Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 – May 31 – The Seasons of Life

Study from God’s Word Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 17; 11: 7 – 12: 8; 12: 13 – 14; 1st Kings 11: 41 [2nd Chron. 9: 29]; 1st Kings 11: 42-43 [2nd Chron. 9: 30-31] … Passage for Reflection: Ecclesiastes 3: 1 … NIV There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

My Journal for Today: Today is the last day of May, which is a month identified with Spring; and then we move into the lushness and warmth of Summer. And during this weekend, at the end of May, we celebrate Memorial Day, where we honor our Veterans who died so that we might live. Can you see the seasons playing themselves out in that? Winter and Summer. Life and Death. In the seasons of our world there is balance; and we experience the ebb and flow of life as the seasons unfold.

That’s the message of Ecclesiastes 3; and I know you’ve probably read it … that there is a “TIME” for all things of life. As Smith taught it today in his devotional, ”How can we expect seasons of happiness without seasons of pain? Or seasons of growth without seasons of plantings? Or seasons of excitement with seasons of calm? To wish that our winters of distress could be milder is to risk missing the strength of perseverance harsh winters produce. … We learn from the seasons of nature that, while no season of life lasts forever, every season is important.”

Personally, that’s good writing and wise words; and it’s certainly supported by the section of Ecclesiastes introduced by the sentence Smith highlighted as the touchtone passage of today’s devotional. Yet, as humans, with a sin nature, we have a love-hate relationship with the seasons, don’t we? Some of us love being in the warmth of the summer; but those who love the summer many times hate the cold of the winter. Yet we know, intellectually, that we can’t have the warmth of the summer without the cold of the winter.

Oh how we love the excitement of Christmas; but somehow we, as Christians, know that the winter of Christmas is our reminder of the life which was born as the “reason for the season;” and He points us toward the very necessary death on the cross which we celebrate in the life affirming season of Spring. Yes, there is a time for birth; but there is also a time for death; and we must accept and understand the balance God has for all of the seasons of our life.

Smith’s question for today: Have I learned to welcome whatever season comes my way?
And I’m convicted by this question to more readily accept the pain I experience from my season of arthritis which reminds me of my age being in the fall of life, knowing that the winter which lies ahead will bring me closer to the season where I’ll go home to be with my Savior. When will that occur? I don’t know; but I do know, and accept that God is in control of the seasons of my life; and He has a season which is appointed and anointed to be mine … now … and in the future. And I trust that His seasons are always the right seasons, timed perfectly for His glory.

As Solomon was born to signify the eternal wisdom of God; yet his life signified the foolishness of the human condition. And so, studying Ecclesiastes we find the balance of Godly wisdom from the season of Solomon’s foolishness. To me the ultimate meaning of Ecclesiastes is found in the last two verses of this book, which I see as Solomon’s last will and testament, his declaration of wisdom to honor God after living a life riddled with foolishness. In verses 13-14 of Chapter 12 Solomon (and God) writes … 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

I hope – and pray – that we all get that … and live it out through the seasons of our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to celebrate the season of now so that I can live for the season of tomorrow. Amen

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 – May 30 – Avoiding the Extremes

Study from God’s Word Today I was led to study the Proverbs of the Teacher – Sayings of Solomon dealing with life issues coming from the wisdom of having lived for many years … Passage for Reflection: Ecclesiastes 7: 16 - 18… NIV 16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise — why destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool — why die before your time?
For Scriptural Comparison: Ecclesiastes 7: 16 - 18… NKJV 16 Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time?

My Journal for Today: Yes, there are PROVERBS in the book of Ecclesiastes as well as those in the Book of Proverbs, both attributed to the teachings of Solomon. So, what’s the difference? Well, the answer lies partly in when they were written in Solomon’s life. Proverbs was written much earlier in Solomon’s reign, very likely for a younger father to impart what wisdom God had entrusted with him to his first born son, his family, and Gods’ people. But Ecclesiastes was written to impart wisdom to all of God’s peoples from a King who had lived many years in disobedience to God’s law and His commands to Kings of His chosen people. In Ecclesiastes these are the proverbs of experience rather than the teachings of anticipation we find in Proverbs.

Solomon had learned, by this time in his life, important lessons from life about life; and he was compelled, and I believe Spirit-led – to document those lessons into the Book of the Teacher, which we call “Ecclesiastes.” And today one of those lessons, which teacher Smith focused upon, had to do with doing what we can to avoid extremes in our life. The lesson, in a nutshell, is to find healthy balance in life so as to avoid the stresses from extremism which shorten our life span. “Moderation in all things” … is the saying we’ve probably all heard. And I enjoy the translators of the NIV version of Eccles. 7: 16-18 coining non-words, like “overrighteous” or “overwicked” to describe the extremes of life styles which we can choose to be a part of as we live for Christ. These may not be real words; but they communicate the meaning of moving in our lives to find the balance of Godly living which avoids extremism, legalism, and perfectionism.

But a teaching like this one raises questions, which are explored by author/editor Smith. We know that we’re all wicked (see Romans 3: 23). We’re all sinners; so avoiding being overly wicked is certainly an extreme I can see we should avoid. However, what about the admonition in today’s passage to avoid being “overrighteous?” Is it ever the case that believers should tone down our efforts to be sinless? Didn’t Jesus, as Smith points out, say (in Matt. 5: 48), Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect? And that one caused me to pause a bit when thinking about today’s lesson from Ecclesiastes; because I’d certainly like to be a sinner who is striving hard to become like the model of “sinlessness” we have in our Savior, Jesus. And I know that God’s Spirit has been imparted into my heart to help reshape me, through sanctification, into my Lord’s image.

So, what about the words in Solomon’s teachings to avoid being “overrighteous?” Well, I agree with Dr. Smith that the answer lies in THE EFFORT to be sinless, not the aspiration toward sinlessness. Have you ever known someone, likely a very insecure Christian, who became “burned out” from mind-numbing and body-draining efforts to be perfect? This is the person who can – in their own eyes – never be good enough? And when we see such a person, we can reasonably say that we’re observing “graceless” perfectionism and a person who’s captured in the tentacles of legalism.

God’s grace, which was modeled by Jesus, is a life of balance between grace and truth; and that should be the life we live … with enough grace in our lives to forgive our own foibles and with a pursuit of truth which drives us into a lifestyle of worship where obedience to Christ’s commands is our goal and prize. We can avoid the extremes of self righteousness where legalism becomes a lifestyle. And hence, here is the self examination question, Smith uses to get us to look at ourselves in this regard: ”From what I honestly know of myself, do I need to be far more harsh with myself … or far more gentle?” And I’ll charge you to answer that one for yourself as I pray for myself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be diligent in my commitment to be more like You; but give me the grace to forgive myself, as You do, when I fall short. Amen

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 – May 29 [SAT] – A Cord of THREE Strands

Study from God’s Word Dr. Smith’s reading of Ecclesiastes in Chronological Order cover the topics of the emptiness of human wisdom, pleasure, achievement, human labor, the human condition, unshared lives [today’s passage], false worship, politics, wealth/materialism/prosperity, defiance, wickedness, injustice, and the emptiness of human strength … Passage for Reflection: Ecclesiastes 4: 11 – 12 … NIV 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

My Journal for Today: Reading through the various passages selected by F. LaGard Smith today to emphasize Solomon’s realization of the meaningless of a life lived for self, one has to be struck with one repeated phrase which keeps being recited over and over again by Solomon as he exposes the elements of life which are lived without God and for self. The repeated sentence is, ”This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” So, as man plays the “Lone Ranger” game of Christian life by seeking meaning through all of the elements documented above, to which Solomon refers in Ecclesiastes, have you not discovered by now that chasing life for self is “chasing after the wind?” BUT, seeking God (primarily through His word) gives a person, or, even better, a married couple, that extra strand to strengthen us when we find ourselves chasing after the wind in meaninglessness.

Today’s highlight verse emphasizes one such aspect of life which provides power, strength, and direction so that we will not be “chasing after the wind.” And Dr. Smith uses the word picture of a wedding ceremony which uses the ceremonial picture of showing the joining of THREE strands together in a “marriage cord,” invoking God as the third strand, to give the marriage so much more strength than it would have if the cord of marriage only was woven by two cords.

You know, my wife and I were married in a church; but neither of us had Christ in our lives. Therefore, our church vows were meaningless in God’s eyes, much like what Solomon brought out in Ecclesiastes. We were joined in life by a marriage contract of two coming together in agreement rather than having the third cord of God in our marriage. So, for the first 18 years of our marriage we tried to make life work together with two cords intertwined. And it didn’t work, almost coming unraveled at one point as we dealt with the winds of distrust and my own personal selfishness. Then we let Christ into our marriage; and our two-corded strand became a three-corded strand; and a marriage which had been chasing, but bucking, the head winds of life, was given that THIRD STRAND of Christ to turn our marriage ship into the wind, and use God’s sail to move us through life, together again, but this time with a three-corded strand.

Oh, how I pray that you’re not trying to go through life alone with only one cord to deal with life. You and God together, if you’re single, can be so much stronger. But if you’re married, and you’ve seen the advantage of a two-corded strand, working together for and with each other, you’ll add so much more strength and purpose to your marriage if it is bound by the covenant relationship of that Third Cord of Christ. And it’s never too late for a husband and wife to go to God and ask Him to become the Holy third strand in the cord of a marriage. And if you’re two-cords become three, you’re going to discover what my wife and I have discovered in the truth of Eccles. 4: 11-12; and I pray that you have God’s extra cord to wrap around your life for strength.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You, as the third cord in our marriage, give us the strength we need and the direction we seek to live our lives TOGETHER for You. Amen

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 – May 28 [FRI] – When Vanity Is Meaningless

Blogger's Note: I know I'm "jumping the gun" a bit by posting on Thursday night rather than as I usually do daily by posting my devotional in the mornings. But I'm at a Christian conference in Washington, DC (very powerful BTW); and tomorrow AM we'll be starting our conference day in prayer at 5am (4am my normal body time). So, I've done my devotional here on Thur. night and am posting it here. Thanks for the flexibility of reading this a bit out of my usual time schedule.

