do not show our LORD the honor He is due by how we maintain His temple, … i.e., our bodies. And how do we know that our bodies are His temple? Well that one is laid out in God’s teaching, through Paul, in 1st Cor. 3: 16-17 and 1st Cor. 6: 19-20 two passages you hopefully know by heart or at least by reference to subject matter [links provided, however].

My friends, I don’t do enough to prioritize my life in a way that honors “God’s Temple” (i.e., my body) in the way it should be honored. That is the reason, this year, as I undertook the discipline to read through the entire Bible, to honor God with my time and my mental devotions, I also decided to document – DAILY – what I was doing to maintain the habits which allow me to steward God’s Temple, … my body. And each day, thus far through this year, I have documented, for an accountability partner and for a group, what I’m doing in daily disciplines involving eating, exercise, and the avoidance of sin patterns which pollute my body, … God’s Temple.

It was more than a New Year’s resolution this year. Like King David, I became convicted that I needed to do more to give God the residence He deserved in my life. So, every day this year, I’ve been recording how I do on certain body stewardship disciplines.

No, I’m not perfect on them; but thus far I’m doing much better during this year to be a more God-honoring steward of the Temple He has given me to maintain and manage for His glory. My prayer, below, will be that I will continue to do this for this year … and beyond.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me honor You more deeply by keeping Your Temple clean; and I pray You give me the enabled grace to honor you with how I maintain Your Temple, … my body. Amen

Thursday, April 08, 2010

2010 – April 8 – The Joy of Singing

Study from God’s Word2nd Samuel 6: 12a; 1st Chron. 15: 1 – 10; 1st Chron. 15: 11 – 24; 2nd Sam. 6: 12b – 15 [1st Chron. 15: 25 – 28]; 2nd Sam. 6: 16 [1st Chron. 15: 29]; 2nd Sam. 6: 17 – 19 [1st Chron. 16: 1 – 3]; 1st Chron. 16: 4 – 6; 1st Chron. 16: 7 – 36 [Psalms 105 and 96] … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 15: 16 … NIV 16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

My Journal for Today: Today’s devotional message, led by Dr. F. LaGard Smith, from his book The Daily Bible Devotional rings with great truth, for me personally, but actually for all mankind I believe. Dr. Smith, by highlighting the passage about David’s command to the Levites in 1st Chronicles 15: 16 to sing joyful songs honoring the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David, highlights an important gift God has given to mankind which needs to be used to glorify and to worship our God. And most certainly David did that, using his lyrical and musical gifts to create and write what we know of as most of the Psalms. And other of David’s songs are also chronicled in books like the books of the Chronicles and the books of Samuel.

I don’t know about you; but my life, especially my life as a Christian, would be sorely lacking if I could not sing or be sung to. Oh so often, when I come to this place – my quiet place in the morning – I listen to, or even sing along with, some wonderfully crafted praise/worship songs; and I’m especially touched or led into God’s presence by the melodies and the lyrics of these songs. When I feel down-and-out or exhausted to the point of being frayed, hearing or singing beautiful Christian music brings me peace or healing. Has that been the case for you?

Dr. Smith wrote something in today’s devotional that I hadn’t pondered or thought about all that much. He wrote, ”… have you ever considered that singing does not play a central role in some religions? Perhaps there is an inward-focused chanting, but not joyous, exuberant singing [like that found in today’s Christian churches and culture]. Why should that be unless these religions have not a story to tell [in music]?” And the creation of great music, with poignant/powerful lyrics, is greatly illustrated as integral to the worship of God by David, who wrote, sang, and performed a myriad of songs to and for God’s people so that they (and he) might have glorious and joyful times of worship for and with God.

God gave mankind a soul and the ability to sing; and we know, from God’s word, that God constantly has His angels singing in heaven before His throne. Now, we may have been created a little lower than the angels; but, as Dr. Smith points out, we were not created lower than the angels in the gift of singing or creating music. Oh, you may not be able to carry a tune in a bucket. The Pastor of our church is like that; but nobody I know of makes a more “joyful noise” and sings with more heart on Sunday mornings in our church than does my brother in Christ and my Pastor.

