Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 – July 31 – Who is Influencing Whom?

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 15: 10 – Jer. 17: 18 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 15: 19b [in bold/underlined] … NIV Therefore, (to Jeremiah after his complaint to God) this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you many serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.

My Journal for Today:
What is God warning Jeremiah in today’s highlighted passage, especially that above underlined in bold? What does God mean that Jeremiah “… must not turn to them (i.e., the people of the world)?”

God’s warning is one we need to heed because of another passage I read today in my study of the Book of Jeremiah, … that oft quoted verse in Jer. 17: 9, which states, The [human] heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? And that is why in New Testament times, the Apostle John exhorted born-again, maturing Christians to watch out for the lure of the world when he wrote in 1st John 2: 15-16, Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the Apostle Paul warned Christians that we may be “in the world;” but we must not be “of the world.” (see Colossians 2: 20)

But this is a warning, which our “Jer. 17: 9” hearts have trouble handling; and we’ve seen many politicians, pro athletes, and entertainment figures, as well as even prominent religious leaders, who’ve taken the bait of popularity and prominence and worldly power, falling prey to their own flesh and falling away from God’s warnings from both the OT prophets and in the NT … from even the calls of Jesus Himself.

Jesus modeled two distinct character traits which our flesh and human desires often cause us to ignore; and those are HUMILITY and MEEKNESS (see Matt. 11: 29 ). Hence we need to ask ourselves the self diagnostic question which Dr. Smith poses for me (us) today, as he writes, ”Which has been greater, my influence on [those in] the world or the world’s influence on me?” I would hope – and I will pray today – that it is not the latter.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to shine Your Light into the world rather than being dazzled by the lights shining deceptively out of a very dark world. Amen

Blogger's Note: Last day of the month; and I'm moving into the bottom half of my commitment to read through, study in, and meditate on the Bible this year. I'm already looking forward to what God is going to show me the rest of this year; and I'm very grateful to the world of Dr. F. LaGard Smith for his work in putting together the The Daily Bible in Chronological Order as well as his authorship of The Daily Bible Devotional. Moving on in 2010!

Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 – July 30 – When Even Prophets Doubt

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 13 – 15: 1 - 9 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 14: 13 … NIV But I said, “Ah Sovereign Lord, the prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’ “

My Journal for Today: It’s no wonder Jeremiah was called the “weeping Prophet,” because there was so much disobedience, doubt, and despair evident among God’s people in his day, as well as those who mocked God with their behavior. And even Jeremiah had some doubts, especially with many false prophets providing messages to the peoples in those days which were much more comforting than that of Jeremiah. In today’s highlight passage we read of Jeremiah’s quandary; but God reassured him that he was indeed God’s messenger, taking God’s message of doom/gloom to Israel and Judah.

Today there is much confusion on the religious horizon. You can read the word of God interpreted by orthodox Reformation Theologians like R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and others; and then when you read the writings of “prophets” calling themselves “christian” teachers, like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, or Kenneth Copeland, you wonder if these men are reading and interpreting the same Bible. Then there are those who espouse later prophetic belief systems, like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or those following more new age belief systems like Scientology or “the church of Oprah.” And with so many belief systems, labeling themselves as “truthful,” whom is to be believed?

Well, that is why one must have a rock to affix his/her anchor of faith; and that ROCK – for me (and I pray for you who read here as well) is Yeshua Hamashiach, … Jesus, The Messiah. He was the one foretold by the ancient Jewish Prophets, including Jeremiah; and He is the Son of God Who has fulfilled the Covenant of God by coming as the God-man, dying on a cross, being resurrected, and now sitting as the re-glorified Magnate in Heaven. And all of that has be chronicled in His word, which as 2nd Tim. 3: 16 – 17 documents, is the God-breathed Rock of our Faith.

Jesus is the only way, as He Himself declared (in John 14: 6); and to pursue any other is the path to eternal doom. God’s word, The Bible, is the only word of truth to know Christ as Lord and Savior; hence, I look to those who teach/preach the Gospel truth in these confusing days of religious smorgasbord. If a message of teaching/preaching doesn’t square with God’s word in this day of false prophets, I will not follow it. And that is my prayer today for any who read here with me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine Your light of truth so brightly from Your word that it helps to reveal the counterfeits of the day. Amen

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 – July 29 – Beyond the Point of No Return

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 10 - 12 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 11: 14 … NIV Don not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when the call to me in the time of their distress.

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlight verse is a hard passage from God’s word to receive. Is there really a time when it’s too late for God to hear us; and apparently the answer is, “Yes.” As Dr. Smith points out by analogy in his devotional for today, when a parent is dealing with a recalcitrant child, there comes a time when the hand of the father is on its way to the butt of his disobedient child when no amount of last second pleading will stop that hand of loving correction.

For ancient Israel and Judah, in the times of Jeremiah, God’s people had once again turned away from God. God had to put up with years and years of repeated idolatry and whorish living from His chosen ones; and here they were again disregarding the Covenant God had made with their ancestors (and with them). And we read, in today’s Bible reading from the book of Jeremiah that God had “pulled the trigger” on their punishment; and no amount of last minute pleading was going to help. God had turned them over to a future captivity by the Babylonians; and any last minute pleas to Him were not going to stop them from learning that God was serious.

Just yesterday, I was with a group of serious Christians who gather once a month in a designated place to pray, in earnest, for our city and our land, both of which have gone the ways which can be documented in that fateful passage in Romans 1: 18 -32 [linked here for your review], which I’ve cited on a number of occasions this year. And when I review that passage, even when I’m with such like-minded and on-track Christians, praying diligently and desperately for God’s deliverance, I can’t help but think that we may be in that place when God is no longer in a listening mode; and we are about to experience our Lord lifting His hand of protection from the evils of this world to show all of mankind what it is to be without His Spirit protecting the world from the evils of the Devil and his minions.

My, oh my! That prospect is horrible to contemplate.

I’ve heard it preached and prophesied by men of God, like John MacArthur, that we may – in fact and in reality – may be in that place where the hand of the Father is already in motion and no amount of last minute pleading is going to stop our Lord from showing mankind that we cannot live without Him and we cannot be the correction which is needed to save us from ourselves.

Now that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be giving up on my pleas or my prayers, or stop gathering with others to cry out for God’s mercy. I will do that; but I’ll do it because I have hope in the scenario that God has already played out in the Person and finished work of His Son, Christ, The Messiah. And I have hope in what my God has promised will take place when The Bridegroom comes for His Bride, the Church. And finally, I believe that we, who are that remnant of believers in a perverse generation, will be protected – somehow – from the hand of God, … even if that hand will come upon our land with the lifting of protection, allowing Satan to bring his evil upon our world.

Oh, how I will continue to plead …

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, have mercy on us! Protect us. Guide us with Your light out of the darkness. Help us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death into Your loving arms. Amen

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2010 – July 28 – The Ins and Outs of Faith

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 7 – 9 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 9: 25 – 26 … NIV 25 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh - 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart."

My Journal for Today: Interesting, … almost fun, … that my devotional Pastor, Dr. Smith, begin his study today, from Jeremiah 9 by making reference to belly buttons, noting that there are “innies” and “outies,” which, of course, are created by how the umbilical cord is separated from the body at birth. But we know that it makes no difference in life whether we have an “innie” or an “outie,” does it?

But in the times of Jeremiah, and for all of ancient Israel/Judah, there was a physical mark which meant almost everything to the male Jew; and that, of course, was circumcision. For any Jewish man to be “Jewish,” he had to have had the foreskin of his maleness removed. It was to be the physical mark of The Old Covenant. Now, in the New Covenant times in which we live, we have the sign of Baptism to indicate our outward declaration of being sealed by Christ in His New Covenant where a true believer is sealed for eternity inwardly as well as outwardly. To be baptized as a repentant and born-again believer is the outward sign of the inward newness of God’s Spirit sealing our soul for an eternity with Christ. To be baptized outwardly, with no real repentance, is to become a very wet, but unredeemed, sinner.

So, today as in the days of Jeremiah, one could be circumcised outwardly and even physically but not have a “circumcision of the heart.” There were many in the house of Israel in those days who had the outward mark of their declared faith but they did not carry it inwardly in the heart. Today we have many who outwardly call themselves “christian,” yet inwardly they do not possess the real faith in Jesus that will one day, in glory, allow Jesus to declare, “Well done, my faithful servant.”

Oh how I pray that any who read this have both an “innie” and an “outie” faith, being able to declare their allegiance to Christ but living out that faith by the way their lives worship their Lord. When we, as Christians, were baptized, did it really signify the reality of a “circumcision of the heart?” I will pray today that it did.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You know that my heart is outwardly – and INWARDLY – given over to You. I pray it be so for any who read this. Amen

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 – July 27 – Losing a Sense of the Serious

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 5: 14 – 6: 30 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 6: 13 – 14 … NIV 13 "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.

Second Passage for Review: Jeremiah 8: 10 - 11 … NIV 10 Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace.

My Journal for Today: How many times do we need to hear it? Today’s passage was repeated almost word for word to God’s people from God through Jeremiah in two separate chapters of the book by Jeremiah’s name; but the people weren’t hearing, especially the leaders. They just wouldn’t take God seriously. >>> Advance the times forward to now! Sound familiar?

