Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 – August 31 – Sincerely Seeking Direction

Study from God’s Word 2Kgs 25: 23-24 [Jer. 40: 7-10]; Jer 40: 11-16; 2Kgs 25: 25 [Jer 41: 1-3; Jer 41: 4-15; 2Kgs 25: 26 [Jer 41: 16-18]; Jer 41: 1-22; Jer 43: 1-13; Jer 44: 1-30; Jer 51: 64 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 42: 19 – 20 … NIV "O remnant of Judah, the LORD has told you, 'Do not go to Egypt.' Be sure of this: I warn you today 20 that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the LORD your God and said, 'Pray to the LORD our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.'

My Journal for Today: What a scenario. The remnant army officers in Judah come to Jeremiah because he is a recognized prophet of God; and they ask him to pray to God for direction now that they had killed the Babylonian appointed governor. Jeremiah prays and gives them God’s directions, which we read above in today’s text. But these hard heads are not having any of the truth; and they reject what Jeremiah brings to them from God; and off to Egypt they go.

My wife has a pet phrase. She says, “You can’t deal with dumb!” And she is so right. Why do we pray to God for direction when we have our mind made up ahead of time? The answer is PRIDE, the mother of all sin. When we look in a mirror, what we want to see is what we want to see, … not necessarily what we see. Hence, many who seek direction pray to God only to hear back from Him what they want to do anyway. And when the mirror reflects the truth, they either break the mirror in anger or deny it is reflecting truth; and these arrogant fools (the “dumb” ones in my wife’s estimation) go off and do what they had a mind to do anyway.

“You can’t deal with dumb!”

And are we much different than these dumb Judean soldiers? No; … I think not. So often we’re just looking to God for His blessing only on what we want to do rather than really looking into His mirror of truth. That’s why many people turn away from looking into God’s mirror of truth, His word. They’re only going to do what they want to anyway, in denial or defensiveness. And so the prideful sinner begins to isolate himself into self direction rather than the Savior’s direction.

We have a definite way to find God’s will; and that is through looking into His mirrors of truth … The Bible and through prayer (as Jeremiah was charged to do). But we’ve got to be willing to let God guide us when we seek His truth. And God’s word, Old and New Testaments, is clear (see Deut. 4: 9 and Matt. 7: 7-8). The man who seeks God with all His heart will find Him. The question becomes what is in our hearts when we go to God? Do we really seek the truth; or do we seek confirmation of our own selfish desires?

God is clear on the answer. If we seek His will and His way from His word, we will see His truth depicted in His mirror of truth. Seek Him; and we will find Him.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I seek after Your way. Amen

Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 – August 30 – Faithful as the Rising Sun

Study from God’s Word Lamentations, Chapters 3 – 5 … Passage for Reflection: Lamentation 3: 22 – 23 … NIV 22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

My Journal for Today: Does anyone, besides me, love a beautiful sunrise? Oh, I love a pretty sunset too; but for my own special reasons, wrapped in my desire for constancy, I revel when I see the sun changing colors and showing itself, coming up over the horizon. As I said, I think it tells me that God is going to be with me that day, just as God’s word speaks out in two of my favorite verses in the Old Testament, which are today’s highlight text.

Each day, especially these days, brings forth plenty enough evil or ugliness; and we certainly don’t need to seek it out. It is trumpeted every day by others, by the media, and by our life circumstances. And yes, a lovely sunset is comforting to put a tough day behind us; … but when that sun comes up – and I see it in the morning – it’s like God saying, “Don’t worry; I’m here to be with you all through today.” And when He presents Himself in all the colors of His spectrum, it loudly declares, from God Himself, “I’m in control!”

Yes, my dear one, the truth of Lamentations 3: 22-23, is a testament to God’s constancy, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty. And if you get that truth into your heart, clinging and believing it’s strength, you’ll live with the knowledge that the days of evil are forever wrapped and sandwiched between the bread of life, the sunrises of every morning and the sunsets of every evening. God is faithful; and Dr. Smith in his devotional for today, reminded me of this by referring me to the words of Henry Francis Lyte’s classic hymn … Abide With Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

And when you know that Henry Lyte was dying of TB in 1847, when he wrote this classic lyric, it adds to the poignancy and power of its truth, … that when we abide in the Lord and let Him abide in us, we will experience the beauty of God’s constant sunsets and sunrises in our lives.

My Prayer for Today: O Lord, abide in me! Amen

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 – August 29 – From the Depths of Despair to the Heights of Hope

Study from God’s Word Lamentations, Chapters 1 and 2 … Passage for Reflection: Lamentations 1: 20 … NIV [Jeremiah, singing the lament of “Jacob”] “See, O LORD, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, for I have been most rebellious. Outside, the sword bereaves; inside, there is only death.”

My Journal for Today: As I read Jeremiah’s lamentation, I feel great empathy. I was once like Israel or Judah, ignoring my God and falling prey to my own selfish sinfulness. And I became captive to the consequences of my sin. Also like Israel and Judah, it took a cataclysm of brokenness for me to realize that I had to bring my brokenness to God and surrender to His will, living His way, and following His word.

And now, perhaps like Jeremiah, I see clearly the waste that comes from choosing to ignore God in disobedience; and I grieve, not only for all the years I lost, living in my own sinfulness; but I grieve for others whom I know will have to be broken to the core of their being before they realize the ramifications of their own personal disobedience. I feel some of the same grief Jeremiah must’ve felt, seeing God’s children languishing in the consequences of their sin and having to come to the place of confession and cleansing before their God.

But even though I identify with the grieve expressed in Lamentations, I have come to know and proclaim the hope and victory one can have when he’s willing to surrender self to the Savior and receive the free saving and sanctifying grace offered by our Messiah, Jesus Christ. From the depths of despair, any believer in Jesus Christ can be – and will be – lifted to the heights of hope if he (or she) is able to die to self and follow Jesus (see Luke 9: 23 and 1st John 1: 9). Taking our crosses to the foot of His is the only way to shed the grief of our past and to live in the hope of His future.

And no more need be said as the remedy of the grief expressed by Jeremiah than to look to The Messiah.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, You are the hope … and the only hope. Amen

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 – August 28 – Safe In God’s Arms

Study from God’s Word 2Kgs 25: 2-4 [Jer. 39: 2-3]; 2Kgs 25: 4-6 [Jer. 39: 4-5]; 2Kgs 25: 6-7 [Jer 39: 5-7; 52: 9-11]; 2Kgs 25: 8-10 [2Chron 36: 17-19 and Jer. 39: 8; 52: 12-14]; 2Kgs 25: 18-21 [Jer 52: 24-27]; 2Kgs 25: 13-17 [2Chron 36: 18 and Jer 52: 17-23]; 2Kgs 25: 11-12 [Jer 39: 9-10; 52: 15-16]; 2Kgs 25: 21 [Jer 52: 27-30]; 2Chron 36: 20-21; 2Kgs 25: 22; Jer. 39: 15-18; Jer. 39: 11-14; Jer. 40: 1-5 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 39: 17 – 18 … NIV 15 While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the LORD came to him: 16 "Go and tell Ebed-Melech the Cushite, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city through disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be handed over to those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.' "

My Journal for Today
If you were to go back and read the parallel accounts of the fall of Jerusalem which I was led to read today via The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, edited by Dr. F. LaGard Smith, you would see what a tragic time this was in Israel’s history; and it had been fully prophesied by Jeremiah and a number of God’s Prophets of the time. But God’s children ignored His prophesies; and they fell. But today, in the highlighted text, we’re led to read of an assurance that God gave to one of the Hebrew leaders [and thereby all of God’s people – including you and me] by Jeremiah which shows God’s ultimate mercy and His retained love for His recalcitrant, disobedient children, whom God had disciplined through the Babylonian captivity.

To illustrate the point of today’s text (underlined and emboldened above), Dr. Smith uses a word picture with which most parents, and especially dads, can identify. It is the picture of the little one at pool side, afraid to jump in the water but being encouraged by his dad to do so. And as often is the case, to help the little one make the jump, the dad declares, “Come on; jump, I’ll catch you!” And the fearful child jumps in spite of the fear because he trusts in his dad to be there to catch him.

And I think you can see the descriptive parallel between today’s text and this very common picture of a father helping his child overcome a fear. That, of course, was what God’s children needed to do coming out of the Babylonian enslavement. They needed to trust their God and jump into His arms, letting Him rescue them from their captivating fears. And that is what ALL OF US MUST DO in our relationship with Christ, our Messiah and Lord. And as I write this, you may be thinking, as I am right now, of that wonderful proverb Solomon wrote to his son (and to you and me - Prov. 3: 5 – 6 - which states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart …” Or maybe you were thinking of the passage from Isaiah 41: 10, in which God, the Father, declares, “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.” Or maybe this encouragement from the Apostle Paul came to your mind, where he declared in “Romans 8: 31, “If God be for us, who can be against us.”

All of these passages are God, our Father, at poolside, trying to get us to jump into His arms; … because the truth is (see Heb. 13: 5-6 or Deut. 31: 6) God will always be there to catch us.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I cling to the trust that You’ll always be there for me. Amen

Friday, August 27, 2010

2010 – August 27 – What Do You Trust?

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 37 – 38 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 38: 22 … NIV All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah [i.e., King Zedekiah] will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you: " 'They misled you and overcame you — those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.'

