Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2010 – June 30 – When Ends Justify the Means

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 10 – 12: 6; 2Kgs 16: 5-6 [2Chron 28: 5-8]; 2Chron 28: 9-21 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 10: 5 … NIV Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of My anger, in whose hand is the club of My wrath.

My Journal for Today: Not too long ago a man, claiming to be acting as God’s agent, went into a church and shot a physician, Dr. George Tiller, who was an avowed abortionist. The murderer’s claim was that he was acting as a protector of the unborn and acting on charge of God to take the abortionist’s life; and the fact that all of this happened in a “Christian” church made the scenario all that more bizarre. And this was actually the second time someone had tried to take Tiller’s life, the first time being an unsuccessful attempt at murder.

What do we think about when such things occur; and this is not the first time that a man, claiming to be “christian” acts with violence to take the life of one who is reported to be in the abortion industry. As “Christians,” do we have the right to take the life of another person, thinking somehow that “the ends justify the means?” You’ll notice above that I used the term “murderer” to describe the man who shot George Tiller. Thankfully, I think few would say that we, as citizens of this world, have the “right” to take the life of another person, even one we feel is a murderer himself. And most of us, including yours truly, would call it “murder” if anyone tries to take the life of another, thinking that he/she is acting on behalf of the unborn. Some of us, who are old enough to remember the horror of events surrounding the assassination of JFK, may have been relieved when we heard that Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of the President; but we still thought of Jack Ruby as a “murderer,” who had no right to take Oswald’s life.

But then, how do we deal with what God has done in the past, such as in today’s devotional study, to use the hands of overt non-believers to strike out – in the Lord’s anger – at the children of God. In Isaiah 10 – 12 we read of God allowing Assyria to be His agent of anger; but then the Lord turns around and takes it out on the Assyrians because they acted pridefully and willfully to take those in Israel and Judah captive. So, how do we (you) deal with that? How do we personalize that? How do we make a spiritual imperative or generalization out of such actions where God is obviously allowing evil people to prevail over His own chosen and to overtly punish the evil for which His children have been involved?

And I think the answer is … WE DON’T! When we see that God is being God and He chooses to take action against evil, I believe we cannot generalize that to our own choices. In other words, again there is a larger principle at work here; and it’s wrapped up in the statement of truth that … ”GOD IS GOD; and we are not!!”

My friends, there are just some things … some decisions … and some actions man cannot presuppose to have clarity on when it comes to making decisions which seem to go against the grain of Godliness. And this can be tough at times; because many people have become conscientious objectors because they could not abide taking a life in war – even a war that was generally felt to be a “just war.” However, there are others who somehow felt that going to war for just causes was ordained by their ability to choose such an action, making what they felt to be Godly choices. For these Christians, taking a life in such warfare was not going against God’s commandment against “murder.” But it’s still an ethical dilemma, isn’t it?

Such ethical decision making can stretch us to the limits of our faith at times; but these are the tests which help define our character and allow us to stand for righteousness when such choices are required without breaching God’s prerogatives in life. Sometimes, trying to follow what Christ would do might help us; because Jesus came, not only to save us from our sinfulness, but to model sinless decision-making. So, trying to be a “WWJD” Christian can be a good strategy for ethical decision making when the choices become difficult.

But above all, we need to leave some actions in God’s hands, letting God be God because we are not.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be Your agent of change and to avoid trying to be You to the world. Amen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 – June 29 – Knowing What To Fear

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 7 – 9 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 8: 12 – 13 … NIV 12 "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 13 The LORD Almighty is the One you are to regard as Holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread, …

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, my devotional teacher, posits an interesting premise today; and it centers on how we can tend to get wrapped up in conspiracy theories, which become fueled by fears of – and human empathy with – human greed and desire. We can buy into human conspiracies because we are all sinners and we know how mankind can become greedy to the point of being involved in conspiracy.

Yes, conspiracies do exist. We’ve seen them being perpetuated in our times as greedy men/women plot to take the retirement incomes in companies like Enron and others. We’ve heard many, many conspiracy theories being put forth about how JFK was assassinated or about how the lunar landings were staged by a Hollywood conspiracy being put forth to make the America believe we had landed on the moon. And there are those who believe, fueled by political fears, that there was no holocaust; … that it was all a conspiracy by the Jews to put down the Arab nations.

Conspiracy theories are birthed and thrive in overtones of fear. And we remember the words of FDR, who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself;” and then he ironically used fear to conspire to incarcerate a whole nation of Asian-Americans into internment camps. Go figure the way we allow fear to drive our minds to believe the worst about mankind.

But as Dr. Smith shepherds our thoughts today, and in his words to put twist on what FDR said, ”We have nothing to fear but God Himself!” … But, … do we? … I think not.

I think we’re far too willing to buy into the fears of mankind; and to minimize what we should call “the fear of God.” If we but feared God the way we should, we would never have to be subject to fearing mankind or his conspiracies. My friend, I hope you realize, believe, and live out the truth that “… in the fear of the Lord is … the beginning of all knowledge …” [Prov. 1: 7]; “… is the beginning of wisdom …” [Prov. 9: 10]; “… is the fountain of life …” [Prov. 14: 27]; and … “… is riches, honor, and life.” [Prov. 22: 4]

But we don’t get it; do we? Certainly ancient Israel and Judah didn’t get it; and see what happened to them. Their conspiracies and political intrigue, spread by human and sinful fears, broke up the people of God and ultimately led to the judgment of God being visited on them by their enslavement and dispersal throughout the world.

But God has His own conspiracy going down. And He is perpetuating that great scheme in the form of His plan of salvation and redemption for His people; and a grand “conspiracy” it is for sure? And Isaiah prophesied about God’s grand conspiracy to save His people by bringing a sacrificial Lamb to be slain so that the shedding of His blood would atone for the sins of all mankind; and that is the only conspiracy truth (not theory) which mankind must hear, understand, and believe. Because when we do, we are saved!

It is the “Gospel Conspiracy,” my friend; and I hope you know it, believe it, and live it!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I believe in the greatest truth conspiracy of all times; and because I do, I will be with You in eternity. Amen

2010 – June 29 – Knowing What To Fear

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 7 – 9 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 8: 12 – 13 … NIV 12 "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 13 The LORD Almighty is the One you are to regard as Holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread, …

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, my devotional teacher, posits an interesting premise today; and it centers on how we can tend to get wrapped up in conspiracy theories, which become fueled by fears of – and human empathy with – human greed and desire. We can buy into human conspiracies because we are all sinners and we know how mankind can become greedy to the point of being involved in conspiracy.

Yes, conspiracies do exist. We’ve seen them being perpetuated in our times as greedy men/women plot to take the retirement incomes in companies like Enron and others. We’ve heard many, many conspiracy theories being put forth about how JFK was assassinated or about how the lunar landings were staged by a Hollywood conspiracy being put forth to make the America believe we had landed on the moon. And there are those who believe, fueled by political fears, that there was no holocaust; … that it was all a conspiracy by the Jews to put down the Arab nations.

Conspiracy theories are birthed and thrive in overtones of fear. And we remember the words of FDR, who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself;” and then he ironically used fear to conspire to incarcerate a whole nation of Asian-Americans into internment camps. Go figure the way we allow fear to drive our minds to believe the worst about mankind.

But as Dr. Smith shepherds our thoughts today, and in his words to put twist on what FDR said, ”We have nothing to fear but God Himself!” … But, … do we? … I think not.

I think we’re far too willing to buy into the fears of mankind; and to minimize what we should call “the fear of God.” If we but feared God the way we should, we would never have to be subject to fearing mankind or his conspiracies. My friend, I hope you realize, believe, and live out the truth that “… in the fear of the Lord is … the beginning of all knowledge …” [Prov. 1: 7]; “… is the beginning of wisdom …” [Prov. 9: 10]; “… is the fountain of life …” [Prov. 14: 27]; and … “… is riches, honor, and life.” [Prov. 22: 4]

But we don’t get it; do we? Certainly ancient Israel and Judah didn’t get it; and see what happened to them. Their conspiracies and political intrigue, spread by human and sinful fears, broke up the people of God and ultimately led to the judgment of God being visited on them by their enslavement and dispersal throughout the world.

But God has His own conspiracy going down. And He is perpetuating that great scheme in the form of His plan of salvation and redemption for His people; and a grand “conspiracy” it is for sure? And Isaiah prophesied about God’s grand conspiracy to save His people by bringing a sacrificial Lamb to be slain so that the shedding of His blood would atone for the sins of all mankind; and that is the only conspiracy truth (not theory) which mankind must hear, understand, and believe. Because when we do, we are saved!

It is the “Gospel Conspiracy,” my friend; and I hope you know it, believe it, and live it!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I believe in the greatest truth conspiracy of all times; and because I do, I will be with You in eternity. Amen

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 – June 28 – Creeping Incrementalism

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 15: 29 [1st Chron. 5: 23 – 26]; 2Kgs 15: 37; 2Kgs 15: 30-31; 2Kgs 17: 1-2; 2Kgs 15: 36, 38a [2Chron 27: 7, 9a]; 2Kgs 38b [2Chron 27: 9b, 28: 1a]; 2Kgs 16: 2b-4 [2Chron 28: 1b-4] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 15: 29 … NIV 29 In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.

My Journal for Today: After reading through the OT history which Dr. Smith led me to in his directed chronological study of the Bible for today’s date, I was led to read about all the political and social intrigue which had transpired in over 200 years of Israel and Judah becoming split kingdoms, … God’s people, who, for the most part slowly wandered away from their devotion and worship of their God, … the God Who had made them His chosen people, led them out of captivity, and brought them into a land He had promised them.