Dr. Smith closes his devotional with the pointed and pertinent self evaluation question: ”Just how seriously do I address my own scandal and vice?” In other words, “Am I taking my sinfulness seriously?” Do I keep short accounts on my sin? Am I vigilant, day by day by day, to have a plan to avoid my own flesh and deceitful heart (we call it a “Battle Plan” in the ministry I lead); and this is something against which we’re going to read Jeremiah also railing later in his prophesies, in Jer. 17: 9, that we have a deceit-ridden and desperately wicked heart against which we must attend continuously.

Why is it that we have to be reminded of our lack of vigilance by “911” type disasters? And God, in Jeremiah’s time, was having to use a sweeping captivity by Babylon to wake His people up to their lack of seriousness to sin and their unwillingness to hear their God through Jeremiah (and other Prophets).

Have you heard (or read of) anyone today clamoring, “Wake up, America!!” Of course, you have; and some of you take it seriously; but when I read passages like the one today, I see America being a modern-day version of what was going on in Israel and Judah in Jeremiah’s day; and when I read what the Apostle Paul wrote about in a later time (see Romans 1: 18 – 32 - linked), it’s like I’m reading of our own culture; and God simply cannot – and will not – stand by and let this blasé attitude about sin in our culture transpire without the Lord’s ire being raise to a point where His wrath must be expressed. And all one can say to this would be my prayer today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, have mercy on us! Amen

Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 – July 26 – The Unfaithfulness of the Faithful

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 3 – 5: 13 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 3: 11, 19-20, 22a … NIV The LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.” … 19 "I myself said, " 'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me. 20 But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O House of Israel. … 22 "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding."

Also NKJV translation: Jeremiah 3: 11 … 11 Then the LORD said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.

Word Study from Jer. 3: 11:
Faithless/backsliding (Israel) – Hebrew – “meshuwbah” [pron. “meshu –vah”]
Unfaithful/treacherous (Judah) – Hebrew – “bagad” [pron. “by-gad”]

My Journal for Today: In today’s reading from the Chronological Bible in Jeremiah 3 – 5, and in Dr. Smith’s devotional today from the verses cited above, things got a little complex on me. Hence my little word study from my online Blue Letter Bible website on two Hebrew concepts which are used as comparisons in Jer. 3: 11 … that of “faithless” versus “unfaithful.” I’m no Hebrew scholar, for sure; but this study helped me to realize that I needed more than on version of Scripture to help me see what Dr. Smith was exposing in his devotional.

When I hear those two terms, “faithless” and “unfaithful,” my immediate interpretation may be in comparing a faith-LESS atheist, i.e., one who has no faith in God, to an UN-faithful believer, i.e., one who has faith but who has turned away from that they know to be truth. That’s the reason it’s a good idea at times to read God’s word in more than one version, which is why I’ve quoted the NKJV above as well as the NIV for Jer. 3: 11 [the primary target verse of Dr. Smith’s devotional]. And in doing so, you’ll see that the edge on meaning and application seems to take on a slightly different color as you go from the NIV to the NKJV.

Obviously God grieves over the FAITHLESS one or backslider, which was personified through the ten Northern tribes of Israel during Jeremiah’s prophetic times. But God also grieves over the degree of unfaithfulness (also called “treachery”) of the two tribes in Judah. So, how do we take away some application from this comparison? And Dr. Smith, the author of my devotional today, asks a pointed self-appraisal question to help us do that. He asks: ”Do I censure my own unfaithfulness (as a Christian believer) as strongly as I condemn the faithlessness of unbelievers?” And that my friends is worthy of some serious self-examination.

I’m afraid there are times, upon conviction, when I look at my sinfulness by saying something like, “Well, at least I’m not an atheist anymore.” That, my friends, is pride personified. And that was the attitude of the Pharisees, which Jesus hated so vigorously. So, today’s study helps me to realize that God most certainly grieves over those who do not choose to follow His ways and fall prey to selfishness and sin, … the atheists who mock God or reject Him outright. But maybe God grieves even more deeply for those believer fools, like me at times, who know – and believe – God’s ways, but turn away anyway.

Let me repeat Dr. LaGard Smith’s self exam today; and let’s deal with it within our own hearts: ”Do I censure my own unfaithfulness (as a Christian believer) as strongly as I condemn the faithlessness of unbelievers?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be sensitive to my own sin and convicted to confess and be cleansed of it just as much as I’m sensitive to the lost who need to find You for eternity. Amen

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 – July 25 – Toying With God

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 1 – 3: 5 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 3: 1 … NIV 1 "If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers— would you now return to me?" declares the LORD.

My Journal for Today: The word picture from God, through God’s reluctant prophet, Jeremiah, to His people is clear. Their cultural/historical handling of divorce would have made it clear in this prophesy that God, hating divorce, would not allow one to divorce his wife, then her, taking another husband (who also set her aside), go back and take her again as his Bride. Yet, God with His infinite love for His children – for His Bride (now the church) – is actually willing to do just that, … to retake His multiply unfaithful Bride, the one who has prostituted herself in idolatry. That is the extent of God’s love and forgiveness. Yet we, who are the Bride of the ever faithful, ever patient Bridegroom, treat our God with such contempt and unfaithfulness.

How much God takes, yet He’s willing to take His Bride back to Himself if – and it’s a big “IF” – we as God’s Bride are willing to repent and to turn back to Him. That, of course, is the image we see emanating from another word picture story of the prodigal Father who lavishes His love on His unfaithful son who has returned home from lavish disobedience and disregard for the love of the Father.

How about us, as the Bride of Christ? How is the Church treating the Savior Bridegroom, Who has promised to return again to claim His Bride? How do you think our Groom grieves as He sees His waith Bride blatantly turning her eyes on the abominations of abortion, homosexuality, or other forms of idolatry? Yet even knowing that this wh0re-like behavior is going on, do we not have a Savior, a loving Heavenly Father, Who will turn to His Bride anytime she is willing to turn back to Him, or to His recalcitrant son who desires to return home? It’s no wonder that Jeremiah was a “weeping prophet,” when he saw how Israel and Judah were so willing to wh0re themselves and turn to idolatry and pagan practices.

Jeremiah must have almost gagged when he was given the prophetic words of God to His people that God would take them back if they were willing to turn their ways back to His. But that is the nature of our God; … and yet that is also our fickle nature, … being willing (and very able) to choose to turn away from the one true God, Who promises to return for His Bride when He, the Bridegroom, is ready for the wedding feast of the Lamb of God. The question is … are we ready for His return? Have we prepared our linens? Will the Bridegroom lovingly take His Bride to consummate the betrothal He sealed when He died on that cross to take away all our sins?

I believe God’s promise; and I’m ready. … Dear friend, how about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … may I do all I can to prepare myself for the return of my Groom. Oh, I pray You come today! Amen

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2010 – July 24 – On the Threshold of Superstition

Study from God’s Word Zephaniah, the whole book; and 2nd Chronicles 34: 3 – 7 … Passage for Reflection: Zephaniah 1: 9 … NIV On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold.

My Journal for Today: Well, I’m sure that the prophesies of Zephaniah before the people of Judah during the early reign of the 8 year old King, Josiah, may have fallen on deaf ears to many of the people of the day; but young King Josiah was likely listening; because at 16 he began to activate what Zephaniah was preaching. He fell in line with the truth of God and began instituting a vast turnaround, honoring what His ancestors, David and Hezekiah, had stood for years before. All idols were struck down and all superstitions where discredited.

That calls attention, as does Dr. Smith with his devotional for today, to the admonition of God through Zephaniah, to take seriously – not as superstition – that doing what God commands will help us avoid God’s wrath. In the days of Josiah and Zephaniah, the Philistines had captured the Arc of the Covenant, placing it beside their idol to their God, Dagon, in the Temple which was originally built to honor the One, True, God. Then the people found their idol statue had been destroyed and beheaded in the Temple. So, from that time on, the Philistines would not step on the threshold of the Temple. Hence, we read the reference to the threshold of the Temple in today’s highlight passage.

We can be a superstitious people too, can’t we? How about it? Do you have any superstitions which you hold to … like “knock on wood,” or maybe avoiding breaking a mirror, … or maybe never opening up an umbrella inside the house. Oh, we may not believe in these; and most often we see such superstitions as playful in our lives. But Dr. Smith, today, calls out some superstitions which have more serious overtones. Do you know anyone who wouldn’t be seen without the Christian cross around their neck; or maybe you feel like God will have disfavor on you if you don’t go to church compulsively – EVERY SUNDAY. What about those of us, who, with compulsive disciplines, invest time with God EVERY MORNING, bar none to have a ‘’quiet time” with God? Hey wait a minute, Dr. Smith, you’re meddling a bit don’t you think!

Is my being here, doing my quiet time every day and journaling here, as I’m writing right now, a groundless superstition; or is it a reflection of real faith, … real expectation of God’s presence, and a confidence that I will become more like my Savior if I’m here every day. Well, I hope I’m like Josiah and I’m instituting choices in my life, which I’ve gotten from God’s truth and by carrying them out, as Josiah did in cleansing the Temple and re-instituting God’s commands into the life of the people, I’m doing these morning devotionals out of a genuine desire to know my God and to follow His ways.

Now let me be straight here; I’m not against someone wearing a cross around their neck; but I hope that their doing so is a reflection of their knowing that the One Who died on that cross is the focus of their life and not the wearing of the cross to label them, superstitiously, as a “Christian.” I hope that people don’t come to church superstitiously every Sunday to be seen in church every Sunday; but rather, I pray that they’re coming to be with other believers, expressing corporately, their faith and worship in the One they honor by being there.