Study from God’s Word Ecclesiastes 1: 1 – 11; Eccl. 6: 10-12; Eccl. 3: 18 – 22; Eccl. 2: 12 – 16; Eccl. 9: 1-12; Eccl. 8: 16-17; … Passage for Reflection: Ecclesiastes 1: 1 – 2 … NIV 1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
Ecclesiastes 1: 1 – 2 [NKJV] … 1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “ Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

My Journal for Today: I find great meaning and hope in reading and studying the book of Ecclesiastes, either written or dictated by Solomon later in his life or a book dedicated to Solomon’s later-life realizations and philosophies by some God-inspired Scribe. No matter the true author; Ecclesiastes is, and has become, part of our “Scripture,” and it is part of the Old Testament wisdom literature from God which we can use to guide our lives.

I find such personal hope from reading and learning in the Book, the title of which, “Ecclesiastes,” means in Hebrew, “The Teacher” or “The Preacher.” And studying this Book becomes a lesson from God in the meaning of life, especially directed from (or to) a man who has learned a great deal from making a lot of mistakes in life. And that’s certainly me!

I blew off 22 years, living a life of “vanity,” being captured into my own patterns of disobedience and sinful living; and here I am, as was Solomon, later in his life, realizing that only a life lived for God and in obedience to God’s word can ultimately have impact on the world for God and His kingdom. It’s not that I wouldn’t have lived in heaven eternally if I had died on April 14th, 1983, the day after I received Christ as my Savior and Lord. No, if that had happened, like the thief dying on the cross and surrendering to Jesus on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, I would have been ushered into heaven to be with my Savior forever, but my life would have had – and has had – much more power by surrendering to God in obedience and living in humility according to His word [it the living out of Romans 12: 1-2].

And Solomon may have come to the realization that his life could have been so much more if he, like his father, David, had, earlier in life, come to live out those later years of his life in obedience and surrender to God’s ways rather than having lived a squandered life of selfishness and sinful disobedience.

Life doesn’t have to be all “vanity.” It can be a life lived for Christ with fruitful purpose and design (see John 15: 1-8 and Galatians 5: 19 – 25). But we, as Solomon ultimately declared at the end of Ecclesiastes, must live lives in surrender to God and His purpose rather than lives squandered in selfishness and sin.

We choose; and God supplies the grace for us to finish strong. (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9-10).

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to finish strong! Amen

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 – May 26 [Wed.] – Pure Passion

Study from God’s Word Psalm 127; Song of Songs [or “Song of Solomon”] … Passage for Reflection: Song of Songs 3: 5… NIV Daughter of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field; Don not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

My Journal for Today: What do you do with Solomon’s love song, the “Song of Songs?” There’s been a lot of ink written about the meaning of this rather interesting piece of poetic wisdom literature, … a lot of speculation about it’s real meaning. To the Jews it was probably an allegory about the love relationship between Jehovah and his chosen people. To the New Covenant Christians it could be an allegorical expression of about the love of Christ for His Bride, the Church. Or it could have been Solomon, again writing for his younger family, a poem, expressing the true nature of God-given passion in the love relationship we know of as marriage.

But today, Dr. Smith, my devotional shepherd, discusses a strong point of emphasis that sexual or sensual passion must be bridled so that it can be blessed by God to pour forth its completeness in the lives and love expressions of two lovers whom God is pouring out His grace of love as being expressed by the two in the love language of sexual expression. Sexually expressed love, as God designed it, was not fashioned to be a “wham-bam-thank you, Ma’am” experience. No, sex between two God-anointed lovers is to be a work of art which takes time to be fashioned. As Dr. Smith puts it, “… the lesson [from Song of Solomon] is that a rush to physical intimacy kills the goose of emotional and spiritual intimacy that lays the golden egg of sexual fulfillment.” And he goes on to posit, “True love waits for pure love, … and pure passion,” which I think is aptly expressed by Solomon in his erotic, Spirit-inspired poem.

Satan and the world, especially our modern Hollywood culture, have done a “bang up” (if you would pardon my crude expression) job of perverting the image of “love making;” and have successfully extracted the context of the God-created sexual expression of love from its proper, God-anointed context, which is in the marriage between one man to/for one woman for life. Sex is to be, as properly expressed in the Solomon’s Love Song, a carefully crafted and sensually fashioned love experience; and that takes whatever time God would have the called-out couple need to express to one another what God has given them in their two bodies to become one.

And when that time is chosen and fashioned in the way God intended it, the Song of Solomon expresses just how beautiful that expression of sensual love can be for two intended to become one in the flesh. We all need to read and meditate from the one piece of sexually inspired literature which can/will produce God’s best for sex in our lives. Aren’t you glad God loves sex; and that He designed it so that we can love it too.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for sex the way You designed it. Amen

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2010 – May 25 [Tues] – Man, Woman, and Mystery

Study from God’s Word Proverbs 30 and 31 … Passage for Reflection: Proverbs 30: 18 - 19… NIV 18 "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: 19 the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.

My Journal for Today: The Book of Proverbs closes out with two sets of poems, supposedly not by Solomon, … poems which express much wisdom about manhood, womanhood, and these creatures abiding with God TOGETHER; and today’s focus/highlight verse comes from the sayings of a man referred to as Agur, chosen by God’s Spirit to be a Psalmist [although some scholars have claimed that “Agur” was a pseudonym Solomon chose to use to write this one set of proverbs in Psalm 30. Whoever he is, Agur is a man of much wisdom when you read his poetic verses in this one Psalm.

And reading this poem and the great wisdom of the Godly woman in Psalm 31, one has to see that God created a great and perplexing mystery into the genders of man and woman. And man has always had some of the attitude even Adam must’ve had for his Eve, the attitude which is expressed by the character of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, when he sings, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Yes, like many of us men, we come to realize that when we married or felt “hooked” by a woman, we were wrapped around the perplexing finger of a creature who was almost our diametric opposite. And, when we’re able to humble ourselves to realize this truth, we have to see that this was God’s design, … to create the “perfected completer,” a woman for a man, who would be vastly different, making man complete when man and woman came together in his first institution, which was marriage.

What a mystery! Two opposites becoming one, yet completing one another, and creating unity out of difference. Is that not wonderful?!! Sometimes, when I think of the 45 years I’ve been blessed to share with my wife, Elly, I’m dumb-founded that two such opposites can be so perfectly matched to face life together as we have. And there have been times when the difference between us caused great, almost explosive, clashes; yet, here we are, after 45 years, experiencing a together of intimacy which only God could have fashioned, especially as our live together glorifies our Lord.

I’m not going to try to add any wisdom here or even try to explain how this mystery of man and woman can come together for God’s glory. All I can do is charge you, as I’m doing here, to praise God for his creation; and if you’ve been able to make a relationship work, as God intended, merely thank Him and go on making that relationship all God intended it to be for His glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You gave me Elly; and all I can do is praise Your Holy Name for her. I, Your man, am completed by this woman. Amen

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 – May 24 – Wearing Blindfolds to Please

Study from God’s Word Many Proverbs concerning people issues listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 1, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, , and 29, ordered by topics by the Editor, including Parents/Children, The Elderly, Women/wives, Kings/Rulers [Today’s Subject], Messengers, Companions, Caution, Reputation, Courage, and HopePassage for Reflection: Proverbs 18: 11… NIV If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.

My Journal for Today: As Dr. Smith points out today by referring to the classic “The Emperor Has No Clothes” story, a king, political leader, or even a Church Pastor, can be ill served and get into very deep – very HOT – waters if he [and not bowing to political correctness, I say “HE” with a biblical reason] is surrounded by manipulative fools who use “yes men” tactics to protect themselves or control their leader.

Have you ever been a leader who did foolish things because you were given foolish advice which tickled your fancy but was not what you needed to hear to do the right thing? I’ve been there, done than, and as they say, “I have the T-Shirt” on that one. I’ve also been in the position of having to call out the truth when I knew that my “boss,” or the leader to whom I was responsible, needed to hear the truth and not what was politically correct or personally pleasing to him.

I’m convinced that some leaders, who make inglorious mistakes, maybe a President like Richard Nixon, do so because they’ve surrounded themselves by foolish “yes-men,” who’ll tickle their fancies rather than tell the truth. Hence, it is so important for leaders to surround themselves – or have access to – straight-talking, righteous followers, who will speak the truth in love and, like the little boy in the classic story, tell the King that he’s wearing no clothes.

I hope we all have someone in our lives, someone very close, who has a discerning spirit, … one who is Godly-wise, … and one who will confront us in love with the truth – THE WHOLE TRUTH – when we need to hear it. Personally, I need this badly because, by nature, I’m a very gullible man with a Jeremiah 17: 9 heart, … a spirit which is vulnerable to lies which make me feel good. So, I’m blessed, in my role of family Priest, Church Elder, and Ministry Leader, to be surrounded by a wife, Brother Elders, and ministry followers who, if I was walking naked into the world, would cry out, “Bill, you’re wearing no clothes!!!” And I listen to them; because I know they love me and will always speak the truth into my life.