Singing can and does touch our soul; and when great Christian music is joined with poignant and truthful lyrics, as has been done over the century in some of the great hymns and more recently with contemporary praise/worship songs, we all can be lifted before God’s throne of grace by such music. And when we listen to or sing a great song of the faith, as I am doing as I type this on my computer here this morning, our hearts can worship God, especially when we surrender ourselves in the music and lyrics with God’s Spirit in our hearts. And here are the words of the chorus I’m hearing this morning … one of by favorites, and one which helps me go deep into my relationship with Christ >>>

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

I hope that music, which glorifies our God, helps you to go deeper and deeper in your relationship with our Savior and Lord as it does with me. He gave us the ability to sing – some better than others – so that this gift would bring us joy and a closer relationship with Him. Let’s sing it out for His glory!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, the songs of my love for You break forth from my heart so that I can know You more intimately and serve You with more joy. Amen

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

2010 – April 7 – Making Sense of Seeming Unfairness

Study from God’s Word2nd Sam 5: 6 – 8 [1st Chron. 11: 4-5]; 2nd Sam. 5: 9-10 [1st Chron. 11: 6-9]; 2nd Sam. 5: 11-12 [1st Chron. 14; 1-2]; 2nd Sam. 6: 1-5 [1st Chron. 13: 1-8]; 2nd Sam. 6: 6-11 [1st Chron. 13: 9-14]; 2nd Sam. 5: 17-25 [1st Chron. 14: 8-17]; 2nd Sam. 22: 1-51 [Psalm 18] … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 13: 9 – 10 … NIV 9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

My Journal for Today: This study today, especially the highlighted passage and devotional, points to how we can be confused and perplexed, seeing “acts of God” being carried out in our times or in history when those events seem so unfair or inexplicable.

That was the way it was for Uzzah, David’s loyal servant and soldier who was just doing what David had commanded by bringing the Ark back to the new City of David; and in the process, Uzzah reacted instinctively when the Arc began to fall precariously, touching the Ark of the Covenant in the process, something that no one was to do but the prescribed Levites. And ZAP, God struck him down … dead! Wow! Why would God do such a thing? And this is an example of other things in our lives when a complex set of circumstances, some of which are totally out of our purview, might cause an event or occurrence which is out of the realm of our human explanation.

Dr. Smith this morning used the analogy of a plane crash which may have been labeled to take place because of “pilot error;” but if the examiners had all the information available they may have discovered a lot of factors which led to the pilot’s decision which led to the accident. But in the case of God taking action against Uzzah, on the surface it seems like a capricious action on God’s part to take his life just because this man instinctively tried to keep the Arc from falling. But, as Dr. Smith points out in today’s devotional, what if David, remembering God’s prescribed way of transporting the Ark had done what God said should be done to move the Ark, having the Levites carry it on their shoulders. So, perhaps it was David’s fault that Uzzah took the rap and died for the incident in question.

I just don’t know; and I’ve come to realize, as it says in Isaiah 55: 8-9, that there will always be things which God does which I cannot, or will not ever, explain. And so, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, I just have faith that God knows what HE is doing and why HE is doing it … especially when I don’t understand it when HE does it.

And so, when God takes a life, like Uzzah, where the circumstances seem unfair; or He wreaks havoc on a people as He did in Haiti; or there are things in my life which just don’t seem right, by my understanding, I’m coming to the place in my life where I realize that I must believe and accept the truth of Romans 8: 28 (I hope you know that one by heart), and move on, … trusting God, as His word also says in Prov. 3: 5-6; and letting Him do what He must do to guide my life.

I hope and I will pray today that you join me in this step of faith in our discipleship.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help all who read here, and certainly myself, to recognize that You are God and You love Your children no matter what we may see happening in our lives which is not explainable by finite minds such as my own. Amen

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2010 – April 6 – Uncivil Civil Wars

Study from God’s Word2nd Samuel 2: 1 – 30; 2nd Samuel 3: 1 – 5 [1st Chron. 3: 1 – 4]; 2nd Samuel 3: 6 – 29; 2nd Samuel 4: 1 – 12; 2nd Samuel 5: 1 – 3 [1st Chron. 11: 1 – 3]; 2nd Samuel 2: 11 and 5: 4-5 and 1st Kings 2: 11 and 1st Chron. 3: 4b & 29: 26-27; 1st Chron. 12: 23 – 40; … Passage for Reflection: Judges 1: 19 … NIV 26 Abner called out to Joab, "Must the sword devour forever? Don't you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?"