Prayerfully we do not make our pursuit of God to be a superstition. No, rather, it is my sincere hope and prayer this morning that what we choose to do in life – for God – is genuinely a reflection of our relationship with Him and not some perfunctory behavior which will be seen as positive by our “Christian” friends. The latter is when religion becomes a superstition; and that is something against which God’s word – and more specifically Zephaniah – warns us to avoid. And so, join me to THANK GOD, through His servant Zephaniah, to keep us on God’s track, avoiding our own selfish superstitions.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pursue YOU, knowing that You desire to see me know You and helping me to avoid getting in Your way by pointless superstitions. Amen

Friday, July 23, 2010

2010 – July 23 – The Highest Praise

Study from God’s Word 2Kings 21: 17 – 22 [2Chron 33: 18 – 23]; 2Kgs 21: 25, 23: 26 [2Chron 33: 24]; 2Kgs 21: 24 [2Chron 33: 25]; 2Kgs 22: 1 [2Chron 34: 1]; 2Kgs 22: 2, 23: 25 [2Chron 34: 2]; 2Kgs 23: 26, 27 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 23: 25 … NIV 25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

My Journal for Today: The scale of godliness/ungodliness must’ve bounced wildly during the times of Nahum’s prophesies, as did the leadership of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah in those days. Manasseh had led God’s people astray, at which time God led him into captivity, where he repented, was set free provisionally, and tried his best to turn back to God. But God was then snubbed by Manasseh’s son, Amon for a short reign before Judah was once again ruled by a Godly King, Josiah. And in today’s highlight verse in Dr. Smith’s devotional lesson, we read a rather incredible historical/biblical testimony to the Godliness of this young King, Josiah.

In 2nd Kings 23 one has to be impressed by the extent to which this 16 year old King aggressively returned to the ways of God from the patterns of ungodliness which had preceded him during the reign of Manasseh and Amon. And then, in verse 25, our highlight passage for today, we read this historical tribute to Josiah, which is about as strong and positive a tribute a man could be from the very words of Scripture, invoking the words of the great Hebrew “Schema,” which is found in Deut. 6: 4-5, proclaiming that God, Yahweh, is the only God and that all who follow Him must give ALL of their hearts, minds, strength, and souls to worship Yahweh. And that is exactly what God’s word gave tribute to concerning Josiah.

Being a Christian we’re also reminded of the fact (from God’s word in Mark 12: 30), the proclamation of Christ Himself that the command to love God with ALL our heart, mind, strength, and soul is the greatest of all commands from God. But the problem is in that little word “ALL,” which makes following such a command essentially impossible for man, given our natural, human state (see Romans 3: 23). All of us fall short; and that’s why God sent His Son, Jesus, to become our atonement and the fulfillment of God’s Law. We may never be able to become completely what Josiah, anointed by God’s Spirit, became; but we can choose to be saved and follow the One Who could; and that was/is Jesus, The Christ.

So, reading this tribute today of Josiah, I’m led to desire to have a similar tribute said of me one day, when I stand before my Savior in heaven, and prayerfully I hear Him give me His tribute, “Well, done, My faithful servant. Enter into My Heaven.” I may not BE a Josiah; but I can aspire to be like him and even more so to become like Jesus. I can choose to do ALL I can to serve my Lord with ALL my heart, ALL my mind, ALL my strength, and yes, ALL my soul. And I know that in doing that one day my Lord will receive me to be with Him in glory.

My Prayer for Today: Thank You, Lord, for models of Godliness, like Josiah, and for Your presence/power in my heart to follow Your Schema. Amen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 – July 22 – Shame On You

Study from God’s Word The entire book of Nahum, Chapters 1 – 3 … Passage for Reflection: Nahum 3: 5 … NIV “I am against you [Ninevah],” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.”

My Journal for Today: Reading through the book of Nahum and the historical comments by Dr. Smith this morning, as well as his devotional entry for today, I was brought to speculate about how long God will allow a nation – e.g., this nation in which we live – to perpetuate shameless practices of sin without our Lord coming down heavy with His wrath.

Since their repentance and deliverance by God through the ministry/preaching of Jonah, some 125 years before Nahum’s time/prophesy, the Ninevites (i.e., the Assyrians) had become a shameless and hyper-sinful culture, carrying out vicious practices without remorse, … practices which a Holy God will only take so long without bringing down His hammer of wrath. And the book of Nahum’s prophesy was directed toward this formerly repentant nation of Ninevah in Assyria; and we read in today’s highlight passage how God had had enough, relating, through Nahum, how The Lord was about to expose and shamefully display Ninevah’s sin to the world.

And as I read this, I couldn’t help but speculate an application of this passage to what has transpired in our country’s degradation during the past century; … how we now shamefully are desensitized to sinful practices which were considered cultural “abominations” 50 – 75 years ago, … practices which now are becoming “normalized” in our culture. Just this week – in the city where I live – the powers that be are trying to pass local legislation which will force businesses, and even churches, to hire cross dressers and transgendered individuals, which are cultural practices which would have been considered “shameful,” and were outlawed, just decades ago.

When we look at Ninevah, we see that God had patience and mercy for Ninevah after they repented and became obedient to the God of Israel at Jonah’s preaching; but the Assyrians slowly degenerated in their culture into shameful practices of sin, which once, for Ninevah, had been sin practices which they had rejected. My question is, “Just how long is our God, a most Holy God, going to be patient with this nation, which is becoming desensitized to such sinful practices as homosexuality, abortion, infanticide, and age-related genocide?” As a nation, we’re not so slowly becoming a culture who shows no shame to these sinful practices. And my friends, God, as He did with the Assyrians in Nahum’s day, will not continue to allow these shameful sin patterns to go on.

As we read in Romans 1: 18 – 32 [linked], God may be turning us, as His people, over to our own hearts and sin choices for a season. But most assuredly, God’s hammer of retribution will one day fall down; and even those who are the remnant of believers, trying our best to follow God, … yes, even those who have spoken out against these evil practices, will feel the rain of God’s discontent, when God’s wrath of abandonment becomes His wrath of punishment for our nation gone bad.

All I can say in prayer today is …

My Prayer for Today: Lord, have mercy on us, a sinful people and a caring remnant. Amen

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2010 – July 21 – A Snapshot of Repentance

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 65 – 66; 2nd Chron. 19: 37 [Is. 37:38]; 2Chron 33: 10 - 17 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Chronicles 33: 12 - 13… NIV 12 In his distress he [the evil king of Judah, Manasseh] sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.

My Journal for Today: We’ve been focusing on the prophesies and ministry of Isaiah during my devotional reading in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order and in the companion book, The Daily Bible Devotional by F. LaGard Smith, during these last weeks; and it has been a great restudy for me, … reminding me just how patient God was with his recalcitrant children in Israel and Judah; and how he sent Prophets, like Isaiah, to give His word to the people. Some listened and became part of the remnant of people led, along with the misfits, into captivity; and then ultimately redeemed and delivered by the One prophesied, … The Messiah.

And one such biblical snapshot of disobedience, God’s patience, and one man’s repentance was the story of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who became King of Judah after the obedient reign of Hezekiah. And as God’s word says [in 2nd Chron. 33: 2], “He (Manasseh) did evil in the sight of the Lord;” and for many years, early in his kingship, the young king undid almost all that his daddy had accomplished. And for his disobedience and unGodly leadership, God allowed Manasseh to be broken by captivity to the Babylonians to the point where Manasseh confessed and repented and turned, in prayer, to God. And God in His infinite mercy restored Manasseh to his kingship; and led him back to Jerusalem where he did all he could, in repentance, during his remaining years to rebuild what he had undone as king.

I don’t know about you; but I really identify with Manasseh. For over 20 years of my life, after I had gone off to college, I turned away from my upbringing in Christian roots. And God still loved and pursued me in spite of my disobedience, sinful living, and veritable mockery of my God. And God even led me into my own “Babylon,” so-to-speak, where I was taken captive by my flesh, the world, and Satan. But after all those years of abject rejection of God, the “Hound of Heaven” came after me and showed me that I could not hack my out a way in this life without Him. So, I confessed, repented, and sought the saving grace of God, just as did Manasseh. And just as The Lord, God, Yahweh, did with Manasseh, He brought me into a deep and abiding relationship with Himself; and because of that I fully expect one day to see, identify, and even befriend my Brother in Christ, Manasseh, in heaven. And that, I anticipate, being a really cool meeting.

Hey, if you’re reading along with me, let’s make a date to meet up with Manasseh in heaven and share stories of God’s redeeming grace through The Messiah. It will be a cool meeting for coffee one day in Glory, for sure!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … thank you for reminding me and my friends of Your infinite mercy and patience in pursuing Your lost children. Amen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 – July 20 – Beauty for Ashes

Blogger's Note: Today's journal item posted a bit late due to early morning Bible teaching @ Church followed by physical therapy for my hip.


Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 61 - 64 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 61: 1 – 3 … NIV He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted … to comfort all who mourn … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes … and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

My Journal for Today: Do you recognize the passage from which several phrases were taken from Isaiah 61: 1 – 3? This was a prophesy spoken about the Messiah by Isaiah some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem; and you Jesus scholars, reading here, may recognize that it also is found in that famous declaration Jesus made in the Temple right before His ministry on earth began [see Luke 4: 1 – 13]. Jesus was asked to read The Law in the Temple that day, and it was opened for Him to read from Isaiah’s prophesy, which Jesus did. Then as The Lord sat down that day, he spoke words of terror and hope to those there in the Temple, and to all of us forever, when He said (see Luke 4: 21), "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Those words must’ve exploded in the ears/minds of those in the Temple that day who knew what Isaiah was prophesying in that Scripture. The Word of God which Jesus read that day was declaring that the hope of mankind would be found in the Person and ministry of the Messiah; and here, some 700 years later was a Rabbi declaring that He was that Messiah. Wow! That must’ve been a bombshell.

And the words of this prophesy by Isaiah, and the repeated declaration of truth by Jesus, are really quite hope-filled, yet exceedingly challenging. As it says in today’s abbreviated version of Isaiah 61: 1-3, we read of a Messiah speaking of “good news for the poor, … healing for the brokenhearted, … freedom for the captives, …light for those in the darkness of prison, … and sight for the blind.” And so, how cool is that? And Jesus was restating this [in Luke 4: 18-19] as His mission in life, which gives us direction to find our mission as well since it should be the goal of every Christian to live like Jesus, make choices like Jesus, and to become like Jesus.

As I told a group of men this morning, it ought to be very helpful for disciples of Christ to find their purpose in life in the purpose which was prophesied for Jesus and to which He declared as His mission for His earthly ministry. So, my dear one, if you cannot find what you do or how you live within the directions of Luke 4: 18-19, I seriously think you should rethink where you are and what you’re doing in this life. For all who desire to follow after Christ (as He ordered of His disciples in Luke 9:23), we can do so by fitting our life choices and worship into Christ’s Messianic mission statement (again, Luke 4: 18-19).

Check it out, my friend; and if you don’t find your self [and your life] in that passage, start afresh TODAY to find a place to work your life into the pattern Christ painted for Himself.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I want to walk where You walk, live as You do, and make choices which shine Your light. I want to be a Luke 4: 18-19 kingdom warrior. Amen

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 – July 19 – Double-checking Our Spiritual Genealogy

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 57 – 59 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 57: 3 … NIV But you – come here, you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!

My Journal for Today: Today, Dr. Smith, as I did, saw a parallel between the prophetic proclamations of Isaiah as God called out the sons of evil who had become disobedient to God and how Jesus called out the Pharisees in John 8. And if you go to that latter passage, you also read one of Jesus’ clearest declarations of His deity (see John 8: 58). The threatened Pharisees where challenging Jesus’ right to speak for God, much as the sinners in Isaiah’s day must’ve challenged God’s Prophet as he called them out for their sinfulness.

But as you read today’s passage in Isaiah 57 or Jesus haranguing the Pharisees in John 8, do you see yourself … as I do me. When I read these words from God through Isaiah, directed at the disobedient children of God, I “hear” God speaking to me. And when I read Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, I’m mega-convicted because I know how hard I try to be righteous and still fall short. Dr. Smith’s closing personal indictment hits at the core of my being as he writes, ”If Isaiah and Jesus pulled no punches, what kind of explicit language might they use to describe me?”

And when I answer that question honestly and openly, I know what I have been in my life and I know how I still fall so short of the Holiness expected of me as a born-again child of God. As Dr. Smith indicated, words like “bastard” or “whore monger” or “panderer” [please pardon the harsh, but descriptive, language], could have accurately been used to describe the Bill Berry before I was born-again. I would pray that “weak” and “wanderer” and “sullied disciple” would be more accurate today. But I am still the sinner of Romans 3: 23 who falls way short of God’s glory and His standard of Holiness, … the Person of God’s Son, Jesus, the Christ.

I know that there is nothing I can do, even though I carry a pharisaical title like, “Reverend” Bill Berry, to be seen by God as righteous – in and of myself. It is only the fact that I have pled the blood of Jesus over my life, the One Who died on the cross so that I could be seen as righteous in the eyes of God, the Father. Only in that act of atonement can I come - clean - before God’s throne of grace. And I pray that we all realize that our unrighteousness is only cleansed and made right in God’s eyes by what JESUS has done for us … never because of anything we do, or try to do, to be righteous.

And do I sense a loud “HALLELUJAH” from any who read with me about the truth of the cross for salvation and our walk into righteousness.

My Prayer for Today: Yes, “Hallelujah,” Lord. I shout it now because of what You did to give me Your robes of righteousness to cover my rags of sin. Amen

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010 – July 18 – No Wasted Words

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 54 - 56 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 55: 10 – 11 … NIV 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

My Journal for Today: Did you know that verse 11 of today’s passage in Isaiah 55 is the hallmark and foundational verse of the Gideons International ministry. This incredible ministry, founded in 1899, has had an impact on the world only measured by God’s Spirit. Here is a statement from their website ( ), which speaks of their mission:
• The mission of The Gideons International is to win the lost for Christ, and our unique method is the distribution of Scripture in selected streams of life. Gideons have placed or distributed more than 1.3 billion complete Bibles and New Testaments in more than 180 countries around the world . . . so far. Having God's Word can lead people to faith in Christ, and we invite you to explore this website to learn more about The Gideons and how you can help us provide God's Word.

The mission and outcomes of the Gideons are not a mystery as we read the power of truth coming from today’s highlight passage; because anytime the truth of God’s word is shared, preached, or taught anywhere where God’s will has the Lord’s direction, it will never come up void.

As Dr. Smith points out today, it can be frustrating sharing God’s truth, the Gospel, with those where it seems to be falling on deaf ears. We know from Jesus’ three parables, stated in Luke 15, that it is most certainly God’s desire that none be lost; and we also know that we, His Church, have been charged (by the Great Commission in Matt. 28: 19-20) to share the gospel message with all the world. Therefore, anytime we share the truth from God’s very word, especially the Gospel, no matter what may seem to be the human reaction – or lack thereof – we can know from today’s promise that our sharing, from God’s very word, was NOT for naught.

The Gideons have it right, my friend. God’s word is powerful, … very, very powerful, … much more powerful than it may appear to the human condition and circumstances [see Hebrews 4: 12]. That is why God charged Joshua, as we read in Joshua 1:8 to stay in “the Book of the Law” day and night as Joshua carried out God’s will to take His people into the promised land; because God was telling Joshua, as He’s telling us today, that anytime we declare or share the word of God for HIS mission on earth, it will be the power we need for success to God’s task. So, I charge you to go and memorize Joshua 1: 8 and internalize it’s truth; and then act on it for God’s glory!

Almost daily, if not weekly, in ministry to men who have trouble with human weakness in avoiding sin, I tell them the truth of Psalm 119: 11, which is a sinner who states, Your word I have in my heart that I might sin against You. Often in discipleship, I end up encouraging Christians to become more discerning by letting God’s word shine a light on their path (see Ps. 119: 105). And all too often I have to keep reminding myself that the only way I’m going to be able to avoid being conformed to the world, as was Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12: 2, is to surrender and let God’s Spirit transform my mind through the power of His word.

So, my dear one, I pray today that we all, who know Christ as Lord and Savior, keep trumpeting the truths of God from God’s Holy Word; and when we do, His power will blast forward for His purposes no matter what we may see – or not see – in the reactions of others. Keep on, keeping on, my friend … God’s word for His glory!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help those who share with me here today to see that Your word is our sword in battle! Amen

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 – July 17 – Blessings for the Barren

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 51 – Isaiah 54: 1-3 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 54: 1 … NIV "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD.

My Journal for Today: What a word picture in today’s highlight passage, spoken by God through the Prophet, Isaiah, speaking of the attitude of a barren woman, who is given the promise of being fertile again by God.

There’s probably nothing as disappointing to a woman in a marriage where there appears to be no natural way to have a child when she so desires to be fruitful. Being a man there’s no way I can empathize with such agony. But anyone can feel the pain of anticipation when something we long for is thwarted. And God through Isaiah had prophesied that Israel would become “barren” for a season of exile into Babylonian captivity. But then they would be delivered and there would come a Messiah who would be sacrificed as the Lamb of God; as the chapter of Isaiah 53 so vividly lays out that prophesy.

But then we read at the outset of Isaiah 54 [today’s passage] that Israel, the mother of all God’s people, would be fruitful again, that she would be restored to fertility and greatness again under the fruit-bearing reign of the Messiah, … that the Suffering Servant would become King of kings and Lord of lords. And as I have read through the passages in Isaiah these past few days, I couldn’t help but think of the parallel of where we, in this so-called “Christian nation,” have become like the barren mother, Israel, in the days Isaiah was prophesying for God prior to the Babylonian captivity.

Perhaps we, like Israel/Judah are going to need to experience a season of fruitless captivity where God’s constructive abandonment (but never forsaking his remnant) will take this rebellious and disobedient nation through a time of selective chastisement and correction. And if this were to be the case, I know, believing what God prophesied for His bride, who is now His Church, will parallel that of His promises for Israel in the days of Isaiah.

God may allow His disobedient Bride, the current Church, to go through a season of correction; but God’s promise to us, His remnant of believers and followers, is the same as it was for the barren bride in today’s word picture of prophesy. As the Lord’s Bride, He will return us to fruitfulness if we but stay in a faithful, waiting mode of His return. He will bring us once again to that fruitful place where we can/will worship our Bridegroom with no tears or trepidation in the New Jerusalem.