My Journal for Today: Reading Chapters 37 & 38 of Jeremiah’s Book in the OT, we read of an interesting interaction between Zedekiah, the King of Judah at the time of the Babylonian siege, and the Prophet Jeremiah. A lot of political intrigue was going on at the time; and the people, especially the officials of the King’s court had trouble believing in and buying into God’s word, through Jeremiah, that only the people who surrendered to Babylon would live to remain alive and be loyal to the one, true God. And one could understand their reluctance to this prophetic paradox. Here, supposedly, was God’s Prophet saying that God’s chosen people of the covenant, the followers of the God of the universe, must surrender to a pagan people, the Babylonians in order to save themselves. And King Zedekiah, though showing some respect to Jeremiah, with at least a marginal belief in God, just couldn’t take the prophesies from Jeremiah. And his quandary was evident as he had Jeremiah taken captive, under house arrest, yet he kept coming back to Jeremiah, asking for what God was saying to him. He just didn’t know what to believe.

Ever been there; … when things are really confusing; and you’re getting conflicting advice, some of which just doesn’t make sense? And like King Zedekiah in today’s text, you just don’t know whom to turn to or whom to believe. And that is why we have such an advantage, being New Covenant believers, over the people of Jeremiah’s day. We don’t have to seek out select Prophets, who are blessed by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. No, we have, through our faith in the fulfillment of all of the OT Prophets, Jesus Christ, the very Holy Spirit Who guided Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel, and all of the OT prophets. And we also have God’s declared and final word as part of His New Covenant, sealed forever by the blood of God’s Son, Jesus, … the very Messiah prophesied by Jeremiah and others.

But like Zedekiah, we can hear the truth (or in the case of reading God’s word); but then we must, like King Zedekiah, receive and believe the truth enough to obediently follow the direction of God’s word. Zedekiah had only a marginal faith in the truth of God’s word from Jeremiah; and he paid dearly – with his life – for his very human denial and lack of willingness to surrender to God’s proclaimed truth.

How about you, my friend? Are you willing to get God’s truth deeply into your consciousness, to listen to God’s proclamations of purpose (for example, read and meditate on Isaiah 55: 11 and 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17]; and then, after knowing what God’s word say, are we willing to do what Jesus commanded of His disciples, … i.e., to willingly set aside self and follow Him (see a verse you should have memorized, Luke 9: 23)? Because if you’re not willing to selflessly surrender to God’s truth from His word, you will only have your self and others from Satan’s world to influence your direction; and the outcomes of that WILL BE horrible.

Enough from this pitiful teacher! What will be my choice (or yours) … to know God’s truth and to follow His word, or to languish in the proclamations of those who only have selfish motives to share with us?

Our choice!

My Prayer for Today: LORD, I choose Your word and the direction You provide to me as I get to know you more and more and more. Amen

2010 – August 27 – What Do You Trust?

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 37 – 38 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 38: 22 … NIV All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah [i.e., King Zedekiah] will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you: " 'They misled you and overcame you — those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.'

My Journal for Today: Reading Chapters 37 & 38 of Jeremiah’s Book in the OT, we read of an interesting interaction between Zedekiah, the King of Judah at the time of the Babylonian siege, and the Prophet Jeremiah. A lot of political intrigue was going on at the time; and the people, especially the officials of the King’s court had trouble believing in and buying into God’s word, through Jeremiah, that only the people who surrendered to Babylon would live to remain alive and be loyal to the one, true God. And one could understand their reluctance to this prophetic paradox. Here, supposedly, was God’s Prophet saying that God’s chosen people of the covenant, the followers of the God of the universe, must surrender to a pagan people, the Babylonians in order to save themselves. And King Zedekiah, though showing some respect to Jeremiah, with at least a marginal belief in God, just couldn’t take the prophesies from Jeremiah. And his quandary was evident as he had Jeremiah taken captive, under house arrest, yet he kept coming back to Jeremiah, asking for what God was saying to him. He just didn’t know what to believe.

Ever been there; … when things are really confusing; and you’re getting conflicting advice, some of which just doesn’t make sense? And like King Zedekiah in today’s text, you just don’t know whom to turn to or whom to believe. And that is why we have such an advantage, being New Covenant believers, over the people of Jeremiah’s day. We don’t have to seek out select Prophets, who are blessed by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. No, we have, through our faith in the fulfillment of all of the OT Prophets, Jesus Christ, the very Holy Spirit Who guided Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel, and all of the OT prophets. And we also have God’s declared and final word as part of His New Covenant, sealed forever by the blood of God’s Son, Jesus, … the very Messiah prophesied by Jeremiah and others.

But like Zedekiah, we can hear the truth (or in the case of reading God’s word); but then we must, like King Zedekiah, receive and believe the truth enough to obediently follow the direction of God’s word. Zedekiah had only a marginal faith in the truth of God’s word from Jeremiah; and he paid dearly – with his life – for his very human denial and lack of willingness to surrender to God’s proclaimed truth.

How about you, my friend? Are you willing to get God’s truth deeply into your consciousness, to listen to God’s proclamations of purpose (for example, read and meditate on Isaiah 55: 11 and 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17]; and then, after knowing what God’s word say, are we willing to do what Jesus commanded of His disciples, … i.e., to willingly set aside self and follow Him (see a verse you should have memorized, Luke 9: 23)? Because if you’re not willing to selflessly surrender to God’s truth from His word, you will only have your self and others from Satan’s world to influence your direction; and the outcomes of that WILL BE horrible.

Enough from this pitiful teacher! What will be my choice (or yours) … to know God’s truth and to follow His word, or to languish in the proclamations of those who only have selfish motives to share with us?

Our choice!

My Prayer for Today: LORD, I choose Your word and the direction You provide to me as I get to know you more and more and more. Amen

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 – August 26 – The Devil, You Say!

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 26 – 28 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 28: 17 … NIV Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

My Journal for Today: What are your thoughts about Satan? Unfortunately I think some people either think of him as a silly, but sappy, cartoon figure depicting the evil side of mankind. It’s the result of how man thinks of the opposite of “god” or maybe “good,” which is no more real to them as satan [with a small “s”]. And then there are those who ascribe too much power to The Devil, declaring “the Devil made me do it” to every mistake or improper decision that such a person might make.

Yes, Satan is very powerful; and he is much more powerful than I am (or you are). But he is a created being, an angel who fell from God’s grace; and now, though he has a free-will like man, he and his angelic followers, pridefully think of themselves as gods or adversaries of God Almighty, Yahweh. And there are two passages in scriptures, one of them found in my Scripture studies for today, Ezekiel 28, and the other in Isaiah 14, which are, according to scholars. who are much more well versed in Scripture than I, human depictions of God’s created adversary, the Devil.

And it is fascinating for any Scripture student, like me, to wonder why the Almighty Yahweh, who created His angels, would allow a lesser being, like Satan, to stick around after he fell from heaven to take up residence on earth as the prince of darkness, masquerading as an angel of light. But it’s clear that Satan, the Devil, and his demon minions, are part of God’s plan. But they create an atmosphere – i.e., Satan’s system, the world – which is to some degree – hell on earth.

But the one characteristic of our enemy, the Devil, which is emphasized in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, is pridefulness. And if there is an “original sin,” pride is it. Pride – or the desire to become a god by controlling our own destiny – is that character trait which is most Satan like. And thereby the opposite of pride, humility, is likely the character trait which is most like Christ; and I believe that God has allowed Satan to continue to exist on earth while HE, the Lord, pursues His beloved human race so that we, the pursued who must come to faith in God, can see what anti-God characteristics are like. We cannot see Whom God is without having an arch-type who depicts all that God is not; and that is Satan in all his malevolent being.

So, as I move forward in my life, I must have faith that God is God; and He is in control of even a very powerful adversary like the Devil. Yes, Satan is much, much more powerful that I; but I have the power of the Living God, in His Spirit, dwelling in me so that I can be victorious over Satan and his world – and yes, even over my own deceitful, prideful heart. The truth of 1st John 4: 4 bubbles up from my consciousness as I write this, declaring, You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [your spiritual enemies], because the One who is in you [God's Spirit] is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world. And I will go with that thought today as I do battles with God’s enemy, The Devil, who will always be my enemy … every day of my life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You, and You alone give me the power to be victorious over you arch enemy, the Devil. Amen

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 – August 25 – With A Vengeance

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel 25: 1 – 17; 29: 1 – 16; 30: 1 – 26; and chapter 31: 1 - 18 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 25: 15 – 17 … NIV 15 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'Because the Philistines acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah, 16 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Kerethites and destroy those remaining along the coast. 17 I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them.' "

My Journal for Today: Today’s Bible reading and Dr. Smith’s devotional entry focuses on the nature of vengeance; and we note man’s tendency to want “justice” when he feels hurt or wronged in some way. Of course, the reality is that most of the time we humans are really out for revenge rather than God’s justice.

Dr. Smith rightly attributes the desire for vengeance in our hearts to the degree of maturity of our faith. If we, born-again Christians, are deeply steeped in God’s truth (i.e., the Bible) then we know that vengeance is God’s business, not ours. And so, to the degree we have a deep and abiding relationship with God, in Christ, we’ll leave the business of vengeance to our God; because only HE can see all of the truth and all of the circumstances; and only HE knows exactly what should be done in any circumstance to “make it right.”

