Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 – September 30 – The Day of Salvation

Study from God’s Word Psalms 107, 116, 118, 125 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 118: 22 – 24 … NIV The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

My Journal for Today: I’m on vacation with my family in a beautiful condo on the beach in Myrtle Beach, SC. As God’s providence would have it, tropical depression, “Nicole,” has been delivered by God to meander up the east coast, dumping water and giving us blustery winds during our vacation. Somehow the familiar words of today’s salvation song, “This is the day the LORD has made,” don’t come to my mind so easily; but it’s true, of course.

This morning as I rose in anticipation of what God would give me for my devotional from His word, I was directed to this old, familiar, refrain from Psalm 118; and, of course, we have to recognize that every day is a day that the LORD has made; and we should rejoice and be glad in it … rain or shine.

Why? Well, if you look at the historical context of these words, they are in a song, along with a number of other post exilic psalms, which celebrated the Jews being delivered from captivity and the restoration of God’s Temple. As other words in Psalm 118 ring out, “Let Israel say, ‘His love endures forever.’ ” And in that vein, every day that a believer acknowledges that God has set down His capstone for the foundation of salvation for His people; and we who believe on that Capstone, Jesus Christ, and what He did on that most powerful of days on that cross, can – and should – declare with joy, “That was THE day that the LORD made for my (and your) salvation; … let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

And Dr. Smith is right on with his truth that there are actually three capstone days to which we, who believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior, can claim as days the LORD has made. There is that day to which I just referred in which Jesus, the Christ, died to set the captives free. Secondly, there is that wonderful day when, in my brokenness, I believed in day number one and acknowledged Christ as my Lord and Savior. And there is day number three yet to come, when our LORD will come again for His Bride and take us to be with Him forever. And to any of these days we can, or most certainly should, declare, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

So, Dr. Smith is also right when he writes that any day, no matter how dreary or circumstantially overwhelming it may seem, is a day when, if we realize the context of today’s passage, we can declare … and say it again with me … “This is the day that the LORD has made … I WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT!!!”

My Prayer for Today: And I say it yet again, my LORD, this is a day which You have made for me; and I DO REJOICE and I AM GLAD in it !! Amen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2010 – September 29 – Seeing the Signs

Study from God’s Word Psalm 78 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 78: 8 … NIV 8 They would not be like their forefathers — a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.

My Journal for Today: Today I was led to read Psalm 78 from the collection of God’s songs in His word, which is a Psalm written for God’s people, summarizing the many times the Jews ignored the signposts God had for them along their historical road and the many times God was merciful and gracious to/for His chosen people.

AND, as Dr. Smith, writing his devotional entry for today points out, we should not miss God’s repeated signs along our road of life as well. How many times do we need to read in God’s word how His chosen people rejected His Law and turned away from righteousness to sinfulness, for us to see that we worship a loving, merciful, and forgiving God? How many times from God’s story about Himself do we need to read that God grieves over the sins of His people; and how often do we read – over/over again – that sin has consequences?

God will turn mankind over to his own wickedness, as we read in both the Old and New Testaments (see this Psalm 78 in the OT and Romans 1: 18 – 32 in the NT); but one cannot read the Bible and not see the great signpost of redemption which God’s word presents so loudly. And that ultimately led to the His biggest signpost, … the life, death, and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus, The Christ.

And those who see this Signpost of redemption (see Phil. 2: 6-11) and believe in its message (see Rom. 10: 9 – 13) will be saved. I’m praying that all who read here have seen the Signpost, have believed in His message, and will be with me in Heaven.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Your signs scream truth at me; and I see them. Help me to stay on Your path, always seeking and finding Your way through the wilderness of my sin nature. Amen

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 – September 28 – Why Do We Worship?

Study from God’s Word Zechariah, Chapters 7 & 8; Ezra 6: 14 – 22 … Passage for Reflection: Zechariah 7: 5 – 6 … NIV Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted can mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlight text, where God – through Zechariah – poses a pertinent/powerful question to God’s people, also poses an equally poignant question for all of us.

Why do worship our God?

Dr. Smith, in his devotional today, gets right to the essence of this challenge by asking me (and you who read here); and I paraphrase Dr. Smith, ”Over the span of our lives, many of us have been going to church one, two, or three times a week; … why do we do it? And he asks us to think back to this past Sunday – if we attended one or more services, to ask ”Did we go out of habit, or to be seen, or …did we go because we had great anticipation that we were going to church to be with our fellow Christians, worshipping God Almighty, … worshipping with an anticipated opportunity to show God how much we praise Him and desire to be with Him in His honored House of worship?”

Okay, search deep with me, as God challenged the Jews of Zechariah’s day to see what was in their heart as they went through almost 70 year of worship rituals, RELIGIOUSLY, since they had been in the House of God (i.e., Solomon’s Temple). And have you thought about it, “What is our religious worship all about, anyway? … Is our “worship” only what we do to honor God on Sunday and Wednesday nights; or is WORSHIP more about how we do life, trying to praise and honor God by the way we live, … not just by how, religiously, we show up in the pews for Sunday’s corporate worship services?”

You’re going to have to answer that one for yourself; but as I pondered this one, … in this one instance, I think I’ve come to realize that “worship” is more about the way I live than about me showing up every Sunday and doing the “worship gig” on Sunday (e.g., see Romans 12: 1-2). But when I do come for religious recognition on Sundays, I’m coming to the place in life where I dress up for God. I come to be with my brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can raise our voices and hands, together, anticipating that our God will be smiling as He knows that there are those present who are truly trying to praise our Lord and to show Him how much we love Him. And in answer to some of Dr. Smith’s challenging questions today about worship, I do think that I come away from our church services on Sundays having just had a time with God in the place that was built to honor and glorify His Name. And I hope that I never lose that very real sense of worship.

BUT … even more, … I hope I never lose sight of the fact that how I live my life – 24/7 – is my real living definition of worship; and as I’ve sited God’s charge of worship in Romans 12: 1 – 2 above, I pray that I’m becoming a “living sacrifice” of worship for my Lord by the way I live my life … FOR HIM.

How about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may my 24/7 life be my worship of/for You. Amen

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 – September 27 – Where the Real Power Resides

Study from God’s Word Zechariah, Chapters 1 - 6 … Passage for Reflection: Zechariah 4: 6 … NIV So He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might or power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

My Journal for Today: Zechariah, the younger of the two post-exilic prophets (along with Haggai) must’ve had a challenging calling, … to give the truth about the rebuilding of the Temple to a very self-indulgent culture, … and to challenge them about a future which could not be seen in those times, … a message dealing with One, called “The Branch,” Who would come to redeem God’s peoples into a great and glorious kingdom on earth.

Are you the type, like yours truly, who will slam a door shut on a drawer where something cannot be found; or possibly you’d join me as one who’d kick a tire which has gone flat? Common! Surely I’m not the only fool who’s done foolish things like that when things seemed out of control or hapless – if not hopeless.

When there’s a task at hand which seems way beyond our reach, we tend to get frustrated, which can lead to anger, … which, in turn, can lead to striking out in some way. It’s like the very human response when one looks in a mirror and sees something we don’t want to see. Oh how frustrating it can be to see all those excess pounds, knowing that trying to do something about it seems almost impossible.

So, our hopeless frustration can lead to angry reactions which point us either inward to selfish action or outward to faith responses, … which, in the latter case, will prove much more productive if we can pin our hopes on the ONE, TRUE GOD, Who will always have THE answer and THE way, IF the task at hand is in HIS will.

As Dr. Smith so rightly points out in today’s devotional entry, involving today’s text reference, ”Whereas God might leave us to our OWN devices to accomplish goals of our own making, of one thing we can be sure: If the task ahead is God’s own plan, there is no way we can fail!” And this is something I should have remembered when I slammed a drawer shut a while ago, breaking the drawer, when what I was looking for and could not find had nothing to do with anything of Godly significance.

Oh, the working out and faith in the truth of a Romans 8: 28 can be so frustrating, especially when we place the emphasis on SELF rather than SAVIOR. But when we believe in such truths, from God Himself through His word, we can be certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what is going on is for our good, no matter how bad it may seem. And that is as true today as it was in the times of Zechariah.

Do we truly believe that God (and His truth) is the same yesterday, TODAY, and tomorrow? Answer that one – in faith – and we’ll save ourselves much frustration, anger, and reaction to the challenges of this life.

My Prayer for Today: O Lord, help me in my unbelief! Amen

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 – September 26 – Toward a Greater Glory

Study from God’s Word Haggai, Chapter 1, 2: 1-9; Zech 1: 1 – 6; Hag 2: 10 – 19 Passage for Reflection: Haggai 2: 3, 9 … NIV 3 'Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? … 9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."

My Journal for Today: Reading from Haggai and the younger Prophet, Zechariah, in this morning’s guided Bible study, I’m taken by the message these two prophets deliver, from God, to the Jewish leaders and people about God’s Temple being rebuilt at the time.