I pray that you have truth-speakers in your life as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I thank you for leading people into my life who speak the truth in love to me when I need to hear You speaking through them. Amen

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2010 – May 23 – Securities and Trust

Study from God’s Word Many Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and 29, ordered by topics by the Editor, including Wealth/Poverty, Benevolence/Generosity, Oppression of the Poor, Industriousness, Conversation, and Surety for AnotherPassage for Reflection: Proverbs 18: 11… NIV The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. Prov. 18: 11 … NKJV … 11 Rich people trust their wealth to protect them. They think it is like the high walls of a city.

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, my devotional shepherd, asks the probing personal question at the end of his entry for today, “If I’m being completely honest, in what seemingly unscalable walls do I trust for my security?” And I immediately, from the truth of God’s word, which wells up from my memory of what God’s word says, I recall Proverbs 3: 5-6 and also Prov. 3: 9-10. I hope you know what those say to our minds, hearts, and lives. But if not, I charge you now to go and find, read, and meditate on these truths, which were included in the Proverbs I was led to read this morning from the passages Dr. Smith led me into in his edited version of The Bible in Chronological Order.

And Dr. Smith this morning also points to an interesting, almost comical, irony when we consider that stocks and bonds, the financial entities into which so many of us invest so much of our lives, are ironically called “securities.” And given what is happening in the stock market these days, do you really have a lot of “security” in these stocks and bonds? And when you read this morning’s highlighted verse in Proverb 18: 11, don’t you just love the name of the human institution where we trade our “securities.” We call it “Wall Street.” And remembering the world bending “crash of 1929,” and seeing where “Wall Street” is headed right now, are we ever going to get the picture that the walls of “Wall Street” are not secure? We may put “In God We Trust” on all our coins; but when will we learn that motto in real life; and when will we learn that we can never put any degree of life-saving trust in the coins which bear this motto?

If we put our trust on any institution or entity which we believe has impenetrable walls to protect us, we could be headed toward a monumental crash. The citizens of Jericho built great walls to protect themselves; and those walls came tumbling down before God. Many people put their trust in their walled cities of education, science, or political institutions; and don’t we really see how shaky those walls will be before the same God Who is the source of the knowledge which built those walled cities? There is only one great “Wall Street”; and it is in Him where we must invest our “securities” of Spiritual surrender. And it is only when we quit trying to trust worldly “Wall Streets” and give our lives over to the One Who is our only real “Security” can we expect to find real protection and peace in this life.

So, answer with me the pertinent and poignant question, “Where do I find my “securities;” and where is my ultimate “Wall Street?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I am surrendered to You as my “Wall Street” of life, here and in Heaven. Amen

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 – May 22 – A Better Way of Seeing the Light

Study from God’s Word Many Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 1, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 ordered by topics by the Editor, including Violence, Murderers, Causing Others Harm, Revenge, Dissension/Strife, Meddling, Truthfulness, Accurate Weights, Boundary Stones, Wrongfully Obtained Gains, Bribery, False Witness, Open-Mindedness, and JusticePassage for Reflection: Proverbs 18: 17… NIV The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

My Journal for Today: “Seeing the light” … and … “finding the truth” requires an open minded and rigorous search through all the evidence to determine if perceived truth is real truth. And Dr. Smith in his devotional entry for today asks the self challenging question, Is my truth really as true as I believe it to be.”

I’m one who believes in the truth which I’ve read, written by Paul in 2nd Tim. 3: 16, 17. I hope you can quote what it says. All Scripture (i.e., the entire Bible) is inspired by God; and is profitable for doctrine, for instruction, for rebuke, and for correction in righteousness; … that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. Do you believe that to be true? Have you examined the facts, in a Berean way (see Luke 17: 10-15), to see if examined evidence backs up the claims of this Scriptural position? As today’s Proverb posits, if we take the Bible and we scrutinize it with the facts of history and the findings of such sciences as archeology, we’d have a lot more confidence in the claimed promises and theological positions in the Bible than if we just went with what it said in THE BOOK.

Well, I went off to college believing that the Bible was true. Then I had an atheist room-mate who asked a bunch of questions about the so-called inconsistencies in the Bible; and he destroyed my faith. For many years I came to believe that THE BOOK was just a bunch of fables and myths, until I was challenged to really look at it; and the latter actually occurred AFTER I had declared Christ to be my Lord and Savior.

BUT (and here is another one of those big “BUTS”), as an atheist, the more I researched the facts which support the promises and claims of the Bible, like those Bereans did when they heard the teachings of Paul in Acts 17, I came to realize – and believe – that THE BOOK is the truth, … the whole truth, … so help Him, God. Other former atheists, and intellectual giants, men like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel or C.S. Lewis (if you go to this website, you’ll see a long list like those three), men who have come to conversion to Christianity and full belief in the veracity of the Bible by merely being willing to look at the evidence of scriptural truth. If you go and read their books, Evidence that Demands a Verdict [McDowell], The Case for Faith [Strobel], or Mere Christianity [Lewis], you will see why these men, when they really cross-examined the Bible and those apologists who argued for its veracity, came to a faith changing decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives; and now they teach and preach what they know to be the truth of the Bible and it’s Gospel message. I challenge anyone of unbelief, who questions the truth of the Bible, to read all three of those books above and then to come back and make the same claims of unbelief.

Oh, how I pray that all who read this have examined the evidence for the truth of Scripture; because if you do, … no matter how deep you go into cross examination of the facts, you’ll come to see, as all those on that list at the website I linked you to above have realized, that the Bible is the real deal; and by believing in its truth, you are believing in the truth of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world [and that include you and me].

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I have examined the truth; and I believe! Amen

Friday, May 21, 2010

2010 – May 21 – Bad Timing, or Blind Self?

Study from God’s WordMany Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 10, 11, 12, 13,14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, and 21, ordered by topics by the Editor, including Wise/Foolish Talk, Righteous/Wicked talk, Appropriate Speech, Maintaining Silence, Controlled Speech, Flattery, Slander/Gossip, Hurtful Speech, Quarreling, Lying, and the Power of the TonguePassage for Reflection: Proverbs 27: 14 … NIV If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. … Proverbs 25: 11 … A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

My Journal for Today: Today, Dr. Smith took me (and his readers) through a series of Proverbs dealing with the effect of rightly as opposed to wrongly applied speech. And any time I read or review these Proverbs, two NT passages bubble up into my consciousness and they are the writings of James in James 3: 1 – 12 and Paul’s wise words in Ephesians 4: 29. I have provided links for you to go back and review these passages. You may know them; but if not, I would suggest you review them before going on to read what God is giving me to write in my blog/journal this morning this about the Proverbs F. LaGard Smith had me review today, especially the highlighted verses.

Words are powerful; and when they are directed in a God-led manner or to be expressions of His grace or His love, they can prove incredibly powerful for our God’s glory. However, the opposite side of that coin is true as well. When we do not conform to the exhortation of Paul in Eph. 4: 29; and corrupt communication proceeds from our minds and mouths, great harm can take place. That is the message James put forth in Chapter 3 of the book written by him … that the tongue is such a small, but potent, organ of the body, … capable of poisoning the waters of life, misdirecting the course of our ships of life, and being the match which sets fires to vast numbers of living trees. Three different word pictures; but all reinforced by most of the Proverbs Solomon wrote to give his readers the message that what we say and when we say it being so very important in our lives.

The focus verses today are also very truth serving. We can say one thing at one time or in one context where the same words will have vastly different meanings if spoken at another time or context in someone’s life. And I know you’ve experienced the scenario of speaking words, which, when taken out of context can create a fire-storm which you didn’t intend to set. Don’t you just know not to say exciting things early in the morning to a person who is not a “morning person?” Being a morning person myself and my wife NOT being so, I learned a long time ago, not to bring exciting observations (in my estimation) to her attention until the cobwebs had been cleared and it was later in her morning. And most certainly I’ve experienced the scenario of a person misunderstanding my words because that person took what I said out of context. When we say certain things can be just as important as what we say.

Most certainly the admonition of Paul in Philippians 2: 3-4 is absolutely true [linked for you here]; and we should consider the feelings and positions of others before our own. However, when we are communicating to others, we need to realize that the understanding of what we say may be drastically altered by when we say it and how we communicate those words. I pray today that we all internalize this important lesson.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me discernment on how and when to say what I say … speaking only word of Your love and letting my words be expressions of Your grace. Amen

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 – May 20 – The Virtue of Patience

Blogger’s Note: For those who expect my devotional journal entry to be posted relatively early in the morning, I am tardy today, having awakened with some sort of malaise and physical malady – undetermined at this time – general achiness, feeling almost febrile with no fever, a lot of sinus drainage and coughing up mucous from lungs. UGH!!! So, please forgive my late entry; and understand that my mind is not quite as focused on being with God today as it might be generally. But nonetheless I feel grateful to be here with my God; and I know He has something for me today as He does everyday. So, I will do my best to seek His mind and convey it here as best I can.

Study from God’s WordMany Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 5, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 29, ordered by topics by the Editor, including Self control, Rashness, Temper/Patience, Drunkenness/Gluttony, Adultery, and Prostitution …Passage for Reflection: Proverbs 14: 29 … NIV A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

My Journal for Today: Have you ever, as an adult, had a temper tantrum or some explosion of temperament where you said or did something really embarrassing or stupid? If you answered “No” to that, you are a rare individual; and I’d like to tap into your sense of self control.