It was well over 200 years of what Dr. Smith today calls ”Creeping Incrementalism.” And today’s highlight verse only captures a snapshot of some of these people being deported as Assyria broke them down into captivity. And here were God’s people being taken captive by pagan nations, just as a number of God’s Prophets had warned. No, it wasn’t because they were ignorant of truth or God’s will. It wasn’t because they hadn’t been warned and rewarned and rewarned … over and over and over again. God had been incredibly patient and forbearing; but slowly, … incrementally, … God’s people had become Satan’s pawns. How does it happen; as I think you recognize how powerfully it applies to our lives as well?

Creeping incremental sin certainly applied to my life. For over 22 years of my life, I chose to ignore the warnings and let my flesh choose sin and Satan over the Savior. And slowly, gradually I made one seductive choice after another, leading down the primrose path toward death. Fortunately, for me, as God’s word says it will happen for God’s people, I surrendered by will to the “hound of Heaven.” And ultimately the mind of man will surrender and hear the truth of the Gospel, especially when Christ, Who is God’s Redeemer, will come again to reclaim His Bride; and there will be rejoicing at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God. But in the meantime, we are now – again – seeing the effects of those who deny God, ignore His warnings, and try to mock Him with their sin.

However, as it began in history with today’s reading, God’s people and even more of the lost people who surrounded them in life, are going to experience the death-knell of God’s wrath as He will not allow even those He loves to perpetuate disobedience and fleshly ways of life. Sin always has consequences [!], even for those who are believers and most certainly for those who mock or deny God. And if it takes a season of separation, as it did for Israel and Judah, … well, so be it! And that’s what we read from today’s study of Hebrew history.

We cannot abide and choose to do things in the way of the flesh, especially knowing that we’re ignoring God’s way. Ultimately, God will leave us to our own sinful minds and hearts (and that’s the subject of one of the most sinister passages in the NT – meditate on Romans 1: 18 – 32 - linked). But if/when we can know God’s ways (through His word) and surrender to His will, God’s mercies are new every day (see Lam. 3: 22, 23 - linked]; and He will be there to save His surrendered children.

Oh, how I hope that any who read here are in surrender mode to God’s will for their lives; because if you are letting “creeping Incrementalism” with sin choices repeatedly taken you into captivity, at some point, God will simply turn you over to your self and let Satan have you for a season. OR, God could choose to take you home and not let you become a tainted witness of His love and mercy. But, make no mistake about it, we cannot continue to choose sin and self over our Savior. God will not be mocked!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You know my heart; and You lift me up with Your strength to choose Your ways over the ways of my flesh. Help me to continue to walk in Your footsteps. Amen

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 – June 27 – Words To Live By

Study from God’s Word Micah, Chapters 6 and 7 … Passage for Reflection: Micah 6: 8 … NIV He has showed you, O Man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

My Journal for Today: In today’s highlight passage, we may read the greatest and most powerful rhetorical question in all of the Bible, save maybe what the rich young ruler or Nicodemus asked Jesus about salvation. And I’ll bet, like me, you’ve wanted to know the answer to that question, “What does the Lord require of us (His children)?” And right there, in Micah 6: 8 is the answer, which is essentially the same answer Jesus gave when He was asked about attaining eternal life by a lawyer. [see Luke 10: 27] I’ll bet you know it. Jesus, responded, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, [Deut. 6: 5] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” [Lev. 19: 18]

Check it out! Jesus’ answer is qualitatively the same as the answer God has for us about what is required of those who serve/follow Him … to love/serve others and to HUMBLY follow Him. Isn’t it also what Jesus said in Luke 9: 23, when he told His disciples (aren’t you one of His disciples?), Then He said to them all: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. It’s all the same thing, isn’t it; … to deny ourselves by loving others and to walk with Him … by doing what it takes to humbly follow Him.

Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking; … “But Bill, … Dude [!], that’s a tall order!!” And you’re right; … it is. But when we can do the unnatural, … the super-natural, … and choose to deny our self, love others, and follow our Lord, the pay-offs are OUT OF THIS WORLD (i.e., eternal life as promised in John 3: 16).

I really need not dwell on this, do I? But the key is whether we choose – BY FAITH – to humble ourselves and follow our Lord. That’s the biggie question; and how we answer it depends on our eternal future in the next life and our transformation in this life. So, I leave you to answer God’s question about how we might please our Lord.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, in faith, You know my answer. I am nothing without following You. Help me to do that by humbly loving others. Amen

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 – June 26 – Hope You Can Count On

Study from God’s Word Micah, Chapters 3 – 5 … Passage for Reflection: Micah 5: 2 … NIV "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. "
Micah 5: 2 … NLT But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, One whose origins are from the distant past.

My Journal for Today: As Dr. Smith begins his devotional today by quoting the old Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” And here was Micah, some seven centuries before the event, prophesying that the birth of a “great One,” a Messiah, would be born into this world in that sleepy little hillside shepherd town, which God named through Micah as Bethlehem. And as we, who do believe that Yeshua, Ha-Mashiach [Hebrew for “Jesus, the Messiah”], know, that’s exactly what happened … again … some seven centuries later.

So, what’s up with this prediction; and why centuries before the coming of the One Who would fulfill it? And I believe LaGard Smith has the reason nailed. It is God’s way, though His prophet and His word to have one of those glorious “I told you so” predictions so right and so, so true in Scripture that it can not – or at least SHOULD NOT - be ignored as part of God’s plan and His design for mankind.

And if God could – and did – predict that Jesus, the Messiah, would come into that little sleepy suburb of Jerusalem over 7 centuries before it happened, how would we – or could we - deny that there will be another coming of Christ which will herald the advent of the celestial new Jerusalem, a literal heaven on earth, where mankind will live with the Savior forever.

What a hope and what a promise; and heaven is a hope you (and I) can count on because we’ve read about and seen the predictive power of God in action through prophets like Micah; and the prophesies which have come since Micah are even more powerful and wonderful than those to which Micah addressed himself centuries before the coming of the Christ child in Bethlehem.

Take heed, my dear ones. Christ is coming again; and He will usher in your heavenly home; and it will be so much more glorious than that little sleepy event heralded by Micah centuries before the shepherds gathered on the hillside to witness what Phillips Brooks wrote about in 1903 in his carol …

O holy Child of Bethlehem! … Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in; … Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels; …The great glad tidings tell;
O, come to us, abide with us, … Our Lord, Emmanuel!

My Prayer for Today: O, Lord, what a prayer this is from the old Christmas song; and may we rest in its promise. Amen

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 – June 25 – When True Religion Becomes Idolatrous

Study from God’s Word Micah, Chapters 1 – 2 … Passage for Reflection: Micah 1: 5 … NIV 5 All this is because of Jacob's transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel. What is Jacob's transgression? Is it not Samaria? What is Judah's high place? Is it not Jerusalem?

My Journal for Today: Micah came to prophesy in the south to the divided Jewish kingdom of Judah as did Amos in the north to Israel; and they both prophesied of impending disaster but a hope for the future for any remnant of believers who had faith in a coming Messiah, which we, Christians, now know was Jesus, some 700 years later. And Micah railed against the sin and idolatry of God’s people, even in Jerusalem, the holy city of the day; but he also ultimately brought a message of the coming Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, as I said we can now see that our hope lies in the Babe Who was born in that little town on the hills outside of Jerusalem.

In those days Judah had elevated worship in the Temple to a high order; yet sin, especially greed and covetousness became prominent in Jerusalem. And Micah brought the word of destruction to God’s people; and after the prophesied raising of the Temple by the Babylonians and the time of enslavement to these northern peoples, we see that Temple worship was re-established at the time the Messiah was born into the into “worship” that has become idolatrous.

Have you ever noticed what happens on Sunday mornings when the Pastor or the Elders of the church decide to freshen the worship by changing the order of service? Almost predictably there will be scathing complaints that the church is not doing things the “right way.” And the “right way,” of course, is, according to the complainers, the “way we’ve always done it.” And maybe you’ve read about the so-called WORSHIP WARS, which are going on these days between those who think that more contemporary forms of worship are expressions of the devil. And how about those who wouldn’t be seen not wearing their cross around their neck; or how about the people who complain if a visitor in church on Sunday gets a bit too “charismatic” by raising their hands too exuberantly, maybe coming from a more expressive style or habit of worship? Or do you get uncomfortable when you come to church and someone is sitting in “your seat” near the back of the sanctuary?

My friends, when we focus on the form of worship more than the reason – i.e., the Person – we have come to worship, the style of worship has become idolatry; and when such attitudes of the heart are prevalent in God’s house, I can’t help but think our Lord grieves rather than rejoices as we have come on Sundays to give Him praise and to worship His Holy Name. I agree with Dr. Smith that we have to ask ourselves if we’re worshipping form and format more than our Savior and Lord. I do pray against any such attitude in myself as I pray you will do as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, convict and chastise me if I come to focus on styles and formats of worship more than on You and You alone. Amen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 – June 24 – Unworthy, But Chosen

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 5: 24 – 30; Is 1: 27-31; Is 2: 19-21; Is 2: 22 – 3: 7; Is 4: 2 – 6; Is 2: 1 – 5; 2Kgs 15: 19-28; 2Kgs 15: 6-7 [2Chron 26: 22-23]; 2Kgs 15: 7, 32-33; 2Chron 26: 23, 27: 1, 8]; 2Kgs 15: 34 [2Chron 27: 2]; Isaiah 6: 1 – 13; 2Kgs 15: 35 [2Chron 27: 3-6]… Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 6: 5 – 8 … NIV 5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

My Journal for Today: This is one passage from God’s word which calls up great empathy and identification from me. No, I’m not called to be a “Prophet.” I don’t even have the spiritual gift of prophesy. But I have been called out of unworthiness to carry out a task for God and His kingdom, … a ministry dealing on the front lines of spiritual warfare. And like Isaiah at his calling, which is documented in today’s highlight passage, when I was called, I felt totally unworthy to be called.