The message from today’s text is quite profound and becomes personalized, … that one day, though the current temple will not be as grand as the one built by Solomon, in those glorious days, there will come a day, God proclaims through Haggai, when Temple being built by the people will be more glorious for God then any ever built at that time or in the past. And Dr. Smith speculates, by interpretation, that this was a reference to the fact that one day The Messiah would enter the Temple, being built by this remnant from Babylon; and He would even cleanse the Temple for His Father.

The other message, delivered by both Zechariah and Haggai, is that the people working on the temple building cannot give glory to God by simply working there. No, they must have right hearts in doing the work to honor God with their work for His glory. And I see both of these messages as having a reference – a very personal teaching – for me, as I rebuild the Temple in which God has taken residence in my heart. From 1st Cor. 6: 19-20 [linked], I know that God wants me to rebuild the bodily temple where He resides, in me, so that it will glorify Him. And I can only do that when my Temple is cleansed and free from corrupting influences. And it should be my righteous anger, just as it was with My Lord’s when He turned over the tables in the Temple, to do all I can to clean out God’s Temple and keep it clean for The Father’s glory.

What about it, my friend[s]? Are we doing all we can to cleanse God’s Temple, … the very place our God, The Holy Spirit, has chosen to take residence in our lives? I can’t speak for you; but for me, I need to do more to keep my Lord’s Temple clean and well maintained for His glory.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive me for my laxity in Temple maintenance. Help me to be a better steward of my body, … Your Temple. Amen

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2010 – September 25 – Under God’s Protective Eye

Study from God’s Word Ezra, Chapters 4 – 6 … Passage for Reflection: Ezra 5: 5 … NIV But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.

My Journal for Today: Today LaGard Smith, the author of my daily devotional book, The Daily Bible Devotional, directed me to a U.S. dollar note [go get one to see his illustration]; and Dr. Smith noted on the green side of this greenback there is a depiction of a pyramid with an “all seeing eye” with the words “annuit coeptis,” which in Latin means “He is favorable to our undertaking.” The eye on the bill is referred to as God’s “eye of providence;” and the ACLU must hate this depiction which honors God and recognizes that it is God Who watches over our land with His providence becomes the direction of our nation.

In today’s devotional text we read the author of the book of Ezra making a comment, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that it was God’s eye Who was watching over the elders of the Jews in those days; and in today’s precarious and troubled times, that is a position we certainly would like to take in faith. Hence the depiction on the one-dollar bill becomes something we should probably put in our Bibles as a bookmark, reminding us to have faith in the ever watchful and ever faithful “eye of God,” Who is always there to watch over His remnant; and Who will, as He did in those times of Temple rebuilding, watch over His children and do whatever He must and will to bring about His good purposes.

Hence, as the motto of our nation appears – to the right of the “eye of providence” – saying, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” … we need to have absolute faith that God not only sees what is going on during these troubling times, but He is working, just as He did in the times of Ezra, to bring about His good and perfect will. Hence we should believe in and live by the instructions of such passages in God’s word as Deut. 31: 6, Prov. 3: 5 – 6, and Romans 8: 28. And I hope you know and recognize what is being said in these passages by God for the rebuilding of our walls of faith.

And another reason to have a dollar bill in our Bibles as a bookmark was also brought out by Dr. Smith today in his devotional entry. We so often want to put our faith in the dollar bill (or stacks of them) rather than in our mighty God Whose eye of providence watches over us. So Dr. Smith puts his daily dig of a question out there for our consideration, as he writes, ”If I am facing some difficult challenge in my life, how can I not be wonderfully encouraged by knowing that my God is watching over me?”

Take out a dollar bill and meditate on that in conjunction with the Scripture passages I referred you to above; and I know you will – as I am – lifted up by their collective truths.

My Prayer for Today: O Lord, may I always know you watch over me. Amen

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 – September 24 – Rest and Rise!

Blogger Note: I was late today getting this posted. Actually I did his journal entry quite early this morning; but I couldn't get it posted due to a personal interruption. But here is the word God gave me today >>>

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapters 10 – 12 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 12: 13 … NIV [God to Daniel] As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.

My Journal for Today: I’m always in awe of God’s timing in my daily studies of His word and my time with Him each morning. And today, the very day before I go, along with my family, on a 10 day vacation for some family “R&R,” I’m led by Dr. LaGard Smith’s devotional, published two years ago, to a promise made to Daniel (and really to all believers in the God of Abraham) about another type of “R&R,” which will be experienced by all Christians after physical life runs out.

In this last verse in the book of Daniel, God gives His prophetic servant a promise that one day Daniel will be given a time of REST, followed by time where Daniel (or we Christians) will RISE again. And this, my dear one, is God’s promise of the ultimate R&R, … the time of spiritual rest we will have in the Intermediate Heaven and then the time of eternal resurrection/renewal we will experience when Christ comes again for His Bride, the Church. And this is the glorious promise any believer can rest in, even here on earth, … that one day I will, like Daniel, be lain to rest; and then one day will be risen and renewed, with a new body, to spend eternity with our Messiah, Lord, and Savior.

My friend, many times I go on with a lot of word in my devotional times; but I’m just going to stop here – as I hope you do as well – and meditate on the glory of the ultimate “R&R” which awaits me as a born-again Christian.

My Prayer for Today: O, my Lord, how I look forward to both my time of rest and my resurrection to be with You in Glory forever. Amen

PS: If you want a great look at what the ultimate R&R will be like, I would recommend the following book of mediation about Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Go to this link for access to Alcorn’s inspired book.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

2010 – September 23 – The Pedigree of Faith

Study from God’s Word Ezra 1: 1-6 [2Chron 26: 22-23], Ezra, Chapters 1 – 3, Ezra 4: 1-6 … Passage for Reflection: Ezra 2: 59 … NIV The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel.

My Journal for Today: You know there are many today who call themselves “Christian” because their parents identified themselves as “Christian.” Family traditions can be very important to self identification, but nowhere near today are family religious ties as important as it was for the displaced Hebrew people at the time of the book of Ezra, from which today’s text arises.

The Jews who had been in captivity from Babylon, the Medes, and the Persians for over 70 years were now allowed in 538 BC to return to the City of David, … Jerusalem. This repatriation occurred by the edict of King Cyrus of Persia, an event which exactly fulfilled the prophesy of Jeremiah; and it released the captive Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild their Temple. Oh how important for the descendants of Abraham to be identified as a “Jew” in those days. However, there were many, as chronicled in today’s text, who could not prove their Jewish lineage, which would prove very problematic for these people. Hence we see the many genealogical lists in the Old Testament (i.e., Old Covenant) Scripture. For Jewish traditions, it was even important in the New Testament for God’s word to establish the genealogical record of Jesus, the Christ, Who was, being a descendant of Abraham’s, the very fulfillment of the Old Covenant.

Today, in the New Covenant, established by Jesus Christ, we don’t have to be able to trace our spiritual lineage back to be in the family of Abraham by genetic/physical genealogical records. Our way of proving that we are part of the Family of God, being Children of God, is by faith, not genealogy. All I have to do, which I have done, to be grafted into the Family of God is to repent of my sin, believing that Jesus is The Christ, Who died for my sin on Calvary and was raised again to allow me to be grafted into the Family of God through my faith in Him.

So, no one today should be claiming to be in God’s family, who is identifying himself/herself as a “Christian,” because their family were/are Christians. No, our family ties to God are established by our faith in the Son of God, who loved us enough to become the Lamb of God, dying on the cross so that all who believe on Him might be saved and become Children of God (see 1st John 5: 10-12 and Romans 10: 9 – 13); and if – in faith – any of us comply to God’s established way of giving us access to His eternal family tree, we are in the family of God; and the Angels have celebrated in Heaven over our being grafted into God’s family.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I say “Hallelujah” that I am part of the family of God. Amen

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2010 – September 22 – Dirt or Derision?

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapter 6 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 6: 5 … NIV Finally these men [the court leaders during the reign of Darius, the Mede] said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

My Journal for Today: You may have heard the leading question asked about your faith, “If someone indicted you for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Well, there certainly was enough to convict Daniel of his faith as the trap was laid for him which led to his stint in the lion’s den. And the point is made by the questions of my devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, today, “What would I find more troublesome about my life, … the dirt someone could turn up (from my past) or having a faith commitment so weak that no enemy would think to exploit it?”

Well, I’ve got a lot of dirt in my past, all of which I would hope has been brought out into the light of truth by my own honest revelation; but perhaps someone could dredge up some incident from my shady past which could/would embarrass me. But overshadowing all of my past dirty laundry, I would hope that my obsessive, and even compulsive, pursuit of Christlikeness would prevail as people see the Bill Berry of today, becoming the Bill Berry of tomorrow.

You know it’s quite possible, even in my lifetime, that we may see a day when some of the stands that I now strongly take against civil unions, inappropriately called "marriage" by homosexuals, would be codified into anti-hate-speech law, making my beliefs and public stands illegal. It has already happened in Sweden and Canada where Ministers of the Gospel have been jailed because of preaching the truth of the Bible about homosexual behavior. And more and more we’re seeing forces in our American culture who want to make it illegal “hate-speech” to declare that homosexual behavior is sinful.