Personally, I explode with my temper every now and then; but it’s interesting to reflect on this because I’m not one who lets it be known to the public. No, I have my temper tantrums only in the presence of my wife, the one whom I declare to love the most on this earth. I’ve even put my fist through a wall once. I’ve broken things in her presence; and always my anger is directed towards my own stupidity or some circumstance which is out of my control; and I’ve never hit or directed my anger at anyone else. For example, I’ll bang on the steering wheel of the car when traffic patterns anger me in my wife’s presence. Interestingly, I never do that when I’m alone or with others in the car – only when Elly is in the car. And another interesting pattern about my degree of emotional self control. I never – and I mean NEVER – get angry when circumstances involve other people. I seem to have great patience with other people but can – and often do - fly off the handle very easily – but once again, in my wife’s presence only. And looking back on these situations, the circumstances are always so trivial.

So, what’s that all about? Maybe you have a pattern of emotional explosiveness that is like mine … or maybe one that is very different. My wife finds it very easy to get mad at other people; but almost never gets angry and loses control in the face of tough external circumstances. Maybe you’re more like Elly than like me. Perhaps you have your own pattern of emotional volcanic eruptions. But then again, maybe you’re the rare one who is very self-controlled and extremely patient in all circumstances.

I do know, though, that I’m more self controlled now as a Christian than I was as a non-Christian years ago; and that degree of emotional self control is also likely tempered by the fact that I’m older, and hopefully wise,r than I was years ago. Certainly we know that our kids and grandkids cannot be expected to have the same degree of patience in handling the world as do their parents or grandparents. So, we would hope that we all grow into more patience. But we can know, as Christians, that God has given all believers His Spirit-imparted fruit of patience (see Gal. 5: 22-23). And that fruit will only mature and become sweeter in the life of a Christian who is in surrender mode to God’s Spirit, letting God impart his enabling grace to help us meet the circumstances of life. That is what we read and get from passages like 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9.

And so, taking all of this into account, I can expect for God to give me the empowering grace of patience I need to handle tough circumstances in life, IF – and that depends on my attitude – I humble myself, seek and receive God’s grace to cover my weakness of impatience. I believe the fruit of patience is growing and maturing in my life. I just need to have the patience to let God shape that fruit into me to the point that He is glorified by that fruit becoming more evident in my demeanor. Yes, that’s a paradox. I become patient by choosing to be patient; and I become more impatient to the degree that I’m impatient. It’s like answering the question: How does one become spontaneous voluntarily? And the answer is … one becomes spontaneous by being more and more intentional.

So, how do we become more patient? ANSWER: We become more patient by choosing to be patient. And so, I now pray for patience … knowing that God loves for me to be patient; and also knowing that He may put me through trials of circumstantial fire to purge the impatience from my soul. BUT … wanting to be more patient, that will be my prayer today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be more patient; but be merciful and ever patient with Your impatient child in the process of maturing me in this fruitfulness. Amen

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 – May 19 – Of Hidden Motives

Study from God’s Word Many Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 6, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29, ordered by topics by the Editor, including Self motivation, False Worship, Duplicity, Love and Concern, Faithfulness, Hatred and Compassion, Kindness and Mercy, Welcome, Pride and Humility, Selfishness, Jealousy, Envy and GreedPassage for Reflection: Proverbs 16: 2 … NIV All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

My Journal for Today: If you read and meditate on today’s highlight verse, letting it be a self analysis of our own motives for doing what we do, one could become convicted pretty quickly. I sure am!

For example, why are you here, reading along with Bill Berry in this devotional? Is it to grow in Christ or so that you can check off – honestly – on Facebook that you liked what I had to say? Or another one; … why did you put your tithe in the offering plate last Sunday? Is it because you gladly want to give the first fruits of God’s providence back to the Lord for Him to use it for His glory; or is it because you wanted that person sitting next to you in church to see you putting the envelope in the plate? … I know, I’m meddling; but let me ask you one more. … You exercised five days last week [okay, I’m being optimistic], doing aerobic and toning exercises. Did you do it to maintain God’s temple, the body, as we’re charged in 1st Cor. 6: 19-20; or did you do it so that you can look good in a mirror and be able to wear a bathing suit with pride this summer?

Yes, motive is important, isn’t it? It’s certainly important in a murder trial; but it’s even more important when it comes why we do what we do daily – for God’s glory or for selfish pride. As Dr. Smith points out with such brutal honesty today, ”… in God’s eyes it’s not just WHAT we do that counts, but WHY!” And he goes on, prodding me to ask myself (or you, yourself), ”When was the last time I double-checked my motives for doing even the good things I do?”

OUCH!!! Well, Dr. Smith, … that one hurt!! I guess I need to ask myself, why I’m sitting here writing this today. Am I doing it to get to know my God more deeply and intimately and to share what I learn with others? Or am I doing it so that I can imagine you saying, “Look how disciplined that Bill Berry is!” I’d like to think that my motive is the former; but sometimes, I have to admit, especially when someone makes an affirming comment about my discipline, I revel in gleeful pride that my brother/sister in Christ has noticed and is affirming my work.

Like it says in 2nd Cor. 13: 5 [linked] we all need to examine ourselves in the faith periodically to determine our motives and to get ourselves back into surrender mode to the Holy Spirit’s work of reshaping our attitudes and actions into those which mirror our Savior, Jesus. And to that end I pray today. >>>

My Prayer for Today: Lord, keep me open to Your enlightening and enabling grace, convicting me and directing my motives to glorify You in all I think, say, and do. Amen

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2010 – May 18 - Disciplining for Eternity

Study from God’s Word Many Proverbs listed in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order from Proverbs 3, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, ordered by topics including Advice/Rebuke, Advisers, Discipline, Lawkeeping, Repentance, as well as Good and EvilPassage for Reflection: Prov. 23: 13-14… NIV Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

My Journal for Today: What do we do with this truth? It is proverbial truth, isn’t it? But the “spare the rod and spoil the child” principle has wavered in our culture with application, hasn’t it?

Personally, with regard to our own parenting, we used “the rod” sparingly, … but effectively; and it seemed to help our two girls, who could be a bit difficult at times in their formative years of development. And they have turned out to be very “good” girls with great parenting skills, both of whom, BTW, use disciplining with their “wooden spoons,” which we’ve observed being used selectively and effectively to raise our grandkids.

But I want to take this discussion a bit beyond the application of family parenting this morning and discuss something raised by Dr. Smith; and that is how Churches, or the family of God, use discipline to help raise up the children of God in the family of God for Christlike discipleship and the glory of God. As an Elder in a rather large church, I don’t think churches today take this proverbial principle of solid discipline seriously enough to let God, the Holy Spirit, use the church to help disciples grow in their faith and avoid death-producing sin in their lives. And I really don’t have enough space/time to discuss this very complex, but pertinent, topic here today.

Save it to say, churches today have gotten away from what Jesus taught in Matthew 18, as well as some of Paul’s teachings, to help the church to discipline its members; and by being slack in this area of discipleship, I believe we do not allow God’s Spirit to work as effectively and powerfully as He could to help God’s flock to grow into the abiding and fruitful relationship with Christ which I believe God desires for all of His children.

I hope you meditate on this passage today, maybe considering how you have parented your children; but also from the standpoint of how your church disciplines its members. When is the last time you knew of a brother or sister in Christ being disciplined by your church as is prescribed and taught in the New Testament Scripture? Perhaps if families disciplined their kids more strictly and lovingly and churches lovingly and strongly disciplined their members, we would not have many of the social evils we see growing in our culture and churches today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help Your body, the Church, to execute loving and rightful discipline as You have spelled it out in Your word. Amen

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 – May 17 – Wising Up, … the Hard Way

Study from God’s Word Prov. 22: 17 – 21; Prov. 1: 1 – 7; Prov. 25: 1; Prov. 9: 10 – 12; Prov. 10: 27; Prov. 14: 2, 26-27; Prov. 15: 33; Prov. 29: 23; Prov. 28: 14; Prov. 3: 5 – 8; Prov. 14: 12 [16: 25]; Prov. 16: 3, 20; Prov. 18: 2, 4, 10; Prov. 19: 3; Prov. 20: 24; Prov. 21: 22; Prov. 26: 12; Prov. 28: 26; Prov. 29: 25; Prov. 15: 3; Prov. 16: 1, 4, 9, 33; Prov. 19: 21; Prov. 21: 30-31; Prov. 22: 12; Prov. 27: 1; Prov 13: 14; Prov. 15: 24; Prov. 16: 22: Prov. 17: 13; Prov. 24: 7, 13-14; Prov. 26: 4 – 11; Prov. 27: 22; Prov. 29: 9; Prov. 10: 13, 23; Prov. 13: 15; Prov. 14: 6, 8, 15, 33; Prov. 15: 21; Prov. 16: 16; Prov. 17: 24; Prov. 20: 5, 12; Prov. 10: 14; Prov. 13: 16; Prov. 14: 18; Prov. 15: 14; Prov. 18: 15; Prov. 19: 2; Prov. 20: 15; Prov. 21: 11; Prov. 23: 12; Prov. 24: 14 … Passage for Reflection: Proverbs 1: 7… NIV 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

My Journal for Today: The proverbs, which I read this morning and documented by number above, were pre-organized by Dr. Smith for the disciple’s study into various topics related to wisdom, … topics such as … The Purpose of the Proverbs, Fear of the Lord, Trust in God, Divine Providence, Wisdom Versus Folly, Dealing with Fools, Discernment and Understanding, and Knowledge. It would have taken me a long, long time to organize these proverbs into study topics like this; so I’m deeply indebted to the work F. LaGard Smith has done in his Daily Bible in Chronological Order so that seekers such as I can read through God’s Proverbs in topical order like this. It makes it so much easier to glean truth and personal application through such a study; and today’s highlight verse zeroes in on one truth which cannot – and must not – be ignored by disciples of Christ; and that is the connection between fear (i.e., “fear of the Lord”) and discipline.