HOWEVER, the more I have gotten to know the characters of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, I have found many who didn’t feel worthy at their time of calling by God; and I’d almost bet you’re thinking of Moses at the burning bush, who felt like a stutterer who was called to be God’s spokesman; or there was Gideon, the coward who was called by God to become a mighty warrior. There was Amos, also called to be God’s prophet, who declared he was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. And here is Isaiah, who declares that he’s a man of “unclean lips,” being called out to be God’s mouth-piece to His people. All of these men of God became Godly men, used by God, because they responded to God’s calling out of unworthiness. And for about 15 years now, my response to Gods’ calling has actually been used for His glory. Go figure.

But as was Isaiah, when I was called into ministry, I was tuned in to my own weaknesses and unworthiness. Isaiah knew that God was asking him to go forth into a role which would make him a hated man as well as vulnerable to those whom he’d be carrying God’s message. Isaiah knew that he was an unrighteous man being asked to carry a message of righteousness to a people racked by unrighteousness. And as Dr. Smith points out today in his devotional concerning Isaiah, “If righteousness was a prerequisite for the job (of God’s calling), he (Isaiah) of all people wasn’t qualified.” Yet, as we read, in that wonderful verse 8, when God finally gave Isaiah His calling, Isaiah responded, with the powerful Hebrew reply, “Heneni,” which means “Here I am, send me!”

There’s a wonderful song, written and sung by Marty Goetz, a former orthodox Jew converted to Christ, … a song which I’ve called up on my laptop as I meditate here this morning and write this. The song is entitled, Heneni; and the song celebrates the spirit of the one called by God and knowing that the calling is for an inadequate servant; but it is with the understanding that God’s calling is His enablement. Isaiah could say – and mean – “Heneni” to God because He knew God was God and would not have called a lowly, unworthy man to be His prophet unless God was there to lift him up. That is also the message of another message to Isaiah from God. Go find it in Isaiah 41: 10; and meditate on the truth that we need never fear God’s calling because God’s calling is His promise of power to overcome any weakness we might have. The Apostle Paul certainly discovered that truth.

The New Testament Apostle, recognizing that he was the “chief of sinners” (in 1st Tim. 1: 15), yet he could say to believers, “You can imitate me, because I imitate Christ.” (1st Cor. 11: 1) Had learned his own message of 2nd Cor. 12: 9 … that God’s grace is sufficient to cover any weakness we might have. None of us is worthy of God’s calling; but we can know that God is God [!]; and when God calls, we can respond, as did Isaiah, or many others did to God, … HENENI! … Here, am I, Lord, send me!

My Prayer for Today: Heneni, Lord! Amen

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 – June 23 – Dressed for Disaster

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 1: 1 – 9; Is 5: 1 – 7; Is 1: 10 – 17; Is 1 : 21 – 26; Is 2: 6 – 9; Is 2: 10 – 18; Is 3: 8 – 15; Is 3: 16 – 4: 1; Is 32: 9 – 11; Is 5: 8 – 23 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 3: 18 – 23 … NIV 18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.

My Journal for Today: As my devotional shepherd, Dr. LaGard Smith, points out, … Isaiah was for Judah what the Prophets Joel, Hosea, and Amos were for the northern tribes of Israel when God’s promised land became split and embroiled in political intrigue and in-fighting in those days centuries before Christ. His prophesies to Judah were unrelenting and must have been tough to hear for the people and even more so for the leaders of that southern kingdom. Isaiah railed against the sins of Judah; and his prophesies focused on the coming judgments of God, … and also upon the exciting advent of a Messiah and the salvation for God’s people.

There were many instances and examples of idolatry and sinful excess to which Isaiah addressed to God’s people, speaking for God; but one of these had to do with the prideful excesses of the women of Judah, where these women strutted their pride in fine garments, jewelry, luscious perfumes, and other physical adornments which spoke of the pride and arrogance of God’s chosen children who had abandoned His ways. And today’s highlight passage speaks of this and how God, in His day of judgment, would snatch such prideful finery away from His children.

Today, in a post-modern idolatrous world, we hear such catch-phrases as “dress for success” and “clothes make the man;” and these exhortations speak of trying to adorn our outer selves to be seen as high and mighty in our world, where climbing to the top of the heap is so important. But as we read this, Christians should know that Isaiah then, and God’s believers now, are not so concerned about the external finery being worn as discerning believers should be concerned for the hearts of those who were using adornments to pridefully call attention to the external person rather than to honor God by what we wear on the outside.

The question becomes – in Isaiah’s eyes as well as the discerning Christian today – “What happens when all the externals are stripped away?” What is left? Will the person who stands naked before God, stripped of externals, be a person God will see as true to the core; or will the Lord only see that all the finery was a sham to hide the true self, which is morally and personally bankrupt of Godly values?

Yes, today’s passage seems to focus on the tendency of women toward physical adornments; but men can be just a prideful, trying to hide the real self with marks of worldly success, and trying equally to impress others to gain personal favor or the position of power. Who among us is not guilty of dressing on Sunday to impress God’s people when we go to church rather than to honor God with our dress and adornments? Are we dressing for success in Satan’s world or are we dressing to represent our Lord to a world gone mad with arrogance and power mongering?

Oh, how these studies, holding up God’s truth as a mirror, challenge my mentality to realize why I do what I do and even dress the way I do … so as to put on a mask or to shine God’s light into the world. Which is it? Prayerfully, it is the latter, … that I would dress to show off God’s robes of righteousness; but my vigilance must be constant to avoid the former, where I dress to show off myself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, keep me tuned into to wearing what I wear to honor and glorify You … and not to adorn or raise up yours truly. Truly Yours! Amen

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 – June 22 – Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Study from God’s Word Amos 7: 10 – 17; 2Kgs 14: 28 – 29, 15: 8 – 18; 2Kgs 15 [2Chron 26: 16 – 21] … Passage for Reflection: Amos 7: 10 … NIV 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos [the Prophet] is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words.”

My Journal for Today: Today Dr. Smith uses the highlighted passage to call attention to three roles which were apparent as the political intrigue and power mongering went on in the times of Ancient Israel when Amos was a Prophet, Amaziah was the high Priest; and Jeroboam, the King. And in this regard, Dr. Smith calls attention to the three roles mentioned in this passage: Priest, Prophet, and King. And then the author/editor of my devotional book asks if I see myself in any of these roles, being aware of the strengths/weaknesses of that role.

He teaches here that PRIESTS have a tendency to maintain traditions and the status quo, where KINGS are into managing others, often seeing themselves as “movers or shakers.” Then there are the PROPHESTS, who seem like the troublemakers of the world, shaking things up by calling people to a higher standard. What about it, Dr. Smith asks, … do I fit any of these; and do I know what my strengths and weaknesses are? Well, I do know, from knowing and internalizing 2nd Cor. 13: 5 [linked] that I do need to examine myself periodically in the faith. The Bible demands this of me; but when I do this, I don’t try to “pigeon-hole” myself into any of the above categories. And some of the personality tools, which could help me to see myself as Type A or B, Phelgmatic or Sanguine, leader or follower, don’t really fit my goals in life either.

My only goal, as a follower (i.e., disciple) of Christ is to become more like my Lord today than yesterday and even more like Him tomorrow than today. And so, my only 2nd Cor. 13: 5 exam would allow me to see where my strengths/weaknesses lie with regard to CHRISTLIKENESS. And there are a number of ways that I do this. First, I simply get to know Jesus by reading about Him in Scripture and the way He went about life. In other words, if Jesus did life a certainly way, that’s a model I need to follow. Yeah, it’s sort of the “WWJD” thing, isn’t it?

Then, there were those characteristics listed by the Apostles, to which we should use as measuring sticks of Christlikeness. And years ago, my dear mentor taught me to take the lists put forth by Paul in Galatians 5: 22-23 (the Fruit of the Spirit) and by Peter in 2nd Peter 1: 5 – 9 to help us see if we have the characteristics of Christ which these Apostles felt were characters of Christ. But the simplest test I use is the one of examining whether I am growing in “humility” and “meekness,” because these are the only two character traits which Jesus used to describe Himself in Scripture (see Matt. 11: 29).

Therefore, by using these biblically based quality assurance tests, I can periodically do an inventory of myself to help stay on track and to grow in Christ the way I believe His Spirit desires to reshape me. “Prophet, Priest, or King” only interests me in that Jesus was all three; and I only desire to be like Him. So, I’ll continue to look in the mirror of God’s truth (i.e., God’s word), as I’m doing right here this morning, to see if I’m becoming more like Christ and wearing His robes of righteousness for all to see HIM or whether my rags of sinfulness are showing too much of the human side of me, hiding the light of Christ which He desires for others to see in me.
How about you? Whom do you want to be like and whom do you desire for others to see in you; … You … or Jesus?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I want to be like You! Amen

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 – June 21 – The Faith Roots of Social Justice

Study from God’s Word Amos 5: 1 – 27; Amos 6: 1 – 14; Amos 7: 1 – 9; Amos 8: 1 – 14; Amos 9: 1 – 15 … Passage for Reflection: Amos 5: 23 – 24 … NIV 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

My Journal for Today: Martin Luther King, Jr. said many things back in the 60s which were invoked to rail against the social injustice of the day, as racism was rampant in our nation. His “I have a dream” speech is often quoted at the height of Dr. King’s powerful rise in influence in our land. But one of the phrases he used often in speeches came right from the devotional highlight verse today, when he was quoted as saying, “Let justice roll like a river,” a phrase which cried out for his country to let his people go from the racial injustice being perpetrated in that day.