And one day, if such a law is codified, I hope that I would have the courage of a Daniel, even under the penalty of a lion’s den, to stand for what is true and God-ordained for our world. What about you? Will you be in the lion’s den with me on such a day?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray I am convicted of my being Yours forever! Amen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 – September 21 – The Frustrating Matter of Prayer

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapters 7 – 9 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 9: 23 … NIV As soon as you began to pray an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.

My Journal for Today: Nailed to the wall of conviction!! That is me today.

When I read Daniel’s contrite and moving prayer in Daniel 9, it is no wonder God sent the Angel Gabriel to respond to old Dan. What a beautiful, specific, and honest prayer it was which must’ve moved God because of Daniel’s humility, honesty, and openness.

And now my conviction is deepened from F. LaGard Smith’s self examination question at the end of his devotional for today, which reads, ”When was the last time any prayer of mine might possibly have moved God to tears (or I might add, ‘to joy’)?” Maybe, if the Angel Gabriel showed up now and then, as he apparently did for Daniel, I might be more motivated to prayer more diligently or with more passion.

But then again, didn’t God show up … Himself … in human form … to all mankind; and didn’t He humble Himself, even unto a cross … just for me (well, and you too!). And didn’t He, through His Spirit, give me, not only eternal life from my faith in Him, but also He gave me (and all believers) His word so that I would know that He hears me and that He answers my prayers. And I have promises from the OT, as in Psalm 116: 1-2 [linked], which, sitting right here today, He brings into my consciousness – from my memory – which promises that my God stoops down to hear what I have to say in prayer. And then from the NT, He promises that if I bring my cares to Him, caring for me, that He’ll give me His peace (read 1st Peter 5: 7 and Phil. 4: 6-7). These are thoughts, from God Himself, for any believer who desires to let God hear someone like me (or you); and for us to share with God as did Daniel in his day.

So, I’m riddled with conviction as I read what Dr. Smith also writes today. He writes, “Think back on your prayers. Were any worthy of a divine conversation? Were they serious prayers? Specific prayers? Passionate prayers? Humble prayers? … In particular, how many of your prayers have been deeply confessional, like Daniel’s?” And with that scrutiny, I must say that my prayer life comes up sorely wanting. And so, … now, … knowing this, … what am I going to do about it? More same-ole, same ole? Or am I going to get to my knees and let God know where I stand - … but even more importantly, where He stands in my life.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, this prayer hurts, Lord! Help me pray today. Amen

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 – September 20 – A Different Kind of Kingdom

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapters 7 and 8 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 7: 14 … NIV 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

My Journal for Today: Does it bother you, as a Christian, when you see the arrogant posture our nation now has in the world and how our government seems to ignore the degeneration of our culture? And to that question, I’d have to register a resounding, “Amen, … for sure!”

Yes, I’m concerned, maybe even bothered; but I refuse to let my countenance go the level of WORRY. Yes, our land seems to be mocking the values of the Bible; and all you have to do is watch the daily news to see how our culture is falling apart at the seams. But God’s word instructs me (in this case in Phil. 4: 6, from Paul, and from Jesus, Himself, in Matt. 6: 25, 27) to avoid worrying about anything in this world; and if we believe the visions given to men like Ezekiel and Daniel in the OT [see today’s highlight text], we know that God is one day, when it’s in His timing, will establish a kingdom, ruled by Jesus, which will never be destroyed and where love and peace will reign forever.

So, thought we can be – and should be – concerned over the injustices and cultural degeneration we see; and we even should let our righteous anger motivate us to stand for the values of Christ and do whatever we can – being IN the world but not OF the world – to stand in the gap for Godly justice and biblical values. But worry about what is taking place or will take place, … NO! … absolutely not!!

We have a prescribed method from God’s truth, as believers in Christ, to take that worry; and again, from Paul (in Phil. 4: 6-7) and from Jesus (this time in Matt. 11: 28-30) or from the Apostle Peter (in 1st Pet. 5: 7), we know that we can – and MUST – cast all our cares, in prayer, on our God, Who truly cares for us.

I pray that we are avoiding undue worry and taking our confusion, cares, and concerns to God in prayer. It is only there and then that we will find what God, through the Apostle Paul, promised … that peace that surpasses all understanding.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You, and You alone, are my resting place where I find peace in the midst of the storms. Amen

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2010 – September 19 – Singing the Blues

Study from God’s Word Zion sings in exile – Psalms 102, 106, 123, & 137 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 137: 1 – 4 … NIV 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

My Journal for Today: Hey, Christian! … Have you ever felt way low going to church, with some heavy burden on your heart? Maybe you didn’t even want to go to church because you were so despondent over your circumstances; but you went out of obligation. And when you got to church the worship music began; and perhaps, like I have done on occasion, you were lifted up, out of your pits of despair, by the words and melodies of hope coming from the hymns or the praise songs.

And here, in reading today’s devotional from Dr. Smith, were the people of God in Babylonian captivity, at their lowest point ever; and their captives were even taunting them to sing some of their joyous Hebrew songs. It was “rub it in” time for the people of Babylon. And the disobedient, recalcitrant children of Israel certainly didn’t want to sing; but as we read in Psalm 137 and the other songs I was led to read today and yesterday, God’s children were even inspired to write and sing laments to God, … songs which probably were like African-Americans coming up with their own laments in the 19th century, which we later knew of as “the Blues.”

The Blues, as a musical genre, was popularized in the early 20th century from right here in Memphis, TN, by the famous W. C. Handy; and it has become an indigenous brand of American music, especially for African-Americans; and even today for musicians and singers like B. B. King, who also call Memphis home base. Even Elvis, also a local MidSouth legend, sang a lot of the blues; and his life certainly ended in captivity to drugs and despair.

Singing the blues was – and is – a way for those who were down and out to express their lament; and the Hebrew nation certainly needed to do that, recognizing their sin and singing of their longing to be freed from the captivity of the Babylonians. And I, very personally, have learned that when I’m feeling down-and-out, one of the best ways for me to have God lift me upward and outward is for me to devote some devotional time to listening to some of my favorite Christian praise songs, which I now have stored strategically on my Ipod for ready access. Maybe you have some inspiring Christian music which you use to let God lift you up when you’re down. If you haven’t tried that as a method of dealing with down-hearted moments, I would highly recommend this form of personal worship and devotional time.

I have found this way of “singing the blues,” so to speak, to be a powerful way to surrender my attitude, in humility, to God; and, as the Apostle Peter wrote (in 1st Pet. 5: 7), “… casting all your cares on God because He cares for you.”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, when I hear music honoring You, I am lifted out of the pits and upwards with the hope of Glory. Amen

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010 – September 18 – The Cry of the Faithful

Study from God’s Word Psalms from the Remnant of Israel: Psalms 44, 74, 79, 80, 85, 89 … Passage for Reflection: Psalm 44: 20 – 22 … NIV 20 If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21 would not God have discovered it, since He knows the secrets of the heart? 22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

My Journal for Today: As Dr. LaGard Smith contends in his devotional for today from The Daily Bible Devotional, the question of why God allows bad things to happen to GOOD people is an age-old dilemma. And the Psalms I was led to read today from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order reflect the frustration and confusion of those in Israel, taken captive by Babylon, who perceived themselves as loyal believers of the one, true God, and were praying, in worship, to their God, in Whom they never lost faith.

Here were people who had remained true to the Old Covenant; and yet alongside their Hebrew brothers and sisters who had been disobedient and worshipped idols, they too had been swept up by the Babylonians and punished right along with the idolatrous and disobedient Hebrews whom God was allowing the Babylonians to act as His agent of punishment for their disobedience. So, what gives with that? If today, I live faithfully to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and my neighbor is a whore-mongering fool, why would I be allowed to have terminal cancer at a young age and he would live a healthy long life?

And that dilemma is one which believers in God and Christ will always have trouble answering for atheists who use such an argument against a belief in God. And Dr. Smith comes at the answer from one angle we should not forget; and his reasoning centers on our definition or perspective on the concept of “GOOD,” which I capitalized for emphasis in the focus question above.

When we think that we, the GOOD ones, are being punished unjustly, along side the BAD ones, are we really sure that we deserve the title “GOOD?” What about the contention of Isaiah in his pronouncement in Isaiah 53, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Or the Apostle Paul, who wrote, in Romans 3: 23, “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So, really; are we as “GOOD” as we think ourselves to be when we claim that somehow we’re better than our mocking, disobedient, and godless neighbors, whom we perceive getting away with their sins.

My friends, we need to remember that the ultimate rectification and redemption for our all encompassing sin has been taken care of on Calvary; and for the remnant in Israel at the time of the Babylonian captivity, it was faith in the promise of their Messiah which would be their salvation as they, as faithful believers, being punished along side their disobedient fellow Jews. And for those of us sinners in these “PC” days (and I don’t mean “politically correct,” I mean “Post Christ”), it is our faith in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross which allows us to be redeemed and saved along side the faithful believers in the days of the Babylonian captivity.