But somehow, deep in our humanity, vengeance is our reaction to being wronged, isn’t it? Admit it, you’re probably like me when you go to a movie and you see Wyatt Earp, the protagonist hero, make it right with Doc Holliday and his brothers, gunning down the antagonists, the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral. It just feels good; doesn’t it? And that’s our measurement of immaturity in our relationship with Christ, … that our faith is not developed enough to let go and let God.

Dr. Smith challenges his readers today, writing, ”If I have somehow managed not to throttle people who deserve throttling, can I move to the next step of not even WANTING to throttle them?” And I must admit that I’m not quite mature enough to follow the call Jesus had for those of us who follow Him (see Matt. 5: 39, and Luke 6: 29). Wow! Jesus’ charge of discipleship in Luke 9: 23 can be a real stitch at times, can’t it?

My friends, I’m afraid I’m not there yet; but God’s conviction has me praying that I will be one day.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to leave the vengeance business of life in Your hands. You know what’s best. I don’t !! Amen

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 – August 24 – From Checklist to Wish List

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 23: 1-8; Jer. 33: 14-26; Jer. 31: 29-40 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 31: 31, 33 … NIV 31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. … 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

My Journal for Today: Reading through the three discourses by Jeremiah from today’s Bible passages, Dr. Smith, in his devotional for this date, points his readers (me) to how God’s people, the Hebrews, will move from a checklist religion to a wish list faith. And as Dr. Smith points out, it’s the difference between a “have to” and a “want to” faith.

The Jews under the Mosaic Covenant were programmed by The Law to be obligated unto righteousness to be saved. Under the Messianic New Covenant God’s people will desire righteousness because their hearts have been transformed by their faith. And as my devotional shepherd points out, “… the Law was said to be a schoolmaster preparing the way for Christ. (And) In Christ we finally grow up!”

Children usually do the right thing because they know the rules; and they know if they break them, there will be dire consequences. But mature adults (hopefully) do the right thing because they know it’s the right thing to do. Dos and don’ts are tailor made for kiddies; but we big people should appreciate doing good stuff because good stuff is done by good people.

In this morning’s devotional Dr. Smith posits, ”Do I live my life out of duty and obligation or out of sheer joy of serving the Lord?” My reader friend, … when we answer that question honestly, we’ll know if our faith is a religion-based faith or a relationship-based faith. From Jeremiah’s prophesy, God’s people will one day have a faith that is embedded in their hearts by a relationship with their Messiah. I would hope that any who read this already have such a faith.

My Prayer for Today: Praise You, Lord for giving me a faith that is a covenant of love You purchased for me on Calvary. Amen

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 – August 23 – Finding Our Way

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 30 – 31 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 31: 21 … NIV "Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, O Virgin Israel, return to your towns.”

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, in his devotional for today, reminded me of the Hansel and Gretel strategy of dropping bread crumbs or pebbles so that they could be found if they were abandoned by their evil father along the path; and that image is retained in the cultural phrase. “leaving a trail of breadcrumbs,” when we launch ourselves onto a path of some risk.

It’s pretty easy to lose one’s way along the path of life; and we can often walk off into even dangerous territories, being drawn by Satan and the world into the minefields if you will. So, when we sense that we are at some risk of going astray as Christians, and being drawn away from the strong command from our Lord to follow Him (see Luke 9: 23), Dr. Smith asks, ”How can I best establish my spiritual signposts so that I never again lose my way?” And over the years in my discipleship, I’ve discovered several signpost strategies which help me stay on course and to retrace my path easily if I find myself wandering off path. Perhaps these will help you.

The first is stay in God’s word; because it is the light for my path (see Psalm 119: 105). The more of God’s word that I have embedded in my consciousness, the less likely I can be blindsided by the world or my own deceptive heart. And if I do find myself in risky territory, I can be led back easily to God’s path by trusting implicitly in His truth and letting it guide me back to my Lord (see Prov. 3: 5-6).

Secondly, in the battle treks of life, being able to go to and hold the high ground, which is established through prayer (see Eph. 6: 18), I know I can see God’s path and get back on track more readily and quickly.

And finally, I always know that I can have help – and signposts of trusted direction – if, as one of His flock, I stay close to the stronger sheep. I can go more easily off track if I isolate myself from God people. BUT, when I stay close in the fellowship of believers, especially with reliable/strong mentors and teachers, I can quite easily find my way back because they’ll help me do so.

I hope you have a “stay on track” battle strategy, which allows you to see your way to follow the Good Shepherd, and you’re able to see the trail because of the light of His truth from His word and the high ground of prayer. And I hope you have a cohort of leaders who are closely following the Savior; and you know that if you follow them, they’ll help to keep you moving in HIS directions (see Paul declaring this to vulnerable believers in 1st Cor. 11: 1).

Fellow lamb in God’s flock, … stay close to the flock, especially the stronger sheep who closely follow the Shepherd. And if you seem to need perspective for your walk, go to the high ground (in prayer) to see THE WAY more clearly. And then be sure to drop pebbles of faith along the way, rocks of wisdom from His word, which can lead you back to the righteous path anytime you follow them, allowing you to avoid getting lost into the world (see Ps. 119: 9 – 11, and again verse Ps. 119: 105).

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I follow You, clinging to Your cloak, through the minefields of life. Amen

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010 – August 22 – I Live in Hope !!

Study from God’s Word Jer. 21: 1-14; Jer. 22: 1-9; Jer. 34: 1-7; Jer. 32: 1-44; Jer. 33: 1-11 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 32: 25 … NIV [Jeremiah’s lament and declaration to God concerning God allowing Babylon to lay siege to Jerusalem and Judah] 24 "See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city [i.e., Jerusalem]. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What You said has happened, as You now see. 25 And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, 'Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.' "

My Journal for Today
Dr. Smith today reminds me of expressions of exasperation like the one in our highlight passage for today. We know these expressions, such as “when pigs fly,” or “when hell freezes over,” or “no way, man!” All are proclamations of hopelessness; and in our past – or maybe even right now – we’ve had times or circumstances when we might have cried out in desperation and hopelessness.

There was a time in my life, when I had lived over 25 years thinking that I could not be rid of my weaknesses in the area of sexual sin. I felt that I was too far gone. The enemy (Satan, whom I didn’t even recognize in my lost condition) had laid siege to my very being; and I couldn’t see a way out or up. But God is a God of wonderful second chances; and He just loves to visit reformation, restoration, and renewal on those who turn to Him in faith. And that’s where Jeremiah was asked to be at the time we read of Him recognizing that God’s city was about to be taken by the Babylonians. And that’s what God showed me on April 13, 1983; when in faith I came to The Lord in surrender. Now, I live a life KNOWING that His grace can not only save me, it can give me the power to walk in the joy of renewal.

But God gave Jeremiah that same, … the hope that any believer in The Messiah, Who has now come to demonstrate His power over the lost causes of this world, can have. Yes, Satan can still lay siege to our world; but only to the degree that it’s part of God’s plan, which has already included His incarnation and His Son being sacrificed, resurrected, and rethroned in atonement for our sin.

Dr. Smith asks today, ”Have I too quickly given up all hope over some ‘impossible’ situation that God may (or likely could) turn completely around?” You deal with that question today. I already have; and I’ve seen His power, with my surrender to His Spirit, to “restore the years that the locusts have eaten (see Joel 2: 25).”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for showing me your wondrous desire to bring the wasted field into bloom once again. Amen

2010 – August 21 – Mark This Day

Blogger's Note: This entry is dated 8/22; but was actually generated for 8/21, ... not being entered on the correct date because of lack of access to Wifi while I was on an Elder's retreat. Hence it's being posted on this date (8/22). For any readers who follow daily, please forgive my tardiness. ;>)

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 24: 20 [2Chron 36: 1; Jer. 52: 3]; 2Kgs 25: 1 [Jer. 39: 1 and 52: 4]; Ezekiel, Chapter 24 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 24: 1 – 2 … NIV 1 In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.

My Journal for Today: As Dr. Smith points to days which will live, as FDR said, “… in infamy.” There was that day to which FDR was referring, Dec. 7, 1941, … the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And there was certainly the more modern cataclysmic date of Sept. 11, 2001, which we now just refer to as “9/11.” They will never be forgotten because they were days when the world was alerted of the warlike intent of an enemy, causing our nation to go to war. And in today’s highlight passage we read of a date which was marked in the history of God’s chosen people, a day when Nebuchanezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, a day which a number of God’s Prophets had predicted would happen.

And I’m drawn to the question which LaGard Smith uses as a wake-up call at the end of his Aug. 21st devotional entry with Ezek. 24: 1-2 in mind. He writes, ”Could this seemingly ordinary day actually be a day on which, behind the scenes, God is doing something extraordinary in my life?” We could reframe the question saying, “Is this a 9/11 date, where we should recognize the damage that the siege of sin has done in our lives, and where we should declare commitment to God that we’re going to surrender our allegiance to Him but take up warfare against our spiritual enemies?”

May 20th, 2000 was such a day for me. It’s the day that Central Church in Collierville, TN, … my local church, declared war against Satan and the world, who had established a stronghold of hypersexual sin in our culture. It was on 5/20/2000 that Central Church declared, “Enough is enough;” and we launched Battle Plan Ministry [BPM] in our church to do battle for God and against Satan for as long as it takes in this life to stand against our spiritual enemies who use sexual sin to separate the men of God from their Good Shepherd. The launching of BPM was our church’s declaration of war to honor God and do battle against enemies who would pervert and use sexual temptation to tear down God’s army of men. BPM has now been doing battle for 10 years as a warfare discipleship ministry in God’s arsenal; and though the battle still rages, many victories have been won; and for that we can only stop to declare, ”Praise the LORD!!!”