So, as things seem so barren around us now, we must be as the Bride described in Revelations 19: 7-9 [linked], waiting with anticipation and preparing our linens of righteousness, for the wedding feast of the Lamb of God which to come; … where we will worship at the feet of the Bridegroom forever.

My Prayer for Today: And the only thing I can say, Lord, in this moment is a resounding … HALLELUJAH of hopefulness !! Amen

Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 – July 16 – The Hard Lesson of Submission

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 48: 16 – 50: 11 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 50 : 6 – 7 … NIV 6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

My Journal for Today: In today’s highlight passage from Isaiah’s teaching/preaching/prophesying, Dr. Smith, presents one of the hardest lessons we must learn as followers of the One Who would come to redeem God’s people from their sinful disobedience. And here today Isaiah is preaching this lesson to hard-headed, stubborn children of God who found it almost impossible to “get it,” … to understand and internalize the one lesson which their one-day Messiah would model for them; and that was the lesson of humility.

I don’t know about your story, but my story of rebellion from God and my choices – for years of my young adult life – was one of walking away from the teachings and life-modeling of Jesus Christ; and my life was replete with the opposite of humility; and that, of course is prideful and arrogant, self-directed living. And that was both Israel and Judah in the days that God had to turn them over to the Babylonians so that they could learn humility, the days where Isaiah was prophesying and teaching about humility.

As Dr. Smith points out from the passages he had me read and study from God’s word today, we need to learn the lesson of humbly learning and following God … #1 when we absolutely know that we’re deserving of the punishment/circumstances we incur because of our disobedience or rebellion. However, #2, we have to also learn the tougher lesson of being humble and following God even when we have lived right before God and the circumstance we incur are unjust or “just not right!” And it is the latter where Jesus, our Messiah and Redeemer, gave us the perfect model as, during His passion, He walked to the cross, humbly following the path His Heavenly Father had place before him, … a path of unjust mocking and even death as the Lamb of God. If you’ve seen the movie The Passion of The Christ, you’ve gotten just sampling of what that must’ve been like. And that is the humility which is our model that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Phil. 2: 5 – 11 [linked]; and it is the model which Isaiah prophesied by today’s passage which would be followed by their Messiah centuries later.

Now, on to application, we have to ask ourselves whether we really believe and live by such God-written truths as Prov. 3: 5-6 and Romans 8: 28 - which I hope you already have memorized) which require absolute humility and surrender to a God Who ALWAYS loves us – no matter what the circumstances of life are in our lives. And we must ALWAYS allow God the latitude to lead us into and through the valley of the shadow of death in our lives so that we can/will get to the green pastures He has promised us (see Psalm 23). The challenge is that we don’t know whether those green pastures will occur in this life or gloriously in the New Jerusalem (i.e., heaven); but even if our life involves unjust mockery, punishment from an anti-God world, or even death in Christ’s Name, we just walk as did Jesus to the cross, … in absolute surrender to the Father … and as Christians, to our Lord and Savior and Messiah, Jesus.

Hence, I am challenged by the lesson today; because my selfish heart (see Jer. 17: 9) so often causes me to think “Why me, Lord?” And my flesh gets me hung up as it did the Apostle Paul writing about his weaknesses in Romans 7: 14 – 24 [also linked]. But then I read and internalize the truth of Romans 8 [I hope you know the hope we glean from humbly internalized this passage]; and I’m lifted to realize that I may not have the strength to be humble, as it says in 2nd Cor. 12: 9; but God will give me, through His grace, His strength to cover my weakness [i.e., also the promise of 1st Cor. 10: 13]. The question will always be can we humble ourselves in surrender to these truths.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that any who read with me today, will join me in the trek of humility, seeking Your strength to help us walk humbly on the path where You lead us. Amen

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 – July 15 – Of Horoscopes and Other Nonsense

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 45: 14 – 48: 1-15 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 47: 13 … NIV 13 All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.

My Journal for Today: Sometimes, when you’re reading/studying God’s word, as through the written word of Isaiah today, you sense God’s frustration; and occasionally, as in today’s highlight passage, you can read (i.e., or hear, if read aloud) God’s outright sarcasm. And today that sarcasm is directed toward those who are foolish enough to rely on the nonsense of astrologers to see their way through the morass of life’s problems and circumstances.

Have you ever consulted your horoscope? And Dr. Smith begins today by asking his readers, “What’s your sign?” And if you’re reading here as a Christian, you’re probably like I was when I read that question, … smiling wryly and thinking, “Oh, I don’t play around with that worthless nonsense!” But we do know that the business of palm readers, psychic mediums, and astrology is a big bucks business in the world. So there are people out there who are drawn to the promise that people can follow the predictions and advice of these self-proclaimed “gurus” and find their way through the minefields of life. And my friends, for a number years, before I surrendered myself to Christ, when I realized I was spiritually weak, I was pursuing a lot of those “isms” which taught new age nonsense and the like, … not very far removed from astrology.

And very unfortunately some, who call themselves “christian,” are letting some of this new-age nonsense filter into their thought process; and they’re letting themselves be drawn into those who claim “Christ” but teach something akin to astrology. And we see it today in those who follow the “church of Oprah” or even those word of faith teachers such as Joel Osteen, teaching that man can claim, with his own word of faith, the power of God in their lives, … to be able to raise themselves up by themselves. It’s absolute NONESENSE … just as God sarcastically declares in today’s text.

But what it is in mankind that draws us to the flame of death like moths to the flame in the night? As Dr. Smith writes, “Something down deep in all of us craves special insight into ourselves and our future.” And I think the answer to that conundrum is found in the simple words about the nature of the human heart, which Jeremiah documented in Jer. 17: 9. You probably know it by heart, saying, ”The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

We are so vulnerable to a heart [i.e., our flesh] which is “desperately wicked,” (NKJV translation) yet we try to satisfy our desire to know by searching for answers within in our own human understanding. And the bell of truth rings with God, saying [paraphrased from Prov. 3: 5-6] “Trust in ME (says God) with ALL your heart and lean not on your OWN understanding.” And if and when we’re TOTALLY willing to do that, as God promises in that same passage, HE will show us the way through the minefields of life from His truth … i.e., His word.

But even Christians today, keep trying to rely on science, on their own intellect, or on political solutions to fight our way through the dark morass of life. And we keep failing, because we’re unwilling to heed the warnings of passages like today’s and others like those I’ve mentioned in my journal entry today. We simply must surrender or way to God’s way, following HIS will from HIS word; and when we do, He will show us HIS light to follow through the darkness.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine Your light brightly so a near-sighted child like me can see it to follow You. Amen

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 – July 14 – The Present Presence of God

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 43 – 45: 13 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 43: 18 – 19 … NIV 18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

My Journal for Today: At the leading of Dr. LaGard Smith, my devotional “shepherd” this year in The Daily Bible in Chronological Order and in his devotional book, The Daily Bible Devotional I was led today to read and study through one of the most remarkable historical prophesies in all of the Old Testament as God, through Isaiah, some seven centuries before Christ, prophesies, by name, that the Gentile king, “Cyrus,” would [as it turns out about 150 years later] facilitate the rebuilding of God’s Temple in Jerusalem [see Isaiah 44: 28 and 45: 1, 13].

And looking back in awe at this historical truth, and many other historical facts from Scripture, it would be easy to focus on the history alone and ignore the message of God’s word in our lives today. Yes, it’s important to interpret Scripture in the context of history. In fact one should never draw a personal application from God’s word that is out of line with God’s historical context. However, God always wants us to remember and apply the truth that God is the same yesterday, TODAY, and you know it – tomorrow as well. And you probably remember that that’s a New Testament promise about Jesus from Hebrews 13: 8.

It’s fine to draw inference from God’s historical context; and it’s even right – as with the passage I mentioned today (e.g., Isaiah 45: 13) – to be in awe of God’s promises and prophesies from what He has said or done in the past; but God wants us to glean, from our past, what we can to allow Him to be our God in the present … and into the future. We always need to be guided by the past to interpret what is going on in the present or to plan for the future. However, as today’s passage indicates we should not “dwell in the past” to the point that we become paralyzed by the present or blinded to the future.

Looking at what is going on right now – in our present day – it would be easy to get very down-and-out by the rampant sin that see in our world. But knowing God’s word and seeing the patience God had for Israel and Judah in the past, we certainly can have hope that God will protect the remnant of believers who may be swept up as our world is turned over to Satan for a season [which I believe we may be seeing right now]. For example, knowing how God gently gave Habakkuk a lesson in faith when this Prophet saw all the degradation of his day, lifts me up and helps me to see – from the truth of Hab. 3: 17-18 [linked] - that I can choose to hold onto my joy no matter what the circumstances are in my present. And knowing that God has already sent His Redeemer to save me gives me the same strength that Isaiah felt when God declared through this man (in Is. 41: 10), ”So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So, my friend, as you look around you, seeing many things that could cause us to despair, remember these words I have just quoted from THE BOOK OF TRUTH, … from the God Who spoke through Isaiah to His people, … and the God Who speaks through His word to me and you today.

My Prayer for Today: Yahweh, my LORD, You never change and You are always there for me! Amen

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 – July 13 – The Importance of Tone

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 41 – 43 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 42: 3 … NIV He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

My Journal for Today: The prophesies of THE Messiah are wondrous, … by Isaiah and others, … hundreds of years before He was born in Bethlehem; and some of these prophesies spoke of the very way Jesus would bring the message of the Gospel to God’s chosen people. Yes, we know that the close Disciples of Jesus didn’t quite get it until the cross and His resurrection; but even the tone of Christ’s life was like that described by Isaiah in prophesying of the way the Messiah would bring His message.