So, when we read Isaiah pronouncing his truth about all of God’s sheep going astray in Isaiah 53: 6, we need to read on to the end of that passage, which reads, “… and the Lord has laid on Him (i.e., the Messiah) the iniquity of us all.” And we New Covenant believers, who see injustice in this world, should take heart – in our faith – in the truth of the classic passage of John 3: 16-17 [which I hope you know by heart, not needing for me to link you here].

Being “good” does not take away my “bad,” it only allows me to hide – in my faith – behind the One Who died so that my “bad” can become His “GOOD.”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, YOU are the answer for my “bad!” My faith in You allows me to pursue Your GOOD to the glory of The Father. Amen

Friday, September 17, 2010

2010 – September 17 – Seeing Is Believing

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 38 – 42 … Passage for Reflection: Job 42: 4 – 6 … NIV 4 "You [God] said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

My Journal for Today: It is a truism that we humans may imagine something; but when we see something or experience it, our perspective changes. I was told that going to the Holy Land would change the way I read and studied the Bible. I could understand that – intellectually – but now that I’ve been to Israel, I can “see” the truth in why people call Israel the “fifth gospel.” To a great extent the old adage, “seeing is believing,” is greatly true. But to a great extent the opposite is also very true: One will never truly “see” something until he “believes” it first.

Dr. Smith in his devotional for today makes some powerful, and truth-bearing statements. He writes, “… its one thing to hear, but another to see! It’s one thing to know; and another to understand. Indeed, it’s one thing to understand and yet another to act upon that understanding.

When I refused to believe the truth about Jesus, as Christ, [back in my angry days as an atheist] I had no clue about the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. But now I’ve SEEN the Truth; and The Truth has set me free. Once I was willing to believe and receive Jesus as Lord of my life, IN FAITH, I have been given “eyes” to see His truth; and a new consciousness to experience that truth; and this new perspective on life has given me the freedom, and power, to change.

Last week in my church we had a “cardboard testimony” service. A “cardboard testimony” is a before and after statement printed on a piece of common cardboard, telling how one’s life has been transformed/changed as a result of becoming a Christian. I participated in this demonstration of the changing power of Christ. On one side of my cardboard panel, my “before” testimony read, “Obsessed with p0rn.” On the other side, the “after” statement, I wrote, “Obsessed with God’s word!”

You see, my friend, nobody can tell me that one cannot or will not change when he truly repents and comes in faith to receive Christ as Savior and Lord; because I’ve seen and experienced the change; and I can give testimony – my testimony! – to that change. We could write about the power of God to change; and you can read about it in the Bible; but if you don’t believe it, you will never “see it,” and it will never be true … for you. But when you’ve been there; and experienced the reality of God’s transforming power, nothing that any atheist would ever argue has any meaning to dissuade you from the Truth.

The “Truth” is Jesus; and when you’ve “seen” Him in action – i.e., His Spirit changing your life – you KNOW He’s real; and no one could ever argue you out of that truth. I hope that all who read this have “SEEN” Jesus change your life; and I hope you share that before/after “cardboard” testimony with others.

BTW, … if you want to see a series of “cardboard testimonies,” go to this link.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Jesus, You are my cardboard testimony. Amen

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 – September 16 – Listening to Discern

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 32 - 37 … Passage for Reflection: Job 34: 3 – 4 … NIV For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.

My Journal for Today: In my Bible readings from Job, led by Dr. Smith in his devotional entry for today, we analyze some of the thoughts from Elihu, the Buzite (who were the “Buzites” anyway? ;>). He was a younger observer, who had been listening to Job interact with the older three “friends,” … the men who had been giving their opinions as to why Job was experiencing all the pain and suffering which had transpired for poor Job. Well, Elihu, was finally felt compelled to give his “two-cents worth;” and today’s text comes from his insights. And in today’s verses there is one very interesting and pertinent perception to which we should all take note.

And I really like what LaGard Smith uses as a word picture comparison in his devotional today to explain the truth of what is said by Elihu. Dr. Smith picks up on Elihu’s comparison of listening to tasting foods and compares our discernment of what we hear with the discernment the palate has for what we eat. And Dr. Smith is right that we can easily discern some differences with our untrained “palate,” … things like spicy versus bland or sweet versus sour. But if we were given a complex casserole, most of us could not discern what spices were used in the dish. Only a chef with a trained palate could discern the ingredients by tasting the dish.

And what Elihu is accurately implying in today’s passages is that we need to become “listening gourmets” when it comes to ideas we hear from others. We need to be able to listen to the words spoken by the world and to determine what is right and what is wrong, … what is truth and what are falsehoods. And as our word picture implies, we need to develop a discerning listener’s palate for the ideas we take in. Some things we hear are easy to spot as true or not. But some ideas can be infiltrated with poison; and the untrained – or undiscerning – “ear,” combined with a heart, prone to deception (see Jer. 17: 9), can take in poison and not discern it’s even there.

Moving from OT to NT, I think of the Bereans (in Acts 17: 10 – 12 [linked]) who used their plumb of truth from God’s word to discern whether the Apostle Paul was speaking truth to them when he was sharing the Gospel message of The Messiah. They knew, in their hearts, they needed help in discerning the truth; and they went to the one source of discernment they knew they could trust, … God’s word.

And that is what we need to do to develop discerning “spiritual ears,” determining whether what we hear is giving us the truth or whether it is tinged by spiritual poison. There’s a lot of subtly poisoned thoughts being spread around for our spiritual palates to consume these days; and we need to be like the Bereans, using the plumb of truth from God’s word to help us taste the truth and avoid the poison. And hopefully over time we will learn and grow to become “spiritual gourmets,” being able to sample what we hear and know if it’s the real deal or whether someone is trying to poison our minds with falsehoods.

May we all become gourmet palates when we come to Christ’s table of truth!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give me a discerning “ear” for truth. Amen

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 – September 15 – Can A Man Be Righteous?

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 25 – 31 … Passage for Reflection: Job 25: 4 – 6 … NIV 4 How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? 5 If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, 6 how much less man, who is but a maggot — a son of man, who is only a worm!"

My Journal for Today: Bildad again [in today’s highlight text], one of these railing friends of Job’s, spouting off obvious truths mixed in with their assumptions of Job’s unrighteousness. And here we have a statement of some obvious truth.

Certainly man – when compared to God – cannot stand righteous before God. But then again, why, throughout all of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, do we read of God’s value on man being righteous and following God’s ways. If man cannot be righteous, then why does God value man’s attempts to be righteous. And if man could NEVER be righteous, no matter what he did, what’s the point of even trying to be righteous? Let’s just go be sinners and enjoy it; right?

Have you ever felt like copping out to the “give up” mentality, as Flip Wilson, used to cry out, “… the devil made me do it?” It’s easy, when we’re having trouble with temptation or trials in life, to just give up and declare, “… I’m just a sinner; and I’ll never be able to be as good as God wants me to be.” And of course, in one respect, that is right-on truth. But what do we do with the commands from God Himself in the OT and NT (see Lev. 11: 44-45 and 1Pet. 1: 14-16) to “be holy as God is Holy?”

Well, I’m not going to get into a long discussion here about “positional holiness” versus “practical holiness,” which is pertinent, but not necessarily “in-the-trenches” helpful. Save it say that Jesus was the answer to Bildad’s question: “How can one born of woman be pure?” He was born of a woman; and most certainly, He was pure! And it was God’s plan to allow His Son to be the one – and only one – born of a woman who could provide a way for me (and you), who are but maggots, to be seen as pure and holy in God’s sight.

And when our hearts seek after righteousness; and when we – in any given moment – ARE righteous, it is because God has given us the grace to be such; and we hide behind the robes of righteousness offered by God’s very Son, Jesus, so that we can be holy as God is Holy.

And how wonderful is that?

My Prayer for Today: Oh, glory, my Lord … that You would allow me to wear Your robes of righteous to hide my rags of sin. Amen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 – September 14 – What Does God Get Out of It?

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 22 – 24 … Passage for Reflection: Job 22: 2 – 3 … NIV 2 "Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him? 3 What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would he gain if your ways were blameless?

My Journal for Today: How clueless could Job’s critic, Eliphaz, be? Later in the same chapter (i.e., Job 22: 21), Eliphaz, making the assumption that God would not allow all this bad stuff to occur in Job’s life if Job were righteous, declares, “Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you.”

You know there are a number of religious teachers these days, many becoming very popular, who believe and teach that God would not allow bad stuff to be visited upon good people. But just like Eliphaz, these fools are trying to read into God a quality of judgment and oversight which is certainly not biblical. And I wonder at times when I read or hear of these “prosperity gospel” advocates or “word of faith” teachers, … do they just not read their Bible? Do they ignore the book of Job as I’m studying now? Do they not know that God allowed some “thorn” to be visited upon the Apostle Paul, even after Paul had prayed and prayed for it to be removed? If these prosperity advocates just read that true story [see 2nd Cor. 12: 7-11], they’d see that God did that so that Paul could be humble to receive God’s grace. God recognizes when we need tough stuff in our lives; and He wants the best for His kids.