My Prayer for Today:
We fight on, Lord, for Your glory! Amen

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 – August 20 – Longing for the Bad Old Days

Study from God’s Word Chapter 23 of Ezekiel … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 23: 27 … NIV So I will put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution you began in Egypt. You will not look on these things with longing or remember Egypt anymore.

My Journal for Today: I’m sure that those of you who follow my journal entries here don’t often read through the entire passages which Dr. LaGard Smith has me read in my quest, with his guidance, to read through The Daily Bible in Chronological Order. You probably just read my devotional entry and let it be your way of vicariously letting me do your reading for you. I understand that; but today I’m asking more of you.

Today, I implore you to read what I’ve just read, … the entire 23rd Chapter of the book of Ezekiel; because it is one of the most troubling chapters – at least to me – in its word pictures and analogy of two sister prostitutes representing Israel, whom God named “Oholah,” the older sister, and Judah, the younger, whom God called “Oholibah.” Oh, I’ve read Ezekiel before, but not until now did I read this chapter with such personal intent and careful meditation, being led by Dr. Smith’s devotional; and I must say that I’m now reeling with self disgust and even a raging fear for two other prostituted sisters. One is an older sister who has slowly given herself as prostitute. We know here as “Europe.” And we, “America” are the younger sister who is now following in our older sister’s pattern of shame.

As I read Ezekiel, Chapter 23, the graphic sexual references first took me back to the many years I, personally, prostituted my Judeo-Christian values to live a hidden double-life into many forms of sexual sin. But now I see that what God led me out of, in repentance, has now become a cultural pattern, where our nation has fallen prey and moved far away from being the identified as the “Christian Nation” she once was, a nation which was founded by staunch believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the nation who followed their seed, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Now, I’m afraid I see our fate as a nation becoming much the same as the two prostituted sisters, Israel and Judah. What form of wrath will be visited upon us as a seriously prostituted nation? I don’t know; but I just don’t see how we can avoid it. Perhaps it will be falling prey to the clutches of Islam, which is slowly, but doggedly taking over our older, but prostituted sister, Europe, who has made herself a bed for her Muslim pursuers.

I’m not a prophet with enough vision to see where God is going to lead America, who is more resistant than Europe. Hopefully there is a Christian remnant who is holding on by our knuckles; but assuredly, if America, cannot refrain from lifting its skirts to allow Islamic radicalization into our loins, she will fall to them as our sister Europe, which is crumbling in shame to Islam as I write this. Go read Ezekiel 23 and see if you can’t see this as well.

And if you agree with me, one must ask, “What can I do to see the younger sister, America, be saved from the fate we have seen for a century in our older sister nation, Europe?” And the answer is found in that very pregnant charge of 2nd Chron. 7: 14 [linked], which I would hope you know by heart. And I also hope that you join me in this refrain of confession and commitment as the people of God’s Name, who are mentioned in this charge, become a unified force, pleading for repentance, restoration, and renewal as a nation.

My Prayer for Today: O, dear Lord, we are nation who has prostituted ourselves to grieve You and shame Your Holy Name. Have mercy on us, dear God; and whatever You do, we know you’ll do it because You love Your children who cry out for Your mercy. Amen

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 – August 18 – Personal Accountability for Sin

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 15 - 18 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 18: 20 … NIV 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

My Journal for Today
There is no clearer discourse in all of the Bible on the responsibility and accountability for sin than in Ezekiel, Chapter 18. Then why, you might ask, did our merciful, loving God allow all 10 of Job’s children to be consumed and die in a storm, perpetrated by Satan, when they did not sin against their God? And I charge you to go back and read Ezekiel 18 and Job 42 as well; and you’ll see that Job’s kids were not lost to him. They were given life eternal because of their faith in God as shown by their righteous choices.

I need to make this simple for my own understanding … and perhaps for yours as well. We need to remember that God hates it when a righteous man (or woman), one of HIS children, dies because of the irresponsibility or sinfulness of some other of His creatures, such as what Satan is allow to perpetrate on mankind and what mankind does to his own kind. I must always remember that I, and I alone, am responsible for MY SINS. If you’re a sinner, … and you are, and you sin, … and you do, I’m not held responsible, by God, for your sins, as you are not held accountable for my sins. BUT, (and there’s another one of those big “BUTs”) we are held responsible, and there will be consequences, for our own sinful choices.

The Apostle Paul also made this clear after Jesus had died for the sins of all mankind, … that though all are sinners, Jesus saw fit to make it right for all believers in His atoning blood sacrifice, that we might LIVE though we are yet sinners (see Romans 5: 8). Dr. Smith makes these powerful truths quite clear in his devotional for today, as he writes, ”Whereas the trespass (sin) is always personal and never vicarious, the gift (salvation) is always vicarious and never personal.”

I hope, for our eternal sake, that each one of us truly grasps the magnitude of this truth to believe and receive God’s eternal gift of salvation wrapped up in His gift of grace.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I am responsible for my sin; but You gave me eternal life in spite of it. May I now be accountable for Your gift by using Your grace to share Your glorious gift of salvation with others and prayerfully they will receive it – from YOU - and find the life You have waiting for all who do. Amen

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2010 – August 17 – Sins of a Nation

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 12 – 14 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 14: 12 – 14 … NIV 12 The word of the LORD came to me: 13 "Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, 14 even if these three men — Noah, Daniel and Job —were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

My Journal for Today: After reading the designated Chapters in the Book of Ezekiel today from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order as well as Dr. LaGard Smith’s devotional in The Daily Bible Devotional if I had any lingering doubts that this country, One Nation UNDER God, whose motto is almost laughingly, In God We Trust, will in some way experience God’s wrath coming down upon those who have been and are mocking His sovereignty, they are gone.

However, I do find it most interesting that there is also a message of reassurance for those, of whom I count myself to be one, who stand firmly for right and take action to alert the people of THE God Who saves. But my reassurance is tempered when I see those mentioned as examples of that remnant, especially Job and Noah, who were not able to help many of their family and/or friends, who became consumed when the wrath of Satan was visited on Job and upon all but Noah’s family when God wiped the earth clean of unbelieving people via the great flood. As I’ve said and speculated in the past, “When the rains fall on the unrighteous, the righteous often get wet as well.”

It would frighten me, if I were our President, to declare that America is “… not a Christian nation.” I’m concerned that my kids/grandkids, being Christians (save maybe the youngest of our grandchildren) live in a culture that is becoming increasingly anti-Christ. But, as Job learned, and Noah experienced, God will some how save the righteous remnant unto eternity to be with Him. Job may have lost his kids to Satan’s attacks; but God kept them for Himself in heaven where Job would one day be reunited with them. Daniel’s young friends, renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, declared, before they were put in the fire of the furnace, “[in Daniel 3] 17 If that is the case [that the boys would be put in the fire], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

But we know the outcome of the latter true story. God did deliver the faithful boys; and I believe, as God did with Noah, He will deliver or take directly to heaven, those who stand for righteousness when His wrath of wrath of abandonment or death is delivered upon those who now mock Him or turn from Him into evil idolatry and wicked practices.

That is why it is so imperative that we do all we can to fulfill the Great Commission, even, and especially, in our own families, so that whenever God decides to lift his mantle of protection – by the Holy Spirit – off of this “Christian nation” in denial, those who have come to know Christ will be saved eternal destruction. Oh, we who believe and stand for Christ in these modern days of Sodom and Gomorrah may be martyred by Satan or the evil in the world; BUT … we will live on with Christ in glory because of our belief in His saving grace and the reality of His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His now sitting on the Throne of Glory at the right hand of God, the Father.

My Prayer for Today: Save us from peril, oh, Holy Spirit!! Amen

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 – August 16 – Spinning Ezekiel’s Wheel

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 8 – 11 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 10: 9 – 10 … NIV 9 I looked, and I saw beside the cherubim four wheels, one beside each of the cherubim; the wheels sparkled like chrysolite. 10 As for their appearance, the four of them looked alike; each was like a wheel intersecting a wheel.

My Journal for Today: Today my devotional shepherd, Dr. LaGard Smith, had me reading from the enigmatic sections of Chapters 8 – 11 of the Book of Ezekiel in his edited The Bible in Chronological Order; and I must admit that it is mysterious language to me. But then again, it must have been difficult – if not impossible – for Ezekiel to find words to represent what God led him to see as The Lord let the Prophet see Him lifting His glory from the Temple in Jerusalem because of how His own CHOSEN people had abandoned Him. God obviously wanted His Prophet, Ezekiel, to be the witness to God moving His glory from the Temple built for Him by Solomon. And we know that the glory of God would not visit that Temple again until Jesus, Himself, was brought into the Temple by Joseph and Mary to be circumcised and blessed by the Priest, which we read about in Luke 2. And there we read of God’s blessing of New Testament Prophet, Simeon and Anna, who recognized that God had entered back into the life of the Temple and had fulfilled His covenant in the life of this baby, Jesus.