And Dr. Smith points out that there is a connection between that prophetic statement, made by both the Prophet Amos to ancient Israel and Dr. King in our day with the immediate previous statement which proclaimed the emptiness of traditional Godless religious ritual. God was saying, through the Prophet Amos, that He will not listen to the songs of “religion” when that so-called “worship” allows for injustice; and that was what was going on in Dr. King’s day. We certainly know that the most violent of the injustice perpetrated against our African-American brothers/sisters in the 50s and 60s was being carried out in the deep South, … the so-called “Bible-belt” of our nation. And to this day it is said that the most segregated hour in southern American can be found on Sunday mornings. As Dr. Smith exhorts in his devotional today, ”… if we think we can honor God by going through the motions of worship ritual while dishonoring our fellow man, we’ve missed the (i.e., God’s) boat. (AND) When that happens, justice is never like a river, but only a stagnate pool.”

Besides, “worship” is more than religious ritual. It is the way we live our lives, “24/7,” demonstrating, by the way we live, our devotion to our Lord/God through our life being lived out for others, rather than self. As our devotional title today implies, true “worship” has it’s faith roots in social justice. And that is why Jesus’ prime command, summarizing all of God’s Law in one statement was, ”Love one another.” [see John 13: 34-35, a New Covenant restatement of the Old Covenant in Leviticus 19: 18]

Any “worship” that we have in our churches becomes meaningless to God if we cannot and will not live it out in life by loving one another as God has loved us. So, Dr. Smith’s question at the end his devotional this morning burns with conviction as he asks, ”If I have don’t nothing to promote social justice lately, what kind of meaningless religion am I practicing?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that my life is worship which reflects Your light, shining in this ever darkening world. Amen

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 – June 20 – The Moment of Truth

Study from God’s Word Amos, Chapters 1 – 4 … Passage for Reflection: Amos 4: 12 … NIV Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

My Journal for Today: This morning in my time in God's word, Dr. Smith reminded me of an image I used to see when our family traveled down to Florida from Indiana for winter vacations with my grandparents when I was a boy. And traveling through the South on those hazardous two-lane roads were billboards, some of them painted on the barns; and some of them had religious warnings, like, PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD! And given the hazardous passing my dad would have to make on those roads, that was probably a very pertinent warning.

However, I don’t think my dad or mother paid much attention to those signs, just like several of nations Amos was sent, as the Shepherd Prophet, to warn about God’s wrath likely ignored him. I can just imagine those religious leaders, like the high priest Amaziah, looking down their noses at Amos, the desert shepherd, ignoring everything he had to say. But I hope any who read with me here are not so blasé to ignore the question Dr. Smith posits at the end of his devotional today. So, take note today as LaGard Smith writes, If the close of the day should find me unexpectedly in eternity, am I ready for my ultimate moment of truth? … WELL, ARE YOU?

My friend, I don’t know about you; but on occasion I have contemplated that road-sign type warning along the roads of my life, asking myself if, when I see Jesus at that fateful time, will He say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Yes, I’m sure of my salvation. as I hope (and will pray this morning) you are too. But is my life counting for something … for God’s glory; and am I paying attention and living according to God’s NT exhortation through Paul in Ephesians 5: 15 – 16 [linked here]. In other words, am I using God’s time, everyday being a gift from Him, following His way … from His word … and carrying out His will for my life. And that question drives me to come here every morning, to dig into God’s word each day, trying to find God’s light of direction so that my life will mean something for God’s kingdom in the midst of these trouble times.

So, when we read warnings to ancient Israel and Judah in the Old Testament, and as we can read from that so-called “minor prophet,” Amos, hopefully we can (and will) translate it to a motivation to do all we can for God’s glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that all who read with me in this place – beyond all doubt - know You as Lord and Savior and that we’re all following Your will to live for the Father’s glory. Amen

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2010 – June 19 – Good Cop, Bad Cop

Study from God’s Word Hosea, Chapters 10 – 14; 2 Kgs 14: 17 [2Chron 25: 25]; 2Kgs 14: 18-20 [2Chron 25: 26-28]; 2Kgs 14: 21; 15: 1-2 [2Chron 16: 1, 3]; 2Kgs 15: 3 [2Chron 26: 4,5]; 2Kgs 15: 4; 2 Kgs 14: 22 [2Chron 26: 2]; 2Chron 26: 6-10, 15; 2Chron 26: 11-14 … Passage for Reflection: Hosea 11: 8 – 9 … NIV 8 "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man — the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

My Journal for Today: Balance is one of the hallmarks of God’s character, which is evidenced by his infinite love balanced with His eternal wrath. God is the ultimate “Good Cop and Bad Cop,” which we’ve seen played out many times, haven’t we, in the cop dramas on TV? And as Christians we often have trouble achieving balance between such Godly characteristics as grace and law. Left to our own, we’d distort both ends of this Godly continuum; but the Lord has infinite balance even if we so often see as extremes.

And as I read through the remainder of the Book of Hosea and some other passages today from my Daily Bible in Chronological Order, I was struck by how often God had to be both “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop” with His chosen people in the Old Testament. Israel just couldn’t seem to get the concept that they had an all-powerful “Good Cop” on their side, … a God Who would treat them with incredible compassion and mercy; but their fleshly disobedience so often brought on God’s “Bad Cop” side, which had to be invoked – even though it was out of God’s love – to draw those recalcitrant Hebrews back into the Good Shepherd’s flock. God’s “Bad Cop” is always exercised by Him in love just as a parent will often have to lay a hand to a child’s backside to save him/her from destructive behavior. If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you hate at times being forced into the “bad cop” role; but you know you must be there in that role at times to save your kids from going places or doing things that could one day kill them or hurt them permanently.

And that was God being the “Bad Cop” at times with Israel; but as we read today, there were times when the “Good Cop” was very apparent; and God, the Eternal Father of His people, came shining through, … yes, even at times when we would see that God’s love and grace was tested to the limits … right to the edges of God, the “Good Cop.” It distresses me greatly to see men in the ministry where I am a Pastor, … men who just seem to be like one of my little grandkids, who, knowing where the limits/boundaries are will test out the reality of my love by just stepping over the edge of the boundaries, testing my “Bad Cop” side to see if I will do what I’ve said would be the consequences of disobedience.

And for those in Battle Plan Ministries, knowing that repeated sexual sin, especially in certain dangerous areas of behavior, can bring on death, some of the men in our ministry seem to be compulsively drawn to test out God, the “Good Cop,” to see if God, “the Bad Cop” will be consistent with the consequences of their disobedience. Unfortunately, as it is with our little granddaughter, granddad, the “Bad Cop,” sometimes has to get tough with his love; and God, in this role can be very tough as well with the consequences of our disobedience. And we’ve seen some that we know in prominent roles of ministry, like Ted Haggard, who have been laid low, testing the boundaries of God, the “Good Cop,” finding out that God, the “Bad Cop” is really there and His love can be very tough when disobedience becomes chronic, evident, and dangerous.

I hope that we all come to realize that courting the love and grace from God, the “Good Cop” is a much better strategy in life than testing out and trying to bring out God, the “Bad Cop.” Because ultimately there will be a time when God, the “Good Cop” will become God, the “Bad Cop;” and it is not a good deal to be there when that becomes reality for our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’ve experienced Your stick and Your hugs; and I’ve learned that the latter is what I seek. Amen

Friday, June 18, 2010

2010 – June 18 – Destroyed by Lack of Knowledge

Study from God’s Word Hosea, Chapters 5 - 9 … Passage for Reflection: Hosea 4: 5 – 9 … NIV 5 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother- 6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. 7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. 8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. 9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.

My Journal for Today: These were chilling words [i.e., today’s highlighted passage] from God in Hosea’s day; and they are chillingly powerful – OR SHOULD BE - for today’s Christian leaders as well as those who follow them in their flocks. Please take a moment and meditate on those sentiments from God’s word to His people. What are they saying to you … to us in this generation of believers?

My friend, when I read this passage, especially knowing what I know from a similar stark warning from the Apostle Paul in Romans 1: 18 – 32 [linked here], I’m chilled to the core by the reality of where we are in the so-called “post-modern world” of today. When you read Chapters 5 – 9 of the Book of Hosea, I know that historically they chronicle the prophesies God, given to Hosea to level against the northern tribes of Israel in that day; but if you read them, as I have this morning, substituting the church in today’s post modern world for those peoples described as “Israel” or “Ephraim” in these chapters, you have to be stricken with some degree of concern – if not terror – for what God may have in store for a post-modern church which is prostituting itself by not preaching the truth and succumbing to worldly idolatry.

We cannot – or should not – point fingers. If we are Christian leaders we need to take heed to God’s word, even though He directed it to Israel almost 3000 years ago. We need to heed it as if it were directed to us; and we need to sound the alarm for God’s flock to repent, to return to God’s truth and His ways, and to follow those who are sounding the alarm of truth for the people to hear God’s warning. If we are – and we are – the flock of God, we need to be bolstered by the truth that God desires our repentance by praying our confession to Him, … by preaching the truth if we are in a position to do so, … and by partnering with other believers (and churches) to ring out God’s alarm for all to hear.

Fellow Christian followers, do you hear God calling to you, His flock, in the midst of a post-modern generation to stay close to the Good Shepherd, as we hear the roar of the lion (see 1st Peter 5: 8); and we, the lambs, need to take heart from the truth of Isaiah 41: 10 and 53: 6 where we hear the truth that repentance and restoration is found in following Christ Who will come to save and sanctify His people.

Fellow Christian leaders, do you hear the shofar calling from the wall of God’s city, where we, who have the responsibility as Pastors, Elders, or Overseers, are being called to shepherd God’s flock back to His truth so that they can hear His way and flock to the Good Shepherd rather than to run from the roar of the lion (again 1st Peter 5: 8) and be consumed. We have THE POWER on our side, but we are being misguided by the flesh rather than returning the truth. We are fleeing truth right into the mouths of waiting lionesses who know we frightened lambs will run from the roar of Satan’s worldly alpha-lion.