My Journal for Today: The questions raised by Abner in the dispute between the houses of Saul and David are even apt questions today. And the last of these is the most pertinent: When do brothers in the faith quit pursuing one another? And the answer to that will be “NOW,” if the conflict is over personal matters. However, the answer is “AS LONG AS IT TAKES FOR TRUTH TO PREVAIL,” if the conflict is over Godly principle.

We see it today. Churches which divide, split, and are torn asunder. And when it is over personal power or personalities, such divisions are tragic and need to be halted as soon as possible, hopefully before the cause of Christ is damaged in the world’s eye. Unfortunately, like the battles between Saul’s Israel and David’s Judah, the battles in many churches today go on far too long; and many times the battles themselves hurt the cause of Christ and especially the witness of the Church which may be splitting over personalities or personal issues.

However, there are battles, even raging in churches or denominations today, which I feel are necessary and must be fought out until the principles of Scripture are upheld. For example, we see denominations splitting and fighting because some churches or groups within denominations desire to ordain women as Pastors or also desire to have avowed homosexuals as Elders, Bishops, or in other positions of church leadership. And we see these churches taking positions and causing whole denominations to split asunder, deciding which side for which they are going to stand. It is these latter spiritual “wars,” certainly will cause confusion in the world because they seem to be fought by Christian versus “christian.” But these spiritual squabbles may be necessary for God’s truth to be declared and decided in the public arena. Gay marriage or churches endorsing homosexuality are battle fields which must be fought in the arena of Christianity today so that God’s truth from His Holy Word can be upheld. These wars may be ugly; but they are necessary and they will rage as long as there are Christians [Capital “C] versus “christians” [small “c”] who interpret what we or they call Scripture [capital “S”] versus “scripture” [small “s”] .

I hope I’m being clear here; because any Christian church, denomination, or organization which cannot or will not stand for God’s principles, taken directly from God’s word, become an impotent witness in this world. However, God’s truth is not only worthy of standing for in the world, it is imperative that we do so; and I pray that all Christians today are willing to stand forth for God’s truth in a world where right is being seen as wrong and Scriptural truth is being labeled as “politically incorrect.”

And I also pray that we cease and desist from in-fighting in the church over personal issues or personality power issues. Such “uncivil civil wars” must cease and cease NOW. But … fighting over God’s truth must keep on keeping on until God is victorious – no matter how long it takes.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, we may lose battles; but the war is Yours in eternity. Amen

Monday, April 05, 2010

2010 – April 5 – An Impatient Faith

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel 28: 1 – 25; 1st Samuel 31: 1 – 10 [also 1st Chronicles 10: 1 – 12]; 1st Samuel 31: 11 – 13; 1st Chron. 10: 13 – 14; 2nd Samuel 4: 4; 2nd Samuel 1: 1 - 27 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Chronicles 10: 13 – 14 … NIV 13 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

My Journal for Today: F. LaGard Smith points out in my devotional for today that Saul may have argued with the contention, in today’s focus passage, that he “did not inquire of the LORD.” And actually, when we read through this account we see, historically, that he did seek the LORD’s guidance after he was struck with fear over facing the Philistines. And we also learn that God withheld sharing “the answers” with Saul for a period of time, until Saul, with great impatience, sought out the Witch of Endor, who was charged to conjure up the spirit of Samuel, the Prophet. But, of course, in the end that was God raising up the Spirit through the personage of Samuel to speak to Saul; and rebuke him for his fearfulness, his impatience, and his lack of willingness to walk in obedience to the LORD.

Dr. Smith is right, in this morning’s devotional, when he states a question I need to ask myself. He writes [for me], ”If I grow impatient with God and take spiritual matters in my own hands, can I possibly conjure up anything but trouble?” And the answer to that one, of course, is a resounding “NO!”

PATIENCE, in that list of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5: 22-23, is one of the more immature of my Spirit-given Fruit. Waiting on the LORD, with a patient spirit of obedience and humility has never been something that has come easily in my demeanor and habit patterns. Often, in life, we find ourselves praying and praying and waiting and waiting with no apparent answers from God to our prayers. But when God calls on us to trust in Him and cling to the truth that He, God, always has our best in His mind for us, we are simply – but often excruciatingly – under “the gun” to wait … and to keep praying … and praying … and praying.