As you read today’s prophetic words about the tone of Christ’s message, we certainly know that Jesus was no wimp - as evidenced by the two times he ripped apart the Temple as He expelled the robbers who had desecrated His Father’s House. But looking at the way Jesus gently went about the land during His ministry, the tone of His message fits perfectly with what was described by Isaiah almost seven centuries before His birth. Jesus quietly, but powerfully, went about telling the people about His coming kingdom. And Jesus would not be silenced. He could not be snuffed out by the religious leaders of His day. He was burning with God’s truth; and He spoke the truth in a way that could not be broken by those of His day.

And we know how He quietly, but with infinite strength, went to the cross, not even speaking a word against those who mocked Him and unjustly sent Him to His death. And that, my friend, is our model of tone when it comes to living and expressing the truth of the gospel message. We are to quietly, but strongly, live out the truth of the gospel in our lives. When people see and hear the way we live our lives and the testimony we witness to the world, they should see/hear Jesus in and through us. The tone of our lives should be quiet surrender, just as was Jesus life and words about His Father in Heaven.

And as I contemplate my life – as I hope you are doing right now if you’re reading this – I am convicted that too often I can get too harsh, or even too silent, with the tone of my life. I need to be even-toned and straight forward with how I live my life, ever trying to do as Jesus commanded me in Matt. 5: 16, … to shine His light in an ever darkening world so that they may see His light shining through me.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, that is my prayer today … to quietly – but powerfully – shine Your light for all to see. Amen

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 – July 12 – The Strength of Eternal Youth

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapter 40 and 41: 1 – 10 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 40: 29 – 31 … NIV 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

My Journal for Today: I think today’s highlight passage from Verses 29 – 31 of Chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah is one of the most beloved in all of the Old Testament for New Covenant believers, especially for us old dudes who languish in the realities of the aging process. As Dr. Smith alludes today in his devotional for this date, the aging process is inexorable, irreversible, and relentless. Many in history have sought the “fountain of youth;” but as today’s focus passage documents, there is only one eternal repository of youthful vigor and strength; and that is in the “fountain of faith” rather than some man-conceived “fountain of youth.” Certainly no vitamin, face cream, or man-made chemical will ever produce what is promised in today’s passage. No, … the eternal strength to “fly on wings like eagles” or to “run and not grow weary” will only be found when one comes to receive the saving grace offered by THE Messiah, … the One about Whom Isaiah prophesied to the remaining believers in Judah.

God’s people, at the time Isaiah is prophesying in history and the times he is speaking these words for today, were mostly taken into captivity; and the remainder would be shortly. And the kingship of Manasseh had erased any restoration that had taken place during the reign of his father, Hezekiah. So, God gives a message through Isaiah that the Covenant imparted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would one day be revisited and reprised in a coming Messiah, Who would come to reign eternally over God’s chosen people. And in this restoration – one for eternity – God’s people would have the eternal strength of Yahweh, giving them eternal life in Him.

And that, my friends, is the promise fulfilled in our New Covenant Messiah, the Lord, Jesus Christ, prophesied my many anointed Prophets during Isaiah’s times; and now come in the Person of God’s only Son, Jesus. And we now know that all who come to Him in faith, receiving the eternal life He gracefully offers, BY FAITH, will eternally “ … soar on wings like eagles; … run and not grow weary, [and] they will walk and not be faint.” That is my eternal hope in my Savior and Lord; and it is my prayer for all who read here, that the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah is your hope as well.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … I know that one day I will live with You and walk in Your strength and even fly like an eagle with You. Amen

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 – July 11 – Toeing the Line

Study from God’s Word 2Kings 20: 21, 21: 1 [2Chron 32: 33, 33: 1]; 2Kgs 21: 16; 2Kgs 21: 10 - 15 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 21: 12 – 13 … NIV 12 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.

My Journal for Today:Out of plumb;” … now there’s a concept worthy of attention. As Dr. LaGard Smith teaches today, a “plumb line” is used to keep the walls straight when a house is being built. To ignore “plumb” will bring about crooked walls; and the whole house can ultimately crumble and fall. And that’s exactly what happened when Manasseh took over as King at the age of twelve from his father Hezekiah, who had used the word of God as his “plumb” in rebuilding the House of David and God’s Kingdom in Judah. But Manasseh ignored the “plumb line” of God’s expressed word, i.e., His commands; and he allowed Judah to return to pagan practices.

And my reader friends, if we cannot see the parallels between what happened to Israel and Judah in the times of Manasseh and what may happen to America from these times, we too are ignoring the “plumb lines” God has set up for His New Covenant peoples. In Jesus Christ, and the writing of the New Testament to document The Christ, God has established the ultimate “plumb line,” which we, God’s people, His Church, are to follow. And if we cannot – or do not – draw our personal lines or collectively, our nation’s lines, by the “plumb” of God’s word, we, as individuals and as a nation, are going to experience some correction to the “plumb line” God desires us to use in building our individual lives as well as how our elected leaders construct our nation’s house.

God had to make a correction for the sloppy ways of faith which Manasseh allowed God’s people to deviate from His “plumb” of truth; and somehow, someway, and in sometime (maybe soon) God is going to allow those who mock His truth and deviate from the “plumb” of God’s word to be drawn into His corrective action – whatever form that will take. God has been exceedingly patient with this nation of His people. But this country, which once was a nation, UNDER GOD, has deviated severely from God’s “plumb” of truth in His word. And unless, our leaders, which we have elected to lead us, pull us back to the straight and narrow line, which is God’s “plumb,” the walls of this nation are going to come crumbling down. And when this happens – and it likely will – I can only pray that God will be merciful on the remnant of believers who are doing all they can in their individual lives to live according to the “plumb” of God’s truth.

If you read ahead in Scripture, as I’m sure I will be doing in days to come under Dr. Smith’s teaching, you’ll see that God did protect His remnant, even though Babylon came down as the hammer God use to bring God’s way – His “plumb” – back to the attention of God’s people. And God did restore His temple and His ways – at least for a while - allowing for men of God, like Nehemiah and Ezra, to rebuild His temple and to lead the people back to God’s ways – to the “plumb” of truth.

However, we will see what happens in today’s times, where the “plumb” of God’s word is being mocked and ignored. Something is going to have to happen to show those in control that our nation must return to the truths upon which it was founded. But in the meantime, other than do all I can, as one Christian in a nation gone way out of line, I’m going to have to stay true personally to God’s “plumb,” and keep my own life on His straight and narrow line. And then, whenever and however I can, I need to make God’s ways known to others … much as I’m trying to do by writing these journal entries. Because at least those who are the remnant of the “plumb” of truth will be protected by a loving God Who honors those who follow His ways – God’s “plumb” of life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I know that Your “plumb” of truth is found in Your word; and I use that as my “plumb” of life. Help me to say true to Your “plumb;” and to lead others to do what they can to stay on the straight and narrow line You have drawn for us. Amen

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 – July 10 – The Confidence Game

Study from God’s Word 2Kgs 18: 13 – 16; 2Kgs 20: 1 – 11; Isaiah 38: 9 – 20; 2Chron 32: 25 – 30; 2Kgs 20: 12 – 19 [Is 39: 1 – 8]; 2Chron 32: 31; 2Chron 1 – 8; 2Kgs 18: 17 – 25 [2Chron 32: 9 – 15 and Is 36: 2 – 10]; 2Kgs 18: 26 [Is 36: 11]; 2Kgs 18: 27 – 35 [2Chron 32: 16, 18-19 and Is 36: 12 – 20]; 2Kgs 18: 36-37 [Is 36: 21-22]; 2Kgs 19: 1 – 4 [Is 37: 1 – 4]; 2Kgs 19: 5 – 7 [Is 37: 5 – 7]; 2Kgs 19: 8 [Is 37: 8]; 2Kgs 19: 9 – 13 [2Chron 32: 17 and Is 37: 9 – 13]; 2Kgs 19: 14 – 19 [2nd Chron 32: 20 and Is 37: 14 – 20]; 2Kgs 19: 20 – 34 [Is 37: 21 – 35]; 2Kgs 19: 35 – 36 [2Chron 32: 21 – 22 and Is 37: 36 – 37]; 2Chron 32: 23; 2Kgs 20: 20 – 21 [2Chron 32: 32 – 33] … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 18: 19 – 20 … NIV On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have strategy and military strength – but you speak only empty words.

My Journal for Today: Today, as you can see documented in what I’ve been led to read from God’s word by LaGard Smith, my devotional Shepherd this year, I’ve been led into parallel passages, which chronicle – from three separate books of the Bible – the interaction between King Hezekiah, the Prophet Isaiah, and Sennacherib, the then King of Assyria. And what transpires historically is one of those great stories of faith in Scripture. Perhaps you know the scenario. Perhaps you need to go back into the Books of 2nd Kings, 2nd Chronicles, and Isaiah to read it; but in these historical dealings, we see God responding to the pleas and prayers of a faithful and obedient servant of God, Hezekiah, with God protecting His people with a miraculous victory over a far superior enemy.

And we see how Sennacherib taunted God’s people and Hezekiah, mocking the one, true God [never a good strategy!]; and in response we see the humble response of Hezekiah, going to the Temple to pray first and then consulting the Prophet, Isaiah, who gives Hezekiah the message of assurance Hezekiah needs, trusting in God first [always God first!] for His protection and deliverance.