We need not fear and run; we need to repent and return to the promises and power of God from His word; but as the words from today’s devotional cry out, … My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge! And that’s why we, who know God, need to stay close to Him and to do all we can to be saturated in His truth and sharing it with all who might listen, learn, and – prayerfully in turn – lead.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, as a sheep in Your flock, keep me close to You, My Good Shepherd; and as Your sub-shepherd, give me Your power to sound the alarm and preach Your truth. Amen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

2010 – June 17 – What’s In A Name

Study from God’s Word Hosea, Chapters 1 – 3 … Passage for Reflection: Hosea 2: 23 … NIV 23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. [Hebrew Lo-Ruhamah]'
I will say to those called 'Not my people, [Hebrew Lo-Ammi ] 'You are my people';
and they will say, 'You are my God.' "

My Journal for Today: The book of Hosea is an incredible study into the faithfulness, long-suffering, and yes, the justice of our God as well. And the way God teaches the lesson of His Jehovah character to Hosea is both tragic and powerful. Mankind learns best from experience; and God teaches Hosea about how much He loves and is merciful to Israel, despite her disobedience and unfaithfulness, by having Hosea marry a woman, Gomer, who becomes a prostitute. Yes, that most certainly is a life picture of Israel; but poor Hosea certainly had to go through a horrible life lesson with his wife to be able to empathize with God’s message which would be conveyed by Hosea to God’s unfaithful bride, Israel.

And in the process we see that even the names given to Hosea’s children with his wife Gomer communicated to Hosea and the world a lot about the nature of God’s relationship with his off-spring, Israel. Hosea’s second child, named in Hebrew “Lo-Ruhamah,” meant “not my loved one,” speaking of God’s regret and grief over the way His children in Israel rebelled against God’s way. And the third daughter, “Lo-Ammi,” was named to mean “not my people,” also communicating God’s dismay over how his disobedient and prostituted bride (Gomer) had treated her relationship with her bridegroom. What a picture, through names, of God’s long-suffering, yet His grief over how these children represented Israel’s disobedience and disaffection for their faithful Bridegroom.

Names are important in Scripture, aren’t they? Remember how God had Sarai’s name changed to “Sarah” to reflect how she’d become the “mother of many.” Peter’s name, meaning “the rock,” certainly was not apt for him while he was a disciple of Christ; but God knew what Peter was going to become, “a rock” of witness for the new Church, … the Bride of Christ. Have you ever done a study into your own name? Mine is WILLIAM; and in many languages it means “the helmeted one” or “warrior.” And God seemed to know something about me, which I couldn’t sense in myself for many years; because I rebelled in sin for over 22 years of my life, rejecting Christ as a non-believer. But then God drew me to Himself; and I took on more of the character of my given name, ultimately being called and becoming a warrior for Christ in a ministry called “BattlePlan Ministries.” Yes, … now I’m becoming a “William” in the Godly sense of my given name. Go figure!! And this is saying to me here about how many of us, who take on the name of Christ, calling our selves “Christian,” either do service or disservice to our Bridegroom by the way we live.

We who are called “Christians,” either reflect, by the way we live, the Name of Christ, or we profane His image by our life choices and behavior. If any of us go by the name “Christian,” we must continually take note of how our name, Christ’s Name, is being witnessed into the world by the way we live. And if we can be seen by others appropriately as the Bride of Christ, wearing our Bridegroom’s Robes of Righteousness, especially in the way we exhibit God’s love (see John 13: 34-35), we live up to our name, “Christian.” However, as with the names of Hosea’s children, when we exhibit our rags of sin to the world, refusing to wear our Groom’s grace-offered robes, the name “christian” becomes that of disobedience and reflects anything but our Savior to the world.

I must ask myself today, “ ‘William,’ are you a warrior for Christ, living up to your given name; and are you aptly reflecting the name of ‘Christian’ into a world which desperately needs to see and receive that Name for their eternal future?” I will pray that I do.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, make me a true “William” for your glory; and help me to show off the name “Christian” in a way which reflects Your glory for all to see. Amen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 – June 16 – Something Fishy About Obedience

Study from God’s Word Jonah, Chapters 1 – 3; 2nd Kings 13: 5; 14: 25-27; 2 Kgs 13; 6 … Passage for Reflection: Jonah 2: 10 … NIV And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

My Journal for Today: Well, if you read my devotional blog yesterday, you read of the wild and almost absurd story of a dead man being resurrected from death by being thrown by friends onto the dry bones of Elisha, the dead prophet; and if you think that was a wild and crazy story of God intervening into the lives of His children to make a point, what about the even wilder story of the reluctant Prophet, Jonah?

And as I told a bunch of men yesterday, when we read and digest stories like these in the Bible, we’re forced – almost like Jonah was – to decide … #1 … do we believe what is being related (by God) is actually true; and … #2 … do we get (i.e., understand and internalize) what God is saying from the story? And this story of Jonah has made its way, amongst all the stories in the Old Testament times, into God’s Holy Word. So, #1 … do you believe it’s true? And #2, what can we learn from it?

Sometimes, it stretches our human intellect to declare that the story of Jonah is not just some prophetic fish tale; but it’s important that we stretch ourselves into the realm of intellectual discomfort to believe the story … then we must do our best to let God speak through the reality of His truth to teach us something, … in this case about disobedience and the sovereignty of God.

Because, if we decide (and it’s always a decision) to BELIEVE God’s word is always true (and I ask you to recall or learn about the Greek concept of “believe,” which may require a little research into the Greek term, “pisteuo”), you will, in the case of the story of Jonah, come to a realization that you can’t hide from the plans of God; and even when we make disobedient decisions, as Jonah did, God is God; and He’s going to have His way, even if He has to use a bunch of innocent sailors, a big fish, a very reluctant and bigoted preacher, and a pagan King to bring about His will of salvation for His children … yes, even to a bunch of worldly Arab gentiles, like the Ninevites.

And the thing I bring away from a restudy into this wild fish story about Jonah, is that I need to follow God’s will for my life, even when it means going out of my comfort zone to do so, especially when it involves being obedient to the Great Commission (I hope you can quote that one from Matt. 28: 19-20). When God calls us to be humble and follow Him (once again, remember Luke 9: 23), the lesson we learn from being disobedient or reluctant may not involve being shipwrecked, eaten by a fish, and resurrected from a disaster; but if God needs to teach us to be humble and/or obedient, the challenges He puts us through may seem to us like those faced by Jonah. And I hope that I, for one, can just BELIEVE God, humbly seek His will, and then be in surrender to allow God’s Spirit to do what God says He will do in Isaiah 41: 10 and/or 1st Cor. 10: 13 (and if you don’t have the content of those two passages memorized, I charge you to do so – yes, to get out of your comfort zone and let God lift you up with His truth!!!).

Do you BELIEVE [yes, I mean “pisteuo”) the great fish story?! If so, we need to learn from it and let it direct us to lay aside fleshly desires and follow our God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I believe, … I receive, … and prayerfully, I will achieve Your will. Amen

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2010 – June 15 – Grave Humor

Study from God’s Word 2 Kgs 12: 21b, 14: 1-2 [2 Chron 24: 27b; 25: 1]; 2 Kgs 14: 3-6 [2 Chron 25: 2-4]; 2 Kgs 13: 20-21; 2 Kgs 12: 22-25; 2 Chron 25: 5-10; 2 Kgs 14: 7 [2 Chron 25: 11-12]; 2 Chron 25: 13-16; 2 Kgs 14: 8-14 [2 Chron 25: 17: 24]; 2 Kgs 13: 12-13, 14: 15-16; 2 Kgs 14: 16b, 23-24 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 13: 20 - 21 … NIV 20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

My Journal for Today: If you, as I have been doing, read through the books of 2nd Kings and/or 2nd Chronicles, you have to be impressed by the running and continuing disobedience of God’s chosen people, … yes, even their stupidity. These Jewish people who had been divided into the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern tribe of Judah ever so repeatedly because subject to idolatry and the influences of the pagans surrounding them. And even with all of this, God is so long-suffering, giving His children prophets to speak against their disobedience, warning them of what is to come if they remain fixed in their disobedience; and also giving them many opportunities to repent.

And in the midst of all this serious political intrigue and warfare with Israel fighting their neighboring rivals and each other, in today’s text, highlighted by Dr. Smith’s devotional, God gives His people (and future readers of Scripture) a joke for the ages, … what Dr. Smith calls, “Grave Humor.” And don’tcha just love the pun!

Have you ever noted in God’s word that God has a sense of humor? Yes, occasionally our Lord, through history, as chronicled in His word, expresses a powerful truth in an incredibly humorous bit of history, getting a powerful point across in almost an absurd way. I remember how God used a donkey to convey a truth to Balaam in Numbers 22; and today’s passage is somewhat like that as well. I had read this passage from 2 Kings 13 in past Bible studies; but until today I had totally missed God’s punch-line here to His people; but God’s sense of humor certainly resonates with me today.

Think about it. Paganized Israelites, maybe just trying to escape the wrath of pagan warriors while burying a friend, throw their friend’s body in Elisha’s crypt where his bones rested; and then we read their friend came to life when that body touched the bones of Elisha. How cool is that?! And can you just image what those men felt like when they witnessed this absurd, but true, resurrection event?

Do you get the joke? Do you get what God is saying through this event, the news of which likely spread like wildfire through God’s people? God was saying that mankind must die to himself and be raised again by being cast into the tomb of God’s holiest. I don’t think I have to tell you where that imagery is headed prophetically, do I? As Smith often asks a personalize challenge question at the end of his devotional entries, he writes, ”If I want to overcome death, am I willing to jump into an open tomb for that to happen?” And that, my friend, is no joke!! No, it’s deadly (or rather, livingly) serious!