I don’t think it takes a great intellect, if one reads/studies our Bible, to come to the assumption that God has some tough lessons in store for man to learn and that God wants to fellowship with mankind, … yes, even His disobedient children. Much of the Old Testament is a litany of stories about God’s children rebelling against our Lord and God being incredibly patient in His attempt to allow man to repent and turn things around. So, what does God get out of the deal, with His children being the way we are? And though it can seem pretty lame at times, really the only assumption that we can make to answer that question is that God gets a kick out of seeing man humble himself and choose, in faith, to be the child of God He created.

So, when I can – and do – CHOOSE to be obedient to God’s way and His will from His word, I truly believe that God smiles and the angels who serve Him rejoice. A human counterpart for this has to be, as Dr. Smith alludes today in his devotional, the phenomena of people choosing to have kids, knowing on the front end all the nastiness they are going to have to endure. Why would any couple choose to become parents when we know ahead of time all the emotional agony our kids are going to put us through? We do it because there’s something in bred into us which also seeks to see them become whom they were intended to be – no matter what shape that might take.

Don’t you parents smile when your kids attend to your parental wishes and you can see them growing into some form of goodness or greatness? When your kid finally says, “Yes, sir” to an adult without being told to do so, don’t you smile with joy? Of course you do – or you might even smile when you see someone else’s kid do that?

Well, don’t you think God smiles all the more when He sees us “get it” and spontaneously, in faith, do life His way rather than our own? Of course He does; and I believe God was smiling bigtime when Job kept standing up to his three foolish “friends,” who were spouting out half-truths and outright lies to the Lord’s suffering servant. And I think God smiles when you or I stand up and be counted, speaking out in our world against fools like those “prosperity gospel advocates,” who just don’t get it and are trying to spread lies about God to us in our culture.

So when you hear some television teacher, like Joel Osteen or Oprah Winfrey, spouting their goodness gospel, and trying to get people to believe malarkey like that taught to Job by Eliphaz, know that God will smile if, like Job, you stand up and tell them to “go and take a hike!”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I stand with Your word as my plumb of truth. And I know You smile. Amen

Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 – September 13 – Vanishing in the Mist

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 18 – 21 … Passage for Reflection: Job 20: 6 – 9 … NIV 6 Though his [i.e., mankind’s] pride reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, 7 he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?' 8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night. 9 The eye that saw him will not see him again; his place will look on him no more.

My Journal for Today: In one of the speeches from one of Job’s misguided friends, in this case Zophar (in today’s text), we read one of those true assumptions from which these “friends” build their misconceptions for Job. Zophar, the Naamathite, declares that man is here and gone like a dream in the night; and that, of course, is true. But mankind always has more of an impact on those in his/her life than one might think.

That’s the whole theme of that great Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart movie most of us have seen many times, It’s a Wonderful Life, where Stewart’s character, George Bailey, thinking he’s a nobody. And through his guardian angel, Clarence, George is shown what the world would have been like if he’d never been there. And we see that though, in God’s timetable, we’re here on this earth for only the snap of God’s fingers, for a wisp of time, our lives do touch others and influence people like our kids and grandkids.

Zophar was right that we’re here and gone, almost without notice; but as Job later points out in response, our lives are important to others; and they are important to God. I love that confident response, in the midst of the horrors Job had experienced, he declares to Bildad, in Job 19, before God of course as well, "I know that my Redeemer lives … and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God … with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Isn’t that glorious? Here is a man, who is, according to Zophar, but a passing dream, and a man who seems to be under the judgment of God with all his physical decay and emotional loss, declaring – IN FAITH – that he yearns to see and be with HIS GOD, … Who of course is also the same God of Bildad and Zophar and Eliphaz. My friends, it truly is a wonderful life, … even if we experience disasters; because if we live our lives for God and not for self, we will have an influence that is far greater than we can imagine.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, it truly is a WONDERFUL LIFE! Amen

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 – September 12 – Our Advocate and Friend

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 15 – 17 … Passage for Reflection: Job 16: 19 – 21 … NIV 19 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. 20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

My Journal for Today: Job was in a pickle, for sure. He needed help; … an advocate, … a witness, … a friend. But all he found were accusers who railed against his plight, giving him ill-begotten advice and half truths. And so in his incredible pain and confusion, our ailing believer turned to the only source of truth and friendship he could, … his God. And though Job was not privy to the truth about his Savior, as are we Christians today, his faith cried out to a Messiah whom he sought to be his intercessor, his witness of truth to the Father in heaven, and his glorious Friend, the Son of God.

And my devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, poses an interesting question. Given the truth (i.e., the fact) that we born-again Christians now have the One, True Advocate in Heaven, our Intercessor, sitting at the right hand of God, and the Friend who was willing to shed His blood so that our sin debt would be paid forever, we have to ask ourselves, ”Are we, as the friend of The Christ, Who pleads our innocence before the Father, doing all we can to make our Advocate’s job easier?” In other words, do we, by the way we worship our Savior in the way we live 24/7, make it difficult (or much easier) for Him to be our Advocate or our Friend.

When I became a Christian, I must say that it was probably a pretty tough job for my Savior to plead my case to the Father and to stand by me as my Friend. But as I’ve matured in my faith, I would hope that He doesn’t have to work quite as hard and He can be more of a friend than having to be my witness and ultimately my advocate. Oh, I know that I can still be a tough case at times, especially when I get selfish or into self pity. But my Intercessor, God’s Spirit, is always there, praying for me, standing with me, and interceding on my behalf; and my Lord and Savior is ALWAYS my Friend.

That my dear one, is what Job had going for him; and it’s what you and I have going for us in the courts of Heaven.

My Prayer for Today: Praise Your Holy Name, Lord, as my Advocate and Friend in Heaven. Amen

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2010 – September 11 – A God Who Longs for Us

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 11 – 14 … Passage for Reflection: Job 14: 14 – 15 … NIV 14 If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. 15 You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.

My Journal for Today: The date cries out death to all who remember those bodies flying out of those burning Trade Center windows on this fateful date. And for a few months thereafter the churches were filled with many who had not graced the pews of God’s houses as they finally had to look into the mirror of their own mortality, facing the inevitable … that we only have one life to live in this world. And many people who had not wanted to contemplate this stark reality were finally jolted, by 9/11, out of their states of denial and into a hopeful longing that there might be something after the grave; and perhaps “the church” might be the place to find that hope.

But then again, after another few months past, the very human condition of pride and personal denial set back in; and the people drifted back into their comfort zone of denial and defensiveness; and the church attendance drifted back to the same levels as before 9/11. Wow; even 9/11 could not jolt the collective consciousness of the human mind who just doesn’t want to face what Job was facing in his troubles and from the sanctimonious teachings of his friends.

Yes, when we face the stench or the sight of death head-on, we’re forced to look at life and ponder the after-life in a different way. Someone who reads this may have heard that horrible 9/11-type pronouncement … “CANCER!” And all of a sudden the very real possibility that this life may be winding down to its end is right there in front of us. But the reality is that you or I may not live until tomorrow; and really, every day we ought to be contemplating the questions in today’s text, raised by Job before God.

And my friend, I hope you’ve answered those questions with another stark reality, which is what Jesus Christ did for all of us on that cross on Calvary; and what God did, in raising our Lord from the grave to show us victory over death, sin, and destruction in our lives. And think of that last pronouncement of Job’s to his God: You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.

One day, God will call us out of this life … to be with Him … or NOT! And we know from God’s word (remember Christ’s parable of the prodigal) that God waits longingly for those of us who’ve repented of our sin to come home to Him. Yes, we, who believe in Christ, don’t have to worry about some 9/11 in our lives, do we? God is waiting for me, and prayerfully, you … lovingly and longingly! What a thought that is; and it tempers the realities and the pains of anything this life might involve; … yes, even 9/11 disasters. Oh, how I pray that any 9/11 moment in your life will simply remind you of a loving Father waiting for you with His open arms, even running to you to embrace His child for eternity.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, it may be 9/11; but You wait for all who know You as Lord and Savior. Amen

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 – September 10 – Spitting Into the Wind

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 8 – 10 … Passage for Reflection: Job 9: 14 – 15 … NIV 14 "How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? 15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.

My Journal for Today: The title for today’s devotional from Dr. LaGard Smith comes from the old 60s song by Jim Croce; and it gives a pretty clear reference to the way Job must’ve felt as he described his dilemma to his second “friend,” Bildad, the Shuhite. And also in Job’s reply to Bildad, he begins his plea to God, feeling very low, which we could certainly understand, given his horrible physical and emotional state. Remember Croce’s song, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and you don’t spit into the wind.”

I like Dr. Smith’s word picture as he compares Job’s feelings of smallness to the image of what we might feel like if we were the size an ant and we’re in the hands of someone the size of a human. Being the size of an ant in the hands of a human, we’d likely feel totally at the mercy of this giant creature; and we would feel it impossible to plead our case for mercy from the human to refrain from squashing us like the “bug” we know we are.