In today’s highlight passage we read the words of Sennacherib’s emissary to the Jews, deriding Hezekiah’s confidence in God; and from it Dr. Smith asks me and his readers whether we have strong confidence in our God, … even when the circumstances of life seem overwhelming. Dr. Smith, in today’s devotional, invoked the analogy of the confidence men of the day put in “the Titanic,” … confidence which we know now was misplaced. And we can be like the people of those days, seeking for our confidence and answers in things like our education, our scientific prowess, our economic status, or our political/military might. But when we see all of this being overwhelmed by such acts of God as a devastating tsunami or hurricane or we see our natural resources being polluted by acts of man such as the oil spill now going on in the Gulf of Mexico, where do we place our confidence for solutions?

It’s one thing to have confidence in God when things are on a roll for us and we are safe and sound and secure in our well-being. BUT, … when those people on the Gulf now see their livelihood falling apart because of the oil spill, do they have confidence that God can deliver them … that the one, true God will provide for them? Where, Dr. Smith asks today, do we put our confidence? Do we place it in our selves? Do we seek human, scientific, political, or military answers? Whom do we follow into the battles of life when all seems as it may be a loss?

Hezekiah answered by going to God. So, did Moses, Job, and even God, Himself, in Jesus’ prayers to His Father for the Father’s will. I always love reflecting back on the confidence the Apostle Paul had to say to the Corinthian Christians (found in 1st Cor. 11: 1), (paraphrased) “You can follow me, because I follow Jesus, the Christ.” And there, my dear one, is where we must put our confidence … anywhere, … under any circumstance, … anytime!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, my confidence lies in You and only You. Amen

Friday, July 09, 2010

2010 – July 9 – Basking in Illusions

Study from God’s Word Isaiah, Chapters 18 – 19; 20: 1 – 6; as well as Chapters 30 and 31: 1 – 9 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 30 : 10 – 11 … NIV 10 They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. 11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"

My Journal for Today: Judah was a bad child of God, rejecting Isaiah’s word from the living God, wanting to look everywhere but at THE TRUTH. And today’s readings in my “Daily Bible” studies document Judah’s desire to blissfully ignore God’s warnings and His mirror of truth. And that is so much like what we see going on in the world today, … and yes, even the way those who think of themselves as “christians” isolate themselves by self-denial and the lack of willingness to confront the truth of the Gospel and God’s word.

Today’s highlight passage, drawn by Dr. Smith from the readings from Isaiah’s prophesies, could be speaking to those in today’s post-modern church who are in serious denial as they stick their heads (and minds) in the sand, unwilling to read or hear what God’s word really says about what’s happening in the world. Certainly non-believers don’t want to even hear the truth from God’s word. No, they’d rather have their minds tickled with new-age fantasies and the tasty non-truths coming from the “church of Oprah” or the psychobabble of Dr. Phil.

But that’s not surprising at all. I used to be one of them, calling myself an “agnostic,” and thinking of myself as an “intellectual,” I tried to fill the hole in my soul with all kinds of far-eastern religious thought process. At this time in my life, if it had “ism” after it, I was probably pursuing it, trying to find the answers for life from those who were very simply and literally “devil’s advocates.” So, again, I’m not surprised at any pagan pursuing pagans who bear untruths which tickle the fancy of our sin-bound nature.

It’s those who call themselves “christian,” and are unwilling – or unable – to see themselves trying to be entertained in “churches” rather than enlightened. So, those who fancy themselves as “believers” flock to hear the pseudo-teachings of teachers/preachers like Joel Osteen, hearing the warm fuzzies and sugar coated half-truths which concern me so greatly and lead them down a garden-path of destruction. And as the lives of these so-called “christians” become imprisoned by habitual sin, such as addiction to pornography or eating disorders or the chemical chains of drugs or alcohol, the first symptom for those who think of themselves as disciples of Christ is to fall prey to the seers of the world, not wanting to hear teachers/preachers who really are proclaiming God’s truth. Today “Christians” are turning away from God’s truth, unwilling to get into and surrender to God’s word, and moving away from churches where they have to look into the mirror of truth from God’s word every Sunday.

The words of today’s highlight passage, though directed by God, through Isaiah, to the tribes of Judah, could be words describing today’s Christian climate of isolation from the truth of Scripture. When Joel Osteen will tell Christians how great they can be by declaring their own self greatness, many would rather hear that than the messages of truth from God’s word; and so the witness of Christians becomes diluted and dampened by believers turning away from the discipline of pouring God’s truth into their minds through deep and abiding study into God’s word daily?

So, my friend, we all need to be asking ourselves: Do I really seek God’s truth? Am I willing to look deeply into the mirror of God’s word daily, digging for God’s wisdom, … mining for the mind of God; … or … am I in isolation from God’s truth, avoiding the die-hard disciplines of the faith such as a deep/abiding daily devotional time with God and His word – EVERY DAY? Does my Pastor tickle my mind with comfort every Sunday; or am I shaken by my Pastor in church weekly to pursue Christ and share Him with others?

My dear one, you have to answer those questions for yourself; but I hope that you’re not trying to avoid God’s message and His mirror of truth. I will pray – even today – that we all are digging deeply into the mind of God through His word and we’re willing to look at ourselves in the mirror of truth (i.e., study of the Bible) rather than to isolate ourselves from its clarity.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, I pray that all who read here are coming to Your mirror of truth daily, looking at ourselves in the light of Your truth, willing to see where we need to surrender to Your Spirit and be transformed into Your image. Amen

Thursday, July 08, 2010

2010 – July 8 – Pledging Undivided Allegiance

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings, Chapters 17 - 18 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Kings 17: 32-33, 41 … NIV 32 They [the foreign inhabitants in God’s promised lands when Israel taken captive by Assyria] worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. … 41 Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.

My Journal for Today: When I read Dr. Smith’s explanation and devotional entry today about how the alien inhabitants of Israel’s lands practiced religion when they were taken captive by Assyria, I couldn’t help but think about how America has become, since its founding as a “Christian Nation,” a land of hybrid faiths. And many countries in Europe, which 100 years ago would have been seen historically and demographically labeled as predominantly Christian nations have knuckled under to the cries of “tolerance,” becoming bastardized into many forms of religions; … or they are being consumed slowly by Islamic beliefs where there is NO tolerance of other faith practices.

Today the hyper-tolerance movement is sweeping the USA; and those advocating “tolerance” of faith have become tolerant of all religions, … save one, … Christianity. And there is also the spread of hybrid religious beliefs and practices, being perpetrated by new age gurus like the famous – or infamous – Oprah. And even among faith practices which are labeled as “christian,” the infusion of new ageism as well as practices from far-Eastern faiths is reshaping the face of Christianity. And the “tolerance movement” is also pressuring so-called “christian” denominations to accept sinful social practices such as homosexuality; and we see what used to be mainline Christian groups, such as the Church of England or the Presbyterian Church in the USA denomination discussing the Ordination of declared gay church leaders as well as pushing to include “gay marriage” in their sacraments.

And when one reads what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1: 18 – 32 [linked here], one can’t help but feel that God must be on the edge of allowing America to reap the same fate as did Israel in the times of Prophets like Isaiah. My dear friends, we cannot allow or tolerate idolatry or totally non-Christian religious practices to infuse our Church culture in the name of “tolerance;” because if we do, God’s wrath of abandonment is most surely to be the result as it was in the days of God’s people, which is documented where I’m reading now in 2nd Kings. Oh how we need to pray for God’s mercy [see 2nd Chron. 7: 14] and for His protection over the remnant of believers here in American, … those who stand firm in belief and worship strongly the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, spare those of us who stand for You. Protect us from Your own abandonment if our prayers are not enough to shield our country from Your wrath. We know that You will never forsake us; but we’ve seen that You can or will turn us – as a people – over to Your enemies to show a culture or people just how serious You are about obedience to Your covenant. Help us, Lord. Amen

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

2010 – July 7 – Running a Tight Ship

Study from God’s Word Isaiah 29: 22 – 24; Is 27: 2-13; Is 32: 12-20; Is 33: 2-16; Is 33: 17-24 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 33: 23 … NIV Your rigging hangs loose: The mast is not held secure, the sail is not spread.

My Journal for Today: Dr. LaGard Smith today in The Daily Bible In Chronological Order has brought me through the reading of Isaiah’s prophesies concerning the return of God’s people to Zion (when the Messiah comes again), about God’s forgiveness for those who have had their faith securely placed in the true Messiah, and how God’s people will be restored for eternity into a deep and abiding relationship with their Lord. What a hopeful sequence of passages this is for any believer.

But in the midst of all of this prophesy is today’s highlight verse, we read a warning to these same believers and a picture of what their lives were like at the time of Isaiah’s prophetic warnings. It’s like the Prophet couldn’t help make a snapshot observation in today’s verse about how Jacob and Judah were living in those days; and it is an ample picture of how those who’ve succumbed to the world’s way are living today, non-believers for sure, but unfortunately believers in Christ as well.

The word picture from this passage has to do with how a sailor, or especially a ship’s captain, must attend to the elements of their ship so that the vessel will be worthy to sail. And Dr. Smith today asks his readers – inspired by this little passage from Isaiah 33: 23 – to think of a large sailing ship, perhaps a racing vessel, cutting through the waves, bent over under the pressures of the prevailing winds, to rapidly move through the waters, perhaps even through a storm. And Smith reminds us that it takes great preparation for such a vessel to be able to sail out of a harbor into the seas of life, where there are always storms to deal with, and to be able to find and cut through those winds, successfully negotiating through the waters without crashing or falling apart as the ship traverses to its destiny.