God was saying to his people with His incredibly picturesque sense of humor, that His people must die to themselves and follow Him into the grave, carrying their sins with them, and following their Savior so that they could be raised eternally as was that dead body who came into contact with the bones of Elisha. Is that not an incredible prophetic picture of what Jesus said to His disciples, as quoted by Matthew, Mark, and Luke when Jesus said to them, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross (daily), and follow Me… ?”

And I can only hope you’ve joined me by following our Lord into and out of His empty tomb, carrying in those daily – and deadly - sins, and being raised again unto life eternal through belief in the reason for our Lord’s death on that cross to save any who would follow Him.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, what a picture; and I hope all who read here get Your joke. Amen

Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 – June 14 – The Excitement of Restoration

Study from God’s Word 2 Chron 24: 3; 2 Kgs 12: 4-5 [2 Chron 24: 4-5]; 2 Kgs 10: 32-36; 2 Kgs 13: 1-2; 2 Kgs 12: 6 – 16 [2 Chron 24: 6 – 14]; 2 Chron 24: 15 – 22; 2 Kgs 13: 3-4, 7; 2 Chron 24: 23-24; 2 Kgs 12: 17-18; 2 Kgs 13: 8-11; 2 Kgs 13: 11, 14-20 [2 Chron 24: 25-27] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 12: 13-15 … NIV 13 The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD; 14 it was paid to the workmen, who used it to repair the temple. 15 They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.

My Journal for Today: My devotional “shepherd,” Dr. F. LaGard Smith, has taken me through some parallel passages in 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles which chronicle the activities of the separated tribes of Israel, in the Northern kingdoms, and Judah, in the southern portions of the promised lands. And one has to be impressed by how God blesses when His peoples are obedient and how the people are laid vulnerable to evil when they are disobedient. And the operational applications from these scriptural accounts are obvious, of course.

And Smith is right on from his devotional today as he speculates what the world would be like now if God’s people were on a roll of obedience as they were in today’s highlighted passage, … when in Judah the Priests preached and declared God’s word about giving; and the people responded by joyfully [key attitude], bringing their tithes/taxes into the storehouse of the Temple with gleeful excitement. What was going on during these times could be brought out in the OT passage from Solomon about giving in Proverbs 3: 9-10 and in the NT exhortation by Paul in 2nd Corinthians 9: 6-7. And if you don’t know these by heart, I hope you’ll find them and meditate on their meaning … for the church and for each of us individually.

What would it be like for us individually, for the church, and for our world, if ALL believers, from any given country, did what God has instructed us to do in those two biblical exhortations above? Well, it would the playing out of God’s challenge and promise for all times from Malachi 3: 6 - 12 - linked here for your study. Think of it! God’s people do what God challenges believers to do … to bring their tithes into the storehouse (i.e., the local church). And if believers did that voluntarily and joyfully [i.e.,100% of believers giving 10% of what God has given us to the local church], there would be so many funds in the local churches that there would be no need for a welfare system in whatever country did that. The churches would have so much money that they could take care of any of the physical, emotional, or spiritual needs of their members. And there would be so many funds left over that churches could take care of needy non-believers in their area, which would be an incredible witness to the world, likely causing a massive turning to Christ wherever that kind of witness were noticed by a non-believing world in need.

However, the reality is that fewer than 5% of “evangelicals” tithe to their local church; and most churches struggle to make ends meet financially. So, we have to play the “what if” question; and Christ’s Church in the world is crippled in its witness because so few people come forward to give as we are challenged by God in those passages above. Historically we’ve seen – e.g., by today’s highlight passage – what could be; but we’re living out what is true right now as God’s Church backs away from God’s challenge to give so that God could prove to us what He has promised (again see Malachi 3: 8-10). But then, … see if you’re willing to take God’s challenge and give as God’s word instructs in the two other passages I’ve brought out above. Because God’s promise – from Malachi 3 – is that He’ll pour out His blessing upon you in ways you’ll find wondrous and amazing. God says, “Try Me!” But the question is …“Why don’t we?

It’s up to us, as believers, to see if we really believe God’s word on this and follow through by giving as He instructs. As a personal witness, my wife an I have been giving – prayerfully with joy – like this for years now; and we have been blessed with everything we would need and so much more. And beyond that, even on a fixed income as a retired government worker, my wife and I, by God's providence, have been able to give and support the ministry for which God called us to serve Him. And all we can say to that is Praise the Lord!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You promised; … and You have delivered – BIGTIME! Amen

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 – June 13 – The Day of the Lord

Study from God’s Word The entire Book of Joel, Chapters 1 – 3 … Passage for Reflection: Joel 2: 1 … NIV 1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand …

My Journal for Today: This is going to be short - … maybe sweet … maybe not. The Prophet Joel said it almost three thousand years ago; and I’m no prophet; but I rely on him being one; and our DAY OF THE LORD is at hand.

No, we don’t know when that “day of the Lord,” meaning God’s Judgment Day, is to be; but we do know that if the Lord tarries; and I were to die before He comes again to liberate His Bride, the Church, my personal “day of the Lord” will be the day I die. And so, let me be a blowing today of the call of the “trumpet” (read today’s verse and then respond to the call of the shofar at this site]; and by resounding what Dr. Smith says in his devotional today … that we all must receive the call of God upon our hearts and surrender to that call BEFORE the individual “day of the Lord” in our lives. For when we die, if we have not responded to God’s shofar call, we will be doomed to the judgment discussed by God’s Prophet, Joel.

I cannot say this any stronger; and I will pray this morning that you [any reader here], as have I, receive in faith, God’s call on your heart that you repent of your sin and be saved. Because when that final shofar blows from Heaven and the Lord appears in the clouds, it will be too late for any who have died in disbelief and disobedience. We will all die in disobedience; but only those who are sinners and fail to repent and receive Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus-The Messiah, as Lord and Savior, will be doomed to eternal perdition.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that any who read this have answered Your call to salvation on their hearts and they have responded to Your shofar, receiving Your saving grace in faith. And thank You for continuing, in mercy, to sound the shofar call through Your Prophets and the pronouncement of Your Gospel in Your living Word so that many more can hear the shofar and be saved. Amen

Saturday, June 12, 2010

2010 – June 12 – Being Honest About God

Study from God’s Word 2Kgs 11: 1 – 3 [2Chron 22: 10 – 12]; 2Kgs 10: 18 – 31; 2Kgs 11: 4-16 [2Chron 23: 1-15]; 2Kgs 11: 21, 12: 1 [2Chron 24: 1]; 2Kgs 11: 17-20 [2Chron 23: 16-21]; 2Kgs 12: 2 [2Chron 24: 2]; 2Kgs 12: 3 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 10: 30… NIV 30 The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation."

My Journal for Today: I totally agree with Dr. Smith in his devotional entry for today that there are segments of the Bible, especially in the OT, which cause me great pause. Today’s readings are some of those; and if you were to read through the passages I have today from Smith’s editing of The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, I think you’d have to be set into a quandary about how/why God would allow such carnage. Oh, I can rationalize a lot of it, saying to myself that God was trying to purge the evil and idol worship from His promised people/land; but then I come across the incident in 2nd Kings 10 where Jehu, who is later given honor by God, traps all the Baal worshippers in the Baal temple with a sting – an outright lie – and he has all of these people massacred. Then God, knowing that Jehu was not totally sold out to The LORD, tells Jehu that the throne of Israel would be protected in his family for at least four generations [see today’s verse].

So, how do we bring our concept of God into line with all of that? As Smith puts it, “…we can always fall back on God’s unassailable sovereignty or perhaps soothe our qualms by acknowledging the obvious – that God is beyond human understanding.” But Smith goes on by stating what is in my mind right at this moment, when he writes, “… being brutally honest about God continues to leave us uncomfortable.” Right now, God’s Spirit in my consciousness has bubble up the life of Habakkuk … in the Book by his name. Dr. Smith didn’t bring this out; but I believe God’s Spirit is helping me understand my own questions about the nature of my God.

Habakkuk, … this poor Prophet of God – and yes, he was a Prophet – got totally confused by what he saw the sovereign God allowing in his days, with evil running rampant. And we read in Chapter One of Habakkuk’s book of his confusion and his going to God, railing at His Lord, by asking all the “WHY” questions he had in his mind and heart. And the entire book of Habakkuk is about God giving His prophet a lesson in faith and trust; and as you probably remember, by Chapter Three of the Book of Habakkuk, the last chapter of that lesson in trustworthiness, we read, in verses 17-18, Habakkuk says, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

My, dear one, if you’re following along with me, I can only pray – and I will this morning – that I (we) come to the realization of God’s sovereignty, no matter what seemingly incongruent truth we read in His Holy Word and what we observe going on in our world. I say it often; but I need to keep saying it. God is God; and I am not! Once we get that settled, we can live with such truths as Romans 8: 28 (I hope you have that one down by now!); and we can do all we can to follow Christ’s command of discipleship in Luke 9: 23. [If you don’t have those two memorized or at least paraphrased in your memory, I really hope you’re looking them up as I write this.]

With that settled, even when we read seemingly inexplicable history in the Old Testament, we can move on, knowing that God is God and we are not!

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, please be merciful as we learn to recognize that You are God and ALL things do - in truth - work for Good to those of us who love You! Amen

Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 – June 11 – Masking the Real You

Study from God’s Word 2 Kgs 8: 23-24 [2 Chron. 22: 1-2]; 2 Kgs 8: 27 [2 Chron. 23: 3-4]; 2 Kgs 8: 7-15; 2 Kgs 8: 28 [2 Chron 22: 5]; 2 Kgs 8: 29, 9: 14-15 [2 Chron 22: 6]; 2 Kgs 9: 1-26; 2 Kgs 9: 27 [2 Chron 22: 7]; 2 Kgs 9: 30-37; 2 Kgs 10: 1-11; 2 Kgs 19: 12-14 [2 Chron 22: 8]; 2 Kgs 9: 28 [2 Chron 22: 9]; 2 Kgs 10: 15-17 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 9: 30 … NIV Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair, and looked out of the window.