The scenes and imagery Ezekiel uses to describe what God allowed the prophet to witness are difficult for this limited mind to interpret, especially visages like the famous word picture of “Ezekiel’s wheel” in our passage highlighted by Dr. Smith in his devotional entry for today. As Dr. Smith reports, many different interpretations have been offered up as to the meaning of what Ezekiel wrote about in this passage; and whatever it was, it had to have been incredible to be a mental witness to God moving out of His Temple as part of the judgment for the rebellion and disobedience of His people.

If any reader of my devotional here will allow me the license of a very limited mind, not having the gift of prophesy or of any great Spirit-driven discernment, it is of great concern to me to read what I’ve been reading from the inspired writings of Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and now, Ezekiel, to see how God will – at least for a season – visit His wrath of abandonment on a collection of His chosen people who turn their backs, as a nation, on the God Who had a covenant with those people. And … though we are not God’s original chosen people, I do believe that it was God’s hand which led Christians to America. And I believe that it was God’s protection and leading which brought about the incredible founding and freedom to worship the one, true God which brought America through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the World Wars … so that the USA could be a witness for God, much like the ancient Hebrew nation. But also like we are reading about from these OT prophets, God may be incredibly patient, as He was with Israel and Judah; but His patience has limits; and He will only visit His protection on a nation so long when they are turning their backs on Him.

And as I’ve been reading in the times of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God can – and will – lift His Spirit-imposed hand of protection to let His people experience His “wrath of abandonment,” which is a term I heard some time ago in a sermon by Dr. John MacArthur, who was reflecting on that incredible passage in Romans 1: 18 – 32 [linked for your study]; and this, to me, is one scary passage when one considers what is going on in our country and culture these days. Yes, I know that God’s promise is true (see Hebrews 4: 12, which quotes Deut. 31: 6) never to forsake those who believe in and have a deep/abiding relationship with God through Christ; but God does not promise to stay with individuals, or collectively with a nation of people, who turn their backs on Him or His ways. And that is my concern for what we may be seeing happening in America today.

Yes, it may be a far cry to go from “Ezekiel’s wheel” to seeing God move out of America and allow us to be turned over to reprobate forces of evil; but I pray that God has mercy on His remnant of believers, of whom I count myself as one, just as He promised He would for those in Israel and Judah who were willing to ride out the tide of captivity and enforced evil in Ezekiel’s day.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I know You’ll stay with us during these times of evil. Amen

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 – August 15 – God of Velvet, God of Steel

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 1 – 7 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 4: 15 … NIV [God to Ezekiel] “Very well,” He said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.”

My Journal for Today: Well, having read and studied through the first seven chapters of the Book of one of the so-called “major prophets,” in this case Ezekiel, and coming on the series of lessons God teaches to His called/designated Prophet, Ezekiel, we read this somewhat bizarre interlude in today’s highlighted text. In its context God is giving Ezekiel some empathy lessons in what God is going to put the northern tribes of Israel through while they are in captivity; and God is showing Ezekiel that the people will gladly eat even foods forbidden to God’s people, like barley cakes baked over human excrement (can you believe that would be in God’s word?). Well, Ezekiel balks, indicating that he has never – and will never – eat food prepared in such a forbidden manner; so, God – our sensitive God - Who is spewing forth his anger, honors Ezekiel’s obedience by giving him the lesson using animal dung rather than human manure.

I know, … I thought, “How bizarre can God’s written truth get at times!” But this little sequence teaches us that God, even when His wrath and judgment are on display, will show His “teddy-bear” side when He comes across one of His beloved children who has been – and will be – obedient to His expressed will and His ways. And that was what Ezekiel’s prophesies would speak to in the midst of God’s message of His wrath coming down on Israel in captivity. God will spare those for eternity who retain their faith and are truly His. And when he encounters those who, in faith, have remained obedient to His ways and His will through His word, God will exercise the side of His character which is the opposite of His wrath in judgment; and that is His love and mercy and kindness and patience.

If, in the midst of even bizarre scenarios like the one today, we get that message, which was spoken by “Watchmen” such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Joel, Habakkuk, and others, we can have hope … even in the midst of the evil and disobedience we see exercised today – even by those who call themselves “christian,” mocking God with their disobedience. And may God have mercy on His remnant as we do all we can to carry our His great commission and live as salt/light in a very darkened and poisoned world.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, again I plead, “Have mercy on those who love You and do, in truth, follow Your ways.” Amen

Saturday, August 14, 2010

2010 – August 14 – Halfhearted Repentance

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 51 and then Jer. 49: 34-39, followed by Jer. 34: 8-22 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 34: 15 – 16 … NIV [God, through Jeremiah, to King, Zedekiah, and the people of Judah] 15 Recently you repented and did what is right in My sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen. You even made a covenant before Me in the house that bears My Name. 16 But now you have turned around and profaned My Name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.

My Journal for Today: How many times do we read in the Old Testament how God’s people, His Hebrew children, rebel against their Covenant relationship with their Father, God. In today’s highlight passage we have another of these stories, where Judah was reminded that they, under Mosaic Law, must set their slaves free in the seventh year of their captivity; and as we read, they did repent and do that; but then they went back on their promise, once again disobeying God by taking their slaves back.

Now, before we get all haughty, thinking, “What wimps these Jews were as faithless followers of the one, true God!” And yes, certainly they were; but as I read this story in my devotional by LaGard Smith this morning, I was reminded of a repentant New Testament warrior who had trouble living up to his New Covenant faith. And that, of course, was the Apostle Paul. Let me link you here to a passage of Romans 7: 14-24 - linked, where our converted Christian warrior, Paul, is lamenting his inability to do what he knows is right according to his relationship with his Lord and Savior, Jesus.

How often do we, called to holiness and to be a living sacrifice to righteousness (see Rom. 12: 1-2), and called to separate ourselves from the world and our fleshly weaknesses, find ourselves falling short and failing to glorify God with some isolated sin or pattern of repeated weakness [see Rom. 3: 23]? It’s amazing to me how much God puts up with, as He did with Paul in Romans 7, then reminding His children, as He did with that same Paul, inspiring this broken warrior to write all of Romans 8. Or when the beloved Apostle John was inspired to write 1st John 1: 9, which I hope you can quote right here, as I refer to the truth that we can be cleansed of any or all sin by confessing that sin to our loving God. What a God we serve!!!

Yes, we’re no different than these weak-kneed Hebrews, who rode the repentance roller-coaster, being convicted and repenting of their sinfulness and then allowing themselves to be sucked back into their own fleshly weakness or lured into selfish sin by the world or Satan. Aren’t you just glad that there’s a Romans 8, into which we can choose to live instead of being mired in Romans 7 living? Aren’t you just glad that God provided a way for us to be free of our own deceitful hearts? Aren’t you just glad that you’ve repented – at least once – sincerely and have received God’s eternal gift of eternal life [all it takes is found in Romans 10: 9-13 linked]? And wouldn’t it be great if we, who have been saved by God’s grace, would live up to our part of that New Covenant, repenting of our sin and choosing to walk in righteousness, allowing God’s empowering/enabling grace to let us live in His Romans 8 promises?

Those are the questions God has led me to deal with this morning. What about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, lead me away from my own Romans 7 weaknesses to live in Your Romans 8 power. Amen

Friday, August 13, 2010

2010 – August 13 – Wiping the Slate Clean

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 51: 59; Jer. 50: 1 - 40 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 50: 20 … NIV 20 In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "search will be made for Israel's guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.

My Journal for Today: When I surrendered my all to Christ in 1983 at the age of 39, it was hard for me to imagine that God would – or even could – wipe me clean from well over 22 years of habituated and habitual sin; and it took several years for me to come to the realization that the Lord had done just that on the cross. And when I finally internalized that reality, the liberation I felt was mind saving, and actually mind blowing.

Today, in his devotional entry, Dr. LaGard Smith asks his readers (like me), “Ever wish you could start all over again … in a job, … in a marriage, … or in some strained personal relationship?” I’d wager [though I’m not a betting man] that anyone reading this would answer “YES” to that question. Well, if we’re really born-again Christians, we know that God, in and through Christ, has done just that by His death, resurrection, and re-coronation in heaven. So, the question is not whether God can – or has – wiped our slate clean; … no, the question is “DO I BELIEVE IT?”

It took me a long while in my discipleship to get to that place of complete trust in the reality of God’s saving and sanctifying grace. And it was truth, like that espoused in today’s highlight text, that helped my mind and heart grasp the reality that I’m forgiven, cleansed, and purged of all past sin, present sin, and yes, even future sin. And yes, I also realize, as the Apostle Paul expressed in Romans 6: 1-4 [linked] that this reality doesn’t give me the license to test God’s grace out and see if He’s the real deal in His promise and power to forgive and cleanse my slate.

No, recognizing that God has me in a constant state of forgiving grace motivates me all the more to live and walk in the freedom He has graciously and mercifully given to me. It’s simply wonderful to realize that if God can forgive the remnant of believers in Israel and Judah in Jeremiah’s day, He certainly can forgive a repentant Bill Berry in my day. And I hope that you have come to the place in your life when you recognize and live in the realization that your slate is clean, in Christ, as well.

Some time ago, I came across a wonderful poem, written by Woodrow Kroll, entitled “Start Over,” which expressed the hope and promise we have as Christians to live a “do over” life. It’s a wonderfully liberating poem; and anyone who would like a copy, I charge you to email me at willieb13@rocketmail.com and request a copy of this poem. If you do, I’ll be glad to send it to you. You’ll love it; and it’ll be a good way for me to see who’s reading here. ;>) So, if you’d like to have a copy of Kroll’s poem, email me.