Think about it, my fellow sailor. If your ship (i.e., your life values, your direction, your purpose) is not securely rigged and your course is not successfully planned against the charts of the seas (i.e., in this case from God’s word), your ship is going to be vulnerable to sinking when that ship encounters storms or high winds. If you haven’t carefully rigged the mast and sails, that ship will not be able to withstand the winds of life. AND, if you don’t follow a carefully planned course, navigating carefully along the way, making course corrections as you’re ship is tossed by the winds of life, you will not arrive where you had desired.

I hope I don’t need to bring this out by writing at length here how this word picture applies to our travels through life. We need to have a ship’s captain Who can – and will – take us to THE destiny of our life; and only surrendering the helm of our ship to Christ will do that. We need to have the sails stitched up and the mast securely fastened to the deck for our ship to sail through life; and only our daily devotional life, tying our minds/hearts securely to God’s truth (i.e., His word), can do this. And finally, we cannot sail strongly into the winds of life unless we have our sails unfurled to catch the winds; and that only happens for the believer when he/she has surrendered his/her mind/heart to the blowing force of God’s Spirit, propelling us with God’s power through the storms of life.

I hope you can see it, my friend; and I pray that your ship of life is storm worthy. I pray that we all have turned over our ship over to the Captain of our souls for Him to guide us to our eternal destiny. And I pray that we catch the winds of His Spirit in our sails to guide us through the headwinds of life, taking us ultimately into that eternal cove where God’s love and peace abound forever. That, my dear one, is what Isaiah was pointing God’s people toward with this little word picture today; and only we can be the ones to make our vessel for life ship-shape and storm worthy.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray to travel through the winds of life, trusting You as my Captain, and catching the waves of Your Spirit to power my sails. My ship is word ready, Lord; and we travel through life with Your Name on our bough, … His Majesty’s Ship“Christian.” Amen

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

2010 – July 6 – Give the Rules a Rest!

Study from God’s Word Is 28: 1 – 15; Is 29: 13; Is 28: 16 – 29; Is 1 – 14; Is 29: 1 – 8; Is 33: 1; Is 29: 9 - 21 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 28: 10 – 12; … Is. 29: 13 … NIV 10 For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there." 11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, 12 to whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"—but they would not listen. … 29: 13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.

My Journal for Today: Wow! Isaiah’s challenge and charge must’ve been so ultimately frustrating. Seeing God’s people falling away from God’s way; and then when they did get into religion, as with today’s highlight passages, the religious leaders imposed their own rules on the people, setting in motion a stark, legalistic system that drove the people even further away from the one, true God. And poor Isaiah could see where it all was headed and that was to the captivity of God’s people by hoards of Gentiles, which would ultimately lead to the Babylonian captivity.

And Dr. Smith, my devotional author, leads me today us see that religious rules/regulations, in Isaiah’s time or now, are never the answer for unrighteousness; and we still see that on the scene today, thousands of years after Isaiah. In fact, Jesus, when He came on the scene, which had been prophesied by Isaiah, preached much the same message as had the Prophets before Him … that mankind will never find rest and repose in rules and regulations.

Our only freedom … our only peace … can be found in complete and utter surrender to the One Who has come to free us from ourselves. But legalistic systems of religion, devised or imposed by man, can never lead one to the peace offered when one gives Himself over completely to God by their faith in the Messiah. So, when we’re wrapped up in our religious rituals, and the dos and don’ts of life, we need to beware that these systems are not taking us away from our Savior rather than drawing us to Him. And that’s what will happen if we let legalism supersede our deep and abiding relationship with Christ.

Come to Jesus, my friend. Rest in Him; and Him alone. We must avoid rule-ism and getting wrapped up in what we must do or don’t do. My only MUST is to do what Jesus commanded me to do in Luke 9: 23 … to deny myself … and follow Him! And when I do that, I will find rest. Our Lord promised it (see Matt. 11: 28-30); and that’s all I need to find rest/repose. So, if you seek it, as I do, let’s find it in Christ.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I come to You for my rest. Amen

Monday, July 05, 2010

2010 – July 5 – Walking on a Holy Road

Study from God’s Word Isiah, Chapters 24, 25, 26 – 27: 1; Also Isaiah 32: 1 – 8 and 35: 1 - 10 … Passage for Reflection: Isaiah 35: 8 … NIV 8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. [italicized – or – the simple will not stray from it]

My Journal for Today: Today F. LaGard Smith, in his The Daily Bible Devotional, dated July 5, reminds his readers (and yours truly) that the early Christians, that first wave of converts, which began with the original Disciples, about whom we read about in the Book of Acts, were called “The People of The Way;” and perhaps in today’s passage we have a clue as to why. The learned of these early Jewish Christians, possibly people like Nicodemus and Joseph, those two Sanhedrin Pharisees who had Jesus buried in Joseph’s tomb after the crucifixion, would have known well the prophesies of Isaiah 35, and they would have felt right to be numbered among “the people of THE WAY;” because Isaiah was prophesying about those who would be saved when the earth, as people knew it, was destroyed and God’s judgment came upon those who followed THE WAY of the one, true God as well as those who had departed or denied God’s WAY.

Certainly the remaining inner circle of Disciples, the remaining eleven who followed Christ, would have remembered Jesus’ words in that upper room discourse, when He, their Messiah, had said, [we know it from John 14: 6] “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And after Jesus’ resurrection, reappearance, and ascension into Heaven, to be labeled as followers after “THE WAY” established by Jesus, their Messiah, and prophesied by Isaiah in today’s highlight passage of Scripture, would have been seen as a glorious honor.

Certainly, for the Apostle Peter, who had been restored by Christ Himself (as we read about it in John 21), to be labeled as one who followed after “THE WAY” of the Lord would have been an honor. And all of the Pauline epistles speak about how one like Paul, himself, resurrected from spiritual death as he was, and given Christ’s instructions to become an Apostle (i.e., one who is called out by Christ) would have considered it a total honor to be a follower of Christ’s WAY.

And so, we’re challenged by Dr. Smith’s self examination question for today, as he writes, ”Do I think of my holiness as an accomplished fact or a life long spiritual journey?” In other words, “Do I think of my walk as a Christian as a journey after THE WAY?” Because today’s prophesy from Isaiah, and the reality of our salvation, leads us to the path of righteousness, which we know of as sanctification; and this is the path to holiness which can – and will – follow if do as we’re instructed by God’s word in Proverbs 3: 5,6 and by Jesus Himself in Luke 9: 23.

And I’m sure, by knowing the charge and challenge of these two passages of truth, you also feel right to be on that path to holiness, known as THE WAY, … the path which will lead us to an eternal relationship with THE ONE in Whose image we are being transformed.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I walk on Your WAY, following You as THE WAY. Amen

Sunday, July 04, 2010

2010 – July 4 – A Heart for Seekers

Study from God’s Word 2nd Chronicles, Chapters 29 - 31 … Passage for Reflection: 2nd Chronicles 30: 18 – 20 … NIV 18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

My Journal for Today: Wow! Don’t you just love Hezekiah and wish that we had such a person to take charge of our country as we celebrate Independence Day today. Oh to have a leader like Hezekiah who would swoop into our land with a heart for God’s righteous ways and His lost children, a heart as big as was Hezekiah’s, reflected and brought out in today’s highlight passage.

As Hezekiah became the most righteous King of God’s peoples since Jehoshaphat, he even invited the rebellious Jewish tribes from the North, in Israel, to come down to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast and to worship in the Temple, which he had restored for consecrated worship of the one true living God. And oh how I pray for developing a heart like Hezekiah’s in my own character; because at one time in my life, I had people with vulnerable and forgiving hearts, just like Hezekiah, … mature and strong Christians, praying that God would have mercy on His child, Bill Berry, and forgive the sins of a seeker who had come forth for repentance and to establish his covenant with God.

Yes, at one time in my life, I was one of those broken children of God, … a seeker after God’s Spirit and one who had wandered from the Lord’s ways for many years. But God used people with a heart like Hezekiah’s to offer up prayers for my salvation and to be forgiving reflections of God Himself; and God came after me, desiring, just as He did with those people from the North in Israel, to allow me to repent and be cleansed by the atoning blood of His covenant sacrifice. In my case He had sent Jesus to be my Redeemer; and the Lord was so patient and gave me the same kind of love that God did when Hezekiah prayed for God’s children to be healed and saved.

I hope those of us who call ourselves “Christian” can – and will – mature in our faith to have a heart like that of Hezekiah, giving quarter to those who are obviously seekers, but those who have lived under the oppression of their own sin. And we need to be, like Hezekiah was, praying for those in our lives whom we know have been walking in unrighteousness but are beginning to show signs of seeking after a transformation of their lives by the only change-agent Who can make a difference; and in these times that is the Spirit of the living Lord, Jesus Christ.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, here on July 4, 2010 I pray for those in my life who seek after Your love and forgiveness, … the ones whom I know are lost or are oppressed and imprisoned by their own sinful habits. Help them to find You as I have and to repent and break free; and have mercy on them to provide them with the grace You have so promised to all who claim Your Son, Jesus, as their Lord and Savior. Amen