My Journal for Today: “Jezebel!” That name to this day has the meaning of a dangerous, deceptive woman. No one would ever name his daughter after the temptress who was the wife of Ahab in Scripture. And even in her darkest, most chaotic days, as Jehu was closing in to kill her, what do we find her doing [in today’s text]. Yes, here she was, trying to hide her real self by putting on cosmetics to paint herself into the light of a temptress, perhaps trying to lure Jehu into bed with her, or trying to trick him in some way to let her live. As we read on in 2nd Kings, it didn’t work; and she died an ignominious death.

But even when we find ourselves threatened by chaos and danger, we often find ourselves putting on airs or trying to hide our real selves with “masks,” as Jezebel used cosmetics. I found it interesting, as Dr. Smith in his devotional this morning revealed, that the word “cosmetics” in our language is derived from the Greek word “cosmos,” … the root of which means to bring order out of chaos. And isn’t that what cosmetics do. They try to mask the chaos of our true identity or looks with a painted “mask,” if you will.

Years ago, when I was covering over myself with a Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde double life of sin, I became fascinated by the “red light” district in Amsterdam, where women of the night painted themselves up and “advertised” themselves in windows on the street lit with red lights (hence the origin of the name of the district). And my wife’s uncle who took me on a tour of this infamous area, relating to me that the women may look good in the windows; but when one gets close to these women (and you can imagine how that would happen), they would look much different in real life (and real light). I thought at the time, “How would he know that?”; but I never asked him how he had that knowledge.

But it is said in jest that a woman, even in an earthquake, would want to put her face on (i.e., put on her cosmetics). Well, maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole; but we all, as humans, would rather wear masks of unreality to cover over and hide who we are in reality. Dr. Smith, as he often does at the end of his devotions, ask a self-probing question, … even today writing, ”Is the superficial mask I wear for others fooling even myself?” And I’ll leave that one for you to answer about yourself.

Personally, however, I’ve come to realize that I cannot become the person God intends for me to become in Christ unless I exercise real vulnerability, letting down my masks and letting others see the REAL Bill Berry. I hid that guy from the world – and I was good at it – for over 22 years of my life; and it finally drained my mental energies. Finally, I just took off all the masks; and let my wife and others see who I really was. And as you might imagine, it was humiliating and painful for quite some time; but it was also like taking a 100-pound weight off my back.

It took years of discipleship; but God, the Holy Spirit, through my church and a very special mentor, taught me how to develop the Christlike qualities of humility and meekness (see Matt. 11: 29), primarily by taking off all the masks and developing a disciple-like vulnerability through accountability. And those are two Christ-like character abilities which cannot be developed unless we take off all the masks and just let the world see us for whom we really are. Yes, … warts and all; and yes, even becoming emotionally and spiritually naked for all to see if the king is wearing no clothes.

How about you? Are there any masks you need to shed so that God can use the reality of Himself shining forth through the real you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that we all can just be the person You created us to be. Amen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 – June 10 – God’s Way Can Be Offensive

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 21: 18; 2 Kings 6: 8-23; 2 Kings 8: 3-6; 2 Kings 5: 1-27; 2 Kings 6: 24-31; 2 Kings 6: 32 – 7: 20 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 5: 11 … NIV 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.

My Journal for Today: These times of Elisha, into which I’ve been led in my trek through the Bible this year, are wild and wondrous with a lot of crazy events and miracles transpiring. It’s almost like God is showing these pagans, who surrounded Israel, how fruitless it is to mess with His chosen people; and Naaman, the commander for the King of Aram, really gets a big dose of God’s lessons as he becomes afflicted with leprosy, the plague of plagues in those days.

But the story of Naaman, brought to my attention this morning by Dr. Smith, is a great one for us all to learn what it takes for us to be cleansed of our sin and made right in God’s eyes. And Naaman was like many of us can be, filled with pompous attitude and used to getting things our way; and sometimes God has to bring us low to get our attention; and the Lord certainly got Naaman’s as he became covered with leprous lesions. But even with that, Naaman was exceedingly dubious about what Elisha offered as God’s remedy. Dip seven times in the muddy Jordan. Common, Naaman thought; … what’s up with that?

Have you ever needed a good dose of humility or a lesson of patience and God somehow placed you on a track of discipleship where a mentor or a Christian leader gives you God’s way to make things right; and you think, “Aw, common, God; this is a bit much!” I can remember a time in my discipleship when God, through my mentor, let me know that pouring God’s word into my mind/heart (i.e., memorizing large doses of Scripture) was HIS way to purge my mind of a lot of the spiritual poison I had ingested with years of habitual sexual sin. All my mentor was doing was giving me the advice I needed from God’s promises through the Psalmist in Psalm 119: 9-11 or to Joshua in Joshua 1: 8 and with God’s power promise from Isaiah 55: 11. But I – in the inertia of my sin and self indulgence – thought there just had to be another way; because I just couldn’t imagine that I could do what my mentor was asking me to do … to memorize the scriptures proposed in the Topical Memory Series (published by NavPress).

I was very much like Naaman, seeking to have God’s cure on my terms, rather than accepting the prescription from Jehovah Rapha, the Great Physician. But my mentor was like Elisha was for Naaman, sticking to what God was giving me to do to rid myself of years of my own “spiritual leprosy.” And my mentor, like Elisha did with Naaman, held my feet to the fire of God’s plan. And we know what happened with Naaman, don’t we? Yes, … he relented, did what the Prophet prescribed, God’s plan, and Naaman was healed, restored, and given God’s grace to go out and live in peace. And what a testimony Naaman must’ve given to his pagan peoples about the healing, enabling, empowering grace of God.

Well, that was the case for yours truly as well. Though I didn’t really see that memorizing a bunch of Bible verses would help, I did what my mentor taught me, learning how to contextualize each verse I memorized, being able to give the historical, ecclesiastical, and personal context for each of the well over 60 verses he had me memorize. And almost like Naaman, my mentor, after I’d memorize and recite – word perfect - each set of verses he would assign [usually two per week], he’d have me hold on to and recite all of the previous verses I had learned and contextualized. So, after 18 months of dipping myself into the Jordan of God’s word, I sat before my mentor and recited – word perfect - all of the 60 TMS verses as well as a few others my mentor had assigned for me along the way.

Yes, my Elisha mentor, for all those weeks, just kept having me dip myself in the Jordan of God’s word, over and over and over again, until God’s word just permeated my being [and isn’t that the essence of the truth of Prov. 23: 7 (NKJV)? My mentor knew that my mind/heart was filled with poisonous and rancorous sexual imagery; and he knew that my mind needed to be cleansed and purified by the power of God’s word, as promised (again I say) by the truth of Isaiah 55: 11, Joshua 1: 8, and Psalm 119, 9,11. If you don’t know the essence of those three passages right now as I cite them, I would exhort you to take a week and study them in their proper context, internalizing the truths in these passages, and then memorizing them so deeply that you’ll never forget them.

That exercise will be like Naaman being dipped into the Jordan river; and maybe, like with me, your mind/heart can be transformed as with the promises of three other passages I hope you have memorized, … Philippians 4: 8, Romans 12: 1-2, and again, Proverbs 23: 7 [NKJV]. You go back and study these three; and you’ll see that as you get God’s word into your mind, your heart will be transformed, and you will have a new mindset, just as did Naaman when he was cleansed by the Jordan river under the watch-care of God through the Prophet Elisha’s mentoring.

And if you undertake to do what I’ve prescribed in my journaling here this morning, I would hope that you’d be able to come back to me in the future and share stories of how God transformed your mind and heart to do things you never imagined possible. Naaman found that to be the case as did many other broken persons in the Bible, men or women like Moses, Joseph, Gideon, Peter, Paul, (and yes, ;>), Mary – of the Magdalene variety, all of whom were raised out of brokenness into power by following the ways of the Lord rather than the ways of self.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I reflect on where You have brought this formerly broken soul and how You had me cleansed by the Jordan of Your word, purging me of my past mental poisons, and cleansing/empowering me by Your grace. And now my testimony is witness to Your wondrous power through Your word. Amen

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2010 – June 09 – Dysfunctional Gloating

Blogger’s Note: WARNING! If you have strong socio-political opinions/feelings that the USA should not be supporting Israel as stanchly as they have in the past, I do hope you read the blog God led me to study, read, and journal today. However, my warning is that you may not agree with the strong and opinionated stance I have taken in my writings, which I believe were led by God’s truth from the book of Obadiah, from which I was led to read this morning. But with this in mind, I do hope you’ll read – and maybe comment on what we can all glean from the “minor” Prophet Obadiah, writing some 700-800 years before Christ.

Study from God’s Word Obadiah [only one Chapter to read] … Passage for Reflection: Obadiah 1: 12… NIV 12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.

My Journal for Today: Obadiah; … who’s he? Well, a little study this morning yields only a little light on this man. Apparently his name means “servant of God;” and this book, which has been included in Hebrew and Christian Scripture, indicates that Obadiah was a Prophet from God. And apparently there are two possible time periods to which this book might be attributed. One is during the reign of Jehoram in the southern kingdom of Judah (from 853 – 841 BC), during the times I was writing about yesterday when the northern Hebrew tribes in Israel had separated from the southern tribes in Judah; and they were being harassed and affronted by the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who lived in the hill country above Judah; and the Edomites did all they could to have Judah brought down.

But this Prophet might also, according to some scholars, have been writing a retrospective about the time of Jeremiah (sometime between 627 – 586 BC), the latter being the year Nebuchadnezzar took Judah into captivity). At any rate, reading through Obadiah today has some scary here-and-now overtones, … at least for me. In this book we read of God’s Prophet railing against a people, the Edomites, who were haughty enough to think that they could eradicate God’s chosen people from the face of the earth. And these descendants of Esau, carried out all kinds of plots [in various eras of history as mentioned above], thinking that they deserved to take back God’s birthright which had been foolishly lost by Esau to Jacob. And I’m sure you know that the descendants of Esau, the Arabs, still today aspire to eradicate the descendants of Jacob.