Ugh! “Discipline!!!” That concept just seems to resonate with negative emotions, doesn’t it? We think of being afraid of our parents when we were naughty because of the “discipline” which might (and often did) result. Or we think of all that dedication and “discipline” an Olympic athlete, like a Michael Phelps, had to have to become a Gold Medal winner, … let alone one who wins eight of those suckers.

Yes, “discipline” seems such a hard thing to take; and the concept of “fear,” also found in today’s highlight passage, is another concept which resonates with negative. Yet, like “discipline,” the idea of fear can have enormously positive implications. It is fear of harm which keeps us from doing impulsive and foolish things, isn’t it (or shouldn’t it be)? And it is “fear” and “discipline” which, when applied to one’s life, leads one to excellence, as it did for Phelps swimming for all those gold medals.

So, the question becomes, “How do I apply the FEAR OF THE LORD to my life in a way that I will apply the DISCIPLINE I need to obey Him, serve Him, and glorify Him?” And that’s a matter of faith and belief, isn’t it? If we believe God’s word, which implies the discipline of knowing God’s truth from His word, we will do what God says; and that requires the discipline to read, learn, and apply the precepts found in the Bible to our lives. My challenge has always been CHOOSING to believe that the outcomes are worth the effort it takes to reverence my God – through His truth – enough to dig it out, interpret it for my life, and then to apply it to what I choose to do. And in that process I will become a worthy and effective DISCIPLE (the core of “discipline”) for Christ … OR NOT!!!

I can only pray that I believe and choose to live as a Proverbs 1: 7 disciple of Christ, making Him the Lord all I think, say, and do.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You know my heart; and I do fear You because I know how much You have loved me by dying for me. And oh, how my reverence leads me to know You more today than yesterday … and even more tomorrow than today. Amen

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 – May 16 – Calling All Nincompoops

Study from God’s Word Proverbs topically presented … WISDOM … Proverbs 8: 1 – 36; Prov. 9: 1 - 6; Prov. 2: 1 – 22; Prov. 3: 13 – 24; Prov. 1: 20 – 33; Prov. 9: 13 – 18; and Prov. 4: 1 – 27 … Passage for Reflection: Proverbs 9: 13 - 17… NIV 13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 16 "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. 17 "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"

My Journal for Today: I must admit that I was drawn by curiosity to the title of today’s devotional entry by Dr. Smith as he takes his readers into the book of wisdom which we call PROVERBS. Ordering and editing these poetic reflections on life, mostly authored by Solomon, Smith uses topical divisions for the daily reading segments to help his readers focus on the wisdom being presented by the various proverbial authors. And he begins with probably one the major themes Solomon reflected on in these poems; and that was the essence of “wisdom,” hence today’s title which points, maybe too personally for me, to the opposite of the wise man … that of being what we humans often call … “The Nincompoop (aka, “the fool”).”

Smith helps us see that Solomon uses a word picture to depict a battle between two women, who personify “Wisdom” and “Folly” by his writings. These early proverbs I believe were written during a point of Godly discernment, early in Solomon’s life, when he had sons whom he needed to impart the wisdom God had given to him as king [and of course, as a father as well]. Later in his life, however, we read, for example in Ecclesiastes, how Solomon had become a very cynical man, one who had recognized himself becoming the fool he wrote about in Proverbs while trying to have his progeny avoid such foolishness. But here in Proverbs, inspired by God’s Spirit, we read Solomon writing about the woman, “Wisdom,” whom we are to pursue and the enchantress, “Folly,” whom his sons (and we) should avoid.

Wisdom, as Smith teaches, is the straight up teacher of truth, lauding Godly virtues and promoting knowledge and understanding Folly, on the other hand, is a cunning liar who makes wrong seem right. As Smith puts it, Folly “… knowing that if simpletons fall tor her ridiculous ploy, they will fall for anything.” And all you have to do is look into the headlines of today to see the battle between Wisdom and Folly being played out in our world.

The question becomes, “Who believes he (or she) is following Wisdom; and who is falling for Folly?” And Smith is right; it is the classic battle of life; truth versus falsehood, good versus evil, and right versus wrong. As Smith asks, “Why anyone would side with Folly is a mystery?” Maybe it’s because others can’t see that they fall for the con game of “Folly,” not being able to see the truth of “Wisdom.” And I’m afraid that lack of discernment will be with us into eternity, guided by those who ultimately have, by their choice of faith, received the Holy Spirit to allow the Godly wise to avoid the worldly folly.

But having made this choice in life and having been one who followed “folly” in my past, I can now see the fate of the “simple,” who cannot discern Folly from Wisdom. As Smith refers, we, who know Christ, and have the advantage of Godly discernment, might have weak moments of human follow. And too often we may make reference to those in the world who don’t get it, as being “simple-minded” as a “dimwit, dunce, dumbbell, ignoramus, moron, knucklehead or a nincompoop!” Hopefully we avoid such invective name calling; but I have to admit that what I see now as a Christian makes me rail with pain when I see so many falling for those, representing “Folly,” who spout untruth, selling it as truth. They are those which call bad, good and wrong, right; and people fall for it. My wife often says, “You just can cure dumb!” And she is so, so right.

For so many years I was one of those “nincompoops,” dumbly following “Folly” in the public arena of life; and being the gullible sort I am, I was a pretty easy prey for Satan and his minions, who were leading me so deftly and coyly down the path to eternal damnation. But so fortunately for me, the lady, “Wisdom,” came into my life, speaking the truth God had her to speak to me through other Christians who followed her truthful path. And I was slain by the Spirit of Christ, Who came after me as the Hound of Heaven, allowing me to see His Gospel Truth; … and allowing me to make the decision to see His truth wrapped in His lady, “Wisdom.” And from April 13, 1983 until the present I have been pursuing “Wisdom” rather than falling for “Folly.”

I pray that is your path as well.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, help me to continue to be able to see Your truth and avoid the world’s ways as I delve deeply into Your word, where I know I will always find Your will for my life, allowing me to follow Your light and to avoid the darkness of the world. Amen

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 – May 15 – Not a Wise Move

Study from God’s Word 1st Kings 7: 1 – 12; 1st Kings 9: 1-9 [2nd Chron. 7: 11-22]; 1st Kings 9: 10-14; 2nd Chron. 8: 1-3; 1st Kings 9: 17-19 [2nd Chron. 8: 4-6]; 1st Kings 9: 20-23, 15 [2nd Chron. 8: 7-10]; 1st Kings 9: 24 [2nd Chron. 8: 11]; 1st Kings 9: 26-28 and 10: 22 [2nd Chron. 8: 17, 18 and 9: 21]; 1st Kings 4: 29-34; 1st Kings 10: 14-21, 27, 23-25 [2nd Chron. 1: 15, 9: 13-20, 27, 22-24]; 1st Kings 4: 26, 10: 26, 28-29 [2nd Chron. 1: 14, 16-17; 9: 25, 28]; 1st Kings 4: 21, 24 [2nd Chron. 9: 26]; 1st Kings 4: 20, 25; 1st Kings 4: 1-19; 1st Kings 4: 22, 23-28; 1st Kings 10: 1-13 [2nd Chron. 9: 1-12]; Psalm 72: 1-19 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Chronicles 8: 11 … NIV 11 Solomon brought Pharaoh's daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, "My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the LORD has entered are holy."

My Journal for Today: As you can see above from the record of what I’ve read from the Old Testament today in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, the record of Solomon’s accomplishments and his accumulation of wealth, worldly influence, and power were impressive, to say the least. And I’m so grateful for F. LaGard Smith’s editing of all of this from 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles, where it is all written for us to study in parallel reference. I would have never been able to see all of this in such concise space and time to appreciate all that Solomon did in his 20 year reign while the Temple and his palace were being built.

But as I read all of this during my devotional time this morning, especially being alerted by Dr. Smith’s highlight passage and his devotional entry for this date, I was stricken by the strange point/counterpoint of Solomon’s God-given wisdom and his human foolishness. And we see that coming into focus as he makes a worldly and politically “wise” move in marrying an Egyptian princess to solidify his security position with Egypt in those days. However, then he must, against God’s commands, bring this pagan wife into his palace. So, he builds her a separate quarter in the palace so that she will not pollute the holiness of the Arc of the Covenant. Go figure! Such a wise man being so foolish to think that he could bypass God’s will and The Lord’s commands. And this goes on, as I read in 1st Kings 4 and 10 of Solomon’s accumulation of horses and wealth and women, I couldn’t help but reflect on this man’s almost pathological denial of what he must’ve known were God’s commands for any man who became King of Israel. Solomon was mega-wise; and if so, as he accumulated all those horses, women, and wealth, he had to have been convicted by God’s rules for His Kings laid out in Deuteronomy 17.