Have you ever felt about as big as an ant and being in the hands of a God Who seems so big and uncaring? Perhaps you’ve seen an ant on your kitchen floor and squashed him like the bug he is, having invaded your space. And maybe, given your set of circumstances, you image that God may see you like that ant, way too big to hear you; and maybe you feel like you don’t deserve to be in His presence.

As one reads and meditates through Job’s retort to Bildad, as I did this morning, you get the idea that Job felt way too small to plead his case before the God Whom Job dearly loved and the One he had followed so faithfully in his life to that point. But here he is, broken completely, knowing that God is God and could have prevented this from happening; and knowing that he really doesn’t deserve – at least in his estimation – to be where he is.

Ever been there; – or at least emotionally felt that way? Sometimes, because of our circumstances, we feel that God is distant; and because of God’s promises to always be with us, we can’t understand His seeming absence or distance. Well, my friend, those are times when our beliefs are tested, probably beyond the limits of human understanding; and our faith is bent almost to the breaking point (or maybe past that point). These are the times when – if we’re believers in Christ’s sacrifice as the God-man and we believe that God’s word is ALL COMPLETELY TRUE – our understanding and belief in passages like Romans 8 or Ephesians 1 is tested to the human limits of understanding. Do we really believe what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 116: 1 – 2 [linked]? Does God really [and ALWAYS] want to hear what we have to say? Again I take you back to Romans 8 or Ephesians 1 [each linked for your study]; … does God really care about us that much?

Well, if we believe that 2nd Tim. 3: 16 is true and we hold to the truth that ALL SCRIPTURE is the inspired word of God Himself, then we must conclude that God, though He may SEEM far away, is lovingly always within earshot; and His word must be true that He wants to hear our laments, our pleas, our confusion, and yes, even our anger.

So, if you’re feeling like you’re that ant who’s crawling in the hands of a WAY BIG GOD, cry out to Him. He will not only hear you, He will lovingly listen; and if you’re one of His, He’ll keep you in His loving arms forever. So go ahead, tug on His cape; … and yeah, even spit into the wind.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are way too big for me to comprehend You. But I feel Your love; and I’m thankful for Your loving presence. Amen

Thursday, September 09, 2010

2010 – September 9 – Logical, … But Wrong!

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 4 – 7 … Passage for Reflection: Job 4: 18 – 19 … NIV 18 If God places no trust in his servants, if He charges his angels with error, 19 how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth!

My Journal for Today: Job’s friends had earned the right to try to bring this broken man some verbal comfort. If you go back to Job 2 : 11 – 13 [linked], you read how these men had voluntarily come to comfort their “friend;” and they had, being overwhelmed by his agony, sat with him silently for seven days. That’s being a friend.

But then these three began to open their mouths to give Job their perspective on his situation; and their friendship became questionable. The interim moral here is … sometimes when a friend is in agony, it’s just best to be there with them and for them SILENTLY, rather than to give our advice.

But Job’s “friends” did; and here, in today’s text, we read some of the advice from Eliphaz, the Tamanite, who felt compelled to give his take on Job’s plight. And in trying to help Job understand the horrors Job was experiencing, Eliphaz tried to use human logic and his limited understanding of God’s ways to bring some light to bear on what Job had experienced. The problem is that human perspective and intellect will never be able to grasp, nor explain completely, the mind or decisions of God.

For example, as Dr. Smith points out today in his devotional, Eliphaz, trying to give Job some theological logic, declares, in Job 4: 7, “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” Well, that may feel that's right since God is a just God. But to Eliphaz, I would say >>>

WRONG!!! Eliphaz’s argument just doesn’t hold up in today’s world; because we know that innocent babies perish every day in abortion clinics. And we know that many righteous missionaries, like Jim Elliot, have perished at the hands of pagans to whom they were advancing God’s love. So, though it may seem logical that evil is met, by God, with just punishment, the logic doesn’t hold in reverse that completely righteous men, like Job, would not experience suffering in their lives, which is being allowed by a sovereign God.

Dr. Smith’s self exam question for today is a good one for all of us. He asks, “Do I rely too strongly on my own reasoning to understand a God who doesn’t always follow my logic?” My friends, I don’t know how many times I have to keep over-learning the truth that … GOD IS GOD; and I AM NOT!!

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, I get it! I don’t need a lesson like you gave Job. Please know that I fully understand that You are my SOVEREIGN GOD!!! And all You do is for my good! I get it! Amen

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

2010 – September 8 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Study from God’s Word Job, Chapters 1 - 3 … Passage for Reflection: Job 2: 10 … NIV He (Job) replied (to his wife), “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God , and not trouble?”

My Journal for Today: So, in the midst of reading through The Daily Bible in Chronological Order [DBICO] , today Dr. LaGard Smith, the Editor, takes me (and his readers) to the Book of Job, which is reported by scholars to be the oldest written book in the canon of the Bible. So, what’s up with that in terms of chronological order? Shouldn’t we read Job in January?

Well, Dr. Smith reasons that the reading of Job is to be placed now in the DBICO reading because Ezekiel, whom we’ve been reading about lately, wrote about Job (see Chapter 14, verses 14 & 20, of the Book of Ezekiel), making a reference to the dilemma of God’s people, the righteous remnant and the disobedient Jews, both of whom had been taken captive and were suffering TOGETHER in Babylon. For Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and most certainly for those Jews who were obedient to God in Babylon, it would have been natural to seek after answers to why God would allow the righteous and the unrighteous Jews to suffer the same captivity in Babylon. Therefore, at this time in their history, the story of Job, which was certainly part of the Scriptural lore of the Jews, would have had great relevance, especially to loyal followers of God. And of course, this book, Job, has great relevance to this very day, especially for every believer in the one, true, and good God.

It’s that great conundrum and the question: “How do we define ‘blessing’ in our lives?” Are the “blessings” only those events or circumstances which are the warm-n-fuzzies? Or could the challenges of life, … yes, even the disasters, be seen as “blessings” in the context of a sovereign God who wants only ultimate good for those who are the called according to His purpose (i.e., steadfast believers and followers of Yahweh)? And how many times have our beliefs in the truth of Romans 8: 28 been challenged by some oppressive circumstances in life, … occurrences which seem much more like “curses” than “blessings?”

Today’s text is, of course, Job’s faithful response to his wife’s perspective on the disasters which had been perpetrated on Job by an unseen Satan, who was challenging God and Job’s faithfulness. And how do we measure up to Job’s faith in the midst of some horror which is visited in our lives? Perhaps you’ve had to deal with the inexplicable death of a child in your life. Maybe you wonder about how a loving God would allow a tsunami or an earthquake to take the lives of thousands of staunch believers as well as those non-believers consumed in the disaster. Just like Job, the headlines of our lives can scream out the question: “What’s up with that, God?!”

And hence it is great for us, as it was for Ezekiel, to have a book of truth, in this case the Book of Job, which helps us see that there are some circumstances in life which we’re not likely going to be explained from our human perspective. No, we’re going to have to learn, as Job was expressing in today’s highlight text, to declare that God’s sovereignty and love for His children go way beyond our ability to get God’s reason WHY when we are beset with inexplicable horrors.

No, my friends; if we could explain everything clearly which happens to us, the concept of “faith” would be meaningless, would it? But prayerfully, we can learn, as did Ezekiel, from the book of wisdom involving Job, that our faith is going to be tested by life and we’re going to have to deal with the horrors as well as the happiness by having faith in a sovereign, and ALWAYS loving God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I say again, You are God and I am not. Praise You IN all things, ... AT all times, … FOR all time. Amen

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

2010 – September 7 – Out of Touch with Reality

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel 29: 17-21; Daniel 4; Jeremiah 52: 31-34 [2Kgs 25: 27-30] … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 4: 33 … NIV Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

My Journal for Today: Today I’m going to take the title from my current devotional shepherd, Dr. LaGard Smith; but I believe I’m being led by God’s Spirit to take a different tack on his highlight text from God’s word today. Today’s devotional from Dr. Smith was most informing and had great Christian application. However, this particular passage from the Book of Daniel has led me to reflect on the lengths God will go in His prevenient grace to pursue and draw one of His elect to Himself. When someone uses the term “Hound of Heaven” to depict God’s relentless pursuit of His elect, it’s an apt word picture.

I think you Bible students will remember God had used some pretty dramatic interactions betweeen King Nebuchanezzar with Daniel and his young friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (their Babylonian names) to get King Neb to realize that the God these Hebrew lads worshipped was very powerful. But it wasn’t until this latter set of circumstances that lowered the King to a state of brokenness where he knew that he, the King of Babylon, needed a Savior. And it was the events of today’s text which led the Pagan King to faith in the Lord of lords. And from biblical story, I remember what it took for God to bring me down to a personal level of brokenness where, like King Neb, I reached out to receive God’s saving grace.