I’ll not go that much into this history; but when I read the one-chapter book of Obadiah today, it’s almost like I’m reading of some modern-day prophet of God publishing a blog warning Iran and their haughty President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is also a descendant of Esau. Because today we see Iran, who has a haughty hatred of Israel; and we read of Ahmadinejad declaring, openly and definantly, that Israel and all the Jews should be wiped from the face of the earth. And the modern day Iranians, who are descendants of the Edomites, to which Obadiah refers, are, like their ancestors, doing all they can to bring down the descendants of Jacob.

But I believe the prophesy of Obadiah is clear; and whether it was applied to the land of Judah in the two periods of history mentioned above or God’s prophetic words are applied to Iran today, any country who plots to destroy God’s chosen nation, Israel, and especially those who boast of doing such, will be ultimately laid low and will have called down God’s wrath on themselves.

Go ahead, … you go back and read beyond the one verse of warning in today’s highlighted passage. In fact, read the entire little book of Obadiah [it’s really short!]; and see if you don’t see a warning against any haughty people who might try to eradicate, or even plot against, Israel. My friends, this warning would apply to any people or nation, especially any who would become an ally of the modern day Edomites. And in today’s headlines, this observer sees America, the press and our government, undermining our former alliance with Israel, which plays into the hands of Iranian and Palestinian demands and their desires to war against Israel.

Our President says he is a “christian.” He has stated that he believes in the veracity of the Bible. But as he backs away from our strong historical alliance with Israel – God’s chosen, one can’t help but read the USA into the words of Obadiah and perhaps see God’s wrath being unleashed against any/all who would play into the ploys of those who still – even centuries after Jacob took the birthright and blessing from Esau – desire to obliterate the covenant God has made with His people. … Scary stuff – at least to this observer!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord have mercy on the remnant who still believes that we must support Your chosen peoples. Help our leaders to clearly see that we cannot back away from our support of Israel. Amen

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 – June 08 – Music to Soothe the Soul

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 8: 16-17 [2nd Chron. 21: 5]; 2nd Chron. 21: 2-4; 2nd Kings 3: 6-27; 1st Kings 22: 45, 50a [2nd Chron. 20: 34, 21: 1a]; 1st Kings 22: 50b [2nd Chron. 21: 1b, 20a]; 2nd Kings 8: 18-19 [2nd Chron. 21: 6-7, 11]; 2nd Chron. 21: 12-17; 2nd Kings 8: 20-22 [2nd Chron. 21: 8-10] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 3: 15… NIV 14 Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. 15 But now bring me a harpist." While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha 16 and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. 17 For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.

My Journal for Today: Note the passage highlighted by Dr. Smith’s devotional today. It is typed in bold above for your reference/study. And my devotional shepherd uses this verse to raise an interesting and very salient point about our use of our time devoted to our worship of the Lord.

Does music play an important point in your (our) worship? It certainly does for me; but music, as we choose to use it can definitely have an effect on our emotions. The context of today’s passage has the Prophet Elisha really upset over the decisions/actions of King Joram in Israel; and so, what does he do? He calls for a harpist to play soothing music in his presence. Does that remind you of another person in the Old Testament who needed soothing music? Yeah; … King Saul called for David to play for him when God’s Spirit had departed from him and his soul was very disquieted [see 1st Samuel 16: 14-23].

Dr. Smith rightly points out that if you play lilting classical music in the presence of a baby, then if you play hard rock music, you’ll see a vastly different behavioral reaction in the child. Which of those two do you think will promote sleep and which will prevent slumber? Duh?!! We know the answer, don’t we?

Have you noticed how important music is in the worship services of most churches; and we hire “worship leaders” for churches because they have God-given talents to shape music which enhances the message the preacher is going to bring in the worship service. Perhaps you, as do I, use certain Christian praise/worship music to enhance your daily devotional quiet times, especially if you need to have your heart quieted or your attitude set into a more receptive tone of mind (and note how I just used the phrase “tone of mind” to describe having an attitude of worship during my “quiet time” [where I also use another term which describes solitude as opposed to noisiness]). Our minds/hearts are definitely affected by , silence, music, or noisiness; and I maintain that we can worship our God more effectively and purposely if we use music judiciously in our disciplined daily devotional times.

Right now, I’m choosing to go to my I-tunes listing of Christian favorites, which I’ve stored on my I-pod, and I’m bringing up a tune to which I’ve made reference on more than one occasion in my devotionals. It is the old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, rendered and sung by Alisha Dishong, who does such a beautiful job singing this old Christian classic. I often go back to this one song, sung so liltingly and beautifully by this singer, with such a soothing arrangement, because this song quiets my heart and brings me into an attitude of worship where I’m doing exactly what the lyrics say in the song >>>

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

Do you have trouble getting into a proper mood to worship God? Perhaps you have rancid dreams at night and you need to quiet your heart or redirect your mind in order to sleep. Maybe you have trouble getting your baby to sleep at night. Well, if you need some quieting of your heart or you desire to go deeper in your morning devotional, perhaps choosing to use selectively soothing Christian or classical music would be a good strategy to quiet your heart so that you can go more fruitfully before the Throne of Grace.

We know that Saul used David’s harp music to quiet his soul; and in today passage we read that Elisha needed to use the contemporary worship music of his day to soothe his disquieted nature.

So, as I sit here listening to the lovely strains of Alisha Dishong singing about Jesus, maybe it would be good for you to turn on some heart-quieting music, as did Elisha, to calm your continence and bring you closer to your Savior and into a deeper relationship with Him.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for the music You have given us to help us come to You to worship You in Spirit and in truth. Amen

Monday, June 07, 2010

2010 – June 07 – Believing the Bald Truth

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 2: 1 – 25; 2nd Kings 4: 1 – 44; 2nd Kings 8: 1-2; 2nd Kings 6: 1-7 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 2: 23 – 14 … NIV 23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlighted Old Testament story is an interesting – and curious one; and as Dr. Smith, the editor, who BTW is bald, says feels right for all those times when bald people hear those “bald jokes” and have no way of getting back at those who have jeered those, as Dr. Smith refers to, as “follicly challenged.” But it does seem a bit excessive that Elisha would call down God’s wrath upon a bunch of bullies who were jeering him and calling him a “baldhead.” But Dr. Smith is right. When you read the context of this passage, we see that the young men were actually jeering Elisha as a servant of Elijah, who was missing in action, having just been taken up to heaven in a chariot in a whirlwind. And Elisha was simply showing the people, through these misdirected boys, that God was not to be mocked and that he, Elisha, had been given a double portion of God’s power as promised by Elijah.

But it’s still a good idea to remember that it’s not wise to make fun of anyone’s weakness, such as baldness. And if you go to the web and see a picture of F. LaGard Smith, you’ll see why he felt that way.
[For those who follow this old warrior by reading here, see the enclosed picture of Dr. Smith to show why he’d feel vindicated by the “baldhead” reference in today’s devotional entry.]

Personally I’ve been taken by the devotion which Elisha, the mentee, had for his mentor, Elijah; and how after Elijah was carried away into heaven, leaving Elisha alone to carry the torch of prophesy from God, Elisha experienced an increase of spiritual power over that Elijah had exhibited on earth. Dr. Smith pointed out that Elisha was chronicled to have performed more than twice the number of miracles as did Elijah in the Old Testament. To me this shows the power of mentoring in the life of men of God, aspiring to become Godly men.

I bring this up to reinforce what I just said about the power and effectiveness of Godly mentoring. In my life and discipleship as a Christian, I was blessed to have been mentored by a mighty, yet humble, man of God who was willing to mentor me for about a dozen years. I met with him weekly for about 8 years, which became biweekly for the last 4 years of our relationship. And this man of God did all he could to help me become a Godly man, helping me to find the path God lays out for all Christians in/through the Bible; and “Dr. Bob,” a retired physician, was like a drill instructor for me as he took me through a Christian bootcamp and then trained me to be a swordsman for God’s army. And finally he helped lead me into leadership in my church, grooming me to become an Elder, which is a reality now, and truly a “God story,” when you realize where I came from as an atheist and angry sinner some 25+ years ago.

My friends, stories like the Elijah – Elisha story in the Old Testament and the Paul – Timothy story in the NT, resonate with me; because I’ve seen how the power of a mentor can be passed to the mentee and God can be glorified when this process is activated. My mentor, “Dr. Bob,” took me from a dark past into the light so that I could find God’s path; and he led and shepherded me as a lamb of God to become a stronger lead sheep in God’s flock. And I can only hope that any reader of what I’m saying today has either had a Godly, strong mentor or is in the process of praying for and finding such a Godly shepherd.

Maybe God imparted to you His strength and clear direction individually without a mentor, as God certainly is capable of doing. But I maintain that cases like Joseph in the OT or the Apostle Paul in the NT are rare, having been anointed with God’s power as leaders, without the need of a mentor. Most of us, however, require someone to lead us through the minefields of life because we just need to learn from someone else how to negotiate life’s mines by following first before we learn how to lead others.

That is what the story of Elisha and Elijah tells me; and I declare here my thanks to God for being an Elisha who was led to my own Elijah; and I have now been privileged to become the “Elijah” for several “Elishas” along the way in the last few years.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that You have been glorified as I attempt to be an Elijah for some Elishas, or a Paul for some Timothys, as I traverse through the minefields of life, doing my best to show these men the way … Your way, which was shown to me by a mentor in my past. And I thank you for providing me with a mentor in my discipleship past to give me this ability. Amen