So, did Solomon, this super-wise man, think that he was pulling the wool over God’s eyes? But knowing how foolish and prideful I can be – and have been – in my life, I empathize with Solomon’s degree of arrogant stupidity, pridefully wrapped up in a package of worldly wisdom, which God had imparted to this man who inherited the kingship from his father, David. Certainly like father, like son; because David knew of God’s commands; but his kingly arrogance was a model of foolhardy judgment in his interaction with the woman who was Solomon’s mother. Wow, Solomon certainly didn’t get this mixture of wisdom and arrogance from anybody strange, did he? As they say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

The whole thing is a clarion and glaring warning that NO ONE can bypass God’s commands. NO ONE is wise enough in our fallen humanity to think that he can get away with a departure from God’s way. And in this New Covenant dispensation, we Christians really have no excuse because we have God’s word – His absolute truth – to shine a light on our path. God, the Father, sent His Son to light that path; and all we have to do is be obedient to His word and follow His (the Son’s) way; and we will have all the wisdom we need to live in this life. That’s what Peter learned and espoused to believers in 2nd Peter 1: 3-4; and this being the truth, we need to realize that if we believe this and live by the truths of such passages as Psalm 119: 105, Prov. 3: 5-6, and Luke 9: 23, we’ll never let pride or denial or human foolishness bring us down as these sinful forces did for Solomon.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to believe in, follow, and live by these truths. For in doing so, we will glorify You. Amen

Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 – May 14 – The Best Laid Plans

Study from God’s Word 1st Kings 8: 1-11 [2nd Chron. 5: 2-14]; 1st Kings 8: 12-21 [2nd Chron. 6: 1-11]; 1st Kings 8: 22-30 [2nd Chron. 6: 12-21]; 1st Kings 8: 31,-53 [2nd Chron. 6: 22-42]; 1st Kings 8: 54-61; 2nd Chronicles 7: 1-3; 1st Kings 8: 62-66 [2nd Chron. 7: 4-10] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Chronicles 6: 8 – 9 … NIV [Solomon] 7 "My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 8 But the LORD said to my father David, … ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. 9 Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’ …”

My Journal for Today: As I read through the wondrous accomplishment of Solomon overseeing the completion and dedication of the Temple his father, David, had dreamed to dedicate for the Lord’s glory, one can’t help but think about God not allowing David to be the one to bring this temple to fruition. But that was not to be in God’s planning; and I expect you may have had some great dream or idea, one which may have been, upon completion, a great way of glorifying God; but thus far in your life, and for the foreseeable future, it just doesn’t look like it’s in God’s scheme for your dream to become reality.

Dr. Smith points to two of Solomon’s Proverbs which seem to point to the dreaming and fulfillment of projects which are dedicated to God and His glory. In Proverbs 16: 3 we read, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. And then, there is Proverbs 19: 21, stating, Many are the plans in man’s heart; but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

As my devotional shepherd, F. LaGard Smith, points out, somehow when we dream up something which seems like a grand and Godly idea to bring glory to God, and then we put choices and actions into motion to make it happen, we must realize that God is still in control of all things; and it should be God Whom we allow to take charge of the timing and completion of HIS project. If we want to be in charge of the project, how much glory can God really get from its completion?

But Solomon repeatedly, in his dedication ceremony and prayers, gave his father both credit and affirmation for the project of which David conceived but was not given the opportunity to finish in his lifetime. Perhaps you still have some idea or dream which is yet to be completed; but it seems to be something that would glorify God big-time if your idea were to come to completion. I have always had dreams that BattlePlan Ministries, the ministry which God led me to found, would become so powerful that the XXX forces in the world would be defeated and eradicated; but for years my eyes have been way bigger than my stomach. But I refuse to stop dreaming that God can - AND WILL - bring down the strongholds and beachheads of sexual sin which we see proliferating in our culture. The fact that I haven’t been the leader force to bring that about does not diminish the dream; nor does it reduce God in any way. God can – AND WILL – bring about His victory … in HIS time and in HIS way; and HE will be glorified.

What I must do is continue to dream and pray for someone, like a Solomon, to take the dream and allow God to get the glory whenever God decides to bring about the dream … again, for His glory!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, it is the dream You planted in my soul; and I pray that one day, with the leader You have already designated, all the evil forces in this world which now have such a stronghold in our culture will be totally and glorious eradicated. Amen

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 – May 13 – The Importance of Quiet Times

Study from God’s Word 1st Kings 5: 1 – 9 [2nd Chron. 2: 1, 3-16]; 1st Kings 5: 10-12; 1st Kings 5: 13-18 [2nd Chron. 2: 2, 17, 18]; 1st Kings 6: 1 [2nd Chron. 3: 1,2]; 1st Kings 6: 11-13; 1st Kings 6: 2 [2nd Chron. 3: 3]; 1st Kings 6: 9b, 18 [2nd Chron. 3: 5-7; 1st Kings 6: 7, 1st Kings 6: 3 [2nd Chron. 3: 4]; 1st Kings 6: 4; 1st Kings 6: 5, 6, 8, 10 [2nd Chron. 3: 9]; 1st Kings 6: 16, 17, 18, 19-22 [2nd Chron. 2: 3: 8, 9a]; 1st Kings 6: 23-28 [2nd Chron. 3: 10-13]; 2nd Chron. 3: 14; 1st Kings 6: 15, 29, 30 [2nd Chron. 6: 37, 38]; 1st Kings 7: 13, 14; 1st Kings 7: 15-22 [2nd Chron. 3: 15-17]; 2nd Chron. 4: 1; 1st Kings 7: 23-26 [2nd Chron. 4: 2-5, 10, 6c]; 1st Kings 7: 27-37; 1st Kings 7: 38, 39 [2nd Chron. 4: 6]; 1st Kings 7: 4—47 [2nd Chron. 4: 11-18]; 1st Kings 7: 48-50 [2nd Chron. 4: 7,8, 19-22]; 1st Kings 7: 51 [2nd Chron. 5: 1]; 1st Kings 9: 25 [2nd Chron. 8: 12-16] … Passage for Reflection: 1st Kings 6: 7 … NIV 7 In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.

My Journal for Today: After reading through, the selected readings in 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles, prepared in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, the elaborate description of Solomon’s supervision of the building of the magnificent temple designed by his father, David, Dr. Smith is right that the highlight passage does stand out with its curious message, which happens to resonate deeply today. Do you see the historical fact that much of the ancient Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem was built without noisy tools? And how eerie it must’ve been to see this magnificent structure rising in its elaborate glory … in silence? How they would’ve done that is beyond me; but let’s face it God is often way beyond us (see Isaiah 55: 8-9).

But that silence was undertaken to honor God and let the world see that we need to silently, but diligently, working in the world to honor God with what we build out of our lives. And how difficult is that in these noisy days where we’re bombarded by the world’s noisiness. Satan has invented many ploys to stand in the way of our abiding and deepening relationship with God; and one of his battle strategies is the noise of this world, both audible and informational. We’re so encumbered by the “noises” of the world that it is hard to strategically get alone and honor God with our silence. That is why the joint faith disciplines of solitude and silence become so important for the Christian today, trying to honor God by building the walls of his/her personal temple these days.

What about it, my friend? Do you have time and a place – EVERY DAY – where you go to be alone with God, … a place where the noises and interruptions of the world don’t get in the way of quietly praying and reading and meditating on God’s word? Do you have a place – preferably to start each day – where you can go to be with God, away from the world and other people, … away from any phones, TVs, Ipods, I-phones, or other devices which are the world’s tools to keep you from being alone with your God? Dr. Smith asks a telling question of me (and his readers) today, positing, Can I bear to have silence in my life, or am I afraid that God just might speak to me in the stillness?

You’re going to have to answer that one for yourself; but I covet the time – EACH DAY and EACH MORNING – which I have here in my personal “closet,” which is my place to be still and listen for God to “speak” to my mind/heart, … my place where I can quietly, without noisy interruption mediate on God’s truth from His word, … and my place where I can go to the high ground of prayer, preparing for what I know is going to be a battle with the world, in its noisiness, with Satan doing all he can to get in the way of my communion and relationship with my God.

I will pray for us …

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to maintain this time/place each morning, which I covet so personally to be with You; and help any dear ones who are reading here to develop such a place/time to be with You, as we honor You with our quietude. Amen

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010 – May 12 – Praying for Wisdom

Study from God’s Word 1st Kings 2: 13 – 46; 1st Kings 3: 1; 1st Kings 9: 16; 1st Kings 3: 2 – 3, 4 [2nd Chron. 1: 2 – 6]; 1st Kings 3: 5 – 14 [2nd Chron. 1: 7 – 12]; 1st Kings 3: 15 [2nd Chron. 1: 13]; 1st Kings 3: 16 - 28 … Passage for Reflection: 1st Kings 3: 9 … NIV 7 "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart [i.e., wisdom] to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

My Journal for Today:
The reading – or in this case today, my rereading – of these passages of Solomon’s decision-making when he came to sit on the throne of David, his father, reminds me of the importance of having and using WISDOM in the scheme of life.

Solomon did some pretty clever – but very HUMAN - things to insure the stability of his throne. Some of them were pretty cut-and-dried, like assassinating some of his potential rivals; but when he was confronted – by God Himself – to ask for anything the new young king might need or want to rule God’s chosen people, Solomon somehow knew to ask for discernment (i.e., wisdom); and God honored him for that by giving him not only all the human discernment possible for any man in those days but also the wealth and power which any king would covet to have as a ruler.

And God’s word even gives us – as He did for the people under Solomon’s rule – a shining example of Solomon’s wisdom when the story of Solomon deciding the fate of a little baby where two prostitutes had laid claim to this child. You know the story of how Solomon wisely ordered that the baby be cut in half by a sword; and the real mother showed herself by giving up the baby so that it would live; and Solomon, knowing he had determined forthrightly who was the child’s mother, was able to make the “wise” choice to give over the babe to his rightly determined mother.