And for those of you who have lost relatives, like I do, I hope you gain hope that God is going to do all He needs to do to bring your loved one to Christ – IF – (and that’s a big “IF”) he or she is in God’s book of life. And my friend, it may be a messy story – or even a painful picture – to watch unfold; but one day God will have His way with those who resist His call of grace on their lives. For me it took two decades of decadence and a lot of personal and marital pain to break me. For Nebuchanezzar it was even a more ugly set of circumstances. For the Apostle Paul, Christ had to knock him off his high horse of pride and even cause him to go blind so that he could ultimately see God’s calling for this disobedient, Christ-hater to come and serve God.

I don’t know if my sister will ever come to know Christ as Savior and Lord. But if God wants her, she will come. Oh, the process of her coming may get ugly; and I pray that if that’s what it takes, it happens. Because I want my lost sister to come to know God the way He has revealed Himself to me, to King Neb, and yes, to the Apostle Paul. And about the only way I can be a part of that is to continue to witness my testimony to my dear sis (which I’ve done and will continue to do), to pray for her (which I do most days), and to be patient, trusting my God, and knowing that he has a plan for my sis. I just hope she doesn’t have to grow nails like a bird for her to come to know Christ as her Savior. But if that’s what it takes, … bring on those nails, Lord!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I praise you for knocking me off my high horse so that I could surrender to Your will for my eternal life. Amen

Monday, September 06, 2010

2010 – September 6 – The Name Says It All

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 44 - 48 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 48: 35 … NIV And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.

My Journal for Today: Interesting observation Dr. LaGard Smith makes in his devotional entry for today’s date (9/6), reminding his readers that we have cities which almost everyone knows by their designated “nickname,” such as The Big Apple, Big D, Music City, Sin City, The City of Brotherly Love, or Motown. I agree that almost everyone would be able to name all of those because of their designated and characterized nicknames. And even in Old Testament lore, we know of cities like Jericho as the “City of Palms” and Jerusalem as the “City of David.”

And in today’s text we have God’s vision to Ezekiel about the coming City of God. And in another vision God gave to the Apostle John, in The Revelation, we’re given a word picture of the “New Jerusalem.” But both of these could amply be designated – a nickname from God if you will – as “THE LORD IS THERE.” In Hebrew that name is “Jehovah shammah,” which means that in this city, described in great detail by God to/through Ezekiel in the Book by his name, i.e., Chapters 40 – 48, was to be called “The City Where God resides” or “THE LORD IS THERE.”

Do you know, my fellow Christian, where that Temple is now? Yes, right now, as you read this, where is the “Jehovah shammah?” And I would hope that we all know from God’s own word [in this case from Paul in 1st Cor. 6: 19 – 20 (linked here)], God has His New Covenant Temple residence in the hearts of any – and all – believers. Yes, dear one, if you are a born-again Christian, “Jehovah shammah” is in your heart; and that is where God will reside forever when the New Jerusalem, the vision brought to the Apostle John in Revelations 21 is provided for all to bring God’s temple dwellers into His new home in heaven.

And if we can grasp the concept that God has honored each and every born-again Christian with our hearts becoming a “Jehovah shammah,” that place where God’s Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, resides, we would want to treat God’s Temple with the respect, dignity, and the reverence it reserves; wouldn’t we? Hence the tagline of challenge in the passage to which I’ve linked you above (see 1st Cor. 6: 20). And I know that I’m a shabby Temple Keeper at times; and I need to take my stewardship of this heart which God’s Spirit has taken residence, … His “Jehovah shammah.” Maybe we all should resolve here, before our Lord, to keep His place, the Jehovah shammah, a place purified by how we live for Him.

My Prayer for Today: Oh, Lord, You live in me! Amen

Sunday, September 05, 2010

2010 – September 5 – Catching a Greater Vision

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 40 - 43 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 43: 10 - 11… NIV 10 "Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, 11 and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.

My Journal for Today: Here we are, in the historical context of my Scripture reading for today, in the times where God’s people have been captured and taken away into Babylon and their grand Temple in Jerusalem has been laid waste. Now God gives the people, through Ezekiel an image of a new Temple, grander than anything that could ever be built by man; and it is a Temple where God Himself will dwell with His people forever.

For churches who’ve ever been involved in a fund-raising effort to build a new church building, it’s essential to give the people architectural renderings of the new church to help them “catch the vision” … so that they will respond to the vision and give the funds God wants them to give to make the vision a reality. Well, here God was involved in a building project far greater than anything that man could ever draw up. The Lord wanted to restore, or rather rebuild, the Kingdom of God; and this involved rebuilding the people who would occupy His kingdom. But to do this the Lord had to give them – as He did through Ezekiel – a concrete plan to capture their vision.

I hope you can see, as Dr. Smith helped me see today, the rebuilding Jesus came to tell God’s people about and that of the message Ezekiel was bringing to the people from God. Jesus’ great “Sermon on the Mount” was a building plan for God’s Kingdom; and then came the incredible set of plans which was given through the Apostle John to mankind in the Book of the Revelation. And these plans from God in the New Testament have been given to us about the Temple Life to come so that we, who live by His name, can see the plans offered by God’s word; and then so that we might CATCH the vision, RESPOND to the vision, and then LIVE WORTHY of the vision.

Dr. Smith, once again challenging his readers at the end of his devotional for today, asks, ”Is my vision of heaven truly grand enough to call me higher?”

Good question; … no, GREAT question! And as I ponder it, I think of the words of the Apostle Paul, who, in Ephesians 4: 1, wrote, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. There was a time when I was a captive to sin; but now, by God’s election and my own choice, in response to God’s saving grace, I’m captive to Christ; and He has given me a vision of the Temple He desires for me to keep where I can – and will – live with Him forever. And I need to have a vision of that “forevermore” life which calls me to live worthy of Temple plans He promises for me, living eternally with Him in heaven. And to that end may I live worthy of His Name.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Your plans for this Temple You’ve given me is grander than my imagination can unfold; but it is grand enough to call me to live my life for You. Amen

Saturday, September 04, 2010

2010 – September 4 – Regardless of the Consequences

Study from God’s Word Daniel, Chapter 3 … Passage for Reflection: Daniel 3: 16 – 18 … NIV 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

My Journal for Today: Dr. Smith, the Editor of The Daily Bible in Chronological Order,has his readers today going through one of my favorite chapters in the OT, … that great – TRUE – story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their confrontation with King Nebuchanezzar. If you’re a fan of OT stories, I’ll bet it’s a favorite of yours as well.

And like Dr. Smith, I always come away from this story wondering if I would have been as brave as these three were if my very life was threatened and my faith challenged as theirs was. I do hope so; but if I did stand up for God they way these three lads did, it would only be because I surrendered to God, received His empowering grace, and allowed Him to lift me up the way His word promises in passages I have in my heart and memory, … passages like Isaiah 41: 10, Romans 8: 31, and Philippians 4: 13. But these young warriors for God did stay strong in their witness for their faith; and in doing so they gave powerful witness to a pagan and prideful king, who had to take notice of God from their incredible faith and the awesome display of power from their God. You can go back and read about their influence of witness in Daniel, Chapter 3, verses 28 – 30.

LaGard Smith, as he does daily, closes his devotional today with a self examination question. He asks, ”What would I be willing to give up for the Lord, even if there was no hope of rescue?” And I have to say that I’m radically convicted by such a challenge. I say convicted because I find myself even unwilling to give up some sinful, selfish eating patterns in my life, knowing that my God would be honored if I was readily willing to restrain myself in my eating patterns.

Do you have any “fiery furnaces” in your life, as my gluttony is for me? And by conviction, is God asking you, as He is for me, to give witness to Him by giving up something or doing something which recognizes God’s power to overcome the fiery furnaces of our lives … just as God did for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? I’ll let you wrestle with God for His blessing over that one as I’m doing right now over my eating habits. And if we can surrender to our God as these three boys did, perhaps we can be stronger witnesses for our God than if we turn away, not believing that God can – and will – give us the strength we need to be warriors for Him rather then wimps for self.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank you for the pain of conviction, which draws me closer to becoming the man You desire me to be. Amen

Friday, September 03, 2010

2010 – September 3 – False Security in Righteousness

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 32 – 33 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 33: 13 … NIV 13 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.

My Journal for Today: For a New Covenant (i.e., New Testament) oriented Christian this text (today’s highlight passage) may be troubling. It seems to be one of those passages which could be interpreted as support for the Armenian position of salvation: i.e., that one can lose his/her salvation because of their behavioral choices – even after believing in the God of salvation. But one has to take this passage in the context of the Old Covenant which God had made with Israel as well as God’s promise of a Messiah, One Who would come to God’s people and be their agent of salvation, … their Redeemer.

So, for you Calvinist types out there; don’t despair. Today’s passage is absolutely right on target, given the Covenant which God had with His people in the days of Ezekiel. And this is why we see that God’s people kept failing in that covenant, which was dependent upon the faith of those who looked forward to a Messiah and, in faith, put their trust in the God of the Old Covenant, recognizing that they could not live up to God’s Law – in and of themselves. It was the faith of the Old Testament believers, i.e., those who recognized their own unrighteousness and humbly pursued righteousness in the face of their individual and collective sinfulness, which produced salvation for these Old Testament Jews.