My Prayer for Today: Oh my Lord, thank you for cleaning my slate! Amen

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2010 – August 12 – So Callous We Don’t Care

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapter 23: 9 – 40 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 23: 23 – 24 … NIV 23 "Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? 24 Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.

My Journal for Today: For anyone who has determined that he or she has a Spirit-given gift of teaching, preaching, or prophesying, reading through Jeremiah 23 has got to be a bit unsettling. And if one holds a position in God’s Church as Pastor, Priest, Elder, or Bishop, to bring God’s messages to the people is fraught with incredible accountability.

In the days of Jeremiah there were those who called themselves “prophet;” and they spoke out as if they had THE WORD from God to the His people. But they were speaking self generated prophesies and words that the people wanted to hear, … NOT the words given to them by God as He did with Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Joel, and others in those days. And in today’s highlighted text we see God declaring (note the emboldened words “declares the LORDspoken three times, calling us to pay special attention) that there’s no where these false “prophets” can go to hide their untruths and false claims … from God.

In today’s world, I am amazed at what some teachers, preachers, and self-proclaimed “prophets” are spouting out to tickle the minds/hearts of those who seek after God’s truth. You know to whom I’m referring, … people like the priestess of personal power, Oprah Winfrey, or the guru of good feelings, Joel Osteen. They, and others, come across the airwaves, pronouncing words which they feel are words from God Himself; and they are likely so deluded with their prominence and popularity that they can’t see that what they teach/preach has no basis in God’s truth, i.e., from His word. And millions hear what they’re preaching and become callous to the truth. Their audience doesn’t want to hear God’s way or His will when they can hear messages of prosperity and well being from the gurus of garrulous living.

But, as today’s passage, predicts and promises, those who espouse God’s message and do not have His prophetic powers do so at the risk of great peril; and there is nowhere they can hide from The Lord’s judgment. Those of us who’ve been called – and then labeled – by the Church or by ourselves as “Pastor” or “Teacher” or even “Prophet” (though I don’t think that title is appropriate in this age of waiting for Christ’s coming again), carry a heavy burden of accountability before God to His people according to God’s word (see Romans 2: 23-24, Romans 12: 6-8; 1st Cor. 2: 15-16; 1st Tim. 3: 1-3; 1st Tim. 6: 3-5; 2nd Tim. 4: 1-5; Titus 1: 10; James 3: 1; 2nd Peter 2: 1-3; 2nd Pet. 2: 18-22]. Do you get the idea, from these many NT references from God’s word, especially noting James 3: 1 [linked], that righteous teaching is important?!!

As you can see, to be a “teacher” of God’s truth is A BIG DEAL, according to God’s word. But being a learner of God’s word is a big deal too. We who pursue God’s wisdom, way, and will from His word also have a responsibility, which as I’ve said in the past was illustrated by the way the Bereans checked out Paul’s teachings against the truth of Scripture as they knew it [see Acts 17: 10-15]. So, anytime we, who call ourselves “Christian” and believe our hearts to be indwelt by the enlightening ministry of the Holy Spirit, have a responsibility to avoid false teaching by knowing God’s word to the point we can spot a counterfeit easily by his/her false teachings.

With all that said, I pray that we’re pursuing God’s truth and are being discerning as to what we’re learning as God’s truth, always using the plumb of God’s word for our standard of truth.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine You light of truth upon all I learn, but especially give me Your anointing as I teach … even here in this place as I write these things daily. Amen

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2010 – August 11 – Praying for Alien Nations Where There’s Alienation

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 24: 1 – 10; Jer. 29: 1-32; Jer. 27: 1-22; Jer. 28: 1-17 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 29: 4 – 7 … NIV 4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

My Journal for Today: A lot was happening to and with God’s people, Judah, as they were taken into Babylonian captivity by Nebuchanezzar in Jeremiah’s day. There were false prophets, like Hananiah, who spoke out with lies that God would break the yoke of Nebuchanezzar within two years; and ultimately that lie was exposed by God through Jeremiah; and any false prophet who trumpeted falsehoods such as these were brought down by God. And though the people didn’t want to hear what God said through Jeremiah, he continued to speak the truth of God to His people.

Today we read of advice which had to have been a hard pill to take for the Judeans in captivity. God was telling them to fold into the Babylonian culture, to become productive, to multiply, and above all, to pray to God; and those who followed these commands, which were given to God’s people in Babylon by Jeremiah, would be brought back to their promised land. But they were, going to have to wait for 70 years to see these prophesies come to fruition; and there were those false prophets, like I cited above about Hananiah, who were spouting lies which the people would rather hear, saying that God was going to break the yoke of Babylon in two years. Two years verses seventy years; … and as you might imagine, many would rather go with the “two year” choice.

But those who listened and believed Jeremiah, especially his promises in a well-worn truthful prophesy of Jeremiah 29: 10-14, would be rewarded for their faith. You may know that passage well, especially verse 11 [underlined]: 10 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.

And God did take His people back to Jerusalem after 70 years, where we know, from history that God had the Temple rebuilt. We read about it in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. But how does that help us, via application, today? Well, it helps us extract hope from these stories from history, where God prophesied and those of faith were liberated and given the promises of God. And we, who are surrounded by lies and captive in a “Babylon” of sin today, should take heart that God has asked us to stick in there, have faith, live under the rigors of an evil world, and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY to God for His favor. That’s the ever prevalent promise of 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 - linked; isn’t it?

I’ll leave it to you as to what to believe and what to do as aliens, alienated in an evil world. But to paraphrase a famous Jewish leader, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” [see Joshua 24: 14-15 – linked]

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I know that You will never leave those of us who believe in Your promises. Amen

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 – August 10 – No Safety for Sinners

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 24: 6-9 [2nd Chron 36: 8-9]; Jer. 22: 24-30; 2Kgs 24: 10-12 [2Chron 32: 10 and Dan. 1: 1]; 2Kgs 24: 13-16 [Dan. 1: 2]; 2Kgs 24: 17-18 [2Chron 36: 10-11 and Jer. 37: 1, 52: 1]; 2Kgs 24: 19-20 [2Chron 36: 12, 13-16 and Jer 37: 2, 52: 2-3] … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 22: 24 … NIV 24 "As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "even if you, Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.

My Journal for Today: As you can see by the historical readings I was led to read from God’s word on this date, if you read these passages, you would read of God’s justice and judgment being worked out as Nebuchanezzar was allowed to take Jehoiachin, the very young successor of his father, Jehoiakim, the King of Judah, captive … along with tens of thousands of Judeans. And in today’s highlight text we read just how serious God’s judgment was as God’s word uses the word picture of the King’s signet ring to signify just how wrong Judah’s actions had been in those days.

The signet ring for the king in those days was his honor and his seal of power. When a king in those times used his ring to seal a judgment or a decision, it was a “done deal!” There are a number of such instances in Scripture, as described by Dr. Smith in his devotional for today; … as when King Darius sealed the den where Daniel was place with his own ring so that the judgment against Daniel could not be altered [see Daniel 6: 9]. And in today’s passage, we read just how much God regretted the actions of Judah and their kings, saying that the Lord’s honor and “signature” had been besmirched to the point where God, the King of kings, would pull off His signet ring.

I hope you join me this morning, any co-readers here, in realizing what Dr. Smith helped me remember; … that Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate “signet ring” of both judgment and/or salvation. And anyone who comes under the seal of God’s Holy Spirit, the sign of His signature of salvation, has been sealed unto eternity and glory by the blood of Lamb of God. And anyone who does not carry this seal will be cast aside into hell by the sealed judgment of God.

As the saying goes, my eternal life is “signed, sealed, and delivered.” Because I have repented, confessed my sins, and received the seal of my Lord and Savior, my eternity carries the sealed signature of God’s Spirit. However, anyone who will not, as the king of Judah was so unwilling, repent and come to obedience to receive God’s signet grace of salvation will be cast aside into the judgment of eternal separation for God.

Oh, I pray that all who read this carry the signature impression of God’s Spirit on their souls.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I come with humble gratitude for sealing my eternal life with Your blood, shed for the remission of my sin and the redemption of my soul. I pray that all who read this prayer are so sealed for eternity. Amen

Monday, August 09, 2010

2010 – August 9 – A Surprising Work of God

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 24: 1 – 4; Jeremiah, Chapters 48 – 49 and Jer. 22: 18-23 + 2Kgs 24: 5-6 [2Chron 36: 8] … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 48: 10 … NIV “A curse on him who is lax in doing the LORD’s work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!”

My Journal for Today: As my devotional author, Dr. LaGard Smith, points out, these are tough words in today’s highlight passage, a judgment from God, in this case against the Moabites, who were unwilling to take up their swords to defend the God of Israel; and instead, became victims of their worship of “Chemosh,” the national god of these mountain people.

So, how do we apply this historical curse in today’s text to our lives today?