Now that’s wisdom! And, as Dr. Smith points out in today’s devotional, that’s being able to make black-and-white out of a very grey scenario; and that’s the kind of human discernment one would need to be a good and effective leader of God’s people. And it’s always been interesting for me to see how much HUMAN wisdom God gave to Solomon; but the Lord never put a damper on the very HUMAN and fleshly impulses in Solomon which later led to him making some very ill-begotten decisions such as taking on hundreds of wives and concubines as well as doing things as a king which openly and defiantly went against what God had put in place as the rules for those who were under his anointing as king. Yes, Solomon was given a tremendous amount of HUMAN discernment and wisdom; but that doesn’t mean he was able to overcome his own, very HUMAN flesh as his kingship unfolded in time.

We, as very HUMAN creatures, need to recognize that God may bless us with the prophetic ability – maybe even the Spirit-given gift – to discern good and evil; but we still must seek after God’s Spirit and His empowering grace to overcome our own nature and make decisions which are unnatural, overcoming the flesh which is so powerful in our lives (see Jer. 17: 9). And that is why, even with the human wisdom of a Solomon, we need to seek after GODLY wisdom to overcome our HUMAN flesh.

That is why James – the man who became the very wise leader of the Church in Jerusalem after Jesus’ departure into heaven - gave us God’s exhortation (in James 1: 5-6 – linked here) to seek after God’s mind through His Spirit so that we could see God’s way more clearly, avoiding the double-mindedness which is so apparent when we try to make decisions in the flesh.

I challenge myself – and you - to remember that even a Solomon can fall and fail if he doesn’t seek after GOD’S way and GOD’S purpose and seeking after these, as James declared, with single-minded faith, knowing that God, primarily through His word (in our lives) will give us the right way as He had also promised through His word [see Psalm 119: 105] and from His love for His children (see Proverbs 3: 5 – 6).

As a reader here with me, I really hope you know – and potentially have internalized – the truths of James 1: 5 – 6, Psalm 119: 105, and Proverbs 3: 5 – 6; because if we Christians have those truths solidly in our minds and implanted – by faith – in our hearts, we will know to go to God’s word to find God’s way and to reveal His will for our future, allowing us to see His purposes for our lives, and avoiding the human pitfalls which eventually trip up even the wisest of humans (i.e., noting Solomon).

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine the light of truth and give me discernment from Your word so that I can make decisions which follow You and avoid me. Amen

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2010 – May 11 – The Mystery of Beauty

Study from God’s Word 1st Kings 1: 1 – 4 (see below); 1st Kings 1: 5 – 53; 2nd Samuel 1 – 7; 1st Kings 2: 1 – 9; 1st Kings 2: 10 [1st Chron. 29: 28 - 30]; 1st Kings 2: 12 [1st Chron. 29: 23 – 25 … 2nd Chron. 1: 1]… Passage for Reflection: 1st Kings 1: 3 – 4 … NIV 1 When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2 So his servants said to him, "Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm." 3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her.

My Journal for Today:
This is a curious passage, is it not? And the lesson Dr. Smith teaches from it may seem a bit obscure, coming from the time when David, an old and infirmed King, was dying and in need of warmth and comfort on his death bed. So, what did the King’s attendants do? … They went out and found the most beautiful lady they could find to lay with David and give him warmth. And this curious practice raises questions, doesn’t it?

We might ask, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that outward beauty is not as important as inner beauty?” And, of course, it does? Well then, … why would King David’s court need to go out and find a beautiful, young, and nubile lass to lay with David – even though it was obviously not tempting to David sexually. And the answer lies in what these people considered “the best” for their King. Only the best and the most beautiful, even in outward beauty, was good enough for their God-anointed King David.

Yes, it may smack of lauding superficial beauty; but think about what we do when we get dressed for a funeral, or a wedding, or likely even to Church (though less so these days, I’m afraid). We get all gussied up in our finest adornments; and in the case of dressing in our most beautiful for a wedding, we do so to honor the new bride and groom. In the case of the funeral, we get all dressed up to honor the life of the one who has passed on. And finally, as many of us still do, we get dressed up in our “Sunday go to meeting” duds to honor our Lord with our finest and most beautiful adornments. Hopefully, we’re not dressing up to show off our finest clothes and strut pridefully in front of others. That would be beauty on display; and it would, in the case of Church time, dishonor the One Whom we have come to honor, wouldn’t it?

Yes, God would take us any way we’d come to Him for real, honest worship on His Sabbath; but I believe we do our God a disservice if we do not consider being in our most beautiful state – outwardly and inwardly - when we come into His house of worship on Sundays. And yes, that means preparing our inner beauty to match our outer beauty. If we have unresolved sin in our lives, we need to confess them to receive God’s cleansing; … if we have people who need to be forgiven in our lives, they need to be forgiven to honor God’s beautiful forgiveness of our sins; … and … if we have unpaid debts which we’ve pledged to repay, we need to get our inner house in order to be seen by our God as “beautiful” as we might be in our dressed-up state of beauty as we come to worship Him bother externally and internally.

Beauty is a mystery; and how we see “beauty” is certainly in the eyes of the beholder; but when we come to the KING of kings, especially honoring Him as our LORD, we need to be as beautiful as we can be, cleansing all of our spiritual insides and presenting our best externally for our King. Then, prayerfully we can worship our God openly and honestly, presenting our best and most beautiful for His consideration. And I pray now that we’d all be beautiful as our lives worship our God in Spirit, in physical presence, and in the depth of our emotions. May we live beautifully for our God; and may He be glorified with our “beauty.”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that I am beautiful in Your eyes. Amen

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 – May 10 – Finding Your Theme

Study from God’s Word Psalms 45, 47, 87 and 110 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 45: 1 … NIV 1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

My Journal for Today: Today my devotional leader, Dr. F. LaGard Smith, asks some probing questions all of which I acutely challenge me. He asks, "By what noble theme are you stirred? In what grand story do you play a part? What transcendent dream keeps you alive? What unbridled passion drives you? What lofty ideal demands your utmost?"

My friends, those are questions which might challenge someone who considers himself or herself a writer; and they deal with the essence of why a writer writes and what that writes is driven to pen (or “keyboard” in these days). Every day I come to this quiet place; and I read the part of the Bible which Dr. Smith has selected for my daily study; and then I read his devotional message, which in these past days, has come from the Psalms. And each day, Dr. Smith has selected a “theme” for his devotional, some idea which he likely felt God gave him to share with others to move them (i.e., people like me) to draw closer to God by knowing our Lord more deeply and intimately.

And then each day, in the Spirit of God’s word from the truth of Prov. 19: 14 and James 1: 5 – 6, I seek after God’s wisdom to give me words or ideas or ideals which first move me and then move me to reflect on God’s truth so that others might – as I’m sure is Dr. Smith’s goal – get to know God in a more revealing and intimate way.

Some days it’s easier than others; but everyday, God gives me something from His word which I can shape into my words with a goal of helping any who read along with me to run down what I call the “chain of faith,” which simply stated is … knowing God more deeply will cause one to love God more deeply, which will bring one to obey God more readily, which will bring one to serve God more diligently, which will definitely glorify God more powerfully, which – in turn – will allow God to bless that believer more fully.

Oh, how I desire that each day, God is glorified by what I write so that others may know our God more deeply, love Him more intimately, obey Him more readily, and serve Him more effectively. In attempting that, I know that my God has given me something to say which is HIS theme and not my own. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t write what I write each day. So, if you are reading here with me, I pray that is what you glean from what God has given me to write here yesterday, today, and tomorrow … something which allows you to know our God more deeply. Because if that happens, the rest of the chain of faith will follow.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, again, I paraphrase the words of the Proverbs by writing … may the words of this keyboard, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight for You are the Lord of my mind and strength of my sharing. Amen

Sunday, May 09, 2010

2010 – May 9 – Hope in the Midst of Despair

Study from God’s Word Psalms 2, 22, and 27 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 22: 1 … NIV 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

My Journal for Today: Today F. LaGard Smith has me and his readers using his devotional book and reading the Messianic Psalms; and the most famous of these would likely be Psalm 22 and verse 1, the line which Jesus quoted from the cross as He was dying. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” was his suffering cry; and we now know that our Lord hung on that tree to fulfill these words from David’s song, which allowed Jesus to become the lamb of God being sacrificed, as King David foretold, for the sins of mankind. Oh, it is not likely, when David wrote these words, that he fully appreciated the role that Messiah would play in the affairs of God’s people. He probably saw The Messiah as a Savior Who would conquer the oppressors of the Jewish people and become an anointed earthly king. However, David’s words are fully and completely prophetic about such details as Jesus’ death fulfilled, words like those found in verses 16 and 18 (read them again) – those very descriptive words which unfolded as David had written them centuries before Jesus, The Christ, died to save mankind.

David, though only partially insightful as to the coming Messiah, was worshipping his coming Lord and Savior in faith; and he obviously received great comfort and hope by singing these words, believing and being justified by his faith unto salvation. It is only hoped that we can read and meditate on these same words centuries later, having the advantage of our New Testament and historical revelations – in Christ – and reading David’s prophetic song, we can be lifted up with hope in the knowledge that Jesus completely fulfilled the prophesies of these ancient Messianic psalms, especially those word in Psalm 22.