I know. It’s complicated, isn’t it? But when Jesus came on the scene, bringing forth the New Covenant, He simplified it for all mankind. But nothing has changed. We NT Christians find salvation – i.e., ever lasting salvation – the same way an OT Jew did. We cast our inability to be righteous on a God Who is the only One who can give us the power to be righteous. In our case, in this New Covenant dispensation, our faith casting is upon Jesus, The Christ, Who came to earth, lived, died, raised from the dead, and was returned to Heaven to be with His Father so that we, i.e., those who would repent of our sinfulness and receive God’s saving grace – in faith, … we would find that promise of the classic passage which you probably have memorized, … John 3: 16.

So, though I’m not righteous, when God sees me, He sees me as righteous, because I know I’m unrighteous and believe in the only One Who can save me from my unrighteousness; and He’s the only one Who can – and will – make me righteous … because of my faith. So, I can have confidence in my eternal security, … not because of me; but because of The Christ. I pray that you have that confidence too; and if you don’t, you need to do what is simply spelled out in Romans 10: 9 – 13, acknowledging to God and someone else that you’re a sinner, … declaring in faith that you repent of your sinfulness, … thanking Christ for dying for your sins, and finally asking Him to become the Lord of your life. If you’ve done that, and meant it in your heart, declaring it openly to someone, you are declared righteous by God – FOREVER!

My Prayer for Today: Again, HALLELUJAH, Lord for what You’ve done to give me, a sinner, Your righteousness. Amen

Thursday, September 02, 2010

2010 – September 2 – When Dead Bones Come to Life

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 37 – 39 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 37: 4 - 5 … NIV 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

My Journal for Today: What a bazaar picture described in today’s devotional text, … that famous passage about the dry bones coming to life which inspired that great Negro Spiritual, which you may have sung, somewhat jokingly, “the toe bone connected to de foot bone, … the foot bone connected to the ankle bone,” and so on. But though God’s sense of humor may seem to be on display here, I like Dr. LaGard Smith’s exclamation that in this word picture God, to Ezekiel, was being “dead serious.”

God wanted Ezekiel, His Prophet, to see in this miraculous display a picture of the nation, Israel, being raised from death to life; but for us, in Christ, the Lord has taken this picture one step further, by bringing our Redeemer, Jesus, back from the dead to be the Lamb of God Who was resurrected to bring any who believe on Him back from death (in sin) to life (in Christ). In both instances we see the power of God to bring life out of death; and as the old spiritual acclaims, “… hear de word of de Lord!”

God was trying to show Ezekiel a picture of hope that showed him, beyond even his imagination, how to believe that the God of Israel was very capable of having victory over death. I think about Jesus showing a select few His ability, as the God-man, to conquer death when he raised Lazarus from the grave. And He showed his inner Disciples His power – as the Son of God – to have power over creation when He walked on the water. Even Ezekiel, as God’s prophet, apparently needed this type of over-the-top, wildly bazaar, image to see that God would one day raise the defeated children of God from the death grip of their sinfulness back to life to live in the land God had promised to them.

But how do we apply all this imagery to our lives today? And Dr. Smith asks the very pertinent question at the end of his devotional for today: ”If God can bring even dry bones to life, is there anything about my spiritual deadness He cannot wholly transform?”

Really, my friends, … .how much do we really believe? You may have believed enough to be sealed for eternal life; but do you believe that God can transform you from deadness into a life transformed into Christ’s own image? Do you believe enough to KNOW that God is bringing you back to complete life in Himself so that you can join the army of God just as the picture of the dry bones coming back to life depicted God restoring the Israelites into His chosen army, walking in march step to God’s way for God’s glory?

My friend, I revel in the thought that God saw fit to breathe His life back into my dead bones; and I walk today with Him rather than in the deadness of my sin. And that happened because He saw fit to die and be reborn into life, showing me that my dry bones can walk again in life through Him. Will you join me in my prayer today, by seeing your life in Christ, which has resurrected your dry bones into a living soldier for His glory? And if so, say with me …

My Prayer for Today: Hallelujah, Lord, … HALLELUJAH!!! Amen

2010 – September 2 – When Dead Bones Come to Life

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel, Chapters 37 – 39 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 37: 4 - 5 … NIV 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "

My Journal for Today: What a bazaar picture described in today’s devotional text, … that famous passage about the dry bones coming to life which inspired that great Negro Spiritual, which you may have sung, somewhat jokingly, “the toe bone connected to de foot bone, … the foot bone connected to the ankle bone,” and so on. But though God’s sense of humor may seem to be on display here, I like Dr. LaGard Smith’s exclamation that in this word picture God, to Ezekiel, was being “dead serious.”

God wanted Ezekiel, His Prophet, to see in this miraculous display a picture of the nation, Israel, being raised from death to life; but for us, in Christ, the Lord has taken this picture one step further, by bringing our Redeemer, Jesus, back from the dead to be the Lamb of God Who was resurrected to bring any who believe on Him back from death (in sin) to life (in Christ). In both instances we see the power of God to bring life out of death; and as the old spiritual acclaims, “… hear de word of de Lord!”

God was trying to show Ezekiel a picture of hope that showed him, beyond even his imagination, how to believe that the God of Israel was very capable of having victory over death. I think about Jesus showing a select few His ability, as the God-man, to conquer death when he raised Lazarus from the grave. And He showed his inner Disciples His power – as the Son of God – to have power over creation when He walked on the water. Even Ezekiel, as God’s prophet, apparently needed this type of over-the-top, wildly bazaar, image to see that God would one day raise the defeated children of God from the death grip of their sinfulness back to life to live in the land God had promised to them.

But how do we apply all this imagery to our lives today? And Dr. Smith asks the very pertinent question at the end of his devotional for today: ”If God can bring even dry bones to life, is there anything about my spiritual deadness He cannot wholly transform?”

Really, my friends, … .how much do we really believe? You may have believed enough to be sealed for eternal life; but do you believe that God can transform you from deadness into a life transformed into Christ’s own image? Do you believe enough to KNOW that God is bringing you back to complete life in Himself so that you can join the army of God just as the picture of the dry bones coming back to life depicted God restoring the Israelites into His chosen army, walking in march step to God’s way for God’s glory?

My friend, I revel in the thought that God saw fit to breathe His life back into my dead bones; and I walk today with Him rather than in the deadness of my sin. And that happened because He saw fit to die and be reborn into life, showing me that my dry bones can walk again in life through Him. Will you join me in my prayer today, by seeing your life in Christ, which has resurrected your dry bones into a living soldier for His glory? And if so, say with me …

My Prayer for Today: Hallelujah, Lord, … HALLELUJAH!!! Amen

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

2010 – September 1 – Entertained, Not Pained

Blogger’s Note: Continuing on with my journal/blog entries for September, 2010 in my commitment to read through the Bible this year, using The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, edited by Dr. F. LaGard Smith, who also wrote the companion book, The Daily Bible Devotional, from which I’ll be extracting all my 2010 devotionals, including these for September.

Study from God’s Word Ezekiel 33: 21 – Ezek 36: 38 … Passage for Reflection: Ezekiel 33: 32 … NIV 31 [God to Ezekiel] My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. 33 "When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

My Journal for Today: Ezekiel must’ve felt like a rejected shepherd at times, coming to the people and declaring God’s prophesies. Sometimes the leaders of God’s people would even come to Ezekiel to hear him espouse God’s truth; and then they would go away and do nothing to honor or obey their God.

There’s a lot of that going on today, with people who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday and God’s ordained messengers, the Spirit-anointed preachers of the day, preach the truth; but then the flock, hearing God’s messages, seem to desire only entertainment from their Sundays in church; and they go away, not having really listened and taking in none of the pleas of their Pastor, … applying none of his preaching for obedience and Godly action. How exasperating it must be to cry out to God’s flock, calling them to action, and have them then go away and continue to live selfish, flesh-driven lives.

But then there are those preachers who preach messages of entertainment, tickling the ears of the flock with entertaining messages of self-power and selfish gain for their internally directed “faith.” And I think you know about whom I refer. They are the Oprahs, the Osteens, and the like, who come to draw in the masses and give them syrupy entertainment rather than truth from God’s word, which often can be painful. And let’s face it; … who wants pain when they can be entertained?

Dr. Smith, in his devotional for today, asks the tough application question of his readers (i.e., me): ”How many sermons, speaking directly to me, have I managed to conveniently ignore?”

You, my friends who read here with me, must answer that one for yourself as I have to for myself. And the most important question is, “Do I seek entertainment or truth when I go to worship and hear God’s messenger?” Or maybe I could also ask, “Is my Pastor challenging me onward as a Christian soldier; or is he just entertaining me to make me feel good?” Answering those questions could tell us a lot about our own hearts – as Christians – as well as about the calling of our spiritual Shepherds. And they are certainly questions we must not ignore.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to seriously seek Your truth! Amen