I know that it is God’s will that my sister find Christ as Lord and Savior, as have I. But she resists; and I’ve been praying – FOR YEARS – that she come to a saving knowledge of Christ. But it has never happened … YET! So, should I take these matters in my own hands and go seek after the answer by asking a medium to assist me in my prayers to find the mind of God in this matter. No, God simply asks for me to trust Him and to keep praying; … and so, I will.

Oh, this business of building patience into my life can be so frustrating at times; but I know that God knows what is best for me in HIS timing and in HIS manner. And so, will all the patience I can muster, I continue – every day – to pray for my sister [and many other matters which require patience] … and to seek the LORD’s will for my life … yes, in HIS timing and in HIS way.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I know this is a challenging prayer; but help me to have patience in seeking Your way and Your will for my life. Amen

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 – April 4 – The Difficult Virtue of Sharing

Blogger’s Note: HAPPY EASTER, one and all !!!

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel 25: 1 – 1st Samuel 27: 7; 1st Chronicles 12: 1 – 7; 1st Samuel 27; 8 – 1st Samuel 29: 22; 1st Samuel 30: 1 - 31 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 25: 10 - 11 … NIV 10 Nabal answered David's servants, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?"

My Journal for Today:
As I was led to study today’s lesson from Dr. Smith, my devotional author from The Daily Bible Devotional, I think I would have missed the truth I needed to glean from today’s Old Testament passage if Dr. Smith had not helped me see it. And here it is.

So often in life we get to the place where we think that we OWN something God has placed in our charge. In this case the man, Nabal, got the idea that he owned the water David and his men were asking to share. And, as it was his human nature, Nabal balked at sharing the natural resources with David and his soldiers, men who had been their enemies in the past.

Have you ever been in a place where you had control of something God had put in your trust, perhaps something you had come to “own,” such as your financial resources; and you were given the opportunity to share those resources with others; but you balked, thinking, in your mind, that the money was yours rather than God’s.

Well, I’ve certainly been in that place; and I’m afraid it’s all too easy to get the idea that the money or physical resources are MINE, rather than me being God’s steward for the Lord to dole out to others as HE sees fit. My friend, so much of what we “have” is really not “ours.” It is God’s; and He alone should be the arbiter of how it is used.

Yes, it’s easy to bring a dish to a potluck when I can imagine that I’m going to get something to eat in return; but how easy is it to share what God has given me, i.e., to be God’s steward when I have no expectation of any return … just the knowledge that someone else is going to benefit from God’s generosity through me. It’s hard to let it go, isn’t it?

Today, I need to do an inventory on my heart; because God’s truth, spoken through Jesus, Himself, has bubbled up in my consciousness, when the Lord said [in Matt. 6: 19-21], 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Oh, I will pray this morning that today’s lesson helps me to remember that what I have, I have from God; and when HE gives me opportunity to share that treasure for those in need, my heart should release what is God’s anyway for His purposes and for His glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to see and live that principle that it’s all Yours for You to use as You see fit. Amen

Saturday, April 03, 2010

2010 – April 3 – Wearing the Ephod

Blogger Bill's Note: I am late posting this entry today because my computer has gone "haywire," and I cannot access internet from my PC. My laptop is also off for repair. Therefore, I had to go to my local library, where, PTL, I could get computer access to post this devotional entry and remain accountable as well as to have the satisfaction of sharing what God shared with me, through His word, this morning. Blessings in Christ and may you have a glorious Easter celebration!!! <'BB><


Study from God’s Word1st Samuel 22: 6 – 23; Psalm 52; 1st Samuel 23: 1 – 14; Psalm 63; 1st Samuel 23: 15 – 25; Psalm 54; 1st Samuel 23: 26 – 1st Samuel 24 – 22; Psalm 57 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 23: 9, 11 … NIV When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar, the priest, “Bring the ephod.” David said, “… Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will”

My Journal for Today: God truly had interesting and sometimes seemingly occult ways of communicating with people He favored in the times of Saul and David; and the use of the “Ephod” was one of these ways of communicating His will to the likes of a David, who was in search for God’s ways of escaping Saul’s tormenting pursuit.

When you’re under the gun, stressed out, or almost desperate for God’s will or trying to find the LORD’S ways, how do you do it? What is your “ephod?”