Be comforted in your salvation all of you who have believed on the Name and life of Jesus, Who died on that cross, as prophesied by David, to have your sins forgiven and set aside by God, the Father, in Heaven. May God be glorified though David’s song and our faith in its fulfillment.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I believe that You are the One Whom David wrote about in this song of deliverance; and You came to die on that tree for me, and many who read here, to declare our belief in Your saving grace, giving us the justification we need and desire, found only in Your being the suffering servant and the Lamb of God. Our eternal hope is You … and only You!!! Hallelujah!!! Amen

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2010 – May 8 – Knowing the Limits of Knowing

Study from God’s Word Psalms 111, 130, 131, 141, and 146 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 131: 1 … NIV 1 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

My Journal for Today: Dr. F. LaGard Smith has me reading more Psalms, extolling the virtue of faithfulness and the discipline of righteousness; and he has me reeling in the recognition of my own human weakness. And today’s highlight passage from Psalm 131: 1 declares the realization of our limits as well as the respect we should have for the God, Who has created the “…great matters or things too wonderful for me (to fully understand).”

It’s okay to seek after the understanding of God’s way and His will for our lives. He has given us that prerogative and even invited us to get to know Him and His ways deeply. However, we should never be so presumptuous and prideful to think that we’re ever going to be able to plumb the depths of His mind/heart. How often do I return to the humbling premise, ”God is God; and I am not!” And … right in this moment, having meditated on today’s passage, my memory of Scripture has bubbled up in my consciousness, allowing me to remember the words from God to God’s people through the Prophet in Isaiah 55: 8 – 9, which I charge you to go back and study [with the available link], if you don’t know it by heart.

As Smith states today, “… we are foolish to think that we humans could ever unravel the mystery of God Himself;” but even more foolish are those who think they can substitute their own theories or human understanding to posit answers for the unanswerable. And there are many atheists who dabble in such foolishness. At one time in my life I was one of those fools; and I now recognize that all I was doing by trying to substitute my interpretations of such phenomena as the origins of life was giving me an excuse to be my own “god,” not having to obey or live under the sovereignty of THE GOD. And that prideful foolishness got me nowhere in life, … only brokenness and pain.

But now I recognize that God has given me all I need to gain as much understanding about my God as I need to in this life; and that understanding, which is the fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom [see Psalm 111: 10], comes from – and ONLY comes from – His truth through His word. As Peter extolled believers in 2nd Peter 1: 3-4, I have enough from God’s truth and seeking His ways to live in this life; and all I have to do is trust my Lord; and he will lead me into and through the minefields of my life (see Prov. 3: 5-6). And that’s enough for me; as it should be enough for you as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You and Your word are enough knowledge for me. Amen

Friday, May 07, 2010

2010 – May 7 – Longing for God

Study from God’s Word Psalms 42, 53, 58, 81, and 101 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 42: 1 – 2 … NIV As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My Journal for Today: I’m afraid that F. LaGard Smith has nailed me in his devotional this morning as he asks, ”Am I content to merely sing about panting and thirsting when God calls me to pant for Him on a more desperate level?” Smith recognizes how often churches or Christians sing the words of today’s Psalmist from Psalm 42; but he wonders if there are any Christians who, possibly like the persecuted Christians in China or the Middle East, who desperately seek after a God Who must seem distant from them. But nonetheless they “pant after God,” having a faith which is hard for me to fathom, even seeking after my God as I sit here morning after morning, trying my best to know my God and seek His purposes for my life.

Yes, I do long for my God; but do I “pant after Him” as one might who is about to die from lack of water or someone who is gasping for air to live, not being able to get enough oxygen to support life? I’m afraid Dr. Smith’s intent with his devotional question has convicted this Christian to the core. I just don’t “pant” enough for my God.

My desire to know God, … to seek after His character, … or to pursue His purposes is more a head-level pursuit than a heart-level desire. But right now it’s all I can muster; and in this I once again recall the interaction between Jesus and Peter, documented in John 21: 15 – 20 where our Lord restored Peter who was totally despondent after having failed Christ so miserably.

And when we read Peter’s letter in 2nd Peter, we see how much this Apostle had been restored and renewed in his faith, to the point in 2nd Peter 1: 1 – 11 we read of a regenerated disciple exhorting other disciples – like me – to move forward and choose to follow Christ the way Peter had learned, after being restored by Christ, to witness for the Lord right up to the end of his life.

Well, maybe I don’t have a heart at this point which “pants” after my Lord. But I do have a love for Him [“phileo,” if not “agape”] which voluntarily seeks to know Him, to love Him, to obey Him, and to serve Him to the utmost of my heart/mind. And like Jesus charged Peter on that shore in Capernaum centuries ago [again see John 21: 15 – 20 - linked], I will go forth, following my Lord, to the extent of my ability to do so. And like Peter did, I will do so, desiring – if not panting – to be Christ’s disciple by following Him.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I follow You; I seek after You. If you create the need, I will “pant” after You. But now, know that I am Your disciple. Amen

Thursday, May 06, 2010

2010 – May 6 – Confession – Good for the Soul

Study from God’s Word Psalms reflecting many emotions and the complexity of human emotions – Today Psalms 4, 12, 20, 25, 32, and 38 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 32: 5 … NIV 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You [my Lord] and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD " — and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

My Journal for Today: Today, Dr. Smith, my devotional “shepherd” launches into a study of 16 Psalms in the next few days which express a variety of human emotions; and today the highlight verse is from Psalm 32 where David is reflecting on what it was like ridding himself from the guilt of his confession after the cover up of his sins involving Bathsheba and his involvement in the death of her husband, Uriah. And yes, this song was actually written after Psalm 51 which, of course, is the song of confession where David unburdened himself of those sins before God and all of God’s people with that great Psalm of confession.

Dr. Smith is right on target again today as he discusses how the U.S. criminal justice system actually works to impede individuals from unloading their sinfulness and confessing their wrongdoings. And Dr. Smith is most certainly right that we humans have a deep-seeded need, a hole in our souls, to confess when we know, from the prevenient grace of God, that we have sinned against Him and done anything which breeches His Law. Our criminal lawyers often will do all they can to keep us from confessing until they can ploy their craft and try to get their clients off – no matter how guilty they are.

The truth is that unless we, as guilty sinners, can confess our sinfulness before God (see 1st John 1: 9 - linked) and before man (see James 5: 16 - also linked), we will never be able to express the emotions David is expressing in Psalm 32, … the joy of God’s cleansing grace and the remission of sin from the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Smith, at the end of his devotional for today, asks a heavy question for any of his readers. He asks, ”What debilitating guilt is silently eating away at me because I have yet to TRULY confess my sin?” You have to answer that one for yourself; but I can recall, as David is recalling in Psalm 32, a time when, after 22 years of living a double life of hidden sexual sin, I confessed all to my wife, from whom I had hidden my sinfulness. Oh, it took a lot of time – actually years – before we got to the place of healing expressed by David in Psalm 32; but that healing did take place; and now I know – and practice – the truth of 1st John 1: 9, confessing my sin – as much as my consciousness allows – and keeping short accounts before God for my sinfulness.

One can only live an emotionally unburdened life to the extent that God, the Grace-Giver, can pour out His healing and cleansing love. And that cannot happen when pride keeps one from confessing sin to God. Go back and meditate on Psalm 51, first, and then on Psalm 32. Then take some time to ruminate upon the truths expressed in 1st John 1: 9 and James 5: 16; and when you do that, I’m convinced you’ll see the need, drawn by God’s grace, to free yourself from the burdens of guilt, confessing any sin you have to God first and then to at least one brother/sister in Christ. If and when you do that, led by God, you’ll feel – deeply feel – the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness to separate your sin as far as the east if from the west. And if you’re feeling any guilt now from covering up your sin, you know you need to do that.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, my Lord, God, how often have You cleansed me from my sin nature over the years; and for that truth I walk with You in the light of Your forgiveness rather than in the darkness of my sin. Amen

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

2010 – May 5 – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Study from God’s Word Psalms 139, 145, 148, and 150 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 139: 13 – 16 … NIV 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

My Journal for Today: David’s exposition and expression of God’s truth about who we are as humans was truly amazing. Writing the words we focus on today in my devotional journal, David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, reveals truths that went way beyond man’s ability to see the reality of our existence in this world – and even more so with our immortal souls living onward into eternity.

I have stood by as an autopsy was performed as Dr. Smith reflects in his devotional today; and I have marveled at what I was viewing. The human body truly was/is ”fearfully and wonderfully made;” and it is an insult to human intelligence for any atheist to declare that all of what we know of as our physical bodies was knit in the womb of a woman by some accident of evolution. In fact, in my days 30+ years ago, when I tried to hold on to my open antagonism for Christians and Christianity, I could not hold to the ridiculous premise that evolution could be posited as truth. It took far more in blind faith to try to believe and support evolution than it did to hear the arguments from the Bible from Christians for God’s wondrous and purposeful creation.

But as “fearfully and wonderfully” made is our body, which is finite in death, what about the even more wondrous nature of our soul, which is infinite? And in the pre-scientific world and times in which David wrote Psalm 139, isn’t it wonderful how God led this very human and fallible man to reflect upon the human spirit, which is even more “fearfully and wonderfully made” than is the body. The latter is mortal; and the former is immortal; and taken together – our body and soul – they are truly, fearfully, and wonderful made!

And as I’ve said before, “awesome” is a word we have denigrated in our times by its casual and prolific use; but truly AWESOME is who we are as we were created by the mind of God, as Psalm 139 reflects, before all recorded time was measured out. Yes, WE ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE!”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, here is another one of those moments, as I choose to come to You, when all I can muster in prayer is to PRAISE Your Name and to say, “HALLELUJAH” for the creation of my body and soul. May they become a reflection of Your handiwork as I choose to be a witness in this world to/for Your glory. Amen