Actually it says a lot to me, being leader of a ministry called “Battle Plan Ministries [BPM].” Because one of the battle strategies we teach our men, men who’ve become “lax in doing the LORD’s work,” is to become swordsman, doing battle for the Lord in their quest to be warriors for righteousness in their lives. We know from studying and teaching the truths of Isaiah 55: 11, Ephesians 6: 17 and Hebrews 4: 12 that God’s word is our strongest – and really, the only - offensive weapon when fighting against the temptations of Satan and his worldly forces. Jesus showed us this strategy when he fought off Satan in the wilderness (see Luke 4: 1-13 - linked). And so, in BPM we teach our men, who desire to be victorious in spiritual warfare, to use “the sword” of God, i.e., His word, to fight and fend off the enemy.

And in today’s passage we read that God was pronouncing a curse on Moab because they had been “lax in doing God’s word,” unwilling to take up “the sword” for the One, True God and His righteousness. Rather they yielded to allow themselves to worship gods who had no power, idols in their land, gods which they were not willing to crush with the “sword of God.” And today we find many, if not most, in the world being unwilling to take up the “Sword of the Spirit,” i.e., God’s word, against the idols of the flesh, such as pornography. And to such a people, as He did with the Moabites, God pronounces His curse of death.

I hope and pray that any who read this are not living as did the Moabites. I pray that we all are wielding a ready, sharpened, and practiced Sword of the Spirit when we fight the daily battles WE WILL HAVE TO FIGHT (and we will !!). Because not becoming an accomplished swordsman for God, in His army, will make us vulnerable to the gods of the flesh and the deceit of our own evil desires (see Jer. 17: 9 and Rom. 3: 23). But the hope and promise and power of such truths as I cited above in Isaiah 55: 11, Ephesians 6: 17 and Hebrews 4: 12 [PLEASE go search out and meditate on those truths!] can give us victory in battle as we go forth in the Name of the Lord. Ignoring taking up the Sword, for God’s righteousness, however, will bring on any people the same curse that we read above from God leveled against the Moabites.

May we not be lax in taking up God’s sword to defend His truth.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray victory for those who’re willing to take up Your Sword and do battle in Your Name. Amen

Sunday, August 08, 2010

2010 – August 8 – The Value of Higher Learning

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapters 1 – 2 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 1: 17 … NIV 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

My Journal for Today: Well, here I am in my year of Bible studies, in Babylon, many having been taken into captive by King Nebuchadnezzar; and we begin to read of a group of young Hebrew lads who were chosen, along with a number of promising and vetted Hebrews to be educated in the way of Babylon’s culture; and using these unfolding events, God gives Daniel a special gift of being able to discern and interpret dreams, a skill which will prove invaluable in allowing Daniel and three of his friends, to rise to some degree of power in the Babylonian court of Nebuchadnezzar.

Today, for discussion and consideration, Dr. Smith highlights the fact – and truth – that God can use human, or what we would call “secular” education, for His glory; but this can and will only take place if those, like Daniel and his young friends, who were renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by Nebuchadnezzar, were well grounded in their faith BEFORE going through man’s worldly curriculum.

I am a good example of what can happen if an immature faith collides with a worldly, ungodly educational process, since I went off to college with an ungrounded faith in God and no real relationship with my Lord. It only took a few weeks of exposure to the ungodliness of an educational system, which actually mocked Christianity, to lose what “faith” I had. And so I came out of four years of college, labeling myself as an “agnostic” (a code name for “atheist”); and not believing in God at all. I had literally become, “a devil’s advocate.”

Dr. Smith is right that God doesn’t despise the education of the human mind. He created the mind to observe what He has created and to learn to use the mind HE created to come to know and understand what HE would reveal to the human mind/heart. But Satan, using his devices in the world, can put the human mind, with its deceptive heart (see Jer. 17: 9) through a systematic course of ungodliness which can draw that mind/heart away from God. But today’s highlight passage is an example that a mind and heart which is already well-grounded in faith to the one true God, can use any or all worldly education to sharpen that mind for God’s glory. And that’s what happened to Daniel and the three other Hebrews boys.

Hence, we have a warning for Christian parents from this part of Daniel’s story and from my own witness. We must do all we can, as God’s word touts in Deut. 6 and Prov. 22: 6, to raise up our children in the faith so that they are ready, as was Daniel, to take on the worldly rigors of “secular” education.

Our two daughters went off to college – to state universities - well grounded and committed in their faith; and here they are now, solid in their Christian discipleship and raising their children to be witnesses for Christ in their lives. We need not fear worldly education if we have the Holy Spirit’s ministry of enlightenment in our hearts to buffer what the world would teach us (for assurance, see 1 John 4: 4 and Prov. 3: 5 – 6 and Joshua 1: 8). These latter passages give us the confidence that God’s enabling grace in our hearts as born-again, committed Christians, can/will overcome any temptations or misinformation provided by a world bent on unGodly influence.

I now know, first hand, that being educated in God’s truth can overwhelm, cleanse, and by choice, reform a mind into an intellect used for His glory. As Gods’ word itself touts (in Prov. 23: 7 [NKJV]), “As he [any man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” So, after I surrendered my mind/heart to Christ, my discipleship and education in God’s truth [i.e., from His word] reshaped me, as promised by Romans 12: 1-2, to become a living sacrifice for Christ and a witness for Him (see Acts 1: 8) … instead of an ungodly witness for Satan and the world as I had become in college.

I pray we all take the young minds we have been given by God in our children and grandchildren to do all we can to raise them up to be surrendered to Christ … before the world’s influence can shape their mind for Satan’s service.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to do all I can to see that our grandchildren do not fall prey to the world’s influences which will attempt to draw them away from You. I beg You shape their minds for Your glory. Amen

Saturday, August 07, 2010

2010 – August 7 – Contempt for God’s Word

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah 36: 1 - 4; Jer. 45: 1 – 5; Jer. 36: 5 - 32 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 36: 23 – 24 … NIV 23 Whenever Jehudi [the agent for Jehoiakim, King of Judah] had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe's knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.

My Journal for Today: Just this past week an activist US District Judge (his name is Vaughn Walker) defiantly declared that the controversial “Prop 8” California constitutional amendment, passed by the citizens of CA, declaring for traditional marriage and banning gay marriage, was unconstitutional and thereby null and void. In doing so, this one judge has deactivated the vote of the citizens of California and made his own law which has also, in turn, declared (in the legal opinion Walker wrote) that no law can be based on the premise of faith or faith traditions. So, … in the headlines of our times we have a very similar case to what happened when the King of Judah, Jehoiakim, bad son of the good King Josiah, ordered that Jeremiah’s prophesies of God’s word, which had been written down in a scroll, be cut up and burned.

It is sad; but I don’t think that Judge Walker has a clue as to the ramifications of his declared legal opinion … just like King Jehoiakim (see verse 24 above) was so brazen about his decision to burn the truth of God written down in Jeremiah’s scroll [which BTW was later restored and re-written]. Now we don’t know what will happen in the appeals process since this District Court opinion will be challenged. It may ultimately be restored by the US Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court; but like Jehoiakim’s challenge of God’s word and will, Judge Walker has acted brazenly to affront God’s written truth. Prop 8 in California was simply a written affirmation of thousands of years of Judeo-Christian values concerning marriage; and it is affirmed by the Bible itself. Judge Walker saw fit to write his legal “tearing up” of Prop 8; and in the process struck out directly and brazenly against God’s way and His will. And like God’s recompense against Jehoiakim, somehow and in some way, Judge Walker is going to pay God for his actions. May God have mercy on him; and may he repent of his decision before God’s hammer of wrath falls as it did on Jehoiakim and his family (see Jeremiah 36: 30 – 31).

But even more importantly for you and me is the application of God’s word in Jer. 36 for our personal lives and how we follow God’s word. And testing this premise, Dr. Smith closes his devotional for today with one of his redundant personal challenges, writing, ”Are there any verses ‘MISSING’ from my Bible (application) because I’ve purposefully chosen to ignore them?” Because, … if the answer to the latter question is “YES,” we are no better in living out our lives than was Jehoiakim trying to eradicate God’s written word or Judge Walker trying to make Judeo-Christian truths null and void in support of gay marriage.

We simply cannot treat God’s word like a smorgasbord, blissfully taking in things which seem to be easy for our palates and ignoring those parts of our truth diet we find difficult to consume. God’s word is ALL truth, as declared by the Apostle Paul to his young Mentee in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17, … ALL of it is necessary for our living our lives; and we cannot “tear out” concepts or pages from it because they don’t seem appealing to our tastes. We cannot be like Jehoiakim or Judge Walker; because if we do, we risk the very wrath of God coming down like it did for the defiant king in today’s historical account of Jehoiakim or it very likely will for Judge Walker.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that I – and any who read here – take this lesson to heart and live by ALL of Your word … ALL of the time. Amen

Friday, August 06, 2010

2010 – August 6 – A Respected Family Tradition

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 25 and 35 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 35: 13 – 14 … NIV 12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, 'Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?' declares the LORD. 14 'Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed Me.

My Journal for Today: The highlighted verse for today, by Dr. Smith, is emboldened and underlined above in the context of the immediate two verses; and this is an interesting commentary on how humans will sometimes follow human, family, or religious traditions and ignore God’s commands or His Law.