Certainly Dr. Smith, in his devotional for today, is right when he discusses two methods of seeking God, methods which replace – for the post-modern Christian - what the “ephod” apparently was for David. And these two are prayer and the access to God’s truth through His word. And I believe it is a combination of using both of these “ephods” which can lead Christians to find God’s will. And a personal note of witness: What I’m about to give you – my “ephods” – have been powerful for me through all these years of my Christian experience.

In fact there are a number of passages of Scripture which I use, and rely upon, giving me guidance in seeking God’s will and His ways when I’m in a quandary.

This first is Prov. 3: 5-6, which I really hope you have memorized, declaring the truth that our trust in God will direct our paths in life. If we don’t trust God – especially through His word – we’re never going to determine His will or be able to follow His way. And so, in the light of that truth and Psalm 119: 105, which declares that God’s word will light my path when I’m in some degree of darkness, I know that I can go to God’s word and find HIS way.

I also know that because of the declared truth of 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17, that all of Scripture, as we know it ( both Old and New Testament) is God breathed and will give me all I need, in its complete truth, in carrying out every good work for God’s glory. So, admonished by that truth and James 1: 5-6, I doggedly seek out the mind of God which is found in His word, in order to use it as my “ephod” in the way David used that priestly vestige to find God’s will.

And one final scriptural truth – at least for me – has never failed me in helping to find God’s way for me through life; and that is Phil. 4: 6-7, which tells us to avoid worry, taking all things to the Lord in prayer, and seeking after His peace as the way for us to determine whether He has given His blessing to any leaning [i.e., direction] we may have. As I said, my trust in all of these Scriptural truths has always been my “ephod” in life; and I hope you have yours from God’s word and through prayer which guides you as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Your truth lights my way; and You’re always willing to show me Your light when I seek it. Amen

Friday, April 02, 2010

2010 – April 2 – A Motley Crew

Study from God’s Word1st Samuel 21: 1- 12; Psalm 56; 1st Sam. 21: 13-15; Psalm 34; 1st Sam. 22: 1,2; Psalm 142; 1st Chronicles 12: 8-18; 1st Samuel 22: 3-5 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Samuel 22: 2 … NIV 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him.

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, my devotional author/editor, aptly points out the parallel between David as a leader and our Savior, Jesus, both of whom attracted a rather “motley crew” of followers. It is interesting to note how Jesus surrounded Himself with a small band of disciples, who were, when you analyze them, not the types of men you might select to set the world on fire for the gospel message. But both Jesus and David knew to trust the guiding light of the Holy Spirit, Who was upon both of these leaders, to select those men who were led to David and to Jesus individually to be their disciples and warriors.

Have you ever wondered, as have I, why Jesus chose you [or me] to be His disciple? When I think of what I was like when God, the Holy Spirit, pursued me, I identify with being part of that ”motley crew” who was led to Jesus – and to David. Somehow, when I was at my lowest point of brokenness, Jesus saw something in me that He could use for God’s glory; and He pursued me; and that pursuit was very purposeful and powerful, as I even tried to avoid Him for a long time. But being the “Hound of Heaven,” my Lord saw something of value in me; and He came after me, until I finally surrendered and became part of His “motley crew” of followers.

Perhaps, like me, you identify with some of Jesus’ original 12 … and/or the add-on, Paul, the latter Apostle. Most certainly I see a lot of Peter in myself; and as one who has had a “Damascus Road” type conversion, I see a lot of Paul in me as well. And now, I know that I follow my Lord, just like that original “motley crew” of disciples followed Jesus, and like David’s men followed him. Sometimes, I don’t know where Jesus is leading me; and I’m sure that was the case for David’s men, especially as he led them into that cave in the Negev as they were escaping Saul. But I do know that I’m following the Right One; and like David, Who only followed His Lord, we, who follow Jesus, should be able to say, with confidence, as David sung in Psalm 56; 3-4, When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

When we, the “motley crew” following Jesus, find ourselves being afraid in the midst of challenging times or even persecution, we can say, as did the Apostle Paul (in Romans 8: 31), If God be for me, who can stand against me. We can also cry out what God said to all of His motley followers [in Is. 41: 10], So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

And when you internalize and believe in the truth of these words, aren’t you glad you’re part of the “motley crew” who follows Jesus?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I am with You because I know You’re with me. Amen