In the times of Jeremiah, there was a family, a religious sect of nomads, the Recabites, who were led by Jonadab, a descendant of Recab. Jonadab had ordered his nomadic family never to drink wine, apparently as a way to honor him as their father and their ancestor Recab. And in Chapter 35 of Jeremiah’s book, we read that God was angry at His people, who refused to honor their Heavenly Father and His commands. But God, almost seeming like He was jealous of the Recabites, honored the Recabites in Judah who were willing to discipline themselves to do something, i.e., never drink wine, honoring their earthly fathers for generations. Yet, God’s people in Judah could not, or more accurately WOULD NOT, honor God, their Father, the Creator God, by following His commands. And because of this generational disobedience, as we read in the Books of the Prophets in the OT, Judah was to be overcome by the Babylonians and remain in captivity for 70 years [an interesting and exactingly accurate prophesy from Jeremiah in Chapter 25].

And Dr. Smith, my devotional Shepherd, in his devotional for today, ends with this self examination question: ”What might I – myself – do today to foster a respect for God that will last for generations?” And being a grandfather, I can only hope (and pray – below) that my family, friends, and those in my sphere of influence would see in my choices and actions a life which honors my Lord and Heavenly Father. And may they receive Him as Lord as have I.

What about you and your family?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, make me a vessel, filled with the living waters of Your Spirit, which brings life to my family and gives eternal hope to anyone with whom I might be in contact. Amen

Thursday, August 05, 2010

2010 – August 5 – Silence Before God

Study from God’s Word Habakkuk, Chapters 1 – 3 (the entire book) … Passage for Reflection: Habakkuk 2: 20 … NIV But the Lord is in His holy temple; let the earth be silent before Him.

My Journal for Today: In the days of the prophets, about whom I’ve been reading recently from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order and LaGard Smith’s The Daily Bible Devotional, men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and in today’s passage, Habakkuk, all were perplexed by why God would use such an oppressive, evil people, as God was prophesying in the Babylonians, to bring God’s justice down on His own, chosen people in Israel and Judah. And Habakkuk joined in the clamoring by taking his loud complaints to God. And God, knowing Habakkuk’s prophetic heart, listened mercifully and patiently to the very personal concerns of this believer. And then – finally – Habakkuk, at the end of Chapter 1, and goes to a high place to listen to God.

And it’s in this attitude of being silent and seeking truth that we get our life lesson for today.
Haven’t we all been in the place of doubt or despair when all we are led to do in prayer or in consultation with other believers is to rail against the evil in our times or to clamor, in our hearts or in accord with others, going to God with our loud complaints. But when are we going to go to that high place and silently listen to the One Who is in total control of what is going on in our world.

It was in that posture of solitude, Habakkuk going to the high-ground of listening prayer, that God revealed to this prophet His truth. And we read about God’s response to Habakkuk in Chapter two of the book by Habakkuk’s name. And then … in Chapter three, we read how the light bulb of revelation shines in Habakkuk’s realization that God ALWAYS loves him and His children; and as Habakkuk learned we must choose to let God be God when we are not. [And it seems like I come back to that realization a lot myself by going deep into God’s word this year.]

But the lesson today is in the value of contemplative solitude, … going to some quiet place, especially in an attitude of prayer to be in a humble, submissive attitude, … doing all we can to listen for God’s truth.

For any who read my journal entries here daily, that is where I try to go EVERY MORNING; and conceptually I call it “the high ground of prayer.” And I learned a long time ago, that I can’t perceive (i.e., “hear”) God’s truth when I’m in a clamoring, self-determined attitude. It’s only when I’m willing to consciously go to a place (mentally and spiritually) where I can be on higher ground to be able to get God’s clearer perspective. And it’s only when I go silently to this place, intently seeking God’s perspective on the battle fields of life, I begin to see God’s battle plan for my life; and I quietly yield.

When we’re down in the trenches of everyday battle, especially when we’re listening to the opinions and loud expressions of other selfish sinners, our minds cannot get God’s perspective on life and living. It’s only when we’re able to choose submissive silence before our God that He’s able to penetrate our willfulness and prideful selfishness to give us His perspective on the battles of life.

Right now, today, I’ve come to God, much as did Habakkuk, asking God why He would allow an activist judge in California to rule against God’s concept of marriage [something that literally happened yesterday. However, by going, QUIETLY, to my high ground of listening solitude and prayer, God has assured me that He has all of this, not only under His view, but in HIS control. And like Habakkuk sing in his song of praise, in Hab. 3: 17 – 18 [linked], I’m not going to let some activist judge, who’s trying to unravel God’s institution of marriage, to steal my joy. No, … in solitude here at this high ground of devotion, I’m going to choose to turn these matters, which are out of my control, over to God, Who is in total control. And like Habakkuk in that latter passage, I will praise my God forever.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are the God of all justice; and Your will be done. Amen

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

2010 – August 4 – The Matchless Balm of Gilead

Study from God’s Word Jeremiah, Chapters 46 - 47 … Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 46: 11 … NIV "Go up to Gilead and get balm, O Virgin Daughter of Egypt. But you multiply remedies in vain; there is no healing for you.

My Journal for Today: Question: … What do I do in my life to let God’s “Balm of Gilead” heal my sin-sick soul? That essentially was Dr. Smith’s self exam question to close his devotional for today.

In Jeremiah’s day, Gilead was a place known for healing. Many herbs, ointments, and remedies came from there as well as people going to Gilead to be treated by many physicians who lived there. It was sort of the Johns Hopkins or Mayo Clinic of the Middle Eastern world in those times. Jeremiah makes reference to Gilead today with regard to Egypt not being able to be healed, even by a balm from Gilead. In Jer. 8: 20-22, he makes a similar reference; but this time it’s to Judah. In other words, God, through the Prophet,” is saying, “Even the best of human remedies won’t help you.” And God is trying to get Judah or Egypt to look to HIM, and Him alone for the healing that comes from applying the true Balm of Gilead,” i.e., the healing God has for those who surrender to Him as Jehovah Rapha. As the old hymn states …

There is a balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin-sick soul;
There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.

The question still remains: “Are we willing to submit to the only remedy provided for the ultimate disease, which is death?” And that, of course, is the blood of the Lamb of God.

No more need be said to point us to the only source of healing we have for our soul … the only REAL “Balm of Gilead.”

My Prayer for Today: Jehovah Rapha, my Healer, … Your blood has been applied to my soul; and I am healed unto eternity. Praise Your Holy Name!!! Amen

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

2010 – August 3 – Truth: A Crime Worthy of Death

Study from God’s Word 2nd Kings 23: 29-30 [2Chron 35: 20-25]; 2Kgs 23: 30-35 [2Chron 36: 1-5]; Jeremiah 22: 10-17 and Chapter 26… Passage for Reflection: Jeremiah 26: 10 – 11 … NIV 10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD's house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!"

My Journal for Today
: What a mess! Reading about the contentious battle between the truth speakers, i.e., God’s Prophets, like Nahum and Jeremiah in these days when the tribes of Israel and Judah wavered back and forth in disobedience and even seasons of obedience, we read of Jeremiah being accused and threatened with death from false prophets, soothsayers, and the seers of the day. They had seen many of Jeremiah’s prophesies unfolding; but when Jeremiah prophesied against them, they would rather see him dead than listen or contend with God’s truth.

Dr. Smith, my devotional author, is right when he compares this time in Jeremiah’s life to the Passion of Jesus when our Lord was brought up on trumped-up charges and even killed unjustly. But Jeremiah was delivered from his life threatening dilemma because of God’s need to use this Prophet remained. However, what happened during these times is certainly an historical reflection of what we see going on in our world today.

We have the “prophets” of political-correctness and those who promote false-doctrines like the word of faith movement coming out and loudly attacking God’s truth. The former would like to “kill” the concept of “God” or “Christ” in the public arena, and strike down every vestige of The Bible from the view, study, and consideration by a public whose mind they want to control with policies of death and the flesh such as their views on pro-abortion, homosexual marriage, and the like. … Then there are the religious soothsayers of our day, such as the Oprahs or Osteens, who preach a feel-good gospel. And these false-teachers don’t want anyone to tear down their empires of thought control which produce vast wealth for them. Who wants to hear “the truth” when non-truth is so lucrative and produces so much power? So, all of these arch enemies of GOD’S truth do all they can to bring down those who are purveyors of the real-deal truth, which I believe is being preached in our days by modern day Jeremiahs, … men whom I so greatly admire, like John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and others.

Once again I return in my thoughts to the marvelous witness of the Bereans when they heard what they thought was a “new” message of hope from an Apostle who used to be a Christian killer, … that Saul of Tarsus who had become the Apostle Paul. We read about (see Acts 17: 10 – 15 - linked) what these Bereans did when Paul came to their area, preaching the Gospel of Christ. They carefully searched the Scriptures as they knew them (the Torah and the words of the Prophets); and God helped them see His truth being preached by His man, Paul; and they believed.

And that’s what we need today, … discerning Christians who know God’s truth – from His word – so fully and clearly that we can readily see the counterfeit message being taught in our culture. When Oprah puts forth her gospel of self-dominance or Osteen his “take control of your life with your thoughts” messages, we need to go back to the ONE source of real truth, … God’s word, and discern that these messages just don’t measure up to the plumb of God’s will for our lives.

When the social gospel preachers of political-correctness do all they can to manipulate our political systems to eradicate “God” from the market place of ideas, we need to stand up for God as did the Jeremiah’s and other Prophets of truth in their day. The question, from Dr. Smith today, gets to the core of our lives, when he asks, ”What am I willing to forfeit in defense of the truth?”

Personally, it needs to be all I have; … and I will pray today that it is.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be a trumpet for your truth even if my very life or freedoms are threatened. Amen